Biblical Exposition

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Peter & the Primacy in the New Testament

by Steve Ray on September 19, 2018

St. Peter in the New Testament
What Do We Know About Him?

Kd-KeysPeter is the big rugged fisherman who became the humble servant of the servants of God. Jesus chose him from among the Twelve to be the leader and the visible head of the Church.

What do we know about Peter from the New Testament? More than most people realize. It is good to remember this man that Jesus specially chose. Here is my article on Peter and the Primacy in the New Testament.

From the obscure fishing village of Capernaum on the shores of Galilee, Simon son of John rose to great prominence in the early Church. When choosing Simon as a disciple, Jesus informed him that his name would be changed to Cephas (Rock) (Jn 1:42). From his simple beginning as a fisherman, Simon Peter’s life ended in a glorious martyrdom in the Imperial City of Rome.

In the NT, the names Simon, Peter, or Cephas occur almost 200 times. The names of all the other disciples combined occur only about 130 times. In the NT lists of apostles, Peter is listed first. Matthew uses the word first (Mt 10:2) to “to single him out as the most prominent one of the twelve”. He was the spokesman and authoritative voice of the apostles, as seen in the early chapters of Acts. Paul spent fifteen days in private with Peter before beginning his own apostolate (Gal 1:18).

Jesus bestowed special prerogatives on Peter, recounted in Matthew 16:13-20. Peter is given a new name, which in Scripture denotes a change in status or position (e.g., Gen 17:4?5). Jesus spoke Aramaic and gave Simon the Aramaic name Kepha (Rock) which is is “Petra” in Greek and “Peter” in English. The Greek “petra” is feminine so the masculine “Petros” was adopted.

There is no distinction between Kepha the man and Kepha the Rock upon which Jesus would build his Church-Peter is the rock (cf. CCC no. 552). Protestants often claim that Christ is the only foundation (1 Cor 3:11) attempting thereby to unseat Peter. However, they mistakenly mix the metaphors. In 1 Corinthians, Paul is the builder and Jesus is the foundation; in Matthew, Jesus is the builder and Peter is the rock foundation. Another NT metaphor pictures the Church “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Eph 2:20).

Jesus chose Caesarea Philippi as the backdrop for the Petrine appointment. Here Herod had built a temple to Caesar Augustus atop the massive rock, a center of pagan worship and a source of the Jordan River. At the rock base was a gaping cavern referred to by the pagans as the “gates of hell”. Standing before the “temple” built to the “divine Caesar”, Jesus revealed God’s plan to build his new “temple”, the Church, to the true God with Peter as the solid rock.

After establishing Peter as the “Rock”, Jesus promises to give Peter the “keys of the kingdom of heaven”-a reference to the steward’s keys in Isaiah 22. The Davidic throne had been vacant since the Babylonian captivity (586 BC). The archangel Gabriel announced to Mary her Son Jesus would be given “the throne of his father David” (Lk 1:42). As Jesus, the new King of Israel, re-established the Davidic throne he appointed Peter to the office of royal steward-to rule “over the house” of the king (cf. CCC 553). Keys represent exclusive dominion and this authority was granted to Peter alone. The office of royal steward was successive in Israel. Familiar with their history, the Jews certainly understand that the office of Peter would be filled by successors as was the royal steward’s office in Judah. The steward may die, but the office continues.

As the steward of Christ’s kingdom, Peter is given the authority to bind and loose. This entails more than “opening heaven’s door to those who believe the Gospel”. Protestant scholar M. Vincent explains, “No other terms were in more constant use in Rabbinic canon-law than those of binding and loosing. They represented the legislative and judicial powers of the Rabbinic office. These powers Christ now transferred . . . in their reality, to his apostles; the first, here to Peter.” Aramaic scholar George Lamsa writes, “ ‘He has the key,’ means he can declare certain things to be lawful and others unlawful; that is to bind or to loose, or to prohibit or to permit, or to forgive”.

Other passages express Peter’s primacy. Jesus tells Peter that, “Satan demanded to have you [plural], that he might sift you [plural] like wheat, but I have prayed for you [singular] that your faith may not fail; and when you [singular] have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:31?32). Peter represents the apostles before God, and Jesus prays for him exclusively that he in turn can support his fellow apostles. This perfectly exemplifies the primacy of the Pope and his collegiality with the other bishops. Jesus also appoints Peter the shepherd of his sheep with the universal Church in view (Jn 21:15?17).

The Jews would understand, according to contemporary usage, that the words “feed” and “tend” meant to teach, govern, and rule. St. Augustine comments, “The succession of priests keeps me [in the Catholic Church], beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate.” St. John, writing long after Peter’s death, reminds Christians of Peter’s singular status.

