Skip to comments.The Church Built on Peter
Posted on 06/29/2011 5:46:53 AM PDT by Not gonna take it anymore
After St. Peter died upside down on a cross in the Circus of Caligula and Nero, the surviving Christians obtained his body and buried him quickly nearby, on the steeply sloping Vatican Hill to the north of the Circus. That hill had become a makeshift graveyard four months earlier after the fire of Rome had killed so many residents of the metropolis that their loved ones began to use any open spot they could find on the roadsides radiating outside the city. . . .
When the tropaion of Peter was found underneath the high altar during archaeological escavations in 1941, there was great rejoicing, because it matched what Gaius had written at the end of the second century. Even more exciting was the fact that they found bones in what was clearly Peters tomb underneath the victory monument.
(Excerpt) Read more at integratedcatholiclife.org ...
I think Augustine explained Matthew 16 very well. Later in his life he wrote that to believe that Peter was the rock was wrong. He explains well how the Rock refers to Christ.
My dear Iscool, having read your always lively posts on religion for some time now, I feel I can assure you with the utmost confidence that you need never fear that the Holy Father will summon you for an audience.
What a load of bunk!! Taken out of context.
The Primacy of Peter, the Papacy and Apostolic Succession
Almost all of the references below can be verified in Edward Giles Documents Illustrating Papal Authority AD 96-454 (London: SPCK, 1952 reprinted by Hyperion Press, 1979) or Jesus, Peter, and the Keys: A Scriptural Handbook on the Papacy edited by Scott Butler, Norm Dahlgren, David Hess (Queenship, 1996). Mark is responding to a critic (hereafter, “our critic”) on the early Papacy which will be quoted in smaller font.
by Mark Bonocore
The author of an anti-Papal essay starts off by asserting:
<< Of immense importance to the question of leadership of the church today is the issue of the Apostle Peter and doctrine of apostolic succession. It has already been demonstrated that Peter was not the first bishop of the first church. >>
Has it now? Well, certainly not according to the witness of our ancient Christian forefathers:
(1) Tertullian (c. AD 197) speaks of Peter apart from Paul as ordaining Clement as his episcopal successor (De Praescrip Haer 32).
(2) The Poem Against Marcion (c. 200 AD) states how “Peter bad Linus to take his place and sit on the chair whereon he himself had sat” (III, 80). The word “chair” (cathedra) in ecclesiastical language always means one’s episcopal throne (i.e. the bishop’s chair).
(3) Caius of Rome (214 AD) calls Pope Victor the thirteenth bishop of Rome after Peter (Euseb HE V, 28).
(4) Hippolytus (225 AD) counts Peter as the first Bishop of Rome (Dict Christian Biog I, 577).
(5) Cyprian (in 250) speaks of Rome as “the place of Peter” (Ep ad Anton), and as “the Chair of Peter” (Ep ad Pope Cornelius).
(6) Firmilian (257) speaks of Pope Stephen’s claim to the “succession of Peter” and to the “Chair of Peter” (Ep ad Cyprian).
(7) Eusebius (314) says that Peter was “the bishop of Rome for twenty-five years” (Chron an 44), and calls Linus “first after Peter to obtain the episcopate” (Chron an 66). He also says that Victor was “the thirteenth bishop of Rome after Peter” (HE III, 4).
(8) The Council of Sardica “honors the memory of the Apostle Peter” in granting Pope Julius I the right to judge cases involving other episcopal sees under imperial Roman law (Sardica Canon IV, and Ep ad Pope Julius).
(9) Athanasius (340’s) calls Rome the “Apostolic Throne” — a reference to the Apostle Peter as the first bishop to occupy that throne (Hist Arian ad Monarch 35).
(10) Optatus (370) says that the episcopal chair of Rome was first established by Peter, “in which chair sat Peter himself.” He also says how “Peter first filled the pre-eminent chair,” which “is the first of the marks of the Church.” (Schism Donat II, 2 and II, 3).
(11) Pope Damasus (370) speaks of the “Apostolic chair” in which “the holy Apostle sitting, taught his successors how to guide the helm of the Church” (Ep ix ad Synod, Orient ap Theodoret V, 10). Damasus also states how “The first See is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman church” and says how Rome received primacy not by the conciliar decisions of the other churches, but from the evangelic voice of the Lord, when He says, “Thou art Peter...” (Decree of Damasus 382).
(12) Ambrose (c. 390) speaks of Rome as “Peter’s chair” and the Roman church where “Peter, first of the Apostles, first sat” (De Poenit I, 7-32, Exp Symb ad Initiand).
(13) Jerome (c. 390) speaks of Rome as the “chair of Peter” and the “Apostolic chair,” and states that Peter held the episcopal chair for twenty-five years at Rome (Epistle 15 and se Vir Illust I, 1).
(14) Augustine (c. 400) tells us to number the bishops of Rome from the chair of Peter itself (in Ps contra Part Donat), and speaks of “the chair of the Roman church in which Peter first sat” (Contra Lit Petil).
(15) Prudentius (405) writes how in Rome there were “the two princes of the Apostles, one the Apostle of the Gentiles, the other holding the First Chair” (Hymn II in honor of St Laurent, V).
(16) Bachiarius (420) speaks of Rome as “the chair of Peter, the seat of faith” (De Fide 2).
(17) Prosper of Aquitaine (429) calls Rome “the Apostolic See” and the “Chair of the Apostle Peter” (Carm de Ingratis).
(18) The Roman legates at the Council of Ephesus (431) declare how “it is a matter doubtful to none that Peter lived and exercised judgement in his successors” and how “the holy and most blessed [Pope] Celestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place” (Acta Councilia, session 3, tom III, col 621).
(19) Peter Chrysologus (440) speaks of “blessed Peter living and presiding in his own see” (Ep ad Eutech).
(20) Pope Leo the Great (440) says how “the whole Church acknowledges Peter in the See of Peter (Rome)” (Serm II, 2).
(21) At the Council of Chalcedon (451), the assembled bishops respond to the teaching of Pope Leo the Great by crying out, “Peter has spoken through Leo.” The sentence of the council is pronounced by the legates “in the name of Leo, the Council, and St. Peter” (Canons of Chalcedon).
(22) The Synodical Letter to Pope Leo from Chalcedon calls the Pope “the interpreter of Peter’s voice.”
(23) Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian III (450) speak of “the primacy of the Apostolic See (Rome), made firm on account of the merits of Peter, Chief of the Corona of Bishops” (Inter ep Leon I, Vol XI, col 637).
Now, if our critic would care to produce ONE ancient quote that DENIES that Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, then perhaps he has an argument. Yet, until such time, the ancient witness stands firm and consistent.
What is Apostolic Succession?
<< We cannot, however, deprive him of the critical leadership role that he played in the early church, nor dismiss the frequent references in the early church back to the successive bishops in Rome that derived their customs and rule of faith from Peter and Paul themselves. Irenaeus in particular, draws a detailed lineage back to these two apostles in Rome. He says
[follows the famous text from St. Irenaeus on the “preeminant authority” of Rome and the succession list of her Bishops]
.ST. IRENAEUS OF LYON (c. 180-199 AD)
“It is possible, then, for everyone in every Church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the Apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the Apostles, and their successors to our own times: men who neither knew nor taught anything like these heretics rave about. For if the Apostles had known hidden mysteries which they taught to the elite secretly and apart from the rest, they would have handed them down especially to those very ones to whom they were committing the self-same Churches. For surely they wished all those and their successors to be perfect and without reproach, to whom they handed on their authority.
“But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the Churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized AT ROME by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that Church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. FOR WITH THIS CHURCH, BECAUSE OF ITS SUPERIOR ORIGIN [or “preeminent authority”] ALL CHURCHES MUST AGREE, THAT IS, ALL THE FAITHFUL IN THE WHOLE WORLD; AND IT IS IN HER THAT THE FAITHFUL EVERYWHERE HAVE MAINTAINED THE APOSTOLIC TRADITION.” [then follows a list of successors to Peter as bishops of Rome] (Against Heresies 3:3:1-3)
This text is one of the earliest and most critical in establishing the idea of apostolic succession and primacy of Rome. There is however, a significant error in this line of reasoning. It is the fact that this text, like the other comparable ante-Nicene “succession” texts, have nothing to do with apostolic succession, as it is taught by Romanism today. As a matter of fact, they contradict the whole contemporary concept of apostolic succession. >>
Does it indeed?
<< In order to understand this, we need to look at where the office of apostle comes from, as well as the intent of these early church texts. >>
<< Apostolic Succession: Who died and made you an apostle? The crux of the problem lies in a single semantical distinction of “apostle” and “bishop.” If we look in the New Testament at the usage of the word “apostle” we see that it is applied to not only the twelve, but to Paul numerous times, to Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and possibly Andrionicus and Junias (Romans 16:7). Many early church fathers call the seventy that Jesus sent out “apostles” (Matt. 10:1-22) Paul mentions “super-apostles” in the Second letter to the Corinthians (who are actually false apostles) and the Book of Revelation mentions that the church of Ephesus wisely tested those who claimed to be apostles, and found them wanting. Where does an apostle come from? Scripture declares that only God can make a true apostle. >>
Let me save everyone a lot of wasted energy by pointing out the crucial fault in this author’s understanding of what Catholics believe and teach when it comes to “Apostolic succession.” Very simply, “Apostolic succession” DOES NOT mean that the Pope, or any other bishop, succeeds to the full office of an Apostle. That is not the Catholic claim at all. Rather, “Apostolic succession” maintains that a Pope, or a particular bishop, succeeds FROM an Apostle or Apostles. It, in no way, implies that this Pope or this bishop is now an Apostle himself.
Furthermore, it in no way implies that this Pope or this bishop is Divinely-inspired (as the Apostles were), or infallible (in the sense that the Apostles were), or that they are the originators of new, Christ-given revelation (as the Apostles were). Rather, the Pope and his brother bishops are merely the authoritative, Spirit-protected guardians of revelation (i.e. the Apostolic Deposit of Faith) that has already been delivered to us, in full, by the Apostles. So, as this author correctly points out, and as Catholics clearly believe, only God can commission someone to be an Apostle.
