Refutation of James G. McCarthy's
The Gospel According to Rome

Section IV: Authority

for a summary of this article, see St. Peter, the Rock, the Keys, and the Primacy of Rome in the Early Church

SECTION IV: Authority by P

The Rock of Christ's Church

The Keys of the Kingdom and Dynastic Succession (in process below)

The Primacy of Peter and the Papacy (in process below)

Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium (in process below)

also not so much in process

SECTION I: Salvation, SECTION II: Eucharist, SECTION III: Mary

The Rock of Christ's Church

"...the attempts of the Roman Catholic hierarchy to establish its authority from Scripture are astonishingly weak...The assertion that the Roman Catholic bishops are the apostles' successors is based upon the thinnest of implications....we must conclude that the power of the Pope and bishops does not come from God." (James G. McCarthy, The Gospel According to Rome [hereafter "GAR"], page 260, 261)

The next three chapters will answer McCarthy's criticisms of the authority structure and hierarchy of the Catholic Church ("The Rock of Christ's Church," "The Keys of the Kingdom and Dynastic Succession," "The Primacy of Peter and the Papacy" -- all answering GAR chapter 10). The chapter following these will deal with the issues of infallibility and revelation ("Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium" -- answering GAR chapters 11-12, and appendices C, D, E). I want to compliment James McCarthy for his good organization and presentation skills in chapter 10. While I am sad he left the Church, and find him sadly mistaken in his conclusions, I have to admit McCarthy does a decent job defining the Catholic position from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (hereafter CCC), Catholic theologians, and other relevant sources. However, since he is writing seemingly to the "common man" (e.g. your typical Catholic, "ex-Catholic," or Protestant Christian who is generally ignorant of Catholic teaching), as a consequence, because of this "simple" writing style, unfortunately McCarthy's "scholarship" (particularly in this crucial area of authority) leaves much to be desired. He sometimes embarrassingly resorts to old-fashioned "anti-Catholic" critiques that have been demolished over and over again by Catholics, and even Protestant and Orthodox Christians in the past ("Call no man father", "Peter is not the rock", the "catholic church" of "the first three centuries" was basically McCarthy's Protestant Fundamentalism, etc. -- we'll discuss all of these in detail).

Let's define the Catholic position on authority and hierarchy, the Pope and the Bishops, from the Catechism --

816. "The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it...This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him" [Vatican II LG 8].

861. "In order that the mission entrusted to them might be continued after their death, [the apostles] consigned, by will and testament, as it were, to their immediate collaborators the duty of completing and consolidating the work they had begun, urging them to tend to the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit had appointed them to shepherd the Church of God. They accordingly designated such men and then made the ruling that likewise on their death other proven men should take over their ministry" [LG 20; cf. Acts 20:28; St. Clement of Rome, Ad Cor 42,44].

881. The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the "rock" of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock [Cf. Mt 16:18-19; Jn 21:15-17]. "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head" [LG 22; cf. Mt 18:18; Jn 20:21-23]. This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.

These three paragraphs define the biblical and historical foundations, and the basic logic for the Catholic position on the nature of the Church's hierarchy and authority:

(1) there is one Church of Christ (Eph 4:4ff; Matt 16:18), a visible and hierarchical society founded by Christ Himself;

(2) this one Church of Christ was entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, giving him a primacy among the apostles (Matt 16:18f; 10:2f; Luke 22:31f; John 21:15ff) who with them are to extend, rule, govern, and "shepherd" the Church (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1ff);

(3) in order that the apostles' mission would continue -- to teach the truth of Christ, preach the Gospel, sanctify and govern the Christian faithful by the power of the Holy Spirit -- they appointed bishops and elders/presbyters (through the "laying on of hands") as their successors (Matt 28:18ff; Luke 10:16; John 14:16f; 16:13; Heb 13:7,17; Acts 15:1ff; Eph 3:10; 4:4f,11; 1 Tim 1:3; 3:1ff; 4:11ff; 5:17,22; 6:2f,20; 2 Tim 1:6,13f; 2:2; 4:2; Titus 1:5ff; 2:1,15; 3:1; etc and St. Clement of Rome; St. Ignatius of Antioch; St. Irenaeus of Lyons; etc);

(4) the Bishop of Rome in particular is the successor of St. Peter who, having the authority of the keys of the kingdom and the power of binding and loosing (Matt 16:19; 18:18; cf. Isa 22:15-25), inherited Peter's apostolic primacy.

McCarthy basically has this defined correctly (GAR, page 234ff); note however, according to the Catechism, the "Church" is not merely the hierarchy (CCC 748ff, 771, 787ff, etc) but is defined as all members in the one, living, universal body of Christ, just as Scripture defines her (1 Cor 12:12ff; John 15:1ff). McCarthy is correct that the hierarchy (namely, the bishops of the Catholic Church) is where the "seat" of apostolic authority resides, while Christ is the source of ministry in the Church (CCC 874ff). I will answer McCarthy's so-called "Biblical Response" next, and deal with his "historical objections" to the Papacy and apostolic succession later on.

McCarthy's "Biblical Response" Answered

"The authority of the Roman Catholic hierarchy rests upon three beliefs: Christ made Peter the head of the apostles and the universal church; the apostles appointed bishops as their successors; the Pope, as the Bishop of Rome, is Peter's successor. None of these claims, however, can be established from Scripture." (GAR page 237)

McCarthy says Catholics have "four primary arguments" from Scripture for our belief and doctrine about the Pope: Upon This Rock (Matt 16:18), the Keys of the Kingdom (Matt 16:19), Shepherd My Sheep (John 21:15-17), Peter's leadership and headship over the apostles and the early Church. There are others but we'll first deal with McCarthy's attempts to refute the Peter is Rock equation in Matthew 16:18.

Upon This Rock, The Church Founded On St. Peter

The classic text for the establishment of the primacy of Peter and the Papacy is from the Gospel of Matthew:

"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. And I tell you, you are Peter [Petros], and on this rock [kai epi taute te petra] 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.'" (Matthew 16:15-19 RSV)

James McCarthy responds to this text by noting the slight difference in the two Greek words for "rock" :

"The word Jesus chose to use for rock, petra, is a feminine noun that refers to a mass of rock...Peter's name, Petros, on the other hand, is masculine in gender and refers to a boulder or a detached stone...What Jesus said to Peter could be translated, 'You are Stone, and upon this bedrock I will build My church.' His choice of words would indicate that the rock on which the church would be built was something other than Peter....To determine the best interpretation, the reader would have had to look more closely at the context. This is the second and greatest weakness with the Roman Catholic interpretation: It fails to give proper emphasis to the context....The context argues for interpreting 'this rock' as referring back to the revelation and its content. In other words, the Lord Jesus as 'the Christ, the Son of the living God' (Matthew 16:16) would be the solid rock upon which the Christian faith would rest." (GAR page 239-240)

I disagree the context argues for anything other than St. Peter is the rock in this passage. Since the New Testament was written in the Greek language, let us begin consideration of this critical passage in the language in which the Gospel of Matthew was originally written:

kago de soi lego oti su ei petros kai

I also And to you say - You are Peter and

epi taute te petra oikodomeso mou ten ekklesian

on this - rock I will build of me the church

Notice a couple of things. Jesus renamed Simon bar Jonah for a purpose. In the Old Testament, Abram became Abraham, the father of many nations; Jacob became Israel, and so on (Gen 17:5ff; 32:26ff). When God changes the name of someone, their mission, function and purpose change. This has significance for the authority and structure of Christ's Church, since Jesus clearly says He would build His Church (Greek ekklesia) on the Rock (Greek petra, Aramaic Kepha), which I prove below is Peter personally. Peter's new mission and function as the Rock, confirmed by the Bible and elaborated upon by the early Fathers, is to be the symbol and source of Christian unity, a stronghold against the powers of evil (Matt 16:18; 1 Peter 5:8f), and the strengthener and shepherd of his brethren in the true faith (Luke 22:31f; John 21:15ff). While false doctrine and heresy may beat against her (cf. Matt 7:24ff; Eph 4:14; 2 Tim 4:3; 2 Peter 2:1) the Church that Jesus builds cannot fall officially and finally into error since she is "founded on the rock," (Matt 7:25 RSV) namely Simon Peter (16:18). According to Jesus' own promises the Church's leaders will be guided by the Holy Spirit of truth "forever" (John 14:16f; 16:13) and the gates of hell (or powers of death) cannot prevail against Christ's Church, described elsewhere as "God's household... the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15 NIV). The only other place the word "church" is used by Jesus is Matthew 18:17, where we must "listen to" the Church since she has the final say in disputes between Christian brothers. We will discuss more on apostolic authority, succession and infallibility in the chapters "The Primacy of Peter and the Papacy" and "Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium."

In Matthew 16:18, the literalness of the play on words -- a linguistic pun -- is made clear. A pun is a pun because of the literalness of the play on words. This was precisely what Jesus was saying: "You are Rock [Peter], and on this rock I will build My Church." And we know Jesus is speaking of Peter personally (not his confession of faith, not the apostles as a whole, certainly not Jesus Himself) since Jesus addresses Peter in the second person singular ("you") in the following verse: "I will give you (Greek soi) the keys of the kingdom of heaven..." (verse 19). If Jesus were speaking of Himself as the Rock (as McCarthy mistakenly believes), Jesus could have responded: "And I am Jesus, and on this rock I will build My Church...I have the keys of the kingdom..." etc. and left it at that. Of course the play on words would then be destroyed. While it is true Jesus is a Rock (cf. 1 Cor 10:4; 1 Peter 2:4ff) and "owns" the keys, a symbol of authority (cf. Rev 1:18; 3:7), He was clearly giving them to Simon Peter, who would then share in Christ's own authority and stability as the Rock of Christ's Church. Further, the singular "you" appears several times in the immediate context: "Blessed are you... revealed this to you... And I tell you, you are Peter... I will give you... whatever you bind... whatever you loose..." (vs. 17-19 RSV).

Contrary to McCarthy's view, the context argues for equating "this rock" with the closest referent: Peter (whose name means rock, John 1:42). Simon is given a revelation from God, equating Jesus with his Messiahship ("You are the Christ, the Son of the living God..."); Jesus blesses Simon and assigns his new name (Rock), equating Peter with his Rockhood so to speak ("You are Rock, and on this rock [you, Peter] I will build My Church..."). Because of God's sovereign choice and power Peter is selected and upheld to be the unshakeable and immovable Rock of Christ's universal Church; it is not because of Peter's character or anything in Peter the man, who later denies the Lord and at first misunderstands the Christian Gospel, becoming a "stumbling block" (Matt 16:23).

The simplest explanation for why Matthew uses Petros instead of petra for Simon's new name in Greek, is because petra, being (as McCarthy notes) "a feminine noun," is not suitable for a man's name. According to the Protestant scholars I quote below, there is really no difference (even in the Greek) between the two words (petros, petra). They are interchangeable in meaning: Simon Peter is the rock on which the Church is built. Another important exegetical point: Jesus does not say "but on this rock" changing the referent; He says "and on this rock" (Greek kai epi taute te petra) or "this very rock" or "this same rock" (see Robert Sungenis' discussion of the Greek of this passage in Jesus, Peter, and the Keys by Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 23ff). The referent for "this very rock" or "this same rock" must be Peter himself, not anything else.

Jesus' intent becomes crystal clear when we examine the most likely Aramaic in which language Jesus spoke and addressed Peter directly. While this is not crucial to the argument, it is important to show the unmistakable identity of the rock in this passage. In Aramaic there is one word for "rock" (Kepha, transliterated Cephas several times in the New Testament).

'aph 'ena' 'amar-na' lak da'(n)t-(h)uw ke'pha'

and I say - I to thee that-thou-art Cephas

we`'al hade' ke'pha' 'ebneyh le`i(d)tiy

and upon this rock I will build her namely my church

Note that the word for Peter, ke'pha', is the identical word for rock. The rocks are equated: "You are Kepha, and upon this kepha I will build My Church." There is no doubt: Peter is the Rock, and Christ would build His indestructible Church on St. Peter the Apostle personally, to be the foundation stone of His future Church (Matt 16:18; cf. Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church accepts a polyvalent view of this text, as McCarthy "curiously" notes himself (GAR page 375, note 414). The literal interpretation is that Simon alone is the rock of Christ's Church, the Church is built on Peter personally (CCC 881, 586, 552). However, the Catechism also notes that Peter is the unshakeable rock because of his faith in Christ (CCC 552); that the acknowledgement of Christ's divine sonship is the Church's foundation (CCC 442); on the rock of Peter's faith Christ built His Church (CCC 424); and Christ Himself as rock and "chief cornerstone" (1 Peter 2:4ff; 1 Cor 10:4; Eph 2:20) is the foundation (CCC 756). Many of these views can be found in the early Church Fathers as Catholic convert Stephen Ray (Upon This Rock) and former Catholic William Webster (The Matthew 16 Controversy) have pointed out in their books and online debates. Still, this does not deny the literal interpretation and primary meaning of the text is that Christ would build His Church on St. Peter, the Rock (Kepha in Aramaic). This is indeed the prevalent view among Protestant biblical scholars today. We shall examine these next.

Protestant Commentary on Matthew 16:18

Given McCarthy's only reference to a commentary in this section is an old one (G. Campbell Morgan, d. 1945), it appears from his statements on this text he has not read (or simply ignores) any commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew published in the last 50 years or so. The vast majority of modern Protestant exegetes today concede the Catholic position that St. Peter is indeed the Rock on which Christ would build His Church. While not accepting all the Catholic implications or conclusions of Petrine succession and the Papacy, the following Protestant commentators and exegetes (both conservative and liberal) all understand the Apostle Peter himself is "this rock" in Matthew 16:18f. Some of these were published after McCarthy's book (post 1995) so I obviously can't fault him for not knowing about those. But what about the ones widely available well before McCarthy had his book published? It appears they were ignored or simply rejected -- and for good reason since they contradict virtually everything McCarthy asserts about the text. These are listed in no particular order:

D.A. Carson (Protestant Evangelical) --

"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." (Carson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary [Zondervan, 1984], volume 8, page 368, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 17-18)

"The word Peter petros, meaning 'rock,' (Gk 4377) is masculine, and in Jesus' follow-up statement he uses the feminine word petra (Gk 4376). On the basis of this change, many have attempted to avoid identifying Peter as the rock on which Jesus builds his church yet if it were not for Protestant reactions against extremes of Roman Catholic interpretations, it is doubtful whether many would have taken 'rock' to be anything or anyone other than Peter." (Carson, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary [Zondervan, 1994], volume 2, page 78, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 18)

R.T. France (Anglican/Protestant Evangelical) --

"The name Peter means 'Rock', and Jesus played on this meaning to designate Peter as the foundation of the new people of God. His leadership would involve the authority of the steward, whose keys symbolized his responsibility to regulate the affairs of the household. Peter would exercise his leadership by his authority to declare what is and is not permissible in the kingdom of heaven (to bind and to loose have this meaning in rabbinic writings)....It is sometimes suggested that because the word for 'rock' (petra) differs from the name Petros, the 'rock' referred to is not Peter himself but the confession he has just made of Jesus as Messiah. In Aramaic, however, the same term kefa would appear in both places; the change in Greek is due to the fact that petra, the normal word for rock, is feminine in gender, and therefore not suitable as a name for Simon! The echo of Peter's name remains obvious, even in Greek; he is the rock, in the sense outlined above." (France, New Bible Commentary with consulting editors Carson, France, Motyer, Wenham [Intervarsity Press, 1994], page 925, 926)

Oscar Cullmann (Lutheran) from Kittel's Greek standard Theological Dictionary of the New Testament --

