Last modified on December 22, 2021, at 03:19

Petrine Primacy

Rubens, Christ surrendering the keys to St Peter.
Petrine Primacy, also called the Primacy of Peter, commonly refers to the Roman Catholic Church doctrine that Jesus Christ conferred on Saint Peter chief authority as head of the Twelve Apostles and Prince of his Church, and that the same prerogatives of authority, honor, dignity and leadership conferred on Peter by Christ, as evident in the New Testament, have been handed down to each and all of his successors in an unbroken line of apostolic succession as Patriarch of Rome and Patriarch of the West. The primacy exercised by the Patriarch of Constantinople, for example, has included such things as the right to convoke councils in cooperation with the other Patriarchs, and an emergency right of intervention when help is requested by another Patriarchate.

Among the Orthodox, there has been an attempt to recognize the various expressions of primatial leadership in the life of the Church, and to place primacy within the framework of conciliarity and collegiality. All chief bishops, episcopoi, are seen as successors of Peter. The prerogatives of the five ancient Patriarchates nevertheless contain principles applicable to universal primacy as well.

The Apostolic Canons

The Apostolic Canons is a collection of ancient pseudonymous ecclesiastical decrees[1] (eighty-five in the Eastern, fifty in the Western Church) said to be written by the Apostles concerning the government and discipline of the Christian Church. It is first found incorporated with the Apostolic Constitutions as the last chapter of the eighth book (Apostolic Constitutions VIII, 47). The eighty-five Apostolic Canons were approved by the Eastern Council of Trullo in 692 but rejected by Pope Sergius I [2]. In the Western Church only fifty of these canons circulated, translated into Latin by Dionysius Exiguus. Canon XXXIV. (XXXV.) has been understood as pertaining to a universal Petrine Primacy of jurisdiction.

This document is in the public domain.[3]

THE APOSTOLIC CANONS Translated by Henry R. Percival, 1899.

The Canons of the Holy and Altogether August Apostles
[Latin version adds: set forth by Clement, Pontiff of the Roman Church]

Canon I.
Let a bishop be ordained by two or three bishops.

Canon II.
Let a presbyter, deacon, and the rest of the clergy, be ordained by one bishop,

Canon III. (III. And IV.)
If any bishop or presbyter offer any other things at the altar, besides that which the Lord ordained for the sacrifice, as honey, or milk, or strong-made drink instead of wine, [the text here varies] or birds, or any living things, or vegetables, besides that which is ordained, let him be deposed. Excepting only new ears of corn, and grapes at the suitable season. Neither is it allowed to bring anything else to the altar at the time of the holy oblation, excepting oil for the lamps, and incense.

Canon IV. (V.)
Let all other fruits be sent home as first-fruits for the bishops and presbyters, but not offered at the altar. But the bishops and presbyters should of course give a share of these things to the deacons, and the rest of the clergy.

Canon V. (VI.)
Let not a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, put away his wife under pretence of religion; but if he put her away, let him be excommunicated; and if he persists, let him be deposed.

Canon VI. (VII.)
Let not a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, undertake worldly business; otherwise let him be deposed.

Canon VII. (VIII.)
If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, shall celebrate the holy day of Easter before the vernal equinox, with the Jews, let him be deposed.

Canon VIII (IX.)
If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one on the sacerdotal list, when the offering is made, does not partake of it, let him declare the cause; and if it be a reasonable one, let him be excused; but if he does not declare it, let him be excommunicated, as being a cause of offence to the people, and occasioning a suspicion against the offerer, as if he had not made the offering properly.

Canon IX. (X.)
All the faithful who come in and hear the Scriptures, but do not stay for the prayers and the Holy Communion, are to be excommunicated, as causing disorder in the Church.

Canon X. (XI.)
If any one shall pray, even in a private house, with an excommunicated person, let him also be excommunicated.

Canon XI. (XII.)
If any clergyman shall join in prayer with a deposed clergyman, as if he were a clergyman [this phrase omitted in Hammond's edition], let him also be deposed.

Canon XII. And XIII (XIII.)
If any one of the clergy or laity who is excommunicated, or not to be received, shall go away, and be received in another city without commendatory letters, let both the receiver and the received be excommunicated. But if he be excommunicated already, let the time of his excommunication be lengthened.

Canon XIV.
A bishop is not to be allowed to leave his own parish, and pass over into another, although he may be pressed by many to do so, unless there be some proper cause constraining him. as if he can confer some greater benefit upon the persons of that place in the word of godliness. And this must be done not of his own accord, but by the judgment of many bishops, and at their earnest exhortation.

Canon XV.
If any presbyter, or deacon, or any other of the list of the clergy, shall leave his own parish, and go into another, and having entirely forsaken his own, shall make his abode in the other parish without the permission of his own bishop, we ordain that he shall no longer perform divine service; more especially if his own bishop having exhorted him to return he has refused to do so, and persists in his disorderly conduct. But let him communicate there as a layman.

Canon XVI.
If, however, the bishop, with whom any such persons are staying, shall disregard the command that they are to cease from performing divine offices, and shall receive them as clergymen, let him be excommunicated, as a teacher of disorder.

Canon XVII.
He who has been twice married after baptism, or who has had a concubine, cannot become a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any other of the sacerdotal list.

Canon XVIII.
He who married a widow, or a divorced woman, or an harlot, or a servant-maid, or an actress, cannot be a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any other of the sacerdotal list.

Canon XIX.
He who has married two sisters, or a niece, cannot become a clergyman.

Canon XX.
If a clergyman becomes surety for any one, let him be deposed.

Canon XXI.
An eunuch, if he has been made so by the violence of men [some mss. add: or if his virilia have been amputated] in times of persecution, or if he has been born so, if in other respects he is worthy, may be made a bishop.

Canon XXII.
He who has mutilated himself, cannot become a clergyman, for he is a self-murderer, and an enemy to the workmanship of God.

Canon XXIII.
If any man being a clergyman shall mutilate himself, let him be deposed, for he is a self-murderer.

Canon XXIV.
If a layman mutilate himself, let him be excommunicated for three years, as practising against his own life.

Canon XXV. (XXV. And XXVI.)
If a bishop, presbyter, or deacon be found guilty of fornication, perjury, or theft, let him be deposed, but let him not be excommunicated; for the Scripture says, "thou shall not punish a man twice for the same offence." In like manner the other clergy shall be subject to the same proceeding [or, in like manner with respect to the other clergy].

Canon XXVI. (XXVII.)
Of those who have been admitted to the clergy unmarried, we ordain, that the readers and singers only may, if they will, marry.

If a bishop, presbyter, or deacon shall strike any of the faithful who have sinned, or of the unbelievers who have done wrong, with the intention of frightening them, we command that he be deposed. For our Lord has by no means taught us to do so, but, on the contrary, when he was smitten he smote not again, when he was reviled he reviled not again, when he suffered he threatened not.

If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, having been justly deposed upon open accusations, shall dare to meddle with any of the divine offices which had been intrusted to him, let him be altogether cut off from the Church. [boldface emphasis added]

Canon XXIX. (XXX.)
If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, shall obtain possession of that dignity by money, let both him and the person who ordained him be deposed, and also altogether cut off from all communion, as Simon Magus was by me, Peter.

Canon XXX. (XXXI.)
If any bishop obtain possession of a church by the aid of the temporal powers, let him be deposed and excommunicated, and all who communicate with him.

Canon XXXI. (XXXII.)
If any presbyter, despising his own bishop, shall collect a separate congregation, and erect another altar, not having any grounds for condemning the bishop with regard to religion or justice, let him be deposed for his ambition; for he is a tyrant; in like manner also the rest of the clergy, and as many as join him; and let laymen be excommunicated. Let this, however, be done after a first, second, and third admonition from the bishop.

If any presbyter or deacon has been excommunicated by a bishop, he may not be received into communion again by any other than by him who excommunicated him, unless it happen that the bishop who excommunicated him be dead.

No foreign bishop, presbyter, or deacon, may be received without commendatory letters; and when they are produced let the persons be examined; and if they be preachers of godliness, let them be received. Otherwise, although you supply them with what they need, you must not receive them into communion, for many things are done surreptitiously.

Canon XXXIV. (XXXV.)
The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent; but each may do those things only which concern his own parish, and the country places which belong to it. But neither let him (who is the first) do anything without the consent of all; for so there will be unanimity, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit
[some mss. read: through the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Father through the Lord by the Holy Spirit, even the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit]. [boldface emphasis added]

Canon XXXV. (XXXVI.)
Let not a bishop dare to ordain beyond his own limits, in cities and places not subject to him. But if he be convicted of doing so, without the consent of those persons who have authority over such cities and places, let him be deposed, and those also whom he has ordained.

If any person, having been ordained bishop, does not undertake the ministry, and the care of the people committed to him, let him be excommunicated until he does undertake it. In like manner a presbyter or deacon. But if he has gone and has not been received, not of his own will but from the perverseness of the people, let him continue bishop; and let the clergy of the city be excommunicated, because they have not corrected the disobedient people.

Let there be a meeting of the bishops twice a year, and let them examine amongst themselves the decrees concerning religion and settle the ecclesiastical controversies which may have occurred. One meeting to be held in the fourth week of Pentecost [i.e., the fourth week after Easter], and the other on the 12th day of the month Hyperberetaeus [i.e., October].

Let the bishop have the care of all the goods of the Church, and let him administer them as under the inspection of God. But he must not alienate any of them or give the things which belong to God to his own relations. If they be poor let him relieve them as poor; but let him not, under that pretence, sell the goods of the Church.

Canon XXXIX. (XL.)
Let not the presbyters or deacons do anything without the sanction of the bishop; for he it is who is intrusted with the people of the Lord, and of whom will be required the account of their souls.

Canon XL. (XL. Continued.)
Let the private goods of the bishop, if he have any such, and those of the Lord, be clearly distinguished, that the bishop may have the power of leaving his own goods, when he dies, to whom he will, and how he will, and that the bishop's own property may not be lost under pretence of its being the property of the Church: for it may be that he has a wife, or children, or relations, or servants; and it is just before God and man, that neither should the Church suffer any loss through ignorance of the bishop's own property, nor the bishop or his relations be injured under pretext of the Church: nor that those who belong to him should be involved in contests, and cast reproaches upon his death.

