The Authority of Popes

The Authority of Popes October 16, 2023

[see the book info-page / buy Kindle or Nook versions]

Chapter three (pp. 139-158) of my book, Bible Truths for Catholic Truths: A Source Book for Apologists and Inquirers (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 2009); the paperback is now out-of-print. This book could also be known as Dave’s Topical Bible, and contains over 1,900 Bible passages, categorized under 115 thematic headings. I am now offering it online for free.
In these blog posts I use — for readers’ convenience — the original RSV of the manuscript (© 1971 by Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America), rather than KJV, which was mostly used in the paperback, due to copyright law. This book is all Bible, except for a few clarifying comments here and there. Subtitles sometimes differ from the published version. They are my own original titles.



Genesis 41:39-41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discreet and wise as you are; you shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” (cf. 43:19; 44:4)

1 Kings 18:3 And Ahab called Obadi’ah, who was over the household. . . .

2 Kings 15:5 . . . And Jotham the king’s son was over the household, governing the people of the land.

2 Kings 18:18 And when they called for the king, there came out to them Eli’akim the son of Hilki’ah, who was over the household, and Shebnah the secretary, and Jo’ah the son of Asaph, the recorder. (cf. 18:37; 19:2; Is 36:3, 22; 37:2)

Job 12:14 If he tears down, none can rebuild; if he shuts a man in, none can open.

Isaiah 22:15, 20-24 Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, . . . In that day I will call my servant Eli’akim the son of Hilki’ah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house. And they will hang on him the whole weight of his father’s house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons.”

Matthew 16:15-17 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 16:18-19 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. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Luke 12:42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time?” (cf. Titus 1:7)

John 1:42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

Revelation 3:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: “The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens.”

The “power of the keys” has to do with ecclesiastical discipline and administrative authority with regard to the requirements of the faith, including 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” (see also 1 Ki 4:6; 16:9; 18:3; 2 Ki 10:5; 18:18).

“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  “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).

Only Peter, among the apostles, received a new name: Cephas, or Rock (cf. 1 Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14). He was the first to confess Christ’s divinity (Mt 16:16), and is told that he has received divine knowledge by a special revelation (Mt 16:17).

Matthew 10:2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zeb’edee, and John his brother;

Mark 3:14-17 And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons: Simon whom he surnamed Peter; James the son of Zeb’edee . . .

Mark 16:7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you. (an angel speaking)

Luke 6:13-14 And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles; Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew,

Acts 1:13 and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, . . .

St. Peter’s name occurs first in all lists of apostles. Judas Iscariot is always mentioned last. Peter is almost without exception named first whenever he appears with anyone else.  His name is always the first listed of the “inner circle” of the disciples (Peter, James and John: Mt 17:1; 26:37, 40; Mk 5:37; 14:37). Peter’s name is mentioned more often than all the other disciples put together: 191 times (162 as Peter or Simon Peter, 23 as Simon, and six as Cephas). John is next in frequency with only 48 appearances, and Peter is present half of the time we find John mentioned in the Bible.

2 Samuel 7:7 . . . the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, . . .

Psalm 78:70-72 He chose David his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds; from tending the ewes that had young he brought him to be the shepherd of Jacob his people, of Israel his inheritance. With upright heart he tended them, and guided them with skilful hand.

Isaiah 44:28 who says of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfil all my purpose”

Jeremiah 3:15 And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. (cf. 23:4)

Ezekiel 37:24 My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd.

Luke 22:31-32 Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.

 John 21:15-17 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

The Good Shepherd, Jesus (John 10:11-16; cf. Ps 23:1; 80:1; Is 40:11; Jer 31:10; Mt 26:31; Heb 13:20; 1 Pet 2:25; 5:4; Rev 7:17) gives us other shepherds as well (Jn 21:15-17, above; Eph 4:11). St. Peter is here regarded by Jesus as the Chief Shepherd after Himself, singularly by name, and over the universal Church, even though others have a similar but subordinate role (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:2).

