Rome is the Apostolic Throne: 24 Quotes from Alexandria, Antioch, and Cyprus

“O Holy Head, Christ our God hath destined thy Apostolic See to be an immovable foundation and a pillar of the Faith. For thou art, as the Divine Word truly saith, Peter, and on thee as a foundation-stone have the pillars of the Church been fixed.”

Listers, in cataloguing the quotes from Alexandria, Antioch, and Cyprus we conclude our theme of Early Eastern Church Fathers that supported the Petrine Ministry. Though these quotes have been posted in several places, SPL would like to again give credit to the quality Catholic resource Fisheaters for compiling the list. The quotes focus on imagery distinct to the Petrine Ministry, e.g., the Keys of the Kingdom, Prince of the Apostles, Apostolic Throne, etc., and those unfamiliar with these themes from Sacred Tradition and the Bible should consult the SPL lists below.

 

True Christians Follow the Pope

 

A section of the “Martyrdom of St. Peter” by Leonello Spada (1576–1622) 

Alexandria

St. Peter, Bishop of Alexandria (306-311)
Head of the catechetical school in Alexandria, he became bishop around A.D. 300, reigning for about eleven years, and dying a martyr’s death.

Peter, set above the Apostles. (Peter of Alexandria, Canon. ix, Galland, iv. p. 98)

 

St. Anthony of Egypt (330)

Peter, the Prince of the Apostles (Anthony, Epist. xvii. Galland, iv p. 687)

 

St. Athanasius (362)

Rome is called the Apostolic throne. (Athanasius, Hist. Arian, ad Monach. n. 35)

The Chief, Peter. (Athan, In Ps. xv. 8, tom. iii. p. 106, Migne)

 

St. Macarius of Egypt (371)

The Chief, Peter. (Macarius, De Patientia, n. 3, p. 180)

Moses was succeeded by Peter, who had committed to his hands the new Church of Christ, and the true priesthood. (Macarius, Hom. xxvi. n. 23, p. 101)

 

St. Cyril of Alexandria (c. 424)

He suffers him no longer to be called Simon, exercising authority and rule over him already having become His own. By a title suitable to the thing, He changed his name into Peter, from the word ‘petra’ (rock); for on him He was afterwards to found His Church. (Cyril, T. iv. Comm. in Joan., p. 131

He (Christ) promises to found the Church, assigning immovableness to it, as He is the Lord of strength, and over this He sets Peter as shepherd. (Cyril, Comm. on Matt., ad loc.)

Therefore, when the Lord had hinted at the disciple’s denial in the words that He used, ‘I have prayed for thee that thy faith not fail,’ He at once introduced a word of consolation, and said (to Peter): ‘And do thou, when once thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.’ That is, ‘Be thou a support and a teacher of those who through faith come to me.’ Again, marvel also at the insight of that saying and at the completeness of the Divine gentleness of spirit. For so that He should not reduce the disciple to despair at the thought that after his denial he would have to be debarred from the glorious distinction of being an Apostle, He fills him with good hope, that he will attain the good things promised. …O loving kindness! The sin was not yet committed, and He already extends His pardon and sets him (Peter) again in his Apostolic office. (Cyril Comm. on Luke’s Gospel)

For the wonderous Peter, overcome by uncontrollable fear, denied the Lord three times. Christ heals the error done, and demands in various ways the threefold confession … For although all the holy disciples fled, …still Peter’s fault in the threefold denial was in addition, special and peculiar to himself. Therefore, by the threefold confession of blessed Peter, the fault of the triple denial was done away. Further, by the Lord’s saying, Feed my lambs, we must understand a renewal as it were of the Apostleship already given to him, washing away the intervening disgrace of his fall, and the littleness of human infirmity. (Cyril, Comm. on John’s Gospel).

They (the Apostles) strove to learn through one, that preeminent one, Peter. (Cyril, Ib. 1. ix. p. 736).

And even blessed Peter, though set over the holy disciples, says ‘Lord, be it far from Thee, this shall be done to Thee. (Cyril, Ibid. 924).

