A Refutation of the Misrepresentations of the Writings of John Chrysostom
and William Webster by Roman Catholic, Stephen Ray
By William Webster
In his rebuttal, Steve Ray gives an extensive refutation of what I have written on John Chrysostom. At the beginning of this response, I need to set the record straight on the proper use of his name. This may seem to be a nonissue, something that is really quite insignificant. Personally, I agree with that assessment but Steve Ray makes a big deal out of the issue. On Page 37 of his rebuttal in the section on John Chrysostom, he takes issue with my reference to his name. I tend to refer to him simply as Chrysostom. Ray’s objection comes in a section where Steve has conjured up a mock trial, the purpose of which is to demonstrate that I have grossly distorted the historical facts with respect to Chrysostom and that I have no real knowledge of Church history. The entire “trial” is laced with ad hominem argumentation. Steve Ray says this portrayal is not meant to belittle, but it is very difficult for me, given the tone in which it is written, to come to any other conclusion. Be that as it may, Steve Ray writes:
And you, Bill Webster, also said that Chrysostom said…Objection your Honor! His name is not Chrysostom as Bill keeps referring to him. His name is John. “Chrysostom” is an appelation or description added many years later which means “golden-mouthed” because he was such a marvelous preacher. He is correctly referred to as St. John Chrysostom. The judge asks, “Is that true Mr. Webster?” Ah, yes your honor, I think it is.
What sort of childishness is this, Steve? Are we supposed to be impressed here with with your intimate knowledge of Church history; with your apparent erudition? You need to be sure and write the publishers of the works of Johannes Quasten, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Thomas Aquinas, John Meyendorff, Jaroslav Pelikan, Philip Schaff, Michael Winter, William Jurgens, Herbert Scott, Dom John Chapman, Dom Chrysostom Baur (the official Roman Catholic biographer of Chrysostom’s life) and Abbe Guettee, just to name a few, and let them know that all of these historians and patristic scholars are wrong when they refer to John Chrysostom simply as Chrysostom. Somehow they have missed the fact that speaking of John Chrysostom as Chrysostom is not the “correct” way to reference his name. But I am sure that the publishers of the works of the above mentioned historians and theologians would be grateful if you would alert them to their error and give them the benefit of your great learning. Unless, of course, Mr. Ray, it is you who are wrong. Could that possibly be? Obviously, it is just not true that John Chrysostom is “correctly” referred to as St. John Chrysostom as if the appelation Chrysostom were illegitimate. It is a common practice among historians—Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant—to refer to him simply as Chrysostom. Do they refer to him as John Chrysostom and St. John Chrysostom? Yes, but they also refer to him as Chrysostom. And could it be that in a real trial, not one of your own imagination, that the judge would hear me present the evidence I have just submitted and will then turn to you and say:
Is this true, Mr. Ray? Is it true that historically John Chrysostom has been “correctly” referred to as Chrysostom? Ah, well, I guess so your honor. But I just wasn’t aware of these facts. How could you be unaware of this when so many historians have referred to him simply as Chrysostom? Ah, I don’t know, your honor. Then you have misrepresented Mr. Webster, haven’t you Mr. Ray? Well, ah, your honor, I suppose I have. Don’t you think an apology is in order Mr. Ray?
Chrysostom’s Exegesis of Matthew 16 and His View of Peter
My discussion of Chrysostom was included as part of my discussion of Augustine in my original rebuttal to Steve Ray’s allegations. I was using the documentation from my book on these two fathers as evidence of the fact that I had been straightforward in stating that the early fathers did believe that Peter held a primacy in the Church. I cited numerous descriptions of Peter from Chrysostom’s writings in this rebuttal from The Matthew 16 Controversy such as: “Peter, the coryphaeus of the choir of apostles; the mouth of the disciples; the foundation of the faith; the base of the confession etc.”, and I state:
These are exalted titles but in using them Chrysosotm does not mean that Peter possesses a primacy of jurisdiction in the Church or that he is the rock upon which the Church is built.
In response Steve Ray says:
How do we know this, Bill? Are you making a shut-and-closed case statement here? What is your criterion? Is it silence, the same as with Augustine?
My criterion Steve is not just silence just as it was not with Augustine. Just as I demonstrated with Augustine, the conclusion is drawn from his actual exegesis of Matthew 16, his statements about the other Apostles and his practice. I go on to say:
Again, we have already seen this in Augustine. He uses similar language in describing Peter but without its having a Roman Catholic meaning. We know this is also true for Chrysostom because he applied similar titles to the other apostles and did not interpret the rock of Matthew 16 to be Peter.
Steve Ray says in response:
We just read above “Peter, the coryphaeus of the choir of apostles, the mouth of the disciples, the foundation of the faith, the base of the confession.” What is the true foundation of the faith? Peter’s faith? No, Peter is the foundation of the faith. What is the base of the confession? Peter’s confession? No, Peter himself is the base of the confession and the foundation of the faith. This is very profound – this is acknowledging Peter as the foundation not only of the Church but also of the confession and the faith!
Steve Ray is drawing a conclusion here that Chrysostom himself would not affirm. First of all, Chrysostom denies that Peter is the rock in exegeting Matthew 16. He states that the rock is Peter’s confession of faith. Therefore, since he is not the rock, the Church is not built upon him but upon his faith or confession. He, personally, is not the foundation. It is obvious that a person has to make a confession and Peter is often in the writings of the fathers referred to as the rock of faith, but it is his faith that is emphasized. Ambrose states that Peter was the first who laid the foundation of faith among the nations. The foundation is not Peter personally but the objective faith that he proclaimed. The faith once for all delivered to the saints. Peter can be cited as a foundation only in the sense that he has made a profession of faith. This is precisely the meaning of Ephesians 2:20 where it states that the Church is built upon the foundation of all the apostles. Is it built upon their persons? No, it is built upon their teaching. And this is all that the fathers mean when they refer to Peter as the foundation of faith for they also state that he is not the rock of Matthew 16.
I go on to speak of Chrysostom’s view of the primacy of Peter and his role in the Church. Steve Ray asserts that Chrysostom teaches that the primacy of Peter includes an exclusive primacy of jurisdcition to rule the universal Church. He claims that Chrysostom teaches that Peter was granted the chief rule over the other apostles and the Church in general by Jesus Christ. He takes issue with my statements that in Chrysostom’s mind all of the apostles are equal in status. My reason for drawing these conclusions is derived from the fact that the titles attributed to Peter are likewise also attributed to the other apostles. I make these statements:
The term coryphaeus, for example, was a general title applied by Chrysostom to several of the apostles, not to Peter exclusively. It carries the idea of leadership but implies no jurisdiction. Chrysostom uses this term to describe Peter, James, John, Andrew and Paul. He states that just as Peter received the charge of the world, so did the apostles Paul and John. Just as Peter was appointed teacher of the world, so was Paul. Just as Peter was a holder of the keys of heaven, so was the apostle John. He places the apostles on an equal footing relative to authority:
He took the coryphaei and led them up into a high mountain apart…Why does He take these three alone? Because they excelled the others. Peter showed his excellence by his great love of Him, John by being greatly loved, James by the answer…’We are able to drink the chalice.’ (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume X, Saint Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Homily 56.2; p. 345)….
Do you not see that the headship was in the hands of these three, especially of Peter and James? This was the chief cause of their condemnation by Herod (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume XI, Saint Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, Homily XXVI, p. 169)…..
The coryphaei, Peter the foundation of the Church, Paul the vessel of election (Contra ludos et theatra 1, PG VI, 265. Cited by Chapman, Studies on the Early Papacy (London: Sheed & Ward, 1928), p. 76).
And if any should say ‘How then did James receive the chair at Jerusalem?’ I would make this reply, that He appointed Peter teacher not of the chair, but of the world…And this He did to withdraw them (Peter and John) from their unseasonable sympathy for each other; for since they were about to receive the charge of the world, it was necessary that they should no longer be closely associated together (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume XIV, Saint Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homily 88.1-2, pp. 331-332).
For the Son of thunder, the beloved of Christ, the pillar of the Churches throughout the world, who holds the keys of heaven, who drank the cup of Christ, and was baptized with His baptism, who lay upon his Master’s bosom, with much confidence, this man now comes forward to us now (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume XIV, Saint Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homily 1.1, p. 1).
The merciful God is wont to give this honor to his servants, that by their grace others may acquire salvation; as was agreed by the blessed Paul, that teacher of the world who emitted the rays of his teaching everywhere (Homily 24, On Genesis. Cited by E. Giles, Documents Illustrating Papal Authority (London: SPCK, 1952), p. 165).
It is clear from these statements that Chrysostom, while certainly granting a large leadership role to Peter, does not consider him to have been made the supreme ruler of the Church. These passages demonstrate that the exalted titles applied to Peter were not exclusively applied to him. There is one passage in which Chrysostom does state that Peter received authority over the Church:
For he who then did not dare to question Jesus, but committed the office to another, was even entrusted with the chief authority over the brethren (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume XIV, Saint Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homily 88.1-2, pp. 331-332).
This would seem to indicate that Chrysostom taught that Peter was the supreme ruler of the Church. However in the passage cited above Chrysostom speaks of the apostle John as also receiving the charge of the whole world and the keys equally with Peter:
And this He did to withdraw them (Peter and John) from their unseasonable sympathy for each other; for since they were about to receive the charge of the world, it was necessary that they should no longer be closely associated together (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume XIV, Saint Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homily 88.1-2, pp. 331-332).
For the Son of thunder, the beloved of Christ, the pillar of the Churches throughout the world, who holds the keys of heaven (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume XIV, Saint Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homily 1.1, p. 1).
He goes on to speak of Paul as being on an equal footing with Peter:
Where the Cherubim sing the glory, where the Seraphim are flying, there shall we see Paul, with Peter, and as chief and leader of the choir of the saints, and shall enjoy his generous love….I love Rome even for this, although indeed one has other grounds for praising it…Not so bright is the heaven, when the sun sends forth his rays, as is the city of Rome, sending out these two lights into all parts of the world. From thence will Paul be caught up, thence Peter. Just bethink you, and shudder, at the thought of what a sight Rome will see, when Paul ariseth suddenly from that deposit, together with Peter, and is lifted up to meet the Lord. What a rose will Rome send up to Christ!…what two crowns will the city have about it! what golden chains will she be girded with! what fountains possess! Therefore I admire the city, not for the much gold, nor for the columns, not for the other display there, but for these pillars of the Church (1 Cor. 15:38) (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume XI, Saint Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans, Homily 32, Ver. 24, pp. 561-562).
