A lot has been written about the primacy
of peter. I present a point of view which is difficult for any detractor
to refute. There is a law in Bible study called 'The Law of First Mention'.
It means, the first time something is mentioned in the Bible, the same
meaning holds true for that subject in all subsequent verses in which it
is mentioned. This law helps to hold the harmony and integrity of scripture.
GOD is eternal and unchanging, therefore what he said in Genesis has the
same meaning for all chapters.
The 'Primacy of Peter' has been disputed
by detractors on many points. Peter was given the primacy in Matt 16:18,
"AND I SAY TO THEE, THOU ART PETER, AND UPON THIS ROCK I WILL BUILD
MY CHURCH." Some say Peter was not the 'rock'. Others try to separate
Peter from the Bishop of Rome, by trying to show he was never in Rome.
Still others say the words 'I WILL' in Matt 16:18, denotes some future
tense. They include Matt 16:19, "I WILL give thee the keys..."
as 'proof' that Peter did not receive the keys, but somehow ALL the Apostles
received them in Matt 18:18. It is obvious that Jesus spoke to Peter alone
in Matt 16:19 and gave him personally, the power of binding and loosening.
It is also obvious that Jesus again gave him the power of binding and loosening
along with the other Apostles in Matt 18:18, and yet again in John 20:23.
However, Jesus gave Peter and Peter alone, the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven
in Matt 16:19. Detractors of the primacy of Peter have arguments that are
so weak, they are almost non-existent. I could discuss each of these points,
but in this section of this letter I will discuss only one point, which
makes all other arguments against the primacy of Peter moot.
The Law of First Mention...
When something is first mentioned in the Bible,
the meaning of it remains the same throughout the rest of the Bible.
When GOD gave authority to someone in Scripture,
HE changed the name of that person.
1. GOD renamed Abram to Abraham when He made him
the 'Father of a Multitude of Nations', in Gen 17:5. HE gave Abraham 'primacy'
over all other men.
2. GOD renamed Sara to Sarah when HE made her the
'Mother of Nations' in Gen 17:15-16. HE gave Sarah 'primacy' over all other
3. GOD renamed Jacob to Israel, the name of the
Jewish Nation, and Jacob became the first Israeli in Gen 32:29.
4. GOD renamed Simon to Peter in Matt 16:18, thus
giving him 'primacy' over all of the Apostles. Why else would GOD give
a new name to Simon?
The 'Law of First Mention' as applied
to Abraham, Sarah, and Israel, works very well indeed. Why then do some
believe it does not work for Simon-Peter?
Jesus said, "Who do men say the Son of Man is?" (13)
But they said, "Some say, John the Baptist; and others Elias;
and others Jeremias,
or one of the prophets." (14)
He said to them, "But who do YOU say that I am?" (15)
Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the
Living GOD." (16)
Then Jesus answered and said, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for
flesh and blood has
not revealed this to thee, but My Father in Heaven."
This verse expresses a blessing for Peter from the Son.
Did you notice that Peter was the only Apostle who knew who Jesus Christ
All of the rest expressed an opinion.
GOD the Father, Himself, told Peter alone, and not one of the other Apostles.
It was a blessing for Peter from the Father.
This is a clear sign of the Primacy of Peter from the Father.
Three times in these verses Jesus Christ tells Peter to "Feed My Sheep",
or to "Feed My Lambs". For proper understanding of these verses
it is necessary to refer to the underlying Greek text.
16, the Greek word used for "feed" is "poimaino" (second
person singular), which means, to act as a SHEPHERD, to rule, to govern,
to pastor, or the presiding officer. It is the only time this Greek word
is used in the Gospel of John. In verses 15 and 17, the Greek word used
for "feed" is "bosko", which means to feed. So verses
15-17 say 'feed my lambs, shepherd my lambs, and feed my sheep'. Jesus
told Peter alone to be the SHEPHERD of His flock.