If Peter himself, that prince of the holy disciples, was, upon an occassion, scandalized, so as suddenly to exclaim, ‘Lord, be it far from Thee,’ what wonder that the tender mind of woman should be carried away? (Cyril, Ibid, p. 1064)

That the Spirit is God we shall also learn hence. That the prince of the Apostles, to whom ‘flesh and blood,’ as the Savior says, ‘did not reveal’ the Divine mystery, says to Ananias, ‘Why hath Satan tempted thy heart, (Cyril, T. v. Par. 1. Thesaur. p. 340)

Besides all these, let there come forward that leader of the holy disciples, Peter, who, when the Lord, on a certain occassion, asked him, ‘Whom do men say that the Son of man is?’ instantly cried out, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ (Cyril, T. v. P.2, Hom. viii. De Fest. Pasch. p. 105)

‘If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me.’ When the Coryphaeus (Peter) had heard these words, he began to change. (Cyril, Ib. Hom.)

This bold man (Julian), besides all this, cavils at Peter, the chosen one of the holy Apostles. (Cyril, T. vi.l. ix. Contr. Julian. p. 325).

 

Eulogius of Alexandria (581)
Born in Syria, he became the abbot of the Mother of God monastery at Antioch. In 579, he was made Patriarch of Alexandria; and became an associate of St. Gregory the Great while visiting Constantinople. Much of their subsequent correspondence is still extant.

Neither to John, nor to any other of the disciples, did our Savior say, ‘I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,’ but only to Peter. (Eulogius, Lib. ii. Cont. Novatian. ap. Photium, Biblioth, cod. 280)

 

Antioch

Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus in Syria (450)
A native of Antioch, Theodoret ruled under the Antiochean Patriarch.

The great foundation of the Church was shaken, and confirmed by the Divine grace. And the Lord commanded him to apply that same care to the brethren. ‘And thou,’ He says, ‘converted, confirm thy brethren.’ (Theodoret, Tom. iv. Haeret. Fab. lib. v.c. 28)

‘For as I,’ He says, ‘did not despise thee when tossed, so be thou a support to thy brethren in trouble, and the help by which thou was saved do thou thyself impart to others, and exhort them not while they are tottering, but raise them up in their peril. For this reason I suffer thee also to slip, but do not permit thee to fall, thus through thee gaining steadfastness for those who are tossed.’ So this great pillar supported the tossing and sinking world, and permitted it not to fall entirely and gave it back stability, having been ordered to feed God’s sheep. (Theodoret, Oratio de Caritate in J. P. Minge, ed., Partrologiae Curses Completus: Series Graeca).

I therefore beseech your holiness to persuade the most holy and blessed bishop (Pope Leo) to use his Apostolic power, and to order me to hasten to your Council. For that most holy throne (Rome) has the sovereignty over the churches throughout the universe on many grounds. (Theodoret, Tom. iv. Epist. cxvi. Renato, p. 1197).

If Paul, the herald of the truth, the trumpet of the Holy Spirit, hastened to the great Peter, to convey from him the solution to those in Antioch, who were at issue about living under the law, how much more do we, poor and humble, run to the Apostolic Throne (Rome) to receive from you (Pope Leo) healing for wounds of the the Churches. For it pertains to you to have primacy in all things; for your throne is adorned with many prerogatives. (Theodoret Ibid, Epistle Leoni)

 

Cyprus

St. Epiphanius, Archbishop of Salamis (385)

Holy men are therefore called the temple of God, because the Holy Spirit dwells in them; as that Chief of the Apostles testifies, he that was found to be blessed by the Lord, because the Father had revealed unto him. To him then did the Father reveal His true Son; and the same (Peter) furthermore reveals the Holy Spirit. This was befitting in the First of the Apostles, that firm Rock upon which the Church of God is built, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The gates of hell are heretics and heresiarchs. For in every way was the faith confirmed in him who received the keys of heaven; who looses on earth and binds in heaven. For in him are found all subtle questions of faith. He was aided by the Father so as to be (or lay) the Foundation of the security (firmness) of the faith. He (Peter) heard from the same God, ‘feed my lambs’; to him He entrusted the flock; he leads the way admirably in the power of his own Master. (Epiphanius, T. ii. in Anchor).

