Primacy of Peter

Good questions.

JB: While it appears that Jesus is giving Peter the singular authority to permit and bind in Math 16:19, he gives the same authority to a much larger audience, in Math 18:18.

BFHU: Let’s take a look at the scriptures.

Mt. 16:19 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Mt 18:18 (At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked)… 18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

You see that Jesus did give the same authority to all the apostles to bind and loose, which was a Rabbinic idiom for “the authority to rule”. Which is absolutely still true for our Bishops. However, Jesus also gave Peter a greater responsibility by giving Peter and only Peter the Keys of the Kingdom.

Jesus give Peter the Keys to the Kingdom

You may dismiss this as irrelevant or just an omission from the Mt 18 passage but we see this as significant. But remember, the Catholic Church did not look at this verse and say, “Ah ha! Peter is greater than the other disciples.”
No, historically the bishop of Rome was the final authority in the Christian Catholic Church. It is easy to find. But you have to have eyes to see. Apologists for the Catholic Church point out this verse because Protestants demand scripture even though their teaching of Sola Scriptura is not found in the Bible.

JB: I understand that the argument for Peters sole authority would then deduce that Math 18:18 would suggest that all spoken to at that time understood Peter to be prime, but that is still a stretch and really only can be seen if the reader assumes Jesus was establishing Peter as the ‘Rock’ of the Church.

BFHU: Here you touch on a very important difference between the Catholic Church and Protestant churches. For Protestants, there exists in their minds an either-or mentality. Such as, either Peter is the Rock or Jesus is the Rock. If Peter is the Rock then that detracts from Jesus/God who is designated often in the OT as the Rock of Israel, etc. Therefore Peter CANNOT be the Rock Jesus is talking about.

But, for Catholics this mindset is not foundational as it is in Protestantism. We have a both-and mentality. Jesus/God is certainly the Rock of Israel/ God.

1 Corinthians 10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a <strong>spiritual rock</strong> which followed them; and the rock was Christ.

Deuteronomy 32:4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

Isaiah 30:29You will have songs as in the night when you keep the festival,And gladness of heart as when one marches to the sound of the flute,To go to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel .

But In Matthew 15 Jesus changes Simon’s name to Rock/Peter/Cephas and tells him He will build His Church on Rock/Peter. Of course, Jesus is also Rock. Both Peter and God are Rock, a strong foundation. We don’t have to choose either one or the other but both. And, there is no Scripture that demands that the title Rock can only be applied to God.

JB: In addition; 1 John 4:1 creates a problem in that the Catholic church teaches (you need to understand that I spent the first 28 years of my life in the Catholic church and received the first 5 Sacraments), that Catholics are to accept the teaching of the church by faith. I was also told on numerous occasions, that the reading of the Bible was for the church leadership (Priests, Bishops etc.) and not for the laity…I am not asking your opinion on this point; I am telling you that was the teaching I received from the four churches I attended, three in Massachusetts and one in New Brunswick.

BFHU: The Catholic Church does not forbid following I Jn 4:1. The Church is our Mother. If the Mother of a child tells him not to run out into the street it is to protect her child. Should the child test the truth of his mother’s instruction and run out into the street to see if it is true? It is the same for the Catholic Church. The young and immature in the Faith need to trust the teachings of the Church because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Because levels of maturity vary it is safest for the Church to encourage her children to trust rather than test every doctrine. However, any well instructed and faithful Catholic who seeks the truth can certainly explore and test what the Church teaches. I did and converted from being a zealous Protestant to a zealous Catholic. All her Doctrines are sublime.

But, many Catholics explore and test with an agenda, perhaps even an agenda hidden from themselves. They really want a good excuse to free themselves from certain Catholic Doctrines that they don’t like. Unpopular doctrines like the prohibition of contraception, sinfulness of homosexual intercourse, prohibition of divorce, obligation to attend Church every Sunday and Holy Day. So, they “test” the spirits and VOILA! ….thanks to Protestant interpretation of Scripture they find just the rationale they sought to leave the Catholic Church. They have unwittingly fallen into the very trap John warned about:

1 John 4: 1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

Does the Catholic Church acknowledge that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh ?
YES! It certainly does.

JB: How then do we ‘test the Spirits which could be prophets or teachers, if you cannot read the very word of God? You know; I am a sub-contractor and as such am required to sign a sub contract which is based on the prime contract. I am permitted to see the prime contract, and read it, in order to be satisfied that the sub contract is in fact aligned with the requirements of the prime.

BFHU: The Church does not forbid the reading of Scripture. We are cautioned to read it WITH THE CHURCH. But scripture reading and meditation are encouraged.

