Petrine Primacy and Other Issues Relating to Peter in the New Testament

Michael Barber © 2012

Is Peter the Rock?
“I tell you, you are Peter [petros: masculine, ‘little stone’], and on this rock [petra: feminine, ‘foundation stone’ (cf. Matt 7:24–25)] I will build my church . . .”

Reasons Why Peter is the “Rock”
1. Grammatical Constraints a. Jesus would not say the Church would be built upon a petros b. Jesus could not give a man a feminine name: petra is feminine! (= “Petrina”) “The reason for the different Greek form is simply that Peter, as a man, needs a masculine name, and so the form Petros has been coined. But the flow of the sentence makes it clear that the wordplay is intended to identify Peter as the rock.”—R.T. France1 “The play on the word “rock” (you are rock and upon this rock . . .) does not work with complete success in Greek, where it is now necessary to switch gender from Petros to Petra . . . .”—Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger2 If no connection, why change Peter’s name here? Why not “Simon” or lithos “Had Matthew wanted to say no more than that Peter was a stone in contrast with Jesus the Rock, the more common word would have been lithos (“stone” of almost any size). Then there would have been no pun—and that is just the point!”—D.A. Carson3 If originally spoken in Aramaic the Greek doesn’t Matter because only one word in play! a. Known as Kephas (John 1:42; 1 Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14) and as “Peter”! b. Peter called “Bar-Jonah” (Matt 16:17) suggesting Aramaic original Peter is clearly the stone “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance [σκάνδαλον / skandalon: a “stumbling stone”] to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.”—Matthew 16:23 Apostles as Foundations a. “James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars. . .”— Galatians 2:9 b. Apostles as foundation So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. . .”— Ephesians 2:20





And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.— Revelation 21:14 6. Even Protestant scholars recognize Peter as the rock “. . . attempts that have been made, largely in the past, to deny this in favor of the view that the confession itself is the rock. . . seem to be largely motivated by Protestant prejudice against a passage that is used by the Roman Catholics to justify the papacy.”—Donald Hagner4

1 2

Gospel of Matthew, 621. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Called to Communion, 60. 3 D. A. Carson, Matthew, 368. 4 Donald Hagner, Matthew, 2:470.

Peter’s Primacy in the Gospels and Acts
1. Only Peter is given keys 2. Peter’s primacy in Jesus’ ministry a. Always named first among 12 (cf. Matt 10:2//Mark 3:16//Luke 6:14//Acts 1:13 Matt 4:18) b. Peter always first among inner-circle (i.e., Peter, James and John) i. Healing of the Little Girl (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51) ii. Transfiguration (Matt 17:1//Mark 9:2//Luke 9:28) iii. Garden of Gethsemene (Matt 26:37; Mark 14:33) c. Usually spokesman for apostles i. Confession offFaith (Matt 16:17/Mark 8:29//Luke 9:20) ii. Jesus’ teaching on the rich entering kingdom (Matt 19:27/Mark 10:28//Luke 18:28) iii. Transfiguration (Matt 17:4; Mark 9:5; Luke 9:33) d. Jesus finds a to pay the temple tax for Peter and himself (Matthew 17:24–27) e. Peter as “first” (cf. Matt 10:2) f. Jesus prays for Peter at the Last Supper Jesus tells Peter at the Last Supper that he has prayed for him in particular among the apostles: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you [ὑμᾶς], that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you [σοῦ] that your [σου] faith may not fail; and when you [σύ] have turned again, strengthen your [σου] brethren.”—Luke 22:31–32 3. Primacy in earliest Church in Acts a. Peter announces need to replace Judas―dutifully followed without hesitation (Acts 1:15–26) b. Peter addresses crowds on Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:14–36) i. After speech crowds Address “Peter and the rest of the Apostles” ii. Peter himself responds (cf. Acts 2:37–40) c. Peter performs the first miracle after Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1–10) d. When Peter and John are arrested, Peter speaks for them (cf. Acts 4:8–12) e. Peter deals with Ananias/Sapphire who “laid [offering] at the apostles’ feet” (cf. Acts 5:1–11) f. People nrought to the “apostles” so that Peter’s shadow might fall on them (cf. Acts 5:12–16) g. Peter is prominent 2x apostles before high priests (cf. especially Acts 5:29) h. Peter and John go to lay hands upon baptized Samaritans (cf. Acts 8:14–17) i. Simon approaches Peter, and Peter who rebukes him; asks Peter to pray for him (cf. Acts 8:18– 24) j. Peter goes out to all the Christians (Acts 9:32) k. Peter is sought by Roman Centurion (Acts 10) l. Peter first opposes circumcision party (cf. Acts 11:1–18); “silences” them (Acts 11:18) m. After Herod kills James, seeks Peter (cf. Acts 12:3) n. Peter plays crucial role at the Council of Jerusalem i. “After there had been much debate” Peter speaks ii. Immediate response: Assembly falls silent (Acts 15:6:29)