 

Sergius, Metropolitain of Cyprus (649)
Writing to Pope Theodore:

O Holy Head, Christ our God hath destined thy Apostolic See to be an immovable foundation and a pillar of the Faith. For thou art, as the Divine Word truly saith, Peter, and on thee as a foundation-stone have the pillars of the Church been fixed. (Sergius Ep. ad Theod. lecta in Sess. ii. Concil. Lat. anno 649)

11 Reasons the Authority of Christianity Is Centered on St. Peter and Rome

The importance of establishing St. Peter’s ministry in Rome may be boiled down to authority and more specifically the historic existence and continuance of the Office of Vicar held by St. Peter.

Listers, Bl. John Henry Newman said it best: “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” History paints an overwhelming picture of St. Peter’s apostolic ministry in Rome and this is confirmed by a multitude of different sources within the Early Church. Catholic Encyclopedia states, “In opposition to this distinct and unanimous testimony of early Christendom, some few Protestant historians have attempted in recent times to set aside the residence and death of Peter at Rome as legendary. These attempts have resulted in complete failure.” Protestantism as a whole seeks to divorce Christianity from history by rending Gospel message out of its historical context as captured by our Early Church Fathers. One such target of these heresies is to devalue St. Peter and to twist the authority of Rome into a historical mishap within Christianity. To wit, the belief has as its end the ultimate end of all Catholic and Protestant dialogue – who has authority in Christianity?

 

Why is it important to defend the tradition of St. Peter and Rome?
The importance of establishing St. Peter’s ministry in Rome may be boiled down to authority and more specifically the historic existence and continuance of the Office of Vicar held by St. Peter. To understand why St. Peter was important and what authority was given to him by Christ SPL has composed two lists – 10 Biblical Reasons Christ Founded the Papacy and 13 Reasons St. Peter Was the Prince of the Apostles.

The rest of the list is cited from the Catholic Encyclopedia on St. Peter and represents only a small fraction of the evidence set therein.

 

The Apostolic Primacy of St. Peter and Rome

It is an indisputably established historical fact that St. Peter laboured in Rome during the last portion of his life, and there ended his earthly course by martyrdom. As to the duration of his Apostolic activity in the Roman capital, the continuity or otherwise of his residence there, the details and success of his labours, and the chronology of his arrival and death, all these questions are uncertain, and can be solved only on hypotheses more or less well-founded. The essential fact is that Peter died at Rome: this constitutes the historical foundation of the claim of the Bishops of Rome to the Apostolic Primacy of Peter.

St. Peter’s residence and death in Rome are established beyond contention as historical facts by a series of distinct testimonies extending from the end of the first to the end of the second centuries, and issuing from several lands.

 

1. The Gospel of St. John

That the manner, and therefore the place of his death, must have been known in widely extended Christian circles at the end of the first century is clear from the remark introduced into the Gospel of St. John concerning Christ’s prophecy that Peter was bound to Him and would be led whither he would not — “And this he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God” (John 21:18-19, see above). Such a remark presupposes in the readers of the Fourth Gospel a knowledge of the death of Peter.

 

2. Salutations, from Babylon

St. Peter’s First Epistle was written almost undoubtedly from Rome, since the salutation at the end reads: “The church that is in Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you: and so doth my son Mark” (5:13). Babylon must here be identified with the Roman capital; since Babylon on the Euphrates, which lay in ruins, or New Babylon (Seleucia) on the Tigris, or the Egyptian Babylon near Memphis, or Jerusalem cannot be meant, the reference must be to Rome, the only city which is called Babylon elsewhere in ancient Christian literature (Revelation 17:5; 18:10; “Oracula Sibyl.”, V, verses 143 and 159, ed. Geffcken, Leipzig, 1902, 111).

 

3. Gospel of St. Mark

From Bishop Papias of Hierapolis and Clement of Alexandria, who both appeal to the testimony of the old presbyters (i.e., the disciples of the Apostles), we learn that Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome at the request of the Roman Christians, who desired a written memorial of the doctrine preached to them by St. Peter and his disciples (Eusebius, Church History II.15, 3.40, 6.14); this is confirmed by Irenaeus (Against Heresies 3.1). In connection with this information concerning the Gospel of St. Mark, Eusebius, relying perhaps on an earlier source, says that Peter described Rome figuratively as Babylon in his First Epistle.