Canon XLI.
We ordain that the bishop have authority over the goods of the Church: for if he is to be intrusted with the precious souls of men, much more are temporal possessions to be intrusted to him. He is therefore to administer them all of his own authority, and supply those who need, through the presbyters and deacons, in the fear of God, and with all reverence. He may also, if need be, take what is required for his own necessary wants, and for the brethren to whom he has to show hospitality, so that he may not be in any want. For the law of God has ordained, that they who wait at the altar should be nourished of the altar. Neither does any soldier bear arms against an enemy at his own cost.

Canon XLII.
If a bishop or presbyter, or deacon, is addicted to dice or drinking, let him either give it over, or be deposed.

Canon XLIII.
If a subdeacon, reader, or singer, commits the same things, let him either give over, or be excommunicated. So also laymen.

Canon XLIV.
Let a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, who takes usury from those who borrow of him, give up doing so, or be deposed.

Canon XLV.
Let a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, who has only prayed with heretics, be excommunicated: but if he has permitted them to perform any clerical office, let him be deposed. [boldface emphasis added]

Canon XLVI.
We ordain that a bishop, or presbyter, who has admitted the baptism or sacrifice of heretics, be deposed. For what concord hath Christ with Belial, or what part hath a believer with an infidel?

Canon XLVII.
Let a bishop or presbyter who shall baptize again one who has rightly received baptism, or who shall not baptize one who has been polluted by the ungodly, be deposed, as despising the cross and death of the Lord, and not making a distinction between the true priests and the false.

If any layman put away his wife and marry another, or one who has been divorced by another man, let him be excommunicated.

Canon XLIX.
If any bishop or presbyter, contrary to the ordinance of the Lord, does not baptize into the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, but into three Unoriginated Beings, or three Sons, or three Comforters, let him be deposed.

Canon L.
If any bishop or presbyter does not perform the one initiation with three immersions, but with giving one immersion only, into the death of the Lord, let him be deposed. For the Lord said not, Baptize into my death, but, "Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

Canon LI.
If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one of the sacerdotal list, abstains from marriage, or flesh, or wine, not by way of religious restraint, but as abhorring them, forgetting that God made all things very good, and that he made man male and female, and blaspheming the work of creation, let him be corrected, or else be deposed, and cast out of the Church. In like manner a layman.

Canon LII.
If any bishop or presbyter [some mss add: or deacon] does not receive him who turns away from his sin, but rejects him, let him be deposed; for he grieveth Christ who said, "There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth."

Canon LIII.
If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, does not on festival days partake of flesh and wine, from an abhorrence of them, and not out of religious restraint, let him be deposed, as being seared in his own conscience, and being the cause of offence to many.

Canon LIV.
If any of the clergy be found eating in a tavern, let him be excommunicated, unless he has been constrained by necessity, on a journey, to lodge in an inn.

Canon LV.
If any of the clergy insult the bishop, let him be deposed: for "thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people."

Canon LVI.
If any of the clergy insult a presbyter, or deacon, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LVII.
If any of the clergy mock the lame, or the deaf, or the blind, or him who is infirm in his legs, let him be excommunicated.In like manner any of the laity.

Canon LVIII.
If any bishop or presbyter neglects the clergy or the people, and does not instruct them in the way of godliness, let him be excommunicated, and if he persists in his negligence and idleness, let him be deposed.

Canon LIX.
If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, when any of the clergy is in want, does not supply him with what he needs, let him be excommunicated; but if he persists, let him be deposed, as one who has killed his brother.

Canon LX.
If any one reads publicly in the church the falsely inscribed [pseudepigrapha] books of impious men, as if they were holy Scripture, to the destruction of the people and clergy, let him be deposed.

Canon LXI.
If any accusation be brought against a believer of fornication or adultery, or any forbidden action, and he be convicted, let him not be promoted to the clergy.

Canon LXII.
If any of the clergy, through fear of men, whether Jew, heathen, or heretic, shall deny the name of Christ, let him be cast out. If he deny the name of a clergyman, let him be deposed. If he repent, let him be received as a layman.

Canon LXIII.
If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one of the sacerdotal order, shall eat flesh, with the blood of the life thereof, or anything killed by beasts, or that dies of itself, let him be deposed. For the law has forbidden this. If he be a layman, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXIV.
If any clergyman or layman shall enter into a synagogue of Jews or heretics to pray, let the former be deposed and let the latter be excommunicated.

Canon LXV.
If any clergyman shall strike anyone in a contest, and kill him with one blow, let him be deposed for his violence. If a layman do so, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXVI.
If any of the clergy be found fasting on the Lord's day [i.e. Sunday], or on the Sabbath [i.e. Saturday], excepting the one only [i.e. Holy Saturday], let him be deposed. If a layman, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXVII.
If anyone shall force and keep a virgin not espoused, let him be excommunicated. And he may not take any other, but must retain her whom he has chosen, though she be a poor person.

If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, shall receive from anyone a second ordination, let both the ordained and the ordainer be deposed; unless indeed it be proved that he had his ordination from heretics; for those who have been baptized or ordained by such persons cannot be either of the faithful or of the clergy.

Canon LXIX.
If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or reader, or singer, does not fast the holy Quadragesimal fast of Easter, or the fourth day, or the day of Preparation, let him be deposed, unless he be hindered by some bodily infirmity. If he be a layman, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXX.
If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any one of the list of clergy, keeps fast or festival with the Jews, or receives from them any of the gifts of their feasts, as unleavened bread, any such things, let him be deposed. If he be a layman, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXXI.
If any Christian brings oil into a temple of the heathen or into a synagogue of the Jews at their feast, or lights lamps, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXXII.
If any clergyman or layman takes away wax or oil from the holy Church, let him be excommunicated, [some mss. add: and let him restore a fifth part more than he took.]

Let no one convert to his own use any vessel of gold or silver, or any veil which has been sanctified, for it is contrary to law; and if anyone be detected doing so, let him be excommunicated.

Canon LXXIV.
If any bishop has been accused of anything by men worthy of credit, he must be summoned by the bishops; and if he appears, and confesses, or is convicted, a suitable punishment must be inflicted upon him. But if when he is summoned he does not attend, let him be summoned a second time, two bishops being sent to him, for that purpose. [Some mss. add: If even then he will not attend, let him be summoned a third time, two bishops being again sent to him.] But if even then he shall disregard the summons and not come, let the synod pronounce such sentence against him as appears right, that he may not seem to profit by avoiding judgment. [boldface emphasis added]

Canon LXXV.
An heretic is not to be received as witness against a bishop, neither only one believer; for "in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word shall be established."

Canon LXXVI.
A bishop must not, out of favour to a brother or a son, or any other relation, ordain whom he will to the episcopal dignity; for it is not right to make heirs of the bishopric, giving the things of God to human affections. Neither is it fitting to subject the Church of God to heirs. But if anyone shall do so let the ordination be void, and the ordainer himself be punished with excommunication.

If any one be deprived of an eye, or lame of a leg, but in other respects be worthy of a bishopric, he may be ordained, for the defect of the body does not defile a man, but the pollution of the soul.

But if a man be deaf or blind, he may not be made a bishop, not indeed as if he were thus defiled, but that the affairs of the Church may not be hindered.

Canon LXXIX.
If anyone has a devil, let him not be made a clergyman, neither let him pray with the faithful; but if he be freed, let him be received into communion, and if he is worthy he may be ordained.

Canon LXXX.
It is not allowed that a man who has come over from an heathen life, and been baptized or who has been converted from an evil course of living, should be immediately made a bishop, for it is not right that he who has not been tried himself should be a teacher of others. Unless indeed this be done upon a special manifestation of Divine grace in his favour.

Canon LXXXI.
We have said that a bishop or presbyter must not give himself to the management of public affairs, but devote himself to ecclesiastical business. Let him then be persuaded to do so, or let him be deposed, for no man can serve two masters, according to the Lord's declaration.

We do not allow any servants to be promoted to the clergy without the consent of their masters, [ some mss. add: to the troubling of their houses.] But if any servant should appear worthy of receiving an order, as our Onesimus appeared, and his masters agree and liberate him, and send him out of their house, he may be ordained.

If a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, shall serve in the army, and wish to retain both the Roman magistracy and the priestly office, let him be deposed; for the things of Cæsar belong to Cæsar, and those of God to God.

Whosoever shall insult the King, or a ruler, contrary to what is right, let him suffer punishment. If he be a clergyman, let him be deposed; if a layman, excommunicated.

Canon LXXXV.
Let the following books be counted venerable and sacred by all of you, both clergy and Laity.
Of the Old Testament,
five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; of Joshua the Son of Nun, one; of the Judges, one; of Ruth, one; of the Kings, four; of the Chronicles of the book of the days, two; of Ezra, two; of Esther, one; [some texts read: of Judith, one;] of the Maccabees, three; of Job, one; of the Psalter, one; of Solomon, three, viz.: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs; of the Prophets, twelve; of Isaiah, one; of Jeremiah, one; of Ezekiel, one; of Daniel, one. But besides these you are recommended to teach your young persons the Wisdom of the very learned Sirach.
Our own books, that is, those of the New Testament, are:
the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; fourteen Epistles of Paul; two Epistles of Peter; three of John; one of James, and one of Jude. Two Epistles of Clement, and the Constitutions of me Clement, addressed to you Bishops, in eight books, which are not to be published to all on account of the mystical things in them. And the Acts of us the Apostles.
[The text of this canon is quite different in the different codices and versions.] [boldface emphasis added]

Declaring the Apostolic Canons to be a part of Orthodox canon law.
"It has also seemed good to this holy Council, that the eighty-five canons, received and ratified by the holy and blessed Fathers before us, and also handed down to us in the name of the holy and glorious Apostles, should from this time forth remain firm and unshaken for the cure of souls and the healing of disorders. And in these canons we are bidden to receive the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles [written] by Clement.

"But formerly, through the agency of those who erred from the faith, certain adulterous matter was introduced, clean contrary to piety, for the polluting of the Church, which obscures the elegance and beauty of the divine decrees in their present form. We therefore reject these [polluting] Constitutions so as the better to make sure of the edification and security of the most Christian flock; by no means admitting the offspring of heretical error, and cleaving to the pure and perfect doctrine of the Apostles."


The St. Pachomius Orthodox Library, St. Angelina of Serbia and Albania 1998. Have mercy, O Lord, upon Thy servant the translator Henry and on Peter, Tatiana, and Christina.




