Reply to Commentary on Engwer’s “Pauline Parody”

Reply to Commentary on Engwer’s “Pauline Parody” May 15, 2024

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I will be responding to the video, “A Response to Trent and Suan on the Pauline Parody – ft. A Goy for Jesus” (8-2-22) on The Other Paul [Anglican] YouTube channel. This discussion has quite a history, but many folks reading don’t seem to realize that it initiated with me, thirty years ago. It goes back to one of my most well-known articles:

50 New Testament Proofs for Petrine Primacy & the Papacy [1994]

Evangelical anti-Catholic apologist Jason Engwer replied to that in 2002:

51 Biblical Proofs of a Pauline Papacy and Ephesian Primacy

I responded with:

Reply to Critique of “50 NT Proofs for the Papacy” [3-14-02]

He came back with another attempt:

A Pauline Papacy

And I replied again:

Refutation of a Satirical “Pauline Papacy” Argument [9-30-03]

Suan Sonna and Trent Horn entered the argument 19 years later with their video, The “Pauline parody argument” against the papacy (with Suan Sonna) [7-7-22]

Jason Engwer addressed that, too: Apostolic Primacies [7-27-22]. And now the video I am replying to also enters the fray. The words from the video will be in blue. Jason Engwer’s words will be in green.

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One thing that Jason and some others don’t “get” about my original article (included in my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism), is that it’s not about the alleged overwhelming force of any particular item, but rather, the cumulative effect of all of them together. That was the emphasis of Fr. Peter Stravinskas, when he encouraged me to write the article for his magazine, The Catholic Answer in 1997.

8:42 these are probably our two favorite Catholic apologists. They’re both really nice guys, both smart, . . . even if we disagree with them, they’re not making egregious errors most of the time . . . 

It’s always good to see good faith and courtesy in these debates. Good for them.

11:55 . . . absolutely classic article called “51 Biblical Proofs of a Pauline Papacy and Ephesian Primacy,” which is basically trying to parody an earlier post . . . 

That refers to my original article that kicked off this entire discussion. Jason has been ignoring me since 2010 (he used to reply very vigorously, from 2002 to 2009). So when he reposted his original article from 2002 in 2012, he engaged in the practice of not naming me, which is also notoriously done by anti-Catholic polemicist James Swan, who for years was literally obsessed with my work. It’s an indication of how much they both personally despise me (because I have refuted them so many times). For a while I would respond in the combox at Triablogue, until that site banned me. But Jason only distantly referred to me and my article in 2012:

It was a list of 51 Biblical proofs of a Pauline papacy and Ephesian primacy. I wrote it in response to a Roman Catholic apologist’s list of 50 alleged Biblical proofs of a Petrine papacy. 

“Annoyed Pinoy” in the combox does dare to mention me: 

Jason, I got the impression that you could have included more than 51 “proofs” but that it was enough for you to top Dave Armstrong’s “50 proofs”.

No one could read my original article, to see what Jason was responding to; nor were they made aware of my two later replies. This is standard anti-Catholic (censorship and ignore) practice. It wasn’t always so. In his original reply on his own earlier website in 2002, Jason followed the usual standard practice of naming a dialogue opponent and linking to what was being responded to:

At his web site, Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong has a list of “50 NEW TESTAMENT PROOFS FOR PETRINE PRIMACY AND THE PAPACY” (http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ112.HTM). [see the blog version from 2006]. He says that the evidence “is quite strong, and is inescapably compelling by virtue of its cumulative weight”. In a recent article written in response to me (http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ502.HTM) [defunct link], Dave said:

As I said, Jason is highly encouraged to actually offer reasonable replies to all 50 evidences, as opposed to merely belittling and dismissing them out of hand….

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….

Jason can mock the paper all he wants. The fair-minded reader who seeks truth may wish to take a look at it and see whether the evidences presented, taken together, are as extremely weak and insignificant as he makes them out to be.

Later, Jason kindly linked to my counter-reply [see the article on my original website from 2002] and his reply back. But now I no longer exist, and in fact, never did. How the mighty have fallen . . . 

14:36 it’s a parody showing proof texts for a Pauline Papacy . . . if you’ve been involved with dialogue with Roman Catholics and apologists and scholars . . . you may get the echo in your head [of] certain Petrine proof text arguments . . . a good example [is]:

5. Paul is the only apostle who refers to his authority over all the churches (1 Corinthians 4:177:172 Corinthians 11:28).

like that kind of thing where they point to something uniquely said about Peter, therefore primacy or supremacy, neglecting to consider the possibility that saying something only to someone does not mean that the same was not given to others . . . so it’s kind of a bit of a leap to just say specifically him, therefore only him, but either way, just read through the whole thing. Classic article; absolutely classic.
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Sorry, but I’m not quite as enthralled with it. It was answered rather easily in my first reply:
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.
I would further add that Paul played a rather minor role in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) — his words were not even recorded — , whereas Peter played the leading role. Paul went out proclaiming far and wide what the council had decided (Acts 16:4). That’s precisely “authority over all the churches.” Peter promulgated it, and Paul proclaimed his decree. Jesus specifically commissioned Peter as the leader of the Church in Matthew 16. There’s nothing remotely like that, anywhere, about Paul. So this proves nothing of what it purports to prove, as parody or not.
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16:36 Catholics have been raping the scriptures looking for things . . . any hint . . . I think a lot of this happens with Marian stuff as well, where

