The word pope derives from Greek πάππας(páppas), meaning ‘father’. In the early centuries of Christianity, this title was applied to all bishops, but later became reserved in the west to the Bishop of Rome. While the office of the Bishop of Rome is referred to as the papacy, the jurisdiction of the episcopal see is called the Holy See and was founded by St Peter. Because Peter held a position of primacy among the Apostles, the Bishop of Rome -as the Apostolic Successor to Peter-therefore has primacy within the Catholic Church. Although the Papacy is not explicitly defined in Scripture, it can be implicitly reasoned from Scripture.
According to Scripture, Christ founded a visible Church that would never go out of existence and had authority to teach and discipline believers (see Matt. 16:18-19, 18:17). St. Paul tells us this Church is “the pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) and it was built on “the foundation of the apostles” (Eph. 2:20). Paul also tells us the Church would have a hierarchy composed of deacons (1 Tim. 2:8-13); presbyters, (1 Tim. 5:17); and bishops (1 Tim. 3:1-7). In addition, Christ instituted a source of unity for the Church by placing Peter as the head of the Apostles, and thus the Church. This can be reasonably drawn from Scripture using several passages.
In the Old Testament, a new name indicated a change in that person’s status. For example, Abram became Abraham (Gen. 17:5), Jacob became Israel (Gen 32:28), and Eliakim became Joakim (2 Kings 23:34). In Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter, which means rock, and said, “You are Peter [rock], and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This passage is an allusion to Isaiah 22:22, where Israel’s wicked chief steward Shebna is replaced with the righteous Eli’akim. Isaiah 22:22 said Eli’akim would have “the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” Just as King Hezekiah gave Eli’akim authority to oversee the kingdom of Israel, Christ gave Peter authority to oversee his Church. In other words, Peter is to be the steward of the Kingdom until Christ returns and, just like the stewards of the Kingdom of Israel, this is a position to be handed on.
This passage in Matthew draws an additional parallel to Abraham as Abraham is “the rock from which Israel is hewn” (Isaiah 51:1-2). Now Peter is to be the “rock on which the Church would be built.” Some Protestants attempt to undermine this assertion by claiming Christ called Simon Peter “petros” which they claim means “small stone” or “pebble”, while the rock that He would build His Church on is called “petra”, which they claim means “boulder” and is a reference to Christ Himself. This is inaccurate, however, as the Greek word ‘rock’ is a feminine noun, so Matthew used the masculine version of rock, or petros, since calling Peter ‘petras’ would have been the same as calling him ‘Patricia’. If Christ wished to distinguish the two rocks, he could have used the Greek word “lithos” which means “stone”. In addition, Christ’s original words would have been spoken in Aramaic, not Greek, and according to John 1:42, Jesus gave Simon the Aramaic name Kepha, which means simply “rock.” If Christ did not intend Simon Peter to be the “rock” on which he’d build his Church, then why rename him at all?
In addition to being the “steward” and “rock” of the Church, Peter would also be the “shepherd” of the Church as Christ put him in charge of the flock before His Ascension. Jesus Christ, as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), tells Peter to “feed my lambs” and “tend my sheep” (John 21:15-17). Peter is to care for the flock until Christ returns. Peter’s authority would thus be 3-fold: Steward, Rock, and Shepherd, just as the promises to Abraham were 3-fold in land, descendants, and blessings.
The primacy of Peter amongst the Apostles was conferred on him by Jesus, who gave him the Keys of Heaven and the powers of “binding and loosing” (Matt. 16:18-19). While Christ gave authority to all of the Apostles, Peter’s primacy becomes evident in Scripture as:
1. Peter heads every list of the Apostles (Matt. 10:1-4, Mark 3:15-19, Luke 12:41).
2. Peter generally speaks for the Apostles (Matt. 18:21, Mark 8:29, Luke 12:41).
3. Christ prays especially for Peter that his faith will strengthen his brethren (Luke 22:32).
Peter’s leadership would then become evident in the early Church as Peter:
1. Heads the election of Mathias to replace Judas (Acts 1:13-26).
2. Excommunicates the first heretic (Acts 8:18-23).
3. Leads the first council in Jerusalem and it is upon his advice that the issue is resolved (Acts 15).
4. Performs the first miracle of the Apostolic Age and is the first to raise the dead after Christ (Acts 3:6-12, Acts 9:40).
