Reply to Critique of “50 NT Proofs for the Papacy” (vs. Jason Engwer)

Reply to Critique of “50 NT Proofs for the Papacy” (vs. Jason Engwer) September 1, 2017


Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter (c. 1482) by Pietro Perugino (1448-1523) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]




Jason Engwer’s satirical reply to my 50 New Testament Proofs for Petrine Primacy and the Papacy is entitled 51 Biblical Proofs of a Pauline Papacy and Ephesian Primacy. This is my counter-reply. His words will be in blue.
* * * * *

. . . Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong says that the evidence “is quite strong, and is inescapably compelling by virtue of its cumulative weight”. 

I think it is very strong, certainly stronger than the biblical cases for sola Scriptura and the canon of the New Testament (which are nonexistent). “Inescapingly compelling” is probably too grandiose a claim (few things are that evident), and I will change that language (but not all that much) in the original tract. Yet, again, that is the sort of language that Protestants habitually use with regard to the mythical, fictional “biblical evidence” for sola Scriptura, (where no amount of “non-evidence” or refutation of the proffered non sequitur or extremely indirect “proofs” are able to overcome the illusory “certainty” of “true believers”). We don’t even accept sola Scriptura in the first place.

I’ve already responded to some of Dave’s list of 50 proofs, though I don’t intend to respond to every one of them. 

That is a policy I will happily extend to Jason’s list as well.

Does Dave really think it’s reasonable to expect me to explain to him why passages like John 20:6 and Acts 12:5 don’t logically lead to a papacy? 

No, because they are part of a long list of indications of the primacy of Peter. As I said, it is a “cumulative” argument. One doesn’t expect that all individual pieces of such an argument are “airtight” or conclusive in and of themselves, in isolation, by the nature of the case. I certainly don’t do so. I was probably assuming at the time that the sort of thing that Jason brings up was self-evident, because that was my own opinion (therefore, I thought it quite unnecessary to state it). Obviously, passages like the two above wouldn’t “logically lead to a papacy.” But they can quite plausibly be regarded as consistent with such a notion, as part of a demonstrable larger pattern, within which they do carry some force. It’s true that I should have made my logical and epistemological viewpoint on this more clear in the original paper, but I am happy to have the opportunity to do so now. Another way to respond to this would be to make an analogy to a doctrine that Jason does accept: the Holy Trinity:

Does Jason really think it’s reasonable to expect me to explain to him why passages like 1 John 5:7 and Isaiah 9:6 and Zechariah 12:10 don’t logically lead to Chalcedonian trinitarianism and the Two Natures of Christ?

Obviously, the Jews are quite familiar with Isaiah 9:6 and Zechariah 12:10, but they don’t see any indication of trinitarianism at all in them, nor do the three passages above “logically lead” to trinitarianism, if they are not interconnected with many, many other biblical evidences. Yet they are used as proof texts by Christians. No one claims that they are compelling by themselves; these sorts of “proofs” are used in the same way that my lesser Petrine evidences are used, as consistent with lots of other biblical data suggesting that conclusion. And Jews who reject trinitarianism beforehand as a form of blasphemy, will not see the relevance, let alone compulsion, of any of these indications, as their presuppositions do not allow them to interpret within that framework. Likewise, with many Protestants and the papacy and its biblical evidences.

Dave’s list includes things like Peter being the first person to enter Jesus’ tomb (John 20:6) and Peter interpreting prophecy (2 Peter 1:16-21). As though other apostles didn’t interpret prophecy also? 

That conclusion is neither required nor implied by my list.

Anybody who sees papal implications in such things will, if he’s consistent, see papal implications in passages about Paul, John, and other Biblical figures as well. 

This doesn’t follow. The lesser evidences on the list are particularly premised on the first three items (which were much more in depth than the others, and dealt with at great length in my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, where this list also appears). I reproduce them in their entirety here:

1. Matthew 16:18: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”

The rock (Greek, petra) referred to here is St. Peter himself, not his faith or Jesus Christ. Christ appears here not as the foundation, but as the architect who “builds.” The Church is built, not on confessions, but on confessors – living men (see, e.g., 1 Pet 2:5). Today, the overwhelming consensus of the great majority of all biblical scholars and commentators is in favor of the traditional Catholic understanding. Here St. Peter is spoken of as the foundation-stone of the Church, making him head and superior of the family of God (i.e., the seed of the doctrine of the papacy). Moreover, Rock embodies a metaphor applied to him by Christ in a sense analogous to the suffering and despised Messiah (1 Pet 2:4-8; cf. Mt 21:42). Without a solid foundation a house falls. St. Peter is the foundation, but not founder of the Church, administrator, but not Lord of the Church. The Good Shepherd (John 10:11) gives us other shepherds as well (Eph 4:11).

2. Matthew 16:19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven . . .”

The “power of the keys” has to do with ecclesiastical discipline and administrative authority with regard to the requirements of the faith, as in Isaiah 22:22 (cf. Is 9:6; Job 12:14; Rev 3:7). From this power flows the use of censures, excommunication, absolution, baptismal discipline, the imposition of penances, and legislative powers. In the Old Testament a steward, or prime minister is a man who is “over a house” (Gen 41:40; 43:19; 44:4; 1 Ki 4:6; 16:9; 18:3; 2 Ki 10:5; 15:5; 18:18; Is 22:15,20-21).

3. Matthew 16:19 “. . . whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

“Binding” and “loosing” were technical rabbinical terms, which meant to “forbid” and “permit” with reference to the interpretation of the law, and secondarily to “condemn” or “place under the ban” or “acquit.” Thus, St. Peter and the popes are given the authority to determine the rules for doctrine and life, by virtue of revelation and the Spirit’s leading (Jn 16:13), and to demand obedience from the Church. “Binding and loosing” represent the legislative and judicial powers of the papacy and the bishops (Mt 18:17-18; Jn 20:23). St. Peter, however, is the only apostle who receives these powers by name and in the singular, making him preeminent.

Now, these constitute the most explicit biblical evidences for the papacy, and far away the best. I think they are very strong (especially the first two). Jesus didn’t say He would build His Church upon anyone else but the Rock of Peter. No one ever claimed that he said this to St. Paul (least of all St. Paul himself). There is no Tradition in the early Church at all of Paul being a pope. But there is a Tradition of Petrine primacy, or (at the very least) Peter being the foremost among equals, which was so strong and enduring that even the Orthodox accept it, while rejecting the stronger (more developed) doctrine of papal supremacy and universal jurisdiction.

Even some Protestants are inclined to accept it (e.g., anglo-Catholics). Jesus gave only to Peter the “keys of the kingdom,” and I have traced what that term meant, in its Old Testament background. It is highly significant in its ramifications for Peter holding the highest office in the Church. Likewise, only Peter was given the power to bind and loose in a preeminent sense, by name, rather than merely one of a large group. This corresponds exactly to Catholic ecclesiology, where the pope is preeminent, but others can also bind and loose (bishops, priests).