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They can describe Catholic apologetics any way they like. In the end, they have to argue points just as we do. The polemics and sweeping derogatory statements prove nothing. I have defended my initial article (twice) and am doing so again now, and will whenever I catch wind of any other critique. It’s not difficult, because these counter-arguments are so weak; many of them missing the point of my article altogether (cumulative evidence).
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30:46 The video shows Catholic Suan Sonna (whose YouTube show I have been on) making an argument that is somewhat critical of one of my 50 arguments:
I see some Catholic apologists use [the argument that] Peter is mentioned this many times in the scriptures and that shows that he has a primacy, I mean it can show that he is an important character, but I think I’ve also seen a lot of accounts that have Paul mentioned more than Peter, but I also don’t think in the first place that’s a good criterion to use how many times someone gets name dropped.
It depends on what one is contending for: what a given argument is intended to prove. As I have reiterated, my argument was a cumulative one. I would never say — and never have — something like, “Peter being mentioned a bunch of times proves he was the pope.” My argument is much more nuanced and subtle. I would say it establishes (as Suan said) “that he is an important character,” which is consistent with the notion that he was the first pope. That’s an entirely different — not nearly as sweeping — argument. I discussed the “numbers thing” in my second reply to Jason:

One must always keep in mind my later clarification and qualification of what I was trying to accomplish (this is now the third and last time I will cite my own words in this vein):

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.

Secondly, it should be noted that my original claim was Peter’s frequency of reference in relation to the other disciples, not all the apostles (i.e., the twelve, of which Paul was not one). This makes a big difference. The reasoning thus ran as follows:

1. Peter was the leader of the disciples.

2. This is shown by (among many other indications) the fact that he is mentioned far more than any of the other twelve disciples.

3. By analogy, then, if Peter was the leader of the disciples, then he was the model for the leader of the Church as pope, with other disciples being models of bishops.

If Jason wants to play his reductio game with Paul, he is welcome to do so, but he is responsible for presenting my original claim accurately. As it stands above, it is not at all unreasonable or silly, or anything of the sort. All it is maintaining is that Peter was indisputably the leader of the disciples. The next step to the papacy is one of analogy and plausibility. In any event, I agree with Jason that proofs such as this one, by themselves, do not inexorably lead to a papacy.

I do take exception to the related item in Jason’s 51 arguments:
8. Paul is mentioned more in the New Testament than any other apostle.
As a strictly factual matter, this is untrue. Last November, I revisited this question in an article:

I did a search concerning St. Paul, and his name appears 184 times in the NT (23 of those as Saul). But St. Peter is referenced 191 times (162 as Peter or Simon Peter, 23 as Simon, and 6 as Cephas: derived from the Aramaic kepha; i.e., “rock”). . . .

Moreover, it’s not only the number of times Peter is mentioned; it’s also how he is mentioned. I wrote in my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism:

Peter’s name occurs first in all lists of Apostles (Matth. 10:2; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13). Matthew even calls him the “first” (10:2). (Judas Iscariot is invariably mentioned last.) Peter is almost always named first whenever he appears with anyone else. In one (only?) example to the contrary, Galatians 2:9, where he (Cephas) is listed after James and before John, he is clearly pre-eminent in the entire context (for example, 1:18-19, 2:7-8). . . .

Peter’s name is always the first listed of the “inner circle” of the disciples (Peter, James and John — Matthew 17:1; 26:37, 40; Mark 5:37; 14:37). . . .

31:16 Suan and Trent both acknowledge there’s bad examples that Catholic apologists have have used . . .
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Suan did indeed critique one form of the “numerical argument” that fails. I totally agree with him. My point is that what he critiques was not my own argument, which is much subtler and less sweeping in its ambition.
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31:29  I think the original thing was maybe David Armstrong
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Finally my name got mentioned. It should be, in fairness, since it was my own argument and article (whether it is admired or despised) that kicked off this lengthy discussion, going back 22 years (Jason’s critique) and 30 years to my initial article on Peter’s primacy.
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The video then annoyingly wanders and rambles all over the place, like so many of these videos. It’s immensely frustrating. I submit that written apologetics is exponentially better and more organized . . . Most of these videos need a good editor, if I do say so. I’ve been scrolling through more than an hour of the video, and they scarcely even treat the ostensible topic — Engwer’s Pauline Parody” — (judging by their title).
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1:38:45 Finally they get back to the actual topic, and show Suan Sonna talking about this item in Jason’s list:
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).
I easily answered this in my first reply:
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.
1:39:42 Suan Sonna is shown giving an excellent counter-argument to #1 on Jason’s list. He brings up this verse:
Acts 15:7 (RSV) 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.”
Suan goes on to develop the counter-argument:
So Peter’s also saying that he was distinctively chosen by God to bring the Gentiles to the Church . . . we can’t say that Paul only has this title when we see Peter claim a similar one for himself and with divine authorization claimed with it, . . . obviously that can’t be to the exclusion of Peter . . .
What is said about both Paul and Peter in the NT obviously can’t be an argument (again, satirical or not) for the primacy of one over the other. Therefore, Jason’s argument #1 fails in its purpose. It’s a wash.
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1:45:05 this is Jason’s whole tactic: just laid out to bear they cannot be consistent with their standards, they can’t! The only 
consistency they can have is the pope.
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My two replies and now this one, are the most thorough and direct responses to Jason’s satirical arguments. If my reasoning is so bad and able to be refuted, then why don’t these two guys critique those (and hopefully cease and desist from their constant rambling)?
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The video continues to ramble off-topic. It was very disappointing. I had hoped that a video lasting two hours and 18 minutes would seriously grapple with the topic they (supposedly) chose, but it wasn’t to be. Alas, this is very common with apologetics videos. Anyway, I made a few responses that may be helpful to one or two people out there . . .

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

Summary: I take on a video that discusses (amidst endless rambling) anti-Catholic Jason Engwer’s “Pauline Papacy” parodies: responses to an article of mine, over 20 years ago.

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