The early Church even further affirms Peter’s primacy and records the lineage of the Bishops of Rome as handed on through Apostolic Succession (see Church Father quotes below). Irenaeus stressed the validity of one line of bishops from the time of St. Peter up to his contemporary Pope Victor I and listed them. In fact, the early Church was unanimous in recognizing the authority of the Chair of Peter, even when they disagreed with the Bishop of Rome. In AD 195, Pope Victor I, in what is seen as an exercise of Roman authority over other churches, excommunicated the Quartodecimans for observing Easter on the 14th of Nisan, the date of the Jewish Passover. Celebration of Easter on a Sunday, as insisted on by the pope, is the system that has prevailed. Given the universal testimonies of the early Church along with other evidence, such as Emperor Constantine’s erection of the “Old St. Peter’s Basilica” on the location of St. Peter’s tomb, has led most scholars to agree that Peter presided over the Church of Rome, held a position of honor there, and was martyred in Rome under Emperor Nero.
The Historical Development of the Papacy:
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
20 On that day I will call my servant Eliakim son of Hilkiah, 21 and will clothe him with your robe and bind your sash on him. I 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 I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open. 23 I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his ancestral house.
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Church Father Quotes:
Pope St. Clement I of Rome
“Owing to the sudden and repeated calamities and misfortunes which have befallen us, we must acknowledge that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the matters in dispute among you, beloved; and especially that abominable and unholy sedition, alien and foreign to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-willed persons have inflamed to such madness that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be loved by all men, has been greatly defamed. . . . Accept our counsel and you will have nothing to regret. . . . If anyone disobey the things which have been said by him [God] through us [i.e., that you must reinstate your leaders], let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger. . . . You will afford us joy and gladness if being obedient to the things which we have written through the Holy Spirit, you will root out the wicked passion of jealousy” (Letter to the Corinthians 1, 58–59, 63 [A.D. 80]).
St. Ignatius of Antioch
“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 [A.D. 110]).
“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” (ibid., 3:1).
St. Dionysius of Corinth
“For from the beginning it has been your custom to do good to all the brethren in various ways and to send contributions to all the churches in every city. . . . This custom your blessed Bishop Soter has not only preserved, but is augmenting, by furnishing an abundance of supplies to the saints and by urging with consoling words, as a loving father his children, the brethren who are journeying” (Letter to Pope Soter in Eusebius, Church History 4:23:9 [A.D. 170]).
“Today we have observed the Lord’s holy day, in which we have read your letter [Pope Soter]. Whenever we do read it [in church], we shall be able to profit thereby, as also we do when we read the earlier letter written to us by Clement” (ibid., 4:23:11).
The Martyrs of Lyons
“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” (Eusebius, Church History 5:3:4 [A.D. 312])
“And the same martyrs too commended Irenaeus, already at that time [A.D. 175] a presbyter of the community of Lyons, to the said bishop of Rome, rendering abundant testimony to the man, as the following expressions show: ‘Once more and always we pray that you may rejoice in God, Pope Eleutherius. This letter we have charged our brother and companion Irenaeus to convey to you, and we beg you to receive him as zealous for the covenant of Christ’” (ibid., 5:4:1–2).
St. Irenaeus of Lyons
“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 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 [A.D. 189]).
Eusebius of Caesarea
“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 [Pope] 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” (Church History 5:23:1–24:11).
St. Cyprian of Carthage
“The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever things you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed also in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]). . . . On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were also what Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all 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 [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition [A.D. 251]).
“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]).
“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” (ibid., 55:1).
“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” (ibid., 59:14).
Firmilian of Caesarea
“[Pope] Stephen . . . boasts of the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession from Peter, on whom the foundations of the Church were laid [Matt. 16:18]. … Stephen . . . announces that he holds by succession the throne of Peter” (collected in Cyprian’s Letters 74:17 [A.D. 253]).
