No Papacy in the NT? Think Again (vs. Jason Engwer)

No Papacy in the NT? Think Again (vs. Jason Engwer) August 1, 2022

With Special Emphasis on the Protestant Exegesis of “The keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19)

Protestant anti-Catholic apologist Jason Engwer again took aim at one of his favorite targets: the papacy, in his article, “How could a papacy have been referred to?” (Tribalblogue, 7-30-22). His words will be in blue.

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[P]assages like Matthew 16, Luke 22, and John 21 don’t imply a papacy.
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I will demonstrate in this article how Matthew 16 teaches an explicit notion of the papacy. insofar as it is the office of the headship / leadership of the Church, including an extraordinary amount of singular ecclesiastical authority. And I shall do this by citing only Protestant scholars, and presenting their learned opinions about the exegesis of the passage. If it then comes down to Jason’s own opinion vs. some two dozen or so eminent Protestant scholars, I think readers know, as I do, whose opinions are more worthy of allegiance.
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I agree that Luke 22 and John 21 are implicit references to the papacy. I’ve already addressed Jason’s arguments against them:

Papal Passages Lk 22:31-34 & Jn 21:15-17 (vs. Jason Engwer) [5-12-20]

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Of course, he utterly ignores any critique I make of his work (it wasn’t always this way), and has for a number of years now; and I am banned at his website. Perhaps some readers will be so kind as to mention this critique over there. Not that it’ll make him reply . . .
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If a papacy were to be derived from such passages, it would have to be derived implicitly rather than explicitly.
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This is true for Luke 22 and John 21 but not for Matthew 16, as I will show. There is nothing wrong with implicit arguments for Scripture. Protestants accept many of those in favor of their doctrines, and I would note that for some of their major / bedrock beliefs, there is no biblical proof at all: not even implicit (e.g., the canon of the New Testament, sola Scriptura and sola fide). Oddly enough, that doesn’t stop them from believing these things or even from literally building their theological system upon them.
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There is no explicit reference to a papacy in any of the earliest sources.
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The New Testament is the earliest source.
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That raises the question of what we should expect a reference to a papacy to look like.
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We should expect exactly what we find: St. Peter is specifically called “The Rock” by our Lord Jesus Christ: he whom the Lord would “build” His “Church” (Mt 16:18). “Peter” is a translation of the Greek petros. Jesus would have actually used the Aramaic kepha. St. Paul calls Peter the same name, eight times (a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic: Cephas): thus proving that Jesus re-named Peter “Rock”: referring to him being the human cornerstone of the new universal Church of Christ.
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And Jesus gave Peter “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16:19, RSV). As we shall see, this describes the sublime leadership power in the Church that he was appointed by Jesus to possess.
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Similarly, there are explicit references to non-papal church offices, such as apostle and elder. We’re even told what qualifications they have to meet and other details about their offices. 
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Yes there are, and there are explicit references to the papacy: being the “Rock” upon whom the Church was built, and possessing “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”. The Bible also talks about the office of bishop: a thing that Jason never mentions. It spells out the functions and role of bishops, as I have written about. The pope is a “bishop of bishops” or a “super bishop” and remains the bishop of Rome, while he is pope of the entire Church. So in that sense, too, the Bible describes some of the functions of the papacy. The difference is that the pope’s flock is the whole Church and not just a local church.
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There is no such term (akin to “king”, “centurion”, “apostle”, “elder”, etc.) for a papal office,
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Yes there is: the one who possesses the keys of the kingdom of heaven and is the Rock.
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nor is there any discussion of such an office analogous to the discussions we find of other offices in Acts, the pastoral epistles, and elsewhere.
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The discussion lies in the in-depth exegesis that scholars do concerning Matthew 16.
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The apostles (plural) are referred to as the first order in the church (1 Corinthians 12:28), without any singling out of Peter or Roman bishops, and we see other passages similarly referring to the apostles as equals (Matthew 19:28, Galatians 2:9, Ephesians 2:20, Revelation 21:14).
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The apostles qua apostles were indeed equals. But the papacy is not merely an apostolic office; it’s an ongoing one (like bishops and elders and priests). The first pope just happened to also be an apostle.
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There were ways of distinguishing Peter from the others if somebody had wanted to make such a distinction, as the distinction between Jesus and the apostles in Ephesians 2:20 illustrates, but none of the authors distinguish Peter as having more authority than the other apostles.
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Sheer nonsense. This was what my article, 50 New Testament Proofs for Petrine Primacy & the Papacy was designed to refute. Jason — two decades ago — tried to refute and satirize it twice and I refuted him twice:
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Recently, Brazilian apologist Lucas Banzoli outdid Jason, with his “205 Proofs Against the Primacy of Peter.” I replied in four parts:

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Banzoli, like Jason Engwer, also seems to have fallen off the face of the earth, after I started critiquing many of his articles. Go figure . . .