Now, with all that said, let me draw an important distinction. While a Pope, or another bishop, may not succeed to the full office of an Apostle (e.g. the Apostle Peter), they do succeed to a dimension of the Apostolic office: and that is the episcopal dimension of the Apostolic office. In other words, all Apostles, as part of their Apostolic calling, were also bishops (e.g. “overseers” — pastors of the flock). Peter calls himself a “presbyter” among other (non-Apostle) presbyters in 1 Peter 5:1, as does the Apostle John in 2 John 1 and 3 John 1. Here, it is important to note that, at the time the New Testament was written, the terms “bishop” (”overseer”) and “presbyter” (”senior” / “elder” — which would eventually evolve into our English word “priest”) were still being used interchangeably (and this is more than understandable, given that all Catholic bishops are also priests).
And so, when the Bishop of Rome says that he is the successor of the Apostle Peter, or when the Bishop of Ephesus says that he is the successor of the Apostle John, they are referring to the episcopal offices held by Peter (1 Peter 5:1) and by John (2 John 1), and not to the full measure of their Apostolic ministries. And so, the author of our article simply misunderstands the Catholic teaching.
Also, speaking of the Apostolic office of St. Paul, our critic says:
<< There was no way that he could have had an apostolic office passed on to him from the original apostles. >>
I’m sorry, but this again is a mischaracterization of what Catholics believe. As I said above, the Catholic Church fully agrees with this author’s assertion that only God can appoint an Apostle. Such was clearly the case with the Apostle Paul, who did not succeed from any of the Twelve (the Twelve were made Apostles to the Jewish people, by the way), but was called directly by Christ Himself to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. So, it is certainly true that no human authority made St. Paul an Apostle. However, if you read Acts 13:1-3, you will clearly see that a human authority (i.e., the bishops of the church of Antioch) DID appoint both Paul and Barnabas, by the laying on of hands, to their episcopal offices (thereby giving them the authority to found other churches and to ordain other presbyters within them: Acts 14:23). Before this time, neither Paul nor Barnabas ordained anyone, nor did they claim the authority to found any churches (but merely, in Paul’s case, to preach the Good News, which is the function of an Apostle). Yet, only a bishop can ordain or establish churches; and a bishop is also subject to Church hierarchy and submits to it when necessary (e.g. Acts 15:2).
Our critic then goes on to attack Apostolic succession (as he improperly understands it) by citing how there was no succession from St. James the son of Zebedee, saying:
<< There was no “dynastic” succession for the office. In Acts 12:1,2, we see that Herod seized James, brother of John, and put him to death. It must be noted that there is no move to fill his “apostolic” office. Why? Because apostleship is not conferred on others by men. >>
Here, once again, our critic confuses succession to an Apostle’s episcopal office with succession to the full measure of the Apostolic office. So, simply put, no one succeeded to the episcopal dimension of St. James the son of Zebedee’s Apostolic office because St. James the son of Zebedee did not serve as the singular bishop of any particular city-church! Truth be told, according to the Acts narrative, St. James was martyred for his faith in Christ before the Apostles left Jerusalem to serve as bishops of other city-churches. So, given that St. James never went on to found any city-churches outside of Judaea, we Catholics (given what we mean by “Apostolic succession”) do not need to show that anyone succeeded to the Apostolic office of James. So, here, once again, our critic leads us on a wild goose-chase that has nothing to do with true Catholic teaching.
Bishops and Presbyters
Yet, our critic goes on:
<< Now, compare this with the office of “bishop” (Gr. “episcopoi”). The Bible offers significant parameters on what qualifies one for being a bishop or overseer. It is a position that one can “desire” and aspire to (1 Timothy 3:1). >>
Please permit me to chime in here for a moment. First of all, as I said above, at the time when the New Testament was written, the terms “bishop” and “presbyter” (aka “priest”) were still being used interchangeably (e.g. compare the author’s citation of 1 Tim 3:1 with 1 Tim 5:17-22, which refers to exactly the same office, but which calls them “presbyters” and not “bishops”). The exclusive use of the term “bishop” to distinguish the leading presbyter of a particular city-church from his fellow presbyters began in Syria in about AD 100; and that semantic usage spread to Europe soon after, probably thanks to St. Ignatius of Antioch. Yet, in NT times, the terms were still fluid and interchangeable.
For more detail on this point see Mark Bonocore’s article
The Church Always had Monarchical Bishops: Response to James White
Secondly, in saying that the office of “bishop / presbyter” can be “desired” or “aspired to,” what our critic is apparently suggesting is that one can become a bishop on one’s own, without being ordained to the episcopate by the Church (e.g. some Baptist pastors simply proclaim themselves “bishop”). Well, not only is this ridiculous, but it is also unscriptural, as 1 Tim 5:22 reveals to us. Here, speaking about “presbyters / bishops” Paul tells Timothy, the ruling bishop of Ephesus at the time, “Do not lay hands too readily upon anyone.” What’s more, in 1 Tim 3:1, Paul does not say that one is made a bishop by simply desiring to be one. Rather, please notice that he is quoting a well-known saying in the Church at the time, and writes, “THIS SAYING is trustworthy: ‘Whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.’” Here, Paul is using very crafty, rabbinical language; and he is speaking in the sense of “Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.” In this, he is warning any man who seeks to lead the church for his own personal glory, and reminding those who would accept episcopal duties that they are taking on grave responsibilities which will require them to become (as Christ taught) the servants of all.
However, our critic goes on:
<< The qualifications are practical, numerous, and clearly defined. When the apostles had made their missionary circuit, they returned to all of the churches they had started to ordain elders (presbyteros) in all of the churches. The pre-eminent of the presbyters was the episcopoi, bishop or overseer. >>
I’m genuinely amazed that our critic agrees with the Catholic Church on this point. Yes, this was certainly the case; yet, as I keep pointing out, the leading presbyter of a city-church was not exclusively called a “bishop” until a generation or so later. In NT times, this leading presbyter of a city-church was referred to as both a “bishop” and a “presbyter” (e.g. 1 Peter 5:1; 2 John 1; etc).
<< In Paul’s speech to the elders of Ephesus, he uses the verb for “shepherd” (pastor) to describe the elders’ and overseers’ function in their churches (Acts 20:28). Very early in church history, we see the government of each assembly set up on the basis of Bishop-Presbyter-Deacon, with each role being filled by godly men of character, normally appointed by the existing elders, with the consent of the whole congregation. >>
Amen! This, once again, is in complete agreement with the Catholic position. What our critic fails to mention, however (because he, no doubt, doesn’t believe it himself) is that the ordination of these bishops, presbyters, and deacons was understood to be something sacramental in nature, directly involving the Holy Spirit, and performed via the “laying on of hands.” For example, we’ve already seen in 1 Tim 5:22, where, speaking about the ordination of presbyters, St. Paul tells Timothy, “Do not lay hands too readily upon anyone.” Likewise, in 2 Tim 1:6, Paul refers to Timothy’s own ordination, saying: “For this reason I remind you to stir up the flame of the Gift of God (i.e. the Holy Spirit) that you have through the imposition of my hands.” Here, it is quite clear to see that ordination to the episcopate, the presbyterate (priesthood), or the diaconate was not merely an act of human nomination, but a sacramental act of the Holy Spirit Himself through the ministry of His Church and of its minister (Paul).
<< It is critical to see at this point that the office of apostle, and the office of bishop are not interchangeable. >>
Of course they’re not. They never were. Rather, like I said, the Apostles were ALSO bishops/presbyters; and Apostolic succession means that one succeeds to the episcopal office that was held by an Apostle. That’s all.
<< The very cornerstone of the apostolic rule of faith is built upon the presumption that the true faith was entrusted to the apostles, and they in turn appointed bishops and elders in the churches they established. >>
Yep. And the Catholic Church agrees completely.
<< The elders and bishops, by apostolic command, are to have successors, while there is no apostolic command to create a lineage of apostles. >>
Agreed. We Catholics do not believe in any such “lineage of apostles.” our critic is chasing “phantom Catholicism,” not the real thing. The Pope, for example, is the linear successor of the Apostle Peter IN THAT he directly succeeds to the EPISCOPAL OFFICE held by the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 5:1), which was the episcopate of the city of Rome (called “Babylon” in 1 Peter 5:13, just as it is in Rev 14:8, 16:19, 17:5, 18:2, 18:10, 18:21, etc). And the episcopal office of Peter holds particular responsibilities when it comes to maintaining the unity and orthodoxy of the entire Church (e.g. John 21:15-19).
The Succession List of St. Irenaeus
<< If you look very carefully at the text above, you will see that Irenaeus is promoting, in his exact words, the doctrine of “succession of bishops.” The reason why this is so important is because if there was such a thing as apostolic office passed down from the original apostles, those apostles would have the divine right to declare any arbitrary doctrine they wanted as “apostolic truth.” >>
Hey, if you have a problem with the term “Apostolic succession” and want to call it “succession of bishops” that’s fine. I already explained what we mean by the term “Apostolic succession” above. Yet, what our critic is clearly not appreciating is that Peter himself (along with several other Apostles) was ALSO a bishop (1 Peter 5:1; cf. 2:25); and the “succession of bishops” in Rome begins with him (as was consistently maintained by the ancient Church, per the 23 citations I presented above).
As for St. Irenaeus who admittedly does not number Peter among the bishops of Rome, but rather presents the Roman episcopal succession after the time of Peter and Paul, here one must not fail to appreciate WHY Irenaeus was writing, WHO he was writing to, and WHAT was the point he was trying to make.
The quote from St. Irenaeus provided by our critic above is taken from his great work, Against the Heresies (c. 180 AD) in which Irenaeus outlines, addresses, and refutes all the major heretical groups of his time. In citing the importance of “episcopal succession,” what Irenaeus is trying to refute is the notion that the Apostles passed down “secret knowledge” to some of their followers — “secret knowledge” that they did not share with the rest of the Church, but only with a “select few.” The Gnostic heretics claimed to be the custodians of this “secret knowledge” and, in order to refute this claim, Irenaeus argues that if the Apostles imparted such hidden information to any of their followers, this would certainly have included the bishops who they ordained. However, no legitimate bishop who can trace his succession to an Apostle taught anything like the strange doctrines that the Gnostic heretics were promoting. And so, given that this is Irenaeus’ objective, he was simply not concerned with proving that the Apostles served as the first bishops of certain city-churches. Why not? Because everyone, including the Gnostics, took it for granted that the Apostles were authoritative and presided over these flocks. Rather, what had to be shown by Irenaeus is the unbroken line that existed subsequently to these Apostles. And this he does quite brilliantly.