"The obvious pun which has made its way into the Gk. text as well suggests a material identity between petra and petros, the more so as it is impossible to differentiate strictly between the meanings of the two words. On the other hand, only the fairly assured Aramaic original of the saying enables us to assert with confidence the formal and material identity between petra and petros: petra = Kepha = petros....Since Peter, the rock of the Church, is thus given by Christ Himself, the master of the house (Is. 22:22; Rev. 3:7), the keys of the kingdom of heaven, he is the human mediator of the resurrection, and he has the task of admitting the people of God into the kingdom of the resurrection...The idea of the Reformers that He is referring to the faith of Peter is quite inconceivable in view of the probably different setting of the story...For there is no reference here to the faith of Peter. Rather, the parallelism of 'thou art Rock' and 'on this rock I will build' shows that the second rock can only be the same as the first. It is thus evident that Jesus is referring to Peter, to whom He has given the name Rock. He appoints Peter, the impulsive, enthusiastic, but not persevering man in the circle, to be the foundation of His ecclesia. To this extent Roman Catholic exegesis is right and all Protestant attempts to evade this interpretation are to be rejected." (Cullmann, article on "Rock" (petros, petra) trans. and ed. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [Eerdmans Publishing, 1968], volume 6, page 98, 107, 108)

Herman Ridderbos (Protestant Evangelical) --

"It is well known that the Greek word (petra) translated 'rock' here is different from the proper name Peter. The slight difference between them has no special importance, however. The most likely explanation for the change from petros ('Peter') to petra is that petra was the normal word for 'rock.' Because the feminine ending of this noun made it unsuitable as a man's name, however, Simon was not called petra but petros. The word petros was not an exact synonym of petra; it literally meant 'stone.' Jesus therefore had to switch to the word petra when He turned from Peter's name to what it meant for the Church. There is no good reason to think that Jesus switched from petros to petra to show that He was not speaking of the man Peter but of his confession as the foundation of the Church. The words 'on this rock [petra]' indeed refer to Peter. Because of the revelation that he had received and the confession that it motivated in him, Peter was appointed by Jesus to lay the foundation of the future church." (Ridderbos, Bible Student's Commentary: Matthew [Zondervan, 1987], page 303 as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 35-36)

Craig Blomberg (Protestant Evangelical) --

"Acknowledging Jesus as The Christ illustrates the appropriateness of Simon's nickname 'Peter' (Petros=rock). This is not the first time Simon has been called Peter (cf. John 1:42 [wherein he is called Cephas]), but it is certainly the most famous. Jesus' declaration, 'You are Peter,' parallels Peter's confession, 'You are the Christ,' as if to say, 'Since you can tell me who I am, I will tell you who you are.' The expression 'this rock' almost certainly refers to Peter, following immediately after his name, just as the words following 'the Christ' in v. 16 applied to Jesus. The play on words in the Greek between Peter's name (Petros) and the word 'rock' (petra) makes sense only if Peter is the rock and if Jesus is about to explain the significance of this identification." (Blomberg, The New American Commentary: Matthew [Broadman, 1992], page 251-252, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 31-32)

William F. Albright and C.S. Mann (from The Anchor Bible series) --

"Rock (Aram. Kepha). This is not a name, but an appellation and a play on words. There is no evidence of Peter or Kephas as a name before Christian times. On building on a rock, or from a rock, cf. Isa 51:1ff; Matt 7:24f. Peter as Rock will be the foundation of the future community (cf. I will build). Jesus, not quoting the OT, here uses Aramaic, not Hebrew, and so uses the only Aramaic word which would serve his purpose. In view of the background of vs. 19 (see below), one must dismiss as confessional interpretation any attempt to see this rock as meaning the faith, or the Messianic confession, of Peter. To deny the pre-eminent position of Peter among the disciples or in the early Christian community is a denial of the evidence. Cf. in this gospel 10:2; 14:28-31; 15:15. The interest in Peter's failures and vacillations does not detract from this pre-eminence; rather, it emphasizes it. Had Peter been a lesser figure his behavior would have been of far less consequence (cf. Gal 2:11ff)." (Albright/Mann, The Anchor Bible: Matthew [Doubleday, 1971], page 195)

Craig S. Keener (Protestant Evangelical) --

"'You are Peter,' Jesus says (16:18), paralleling Peter's 'You are the Christ' (16:16). He then plays on Simon's nickname, 'Peter,' which is roughly the English 'Rocky': Peter is 'rocky,' and on this rock Jesus would build his church (16:18)....Protestants...have sometimes argued that Peter's name in Greek (petros) differs from the Greek term for rock used here (petra)....But by Jesus' day the terms were usually interchangeable, and the original Aramaic form of Peter's nickname that Jesus probably used (kephas) means simply 'rock.' Further, Jesus does not say, 'You are Peter, but on this rock I will build my church'....the copulative kai almost always means 'and'.... Jesus' teaching is the ultimate foundation for disciples (7:24-27; cf. 1 Cor 3:11), but here Peter functions as the foundation rock as the apostles and prophets do in Ephesians 2:20-21....Jesus does not simply assign this role arbitrarily to Peter, however; Peter is the 'rock' because he is the one who confessed Jesus as the Christ in this context (16:15-16)...." (Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew [Eerdmans, 1999], page 426-427)

Francis Wright Beare (Presbyterian/Reformed) --

"The play on words -- 'Peter', this 'rock' -- requires a change in Greek from petros (properly, 'stone') to petra. In Aramaic, the two words would be identical -- Kepha the name given to Peter, transliterated into Greek as Kephas (Gal. 2:9), and kepha, 'rock'. The symbol itself is Hebraic: Abraham is the 'rock' from which Israel was hewn, and in a rabbinic midrash, God finds in him a rock on which he can base and build the world..." (Beare, The Gospel According to Matthew [Harper and Row, 1981], page 355)

Eduard Schweizer (Presbyterian/Reformed) --

"The 'rock' is Peter himself, not his confession. Only on this interpretation does the pun make sense." (Schweizer, The Good News According to Matthew [John Knox Press, 1975], page 341)

Ivor H. Jones (Methodist) --

" 16.18 Peter is the rock on which the new community could be built, as Abraham was described in rabbinic writings as the rock on which God could erect a new world to replace the old....The arguments have raged across the centuries over the phrase 'on this rock' : does it mean on Peter, or on Peter's confession? But the text is clear: Peter was divinely inspired and this was the reason for his new function and the basis of his authorization. His function was to provide for Jesus Christ the beginnings of a stronghold, a people of God, to stand against all the powers of evil and death...They are God's people, the the church they represent God's sovereign power over evil (18.18b) and rely upon a new kind of divine authorization...This authorization is given to Peter; so Peter is not only a stronghold against evil; he also is responsible for giving the community shape and direction." (Jones, The Gospel of Matthew [London: Epworth Press, 1994], page 99)

M. Eugene Boring (Disciples of Christ) --

"16:18, Peter as Rock. Peter is the foundation rock on which Jesus builds the new community. The name 'Peter' means 'stone' or 'rock' (Aramaic Kepha Cepha; Greek petros).... There are no documented instances of anyone's ever being named 'rock' in Aramaic or Greek prior to Simon. Thus English translations should render the word 'stone' or 'rock,' not 'Peter,' which gives the false impression that the word represented a common name and causes the contemporary reader to miss the word play of the passage: 'You are Rock, and on this rock I will build my church.' Peter is here pictured as the foundation of the church....On the basis of Isa 51:1-2 (cf. Matt 3:9), some scholars have seen Peter as here paralleled to Abraham; just as Abram stood at the beginning of the people of God, had his name changed, and was called a rock, so also Peter stands at the beginning of the new people of God and receives the Abrahamic name 'rock' to signify this." (The New Interpreter's Bible [Abingdon Press, 1995], volume 8, page 345)

Thomas G. Long (Presbyterian/Reformed) --

"Since, in the original Greek, Petros and petra both mean 'rock,' it is easy to spot this statement as a pun, a play on words: 'Your name is "Rock," and on this "rock" I will build my church.' Jesus' meaning is plain: Peter is the rock, the foundation, upon which he is going to erect his church...Jesus spoke Aramaic, however, not Greek. In Aramaic, the words for 'Peter' and 'rock' are the same (Kepha)...the most plausible interpretation of the passage is that Jesus is, indeed, pointing to Peter as the foundation stone, the principal leader, of this new people of God...there is much evidence that he also played a primary leadership role in the early Christian church....For the church, the new people of God, Peter was, indeed, the 'rock,' corresponding to Abraham of old, who was 'the rock from which you were hewn' (Isa. 51:1)." (Long, Matthew [Westminster John Knox Press, 1997], page 185, 186)

Richard B. Gardner (Brethren/Mennonite) -- McCarthy, when he sadly left the Catholic Church became part of a Protestant "Brethren" sect --

"The key question here is whether the rock foundation of the church is Peter himself, or something to be distinguished from Peter. If the latter, Jesus could be speaking of Peter's faith, or of the revelation Peter received. It is more likely, however, that the rock on which Jesus promises to build the church is in fact Peter himself, Peter the first disciple (cf. 4:18; 10:2), who represents the whole group of disciples from which the church will be formed. At least four considerations support this view...." (Gardner, Believers Church Bible Commentary: Matthew [Herald Press, 1991], 247)

The four considerations are (1) Peter receives a new name and thus a new identity (cf. Gen 17:5-6, 15-16; 32:27-28); (2) The Aramaic saying lying behind the Greek would use the one word Kepha in both places; (3) The church is built on the foundation of the apostles (Eph 2:20); (4) The OT speaks of Abraham as a rock from which Israel was hewn (Isa 51:1-2). Starting to sound familiar? There are many more such commentaries that agree with this basic position (see Jesus, Peter, and the Keys edited by Scott Butler/Norm Dahlgren/David Hess [Queenship Publishing, 1996]).

Let's summarize what all the Protestant scholars are saying in their commentaries on Matthew 16:18 --

(A) Peter is the Rock, the foundation stone of Jesus' Church, the Church would be built on Peter personally;

(B) Peter's name means Rock (petros or petra in Greek, Kepha or Cephas in Aramaic);

(C) The slight distinction in meaning for the Greek words for Rock (petros, petra) was largely confined to poetry before the time of Jesus and therefore has no special importance;

(D) The Greek words for Rock (petros, petra) by Jesus' day were interchangeable in meaning;

(E) The underlying Aramaic Kepha-kepha of Jesus' words makes the Rock-rock identification certain;

(F) The Greek word petra, being a feminine noun, could not be used for a man's name, so Petros was used;

(G) Only because of past "Protestant bias" was the Peter is Rock identification denied;

(H) The pun or play on words makes sense only if Peter is the Rock;

(I) Jesus says "and on this rock" not "but on this rock" -- the referent is therefore Peter personally;

(J) Verse 19 and the immediate context (singular "you") shows Peter is the Rock of verse 18;

(K) Peter's revelation and confession of Jesus as the Christ parallels Jesus' declaration and identification of Peter as the Rock;

(L) Peter is paralleled to Abraham who also had his name changed, was a Father to God's people, and was called the Rock (Isaiah 51:1-2; cf. Gen 17:5ff).

For all of these reasons, it is difficult to find modern Protestant commentaries today that would support the idea Peter is not "this rock" of Matthew 16:18 (other Protestant scholars who say Peter is the Rock: Henry Alford, John Broadus, Albert Barnes, Robert McAfee Brown, F.F. Bruce, J. Knox Chamblin, W.D. Davies/Dale C. Allison, William Farmer, Michael Green/John R.W. Stott, William Hastings, William Hendriksen, David Hill, Leon Morris, Gerhard Maier, William E. McCumber, Marvin R. Vincent, Stuart K. Weber/Max Anders, and the list goes on). To be fair, a few exceptions are Robert H. Gundry's commentary on Matthew, W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary, Evangelical pastor John MacArthur's commentary (not surprising since MacArthur wrote the Forward to McCarthy's book), and a couple modern anti-Catholic commentaries and authors still trying to stand on the old Protestant polemics (Reformed Baptist apologist James White, former Catholic William Webster, etc). That's about it.

Look To The Rock, Look To Abraham

McCarthy makes a big blunder here:

"The cultural context of the passage also supports interpreting 'this rock' as referring to Jesus in His identity as the Son of God. Matthew wrote his Gospel for a Jewish audience. He expected his readers to be familiar with Old Testament imagery. How would a Jewish reader interpret 'upon this rock' ?" (GAR page 240)

Yes, how would a Jewish person of the time interpret the phrase? McCarthy mistakenly follows an old Protestant book (his only reference to a commentary in this section) by G. Campbell Morgan: "If we trace the figurative use of the word rock through Hebrew Scriptures, we find that it is never used symbolically of man, but always of God" (GAR page 240-1).

Never? He then cites OT verses where God is called a Rock (1 Sam 2:2; Psalm 18:31; Isa 44:8). Apparently, Morgan (and McCarthy following him) has forgotten all about Isaiah 51:1-2 which calls the patriarch Abraham a rock:

"Look to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I call him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many..." (Isa 51:1-2 NIV)

Elsewhere in the prophet Isaiah, God is called the Rock (17:10; 26:4; 30:29; 44:8), so there seems to be no inherent problem with men being rocks or "foundation stones" with God or Jesus (Matt 16:18; Eph 2:19-20; 1 Peter 2:4-8), just as there are shepherds with the One Shepherd (John 10:16; 21:15-17; Acts 20:28; Heb 13:20), bishops with the One Bishop, pastors with the One Pastor of our souls (1 Peter 2:25; 5:2-4; 1 Tim 3:1f; Titus 1:7; Eph 4:11; etc). This is a common theme in the Bible.

The Wider Context?

"The wider context of the New Testament also confirms that Jesus, not Peter, is the rock." (GAR page 241)

McCarthy defines the "wider context" by citing verses where Jesus, the apostles, or believers are called rocks or foundations (1 Peter 2:4-8; Rom 9:33; Eph 2:20; etc). Of course Jesus IS the rock and ultimate foundation (1 Cor 10:4; 3:11), just as God is the Rock of the Old Testament and Catholics affirm that. The Catechism even states:

"The Lord compared himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the corner-stone. On this foundation the Church is built by the apostles and from it the Church receives solidity and unity." (CCC 756, citing Vatican II LG 6)

The so-called "wider context" confirms the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16:18f since only persons are rocks in the Bible, not revelations or confessions of faith. A verse McCarthy neglects: "And on the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Rev 21:14). The twelve Apostles are the foundation stones here as in Ephesians 2:19-20 where the Church is built upon the NT prophets and apostles as foundations, Jesus being the "chief cornerstone." This strongly supports the interpretation that St. Peter the Apostle is the Rock referred to by Jesus in Matthew 16:18, since he is the "foundation stone" on which the universal Church would be built.

The "wider context" -- rather than supporting McCarthy's idiosyncratic views -- shows Simon is called in the NT by his new name Rock (Aramaic Kepha transliterated Cephas in John 1:42; 1 Cor 15:5; Gal 2:9,11,14 RSV), what he was named by Christ Himself. McCarthy acknowledges: "There are even nine places where the Scriptures refer to Peter as Cephas, the Aramaic form of his name" (GAR, page 242) and "Peter's name means rock..." (GAR, page 239). Besides, if Jesus wanted to clearly distinguish Peter from Rock, the word in Greek would be "Lithos" (little rock) not "Petros." However, as Jesus spoke in Aramaic, Kepha then would be the one word behind the "rock" (petros-petra) of Matthew 16:18. McCarthy considers the Aramaic Kepha "speculation" and "conjecture" :

Aramaic Mere Speculation?

