Note: I edited a little this morning, for clarification and corrected some spelling and grammar mistakes that I had made. (March 14, am)
Response to John Fisher, a Roman Catholic, who responded to me and my response to his debate on Papal Infallibility with an Anglican “father James”. see my original response here, in an earlier blog post.
See John Fishers full response here https://stjohnfisher.medium.com/in-response-to-ken-temple-on-matthew-16-13-19-72972f85623f.
Some of his comments or data I did not interact with, because from a Protestant and Biblical viewpoint, they seemed irrelevant to the main issues. And my response is long enough anyway!
Fisher’s words will be in italics.
The debate and issues center around the classic text, Matthew 16:13-20
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” 20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.Matthew 16:13-20
After quoting Matthew 16:14-17, Fisher writes:
So, here we have a specific revelation, which Peter exercises directly from God the Father.
No Protestant would disagree with that; although the disciples seemed to have grasped the truth earlier, back in Matthew 14:33 – They worshipped Jesus. They called Him the Son of God. They had some sense of who He was.
It is important to keep somethings in mind.
1. Peter is not inspired as a result of his words being in scripture.
- That is true, and no believing Protestant disagrees with that; but the only we we know about this historical event is because it was eventually written down. (by Matthew, around 50-60 AD) The same event in less words is in Mark and Luke.
- This reality has nothing to do with a future bishop of Rome, centuries later, or millennia later (1870 is almost 2 millennia later!) having the ability to speak or write a “living word” (oral tradition) (in the course of church history) and for the RC Church to take 200 or 300 or whatever years to later proclaim that some statement a Pope makes, that it is “ex cathedra”. ( “from the chair”, ie, “spoken from the chair of Peter”)
- The conversation proceeds its introduction into scripture, and yet it is inspired by God himself while it happens.
- Agreed. But that still has nothing to do with 1870 claims. The 1870 claims are massively anachronistic, reading that interpretation back into the text of Matthew 16:16-19.
- 2. Peter is selected to provide this revelation, not the apostles, not the people.
- Ok, but this is also not a problem for the Protestant position, since the issue is “who is Jesus?” and the answer that “Jesus is the Messiah (fulfillment of all the OT prophesies about the coming Messiah) and the Son of the Living God (and by implication all the issues of the Deity of Christ, eternal Sonship with the Father, implications for the doctrine of God and the Trinity, etc.) All the apostles and the true believers in Christ eventually come to believe in that truth; that confession of faith, and that is the true foundation of the Church – who is Jesus? Yes, Jesus is making a word play on Cephas (Rock) (petros, with Petra, etc.) but the point is behind Peter is the doctrine of who Jesus is – Jesus is the rock, the foundation; and behind Jesus as the Son, is God the Father – God is my rock – all through the OT. Matthew is showing how firm the foundation is for the church build on Who Jesus is, not primarily who Peter is. Peter is the dominant and leader of the disciples, but we don’t see any kind of Papal thing in Acts or 1-2 Peter. Nor in the early centuries of church history.
- 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.
How so? In the context of Matthew 16, Peter immediately starts spouting error and false doctrine and Jesus says to him, “Get thee behind Me Satan!” (Matthew 16:21-23) – Jesus rebukes Peter – “you are not setting your mind of the things of God, but on the things of man.” (human philosophy and understanding. So Jesus is saying another important part of the doctrines that the church is founded on is the doctrine of the cross and resurrection – the meaning of the cross / atonement for sin, etc. Peter was wrong; and grew from that.
Luke 22:31-32 – Jesus is talking about Peter’s faith, not a power to make infallible doctrinal statements. Peter struggled later and Jesus prophesied of his 3 times denial – But Jesus restored him in John 21:15-19. Luke 22:31-32 does not mean “that your faith may not faith at all temporarily”, rather it meant, “that your faith may not ultimately fail”, because we see Peter restored and was bold and evangelistic in Acts 2-11 and 15.
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.