Primacy in Orthodox ecclesiology

St. Basil Bishop of Caesarea.
In large measure due to his efforts he was responsible for the victory over Arianism in the Byzantine East, and the denunciation of Arianism at the Council of Constantinople in 381-82.

For the Orthodox, Roman primacy has been understood as a pragmatic, rather than theological, issue, growing out of a principle of accommodation. Honor and primacy must be linked to practical ministry and service, and the Pope must function as head of his see, as one who is among, rather than over, the other bishops. Primacy involves more than simply "honor and dignity," but is linked to a universal pastoral concern, the prime importance of harmony among all, bound together by the bond of love, a "presidency in love." This means leadership, not necessarily juridical authority. If the most preeminent member of the Church, who occupies the position of the head, is not maintained in his proper honor, the body of the Church functions in a disorderly and faulty manner; just as organic physical bodies function disably, or are completely useless, if the head does not maintain its activity in good health.

Missorium of Theodosius I (reigned AD 379–January 17, 395).
His religious polices would see Nicene Christianity becoming the official state religion of the Roman Empire with the Edict of Thessalonica, and the dominant religion in the Empire.
From the time of the first Ecumenical Council on, Byzantine canon law had always assigned primacy of honor to Rome[4] The fathers attributed the prerogatives of primacy of leadership, honor and dignity to the the most ancient see of Rome because it was the imperial city. Even when the capital of the Empire was moved to Constantinople, the "new Rome," the priority of the "old Rome" was safeguarded. Constantinople canon 3 states:
"As for the Bishop of Constantinople, let him have the prerogatives of honor after the bishop of Rome, seeing that this city is the new Rome."
To the Byzantine emperors of that period, both Zonaras and Balsamon (canon lawyers during the 11th-12th century) firmly maintained that the expression "after the bishop of Rome" certainly shows hierarchical inferiority, not simply a subsequent, chronologically successive hierarchical superiority over Rome upon the establishment of Constantinople as the new capital city of the Empire.[5] The ministry or Chair of Peter was universally understood in moral terms, rather than in terms of formal power, or rights. The actual exercise of this power depended upon political circumstances, as well as the orthodoxy, the wisdom, and the prestige of the "first bishop" himself as traditionally constituting the reliable standard of orthodox doctrine.[6] Orthodox theologians have never rejected the concept of primacy, but, in response to the present Roman Catholic understanding of the primacy of the Petrine Office, reject only its increasing development as defined by the Church of Rome over the span of centuries. It was only when it became undeniably evident that the Patriarch of Rome decisively and consistently expressed the authority of the moral "privilege" of the Church of Rome (auctoritas[7]), as exercised in forms of actual jurisdictional and doctrinal power, that the Patriarchs of the Orthodox East refused to allow it.[8]
Image of the Justinian Mosaic, San Vitale, Ravenna.[9]
Justinian, Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople, reigned A.D. 527-565. He is famous for the writing of the Justinian Code, which directly influenced the canon law of the Catholic Church, and is the basis of modern law.
Maximianus (identified in this mosaic, wearing Church vestments) was the Bishop of Ravenna during the reign of Justinian.

Matthew 16:18-19 and 18:18. Conflicting and contradictory exegeses

"whatever things you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever things you release on earth will be released in heaven." Matthew 16:19; 18:18. Compare John 20:23.

The Catholic Church, numerically constituting the majority of Christians, emphasizes the fact that in Matthew 18:18 relating the words addressed to the apostles together, Jesus does not speak of the "keys of the Kingdom of Heaven" as he did in Matthew 16:19, and therefore the keys were entrusted only to Peter and to his successors in fulfillment of Isaiah 22:20-25. Verse 25 of Isaiah 22, referring to the office of Master of the Palace as Vice-regent and Prime Minister of the kingdom, is understood as a type referring by analogy to the high priest of the Jews in Jerusalem as "the peg that was fastened in a secure place".[10] This prophesy is understood as a type foreshadowing the reality that when Jesus bestows on his Apostle Peter the keys of the kingdom of God, the authoritative position of the Jewish high priest in Judaism "will give way; and it will be cut down and fall, and the burden that was on it will be cut off, for the LORD has spoken."[11]

On the principle of sola scriptura, there is no linguistic textual basis for saying that Jesus gave the "keys" to all the apostles on that occasion (Matthew 18:18), but only that he gave them all the collective authority to bind and loose together, an authority which is distinctly different from the authority to open and shut the "Kingdom of Heaven"[12]. In the Greek text of Matthew 16:18-19, where Jesus directly addresses Peter in the presence of the other apostles saying to him "you", the Greek word σοι is explicit. The Greek word σοι in all of its variant forms σύ, σοῦ, σοί, σέ is the second person singular personal pronoun "you", as designating only one person. This textual fact is cited in Catholic apologetics in defense of the doctrine of the primacy of Saint Peter as Prince of the Apostles and Ambassador Vicar (Representative) of Christ the Lord.[13]

Protestant and Orthodox apologetics point out that the same authority conferred on Peter with the keys to bind and to loose (Matthew 16:19) is given to all the apostles equally (Matthew 18:18), the Lord Jesus implicitly entrusting the keys of the kingdom of heaven to them as well. The formal term denoting shared responsibility and authority is "Collegiality".[14] They point out that St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:20 referred to a plurality of ambassadors for Christ, not to a singular vicar-ambassador: "So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." RSV[15]

It has been said that the term rock in the Bible is sometimes used in reference to God "but never used of a man."[16]
But as God referred to Abraham (a man) as the "Rock" from which Israel was formed, Jesus referred to Peter as "Rock", saying "on this Rock I will build my Church".
Compare the King James Version of Isaiah 51:1-2; Jeremiah 1:18-19.
See multiple commentaries on Isaiah 51:1; 51:2 and Jeremiah 1:18; 1:19.
Even Christians are "living stones" lithoi λίθοι 1 Peter 2:4-5. See the interlinear text of 1 Peter 2:5. They are not petroi πέτροι (plural–petros πέτρος singular), but lithoi λίθοι (plural, lithos λίθος singular).[17]
Clearly, the term rock in the Bible is used of a man. (See Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:24.)

The Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church, and all Evangelical, Reform and Fundamentalist churches absolutely reject Petrine Primacy, and find no scriptural basis in support of it. They point to biblical texts such as Ephesians 2:20 and Revelation 21:14 showing that all twelve apostles are the foundation of the Church.[18]

"I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven" Matthew 16:19.

The Greek word σοι "to you" here is singular, not the plural ὑμῖν "to you" (all), and therefore was not addressed to the entire immediate group of his assembled disciples, as some would have it, but only to Peter.
In the later apparently parallel text of Matthew 18:18 the phrase "keys of the Kingdom of Heaven" does not appear (see verses 15-20 of Matthew 18). On the principle of sola scriptura, there is no linguistic textual basis for saying that Jesus gave the "keys" to all the apostles on that occasion, but only that he gave them all the collective authority to bind and loose together, an authority which is distinctly different from the authority to open and shut the "Kingdom of Heaven".[19]

Catholics maintain that there is a significant distinction here, and that the previous occasion in Matthew 16:18 is a specific fulfillment of the prophesy in Isaiah 22:22 pointing to one man, not many.

Other Christians maintain that the "keys" are necessary to bind and to loose, to "open and no man shall shut, and shut and no man opens" (Revelation 3:7), thus equating binding and loosing with opening and shutting, and that this therefore does linguistically imply that all of the apostles were each given the "keys of the Kingdom of Heaven" simultaneously together in Matthew 18:18, so that what he had conferred on Peter is now expanded and conferred on all of them.

Old Testament parallels show that God gave to particular men divine authority to act, and that He obeyed their word:

Exodus 14:15-16 and Joshua 10:12-14; see also 1 Kings 17:1, 2 Kings 20:9-11, Matthew 9:8, Luke 2:51, and John 9:31 and 20:21-23; Romans 13:1-2, 1 Timothy 1:19-20, Hebrews 13:17, and Revelation 3:7.[20]

The controversy over divine authority is a key doctrinal issue in the Protestant Reformation.[21]

In Matthew 16:18 there is a minor difference in the Greek words for "stone" and "rock". Petros Πέτρος is the masculine form, meaning "stone", "boulder" or "large rock", and petra πέτρα is the feminine form, meaning "stone", "boulder" or "massive rock". They essentially mean the same thing.
In stark contrast to Πέτρος and πέτρα, lithos λίθος, a primary word, is the masculine form of the Greek word meaning "a stone", "(small) rock" or "pebble", such as one can throw by hand: Strong's 3037.

  • Πέτρος, Πέτρου, ὁ (Petros, an appellative proper name, signifying 'a stone,' a rock, ledge or cliff).
  • πέτρα, πέτρας, ἡ, petra, from Homer down; the Septuagint reading for סֶלַע and צוּר; a rock, ledge, cliff.
  • λίθος, λίθου, ὁ, lithos, the Septuagint reading for אֶבֶן (from Homer down); a stone: small stones; a large stone; building stone.

Compare multiple versions of John 1:42. Neither the Greek lithos nor the Aramaic evna appears in this verse (the Aramaic evna means "little stone, small rock"). The King James Bible reading of "stone" in John 1:42 ("which is by interpretation, A stone") carefully avoids using the reading "rock" only in this one verse of the New Testament, apparently for doctrinal reasons. Of the 51 entries in Strong's under STONE this verse is the only one keyed to number 4073 in the Greek Dictionary of the New Testament

4073. πέτρα pĕtra, pet′-ra; fem. of the same as 4074; a (mass of) rock (lit. or fig.):—rock.

All of the other 50 NT entries for STONE are keyed to numbers 3037, 2642, 2991, 3035, 3034, 3036, 5586. Yet there are 13 NT entries in Strong's under ROCK, all keyed to number 4073. John 1:42 is not included. If the KJV translators had been consistent, the King James Version of John 1:42 would have read: "which is by interpretation, Rock".[22] And Matthew 16:18 would have read, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Rock, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." English, like Aramaic, has no gender specific forms for nouns. Greek does—Petros is masculine, petra is feminine. Both forms mean "rock".