In John 10:16, Jesus said, "...and there
shall be one fold and ONE SHEPHERD."
The Greek word used here is "poimen (masculine, singular)". Clearly,
Jesus said in these verses that there will be only ONE SHEPHERD, and
that shepherd will be Peter, the first Bishop of Rome and the first Pope.
Acts 15:7, during the first Church Council, the
Council of Jerusalem...
And after a long debate, Peter got up and said to them,
"Brethren, you know that in early days GOD made
choice among us, that through MY mouth the Gentiles should hear the word
of the Gospel and believe."
Who made the choice? GOD did. Who did GOD choose? He chose Peter. Now that
Some detractors of Peter's primacy try to show that James (Acts 15:13-21),
held the primacy simply because he was the Bishop of Jerusalem. Well, he
may have been the Bishop of Jerusalem during this Council, but Peter was
the Bishop of the whole world. See Acts1:8, where Jerusalem was only one
of many See's to
be founded by the Apostles. The books of Acts, Revelation, and a few others,
record more than 30 additional see's other than Jerusalem.
Jerusalem would certainly not
even have been considered by the Apostles to be the seat of Christianity,
as they had been forewarned by Jesus Himself that the city would soon be
totally destroyed. This prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D. when Roman legions
did indeed destroy it.
See Matthew 24 beginning with verse 15.
Eusebius (263-339) Bishop of Caesarea and known as "The Father of
Church History", wrote in 'The History of the Church' volume 2 chapter
1, "But Clement in the sixth book of his Hypotyposes writes thus:
'For they say that Peter and James and John after the ascension of our
Saviour, as if also preferred by our Lord, strove not after honor, but
chose James the Just bishop of Jerusalem'."
Peters primacy: Matt 10:2,16:15-19,
*Luke 22:24-33,24:34, John 10:16,21:15-19, Acts 2:14-41, Acts *5:29,9:36-43,10:1-48,11:1-18,
*Acts 15:7, 1Cor 15:5.
The names of Peter, which include Simon and Cephas, are
mentioned more times in the New Testament than any other Apostle.
"Of Peter the most is known. Peter is mentioned 195 times, the rest
of the Apostles only 130 times. The one mentioned next in frequency to
Peter is John, to whom there are 29 references."
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, "Life of Christ", page 106.
The name James, is mentioned a total of 38 times and of that number there
were 2 persons, James the Greater, and James the Less. So if James the
Less is said to have the primacy, then why is he mentioned so few times
compared to Peter?
Every time the names of the Apostles are listed, except for Gal 2:9, his
name appears first. In Mt 10:2 it even says that Peter is first, "Now
these are the names of the twelve Apostles: first Simon, who is
called Peter,...". See also Mk 3:16, Lk 6:13-14, and Acts 1:13.
Peter's name appears first also when 3 or 4 of the Apostles are listed:
Mt 17:1, Mk 5:37, Mk 9:2,
Mk 13:3, Mk 14:33, Lk 5:8-10, Lk 8:51, Lk 9:28.
As for Gal 2:9, it was customary then, as it is to this very day, to name
the Bishop of the Diocese first. If the Pope visited a Diocese, the Bishop
would be named ahead of him as it is the proper protocol. In Gal 2, Peter
was visiting Jerusalem, as verses 1-8 show.
It never ceases to amaze me that those who deny the Primacy of Peter, will
invariably point to this one and only verse where Peter is named second
and will completely ignore the many verses which list his name first. If
James held the primacy as some would like us to believe, then why is he
mentioned first in only one single verse?
Throughout our salvation history, GOD has always provided a 'Father
Figure' to guide His people. Some examples are, Noah, Abraham, Isaac,
Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, and Peter and the succession of Popes.
50 New Testament verses which show the 'primacy' of St.
* Matthew 16:18: "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and
upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not
prevail against it." The "rock" (Greek, "petra")
referred to here is St. Peter himself, not his faith or Jesus Christ. Christ
appears here not as the foundation, but as the architect who "builds."