"Roman Catholic proponents, aware that Matthew's use of the word petra in the phrase 'upon this rock' does not help their cause, counter by arguing that Jesus taught in Aramaic, not Greek. They claim that when Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 16:18, He did not change His words but repeated Peter's Aramaic name Kepha....What is clear is that Rome's interpretation of Matthew 16:18 cannot bear the scrutiny of close examination. Consequently, Roman Catholic defenders must move the discussion off the inspired page and onto the field of speculation. The inspired New Testament Scriptures were written in Greek, not Aramaic. What Jesus might have said in Aramaic is conjecture...But rather than speculate, why not let the passage speak for itself? When the Holy Spirit inspired the Greek text of the New Testament, He made a dinstinction between Peter (Petros) and the rock (petra). The reason for the difference is clear from the context." (GAR page 242-243)

Again, McCarthy ignores all the Protestant commentary above. What is "clear from the context" is that the supposed "difference" in the two words "has no special importance" (Ridderbos); that the Greek words for rock (petros, petra) were at this time "interchangeable" (Keener, cf. Carson, Cullmann); that petra became petros simply to "preserve the pun" (Carson); and petra being feminine is not suitable for a man's name (Carson, France, Ridderbos); that Jesus no doubt spoke in Aramaic which has one word for rock: Kepha transliterated Cephas (cf. John 1:42; so Carson, France, Cullmann, Blomberg, Albright/Mann, Keener, Beare, Long, etc). Is this "Protestant" speculation and conjecture? Hardly. And these Protestant scholars (both conservative and liberal) agree with prominent Catholic apologists today on the "Aramaic issue" --

"We know that Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Greek. The Greek words 'Peter' (Petros) and 'rock' (petra) would have been the same Aramaic word Kepha (from which we get Cephas). There was no distinction between the two words as Jesus spoke them." (Stephen K. Ray, Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church [Ignatius Press, 1999], page 34-35; Ray goes on to answer McCarthy's "argument" on this very point -- cf. Karl Keating in Catholicism and Fundamentalism [Ignatius, 1988], Butler/Dahlgren/Hess in Jesus, Peter, and the Keys [Queenship, 1996], and Patrick Madrid in Pope Fiction [Basilica Press, 1999])

Further, in the joint Catholic and Lutheran ecumenical study Peter in the New Testament (Augsburg Publishing, 1973), while acknowledging "other interpretations" might be possible looking simply at the Greek alone (e.g. clearly affirming Peter is the Rock, the authors note some of the Church Fathers, in response to Arianism and other heresies, also interpreted "this rock" meaning Peter's confession of faith or occasionally Christ Himself, see Brown/Reumann page 93, footnote 216), the scholars conclude --

"...precisely because of the Aramaic identity of Kepha-kepha, there can be no doubt that the rock on which the church was to be built was Peter. Is this true also for Matthew in whose Greek there is the slight difference Petros/petra? Probably the most common view would be that it is." (Raymond Brown, John Reumann, et al page 92-93)

Since so many commentaries support this, the authors state in a footnote: "It would be pointless to list all the commentaries holding this view [that the Rock is Peter]...." (page 93, footnote 215). The Orthodox study The Primacy of Peter has this to say about the clear Aramaic language of the passage:

"It has long been noticed that Mt 16:17-19 has a Palestinian, Aramaic background. The form of Jesus' reply to Peter's confession appears Hebraistic. There are parallels to the Matthean text in the Qumran literature. The use of semitisms such as 'gates of Hades,' 'flesh and blood,' 'bind and loose,' and semitic parallelism again indicates an Aramaic environment....[Jesus] conferred upon Simon Bar-Jonah the title Peter, and promised that he would build his church upon him. 'You are Peter (Petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church (ecclesia).' These words are spoken in Aramaic, in which Cephas stands both for petros and petra....The confession of Peter, therefore, cannot be separated from Peter himself. Petra or rock does not simply refer to Peter's faith but also to Peter personally. There is a formal and real identity between Petros and petra. Jesus will build the church upon Cephas." (Veselin Kesich, "Peter's Primacy in the New Testament and the Early Tradition" in The Primacy of Peter edited by John Meyendorff [St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1992], page 47,48)

So much for "Roman Catholic" speculation. Is this Eastern Orthodox speculation and conjecture now? (Note: Kesich denies the universal jurisdictional primacy of Peter, but at least concedes he is the Rock based on the Greek and Aramaic of the passage). Because of his anti-Catholic blinders, McCarthy seeks to deny the obvious: Peter is the Rock of Matthew 16:18. If he wants to be an honest and careful student of the Bible, he should at least fall in line with contemporary Evangelical Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox scholarship on the meaning of the text.

Next, we consider the Keys of the Kingdom given to St. Peter in Matthew 16:19.

The Keys of the Kingdom and Dynastic Succession

The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven

Jesus Christ says to St. Peter, using the second person singular (you) --

"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.'" (Matthew 16:19 RSV)

James McCarthy comments --

"The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the keys here represent supreme authority [553]. Peter was to be the head of the apostles and the Church [552-553, 1444-1445]. Keys can indeed represent authority. However, in that no other Scripture confirms that Peter ever exercised supreme authority over the apostles or the church, this interpretation is to be rejected." (GAR page 243)

"Scripture makes no reference to Peter being the Bishop of Rome, ruling the universal church, or having a successor...As for Peter's alleged successors, the New Testament says nothing." (GAR page 253, 254)

As we have already proven that Peter is the Rock of Matthew 16:18, that the universal Church is built on Peter as the foundation stone according to Jesus, let's move on to the authority of the "keys of the kingdom" of Matthew 16:19. First, we need to clear up a few misunderstandings. Obviously God and Christ have supreme or plenary authority in heaven and earth (Matt 28:18ff). McCarthy agrees that "keys" in the Bible represent a symbol for authority. What kind of authority do the keys represent then? Since God and Christ have those keys, then obviously the keys (or "key to the house of David") represent supreme or plenary authority, God's authority (so Rev 3:7; cf. Rev 1:18; Rev 9:1; 20:1; Isa 22:22). Christ always "owns" the "keys" since He indeed has supreme authority in heaven and earth (Matt 28:18ff; Rev 3:7). I do not believe McCarthy would dispute that.

A second point: the Catechism does not use the term "supreme authority" in the paragraph McCarthy cites (CCC 553). The Catechism says here, citing Matthew 16:19 --

553. Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: '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 16:19]. The 'power of the keys' designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: 'Feed my sheep' [John 21:15-17; cf. 10:11]. The power to 'bind and loose' connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles [cf. Matt 18:18] and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.

According to the Catechism in this paragraph, Peter is entrusted with a "specific authority" which is to govern the house of God, and that is confirmed by Jesus Himself in John 21:15ff where Peter is told to feed or rule Christ's sheep. St. Peter as the governor or ruler of the Church is also supported well by the background to Matthew 16:19 (cf. Isaiah 22, the concept of "chief steward" or "prime minister") which is discussed below. The power of binding and loosing, according to the Catechism, further "connotes the authority to absolve sins, pronounce doctrinal judgments, and make disciplinary decisions in the Church." As we will see, this is precisely what is covered by Protestant scholars and exegetes as they interpret the text. So this is a delegated, unique, and specific authority from the Owner of the keys, the Ultimate and Eternal Key-Bearer Christ (Rev 1:18; 3:7) to the apostle Peter (Matt 16:19).

While Peter has a unique or "specific authority" in the Church, does Peter have supreme authority over the Church? Yes. Citing Vatican Council I and II which defined Peter's universal jurisidiction, the formal doctrine of papal infallibility, and the structure of Christ's Church, the Catechism states:

882. The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful." "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."

883. "The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, as its head." As such, this college has "supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff" [cf. Vatican II, LG 22, 23].

So the Bishop of Rome -- known also as the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ, and St. Peter's successor -- is called the "Supreme Pontiff" (CCC 837), the "Supreme Pastor" (CCC 857, 891), and has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, in conjunction with the college of bishops (CCC 882, 883, 937). The Pope is the visible source and foundation of unity in the Catholic Faith (cf. Luke 22:31-32; Eph 4:5) and the bishops of the Church do not have authority unless they are united to the Supreme Pastor, the Pope.

This will be more fully defended from Scripture in the chapter "The Primacy of Peter and the Papacy." We shall cover Peter's ministry in Rome at the end of this section -- McCarthy at least admits "some scholars" conclude Peter did go to Rome and the "Babylon" of 1 Peter 5:13 means Rome, GAR page 254. We can be grateful for these small concessions in such an anti-Catholic fundamentalist book.

Let's get back to the meaning of the authority of the "keys." McCarthy is simply wrong that there is no hint of succession in the passage (Matt 16:17-19) since the background and symbolism of verse 19 (the "keys of the kingdom" with "binding" and "loosing" from Isaiah 22) indeed hints of an office of dynastic succession, and one with incredible authority! McCarthy disagrees and attempts to downplay the power of the "keys" :

"...other figurative references in Scripture to keys specify their significance as being the authority to grant access or to deny access, the power to open or to close (Isaiah 22:22; Luke 11:52; Revelation 3:7,8; 9:1,2; 20:1-3). There are biblical examples of Peter exercising that kind of authority." (GAR page 243)

And what kind of authority is that to grant/deny access and open/close? McCarthy says Peter exercised the authority of the "keys" simply by allowing Gentiles into the universal Church (Acts 10). It was an "authority" for preaching the Gospel and offering the message of salvation. That's all -- but of course any Christian can do that, assuming they have the right Gospel (Gal 1:6-9).

The texts McCarthy cites for his interpretation of the "keys" and "binding/loosing" are Acts 2:14-36; 8:4-25; 9:32-10:48; 14:27. The latter one says the apostles "opened the door of faith to the Gentiles." Does that exhaust the meaning of the keys and the binding/loosing power? Not by a long shot.

McCarthy lists texts in Acts that talk about the apostles preaching the Gospel but ignores the authority they had for correct or orthodox teaching (Acts 1:1ff; 4:18; 5:25,28,42; 15:28,35; 18:11; 28:31; etc). The teaching that Christ gave through His apostles to His Catholic Church was infallible (Luke 10:16; Matt 10:19-20,40; 1 Thess 2:13). "He who hears you, hears Me [Christ]; and he who rejects you, rejects Me [Christ]." That is very clear from the Scriptures. St. Peter, the Rock and foundation of the Church according to Jesus (Matt 16:18; cf. Eph 2:19f; Rev 21:14), was given personally the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" and the power of binding and loosing (Matt 16:19). Later the binding/loosing power was given to the apostles as a whole (Matt 18:18; cf. John 20:21-23). This was rabbinical terminology that what the apostles taught on earth would be confirmed, ratified, sealed by God in heaven. If God and Christ have all authority in heaven and earth (Matt 28:18) and cannot err (Hebrews 6:13-18), neither can God's Church, being Christ's Body on earth endowed with the Holy Spirit of truth (John 16:13; 14:16f) to continue the mission, authority and teaching of Christ and His apostles (see Matt 28:18ff; Luke 10:16; John 14:16f; 16:13; Acts 15:1ff; Eph 3:10; 4:4f,11; 1 Tim 1:3; 3:1ff; 4:11ff; 5:17,22; 6:2f,20; 2 Tim 1:6,13f; 2:2; 4:2; Titus 1:5ff; 2:1,15; 3:1; etc and St. Clement of Rome; St. Ignatius of Antioch; St. Irenaeus of Lyons, etc).

These biblical texts (and the early Church Fathers who all affirm apostolic succession) specifically state that Christ's leaders (Heb 13:7,17) in the universal Church -- the apostles and by extension those they lay hands on, their true successors, the bishops -- have the authority to infallibly teach and define doctrine for the whole Church. That is the real authority of the keys of the kingdom and the power to bind/loose. The Church is "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15 NIV), and we must "listen to the Church" (Matt 18:17; cf. Luke 10:16) and make our appeal to her when there are disputes between Christian brothers. This makes no sense of an "invisible" or "spiritual" Church (which McCarthy would espouse) that ultimately could fall into error and apostasy on doctrine or morals.

Protestant scholars are not as "restrictive" as McCarthy in his interpretation. In fact, they specifically deny that the "keys" or "binding and loosing" refers merely to granting/denying access, to opening/closing. The real meanings behind the terms are much more expansive, and support well the Catholic interpretations of the text.

M. Eugene Boring (Disciples of Christ), commenting on the "keys of the kingdom of heaven," "binding" and "loosing" from Matthew 16:19 --

"The 'kingdom of heaven' is represented by authoritative teaching, the promulgation of authoritative Halakha that lets heaven's power rule in earthly things...Peter's role as holder of the keys is fulfilled now, on earth, as chief teacher of the church....The keeper of the keys has authority within the house as administrator and teacher (cf. Isa 22:20-25, which may have influenced Matthew here). The language of binding and loosing is rabbinic terminology for authoritative teaching, for having the authority to interpret the Torah and apply it to particular cases, declaring what is permitted and what is not permitted. Jesus, who has taught with authority (7:29) and has given his authority to his disciples (10:1, 8), here gives the primary disciple the authority to teach in his name -- to make authoritative decisions pertaining to Christian life as he applies the teaching of Jesus to concrete situations in the life of the church." (Boring, page 346)

Francis Wright Beare (Presbyterian/Reformed) --

"The 'keys' are probably not to be understood as entrance keys, as if to suggest that Peter is authorized to admit or to refuse admission, but rather to the bundle of keys carried by the chief steward, for the opening of rooms and storechambers within the house -- symbols of responsibilities to be exercised within the house of God (cf. Mt 24:45, etc.). 'Bind' and 'loose" are technical terms of the rabbinic vocabulary, denoting the authoritative declaration that an action or course of conduct is permitted or forbidden by the Law of Moses." (Beare, page 355-356)

Eduard Schweizer (Presbyterian/Reformed) --

"In Jewish interpretation, the key of David refers to the teachers of the Law (exiled in Babylon); according to Matthew 23:13, the 'keys of the Kingdom of heaven' are in the hands of the teachers of the Law. A contrast is here drawn between them and Peter. He is thus not the gatekeeper of heaven, but the steward of the Kingdom of heaven upon earth. His function is described in more detail as 'binding and loosing' ....the saying must from the very outset have referred to an authority like that of the teachers of the Law. In this context, 'binding" and 'loosing' refer to the magisterium to declare a commandment binding or not binding....For Matthew, however, there is only one correct interpretation of the Law, that of Jesus. This is accessible to the community through the tradition of Peter...Probably we are dealing here mostly with teaching authority, and always with the understanding that God must ratify what Petrine tradition declares permitted or forbidden in the community." (Schweizer, page 343)

R.T. France (Anglican/Protestant Evangelical) --

"The terms [binding and loosing] thus refer to a teaching function, and more specifically one of making halakhic pronouncements [i.e. relative to laws not written down in the Jewish Scriptures but based on an oral interpretation of them] which are to be 'binding' on the people of God. In that case Peter's 'power of the keys' declared in [Matthew] 16:19 is not so much that of the doorkeeper... but that of the steward (as in Is. 22:22, generally regarded as the Old Testament background to the metaphor of keys here), whose keys of office enable him to regulate the affairs of the household." (R.T. France, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 54)

Joachim Jeremias in an extended passage from Kittel's Greek standard --

"...the key of David is now (3:7) the key which Christ has in His hands as the promised shoot of David. This is the key to God's eternal palace. The meaning of the description is that Christ has unlimited sovereignty over the future world. He alone controls grace and judgment. He decides irrevocably whether a man will have access to the salvation of the last age or whether it will be witheld from him...Materially, then, the keys of the kingdom of God are not different from the key of David...This is confirmed by the fact that in Mt. 16:19, as in Rev. 3:7, Jesus is the One who controls them. But in what sense is the power of the keys given to Peter? ....the handing over of the keys is not just future. It is regarded as taking place now... There are numerous instances to show that in biblical and later Jewish usage handing over the keys implies full authorisation. He who has the keys has full authority. Thus, when Eliakim is given the keys of the palace he is appointed the royal steward (Is. 22:22, cf. 15). When Jesus is said to hold the keys of death and Hades (Rev. 1:18) or the key of David (3:7), this means that He is, not the doorkeeper, but the Lord of the world of the dead and the palace of God...Hence handing over the keys implies appointment to full authority. He who has the keys has on the one side control, e.g., over the council chamber or treasury, cf. Mt. 13:52, and on the other the power to allow or forbid entry, cf. Rev. 3:7...Mt. 23:13 leads us a step further. This passage is particularly important for an understanding of Mt. 16:19 because it is the only one in the NT which presupposes an image not found elsewhere, namely, that of the keys of the kingdom (royal dominion) of God...Mt. 23:13 shows us that the scribes of the time of Jesus claimed to possess the power of the keys in respect of this kingdom...They exercised this by declaring the will of God in Holy Scripture in the form of preaching, teaching and judging. Thereby they opened up for the congregation a way into this acting as spiritual leaders of the congregation....As Lord of the Messianic community He thus transferred the keys of God's royal dominion, i.e. the full authority of proclamation, to Peter...In Rabb. lit. binding and loosing are almost always used in respect of halakhic decisions...The scribe binds (declares to be forbidden) and looses (declares to be permitted)...In Mt. 16:19, then, we are to regard the authority to bind and to loose as judicial. It is the authority to pronounce judgment on unbelievers and to promise forgiveness to believers." (Jeremias from Kittel/Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, volume 3, page 748-751)