Yes it does! (diminish the claim) Not only the probably of the claim, but the claim itself! Yes it does diminish Vatican I’s claim, because the Vatican I’s claim is that Peter has exclusive authority, jurisdiction into all other areas and bishoprics (local churches in different areas) over the whole world, and the claim includes the suppossed successors of the bishop in the city of Rome, to the exclusion of the authority of other bishops in other areas, which were established by the other apostles as they were first apostles and missionaries (sent ones). There is nothing in the text about the city of Rome, exclusive authority over other church leaders, infallibility, or Peter’s successors. The setting in Caesarea Philippi in Matthew 16, then in 18:15-20 (about forgiveness and church discipline) has more relation to the Jerusalem church and the beginnings of the foundation / establishment of “the Church” in the book of Acts, chapters 2-15 – than the city of Rome. this is why the early centuries knew nothing of this claim of the bishop of Rome. Paul rebuked Peter in Galatians 2. That was a big deal! This is why Irenaeus rebuked Victor (180-200 ?); why Tertullian mocked Calixtus (200 ?) (or whoever it was that he mockingly called “Pontifex Maximus”, why Cyprian, Firmillian and 85 other bishops all over rebuked Stephen and said, “no one sets himself up as “bishop of bishops” and “by tyrannical terror” = “lord it over the other areas” and interfere with other local churches, etc. You guys (in the debate when I asked about Cyprian and 86 other bishops who contradict the 1870 claim) – you guys just dismissed that historical issue (and it is early, 256-257 AD); you just dismissed it like waving your hand like a Jedi knight in Star Wars, “you don’t need to see his credentials” and “credits will do”. (although it is true that the debate was limited to exegesis of the text and not historical facts) This is why for centuries, Popes anathematized Pope Honorius of the 600s into the 900s AD – they knew at the time (600s to 900s AD) there was no such thing earlier in history as the 1870 claims, and so Ignaz Von Dollinger and lord John Acton’s response to the 1870 infallibility claim was right – those 2 were right to question it. Pius IX reportedly said, “I am the tradition!” when Von Dollinger said that the claims of Vatican I (1870) were not tradition. That doctrine was not there in history or the flowing of tradition through the centuries. Until 1870.
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.
What do you mean by “dint” ? Please clarify.
Actually, the context and grammar of starting with the plural “said to them” (autois – plural) and “you”, both in Matthew 16:15 (But who do you (humeis Ὑμεῖς – plural) say that I am?”)
λέγει αὐτοῖς Ὑμεῖς δὲ τίνα με λέγετε εἶναι
and Luke 22:31 – “Satan has demanded to sift “you all” (humas -plural) like wheat . . . “ , even though later singling out Peter later, demonstrates that Peter is part of the twelve as a whole group.
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
No; the communion (fellowship and unity between churches in history) is in agreement with the doctrine that Peter spoke about Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”, not communion with him as person in Rome, centuries later, through a bishop, wearing a mitre hat, etc. The communion is the common faith of all Christians who are to go and proclaim the truth of the gospel – if you trust in Christ, you are forgiven; if you don’t, you are still in your sins and not forgiven.
, not as individuals though. Peter is the foundation, the rest of the Church, the college included, is also build on this fact.
Peter is a foundation in the sense of being the first to preach the message in Acts 2 and being the first to break through the barriers with the Gentiles in Acts 10-11, providing the background of Acts 15. After that, Peter fades from the scene. There is no Papacy. If there was such a thing, he would have mentioned in his 2 letters and the content of those letters are negatives for the Roman Catholic understanding of the Papacy. The rock behind Peter is Jesus Christ, the foundation under him and the apostles. Jesus is the rock behind Peter’s ministry. 1 Corinthians 10:4 – “The rock was Christ” and 1 Corinthians 3:11 – Christ is the foundation. All the apostles (plural, apostles and prophets) laid down the foundation on which the church is built, Jesus Christ being the cornerstone. (see Ephesians 2:19-20) We see this played out in the book of Acts and the first century.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11
Cyprian wrote in 251 AD:
“And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins ye retain, they shall be retained;” yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honor and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity.”
On the Unity of the Church, paragraph 4 (my emphasis)
It is obvious that Cyprian understood that all the apostles had an equal power, honor, and authority. “The beginning proceeds from unity” means what I was trying to communicate by showing the beginning of the church in Acts chapter 2 – Peter gives the first (beginning) sermon, and in Acts 10-11 Peter begins formal outreach to the Gentiles, which James emphasizes in Acts 15:14 as
“Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.” Acts 15:14
That is the “beginning of the unity of the church”. From there, there is unity between true believers in local churches all over the world down through history.
7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” Acts 15:7-11
That is another passage on the clear teaching that we are justified by faith alone, not by good works. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:28-4:16; Galatians 2:16; Philippians 3:9; John 5:24; 3:16; 11:25; 20:30-31; Acts 16:31)
J. N. D. Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines –
Kelly, a famous Anglican Patristic scholar, says about this text of Cyprian: “. . . it supports the collegiate conception of the episcopate which Cyprian advocates elsewhere, only adding that Peter was the starting point and symbol of unity.” (J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, page 205, see extended discussion on pages 205-207.)