The Church is built, not on confessions, but on confessors - living men
(see 1 Pt 2:5). Today, the overwhelming consensus of the great majority
of all biblical scholars and commentators is in favor of the traditional
Catholic understanding. Here St. Peter is spoken of as the foundation-stone
of the Church, making him head and superior of the family of God - that
is, the seed of the doctrine of the papacy. Moreover, "Rock"
embodies a metaphor applied to him by Christ in a sense analogous to the
suffering and despised Messiah (see 1 Pt 2:4-8; Mt 21:42). Without a solid
foundation a house falls. St. Peter is the foundation, but not founder
of the Church; administrator, but not Lord of the Church. The Good Shepherd
(Jn 10:11) gives us other shepherds as well (Eph 4:11).
* Matthew 16:19: "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom
of heaven." The "power" of the keys has to do with ecclesiastical
discipline and administrative authority with regard to the requirements
of the faith, as in Isaiah 22:22 (see Is 9:6; Job 12:14; Rev 3:7). From
this power flows the use of censures, excommunication, absolution, baptismal
discipline, the imposition of penances and legislative powers. In the Old
Testament, a steward, or prime minister, is a man who is "over a house"
(Gen 41:40; Gen 43:19;44:4; 1 King 4:6;16:9;18:3; 2 King 10:5;15:5;18:18;
* Matthew 16:19: "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound
in heaven, & whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in
heaven." "Binding" and "loosing" were technical
rabbinical terms, which meant to "forbid" and "permit"
with reference to the interpretation of the law and, secondarily, to "condemn,"
"place under the ban" or "acquit." Thus St. Peter and
the popes are given the authority to determine the rules for doctrine and
life by virtue of revelation and the Spirit's leading (see Jn 16:13), as
well as to demand obedience from the Church. "Binding and loosing"
represent the legislative and judicial powers of the papacy and the bishops
Jn 20:23). St. Peter, however, is the only apostle who receives these powers
by name and in the singular, making him pre-eminent.
* Peter's name occurs first in all lists of apostles (see Mt 10:2; Mk 3:16;
Lk 6:14; Acts 1:13). Matthew even calls him "the first" (10:2).
(Judas Iscariot is invariably mentioned last.)
* Peter is almost without exception named first whenever he appears with
anyone else. In one example to the contrary, Galatians 2:9, where he is
listed after James and before John, he is clearly preeminent in the entire
context (see, for example, Gal 1:18-19; 2:7-8). Taken in context, Paul
is in Jerusalem (2:1), the See of James. Protocol, even to this day is
for the Bishop of the diocese to be mentioned first before any visitor
is mentioned, even for the Pope. Saint Paul is merely following proper
protocol in vs 2:9.
* Peter alone among the apostles receives a new name, "Rock,"
solemnly conferred (Jn 1:42;
* Peter is asked three times by Christ to feed His lambs, is regarded by
Jesus as the chief shepherd after himself (Jn 21:15-17), singularly by
name, and over the universal Church, even though others have a similar
but subordinate role (Acts 20:28; 1 Pt 5:2).
* Peter alone among the apostles is mentioned by name as having been prayed
for by Jesus Christ in order that his "faith fail not" (Lk 22:32).
* Peter alone among the apostles is exhorted by Jesus to "strengthen
your brethren" (Lk 22:32).
* Peter first confesses Christ's divinity (Mt 16:16).
* Peter alone is told that he has received divine knowledge by a special
revelation (Mt 16:17).
* Peter is regarded by the Jews (Acts 4:1-13) as the leader and spokesman
* Peter is regarded by the common people in the same way (Act 2:37-41;5:15).