Peter vs. Paul?
1. A rivalry? But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”— Galatians 2:11–14 2. A Closer reading of Galatians a. Visits Peter Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!)—Gal 1:18–20 b. Consults with Apostles Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up by revelation; and I laid before them (but privately before those who were of repute) the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, lest somehow I should be running or had run in vain.—Gal 2:1–2 c. Peter entrusted with the Gospel to the Circumcised “. . . when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for the mission to the circumcised worked through me also for the Gentiles)”—Gal 2:7–8 d. A Pillar “. . . and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars” (Gal 2:9a) e. Given right hand of fellowship with condition “. . . gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised; 10 only they would have us remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do.”— Gal 2:9b–10 3. Did Peter and Paul have a falling out after Antioch? a. Paul affirms Peter’s role in later letters i. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?— 1 Cor 1:11–13 ii. Do we not have the right to our food and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a wife, as the other apostles and the brethern of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?— 1 Cor 9:4–6 iii. 1 Cor 15:5: [Jesus] appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. b. Peter Affirms Paul in 2 Peter So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.— 2 Peter 3:15–16

4. Paul’s Self-Description is Based on Peter’s Call in Matthew 16

Galatians 1–2 Paul describes Jesus as “Christ” (1:12) Paul describes Jesus as “His [=God’s] Son” (1:16) Paul speaks of how God “revealed” (ἀποκαλύψαι) his Son (1:16) Paul explains that he did not confer with “flesh and blood” (σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα) (1:16) Paul describes how he went to visit Κηφᾶς (=“rock”) and remained with him for fifteen days (1:18); Πέτρος is described as being given the task of proclaiming the Gospel to the circumcised (2:7) Paul describes how some sought to bring them into “bondage” (καταδουλόω) (Gal 2:4) Peter is called one of the στῦλοι (2:9)

Matt 16:13–20 Peter describes Jesus as “Christ” (16:15) Peter describes Jesus as “Son of the living God” (16:15) Jesus explains that his identity (i.e., as “Son”) has been “revealed” (ἀποκαλύπτω) to Peter (16:16) Jesus tells Peter his knowledge does not come from “flesh and blood” (σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα) (16:17) Jesus calls Simon Πέτρος (=Aram.: Kephas) (16:16), who is given power to “bind and lose” and forgive sins (16:17–19) Peter is given authority to “bind” (δέω) and “loose” (=“release”)(λύω) (Matt 16:19) The Church is built upon Peter (16:16)5

Early Recognition of Primacy of Rome
1. Reasons Peter left for Rome a. Center of empire b. Prophecy: Daniel 7 i. Four Beasts / Kingdoms to Come (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome) ii. Fourth Beast / Kingdom as Rome to Ancient Jews iii. “Kingdom Given to the Saints” (Dan 7:18): Given to Rome? 2. Clement (A.D. 50’s–90’s): Christians turned to Rome for response “Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves, we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us” (Corinthians 1) 3. Ignatius of Antioch (A.D. 110) a. "Ignatius . . . to the church also which holds the presidency, in the location of the country of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and, because you hold the presidency in love, named after Christ and named after the Father" (Letter to the Romans 1:1). b. "You [the church at Rome] have envied no one, but others you have taught. I desire only that what you have enjoined in your instructions may remain in force" (Letter to the Romans, 3:1). 4. Shepherd of Hermas (A.D. 80–175?) "Therefore shall you [Hermas] write two little books and send one to Clement [Bishop of Rome] and one to Grapte. Clement shall then send it to the cities abroad, because that is his duty" (Shepherd 2:4:3). 5. Irenaeus (A.D. 189) "But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the succession of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by

For further discussion of the parallels see David Wenham, “Paul’s Use of the Jesus Tradition: Three Samples,” in Gospel Perspectives: The Jesus Tradition Outside the Gospels (vol. 5; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1984), 24–28.