See Peter the Rock, by Tim Staples (— "One of the most respected and referenced Greek dictionaries among Evangelicals is Gerhard Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.[23] In a most candid statement about Matthew 16:18, Dr. Oscar Cullman, a contributing editor to this work, writes:

" ' The obvious pun which has made its way into the Greek text...suggests a material identity between petra and it is impossible to differentiate strictly between the two words... . Petros himself is this petra, not just his faith or his confession... . The idea of the Reformers that he is referring to the faith of Peter is quite inconceivable... . 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... . To this extent Roman Catholic exegesis is right and all Protestant attempts to evade this interpretation are to be rejected. ' "

See also Bam! Bam! The "pebbles" argument goes down!, by Patrick Madrid (—“And just as Greek has a word for 'small stone,' lithos, so does Aramaic. That word is evna. But Jesus did not change Simon's name to Evna, He named him Kephas, which translates as Petros, and means a large rock.”

This is the Catholic argument that Jesus did not say, "thou art a Rock, and upon this Faith I will build my church". The Greek word for "faith" is pistis πιστις, piste πίστη, pistin πίστιν. Jesus did not say, "thou art Rock Peter Petros Πέτρος, and upon this faith pistin πίστιν I will build my church assembly ekklesian" εέκκλεσίαν. Faith is not mentioned in Matthew 16:19, only rock. Catholic apologists conclude from this fact of Greek grammar and vocabulary that Jesus said he would build his church upon Peter "this rock", not upon Peter's faith "this pistin", a divine faith given him by God the Father.

Importance is attached by some to the fact, not mentioned by others, that of all Jesus' followers only one is named by him "Rock", beginning in John 1:42; and that it is God the Father Himself Who had sovereignly chosen Peter alone out of all of His Own Son's apostles to reveal directly to him, and only to him, who Jesus is: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Only after the Father had revealed it directly to Simon Peter alone was the unequivocal truth of his word of revelation to Peter then confirmed by Jesus to the rest of the twelve. The Father could have revealed this to all of the twelve simultaneously together, but He did not choose to do so. This unique privilege was bestowed directly by God the Father only on Simon Peter alone, and from the text this appears to be the reason Jesus said to him in the presence of all the other apostles, "Blessed are you, Simon son of John!"—"you" σοι, the second person singular personal pronoun. Jesus acknowledged that no other among them had been so blessed, and that Peter had been singularly chosen by the Father, "for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." This is obvious from the text. Its doctrinal significance is controverted.

Compare Strong's numbers
4074 a rock, ledge or cliffΠέτρος, Πέτρου, ὁ (an appellative proper name, signifying 'a stone,' 'a rock,' 'a ledge' or 'cliff')
and 4073 a rock, ledge or cliffπέτρα pétra, pet'-ra; feminine of the same as G4074; a (mass of) rock (literally or figuratively):—rock.
See also 2786, "equivalent to Πέτρος", a rock, ledge or cliffΚεφας, κεφα (Buttmann, 20 (18)), ὁ (Chaldean כֵּיפָא, a rock), Cephas (equivalent to Πέτρος (cf. B. D. (American edition), p. 2459).
However, the site for Strong's number 4074 Πέτρος Petros presents an absolute contradiction. On the same website page it states in accordance with all established Greek linguists that the word Petros means a rock, ledge or cliff and is the same as 4073 petra, a rock, ledge or cliff; but it also cites Abbot-Smith who maintains (against them) that it means "a small stone or pebble in contrast" to Strong's 4073 πέτρα "a rock, ledge or cliff".
Abbot-Smith and others such as Thayer's Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT) are the sources responsible for the erroneous linguistic falsehood that Petros means a "small stone or pebble".[24][25] Arguments based on this error have no substance. There are other scholarly and historical sources that cite reliable facts of substance that many apologists can use in opposition to the claims of Petrine Primacy, but this is not one of them.

Saint Paul states quite clearly and unequivocally that no other foundation can be laid than Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11. Therefore there is only one foundation. And he states quite clearly and unequivocally that the members of the household of God, the pillar and ground of truth, are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Ephesians 2:20. Therefore the foundation is built on many others, on many foundations—12 apostles of the New Testament and 16 prophets of the Old Testament, 28 foundations. And John on Patmos stated plainly and unequivocally that he clearly saw the city of the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God having twelve foundations and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Revelation 21:14. Therefore there are 12 foundations. Literalist readers of the Bible are confronted with one foundation, a foundation of twenty-eight others, and twelve foundations.

Κεφας, κεφα, ὁ (Chaldean כֵּיפָא, a rock), Cephas (equivalent to Πέτρος, a rock, ledge or cliff), the surname of Simon the apostle.
(Jesus did not give Simon Bar Jonah a feminine name.)
A more literal translation of Matthew 16:18 is, "I tell you, you are Rock, and on this Rock I will build my gathering (my assembly)". Linguistically, according to the Greek construction, and Greek grammar, the person indicated by the phrase "on this rock" is Peter, not Jesus.
καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ kai epi taute te petra "and on this rock".
The emphasis here is on ΤΑΎΤῌ ταύτῃ tow′-tay "taute", which points to Peter (not to Jesus, as Augustine would have us suppose), and to be understood thus: on no other than on this rock [Petros, Peter].
He did not say you are stone, pebble [lithos], and on this rock [petra] I will build....
—λίθος, λίθου, ὁ, is the Septuagint reading for אֶבֶן eben; a stone: small stones; a large stone; building stone. A lithos [λίθος] is not a massive rock cliff [πέτρᾳ, Πέτρος].
Aramaic nouns have no gender. If Jesus spoke to them in the common language of the people he spoke Aramaic, and the Greek text of his words in the Gospels is a translation of the Aramaic words he used.

Examples from Aramaic terms in the Greek New Testament strongly suggest that Jesus normally spoke Aramaic, as did the people.

Talitha cum meaning “Little girl, get up!” (Mark 5:41)
Ephphatha meaning “Be opened.” (Mark 7:34)
Abba meaning (beloved) “Father” (Mark 14:36)
Raca meaning “fool” (Matthew 5:22)
Eli Eli lema sabachthani meaning “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
Hosanna meaning “O Lord, save us.” (Mark 11:9)
The equivalent Aramaic term in the Syriac Peshitta translation of the New Testament πέτρᾳ, Πέτρος is κεφα Kepa / κεφα Cepha, simply "rock", "equivalent to Πέτρος and πέτρα, a rock, ledge or cliff":
"I tell you, you are Kepha, and on this Kepha I will build my church.

The Greek form of this Aramaic word is "Cephas", pronounced "kepas, kephas". This can be seen as a fulfillment of the prophesy of the stone (rock) formed without hands which became a great mountain which filled the whole earth in Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45, and in Isaiah 2:1-5.. Protestant exegetes understand the stone in Daniel 2 as Christ himself. Catholics point to the fact that the whole Catholic Church "founded by Jesus on Peter the Rock" (formed by Him) is worldwide and the largest Christian denomination on earth. Isaiah 51:1-2; Jeremiah 1:18-19. The second largest is the Orthodox Church. The third largest is the Anglican Communion.

See the interlinear text of 1 Peter 2:5, λίθοι lithoi

Protestant view of Petrine Primacy

Martin Luther was one of the most important leaders in Christian and German history. An Augustinian monk, priest, and professor of theology, he unintentionally launched the Protestant Reformation and founded the Lutheran Church.

See also: Protestantism and Protestant Reformation

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) states:

There is no biblical or historical evidence for the claims of the Roman Catholic church that Peter was the first pope. In fact there is no evidence that there even was a pope in the first century. Even Catholic historians recognize this as a historical fact....We honor Peter and in fact some of our churches are named after him, but he was not the first pope, nor was he Roman Catholic. If you read his first letter, you will see that he did not teach a Roman hierarchy, but that all Christians are royal priests.[26]

The Baptist Donald A. Carson III, who is a Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Seminary, argues:

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.[27]

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) indicates:

The Roman Catholic Church Puts a great deal of emphasis on Peter and claims that Jesus said he would build his church on him...

There are problems with the Roman Catholic position. First of all, when we look at the Greek of Matthew 16:18, we see something that is not obvious in the English. " are Peter (πέτρος, petros) and upon this rock (πέτρα, petra) I will build My church..." In Greek nouns have gender. It is similar to the English words actor and actress. The first is masculine, and the second is feminine. Likewise, the Greek word "petros" is masculine; "petra" is feminine. Peter, the man, is appropriately referred to as Petros. But Jesus said that the rock he would build his church on was not the masculine "petros" but the feminine "petra." Let me illustrate by using the words "actor" and "actress:" "You are the actor; and with this actress, I will make my movie." Do see that the gender influences how a sentence is understood? Jesus was not saying that the church will be built upon Peter but upon something else. What, then, does petra, the feminine noun, refer to?

The feminine "petra" occurs four times in the Greek New Testament:

Matt. 16:18, "And I also say to you that you are Peter (petros), and upon this rock (petra) I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it." Matt. 27:60, "and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock (petra); and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away." 1 Cor. 10:4, "and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock (petras) which followed them; and the rock (petra) was Christ." 1 Pet. 2:8, speaking of Jesus says that he is "A stone of stumbling and a rock (petra) of offense"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed." We can clearly see that in the three other uses of the Greek word petra (nominative singular; "petras" in 1 Cor. 10:4 is genitive singular) we find it referred to as a large immovable mass of rock in which a tomb is carved out (Matt. 27:60) and in reference to Christ (1 Cor. 10:4; 1 Pet. 2:8). Note that Peter himself in the last verse referred to petra as being Jesus! If Peter uses the word as a reference to Jesus, then shouldn't we?

In addition, Greek dictionaries and lexicons give us further insight into the two Greek words under discussion:

1. Petros:

  • Petros, "πέτρος, a stone, distinguished from πέτρα (Source: Liddell, H., 1996. A lexicon : Abridged from Liddell and Scott's Greek-English lexicon (636). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.).
  • Petros, Πέτρος, Peter, meaning stone. The masc. of the fem. pétra (4073), a massive rock or cliff.” (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, electronic ed., G4074, Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993).
  • Petros, Πέτρος, “a noun akin to 4073, used as a proper name; “a stone” or “a boulder,” Peter, one of the twelve apostles:— Peter(150), Peter’s(5).” (Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition, H8674, Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998, 1981).