When . . . various early patristic sources (Ignatius, Dionysius of Corinth, Irenaeus, Tertullian) comment on why the Roman church is significant, they mention virtues like faith, love, and generosity and other non-papal factors, like the Roman church’s faithfulness to apostolic teaching, its location in the capital of the empire, and the presence and martyrdom of Peter and Paul in Rome. A papacy isn’t mentioned . . . 

Jason conveniently skips over St. Clement of Rome (d. 99; reigned starting in 88 AD), who was — according to  Irenaeus (c. 130-c. 202) and Tertullian (c. 155-c. 220) the second or third bishop of Rome and pope after Peter. His letter to the Corinthians indicated very strong papal power. As I wrote in my article: Pope St. Clement of Rome & Papal Authority [7-28-21]:

Why is it that Clement is speaking with authority from Rome, settling the disputes of other regions? Why don’t the Corinthians solve it themselves, . . .? Why do they appeal to the bishop of Rome? . . . St. Clement writes (I use the standard Schaff translation: no Catholic “bias” there!): . . .

If, however, any shall disobey the words spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and serious danger; . . . (59, my bolding and italics)

Joy and gladness will you afford us, if you become obedient to the words written by us and through the Holy Spirit root out the lawless wrath of your jealousy according to the intercession which we have made for peace and unity in this letter. (63, my bolding and italics)

Clement definitely asserts his authority over the Corinthian church far away. Again, the question is: “why?” What sense does that make in a Protestant-type ecclesiology where every region is autonomous and there is supposedly no hierarchical authority in the Christian Church? Why must they “obey” the bishop from another region (sections 59, 63)? Not only does Clement assert strong authority; he also claims that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are speaking “through” him.

That is extraordinary, and very similar to what we see in the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:28 (“For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things”: RSV) and in Scripture itself. It’s not strictly inspiration but it is sure something akin to infallibility (divine protection from error and the pope as a unique mouthpiece of, or representative of God).

Moreover, Max Lackmann, a Lutheran, makes the observation:

Clement, as the spokesman of the whole People of God . . . admonishes the Church of Corinth in serious, authoritative and brotherly tones to correct the internal abuses of their ecclesiastical community. He censures, exhorts, cautions, entreats . . . The use of the expression send back in the statement: Send back speedily unto us our messengers (1 Clement 65,1), is not merely a special kind of biblical phrase but also a form of Roman imperial command. The Roman judge in a province of the empire sent back a messenger or a packet of documents to the imperial capital or to the court of the emperor (Acts 25:21). Clement of Rome doubtless also knew this administrative terminology of the imperial government and used it effectively. (In Hans Asmussen, et al, The Unfinished Reformation, translated by Robert J. Olsen, Notre Dame, Indiana: Fides Publishers Association, 1961, 84-85)