Pope Julius I
“[The] judgment [concerning Athanasius] ought to have been made, not as it was, but according to the ecclesiastical canon. It behooved all of you to write us so that the justice of it might be seen as emanating from all. . . . Are you ignorant that the custom has been to write first to us and then for a just decision to be passed from this place [Rome]? If, then, any such suspicion rested upon the bishop there [Athanasius of Alexandria], notice of it ought to have been written to the church here. But now, after having done as they pleased, they want to obtain our concurrence, although we never condemned him. Not thus are the constitutions of Paul, not thus the traditions of the Fathers. This is another form of procedure, and a novel practice. . . . What I write about this is for the common good. For what we have heard from the blessed apostle Peter, these things I signify to you” (Letter on Behalf of Athanasius [A.D. 341], in Athanasius, Apology Against the Arians 20–35).
St. Clement of Alexandria
“[T]he blessed Peter, the chosen, the preeminent, the first among the disciples, for whom alone with himself the Savior paid the tribute [Matt. 17:27], quickly grasped and understood their meaning. And what does he say? ‘Behold, we have left all and have followed you’ [Matt. 19:27; Mark 10:28]” (Who Is the Rich Man That Is Saved? 21:3–5 [A.D. 200]).
Tertullian of Carthage
“For though you think that heaven is still shut up, remember that the Lord left the keys of it to Peter here, and through him to the Church, which keys everyone will carry with him if he has been questioned and made a confession [of faith]” (Antidote Against the Scorpion 10 [A.D. 211]).
“[T]he Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven [and] whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. . . . Upon you, he says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys, not to the Church” (Modesty 21:9–10 [A.D. 220]).
The Letter of Clement to James (Written ca. 220 A.D.)
“Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon [Peter], who, for the sake of the true faith, and the most sure foundation of his doctrine, was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was by Jesus himself, with his truthful mouth, named Peter, the first fruits of our Lord, the first of the apostles; to whom first the Father revealed the Son; whom the Christ, with good reason, blessed” (Letter of Clement to James 2 [A.D. 221]).
Origen of Alexandria
“[I]f we were to attend carefully to the Gospels, we should also find, in relation to those things which seem to be common to Peter . . . a great difference and a preeminence in the things [Jesus] said to Peter, compared with the second class [of apostles]. 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” (Commentary on Matthew 13:31 [A.D. 248]).
St. Cyprian of Carthage
“The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.’ . . . On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], 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 [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all 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 [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition [A.D. 251]).
St. Cyril of Jerusalem
“The Lord is loving toward men, swift to pardon but slow to punish. Let no man despair of his own salvation. Peter, the first and foremost of the apostles, denied the Lord three times before a little servant girl, but he repented and wept bitterly” (Catechetical Lectures 2:19 [A.D. 350]).
“[Simon Magus] so deceived the city of Rome that Claudius erected a statue of him. . . . While the error was extending itself, Peter and Paul arrived, a noble pair and the rulers of the Church, and they set the error aright. . . . [T]hey launched the weapon of their like-mindedness in prayer against the Magus, and struck him down to earth. It was marvelous enough, and yet no marvel at all, for Peter was there—he that carries about the keys of heaven [Matt. 16:19]” (ibid., 6:14).
“In the power of the same Holy Spirit, Peter, both the chief of the apostles and the keeper of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, in the name of Christ healed Aeneas the paralytic at Lydda, which is now called Diospolis [Acts 9:32–34]” (ibid., 17:27).
St. Ephraim the Syrian
“[Jesus said:] Simon, my follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on Earth a Church for me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which my teaching flows; you are the chief of my disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness which I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the firstborn in my institution so that, as the heir, you may be executor of my treasures. I have given you the keys of my kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all my treasures” (Homilies 4:1 [A.D. 351]).
Pope St. Damasus I
“Likewise it is decreed . . . that it ought to be announced that . . . the holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of other churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven . . . ’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither stain nor blemish nor anything like it” (Decree of Damasus 3 [A.D. 382]).