So the list as a whole builds upon these relatively far, far more important and thought-provoking starting-points (or foundation-blocks, if you will). It was also written with Protestants in mind, as is my usual custom, since my specialty is biblical evidences for Catholicism, which has an obvious connection to apologetics directed towards Protestants in particular. And one strong Protestant presupposition is that Paul was much more important than Peter. Indeed, that is how it appears on the face of it in the New Testament (with so many books written by Paul and all). As with many Catholic beliefs, one must take a deeper look at Scripture to see how the pieces of Catholicism fit together in a harmonious whole.

Knowing this, I approached the Petrine list with the thought in mind: “Paul is obviously an important figure, but how much biblical material can one find with regard to Peter, which would be consistent with (not absolute proof of) a view that he was the head of the Church and the first pope?” Or, to put it another way (from the perspective of preexisting Catholic belief): “if Peter were indeed the leader of the Church, we would expect to find much material about his leadership role in the New Testament, at least in kernel form, if not explicitly.”

F. F. Bruce, the well-respected Protestant biblical scholar, made a point somewhat related to this general preliminary perspective of “how important is Peter in the Bible?”:

A Paulinist (and I myself must be so described) is under a constant temptation to underestimate Peter . . .

An impressive tribute is paid to Peter by Dr. J. D. G. Dunn towards the end of his Unity and Diversity in the New Testament [London: SCM Press, 1977, 385; emphasis in original]. Contemplating the diversity within the New Testament canon, he thinks of the compilation of the canon as an exercise in bridge-building, and suggests that

it was Peter who became the focal point of unity in the great Church, since Peter was probably in fact and effect the bridge-man who did more than any other to hold together the diversity of first-century Christianity.

Paul and James, he thinks, were too much identified in the eyes of many Christians with this and that extreme of the spectrum to fill the role that Peter did. Consideration of Dr. Dunn’s thoughtful words has moved me to think more highly of Peter’s contribution to the early church, without at all diminishing my estimate of Paul’s contribution. (Peter, Stephen, James, and John, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1979, 42-43)

James Dunn, himself no mean Bible scholar, and perhaps a successor to the late great F. F. Bruce in some respects, actually backs up my overall point quite nicely, and even (curiously enough) mentions (in passing) the same type of argument I utilized:

. . . Peter, as shown particularly by the Antioch episode in Gal. 2, had both a care to hold firm to his Jewish heritage which Paul lacked, and an openness to the demands of developing Christianity which James lacked. John . . . was too much of an individualist to provide such a rallying point. Others could link the developing new religion as or more firmly to its founding events and to Jesus himself. But none of them, inclusing none of the rest of the twelve, seem to have played any role of continuing significance for the whole sweep of Christianity (though James the brother of John might have proved an exception had he been spared). So it is Peter who becomes the focal point of unity for the whole Church — Peter who was probably the most prominent among Jesus’ disciples, Peter who according to early traditions was the first witness of the risen Jesus, Peter who was the leading figure in the earliest days of the new sect in Jerusalem, but Peter who also was concerned for mission, and who as Christianity broadened its outreach and character broadened with it, at the cost to be sure of losing his leading role in Jerusalem, but with the result that he became the most hopeful symbol of unity for that growing Christianity which more and more came to think of itself as the Church Catholic.  (Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, London: SCM Press, 1977, 385-386)

It is odd (and, admittedly, a little amusing) that the subject matter of one of the two passages that Jason picked to mock as entirely insignificant with regard to Petrine primacy: John 20:6, having to do with Peter being “the first witness of the risen Jesus,” as Dunn states, is mentioned by Dunn in the context of pointing out Peter’s leadership role in the early Church. If a respected Protestant biblical scholar like James Dunn thinks this fact has some relevance — however slight it might be — (and mentions it in almost exactly the same sense in which I have used it), and even F.F. Bruce was persuaded by him to think more highly of St. Peter, then I think Jason Engwer might perhaps consider giving this a second thought and not dismissing it so cavalierly as an obvious example of what he thinks is silly, insubstantial, immediately disposable Catholic exegesis and apologetics.

That’s not to say that Dunn accepts the papacy, as understood by Catholics; of course not. On page 117 of the same book he states that “In Matthew Peter is picked out not so much as a hierarchical figure but more as the representative disciple.” That is a view more akin to Orthodoxy (if the ecclesiology is even that “high”). My point here is strictly with regard to Peter’s relative importance in the early Church, particularly compared to the Apostle Paul.

As for the nature of a “cumulative argument,” what Jason doesn’t seem to understand is that all the various evidences become strong only as they are considered together (like many weak strands of twine which become a strong rope when they are woven together). I made note of this at the beginning of the original paper, by writing: “The biblical Petrine data is quite strong . . . by virtue of its cumulative weight.”

Apart from the first three evidences of the 50 being far more important (as indicated by the space given to them), many of the others are not particularly strong by themselves, but they demonstrate, I think, that there is much in the New Testament which is consistent with Petrine primacy, which is the developmental kernel of papal primacy.

The reader ought to note, also, that in the original paper I wasn’t claiming that these biblical indications proved “papal supremacy” or “papal infallibility” (i.e., the fully-developed papacy of recent times). This is important in understanding exactly how I viewed the evidence. And it was made pretty clear in my opening statement, I think (emphases added):

The Catholic doctrine of the papacy is biblically-based, and is derived from the evident primacy of St. Peter among the apostles. Like all Christian doctrines, it has undergone development through the centuries, but it hasn’t departed from the essential components already existing in the leadership and prerogatives of St. Peter.

I did not assert — didn’t get anywhere near claiming — that the papacy as understood after 1870 was present in full bloom in the pages of the New Testament. Quite the contrary; I stated that the doctrine was “derived from” Petrine primacy — as opposed to “proven in all its fully-developed aspects by the biblical presentation of Peter,” or some such thing –, and that it developed from the essential elements shown with regard to St. Peter in Scripture (just as, e.g., Chalcedonian trinitarianism developed from far simpler biblical and early patristic teachings on the Trinity).

All of this being the case, it is foolish and intellectually puerile for Jason to selectively present the arguments from the 50 which are the weakest and the most unpersuasive when considered individually (and then present an entire wrongheaded satire of these by creating a mock parallel-paper concerning Paul, which was loads of fun, I’m sure, but a non sequitur from beginning to end). This is “out-of-context citation” committed with the utmost irresponsibility.

But it makes for great rhetoric and succeeds in its purpose of making my paper (i.e., sound-bytes of it purporting to represent its entire thrust) appear ridiculous and utterly simplistic, in the eyes of unsuspecting readers who might not immediately perceive Jason’s unworthy tactics.

It is all the more objectionable in light of the fact that Jason has consistently refused to adequately deal (strangely and ironically enough — he being the “Bible Protestant” in this dialogue) with the extensive exegesis I presented in our first exchange regarding Peter as the Rock and possessor of the keys of the kingdom, and the patristic interpretation of Matthew 16.