Luke 9:32 Now Peter and those who were with him [John and James] were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. (cf. Mk 1:36)

Acts 5:15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.

Acts 5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”

Acts 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

Acts 12:11 And Peter came to himself, and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

1 Corinthians 9:5 Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a wife, as the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

St. Peter is regarded by his fellow disciples and apostles, the Jewish leaders, and the common people alike as the leader and spokesman of Christianity, as indicated by his constantly being singled out or highlighted, or distinguished from others, in narratives (cf. Mt 17:24; Acts 2:37-41; 4:1-13; 10:1-6). He is often the spokesman for the other apostles, especially at climactic moments (Mk 8:29; Mt 18:21; Lk 9:5; 12:41; Jn 6:67 ff.), and usually the central figure relating to Jesus in dramatic gospel scenes such as Jesus’ walking on the water (Mt 14:28-32; Lk 5:1 ff.; Mk 10:28; Mt 17:24 ff.).

He was the first person to speak (and only one recorded) after Pentecost, so he was the first Christian to “preach the gospel” in the Church era (Acts 2:14-36), and the first to preach the necessity of baptism for entrance into Christianity and regeneration (Acts 2:38, 41).

Peter was the first traveling missionary, exercising what would now be called “visitation of the churches” (Acts 9:32-38, 43). Paul preached at Damascus immediately after his conversion (Acts 9:20), but hadn’t traveled there for that purpose. His missionary journeys begin in Acts 13:2. Paul had gone to Jerusalem specifically to see Peter for fifteen days in the beginning of his ministry (Gal 1:18), and was commissioned by Peter, James and John (Gal 2:9) to preach to the Gentiles.

John 20:3-6 Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying,

Luke 24:33-34 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” (they themselves had just seen the risen Jesus within the previous hour: Lk 24:33)

 1 Corinthians 15:5-6 . . . he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

St. Peter was the first apostle to enter the empty tomb and the first one to see the risen Jesus, and other disciples and apostles are aware of this.


Protestants believe that St. Peter wrote inspired Scripture; Catholics believe that he also could write infallible documents, too, as the first pope. Some Catholics have argued that 1 and 2 Peter are somewhat like a primitive papal encyclicals (just as 1 Clement also was):

1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappado’cia, Asia, and Bithyn’ia,

1 Peter 5:1-4 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory.

First Peter is written to a wide variety of Christians, rather than to a specific church or individual, like St. Paul’s epistles. He exhorts Church elders and urges others to be shepherds, just as Jesus urged him to do (Jn 21:15-17), because he is a “super-elder” and the shepherd of the whole flock, in an analogous sense to Jesus (5:4). The epistle is very “general” and broad and written much like the style of papal encyclicals today: wise, sage, almost proverbial: encouraging Christian to endure suffering (1:6-7; 3:13-14; 4:1, 12-17) and to be holy (1:14-23). He addresses the topic of husbands and wives (3:1-7).

2 Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

2 Peter 1:16-21 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

2 Peter 3:15-16 And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.

The second epistle is the same. He is essentially writing to all Christians and authoritatively interprets prophecy, explains that it is ultimately not private in nature (a “magisterial” sort of statement), and refers to the difficult nature of some of St. Paul’s writing (3:15-16). St. Paul writes directly to local flocks of Christians. But St. Peter is writing to the whole Church. Thus he appears to be doing what popes do in their encyclicals, whereas Paul is functioning more as local bishops do.


Acts 2:33, 36-39 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear. . . . Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

St. Peter’s proclamation at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41) contains a fully authoritative interpretation of Scripture, a doctrinal decision and a disciplinary decree concerning members of the “House of Israel” (2:36): an example of “binding and loosing”.

Acts 5:1-10 But a man named Anani’as with his wife Sapphi’ra sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Anani’as, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” When Anani’as heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Hark, the feet of those that have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.

This is the first anathema (against Ananias and Sapphira): emphatically affirmed by God.