* Jesus Christ uniquely associates himself and Peter in the miracle of
the tribute money
* Christ teaches from Peter's boat, and the miraculous catch of fish follows
(Lk 5:1-11) perhaps a metaphor for the pope as a "fisher of men"
* Peter was the first apostle to set out for, and enter, the empty tomb
(Lk 24:12; Jn 20:6).
* Peter is specified by an angel as the leader and representative of the
apostles (Mk 16:7).
* Peter leads the apostles in fishing (Jn 21:2-3,11). The "bark"
(boat) of Peter has been regarded by Catholics as a figure of the Church,
with Peter at the helm.
* Peter alone casts himself into the sea to come to Jesus (Jn 21:7).
* Peter's words are the first recorded and most important in the Upper
Room before Pentecost
* Peter takes the lead in calling for a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:22).
* Peter is the first person to speak (and only one recorded) after Pentecost,
so he was the first Christian to "preach the Gospel" in the Church
era (Acts 2:14-36).
* Peter works the first miracle of the Church Age, healing a lame man (Acts
* Peter utters the first anathema (Ananias and Sapphira) emphatically affirmed
* Peter's shadow works miracles (Acts 5:15).
* Peter is the first person after Christ to raise the dead (Acts 9:40).
* Cornelius is told by an angel to seek out Peter for instruction in Christianity
(Acts 10:1- 6).
* Peter is the first to receive the Gentiles, after a revelation from God
* Peter instructs the other apostles on the catholicity (universality)
of the Church (Acts 11:5-17).
* Peter is the object of the first divine interposition on behalf of an
individual in the Church Age
(an angel delivers him from prison - Acts 12:1-17).
* The whole Church (strongly implied) prays for Peter "without ceasing"
when he is imprisoned (Acts 12:5).
* Peter presides over and opens the first council of Christianity, and
lays down principles afterward accepted by it (Acts 15:7-11).
* Paul distinguishes the Lord's post-resurrection appearances to Peter
from those to other apostles
(1 Cor 15:4-5).
* Peter is often spoken of as distinct among apostles (Mk 1:36; Lk 9:28,32;
Acts 2:37; 5:29;
1 Cor 9:5).
* Peter is often spokesman for the other apostles, especially at climactic
(Mk 8:29; Mt 18:21; Lk 9:5; 12:41; Jn 6:67).
* Peter's name is always the first listed of the "inner circle"
of the disciples
(Peter, James and John - Mt 17:1; 26:37,40; Mk 5:37; 14:37).
* Peter is often the central figure relating to Jesus in dramatic Gospel
scenes such as walking on the water (Mt 14:28-32; Lk 5:1, Mk 10:28; Mt
* Peter is the first to recognize and refute heresy, in Simon Magus (Acts
* Peter's name is mentioned more often than all the other disciples put
together: 191 times
(162 as Peter or Simon Peter, 23 as Simon and 6 as Cephas).
John is next in frequency with only 48 appearances, and Peter is present
50 percent of the time we find John in the Bible. Archbishop Fulton Sheen
reckoned that all the other disciples combined were mentioned 130 times.
If this is correct, Peter is named a remarkable 60 percent of the time
any disciple is referred to.
* Peter's proclamation at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41) contains a fully authoritative
interpretation of Scripture, a doctrinal decision and a disciplinary decree
concerning members of the "House of Israel" - an example of "binding
* Peter was the first "charismatic," having judged authoritatively
the first instance of the gift of tongues as genuine (Acts 2:14-21).
* Peter is the first to preach Christian repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38).
* Peter (presumably) takes the lead in the first recorded mass baptism
* Peter commanded the first Gentile Christians to be baptized (Act 10:44-48).
* Peter was the first traveling missionary, and first exercised what would
now be called "visitation of the churches" (Acts 9:32-38,43).
Paul preached at Damascus immediately after his conversion (Acts 9:20),
but had not traveled there for that purpose (God changed his plans). His
missionary journeys begin in Acts 13:2.
