the Series
Part IIIa: the Papacy
Its Origin,
its Past Visibility,
its Authenticity Today
From Primacy to Papacy
A Little Etymology
Pope from Ancient Greek παπάς (papás), variant of πάππας (páppas,
“daddy, papa”);
Pope from Old English papa, from Medieval Latin papa “bishop, pope”,
from Greek papas “patriarch, bishop,” originally “father.”
Applied to bishops of Asia Minor and taken as a title by the Bishop of
Alexandria c.250.
In Western Church, applied especially to the Bishop of Rome since the time
of Leo the Great (440-461) and claimed exclusively by them from
Papacy late 14th century, from Middle Latin papatia “papal office,”
from Late Latin papa “pope.”
Matthew Chapter 16, Verse 18:
The Papacy of Peter
The Primacy of Hierarchy
Perhaps a most pivotal passage of the Bible which divides Catholic
Christians from Protestant and Pentecostal Christians is the scripture
where Christ singles out Peter from the rest of the Apostles for special
consideration and authority. That Bible passage is in the Gospel according
to Matthew, chapter 16, verse 18.
The Catholic Church teaches that the first principle of hermeneutics, the
science of the translation and interpretation of the Bible, is the literal sense
of the text (author, receiver, language, date of composition, background of
the circumstances of composition, history of the text, etc ).
The definition of the literal sense: The sense which the human author
directly intended and which his words convey.
The question to be asked in seeking to grasp the literal meaning of
Matthew in conveying what Christ had in his mind in these words to Peter
is what was understood by Peter and the other apostles and what
was handed on (paradosis) by the Apostolic Church and the
constant faith and practice of the Church regarding the meaning of
these words of Christ.
Some basic facts about the author, Matthew, are in order to aid the proper
search for the meaning of his gospel.
Matthew is the tax collector called by Christ in 9:9-13;
Matthew is one of the twelve Apostles, an eye witness;
Matthew’s gospel is directed to a Jewish audience;
Matthew’s gospel is a Gospel of the Church, the only
evangelist to use the word “church,” and use it
twice, in 16:18 and 18:17.
The context for interpreting the meaning of the passage is set in the
confession of Peter.
Matthew 16:13-17
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his
disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They
replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others
Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you
say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the
Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you,
Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to
you, but my heavenly Father.”
Christ then gives Simon son of Jonah a new name and a commission.
Matthew 16:18
And so I say to you, you are “Rock” (or “Rocky”), and upon this
rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall
not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:18-19
Pietro Vannucci, known as Perugino
(1445/50 -1523)
Since the New Testament was written in the Greek language, it is right to
begin the consideration of this critical passage in the language in which it
was written:
kago de soi
I also And to you say
oti su ei
- You are
oikodomeso mou
I will build
of me
As Greek declined in the Mediterranean world and Latin became the
common tongue, the first translations of the Bible were in the Latin
language. Hence, it is natural for us to consider also the way in which this
critical passage was translated into Latin by Jerome (Rome, 383/384 AD).
et ego dico tibi
and I say to you because
I will build
Petrus et
Peter and
The Aramaic Language
After the Jews were defeated by the Babylonians
in 586 B.C., they began to speak Aramaic instead
of Hebrew .
They retained Hebrew as the sacred language
of their religion.
Although Aramaic was displaced officially by
Greek after the coming of Alexander the Great,
it held its own under Greek domination and
subsequent Roman rule.
Aramaic was the language of Jesus.
The Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic
Following the rise of Islam in the 7th cent. A.D.,
however, Aramaic began to yield to Arabic, by
which eventually it was virtually replaced.
Parts of the books of Ezra and Daniel in the Bible were written in an
Aramaic dialect, as were some notable Jewish prayers, such as the
In the course of its long history the Aramaic language broke up into
a number of dialects.
Grammatically, Aramaic is very close to Hebrew.
The Aramaic alphabet was attested in the 9th
cent. BC
After c. 500 BC its use became widespread in the
Middle East.
Papias of Hierapolis is quoted by Eusebius of
Caesarea as affirming that Evangelist Matthew
first “wrote the sayings of Jesus” in Aramaic.
An incense burner
Jesus renamed Simon bar-Jonah for a purpose. The literalness of the play
on words--a linguistic pun--is made clear. A pun is a pun because of the
literalness of the play on words. This was precisely what Jesus was
saying. “You are Rocky and on this rock I will build my church.” His intent
becomes clear when we examine the Aramaic in which language Jesus
addressed Peter.
and upon this
'amar-na' lak
say - I
to thee
I will build her namely my church
Ultimately, when there are differing interpretations, the principle question
then becomes, “by what authority is the truth appealed.”
When there is error or misunderstanding, the teaching authority of the
Church is appealed.
The Catholic Church has infallibly defined the interpretation of Matthew 16.
Council of Ephesus (431)
“No one doubts, in fact, it is obvious to
all ages that the holy and most Blessed
Peter, head and Prince of the Apostles,
the pillar of faith, and the foundation
of the Catholic Church, received the
keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus
Christ, the savior and redeemer of the
human race.”