Acts 8:17-23 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power, that any one on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”

St. Peter He was the first to recognize and refute heresy (simony), and again issues an authoritative warning or anathema, so that Simon would repent.

Acts 3:2-8 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

Acts 9:36-41 Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him entreating him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he had come, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing tunics and other garments which Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive.

St. Peter performed the first miracle of the Church Age, healing a lame man (Acts 3:2-8). Even his shadow worked miracles (Acts 5:15). And he was the first person after Christ to raise the dead (Acts 9:40).

Acts 10:34-35 And Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

Acts 10:44-48 While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

St. Peter was the first apostle to receive the Gentiles, after a revelation from God (Acts 10:9-20), and to command them to be baptized.

Acts 15:7-15 And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” And all the assembly kept silence; and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brethren, listen to me.  Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, . . .”

St. Peter makes the authoritative doctrinal pronouncement at the Council of Jerusalem and seems to stop the debate cold in its tracks, as indicated by the assembly falling silent. St. Paul and Barnabas talk about signs and wonders, but no indication is given of any doctrinal proclamation from them. When James speaks he refers back to Peter (even though Paul had spoken in the interim), and then basically confirmed what Peter had also said. All of this is harmonious with the notion of Peter functioning as a pope: the head of the Church, while working together with the apostles and bishops and elders.


Deuteronomy 5:5 while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; . . . (Moses. cf. 1 Chron 15:15; 2 Chron 35:6)

1 Samuel 15:10 The word of the LORD came to Samuel: (cf. 1 Chron 11:3)

2 Samuel 7:4 But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, (cf. 1 Chron 17:3)

2 Samuel 24:11 And when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer . . .

2 Samuel 23:2 The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me, his word is upon my tongue. (King David. cf. 1 Chron 22:8)

1 Kings 6:11 Now the word of the LORD came to Solomon,

1 Kings 13:20-21 And as they sat at the table, the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back; and he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the LORD, and have not kept the commandment which the LORD your God commanded you,’ . . .”

1 Kings 15:29 according to the word of the LORD which he spoke by his servant Ahi’jah the Shi’lonite;

1 Kings 17:24 And the woman said to Eli’jah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.” (see also: 16:1, 7, 12 [Jehu]; 16:34 [Joshua]; 17:2, 8, 16 [Elijah]; 18:1 [Elijah] )

2 Kings 1:17 So he died according to the word of the LORD which Eli’jah had spoken. . . .

2 Kings 7:1 But Eli’sha said, “Hear the word of the LORD: thus says the LORD, . . .”

2 Kings 9:36 When they came back and told him, he said, “This is the word of the LORD, which he spoke by his servant Eli’jah the Tishbite, . . . (cf. 10:17)

2 Kings 14:25 . . . according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amit’tai, the prophet, . . .

2 Kings 20:4 And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: (cf. 20:16,19; 23:16)

2 Kings 24:2 . . . according to the word of the LORD which he spoke by his servants the prophets.

2 Chronicles 11:2 But the word of the LORD came to Shemai’ah the man of God: (cf. 12:7)

2 Chronicles 24:19-20 Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the LORD; these testified against them, but they would not give heed. Then the Spirit of God took possession of Zechari’ah the son of Jehoi’ada the priest; and he stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God, ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.’”

2 Chronicles 30:12 The hand of God was also upon Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD.

2 Chronicles 36:21 . . . the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah . . . (cf. 36:22; Ezra 1:1; Jer 1:2, 4; 2:4; 7:2; 13:3, 8; 14:1; 16:1; 18:5; 19:3; 21:11; 22:2, 29; 24:4; 28:12; 29:30; several more times in Jeremiah; Dan 9:2)

Nehemiah 9:30 Many years thou didst bear with them, and didst warn them by thy Spirit through thy prophets; . . .

Isaiah 38:4 Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: (cf. 39:5, 8; 66:5)

Jeremiah 25:3 For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of Josi’ah the son of Amon, king of Judah, to this day, the word of the LORD has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened.

Jeremiah 26:15 . . . the LORD sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.