So, Irenaeus never intended to give us a formal list of succession of any particular city-church, starting with the Apostle who served as its first Bishop. Rather, he presents the episcopal succession of these churches in order to illustrate his point. What’s more, as all scholars agree, St. Irenaeus drew his succession list from St. Hegesippus, a Jewish convert and native of Jerusalem who, a generation before, went from city-church to city-church writing down the episcopal succession from the Apostles. Eusebius of Caesarea, who had an original copy of Hegesippus’ book (now lost to us), provides us with the following quote from him:
“And the Church of the Corinthians remained in the true Word until Primus was bishop in Corinth; I made their acquaintance during my journey to Rome, and remained with the Corinthians many days, in which we were refreshed with the true Word. And when I was in Rome, I made a succession up to Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And in each succession, and in each city, all is according to the ordinances of the Law and the Prophets and the Lord.” (Hegesippus in Euseb IV, 22)
Now, this is taken from the SAME Eusebius of Caesarea who, quoted in my list above, cites PETER as the first Bishop of Rome (Chron an 66 and HE III, 4), and maintains that he presided over Rome for twenty-five years (e.g. from the time he flees Jerusalem in Acts 12:17 until his crucifixion atop Vatican hill). Eusebius clearly got this information from the sources available to him, which included the succession lists of St. Hegesippus — the primary source from which St. Irenaeus himself draws his information.
More Misunderstandings of Apostolic Succession
<< This, in a nutshell, is what perpetuates the Mormon church. The leader of their quorum claims the right of apostleship, and they have, on numerous occasions, spoken completely new dogma into being. They have proven that they can even create dogma that their own former apostles and even their own scriptures contradict, yet, the office of the living apostle takes priority. >>
Okay. So, what’s your point? Catholics do not believe anything like this.
<< What does the Roman church teach? Do they teach that the Gospel was entrusted once for all to the apostles, and handed down to the bishops? >>
Yes, they do.
<< Or do they maintain that they have the office of apostle within their hierarchy? >>
No, we don’t.
<< So there is no doubt about their claims, cited here is the declaration from the most recent Council, Vatican II (ca. 1965). In the dogmatic statement on the church, Lumen Gentium, we read: “Just as the role that the Lord gave individually to Peter, first among the apostles, was permanent and meant to be transmitted to his successors, so also the apostles office of nurturing the Church is permanent, and was meant to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops. Therefore this sacred synod teaches that by divine institution bishops have succeeded to the place of the apostles.” Clearly the Roman church believes that the apostolic office remains within their domain, and is past down by succession. >>
Once again, our critic suffers from a profound misunderstanding of what the Church actually believes or what it means via the words of Lumen Gentium. However, as I pointed out above, the bishops of the Catholic Church succeed only to the episcopal dimension of the Apostolic office — the dimension which “nurtures the Church” as Lumen Gentium directly says. There is nothing in Lumen Gentium about delivering new doctrine or new revelation (despite the comparision to Mormonism made by our critic), and the bishops of the Catholic Church do not possess any such authority.
Primacy and Authority of Peter
Yet, let’s take this quote from Lumen Gentium line-by-line:
“Just as the role that the Lord gave individually to Peter, first among the apostles, was permanent and meant to be transmitted to his successors....”
Okay. What “role” did Christ give “individually” to Peter? Well, in Matthew 16:17-19, Christ individually imparts to Peter the office of “Rock,” “Key-bearer,” and the authority to “bind and loosen.” Also, in Luke 22:31-32, the Lord individually imparts to Peter the task of strengthening his brethren (i.e. the other Apostles). Also, in John 21:15-19, the Lord makes Peter a shepherd, telling him three times to “feed my lambs” and “tend my sheep.”
And so, here’s a simple question: Are any of these things exclusive to the full measure of Peter’s Apostolic office? Answer: No, they are not. And why? Because, Peter, like the other eleven, were made Apostles WAY BACK in Matthew 10:1-8, which was LONG before Peter was individually granted any of these other duties or responsibilities. And, speaking of Matthew 10 here, verses 7-8 tell us what the office of an Apostle is: It is a Christ-appointed office to proclaim the Gospel — to deliver the fullness of new revelation to mankind. In this sense, and according to this Apostolic ministry, Peter was merely one of the Twelve and, as one of the Twelve, his Apostolic office was directed primarily toward to the Jews (Gal 2:7-9). Yet, as is clear from Scripture, the EPISCOPAL DIMENSION of Peter’s Apostolic office carried other, additional responsibilities, which were given to him individually by Christ. And these responsibilities concerned maintaining the entire flock (the universal Church) in unity and orthodoxy. And this is exactly what we see Peter doing throughout the New Testament.
What’s more, focusing on John 21:15-19 for a moment, here Peter is unquestionably being commissioned by Christ, and given authority over the entire flock (”feed my lambs” / “tend my sheep”). Now, our critic himself correctly pointed out above that a BISHOP (i.e. “OVERSEER”) is a shepherding term, applied to governance over the flock. He writes:
<< In Paul’s speech to the elders of Ephesus, he uses the verb for ‘shepherd’ (pastor) to describe the elders’ and overseers’ function in their churches (Acts 20:28). >>
Yes, indeed. So, here’s another question: This being the case, what role is Christ (as Lumen Gentium puts it) giving “individually to Peter” in John 21:15-19? Is it the role of an Apostle, or is it that of a Shepherd / Overseer / Bishop? I think the conclusion is obvious. Thus, when Lumen Gentium says:
“Just as the role that the Lord gave individually to Peter, first among the apostles, was permanent and meant to be transmitted to his successors....”
Here, the Council is saying that the episcopal office that Christ gave individually to Peter (the office which made him “first among the Apostles”) is a permanent episcopal office, intended to be transmitted to his successors. That’s all. We Catholic DO NOT teach that the full measure of Peter’s Apostolic office, which was NEVER conferred on him individually, but collectively and equally, along with the other members of the Twelve, is permanent or meant to be transmitted by succession. In order to believe such a thing, we would have to follow the view of the Mormons, who teach that new public and binding revelation can be delivered to the Church, over and above the Apostolic Deposit of Faith (or any deeper appreciation of the Apostolic Deposit of Faith). This is not what Catholics believe.
Yet, Lumen Gentium goes on:
“...so also the apostles’ office of nurturing the Church is permanent...”
Notice that it is the Apostles’ office of “nurturing the Church” (e.g. “feed my sheep”), and NOT the Apostle’s office of proclaiming new revelation to mankind. Big difference. The quote above, as I said, refers to the episcopal dimension of the Apostolic office.
“....and was meant to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops.”
Yep. There was never a time when the Church did not possess bishops to nurture and care for the Church. As St. Irenaeus points out, there was no break in the “succession of bishops” stemming from the Apostles.
“....Therefore this sacred synod teaches that by divine institution bishops have succeeded to the place of the apostles.”
Yes indeed. They succeed to the episcopal place of the Apostles. For example, Peter no longer “feeds Christ’s sheep” on earth. Rather, Peter’s successor is entrusted with this ministry. Our critic has completely misread this authoritative Catholic document, since he is not reading it within its intended context (the understanding of the Catholic Church and her tradition), but in his own misguided context.
<< Such confusion between the biblical and historical concept of the succession of bishops and apostolic succession has caused untold amount of novel doctrine to be declared “dogma” by the Roman church. >>
I see. So, in our critic’s view, any newly proclaimed “dogma” is automatically “new revelation,” as opposed to a deeper, more clearly-defined appreciation of something that already existed in the Apostolic Deposit of Faith? Well, if this is the case, then our critic must clearly deny the Trinity (defined as “One God in three, co-equal, co-eternal Divine Persons”), given that no such description of the Trinity exists in the Bible, and given that the Catholic dogma of the Trinity was not defined until 325 AD at the Council of Nicaea and subsequent Councils (three centuries after the death of the last Apostle and the end of public revelation). So, was the Trinity also “novel doctrine” and “new revelation” ?
Authority to Bind and Loose
What’s more, and I began to touch on this above, the authority to “bind and loosen” given to Peter in Matt 16:19, and to the Apostles collectively in Matt 18:18, is not an aspect of their primary Apostolic ministries, but rather an episcopal charism, involving the episcopal dimension of their offices, and one that is passed down to their episcopal successors. If anyone doubts this, he need only look at Matt 18:18 in context (i.e. Matt 18:15-18), and see that this authority to “bind and loosen” involves church government, viz. excommunication and the like — an authority that is certainly still possessed by the Church today, even without the presence of true Apostles.
And so, what does that tell us? Simply this: The Church still has the Divinely-decreed, Spirit-protected authority to “bind and loosen” and its bishops still wield this authority. However, our critic disputes this, saying:
<< When the Popes declared the two Marian doctrines (Immaculate Conception and Mary’s Assumption into Heaven) in 1854 and 1950, each Pope invoked the “authority of Jesus Christ, Peter and Paul, and by our own authority” to define these beliefs as essential for the catholic faith. >>
He sure did. And he has every authority to do so, given that, according to the Lord, he possesses the ultimate power to “bind and loosen” on earth. This is what Christ promised. Are you saying that Christ is not true to His promises?
As for the proclamation of these Marian dogmas (which are really a discussion in and of themselves) both Mary’s Immaculate Conception and her Assumption, though debated in the Church as “theolegoumena” (”theological opinions”) for centuries, stem from the ancient Syro-Palestianism expression of Catholic Christianity (the cultural Rite of the Church, based in Syrian and Palestine, that is closest to the original Jewish expression of Christianity), and so were indeed part of the Apostolic Deposit, though admittedly not a very prominent part.
What our critic is apparently overlooking, however, is that ALL Catholic dogmas start out as theolegoumena (theological opinions) until they are formally defined. This is how dogma is formulated; and such was the case with Gentile circumcision (before it was ruled unnecessary by the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15), and even with the Trinity itself, given the present orthodox definition of the Trinity (before that dogma was formally defined at the early Ecumenical Councils). Once again, our critic lacks a comprehensive understanding of Catholicism or how Christ’s true Church traditionally operates.
St. Peter, the Rock, the Keys, and the Primacy of Rome in the Early Church
St. Peter, the Rock, the Keys, and the Primacy of Rome in the Early Church
based on my “unfinished” refutation of James G. McCarthy’s book The Gospel According to Rome
Bible Commentary on “Rock” of Matthew 16:18
Conclusion on “Rock” of Matthew 16:18
Bible Commentary on “Keys” of Matthew 16:19
Conclusion on “Keys” of Matthew 16:19
Bible Commentary on “Keys” of Isaiah 22:22
Conclusion on “Keys” of Isaiah 22 as Parallel to Matthew 16
Historical Commentary on St. Peter and the “Primacy of Rome”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
553. Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ [Matt 16:19]. The ‘power of the keys’ designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: ‘Feed my sheep’ [John 21:15-17; cf. 10:11]. The power to ‘bind and loose’ connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles [cf. Matt 18:18] and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.