Kelly discusses the other earlier edition of “On the Unity of the Church” by Cyprian that was written before his dispute with Stephen, bishop of Rome. Kelly also points out when one looks at Cyprian’s epistles (33:1, 43:5; 66:8; 73:7, and 75:17 (by Firmillian) (sic. footnote on page 205 – Kelly must have meant 74:17) – and 71:3 and epistle # 74 are even clearer, # 74 is a total scathing rebuke of Stephen, calling his interfering with other churches and claiming to the be the only authority “bishop of bishops”, Firmillian calls it “an open manifest folly of Stephen”. See Epistle 74:17 (from bishop Firmillian of Caesarea, Cappadocia) The whole letter he constantly rails against Stephen, bishop of Rome. (256 AD)
2 Peter 1:12-18
12 Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. 13 I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”— 18 and we ourselves heard this [j]utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, (2 Peter 3:1)
To sum up what Peter says, he says he is about to die (1:14-15), and in 3:1, “this is the second letter I am writing to you” and that “by being diligent” (1:12-15) before he dies, he is leaving them with something written down. After Peter is dead, the churches he wrote to will be able to remember and stir up their sincere minds in the truth, because he wrote it down and then they can read it – so they will be able to call these things to mind. If there was any truth to the Papacy or Mono-episcopate, he would have written, “after I am dead, go to your bishop and get the truth from him.” Instead, Peter focuses and emphasizes the written word.
Fisher again: “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.”
This cannot be since “the keys to the kingdom of heaven” means the instrument that will open the door for people to enter the kingdom of heaven = preaching the gospel and proclaiming forgiveness, which I why I quoted from Acts 13:38-39 and now, in this response, Acts 15:8-14 – all people can enter into the kingdom of heaven by repentance and faith in Christ (Mark 1:14-15 – “repent and believe”) – see further Romans 10:9-10; John 20:30-31; Acts 16:31; John 5:24; 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9, etc. Peter was the beginning and unity of the faith of the early church and in several ways, it started with him, historically, being the main preacher in Acts 2, and the breakthrough of the gospel to the Gentiles, in Acts 10-11 and James mentions this in Acts 15, which I have already documented. As Cyprian wrote, he was a “beginning” and “starting point of unity”.
“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.”
since Matthew 18 is the only other passage in the Gospel according to Matthew with the word “church” in it, and it follows along with the same “binding and loosing” language as Matthew 16, it demonstrates the authority is given to all the apostles there in Matthew 18, and so, by principle, later, to leaders of the local church to do church discipline (the subject of the passage, Matthew 18:15-20) – which will mean to other elders / pastors / overseers (local churches) in history. (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5-7; Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-4) Jesus has the keys of death and hades (Revelation 1:18) and the key to open and shut in Revelation 3:7. The NT develops Matthew 16 to Matthew 18 to Rev. 1:18 to 3:7.
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.
The “alone” of “by Faith Alone”, Sola Fide = apart from works, not by works, etc.
What part of “apart from the works of the law” (Acts 13:38-39; Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28; 4:1-16) and “apart from works” (Ephesians 2:8-9) and “not because of righteous deeds which we have done” (Titus 3:5) do Roman Catholics not understand? Just because the word “alone” is not there does there means nothing, because “alone” in the “Sola Fide” terse slogan is the meaning of all the Scriptural data (see above) of “not by works”, “not by works of the law”, etc.
It is really funny to me – your sentence here:
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, . . .
And yet pisteuo / πιστευω is the word used there in James 2:19, which you are referring to, so it depends on the context. All believing Protestants agree that pisteuo means “entrust”, “trust”, when used in the context of the NT exhortations to believe in Christ, and that faith in Christ results in justification. (Gospel of John, Acts, Romans, Galatians, Philippians, Ephesians, 1 Peter) But in the case of James 2:19, obviously in that context it does mean “intellectual assent and agreement with facts”. It is not enough to believe that something is true; rather there must be heart-felt trust in the person of Jesus Christ – a personal spiritual relationship.
σὺ πιστεύεις ὅτι εἷς ἐστιν ὁ θεός καλῶς ποιεῖς καὶ τὰ δαιμόνια πιστεύουσιν καὶ φρίσσουσιν
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
but to entrust, which means trusting in the full instruction of the gospel message. Which includes baptism, confession, etc.