2. Petra:

  • Petra, πέτρα , Ion. and Ep. πέτρη, , a rock, a ledge or shelf of rock, Od. 2. a rock, i.e. a rocky peak or ridge . . . Properly, πέτρα is a fixed rock, πέτρος a stone." (Source: Liddell, H. (1996). A lexicon : Abridged from Liddell and Scott's Greek-English lexicon (636). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.).
  • Petra, πέτρα , (4073) denotes a mass of rock, as distinct from petros, a detached stone or boulder, or a stone that might be thrown or easily moved." Source: Vine, W., & Bruce, F. (1981; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996). Vine's Expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words (2:302). Old Tappan NJ: Revell)
  • Petra, πέτρα, ας, ἡ (1) literally, living rock, bedrock (MT 7.24), in contrast to πέτρος (isolated stone); (Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg and Neva F. Miller, vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker's Greek New Testament library, 311, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2000).
  • Petra, πέτρα, noun feminine; ≡ bedrock, (James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament), electronic ed., GGK4376 (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

3. Petros & Petros

  • πέτρα petra; a prim. word; a (large mass of) rock:--rock(10), rocks(3), rocky(2). Πέτρος Petros, “a noun akin to 4073, used as a proper name; “a stone” or “a boulder,” Peter, one of the twelve apostles:— Peter(150), Peter’s(5).” (Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition, H8674, Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998, 1981).
  • "On this rock (ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ). The word is feminine, and means a rock, as distinguished from a stone or a fragment of rock (πέτρος, above)." (Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, 1:91, Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002).
  • Petros, "πέτρος, a stone, distinguished from πέτρα. Petra, πέτρα , Ion. and Ep. πέτρη, , a rock, a ledge or shelf of rock, Od. 2. a rock, i.e. a rocky peak or ridge . . . Properly, πέτρα is a fixed rock, πέτρος a stone." (Source: Liddell, H. (1996). A lexicon : Abridged from Liddell and Scott's Greek-English lexicon (636). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.).

A stone is movable, unstable; and this is exactly what we see with Peter, who doubted when he walked on water, who denied Jesus, and who was rebuked by Paul at Antioch.

Matt. 14:29-30, "And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" Luke 22:57-58, "But he denied it, saying, "Woman, I do not know Him." 58 And a little later, another saw him and said, "You are one of them too!" But Peter said, "Man, I am not!" Gal. 2:11,14 "But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned . . . 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" Jesus, who knew the heart of Peter, was not saying that Peter, the movable and unstable stone, would be the immovable rock upon which the Church would be built. Rather, it would be built upon Jesus; and it was this truth that Peter had affirmed what he said to Jesus, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," (Matt. 16:16). This is consistent with scripture elsewhere where the term rock is sometimes used in reference to God but never of a man.[28]

Got Questions Ministries states:

Question: "What is the rock in Matthew 16:18?"

Answer: The debate rages over whether “the rock” on which Christ will build His church is Peter, or Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). In all honesty, there is no way for us to be 100% sure which view is correct. The grammatical construction allows for either view. The first view is that Jesus was declaring that Peter would be the “rock” on which He would build His church. Jesus appears to be using a play on words. “You are Peter (petros) and on this rock (petra) I will build my church.” Since Peter’s name means rock, and Jesus is going to build His church on a rock – it appears that Christ is linking the two together. God used Peter greatly in the foundation of the church. It was Peter who first proclaimed the Gospel on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-47). Peter was also the first to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-48). In a sense, Peter was the rock “foundation” of the church.

The other popular interpretation of the rock is that Jesus was referring not to Peter, but to Peter’s confession of faith in verse 16: “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Jesus had never explicitly taught Peter and the other disciples the fullness of His identity, and He recognized that God had sovereignly opened Peter’s eyes and revealed to him who Jesus really was. His confession of Christ as Messiah poured forth from him, a heartfelt declaration of Peter’s personal faith in Jesus. It is this personal faith in Christ which is the hallmark of the true Christian. Those who have placed their faith in Christ, as Peter did, are the church. Peter expresses this in 1 Peter 2:4 when he addressed the believers who had been dispersed around the ancient world: “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

At this point, Jesus declares that God had revealed this truth to Peter. The word for “Peter,” Petros, means a small stone (John 1:42). Jesus used a play on words here with petra (“on this rock”) which means a foundation boulder, as in Matthew 7:24, 25 when He described the rock upon which the wise man builds his house. Peter himself uses the same imagery in his first epistle: the church is built of numerous small petros “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) who, like Peter, confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and those confessions of faith are the bedrock of the church.

In addition, the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Christ is both the foundation (Acts 4:11, 12; 1 Corinthians 3:11) and the head (Ephesians 5:23) of the church. It is a mistake to think that here He is giving either of those roles to Peter. There is a sense in which the apostles played a foundational role in the building of the church (Ephesians 2:20), but the role of primacy is reserved for Christ alone, not assigned to Peter. So, Jesus’ words here are best interpreted as a simple play on words in that a boulder-like truth came from the mouth of one who was called a small stone. And Christ Himself is called the “chief cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:6, 7). The chief cornerstone of any building was that upon which the building was anchored. If Christ declared Himself to be the cornerstone, how could Peter be the rock upon which the church was built? It is more likely that the believers, of which Peter is one, are the stones which make up the church, anchored upon the Cornerstone, “and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6).[29] indicates:

The name Peter (Gk., Petros) means “rock” or “rock-man.” In the next phrase Christ used petra (upon this rock), a feminine form for “rock,” not a name. Christ used a play on words. He does not say “upon you, Peter” or “upon your successors,” but “upon this rock”—upon this divine revelation and profession of faith in Christ.

The following comment on this verse from The Bible Knowledge Commentary sums up the issue:

16:17-20. Peter’s words brought a word of commendation from the Lord. Peter was blessed because he had come to a correct conclusion about the person of Christ and because great blessing would be brought into his life. The Lord added, however, this was not a conclusion Peter had determined by his own or others’ ability. God, the Father in heaven, had revealed it to him. Peter was living up to his name (it means “rock”) for he was demonstrating himself to be a rock. When the Lord and Peter first met, Jesus had said Simon would be named Cephas (Aram. for “rock”) or Peter (Gr. for “rock”; John 1:41-42).

But his declaration about Messiah’s person led to a declaration of Messiah’s program. Peter (Petros, masc.) was strong like a rock, but Jesus added that on this rock (petra, fem.) He would build His church. Because of this change in Greek words, many conservative scholars believe that Jesus is now building His church on Himself. Others hold that the church is built on Peter and the other apostles as the building’s foundation stones (Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:14). Still other scholars say that the church is built on Peter’s testimony. It seems best to understand that Jesus was praising Peter for his accurate statement about Him, and was introducing His work of building the church on Himself (1 Cor. 3:11).[30]

R.C. Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries.

Ligonier Ministries declares:

The most disputed text on ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church) is Matthew 16:13–20. Protestants and Eastern Orthodox alike contest the use of Christ’s affirmation of Peter by Roman Catholics to establish the papacy.

Unfortunately, we can consider the issues raised by today’s passage only in brief. Foremost among these is what Jesus does not say in His commendation of Peter. Though invested with authority in verse 19, Peter is not thereby given supreme authority over the church universal. As a steward over God’s house, Peter’s keys give him (but not only him) authority among God’s people. For example, he can assure repentant sinners of divine pardon, not because he is able to forgive sin, but because he proclaims the free Gospel of forgiveness. Therefore, the keys also enable him to assure the impenitent that they can by no means inherit the kingdom of God. Yet Peter’s keys also belong to every apostle and, in a qualified sense, church leaders today as well (18:15–20; Eph. 2:19–20). Furthermore, Matthew 16:13–20 says nothing about Peter passing on a “unique” office to successive bishops, and it gives no support for papal infallibility.

Historic Protestantism recognizes such truths, and often says that Peter’s confession is the rock to which Jesus refers. This makes good sense, but we err if we say that Peter himself is not in any sense a rock upon which the church is built (Eph. 2:22). There is a play on words in the original Greek text: Peter’s name, Petros, is based on petra, that is, “rock” (v. 18). In other words, Jesus declares, “Simon, you are the rock, and on this rock I will build my church.” Peter has primacy in the church — a historical primacy, not papal primacy. Aside from being the first to confess Christ, Peter is the first apostle to extend the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10), and his leadership and teaching set the stage for the church’s expansion and maturity (chap. 1–15; 1 and 2 Peter). Thus, we conclude with John Calvin: “It is a foolish inference of the Papists, that he received the primacy, and became the universal head of the whole Church. Rank is a different thing from power, and to be elevated to the highest place of honor among a few persons is a different thing from embracing the whole world under his dominion.”[31]


According to the biblical definition of the identity of antichrist infallibly set forth in 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3 and 2 John 7, no historical pope has been the antichrist. None of them has denied that Jesus is the Christ, none of them has denied the Father and the Son, none of them has denied that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, each of them dogmatically confessing that Jesus Christ has indeed come in the flesh, and therefore none of them is or has been the antichrist.

See the classic creeds professed and affirmed by the Holy See of Rome.

See also the following sources:

"and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God."
—2 Thessalonians 2:3b-4

Compare Quoting out of context, Straw man fallacy, Confirmation bias, Cherry picking, Nutpicking, Misrepresentation,
Half-truth, Polemic, Deceit, Cafeteria Christianity, Foxe's Book of Martyrs, ''The Two Babylons''.

Sola Scriptura discernment: Authority and Conscience

Leaders of Eastern Christian communities and Protestants have divided over papal claims of supreme pastoral jurisdiction and of doctrinal authority over controversial questions of doctrine to finally determine dogma. Some have been persuaded to acknowledge papal authority as genuine, mainly on biblical grounds. Others have not found Catholic apologetics persuasive, mainly on biblical grounds. Still others who departed the Catholic Church for doctrinal reasons, mainly on biblical grounds, later repented, "reverted" and returned to Catholicism, mainly on biblical grounds.

Eastern Christians

Many historical Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions have over the centuries separated from Orthodoxy and become Catholic churches, in communion with Rome, based on Sacred Scripture, the Ecumenical councils, the development of Christian history, and a desire for Christian unity. They accept the jurisdiction of the Pope in matters of Church discipline and doctrine as necessary for Christian unity, while still retaining their distinctive eastern orthodox catholic Christian liturgical traditions and local ecclesiastical forms of government. They look Orthodox, but they are Catholic.

The leadership of the autocephalous jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church, under the presidency of the Patriarch of Constantinople, regards Eastern Catholics as having departed from the Orthodox Faith of Christianity as discerned in the writings of the Church Fathers through the centuries in conformity with the undivided unity of the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Orthodox Tradition. There are four major points of doctrine which Orthodoxy regards as heresies of Rome illicitly defended by the Patriarch of the West, the Pope.

