|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||Papism|
Peter and the Keys to the Kingdom
Did Peter have more authority than the other Apostles?
ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN STUDENTS’ MAGAZINE “OUR ACTION”. Issues 450-451 June-July 2007 – pages 234-235.
Á. “Who is greater?” and the 12 thrones
The three concise Evangelists have recorded a question which had given rise to discussions and arguments between the Disciples of Christ: Who of them was (or would prove to be) the greater i. e. superior among them. The Lord admonished them for their ambitious thoughts and recommended that they pursue the virtue of humility. (Matthew 18: 1-4, Mark 9: 33-37 and Luke 9: 46-48 and 22: 24)
It is important to note that this incident took place after Peter’s familiar admission of Christ’s Divinity. If the Lord had indeed presented the Apostle Peter as the (supposed) head of the remaining Apostles - and in their presence – then what would have been the point of such a query-argument by the Disciples? And why didn’t Christ respond to their query by stating that Peter was indeed their superior? Not only did the Lord not mention anything like Peter’s primacy, but He actually reassured them that during His Second Coming, all twelve of them would be seated on twelve thrones, “judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mathew 19: 28, Luke 22: 30).
Therefore there was absolutely no discrimination between the twelve Apostles, on the part of Christ.
Â. The Apostle Peter and the primeval Church.
In the first Church – that of Jerusalem – the Apostle Peter may have been a protagonist, however HE NEVER ACTED ON HIS OWN INITIATIVE, BUT ALWAYS IN COLLABORATION WITH THE OTHER APOSTLES OR AS THEIR REPRESENTATIVE. A characteristic example is the election of Matthias. Peter did NOT appoint Judas’ replacement on his own initiative; he summoned ALL HIS BROTHERS so that they might together choose the appropriate person, after praying together and by voting. (Acts 1:24-26). The divine Chrysostom lauds this action by Peter, with the following words: “Observe how he does everything ALWAYS upon a MUTUAL DECISION; NOTHING AS AN AUTHORITY, NOTHING AS A LEADER. ”(¼ñá áõôüí ìåôÜ ÊÏÉÍÇÓ ðÜíôá ðïéïýíôá ÃÍÙÌÇÓ. ÏÕÄÅÍ ÁÕÈÅÍÔÉÊÙÓ, ÏÕÄÅÍ ÁÑ×ÉÊÙÓ) (John Chrysostom, On Acts 3: 1, PG 60: 34). Nowadays, the Pope of Rome appoints bishops of the Papist “church” on his initiative. This act – which is diametrically opposed to the Apostle Peter’s act – is a more than obvious one.
Furthermore, the election of the 7 deacons was also an act of the ENTIRE Church, upon the proposal of all the Apostles. Their ordination was likewise performed by ALL OF THE APOSTLES (Acts 6: 1-6).
From within the Acts of the Apostles, but also in Paul’s Epistles, we have isolated a selection of instances which verify the assertion that the Apostle Peter was NOT endowed with any super-apostolic authority whatsoever:
1. The Apostles had sent BOTH PETER AND JOHN to Samaria, AS THEIR ENVOYS (Acts 8: 14).
2. The Christians who originated from the circumcised censured Peter for having baptized gentiles, and he was then obliged to explain himself to them! (Acts 11: 1-18)
3. The problems that arose from the entry of gentiles into the Church were NOT, finally, resolved by any decrees issued by Peter; they were resolved through decisions of the Apostolic Synod, which Peter did not preside over, but James, the brother of Christ and first Bishop of Jerusalem, who also had the last say on the matter. As for the epistle of the Synod addressed to the Christians of the gentiles, it was sent – NOT by Peter (exclusively) – but BY THE APOSTLES AND THE PRESBYTERS AND THE BRETHREN (Acts 15: 1-29).
4. The Apostle Paul insists that he had received his apostolic rank DIRECTLY FROM CHRIST and NOT “from any man” (Gal. 1: 11-12). But then, if the Apostle Peter was, in fact, the “representative of Christ on earth”, shouldn’t Paul have received his apostolic status from him? Paul did of course visit Peter after his conversion to Christ, but it was NOT so that his apostolic status would be validated; instead, as the blessed Chrysostom aptly commented: “…not intending to ask anything of Peter, nor even to hear him; but, BEING AN EQUAL TO HIM […], and not as one learning something from him, nor as one receiving any correction, but for this reason only: that he might see him and honor him, by presenting himself…” (John Chrysostom, On Galatians 1, PG 61: 631). In other words, it was only a complimentary, brotherly visit.
5. When the Apostle Paul visited Jerusalem fourteen years later, he mentioned that there were THREE PILLARS OF THE CHURCH THERE, AND NOT JUST ONE (PETER) AS THE SOLE PILLAR. Those three pillars were James the brother of Christ, Peter, and John. What is noteworthy here, is the fact that JAMES IS MENTIONED FIRST, AND PETER SECOND. (Gal. 2: 1-10)
6. In Antioch, the Apostle Paul publicly reprimanded the Apostle Peter for his refusal to dine together with gentile Christians, and openly characterized his behaviour as hypocritical and not in accordance “with the truth of the Gospel”. (Gal. 2: 11-14)
7. In his 1st Epistle to Corinthians the Apostle Paul reproaches the Christians there for splitting up into sides (Paul’s, Peter’s and Apollo’s) and he counsels them as follows: “Let no-one boast among men, for all of them are yours, whether it is Paul, or Apollo, or Peter. ” (1 Cor. 3: 1-23). Would Paul have dared to place himself AND Apollo in the same position as Peter, if the latter were indeed the terrestrial representative of Christ?
8. After the persecution by Herod Agrippa, the predominant personage in the Church was Paul, not Peter. The Epistles by the Apostles – which had been written during that period – were, in their majority, writings by Paul. Even the last 16 chapters (of the overall 28 chapters) of Acts are almost exclusively dedicated to Paul’s activities, whereas they say nothing about Peter. That would have been inconceivable, if Peter did actually have a hyper-Apostolic jurisdiction.
Let us pray to the Lord, with zeal and humility, to lead the Roman Catholics back to the 21-century-old, ONE, HOLY, ORTHODOX, and APOSTOLIC CHURCH. Patience and prayer… Let us have complete trust in Christ and His words. The Orthodox Church will NEVER lose the Truth; She will NEVER submit to people, NEVER be subjugated to any “infallible” Pope, because the Lord promised so. And the Lord keeps His promises, with integrity (Matt. 16: 18). Do not fear, my brethren. We now have the other Paraclete (the Holy Spirit) among us, Who leads the Church to the whole Truth. It is for this reason that incessant prayer, inner cleansing, regular Sacramental living and a daily reinforcement of the Orthodox Overseas Mission work as well as our struggle against heresy should be treated as our duties. The rest is in the hands of our Triadic God. He is the One Who will bring a positive outcome to all Orthodox endeavours, to all Orthodox Churches and Mission labours. Amen.
Article published in English on: 28-7-2008.
Last update: 12-9-2008.