Further, Chrysostom speaks of James, and not Peter, as possessing the chief rule and authority in Jerusalem and over the Jerusalem Council:
This (James) was bishop, as they say, and therefore he speaks last…There was no arrogance in the Church. After Peter Paul speaks, and none silences him: James waits patiently; not starts up (for the next word). No word speaks John here, no word the other Apostles, but held their peace, for James was invested with the chief rule, and think it no hardship. So clean was their soul from love of glory. Peter indeed spoke more strongly, but James here more mildly: for thus it behooves one in high authority, to leave what is unpleasant for others to say, while he himself appears in the milder part (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume XI, Saint Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, Homily 33, pp. 205, 207).
The point that I am obviously making here is that while Chrysostom says exalted things about Peter he makes precisely the same statements about the other apostles. I give the quote about Peter being entrusted with the chief authority over the brethren and I said that this seems to indicate that Peter was established as supreme ruler of the Church. However, given what Chrysostom says about the other apostles this conclusion is illegitimate. Chrysostom also states that John was given the charge of the world with Peter and James was entrusted with the chief rule at Jerusalem, while Peter was there. And he also speaks of Peter and Paul as being on an equal footing. Steve Ray vigorously objects to such a conclusion going so far as to accuse me of completely misrepresenting Chrysostom. Commenting on Chrysostom’s statement that Peter was given ‘chief authority over the brethren’, as translated by the Nicen Post-Nicene Fathers series, Steve Ray writes:
Notice that Bill doesn’t like what St. John Chrysostom “seems to indicate” so he quickly looks for a way to stomp out the fire…I would ask Bill…How would you advise St. John Chrysostom, one of the greatest preachers of all time (in fact, Chrysostom means “golden mouth”), to reword this passage to fit your newly invented Protstant tradition? At a point like this we have to ask: “Who really violates the rules of historiography? Who is the real “anachronist”?…Bill tells us that St. John Chrysostom never gives us reason to believe Peter held a jurisdictional primacy over anyone (and thus concludes as above: “He places the apostles on an equal footing relative to authority”) and then makes the statement above: “There is one passage in which Chrysostom does state that Peter received authority over the Church”. Is this double talk or what? Deny that John Chrysostom says it and then admit he says it? This admission is followed by a shabby attempt to erase the words of John Chrysostom and to eliminate the obvious meaning of the statement. Bill has to do this because his Fundamentalist tradition and his anachronistic view of history force him to play games with the Fathers. “No authority over the Church” vs. “jurisdictional primacy”. Is Bill attempting to make a distinction here? If so, I would claim it is double talk. How does John’s “charge of the world with Peter” eliminate John Chrysostom’s statement that Peter was “entrusted with the chief authority over the brethren”’? Look carefully here:
Does “charge of the world” = “chief authority over the brethren”?
They are qualitatively and quantitatively different. Is Bill hoping the reader will just slip past this sophist argument and not catch it? The Apostles were all given authority over the world when Jesus commissioned them in Matthew 28:18-19. However, what does that have to do with Peter’s “chief authority over the brethren”?…He admits, with a hiss of rejection, and a collection of supposedly contradicting passages, that there is one place where St. John Chrysostom grants a place of authority to Peter over the other Apostles. We read it a moment ago: “There is one passage in which John Chrysostom does state that Peter received authority over the Church: ‘For he who then did not dare to question Jesus, but committed the office to another, was even entrusted with the chief authority over the brethren’ (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume XIV, Saint John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel ofJohn , Homily 88.1-2, pp. 331-332).”
What he fails to tell us is that St. John Chrysostom doesn’t just mention this in passing, but pounds it home with a sledgehammer by saying it three times ! The subsequent mention of John being a partner in “charge of the world” is contained in this same passage. Peter governing the Apostles and John being a co-worker in charge of the world are, as we have seen, two completely different things which Bill should be clever enough to notice if he had a desire to treat the text and history with respect. Does he know this passage and how powerfully St. John Chrysostom pounds home the point? Yes he does because he has the whole passage cited in his book The Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter and the Rock. I provide the follow passage directly from his book (thank God and HP for scanners!):
“He saith unto him [Peter], ‘Feed my sheep’, And why, having passed over the others, doth He speak with Peter on these matters? He was the chosen one of the Apostles, the mouth of the disciples, the leader of the band ; on this account also Paul went up upon a time to enquire of him rather than the others. And at the same time to show him that he must now be of good cheer, since the denial was done away, Jesus putteth into his hands the chief authority among the brethren; and He bringeth not forward the denial, nor reproacheth him with what had taken place, but saith: ‘If thou lovest Me, preside over thy brethren , and the warm love which thou didst ever manifest, and in which thou didst rejoice, show thou now; and the life which thou saidst thou wouldest lay down for Me, now give for My sheep’…And ifany should say ‘How then did James receive the chair at Jerusalem?’ I would make this reply, that He appointed Peter teacher not of the chair, but of the world… ‘Then Peter turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; who also leaned on His breast at supper; and saith, ‘Lord, and what shall this man do?’ Wherefore hath he reminded us of that reclining? Not without cause or in a chance way, but to show us what boldness Peter had after the denial. For he who then did not dare to question Jesus, but committed the office to another, was even entrusted with the chief authority over the brethren, and not only doth not commit to another what relates to himself, but himself now puts another question to his Master concerning another. John is silent but Peter speaks. He showeth also here the love which he bare towards him; for Peter greatly loved John as is clear from what followed, and their close union is shown through the whole Gospel, and in the
Acts. When therefore Christ had foretold great things to him, and committed the world to him, and spake beforehand of his martyrdom, and testified that his love was greater than that of the others, desiring to have John also to share with him, he said, ‘And what shall this man do?’ ‘Shall he not come the same way with us?” And as at that other time not being able himself to ask, he puts John forward, so now desiring to make him a return, and supposing that he would desire to ask about the matters pertaining to himself, but had not courage, he himself undertook the questioning. What then saith Christ? ‘If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?’ Since he spake from strong affection, and wishing not to be tom away from him, Christ, to show that however much he might love, he could not go beyond his love, saith, ‘If I will that he tarry-what is that to thee?’…And this He did to withdraw them (Peter and John) from their unseasonable sympathy for each other; for since thev were about to receive the charize of the world (Mt 28:18 – 19), it was necessary that they should no longer be closely associated together, for assuredly this would have been a great loss to the world. Wherefore He saith unto him, ‘Thou hast a work entrusted unto thee, look to it, accomplish it, labor and struggle. What if I will that he tarry here? Look thou to and care for thine own matters”(Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume XIV, Saint John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homily 88.1-2, pp. 331-332, on pgs. 31 – 311 of The Matthew 16 Controvers: Peter and the Rock .
So, we see contrary to Bill’s comments earlier, and from a quote from his own book, that St. John Chrysostom hammers home the fact that Jesus placed Peter in a place of preeminence over the other Apostles. So, in his writings St. John Chrysostom never “taught that Peter was the supreme ruler of the Church”, especially over the other apostles, eh Bill? I don’t know how St. John Chrysostom could have made it any plainer. I also don’t understand why Bill wants to sweep it under the rug unless he really doesn’t care what St. John Chrysostom actually says and really just wants to maintain his anti-Catholic stance so he can rest easy in his novel and innovative new tradition opposed completely to the traditions and ecclesiology of the Fathers of the Church!
Regarding the quotation I provided above suggesting that Chrysostom viewed Paul on an equal footing with Peter, Steve Ray says:
Webster quotes the above to speak of Paul as being on an equal footing with Peter. Equal in heavenly stature, not in earthly jurisdiction. Good grief! Can’t he tell the difference?…Come on, Bill, let’s read the context and try to be honest with the passage!…Bill would have us believe that the other Apostles had the same “chief authority” as Peter. I quote from a letter of my good friend Dave Palm to an Orthodox lady, “On your counter-citations from St. John Chrysostom, you would have a case if you could cite an instance in which he says that any of the other Apostles had “chief authority” (Greek prostasia ) or “presidency” (Greek: epistasia). The Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon (abridged) defines prostasia as “a being the head of, presidency, chieftainship, leadership” and epistateo (from which we get the noun epistasia ) as 1. to have charge of a thing, to be set over, preside over. II. to be chief President in the assembly” (page 261). Lampe’s Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford, 1961) has this for prostasia , “ 1. support, protection, patronage … 2. charge, government, leadership” and for epistasia , “1. control, authority.”
These words seem to have an intrinsically “jurisdictional” force and they are (as far as I can determine) applied only to St. Peter by St. John Chrysostom. “Guettee in his The Papacy (reprint Blanco, TX: New Sarov Press, n.d., p. 157) claims that St. John Chrysostom used prostasia of St. Paul in his Homily on Romans 32 but the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series has koruphaios here (see Series 1, vol. 11, p. 5 6 1). 1 need to verify this in Migne but I suspect that Guettee got a little overzealous and that NPNF is correct, since koruphaios fits the context of this passage better (in my investigations, koryphaios seems to have the notion of ‘chief’ but does not necessarily carry with it any actual controlling authority, though it can).
Steve Ray accuses me of purposefully misinterpreting John Chrysostom. All of the passages I have provided in which Chrysostom places the other apostles on an equal footing with Peter are summarily rejected. Peter, we are told has been put in charge of the other apostles. The language, we are told, is beyond doubt and clear. Steve even muses, “I don’t know how St. John Chrysostom could have made it any plainer.” He then charges me with wanting to sweep the supposedly clear meaning of Chrysostom’s words under the rug implying that I really don’t care what Chrysostom actually says. I simply want to maintain ‘an anti-Catholic stance so I can rest easy in a novel and innovative new tradition opposed to the traditions and acclesiology of the Fathers of the Church.’ Well, no Steve, I really do care about what Chrysostom says and I am not motivated by an agenda of maintaining an anti-Catholic stance. For you see my opposition to a papal ecclesiology is not an innovation and is not opposed to the traditions and ecclesiology of the Fathers of the Church but in perfect harmony with them. It is the Roman Catholic position that is an innovation and opposed to the traditions and ecclesiology of the Fathers of the Church, Steve. You yourself admit that I provide the entire quotation from Chrysostom in which he states that Peter was granted what is translated as ‘chief authority over the brethren’ in the NPNF. My purpose in providing the entire quote was to demonstrate that what is stated of Peter was also stated of the apostle John. When Chrysostom states that Peter was given ‘chief authority’ by Jesus he then asks the question: “If any should say ‘How then did James receive the chair at Jerusalem? I would make this reply, that he appointed Peter teacher not of the chair, but of the world.” He states further that Christ “committed the world to him.” He therefore states that Peter has been given authority over the world, not of a chair restricted to a particular place and that the meaning of being given ‘charge of the world’ was that he was to be a teacher of the world. He then states that John had received the same commission from Jesus for he says that John and Peter were to receive the charge of the world.