“‘But,’ you [Jovinian] will say, ‘it was on Peter that the Church was founded’ [Matt. 16:18]. Well . . . one among the twelve is chosen to be their head in order to remove any occasion for division” (Against Jovinian 1:26 [A.D. 393]).
Pope St. Innocent I
“In seeking the things of God . . . you have acknowledged that judgment is to be referred to us [the pope], and have shown that you know that is owed to the Apostolic See [Rome], if all of us placed in this position are to desire to follow the apostle himself [Peter] from whom the episcopate itself and the total authority of this name have emerged” (Letters 29:1 [A.D. 408]).
St. Augustine of Hippo
“Among these [apostles] Peter alone almost everywhere deserved to represent the whole Church. Because of that representation of the Church, which only he bore, he deserved to hear ‘I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven’” (Sermons 295:2 [A.D. 411]).
“Some things are said which seem to relate especially to the apostle Peter, and yet are not clear in their meaning unless referred to the Church, which he is acknowledged to have represented in a figure on account of the primacy which he bore among the disciples. Such is ‘I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’ and other similar passages” (Commentary on Psalm 108 1 [A.D. 415]).
“Who is ignorant that the first of the apostles is the most blessed Peter?” (Commentary on John 56:1 [A.D. 416]).
The Council of Ephesus
“Philip, presbyter and legate of [Pope Celestine I] said: ‘We offer our thanks to the holy and venerable synod, that when the writings of our holy and blessed pope had been read to you . . . you joined yourselves to the holy head also by your holy acclamations. For your blessedness is not ignorant that the head of the whole faith, the head of the apostles, is blessed Peter the apostle’” (Acts of the Council, session 2 [A.D. 431]).
“Philip, the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See [Rome] said: ‘There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors’” (ibid., session 3).
Pope St. Leo I the Great
“Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . has placed the principal charge on the blessed Peter, chief of all the apostles, and from him as from the head wishes his gifts to flow to all the body, so that anyone who dares to secede from Peter’s solid rock may understand that he has no part or lot in the divine mystery. He wished him who had been received into partnership in his undivided unity to be named what he himself was, when he said: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ [Matt. 16:18], that the building of the eternal temple might rest on Peter’s solid rock, strengthening his Church so surely that neither could human rashness assail it nor the gates of hell prevail against it” (Letters 10:1 [A.D. 445).
“Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . established the worship belonging to the divine [Christian] religion. . . . 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. And he wanted his gifts to flow into the entire body from Peter himself, as if from the head, in such a way that anyone who had dared to separate himself from the solidarity of Peter would realize that he was himself no longer a sharer in the divine mystery” (ibid., 10:2–3).
“Although bishops have a common dignity, they are not all of the same rank. Even among the most blessed apostles, though they were alike in honor, there was a certain distinction of power. All were equal in being chosen, but it was given to one to be preeminent over the others. . . . [So today through the bishops] the care of the universal Church would converge in the one See of Peter, and nothing should ever be at odds with this head” (ibid., 14:11).
Council of Sardica
“[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 [A.D. 342]).
“[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).
Optatus of Milevus
“In the city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter; the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head—that is why he is also called Cephas [‘Rock’]—of all the apostles, the one chair in which unity is maintained by all. Neither do the apostles proceed individually on their own, and anyone who would [presume to] set up another chair in opposition to that single chair would, by that very fact, be a schismatic and a sinner. . . . Recall, then, the origins of your chair, those of you who wish to claim for yourselves the title of holy Church” (The Schism of the Donatists2:2 [A.D. 367]).
Council of Constantinople I
“The bishop of Constantinople shall have the primacy of honor after the bishop of Rome, because his city is New Rome” (canon 3 [A.D. 381]).
Pope Damasus I
“Likewise it is decreed . . . that it ought to be announced that . . . the holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of other churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall have bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall have loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither stain nor blemish nor anything like it” (Decree of Damasus 3 [A.D. 382]).
Synod of Ambrose
“We recognize in the letter of your holiness [Pope Siricius] the vigilance of the good shepherd. You faithfully watch over the gate entrusted to you, and with pious care you guard Christ’s sheepfold [John 10:7ff], you that are worthy to have the Lord’s sheep hear and follow you” (Synodal Letter to Pope Siricius [A.D. 389]).