I was consistently frustrated in the second paper by Jason’s selectivity in what he was willing to respond to, and made no bones about it. For example:

My job as an apologist would be a piece of cake if I concluded that all other arguments were without any merit; not even worth spending any time at all on. I could sit on my hands all day and revel in the superiority and unbreakable strength of my own position. That’s very easy. If, however, Jason wishes to truly be acknowledged as an able apologist and respectable critic of the Catholic viewpoint, he will have to, at some time in the future, decide to engage opponents’ arguments in the depth which is required to qualify as a true, comprehensive rebuttal, as opposed to merely spewing out rhetoric, far too many topic-switching non sequiturs, and subtle mockery. He is even claimed to be an expert on the papacy on the prominent contra-Catholic website where he is now an associate researcher [Dr. Eric Svendsen’s website]. But if he refuses to adequately interact with my material (e.g., tons of citations in my last exchange with him, from Protestant scholars on Peter, which he has pretty much ignored in terms of direct interaction), I certainly won’t spend any more of my time in the future interacting with his writing, because I am interested in dialogue, not mutual monologue.

Rather than dealing with the truly substantive, exegetical issues, Jason instead preferred to make (to take one representative example) psycho-babble-type “arguments” such as the following:

So much of what occurs with Peter is related to his personality. He didn’t open his mouth more often than other people, try to walk on water, cut off Malchus’ ear, etc. because he was a Pope. When he did these things, the disciples apparently had no concept of Peter being their ruler (Luke 22:24). Could Peter’s aggressive, risky behavior have something to do with him having an aggressive, risky personality rather than having to do with him being the Pontifex Maximus and the Vicar of Christ on earth? Could Jesus’ special care for Peter have something to do with him needing it rather than Jesus viewing him as a Pope?

Jason even granted much of what I was trying to prove, in the following comment (my reply in the last dialogue is also included):

Peter was obviously the foremost of the 12 disciples, but he fades into the background once Paul comes on the scene. And Peter is the foremost of the 12 disciples even during Jesus’ earthly ministry, when he wasn’t perceived as any sort of Pope (Luke 22:24).

It was a growing understanding, just as the Bible was. The Bible and sola Scriptura are even more central in Protestantism than the papacy is in Catholicism, yet the New Testament wasn’t known in its final form for 300 years, and hence, sola Scriptura couldn’t have been exercised fully in all that time, either (and not by illiterate folks for another 1100 years until the printing press made widespread literature available, and widespread literacy was finally achieved). If that doesn’t sink Jason’s position, then a slowly-growing understanding of the papacy doesn’t sink ours.

These clarifications should suffice for now as an explanation of precisely how I would view the nature, strength, and applicability of my own presented evidences for Petrine primacy and the papacy, in my earlier paper. Perhaps further related questions will be touched upon as I respond to the comments by Jason below.

But Dave isn’t consistent on this issue. When he responded to my examples of John being singled out in some way in scripture, he dismissed all of them as not necessarily referring to John being a Pope. 

Here is that exchange:

. . . there also are a lot of unique things said or done by or about other apostles. Why is it that when I ask a Catholic apologist whether John being referred to as “the beloved disciple” is evidence of a papal primacy of John, he responds as though the thought never occurred to him?

Probably because this was John’s description of himself. It was a form of humility, in referring to himself, in his Gospel (John 19:26, 20:2, 21:7,20). No one else in the Bible referred to him in that fashion, to my knowledge, but I might be wrong about that.

Why is it that a Catholic apologist can see the unique reference to John in John 21:22, the fact that only John called himself “the elder”, the fact that John lived the longest among the apostles, etc., yet never see any papal implications in any of those things?

Well, if Jason works up a list of 50 Biblical Proofs Suggesting that John, Not Peter, Was Pope, I will reply to it, point-by-point, even though Jason won’t grant me that courtesy.

My half-facetious insinuation here, of course, was that Jason would not be able to work up such a list concerning John (and — subtly — that it is the very accumulation of evidences that makes the Petrine argument strong in the first place). He tries to do so with Paul, but since it is based on a fallacious understanding of the nature of my argument (and is not meant to be serious in its own right), it, too, fails miserably. I may have missed it, but I don’t recall seeing in Jason’s Pauline list any indication that our Lord Jesus said that He would build His Church on Paul rather than Peter, or that Paul would be given the keys of the kingdom, rather than Peter. Perhaps — just maybe — that is why the Church Fathers also never took such a view?

I agree with Dave that John wasn’t a Pope. But if he’s not going to see papal implications in John being called “the beloved disciple” (John 21:20) and “the elder” (2 John 1), for example, then why see papal implications in Peter’s shadow working miracles (Acts 5:15) and the church praying for Peter (Acts 12:5)? 

As already explained, in a cumulative argument, individual strands are often not compelling at all. Rather, our argument is that these lesser indications are consistent with Petrine primacy, just as an apple falling on Jason’s head as he sits under a tree and ponders more ways to make my arguments (i.e., his straw-man versions of my actual arguments) look ridiculous, doesn’t prove the theory of gravitation, though it is entirely consistent with that theory and reputedly (in the popular legend, anyway) even helped cause Sir Isaac Newton to formulate it.

I would also note that the title of my paper was: 50 New Testament Proofs for Petrine Primacy and the Papacy. Titles mean things. They are there to aid the reader in understanding the author’s intent. So here, the title reveals that my argument was intended to prove Petrine primacy as well as the papacy (which is a development of the Petrine primacy, as I stated at the beginning). That being the case (in addition to the nature of cumulative arguments), we wouldn’t expect all (or even a majority of) the evidences to “prove” or suggest the full-blown papacy itself, as developed from Peter’s leadership. This, too, was quite obvious from my introduction:

The Catholic doctrine of the papacy is biblically-based, and is derived from the evident primacy of St. Peter among the apostles . . .The biblical Petrine data is quite strong . . .

So I proceeded to go ahead and catalogue the “biblical Petrine data.” That is not (technically) the equivalent of the biblical “papal” data, because the latter is a development of the former. But Jason has a lot of fun confusing later developments and their initial kernels. He has made full use of that unfortunate ongoing rhetorical tendency of his in the present paper, yet it is illogical, and betrays a misunderstanding of how Catholics view development of doctrine in the first place.

It is yet another example of the contra-Catholic simply assuming his own definition of something (development) and then acting as if the Catholic accepts (or should accept, if they weren’t so obtuse and dense!) the same definition. All sorts of fallacious and illogical arguments are constructed on top of this false premise, and never more than in the complex debates about development.

Dave sees papal implications in such irrelevant details of Peter’s life, yet he sees no papal implications in the more relevant details of the other apostles’ lives. 

None of the things on the list are “irrelevant,” as Scripture itself is not “irrelevant,” and does not record tidbits of information for no reason. It is inspired; God-breathed, after all. God doesn’t give us useless information. These factors are relevant as indications consistent with the leadership role of Peter. There were many other leaders in the early Church as well, but only one preeminent leader. It is like talking about the Speaker of the House or the Senate majority leader. They’re leaders, too, but the President holds a higher office than they do.

When Acts 12:5 refers to “the church” praying for Peter, Dave sees papal implications in that passage. 

Let’s be fair and at least look at this as I presented it:

31. The whole Church (strongly implied) offers “earnest prayer” for Peter when he is imprisoned (Acts 12:5).

This is perfectly consistent with an exalted position of Peter, and it is precisely what we would expect if indeed he were “pope,” just as in the following hypothetical analogy:

The whole Church offered “earnest prayer” for Pope John Paul II when he was imprisoned (Acts 12:5).