It is important that we understand the word that is translated ‘chief authority’ in this passage. The Greek word used here is prostases. Steve Ray’s entire argument for Chrysostom hinges on the meaning and application of that particular Greek word for Steve maintains that what is said here of Peter by Chrysostom is unique to Peter. Remember, Steve Ray quotes David Palm to this effect from a correspondence he had with an Orthodox lady. He states that the word prostasia and epistasia “seem to have an intrinsically “jurisdictional” force and they are (as far as I can determine) applied only to St. Peter by St. John Chrysostom. Guettee in his The Papacy (reprint Blanco, TX: New Sarov Press, n.d., p. 157) claims that St. John Chrysostom used prostasia of St. Paul in his Homily on Romans 32 but the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series has koruphaios here (see Series 1, vol. 11, p. 5 6 1). 1 need to verify this in Migne but I suspect that Guettee got a little overzealous and that NPNF is correct, since koruphaios fits the context of this passage better (in my investigations, koryphaios seems to have the notion of ‘chief’ but does not necessarily carry with it any actual controlling authority, though it can).”
Sorry, Steve and David for that matter, but Chrysostom does in fact use the word prostasia, as do other fathers, for the other apostles, to be specific, the apostle Paul. Guettee is absolutely correct in his assessment. In his 32nd Homily on Romans Chrysostom refers to the apostle Paul as chief and leader of the choir of saints. The word chief here is as David Palm points out the Greek word koruphaios. But what David seemingly failed to see is that Chrysostom uses a second word and that word is prostasia translated by the NPNF as leader. It is precisely the same word used by Chrysostom in his description of Peter in his 88th Homily on John which is translated there as chief authority. Now, we are faced here with an issue of translation. When the editors of the NPNF chose to translate the term as chief authority in Chrysostom’s 88th Homily on John in reference to Peter, they should have translated it the same way in his 32nd Homily on Romans in reference to Paul. There is no reason to give a different meaning. In fact, Cyril of Jerusalem also uses the same term, prostasia, to refer to both Peter and Paul when he refers to them as chief rulers of the Church (Catechetical Lectures 6.15). The term “chief ruler” is a translation of the Greek word prostasia. Here the NPNF is consistent in its translation of the term. Peter and Paul are obviously placed on an equal footing by Cyril. The same is true of Chrysostom. In the 32nd Homily on Romans, when referring to Paul, the term is translated by the NPNF as leader. Thus, when we maintain a consistency in translation we find that Chrysostom’s use of the term to refer to Peter carries the same idea. Peter is being established by Christ along with the apostle John as a leader in the Church with responsibility as a teacher of the world. In his Commentary on Galatians, Chrysostom says this about the Apostle Paul:
For He that wrought for Peter unto the Apostleship of the Circumcision wrought for me also unto the Gentiles.’ He calls the Gentiles the Uncircumcised and the Jews the Circumcision, and declares his own rank to be equal to that of the Apostles; and, by comparing himself with their Leader not with others, he shows that the dignity of each was the same. After he had established the proof of their unanimity, he takes courage, and proceeds confidently in his argument, not stopping at the Apostles, but advances to Christ Himself, and to the grace which He had conferred upon him…(Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume XIII, Saint Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistle to the Galatians, Chapter II, ver. 8, p. 17).
He clearly states here that Peter and Paul are equal in status. The term, rather than conveying the idea of a jurisdictional authority, carries the idea simply of pastoral and spiritual honor and dignity. Steve Ray says: “Bill would have us believe that the other Apostles had the same “chief authority” as Peter.” That’s right, Steve, because Chrysostom himself says so.
In another writing Chrysostom says this about all of the apostles:
The Apostles were designated rulers, rulers who received not nations and particular cities, but all being entrusted with the world in common (Inscriptionem Actorum II. PG 51, 93).
This quote clearly states that all the apostles are on an equal footing with one another. They are entrusted with the world “in common” and they are all rulers, rulers in common.
In addition to these facts, there is the teaching of Chrysostom on the role and position of James at the Council of Jerusalem. I reference that quote above where Chrysostom speaks of James possessing the chief rule at Jerusalem and over the Jerusalem Council even while Peter was present. He states:
This (James) was bishop, as they say, and therefore he speaks last…There was no arrogance in the Church. After Peter, Paul speaks, and none silences him: James waits patiently; not starts up (for the next word). No word speaks John here, no word the other Apostles, but held their peace, for James was invested with the chief rule, and think it no hardship. So clean was their soul from love of glory. Peter indeed spoke more strongly, but James here more mildly: for thus it behooves one in high authority, to leave what is unpleasant for others to say, while he himself appears in the milder part (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume XI, Saint Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, Homily 33, pp. 205, 207).
One will not find this quotation from Chrysostom in Steve Ray’s book. He simply doesn’t deal with what Chrysostom teaches here at all. He would have us believe that he has dealt with this passage when he says: “Did James have chief rule in the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15? I will not go into the great detail I provide in my book, which I encourage the reader to study.” What Steve is referring to here is his own opinion of what took place in the Jerusalem Council. He does not deal with Chrysostom’s perspective. But we are not interested in Steve Ray’s personal opinion at this point, but with Chrysostom’s. And he is quite clear in what he believes. He teaches that James had the chief rule over the Council. He says:
James was invested with the chief rule…Peter indeed spoke more strongly, but James here more mildly: for thus it behooves one in high authority, to leave what is unpleasant for others to say, while he himself appears in the milder part.
Obviously, Chrysostom is saying that James is the one in high authority, even over Peter. He has the chief rule. Steve Ray suggests that Peter was “promoted” from the chair of Jerusalem to Rome where he was to supreintend the universal Church. However, Chrysostom says nothing about Peter being promoted. Peter never possessed the chair of Jerusalem. According to Chrysostom he was made a teacher of the world by Jesus:
And if any should say ‘How then did James receive the chair at Jerusalem?’ I would make this reply, that He appointed Peter teacher not of the chair, but of the world.
Furthermore, just as Peter received the keys and the charge of the whole world, so did the other apostles. They are equal in every respect.
In addition to these passages I also pointed out that Chrysostom teaches that all legitimate bishops are successors of Peter, who possess the chair of Peter and not just the bishops of Rome:
In referring to Flavian, bishop of Antioch, Chrysostom says:
In speaking of S. Peter, the recollection of another Peter has come to me, the common father and teacher, who has inherited his prowess, and also obtained his chair. For this is the one great privilege of our city, Antioch, that it received the leader of the apostles as its teacher in the beginning. For it was right that she who was first adorned with the name of Christians, before the whole world, should receive the first of the apostles as her pastor. But though we received him as teacher, we did not retain him to the end, but gave him up to royal Rome. Or rather we did retain him to the end, for though we do not retain the body of Peter, we do retain the faith of Peter, and retaining the faith of Peter we have Peter (On the Inscription of the Acts, II. Cited by E. Giles, Documents Illustrating Papal Authority (London: SPCK, 1952), p. 168. Cf. Chapman, Studies on the Early Papacy, p. 96).
And in speaking of Ignatius of Antioch, Chrysostom refers to him as:
a successor of Peter, on whom, after Peter, the government of the church devolved (In S. Ignat. Martyr., n. 4. Cited by Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1910), Volume III, p. 309).
In conclusion I stated the following:
Clearly, Chrysostom cannot be cited as a proponent of a Petrine or papal primacy in the Roman Catholic sense any more than Augustine.
Steve Ray objects to this conclusion stating:
Come on Bill, we just heard from your own lips that St. Chrysostom admits that Peter was to govern over the Apostles. You even admitted to an authority of jurisdiction! But at best, again Bill only argues from silence!…St. John Chrysostom HAS confirmed the primacy of Peter as governor over the other apostles and has conducted himself and his affairs with a knowledge of the supremacy of Rome.
First of all, I never said that Chrysostom taught that Peter had authority over the other apostles. I stated that he taught that all the apostles were equal. Secondly, Chrysostom never conducted his affairs with a knowledge of the supremacy of Rome. He did appeal to Rome, writing a letter to the pope when in exile, but the exact same letter was sent to two other western bishops asking for their aid as well.
Steve Ray’s assertions that Chrysostom teaches that Peter was made supreme ruler of the Church is repudiated by a fuller disclosure of the facts. Ray says:
So, in his writings St. John Chrysostom never “taught that Peter was the supreme ruler of the Church”, especially over the other apostles, eh Bill? I don’t know how St. John Chrysostom could have made it any plainer. I also don’t understand why Bill wants to sweep it under the rug unless he really doesn’t care what St. John Chrysostom actually says and really just wants to maintain his anti-Catholic stance so he can rest easy in his novel and innovative new tradition opposed completely to the traditions and ecclesiology of the Fathers of the Church!…Bill would have us believe that the other Apostles had the same “chief authority” as Peter.
No, Steve, Chrysostom never taught that Peter was supreme ruler over the other apostles or over the Church. As I endeavored to point out in my book and in this rebuttal, the terms he applies to Peter are applied to the other apostles. They are not exclusive to Peter. I am not trying to sweep Chrysostom’s statements under the rug. You have misinterpreted what he said. Again, the precise term for “chief authority” used by Chrysostom for Peter is also applied by him to the apostle Paul. So, yes, Steve, the other apostles had the same “chief authority” as Peter. David Palm says if that could be demonstrated that the Orthodox lady he was corresponding with would have a case. Well, she has a case. David needs to get back with her and let her know she is right. This is what Chrysostom says, Steve. I am being true to his own comments. It is you who are misrepresenting this Church father to support a Roman Catholic agenda which is antithetical to the traditions and ecclesiology of the early Church.
I go on next to document Chrysostom’s exegesis of the rock of Matthew 16 pointing out that he interprets the rock to be Peter’s confession of faith and not Peter personally. Thus, the Church was not built on Peter and therefore there is no papal office. We have looked at this issue in detail when considering Augustine’s interpretation of the rock. Steve Ray suggested that even though a Church father does not interpret the rock to mean Peter this does not preclude the fact that he actually meant it even though he never stated it. Ray returns to that theme here in reference to Chrysostom when he says:
I comment repeatedly, here and in my book, that the Fathers interpreted Matthew 16 in many and various ways, for many and various reasons. I have stated already that even the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Pope in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, refer to the rock as various things depending on the way the passage is being utilized. So, what’s the big deal, Bill?