“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 [A.D. 396]).
“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!’” (ibid., 16:2).
Augustine of Hippo
“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]).
“[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]).
Pope Innocent I
“If cases of greater importance are to be heard [at a council], they are, as the synod decrees and as happy custom requires, after episcopal judgment, to be referred to the Apostolic See” (Letters2:3:6 [A.D. 408]).
“In seeking the things of God . . . following the examples of ancient tradition . . . you have strengthened . . . the vigor of your religion with true reason, for you have acknowledged that judgment is to be referred to us, and have shown that you know what is owed to the Apostolic See, if all of us placed in this position are to desire to follow the apostle himself [Peter] from whom the episcopate itself and the total authority of this name have emerged. Following him, we know how to condemn evils just as well as we know how to approve what is laudable. Or rather, guarding with your priestly office what the Fathers instituted, you did not regard what they had decided, not by human but by divine judgments, as something to be trampled on. They did not regard anything as finished, even though it was the concern of distant and remote provinces, until it had come to the notice of this See [Rome], so that what was a just pronouncement might be confirmed by the authority of this See, and thence other churches—just as all waters proceed from their own natal source and, through the various regions of the whole world, remain pure liquids of an incorrupted head. . . .” (ibid., 29:1).
Pope Celestine I
“We enjoin upon you [my legates to the Council of Ephesus] the necessary task of guarding the authority of the Apostolic See. And if the instructions handed to you have to mention this and if you have to be present in the assembly, if it comes to controversy, it is not yours to join the fight but to judge of the opinions [on my behalf]” (Letters 17 [A.D. 431]).
Council of Ephesus
“Philip, presbyter and legate of [Pope Celestine I] said: ‘We offer our thanks to the holy and venerable synod, that when the writings of our holy and blessed pope had been read to you, the holy members, by our holy voices, you joined yourselves to the holy head also by your holy acclamations. For your blessedness is not ignorant that the head of the whole faith, the head of the apostles, is blessed Peter the apostle. And since now [we], after having been tempest-tossed and much vexed, [have] arrived, we ask that you order that there be laid before us what things were done in this holy synod before our arrival; in order that according to the opinion of our blessed pope and of this present holy assembly, we likewise may ratify their determination’” (Acts of the Council, session 2 [A.D. 431]).
Pope St. Leo I “the Great”
“Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . established the worship belonging to the divine religion. . . . 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. And he wanted his gifts to flow into the entire body from Peter himself, as if from the head, in such a way that anyone who had dared to separate himself from the solidarity of Peter would realize that he was himself no longer a sharer in the divine mystery. . . . [You, my brothers], must realize with us, of course, that the Apostolic See—out of reverence for it, I mean—has on countless occasions been reported to in consultation by bishops even of your own province [Vienne]. And through the appeal of various cases to this see, decisions already made have been either revoked or confirmed, as dictated by long-standing custom” (Letters 10:2–3 [A.D. 445]).
“As for the resolution of the bishops which is contrary to the Nicene decree, in union with your faithful piety, I declare it to be invalid and annul it by the authority of the holy apostle Peter” (ibid., 110).
“Although bishops have a common dignity, they are not all of the same rank. Even among the most blessed apostles, though they were alike in honor, there was a certain distinction of power. All were equal in being chosen [to be apostles], but it was given to one to be preeminent over the others. . . . [So today through the bishops] the care of the universal Church would converge in the one see of Peter, and nothing should ever be at odds with this head” (ibid., 14:11).
“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. For we, by reason of our pursuit of peace and faith, cannot try cases on the faith without the consent of the bishop of Rome” (Letters 25:2 [A.D. 449]).
Council of Chalcedon
“Bishop Paschasinus, guardian of the Apostolic See, stood in the midst [of the Council Fathers] and said, ‘We received directions at the hands of the most blessed and apostolic bishop of the Roman city [Pope Leo I], who is the head of all the churches, which directions say that Dioscorus is not to be allowed to sit in the [present] assembly, but that if he should attempt to take his seat, he is to be cast out. This instruction we must carry out” (Acts of the Council, session 1 [A.D. 451]).