But when Acts 20:28 refers to the Ephesian bishops being entrusted with “the church of God”, Dave sees no papal implications in that passage. 

Why would I? It is about bishops. No one believes in dozens or hundreds of popes. But this language is not inconsistent with the notion that there is also a leader, above bishops: a “super-bishop,” if you will.

Even though Peter explains in his first epistle that he’s writing to a limited group of people, not all Christians worldwide (1 Peter 1:1), and Peter even uses the phrase “among you” (1 Peter 5:1), Dave apparently interprets 1 Peter 5:1 as an example of Peter commanding all bishops across the world. 

The passage reads (RSV):

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.

That’s a bit more general than single geographical churches or individuals, as in Paul’s letters (which is the point). Here is how I worded my related “proof”:

47. Peter acts, by strong implication, as the chief bishop/shepherd of the Church (1 Pet 5:1), since he exhorts all the other bishops, or “elders.”

In order to act in this fashion, Peter doesn’t always have to address “all Christians worldwide.” I didn’t say that he was doing that (but Jason’s usual excessive rhetoric sounds impressive). The pope can act as the chief bishop and shepherd no matter whom he is addressing, as, e.g., Pope Pius XI did in his 1937 encyclical Mit brennender Sorge, which was addressed to the bishops of Germany, and dealt with the errors of Hitler’s Third Reich, and was (notably) written in German rather than the usual Latin.

Protestant biblical scholar Donald Guthrie, in his New Testament Introduction (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 3rd revision; one-volume ed., 1970, 791-792) echoes — to some extent — this sort of thought:

It is clearly designed for a specific group of Christians although scattered over a wide area . . . Although this Epistle possesses the character of a circular letter, it differs from the other general Epistles of the New Testament in specifying the area in which the readers are confined . . . Are the districts which are mentioned to be taken politically or geographically? If the former, the area would be considerably greater than the latter . . .

The New Bible Dictionary (ed. J. D. Douglas, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1962 ed., 973), states that “the address is the widest in the New Testament.” Likewise, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (ed. Allen C. Myers, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1987, 820): “The letter is apparently intended to be a circular document with wide distribution.”

Note something else that Guthrie mentions with regard to the First Epistle of Peter:

. . . the majority of scholars favour Rome as the place of writing, taking ‘Babylon’ as symbolic, in the same sense as in the Apocalypse. The Roman martyrdom of Peter is fairly well attested . . . But the problem arises why Peter resorted to symbolic expression . . . It is probable that the cryptogram was used as a security measure. At the time of writing, Rome was the centre of vicious action against Christianity and avoidance of any mention of the Roman church would be a wise move if the letter fell into official hands. The writer evidently assumed that the readers would have understood the symbolism. [Footnote no. 2 on p. 803] It should be noted here that the metaphorical use of ‘Babylon’ is found in contemporary Jewish pseudegraphical literature and in the Church Fathers. (Ibid., 802-803)

The Eerdmans Bible Commentary (ed. D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 3rd ed., 1970, 1237) concurs:

. . . it would seem likely to have been written before the outburst of persecution at Rome in AD 64 . . . The argument for a Roman origin is based on the fact that in Rev. 16:19, 17:5, etc. Babylon is a cryptic reference to Rome . . . In view of the fact that most of our evidence links both Peter and the letter with Rome, this seems the most reasonable conclusion.

My copy of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible (Oxford University Press, 1977) also has this footnote for 1 Peter 5:13: “Babylon, a cryptic name for Rome (see Rev. 17.1.n.).” Going over to that note, it reads: “The fall of Babylon, which is Rome, the city on seven hills (17.9,18) and the arch-persecutor of the saints (17.6).” Anti-Catholic polemicists like Dave Hunt are certainly well-familiar with the equation of Babylon and Rome. :-) But this is serious biblical scholarship being cited in the proper sense, not Hunt’s typical irrational and slanderous balderdash.

F. F. Bruce agrees:

As for Peter’s association with the Roman Church, this was not only a claim made from early days at Rome; it was conceded by churchmen from all over the Christian world. In the New Testament it is reflected in the greetings sent to the readers of 1 Peter from the church (literally, from “her”) “that is in Babylon, elect together with you” (1 Pet. 5:13) — if, as is most probable, Babylon is a code-word for Rome . . . [Note 61] Various considerations rule out Babylon on the Euphrates. (Peter, Stephen, James, and John, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1979, 44)

[See also Eusebius, Church History, 2,15, Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press, ed. F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, 1989, 1068-1069), and The New Bible Dictionary (ed. J. D. Douglas, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1962 ed., 974) ]

I noted the symbolic use of Babylon in the last of my proofs:

50. Peter wrote his first epistle from Rome, according to most scholars, as its bishop, and as the universal bishop (or, pope) of the early Church. “Babylon” (1 Pet 5:13) is regarded as code for Rome.

I should clarify here that I didn’t intend to argue that “most scholars” thought the letter was written by a universal bishop or papal figure; only that they thought it was written from Rome.

I don’t deny that Peter and every other apostle had authority over all bishops. But how can Dave ignore the context of who 1 Peter was written to, then read papal implications into the text? 

I have now explained my reasoning on this.

Nothing in 1 Peter 5:1 suggests a papacy. 

It was written from Rome in general homiletic, or (as Guthrie put it) “hortatory” fashion (though not to all Christian inhabitants of the known world, which is not required for my point to stand) as (according to Guthrie and The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary) a “circular letter” (much like a papal encyclical is today). In fact, if we look up encyclical in the dictionary, we find that it comes from the Latin encyclicus and the Greek enkyklios, meaning, literally, “in a circle, general, common, for general circulation.” The word encyclopedia is derived from the same root. Renowned Protestant Bible scholar J. B. Lightfoot comments on this passage as follows:

St. Peter, giving directions to the elders, claims a place among them. The title ‘fellow-presbyter,’ which he applies to himself, would doubtless recall to the memory of his readers the occasions when he himself had presided with the elders and guided their deliberations. (St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, Lynn, Massachusett: Hendrickson Pub., 1982, 198; emphasis added)

As for the Second Epistle of Peter, Donald Guthrie, in his New Testament Introduction, surveys the well-known arguments over authorship, giving lengthy space to the arguments of both the proponents and opponents of Petrine authorship, finally concluding for himself:

. . . the choice seems to lie between two fairly well defined alternatives. Either the Epistle is genuinely Petrine . . . Or it is pseudepigraphic . . . Both obviously present some difficulties, but of the two the former is easier to explain. (Ibid., 847)

Protestant scholar and apologist Norman Geisler takes a more assured view:

It is clear, however, that ample evidence is now available to attest that this epistle is rightly attributed to the Apostle Peter.
(A General Introduction to the Bible, co-author William E. Nix, Chicago: Moody Press, 1968, 197)

Guthrie discusses the intended audience:

The Epistle is vaguely addressed ‘to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (RSV). This very general destination contrasts strikingly with the specific provinces mentioned in 1 Peter. But does this mean that the author has no particular community in view, but is addressing a kind of circular to Christians everywhere? At first sight, his opening words would certainly give that impression, but this must be tested by the contents of the subsequent subject-matter and by the various historical allusions . . . In the absence of sufficient data there is no option but to leave the location of the readers as an open question. (Ibid., 848-849)

If Dave is going to see a papacy in that passage [1 Peter 5:1], he ought to see papal implications even more so in a passage like 2 Corinthians 11:28. But he doesn’t. 