 

4. Testimony of Pope St. Clement I

Another testimony concerning the martyrdom of Peter and Paul is supplied by Clement of Rome in his Epistle to the Corinthians (written about A.D. 95-97), wherein he says (chapter 5):

“Through zeal and cunning the greatest and most righteous supports [of the Church] have suffered persecution and been warred to death. Let us place before our eyes the good Apostles — St. Peter, who in consequence of unjust zeal, suffered not one or two, but numerous miseries, and, having thus given testimony (martyresas), has entered the merited place of glory”.

He then mentions Paul and a number of elect, who were assembled with the others and suffered martyrdom “among us” (en hemin, i.e., among the Romans, the meaning that the expression also bears in chapter 4). He is speaking undoubtedly, as the whole passage proves, of the Neronian persecution, and thus refers the martyrdom of Peter and Paul to that epoch.

 

5. Testimony of St. Ignatius of Antioch

In his letter written at the beginning of the second century (before 117), while being brought to Rome for martyrdom, the venerable Bishop Ignatius of Antioch endeavours by every means to restrain the Roman Christians from striving for his pardon, remarking: “I issue you no commands, like Peter and Paul: they were Apostles, while I am but a captive” (Epistle to the Romans 4). The meaning of this remark must be that the two Apostles laboured personally in Rome, and with Apostolic authority preached the Gospel there.

 

6. Taught in the Same Place in Italy

Bishop Dionysius of Corinth, in his letter to the Roman Church in the time of Pope Soter (165-74), says:

“You have therefore by your urgent exhortation bound close together the sowing of Peter and Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both planted the seed of the Gospel also in Corinth, and together instructed us, just as they likewise taught in the same place in Italy and at the same time suffered martyrdom” (in Eusebius, Church History II.25).

 

 

7. Rome: Founded by Sts. Peter and Paul

Irenaeus of Lyons, a native of Asia Minor and a disciple of Polycarp of Smyrna (a disciple of St. John), passed a considerable time in Rome shortly after the middle of the second century, and then proceeded to Lyons, where he became bishop in 177; he described the Roman Church as the most prominent and chief preserver of the Apostolic tradition, as “the greatest and most ancient church, known by all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul” (Against Heresies 3.3; cf. 3.1). He thus makes use of the universally known and recognized fact of the Apostolic activity of Peter and Paul in Rome, to find therein a proof from tradition against the heretics.

 

8. St. Peter Announced the Word of God in Rome

In his “Hypotyposes” (Eusebius, Church History IV.14), Clement of Alexandria, teacher in the catechetical school of that city from about 190, says on the strength of the tradition of the presbyters: “After Peter had announced the Word of God in Rome and preached the Gospel in the spirit of God, the multitude of hearers requested Mark, who had long accompanied Peter on all his journeys, to write down what the Apostles had preached to them” (see above).

 

9. Rome: Where Authority is Ever Within Reach

Like Irenaeus, Tertullian appeals, in his writings against heretics, to the proof afforded by the Apostolic labours of Peter and Paul in Rome of the truth of ecclesiastical tradition. In De Præscriptione 36, he says:

“If thou art near Italy, thou hast Rome where authority is ever within reach. How fortunate is this Church for which the Apostles have poured out their whole teaching with their blood, where Peter has emulated the Passion of the Lord, where Paul was crowned with the death of John.”

In Scorpiace 15, he also speaks of Peter’s crucifixion. “The budding faith Nero first made bloody in Rome. There Peter was girded by another, since he was bound to the cross”. As an illustration that it was immaterial with what water baptism is administered, he states in his book (On Baptism 5) that there is “no difference between that with which John baptized in the Jordan and that with which Peter baptized in the Tiber”; and against Marcion he appeals to the testimony of the Roman Christians, “to whom Peter and Paul have bequeathed the Gospel sealed with their blood” (Against Marcion 4.5).

 

10. Come to the Vatican and See for Yourself

The Roman, Caius, who lived in Rome in the time of Pope Zephyrinus (198-217), wrote in his “Dialogue with Proclus” (in Eusebius, Church History II.25) directed against the Montanists: “But I can show the trophies of the Apostles. If you care to go to the Vatican or to the road to Ostia, thou shalt find the trophies of those who have founded this Church”.

