In Response to Ken Temple on Matthew 16:13–19.

For those of you who have yet to watch it, I recently debated my favorite Anglican Vicar, Father James, on the infallibility of the Pope. You can find the debate on my channel.

One viewer, Ken Temple, has taken it upon himself to provide feedback, for which I am grateful. It will allow me to provide some clarification that I did not provide in my debate. Or, at least, not as clearly as I could have. His blog post can be found here.

John Fisher (The Roman Catholic) says that Peter’s statement is an “ex cathedra truth”. Talk about reading 1870 (Vatican 1) back into the text of Matthew 16:16 !!

Well, let’s look at the verse in question. After Peter is asked “who do you say I am”, Peter responds,

And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli′jah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”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. (Matthew 16:14–17 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition)

So, here we have a specific revelation, which Peter exercises directly from God the Father. It is important to keep somethings in mind.

  1. Peter is not inspired as a result of his words being in scripture. The conversation proceeds its introduction into scripture, and yet it is inspired by God himself while it happens.
  2. Peter is selected to provide this revelation, not the apostles, not the people.
  3. Other passages like Luke 22:32 seem to indicate that he is protected from error, which makes less sense since we would expect Christ’s prayer to be given to him by God the Father.

The Anglican Father James (“Barely Protestant”) makes the stronger arguments of seeing Matthew 18:18 and Rev. 3:7 as the proper interpretations of Matthew 16:18–19.

Father James does make a compelling case, and I think his performance speaks for itself. But I’ll reiterate why I don’t believe this undermines the probability that Peter himself was given the key. First off, providing an alternative reading does not necessarily diminish my case. To quote Richard Swinburne

The fact that certain evidence confirms a hypothesis does not mean that it does not also confirm a rival hypothesis. Once again, this should be immediately clear if one thinks about it. Suppose that a detective has background information k, that either Smith, Brown, or Robinson did the crime, and that only one of them did. Then evidence (e) turns up that Robinson was somewhere else at the time the crime was committed. e adds to the probability that Brown did the crime, and it also adds to the probability that Smith did the crime. Despite this, one sometimes reads writers on the philosophy of religion dismissing some consideration that is adduced as evidence for the existence of God on the grounds that it supports a rival hypothesis equally well [1].

Likewise, confirming the power of binding and loosening on the apostles does not diminish the probability of Vatican I’s claim. Remember, even we believe the Apostles’ together with their head exercise Papal infallibility since they are united and at one with Peter.

Through the Holy Spirit who dwells in you guard the worthy deposit” (2 Tm. 1:13–14). This same thing is said to all the bishops. In this duty of guarding, communicating and defending the deposit as a treasure of divine truth, the bishops also are helped by the Holy Spirit. But this infallible aid of the Holy Spirit is not present in each of the bishops but rather in the bishops taken together and joined with [their] head, for it was said to all generally and not each individually: “Behold, I am with you all days until the end of time” (Mt. 28:20). [2]

However, note that as individuals, the other apostles never can exercise that power, since it was promised to the whole, not just to them individually. To assume he did by dint of the fact they were a part of the college seems to be a fallacy of division. Whereas Peter himself was given the key and the power directly as an individual, and not merely as part of the twelve.

There are other issues present. Having the power is not sufficient to show one has the keys, since they were neither given the foundation of the Church nor the promise of the gates not triumphing against them.

Remember, if not having the keys mentioned in the passage was enough to count as a strike in Isaiah 22:20–25 due to the Septuagint not referencing it, it should also count as a strike when Matthew 18 does not.

Also in John 20:23 — all the apostles have this power and authority; and furthermore, the apostle Paul also teaches this in Acts 13:38–39 — “forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you”.

Yes, Catholics do not deny this, in fact, we believe the power to forgive sins is also related to having jurisdiction in light of communion with Peter, not as individuals though. Peter is the foundation, the rest of the Church, the college included, is also build on this fact.

Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed (Greek: justified) from everything from which you could not be freed (Greek: justified) by the law of Moses. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed (Greek: justified) from everything from which you could not be freed (Greek: justified) by the law of Moses. Acts 13:38–39 “everyone who believes is justified” ! — here is justification by faith alone, not by works.

Assuming that we ought to read dikaioó as justified rather than freed, there is no place in the verses where the word “alone” is mentioned. Not to mention the greek pisteuó means more than just to believe in the sense of the demons who believe in God’s existence, but to entrust, which means trusting in the full instruction of the gospel message. Which includes baptism, confession, etc.

