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The Primacy of Peter...



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...


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?



Matthew 16:13-17...
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." (17)
This verse expresses a blessing for Peter from the Son.

Did you notice that Peter was the only Apostle who knew who Jesus Christ was?
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.

John 21:15-17...
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.

In verse 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 is primacy.

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. Peter....

* 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; Isa 22:15,
Isa 20-21).

* 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 (Mt 18:17-18;
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;
Mt 16:18).

* 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 of Christianity.

* 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
(Mt 17:24-27).

* 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" (Mt 4:19).

* 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
(Acts 1:15-22).

* 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 3:6-12).

* Peter utters the first anathema (Ananias and Sapphira) emphatically affirmed by God
(Acts 5:2-11).

* 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 (Acts 10:9-48).

* 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 moments
(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 17:24).

* Peter is the first to recognize and refute heresy, in Simon Magus (Acts 8:14-24).

* 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 and loosing."

* 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 (Acts 2:41).

* 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 2:8-9

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 672-735.
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, 251 A.D.

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, 252 A.D.

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 to you.

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 it.

*St. Ambrose of Milan, On Twelve Psalms 40:30+. J1261, 387 A.D.

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, 374 A.D.

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 A.D.

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 16:19)."

St. Peter Chrysologus, Letter to Eutyches 25:2. J2178, 449 A.D.

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 30, 1999
Updated June 16, 2002

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