The big deal, Steve, as I mentioned in the section on Augustine is that the Fathers are very specific in their interpretations and they do not interpret the rock in a Roman Catholic sense. The CCC and John Paul II specify the various interpretations that are acceptable to them. The fathers do the same. Some give two meanings to the rock, Peter’s confession or Christ, for example. Some give just one such as Chrysostom who states that the rock is Peter’s confession of faith. You say, yes, but that does not preclude them interpreting the rock in the same way as Rome does today. Not so, that interpretation is precluded by their comments on the other apostles. They are all equal. Such a conclusion is also precluded by their practice. The CCC and John Paul II do not say that Peter is not the rock like Augustine does. Would it be legitimate for me to suggest that just because they don’t specifically say this that this view is not precluded from their perspective? After all, they interpret the rock in various ways. Yes, but that particular view is precluded by the comments they have already made in their exegesis. The same principle applies to the Church fathers.
Appeals To Rome
One of the major arguments appealed to by Roman Catholic apologists to support their contention that Chrysostom believed in papal primacy is the fact that he appealed to the bishop of Rome. Steve Ray says:
Don’t forget that St. John Chrysostom appealed to Rome of (I think Steve meant to say “for” here) relief.
What this apologist wishes the uninformed to conclude is that Chrysostom looked to Rome alone as the supreme arbiter in theological disputes, as the recognized head of the Church. But such is simply not the case. What Steve Ray fails to mention is the fact that John Chrysostom did not appeal to the bishop of Rome alone. The following background on Chrysostom’s appeal is taken from The Matthew 16 Controversy:
When he was unlawfully deposed as bishop of Constantinople and sent into exile, Chrysostom wrote Pope Innocent I detailing the illegalities of his case and appealing for his aid. However, this letter was not addressed to Innocent alone but also to Venerius and Chromatius, the bishops of Milan and Aquileia, the two most important and influential sees in Italy next to Rome. Dom Chrysostom Baur, in his biography of Chrysostom’s life, gives the following background to his appeals to Rome:
Shortly before the last crisis had arisen, and Chrysostom had been sent from Constantinople for the second time, he and his friends had decided to set forth in detail all the events of the last months in a letter to the Pope and the Western Bishops…The note in the record which states that ‘this letter was also sent to Venerius…and Chromatius,’ cannot first have been added in Rome; so it cannot be that the Pope gave the order to send it to the two Bishops. It must have been thus in the original itself, since Chrysostom speaks to the recipients of the letter in the plural, in the text. That point is important for the question…as to whether this letter can be considered a formal proof of the ‘primacy’ of Rome.
This letter has usually been classed among the great ‘appeals’ which apologists and dogmaticians quote in proof of the recognition of the Roman primacy. But such significance cannot be given to this ‘appeal,’ which Chrysostom addressed not only to Pope Innocent, but also at the same time and in the same words, to the Bishops of Milan and Aquileia. The essence of the letter is this: Chrysostom begs the Pope and the two named bishops, that they would be pleased not to let themselves be drawn to the cause of injustice by the efforts of his enemies, not to acknowledge his unjust banishment, and above all that they would not bring to an end the fellowship of the Church with him, but help according to their power, that the injustice which had been done him would be reversed, and the guilty persons judged by an impartial ecclesiastical court. He could naturally have written thus to any bishop. Actually Chrysostom demanded nothing so formal and consequential as the calling of a new impartial synod, and that was just what the Pope sought, with all his energy, to attain. So one cannot very well state that Chrysostom had appealed from the unjust judgment of a synod to the personal decision of the Pope (Dom Chrysostumus Baur, O.S.B., John Chrysostom and His Time (Westminster: Newman, 1959), Volume II, pp. 299, 301-302; Vol. I, pp. 349-350).
P.R. Coleman–Norton adds these comments:
Though S. Chrysostom elicits the interference of Pope S. Innocent, yet he does not appeal to him as to a supreme arbitrator. That S. Chrysostom expected Pope S. Innocent to show his Letters to neighboring prelates is apparent from his use of the plural and from Palladius’ note that the first epistle was addressed also to the bishops of Milan and Aquileia—a use and an action which can be understood only in the supposition that S. Chrysostom wrote to the Pope as a bishop to a brother-bishop (P.R. Coleman-Norton, The Correspondence of John Chrysostom (With Special Reference to His Epistles to Pope S. Innocent I). Found in Classical Philology, Volume 24, 1929, p. 284).
So, the mere fact that a father appeals to Rome is not evidence that he is expressing belief in papal ‘primacy.’ In fact, as we have seen from Chrysostom’s exegesis of Matthew 16 and his overall writings, he expresses no belief in a papal primacy (The Matthew 16 Controversy, pp. 207-209).
As Yves Congar has stated:
The East never accepted the regular jurisdiction of Rome, nor did it submit to the judgment of Western bishops. Its appeals to Rome for help were not connected with a recognition of the principle of Roman jurisdiction but were based on the view that Rome had the same truth, the same good (Yves Congar, Diversity and Communion (Mystic: Twenty-Third, 1982), pp. 26-27).
We now have the joy of revisiting Steve Ray’s mock trial where he sums up his argument on Chrysostom:
“Well, back to my second question, Mr. Webster, you said St. John Chrysostom never claimed that Peter was given authority, in a jurisdictional sense, over the other apostles. Is that correct? “Yes your honor.” “So then, are you sure you are not misrepresenting the Saint?” “Yes your honor.”
“Bill, tell us then why the great preacher John said three times in one sermon that Peter was entrusted by Jesus “with the chief authority over the brethren”? Who were the “brethren” that St.. John Chrysostom referred to?” “Well, I guess they were the other apostles your honor.” “Did you know that he had said that of Peter?” “Ah, well, I guess, let me see. Well, yes your honor, I even stated it in my book without much elaboration or comment, you know how it is your honor.”
After closing arguments the Judge dismisses the jury to make their deliberation. After thirty minutes, they re-enter the courtroom. “Have you reached a verdict?” “Yes your Honor.”
Since you, the readers are the jurors, you certainly know what the verdict was. At least Bill didn’t get convicted of plagiarism or copyright laws since, after all, it was his book from which he copied all the pages!
You know, Steve, in a real trial there is usually the right of cross examination. So let’s make some clarifications and ask a few pertinent questions of our own:
“Bill, tell us then why the great preacher John said three times in one sermon that Peter was entrusted by Jesus “with the chief authority over the brethren”? Who were the “brethren” that St.. John Chrysostom referred to?…“Did you know that he had said that of Peter?”
Yes, I am well aware that he said that of Peter. But there are a number of facts of which Mr. Ray has failed to inform the court. First of all, the term “chief authority” that he refers to in that passage of Chrysostom is the Greek word prostasia. It is also applied to the apostle Paul by Chrysostom and by Cyril of Jerusalem. Peter and Paul are taught to be on an equal footing with one anothers in the writings of Chrysostom. He teaches that all the apostles are equal in status. He states that they were all rulers who had received the charge of the whole world in common. The term chief rule is a translation of a word that does not necessarily carry a jurisdictional connotation as when the translators of the NPNF series translate the word simply to mean leader. Therefore, what Chrysostom says of Peter he says of the other apostles. It does not apply to Peter in an exclusive sense. Since the term translated chief rule is applied by Chrysosotm to Peter and Paul, and since it is evident that there cannot be two persons who possess chief rule, the word should be properly rendered leader, which Lampe’s Patristic Greek Lexicon states is a legitimate meaning of the word. This leadership role would be fulfilled primarily by teaching and preaching. In addition to this Chrysostom teaches that James presided over the Council of Jerusalem and had been entrusted with the chief rule.
Is this correct, Mr. Ray? Did Chrysostom apply the same title translated as chief rule to the Apostle Paul and state that the Apostles had received the charge of the world and were rulers of the world in common, and that James had the chief rule over the Council of Jerusalem? Well, your honor, quite honstly, I was completely ignorant of these facts.
So your ignorance has apparently led you to misrepresent not only Mr. Webster but also John Chrysostom, hasn’t it Mr. Ray?
The reader can render his own verdict as to who should be convicted of misrepresentation.
The Eastern Church and the Primacy of Rome
Interspersed in his comments on Chrysostom Steve Ray gives a listing of quotes from Eastern fathers and theologians which he says are proof of the Eastern Church’s approval of papal primacy and infallibility. Let’s examine some of the statements he has submitted.
The Council of Chalcedon
Peter Has Spoken Through Leo
Steve Ray asserts that the early councils give evidence to their belief in papal primacy. He gives the example of the fathers at Chalcedon who proclaimed ‘Peter has spoken through Leo’ as a result of examining Leo’s Tome, his doctrinal defense of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. The impression given by Roman apologists to this proclamation of the fathers at Chalcedon is one of blind submission to the doctrinal teachings of the pope. Such is not the case. In fact, just the opposite. What is rarely ever explained by these apologists is that Leo’s Tome and its doctrinal teaching was only accepted by the Council when it was thoroughly analyzed and determined not be in conflict with the teaching of Cyril of Alexandria. John Meyendorff gives the following helpful information on Leo and Chalcedon:
Leo did not participate personally in the council, but his legates at Chalcedon carried with them another remarkable letter addressed to the assembled fathers and expressing the pope’s wish that ‘the rights and honor of the most blessed apostle Peter be preserved’; that, not being able to come himself, the pope be allowed ‘to preside’…at the council in the persons of his legates; and that no debate about the faith be actually held, since ‘the orthodox and pure confession on the mystery of the Incarnation has been already manifested, in the fullest and clearest way, in his letter to bishop Flavian of blessed memory.’ No wonder that his legates were not allowed to read this unrealistic and embarrassing letter before the end of the sixteenth session, at a time when acrimonious debates on the issue had already taken place! Obviously, no one in the East considered that a papal fiat was sufficient to have an issue closed. Furthermore, the debate showed clearly that the Tome of Leo to Flavian was accepted on merits, and not because it was issued by the pope. Upon the presentation of the text, in Greek translation, during the second session, part of the assembly greeted the reading with approval (‘Peter has spoken through Leo!’ they shouted), but the bishops from the Illyricum and Palestine fiercely objected against passages which they considered as incompatible with the teachings of St Cyril of Alexandria. It took several days of commission work, under the presidence of Anatolius of Constantinople, to convince them that Leo was not opposing Cyril. The episode clearly shows that it was Cyril, not Leo, who was considered at Chalcedon as the ultimate criterion of christological orthodoxy. Leo’s views were under suspicion of Nestorianism as late as the fifth session, when the same Illyrians, still rejecting those who departed from Cyrillian terminology, shouted: ‘The opponents are Nestorians, let them go to Rome!’ The final formula approved by the council was anything but a simple acceptance of Leo’s text. It was a compromise, which could be imposed on the Fathers when they were convinced that Leo and Cyril expressed the same truth, only using different expressions (John Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Division (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s, 1989), p. 155-156.).