Orthodoxy firmly asserts that Protestantism and Roman Catholicism are antichrist in their heretical rejection of the truth of Orthodox doctrine as clearly defined by the seven Ecumenical councils.[33]

Protestants: sola scriptura

Many non-Catholic and non-Orthodox Christians who have carefully studied the Bible as did the Beroean Jews[34] have been persuaded by what they see in the Bible that the concept of papal primacy is reasonable, and not opposed to the Bible. Many of them, persuaded by the arguments of Catholic apologists and their conscience have left their churches and joined themselves to Rome by being received into the Catholic Church in full communion with the Pope.

The majority of non-Catholic Christians who have carefully studied the Bible have been persuaded by what they see in the Bible, and by the arguments of Protestant apologists based on the Protestant Reformation, and by their conscience, that the Primacy of Peter is an heretical doctrine, fraught with danger to the integrity of the purity of a saving Christian faith. Many of them also declare that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility is an obvious and monstrous evidence of the Great Apostasy. They agree with Martin Luther that the Catholic Church under the popes is the church of the Antichrist, because of what they see in the Bible.[35]. This is the doctrinal position of conservative Christian Evangelicals, Baptists, Fundamentalists, the Plymouth Brethren, and anti-Catholic groups in general who hold to the doctrine of Dispensationalism and the Pre-Tribulation Rapture.

Some Catholic Priests have left the Catholic Church and become ex-Catholics, non-Catholic Christians who have carefully studied the Bible and have been persuaded by what they see in the Bible, and by the arguments of Protestant apologists based on the Protestant Reformation, and by their conscience, that Catholic doctrine is wrong and that the Primacy of Peter in particular is an heretical doctrine, and that Catholicism as a whole is fraught with danger to the integrity of the purity of a saving Christian faith.[36]

See the following online sources as a form of sola scriptura Bible study:

See also Sola spiritu.

Ex-Catholics: "Reverts" from Orthodoxy and Protestantism back to Catholicism

Catholic priests and laity who left the Catholic Church for Orthodoxy and Protestantism as ex-Catholics, and later returned to Catholicism (and implicitly to acceptance of Petrine Primacy as legitimate), are not termed "converts", but more properly "reverts", individuals who reverted to Catholicism again. Their decision to return to what they had originally rejected and denounced as false is primarily based on what they increasingly thought they saw as discrepancies between doctrine and scripture and historical evidence and the testimony of their own conscience. Those faith communities they left in order to return to the Catholic Church see them as relapsed apostates who most unfortunately have condemned themselves to hell.

Eastern Orthodox view of Petrine Primacy

See the following informative articles for an undistorted accurate view of Orthodox ecclesiology:

An online article of the Orthodox Church in America ( at summarizes the history of the cause of the Great Schism of 1054 between the East and the West [37]

In Constantinople there were two parties struggling for power in both ecclesiastical and civil affairs—the so-called zealots or conservatives, and the moderates. In 858, in an effort to provide a leader capable of restoring peace to the Church, Photius was elected to be the new patriarch, succeeding Ignatius, who had been unjustly deposed. As the brilliant, popular, highly distinguished professor of philosophy at the University in Constantinople, Photius was an excellent choice, even though he was still a layman. He was ordained and quickly elevated to the patriarchal office. The extremists of the so-called conservative party were not satisfied. They appealed to the Church of Rome, using the good name of the former patriarch Ignatius—who had accepted his forced retirement for the good of the Church—against Photius and the imperial government which confirmed his election. Pope Nicholas I proceeded to seize this opportunity to interfere in the affairs of the Church of Constantinople, in order to try to demonstrate that the Papacy had legitimate authority over the Eastern Churches as well as the Church in the West. To make this point, he decided to try to have Ignatius restored as patriarch of Constantinople.

In 861 a council was held in Constantinople to resolve the dispute. With the papal legates who presided over the council in full agreement, this council decided that Photius was indeed the rightful patriarch. However, when the legates returned to Rome, Pope Nicholas rejected their decision, since it was not the result that he desired. He held a council in Rome in 863, which presumed to have Photius deposed—along with all the clergy he had ordained in the preceding five years!—and Ignatius was proclaimed as the legitimate patriarch of Constantinople. As proof that the Papacy really had no legitimate authority over the Eastern Churches, the decrees of this council were ignored throughout the East. Patriarch Photius did not even deign to give Pope Nicholas a reply. Four years later, in 867, Photius finally responded by calling a major council of five hundred bishops meeting in Constantinople. This council condemned Pope Nicholas and declared him to be deposed for interfering in the internal affairs of the Church of Constantinople—and also for interfering in the affairs of the new Bulgarian Church. This council also made the first official condemnation by the Eastern Church of the addition of the filioque to the Nicene Creed. Later in 867, Basil I the Macedonian (r. 867–886) usurped the throne from Emperor Michael III, who was assassinated. In order to win the support of Rome for this usurpation, Basil reinstated Ignatius as patriarch, which did indeed heal the breach between Rome and Constantinople that had existed since 863. And in 869–870 a council was held in Constantinople, known as the Ignatian Council, which affirmed Ignatius as patriarch and condemned Photius, who was sent into exile. However, Pope Hadrian (r. 867–872) was not entirely pleased with this council, because it refused to give the Bulgarian Church over to the authority of Rome.

By 873, Emperor Basil no longer felt such a need for the approval of Rome, and his favor was turning to the moderates in Constantinople. So Photius was brought out of exile, and was made the tutor for the emperor’s two sons. Photius and Ignatius became reconciled, to such an extent that before Ignatius died in 877, he stipulated that he wanted Photius to succeed him as patriarch. So in that year Photius returned to the patriarchal throne, and soon led the effort by which Patriarch Ignatius was glorified as a saint.

In 879 a huge council, known as the Photian Council, took place in Constantinople. Once again papal legates were in attendance, and again they agreed with the council’s decisions. The council affirmed Photius as the legitimate patriarch, nullifying the decisions of the previous councils of 863 in Rome and 869–870 in Constantinople. It also reaffirmed Rome’s position as the first among equals among the great patriarchates, but without having jurisdictional authority over the East. The Nicene Creed without the filioque was affirmed, and the Council of Nicea of 787 was officially recognized as the Seventh Ecumenical Council.

Christ Pantocrator, 11th century mosaic, Hagia Sophia.
Pope John VIII (r. 872–882) was not pleased with this council’s decisions, but for the sake of peace in the Church he accepted them. For nearly two centuries this council was considered by Rome to be the Eighth Ecumenical Council.

Photius was officially canonized a saint by the Orthodox Church in the tenth century. She honors him with exceptional regard as Saint Photius the Great, one of the Three Pillars of Orthodoxy (along with Saint Gregory Palamas and Saint Mark of Ephesus). He was a man of many talents. An excellent diplomat in political affairs, he was also a great theologian who wrote extensively. His powerful critique of the filioque, the improper and theologically erroneous addition to the Nicene Creed, has remained the basic Orthodox refutation of this innovation ever since. He was a compiler and reviewer of both classical and patristic writings. As a brilliant scholar and professor as well as a leading churchman, he dominated the cultural flowering in Byzantium in the years after the restoration of the icons in 843. And we recall that he also guided the mission to the Slavs by sending Saints Cyril and Methodius to Moravia in 863.

In relations with the West, Saint Photius defended the authentic Church Tradition in confrontation with the exaggerated claims and unwarranted interference of Pope Nicholas, while ultimately preserving unity with the Roman Church and Pope John VIII. However, he will long be remembered disparagingly in the West for his stubborn resistance to Papal claims. The break in relations between the Western and Eastern Churches from 863 to 867, initiated by the Council of Rome which condemned him, is still known in the West as the “Photian Schism”—i.e., blaming Photius for the schism. Only in the last half century or so has he been acknowledged at least by some in the West as a great bishop with personal humility and wisdom. He was one of the greatest bishops in Christian history.

Principle of historical fulfillment

According to Romans 13:1-10 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 all legitimate authority has been established by God. According to Hebrews 13:17 obedience to Christian leaders is commanded. The historical actualization of this biblical principle raises the fiercely debated question of the legitimacy of any historical establishment of authority based on claims of the evidence of history as unfolding the will of God. The secular principle of American democracy asserts that governments are established by "the consent of the governed".[38] According to Orthodox and Protestant ecclesiology the claim of Petrine Primacy as supreme was never by consent, but was an innovation arbitrarily asserted as a Roman dogma against the apostolic tradition of the fathers and the evidence of all Christian history. In the secular realm of world history, emperors and kings claimed that their own established authority was evidence of the "divine right of kings" as ordained by God, some maintaining that the Church has no authority over the worldly realm of the established political power of nations and rulers but only over the spiritual realm of doctrine and faith. It is also found in Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, "that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth".[39] And during the first half of the Twentieth Century, for example, some argued that the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany was the apparent will of God, or it would not have happened. Afterward, the evidence of history showed that it was not. According to the principle set forth by Rabban Gamaliel: "if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought; But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it."[40]

The development of the doctrine of the Primacy of Peter based on historical precedent is summarized by R. E. Aguire, Reader in New Testament Studies and Church History, Southern California, General Editor of Paradoseis Journal[41]

I have called this historical unfolding of New Testament extracts the “principle of historical fulfillment.” In short what it entails is the idea that certain New Testament excerpts presuppose historical actualization. An example is Luke 1:48, a text in which we are assured that every generation thence forth will call Mary “blessed.” The historical issue in this is clear: how has history accomplished this prophecy? The answer could be found in any standard history of dogma which properly explains Mariology. The difference between this principle and the question of ‘development of doctrine’ is the fact that I am emphasizing simply the historical progress as it stands or how it has concretely unfolded. The exploration over whether this progress is valid or not (the question of development of doctrine) is another matter. I do not wish to enter into a discussion over the historical maturation of the Roman Papacy (or the question of its superiority over rival Christian claims, i.e., Protestantism) for this would take me far beyond the intended scope of this paper. The historical record is simple and speaks for itself; for the first thousand years of the Church’s existence the Roman Church gradually gained prominence mainly through the authoritative witness of the patristic fathers, Church Council’s and official pronouncements – all of which were in turn based on the Petrine texts of the New Testament. In the second millennium and beyond into the third, the single largest Christian body in the world (Roman Catholic) continues to hold to the dogma that the Petrine texts of the New Testament are best fulfilled in the office and person of the Bishop of Rome, i.e, the Pope. This is another example of the principle of historical fulfillment.