“After the reading of the foregoing epistle [The Tome of Leo], the most reverend bishops cried out: ‘This is the faith of the fathers! This is the faith of the apostles! So we all believe! Thus the orthodox believe! Anathema to him who does not thus believe! Peter has spoken thus through Leo!’” (ibid., session 2).
Pope St. Gregory I “the Great”
“Your most sweet holiness, [Bishop Eulogius of Alexandria], has spoken much in your letter to me about the chair of Saint Peter, prince of the apostles, saying that he himself now sits on it in the persons of his successors. . . . And, though special honor to myself in no wise delights me . . . who can be ignorant that holy Church has been made firm in the solidity of the prince of the apostles, who derived his name from the firmness of his mind, so as to be called Peter from petra” (Letters 40 [A.D. 597]).
D.A. Carson, Baptist Biblical scholar
“Although it is true that petros and petra can mean ‘stone’ and ‘rock’ respectively in earlier Greek, the distinction is largely confined to poetry. Moreover, the underlying Aramaic is in this case unquestionable; and most probably kepha was used in both clauses (‘you are kepha‘ and ‘on this kepha‘), since the word was used both for a name and for a ‘rock.’ The Peshitta (written in Syriac, a language cognate with Aramaic) makes no distinction between the words in the two clauses. The Greek makes the distinction between petros and petra simply because it is trying to preserve the pun, and in Greek the feminine petra could not very well serve as a masculine name.” –The Expositor’s Bible Commentary [Zondervan, 1984], volume 8, page 368, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 17-18
J.N.D Kelly, Anglican Biblical scholar
“Peter was the undisputed leader of the youthful church” –Oxford Dictionary of the Popes, 1
Oscar Cullman, Lutheran theologian
“petra=Kepha=petros” –Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 98
John Calvin, Protestant Reformer
”There is no difference of meaning, I acknowledge, between the two Greek words petros and petra” –Commentary on Matthew Mark, and Luke, vol. 2
Craig S. Keener, Protestant Biblical scholar
“In Greek (here), they (referring to petros and petra) are cognate terms that were used interchangeably by this period…” –The IVP Bible Background Commentary of the New Testament, pg.90
Artemon (a heretical 2nd centuryteacher in Rome, who held Adoptionist non-Trinitarian views.)
Eusebius of Caesarea states that Artemon and his followers claimed their views were held by the early Church in Rome and the Bishops who succeeded Peter:
“For they say that all the early teachers and the apostles received and taught what they now declare, and that the truth of the Gospel was preserved until the times of Victor, who was the thirteenth bishop of Rome from Peter, but that from his successor, Zephyrinus, the truth had been corrupted. And what they say might be plausible, if first of all the Divine Scriptures did not contradict them. And there are writings of certain brethren older than the times of Victor, which they wrote in behalf of the truth against the heathen, and against the heresies which existed in their day. I refer to Justin (Martyr), and Miltiades, and Tatian and Clement (of Alexandria) and many others, in all of whose works Christ is spoken of as God. For who does not know the works of Irenaeus and of Melito (of Sardis) and of others which teach that Christ is God and man? And how many psalms and hymns, written by the faithful brethren from the beginning, celebrate Christ the Word of God, speaking of Him as Divine. How then since the opinion held by the Church has been preached for so many years, can its preaching have deen delayed as they affirm, until the times of Victor?” -Eusebius in “Ecclesiastical History” Book V, Chapter XXVIII
The Jewish Encyclopedia
“The power of binding and loosing was always claimed by the Pharisees. Under Queen Alexandra, the Pharisees, says Josephus (Wars of the Jews 1:5:2), ‘became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind.’ . . . The various schools had the power ‘to bind and to loose’; that is, to forbid and to permit (Talmud: Chagigah 3b); and they could also bind any day by declaring it a fast day (Talmud: Ta’anit 12a). . . . This power and authority, vested in the rabbinical body of each age of the Sanhedrin, received its ratification and final sanction from the celestial court of justice (Sifra, Emor, 9; Talmud: Makkot 23b).(Jewish Encyclopedia 3:215).