If someone accepts Christ, they are forgiven and we have the authority to say this to them; and if they reject Christ, we can say that they do not have forgiveness, unless they later repent and believe.) Peter is the first — and we see this fulfilled in

Not sure where this follows from. The verse never speaks of everyone having such authority. In fact, it’s only given to the apostles.

These 2 verses and the whole events of Acts 2, 10–11 and 15 demonstrate the future fulfillment of what Jesus meant by singling out Peter, and calling him “this rock” in Matthew 16:18, while connecting Peter’s faith to the content of the doctrine of his statement, which God the Father revealed to Peter’s heart and mind — “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”. Jesus says to all the apostles, “I will build My church”; and we see the early church unified, at the beginning, in Jerusalem in the book of Acts. The unity of the believers is emphasized as the gospel goes out to Samaria (Acts 8) and the Gentiles in Acts 10–11 and 15.

This is a possible reading, but there are some issues. The first is that Lukian texts never refer to Peter in his role as the rock, it’s uniquely Matthian since it’s not mentioned elsewhere. It’s not even mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, which we would expect to see if it’s an important part of the author’s work. It makes more sense Matthew is referring to Peter as the rock since his audience is Jewish and would be more familiar with the prophet Isaiah and the implications that would have in contrasting Peter with Eliakim.

The second issue is that if it was his confession of faith, then it seems to be in tension with the fact Peter wavered and denied Jesus three times.

Also, Peter himself calling himself “fellow elder” in his own letter ( 1 Peter 5:1) completely destroys Papal claims and arguments.

I don’t see how this follows. All bishops are elders. In fact, you could not be promoted to the college of bishops without also being an elder. In Presbyterium Ordinis, which is a Vatican II document, we read,

Priests, never losing sight of the fullness of the priesthood which the bishops enjoy, must respect in them the authority of Christ, the Supreme Shepherd. They must therefore stand by their bishops in sincere charity and obedience.This priestly obedience, imbued with a spirit of cooperation is based on the very sharing in the episcopal ministry which is conferred on priests both through the Sacrament of Orders and the canonical mission [3]

All bishops and presbyters, on Catholic theology, are priests. In fact, priests themselves are called “co-workers” with the bishops.

On account of this sharing in their priesthood and mission, let priests sincerely look upon the bishop as their father and reverently obey him. And let the bishop regard his priests as his co-workers and as sons and friends, just as Christ called His disciples now not servants but friends [4]

Peter here is emphasizing the office he shares with the elders (which is subsumed into his own) for the sake of showing humility and to provide an example. Hence,

Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:2–3).

This is no different than when Pope Francis says,

The priest is the poorest of men unless Jesus enriches him by his poverty, the most useless of servants unless Jesus calls him his friend, the most ignorant of men unless Jesus patiently teaches him as he did Peter, the frailest of Christians unless the Good Shepherd strengthens him in the midst of the flock. No one is more “little” than a priest left to his own devices; and so our prayer of protection against every snare of the Evil One is the prayer of our Mother: I am a priest because he has regarded my littleness (cf. Lk 1:48). And in that littleness we find our joy. Joy in our littleness! [5]

Does Pope Francis reject the office of the bishop because he affirms that he is a priest? No. Rather, he emphasizes he possesses it for the sake of expressing his humility.

The Anglican Father James made a great point about John 17:12 and Judas. Jesus prays for all the apostles in John 17 (and future disciples / believers), but Jesus clearly says, “except for the son of perdition, that the Scripture may be fulfilled.”

I think it was a relevant point to bring up, but unlike Luke 22:32, Judas is singled out. Peter is not singled out, and in fact, he is the only person being prayed for. This would have made the prayer futile since Jesus knew he would fall; whereas it can be argued that the prayer was efficacious for the other 11.

Conclusion

To Ken, if you’re reading this, I appreciate the feedback. Thank you for posting my debate, and for your comments.

Footnotes

[1] Richard Swinburne, The Existence of God, pages 19–20

[2] Bishop Vincent Ferrer Gasser, Official Relatio of Pastor Aetornus, Paragraph 7, Link

[3] Pope Paul VI, Presbyterium Ordinis, Paragraph 7, Link

[4] Pope Paul VI, Lumen Gentium, Paragraph 28, Link

[5] Holy Chrism Mass, Homily of Pope Francis, Link

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