Anyone might have “anxiety for all the churches.” That’s called prayer (intercession), charity, concern, fellowship, Christian unity. You don’t have to be a pope (or even an apostle) to do that. The relevant factors here (for the purpose of our discussion) are the intended recipients of 1 Peter (and 2 Peter, if it is Petrine). I have done my homework and presented what Bible scholars (Protestants all) think about that.

Dave’s list of Biblical proofs for the papacy is arbitrary, speculative, inconsistent, and unconvincing. 

Since Jason has clearly not understood the nature of the argument or what I am claiming for it, his criticisms fall far short of the mark. He hardly even knows what the “mark” is that he is shooting for (unless it is a huge straw man). Therefore, his replies are what are truly “arbitrary, speculative, inconsistent, and unconvincing.”

He isn’t even consistent in his claims about how strong the Biblical evidence for the papacy is. At times he uses phrases like “explicit” and “inescapably compelling”. At other times, Dave refers to the Biblical papacy as an acorn that would only later grow into an oak tree. 

That’s right. The former descriptions I applied to the biblical evidences themselves — just as one might for the Trinity, which underwent much later development, utilizing the great amount of biblical data, which was, however, not explicitly laid out in all its (later-determined) orthodox dimensions in Scripture. I used the latter description primarily for the papacy as it slowly developed through history. Jason needs to understand that when a Catholic is discussing evidence for a Catholic doctrine, he is including among the whole range of data direct evidences for the kernels or acorns of later fully-developed doctrines. This is not contradictory; it is merely presupposing the notion of development within itself. All points of view start with premises and assumptions. The trick is to be self-consistent and to arrive at true premises in the first place.

Nor is this assumption (of development of doctrine) exclusively Catholic, by any means; it is found ubiquitously in books on New Testament or biblical theology, and in biblical commentaries, which speak constantly of developing understandings, or progressive revelation through time, among biblical writers and subsequent Christians. The papacy is just one of all the Christian doctrines which develop in such a fashion. Jason’s confusion and arbitrary intermingling of early and late developments throughout his writings on this subject betray his own inadequate comprehension of what development of doctrine is, and its inevitability, not just in Catholicism, but in Christianity-at-large. The great Church historian Jaroslav Pelikan (then Lutheran, now Orthodox) has written very cogently about this:

It was heresy that constantly changed, that was guilty of innovation, that did not stick to “the faith which God entrusted to his people once and for all” (Jude 3); orthodoxy was “always the same” (semper eadem).

That definition of unchangeable truth made Christian orthodoxy, whether Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox or Protestant, highly vulnerable to the attacks of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries . . . Through the use of critical history, orthodoxy, as well as heresy, was seen as having been subject to historical change. For example, despite the elevation of the dogma of the Trinity to normative status as supposedly traditional doctrine by the Council of Nicea in 325, there was not a single Christian thinker East or West before Nicea who could qualify as consistently and impeccably orthodox. The conclusion that Enlightenment thinkers drew from this discovery was that all truth — except perhaps their own — had been historically conditioned and was therefore relative. The “Vincentian canon” represented an impossible idealization of the supposed doctrinal continuity of the Christian tradition . . . Historicism and relativism seemed to be the only alternative.

It was the historic achievement of the nineteenth century — primarily, though by no means solely, of John Henry Newman — to stand this argument on its head. Newman’s book of 1845, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, not only acknowledged the fact of a change in the history of Christian doctrine; it embraced it. It was characteristic of all great ideas, Newman insisted, even of those propounded by “inspired teachers,” that they were not laid down once and for all in their complete form; they grew from simple beginnings, through all kinds of vicissitudes, finally to emerge in mature form. In short, they developed. Thus a dynamic organic metaphor was substituted for a static mechanical one . . . Hence it should not be surprising to discover that even the most saintly of the early church fathers seemed confused about such fundamental articles of faith as the Trinity and original sin. It was to be expected, because they were participants in the ongoing development, not transmitters of an unalloyed and untouched patrimony . . .

The difference between Protestantism and Catholicism, for Newman, was not, as earlier apologists had claimed, that Protestantism was constantly changing while Catholicism retained a continuity that could be equated with uniformity across the centuries, but the exact opposite: Protestantism remained stuck in the first century, like a fly in amber, while Catholicism affirmed development. Of course Newman recognized that not all development was a good thing — cancer, too, was a growth. Therefore he closed the Essay on Development with a set of seven criteria by which to discern healthy from unhealthy development, truth from error.  (The Melody of Theology: A Philosophical Dictionary, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Univ. Press, 1988, 52-54, “Development of Doctrine”)

In discussing the Trinity (to follow his own example cited above), Pelikan refers to,

. . . the lack of any one passage of Scripture in which the entire doctrine of the Trinity was affirmed. Strictly speaking, the Trinity is not a biblical doctrine, but a church doctrine that tries to make consistent sense of the biblical language and teaching. (Ibid., 257, “Trinity”)

He approvingly quotes Cardinal Newman referring to the early papacy as something that was operating below the surface, something that might at times only show “little” evidence of its existence. Dave himself describes the early Christians’ understanding of the papacy as “a growing understanding”. So, which is it? 

Both; precisely as with the Holy Trinity, in the Bible and in the understandings of early Christians, where (as Pelikan noted above), “there was not a single Christian thinker East or West before Nicea who could qualify as consistently and impeccably orthodox,” and, “even the most saintly of the early church fathers seemed confused about such fundamental articles of faith as the Trinity and original sin.” The papacy is no different, but we have seen plenty in the Bible to strongly confirm it, just as we see plenty (tons, which I documented in two lengthy tracts 20 years ago — which now appear on my website) for trinitarianism.

Both doctrines developed, as do all doctrines, to more or less degrees, including even the canon of the New Testament itself. Jason’s argument, then, is arbitrary and an instance of tunnel-vision. He thinks that the papacy (and other “Catholic” things like Mariology) suffer from these “dilemmas” or “problems,” when in fact, all Christian doctrines undergo the same process of development.

Dave will refer to the Biblical evidence for the papacy as explicit, inescapably compelling, etc. at one point, but then he’ll say elsewhere that the evidence for it is like an acorn, below the surface, something that was only gradually understood, etc. It seems that Dave, like other Catholic apologists, is trying to have it both ways on this issue. 

No; I am trying to be true to reality and Christian history, as well as to the nature of the evidences in the Bible, as explained in great detail above. The developmental synthesis (as a framework to interpret the history of doctrine) is able to grasped by anyone, if they will simply read and try to understand what people like Jaroslav Pelikan and John Henry Cardinal Newman are saying, with regard to development and its inevitability — its inescapability — in theology.