* Paul went to Jerusalem specifically to see Peter for 15 days at the beginning
of his ministry (Gal 1:18), and was commissioned by Peter, James and John
(Gal 2:9) to preach to the Gentiles.
* Peter acts, by strong implication, as the chief bishop/shepherd of the
Church (1 Pet 5:1), since he exhorts all the other bishops, or "elders."
* Peter interprets prophecy (2 Pet 1:16-21).
* Peter corrects those who misuse Paul's writings (2 Pt 3:15-16).
* Peter wrote his first epistle from Rome, as its bishop, and as the universal
bishop (pope) of the early Church, according to most scholars. "Babylon"
(1 Pet 5:13) is regarded as code for Rome.
This section of the 50 New Testament Verses was written by:
Dave Armstrong - a convert to Catholicism from Evangelicalism.
Is Peter "Rock", or is he
only a "pebble"?
Protestants charge that Peter is not the "rock"
because the Greek word used for "rock" in this verse means a
little pebble. Right away, it is obvious from the very beginning, that
there is a translation problem here. Scholars have determined that Matthew
was not written in Greek, but in Aramaic, and was soon translated into
Greek, so we have to go to the original written language to find the true
meaning of this verse.
Peter was called "Cephas" or "Kepha(s)" in Aramaic,
by Christ in Matthew 16:18, and it means a large massive stone or rock.
Christ said this at Caesarea Philippi, the site of a large rock mass. See
Matthew 16:13. The Aramaic word for a small stone or pebble is "evna".
"Kepha", when translated to the Greek language means "Petra"
(a large rock) or "Petros" (a small stone). However, unlike Aramaic
words which have no gender, Greek words do have gender, and "Petra"
is feminine. Translators from the Aramaic to the Greek, changed the word
to the masculine gender or "Petros" because they were unwilling
to assign a name with feminine gender to a man.
In Matthew 16:18, it is correct to say that Jesus would have said, "You
are 'Kepha', and upon this 'Kepha', I will build My Church."
In Greek, it would translate to, "You
are 'Petros', and upon this 'Petra', I will build My Church."
It was the translation of the Aramaic word, "Kepha" (Cephas),
into the Greek language that caused the confusion among some who look upon
Peter as not being called "rock", but only a "pebble".
Matthew 16:13, 18, John 1:42, 1Corinthians 1:12, 3:22, 9:5, 15:5, Galatians
Detractors argue that Peter could not be the rock because GOD is, 2Samuel
22:2. Well, not only does Scripture call Peter the rock, but it also calls
Abraham the rock, in Isaiah 51:1-2. Also, who is the Light of the World?
Jesus Christ is in John 8:12, but yet the Disciples are in Matthew 5:14.
The words "Rock" and "Light of the World" are not limited
to describe GOD alone.
Church Fathers were the closest to the Apostles
and whatever we have, came to us through them.
To qualify as a Church Father, four conditions had to have been met.
1. He had to have lived before the year 800. The last Father in the East
was St. Damascene 674-749, and of the West was, St. Bede the Venerable
2. He had to have followed the orthodox teaching, faithful to the true
doctrines of the Church.
3. Sanctity, all major Fathers and most minor Fathers were canonized Saints,
and lived virtuous lives.
4. He had to have the sanction of the Church, a general acceptance.
Primacy of Peter as written by the Church Fathers...
St. Cyprian, Unity of the Catholic Church 4. J555-556,
On him He builds the Church and to him He gives the command to feed the
sheep (Jn 21:17); and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles,
yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority
a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity.
Indeed the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given
to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one
chair. So too are all the shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one,
fed by the Apostles in single minded accord.
If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that
he still holds the faith?
If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he
still be confident that he is in the Church?
Origen, Commentaries on John 5:3 J479a, 226 A.D.
Peter, upon whom is built the Church of Christ...
St. Cornelius I, Pope, Letter to Cyprian Epist 49. J546-546a,
We are not ignorant of the fact that there is one GOD, and one Christ the
Lord whom we confess, and one Holy Spirit; and there must be one bishop
in the Catholic Church.