Vatican Council I (1870) The First Dogmatic Constitution of the Church of
Christ, Ch. 2
“Therefore if anyone says that the blessed Apostle Peter was not constituted
by Christ the Lord as the Prince of all the Apostles and the visible head
of the whole Church militant, or that he received immediately and directly
from Jesus Christ our Lord only a primacy of honor and not a true and
proper primacy of jurisdiction: anathema sit.”
Christ continues with the conferral of the “keys” which appears to be a
clear statement of a position of leadership authority.
Matthew 16:19-20
I will give you (singular) the keys to the
kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind
on earth shall be bound in heaven; and
whatever you loose on earth shall be
loosed in heaven.
This biblical commission echoes one other conferral of keys in the Bible.
Eliakim, son of Hilkiah receives the keys of the royal palace.
Isaiah 22:22
I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder;
when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one
shall open.
The Primacy of Jurisdiction of the Pope
Perpetuation of the Primacy
According to Christ’s ordinance, Peter is to have successors in his Primacy
over the whole Church and for all time. (De fide)
Vatican Council I (1869-1870)
“If anyone denies that in virtue of the decree of Our Lord Christ Himself (i.e.,
by divine institution), Blessed Peter has perpetual successors in his Primacy
over the Universal Church, let him be anathema.” (D I825)
That the Primacy is to be perpetuated in the successors of Peter is, indeed,
not expressly stated in the words of the promise and conferring of the
Primacy by Our Lord, but it flows as an inference from the nature and
purpose of the Primacy itself as the function of the Primacy is to preserve
the unity and solidarity of the Church; and as the Church, according to the
will of her Divine Founder, is
• to continue substantially unchanged until the end of time for the
perpetuation of the work of salvation,
• the Primacy also must be perpetuated.
But Peter, like every other human being, was subject to death.
John 21:19
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to
dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old,
you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go. He said this signifying
by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said
this, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Consequently his office must be transmitted to others. The structure of
the Church cannot continue without the foundation which supports it
Matthew 16:18
And so I say to you, you are Rocky, and upon this rock I will build
my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail
against it.
Christ’s flock cannot exist without shepherds .
Early on the Fathers expressed the thought that Peter lives on and works
on in his successors.
Council of Ephesus (431)
“This (Peter) lives and passes judgment up to the present day, and for ever,
in his successors.” (D 112, 1824)
St. Peter Chrysologus (406-450)
“The blessed Peter who on his Bishop's Chair lives on and leads the
council, offers the true Faith to those that seek it.” (With Leo, Ep. 25, 2)
St. Leo the Great (395-461)
“As that which Peter believed in Christ lives for ever, so also that which
Christ instituted in Peter lives for ever.”(Sumo 3, 2)
Among the elements of Catholicism most controversial by those who
oppose her claim to divinity is the Roman Primacy (a First Place),
which she says may be traced in a direct line from St. Peter to Pope
Benedict XVI.
The evidence in the Gospels that Christ established a hierarchical society
in Peter with a commission to give the world that revelation He had
received from the Father has been demonstrated.
In order to preserve this society in permanent cohesion and doctrinal
integrity, He gave it a juridical structure and vested the Apostle Peter with
an authority that was unknown till then in the story of God’s dealings with
His people. Quite literally, Peter was made a Vicar of Christ, with power to
bind and loose on earth and the assurance that his actions would be ratified
in heaven.
There is more than academic value in seeing what happened after
Christ’s Ascension into heaven.
How did Peter exercise the authority which, according to the Gospels,
made him head of the Apostles and the rock on which Christ had founded
His Church?
The Primacy and the See of Rome
The successors of Peter in the Primacy are the bishops of Rome. (De fide)
Council of Lyons (1274) , Florence (1439), Vatican Council I (1869-1870)
“If anyone says that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of Blessed Peter
in the same Primacy, anathema sit.” (D 1825, D 466)
The dogma states that the Pontiff of Rome at any time is, in fact, the
holder of the Primacy. On what legal title the association of the Roman
Pontiff's Chair with the Primacy rests, is not defined.
The more usual theological viewpoint is that it rests not on the historical fact
that Peter worked and died as Bishop of Rome, but on positive ordinance of
Christ or that of the Holy Spirit, that it is, therefore, of Divine origin.
If the connection of the Primacy with the See of Rome were of Church Law
only, then a separation of the Primacy from the Roman Bishop’s Chair by the
Pope, or by the General Council would be possible: but since it is of Divine
Law, a separation is impossible.
St. Peter’s stay in Rome is indicated
I Peter 5:13
The Church that is in Babylon, elected together with you, salutes
St. Clement of Rome (b.?, r. 92-101)
Mentions the Apostles Peter and Paul in connection with the sacrifices of
Nero’s persecution. (Cor. VI, 6)
St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 50-98/117)
“Not as Peter and Paul do I command you.” (Rom. 4, 3)
The Primacy in the Acts of the Apostles
The Acts of the Apostles have been rightly called the Gospel of the Holy
Spirit, who in one generation extended the kingdom of Christ into the far
reaches of a hostile and unbelieving world.
