Why is the Pope Called “Pontiff?”

I came across this snippet in a commentary by John Walvoord, I do not know enough to validate its accuracy, but thought it was intriguing enough to look into. Here is his quote:

Crowns in the shape of a fish head were worn by the chief priests of the Babylonian cult to honor the fish god. The crowns bore the words ‘keeper of the bridge,’ symbolic of the ‘bridge’ between man and Satan.

This handle was adopted by the Roman emperors who used the Latin title Pontifex Maximus, which means ‘major keeper of the bridge.’ And the same title was later used by the Bishop of Rome. The pope today is often called the pontiff, which comes from pontifex.

I have come across one Catholic source that says pontifex means “bridge builder,” but they include nothing about fish gods.

The Latin Vulgate translates “high priests” of the Jewish religion as pontifices (plural) or pontifex (singular). This is more likely due to the already accepted notion of pontifex referring to a church leader when the Vulgate was being translated.

I have verified that early Roman Emperors after Christianity became the official religion, used the title.

I also came across an article talking about the pope’s hat that looks like a fish’s head, which is traced back to the Babylonian fish god, Dagon. It goes something like this:



popeheadThe problem with such things is that, although there may be a grain of truth in the pagan origins of much Catholic tradition, there is also a lot of conspiratorial witch hunting.

A lot of Evangelical commentators during the 1950’s had a field day with Catholicism, including My Boy, Harry Ironside, who said the pope is “the direct successor of the high priest of the Babylonian mysteries and the servant of the fish god Dagon, for whom he wears, like his idolatrous predecessors, the fisherman’s ring.”

Certainly there are threads of continuity with pagan religion, I find that to be undeniable. To say this is “direct succession” might be a stretch. However, it has more to do with Dagon than direct succession with the Apostle Peter.

In the end, there are many reasons I am not Catholic. This is one more.

3 thoughts on “Why is the Pope Called “Pontiff?””

  1. Most of the connections between heathenism and the Catholic traditions are unknown today. And I think even modern Catholics would not think “Oh, now I’m worshiping Dagon” when they do certain rites.

    But what it shows, is how the early church was corrupted by trying to adapt the the heathen. In those days, the excuse was, “we’re making it easier for the heathen to become Christians.” In the same way, Christian (?) scholars and “church fathers” studied the philosophy of the world and incorporated it into theology, as a way of making Christianity more attractive.

    What is the danger to all this? Self-exaltation. Anything man produces, that is added to God’s religion comes with the idea that “we can do something, we have something good to add”. And that is the flesh speaking. And when the flesh is exalted, every sin is covered with holy garments. That is why in the Catholic church, “tradition” is another means of revelation. It’s not just “the Bible”, it’s “the Bible AND tradition.” And if the two conflict, then Tradition trumps the Bible, since it’s more current.

    And once you’ve set the word of God aside, or given it a less-significant place, anything is possible, in the name of religion.

  2. I agree. I don’t think the Catholic Church worships false gods, but I do think it shows a trend to use things other than the Bible to make Church decisions. This is never a good idea.

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