Chalcedon Rejects Leo’s Demands
The fact that the Coucil of Chalcedon did not subscribe to the theory of papal supremacy as espoused by Vatican I is also seen in its acceptance of the 28th canon in which it refused to submit to the demands of pope Leo I. The following is a brief history of this incident taken from The Matthew 16 Controversy:
The papal legates strenously objected to the passage of canon 28 and Leo, the bishop of Rome, refused to accept it. However, the Council refused to acquiesce to papal demands and received the canon as valid, overriding the papal objections. As Meyendorff states:
The commissioners bluntly declared the issue closed—‘All was confirmed by the council,’ they said—explicitly denying any papal right of veto (John Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Division (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s, 1989), p. 183).
W.H.C. Frend comments:
By Canon 28 not only were the decisions in favor of Constantinople as New Rome ratified, but its patriarchal jurisdiction extended into Thrace on the one hand, and Asia and Pontus in Asia Minor on the other. The legates were not deceived by the primacy of honor accorded to Rome. They protested loud and long. The Council, however, had decided, and the decision of the Council was superior to the wishes even of the Bishop of Rome (W.H.C. Frend, The Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1965), p. 232).
Even though Leo rejected this canon—and the Eastern bishops eagerly sought his approval— his nonacceptance did not affect the validity of the canon. As Robert Eno observes:
The easterners seemed to attach a great deal of importance to obtaining Leo’s approval of the canon, given the flattering terms in which they sought it. Even though they failed to obtain it, they regarded it as valid and canonical anyway (Robert Eno, The Rise of the Papacy (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1990), p. 117).
From a jurisdictional standpoint it is clear that Nicaea, I Constantinople and Chalcedon do not support the teaching of Vatican I on papal primacy. After pointing out that Chalcedon refused to submit to the demands of the Bishop of Rome, Frend sums up the historical reality of the ecclesiology of the patristic age with these observations:
So ended Chalcedon. The Church was still the Church of the great patriarchates, maintaining an equilibrium in respect of each other, whose differences could be solved, not by the edict of one against the other but by a council inspired and directed if no longer presided over by the Emperor. It was a system of Church government opposed to that of the papacy, but one which like its rival has stood the test of time (W.H.C. Frend, The Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1965), p. 232).
The fact that the Council fathers at Chalcedon received canon 28 as valid in direct opposition to papal demands demonstrates conclusively that papal primacy was not an historical reality at that time. Some have asserted, however, that because the Eastern bishops sought Leo’s confirmation of the canon, this proves that they implicitly acknowledged the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Herbert Scott, for example, states:
Impartial examination of this celebrated XXVIIIth Canon of Chalcedon and its circumstances…shows that instead of depreciating papal claims it supports them…The Headship of Rome is shown and confessed in the very act of the bishops of this fragment of a council trying to obtain Leo’s confirmation of their canon (S. Herbert Scott, The Eastern Churches and the Papacy (London: Sheed & Ward, 1928), p. 199).
While it is true that the Eastern bishops sought Leo’s confirmation of canon 28, it is not true to assume their belief in papal primacy. This is demonstrated from a very simple historical reality: The bishops did not submit to papal demands. They sought Leo’s confirmation, even using strongly primatial language in their appeals to him, but in the end they received the canon as valid despite his continuing opposition. The early Church greatly valued unity and sought it whenever possible. This was the desire of the bishops of Chalcedon in trying to obtain a unanimous decision regarding canon 28. However, the lack of confirmation by the Bishop of Rome did not prevent this canon from becoming ratified and received into the canon law of the Eastern Church and eventually that of the West as well. From a jurisdictional standpoint, therefore, it is clear that neither Nicaea, I Constantinople nor Chalcedon support the teaching of Vatican I on papal primacy.
W.J. Sparrow–Simpson likewise affirms the fact that the history of Chalcedon proves that the early Church held to a view of Church government which was antithetical to that formulated by the Roman Bishops and Vatican I:
What was the true relation of the Pope and the Council to each other? How was it understood in primitive times? Did the Collective Episcopate regard itself as subordinated, with no independent judgment of its own, to decisions of the Roman authority? Or was the Council conscious of possessing power to accept or refuse the papal utterances brought before it? Bossuet maintained that the treatment of Papal Letters by the early General Councils afforded convincing proof against their belief in any theory of papal in errancy. The famous letter of Leo to Flavia was laid before the Council of Chalcedon in the following terms: ‘Let the Bishops say whether the teaching of the 318 Fathers (the Council of Nice) or that of the 150 (Constantinople) agrees with the letter of Leo.’ Nor was Leo’s letter accepted until its agreement with the standards of the former Ecumenical Councils had been ascertained. The very signatures of the subscribing Bishops bears this out—‘The letter of Leo agrees,’ says one, ‘with the Creed of the 318 Fathers and of the 150 Fathers, and with the decisions at Ephesus under St Cyril. Wherefore I assent and willingly subscribe.’ Thus the act of the Episcopate at Chalcedon was one of critical investigation and authoritative judgment, not of blind submission to an infallible voice (W.J. Sparrow Simpson, Roman Catholic Opposition to Papal Infallibility (London: John Murray, 1909), p. 28) (The Matthew 16 Controversy, pp. 177-179, 181).
Steve Ray mentions a number of Eastern Fathers he claims are supportive of papal primacy. He lists for example Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem, Maximus the Confessor, and the Sixth Ecumenical Council. Here are the quotes:
Teaching us all orthodoxy and destroying all heresy and driving it away from the God-protected halls of our holy Catholic Church. And together with these inspired syllables and characters, I accept all his (the pope’s) letters and teachings as proceeding from the mouth of Peter the Coryphaeus, and I kiss them and salute them and embrace them with all my soul…I recognize the latter as definitions of Peter and the former as those of Mark, and besides, all the heaven-taught teachings of all the chosen mystagogues of our Catholic Church. (Sophronius, Mansi, xi. 461)
Transverse quickly all the world from one end to the other until you come to the Apostolic See (Rome), where are the foundations of the orthodox doctrine. Make clearly known to the most holy personages of that throne the questions agitated among us. Cease not to pray and to beg them until their apostolic and Divine wisdom shall have pronounced the victorious judgement and destroyed from the foundation…the new heresy. (Sophronius, [quoted by Bishop Stephen of Dora to Pope Martin I at the Lateran Council], Mansi, x., 893)
Maximus the Confessor:
The extremities of the earth, and everyone in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the Most Holy Roman Church and her confession and faith, as to a sun of unfailing light awaiting from her the brilliant radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers, according to that which the inspired and holy Councils have stainlessly and piously decreed. For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High. (Maximus, Opuscula theologica et polemica, Migne, Patr. Graec. Vol. 90)
How much more in the case of the clergy and Church of the Romans, which from old until now presides over all the churches which are under the sun? Having surely received this canonically, as well as from councils and the apostles, as from the princes of the latter (Peter & Paul), and being numbered in their company, she is subject to no writings or issues in synodical documents, on account of the eminence of her pontificate….even as in all these things all are equally subject to her (the Church of Rome) according to sacerdotal law. And so when, without fear, but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers (the popes) are of the truly firm and immovable rock, that is of the most great and Apostolic Church of Rome. (Maximus, in J.B. Mansi, ed. Amplissima Collectio Conciliorum,, Vol. 10)
If the Roman See recognizes Pyrrhus to be not only a reprobate but a heretic, it is certainly plain that everyone who anathematizes those who have rejected Pyrrhus also anathematizes the See of Rome, that is, he anathematizes the Catholic Church. I need hardly add that he excommunicates himself also, if indeed he is in communion with the Roman See and the Catholic Church of God…Let him hasten before all things to satisfy the Roman See, for if it is satisfied, all will agree in calling him pious and orthodox. For he only speaks in vain who thinks he ought to persuade or entrap persons like myself, and does not satisfy and implore the blessed Pope of the most holy Catholic Church of the Romans, that is, the Apostolic See, which is from the incarnate of the Son of God Himself, and also all the holy synods, according to the holy canons and defmitions has received universal and supreme dominion, authority, and power of binding and loosing over all the holy churches of God throughout the whole world. (Maximus, Letter to Peter, in Mansi x, 692).
The Sixth Ecumenical Council:
The brilliant light of the true Faith we have clearly announced with thee; and we, therefore, earnestly request thy paternal Holiness to confirm this anew by thy venerable decrees (Cited by Hergenrother).
The above quotations are particularly interesting given the time in which they originated. Whether they are all legitimate quotes is questionable on two counts. The first has to do with the quote from the Sixth Ecumenical Council. The source for this is not a primary source but is taken from a book by Hergenrother. Secondly, the quotes from Maximus are not from the original Greek but are Latin renderings and are therefore very suspect. Nonetheless, let us assume for the sake of argument that these quotes are not spurious. Do they prove that the Eastern Church was supportive of papal primacy? Absolutely not! Even the particular fathers to whom these quotations are attributed did not believe in papal primacy. Maximus was a vigorous opponent of the heresy of Montheletism. When Constantinople fell into heresy, he turned to Rome as the orthodox standard of correct belief. Maximus states: “Christ the Lord called that Church the Catholic Church which maintains the true and saving confession of the Faith. It was for this confession that He called Peter blessed, and He declared that He would found His Church upon this confession.” He was willing to be associated with the Church that was true to the right profession of faith. At the time, that Church happened to be Rome.
But Roman apologists would have us believe that these fathers believed that Rome could not err and that Rome should be the final court of appeal for all doctrinal controversies. Maximus is reported to have written:
The extremities of the earth, and everyone in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the Most Holy Roman Church and her confession and faith, as to a sun of unfailing light awaiting from her the brilliant radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers, according to that which the inspired and holy Councils have stainlessly and piously decreed. For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High.
And Sophronius is reported to have said that the letters of the pope were received by him as the very words of Peter himself and that Rome was to be the one sure refuge of protection from heresy. He says:
Transverse quickly all the world from one end to the other until you come to the Apostolic See (Rome), where are the foundations of the orthodox doctrine. Make clearly known to the most holy personages of that throne the questions agitated among us. Cease not to pray and to beg them until their apostolic and Divine wisdom shall have pronounced the victorious judgement and destroyed from the foundation…the new heresy.