The Acts are also the most authentic proof the Church has that within a few
days of the Master’s Ascension, Peter began to exercise his authority and
until his death in Rome some thirty years later was generally accepted as
the visible head of the Christian community.
Election of Matthias the Apostle
Shortly after the Ascension of Christ, while the disciples in the company of
Mary were awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up in the
midst of the brethren and announced that another apostle must be chosen
to replace the traitor Judas. He laid down the conditions of election.
Acts 1:21-22
During those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers
(there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the
one place). He said, “My brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled
which the holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David,
concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.
He was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this
ministry. For it is written in the Book of Psalms: . . . ‘May another
take his office.’ Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who
accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went
among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on
which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his
resurrection.” So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who
was also known as Justus, and Matthias. ~
Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show
which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this
apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own
place.” Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias,
and he was counted with the eleven apostles.
Commenting on this first act of Peter’s primacy, St John Chrysostom
remarks how spontaneously he was accepted as the shepherd of Christ’s
flock and the leader in the apostolic college.
Beginning of the Christian Apostolate
On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the
Apostles and a violent wind attracted a great multitude to the cenacle in
Jerusalem, Peter again took the lead. Standing up, he spoke in a loud
voice to the assembled crowd, protesting that the gift of tongues was not
intoxication but the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy.
Acts 2: 14-21, 37-40
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and
proclaimed to them, “You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in
Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words. These
people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in
the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
‘It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out a
portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters
shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall
dream dreams. Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will
pour out a portion of my spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy.
And I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth
below: blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke. The sun shall be turned to
darkness, and ~
the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and splendid day
of the Lord, and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on
the name of the Lord.’ …Now when they heard this, they were cut to
the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are
we to do, my brothers?” Peter (said) to them, “Repent and be
baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the
forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.
For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those
far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.” He testified with many
other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves from
this corrupt generation.”
Then for the first time in the history of the Church, the Resurrection of
Jesus Christ was preached as the visible testimony that God had visited His
people in human flesh.
The fruit of this sermon which inaugurated the Christian apostolate was the
immediate conversion of three thousand souls.
First Apostolic Miracles
When the Master commissioned His disciples to preach the gospel, He also
gave them power to work miracles in His name, to cast out demons, to heal
the sick and even to raise the dead.
In reality, the signs and wonders are part of the logic of divine revelation.
If the Lord demands our faith in mysteries,
He makes them acceptable by phenomena which surpass human
agency in the order of visible reality.
Since the latter is certainly from God,
the former must also come from Him.
As Christ went about simultaneously preaching His doctrine and confirming it
with prodigies;
So Peter started the Christian catechesis with teaching what he had
learned from Jesus and making his message credible with signs and
wonders that followed.
Peter was the first to exercise this charismatic power in the apostolic Church
and set the pattern for asking the Spirit of Christ to testify in His own favor.
Soon after Pentecost Sunday, as Peter and John were going into the temple
to pray, they met a certain man who was lame from his mother’s womb.
Instead of giving him the alms that he begged, Peter gazed upon him.
Acts 3:6-13, 15, 19
Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give
you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, (rise and) walk.”
Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and
immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. He leaped up, stood,
and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and
jumping and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and
praising God, they recognized him as the one who used to sit
begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with
amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him. As he
clung to Peter and John, all the people hurried in amazement toward
them in the portico called “Solomon's Portico.” When Peter saw this,
he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why are you amazed at this,
and why do you look so intently at us as if we had made him walk by
our own power or piety? The God of Abraham, (the God) of Isaac,
and (the God) of Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his
servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s~
presence, when he had decided to release him. . . The author of
life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we
are witnesses. . . . Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your
sins may be wiped away;”
Peter took the initiative and preached the second great discourse on Jesus
Witness to the Name of Jesus
While Peter was still speaking to the people, the priests and Sadducees
fell upon him and John and put them in prison for proclaiming the
Resurrection of Christ from the dead.
Acts 4:7-12
On the next day, their leaders, elders, and scribes were assembled
in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander,
and all who were of the high-priestly class. They brought them into
their presence and questioned them, “By what power or by what
name have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the holy Spirit,
answered them, “Leaders of the people and elders: If we are being
examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by
what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of
Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the
Nazarean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead;
in his name this man stands before you healed. ~
He is “the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the
cornerstone.‘ There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there
any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we
are to be saved.”
Peter’s witness to his Master marked the beginning of an open hostility to
the Church which Christ had foretold would be the price of fidelity to His
End of
Part IIIa: The Church-The Papacy, Perpetuation, Powers
Go to
Part IIIb: The Church-The Papacy, Perpetuation, Powers

Slide 1