Dave cites Matthew 16:18-19 as the best Biblical evidence for the papacy. I refute the Catholic interpretation of that passage in a recent reply to Dave elsewhere . . . 

How well he argued the point is, of course, another matter entirely. But I’m glad that Jason has at last responded to this portion of my argument, after two years or so.

I’ve given Dave some examples of how his approach toward passages about Peter could lead to the conclusion that other people were Popes, if we were to apply Dave’s reasoning to other passages. 

And this has now been demonstrated to be altogether fallacious reasoning on Jason’s part, based on profound misunderstandings of my presentation, and construction of convenient straw men, which he then proceeds to vigorously shoot down.

I now want to present a list of 51 Biblical proofs for Pauline primacy. This list uses fallacious reasoning similar to Dave’s. 

This list is (1) based on the miscomprehension of my list that I have been detailing, and (2) not even a serious effort on Jason’s part, because it is intended as a reductio ad absurdum and not his own argument, which he himself believes. Reductio ad absurdum arguments only succeed when they start with the actual premises of the argument being criticized. Since Jason’s does not, it fails utterly. But it has a host of factual errors as well, as I will demonstrate.

Catholics can’t object to this list by pointing to post-Biblical evidence for a Petrine papacy, since the issue under discussion is whether the Biblical evidence supports a papacy. Nobody denies that a Petrine papacy eventually developed in Rome. The question is whether that papacy was just a later development or is a teaching of the scriptures as well. I’ve documented in my reply to Dave linked above that not only does the Bible not mention a papacy, but neither do any of the post-Biblical sources in the earliest centuries of Christianity. 

This is sheer nonsense (especially once the necessary understanding of development is obtained by an inquirer), and I will let readers judge the case for themselves, from the above arguments, and the many other papers and links on my Papacy Page, as well as the lengthy treatment in my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism. I also highly recommend the books Upon This Rock, by Steve Ray, and Jesus, Peter, and the Keys, by Scott Butler et al.

If Ephesus had been the capital of the Roman empire, and the Ephesian church had gradually become more and more prominent, 

That’s the problem; it did neither, so why does Jason bother with this foolishness? Who caresabout imaginary history, when we have real Church history staring us in the face?

the bishops of Ephesus could have claimed that the Bible teaches a Pauline or Johannine primacy. 

If the papacy was merely a result of historical happenstance and parochial, ethnocentric power politics at Rome, then why is it that even the Orthodox accept papal, or Petrine primacy?

Maybe they could have produced a list like this: 

Again, I reiterate that without the backdrop of Paul being called by our Lord Jesus the Rock upon which He would build His Church, and seeing that Paul wasn’t given the keys of the kingdom, the other “Pauline proofs” have no persuasive power, not even cumulatively (not to mention that there exists no corresponding “Pauline papal” tradition in the early Church to back up this interpretation). These “proofs” (i.e., when they are accurate and factual at all, which is much more often than not the case, as I will demonstrate) simply show that he was a great and preeminent apostle. Apostle and pope are two different offices. Virtually all Christians agree, e.g., that the office of apostle ceased around 100 AD, with St. John’s death.

Nearly all of Jason’s Pauline Proofs are of a fallacious, frivolous, and foolish nature. Most are factually incorrect even about the biblical data or notions that they purport to deal with. None of them expressly say that St. Paul was given an office as the head of the Church, as Matthew 16:18-19 relates about Jesus’ commission to Peter (which is the foundation for all the other corresponding Petrine Proofs). Many of the “proofs” are fun to refute, though (in a sort of entertaining Bible Quiz effort). I have replied to 36 out of 51 of them — usually when I immediately suspected a factual error or thought of a biblical reply (later verified by a consultation with the Bible or Strong’s Concordance, etc.) which nullified the “proof.” The rest were simply irrelevant and ultimately meaningless, for the reasons outlined above, having to do with Jason’s miscomprehension of what my list was trying to prove.

1. Paul is the only apostle who is called God’s chosen vessel who will bear His name before Jews and Gentiles (Acts 9:15). 

The RSV reads “a chosen instrument of mine,” not “THE chosen instrument . . . ” Nor is it even used as a title or name, like Rock (Petros) is. And it is not exclusive. Peter certainly did both as well.

2. Paul is the last apostle chosen by God, apart from the other twelve. 

That implies preeminence??? Paul himself said that “I am the least of all the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9).

3. The resurrected Christ appears to Paul in a different way than He appeared to the other apostles (Acts 9:3-6). 

Yes, in a voice only, and invisibly. That hardly compares with Peter and the other disciples (of whom St. Paul was not included) fishing with the risen Jesus and having breakfast with him (John 21:1-15).

4. Paul is the only apostle who publicly rebukes and corrects another apostle (Galatians 2:11). 

So what? He was always feuding with others, such as with Barnabas and John Mark. He had a strong personality, as one would expect for his mission, and what he had to endure at thge hands of unbelievers. He was probably a lot like the volatile St. Jerome. Popes can be rebuked; that is nothing new in Catholic theology and ecclesiology. St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena and many others did that.

5. Paul is the only apostle who refers to his authority over all the churches (1 Corinthians 4:17, 7:17, 2 Corinthians 11:28). 

That’s an authority all apostles had, but it was a temporary office, and so has nothing to do with the question of the papacy as an ongoing office.

6. Paul is the only apostle to call himself “father” (1 Corinthians 4:15). 

So what? Paul called Abraham (who had never heard of Jesus) “the father of us all” (Romans 4:16).

7. Paul is the steward of God’s grace (Ephesians 3:2). This means that Paul is the overseer of salvation. Fellowship with Paul and his successors is necessary for salvation. 

I thought there was only one mediator (so my esteemed Protestant friends always inform me, in concern for my soul)???!!!!!!! Paul shows this heretical attitude more than once, since in 1 Corinthians 9:22 he speaks of “saving” people, as if he were the one who did it, and not Jesus Christ, the one true mediator, as he himself taught, in puzzling contradiction to his heretical statements elsewhere (1 Timothy 2:5). Almost as frightening as that horrifying Catholic Mary-as-Mediatrix business . . .

[Note: the preceding paragraph was satirical and tongue-in-cheek]

8. Paul is mentioned more in the New Testament than any other apostle. 

I believe Peter gets the nod. By my (admittedly fallible) reckoning, he appears 191 times (162 as Peter or Simon Peter, 23 as Simon, and 6 as Cephas). Counting up PaulPaul’s, and his earlier name Saul in my Strong’s Concordance (the good old-fashioned way), I come up with 186. Close, but somebody’s gotta win . . . .

9. The book of Acts, which mentions all of the apostles, discusses Paul more than any other apostle. 

Probably true (I didn’t count), but it is only one book. The whole Bible mentions Peter more times.

12. Paul is the first apostle to be taken to Heaven to receive a revelation (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). 

Arguably, that honor goes to St. Stephen (Acts 7:55-56), even before Paul’s conversion (see Acts 8:1). Paul said that he didn’t know if his “vision and revelations” were received “in the body or out” (2 Cor 12:2).

13. Paul is the only apostle Satan was concerned about enough to give him a thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7). 