816. “The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter’s pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it...This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him” [Vatican II LG 8].
861. “In order that the mission entrusted to them might be continued after their death, [the apostles] consigned, by will and testament, as it were, to their immediate collaborators the duty of completing and consolidating the work they had begun, urging them to tend to the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit had appointed them to shepherd the Church of God. They accordingly designated such men and then made the ruling that likewise on their death other proven men should take over their ministry” [LG 20; cf. Acts 20:28; St. Clement of Rome, Ad Cor 42,44].
881. The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the “rock” of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock [Cf. Mt 16:18-19; Jn 21:15-17]. “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head” [LG 22; cf. Mt 18:18; Jn 20:21-23]. This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.
882. The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.” “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”
883. “The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head.” As such, this college has “supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff” [cf. Vatican II, LG 22, 23].
BIBLE COMMENTARY ON “ROCK” OF MATTHEW 16:18
D.A. Carson (Protestant Evangelical) —
“Although it is true that petros and petra can mean ‘stone’ and ‘rock’ respectively in earlier Greek, the distinction is largely confined to poetry. Moreover, the underlying Aramaic is in this case unquestionable; and most probably kepha was used in both clauses (’you are kepha’ and ‘on this kepha’), since the word was used both for a name and for a ‘rock.’ The Peshitta (written in Syriac, a language cognate with Aramaic) makes no distinction between the words in the two clauses. The Greek makes the distinction between petros and petra simply because it is trying to preserve the pun, and in Greek the feminine petra could not very well serve as a masculine name.” (Carson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary [Zondervan, 1984], volume 8, page 368, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 17-18)
“The word Peter petros, meaning ‘rock,’ (Gk 4377) is masculine, and in Jesus’ follow-up statement he uses the feminine word petra (Gk 4376). On the basis of this change, many have attempted to avoid identifying Peter as the rock on which Jesus builds his church yet if it were not for Protestant reactions against extremes of Roman Catholic interpretations, it is doubtful whether many would have taken ‘rock’ to be anything or anyone other than Peter.” (Carson, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary [Zondervan, 1994], volume 2, page 78, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 18)
R.T. France (Anglican/Protestant Evangelical) —
“The name Peter means ‘Rock’, and Jesus played on this meaning to designate Peter as the foundation of the new people of God. His leadership would involve the authority of the steward, whose keys symbolized his responsibility to regulate the affairs of the household. Peter would exercise his leadership by his authority to declare what is and is not permissible in the kingdom of heaven (to bind and to loose have this meaning in rabbinic writings)....It is sometimes suggested that because the word for ‘rock’ (petra) differs from the name Petros, the ‘rock’ referred to is not Peter himself but the confession he has just made of Jesus as Messiah. In Aramaic, however, the same term kefa would appear in both places; the change in Greek is due to the fact that petra, the normal word for rock, is feminine in gender, and therefore not suitable as a name for Simon! The echo of Peter’s name remains obvious, even in Greek; he is the rock, in the sense outlined above.” (France, New Bible Commentary with consulting editors Carson, France, Motyer, Wenham [Intervarsity Press, 1994], page 925, 926)
Oscar Cullmann (Lutheran) from Kittel’s Greek standard Theological Dictionary of the New Testament —
“The obvious pun which has made its way into the Gk. text as well suggests a material identity between petra and petros, the more so as it is impossible to differentiate strictly between the meanings of the two words. On the other hand, only the fairly assured Aramaic original of the saying enables us to assert with confidence the formal and material identity between petra and petros: petra = Kepha = petros....Since Peter, the rock of the Church, is thus given by Christ Himself, the master of the house (Is. 22:22; Rev. 3:7), the keys of the kingdom of heaven, he is the human mediator of the resurrection, and he has the task of admitting the people of God into the kingdom of the resurrection...The idea of the Reformers that He is referring to the faith of Peter is quite inconceivable in view of the probably different setting of the story...For there is no reference here to the faith of Peter. Rather, the parallelism of ‘thou art Rock’ and ‘on this rock I will build’ shows that the second rock can only be the same as the first. It is thus evident that Jesus is referring to Peter, to whom He has given the name Rock. He appoints Peter, the impulsive, enthusiastic, but not persevering man in the circle, to be the foundation of His ecclesia. To this extent Roman Catholic exegesis is right and all Protestant attempts to evade this interpretation are to be rejected.” (Cullmann, article on “Rock” (petros, petra) trans. and ed. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [Eerdmans Publishing, 1968], volume 6, page 98, 107, 108)
Herman Ridderbos (Protestant Evangelical) —
“It is well known that the Greek word (petra) translated ‘rock’ here is different from the proper name Peter. The slight difference between them has no special importance, however. The most likely explanation for the change from petros (’Peter’) to petra is that petra was the normal word for ‘rock.’ Because the feminine ending of this noun made it unsuitable as a man’s name, however, Simon was not called petra but petros. The word petros was not an exact synonym of petra; it literally meant ‘stone.’ Jesus therefore had to switch to the word petra when He turned from Peter’s name to what it meant for the Church. There is no good reason to think that Jesus switched from petros to petra to show that He was not speaking of the man Peter but of his confession as the foundation of the Church. The words ‘on this rock [petra]’ indeed refer to Peter. Because of the revelation that he had received and the confession that it motivated in him, Peter was appointed by Jesus to lay the foundation of the future church.” (Ridderbos, Bible Student’s Commentary: Matthew [Zondervan, 1987], page 303 as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 35-36)
Craig Blomberg (Protestant Evangelical) —
“Acknowledging Jesus as The Christ illustrates the appropriateness of Simon’s nickname ‘Peter’ (Petros=rock). This is not the first time Simon has been called Peter (cf. John 1:42 [wherein he is called Cephas]), but it is certainly the most famous. Jesus’ declaration, ‘You are Peter,’ parallels Peter’s confession, ‘You are the Christ,’ as if to say, ‘Since you can tell me who I am, I will tell you who you are.’ The expression ‘this rock’ almost certainly refers to Peter, following immediately after his name, just as the words following ‘the Christ’ in v. 16 applied to Jesus. The play on words in the Greek between Peter’s name (Petros) and the word ‘rock’ (petra) makes sense only if Peter is the rock and if Jesus is about to explain the significance of this identification.” (Blomberg, The New American Commentary: Matthew [Broadman, 1992], page 251-252, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 31-32)
William F. Albright and C.S. Mann (from The Anchor Bible series) —
“Rock (Aram. Kepha). This is not a name, but an appellation and a play on words. There is no evidence of Peter or Kephas as a name before Christian times. On building on a rock, or from a rock, cf. Isa 51:1ff; Matt 7:24f. Peter as Rock will be the foundation of the future community (cf. I will build). Jesus, not quoting the OT, here uses Aramaic, not Hebrew, and so uses the only Aramaic word which would serve his purpose. In view of the background of vs. 19 (see below), one must dismiss as confessional interpretation any attempt to see this rock as meaning the faith, or the Messianic confession, of Peter. To deny the pre-eminent position of Peter among the disciples or in the early Christian community is a denial of the evidence. Cf. in this gospel 10:2; 14:28-31; 15:15. The interest in Peter’s failures and vacillations does not detract from this pre-eminence; rather, it emphasizes it. Had Peter been a lesser figure his behavior would have been of far less consequence (cf. Gal 2:11ff).” (Albright/Mann, The Anchor Bible: Matthew [Doubleday, 1971], page 195)
Craig S. Keener (Protestant Evangelical) —
“’You are Peter,’ Jesus says (16:18), paralleling Peter’s ‘You are the Christ’ (16:16). He then plays on Simon’s nickname, ‘Peter,’ which is roughly the English ‘Rocky’: Peter is ‘rocky,’ and on this rock Jesus would build his church (16:18)....Protestants...have sometimes argued that Peter’s name in Greek (petros) differs from the Greek term for rock used here (petra)....But by Jesus’ day the terms were usually interchangeable, and the original Aramaic form of Peter’s nickname that Jesus probably used (kephas) means simply ‘rock.’ Further, Jesus does not say, ‘You are Peter, but on this rock I will build my church’....the copulative kai almost always means ‘and’.... Jesus’ teaching is the ultimate foundation for disciples (7:24-27; cf. 1 Cor 3:11), but here Peter functions as the foundation rock as the apostles and prophets do in Ephesians 2:20-21....Jesus does not simply assign this role arbitrarily to Peter, however; Peter is the ‘rock’ because he is the one who confessed Jesus as the Christ in this context (16:15-16)....” (Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew [Eerdmans, 1999], page 426-427)
Francis Wright Beare (Presbyterian/Reformed) —
“The play on words — ‘Peter’, this ‘rock’ — requires a change in Greek from petros (properly, ‘stone’) to petra. In Aramaic, the two words would be identical — Kepha the name given to Peter, transliterated into Greek as Kephas (Gal. 2:9), and kepha, ‘rock’. The symbol itself is Hebraic: Abraham is the ‘rock’ from which Israel was hewn, and in a rabbinic midrash, God finds in him a rock on which he can base and build the world...” (Beare, The Gospel According to Matthew [Harper and Row, 1981], page 355)
Eduard Schweizer (Presbyterian/Reformed) —
“The ‘rock’ is Peter himself, not his confession. Only on this interpretation does the pun make sense.” (Schweizer, The Good News According to Matthew [John Knox Press, 1975], page 341)
Ivor H. Jones (Methodist) —
“...in 16.18 Peter is the rock on which the new community could be built, as Abraham was described in rabbinic writings as the rock on which God could erect a new world to replace the old....The arguments have raged across the centuries over the phrase ‘on this rock’ : does it mean on Peter, or on Peter’s confession? But the text is clear: Peter was divinely inspired and this was the reason for his new function and the basis of his authorization. His function was to provide for Jesus Christ the beginnings of a stronghold, a people of God, to stand against all the powers of evil and death...They are God’s people, the church...as the church they represent God’s sovereign power over evil (18.18b) and rely upon a new kind of divine authorization...This authorization is given to Peter; so Peter is not only a stronghold against evil; he also is responsible for giving the community shape and direction.” (Jones, The Gospel of Matthew [London: Epworth Press, 1994], page 99)
M. Eugene Boring (Disciples of Christ) —