the apostles. With that church, because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition" (Against Heresies 3:3:2). 6. Cyprian (mid-3rd cent.): a. "Cyprian to [Pope] Cornelius, his brother. Greeting. . . . We decided to send and are sending a letter to you from all throughout the province [where I am] so that all our colleagues might give their decided approval and support to you and to your communion, that is, to both the unity and the charity of the Catholic Church" (Letters 48:1, 3 [A.D. 253]). b. "Cyprian to Antonian, his brother. Greeting ... You wrote ... that I should forward a copy of the same letter to our colleague [Pope] Cornelius, so that, laying aside all anxiety, he might at once know that you held communion with him, that is, with the Catholic Church" (Letter 55[52]:1). c. "Cornelius was made bishop by the decision of God and of his Christ, by the testimony of almost all the clergy, by the applause of the people then present, by the college of venerable priests and good men ... when the place of Fabian, which is the place of Peter, the dignity of the sacerdotal chair, was vacant. Since it has been occupied both at the will of God and with the ratified consent of all of us, whoever now wishes to become bishop must do so outside [the Church]. For he cannot have ecclesiastical rank who does not hold to the unity of the Church" (Letter 55[52]:8). d. "With a false bishop appointed for themselves by heretics, they dare even to set sail and carry letters from schismatics and blasphemers to the chair of Peter and to the principal church [at Rome], in which sacerdotal unity has its source" (Letters 59:14). 7. Eusebius (A.D. 312) a. "And when a dissension arose about these said people [the Montanists], the brethren in Gaul once more . . . [sent letters] to the brethren in Asia and Phrygia and, moreover to Eleutherius, who was then [A.D. 175] bishop of the Romans, negotiating for the peace of the churches" (Church History 5:3:4) b. "A question of no small importance arose at that time [A.D. 190]. For the parishes of all Asia [Minor], as from an older tradition held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should be observed as the feast of the Savior’s Passover. . . . But it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world . . . as they observed the practice which, from apostolic tradition, has prevailed to the present time, of terminating the fast [of Lent] on no other day than on that of the resurrection of the Savior [Sunday]. Synods and assemblies of bishops were held on this account, and all, with one consent, through mutual correspondence drew up an ecclesiastical decree that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be celebrated on no other but the Lord’s day and that we should observe the close of the paschal fast on this day only. . . . Thereupon Victor, who presided over the church at Rome, immediately attempted to cut off from the community the parishes of all Asia [Minor], with the churches that agreed with them, as heterodox. And he wrote letters and declared all the brethren there wholly excommunicate. But this did not please all the bishops, and they besought him to consider the things of peace and of neighborly unity and love. . . . [Irenaeus] fittingly admonishes Victor that he should not cut off whole churches of God which observed the tradition of an ancient custom" (Church History 5:23:1–24:11). c. "Thus then did Irenaeus entreat and negotiate [with Victor] on behalf of the peace of the churches—[Irenaeus being] a man well-named, for he was a peacemaker both in name and character. And he corresponded by letter not only with Victor, but also with very many and various rulers of churches" (Church History 24:18). 8. Council of Sardica (A.D. 342) a. "[I]f any bishop loses the judgment in some case [decided by his fellow bishops] and still believes that he has not a bad but a good case, in order that the case may be judged anew . . . let

us honor the memory of the apostle Peter by having those who have given the judgment write to Julius, Bishop of Rome, so that if it seem proper he may himself send arbiters and the judgment may be made again by the bishops of a neighboring province" (canon 3) b. "[I]f some bishop be deposed by the judgment of the bishops sitting in the neighborhood, and if he declare that he will seek further redress, another should not be appointed to his see until the bishop of Rome can be acquainted with the case and render a judgment" (canon 4). 9. Council of Constantinople I (A.D. 381) a. "The bishop of Constantinople shall have the primacy of honor after the bishop of Rome, because his city is New Rome" (canon 3). 10. Jerome (A.D. 396) a. "I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with 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" (Letters 15:2) b. "The church here is split into three parts, each eager to seize me for its own. . . . Meanwhile I keep crying, ‘He that is joined to the chair of Peter is accepted by me!’ . . . Therefore, I implore your blessedness [Pope Damasus I] . . . tell me by letter with whom it is that I should communicate in Syria" (Letters 16:2). 11. Augustine (late 4th—early 5th cent). a. There are many other things which rightly keep me in the bosom of the Catholic Church. The consent of the people and nations keeps me, her authority keeps me, inaugurated by miracles, nourished in hope, enlarged by love, and established by age. The succession of priests keep me, from the very seat of the apostle Peter (to whom the Lord after his resurrection gave charge to feed his sheep) down to the present episcopate [of Pope Siricius]" (Against the Letter of Mani Called "The Foundation" 5 [A.D. 397]). b. "[On this matter of the Pelagians] two councils have already been sent to the Apostolic See [=the bishop of Rome], and from there rescripts too have come. The matter is at an end; would that the error too might be at an end!" (Sermons 131:10 [A.D. 411]).

