Tuesday, August 02, 2022

More About The Arguments For Pauline And Petrine Papacies

The Other Paul and Geoff Robinson just produced a good response to the video by Trent Horn and Suan Sonna on a Pauline papacy.

Since Luke 22, John 21, and Jesus' singling out of Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane have been getting a lot of attention, I want to point out how unusually weak Peter is in the gospel accounts leading up to Jesus' death. While all of the disciples are referred to as being unfaithful to Jesus in that context, and Judas is obviously the worst of them, the degree to which Peter falters is often underestimated. As I said in my initial response to the video by Trent and Suan, Peter boasted louder and fell harder. Before we even get to his triple denial of Christ:

- Peter not only joins the other disciples in looking around after Jesus refers to his upcoming betrayal, at a loss to figure out who would betray him (John 13:22), but even takes the initiative to ask Jesus to identify the betrayer (13:24).

- After Jesus predicts that his disciples will abandon him, Peter denies that he'll abandon Jesus, as the other disciples deny that they'll abandon him (Matthew 26:35).

- However, Peter is distinguished as making the claim twice (Matthew 26:33, 26:35).

- And he not only is more outspoken than the other disciples in that manner, but also in singling himself out by saying that he'll be faithful to Jesus even if the other disciples aren't (Matthew 26:33). So, Peter's assurances of faithfulness are higher in both quantity and quality.

- Peter is the one who draws a sword and uses it in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18:10), which Jesus rebukes (18:11), after which Peter flees with the other disciples. So, we again see the biggest contrast in Peter. He initially puts up the most resistance to Jesus' opponents, but then flees with the rest of the disciples. And the initial resistance Peter put up was inappropriate and rebuked by Jesus.

Those events and Peter's triple denial of Christ make up the context in which Luke 22:32, the singling out of Peter in Mark 14:37, and Peter's restoration in John 21:15-17 occur. The context portrays Peter as unusually weak, which adequately explains why he gets the sort of unusual attention under consideration. It's not about an unusual strength he had as Pope. It's gratuitous to shoehorn a papacy into these texts to explain something the texts and contexts already explain sufficiently without a papacy. None of these passages are about papal authority. They're about Peter falling harder than his companions and needing warning, rebuke, and restoration accordingly (much like Thomas in John 20, as I noted in my earlier post). Any Catholic assertion that the passages are also about papal authority is gratuitous and in need of justification, which they never have provided and never will.

Watch the video by Paul and Geoff. It makes a lot of significant points.


  1. I completely agree that the papacy is an entirely unjustified inference from anythign in the Gospels. I have a section in TMOM (The Mirror or the Mask) on Peter's personality, and I would put a somewhat different emphasis than what you give here. I would say that Peter is portrayed in more detail than most of the other disciples and that his personality shows a mix of traits that spring from a kind of boastfulness coupled with a big mouth and great love for Jesus. He's the kind of person who always has to say what he's thinking, and often the things that he is thinking are presumptuous and loving at the same time. So he can't bear the suggestion that he will deny Jesus. He can't bear the suggestion that Jesus is going to die. He wants to try to walk to Jesus on the water. He wants to die with Jesus but in the end doesn't have the courage. Yet he apparently is the only one other than the Beloved Disciple who actually goes to the high priest's house following Jesus after his arrest. This is what exposes him to the test of being identified as Jesus' follower, which he fails. His weakness is measured in relation to his aspirations, and his aspirations arise from a truly loving heart and a certain amount of natural leadership ability. Jesus seems to recognize this when he says to him, "When you are converted, strengthen your brethren." He does seem to have something of a leadership role. But nothing like a papacy.

    1. I agree about Peter's overall character. My focus here is on the events surrounding Jesus' death, since Catholics bring up Luke 22 and John 21. The degree to which Peter is weak in the context of Luke 22, which has implications for John 21, tends to be underestimated.

      It's ironic that Luke 22:30, the verse just before the two Catholics typically cite, repeats the imagery of the disciples found in Matthew 19:28, where they're portrayed as equals. Jesus' throne is distinguished in Matthew 19:28, but there's no effort to portray Peter as having more authority than the other disciples. Luke 22:30 is a reiteration of what Jesus had said earlier in Matthew 19:28, which is consistent with the imagery of equality used elsewhere (Ephesians 2:20, Revelation 21:14, etc.).

      Even the reference to strengthening the brethren in Luke 22:32 probably isn't about prominence among the Twelve (papal or non-papal). It's language used about multiple other individuals elsewhere in Luke's writings (Paul, Barnabas, Judas, and Silas in Acts 14:22, 15:32, 15:41, 18:23). Even if Luke 22:43 is a later addition, it does reflect an early perception that the language of strengthening could be applied to an inferior assisting a superior (the inferior is the one doing the strengthening). It's reminiscent of Matthew 4:11 and Mark 1:13. Considering all of the attention given to Peter's weaknesses in the events surrounding Jesus' death and the focus on his weaknesses in Luke 22:31-32 and its immediate context in particular, combined with the reiteration of the equality of the Twelve in verse 30, I doubt that the reference to strengthening the brethren is meant to allude to any leadership role he had among the apostles. If it's about his leadership, it's probably about the type of leadership he had in common with the other apostles, the type of shepherding referred to in John 21:15-17, which all of the apostles were involved in.