By the trophies (tropaia) Eusebius understands the graves of the Apostles, but his view is opposed by modern investigators who believe that the place of execution is meant. For our purpose it is immaterial which opinion is correct, as the testimony retains its full value in either case. At any rate the place of execution and burial of both were close together; St. Peter, who was executed on the Vatican, received also his burial there. Eusebius also refers to “the inscription of the names of Peter and Paul, which have been preserved to the present day on the burial-places there” (i.e. at Rome).

 

11. Ancient Epigraphic Memorial

There thus existed in Rome an ancient epigraphic memorial commemorating the death of the Apostles. The obscure notice in the Muratorian Fragment (“Lucas optime theofile conprindit quia sub praesentia eius singula gerebantur sicuti et semote passionem petri evidenter declarat”, ed. Preuschen, Tübingen, 1910, p. 29) also presupposes an ancient definite tradition concerning Peter’s death in Rome.

The apocryphal Acts of St. Peter and the Acts of Sts. Peter and Paul likewise belong to the series of testimonies of the death of the two Apostles in Rome.

10 Biblical Reasons Christ Founded the Papacy

What does the Pope actually do? Wouldn’t a Pope hinder my personal relationship with Christ? Why a Pope at all? By Scripture, this list strives to show that the Pope and the Church allow Catholics to simply live according to and love the same Jesus Christ the Apostles knew and loved.

1. What type of kingdom did Christ intend to bring?

Jesus Christ is a descendent of King David and is referred to as “Son of David” in Scripture.1 Christ’s relation to King David is paramount in understanding the fulfillment of his covenant with God. King David was promised a descendent who would “rule forever” and sit on “David’s throne” forever.2 Christ, as the Eternal King, is certainly the descendent of King David’s who will “rule forever” from King David’s throne. During the exiles of Israel, the people wrote with hope about the New Jerusalem and the Messiah that would usher in the New Davidic Kingdom; thus, any conversation about what is and what is not properly intended by Christ, regarding his Kingdom, must be couched within the template of the Davidic Kingdom.3

 

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 the keys 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.

What is Christ’s intention for St. Peter with his Kingdom? On its face, the passage affirms two general truths. First, Christ changes Simon Bar-jona’s name to Peter meaning Rock, the foundation of Christ’s kingdom on earth, the Church. In the Old Testament, God changing someone’s name denoted a special calling, a new vocation, e.g., Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, etc. St. Peter’s name change denotes that he will have a special vocation among the twelve disciples. Second, St. Peter is given the “keys of kingdom,” which comes with ability to bind and loose.4 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’s Kingdom retains a unique Davidic character, is there any Old Testament evidence that illuminates the keys given to St. Peter? Yes, 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 shoulder 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.

The similarities in the Old Testament passage are striking. In both passages, a person within the Davidic Kingdom is given keys that come with the authority to open and shut or bind and loose.5

 

4. What is the position and what is its purpose?

Reading Isaiah 22 and Matthew 16 together, the position or office given to St. Peter appears to be one of a steward or vicar. The vicar 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?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

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.’ ‘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.'”

The Four Marks of the Church: One, Holy, Catholic, & Apostolic

6. Is there a distinction between Petros and Petra?

A popular grammatical question on the Matthew passage often takes the form of the following: 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? First, note that the premise of this question is that 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 arguably 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 Rock throughout the New Testament.6 The distinction in Greek is slightly more nuanced.

Greek is an inflected (not “reflexive”) language, which means that the forms of nouns change based on the function a word is performing in a sentence. When this happens, the base meaning of the word remains the same. The inflection communicates information about how the word is being used grammatically but not what it means.

In the case of petros vs. petra, the change is not an inflection. Petros and petra are two different words in Greek. They are similar because they are cognates (just as “president” and “presider” are cognates in English but are nonetheless two different words with different, though related, meanings). Because they are two different words, the inflection (change of form) of petros and petra is not what is at issue here. The basic meanings of the terms is.

The point the article is making is that in Attic Greek there was a slight difference in meaning between the two, but in Koine Greek (the dialect of the New Testament) they were synonyms.