Rome is about 617 miles from Corinth. That would be like the archbishop of Detroit (my hometown) issuing instructions to the bishop and people of Des Moines Iowa (600 miles away) and saying that the latter better obey, lest “they involve themselves in transgression and serious danger” and claiming that “the words written by us” were “through the Holy Spirit.” No two bishops in the Catholic Church talk like that to each other. Nor do leaders of denominations talk with each other in this rather authoritarian and superior-subordinate manner.
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It makes no sense except as an early manifestation of self-conscious papal power and authority. We have that in this First Epistle of Clement, which is usually dated to 96 AD. Thus, explicit evidence for a papacy is present in the Bible and in a letter by an apostolic father from 96 AD. Jesus’ words are recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, which is dated by conservative Bible scholars to before 70; probably in the 60s AD.
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If a papacy existed, it would be surprising if such a significant office weren’t referred to explicitly and often. But if it were referred to implicitly rather than explicitly, we would accept something that implicitly comes from the authority of Jesus and the apostles, even though the lack of explicit reference to it would be surprising. The problem with the papacy is that it isn’t taught explicitly or implicitly.
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Nonsense again. I have shown an explicit reference in 96 AD from St. Clement of Rome. Keep reading to learn what many good Protestant scholars think is the teaching in Matthew 16 regarding Peter’s authority.
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[T]here’s nothing about, say, the canonicity of Hebrews that makes it as suspicious as the papacy. . . . There’s no comparable situation with Hebrews’ canonicity. . . . Similarly, there’s no evidence supporting the papacy comparable to or better than what we have for the canonicity of Hebrews (e.g., what Eusebius reported about the widespread acceptance of Hebrews as scripture when he was composing his church history in the late third and early fourth centuries; . . . ). . . . The evidence for something like the canonicity of Hebrews is better than what we have for the papacy . . . 
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Really? The book of Hebrews wasn’t considered canonical at all during the period of 60s-96 AD: where we have explicit evidence for the papacy. Indeed, in the west it wasn’t in the canon until the 4th century, while in the east it was accepted in the period between 250-325. It wasn’t included in the Muratorian Canon (c. 190), which did include The Apocalypse of Peter and Wisdom of Solomon. [see my The New Testament Canon & Historical Processes (InterVarsity Press, 1996).] St. Cyprian (d. 258) never cites it; nor does he ever cite James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, or Jude [F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, 1988, pp. 184-185]. Origen (d. 254) regarded Hebrews as of disputable canonicity [Bruce, ibid., p. 193]. The “Cheltenham” canon, likely from North Africa, dating from 365, doesn’t include Hebrews [Bruce, ibid., pp. 219-220]
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Now I will present an overview of how many prominent Protestant scholars and reference works exegete “keys of the kingdom” and what they believe it to mean (with references in footnotes below).
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W. F. Albright and C. S. Mann [1], concurring with the insights of Roland de Vaux [2]: “The keys are the symbol of authority . . . the same authority as that vested in the vizier, the master of the house, the chamberlain of the royal household in ancient Israel.” Craig S. Keener [3]: “The image of keys (plural) perhaps suggests not so much the porter, who controls admission to the house, as the steward, who regulates its administration . . .” / “probably refers primarily to a legislative authority in the church.” M. Eugene Boring [4]: “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 . . .here gives his primary disciple the authority to teach in his name.” / “authoritative teaching, . . . 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.”
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George Buttrick [5]: “The keys of the kingdom would be committed to the chief steward in the royal household and with them goes plenary authority.” S. T. Lachs [6]: “The authority of Peter is to be over the Church, and this authority is represented by the keys.” R. T. France [7]: “Peter’s ‘power of the keys’ declared in [Matthew] 16:19 is . . . that of the steward . . . . whose keys of office enable him to regulate the affairs of the household.” / “Not only is Peter to have a leading role, but this role involves a daunting degree of authority . . . The image of ‘keys’ (plural) perhaps suggests . . . the steward, who regulates its [the house’s] administration . . . an authority derived from a ‘delegation’ of God’s sovereignty” [16]. Ralph Earle [8]: “Peter would give decisions, based on the teachings of Jesus, which would be bound in heaven; that is, honored by God.” J. Jeremias [9]: “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.”
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F. F. Bruce [10]: “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.” Oscar Cullman [11]: “Just as in Isaiah 22:22 the Lord lays the keys of the house of David on the shoulders of his servant Eliakim, so Jesus commits to Peter the keys of his house, the Kingdom of Heaven, and thereby installs him as administrator of the house.”
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New Bible Dictionary [12]: “In the . . . exercise of the power of the keys, in ecclesiastical discipline, the thought is of administrative authority (Is 22:22) with regard to the requirements of the household of faith. The use of censures, excommunication, and absolution is committed to the Church in every age, to be used under the guidance of the Spirit . . . So Peter, in T.W. Manson’s words, is to be ‘God’s vicegerent . . . The authority of Peter is an authority to declare what is right and wrong for the Christian community. His decisions will be confirmed by God’ (The Sayings of Jesus, 1954, p. 205).” / “In the Old Testament a steward is a man who is ‘over a house’ (Gen 43:19, 44:4; Is 22:15, etc.). In the New Testament there are two words translated steward: epitropos (Mt 20:8; Gal 4:2), i.e. one to whose care or honour one has been entrusted, a curator, a guardian; and oikonomos (Lk 16:2-3; 1 Cor 4:1-2; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet 4:10), i.e. a manager, a superintendent – from oikos (‘house’) and nemo (‘to dispense’ or ‘to manage’).

