1. What type of kingdom did Christ intend to bring?
Jesus Christ was descended from King David and referred to as “Son of David”1. King David was promised a descendent who would not only “rule forever,” but would sit on “David’s throne” forever2; thus, any conversation of what is and what is not properly intended by Christ, regarding his Kingdom, must be couched within the template of the Davidic Kingdom3.
2. What role did Christ intend for Saint Peter?
In the district of Caesarea Philippi, Christ asks his disciples “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” St. Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus then says to St. Peter:
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you they of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Christ’s intention for the role of St. Peter within the kingdom is twofold: Christ changed Simon Bar-jona’s name to Peter meaning rock and he will be a foundation for Christ’s kingdom on earth, the Church, and secondly, St. Peter is given the “keys of kingdom,” which come with great authority4. It is important to note this is one of the few times Christ ever mentions the “Church.”
3. What is the biblical backing for St. Peter’s role in accordance with the Davidic Kingdom?
If Christ is giving St. Peter a role within his Church, his kingdom of God on earth, then it must be part of the Davidic Kingdom. The symbols of authority given to St. Peter are the “keys of the kingdom.” Looking to the Old Testament, it is clear that Christ is rewording a passage from Isaiah that speaks of a position within the Davidic Kingdom:
And I will place on his should the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house.
Here a position within the Davidic Kingdom is described which has the key of authority to open and close, and is considered a position of security and authority when the King is away. Christ, who will sit on David’s throne forever, is using an Old Testament verse to elucidate a New Testament Kingdom position.
4. What is the position and what is its purpose?
The position is called Vicar and is the person who governs in the king’s stead when the king is away. He does not have the authority to change the teachings of the king, but he does have the authority to enforce and clarify them. In King David’s time, this person would rule when David was off to war or some other errand. In our age, the Vicar of Christ, aka the Office of the Papacy, governs the Church according to Christ’s teachings until Christ the King returns for his Kingdom. Notice David’s Vicar has one key to open and close the earthly kingdom, but Christ’s Vicar has two keys: one for heaven and one for earth.
5. What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say about St. Peter and the Papacy?
882. “The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, ‘is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.’5. ‘For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.’6”
6. But in Greek, St. Peter’s name is Petros and Christ says, “upon this petra,” so Christ was not referring to St. Peter, was he?
The premise is this: for over two thousand years, the Office of the Papacy has been founded upon a missed nuance in Greek grammar that no one apparently noticed, including those “early church” Christians who spoke and wrote in ancient Greek. A few thoughts. First, while the Gospel is written in Greek, Christ spoke Aramaic; thus, “You are kepha and on this kepha I will build my Church.” It’s the same word. Furthermore, St. Peter is referred to as Cephas, meaning Rock7. However, even the Greek difference between Petros/petra is of little consequence in Protestant polemics. Greek, as Latin and consequently the Romance Languages, has gendered nouns. Petros is the masculine form of rock, which would be appropriate when applying petra to a man. Grammatical, in Greek, they should not be the same gender, i.e., spelling.
7. Isn’t Christ The Rock?
Yes, Christ is also referred to ask The Rock. However, it was Jesus Christ who named Simon Bar-Jona: Peter, the Rock. Furthermore, it would not make sense for Christ to be referring to himself in Matthew 16. The entire passage focuses on Peter: his name is changed, he is explicitly given the keys, and his authority is explained. There is no grammatical reason why Christ would be referring to himself in the passage, especially since, again, it was he who changed Peter’s name. On another note, in the Old Testament Abraham was referred to as a rock of the faith8.
8. I am a Christian, how can I follow both Christ and the Pope?
If the papacy is properly understood, as defined by the Catholic Church, then to be obedient to Christ is to follow the Pope and to follow the Pope is to have confidence in one’s understanding of Christ. Imagine a citizen of King David’s saying, “I am a citizen of King David’s Kingdom, but I will not obey his Vicar.” The statement makes little sense, as the Vicar is selected by the King and governs according to the King’s laws. The Vicar is nothing in and of himself. The Vicar always points to the King. The Pope always points to Christ.
9. How can I have a personal relationship with Christ and have a “middle man,” the Pope?
Unlike King David’s Kingdom, though our King, Jesus Christ is gone, we can still communicate with him, embrace his presence in the Eucharist, and have a personal relationship with him. However, it is painfully obvious in our modern world that people have taken their personal relationships with Jesus to be either authoritative over others or relativistically personalized to their standards and beliefs. The Protestant Reformation splintered the Church and the Protestants have been splintering ever since. Why? Everyone claims their own version of Christ, and with no perceived Christ-given-authority to rule what is true and what is false, churches split and Christians are divided. The Pope exists to purify, guide, and defend the Church’s relationship with Jesus Christ. In essence, each individual Catholic can have a greater relationship with Jesus Christ, because the individual is not following his own conception of Christ, but the identity of Christ as passed down by the Apostles.
10. Scripturally, what would be the overall reason Christ would want a Vicar for his Church?
John 17 is arguably the central passage of the New Testament (and one of the most underestimated passages as well). Christ prays the following for his Church:
I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you… the glory which you have given me I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
As followers of Christ, we must ask ourselves several questions: Does our system of Christian groups that are perpetually splintering resemble Christ’s prayer that we be one? Does the in fighting and strife show the world that Christ was really the Son of God and that he loves the world? The answer is no, it is a target for mockery and a repellent for those seeking God. We must also ask ourselves, did Christ really come and then give us no way to rule authoritatively on his Word? Did he come to give us truth only to have us have no way to confirm it? – rendering many biblical passages and questions about God unanswerable? No. He brought a Kingdom and a Kingdom structure. The Office of the Papacy unites us under one Church, one God, one Christ, and one Truth.
The Papacy does not replace Christ or stand as a threat to a personal relationship with Christ, but rather the Papacy is a means of purifying a Catholic’s personal relationship. Followers of Christ should not be forced their whole life to wonder what is and what is not Christianity. There is no need to reinvent or rediscover the faith in every generation. The Pope and the Church allow Catholics to simply live by and love the same Jesus Christ the Apostles knew and loved.
- Matt 1:1-2; 9:27-29; Mk 10:47, 48 [↩]
- I Chron 17:14; Ps 89:35-36; Luke1:31 [↩]
- cf. Is. 9:6-7; 11:1-3; Jer 33:14-15, 17, 19-21, 26; Ps 132:10-14, 17; Luke 1:31-33, 68-71; II Tim 2:8; Rev 5:5, 22:16; Rom 1:3 [↩]
- Matt 16:13-20 [↩]
- LG 23 [↩]
- LG 22; cf. CD 2,9. [↩]
- cf. John 1:42; I Cor 1:12, 3:22, 9:5 [↩]
- Is 51 [↩]