Petros and petra are two distinct words, but without a distinction in meaning. The grammatical distinction does not import any error on the historical understanding that St. Peter is the Rock referred to in St. Matthew’s passage.7

 

7. Is not Christ The Rock?

There are two general arguments here. First, that Christ alone bears the title The Rock; thus, it is not appropriate to grant that title to St. Peter. Second, that the passage in Matthew 16 is referring to Christ as the Rock of the Church.

First, Christ is not the only person to hold the title/name Rock. Christ is referred to as the Rock, because he is the foundation of all things; however, in the rabbinical tradition, Abraham also bore the title Rock. Isaiah 51:1-3 states, “Look to the rock from which you were hewn… look to Abraham your father.” Cardinal Ratzinger comments on the similarity between St. Peter and Abraham as Rock:

Abraham, the father of faith, is by his faith the rock that holds back chaos, the onrushing primordial flood of destruction, and thus sustains creation. Simon, the first to confess Jesus as the Christ and the first witness of the Resurrection, now becomes by virtue of his Abrahamic faith, which is renewed in Christ, the rock that stands against the impure tide of unbelief and its destruction of man.8

Christ retains the name The Rock, but both Abraham and St. Peter have carried the title Rock as well. Regarding, the St. Matthew passage, it was Jesus Christ who named Simon Bar-Jona, Peter, the Rock. It would not make any sense for Christ to name St. Peter Rock and then be – without any contextual clues of a transition – be referring to himself as the Rock upon which he will build his Church. The entire context of the 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. 

 

The following considerations are meant to intuit certain protestant hesitancies that are common when discussing the biblical foundation of the papacy.

 

8. 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. Cardinal Ratzinger taught that the pope was the “Advocate of Christian Memory.” He holds the People of God to the memory of Christ and his teachings, the identity of the community.

In short, the Pope holds the King’s people to the King’s laws while the King is away. He is the Rock upon which the King has built his Church and has been given the keys of authority.

 

9. Is the Pope a middleman between us and God?

Protestants often lament that the Pope is a middleman between Catholics and God, which in turn distorts the ability of a Catholic to have a “personal relationship with God.” Unlike King David’s Kingdom, though our King Jesus Christ is gone, we can still communicate with him, embrace his true presence in the Eucharist, and have a personal relationship with him. It is painfully obvious, however, in our modern world that the concept of a “personal relationship with Christ” has spun wildly out of control. With each generation, Protestant pastors attempt to reinvent the Christian religion by dogmatically projecting their personal experiences onto others. They form new “churches” upon their new understanding of Christ and Christianity. Across the board, “personal relationship with Christ” is in truth a personalized Jesus. Jesus becomes simply a concept to be molding to this or that individual’s beliefs.

The Protestant Reformation splintered the Church and the Protestants have been splintering ever since. 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. The unified Church under the Pope – the Advocate of Christian Memory – holds the Church to the teachings of Christ and his apostles. He is a bulwark preventing Catholics from drifting off into the fads and ideologies of the age.

In essence, the Catholic life is one about living the Christ-centered life. It is not a life spent wondering whether or not this teaching of Christ or that new “church” is right or not. The Pope frees Catholics from worrying what is the Christian life, to simply living the Christian life.

 

10. What does Christ want for his Church?

Assuming all that has already been addressed, there is one specific prayer of Christ that contextualizes the greater conversation of one unified Church. In the Gospel of John, the 17th chapter is arguably the central passage of the entire New Testament and one of the most underestimated passages as well. The chapter is Christ’s prayer for his Church. Toward the end of the passage, Christ focuses on unity:

That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one: I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me. Father, I will that where I am, they also whom thou hast given me may be with me; that they may see my glory which thou hast given me, because thou hast loved me before the creation of the world. Just Father, the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee: and these have known that thou hast sent me.

