06 October 2008

Papal Authority Essay - Part 1: The Bible

In my introduction I told of my journey from Evangelical to Orthodox to Catholic and how my biggest hurdle was the question of Papal authority. In this post I will discuss how the Bible helped me understand the importance of the Holy Father as successor to St. Peter.

Matthew 16:13-20 is the essential text to begin this discussion:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 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. 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."

One who holds the "keys of the kingdom" carries the authority of the king and acts on behalf of the king when he is absent. (Compare Isaiah 22: 19-22 where Eliakim, the master of the palace of King Hezekiah is given the keys to the kingdom.) By passing down these "keys" the successors to St. Peter empowered by the Holy Spirit are able to safeguard the Church from attack. Without this authority the truth would be up for grabs.

Also notice:
-St. Peter is always listed first (Mt. 10:14; Mk. 3:16-19; Lk. 6:14-1 5; Acts 1:13)
-Is sometimes the only one mentioned (Lk. 9:32).
-He speaks for the Apostles (Mt. 18:21; Mk. 8:28; Lk. 12:41; Jn. 6:69).
-When our Lord selects a group of three for some special event, such as the Transfiguration, St. Peter is in the first position.
-Our Lord chose to teach from St. Peter's boat.
-At Pentecost St. Peter preached to the crowds and told of the mission of the Church (Acts 2;14-40).
-He performed the first miraculous healing (Acts 3:6-7).
-St. Peter also received the revelation that the Gentiles were to be baptized (Acts 10:9-48)
-He sided with St. Paul against the need for circumcision (Acts 15).
As an Orthodox Christian I was taught that even though he was the leader of the Apostles, he was simply "first among equals". So, I went next to Church History to consider what the Fathers and the Councils have to say. And that, dear reader, is where we will go in our next installment.

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