The older The Interpreter's Bible --

"19. The keys of the kingdom would be committed to the chief steward in the royal household and with them goes plenary authority. In Isa. 22:22 the key of the house of David is promised to Eliakim. According to Paul, Jesus is the only foundation (I Cor. 3:11), and in Rev. 1:18; 3:7, Jesus possesses the key of David and the keys of death and Hades. But in this passage Peter is made the foundation (cf. Eph. 2:20, where the Christian apostles and prophets are the foundation and Christ is the cornerstone) and holds the keys. Post-Apostolic Christianity is now beginning to ascribe to the apostles the prerogatives of Jesus (cf. 10:40). In rabbinical language to bind and to loose is to declare certain actions forbidden or permitted [a Jewish source Terumoth 5:4 is quoted]...Thus Peter's decisions regarding the O.T. law (e.g., in Acts 10:44-48) will be ratified in heaven." (George Arthur Buttrick, et al The Interpreter's Bible [Abingdon Press, 1951], volume 7, page 453)

Willoughby C. Allen, in a still older commentary that interprets the "rock" of Matthew 16:18 as the "revealed truth" of the Messiahship of Christ, nevertheless writes in his The International Critical Commentary --

"The figure of the gates of Hades suggests the metaphor of the keys. There were keys of Hades, Rev 1:18; cf. 9:1; 20:1. The apocalyptic writer describes the risen Christ as having the keys of Hades, i.e. having power over it, power to enter it, and power to release from it, or to imprison in it. In the same way, 'the kingdom of the heavens' can be likened to a citadel with barred gates. He who held the keys would have power within it, power to admit, power to exclude. In Rev 3:7 this power is held by Christ Himself [quotes Rev 3:7]...The words are modelled on Is 22:22, and express supreme authority. To hold the keys is to have absolute right, which can be contested by none...It would, therefore, be not unexpected if we found the Messiah or Son of Man described as having the keys of the kingdom of the heavens. This would imply that He was supreme within it. But it is surprising to find this power delegated to S. Peter...To S. Peter were to be given the keys of the kingdom. The kingdom is here, as elsewhere in this Gospel, the kingdom to be inaugurated when the Son of Man came upon the clouds of heaven. If S. Peter was to hold supreme authority within it, the other apostles were also to have places of rank...To 'bind' and to 'loose' in Jewish legal terminology are equivalent to 'forbid' and 'allow,' to 'declare forbidden' and to 'declare allowed'...The terms, therefore, describe an authority of a legal nature. If he who has the keys has authority of an administrative nature, he who binds and looses exercises authority of a legislative character....Further, the position of v. 18, with its description of the Church as a fortress impregnable against the attacks of evil (the gates of Hades), suggest irresistibly that 'the keys of the kingdom' mean more than power to open merely, and imply rather authority within the kingdom. And this is confirmed by the 'binding' and 'loosing' which immediately follow...What were the keys thus given? Even if we identify the kingdom with the Church, it is not entirely satisfactory to suppose that the Lord simply foretold that S. Peter was to take a prominent part in the work of opening the door of faith to the Gentiles. His share in that work, though a great, was not an exclusive one....The motive must have been to emphasise the prominence of S. Peter in the Christan body as foretold and sanctioned by Christ Himself...They [the apostles] had left all to follow Christ; but when He sat on the throne of His glory they would sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, 19:18. And amongst them Peter was pre-eminent. He was protos, 10:2." (Allen, The International Critical Commentary [orig 1909, 1985], page 176ff)

Raymond Brown and John Reumann suggest other possible meanings --

"What else might this broader power of the keys include? It might include one or more of the following: baptismal discipline; post-baptismal or penitential discipline; excommunication; exclusion from the eucharist; the communication or refusal of knowledge; legislative powers; and the power of governing." (Brown, Reumann, et al Peter in the New Testament, page 97)

In summarizing the above scholars, the authority of the "keys" and the power of "binding and loosing" stand for the following --

(A) The keys of the kingdom represent authoritative teaching, and Peter's role as holder of the keys is fulfilled now on earth as Christ's chief teacher;

(B) The keeper of the keys, according to the background of Matthew 16:19, has authority within the house as administrator and teacher (cf. Isaiah 22);

(C) The authority of the keys is likened to that of the teachers of the Law in Jesus' day, and the correct interpretation of the Law given by Jesus is accessible to the early community (the Church) through the tradition of Peter;

(D) The authority of the keys of the kingdom (Matt 16:19) are not different from the key of David (Isaiah 22:22; Rev 3:7), since Jesus controls and is in possession of both;

(E) Therefore, the keys (or "key" singular) represent FULL authorization, FULL authority, PLENARY authority, SUPREME authority;

(F) The keys of the kingdom are NOT to be understood as merely entrance keys (or "opening the door of faith" to the Gentiles), but rather to the bundle of keys carried by the chief steward who regulated the affairs of the entire household (cf. Isaiah 22), which in the New Covenant is Christ's universal Church (cf. Matt 16:18; 1 Tim 3:15);

(G) Peter, as holder of the keys, is not merely the "gatekeeper of heaven" or "doorkeeper" but is therefore the Chief Steward of the Kingdom of Heaven (the Church) on earth;

(H) Further, the power of the keys can represent baptismal or penitential discipline, excommunication, exclusion from the Eucharist, legislative powers or the power of governing the affairs of the Church;

(I) The language of "binding" and "loosing" is Rabbinic terminology for authoritative teaching or a teaching function (or "Halakhic" pronouncements), denoting the authoritative declaration that an action is permitted or forbidden by the law of Moses, and in the Church the authority to pronounce judgment on unbelievers and promise forgiveness to believers;

(J) The "binding" and "loosing" refers to the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the early community, which Jesus was establishing through His apostles in His Church) to declare a commandment or teaching binding or not binding, forbidden or allowed, and God in heaven will ratify, seal, or confirm that decision made on earth (cf. Matthew 16:19; 18:18).

Dynastic Succession and Isaiah 22

The key question is (pun intended), was there a succession implied in Christ giving the keys of the kingdom, this enormous authority to Peter? The answer is Yes, notice Isaiah 22:15-25 which many scholars believe is the background to the handing on of the keys from Jesus (the promised Messiah in the Davidic line and kingdom) to Peter (the Chief Steward or Prime Minister of Christ's new Kingdom on earth, the universal Church) :

This is what the Lord, the Lord Almighty, says: "Go, say to this steward, to Shebna, who is in charge of the palace: What are you doing here and who gave you permission to cut out a grave for yourself here, hewing your grave on the height and chiseling your resting place in the rock? Beware, the Lord is about to take firm hold of you and hurl you away, O you mighty man. He will roll you up tightly like a ball and throw you into a large country. There you will die and there your splendid chariots will remain -- you disgrace to your master's house!

"I will depose you from your office, and you will be ousted from your position. In that day I will summon my servant, Eliahim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will be a seat of honor for the house of his father.

"All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots -- all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars. In that day," declares the Lord Almighty, "the peg driven into the firm place will give way; it will be sheared off and will fall, and the load hanging on it will be cut down." The Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 22:15-25 NIV)

[The Evangelical NIV Study Bible notes on Isaiah 22 -- on verse 15: " charge of the palace. A position second only to the king..."; on verse 22: "...key to the house of David. The authority delegated to him by the king, who belongs to David's dynasty -- perhaps controlling entrance into the royal palace. Cf. the 'keys of the kingdom' given to Peter (Mt 16:19) ."]

Even the New International Version, the standard Evangelical (one might say "anti-Catholic") translation recognizes the parallel and connection between Isaiah 22:22 and Matthew 16:19. Thus the prime minister or chief steward of the house of David had successors. He is described as being "over the household" and "in charge of the palace" (Isa 22:15; 36:3; 1 Kings 4:6; 18:3; 2 Kings 10:5; 15:5; 18:18); as for his authority "what he shall open, no one shall shut...and what he shall shut, no one shall open" (Isa 22:22; Matt 16:19; Rev 3:7). The prime minister had an incredible amount of authority, what can only be called a supreme or plenary authority beside that of the King. This is the language of the "keys," "binding," and "loosing" that Jesus was using in Matthew 16:19. Peter was given the "keys" just as the prime minister had the "key to the house of David" (Isa 22:22). And this is important in seeing the parallel to Matthew 16:19 -- the prime minister was an office of dynastic succession (Isa 22:19,22). In other words, when the prime minister or chief steward died, another one would be selected to fill the office and take his place. Thus we have an implicit teaching of apostolic succession (or Petrine succession) in the giving of the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" to St. Peter.

Someone might object: but Jesus has the key of David in Revelation 3:7 ! Of course, but he gives the authority of that key or "keys" (the plural and singular are used interchangeably, cf. Isa 22:22, Matt 16:19; Rev 1:18; 3:7) to Peter, who becomes the chief steward or Prime minister of Christ's earthly kingdom, the Church. The ultimate Rock (1 Cor 3:11; 10:4) makes Peter the Rock of His Church (Matt 16:18), the Eternal Key-Bearer (Rev 3:7) makes Peter the earthly key-bearer (Matt 16:19), the Good Shepherd (John 10) makes Peter the chief earthly shepherd and teacher in His Church (John 21:15-17).

Catholic convert and apologist Stephen Ray brings out the amazing parallels between Matthew 16 and Isaiah 22 (everyone should read his book Upon This Rock for the rich biblical and historical documentation and study he provides) --

"Jesus is intentionally drawing attention to the context of Isaiah's prophecy -- a new steward is being placed over the kingdom of Judah -- as the backdrop for his current appointment of Peter as steward over his kingdom. Jesus ascends the throne of David as the heir and successor of the kings of Israel and Judah, and he too, according to custom and legal precedent, appoints a royal steward over his kingdom. Notice the words used to describe the steward: he has an 'office'; he is 'over the household [vizier]'; 'authority' is committed into his hand; he shall be a 'father' to the people of God; he is given the 'keys' of authority; he has the unquestioned supremacy to open and shut so that no one can oppose him; he is fastened firmly as a peg; he will 'become a throne of honor to his father's house'; and on him will hang the weight of everything in the king's house....The parallels between Peter and Eliakim are striking. The physical kingdom of Israel has been superseded by the spiritual kingdom of God. The office of steward in the old economy is now superseded by the Petrine office with the delegation and handing on of the keys. The office of steward was successive, and so is the Petrine office in the new kingdom." (Stephen K. Ray, Upon This Rock, from "Appendix B: An Old Testament Basis for the Primacy and Succession of St. Peter," page 273-4)

Jesus recognizes the office of prime minister or chief steward ("manager" NIV) in his parables, as one who has been placed in charge and set over the household (Matt 24:45ff; 20:8; Luke 12:42; 16:1ff; cf. Gen 41:40ff; 43:19; 44:4; 45:8ff).

Many biblical scholars and commentaries believe that Isaiah 22 was the background of Jesus' awesome statement to Peter. Along with the evidence already presented, we have these comments from prominent Protestant exegetes. William F. Albright and C.S. Mann are quite certain when they comment on Matthew 16:19 --

"Isaiah 22:15ff undoubtedly lies behind this saying. The keys are the symbol of authority, and Roland de Vaux [Ancient Israel, tr. by John McHugh, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1961] rightly sees here the same authority as that vested in the vizier, the master of the house, the chamberlain, of the royal household in ancient Israel. Eliakim is described as having the same authority in Isaiah; it was Hilkiah's position until he was ousted, and Jotham as regent is also described as 'over the household' [2 Kings 15:5]....It is of considerable importance that in other contexts, when the disciplinary affairs of the community are being discussed [cf. Matt 18:18; John 20:23] the symbol of the keys is absent, since the sayings apply in those instances to a wider circle....The role of Peter as steward of the Kingdom is further explained as being the exercise of administrative authority, as was the case of the OT chamberlain who held the 'keys.' The clauses 'on earth,' 'in heaven', have reference to the permanent character of the steward's work." (Albright/Mann, The Anchor Bible: Matthew, page 196-197)

The Evangelical New Bible Commentary states on Isaiah 22 --

"Eliakim stands in strong contrast to Shebna, over whom he seems to have been promoted when they reappear in 36:3...Godward he is called my servant (20)...manward he will be a father to his community (21)...The key...of David (22) comes in this context of accountability. A key was a substantial object, tucked in the girdle or slung over the shoulder; but the opening words of v. 22...emphasize the God-given responsibility that went with it, to be used in the king's interests. The 'shutting' and 'opening' means the power to make decisions which no one under the king could override. This is the background of the commission to Peter (cf. Mt 16:19) and to the church (cf. Mt 18:18).... Ultimate authority, however, is claimed, in these terms, for Christ himself (cf. Rev 3:7-8)." (NBC page 647)

The ecumenical study Peter in the New Testament comments --

"One suggestion is that the verse [Matt 16:19] is evocative of Isa 22:15-25 where Shebna, prime minister of King Hezekiah of Judah, is deposed and replaced by Eliakim on whose shoulder God places 'the key of David; he shall open...and he shall shut.' The power of the key of the Davidic kingdom is the power to open and to shut, i.e., the prime minister's power to allow or refuse entrance to the palace, which involves access to the king. If this were the background of Matthew's 'keys of the kingdom,' then Peter might be being portrayed as a type of prime minister in the kingdom that Jesus has come to proclaim, and the power of binding and loosing would be a specification of the broader power of allowing or refusing entrance into the kingdom....The prime minister, more literally 'major-domo,' was the man called in Hebrew 'the one who is over the house,' a term borrowed from the Egyptian designation of the chief palace functionary." (Brown, Reumann, et al page 96-97, and footnote referring to Roland DeVaux Ancient Israel)

The Brethren/Mennonite commentary by Richard B. Gardner --

"The image of the keys likely comes from an oracle in Isaiah, which speaks of the installation of a new majordomo or steward in Hezekiah's palace." (Gardner, page 248)

Evangelical scholar F.F. Bruce comments --

"And what about the 'keys of the kingdom' ? The keys of a royal or noble establishment were entrusted to the chief steward or majordomo; he carried them on his shoulder in earlier times, and there they served as a badge of the authority entrusted to him. About 700 B.C. an oracle from God announced that this authority in the royal palace in Jerusalem was to be conferred on a man called Eliakim ....(Isaiah 22:22). So in the new community which Jesus was about to build, Peter would be, so to speak, chief steward." (Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus [Intervarsity Press, 1983], 143-144, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 41)

Just as the prime minister or chief steward (other terms include major domo, grand vizier, royal chamberlain, or palace administrator) had the "keys" and the other ministers did not, the Lord made Peter the prime minister in His visible Church, making him the visible head of the apostles over the Church, giving him the "keys of the kingdom" with a special and unique authority in Matthew 16:18-19. The office of prime minister was one of dynastic succession, and this is the language Jesus borrows from Isaiah 22:15ff. While Protestant scholars (such as those I have cited) typically would try to deny the full Catholic conclusions from the passage, it is clear St. Peter did have successors in the Bishops of Rome. That is how the Catholic Church of the earliest centuries came to understand the ongoing ministry and authority of Peter in the Church (the Bishop of Rome was the "Chair [or See] of Peter" or simply "the Apostolic See"). The biblical and historical evidence for the unique primacy of Peter and the Bishop of Rome will be discussed in the chapter on "The Primacy of Peter and the Papacy."