Christ’s prayer for the Church begs certain questions from those who call themselves Christians: does the perpetual fracturing of one protestant group into another resemble the unity of Christ’s prayer? Does the infighting and strife of broken communities show the world Christ was really the Son of God? Do thousands upon thousands of contradictory Christian communities lend belief to the fact the one true God came to earth? The way Christianity is currently lived in the world promotes the belief that charity may be separated from unity. The God’s charity and God’s unity may be divorced.9

There are other questions that may be asked of God. Did Christ come and establish a community with no authority to guide it? Did Christ come and give us the truth without any way to confirm it? Did Christ come and preach unity and charity only to leave humanity to fracture and break under sin into thousands of contradictory communities? Did Christ come and bring humanity The Word only to have no authority to interpret it? No. He brought a Kingdom and a Kingdom structure. The Office of the Papacy unites us in 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. 

The Pope holds the King’s people to the King’s laws, so, in fulfillment of Christ’s prayer for the Church, the People of God may show the world Jesus Christ by their unity and charity.

  1. Son of David: Matt 1:1-2; 9:27-29; Mk 10:47, 48 []
  2. King David’s Throne: I Chron 17:14; Ps 89:35-36; Luke1:31 []
  3. David’s Kingdom: 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 []
  4. Keys of the Kingdom: Matt 16:13-20 []
  5. Keys in the Old Testament: The verse is Isaiah 22:22, but the entire passage is notable for discerning the vocation of St. Peter. For instance, the passage is actually taking the keys from one steward to the next. This detail is often used to combat those Protestant circles who affirm St. Peter had a unique role, but argue the role died with he died. []
  6. Cephas in the New Testament: cf. John 1:42; I Cor 1:12, 3:22, 9:5 []
  7. Petros/Petra: The explanation is taken from the article Petros v. Petra by Jimmy Akin. Another article consulted was the Catholic Answers article Peter the Rock. SPL had previously held that the petros/petra was one of inflection and corrected this mistake during an update. Updated: 3/3/14 []
  8. Abraham/Peter Rock: Quote taken from Called to Communion, Cardinal Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, p. 56. []
  9. Christ’s Prayer: St. John 17:21-25. []

13 Biblical Reasons St. Peter Was the “Prince of the Apostles”

“Prince of the Apostles” means that St. Peter held a certain primacy over the other eleven. Understanding St. Peter’s unique position among the twelve and the unique ministries he exercised lays an excellent groundwork for a discussion of Christ’s founding of the Papacy.

Listers, “Prince of the Apostles” means that St. Peter held a certain primacy over the other eleven. Understanding St. Peter’s unique position among the twelve and the unique ministries he exercised lays an excellent groundwork for a discussion of Christ’s founding of the Papacy. While resources on this subject are abundant, SPL recommends Cardinal Ratzinger’s Called to Communion.

 

St. Peter’s Place of Primacy Among the Twelve

1. St. Peter & the Sons of Zebedee:

Sts. Peter, James, and John are a special group of disciples that are allowed to witness the Transfiguration1 and accompany Christ to the Mount of Olives.2 In each event, St. Peter, the Rock, is singled out. At the Mount of Olives, Christ finds all three asleep, but it is St. Peter he addresses. During the Transfiguration, it is St. Peter who speaks for the disciples.

2. Christ Calls Simon Peter First:

In St. Luke 5:1-11, Christ calls his first disciples, and the first is Simon Peter. According to Cardinal Ratzinger, the “call of Peter appears as the original pattern of apostolic vocation par excellence.”3

3. The List of Disciples According to Scripture:

Every time the disciples are listed, St. Peter is listed first.4 Furthermore, when referring to the disciples, sometimes only St. Peter is mentioned by name, e.g., “And Simon and those who were with him,” and “Now Peter and those who were with him”.5

4. Unique Acts:

St. Peter is the only one to try to walk on the water (Mt 14:28ff) and he is the one that brings up the famous question of how many times we must forgive.6 Even St. Peter’s shadow was an instrument of healing.7

St. Peter Healing the Crippled Beggar (1530-1532)

The Name Change: The Rock

5. The Changing of St. Peter’s Name:

While it was common for Rabbis to give nicknames or new surnames to their disciples, e.g., the Sons of Zebedee as the “Sons of Thunder,” it was uncommon to change a disciple’s first name. Christ gives Simon the new name “Peter” or Kephas (or Cephas) meaning rock.8

6. New Name = New Vocation:

In the Old Testament, God changing someone’s name denoted a special calling, a new vocation, e.g., Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, etc. St. Peter’s name change denotes that he will have a special vocation among the twelve.