Papal infallibility is often challenged by mentioning Paul’s public rebuke of Peter in Galatians 2:11-14. However, Paul does not oppose Peter’s teaching, but rather Peter’s failure to live consistently with his teaching. It was Peter’s example that everyone followed so his conduct was crucial. Papal infallibility does not guarantee impeccable conduct; it only guarantees infallible teaching under strict conditions (CCC no. 891). Paul acknowledges Peter’s office as “Rock” by referring to his as “Cephas” eight times-the title Christ himself had chosen. Tertullian (c. 160?c. 225) wrote, “If Peter was reproached [by Paul] . . . the fault certainly was one of procedure and not of doctrine” (On Prescription Against the Heretics, 23).

James’ pastoral summary at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) does not nullify Peter’s primacy. On the contrary, Peter delivered a binding pronouncement and defined doctrine. Only after Peter spoke did the debating assembly “keep silence” (Acts 15:12). After Paul relates his experiences, James spoke, as the bishop of Jerusalem, to summarize, quoting Peter along with Scripture. In 1 Peter 5:1, Peter’s calls himself a “fellow elder”. This humble greeting does not diminish Peter’s authoritative office anymore than the President’s words “My fellow Americans” denies Presidential authority, or the Popes’ greeting “my fellow bishops” denies Papal authority.

In the first century, Christians and Jews referred to Rome with the pseudonym “Babylon”-persecutor of God’s people. Peter wrote his first epistle from “Babylon” (1 Pet 5:13) where he was later martyred. Jesus prophesied that aged Peter’s arms would be stretched out and John interprets Jesus’ words as foretelling Peter’s death (Jn 21:18?19). After decades of spreading the Gospel and ruling as Bishop of Rome, Peter’s noble apostolate ended in crucifixion, though his Petrine office continued. Early Church history consistently affirms Peter’s crucifixion and burial in Rome around AD 67. From the first century onward, the chair of Peter in Rome was revered among the Church Fathers.

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Greek definition of the word “first”: Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature (William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich [Chicago, IL: Univ. Chicago, 1957], 733).

Tertullian’s quote: William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Liturgical Press, 1:121.

Vincent’s quote: M. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1887, 1980), 1:96.

Lamsa’s Quote: George M. Lamsa, Old Testament Light [New York, NY: Harper 

Augustine’s Quote: Against the Epistle of Manich¾us in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, first series, ed. by Philip Schaff [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1983], 4:130).

Tertullian’s Quote: William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers 1:121.

Referencing Rome as Babylon: (Orac. Sybil. 5, 159 f.; 4 Esdras. 3:1; Apoc. Baruch, vis. ii; Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21).

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Recommended Reading:

Upon this Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in the Scriptures and the Early Church, Steve Ray, Ignatius Press, 1999.

Peter in the New Testament, Raymond Brown, ed., Augsburg Publ. and Paulist Press, 1973.

And on this Rock: The Witness of One Land and Two Covenants, Stanley L. Jaki, Christendom Press, 1997.

The Keys of the Kingdom Stanley Jaki, Franciscan Herald Press, 1986.

Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr, Oscar Cullmann, Westminster Press, 1953.

The Shepherd and the Rock: Origins, Development, and Mission of the Papacy, J. Michael Miller, Our Sunday Visitor, 1995.

Jesus, Peter, and the Keys, Scott Butler, Norman Dahlgren, David Hess, Queenship Publ., 1996.

To see the whole life of Peter filmed on location in a rollicking and adventurous format, check out our DVD Peter, Keeper of the Keys. To hear Steve’s talk, Peter: the Rock, the Keys & the Chair, click here and scroll down a page.

I also have three articles on INFALLIBILITY:

 

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My Thoughts While Waiting In Line for Confession

by Steve Ray on September 2, 2018

190771.image0My wife and I went to confession yesterday. The line was pretty long (which was good to see, though I hate lines :-)  As I sat and waited it struck me again that the Church is not just a loose association of like-minded followers of Jesus. It is not just “Jesus and me” as we believed when we were Evangelical Protestants.

We had a dinner scheduled afterward with an Evangelical who would hold confession with disdain. “All we need to do is confess to Jesus himself, not a priest.” Why would they think that way? Because of a fundamental difference in perspective on what the Church is. Is the Church an invisible association of lovers of Jesus or is it a familial organization with a government?

Jesus said, “I will build my Church (not churches)” and later says, “If your brother sins…take it to the Church.” (Matt 16:18; 18:15, 17). Jesus also gives the authority men to forgive or retain sins (Jn 20:23). If the words of Jesus mean anything, there must be an authority in the Church and it needs to be worldwide and we need to know where to find it. If a Baptist brother sins against a Methodist brother, where is the church with authority that can deal with the issue? There is no such mechanism among Protestants.

Pentecost-lgThere were 120 people in the Upper Room and that is significant because in Jewish society it was necessary to have 120 people to leave the larger community (city) to start their own community with courts, judges, binding and loosing. Even the Israeli Knesset today has 120 members. The Church IS that new community. The Greek word for “church” in the New Testament is ecclesia which means the “called out ones.”

Called out for what? To be a new society, a new city, a new community, a new kingdom. The Church is the new Israel, so we would expect it to be similar in structure and authority. This “Church” would necessarily have laws and rules, the authority to legislate and to adjudicate. In short, using the biblical terms, the authority to “bind and loose.”