Ezekiel 33:1 The word of the LORD came to me:

“Word of the LORD” appears 60 times in the Book of Ezekiel; usually in reference to the prophet Ezekiel.

Hosea 1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Hose’a . . . (cf. 4:1)

Joel 1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethu’el:

Amos 7:16 Now therefore hear the word of the LORD. . . .

Jonah 1:1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah . . . (cf. 3:1, 3)

Micah 1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Micah . . .

Zephaniah 1:1 The word of the LORD which came to Zephani’ah . . .

Haggai 1:13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD’s message, “I am with you, says the LORD.” (cf. 1:1, 3; 2:1, 10, 20)

Zechariah 1:1 . . . the word of the LORD came to Zechari’ah . . . (cf. 1:7; 6:9; 7:1,4, 8; 8:1, 18)

Zechariah 7:12 They made their hearts like adamant lest they should hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets.

Malachi 1:1 The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Mal’achi.

Malachi 2:6-8 True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.

This passage is referring to Levites, who were teachers in Israel.

The prophets received their inspiration by the Holy Spirit (Num 11:29; 2 Chron 24:20; Neh 9:30; Ezek 3:24; 11:5; Zech 7:12; Acts 28:25; 2 Pet 1:21). The Holy Spirit (as a result of the New Covenant) is now given to all Christians (Jn 15:26; 1 Cor 3:16), so it is perfectly possible and plausible that an even greater measure of the Holy Spirit would be given to leaders of the Church who have the responsibility to teach, since James wrote: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness” (Jas 3:1). The disciples were reassured by Jesus: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16:13; cf. 8:32), so surely it makes sense that shepherds of the Christian flock would be given an extra measure of protection in order to better fulfill their duties.

Jesus called John the Baptist “more than a prophet” (Lk 7:26) and stated, “among those born of women none is greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Lk 7:28). Therefore, it is not in the least implausible that one man: the pope, could be infallible, which is a far lesser gift than the inspiration and direct revelation from God exhibited by the prophets.

Briefly put, then, the argument is: “If prophets spoke with inspiration, then popes can plausibly speak infallibly, since the latter is a far less extraordinary gift than the former.” Or, from a different angle: “if those with lesser gifts can do the great thing (inspired utterance), then those with greater gifts can certainly do the lesser thing (infallible utterance).”

Matthew 1:22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: (cf. 2:15)

Luke 1:70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,

Acts 28:25 The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

2 Peter 1:21 because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

See further New Testament references to prophets and prophesying: Acts 2:16-18; 11:27-28; 13:1; 15:32; 19:6; 21:9-10; Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 11:4-5; 12:10, 28-29; 14:1, 3-6, 22, 24, 29, 31-32, 37, 39; Eph 3:5; 4:11; 1 Thess 5:20; 1 Tim 1:18; 4:14).

Any non-Catholic Christian who believes in the inspiration of Holy Scripture, and who accepts the received canon of Scripture (either 66 or 73 books), — which itself derives from authoritative conciliar and papal pronouncements of an infallible Catholic Church –, accepts the fact that St. Peter, the undisputed leader of the twelve disciples, and (we believe) the first pope, has written two inspired epistles (or encyclicals, if you will). “Inspiration” means “God-breathed”: a positive characteristic that includes being entirely free from error (as all God-inspired words of revelation are truth).

Infallibility is a limited, far less profound “negative” protection against error. Everyone who holds to the inspiration of Scripture already believes that St. Peter wrote inspired words from God in the Bible. Where, then, is the inherent difficulty in believing that he and his successors could be protected by the Holy Spirit to write infallible documents (see, e.g., John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; Acts 15:28)? The more difficult thing to believe: the thing that requires far more faith, since it is a greater gift, is already accepted, so what insuperable prima facie difficulty remains in the notion of infallible (as opposed to inspired) popes (and an infallible Church)?



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Summary: I provide the biblical rationale for Catholic beliefs by presenting categorized Bible passages regarding the pope, papal headship, papal supremacy, & papal infallibility.

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