Eerdmans Bible Dictionary [13]: “[T]he keys here represent authority in the Church.” Adam Clarke’s Commentary [14]: “In allusion to the image of the key as the ensign of power, the unlimited extent of that power is expressed with great clearness as well as force by the sole and exclusive authority to open and shut.” New Bible Commentary [15] “The ‘shutting’ and ‘opening’ mean 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) . . . ”

For further references to the office of the steward in Old Testament times, see 1 Kings 4:6; 16:9; 18:3; 2 Kings 10:5; 15:5; 18:18, where the phrases used are “over the house,” “steward,” or “governor.” In Isaiah 22:15, in the same passage to which our Lord apparently refers in Matthew 16:19, Shebna, the soon-to-be deposed steward, is described in various translations as:

i) “Master of the palace” JB / NAB
ii) “In charge of the palace” NIV
iii) “Master of the household” NRSV
iv) “In charge of the royal household” NASB
v) “Comptroller of the household” REB

vi) “Governor of the palace” Moffatt

Likewise, the following Protestant scholars view Matthew 16:18 as Jesus referring to Peter himself as “the Rock”; not merely his faith. The citations and references can be found in these two articles: Primacy of St. Peter Verified by Protestant Scholars [1994] and Protestant Scholars on Matthew 16:16-19 (Nicholas Hardesty) [9-4-06]:

Henry Alford, Herman N. Ridderbos, R. T. France, William Hendriksen, Oscar Cullmann, Gerhard Maier, J. Knox Chamblin, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Craig L. Blomberg, William E. McCumber, M. Eugene Boring, John A. Broadus, Albert Barnes, David Hill, New Bible Commentary, Donald A. Hagner, Craig S. Keener, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Philip Schaff, Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: The Gospel According to Matthew, vol. 8, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, W. F. Albright, and C. S. Mann (The Anchor Bible), The Layman’s Bible Commentary, New Bible Dictionary, Word Studies in the New Testament (Marvin Vincent), Encyclopaedia Britannica (1985; article by D. W. O’Connor, a Protestant), Robert McAfee Brown, D. A. Carson, Richard Baumann.

Protestants at this point (even granting the above) sometimes argue that there is no indication in the Bible of papal succession. I address that issue in many papers:

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FOOTNOTES
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[1] The Anchor Bible: Matthew, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1971), 196.
[2] Ancient Israel, tr. by John McHugh (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961), 129 ff.
[3] The IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament, (Downer’s Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1993), 256, 90.
[4] “Matthew,” in Pheme Perkins and others, eds., The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 8, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 346.
[5] with other editors, The Interpreter’s Bible, (New York: Abingdon, 1951), 453.
[6] A Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, (Hoboken, New Jersey: Ktav, 1987), 256.
[7] Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1989), 247.
[8]  “Matthew,” in A. F. Harper and others, eds., Beacon Bible Commentary, vol. 6, (Kansas City: Beacon Hill, 1964), 156.
[9] “Kleis,” in Gerhard Kittel, ed., and Geoffrey W. Bromley, trans. and ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 3, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1968), 749-750.
[10]  The Hard Sayings of Jesus (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity, 1983), 143-144.
[11] Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr, trans. Floyd V. Filson, (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1953), 203.
[12] J. D. Douglas, editor, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1962, 1018, 1216.
[13] Allen C. Myers, editor, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1987 (English revision of Bijbelse Encyclopedie, edited by W. H. Gispen, Kampen, Netherlands: J. H. Kok, revised edition, 1975), translated by Raymond C. Togtman and Ralph W. Vunderink, 622.
[14] abridged one-volume edition by Ralph Earle, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1967 (orig. 1832, 8 vols.), 581.
[15] D. Guthrie, and J. A. Motyer, editors, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 3rd edition, 1970 (Reprinted, 1987, as The Eerdmans Bible Commentary), 603.
[16] Vol. 1: Matthew, in Leon Morris, General Editor., Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press/Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1985, 256.
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Photo credit: Delivery of Keys to Saint Peter (c. 1525), by Vincenzo Catena (1470-1531) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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Summary: Protestant anti-Catholic apologist Jason Engwer claims that there are no indications of the papacy in the NT. I refute him, citing prominent Protestant exegetes.

 

 

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