“16:18, Peter as Rock. Peter is the foundation rock on which Jesus builds the new community. The name ‘Peter’ means ‘stone’ or ‘rock’ (Aramaic Kepha Cepha; Greek petros).... There are no documented instances of anyone’s ever being named ‘rock’ in Aramaic or Greek prior to Simon. Thus English translations should render the word ‘stone’ or ‘rock,’ not ‘Peter,’ which gives the false impression that the word represented a common name and causes the contemporary reader to miss the word play of the passage: ‘You are Rock, and on this rock I will build my church.’ Peter is here pictured as the foundation of the church....On the basis of Isa 51:1-2 (cf. Matt 3:9), some scholars have seen Peter as here paralleled to Abraham; just as Abram stood at the beginning of the people of God, had his name changed, and was called a rock, so also Peter stands at the beginning of the new people of God and receives the Abrahamic name ‘rock’ to signify this.” (The New Interpreter’s Bible [Abingdon Press, 1995], volume 8, page 345)
Thomas G. Long (Presbyterian/Reformed) —
“Since, in the original Greek, Petros and petra both mean ‘rock,’ it is easy to spot this statement as a pun, a play on words: ‘Your name is “Rock,” and on this “rock” I will build my church.’ Jesus’ meaning is plain: Peter is the rock, the foundation, upon which he is going to erect his church...Jesus spoke Aramaic, however, not Greek. In Aramaic, the words for ‘Peter’ and ‘rock’ are the same (Kepha)...the most plausible interpretation of the passage is that Jesus is, indeed, pointing to Peter as the foundation stone, the principal leader, of this new people of God...there is much evidence that he also played a primary leadership role in the early Christian church....For the church, the new people of God, Peter was, indeed, the ‘rock,’ corresponding to Abraham of old, who was ‘the rock from which you were hewn’ (Isa. 51:1).” (Long, Matthew [Westminster John Knox Press, 1997], page 185, 186)
Richard B. Gardner (Brethren/Mennonite) —
“The key question here is whether the rock foundation of the church is Peter himself, or something to be distinguished from Peter. If the latter, Jesus could be speaking of Peter’s faith, or of the revelation Peter received. It is more likely, however, that the rock on which Jesus promises to build the church is in fact Peter himself, Peter the first disciple (cf. 4:18; 10:2), who represents the whole group of disciples from which the church will be formed. At least four considerations support this view....” (Gardner, Believers Church Bible Commentary: Matthew [Herald Press, 1991], 247)
CONCLUSION ON “ROCK” OF MATTHEW 16:18
(A) Peter is the Rock, the foundation stone of Jesus’ Church, the Church would be built on Peter personally;
(B) Peter’s name means Rock (petros or petra in Greek, Kepha or Cephas in Aramaic);
(C) The slight distinction in meaning for the Greek words for Rock (petros, petra) was largely confined to poetry before the time of Jesus and therefore has no special importance;
(D) The Greek words for Rock (petros, petra) by Jesus’ day were interchangeable in meaning;
(E) The underlying Aramaic Kepha-kepha of Jesus’ words makes the Rock-rock identification certain;
(F) The Greek word petra, being a feminine noun, could not be used for a man’s name, so Petros was used;
(G) Only because of past “Protestant bias” was the Peter is Rock identification denied;
(H) The pun or play on words makes sense only if Peter is the Rock;
(I) Jesus says “and on this rock” not “but on this rock” — the referent is therefore Peter personally;
(J) Verse 19 and the immediate context (singular “you”) shows Peter is the Rock of verse 18;
(K) Peter’s revelation and confession of Jesus as the Christ parallels Jesus’ declaration and identification of Peter as the Rock;
(L) Peter is paralleled to Abraham who also had his name changed, was a Father to God’s people, and was called the Rock (Isaiah 51:1-2; cf. Gen 17:5ff).
BIBLE COMMENTARY ON “KEYS” OF MATTHEW 16:19
M. Eugene Boring (Disciples of Christ), commenting on the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” “binding” and “loosing” from Matthew 16:19 —
“The ‘kingdom of heaven’ is represented by authoritative teaching, the promulgation of authoritative Halakha that lets heaven’s power rule in earthly things...Peter’s role as holder of the keys is fulfilled now, on earth, as chief teacher of the church....The keeper of the keys has authority within the house as administrator and teacher (cf. Isa 22:20-25, which may have influenced Matthew here). The language of binding and loosing is rabbinic terminology for authoritative teaching, for having the authority to interpret the Torah and apply it to particular cases, declaring what is permitted and what is not permitted. Jesus, who has taught with authority (7:29) and has given his authority to his disciples (10:1, 8), here gives the primary disciple the authority to teach in his name — to make authoritative decisions pertaining to Christian life as he applies the teaching of Jesus to concrete situations in the life of the church.” (Boring, page 346)
Francis Wright Beare (Presbyterian/Reformed) —
“The ‘keys’ are probably not to be understood as entrance keys, as if to suggest that Peter is authorized to admit or to refuse admission, but rather to the bundle of keys carried by the chief steward, for the opening of rooms and storechambers within the house — symbols of responsibilities to be exercised within the house of God (cf. Mt 24:45, etc.). ‘Bind’ and ‘loose” are technical terms of the rabbinic vocabulary, denoting the authoritative declaration that an action or course of conduct is permitted or forbidden by the Law of Moses.” (Beare, page 355-356)
Eduard Schweizer (Presbyterian/Reformed) —
“In Jewish interpretation, the key of David refers to the teachers of the Law (exiled in Babylon); according to Matthew 23:13, the ‘keys of the Kingdom of heaven’ are in the hands of the teachers of the Law. A contrast is here drawn between them and Peter. He is thus not the gatekeeper of heaven, but the steward of the Kingdom of heaven upon earth. His function is described in more detail as ‘binding and loosing’ ....the saying must from the very outset have referred to an authority like that of the teachers of the Law. In this context, ‘binding” and ‘loosing’ refer to the magisterium to declare a commandment binding or not binding....For Matthew, however, there is only one correct interpretation of the Law, that of Jesus. This is accessible to the community through the tradition of Peter...Probably we are dealing here mostly with teaching authority, and always with the understanding that God must ratify what Petrine tradition declares permitted or forbidden in the community.” (Schweizer, page 343)
R.T. France (Anglican/Protestant Evangelical) —
“The terms [binding and loosing] thus refer to a teaching function, and more specifically one of making halakhic pronouncements [i.e. relative to laws not written down in the Jewish Scriptures but based on an oral interpretation of them] which are to be ‘binding’ on the people of God. In that case Peter’s ‘power of the keys’ declared in [Matthew] 16:19 is not so much that of the doorkeeper... but that of the steward (as in Is. 22:22, generally regarded as the Old Testament background to the metaphor of keys here), whose keys of office enable him to regulate the affairs of the household.” (R.T. France, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 54)
Joachim Jeremias in an extended passage from Kittel’s Greek standard TDNT —
“...the key of David is now (3:7) the key which Christ has in His hands as the promised shoot of David. This is the key to God’s eternal palace. The meaning of the description is that Christ has unlimited sovereignty over the future world. He alone controls grace and judgment. He decides irrevocably whether a man will have access to the salvation of the last age or whether it will be witheld from him...Materially, then, the keys of the kingdom of God are not different from the key of David...This is confirmed by the fact that in Mt. 16:19, as in Rev. 3:7, Jesus is the One who controls them. But in what sense is the power of the keys given to Peter? ....the handing over of the keys is not just future. It is regarded as taking place now... There are numerous instances to show that in biblical and later Jewish usage handing over the keys implies full authorisation. He who has the keys has full authority. Thus, when Eliakim is given the keys of the palace he is appointed the royal steward (Is. 22:22, cf. 15). When Jesus is said to hold the keys of death and Hades (Rev. 1:18) or the key of David (3:7), this means that He is, not the doorkeeper, but the Lord of the world of the dead and the palace of God...Hence handing over the keys implies appointment to full authority. He who has the keys has on the one side control, e.g., over the council chamber or treasury, cf. Mt. 13:52, and on the other the power to allow or forbid entry, cf. Rev. 3:7...Mt. 23:13 leads us a step further. This passage is particularly important for an understanding of Mt. 16:19 because it is the only one in the NT which presupposes an image not found elsewhere, namely, that of the keys of the kingdom (royal dominion) of God...Mt. 23:13 shows us that the scribes of the time of Jesus claimed to possess the power of the keys in respect of this kingdom...They exercised this by declaring the will of God in Holy Scripture in the form of preaching, teaching and judging. Thereby they opened up for the congregation a way into this kingdom...by acting as spiritual leaders of the congregation....As Lord of the Messianic community He thus transferred the keys of God’s royal dominion, i.e. the full authority of proclamation, to Peter...In Rabb. lit. binding and loosing are almost always used in respect of halakhic decisions...The scribe binds (declares to be forbidden) and looses (declares to be permitted)...In Mt. 16:19, then, we are to regard the authority to bind and to loose as judicial. It is the authority to pronounce judgment on unbelievers and to promise forgiveness to believers.” (Jeremias from Kittel/Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, volume 3, page 748-751)
The older The Interpreter’s Bible —
“19. The keys of the kingdom would be committed to the chief steward in the royal household and with them goes plenary authority. In Isa. 22:22 the key of the house of David is promised to Eliakim. According to Paul, Jesus is the only foundation (I Cor. 3:11), and in Rev. 1:18; 3:7, Jesus possesses the key of David and the keys of death and Hades. But in this passage Peter is made the foundation (cf. Eph. 2:20, where the Christian apostles and prophets are the foundation and Christ is the cornerstone) and holds the keys. Post-Apostolic Christianity is now beginning to ascribe to the apostles the prerogatives of Jesus (cf. 10:40). In rabbinical language to bind and to loose is to declare certain actions forbidden or permitted [a Jewish source Terumoth 5:4 is quoted]...Thus Peter’s decisions regarding the O.T. law (e.g., in Acts 10:44-48) will be ratified in heaven.” (George Arthur Buttrick, et al The Interpreter’s Bible [Abingdon Press, 1951], volume 7, page 453)
Willoughby C. Allen, in a still older commentary that interprets the “rock” of Matthew 16:18 as the “revealed truth” of the Messiahship of Christ, nevertheless writes in his The International Critical Commentary —