Vatican-II-Inside-St-Peter-s-C-David-LeesThis government, this Church, this family was never promised perfect sinless leaders. That has been proven in spades throughout history and in vivid color this summer. But just because there are rogues who often infiltrate the leadership does not negate the truth of this one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.

Even Jesus had a Judas in his small band. We don’t leave Jesus and Peter because of Judas. If it can last for 2,000 years with every conceivable onslaught having thrown at it–and it still exists around the world bringing us the grace and forgiveness of God, laws and courts, beauty and worship–it is obvious that it is not from man but from God.

Sitting in the line for confession I realized that by virtue of my being there, I was acknowledging that I am part of something bigger than just “me and Jesus.” I was part of the governmental entity that was started in the Upper Room and continues today. I am accountable to Jesus, yes. But he is building a Church and I am a member of this new visible kingdom. My going to confession is a clear statement of that fact and of my submission to and recognition of that kingdom’s authority.

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Marriage in Heaven? Will We Know and Love Our Spouses in Heaven?

August 20, 2018

I am reposting this because of the huge response two years ago. Thought it would be helpful again for many people who have lost their spouse. My dad died almost eight years ago. Mom misses Dad and was discouraged about Mark 12:25 which her paraphrased Living Bible improperly rendered “will not be married” in heaven. […]

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The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church: Article by Steve Ray

August 12, 2018

The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church, by Steve Ray The word “Eucharist” was used early in the Church to describe the Body and Blood of Christ under the forms of bread and wine. Eucharist comes from the Greek word for “thanks” (eucharistia), describing Christ’s actions: “And when he had given thanks, he broke […]

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Pope Francis and Capital Punishment

August 4, 2018

Excellent article by Edward Feser in First Thing Magazine that puts Pope Francis misstep in perspective … ********************** “In a move that should surprise no one, Pope Francis has once again appeared to contradict two millennia of clear and consistent scriptural and Catholic teaching. The Vatican has announced that the Catechism of the Catholic Church will […]

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Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

July 29, 2018

When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE. The priest said there was no miracle when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. All he did was teach selfish people to share and they pulled extra loaves and fish from […]

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What Should Catholics Say When Accused of Worshiping Images?

July 5, 2018

From Taylor Marshall’s blog. Images “Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image.” If you look at the context of the commandment, you’ll see that it speaks to worshiping an image. This is wrong because God is invisible and without form. He is so transcendent that even His name is simply “I AM”. So […]

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Vine, Branches & Fire: Where Will You End up?

July 2, 2018

I was out cutting vines out of the trees and thought of the words of Jesus.

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The Pain of Stolen Honey – John the Baptist was a Manly Man who Teaches us Many Things

June 24, 2018

A painful price is paid when one reaches his hand into a swarm of bees to swipe some of their honey. Stingers fly and welts flare. I raised hives of bees as a boy and once I was stung 35 times in one day. Wild honey is not collected from wild bees without burning pain […]

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Mary and the Apostles are Dead! Only Jesus can Mediate for Us! Really?

June 23, 2018

 Confusion of Many Protestants Too often well-meaning Protestants get confused and accuse of things that are outright nonsense if not lies. It is usually because they never take the time to really understand what the Catholic Church actually teaches and practices. Below is a good example of a kind and well-meaning Protestant pastor who wrote […]

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Jesus Was A Jew – So What is That To You?

June 20, 2018

Jesus was a Jew… This fact may escape the casual reader of the New Testament, but it is crucial to understanding Jesus and the book written about him—the Bible. Unhappily, in 21st century America we are far removed from the land of Israel and the ancient culture and religion of Judaism followed by Jesus and […]

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Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead? Yes!

June 18, 2018

I posted an article I wrote about St. Paul praying for the dead HERE. But I thought you would appreciate Dave Armstrong’s recent article about the same passage with confirmation and a new set of eyes on the text and the reasons for many Protestants to reject the claim… St. Paul Prayed for Onesiphorus, Who […]

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Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead? Yes!

June 17, 2018

St. Paul wrote 2 Timothy shortly before his martyrdom. He spent the last days of his life in the Mammertine Prison in Rome, north of the Roman Forum. While in that prison he wrote to Timothy and says a prayer for a man dead man. “It seems apparent that St. Paul DOES pray for the dead. […]

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Hey Steve: Jesus Taught us to Pray to the Father Alone, not Dead Saints

June 16, 2018

 Barry wrote in my combox today – in response to my post entitled “Where Does the Bible Say We Should Pray to Dead Saints?” – Resources about Communion of the Saints I thought I would respond briefly. Barrry wrote: Would you please read the Lord’s prayer. Jesus prayed it. He was giving an example of how to […]

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What is the Opposite of the word “Believe” in the Bible?

May 29, 2018

I received an email today regarding one of my talks I gave at Franciscan University of Steubenville. It is on my audio CD “Born Again? Faith Alone?” In the talk I said that the opposite of “believe” is to “disobey.” In other words, Jesus does not just require that we “believe” in him like we […]

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