Water baptism is the result of true faith, and evidence that one truly entrusts himself to Christ. (This is clear in Justin Martyr’s writings) The apostle Paul indicates that baptism is not part of the gospel message in 1 Corinthians 1:13-17 – verse 17 “for Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel . . . “ It is important, and part of “making disciples”, but not part of the gospel proclamation. Rather it is a result of the gospel being accepted by the person.
If by confession you mean confessing Christ as Lord, as in Romans 10:9-10, then of course we agree with that.
Not sure where this follows from. The verse never speaks of everyone having such authority. In fact, it’s only given to the apostles.
So, only the apostles had the authority to do evangelism? Is that why Roman Catholics are so weak in the practice of evangelism and missions in recent years? (especially since Vatican 2) We see modern Popes doing all sorts of “kum baya” type ecumenical meetings with Buddhists and Muslims, but we don’t hear them actually preaching the gospel message to them. It seems like a major emphasis of modern Roman Catholic apologetics is focused on winning Protestants to their church, rather than reaching unbelievers with the simple NT message of the gospel. The emphasis is “convert to the RC Church”; “come home to the Church”, rather than “repent and believe in Christ”.
I totally disagree with your idea that only the apostles have authority to proclaim the gospel and proclaim forgiveness. All Christians have that authority. Peter says to all the saints who are also priests in 1 Peter 2:4-10 that they are all “to proclaim the excellencies of Him who brought them out of darkness into His marvelous light”. (verse 9) All authority has been given to Christ after the resurrection (see Matthew 28:18), “therefore, go . . . make disciples of all nations . . . “ (verse 19) That commission and authority continues to today.
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.
All of Scripture is from one unity – God Himself. So there is no need for Luke to mention Peter “as a rock”, etc. I repeat this section because chronologically, Acts 2, 10-11, and 15 are the historical events that show “the beginning of the unity” of Matthew 16. Mark 8 and Luke 9 are parallel with Matthew 16. (one historical event) There is no contradiction just because Luke does mention some of the details. It has nothing to do with Isaiah 22:22 in the sense of trying to show some kind of Papal authority or secession of bishops; rather the key is a Messianic key – the house of David, and Jesus has that in Revelation 1:18 and 3:7 – Jesus is the authority and ultimate rock and foundation. Peter and the apostles’ authority is secondarily derived from Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
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.
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.
Wrong; since it was a temporary thing, Peter was restored; Peter repented. (John 21; Acts 1-2 and beyond) Luke 22:31 means that his faith will not ultimately fail, like Judas. It has nothing to do with an infallibility to say right doctrine, passed on to successors, and only in Rome.
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.
I don’t see how your argumentation follows. All elders are also bishops /overseers – according to the New Testament.
The apostles appointed elders (plural) for each church. (Acts 14:23)
The office of elder is also an overseer – see Titus 1:5-7. (see also Philippians 1:1)
Paul calls the elders (plural) of the church of Ephesus (Acts 20:17)
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them, . . . (for space issues I skip to verse 28)
and in verse 28 he says that the elders are also overseers (or “bishops”) (plural: episcopous / ἐπισκόπους )and shepherding (pastoring)
“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd (verb form of “to pastor”) the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28
1 Peter 5:1-4 says that the elders are to shepherd the flock of God and that they are to do the work of overseeing.
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
exercising oversight = ἐπισκοποῦντες = the verb form of episcopos – “to oversee”, “to lead, to look out for, to do the work of bishoping”
So, not only are “all bishops are elders”, but all elders are bishops. They are the same office, called to do two activities, 1. Shepherding / pastoring and 2. overseeing, leading
All bishops and presbyters, on Catholic theology, are priests. In fact, priests themselves are called “co-workers” with the bishops.
One of the first mistakes of the early church in the 200s AD, is calling presbyters, “priests”, since all Christians are priests, according to 1 Peter 2:4-10; Revelation 1:6; 5:10. There is no NT special office of priest that offers sacrifices. The sacrifices that are still going on in the NT are praise and worship, spiritual sacrifices. (Hebrews 13:15)
Me: 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.
No, Jesus’ prayer is not futile since He is talking about not ultimately failing; and being restored even after stumbling. Jesus is praying for Peter’s ultimate faith, which was made stronger through the trial of his sin, and Jesus’ prayer was accomplished by restoring Peter and also by Peter strengthening the other disciples’ faith.