7. Special Meaning of Rock:

Obviously Christ was also referred to as the Rock, because he is the foundation of all things. However, in the rabbinical tradition, Abraham was also referred to as a rock: “Look to the rock from which you were hewn… look to Abraham your father” .9 Cardinal Ratzinger comments:10

Abraham, the father of faith, is by his faith the rock that holds back chaos, the onrushing primordial flood of destruction, and thus sustains creation. Simon, the first to confess Jesus as the Christ and the first witness of the Resurrection, now becomes by virtue of his Abrahamic faith, which is renewed in Christ, the rock that stands against the impure tide of unbelief and its destruction of man.

The Deliverance of St. Peter, Raffaello Sanzio (1514)

Unique Ministry

8. The Risen Christ Commissions St. Peter:

After the Resurrection, Christ appears to the Twelve and has a unique conversation with St. Peter. Christ, the Shepherd, asks St. Peter three times if he loves him. St. Peter responds yes all three times – presumably this passage should reflect his three denials. Christ also tell St. Peter and Peter alone: feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep. As the Vicar of Christ, St. Peter must care for the flock.11

9. Christ Prays for St. Peter:

In Lk 22:31-34, two major Petrine themes are evident. First, Satan has taken a special interest in St. Peter. He will fail, but will repent. Second, after St. Peter has “turned again” to Christ, Jesus commissions him to “strengthen the brethren.” Another mission given only to St. Peter.

10. The Keys:

In Matthew 16:13-20, the most famous unique call is given to St. Peter: to be the foundation of the Church and to exercise the authority of keys of the kingdom. The office given to St. Peter is that of the Vicar within the Davidic Kingdom. The Vicar governs in the King’s stead, according to the King’s rules, while the King is gone.12 St. Peter is the Vicar of Christ, the Pope.

The Martyrdom of St. Peter by Michelangelo

St. Peter & St. Paul

11. St. Paul Refers to Peter as Cephas:

St. Paul introduces St. Peter as the first witness of the Resurrection: “that [Christ] was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve” (I Cor 15:3-5; cf. 1:12, 3:22, 9:5). St. Paul refers to Peter as Cephas, emphasizing his name change and vocation.

12. St. Paul Presents Himself to Cephas:

The epistle of Galatians is paramount in understanding the Pauline/Petrine relationship. In the beginning of Galatians, St. Paul is attempting to validate his claim to be an apostle, though he was not one of the twelve. It’s important to note that St. Paul invokes Cephas twice to show that his vocation and apostolic claim are both valid. After receiving his call from Christ, St. Paul goes out and “does not confer with flesh and blood,” but rather three years later goes “to Jerusalem to visit Cephas.” Then after fourteen years, he returns to Jerusalem and privately tells the “pillars” of the Church his gospel, “lest somehow I should be running or had run in vain.” Again, he uses St. Peter as vindication, saying as Peter went to the circumcised, so he, Paul, goes to the uncircumcised. Then the “pillars” (Cephas, James, and John) “perceive the grace” in St. Paul and send him to the Gentiles with Barnabas. (Gal 1) It is important to note the role of hierarchy within St. Paul’s ministry, not only in validating his own role, but later in establishing his own hierarchal churches (cf. Timothy and Titus).

13. St. Paul Rebukes St. Peter:

A lot of ink has been spilled over this passage. First let us see that St. Paul had to show he had been validated by St. Peter in Gal 1 in order for people to accept his authority to then correct St. Peter in Gal 2. Furthermore, St. Peter’s primacy in the Church does not mean he is incapable of personal error or sin. St. Peter is also the apostle who denied Christ three times. The Popes confess their sins like every other Catholic, it is the office they hold that sets them apart.

  1. Mark 9:2-8 []
  2. Mark 14:33 []
  3. 54 []
  4. Matt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:14-16; Acts 1:13 []
  5. Mk 1:36; Lk 9:32 []
  6. Mt 18:21 []
  7. Acts 5 []
  8. John 1:42; Mt 16 []
  9. Is 51:1-3 []
  10. 56 []
  11. John 21 []
  12. Is. 22 []