Now the irony of all this lies in the fact that the reign of pope Honorius, which was from 625 A.D. to 638 A.D., overlapped the lives of both Sophronius and Maximus. I am not certain which letters of the pope the above quote from Sophronius is referring to, but it is the letters of Honorius to Sergius which were later condemned by the Sixth Ecumenical Council as heretical. Sergius I, the patriarch of Constantinople, did precisely what these fathers are saying should be done. He wrote to Honorius, the bishop of Rome for clarification of a theological issue, and the reply he received confirmed him in heresy. Honorius officially embraced the heresy of montheletism, which teaches that Christ had only one will, the divine. The orthodox position is that Christ, though one person, possesses two wills because he is divine and human.
All that these Eastern fathers are reputed to affirm about Rome’s orthodoxy and the court of final appeal where one can receive correct instruction in the faith falls to the ground in light of this one historic fact: An Ecumenical Council, predominately Eastern in makeup but presided over by papal legates, officially condemned a bishop of Rome for heresy. Where are all the rhetorical accolades and expressions of flattery now? When the fathers of the Council unanimously proclaim: “Anathem to Honorius, the heretic!”, they are giving clear expression to the overall perspective of the Church as a whole, and especially the Eastern Church. Chalcedon may have shouted: “Peter has spoken through Leo”, but III Constantinople decreed: “Satan has spoken through Honorius! ” These words are a paraphrase of the decree of the Council but they are an accurate prtrayal of its decree. The precise words of the decree itself are as follows:
But as the author of evil, who, in the beginning, availed himself of the aid of the serpent, and by it brought the poison of death upon the human race, has not desisted, but in like manner now, having found suitable instruments for working out his will (we mean Theodorus, who was bishop of Pharan, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul and Peter, who were Archbishops of this royal city, and moreover, Honorius, who was Pope of the elder Rome…), has actively employed them in raising up for the whole Church the stumbling blocks of one will and one operation in the two natures of Christ our true God, one of the Holy Trinity; thus disseminating, in novel terms, amongst the orthodox people, an heresy similar to the mad and wicked doctrine of the impious Apollinaris, Severus and Themistius, and endeavouring craftily to destroy the perfection of the incarnation of the same our Lord Jesus Christ, our God, by blasphemously representing his flesh endowed with a rational soul as devoid of will or operation (Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 14, The Seven Ecumenical Councils, III Constantinople, Extracts from the Acts, Session XVIII, The Definition of Faith, p. 344).
The Council states that Satan actively employed and inspired Honorius to disseminate a heresy that affected the entire Church by means of what he had written. It says that Honorius was an instrument of Satan. In other words, Satan has spoken through Honorius! The Eastern Church clearly did not believe that the Church of Rome was infallible and could be judged of no human tribunal. Because these facts are so little known I want to give a history of the proceedings of the condemnation of Honorius. The following is taken from The Matthew 16 Controversy:
Pope Honorius reigned as bishop of Rome from 625 to 638 A.D. In a number of letters written to Sergius I, patriarch of Constantinople, and several other individuals, Honorius officially embraced the heresy of montheletism, which teaches that Christ had only one will, the divine. The orthodox position is that Christ, though one person, possesses two wills because he is divine and human. There is absolutely no doubt that he held to the teaching of one will in Christ. Jaroslav Pelikan makes these comments:
In the controversy between East and West…the case of Honorius served as proof to Photius that the popes not only lacked authority over church councils, but were fallible in matters of dogma; for Honorius had embraced the heresy of the Monotheletes. The proponents of that heresy likewise cited the case of Honorius, not in opposition to the authority of the pope but in support of their own doctrine, urging that all teachers of the true faith had confessed it, including Sergius, the bishop of New Rome, and Honorius, the bishop of Old Rome (Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1974), Volume Two, pp. 150-151).
There are many past and present Roman apologists who downplay the importance of Pope Honorius. It is typical in Roman Catholic writings to find the issue of Honorius dealt with in a very superficial way. For example the following comments by Karl Keating are representative:
Actually, Honorius elected to teach nothing at all. Ronald Knox, in a letter to Arnold Lunn reprinted in their book Difficulties, put the matter like this: And Honorius, so far from pronouncing an infallible opinion in the Monothelite controversy, was quite extraordinarily not (as Gore used to say) pronouncing a decision at all. To the best of his human wisdom, he thought the controversy ought to be left unsettled, for the greater peace of the Church. In fact, he was an opportunist. We, wise after the event, say that he was wrong. But nobody, I think, has ever claimed that the Pope is infallible in not defining a doctrine (Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988), p. 229).
In one paragraph Keating dismisses this whole issue as trivial and Protestant objections as nothing more than a misrepresentation of the true facts. But one thing Mr. Keating does not do is to give the judgment of the Council itself in its own words. He simply states that Honorius did not teach anything and is therefore not guilty of heresy. Is this how the Council understood the situation? Absolutely not! To allow the Council to speak for itself is enough to dispel Keating and Knox’s assertions. The facts speak for themselves. Honorius was personally condemned as a heretic by the Sixth Ecumenical Council. This was ratified by two succeeding Ecumenical Councils. He was also condemned by name by Pope Leo II, and by every pope up through the eleventh century who took the oath of papal office. In his classic and authoritative series on the history of the Councils, Roman Catholic historian Charles Joseph Hefele affirms this verdict in relating the following irrefutable facts regarding Honorius and the Sixth Ecumenical Council:
It is in the highest degree startling, even scarcely credible, that an Ecumenical Council should punish with anathema a Pope as a heretic!…That, however, the sixth Ecumenical Synod actually condemned Honorius on account of heresy, is clear beyond all doubt, when we consider the following collection of the sentences of the Synod against him:
At the entrance of the thirteenth session, on March 28, 681, the Synod says: “After reading the doctrinal letter of Sergius of Constantinople to Cyrus of Phasis (afterwards of Alexandria) and to Pope Honorius, and also the letter of the latter to Sergius, we found that these documents were quite foreign…to the apostolic doctrines, and to the declarations of the holy Councils and all the Fathers of note, and follow the false doctrines of heretics. Therefore we reject them completely, and abhor…them as hurtful to the soul. But also the names of these men must be thrust out of the Church, namely, that of Sergius, the first who wrote on this impious doctrine. Further, that of Cyrus of Alexandria, of Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter of Constantinople, and of Theodore of Pharan, all of whom also Pope Agatho rejected in his letter to the Emperor. We punish them all with anathema. But along with them, it is our universal decision that there shall also be shut out from the Church and anathematized the former Pope Honorius of Old Rome, because we found in his letter to Sergius, that in everything he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrine.”
Towards the end of the same session the second letter of Pope Honorius to Sergius was presented for examination, and it was ordered that all the documents brought by George, the keeper of the archives in Constantinople, and among them the two letters of Honorius, should immediately be burnt, as hurtful to the soul.
Again, the sixth Ecumenical Council referred to Honorius in the sixteenth session, on August 9, 681, at the acclamations and exclamations with which the transactions of this day were closed. The bishops exclaimed: “Anathema to the heretic Sergius, to the heretic Cyrus, to the heretic Honorius, to the heretic Pyrrhus”
Still more important is that which took place at the eighteenth and last session, on September 16, 681. In the decree of the faith which was now published, and forms the principal document of the Synod, we read: “The creeds (of the earlier Ecumenical Synods) would have sufficed for knowledge and confirmation of the orthodox faith. Because, however, the originator of all evil still always finds a helping serpent, by which he may diffuse his poison, and therewith finds fit tools for his will, we mean Theodore of Pharan, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, Peter, former bishops of Constantinople, also Honorius, Pope of Old Rome, Cyrus of Alexandria, etc., so he failed not, by them, to cause trouble in the Church by the scattering of the heretical doctrine of one will and one energy of the two natures of the one Christ.
After the papal legates, all the bishops, and the Emperor had received and subscribed this decree of the faith, the Synod published the usual (logos prosphoneticos), which, addressed to the Emperor, says, among other things: “Therefore we punish with exclusion and anathema, Theodore of Pharan, Sergius, Paul, Pyrrhus, and Peter; also Cyrus, and with them Honorius, formerly bishop of Rome, as he followed them.”
In the same session the Synod also put forth a letter to Pope Agatho, and says therein: \’91We have destroyed the effort of the heretics, and slain them with anathema, in accordance with the sentence spoken before in your holy letter, namely, Theodore of Pharan, Sergius, Honorius.
In closest connection with the Acts of the sixth Ecumenical Council stands the imperial decree confirming their resolutions. The Emperor writes: “With this sickness (as it came out from Apollinaris, Eutyches, Themistius, etc.) did those unholy priests afterwards again infect the Church, who before our times falsely governed several churches. These are Theodore of Pharan, Sergius the former bishop of this chief city; also Honorius, the Pope of old Rome…the strengthener (confirmer) of the heresy who contradicted himself…We anathematise all heresy from Simon (Magus) to this present…besides, we anathematise and reject the originators and patrons of the false and new doctrines, namely, Theodore of Pharan, Sergius…also Honorius, who was Pope of Old Rome, who in everything agreed with them, went with them, and strengthened the heresy.”
It is clear that Pope Leo II also anathematized Honorius…in a letter to the Emperor, confirming the decrees of the sixth Ecumenical Council…in his letter to the Spanish bishops…and in his letter to the Spanish King Ervig. Of the fact that Pope Honorius had been anathematized by the sixth Ecumenical Synod, mention is made by…the Trullan Synod, which was held only twelve years after…Like testimony is also given repeatedly by the seventh Ecumenical Synod; especially does it declare, in its principal document, the decree of the faith: “We declare at once two wills and energies according to the natures in Christ, just as the sixth Synod in Constantinople taught, condemning…Sergius, Honorius, Cyrus, etc.” The like is asserted by the Synod or its members in several other places…To the same effect the eighth Ecumenical Synod expresses itself. In the Liber Diurnus the Formulary of the Roman Chancery (from the fifth to the eleventh century), there is found the old formula for the papal oath…according to which every new Pope, on entering upon his office, had to swear that “he recognised the sixth Ecumenical Council, which smote with eternal anathema the originators of the heresy (Monotheletism), Sergius, Pyrrhus, etc., together with Honorius” (Charles Joseph Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church (Edinburgh: Clark, 1896), Volume V, pp. 181-187).
These facts are highly significant. Von Dollinger was the leading Roman Catholic historian of the last century who taught Church history for 47 years. He makes these comments:
This one fact, that a Great Council, universally received afterwards without hesitation throughout the Church, and presided over by Papal legates, pronounced the dogmatic decision of a Pope heretical, and anathematized him by name as a heretic is a proof, clear as the sun at noonday, that the notion of any peculiar enlightenment or in errancy of the Popes was then utterly unknown to the whole Church (Janus (Johann Joseph Ignaz von Dollinger), The Pope and the Council (Boston: Roberts, 1870), p. 61).