For the sake of space and precision I will be concentrating on the data that is given about Peter in the Gospels and Acts, the principle works that highlight the growth (Acts) and the foundational teaching (Gospels) of the early Church. For an excellent yet critical discussion that exposes the presuppositions behind the usual line which argues that in John’s Gospel (in contrast to the Synoptics) Peter is viewed in a negative light when in fact John sees Peter as an intimate colleague of John and indeed its “inspirational founding member of the Johannine community” see Bradford B. Blaine, Peter in the Gospel of John: The Making of an Authentic Disciple (SBLAB; SBL, 2007). Also for a positive reading of Peter in the Fourth Gospel see R. Alan Culpepper, “Characters,” in Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel (Fortress, 1983). The cumulative weight for the special recognition of Peter thought the entire New Testament is undeniable; (Matthew) 4:18; 10:2; 14:28-29; 15:15-16; 16:16, 18, 22-23; 17:1, 4, 24, 26; 18:21; 19:27; 26:33, 35, 37, 40, 58, 69, 73, 75; (Mark) 1:16, 29; 36; 3:13-16; 5:37; 9:2; 10:28; 11:21; 13:3; 14:33; 16:1, 7; (Luke) 5:3-11; 6:14; 12:41; (John) 1:35-44; 6:68; 13:6-37; 18:10-27; 20:2-6; 21:2-21; (Acts) 1:13-15; 2:14-38; 3:1-12; 4:8-19; 5:3-29; 8:14-20; 9:32-43; 10:5-46; 11:2-13; 12:5-18; 15:7; Gal 2:7; 1 Pet 1:1; 2 Pet 1:1).

Protestant commentator John Nolland in the respected NIGTC series, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Eerdmans, 2005), p. 179 notes on our text, “That Peter is the first called accords with the prominence he is given in the larger telling of Matthew’s story.” David L. Turner in the recent entry on Matthew in the Protestant Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), p. 136 comments with a keen eye on this text, “It is not coincidental that Peter is the first disciple who responds to the call of Jesus, since Peter is prominent throughout Matthew, especially in 16:13-28.”

Mk 3:16; 9:2; 14:33 etc; Matt 17:1 etc; Lk 6:14 etc.

Matthew (ICC; 1902), p. 100.

A. Plummer, An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew (London: Paternoster, 1910) concurs, “He not only put Peter first, as all do, but he specifically calls him ‘first’ (πρωτος), which would be superfluous, if it did not mean more than first on the list. It indicates the preeminence of Peter.” (p. 147). D. A. Carson writing in the Matthew entry for the conservative Protestant series Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 1:237 is characteristically sagacious in noting here that ‘first’ “…probably does not simply mean “first on the list,” which would be a trifling comment…More likely it means primus inter pares (“first among equals”).” R. T. France in his excellent (Protestant) commentary on Matthew, The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT; Eerdmans, 2007), p. 378 opines on our verse, “In specifying that Peter is “first” Matthew reflects not only that he was the first to be called, but also his prominence throughout the story as leader of the group, which will be strongly underlined in 16:17-19.” Protestant scholar Michael J. Wilkins in The Concept of Disciple in Matthew’s Gospel: As Reflected in the Use of the Term Mathetes (SNT 59; Brill, 1989), pp. 201-02 states on our passage, “Almost all commentators agree that standing at the head of the list, πρωτος is redundant and superfluous unless it acts as a true adjective and describes Peter himself; i.e., gives him some kind of “first-place.” Wilkins goes on to cite as examples, Albright and Mann, Matthew, p. 117; Allen (which I cite above); A. B. Bruce, “Synoptic Gospels,” p. 158; Carson (which I cited above); Fenton, Matthew, p. 151-52; Grundmann, Matthaus, p. 287; Meier, Matthew, p. 104; Plummer (which I cite above); McNeile, Matthew, p. 131; Tasker, Matthew, p. 106.

Mk 1:36; 10:28; 16:1 etc.

E.g. (Matt) 14:28; 15:15; 17:24 (where the tax collectors approach Peter alone for questioning, they understood well that he acted as representative for the Apostles when Jesus was absent); Matt 18:21; 26:33 etc; Mk 9: 2; 16:7 etc; (Lk) 5: 3- 11; 22:32; 24:34 etc; (Jn) 6:68; 10:11; 21:15-19 etc. Peter’s faults are well known and they are often manifest in these very critical verses which are meant to highlight his initiatory lead among the twelve (e.g., Mk 8:33; 9:2-13; Matt 14:31; 16:23; Jn 13:6-11 etc). The reason for such disclosure is clear, namely to show that Peter is far from perfect (and to contrast Jesus’ perfection) as well as to juxtapose Peter’s weakness, timidity and misunderstanding (prior to Jesus’ resurrection) with his noticeable strength, courageousness and biblical expositions (post resurrection).

Mk 8:27-30 etc; (Matt) 14:28-31; 16:17-19; 17:24; 27; etc; Lk 5:1-11 etc; Jn 1:41 (on Peter’s unique position in the early tradition via John 1:41 see Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Massachusetts: Henrickson, 2005), pp. 1:475-79; cf. Jn 13:6-11; 20:2; 21:15-19 (on this pericope in John, Keener (2005), p. 2:1235 remarks, “Peter certainly remains one of the most prominent disciples throughout the Fourth Gospel…It also may provide a model for other church leaders (cf. 1 Pet 5:1-2).” For another excellent discussion of John 21 in correlation with Peter and his leadership role in the early Church see Michael Labahn, “Peter’s Rehabilitation (John 21:15-19) and the Adoptions of Sinners: Remembering Jesus and Relecturing John,” in John, Jesus and History, Volume 1: Critical Appraisals of Critical Views (SBL, 2007). Petrine leadership as the motif behind John 21:15-17 is ably summarized in “The Growth and Making of John 21,” in W. S. Vorster and J. E. Botha, Speaking of Jesus: Essays on Biblical Language, Gospel Narrative and the Historical Jesus (SNT; Brill, 1997). cf. G. S. Sloyan, John (Interp; John Knox, 2009), p. 230.

For a brief article that summarizes (even Protestant) modern consensus on the “rock” of Mat 16:18 as referring to Peter see R. E. Aguirre, “‘Πετροs’ in the Triple Tradition: Matthew 16:18 in Particular,” Paradoseis Journal 2 (2009). Of special note in this Matthean pericope are the “keys” given to Peter with the power to “bind and loose” which motif has a rich backdrop in the rabbinic literature for governmental powers. This power is also given to the college of the Apostles (Matt 18:18). This corporate authority is beautifully carried out in Acts 15. Since I have explicated in the paper cited above the virtual unanimous consensus in NT scientific literature concerning the identification of the “rock” with Peter here I will only add the testimony of perhaps the most rigorous commentary to be written on Matthew to date, that of the triple volume entry in the new ICC series by W. D. Davies & D. C. Allison. After an excellent and comprehensive discussion surrounding nearly all the exegetical problems surrounding the pericope they conclude that the best view is that which associates “the rock” with Peter (ad loc).

The entire first half of Acts (1-14) is dominated by the person of Peter plainly with a literary concern on the part of Luke to communicate Peter’s leadership. Consider Peter’s position from texts such as (Acts- 4:8; 5:29; 15:7). From ch 14 on Paul takes center stage with the equally clear literary purpose to transmit the spread of Christianity throughout the then known world.

Acts 2 etc, which perspicuously involves his principal position in the early Church.

Acts 5 ff.

Acts 5:15.

Acts (ICC; 1870), 1:181-182. Furthermore, contra those scholars (mostly Protestant) that deny that Peter’s shadow actually healed and was only the crowd’s misunderstanding and ignorant opinion that it could, Gloag argues that the Greek implies that Peter’s shadow actually effected healings and cites (Matt 9:21-22; Acts 19:12) as examples where physical objects healed the crowds. But not all Protestant commentators deny the efficacy of Peter’s shadow, see F. F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), p. 109; G. Schneider, “επισκιαζω” EDNT.

Acts 3:1; 8:14; etc.

Acts 1:15; 9:39 etc.

The Acts of the Apostles: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 1998), p. 214.

The now classic collaborative effort (Protestant / Catholic) concerning the New Testament’s witness to Peter’s “primacy” is that of R. E. Brown, K. P. Donfried and John Reumann, eds., Peter in the New Testament (Minneapolis, 1973). For Catholic academic statements concerning Peter’s preeminence in the New Testament see Heinrich Fries, Fundamental Theology (Catholic University of America Press, 1996); Pheme Perkins, Peter: Apostle for the Whole Church (T&T Clark, 2000); Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans, 2002); Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew (Sac Pag; Michael Glazier Books, 2007); for Protestant evaluations which conclude for Peter’s special role among the Apostles see O. Cullmann, “πετρα,” “Πετρος,” TDNT; S. J. Grenz, Revisioning Evangelical Theology: A Fresh Agenda for the 21st Century (IVP, 1993), p. 178; J. D. G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit: A Study of the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in the New Testament (Eerdmans, 1997), p. 125 ff. are but a few examples. This is not to say that such historical developments were erroneous but that the New Testament writings were not written to prove a full feathered doctrine of Petrine Papacy. Such a concept came in time and with the Spirit’s guidance in God’s people, reflected already in seed form in the New Testament and fully realized through the centuries. For a good succinct discussion of these issues see Daniel J. Harrington, The Church According to the New Testament: What the Wisdom and Witness of Early Christianity Teach Us Today (Sheed & Ward, 2001). This is where the age old conundrum comes in, namely to what extant do our theological preconceptions drive our reading of the New Testament (and the patristic literature as well)? An example is an Eastern Orthodox treatment of Peter’s “primacy” in the New Testament which gives a good overview of the NT particulars but gives a radically different conclusion; Peter is not given any special kind of prominence over the other Apostles in the New Testament nor in the earliest patristic records, Veselin Kesich, “Peter’s Primacy in the New Testament and the Early Tradition,” in The Primacy of Peter: Essays in Ecclesiology in the Early Church (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1992). In the Protestant secondary literature as well there exists an immense rejection of any form of Petrine Primacy in terms of the way it is codified in official Roman Catholic dogma based on the New Testament.