There was a time when it was forbidden due to the Protestant revolt that inflamed the minds with error. But this is no longer the case. If you were told not to read scripture it was the people who told you that for whatever reason, I don’t know. Maybe that is what they were taught. Or maybe your questions scared them or they did know how to answer them, so they told you not to read scripture. But the Church does not and has not forbidden the reading of Scripture by the laity for a long time.

JB: How then do we ‘test the Spirits which could be prophets or teachers, if you cannot read the very word of God?

BFHU: The testing had to be done spiritually and comparing sound doctrine to the words of so-called prophet or teachers. This passage COULD NOT HAVE MEANT THAT IN ORDER TO TEST THE SPIRITS ONE HAD TO READ SCRIPTURE.

That is impossible.

Since John wrote in the 1st Century, hardly anyone in the population could read. Even today worldwide illiteracy is 20%. So, it is an impossibility that salvation and testing of spirits depended upon reading Scripture.

And besides, at today’s $8.00/hr minimum wage ONE Bible would have cost more than the equivalent of $16,000, to produce, before the invention of the printing press. For more information see –>Sola Scriptura

Therefore, one does NOT have to read scripture to test the spirits. But, the Catholic Church has always read the scriptures to the faithful.

JB: Even in Timothy there is an admonition to study to show oneself approved.
BFHU: Timothy was not laity. Paul was not addressing this admonition to everyone. Timothy must have had the ability to study/read and access to books.

JB: My point is; I understand the Catholic churches stand, I am just not convinced the very Scripture that is the linchpin of the claim says precisely what they think it says

BFHU: I understand your point. But you have fallen back into the Protestant error that the Catholic Church derives her doctrine and beliefs FROM Scripture. We do NOT. Rather, scripture was born FROM the teachings of Jesus, the Apostles and the Catholic Church. So the Mt. 15 passage is NOT any sort of linchpin for the claim of Peter’s primacy. Don’t you find it unsettling that Sola Scriptura is




9 Responses to Primacy of Peter

  1. Joel says:

    I recently read a really good book by Adrian Fortescue called The Early Papacy to the Synod of Chalcedon in 451. He used some arguments I never heard before. I was pleasantly surprized. The arguments are addressed to the Anglican Church but the quotes are from Antiquity and have universal application. Very nice.

  2. Constantine says:

    Hi bfhu,

    First of all, don’t you find it ironic that you rely so heavily on Scripture to make your case while at the same time decrying Sola Scriptura? I don’t find one instance in this article where you cite a pope, a cardinal or even a council and yet you seem to rely solely on Scripture to make your case.

    Secondly, can you please show us where, in any official, dogmatic Roman Catholic document, the official “infallbile” interpretation for any of the bible verses you cite? No? I didn’t think so. So you are really just doing what you rail against Protestants for doing. That is, you are just using your own “private interpretation” and holding it out as though it were a Magisterial teaching. So you really are no different than a Protestant.

    You wrote: “No, historically the bishop of Rome was the final authority in the Christian Catholic Church. It is easy to find.”

    My dear bfhu, that is not even remotely true. St. Cyprian called a council to purposefully contradict the bishop of Rome; St. Augustine and the bishops of North Africa purposefully contradicted the bishop of Rome; the Inquisitors of the 16th century contradicted the bishop of Rome and the entire Gallican Church refused to allow papal bulls to be circulated until the local bishops approved them – and this up until 1800! So the history of Christianity is that nobody – until this most recent century – thought the bishop of Rome was a final authority. I am happy to provide you with numerous sources if you’d like.

    That’s enough for right now.

    Let me come back in a minute to talk about the “rock”.


  3. Constantine says:

    My dear bfhu,

    I am always startled when I see the utter disrespect that Roman Catholics pay to the Old Testament. After all, those were “the Scriptures” that Jesus affirmed, down to every pen stroke (Matthew 5:17-21).

    So when you wrote, “And, there is no Scripture that demands that the title Rock can only be applied to God” you showed my suspicions to be true! The entire Old Testament demands that the title Rock be applied only to God.

    Here are just a few examples:

    For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? Psalm 18:31

    Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” Isaiah 44:8

    “There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 1 Samuel 2:2

    So just in these three example, we have David, the prophet Isaiah and the prophet Samuel saying exactly that the title “Rock” can only mean God!

    You remember how often Jesus cited the book of Deuteronomy, don’t you bfhu? He quoted it more than any other book in the Bible. Does Deuteronomy say that Peter is the “rock”?

    He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. Deuteronomy 32:4

    They abandoned the God who made them and rejected the Rock their Savior. Deuteronomy 32:15

    You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. Deuteronomy 32:18

    So, only the Roman Catholic Church, taking only one example from the New Testament which was unknown to the Apostles and Christ, Incarnate, takes God’s rightful title away from Him and gives it to a man. That strikes me as a blasphemy.