The Apostles’ Authority to “Bind” and “Loose”
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt 18:15–18). “And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 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. 19 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” (Matt 16:17– 19). For it is no small difference that Peter received the keys not of one heaven but of more, and in order that whatsoever things he binds on earth may be bound not in one heaven but in them all, as compared with the many who bind on earth and loose on earth, so that these things are bound and loosed not in [all] the heavens, as in the case of Peter, but in one only; for they do not reach so high a stage with power as Peter to bind and loose in all the heavens (Origen, Commentary on Matthew 13:31 [A.D. 248/9]).

Meaning of “Bind” and “Loose”
1. “Bind” (δέω / deō) and “Loose” (λύω / lyō) as Teaching Authority a. Matt 16:13–20 Follows After Warning About False “Teaching” “[Jesus said:] ‘Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi. . .” b. Judaism: What Is and Is Not “Bound” by the Law (b. Ḥag. 3b; b. Šabb. 31a-b; j. Ber. 5b; j. Sanh. 28a).6 c. Peter as Chief Teacher “[T]he major opinion of modern exegetes... [is] that Peter, as a sort of supreme rabbi or prime minister of the kingdom, is in 16.19 given teaching authority, given that is the power to declare what is permitted (cf. the rabbinic shara’ ) and what is not permitted (cf. the rabbinic ’asar). Peter can decide by doctrinal decision what Christians must and must not do. This is the traditional Roman Catholic understanding, with the proviso that Peter had successors. This interpretation of binding and loosing in terms of teaching authority seems to us to be correct... Peter is the authoritative teacher without peer” (W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, The Gospel according to Saint Matthew, 2:638–39).

Actions that were deemed not permissible by the Torah were declared “bound” while actions which were allowable were considered “loosed”. See the recent discussion of this terminology in Marcus, “Binding and Loosing,” 449–452. In addition, see Cullman, Petrus, 229–30; Dalman, Die Worte, 175; J. D. M. Derrett, “Binding and Loosing (Matt 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23), JBL 102 (1983): 112– 117; Veselin Kesich, “Peter’s Primacy in the New Testament and the Early Tradition,” in The Primacy of Peter: Essays in Ecclesiology and the Early Church (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1992), 51–52; Gundry, Matthew, 336; Keener, Matthew, 429; Davies and Allison, Matthew, 2:638–40. Strictly speaking then this authority could be described as teaching authority vis-à-vis correct interpretation of Scripture. See R. F. Collins, “Binding and Losing,” ABD 1:744; Hagner, Matthew, 2:473; Willis, “An Interpretation of Isaiah 22.15–25 and its Function in the New Testament,” 347; Günther Bornkamm, “The Authority to ‘Bind’ and ‘Loose’ in the Church in Matthew’s Gospel,” The Interpretation of Matthew (ed. G. N. Stanton; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1995), 101–14; E Manns, “La Halakah dans l’évangile de Matthieu. Note sur Mt. 16, 16–19,” BeO 25 (1985): 129–35 Bornkamm applies this to Matthew 16 and thus describes Peter as “. . . the guarantor and authorized interpreter of Jesus’ teachings” (111).