Roman Catholic apologists generally attempt to salvage the dogma of papal infallibility from the case with Honorius by saying that he was not giving an ex cathedra statement but merely his opinion as a private theologian. Therefore he was not condemned in his official capacity as the pope. According to the Roman Catholic Church there are certain conditions which must be met for the teaching of the pope to fall within the overall guidelines of that which is considered to be. He must be teaching in his official capacity as the pope and he must be defining doctrine for the entire Church. The claim is made that Honorius did not meet these conditions. However, a careful reading of the official acts of the Council prove that it thought otherwise. The reader can judge for himself from the Council’s own statements how the situation with Honorius was viewed and whether it would have agreed with the assertions of Keating and Knox that Honorius did not actively teach anything. The Council makes the following statements:
Session XIII: The holy council said: After we had reconsidered, according to the promise which we had made to your highness, the doctrinal letters of Sergius, at one time patriarch of this royal God protected city to Cyrus, who was then bishop of Phasius and to Honorius some time Pope of Old Rome, as well as the letter of the latter to the same Sergius, we find that these documents are quite foreign to the apostolic dogmas, to the declarations of the holy Councils, and to all the accepted Fathers, and that they follow the false teachings of the heretics; therefore we entirely reject them, and execrate them as hurtful to the soul. But the names of those men whose doctrines we execrate must also be thrust forth from the holy Church of God, namely, that of Sergius some time bishop of this God-preserved royal city who was the first to write on this impious doctrine; also that of Cyrus of Alexandria, of Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter, who died bishops of this God preserved city, and were like minded with them; and that of Theodore sometime bishop of Pharan, all of whom the most holy and thrice blessed Agatho, Pope of Old Rome, in his suggestion to our most pious and God preserved lord and mighty Emperor, rejected, because they were minded contrary to our orthodox faith, all of whom we define are to be subject to anathema. And with these we define that there shall be expelled from the holy Church of God and anathematized Honorius who was some time Pope of Old Rome, because of what we found written by him to Sergius, that in all respects he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrines.
Session XVI: To Theodore of Pharan, the heretic, anathema! To Sergius, the heretic, anathema! To Cyrus, the heretic, anathema! To Honorius, the heretic, anathema! To Pyrrhus, the heretic, anathema! To Paul, the heretic, anathema!…
Session XVIII: But as the author of evil, who, in the beginning, availed himself of the aid of the serpent, and by it brought the poison of death upon the human race, has not desisted, but in like manner now, having found suitable instruments for working out his will we mean Theodorus, who was bishop of Pharan, Sergius, Pyrrhus…and moreover, Honorius, who was Pope of the elder Rome…), has actively employed them in raising up for the whole Church the stumbling blocks of one will and one operation in the two natures of Christ our true God, one of the Holy Trinity; thus disseminating, in novel terms, amongst the orthodox people, an heresy similar to the mad and wicked doctrine of the impious Apollinaris (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume XIV, The Seven Ecumenical Councils, pp. 342-344).
The issue in evaluating the condemnation of Honorius is not what do individual Roman Catholic apologists say, but what did the Sixth Ecumenical Council actually decree. On what basis did it condemn Pope Honorius? By its own words it condemned him in his official capacity as the bishop of Rome, not as a private theologian, for advancing heretical teachings which it says were Satanically inspired and would affect the entire Church. It specifically states that Honorius advanced these teachings, approved of them, and in a positive sense was responsible for disseminating them. And it condemns him by name as a heretic, anathematizing him as such. According to both Roman Catholic and Orthodox theology an Ecumenical Council is infallible so all the arguments which attempt to dismiss the judgment of this Council saying that it was mistaken or that it rushed to judgment or whatever, are simply erroneous and empty, on the basis of their own theology. So an infallible Ecumenical Council (from a Roman Catholic perspective) has condemned as a heretic a bishop of Rome for teaching heresy. It is quite obvious that these Eastern fathers did not view the bishops of Rome as infallible. John Meyendorff states that, contrary to the assertions of many Roman Catholics that Honorius did in fact teach the doctrine of monotheletism in a positive sense and helped confirm Sergius in the heresy. Meyendorff gives this summary:
This step into Monotheletism, which he was first to make, is the famous fall of Honorius, for which the Sixth ecumenical council condemned him (681) a condemnation which, until the early Middle Ages, would be repeated by all popes at their installation, since on such occasions they had to confess the faith of the ecumenmical councils. It is understandable, therefore, that all the critics of the doctrine of papal infallibility in later centuries. Protestants, Orthodox and antiinfallibilists at Vatican I in 1870 would refer to this case. Some Roman Catholic apologists try to show that the expressions used by Honorius could be understood in an orthodox way, and that there is no evidence that he deliberately wished to proclaim anything else than the traditional faith of the Church. They also point out quite anachronistically that the letter to Sergius was not a formal statement, issued by the pope ex cathedra, using his charisma of infallibility, as if such a concept existed in the seventh century. Without denying the pope’s good intentions which can be claimed in favor of any heresiarch of history, it is quite obvious that his confession of one will, at a crucial moment and as Sergius himself was somewhat backing out before the objections of Sophronius, not only condoned the mistakes of others, but actually coined a heretical formula, the beginning of a tragedy from which the Church (including the orthodox successors of Honorius on the papal throne) would suffer greatly (John Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Division (Crestwood:St. Vladimir’s, 1989), p. 353).
Jaroslav Pelikan affirms the same thing in these comments:
In the controversy between East and West…the case of Honorius served as proof to Photius that the popes not only lacked authority over church councils, but were fallible in matters of dogma; for Honorius had embraced the heresy of the Monotheletes. The proponents of that heresy likewise cited the case of Honorius, not in opposition to the authority of the pope but in support of their own doctrine, urging that all teachers of the true faith had confessed it, including Sergius, the bishop of New Rome, and Honorius, the bishop of Old Rome (Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1974), Volume Two, pp. 150-151)
Charles Hefele affirms the fact that Leo II also condemned Honorius as a heretic and confirmed the decrees of the Council:
It is clear that Pope Leo II also anathematized Honorius…in a letter to the Emperor, confirming the decrees of the sixth Ecumenical Council…in his letter to the Spanish bishops…and in his letter to the Spanish King Ervig (Charles Joseph Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church (Edinburgh: Clark, 1896), Volume V, pp. 181-187).
The condemnation by Pope Leo II is significant. He affirmed the condemnation of Honorius as a heretic, confirming by this that Honorius had actively undermined the orthodox faith. W.J. Sparrow Simpson summarizes Leo’s viewpoint in these comments:
Leo accepted the decisions of Constantinople. He has carefully examined the Acts of the Council and found them in harmony with the declarations of faith of his predecessor, Agatho, and of the Synod of the Lateran. He anathematized all the heretics, including his predecessor, Honorius, who so far from aiding the Apostolic See with the doctrine of the Apostolic Tradition, attempted to subvert the faith by a profane betrayal (W.J. Sparrow Simpson, Roman Catholic Opposition to Papal Infallibility (London: John Murray, 1909), p. 35).
It is significant that the letter of Honorius to Sergius was used in the East by the proponents of the Monothelite heresy as justification for their position. As Sparrow Simpson observes:
This letter of Honorius was utilised in the East to justify the Monothelite heresy the existence of one will in Christ (W.J. Sparrow Simpson, Roman Catholic Opposition to Papal Infallibility (London: John Murray, 1909), p. 33).
This whole incident has direct bearing upon the issue of authority and jurisdiction. If an Ecumenical Council can excommunicate a bishop of Rome then the ultimate authority in the early Church was not the bishop of Rome but the Council (The Matthew 16 Controversy, pp. 184-193).
The fact of this condemnation clearly demonstrates that contrary to the claims of Vatican I, the early Church never viewed the bishops of Rome to be infallible. No Church father has ever taught such a doctrine and it is contradicted by the practice of the early Church fathers and Councils, III Constantinople being but one example.
This one glaring historical example exposes the attempts of Roman apologists, like Steve Ray, to paint the Eastern Church as being favorably inclined towards a Vatican I—pro-papal ecclesiology for what it is, a distortion of the historical facts. The statement given above by Maximus has a very hollow sound in light of the condemneation of Honorius by the 6th Ecumenical Council. Note the words again that are attributed to him:
The extremities of the earth, and everyone in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the Most Holy Roman Church and her confession and faith, as to a sun of unfailing light awaiting from her the brilliant radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers, according to that which the inspired and holy Councils have stainlessly and piously decreed. For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High.
Some Roman Catholic apologists in quoting this passage have actaully stated that this is evidence that the Eastern Church believed the bishops of Rome to be infallible. These words fall to the ground and are proven false by the example of pope Honorius. Quotations like this one attributed to Maximus must always be evaluated from an overall historical context. The Eastern Church never believed that the Roman Church was infallible and could not err. But one will not receive a balanced view of Church history from Roman Catholic apologists. Where in that entire list of quotes from Eastern fathers given by Steve Ray is there even one mention of the condemnation of pope Honorius. In the entirety of his book, Upon This Rock, one will not find even a passing comment on pope Honorius and the Sixth Ecumenical Council. There is complete silence. And yet, the condemnation of a pope for heresy by an ecumenical Council which was presided over by Roman legates is, in my mind, a watershed event in Church history. Especially in light of the claims that are imposed upon us by Roman Catholic apologists who seek to defend those claims from the historical record. We hear many references to Chalcedon’s proclamation: “Peter has spoken through Leo.” Steve Ray mentions this incident at least two, maybe three times in this one section of his rebuttal. And yet we never hear of the decree of the Sixth Ecumenical Council: “Satan has spoken through Honorius!” Why is that? If, as Steve Ray claims, the words “Peter has spoken through Leo” are proof of the Eastern Church’s belief in papal primacy, then what are we to make of the decree of the Sixth Ecumenical Council? The Roman Catholic claims wither under such scrutiny. They have no substance.
Roman Catholic apologists are very selective in their quoting of Church fathers. For example Steve Ray also lists quotations from Theodore the Studite, a 9th century Eastern Father. Here we find Theodore addressing the bishop of Rome with exalted titles, titles of primacy. What we are never informed of by Roman apologists is that he addressed the patriarchs of other sees in the same vein. For example he addressed the Patriarch of Jerusalem in these words: “To the most holy Father of Fathers, luminary of luminaries, my Lord and Master, Patriarch of Jerusalem” (PG 99, column 1160). He also calls him “first among the patriarchs.” He addressed the patriarch of Alexandria in a similar manner calling him “pope.” Addressing the bishop of Rome with exalted titles is not indicative of a belief in papal primacy. The Eastern fathers often resorted to hyperbole and the use of rhetorical extravagance (exalted language) when they were seeking the aid of particular bishops as Theodore was doing in the iconoclastic controversy.