    Please remember – the Old Testament WERE the Scriptures to Jesus and His Apostles. And the Old Testament allows for no other Rock than God, Himself.

    Now, let’s apply this “both/and” silliness to the Scripture and see how it works. How would you take ANY of the verses I just cited and substitute Peter?

    Would King David say in Psalm 18, “For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our PETER?” Of course not.

    So we can all see two things: the Scriptures that Jesus knew most definitely required the “Rock” to be God, alone and secondly, you cannot apply the “both/and” silliness without making a mockery of the work of the Holy Spirit.


  4. bfhu says:

    I have posted my replies on the website.

  5. Joel says:

    I am sorry to inform you that Sts. Cyprian and Augustine are quite possible the two Worst saint to try to use as sources to discredit the papacy. According to Adrian Fortescue, the papacy is the easiest of all dogmas to prove using the writtings of the early church.

    “St. Cyprian (d. 258)asks Pope Stephen I (254-257) to intervene in the affair of Marcian, bishop of Arles, who was a Novatian; he urges the Pope to excommunicate this heretic and to see to it that a Catholic bishop be appointed. He himself does not excommunicate but asks the Pope to do so. In the case of his own rebels Basilides and Martial, he begs the Pope Cornelius (251-253) not to accept their appeal. There is no suggestion here that the Pope has no authority to do so; on the contrary, by his anxiety to warn Cornelius against these men, he implies that Cornelius could. Soon after the death of Pope Fabian (250), the clergy of Rome heard that St. Cyprian had abandoned his flock in the persecution. At once they wrote to their brother clergy in Africa, to warn about this. Again we read in this letter most striking expressions of authority over members of a distant Church.”
    -Fortescue, “The Early Papacy to te Synod of Chalcedon in 451”

    Even “The pagan Ammianus Marcellinus (fourth century) knows who is the chief bishop of the Christians. Pope Liberius has ‘that authority by which the bishops of the eternal cityare more mighty’. St. Jerome (d.419) says that even dumd beasts have their cheifs; there can be only one emperor (he is wrong there, by the way), only one judge of a province. ‘In a ship there is only one man at the wheel, in a house one master, in an army, however great, the banner of one is followed.’ So it must be in the Church. But St. Jerome, as most of the Fathers, will occure again most definately, when we come to our further points. The great St. Augustine (d. 430) stated that ‘in which [the Roman Church] the ruling authority of the Apostolic See has always held firm.'”

    I have been looking for our previous posts on the authority of the pope, but I think it will take some time to dig up. Let if suffice for now to say that the entire church in every region in every century has acknowledged the primacy of the pope, even while John the Apostle was still alive!

  6. Constantine says:

    Hi Joel,

    Thanks for your response. But I think a further investigation into the facts you present bolsters my case rather than yours.

    In the case of the Marcian the Novatianist, what seems to be missing in your interpretation is that Faustinus, the bishop of Lyons, wrote to Stephen on two separate occasions. Bishop Stephen of Rome failed to respond precisely because he had no idea that he had any primacy in the matter. It was Cyprian’s involvement which forced Stephen to act because he represented the closest Apostolic see to Lyons. So the incident you raise actually buttresses the claim that there was no primacy for the bishop of Rome as is evidenced by the fact that he did not know he had any!

    I might recommend a book to you by a Roman Catholic scholar, Fr. Klaus Schatz, SJ. Fr. Schatz earned his doctorate at Rome’s Gregorian University and is in good standing with his bishop and superiors. Therefore, his bona fides as a Roman Catholic scholar are unimpeachable.

    Here are a few things Fr. Schatz has to say about “primacy” at Rome:

    “If one had asked a Christian in the 100, 200, or even 300 whether the bishop of Rome was the head of all Christians, or whether there was a supreme bishop over all the other bishops and having the last work in questions affecting the whole church, he or she would certainly have said no.”

    (Schatz, Klaus. Papal primacy: from its origins to the present. Trans. John A. Otto and Linda M. Maloney. Collegeville, Minnesota. The Liturgical Press, 1996. Trans. of Der Päpstliche Primat: Seine Geschichte von den Ursprungen bis zur Gegenwart. Germany, 1990.) p. 3

    Concerning the period of 500-700 A.D., Fr. Schatz adds,

    “Anything resembling papal governance of the Church could only be said to exist in the Roman provincial church, that is, in ancient Italia suburbicaria and the Italian islands.” p. 63

    Much more could be said, but that is enough for now.

    The pope of Rome has never had or exercised the “primacy” whose belief is demanded – de fide – by the first Vatican Council.

    Not even Catholic scholars believe that any more.