St. Cyprian, Letter to Quintas 71:1. J592a, 254 A.D.
For Peter, whom the Lord chose first and upon whom He built His Church,
when Paul later disagreed with him about circumcision, did not claim anything
for himself insolently nor assume anything arrogantly, so as to say he
held the primacy and that he ought rather to be obeyed by novices and those
more recently arrived.
Firmilian, Bishop, Letter to Cyprian 75:17 J602a, 255 A.D.
In this respect I am justly indignant at this so open and evident stupidity
of Stephen; that although he glories so much in the place of his bishopric,
and contends that he holds the succession of Peter, on whom the foundations
of the Church have been laid...
Eusebius, History of the Church 2:14:6. J651dd, 300 A.D.
In the same reign of Claudius, the all good and gracious providence which
watches over all things guided Peter, the great and mighty one of the Apostles,
who, because of his virtue, was the spokesman for all the others to Rome.
Aphraates, Treatises 21:13 J693a, 336 A.D.
And Jesus handed over the keys to Simon, and ascended and returned to Him
who had sent him.
St. Julius I, Pope, Letter to Bishops of Antioch 22:35.
J806a, 337 A.D.
For what we have received from the Apostle Peter, these things I signify
Damasus, Decree of Damasus 3. J910u,382 A.D.
The first see, therefore is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman
Catholic Church, which has neither stain nor blemish nor anything like
*St. Ambrose of Milan, On Twelve Psalms 40:30+. J1261,
It is to Peter himself that He says; "You are Peter, and upon this
rock I will build My Church (Matt16:18)." Where
Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church, no death is there,
but life eternal.
St. Jerome, Letter to Pope Damasus 15:2, J1346,1346a,
I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your
blessedness, that is the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on
which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house
is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood
prevails...He that is joined to the chair of Peter is accepted by me.
*St. Augustine, Letter to Generosus 53:1:2. J1418, 400
If the very order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much
more surely, truly, and safely do we number them
from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the
Lord said, "Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of
hell shall not conquer it (Matt16:18)."
Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement, Clement by Anacletus, etc...
See this complete listing of the unbroken line of Popes.
*Augustine, Sermons 295:2+. J1526, 391 A.D.
Before His suffering the Lord Jesus Christ, as you know, chose His disciples,
whom He called Apostles. Among these Apostles almost
everywhere Peter alone merited to represent the whole Church. For the sake
of his representing the whole Church, which he alone could do, he merited
to hear, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven (Matt
St. Peter Chrysologus, Letter to Eutyches 25:2. J2178,
We exhort you in every respect, honorable brother, to heed obediently what
has been written by the Most Blessed Pope of the City of Rome; for Blessed
Peter, who lives and presides in his own see, provides the truth of faith
to those who seek it.
*St. Leo I, Pope, Letter to the Bishops of the
Province of Vienne 10:1. J2178a, July 445 A.D.
But the Lord desired that the sacrament of this gift should pertain to
all the Apostles in such a way that it might be found principally in
the most Blessed Peter, the highest of all the Apostles.
St. Leo I, Pope, Letter to
Anastasius, Bishop of Thessalonica 14:11. J2179a, 446 A.D.
Through them the care of the Universal Church would converge on the one
see of Peter, and nothing should ever be at odds with this head.
St. Leo I, Pope, Sermons 4:2. J2191, 461 A.D.
From the whole world only one, Peter, is chosen to preside over the calling
of all nations, and over all the other Apostles,
and over the fathers of the Church.
Note: The references Jxxxx are from,
'The Faith Of The Early Fathers', by William A. Jurgens
If James, and not Peter, held the primacy as some would
have us believe, then why is he not mentioned even once by a single Church
Father or early writer as holding that office?
Compiled by Bob Stanley, January
Updated June 16, 2002
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