Concerning McCarthy's statement that "Scripture makes no reference to Peter...having a for Peter's alleged successors, the New Testament says nothing..." (GAR page 253, 254) -- if he means explicit direct reference to such things, then the same can be said for a collection of writings later to be canonized called "the New Testament." Nowhere is that affirmed in the Bible. Further, neither is it mentioned in Scripture that these collected writings should become (sometime in the future? if so, when?) "the sole infallible rule of faith."

Similar things could be said for the Eucharist or Lord's Supper: the Bible makes no reference to the Eucharist being continued in the Church. The command (suggestion?) "do this in remembrance of Me" was said only to the apostles and, while the apostles were alive, people celebrated the Eucharist. Dave Palm, the Evangelical convert to Catholicism, notes the double standard applied by Protestant scholars who deny any form of apostolic succession::

"....there has not been nearly enough self-reflection on the part of Protestants on just how they determine the ongoing applicability of other texts of Scripture. For example, the vast majority of Protestant denominations continue to practice the Lord's Supper. But where is the explicit Scripture text telling them that they should do this? There is none. ...[A]ccording to the way Protestant apologists counter various Catholic arguments [for the Papacy] this doesn't prove anything ["do this in remembrance of Me"], since this was said only to the Apostles.... Now just because one local congregation with direct ties to apostolic instruction celebrated the Lord's Supper, this does not prove that any other congregation should or that it would extend beyond the time of the Apostles. And I could argue, in a similar fashion, that the idea of the supremacy of Peter and his successors goes back to the Apostles and hence to Jesus, since the same church at Corinth, when disturbed by a local schism, appealed to Clement, the bishop of Rome, who himself is widely acknowledged to be a direct witness of the Apostolic teaching." (Dave Palm, in an online article "James White vs. Jesus, Peter, and the Keys" June 13, 1997)

What about baptism, perhaps there is no "physical" water baptism today but only a "Spirit" baptism (as ultradispensationalists believe, they accept only Paul's epistles as applicable to Christians today). Further, the Bible says nothing about churches being built, perhaps we should only meet in homes (Acts 2:46; 8:3; Rom 16:3,5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Philem 2).

So let's turn this around: As for the New Testament canon, the New Testament says nothing. As for Sola Scriptura, the Scriptures say nothing (we'll see the Scriptures contradict this concept in the chapter on "Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium"). As for McCarthy's Protestant fundamentalist ideas, except those where he already agrees with the Catholic Church (the Nicene Creed and the Councils of Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon on the person of Christ), the Bible says nothing (despite all his so-called "Biblical Responses").

The Bible is not explicit about A LOT of doctrines and beliefs: the Holy Trinity, the hypostatic union of the two natures in one divine Person of Christ, how the Church is to conduct worship or liturgy (Acts 2:42), her prayers, devotions, and morality especially in today's advanced "tech" age, etc. Many Christian doctrines (that even anti-Catholic fundamentalists like McCarthy would accept) took centuries of reflection in the life of the Church, and were established, practiced, and developed in the Church that Jesus promised was indefectible, that she would never fall away from the true Faith because of the presence of the Spirit of truth in her (John 14:16f; 16:13; 1 Cor 12:12ff; Eph 4:4ff; Matt 28:20). Christian and orthodox doctrines and practices were developed and hammered out centuries later by the early Church Fathers, the first Catholic Bishops and Saints who McCarthy seems to despise since he ignores them all through his book (his section on the Assumption being the only exception).

The Bible is explicit that Christ's Church would continue until the end of time, and built on Peter the Rock, nothing could destroy it (Matt 16:18); that the Holy Spirit of truth is promised to remain in the Church "forever" guiding the leaders of the Church "into all truth" (John 14:16f; 16:13; Heb 13:7,17); and that Jesus promised He would remain with His Church, called "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15 NIV), to ensure faithfulness to His teaching (Matt 28:18-20). That teaching has always been maintained as true and orthodox Christian teaching by those bishops who, as the true successors of the apostles, were in communion with the Bishop of Rome, who was seen early on as the successor of the Apostle Peter, the Rock of Christ's Church, the receiver of the unique authority of the Keys. We'll discuss the biblical and historical evidence for apostolic succession in the next chapter.

From Anglican scholar J.N.D. Kelly The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1986) under Peter, St, Apostle (page 5-6)

"The papacy, through successive popes and councils, has always traced its origins and title-deeds to the unique commission reported to have been given by Jesus Christ to Peter, the chief of his Apostles, later to be martyred when organizing the earliest group of Christians at Rome....According to Matt 16:13-20, when Jesus asked the disciples whom they took him to be, Simon answered for them all that he was the Messiah, the Son of the living God; in reply Jesus pronounced him blessed because of this inspired insight, bestowed on him the Aramaic name Cephas (= 'rock'), rendered Peter in Greek, and declared that he would build his indestructible church on 'this rock', and would give him 'the keys of the kingdom of heaven' and the powers of 'binding and loosing' ....

"[In the first half of Acts]...Peter was the undisputed leader of the youthful church. It was he who presided over the choice of a successor to Judas (1:15-26), who explained to the crowd the meaning of Pentecost (2:14-40), who healed the lame beggar at the Temple (3:1-10), who pronounced sentence on Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11), and who opened the church to Gentiles by having Cornelius baptized without undergoing circumcision (10:9-48). He was to the fore in preaching, defending the new movement, working miracles of healing, and visiting newly established Christian communities...

"It seems certain that Peter spent his closing years in Rome. Although the NT appears silent about such a stay, it is supported by 1 Peter 5:13, where 'Babylon' is a code-name for Rome, and by the strong case for linking the Gospel of Mark, who as Peter's companion (1 Pet 5:13) is said to have derived its substance from him, with Rome. To early writers like Clement of Rome (c. 95), Ignatius of Antioch (c. 107), and Irenaeus (c. 180) it was common knowledge that he worked and died in Rome."

On Matthew 18:18

"The second part of Matthew 16:19 provides further information about the kind of authority that Peter was to exercise. There it speaks of Peter having the authority to 'bind' or to 'loose.' Christ gave this same authority to all the disciples in Matthew 18:18. The context there is church discipline....In that this is the same promise that Christ gave earlier to Peter, it is reasonable to conclude that the two passages are speaking about the same kind and degree of authority." (GAR page 244)

my response here

more text here how does "church discipline" work in MC'S church? Can not one simply go to another Fundamentalist church when they disagree in doctrine with MC or his pastor?

M. Eugene Boring (Disciples of Christ) comments --

"In 18:18, similar authority is given to the church as a whole...such application of Jesus' teaching is the task of the whole community of disciples, with Peter having a special responsibility as chief teacher as well as representative and model." (page 346)


Next we shall examine the evidence for the Primacy of Peter and the Pope from the Bible and early Church history.

The Primacy of Peter and the Papacy

The Leadership and Headship of Peter

"There is no dispute as to whether or not Peter played an important role during Jesus' earthly ministry and in the early church. As an apostle, he had authority...In many ways he was the dominant figure among the apostles. There is no evidence, however, that Peter ruled the apostles or had supreme authority over the early church....In summary, when Peter's life is considered as a whole, it is evident that though Peter was a leader among the apostles and the early church, he was not the supreme leader over the apostles and the early church. The Lord Jesus was the head of the apostles (John 13:13), and the Lord Jesus, according to the Bible, is the head of the universal church [citing Col 1:18]...Primacy belongs to Jesus alone!" (GAR page 246, 248)

McCarthy concedes that St. Peter played an important role in the early church, that "as an apostle, he had authority." Okay, what kind of "authority" did Peter have "as an apostle" ? (We'll cover this in the next chapter when we discuss "Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium." McCarthy does not even believe the apostles were infallible in their teaching, except in the NT writings, which incidentally were not all written by apostles).

Of course Catholics do not dispute Christ is the head of the Church, called the Body of Christ (Col 1:18, etc) more text here quote Catechism para 792 on Christ being Head more text here... In Colossians Christ is called the "prototokos" (the "firstborn" Col 1:15,18), while in Matthew Peter is called the "protos" ("first Peter" Matt 10:2).

McCarthy admits that Peter was "the dominant figure among the apostles." However, McCarthy objects to Peter being "the supreme leader over the apostles and the early church." Okay, what about Peter being the supreme leader among the apostles and the early church, rather than "lording over" the apostles (McCarthy quoted 1 Peter 5:3 to this effect) ? Is this just a matter of terminology? Does Peter have to "boss" the other apostles around to demonstrate he was the supreme leader, the chief or head among the apostles? In fact, his prominence and preeminance among the apostles is shown throughout the Gospels, while his leadership and headship in the early church is seen in the Acts of the Apostles, where Peter clearly takes the dominant role as chief shepherd on earth, fulfilling Jesus' statement to him in John 21:15-17, leading, ruling, guiding the infant church. This cannot be denied according to Protestant, Orthodox, even Jewish scholars: "To deny the pre-eminent position of Peter among the disciples or in the early Christian community is a denial of the evidence" (Albright/Mann, Matthew, page 195); "...Peter was the undisputed leader of the youthful church." (JND Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, page 5); " is, of course, a matter of historic fact that Peter was the acknowledged leader of the group of disciples, and of the developing church in its early years" (R.T. France, The Gospel According to Matthew, page 254 as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 36); "The authority of Peter is to be over the Church, and this authority is represented by the keys" (S.T. Lachs, A Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament, page 256 as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 53); "Peter's role as holder of the keys is fulfilled now, on earth, as chief teacher of the church" (M. Eugene Boring, The New Interpreter's Bible, volume 8, page 346);


more text here

Shepherd My Sheep

Jesus Christ says to Simon Peter --

When they had finished breaking fast, 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." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." 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." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved 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. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go." (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, "Follow me." (John 21:15-19 RSV)

Attempting to rebut the Catholic conclusions of Petrine primacy and authority from this passage, McCarthy comments --

"The word translated 'shepherd' means to care for, protect, and nurture. It can mean to lead, to guide, and even to rule. But nothing in the context of John 21:1-23 would indicate that Jesus was asking Peter to do anything more than to care for His sheep -- that is, to show pastoral concern for those who would become Christians." (GAR page 245)

To "show pastoral concern" is what the Pope does, by leading, guiding, ruling Christ's sheep (which must mean the universal or Catholic Church, Christ's Church). There is nothing in the context of John 21 that anyone else was singled out by Jesus Christ Himself to be the shepherd of His sheep, to lead, to guide, to rule His sheep either. St. Peter is the one singled out! Why? Has this no significance for the ongoing administration of the early church? Considering Jesus earlier told Peter he would build His Church on Simon the Rock, would give him the "keys of the kingdom," and the gates of hell (or powers of death) would never overcome His Church (that His universal or Catholic Church was indestructible or indefectible, the Church would last to the end of time), this is indeed quite significant.

COMMENT on "love me MORE than these" which implies Peter preeminence and Jesus singles him out ETC

Brown and Reumann comment on John 21:15-17 --

"The threefold command to feed the sheep also seems to imply an authority over the sheep, especially if we recall that in the Old Testament the king was described as a shepherd [cf. Ezek 34]... It is a pastoral authority that is rooted in Simon Peter's love for Jesus...It is a pastoral authority that does not make the sheep belong to Simon -- he is instructed to feed Jesus' sheep. It is a pastoral authority that...puts the primary obligation on Simon, not on the sheep: he has to lead them out to pasture; he has to protect them; he has to lay down his life for them...The commands in John 21:15-17 use two Greek verbs for 'feed' in the sequence: boskein, poimainein, boskein. In the Greek Bible both these verbs translate Hebrew ra ah, 'to feed, pasture,' ...Nevertheless, poimainein covers a somewhat broader field of meaning, for it describes not only feeding the flock, but also guarding and guiding them; equivalenty it can mean 'to rule, govern' (II Sam 7:7; Ps 2:9; Matt 2:6). Note the distinction in Philo, Quod deterius VIII 25: 'Those who feed [boskein] supply nourishment...but those who tend [poimainein] have the powers of rulers and governors.'" (Peter in the New Testament, page 142-143, footnote 305)


McCarthy states, thinking this somehow contradicts the Catholic understanding: "The seven other uses of the word [Greek word to tend, feed, shepherd] in the New Testament refer to tending or feeding swine!" (GAR, page 244). The answser is: of course since the swine herders have authority over the swine! Rather than contradicting the Catholic teaching, this lexical point strongly supports it! This is not to say Catholics or Christians in general are swine, but those who make the kind of illogical anti-Catholic arguments McCarthy does might qualify.

Fellow Elder

"[Peter] describes himself not as the supreme shepherd but as 'your fellow elder' (1 Peter 5:1). Peter explicitly forbids anyone from 'lording' (1 Peter 5:3) authority over other Christians. He identifies the 'Chief Shepherd' (1 Peter 5:4) not as himself, but as the Lord Jesus Christ." (GAR page 245)

my response here -- NOTE servant of the servants of God is the title for the Pope given in the intro to the Catechism and NOTE lording over authority is not Catholic teaching of the Pope

Brown and Reumann comment on "fellow presbyter/elder" --

"We should not be deceived by this modest stance as if the author were presenting himself as their equal. He has already identified his authority as apostolic (1:1); and so the use of 'fellow presbyter' is a polite strategem of benevolence, somewhat as when a modern bishop of a diocese addresses his 'fellow priests.'" (Peter in the New Testament, page 152)

Patrick Madrid makes this interesting observation on Peter's humility --

"Does his humility in 1 Peter 5 signal that he was unaware of his special role as chief of the Apostles? Is it possible that he had no idea that Christ had conferred on him a unique authroity? ... Since he was cautioning his Christian audience to be humble, it makes perfect sense that he would take his own advice and, setting an example for them, speak of himself in humble terms." (Madrid, Pope Fiction [Basilica Press, 1999], page 33)

Madrid also notes that St. Paul the great Apostle (2 Cor 12:11), who "opposed [Peter] to his face" (Gal 2:11ff -- a passage which curiously McCarthy ignores in his book, so I will not discuss it either), called himself a mere deacon (cf. 1 Cor 3:5; 4:1; 2 Cor 3:6; 6:4; 11:23; Eph 3:7; Col 1:23,25; see Madrid, page 34-35). Does this mean Paul is only a deacon with no apostolic authority? Hardly.

While McCarthy covers some of the NT proofs for Peter's primacy (some are valid: Peter played a key role [pun intended] in many events -- some not so valid: Peter only wrote 2 NT epistles), let's cover more fully the evidence for St. Peter's dominance, prominence, preeminance, primacy (whatever you wish to call it) in the New Testament and primacy among the apostles and the early church.

more text here

Peter's Primacy in the New Testament

PETER/SIMON is named 195 times in the New Testament. John is second at a mere 29 times.

PETER always is named FIRST in the list of apostles. "Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: FIRST [protos] SIMON, who is called PETER...." (Matt 10:2ff; cf. Mark 3:14ff; Luke 6:13ff; Acts 1:13)

PETER is spoken of as the HEAD apostle/disciple -- "And SIMON and those who were with him..." (Mark 1:36), "But go, tell His disciples -- AND PETER..." (Mark 16:7), "But PETER and those with him [James and John]..." (Luke 9:32), "But PETER and the other apostles answered..." (Acts 5:29).

PETER is the spokesman for all the apostles (Mt 18:21; Mk 8:29; Mk 10:28; Lk 12:41; Jn 6:68).

PETER is prominently featured in all the dramatic scenes -- Walking on the water (Mt 14:28ff), Paying the temple tax (Mt 17:24ff), Catching the fish (Luke 5:3ff), Raising Jairus' daughter (Mt 9:18ff), Transfiguration (Mt 17:1ff; 2 Peter 1:16ff), Agony in the Garden (Mt 26:37).

PETER is FIRST to enter the empty tomb and the FIRST disciple to whom the Lord appeared (Lk 24:12,34; 1 Cor 15:5; Mk 16:7; Jn 20:2ff).

PETER is the "UNDISPUTED LEADER" (Kelly) of the Christian church in the book of Acts -- Choosing a successor for Judas (1:15ff), Preaching first sermon at Pentecost (2:14ff), Healing the beggar at the Temple (3:1ff), Sentencing Ananias/Sapphira (5:1ff), Receiving special vision/Gentile Cornelius (Acts 10).

