Thursday, January 23, 2020

Abusing Peter's Weaknesses To Establish A Papacy

I want to expand on Steve's recent discussion of Luke 22:32 and the papacy.

The passage is addressing Peter's restoration after a fall, not some sort of strength he had as a Pope. The work Peter is described as doing, in strengthening his brethren, not only is common to all of the apostles (Acts 18:23), but is common to individuals of a lower rank in the church as well (Acts 15:32). It's not something unique to Peter, much less is it papal.

Much the same can be said of John 21:15-17, another passage often abused to argue for a papacy. John 21, like Luke 22, is addressing Peter's need for restoration, as reflected in the parallel between the three affirmations of love for Christ and Peter's previous three denials of Christ. And, as with Luke 22, what Peter is called to do in John 21 is not only common to the other apostles, but also to individuals of a lesser rank (Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2).

Neither Luke 22 nor John 21 suggests that Peter had papal authority, much less that he would pass on such authority exclusively to a succession of bishops in Rome. It's perverse to take these passages about Peter's weakness and need for restoration and use them to claim that he was being given papal authority.

The Catholic abuse of Isaiah 22 is of a somewhat similar nature. I won't repeat everything I've said in past discussions about the passage. See the comments section of the thread here. As I explain there, if Catholics were consistent in their appeal to Isaiah 22, they would have to conclude that neither Peter nor his supposed successors have the attributes Catholics allege. So, whereas seeing a papacy in Luke 22 and John 21 involves unverifiable speculation, seeing a papacy in Matthew 16's use of Isaiah 22 is even worse, since papal authority isn't just absent from Isaiah 22, but is even contradicted.

What we have with these three passages is a couple that refer to Peter's need for restoration after a fall (Luke 22, John 21) and another that would give Peter and his successors sub-papal authority if the passage were applied consistently (Isaiah 22). In that sense, all three passages are about the weaknesses of Peter, but are being abused to argue that he has the strength of a Pope. The common thread is that some of the terminology and concepts used in each of these passages can be made to sound papal if taken out of context. But none of the passages imply a papacy when interpreted as we'd normally interpret a document.


  1. Using both Peter's weaknesses/failures and strengths/successes is an attempt to make Catholicism's claims non-falsifiable. I forget if you applied it in your EXCELLENT article "51 Biblical Proofs Of A Pauline Papacy And Ephesian Primacy", but the same thing could be done with Paul. He was the greatest persecutor of the Church. Given Catholic hermeneutics, that would support Pauline Papacy. "Isn't it just like God to take the worst persecutor of the Church and make him Supreme Pontiff of he Universal Church?"

  2. Where in John 21:15-17 and Luke 22:32 is Peter's joy and excitement? Would such not be the natural response to being given a position of primacy?

    I would say to Catholics that there is nothing in these incidents even remotely pointing to Peter being bestowed some special office of authority. They turn these passages right on their heads.