“The figure of the gates of Hades suggests the metaphor of the keys. There were keys of Hades, Rev 1:18; cf. 9:1; 20:1. The apocalyptic writer describes the risen Christ as having the keys of Hades, i.e. having power over it, power to enter it, and power to release from it, or to imprison in it. In the same way, ‘the kingdom of the heavens’ can be likened to a citadel with barred gates. He who held the keys would have power within it, power to admit, power to exclude. In Rev 3:7 this power is held by Christ Himself [quotes Rev 3:7]...The words are modelled on Is 22:22, and express supreme authority. To hold the keys is to have absolute right, which can be contested by none...It would, therefore, be not unexpected if we found the Messiah or Son of Man described as having the keys of the kingdom of the heavens. This would imply that He was supreme within it. But it is surprising to find this power delegated to S. Peter...To S. Peter were to be given the keys of the kingdom. The kingdom is here, as elsewhere in this Gospel, the kingdom to be inaugurated when the Son of Man came upon the clouds of heaven. If S. Peter was to hold supreme authority within it, the other apostles were also to have places of rank...To ‘bind’ and to ‘loose’ in Jewish legal terminology are equivalent to ‘forbid’ and ‘allow,’ to ‘declare forbidden’ and to ‘declare allowed’...The terms, therefore, describe an authority of a legal nature. If he who has the keys has authority of an administrative nature, he who binds and looses exercises authority of a legislative character....Further, the position of v. 18, with its description of the Church as a fortress impregnable against the attacks of evil (the gates of Hades), suggest irresistibly that ‘the keys of the kingdom’ mean more than power to open merely, and imply rather authority within the kingdom. And this is confirmed by the ‘binding’ and ‘loosing’ which immediately follow...What were the keys thus given? Even if we identify the kingdom with the Church, it is not entirely satisfactory to suppose that the Lord simply foretold that S. Peter was to take a prominent part in the work of opening the door of faith to the Gentiles. His share in that work, though a great, was not an exclusive one....The motive must have been to emphasise the prominence of S. Peter in the Christan body as foretold and sanctioned by Christ Himself...They [the apostles] had left all to follow Christ; but when He sat on the throne of His glory they would sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, 19:18. And amongst them Peter was pre-eminent. He was protos, 10:2.” (Allen, The International Critical Commentary [orig 1909, 1985], page 176ff)
Raymond Brown and John Reumann suggest other possible meanings —
“What else might this broader power of the keys include? It might include one or more of the following: baptismal discipline; post-baptismal or penitential discipline; excommunication; exclusion from the eucharist; the communication or refusal of knowledge; legislative powers; and the power of governing.” (Brown, Reumann, et al Peter in the New Testament, page 97)
CONCLUSION ON “KEYS” OF MATTHEW 16:19
(A) The keys of the kingdom represent authoritative teaching, and Peter’s role as holder of the keys is fulfilled now on earth as Christ’s chief teacher;
(B) The keeper of the keys, according to the background of Matthew 16:19, has authority within the house as administrator and teacher (cf. Isaiah 22);
(C) The authority of the keys is likened to that of the teachers of the Law in Jesus’ day, and the correct interpretation of the Law given by Jesus is accessible to the early community (the Church) through the tradition of Peter;
(D) The authority of the keys of the kingdom (Matt 16:19) are not different from the key of David (Isaiah 22:22; Rev 3:7), since Jesus controls and is in possession of both;
(E) Therefore, the keys (or “key” singular) represent FULL authorization, FULL authority, PLENARY authority, SUPREME authority;
(F) The keys of the kingdom are NOT to be understood as merely entrance keys (or “opening the door of faith” to the Gentiles), but rather to the bundle of keys carried by the chief steward who regulated the affairs of the entire household (cf. Isaiah 22), which in the New Covenant is Christ’s universal Church (cf. Matt 16:18; 1 Tim 3:15);
(G) Peter, as holder of the keys, is not merely the “gatekeeper of heaven” or “doorkeeper” but is therefore the Chief Steward of the Kingdom of Heaven (the Church) on earth;
(H) Further, the power of the keys can represent baptismal or penitential discipline, excommunication, exclusion from the Eucharist, legislative powers or the power of governing the affairs of the Church;
(I) The language of “binding” and “loosing” is Rabbinic terminology for authoritative teaching or a teaching function (or “Halakhic” pronouncements), denoting the authoritative declaration that an action is permitted or forbidden by the law of Moses, and in the Church the authority to pronounce judgment on unbelievers and promise forgiveness to believers;
(J) The “binding” and “loosing” refers to the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the early community, which Jesus was establishing through His apostles in His Church) to declare a commandment or teaching binding or not binding, forbidden or allowed, and God in heaven will ratify, seal, or confirm that decision made on earth (cf. Matthew 16:19; 18:18).
BIBLE COMMENTARY ON “KEYS” OF ISAIAH 22:22
William F. Albright and C.S. Mann are quite certain when they comment on Matthew 16:19 —
“Isaiah 22:15ff undoubtedly lies behind this saying. The keys are the symbol of authority, and Roland de Vaux [Ancient Israel, tr. by John McHugh, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1961] rightly sees here the same authority as that vested in the vizier, the master of the house, the chamberlain, of the royal household in ancient Israel. Eliakim is described as having the same authority in Isaiah; it was Hilkiah’s position until he was ousted, and Jotham as regent is also described as ‘over the household’ [2 Kings 15:5]....It is of considerable importance that in other contexts, when the disciplinary affairs of the community are being discussed [cf. Matt 18:18; John 20:23] the symbol of the keys is absent, since the sayings apply in those instances to a wider circle....The role of Peter as steward of the Kingdom is further explained as being the exercise of administrative authority, as was the case of the OT chamberlain who held the ‘keys.’ The clauses ‘on earth,’ ‘in heaven’, have reference to the permanent character of the steward’s work.” (Albright/Mann, The Anchor Bible: Matthew, page 196-197)
The Evangelical New Bible Commentary states on Isaiah 22 —
“Eliakim stands in strong contrast to Shebna, over whom he seems to have been promoted when they reappear in 36:3...Godward he is called my servant (20)...manward he will be a father to his community (21)...The key...of David (22) comes in this context of accountability. A key was a substantial object, tucked in the girdle or slung over the shoulder; but the opening words of v. 22...emphasize the God-given responsibility that went with it, to be used in the king’s interests. The ‘shutting’ and ‘opening’ means the power to make decisions which no one under the king could override. This is the background of the commission to Peter (cf. Mt 16:19) and to the church (cf. Mt 18:18).... Ultimate authority, however, is claimed, in these terms, for Christ himself (cf. Rev 3:7-8).” (NBC page 647)
The Evangelical NIV Study Bible notes on Isaiah 22 —
on verse 15: “...in charge of the palace. A position second only to the king...”; on verse 22: “...key to the house of David. The authority delegated to him by the king, who belongs to David’s dynasty — perhaps controlling entrance into the royal palace. Cf. the ‘keys of the kingdom’ given to Peter (Mt 16:19) .”
The Lutheran/Catholic ecumenical study Peter in the New Testament comments —
“One suggestion is that the verse [Matt 16:19] is evocative of Isa 22:15-25 where Shebna, prime minister of King Hezekiah of Judah, is deposed and replaced by Eliakim on whose shoulder God places ‘the key of David; he shall open...and he shall shut.’ The power of the key of the Davidic kingdom is the power to open and to shut, i.e., the prime minister’s power to allow or refuse entrance to the palace, which involves access to the king. If this were the background of Matthew’s ‘keys of the kingdom,’ then Peter might be being portrayed as a type of prime minister in the kingdom that Jesus has come to proclaim, and the power of binding and loosing would be a specification of the broader power of allowing or refusing entrance into the kingdom....The prime minister, more literally ‘major-domo,’ was the man called in Hebrew ‘the one who is over the house,’ a term borrowed from the Egyptian designation of the chief palace functionary.” (Brown, Reumann, et al page 96-97, and footnote referring to Roland DeVaux Ancient Israel)
The Brethren/Mennonite commentary by Richard B. Gardner —
“The image of the keys likely comes from an oracle in Isaiah, which speaks of the installation of a new majordomo or steward in Hezekiah’s palace.” (Gardner, page 248)
Evangelical scholar F.F. Bruce comments —
“And what about the ‘keys of the kingdom’ ? The keys of a royal or noble establishment were entrusted to the chief steward or majordomo; he carried them on his shoulder in earlier times, and there they served as a badge of the authority entrusted to him. About 700 B.C. an oracle from God announced that this authority in the royal palace in Jerusalem was to be conferred on a man called Eliakim ....(Isaiah 22:22). So in the new community which Jesus was about to build, Peter would be, so to speak, chief steward.” (Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus [Intervarsity Press, 1983], 143-144, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 41)
Catholic Evangelical convert and Bible teacher Stephen Ray —
“Jesus is intentionally drawing attention to the context of Isaiah’s prophecy — a new steward is being placed over the kingdom of Judah — as the backdrop for his current appointment of Peter as steward over his kingdom. Jesus ascends the throne of David as the heir and successor of the kings of Israel and Judah, and he too, according to custom and legal precedent, appoints a royal steward over his kingdom. Notice the words used to describe the steward: he has an ‘office’; he is ‘over the household [vizier]’; ‘authority’ is committed into his hand; he shall be a ‘father’ to the people of God; he is given the ‘keys’ of authority; he has the unquestioned supremacy to open and shut so that no one can oppose him; he is fastened firmly as a peg; he will ‘become a throne of honor to his father’s house’; and on him will hang the weight of everything in the king’s house....The parallels between Peter and Eliakim are striking. The physical kingdom of Israel has been superseded by the spiritual kingdom of God. The office of steward in the old economy is now superseded by the Petrine office with the delegation and handing on of the keys. The office of steward was successive, and so is the Petrine office in the new kingdom.” (Stephen K. Ray, Upon This Rock [Ignatius Press, 1999] from “Appendix B: An Old Testament Basis for the Primacy and Succession of St. Peter,” page 273-4)
CONCLUSION ON “KEYS” OF ISAIAH 22 AS PARALLEL TO MATTHEW 16
Thus the prime minister or chief steward of the house of David had successors. He is described as being “over the household” and “in charge of the palace” (Isa 22:15; 36:3; 1 Kings 4:6; 18:3; 2 Kings 10:5; 15:5; 18:18); as for his authority “what he shall open, no one shall shut...and what he shall shut, no one shall open” (Isa 22:22; Matt 16:19; Rev 3:7). The prime minister had an incredible amount of authority, what can only be called a supreme or plenary authority beside that of the King. This is the language of the “keys,” “binding,” and “loosing” that Jesus was using in Matthew 16:19. Peter was given the “keys” just as the prime minister had the “key to the house of David” (Isa 22:22). And this is important in seeing the parallel to Matthew 16:19 — the prime minister was an office of dynastic succession (Isa 22:19,22). In other words, when the prime minister or chief steward died, another one would be selected to fill the office and take his place. Jesus recognizes the office of prime minister or chief steward (”manager” NIV) in his parables, as one who has been placed in charge and set over the household (Matt 24:45ff; 20:8; Luke 12:42; 16:1ff; cf. Gen 41:40ff; 43:19; 44:4; 45:8ff).