For standard Catholic defenses of Roman Papal Petrine Primacy throughout the ages see for example; Joseph Ratzinger, “Primacy, Episcopate, and Apostolic Succession,” in The Episcopate and the Primacy (Freiberg: Herder, 1962); Kenneth Baker, Fundamentals of Catholicism, Vol. 3: Grace, the Church, the Sacraments, Eschatology (Ignatius, 1983); Hans Urs von Balthasar, Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1986); Stephan O. Horn, “The Petrine Mission of the Church of Rome: Some Biblical and Patristic Views,” Communio 18 (1991): 313-21; Klaus Schatz, Papal Primacy: From its Origins to the Present (Liturgical, 1996); Stephen K. Ray, Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999); Francis A. Sullivan, From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the Episcopacy in the Early Church (Paulist, 2001); Adriano Garuti, Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the Ecumenical Dialogue (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2004); Adrian Fortescue, The Early Papacy: To the Synod of Chalcedon 451 (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2008).

See further on this historical fulfillment as divinely guided historical contingency most recently in Richard J. Neuhaus, Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth (Basic Books, 2007). Ecclesiastical historical development in all its forms (theological, governmental, etc) is a valid deduction from the New Testament’s promise to divinely guide the fledgling Church (John 16:13-15). Peter’s responsibility to defend and “feed” this Church is likewise given by the same author (John 21:15-17) and there is no good reason to presume that this mandate was only given to Peter alone since by the time these words were written in the Fourth Gospel most likely the martyrdom of Peter was a past event. Again, the earliest patristic fathers understood this text as referring to those who would later hold the same leadership positions in the Church (the bishops) and their responsibility to guard the flock from heresy, contra Cullmann’s influential work Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr which moved to argue that Peter’s special position among the college of the Apostles did not transfer down to anyone but died out with him. For an early Catholic critique of Cullmann’s position see Otto Karrer, Peter and the Church: An Examination of Cullmann’s Thesis (New York: Herder and Herder, 1962).

See the article by N. J. Waldorf, April 1935 "The Reformation and the End of Papal Supremacy" (

Then came the counter reformation and the Council of Trent; then the Thirty Years' War and the Peace of Westphalia, 1648 A. D., whence our modern church history begins; then the evan­gelical church period; then the French Revolu­tion and the end of papal supremacy in Europe in the year 1798, at the close of the 1260-year prophecy of Daniel 7:25.

Vatican I and Vatican II

The Gift of Infallibility: The Official Relatio on Infallibility of Bishop Ferrer Gasser at Vatican Council I
According to the dogmatic canons of the First Vatican Ecumenical Council 1858 submission to the reigning pontiff in his discipline and government of the Church is necessary for salvation.
See Vatican I And The Papal Primacy, by James Larson (

This produced a backlash of Catholic traditionalists who separated themselves from Rome and formed the Old Catholic Church in the 19th century.[42] In September, 1870, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia article "Old Catholics"[43], nearly 1400 Germans issued a declaration, Roman Catholic Opposition to Papal Infallibility, in which they repudiated the dogma of Infallibility "as an innovation contrary to the traditional faith of the Church".[44]

Reaction to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, which included a reaffirmation of the dogma of Papal Infallibility of Vatican I, in some quarters prompted the sedevacantist movement[45] and the formation of the schismatic Lefabvrist Society of St. Pius X.
See A Little Catechism on Sedevacantism - Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) (archives.sspx)

Catholic apologists refer to the history of heresy by citing 1 John 2:19 and John 15:1-10, and place their hopes on the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about eventual union of all Christian believers as "one flock" under "one shepherd" John 10:16; 16:13; 17:20-26.

Sola spiritu and Discernment of Doctrine

Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him.[46]

There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.[47]

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.[48]

My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.[49]

He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.[50]

Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.[51]

He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.[52]

See also


  1. "pseudonymous writings" are writings which state the author to be someone else than the actual author. See Pseudonymity? Pseudepigraph? Pseudo*.*? (
  2. St. Sergius I, born in Antioch, he was elected on the 15th of December 687 and died the 8th of September 701. Nominated after two antipopes, he strove to extinguish the schism that had arisen in Rome itself, and succeeded in terminating that of Aquileia. He introduced into the liturgy the use of the Agnus Dei.
  3. See Apostolic Canons ( for a current menu of online sources defining, commenting on, and listing both the Apostolic Canons and the Apostolic Constitutions.
  4. for example Nicea canon 6
  5. Even when Anna Comnena, daughter of Emperor Alexis I Comnenus (1081–1118), tried to interpret "after" in a purely chronological sense, she was corrected by both Zonaras and Balsamon, who maintained that "after" certainly shows hierarchical inferiority. —John Meyendorff, "The Council of 381 and the Primacy of Constantinople" in Catholicity and the Church (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 1983), pp. 132-133. Also see L'Huillier, p. 373. See also Alexius I Comnenus, Byzantine Emperor (
  6. Just as in the Acts of the Apostles dispute over doctrine was referred to the judgment of the apostles and the elders in Jerusalem. Acts 15:1-35. See again Apostolic Canon XXXIV (XXXV), above.
  7. Auctoritas
  8. See Romans 13; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 2:13-17
  9. San Vitale and the Justinian Mosaic, by Dr. Allen Farber
  10. See multiple commentaries on Isaiah 22:22.
  11. Compare Supersessionism (
  12. see Revelation 1:17-18; 3:7
  13. Compare Matthew 16:16-19 and 18:15-20; Romans 13:1-7; 2 Corinthians 5:20 "ambassadors for Christ"; 2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2:2; John 14:16-17.
  14. See dictionary definitions of "collegiality" and "collegial"
  15. See multiple versions of 2 Corinthians 5:20
  16. See Matt Slick, "Is Peter the rock on which the Church is built?" - Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry
    This is consistent with scripture elsewhere where the term rock is sometimes used in reference to God but never of a man.
    Deut. 32:4, "The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice."
    2 Sam. 22:2-3, "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; 3 My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge."
    Psalm 18:31, "And who is a rock, except our God."
    Isaiah 44:8, "Is there any God besides Me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none."
    Rom. 9:33, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed."
  17. This is important. Some apologists and exegetes, either through ignorance—or worse, by deliberately dishonest deceit—say that Peter here in 1 Peter 2:5 uses the word petros (singular) or petroi (plural). He does not (every extant text of 1 Peter 2:5 uses the word lithoi λίθοι). Such apologists and exegetes cannot be trusted. They either do not know the language or they are lying. When any of them is not truthful about the language of any text of the Bible and are thus discovered to be promoting either innocently ignorant falsehoods or demonically deceitful lies they should be rejected and ignored and their names regarded by the student of the Bible as warnings to be avoided. They are not truthful! See Polemic.
  18. See multiple commentaries on Ephesians 2:20 and multiple commentaries on Revelation 21:14.
  19. See Revelation 1:17-18; 3:7
  20. Compare the Catholic Bible footnotes on these verses with multiple Protestant commentaries.
  21. See Apostolic succession.
  22. See the interlinear text of John 1:42—Petros: "a stone" or "a boulder," Peter, one of the twelve apostles.
  23. See a critical evaluation of Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, by Frederick E. Blume (
  24. see Petros: "a stone" or "a boulder," Peter, one of the twelve apostles … 4074 Pétros (a masculine noun) – properly, a stone (pebble), such as a small rock found along a pathway. 4074 Pétros ("small stone") then stands in contrast to 4073 pétra ("cliff, boulder," Abbott-Smith)
    Compare 4074 Πέτρος a rock, ledge or cliff.
    A "pebble" is not a "rock, ledge or cliff".
    Compare also 2786 Κηφάς Kēphas the Rock; Cephas "equivalent to Πέτρος", a rock, ledge or cliff
  25. Compare the following articles:
  26. Responses to previous questions.... WELS Topical Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Retrieved on 16 Mar 2017.
  27. Who is the Rock?. Archived from the original on 2012-02-16. Retrieved on 2012-07-16.
  28. Is Peter the rock on which the Church is built? by Matt Slick at CARM
  29. What is the rock in Matthew 16:18?, Got Questions Ministries
  30. What did Jesus mean when he said, “Upon this rock I will build my church”?,
  31. Peter, the Rock, Ligonier Ministries
  32. Apostolic Letter in the Form of Motu Proprio
    Solemni Hac Liturgia (Credo of the People of God)
    of the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI (
  33. Are Protestantism and Roman Catholicism Heretical? ( A compilation of historically documented Orthodox doctrinal statements.
  34. Acts 17:10-12 "they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." KJV
  35. The Reformers On Who is the Antichrist? ( Nicolaus Von Amsdorf (1483-1565), Martin Luther (1483-1546), Flacius (1570), Georg Nigrinus (1530-1602), John Calvin (1509-1564), John Knox (1505-1572), Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), Roger Williams (1603-1683), Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), John Wesley (1703-1791), Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), Rev. J. A. Wylie (1808-1890)
  36. Testimonies from ex-Roman Catholic Priests, by Matt Slick - CARM Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry ( Why they left.
  37. The Orthodox Faith. Volume III - Church History, Ninth Century, Saint Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople [1]
  38. "Consent of the governed" is a phrase from the United States Declaration of Independence. It is synonymous with a political theory wherein a government's legitimacy and moral right to use state power is only justified and legal when derived from the people or society over which that political power is exercised.
  39. This same controversy is found today in the debate over "separation of church and state".
  40. Acts 5:38-39 KJV. Compare Sirach 10:12-20.
  41. R.E. Aguirre, The Primacy of Peter According to the New Testament and the Principle of Historical Fulfillment
  42. Old Catholic Church
  44. Full text of Roman Catholic Opposition to Papal Infallibility ( The page display format is a typewritten text.
  45. Latin Sedevacantum from sede "chair" + vacante "vacant"= "the See is vacant". Sedevacantists maintain that the Second Vatican Council committed heresy and the fact that all of those elected as popes who approved and still approve the canons and decrees of that Council from Pope Paul VI onward show that they cannot be legitimate successors to the See of Peter but are pretenders elected by bishops who en masse committed heresy and ipso facto had no authority to elect a legitimate pope, and therefore the See is vacant until a legitimate successor is elected who will rescind and abrocate as null and void all of the changes introduced by Vatican II supported by licitly consecrated bishops who together agree with him in doing so.
  46. 1 Corinthians 8:1b-3
  47. Proverbs 16:25
  48. Matthew 7:7-8
  49. John 7:16b-17
  50. John 8:47
  51. James 4:17
  52. Revelation 22:11-12

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