Papacy & Catholic Hierarchy

When I was last on Catholic Answers Live last week Constantine Regas called in to defend the Eastern Orthodox position against the Catholic Church’s teaching on Peter and the Primacy of Rome. Constantine’s words are in BLUE and my responses are in BLACK. I appreciated Constantine’s irenic tone and honest demeanor. 

CONSTANTINE REGAS (CR): I called the “Catholic Answers Live” show last Monday to clarify the Orthodox position on authority in the Church.

STEVE RAY (SR): I remember Constantine. And the studio cut us off before we got very far in our conversation.

CR: My exact question was that, if Christ gave St Peter the Keys to the Kingdom, why isn’t the current Bishop of Antioch the head of the universal Church since St Peter was the founding bishop of that city several years before he became the bishop of Rome? Part of your response was that he was also the first bishop of Jerusalem. The Apostle James was Jerusalem’s first bishop.

SR: Jesus promised him the keys to Peter in Matthew 16:19. The Royal Steward steps up to his position of authority when appointed, especially to fill in for the King in his absence. Once Jesus ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit fell Peter picked up those keys and exercised his authority on the day of Pentecost. From that point on we hear no words of the other Eleven. Except for Paul, none of the others have any recorded words in Acts. Peter is the Bishop, the Pope and the visible Head of the Church from that point.

In his massive history of the Church, Warren Carroll gives a very cogent outline of Peter’s movements. You can read this list here as I provided in my book Upon this Rock.

30 AD Death and Resurrection of Jesus
30-37 Peter head of the Church in Jerusalem
38-39 Peter’s Missionary journeys along Mediterranean Coast and Samaria
40-41 Peter in Antioch
42 Imprisonment in Jerusalem and departure to “another place.’
42-49 First sojourn to Rome
49 Expulsion from Rome by edict of Claudius
49-50 In Jerusalem for the Apostolic Council (Acts 15)
50–54 In Antioch, Bithynia, Pontus, Asia, and Cappadocia (or some of them)
54–57 Second sojourn in Rome; Gospel of Mark written under Peter’s direction
57–62 In Bithynia, Pontus, and Cappadocia (or some of them); Mark in Alexandria, Egypt
62–67 Third sojourn in Rome; canonical Epistles of Peter; Mark with Peter in Rome
67 Martyrdom in Rome and burial near the Necropolis at the Vatican

You say that the Apostle James was the first bishop of Jerusalem. If you referring to James the son of Zebedee, you are incorrect because he was killed by the sword about 42 AD as recorded in Acts 12:2. The James that became bishop of Jerusalem was James “the Lord’s brother” (Gal 1:19). He was referred to as James the Righteous. He became bishop of Jerusalem after Peter’s departure for Antioch around 40-41.

Doctor of the Church, St. John Chrysostom (an Eastern bishop) says, “‘And having spoken thus,’ the Evangelist declared, ‘he said, “Follow me.” ’ In these words He was once again referring indirectly to His solicitude for Peter and to the fact that He was on terms of intimate friendship with him. And, if someone should say: ‘How is it, then, that it was James who received the bishop’s chair in Jerusalem?’ I would make this reply: that Christ appointed this man [Peter], not merely to a chair, but as teacher of the world.” (John Chrysostom, Commentary on Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist: Homilies 48–88, trans. Thomas Aquinas Goggin, vol. 41, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1959), 473.)

Peter was the leader of Jerusalem for 10 years before going to Antioch for 2 years then ending up as the leader of the Church in Rome about 42 AD.

CR: The point I was making is that primacy of honor (not authority which rests with Christ alone) was given to the bishop of Rome because it was capital of the empire.

SR: Unfortunately, you are incorrect again. Never was the phrase “primacy of honor” used until after the Eastern churches broke away from Rome, took a new name (Orthodox) and used this phrase as a justification for rejecting the honorary and jurisdictional authority of Rome. One only needs to read history to find the Eastern churches in heresy for much of their existence and always depending on Rome to establish the truth of the faith and to appoint orthodox bishops in Eastern churches.

Rome was established as the See of Peter because Peter chose it to be. Jerusalem had become a backwater city after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and the 10th Legion. Yes, Rome was the capital of the Empire and the hub of the wheel (“all roads lead to Rome”). Peter and Paul established the Church of Rome by their blood and it was by their appointment, the See of Peter and the Head of the Church.

Of course, Jesus is the head of the Church. But he left his royal steward with the keys of the kingdom as a visible head of the Church and a source of unity. There is no contradiction here.

CR: The second canon of the Second Ecumenical Council A.D. 381 explains this clearly. After the capital was moved to Constantinople, primacy of honor became shared. Feel free to investigate.

SR: I see you do not provide the quote from the source you cite. It is easy to say a council said this or that, but proving it is quite another thing. And claiming the primacy was “shared” is an eastern idea and refuted by the facts of the first 1000 years of the Church. This I have made abundantly clear in my book Upon this Rock.

Yet in that very Council, in the beginning of the very next Cano  it contradicts tour claim. Here is the except from that Canon of that Council:

Canon III
The Bishop of Constantinople, however, shall have the prerogative of honour after the Bishop of Rome; because Constantinople is New Rome.
Ancient Epitome of Canon III: The bishop of Constantinople is to be honoured next after the bishop of Rome.

CR: I also noticed that the above comment (among others) was edited out of yesterday’s rebroadcast.

SR: I am not aware of that, nor is that under my care. The sound techs at Catholic Answers Live handle what is posted in the podcast.

CR: One last point if I may: All the Eastern bishops can trace their authority back to one of the Apostles. The Vatican recognizes this and therefore acknowledges the validity of the Orthodox priesthood and sacraments.

SR: We have no argument here. That is why we consider the eastern churches to be legitimate churches. We don’t consider Protestants to be churches since they have lost the apostolic succession, which the Eastern Orthodox churches have maintained. However, that has nothing to do with the fact that Rome has the primacy both in honor and in jurisdiction. The Eastern churches are in schism and we all hope that one day there will again be unity.

St. Pope John Paul II said it best when he stated his desire that the Western and Eastern lungs be breathing together again in one united Body of Christ.

If you are interested in my thorough study on all of these matters, in which I interact a great deal with Orthodox theologians, I suggest you get my book referenced below.

I appreciate your irenic tone and honest discussion. God bless you my brother in Christ!

(Stephen K. Ray, Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church, Modern Apologetics Library (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), 67.)

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Had another great evening with William Albrecht and Michael Lofton on their popular and wide-ranging Reason & Theology show. It was a great time of discussion, challenge and digging deep into the issue of the primage of Peter and Rome in Scripture and the Church Fathers – East and West.

Enjoy the lively discussion….

Throughout the show we referred repeatedly to my book Upon this Rock.upon_this_rock_1__38891.1364146522.1280.1280

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Peter & the Primacy in the New Testament

by Steve Ray on June 30, 2020

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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