2. “Bind” and “Loose” as Juridical Authority a. Teaching on What is Required » Ability to Include / Exclude in Community7 b. Matthew 18:15–17: “Let Him be to You as a Gentile or Tax Collector” c. Talmud (b. Moʾed Qat. 16a) “Though the need to address new situations is not to be ruled out, the thrust of the binding and loosing is a thoroughly conservative one: it is Peter’s role to see that all that Jesus taught is brought to bear on people’s lives; Peter binds and looses only as he has learned to do so from Jesus.” (Nolland, Matthew, 6820 Matthew 16 Matthew 23 “Whatever you bind [deō] on earth will be bound (Gk “They bind [deō] heavy burdens on the shoulders of dedemenon) in heaven” (v. 19) others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them” (v. 4) Jesus said to Peter: “I give to you [sg.] the keys [kleidas] “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees! For you key of the kingdom of heaven.” (v. 19) shut [kleiete] the kingdom of heaven against people” (v. 13) 3. “Binding” and “Loosing” as Retaining and Forgiveness of Sins a. Texts i. LXX Job 42:9–10: So Eliphaz the Thaemanite, and Baldad the Sauchite, and Sophar the Minaean, went and did as the Lord commanded them: and he loosed (λύω) their sin for the sake
of Job. And the Lord prospered Job: and when he prayed also for his friends, he forgave (ἀφίημι) them their sin. .


ii. Sirach 28:2: “Forgive (ἀφίημι) your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned (λύω) when you pray.” iii. Tg. Neof. on Gen 4:7: “If you perform your deeds well in this world it shall be loosed and forgiven you in the world to come. But if you do not perform your deeds well in this world, your sin shall be retained for the day of judgment”. iv. John 20:23: “If you forgive [ἀφίημι] the sins of any, they are forgiven [ἀφίημι]; if you retain [κρατέω] the sins of any, they are retained [κρατέω].” b. Relates to “Juridical” and “Teaching” Authority: i. “. . . to ‘loose’ refers to the divine power to forgive sins, and so to admit converts into and to restore penitent sinners to the church. To ‘bind’ is to announce God’s judgment on unbelievers and impenitent sinners, and to excommunicate offenders from the church. ‘Binding’ and ‘loosing’ refer to the broad power of allowing or refusing entrance into the kingdom.”8 “Binding” and “Loosing” as Relating to Exorcism a. Texts: Tob 3:17; 8:3; Matt 12:29//Mark 3:27 b. “Gates of Hell” c. Linked to Forgiveness of Sins, Which is Linked to Juridical and Teaching Authority


See Powell, “Do and Keep what Moses Says,” 434 n. 34: “… the proposal that Matthew uses these technical terms in two different ways is as unnecessary as it is unlikely. The references to binding and loosing in 18:18 do not refer to excommunication procedures per se, but to the determination of acceptable conduct, which will form the basis for decisions regarding expulsion and admission. Both 16:19 and 18:18 envision the binding and loosing of laws, not of people, though as 18:18 makes clear, determination of the extent to which certain laws are binding for the community inevitably affects determination of membership in the community.” Likewise, see Bornkamm, “The Authority to ‘Bind’ and ‘Loose’,” 109–10 who explains that in the language of “binding” and “loosing” “. . . teaching authority and disciplinary authority are inseparably intertwined. . .” Similarly, Hill (Matthew, 262), writes that the two possible meanings, i.e., teaching authority and juridical authority over the community “amount to much the same thing in the end: Peter has authority to make pronouncements…” See also Bultmann (Die Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition, 147) who sees Peter as being given authority to teach and discipline. For the rabbis “binding” and “loosing” was especially linked to decisions regarding the validity of vows. See Z. W. Falk, “Binding and Loosing,” JJS 25 (1974) 92–100. 8 Willis, “An Interpretation of Isaiah 22.15–25,” 346.

Peter and the Keys

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in the heavens, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in the heavens.” (Matthew 16:18–19) For it is no small difference that Peter received the keys not of one heaven but of more, and in order that whatsoever things he binds on earth may be bound not in one heaven but in them all, as compared with the many who bind on earth and loose on earth, so that these things are bound and loosed not in [all] the heavens, as in the case of Peter, but in one only; for they do not reach so high a stage with power as Peter to bind and loose in all the heavens (Origen, Commentary on Matthew 13:31 [A.D. 248/9]).

The Priestly Keys of Isaiah 229
Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: . . . 19 I will thrust you from your office, and you will be cast down from your station. 20 In that day I will call my servant Eli'akim the son of Hilki'ah, 21 and I will clothe him with your robe (kâthoneth), and will bind your girdle (’abnet) on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 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. 24 And they will hang on him the whole weight of his father’s house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons. (Isaiah 22:18, 19–22)

“Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water. 7 And he put on him the coat, and girded him with the girdle (’abnet), and clothed him with the robe (kâthoneth). . .” (Leviticus 8:6–7)11 “But the four principal gatekeepers, who were Levites, were entrusted with the responsibility for the rooms and treasuries in the house of God. 27 They would spend the night stationed around the house of God, because they had to guard it; and they had charge of the key for opening it each morning.” (1 Chronicles 9:26–27) “. . . for although there be four courses of the priests, and everyone of them have above five thousand men in them, yet do they officiate on certain days only; and when those days are over, other priests succeed in the performance of their sacrifices, and assemble together at midday, and receive the keys of the temple, and the vessels by tale, without anything relating to food or drink being carried into the temple.” (Josephus, Against Apion 2.108). “[The priests] used to sleep with the keys of the Temple Court in their hand” (m. Mid. 1:8).