  7. Joel says:

    Hullo Constantine,

    Here are some comments I posted on this site before.

    In the Second Century we have the writings of Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons and author of Against Heresies. He wrote:
    “…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 faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, 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.”
    That needs no interpretation.

    In the Third Century we have the letter from St. Cyprian, who was the bishop of Carthage, which was already mentioned in my last post. As a companion to that we have this quote from the same man:
    “In this place Peter, upon whom the Church had to be built, speaks as representing the Church, for our instruction. For although the proud and arrogant multitude of them that refuse to obey may take themselves off, still the Church never departs from Christ, and the Church is made up of the people united to their priest and the flock that cleaves to its shepherd. Hence you should know that the bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishop, and that if anyone be not with the bishop he is not in the Church…”
    Some argument may be made that the bishop referred to here means any local bishop, but it falls apart under scrutiny.

    In the Fourth Century we have the wonderful confession of St. Jerome, Patriarch of Jerusalem and Doctor of the Church, regarding the authority of the pope.

    In the beginning of the Fifth Century there was an African Synod that defied the orders of the pope and in this instance the exception proves the rule. In this case a bishop deposed one of his priests and the pope reinstated him. A letter was sent from Carthage to Rome complaining about the decision in Rome to reinstate the priest against the wishes of the local metropolitan.

    I have more ancient quotes that can follow. Simply stating that the pope did not hold primacy in the entire church in the first four centuries of her life is not sufficient. The witness of the church fathers directly opposes this idea and you must bring proof when making this statement. Give me direct quotes as I have given you. As for the Jesuit priest you just quoted, bring better evidence than simply quoting his book to me. He needs to bring evidence too. He is simply making unqualified statements.

  8. Constantine says:

    Hi Joel,

    Thanks for your response.

    Why did you start so late as the 2nd century? Do you not have any information prior to that?

    Let me offer some….

    First of all, there is absolutely no Biblical evidence for a primacy for Peter or for Rome. We read in Acts 8:14 that the “Apostles in Jerusalem” sent Peter to Samaria. So Peter was a missionary and not the bishop of a local church. In Acts 10, we see that Peter had no idea of a primacy. When Cornelius fell at Peter’s feet, Peter made him get up, saying, “I am only a man myself!” (Acts 10:26).

    In the gospels, we see that the apostles were arguing about who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-36). That would have been the perfect opportunity for either Peter or Jesus to make the claim you do. But Jesus did no such thing – because Peter had no primacy.

    In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we see that the Apostle openly contradicts Peter and accuses him of doctrinal error (Galatians 2:14 ff.)

    So there is no biblical evidence, whatsoever, for a Petrine primacy.

    Your quote from Irenaeus says nothing at all about Peter’s primacy but merely addresses the position of the Roman church. So it really does need interpretation. It says nothing at all about the bishop of Rome. So I’m not really sure why you brought that up. At the beginning of the second century, we do have letters from Ignatius at Antioch. What is very interesting to historians here, is that every letter – except the one written to Rome – was written to a specific bishop. It seems that Rome did not even have a bishop at the beginning of the second century so it is entirely unclear how that non-existent bishop could have a primacy.

    Cyprian is an interesting choice because it is an historical fact that in 259 Cyprian let a council that directed the Spanish church to disregard the bishop of Rome. Cyprian clearly did not hold to a primacy of the Roman bishop.

    As far as Fr. Schatz’s needing to bring you evidence, just please read his book. It is several hundred pages of evidence. And, as I think I mentioned earlier, he earned his doctorate in Rome so his qualifications are impeccable from a Catholic standpoint.

    And the interesting thing is Fr. Schatz in not alone. Fr. Richard McBrien who teaches at the Catholic University of Notre Dame says that the papacy is a “post biblical” creation; Fr. Hans Kueng says that the primacy of Rome is due solely to the fact that the two apostles are buried there.

    Dr. Garry Wills has this to say,

    The papacy did not come into existence at the same time as the church. In the words of John Henry Newman, “While Apostles were on earth, there was the display neither of Bishop nor Pope.” Peter was not a bishop in Rome. There were no bishops in Rome for at least a hundred years after the death of Christ. The very term “pope” (papa, daddy) was not reserved for the bishop of Rome until the fifth century – before then it was used of any bishop (S. 89). ….
    Wills, Garry. Why I am a Catholic. Boston, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 2002. p. 54

    And in the early church, let’s not forget the councils. Nicea (325) held that all of the Apostolic Sees were equal. So none of the fathers that attended that council had any idea of the primacy that is being touted on this website.

    I do appreciate your interest, Joel and I look forward to anything else you may to add on the topic.


  9. tattoo says:


    […]Primacy of Peter « The Black Cordelias[…]…

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