14. Paul seems to have suffered for Christ more than any other apostle (2 Corinthians 11:21-33). 

So what? Pre-Christian Job got much worse than that from Satan (many Bible commentators think the “thorn” was some sort of eye disease), yet God Himself called him “blameless and upright” and said that there was “none like him on the earth” (Job 1:8).

15. Paul seems to have received more opposition from false teachers than any other apostle did, since he was the Pope (Romans 3:8, 2 Corinthians 10:10, Galatians 1:7, 6:17, Philippians 1:17). 

That would make people like Walter Martin or Hank Hanegraaf or James White the pope as well . . . I don’t think any of them would take too kindly to that suggestion. :-)

17. Only Paul’s teachings were so advanced, so deep, that another apostle acknowledged that some of his teachings were hard to understand (2 Peter 3:15-16). Peter’s understanding of doctrine doesn’t seem to be as advanced as Pope Paul’s. Paul has the primacy of doctrinal knowledge. 

25. Paul had the best training and education of all the apostles (Philippians 3:4-6). 

That would make St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustine popes, but the former wasn’t even a bishop (yet he is considered the most brilliant Catholic theologian and philosopher ever, by many Catholics, including several popes, who expressed as much in encyclicals). Theological brilliance is not the same thing as ecclesiological authority and jurisdiction.

19. Paul singles himself out as the standard of orthodoxy (1 Corinthians 14:37-38). 

That’s no different from every Protestant who believes in sola Scriptura. I’ve maintained for eleven years now that Protestantism in effect (as a matter of inevitable logical reduction) makes every person their own pope, since the lone Protestant is granted the prerogative to determine “orthodoxy” with infinitely more power and scope and “freedom” than any pope has — because popes have to strictly follow precedent. I thank Jason for spectacularly confirming my contention! St. Paul writes (the passage above):

If any one thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. If any one does not recognize this, he is not recognized. (RSV)

It is one thing for an apostle and writer of inspired Scripture to claim this; quite another for a mere monk in the 16th-century, who was neither an apostle, nor inspired (let alone a prophet of apocalyptic destruction):

Inasmuch as I know for certain that I am right, I will be judge above you and above all the angels, as St. Paul says, that whoever does not accept my doctrine cannot be saved. For it is the doctrine of God, and not my doctrine; therefore my judgment also is God’s and not mine . . . It would be better that all bishops were murdered, and all abbeys and cloisters razed to the ground, than that one soul should perish . . . If they will not listen to God’s Word . . . what can more justly befall them than a violent upheaval which shall root them out of the earth? And we would smile did it happen. All who contribute body, goods . . . that the rule of the bishops may be destroyed are God’s dear children and true Christians. (Martin Luther, Against the Falsely So-Called Spiritual Estate of the Pope and Bishops, July 1522; emphasis mine)

So that was Luther’s view. He applied it even to the Bible itself, where he felt quite qualified (as if he were an apostle) to determine whether a book was apostolic or not, wholly apart from received tradition.

With regard to the Protestant perspective on authority and theological certainty, well-known Reformed pastor, theologian, and author R.C. Sproul writes (with, however, a bit more moderation than Luther exhibits):

For the Reformers no church council, synod, classical theologian, or early church father is regarded as infallible. All are open to correction and critique . . . (In Boice, James Montgomery, ed., The Foundation of Biblical Authority, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1978, ch. 4: “Sola Scriptura: Crucial to Evangelicalism,” 109)

Dr. Sproul — like most informed Protestant scholars — gives a nod to some necessary church authority, of course, and the guidance of (mostly Protestant, or Protestant-sanctioned) tradition, yet the precise manner in which the individual works out this sola Scripturaapproach in his own life — particularly given the parallel premise of perspicuity, or clearness, of Scripture — and the insuperable epistemological problems and inability to determine orthodoxy, have never been satisfactorily explained within the Protestant paradigm.

When I was attending an Assembly of God church in the mid-1980s, the pastor (seemingly a jovial, down-to-earth type of guy) used to have a saying: “keep your pastors honest” (in other words, “correct me if you find my teaching to be contrary to the Bible”). Well, I took him at his word and actually applied this teaching one day. The result? I was denounced from the pulpit as a troublemaker and virtually excommunicated from the church. :-) I think that illustration serves better than 10,000 words in demonstrating the deficiency-in-practice of the non-biblical notion of sola Scriptura and the unlimited exercise of private judgment of Christian individuals.

20. Only Paul refers to himself having a rod, a symbol of authority (1 Corinthians 4:21). 

Yes, to possibly whip their behinds, as the metaphor was hearkening back to his statements in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2, where he referred to them as “babes in Christ” who needed spiritual “milk, not solid food.” That is not so much about Paul as pope, as it is about the Corinthians as childish and immature, and in need of a “spiritual spanking.” :-)

21. Paul initiates the council of Acts 15 by starting the debate with the false teachers (Acts 15:2) and delivering a report to the other church leaders (Acts 15:4). 

This is inaccurate. In 15:2-3 we are told that “Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So being sent their way by the church . . .” That is hardly consistent with Paul being the pope, because he was directed by others, as under orders.

22. Peter’s comments in Acts 15:7-11 are accepted only because Pope Paul goes on to confirm them (Acts 15:12). 

This is untrue as well. After “much debate” (15:7), Peter (of all people!) rose and gave his statement on the matter (15:7-11), after which there was “silence” (15:12). Then Barnabas and Paul “related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles” (15:12). It was “confirmed” by James, the local bishop, who, in his remarks, immediately appealed to “Simeon” (i.e., Peter, because he had the highest authority). Later, the “apostles and the elders” again send Paul and three other men to report to their charges what had been decided in Council (15:22-25). If Paul is pope anywhere in this narrative, I sure don’t see it.

23. When the Corinthians were dividing over which apostle to associate themselves with, Paul’s name was the first one mentioned (1 Corinthians 1:12). 

That was only what Paul reported the laypeople to have said, but when he talked about the same thing (1 Cor 3:5), he mentioned Apollos first, and didn’t mention Cephas (Peter); therefore, obviously, Apollos is far more important than Peter . . .

[Note: the preceding paragraph was satirical and tongue-in-cheek]

24. Paul was the only apostle with the authority to deliver people over to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:5). 

Peter has that beat by a mile. His words had the authority to deliver people to death, in an immediate judgment (Acts 5:1-11). But Jason’s scenario is inaccurate yet again. St. Paul’s teaching was that the Corinthians already had the power and responsibility amongst themselves to deliver gross sinners over to Satan for penitential and reform purposes, which is why Paul was shocked by the report of sexual sin (5:1). Paul says, “Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (5:12), and, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? . . . How much more matters pertaining to this life!” (6:2-3) All Paul does is lend his agreement and prestigious apostolic authority to the (what should have been routine and obvious, according to Paul) practice of reforming the sinner through the stigma of group pressure. This doesn’t imply in the least that only he himself had such authority. Quite the contrary, as he teaches above.