Just as the prime minister or chief steward (other terms include major domo, grand vizier, royal chamberlain, or palace administrator) had the “keys” and the other ministers did not, the Lord made Peter the prime minister in His visible Church, making him the visible head of the apostles over the Church, giving him the “keys of the kingdom” with a special and unique authority in Matthew 16:18-19. The office of prime minister was one of dynastic succession, and this is the language Jesus borrows from Isaiah 22:15ff. While Protestant scholars (such as those I have cited) typically would try to deny the full Catholic conclusions from the passage, it is clear St. Peter did have successors in the Bishops of Rome. That is how the Catholic Church of the earliest centuries came to understand the ongoing ministry and authority of Peter in the Church (the Bishop of Rome was the “Chair [or See] of Peter” or simply “the Apostolic See”). The historical evidence for the unique primacy of Peter and the Bishop of Rome will be discussed next.
HISTORICAL COMMENTARY ON ST. PETER AND THE “PRIMACY OF ROME”
From Anglican scholar J.N.D. Kelly The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1986) under Peter, St, Apostle (page 5-6)
“The papacy, through successive popes and councils, has always traced its origins and title-deeds to the unique commission reported to have been given by Jesus Christ to Peter, the chief of his Apostles, later to be martyred when organizing the earliest group of Christians at Rome....According to Matt 16:13-20, when Jesus asked the disciples whom they took him to be, Simon answered for them all that he was the Messiah, the Son of the living God; in reply Jesus pronounced him blessed because of this inspired insight, bestowed on him the Aramaic name Cephas (= ‘rock’), rendered Peter in Greek, and declared that he would build his indestructible church on ‘this rock’, and would give him ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven’ and the powers of ‘binding and loosing’ ....
“[In the first half of Acts]...Peter was the undisputed leader of the youthful church. It was he who presided over the choice of a successor to Judas (1:15-26), who explained to the crowd the meaning of Pentecost (2:14-40), who healed the lame beggar at the Temple (3:1-10), who pronounced sentence on Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11), and who opened the church to Gentiles by having Cornelius baptized without undergoing circumcision (10:9-48). He was to the fore in preaching, defending the new movement, working miracles of healing, and visiting newly established Christian communities...
“It seems certain that Peter spent his closing years in Rome. Although the NT appears silent about such a stay, it is supported by 1 Peter 5:13, where ‘Babylon’ is a code-name for Rome, and by the strong case for linking the Gospel of Mark, who as Peter’s companion (1 Pet 5:13) is said to have derived its substance from him, with Rome. To early writers like Clement of Rome (c. 95), Ignatius of Antioch (c. 107), and Irenaeus (c. 180) it was common knowledge that he worked and died in Rome.”
Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Eerdmans, 1910) —
“Rome was the battle-field of orthodoxy and heresy, and a resort of all sects and parties. It attracted from every direction what was true and false in philosophy and religion. Ignatius rejoiced in the prospect of suffering for Christ in the centre of the world; Polycarp repaired hither to settle with Anicetus the paschal controversy; Justin Martyr presented there his defense of Christianity to the emperors, and laid down for it his life; Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Cyprian conceded to that church a position of singular pre-eminence. Rome was equally sought as a commanding position by heretics and theosophic jugglers, as Simon Magus, Valentine, Marcion, Cerdo, and a host of others. No wonder, then, that the bishops of Rome at an early date were looked upon as metropolitan pastors, and spoke and acted accordingly with an air of authority which reached far beyond their immediate diocese.” (Schaff, volume 2, page 157)
On St. Clement of Rome (c. 96 AD), reckoned as the fourth Pope from St. Peter, Schaff states —
“...it can hardly be denied that the document [Clement to the Corinthians] reveals the sense of a certain superiority over all ordinary congregations. The Roman church here, without being asked (as far as appears), gives advice, with superior administrative wisdom, to an important church in the East, dispatches messengers to her, and exhorts her to order and unity in a tone of calm dignity and authority, as the organ of God and the Holy Spirit. This is all the more surprising if St. John, as is probable, was then still living in Ephesus, which was nearer to Corinth than Rome.” (Schaff, volume 2, page 158)
The succession list of bishops in the apostolic see of Rome of the first two centuries as provided by Schaff (volume 2, page 166) is —
St. Peter (d. 64 or 67)
St. Linus (67-76)
St. Anacletus (76-88)
St. Clement I (88-97)
St. Evaristus (97-105)
St. Alexander I (105-115)
St. Sixtus I (115-125)
St. Telesphorus (125-136)
St. Hyginus (136-140)
St. Pius I (140-155)
St. Anicetus (155-166)
St. Soter (166-175)
St. Eleutherius (175-189)
St. Victor I (189-199)
“It must in justice be admitted, however, that the list of Roman bishops has by far the preminence in age, completeness, integrity of succession, consistency of doctrine and policy, above every similar catalogue, not excepting those of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople....” (Schaff, page 166)
Schaff then proceeds to list the Bishops of Rome just as I have them above, along with the corresponding Roman Emperors. St. Irenaeus gives this exact list of successors to Peter as Bishops of Rome up to his time (Against Heresies 3:3:1-3 c. 180-199 AD), as does St. Hegesippus up to his time (about 20 years earlier, c. 160 AD) cited in the first History of the Church by Eusebius.
Catholic historian Philip Hughes writes —
“Ever since the popes were first articulate about the General Council, they have claimed the right to control its action and to give or withhold an approbation of its decisions which stamps them as the authentic teaching of the Church of Christ. Only through their summoning it, or through their consenting to take their place at it (whether personally or by legates sent in their name), or by their subsequent acceptance of the council, does the assembly of bishops become a General Council. No member of the Church has ever proposed that a General Council shall be summoned and the pope be left out, nor that the pope should take any other position at the General Council but as its president...in no council has it been moved that the Bishop of X be promoted to the place of the Bishop of Rome, or that the bishop of Rome’s views be disregarded and held of no more account than those of the bishop of any other major see...the general shape is ever discernible of a Roman Primacy universally recognized, and submitted to, albeit (at times) unwillingly — recognized and submitted to because, so the bishops believed, it was set up by God himself.” (Hughes, The Church in Crisis: A History of the General Councils, page 5-6)
From the old Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) —
“History bears complete testimony that from the very earliest times the Roman See has ever claimed the supreme headship, and that that headship has been freely acknowledged by the universal Church. We shall here confine ourselves to the consideration of the evidence afforded by the first three centuries. The first witness is St. Clement, a disciple of the Apostles, who, after Linus and Anacletus, succeeded St. Peter as the fourth in the list of popes....The tone of authority [in his Epistle to the Corinthians] which inspires the latter appears so clearly that [Protestant scholar J.B.] Lightfoot did not hesitate to speak of it as ‘the first step towards papal domination’ ...Thus, at the very commencement of church history, before the last survivor of the Apostles had passed away, we find a Bishop of Rome, himself a disciple of St. Peter, intervening in the affairs of another Church and claiming to settle the matter by a decision spoken under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Such a fact admits of one explanation alone. It is that in the days when the Apostolic teaching was yet fresh in men’s minds the universal Church recognized in the Bishop of Rome the office of supreme head....The limits of the present article prevent us from carrying the historical argument further than the year 300. Nor is it in fact necessary to do so. From the beginning of the fourth century the supremacy of Rome is writ large upon the page of history. It is only in regard to the first age of the Church that any question can arise. But the facts we have recounted are entirely sufficient to prove to any unprejudiced mind that the supremacy was exercised and acknowledged from the days of the Apostles.” (volume 12, article “Pope” page 263, 264)
From the New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) —
“That in the primitive Christian period the Roman Church was credited with an authority superior to that of any other patriarchal see, can be gathered from the letter written by Pope Clement I (c. 92) to the Corinthians in which he made important statements concerning the nature of the Church and laid down principles that in embryonic form contains maxims of government. That in view of its location, the Roman Church was in actual fact credited with preeminence over other sees is a matter of history....Numerous testimonies could be cited to prove the factual preeminence of the Roman Church.” (volume 10, article “Papacy” page 952)
To be fair, the NCE goes on to state that in the earliest centuries there was “no doctrinal elaboration of the jurisdictional position of the Roman Church” and this too is “a matter of history.” However, the same could be said of the Holy Trinity and the Person of Christ. There was no formal doctrinal elaboration on these (whether the Papacy, the Trinity, or Christology) until the fourth century (e.g. the Council of Nicaea and thereafter). From there the Catholic doctrines (on the Papacy, the Trinity, Christology, Mariology, the sacraments, even the 27-book canon of the New Testament) begin to be formally defined, elaborated upon, and developed in the creed, practice and life of the Church and her liturgy.