SIMON is called ROCK (Aramaic Cephas) by Christ and His apostles indicating that PETER is the foundation stone of the Church (Matt 16:18f; John 1:42; 1 Cor 15:5; Gal 1:18; 2:9; cf. Isaiah 51:1f; Matt 7:24f; Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14)

In three very significant passages, PETER is singled out by Christ: as the one whose faith would not fail and to strengthen his brethren (Lk 22:31-32), as the one who is to shepherd, feed, tend His sheep (Jn 21:15-17), as the one on whom the Church would be built against which the gates of hell would never prevail and to whom was given the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 16:18-19; cf. Isa 22:15ff).

To quote Protestant scholar and archaeologist W.F. Albright again -- "To deny the PRE-EMINENT position of PETER among the disciples or in the early Christian community is a DENIAL of the evidence."

more text here

Excursus: Call No Man Father?

"[Commenting on Matthew 23:8-11]...The Roman Catholic Church has organized and titled its hierarchy with total disregard for these commands." (GAR page 248)

McCarthy then notes that abbot means father, Doctor is Latin for teacher, priests are called Father, and the Pope is called the "Holy Father" etc.... response here this is a dumb argument refute McCarthy with commentary on Matt 23:9

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Apostolic Succession, The Bishops are the Apostles' Successors

"In making such claims [of apostolic succession], however, Catholic scholars go beyond what is written in Scripture. In Matthew 16:18 Christ promised that His church would prevail. He said nothing about accomplishing that goal through apostolic succession...Jesus told His apostles to go and 'make disciples of all the nations' (Matthew 28:19), not to go and appoint bishops over all dioceses...Timothy was to pass on the truths and skills that Paul had taught him. The passage [2 Tim 2:2] says nothing about Paul passing his powers on to Timothy, or of Timothy passing on these powers and the office of bishop to others....Scripture never identifies Timothy or Titus as bishops. Nowhere do we find them (or anyone else, for that matter), meeting with a college of bishops and ruling the universal church....Nowhere does the Bible teach that the apostles ruled the universal church. According to the Scriptures, Christ rules the church (Colossians 1:18)...." (GAR page 250,251,252)

In his reply to the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession, McCarthy makes some astounding counter claims! Most of them are easily refuted from Scripture. There is no question Jesus Christ is the head of His body the Church (Col 1:18; MORE VERSES). Christ rules the church. Catholics agree (CCC paragraphs 792, 807, 858ff). Now the question: HOW does Christ, since His ascension to heaven, rule the church today? Through what means? Is there any evidence Christ rules the church today by James McCarthy reading his Bible and telling Catholics what to believe? The answer is a resounding NO (we'll discuss Sola Scriptura in the next section). However, there is overwhelming evidence Christ rules the Church through His selected apostles and through the early Catholic bishops succeeding them to this day. If this is not how Christ rules His Church, then Christ's promise is false and the gates of hell did prevail on His Church (Matt 16:18) -- as defined and interpreted by James McCarthy -- since McCarthy's idea of a "church" without bishops and without apostolic succession (as he interprets the New Testament) disappeared by the second century (we'll discuss this in detail below and in the next chapter).

Let's clarify what Catholics mean by "apostolic succession." I'll quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church --

860. In the office of the apostles there is one aspect that cannot be transmitted: to be the chosen witnesses of the Lord's Resurrection and so the foundation stones of the Church [cf. Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14]. But their office also has a permament aspect. Christ promised to remain with them always [Matt 28:20]. The divine mission entrusted by Jesus to them "will continue to the end of time, since the Gospel they handed on is the lasting source of all life for the Church. Therefore...the apostles took care to appoint successors" [Vatican II LG 20].

861. [contains the early quote on apostolic succession from Clement of Rome Ad Cor 42,44]

862. "Just as the office which the Lord confided to Peter alone, as first of the apostles, destined to be transmitted to his successors, is a permament one, so also endures the office, which the apostles received, of shepherding the Church, a charge destined to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops" [LG 20]. Hence the Church teaches that "the bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent Christ" [LG 20].

deal with 2 Tim 2:2, Acts 1:20, perpetuation of the apostles ministry and the Church, as I was sent, so I send you John 13 Luke 10:17 Matt 10:40 ETC.... apostles, bishops, presbyters, deacons, ETC.... discuss fluidity in terminology

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The APOSTLE Paul wrote to BISHOP Timothy, one of the first bishops (episkopos -- cf. 1 Tim 3:1ff; Titus 1:7ff), and COMMANDED him to "TEACH and exhort these things" (1 Tim 6:2ff; cf. 1:3ff; 4:6,11-16; 2 Tim 4:2; Titus 2:15) and "if anyone TEACHES OTHERWISE and does not consent to wholesome words, even the WORDS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, and to the doctrine...." they are to be ignored. Although the bishops did not have the Spirit INSPIRATION of the apostles (Matt 10:19-20; 1 Cor 2:4,7,13) they did have apostolic AUTHORITY to teach. Therefore, to HEAR the bishop is to HEAR the Apostle who spoke for Christ (2 Cor 13:3; cf. Luke 10:16). More on this below. Paul said nothing to Timothy about going by "Scripture ALONE" but said Scripture is inspired and profitable (2 Tim 3:16) and what Paul taught Timothy ORALLY should also be held fast to and passed on (2 Tim 1:13-14; 2:2; cf. 1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15).

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the "formal principle" of the Protestant Reformation, sola scriptura. I say give me biblical evidence for sola scriptura -- there is none whatsoever. Therefore, according to its own criteria, the principle itself should be rejected. Also, since Scripture ALONE cannot tell us infallibly what books BELONG in the Bible, the Protestant principle is also illogical and incoherent. You have no way to determine your biblical canon. The Catholic position is Scripture AND Tradition (2 Thess 2:15) BOTH maintained by the authority of the Church to which Christ says we must LISTEN (Mt 16:18-19; 18:17-18; Lk 10:16; Rom 10:14-17) as "THE PILLAR AND FOUNDATION OF THE TRUTH" (1 Tim 3:15). This IS biblical.

Christ gave divine authority to His apostles (Mt 10:19-20,40; 28:18-20; Acts 15:1ff) who in turn appointed successors to teach what the apostles taught and hand down that tradition faithfully (2 Tim 1:13-14; 2:2; Titus 1:3,9; cf. 1 Cor 15:2-3; 2 Thess 2:15).

Paul also implies dynastic succession in the Pastoral epistles. Both Timothy and Titus, two of the first bishops, are called his "true sons in the faith" (1 Tim 1:2,18; 2 Tim 1:2; 2:1; Titus 1:4; cf. 1 Cor 4:17; Phil 2:22) since the succession to office was conceived of as dynastic succession and filial inheritance. To Timothy and Titus Paul passed on his teaching authority (1 Tim 1:3; 4:6,11-16; 2 Tim 1:13-14; 2:2; 4:2; Titus 1:9; 2:15; 3:10-11) which was transacted in an official ceremony (2 Tim 1:6; 1 Tim 4:14).

Paul refers to both Timothy and Titus as his "true sons in the faith" (1 Tim 1:2; Titus 1:4) indicating that succession to office was one of dynastic succession based on filial inheritance. Paul passed on his apostolic teaching authority (1 Tim 1:3; 4:6,11-16; 6:2-3,20f; 2 Tim 4:2; Titus 1:5ff; 2:1,15; 3:10-11; cf. Heb 13:7,17). This succession was transacted in an official ceremony (1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6).

In addition, see Acts 1:15-26 where Peter directs the apostles to select a successor to Judas. Verse 20 reads "Let another take his office." The word "office" is the Greek word episkope where we get the word for episcopacy or bishop. This gives a biblical basis for apostolic succession, the bishops being the successors to the apostles in general, while the Pope (the Bishop of Rome) being the successor to Peter. Your whole argument against apostolic succession (my appeal to Acts 1:20 -- "Let another take his OFFICE") was that v. 21-22 rules out anyone who is not a direct eyewitness of Christ's resurrection. I would counter with -- this was not meant to be a perpetual requirement.

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McCarthy glibly comments on the appeal to Acts 1:20 in an endnote:

"The Roman Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession is the belief that the apostles ordained bishops as their successors and gave to them their threefold power of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling. It is not the belief that the bishops are new apostles [860]. The Church, therefore, does not appeal to Acts 1:15-26, the choosing of Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot as one of the Twelve, to substantiate its claims." (GAR, page 375, note 419)

First, the word used in Acts 1:20 for "office" is episkopen which is the word for "bishop" -- not apostolos, the word for "apostle." And Paul who is called an "apostle" (Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 9:1-2; 15:9; 1 Tim 2:7) was certainly not one who "accompanied us all the time" with Christ. The word "apostle" also has a wider meaning (Acts 14:4,14; Rom 16:7; 2 Cor 8:23 "apostles of the churches"; Phil 2:25 "your apostle" RV).

Second, Timothy, a young bishop (1 Tim 4:12; 2 Tim 1:6) and companion of Paul (Acts 16:1-3), and Silvanus, also Paul's traveling companion (1 Thess 1:1) are identified as "apostles" in 1 Thess 2:6 -- "we might have made demands as apostles of Christ" indicating these two shared Paul's own apostolic authority to teach, exhort, and govern. Paul uses the pronouns "we" and "our" throughout this epistle (2:3; 4:1) emphasizing the role Timothy and Sylvanus had in exhorting the Thessalonians. That bishops (episkopos) are the true successors of the apostles is thus a biblical concept (Acts 1:20).

The authority of bishops as the successors to the apostles was recognized very early in Church history by the immediate disciples of the apostles. Here I'll quote some Church Fathers. The Catholic position is shown to be both biblical and historical as well as logically coherent. These same bishops are the ones who gave us our biblical canon based on the tradition they received.

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St. Clement of Rome (c. 80-96 A.D.)

"The Apostles received the gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; and Jesus Christ was sent from God. Christ, therefore, is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both of these orderly arrangements, then, are by God's will....Through countryside and city they preached; and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty: for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier....Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned, and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry." (Letter to the Corinthians 42:1-5; 44:1-2)

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St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110 A.D.)

"For Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the will of the Father, just as the bishops, who have been appointed throughout the world, are the will of Jesus Christ....It is fitting, therefore, that you should live in harmony with the will of the bishop...." (Letter to the Ephesians 3:2; 4:1)

"Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the Apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest."

"Take care, therefore, to be confirmed in the decrees of the Lord and of the Apostles, in order that in everything you do, you may prosper... Be subject to the bishop and to one another, as Jesus Christ was subject to the Father, and the Apostles were subject to Christ and to the Father; so that there may be unity in both body and in spirit." (Letter to the Magnesians 6:1; 13:1-2)

"It is necessary, therefore -- and such is your practice -- that you do nothing without the bishop, and that you be subject also to the presbytery, as to the Apostles of Jesus Christ our hope, in whom we shall be found, if we live in Him."

"In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of Apostles. Without these, IT CANNOT BE CALLED A CHURCH." (Letter to the Trallians 2:2; 3:1)

"You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as you would the Apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God. Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, THERE IS THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. Nor is it permitted without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate the agape; but whatever he approve, this too is pleasing to God, so that whatever is done will be secure and valid." (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8:1-2)

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St. Irenaeus (c. 180 A.D.)

"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. For if the Apostles had known hidden mysteries which they taught to the elite secretly and apart from the rest, they would have handed them down especially to those very ones to whom they were committing the self-same Churches. For surely they wished all those and their successors to be perfect and without reproach, to whom they handed on their authority.

"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. FOR 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."

[then follows a list of successors to Peter as bishops of Rome] (Against Heresies 3:3:1-3)

"It is necessary to obey those who are the presbyters in the Church, those who, as we have shown, have succession from the Apostles; those who have received, with the succession of the episcopate, the sure charism of truth according to the good pleasure of the Father." (Against Heresies 4:26:2)

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Petrine Primacy and Succession, The Pope is Peter's Successor

"The Roman Catholic Church does not offer even a single scriptural argument to substantiate its claim that the Bishop of Rome is Peter's successor and thereby the Pope. It cannot, for there is none. Instead, it must again resort to human reasoning and conjecture... The papacy as it is known today took centuries to develop. Its origin can be found in the emergence of bishops in the second century and events which took place in the political structure of the Roman Empire during the fourth and fifth centuries.... During the second and third centuries two significant developments took place. First, over some communities a single bishop emerged as the primary leader...During the fourth century, imperial favor raised the power and prestige of the bishops to even greater heights...By the fifth century, bishops were the chief teachers and unchallenged leaders of the church. The stage was now set for one patriarch, the Bishop of Rome, to claim jurisdiction over the entire church. This development however, would take yet more time to evolve." (GAR page 252, 255, 256)

Here McCarthy attempts to push the authority of bishops and Popes further and further into the future to support his claims of a total apostasy from the supposed Protestant Fundamentalism of the original apostles. He thus dishonestly exaggerates the actual evidence. What does the evidence from history really show us?

response here 2nd century -- 2nd and 3rd centuries -- fourth and fifth century -- etc summarize the evidence for the Papacy from 2nd to 5th very briefly

Michael Walsh's comment (GAR, page 255) that there was no explicit early papacy during the first 500 years: "Papal authority as it is now exercised, with its accompanying doctrine of papal infallibility, cannot be found in theories about the papal role expressed by early Popes and other Christians during the first 500 years of Christianity..."

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The key phrase, however, is "as it is now exercised..." There was no doubt a development of doctrine which led up to the final definition of papal infallibility in 1870 at Vatican Council I.

Bruce Shelley's comment (GAR, page 256-257) : "Up to the time of Constantine history offers no conclusive evidence that the bishop of Rome exercised jurisdiction outside of Rome. Honor, yes; jurisdiction, no" -- depends on what is meant by "conclusive evidence" ETC How "conclusive" does the evidence have to be?

The quote from Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley (Word, 1982, 1995) -- "Our primary concern, however, is neither the vindication nor the refutation of the Roman Catholic claims. It is a survey of Christian history" (page 133). Shelley recognizes the honor give to Rome (page 134) with a reputation for orthodoxy and charity. He notes Irenaeus and the apostolic succession in the bishops of Rome, and some disagreements (e.g. Cyprian), and then says: "Up to the time of Constantine history offers no conclusive evidence that the bishop of Rome exercised jurisdiction outside of Rome. Honor, yes; jurisdiction, no."

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Will Durant's comment (GAR, page 257-258) that the Eastern sees did not recognize the papacy, the bishops and patriarichs of the East "claimed equal authority with the Roman see" and the controversies in the East "proceeded with scant obeisance to the bishop of Rome" (Durant, page 50)

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However, Durant goes on to say "Difficulties of communication and travel combined with diversity of language to alienate the Western from the Eastern Church. In the West, however, the popes exercised a growing leadership even in secular affairs." (Durant, page 50). At the beginning of that same chapter "The Progress of Christianity" Durant's Story of Civilization: The Age of Faith (volume 4 published in 1950) is quite clear that the Roman Catholic Church goes back to the first century, was the only Christianity that existed, and there was no "Protestant fundamentalist" church hiding "underground" --

"If art is the organization of materials, the Roman Catholic Church is among the most imposing masterpieces of history. Through nineteen centuries, each heavy with crisis, she has held her faithful together, following them with her ministrations to the ends of the earth, forming their minds, molding their morals, encouraging their fertility, solemnizing their marriages, consoling their bereavements, lifting their momentary lives into eternal drama, harvesting their gifts, surviving every heresy and revolt, and patiently building again every broken support of her power." (Durant, page 44)

McCarthy suggests "...little is known about [Peter's "alleged" successors] through the first two centuries..." (GAR page 254), and goes on to quote a line from Philip Schaff as supposed evidence of this: "The oldest links in the chain of Romans bishops are veiled in impenetrable darkness" (GAR page 254, citing Schaff, History of the Christian Church, volume 2, page 164-5). McCarthy continues: "Consequently, it is impossible for the Roman Catholic Church to substantiate its claims of papal succession from Peter to the present Pope" (GAR page 254).