26. Paul is the only apostle to call the gospel “my gospel” (Romans 2:16). 

He also taught about the “gospel of God” (Romans 1:1, 15:16, 2 Cor 11:7, 1 Thess 2:2,9), “the gospel of his Son” (Rom 1:9), and “the gospel of Christ” (Rom 15:19,25, 1 Cor 9:12,18, 2 Cor 9:13, 10:14, Gal 1:7, Phil 1:27, 1 Thess 3:2). Obviously, then (by straightforward logical deduction), Paul was equating himself with God the Father and God the Son, since the gospel is theirs and also his own. The Father, the Son, and the Pauline Spirit?

[Note: the preceding paragraph was satirical and tongue-in-cheek]

27. Paul writes more about the identity of the church than any other apostle does (1 Corinthians 12, Colossians 1, Ephesians 4-5), which we might expect a Pope to do. Paul is the standard of orthodoxy and the Vicar of Christ on earth, so he has the primary responsibility for defining what the church is and who belongs to it. 

Again, all low-church Protestants who accept sola Scriptura and the utterly unbiblical concept of an invisible church routinely do this (I’ve been told many times, personally, that I am not a member of the church or unsaved or damned because I am not a Calvinist, or because I deny faith alone, or because I ask Mary to intercede to her Son for me, etc.). Does that make each Protestant who believes these things a pope?

28. Paul writes more about church government than any other apostle does, such as in his pastoral epistles. 

Many Protestants who accept sola Scriptura do this as well; hence the inability of Protestants to agree on the biblical form of Church government.

34. Paul’s clothing works miracles (Acts 19:11-12). 

Peter’s shadow works miracles (Acts 5:15), which is far more impressive.

38. The Jews in Acts 21:28 recognize Paul’s primacy, saying that he’s the man they hold most responsible for teaching Christianity everywhere. 

Peter was also so regarded by the Jews (Acts 4:1-13) as the leader and spokesman of Christianity, and by the common people in the same way (Acts 2:37-41; 5:15).

39. Paul had authority over the finances of the church (Acts 24:26, 2 Corinthians 9:5, Philippians 4:15-18). 

Peter had authority over the Church, period (Matthew 16:18-19).

40. Paul acts as the chief shepherd of the church, taking responsibility for each individual (2 Corinthians 11:29). For example, Paul was Peter’s shepherd (Galatians 2:11). 

And Peter was Paul’s shepherd, when Paul went to Jerusalem specifically to see Peter for fifteen days in the beginning of his ministry proper (Gal 1:18). Paul was commissioned by Peter, James and John (Gal 2:9) to preach to the Gentiles.

41. Paul interprets prophecy (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12). 

So does Peter (2 Pet 1:16-21).

42. Only Paul is referred to as being set apart for his ministry from his mother’s womb (Galatians 1:15). 

So were John the Baptist (Luke 1:13-17) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5), thus correcting another one of Jason’s inadvertently bogus claims.

43. Jesus Christ is revealed in Paul (Galatians 1:16), meaning that Paul and his successors are the infallible standard of Christian orthodoxy. 

And Paul prayed the same thing for the church at Ephesus:

that the God of our Lord jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened . . . (Ephesians 1:17-18; revelation has the same Greek root as revealed)

And he thought it could be true of all Christians, as well:

Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs of Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:17-18: NIV; also KJV: “. . . in us.” Cf. 2 Cor 3:1-3)

This fits in well with the Protestant notion that every individual Protestant becomes, ultimately, his own arbiter of orthodoxy.

[Note: the preceding sentence was tongue-in-cheek]

44. Paul is the only apostle who works by himself, only later coordinating his efforts with the other apostles (Galatians 1:16-18). 

This gets stranger by the minute:

Philip went down to a city of Samaria, and proclaimed to them the Christ . . . they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God . . . (Acts 8:5,12; cf. 8:26-40 — all before Paul had even converted)

Jason makes it easy to refute his statements, since so often they are exclusive claims.

45. Only Paul is referred to as bearing the brandmarks of Christ (Galatians 6:17). 

It is true that this is the only time the Greek word stigma appears in Scripture, as far as I can tell (from which Catholics derive our term stigmata). However, Paul often strongly implies that any believer could or should suffer in like manner (Rom 8:13,17, 12:1, 2 Cor 1:5-7, cf. 1 Peter 4:1,13); indeed, he urged people to imitate him, as we see in the next section.

46. Every Christian was interested in Paul and what was happening in his life, looking to him as their example and their encouragement (Philippians 1:12-14). 

But he wasn’t the only example of faith and bearing under suffering (not by a long shot):

so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:12; cf. the roster of the heroes of the faith in ch. 11)

You also be patient . . . As an example of suffering and patience, brethren, take the prophets . . . (James 5:8, 10)

[also Christ Himself: 1 Peter 2:21 and bishops: 1 Peter 5:3]

Paul even included Silvanus and Timothy among those whom he exhorted his hearers to follow as an example (1 Thess 1:1,6-7, 2 Thess 3:1,9; cf. Phil 3:17).

47. Christians served Paul (Philippians 2:30). 

So what? They serve each other, too (Matthew 23:11, Mark 9:35, 10:44, Ephesians 5:21).

50. Only Paul is referred to as passing his papal authority on to successors who would also have authority over the church of God (Acts 20:28). 

What does this have to do with “papal authority,” since Paul was speaking to bishops (see 20:17)? How do a bunch of bishops represent “papal authority”? This is collegial, or (potentially) conciliar, or episcopal authority, but not papal. Nor is there any word about succession here. He is merely exhorting bishops, as Peter does in 1 Peter 5:1-4. The real (apostolic) succession in Scripture occurs when Judas is replaced by Matthias (Acts 1:15-26). There is also a strong early tradition of the succession of bishops at Rome, and some sort of papal primacy (though it is not a biblical one; i.e., it is not detailed in the New Testament, since most of it was written before the succession in Rome commenced). We see this in the letters of St. Clement of Rome, early on.

Good, effective satire, farce, or sarcasm is always based on truth, somewhere along the line. That’s why Jason’s attempt fails miserably. He doesn’t understand what he is parodying and he can’t even (over and over) get his biblical facts right in so doing. If this is the best Jason can do in his “refutation” of Petrine primacy (and my paper defending same), I suggest that he try another line of reasoning. But it has been immensely enjoyable studying the Scriptures. I have learned a lot (as I always do when I study the Holy Bible: God’s own inspired Word and Revelation), and I come away from this endeavor more convinced than ever of the truth of the papacy, as taught in the Catholic Church (and of development of doctrine, as classically expounded by Cardinal Newman).

The weakness of the arguments opposing the papacy and development of doctrine (rightly, consistently understood) has, in my mind, been demonstrated once again. It’s yet another case where it wasn’t so much that the Catholic position “won out” over the opposing views, but more so (as in sports) that the suggested alternative views have “lost” due to their great weakness and implausibility: straining and striving to vainly fit themselves into the facts of both the relevant biblical data, and of Church history and the history of doctrine in particular. One can be the most brilliant lawyer, debater, or thinker in world history (even a clever sophist), but if they have no “case,” they will be defeated by facts and the inherent power of biblical revelation — rightly interpreted within the mind of the Church, the unbroken apostolic Tradition, and the overall consensus of the Church Fathers — every time. As the old proverb says, “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

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