Steve Ray writes on the development of doctrine in the early Catholic Church —
“And so the Church developed as she grew but did not change her organic nature or her Christ-established essence. The growth did not contradict what had gone before but rather complemented it in an essential unity with the Church’s past stages of development. Under the pressure of increasing size, theological deviations, and persecution in the first century, leadership solidified and became layered, as is essential for the growth of any organization. This process was first developed and set in motion during the life of the apostles. It was a process of maturation that was fundamental to the organism and vital to its growth. The result of that growth in our age is still known as the Catholic Church and is essentially the same as the acorn planted two thousand years ago. The body is now in adulthood and bears the same marks as it did in the first century: oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity — in short, the Catholic Church. The development of the Church and of doctrine and leadership is simply part of the expected growth of the organic structure.” (Upon This Rock [Ignatius Press, 1999], page 118)
Anglican scholar J.N.D. Kelly in his classic work Early Christian Doctrines sums up how unanimous the Church was in the patristic period, particularly the fourth and fifth centuries where the documentary evidence becomes overwhelming for the primacy and authority of the Papacy —
“Everywhere, in the East no less than the West, Rome enjoyed a special prestige, as is indicated by the precedence accorded without question to it....Thus Rome’s preeminance remained undisputed in the patristic period. For evidence of it the student need only recall the leading position claimed as a matter of course by the popes, and freely conceded to them, at the councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451). We even find the fifth-century historians Socrates and Sozomen concluding...that it was unconstitutional for synods to be held without the Roman pontiff being invited or for decisions to be taken without his concurrence. At the outbreak of the Christological controversy, it will be remembered, both Nestorius and Cyril hastened to bring their cases to Rome, the latter declaring that the ancient custom of the churches constrained him to communicate matters of such weight to the Pope and to seek his advice before acting. In one of his sermons he goes so far as to salute Celestine as ‘the archbishop of the whole world’ .....It goes without saying that Augustine [c. 354 - 430 AD] identifies the Church with the universal Catholic Church of his day, with its hierarchy and sacraments, and with its centre at Rome....By the middle of the fifth century the Roman church had established, de jure as well as de facto, a position of primacy in the West, and the papal claims to supremacy over all bishops of Christendom had been formulated in precise terms....The student tracing the history of the times, particularly of the Arian, Donatist, Pelagian and Christological controversies, cannot fail to be impressed by the skill and persistence with which the Holy See [of Rome] was continually advancing and consolidating its claims. Since its occupant was accepted as the successor of St. Peter, and prince of the apostles, it was easy to draw the inference that the unique authority which Rome in fact enjoyed, and which the popes saw concentrated in their persons and their office, was no more than the fulfilment of the divine plan.” (Kelly, pages 406, 407, 413, 417)
The Anglican study The See of Peter by James T. Shotwell/Louise Ropes Loomis (NY: Octagon Books, 1965) on the early evidence for the primacy of Rome —
“Unquestionably, the Roman church very early developed something like a sense of obligation to the oppressed all over Christendom....Consequently there was but one focus of authority. By the year 252, there seem to have been one hundred bishops in central and southern Italy but outside Rome there was nothing to set one bishop above another. All were on a level together, citizens of Italy, accustomed to look to Rome for direction in every detail of public life. The Roman bishop had the right not only to ordain but even, on occasion, to select bishops for Italian churches....To Christians of the Occident, the Roman church was the sole, direct link with the age of the New Testament and its bishop was the one prelate in their part of the world in whose voice they discerned echoes of the apostles’ speech. The Roman bishop spoke always as the guardian of an authoritative tradition, second to none. Even when the eastern churches insisted that their traditions were older and quite as sacred, if not more so, the voice in the West, unaccustomed to rivalry at home, spoke on regardless of protest or denunciation at a distance....
“The theory of [Pope] Stephen, that kindled his contemporaries to such utter exasperation, was rather that the Church was a monarchy, a congeries indeed of bishoprics but all of them subject to the superior authority of the one bishop who sat upon the throne of the prince of the apostles [Peter]. The Roman See, as distinct from the Roman church, was and sought to be predominant, not for its situation or other wordly advantes, not even for its treasure of doctrine, bequeathed by its two founders, but, primarily and fundamentally, because its bishop was heir in his own person to the unique prerogative conferred upon Peter. To Peter had been granted a primacy among the apostles, so to the Roman bishop was assigned a leadership over the bishops....The Arians, who had ousted Athanasius from Alexandria, offered to submit the case to [Pope] Julius for his judgment. Athanasius himself and other orthodox refugees from eastern sees went directly to Rome as to a court of appeal...
“At the general Council of Sardica [343 AD]...the orthodox Easterners and Westerners stayed behind to issue another, in which they claimed for the Roman bishop an appellate jurisdiction over all the Church in honor of ‘the memory of Peter, the apostle.’...[by the time of Pope Damasus]...there can be no doubt that large numbers of eastern Christians had by this time become convinced of the genuine superiority of the Roman See in faith and religious insight. The eastern emperor Theodosius published an edict requiring his subjects to accept the doctrine which Peter had committed to the Romans....it was the trustworthy authority of Peter to which the East paid homage in the fourth century, not the wealth nor the power of Rome....From the time when Eleutherus was asked to condemn the Montanists, through the period when Callistus, Stephen and Dionysius revised and interpreted dogma, down to the days when the Nicene creed was defended on the ground of its Roman origin and Liberius and Damasus endorsed or rejected eastern declarations of faith according as they did or did not measure up to their own standards, the Roman bishops asserted their right to speak for the tradition of Peter.” (Shotwell/Loomis, page 217-228)
The Orthodox study The Primacy of Peter (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1992) by John Meyendorff states on St. Clement of Rome and the ante-Nicene period (before 325 AD) —
“Let us turn to the facts. We know that the Church of Rome took over the position of ‘church-with-priority’ at the end of the first century. That was about the time at which her star ascended into the firmament of history in its brightest splendor...Even as early as the Epistle to the Romans, Rome seems to have stood out among all the churches as very important. Paul bears witness that the faith of the Romans was proclaimed throughout the whole world (Rom 1:8)....we have a document which gives us our earliest reliable evidence that the Church of Rome stood in an exceptional position of authority in this period. This is the epistle of Clement of Rome...We know that Clement was ‘president’ of the Roman Church....” (Afanassieff from Meyendorff, page 124)
“The epistle [Clement of Rome to the Corinthians] is couched in very measured terms, in the form of an exhortation; but at the same time it clearly shows that the Church of Rome was aware of the decisive weight, in the Church of Corinth’s eyes, that must attach to its witness about the events in Corinth. So the Church of Rome, at the end of the first century, exhibits a marked sense of its own priority, in point of witness about events in other churches. Note also that the Roman Church did not feel obliged to make a case, however argued, to justify its authoritative pronouncements on what we should now call the internal concerns of other churches. There is nothing said about the grounds of this priority....Apparently Rome had no doubt that its priority would be accepted without argument.” (Afanassieff from Meyendorff, page 125-126)
“Rome’s vocation [in the “pre-Nicene period”] consisted in playing the part of arbiter, settling contentious issues by witnessing to the truth or falsity of whatever doctrine was put before them. Rome was truly the center where all converged if they wanted their doctrine to be accepted by the conscience of the Church. They could not count upon success except on one condition — that the Church of Rome had received their doctrine — and refusal from Rome predetermined the attitude the other churches would adopt. There are numerous cases of this recourse to Rome....” (Afanassieff from Meyendorff, page 128f, 133)
“It is impossible to deny that, even before the appearance of local primacies, the Church from the first days of her existence possessed an ecumenical center of unity and agreement. In the apostolic and the Judaeo-Christian period, it was the Church of Jerusalem, and later the Church of Rome — ‘presiding in agape,’ according to St. Ignatius of Antioch. This formula and the definition of the universal primacy contained in it have been aptly analyzed by Fr. Afanassieff and we need not repeat his argument here. Neither can we quote here all the testimonies of the Fathers and the Councils unanimously acknowledging Rome as the senior church and the center of ecumenical agreement. It is only for the sake of biased polemics that one can ignore these testimonies, their consensus and significance.” (Schmemann from Meyendorff, page 163-164)
Kenneth Whitehead asks in his wonderful apologetics book One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic: The Early Church was the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press, 2000) —
“We must ask: What Church existing today descends in an unbroken line from the apostles of Jesus Christ (and possesses the other essential marks of the true Church of which the Creed speaks)? Further, what Church existing today is headed by a single, recognized, designated leader under the headship of Peter? To ask these questions is to answer them. Any entity claiming to be the Church of Christ — his body! — must demonstrate its apostolicity, its organic link with the original apostles, on whom Christ manifestly established his Church. Nothing less can qualify as the apostolic Church that Jesus founded.” (Whitehead, page 36)
With all the hindsight we have, that doesn't make any sense at all...
What did Peter do as the leader of the church??? We know that Peter was sent to minister to the Jews...NOT the Gentiles which includes most all Catholics and Christians...
If there was such a thing as a leader of the church, it would have been Paul, and Barnabas and Timothy...
Paul was just getting his ministry to the Gentiles going when Peter faded into obscurity....
What legacy did Peter leave to be called the leader of your religion???
The Holy Father (not the fake one that you guys bow down to) has summoned me long ago...And I am always in His audience...
That’s all pretty meaningless...One guy starts a fable and as history moves on, the story gets repeated by the newcomers...
It’s pretty clear that none of these people knew anything more about Peter than the one before him...Just repeatin’ what he heard and in some cases, added more embellishments...
Haven’t been back since I posted this yesterday. It was an interesting article but I forgot all the Catholic haters here.
Next time I’ll hopefully remember to ask for a caucus designation.
For those of you who think we Catholics are going to Hell, just remember to look after your own soul.
Hate is not cleansing.
Wait a minute, didn’t you claim to be Catholic saying that you were leaving to join a Baptist Church?
Now, did you find out a Baptist Church for you to go to? Remember you said that you were Catholic in 2007 looking for a baptist church
Which I believe was delivered along with a cute little alcoholic joke, very funny in a Klannish kind of way....
Exactly — flying under false colors, pretending to be something that one is not. That’s a DU game.....
Though we should be glad to see a person coming back to the Faith, eh?
Interesting viewpoint. If you actually read the Gospels, you will find that Peter was the foremost amongst the Apostles in the teaching of Jesus and in interaction with Him.
After Jesus left? Try reading from Acts 2 on for Peter's role in the early Church. Peter was the first man to walk on water. He was the first man to convert a Gentile. He was the first man to raise somebody from the dead. And so on. James was the bishop of Jerusalem. You keep saying that Paul was only sent to the Gentiles. Why then, if you examine Paul's life, did he spend most of his time with the Jews? And Peter?
He spent 7 years establishing the Church in Antioch with a mixed bag of converts, as well as establishing churches across Asia Minor, before going to Rome.
What legacy did Peter leave to be called the leader of your religion???
How many times is Peter referred to in the Gospels as opposed to anyone else? Even in the whole of the NT, with all of the Pauline Epistles? Peter was given the keys, and charged by Jesus to 'feed My sheep'. Nobody else was. And Catholicism is not a religion; we have the Faith handed down from the Apostles which was given to them from Jesus.
We do not have the LaZBoy throne of Sunday Sports in the Church of Iscool (population one).
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