This is a total misrepresentation of Schaff's History. Schaff is not disputing the accepted list of early bishops of Rome, but only referring to the exact order of the list of the first three or four Popes (whether they were Bishops, or head "presbyter-bishops" according to modern scholarship). If what McCarthy means is we do not know much about the lives of these early bishops of Rome, that is true (in some cases, we just have their names), but irrelevant. What is important is the succession list of bishops from the Petrine see of Rome. This list, as given and not disputed by Schaff (History, page 166) through the first two centuries is: St. Peter (d. 64 or 67), St. Linus (67-76), St. Anacletus (76-88), St. Clement I (88-97), St. Evaristus (97-105), St. Alexander I (105-115), St. Sixtus I (115-125), St. Telesphorus (125-136), St. Hyginus (136-140), St. Pius I (140-155), St. Anicetus (155-166), St. Soter (166-175), St. Eleutherius (175-189), and St. Victor I (189-199), which closes out the second century. McCarthy gives this exact list on pages 252-253 of his own book so apparently he accepts the list. He does not give an alternative list, nor does he state the accepted list is a fraud (there is no evidence of this). On the next page that McCarthy quotes, Schaff admits:

"It must in justice be admitted, however, that the list of Roman bishops has by far the preminence in age, completeness, integrity of succession, consistency of doctrine and policy, above every similar catalogue, not excepting those of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople...." (Schaff, page 166)

Schaff then proceeds to list the Bishops of Rome just as I have them above, along with the corresponding Roman Emperors. St. Irenaeus gives this exact list of successors to Peter as Bishops of Rome up to his time (Against Heresies 3:3:1-3 c. 180-199 AD), as does St. Hegesippus up to his time (about 20 years earlier, c. 160 AD) cited in the first history of the Church by Eusebius. As for the primacy given to Rome, Philip Schaff states in History of the Christian Church, volume 2 (Eerdmans, 1910)

"Rome was the battle-field of orthodoxy and heresy, and a resort of all sects and parties. It attracted from every direction what was true and false in philosophy and religion. Ignatius rejoiced in the prospect of suffering for Christ in the centre of the world; Polycarp repaired hither to settle with Anicetus the paschal controversy; Justin Martyr presented there his defense of Christianity to the emperors, and laid down for it his life; Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Cyprian conceded to that church a position of singular pre-eminence. Rome was equally sought as a commanding position by heretics and theosophic jugglers, as Simon Magus, Valentine, Marcion, Cerdo, and a host of others. No wonder, then, that the bishops of Rome at an early date were looked upon as metropolitan pastors, and spoke and acted accordingly with an air of authority which reached far beyond their immediate diocese." (Schaff, page 157)

On St. Clement of Rome (c. 96 AD), reckoned as the fourth Pope from St. Peter, Schaff states --

" can hardly be denied that the document [Clement to the Corinthians] reveals the sense of a certain superiority over all ordinary congregations. The Roman church here, without being asked (as far as appears), gives advice, with superior administrative wisdom, to an important church in the East, dispatches messengers to her, and exhorts her to order and unity in a tone of calm dignity and authority, as the organ of God and the Holy Spirit. This is all the more surprising if St. John, as is probable, was then still living in Ephesus, which was nearer to Corinth than Rome." (Schaff, page 158)

While Schaff (a 19th century anti-Catholic Presbyterian/Reformed church history scholar) does not accept the Papacy, there is a little more to his History than James McCarthy implies by his out-of-context single line quote.

I'll counter with quotations of my own, first from Catholic historians and scholarship. Philip Hughes writes:

"Ever since the popes were first articulate about the General Council, they have claimed the right to control its action and to give or withhold an approbation of its decisions which stamps them as the authentic teaching of the Church of Christ. Only through their summoning it, or through their consenting to take their place at it (whether personally or by legates sent in their name), or by their subsequent acceptance of the council, does the assembly of bishops become a General Council. No member of the Church has ever proposed that a General Council shall be summoned and the pope be left out, nor that the pope should take any other position at the General Council but as its no council has it been moved that the Bishop of X be promoted to the place of the Bishop of Rome, or that the bishop of Rome's views be disregarded and held of no more account than those of the bishop of any other major see...the general shape is ever discernible of a Roman Primacy universally recognized, and submitted to, albeit (at times) unwillingly -- recognized and submitted to because, so the bishops believed, it was set up by God himself." (Hughes, The Church in Crisis: A History of the General Councils, page 5-6)

From the old Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) --

"History bears complete testimony that from the very earliest times the Roman See has ever claimed the supreme headship, and that that headship has been freely acknowledged by the universal Church. We shall here confine ourselves to the consideration of the evidence afforded by the first three centuries. The first witness is St. Clement, a disciple of the Apostles, who, after Linus and Anacletus, succeeded St. Peter as the fourth in the list of popes....The tone of authority [in his Epistle to the Corinthians] which inspires the latter appears so clearly that [Protestant scholar J.B.] Lightfoot did not hesitate to speak of it as 'the first step towards papal domination' ...Thus, at the very commencement of church history, before the last survivor of the Apostles had passed away, we find a Bishop of Rome, himself a disciple of St. Peter, intervening in the affairs of another Church and claiming to settle the matter by a decision spoken under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Such a fact admits of one explanation alone. It is that in the days when the Apostolic teaching was yet fresh in men's minds the universal Church recognized in the Bishop of Rome the office of supreme head....The limits of the present article prevent us from carrying the historical argument further than the year 300. Nor is it in fact necessary to do so. From the beginning of the fourth century the supremacy of Rome is writ large upon the page of history. It is only in regard to the first age of the Church that any question can arise. But the facts we have recounted are entirely sufficient to prove to any unprejudiced mind that the supremacy was exercised and acknowledged from the days of the Apostles." (volume 12, article "Pope" page 263, 264)

From the New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) --

"That in the primitive Christian period the Roman Church was credited with an authority superior to that of any other patriarchal see, can be gathered from the letter written by Pope Clement I (c. 92) to the Corinthians in which he made important statements concerning the nature of the Church and laid down principles that in embryonic form contains maxims of government. That in view of its location, the Roman Church was in actual fact credited with preeminence over other sees is a matter of history....Numerous testimonies could be cited to prove the factual preeminence of the Roman Church." (volume 10, article "Papacy" page 952)

To be fair, the NCE goes on to state that in the earliest centuries there was "no doctrinal elaboration of the jurisdictional position of the Roman Church" and this too is "a matter of history." However, the same could be said of the Holy Trinity and the Person of Christ. There was no formal doctrinal elaboration on these (whether the Papacy, the Trinity, or Christology) until the fourth century (e.g. the Council of Nicaea and thereafter). From there the Catholic doctrines (on the Papacy, the Trinity, Christology, Mariology, the sacraments, even the 27-book canon of the New Testament) begin to be formally defined, elaborated upon, and developed in the creed, practice and life of the Church and her liturgy. There is no question there was a "development of doctrine" as the brilliant Catholic convert Cardinal Newman wrote eloquently on over 150 years ago. This no more refutes the Papacy than it does the full doctrine of the Trinity.

Steve Ray writes on the development of doctrine in the early Catholic Church --

"And so the Church developed as she grew but did not change her organic nature or her Christ-established essence. The growth did not contradict what had gone before but rather complemented it in an essential unity with the Church's past stages of development. Under the pressure of increasing size, theological deviations, and persecution in the first century, leadership solidified and became layered, as is essential for the growth of any organization. This process was first developed and set in motion during the life of the apostles. It was a process of maturation that was fundamental to the organism and vital to its growth. The result of that growth in our age is still known as the Catholic Church and is essentially the same as the acorn planted two thousand years ago. The body is now in adulthood and bears the same marks as it did in the first century: oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity -- in short, the Catholic Church. The development of the Church and of doctrine and leadership is simply part of the expected growth of the organic structure." (Upon This Rock, page 118)

Anglican scholar J.N.D. Kelly in his classic work Early Christian Doctrines sums up how unanimous the Church was in the patristic period, particularly the fourth and fifth centuries where the documentary evidence becomes overwhelming for the primacy and authority of the Papacy --

"Everywhere, in the East no less than the West, Rome enjoyed a special prestige, as is indicated by the precedence accorded without question to it....Thus Rome's preeminance remained undisputed in the patristic period. For evidence of it the student need only recall the leading position claimed as a matter of course by the popes, and freely conceded to them, at the councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451). We even find the fifth-century historians Socrates and Sozomen concluding...that it was unconstitutional for synods to be held without the Roman pontiff being invited or for decisions to be taken without his concurrence. At the outbreak of the Christological controversy, it will be remembered, both Nestorius and Cyril hastened to bring their cases to Rome, the latter declaring that the ancient custom of the churches constrained him to communicate matters of such weight to the Pope and to seek his advice before acting. In one of his sermons he goes so far as to salute Celestine as 'the archbishop of the whole world' .....It goes without saying that Augustine [c. 354 - 430 AD] identifies the Church with the universal Catholic Church of his day, with its hierarchy and sacraments, and with its centre at Rome....By the middle of the fifth century the Roman church had established, de jure as well as de facto, a position of primacy in the West, and the papal claims to supremacy over all bishops of Christendom had been formulated in precise terms....The student tracing the history of the times, particularly of the Arian, Donatist, Pelagian and Christological controversies, cannot fail to be impressed by the skill and persistence with which the Holy See [of Rome] was continually advancing and consolidating its claims. Since its occupant was accepted as the successor of St. Peter, and prince of the apostles, it was easy to draw the inference that the unique authority which Rome in fact enjoyed, and which the popes saw concentrated in their persons and their office, was no more than the fulfilment of the divine plan." (Kelly, pages 406, 407, 413, 417)

The massive Anglican study The See of Peter by James T. Shotwell/Louise Ropes Loomis (NY: Octagon Books, 1965) on the early evidence for the primacy of Rome --

"Unquestionably, the Roman church very early developed something like a sense of obligation to the oppressed all over Christendom....Consequently there was but one focus of authority. By the year 252, there seem to have been on hundred bishops in central and southern italry but outside Rome there was nothing to set one bishop above another. All were on a level together, citizens of italy, accustomed to look to Rome for direction in every detail of public life. The Roman bishop had the right not only to ordain but even, on occasion, to select bishops for Italian churches....To Christians of the Occident, the Roman church was the sole, direct link with the age of the New Testament and its bishop was the one prelate in their part of the world in whose voice they discerned echoes of the apostles' speech. The Roman bishop spoke always as the guardian of an authoritative tradition, second to none. Even when the eastern churches insisted that their traditions wer older and quite as sacred, if not more so, the voice in the West, unaccustomed to rivalry at home, spoke on regardless of protest or denunciation at a distance....

"The theory of [Pope] Stephen, that kindled his contemporaries to such utter exasperation, was rather that the Church was a monarchy, a congeries indeed of bishoprics but all of them subject to the superior authority of the one bishop who sat upon the throne of the prince of the apostles [Peter]. The Roman See, as distinct from the Roman church, was and eought to be predominant, not for its situation or other wordly advantes, not even for its treasure of doctrine, bequeathed by its two founders, but, primarily and fundamentally, because its bishop was heir in his own person to the unique prerogative conferred upon Peter. To Peter had been granted a primacy among the apostles, so to the Roman bishop was assigned a leadership over the bishops....The Arians, who had ousted Athanasius from Alexandria, offered to submit the case to [Pope] Julius for his judgment. Athanasius himself and other orthodox refugees from eastern sees went directly to Rome as to a court of appeal...

"At the general Council of Sardica [343 AD]...the orthodox Easterners and Westerners stayed behind to issue another, in which they claimed for the Roman bishop an appellate jurisdiction over all the Church in honor of 'the memory of Peter, the apostle.'...[by the time of Pope Damasus]...there can be no doubt that large numbers of eastern Christians had by thie time become convinced of the genuine superiority of the Roman See in faith and religious insight. The eastern emperor Theodosius published an edict requiring his subjects to accept the doctrine which Peter had committed to the was the trustworthy authority of Peter to which the East paid homage in the fourth century, not the wealth nor the power of Rome....From the time when Eleutherus was asked to condemn the Montanists, through the period when Callistus, Stephen and Dionysius revised and interpreted dogma, down to the days when the Nicene creed was defended on the ground of its Roman origin and Liberius and Damasus endorsed or rejected eastern declarations of faith according as they did or did not measure up to their own standards, the Roman bishops asserted their right to speak for the tradition of Peter." (Shotwell/Loomis, page 217-228)

The Orthodox study The Primacy of Peter by John Meyendorff states on St. Clement of Rome and the ante-Nicene period (before 325 AD) --

"Let us turn to the facts. We know that the Church of Rome took over the position of 'church-with-priority' at the end of the first century. That was about the time at which her star ascended into the firmament of history in its brightest splendor...Even as early as the Epistle to the Romans, Rome seems to have stood out among all the churches as very important. Paul bears witness that the faith of the Romans was proclaimed throughout the whole world (Rom 1:8)....we have a document which gives us our earliest reliable evidence that the Church of Rome stood in an exceptional position of authority in this period. This is the epistle of Clement of Rome...We know that Clement was 'president' of the Roman Church...." (Afanassieff from Meyendorff, page 124)

"The epistle [Clement of Rome to the Corinthians] is couched in very measured terms, in the form of an exhortation; but at the same time it clearly shows that the Church of Rome was aware of the decisive weight, in the Church of Corinth's eyes, that must attach to its witness about the events in Corinth. So the Church of Rome, at the end of the first century, exhibits a marked sense of its own priority, in point of witness about events in other churches. Note also that the Roman Church did not feel obliged to make a case, however argued, to justify its authoritative pronouncements on what we should now call the internal concerns of other churches. There is nothing said about the grounds of this priority....Apparently Rome had no doubt that its priority would be accepted without argument." (Afanassieff from Meyendorff, page 125-126)

"Rome's vocation [in the "pre-Nicene period"] consisted in playing the part of arbiter, settling contentious issues by witnessing to the truth or falsity of whatever doctrine was put before them. Rome was truly the center where all converged if they wanted their doctrine to be accepted by the conscience of the Church. They could not count upon success except on one condition -- that the Church of Rome had received their doctrine -- and refusal from Rome predetermined the attitude the other churches would adopt. There are numerous cases of this recourse to Rome...." (Afanassieff from Meyendorff, page 128f, 133)

"It is impossible to deny that, even before the appearance of local primacies, the Church from the first days of her existence possessed an ecumenical center of unity and agreement. In the apostolic and the Judaeo-Christian period, it was the Church of Jerusalem, and later the Church of Rome -- 'presiding in agape,' according to St. Ignatius of Antioch. This formula and the definition of the universal primacy contained in it have been aptly analyzed by Fr. Afanassieff and we need not repeat his argument here. Neither can we quote here all the testimonies of the Fathers and the Councils unanimously acknowledging Rome as the senior church and the center of ecumenical agreement. It is only for the sake of biased polemics that one can ignore these testimonies, their consensus and significance." (Schmemann from Meyendorff, page 163-164)

text here

ANSWER MC ON CRUSADES, INQUISITIONS, UNAM SANCTAM, ANTI-POPES (compare with manuscripts, textual criticism), BAD POPES (compare with Judas whom Jesus chose, David, Moses, Paul, etc), MC HISTORY, 2ND CENTURY TO 5TH CENTURY, ETC

Then comes this ignorant comment: "Many of those who perished during the inquisition were Christians trying to practice a simple biblical faith." (GAR, page 259)

text here response


Kenneth Whitehead asks in his wonderful apologetics book One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic: The Early Church was the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press, 2000) --

"We must ask: What Church existing today descends in an unbroken line from the apostles of Jesus Christ (and possesses the other essential marks of the true Church of which the Creed speaks)? Further, what Church existing today is headed by a single, recognized, designated leader under the headship of Peter? To ask these questions is to answer them. Any entity claiming to be the Church of Christ -- his body! -- must demonstrate its apostolicity, its organic link with the original apostles, on whom Christ manifestly established his Church. Nothing less can qualify as the apostolic Church that Jesus founded." (Whitehead, page 36)

QUOTE MC AGAIN ON "astonishingly weak" and "thinnest of implications" etc......

answer his question "So why do Catholics submit to the rule of the Pope and bishops?" Because St. Peter is the Rock of Christ's Church, he was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven signifying full authority and dynastic succession, and the Bishops of Rome inherited Peter's primacy and authority as chief teachers of the Church. While there is no doubt a development of doctrine in the Catholic Church, the evidence is overwhelming that the earliest Christians, Fathers, Saints, and Bishops of Christ's Church recognized this ongoing Petrine authority and apostolic succession.

more text here

Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium

"With the Holy Spirit as its teacher and the inspired Scriptures as its text, the church of Jesus Christ has no need for the Roman Magisterium." (page 276)

"The question which the Roman Catholic Church must answer, therefore, is: Where do Jesus, the prophets, or the apostles teach that Tradition is the Word of God? ....since the Roman Catholic Church is the one asserting the authority of Tradition and the Magisterium, the burden of proof lies with Rome." (James G. McCarthy, The Gospel According to Rome, page 354)

my statements here comment on his history of Vatican I use encyclopedias, Cuthbert Butler, short introduction etc........