That Matthew 16 draws on Isaiah 22 is recognized by virtually all scholars who write on Matthew’s Gospel, including non-Catholic writers. H. Benedict Green (Matthew, Poet of the Beatitudes [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001], 135), explains that “a reference to Isa. 22:22 . . . is inescapable.” See also, e.g., J. A. Emerton, “Binding and Loosing—Forgiving and Retaining,” JTS 13 (1962): 325–31; W. D. Allison and D. C. Davies, Matthew 8–18 (ICC: London: T & T Clark, 1991), 640; R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 625; Donald Hagner, Matthew (2 vols.; WBC 33a-b; Dallas: Word, 1993– 1995), 2:472. 10 The language identifies Shebna as high priest. He wears robe and girdle—garments worn together only by the high priest (Exod 28:4; 39–40; 29:5–9; 39:27–29; Lev 8:7; 16:4). The rabbis recognized that Isaiah here described the high priest (e.g., Lev. Rab. 5.5). For a fuller treatment, see Michael Barber, “The Historical Jesus and Cultic Restoration Eschatology” (Ph.D. diss; Ann Arbor: UMI, 2010). The appearance of the keys also points to Shebna’s priestly identity; keys were used by the priests in the temple (cf. 1 Chr 9:27; Josephus, Against Apion 2.108; m. Mid. 1:8–9; A’bot R. Nat. A. 4:5; b. Ta’an. 29a). 11 See also Exod 28:4; 39-40; 29:5-9; 39:27-29; Lev 8:7; 16:4; Rev 1:13.

Priesthood and Fatherhood
And Micah said to him, “Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest. . .” (Leviticus 17:10).

Infallibility, not Impeccability
Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat (kathedra); 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. 4 They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. 5 . . . 13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in (Matthew 23:1–13). Jesus’ words to Peter (Matthew 16) “Whatever you bind (deō) on earth will be bound (Gk dedemenon) in heaven” (v. 19) Jesus said to Peter: “I give to you (sg.) the keys (kleidas) of the kingdom of heaven.” (v. 19) Jesus’ Condemnation of the Pharisees (Matthew 23) “They bind (deō) heavy burdens on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them” (v. 4) “. . . you key shut (kleiete) the kingdom of heaven against people” (v. 13)

Peter’s Ruling at the Council of Jerusalem
Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. . . 6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” 12 And all the assembly kept silence. . . (Acts 15:2, 6–12) As [Paul and Timothy] went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem. (Acts 16:4)

Apostolic Succession
“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1–2) In those days Peter stood up among the brethren . . . and said, 16 “Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas. . . 17 For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry. . . 20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it’; and ‘His office let another take.’ . . .” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:15–26) Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the

priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. (Luke 1:8–9)

The Witness of the Early Church Fathers
The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ has done so from God. . . And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. . . Our Apostles too were given to understand by our Lord Jesus Christ that the office of the bishop would give rise to intrigues. For this reason, equipped as they were with perfect foreknowledge, they appointed the men shall succeed to their sacred ministry. Thus, we deem it an injustice to eject from the sacred ministry the persons who were appointed by them, or later, with the consent of the whole Church, by other men in high repute” —Clement, Letter to the Corinthians, 42:1, 4; 44:1–3 (A.D. 96). "It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors to our own times—men who neither knew nor taught anything like these heretics rave about. But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. With this church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree—that is, all the faithful in the whole world—and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition".—Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3:3:1–2 (c. A.D. 189) "Although there are many who believe that they themselves hold to the teachings of Christ, there are yet some among them who think differently from their predecessors. The teaching of the Church has indeed been handed down through an order of succession from the apostles and remains in the churches even to the present time. That alone is to be believed as the truth which is in no way at variance with ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition.”—Origen, The Fundamental Doctrines 1:2 (A.D. 225)

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