McCarthy's "Biblical Response" Answered

"Despite the bishops' claim to absolute teaching authority over the Church, Catholics today are thinking for themselves as never before. Many are educated, open-minded, and independent. As to faith and morals, the beliefs of some are so diverse that the term Cafeteria Catholics has been coined to describe the way they pick and choose what they believe....even with its Magisterium, the Roman Catholic Church is hardly an oasis of doctrinal harmony in a theologically troubled world...." (GAR page 268-269, 274)

McCarthy notes twice in his chapter on the Magisterium about "cafeteria" Catholics (even priests and theologians) who disagree with their own Church over such doctrinal areas as "the existence of angels, the direct creation of the human soul, the fall of man in Adam, the virgin birth of Christ, the atoning sacrifice of Christ, the perpetuation of the cross in the Mass, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the infallibility of the Magisterium, the hierarchical authority of the Pope and bishops, the efficacy of the sacraments, the Trinity, purgatory, and sexual ethics" (GAR page 274-5). Needless to say, this whole discussion in his book is irrelevant to official Catholic teaching. Even McCarthy realizes this as he states: "...the focus of this book, as stated in the prologue, was chosen to be mainline, traditional Roman Catholicism as taught by the Magisterium" (GAR page 269). Fine, then let's stick with the official teachings of the Magisterium, not "independent" folks who are being disobedient to their own Church.

Scripture, the Holy Spirit and the Magisterium

"Here it will be shown that contrary to Roman Catholic doctrine, the Bible teaches that -- Scripture, not the Magisterium, is the Christian's infallible guide to the interpretation of Scripture. The Holy Spirit, not the Magisterium, is the Christian's infallible and authoritative teacher...all can agree with at least this much: The apostles taught with authority. Scripture tells us that the first Christians 'were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching' (Acts 2:42). Scripture does not, however, suggest that the apostles were infallible except in their inspired writings." (GAR page 270)

At this point, McCarthy misunderstands Catholic teaching and states things that are clearly contrary to Scripture. MORE quote MacArthur from Sola Scriptura! COMMENT ON Acts 2:42 Gal 1:6-9 1 Thess 5:21 1 John 4:1 nothing here about Scripture, writings or written

"The standard of measure for examining teaching in the early church was not Peter or the apostles, but the Scriptures. Originally the Old Testament served in this capacity. Later the inspired writings of the apostles and their associates took their place alongside the Hebrew Bible." (GAR page 271)

my statements here COMMENT ON Acts 15:15 Amos 9:11,12 Acts 15:19 Gal 1:12 Eph 3:3 "as it is written" 45 references to Scripture by Paul Acts 17:11 say this is quite a simplistic and naive view

"As for the second premise, that the Roman Catholic bishops inherited the apostles' infallible teaching authority, it rests completely on the theory of apostolic succession. As demonstrated in the previous chapter, this theory itself cannot be established from Scripture: Peter was not the head of the apostles and the church; the Roman Catholic bishops are not the apostles' successors; and the Pope is not Peter's successor. The Magisterium, therefore, has no claim to the teaching office of Peter or the apostles whether they were infallible or not." (GAR page 273)

Whether they were infallible or not? Is McCarthy not sure now? MORE Obviously, based on the evidence in my reply to his previous chapter, I disagree. The Catholic bishops are the successors to the apostles, and the Bishop of Rome is indeed Peter's successor. MORE

"The Holy Spirit, not the Pope and bishops, is the living teaching authority of the church (John 16:13-15)....The Holy Spirit also gives some Christians special ability to teach the Scriptures with clarity and authority (1 Corinthians 12:28)....Additionally, the Holy Spirit raises up elders to oversee the local church, to pastor the flock, and to protect the believers from wrong doctrine....The Holy Spirit's primary instrument in teaching the church is the Word of God....Confident of the Spirit's teaching ministry, biblical Christianity treats the bible as an open book -- a book of the people. Personal study, interpretation, and application are encouraged. The same was true in the early church. Long before anyone had ever heard of the Magisterium or its claims, Christians were reading and obeying the Scriptures." (GAR page 275-276)

MORE Again, this is a very naive view Let's test this out, how is this supposed to work, what is "wrong doctrine"? how does anyone in Protestantism know what is "orthodox" Christian doctrine? COMMENT ON John 14:18,26; Eph 1:13; Rom 8:14 Acts 8:29 1 Cor 12:28 Titus 1:9 Eph 6:17 1 Cor 2:10-16 Heb 4:12 Rom 1:7 Jude 3 1 Tim 3:15 MORE

Excursus: What is the "catholic church" of "the first three centuries" ?

"There was a time when every Christian was pleased to identify with the catholic church -- catholic with a small 'c,' that is....These early Christians held to a common faith and enjoyed a God given affinity wherever they met...Early Christians used the term catholic, a Greek word meaning concerning the whole, to describe this worldwide nature of the church. When early Christians referred to the catholic faith, they were speaking of the faith of the whole or universal church. The oldest document containing the term is a letter by Ignatius from the early second century...In the first three centuries, 'the catholic church' referred to all believers holding to the same faith throughout the world. With such a noble heritage, it is not surprising that today not only the Roman Catholic Church but most Christian denominations claim to hold to the catholic faith -- that is, the faith of the whole church in apostolic times...." (GAR page 272-273)

I find this the most interesting part of his book, especially since "the first three centuries" wholly refute McCarthy's Protestant Fundamentalist beliefs. And I think he knows this since he ignores the Church Fathers throughout his book (the one exception being his section on the Assumption which shall be answered below). But I am confused. I thought McCarthy just got finished castigating the "catholic church" of those early centuries (especially that of the second and third centuries), now he thinks everyone should be a member of this worldwide, universal church? That this is a great, noble heritage? What shall it be? What did the "catholic church" of "the first three centuries" really believe? Did it resemble the kind of Fundamentalism that McCarthy now espouses? It appears he would have you believe so.


Kenneth Whitehead notes --

"The burden of proof that the Church of the fourth century might somehow not have really been the Church that Jesus founded rests upon those who assert that there was a later, significant deviation. Some may prefer another 'model' of the Church -- to adopt a fashionable modern term. They may even call it a more spiritual model than the flesh-and-blood Church of history. But they are not doing justice to historical evidence showing what the early Church was really like." (Whitehead, page 54)

On Exodus 20:4,5

"This commandment forbids the making of images for religious use. It also prohibits the worshiping of such objects." (GAR page 279)

my statements here "a test case" ? response text here refers to idolatry not mere statue making

text here

Scripture and Tradition

"....according to the Roman Catholic Church, the Bible alone is not the complete Word of God. There is essential revelation preserved in Tradition that is not clearly taught in Scripture." (GAR page 286)

comment on Mc intro on Assumption and Pius XII, also his definition of Tradition etc MORE note that not necessarily true that "there is essential revelation preserved in Tradition" ETC

McCarthy's "Biblical Response" Answered

"This final chapter brings us to the fundamental reason why Roman Catholicism is what it is, and why it differs so significantly from Christianity based solely upon Scripture." (GAR page 287)

my intro statements here what is "Christianity" based solely upon Scripture? can you even define it? why don't Protestant churches agree on what Christianity is? are we talking a "mere Christianity" ? MC talking about a Protestant fundamentalist anti-sacramental "Christianity" without bishops

Let's Imagine a Protestant Fundamentalist "Discovering" the Bible...

"...imagine for a moment a person in some remote corner of the earth. He has no knowledge of Christ, of Christian history, or of Roman Catholicism. Yet, stirred by the Holy Spirit, he longs for a knowledge of God. If such a person were given a Bible and sincerely began to search for God in its pages, what would he uncover? .... In short, he would find everything that he needed to know to live the Christian life." (GAR page 287-288)

respond to "he would learn how to conduct himself" (1 Tim 3:15) "how to minister to others" (1 Cor 12-14), "how the early Christians had worshipped" (1 Cor 11:17-34; 14:26-40), "how local churches were to be governed" (1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9) oh really? he would learn all the details of that, so why don't Christians who go by the Bible only AGREE on all of these, how to worship, how to conduct oneself, how churches are to be governed, MC quotes 2 Tim 3:16-17 as well ETC MORE then McCarthy says suppose the person "set out in search of finding other Christians" and finds "a large Roman Catholic Church."

"Certainly our imaginary seeker would find Roman Catholicism very strange. From his study of Scripture, he would have learned absolutely nothing about baptismal regeneration and justification, year long programs in preparation for justification, seven sacraments, sanctifying grace, transubstantiation, a continuing sacrifice, confession to a priest, temporal punishment, indulgences, purgatory, merited eternal reward, priestly ordination, the papacy, ruling bishops, the Magisterium, or Mary's Immaculate Conception, Assumption into heaven, co-redemptive work, and mediation of all grace. Realizing that these beliefs were not only not taught in Scripture but actually contradicted God's Word, our seeker would certainly conclude that whatever he had found, it was not what he was looking for, and he would move on." (GAR page 289)

my statements here short response to all the doctrines he lists, biblical basis, etc

respond with I'd like to turn this around.... Let's imagine the man given the Bible becomes confused as to which church he should join, which church is teaching the truth? The man logically asks himself: what happened after the apostles? what happened to the church the apostles established through Christ and the Holy Spirit? what doctrines did they believe? how did they interpret the Bible? To answer his questions, let's imagine the same man given the first 500 years of Christian writings with the Bible, let's say he is in prison for 5 years, desires to turn his life around, and has plenty of time to read, etc.... what would he conclude in the 21st century is the Church of the first 500 years?

"The visible body that today bears the name 'the Catholic Church' is the same Church that Christ established to perpetuate in the world his words and his works -- and his own divine life -- and to bring salvation and sanctification to mankind. Despite superficial differences in certain appearances -- and just as an adult differs from a child in some appearances but still remains the same person -- the worldwide Catholic Church today remains the Church that was founded by Jesus Christ on Peter and the other apostles in the first century in the Near East. The early Church was -- always! -- nothing else but the Catholic Church." (Whitehead, page 12)

What and where in the world is "Biblical Christianity" ?

"Biblical Christianity holds that the plain teaching of Scripture, as illuminated by the Holy Spirit, contains all doctrine essential for salvation and Christian living. It recognizes Scripture alone as the supreme rule of faith...biblical Christianity rejects placing Tradition alongside Scripture as a rule of faith. The reason for this rejection is that Scripture is the inspired Word of God, while Tradition is the fallible words of men." (GAR page 290)

my statements here note impossibility of defining "Biblical Christianity" note difficulty in defining "Tradition" etc but not impossible etc MORE also quote Appendix E "thousands of Catholics worldwide are leaving Roman Catholicism for biblical Christianity..." (GAR, page 345)

The Dogma of the Assumption

"The process by which the Assumption of Mary became dogma demonstrates three important points. The first is that Catholic definitions equating Tradition with the oral teachings of the apostles are misleading." (GAR page 301)

first congratulate McCarthy on his research, however he left a bit of information out, on Mary as New Eve, tracing development of Mariology in the Fathers, etc use encyclopedias and Mariology by Carol, and Luigi Gambero, and Munif Deus by Pius XII

On 2 Thessalonians 2:15

"In citing this verse [2 Thess 2:15], the Church would have us believe that Roman Catholic Tradition is equivalent to the apostle Paul's oral teachings. This is misleading, however, for, as we have seen, Roman Catholic Tradition is a far more complex concept. It is not the direct oral teaching of the apostles as referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2:15....No reasonable comparison can be drawn between Roman Catholic Tradition and the apostle Paul personally and directly instructing the Thessalonians in the Christian faith." (GAR page 301)

my statements here also answer appendix D on NT tradition

Why An "Appendix" on Sola Scriptura?

"The early Christians did not receive the Bible from the Roman Catholic Church. They received the Bible from the Holy Spirit, who inspired it... The process of writing and recognizing the New Testament books began long before the Roman Catholic Church even existed.... There are hundreds of verses in the Bible establishing the truth that the Word of God is the church's sufficient and supreme rule of faith.... In the ongoing debate, Roman Catholic proponents enjoy taking the offensive by challenging non-Catholics to prove that God intended that the Scriptures alone were to serve as the church's rule of faith. 'Where does the Bible teach Sola Scriptura?' they demand...." (GAR from Appendix E "Sola Scriptura")

why relegate the main issue between Catholics and fundamentalists like McCarthy to an "appendix" ? my statements here deal with OT and NT canon here also

"The point of controversy is Tradition. The Roman Catholic Church asserts that Tradition is also the Word of God. The question which the Roman Catholic Church must answer, therefore, is: Where do Jesus, the prophets, or the apostles teach that Tradition is the Word of God? ...since the Roman Catholic Church is the one asserting the authority of Tradition and the Magisterium, the burden of proof lies with Rome." (GAR page 354 )

my statements here answer appendix C on SS and Tradition switch burden of proof back to McCarthy, where does Scripture or the first 1000 years of Christianity teach Sola Scriptura, a Church without bishops, without apostolic succession, where did that "church" ever exist on the face of the earth before the sixteenth century? please name a single Christian who lived after the apostles who interpreted the Scriptures and believes as McCarthy does on the sacraments (basically there are none, they are symbolic), on the nature of the church, on church government, on authority, etc Did the gates of hell prevail of McCarthy's "church" of the New Testament? If not, what happened to it? Where did it go? Where was it hiding? Where were the "Christians" of that "church" hiding" ? Where did they go? Can you name someone, anyone who carried on the truth of "biblical Christianity" as McCarthy interprets that? Or did everyone immediately fall away from the true Christian faith as McCarthy interprets that?

Phil Blosser concludes his devastating rebuttal of Sola Scriptura --

"Sola Scriptura is a philosophically incoherent and practically disastrous tradition of men. It is intellectually untenable, unbiblical, unhistorical, and the mother of ecclesiastical chaos. It has cut Protestantism off from its moorings in historic Christianity, and left it reeling in the capricious and devastating winds of doctrine that have swept across the last five centuries. It is one of the tragedies of the Reformation, not one of its necessities. By contrast, all the good and true and necessary things of the Protestant experience -- above all, the clarion call to personal conversion to Jesus Christ -- can be preserved and exercised to full effect only by being reestablished firmly upon the foundation that Christ laid for the ongoing instruction and life of His people, and that is the authority He delegated and continues to entrust to our Homeland's Embassy on earth: the Rock of St Peter and the apostles united with him, and their delegated successors, the Pope and bishops united with him in the Catholic Church." (Phil Blosser, "What are the Philosophical and Practical Problems with Sola Scriptura?" from Not By Scripture Alone: A Catholic Critique of the Protestant Doctrine of Sola Scriptura [Queenship, 1997], page 108)

my final statements here


see also

SECTION I: Salvation, SECTION II: Eucharist, SECTION III: Mary

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