In Appendix B, on p. 15 of Appendix A of his rebuttal, Steve Ray also cites Cyril of Jerusalem as a proponent of papal primacy. He provides the following quotations from his Catechetical Lectures:
Our Lord Jesus Christ then became a man, but by the many He was not known. But wishing to teach that which was not known, having assembled the disciples He asked, ‘Whom do men say that the Son of man is?’…And all being silent (for it was beyond man to learn) Peter, the Foremost of the Apostles, the Chief Herald of the Church, not using the language of his own finding, nor persuaded by human reasoning, but having his mind enlightened by the Father, says to Him, ‘Thou art the Christ,’ not simply that, but ‘the Son of the living God.’ (Cyril, Catech. xi. n. 3).
For Peter was there, who carrieth the keys of heaven (Cyril, Catechetical Lectures A.D. 350).
Peter, the chief and foremost leader of the Apostles, before a little maid thrice denied the Lord, but moved to penitence, he wept bitterly (Cyril, Catech I n. 15).
In the power of the same Holy Spirit, Peter, also the foremost of the Apostles and the key-bearer of the Kingdom of Heaven, healed Aeneas the paralytic in the name of Christ (Cyril, Catech. xviii. n. 27).
Clearly, what one is to conclude from the listing of these quotations is that Cyril’s descriptions of Peter also apply to the bishops of Rome. He speaks of Peter in primatial language. He is chief and foremost of the Apostles. But we have already seen that this conclusion is illegitimate. The use of primatial language in reference to Peter does not imply a belief in papal primacy in the writings of the Church fathers. We have seen this in our analysis of Chrysostom and Augustine. And this is demonstrated from the writings of Cyril of Jerusalem himself. In the above listed quotations there is one missing, a quote that completely undermines the Roman Catholic apologists’ spin on Cyril’s words. This quote has already been cited above but it bears repeating:
Peter and Paul, a noble pair, chief rulers of the church (Catechetical Lectures 6.15).
Cyril places Peter and Paul on an equal footing with one another. They are both ‘chief rulers’ of the Church. So, the primatial language applied to Peter does not imply a jurisdictional primacy or a papal primacy. Why was this quotation not included along with the others in the collation of quotes provided by Steve Ray? I think the answer is obvious. The practice of Roman apologists who fail to give a balanced historical record and to interpret the statements of Church fathers within their historical context belie an agenda driven apologetic. It is not truth they are after but the manipulation of facts to promote a Roman Catholic eccelsiology. An ecclesiology which is antithetical to that of the Church of the patristic age.
Whatever may have been the personal opinion of a Sophronius or Maximus with respect to Rome, their private opinion is not decisive for determining the overall perspective of the Eastern Church. A Council’s authority is higher than that of an individual Church father. And from a Patristic standpoint it is clear that the consensus of Patristic opinion is decidedly against that expressed in this alledged quote from Maximus. It is the consensus of Patristic opinion that is the determing factor and that consensus was clearly expressed by the 6th Ecumenical Council. And the fact of the matter is, Sophronius and Maximus would have acquiesced to the judgment of the Council in its condemnation of Honorius, even as pope Leo II did. But once again we need to keep in mind that we are not certain this is a legitimate quote from Maximus since we only have a Latin version.
In my comments on Chrysostom in my original rebuttal I stated that he could not be cited as a proponent of Petrine or papal primacy in the Roman Catholic sense. I then summed up my conclusions by stating that the perspective of Chrysostom was simply reflective of the Eastern Church as a whole. I cited the Roman Catholic historian, Michael Winter in support of this conclusion:
Michael Winter candidly admits that Chrysostom’s views, especially his interpretation of the rock of Matthew 16, were antithetical to those of Rome and greatly influenced the Eastern fathers who followed him. He states that such Eastern fathers as Theodore of Mopsuestia, Palladius of Helenopolis, Theodore of Ancyra, Basil of Seleucia and Nilus of Ancyra held to an opinion that was unfavourable to the superiority of Peter, an opinion that was widespread in the East in the first half of the fifth century:
The antipathy to Rome which finds its echo even in the works of St. John Chrysostom became more pronounced as the Eastern Church came more and more under the control of the emperor and effected eventually their estimate of St. Peter. Although they were not influenced by the Eusebian idea that the ‘rock’ of the church was Christ, the lesser Antiocheans betray an unwillingness to admit that Peter was the rock. Theodore of Mopsuestia, who died a quarter of a century after Chrysostom, declared that the rock on which the church was built was Peter’s confession of faith. The same opinion is repeated by Palladius of Helenopolis in his Dialogues on the life of St. John Chrysostom. Without any elaboration he states that the rock in Matthew 16 is Peter’s confession. The complete absence of reasons or arguments in support of the contention is an indication of how widely the view was accepted at that date. Such an opinion was, in fact, held also by Theodore of Ancyra, Basil of Seleucia, and Nilus of Ancyra, in the first half of the fifth century…The opinion unfavourable to the superiority of St. Peter gained a considerable following in the East under the influence of the school of Antioch (Michael Winter, St. Peter and the Popes (Baltimore: Helikon, 1960), p. 73).
Steve Ray responded to these statements with a comment from David Palm from the section on Chrysostom in his rebuttal:
Isn’t it interesting too that Webster cites Michael Winter approvingly here, and yet Winter is stating that the antipathy toward Roman primacy was based primarily on political and not theological considerations?
Michael Winter does not say that the primary reason for the antipathy toward Roman primacy was political. He says it was primarily theological. In summing up the attitude of the Eastern Church he states:
Their theology of the church was, thanks to St. Paul, so thoroughly Christocentric that it was difficult for them to envisage a foundation other than Christ (Michael Winter, St. Peter and the Popes (Baltimore: Helicon, 1960), p. 53).
In conclusion, I think it would be helpful to give the opinion of several eminent historians who summarize the Eastern Church’s ecclesiology throughout the patristic age. I would invite the reader to compare these comments, given by world renowned scholars (Roman Catholic and Orthodox), with those of Steve Ray:
Dr. Papadakis is an Orthodox historian and Professor of Byzantine history at the University of Maryland. He gives the following analysis of the Eastern Church’s attitude towards the claims of the bishops of Rome especially as they were formulated in the 11th century Gregorian reforms. He points out that on the basis of the exegesis of scripture and the facts of history, the Eastern Church has consistently rejected the papal claims of Rome:
What was in fact being implied in the western development was the destruction of the Church’s pluralistic structure of government. Papal claims to supreme spiritual and doctrinal authority quite simply, were threatening to transform the entire Church into a vast centralized diocese…Such innovations were the result of a radical reading of the Church’s conciliar structure of government as revealed in the life of the historic Church. No see, regardless of its spiritual seniority, had ever been placed outside of this structure as if it were a power over or above the Church and its government…Mutual consultation among Churches—episcopal collegiality and conciliarity, in short—had been the quintessential character of Church government from the outset. It was here that the locus of supreme authority in the Church could be found. Christendom indeed was both a diversity and a unity, a family of basically equal sister-Churches, whose unity rested not on any visible juridical authority, but on conciliarity, and on a common declaration of faith and the sacramental life.
The ecclesiology of communion and fraternity of the Orthodox, which was preventing them from following Rome blindly and submissively like slaves, was based on Scripture and not merely on history or tradition. Quite simply, the power to bind and loose mentioned in the New Testament had been granted during Christ’s ministry to every disciple and not just to Peter alone…In sum, no one particular Church could limit the fulness of God’s redeeming grace to itself, at the expense of the others. Insofar as all were essentially identical, the fulness of catholicity was present in all equally. In the event, the Petrine biblical texts, cherished by the Latins, were beside the point as arguments for Roman ecclesiology and superiority. The close logical relationship between the papal monarchy and the New Testament texts, assumed by Rome, was quite simply undocumented. For all bishops, as successors of the apostles, claim the privilege and power granted to Peter. Differently put, the Savior’s words could not be interpreted institutionally, legalistically or territorially, as the foundation of the Roman Church, as if the Roman pontiffs were alone the exclusive heirs to Christ’s commission. It is important to note parenthetically that a similar or at least kindred exegesis of the triad of Matt. 16:18, Luke 22:32 and John 21:15f. was also common in the West before the reformers of the eleventh century chose to invest it with a peculiar ‘Roman’ significance. Until then, the three proof–texts were viewed primarily ‘as the foundation of the Church, in the sense that the power of the keys was conferred on a sacerdotalis ordo in the person of Peter: the power granted to Peter was symbolically granted to the whole episcopate.’ In sum, biblical Latin exegetes before the Gregorian reform did not view the New Testament texts unambiguously as a blueprint for papal sovereignty; their understanding overall was non–primatial.
The Byzantine indictment against Rome also had a strong historical component. A major reason why Orthodox writers were unsympathetic to the Roman restatement of primacy was precisely because it was so totally lacking in historical precedent. Granted that by the twelfth century papal theorists had become experts in their ability to circumvent the inconvenient facts of history. And yet, the Byzantines were ever ready to hammer home the theme that the historical evidence was quite different. Although the Orthodox may not have known that Gregorian teaching was in part drawn from the forged decretals of pseudo–Isidore (850’s), they were quite certain that it was not based on catholic tradition in either its historical or canonical form. On this score, significantly, modern scholarship agrees with the Byzantine analysis. As it happens, contemporary historians have repeatedly argued that the universal episcopacy claimed by the eleventh–century reformers would have been rejected by earlier papal incumbents as obscenely blasphemous (to borrow the phrase of a recent scholar). The title ‘universal’ which was advanced formally at the time was actually explicitly rejected by earlier papal giants such as Gregory I. To be brief, modern impartial scholarship is reasonably certain that the conventional conclusion which views the Gregorians as defenders of a consistently uniform tradition is largely fiction. ‘The emergence of a papal monarchy from the eleventh century onwards cannot be represented as the realization of a homogenous development, even within the relatively closed circle of the western, Latin, Church.’308 It has been suggested that the conviction that papatus (a new term constructed on the analogy of episcopatus in the eleventh century) actually represented a rank or an order higher than that of bishop, was a radical revision of Church structure and government. The discontinuity was there and to dismiss it would be a serious oversight (Aristeides Papadakis, The Christian East and the Rise of the Papacy (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s, 1994), pp. 158-160, 166-167).
Jaroslav Pelikan explains the Eastern perspective on Peter and likewise affirms that the Eastern view of ecclesiology was not oriented towards a Roman primacy and universal jurisdiction but the sharing of jurisdiction on an equal basis between the five major patriarchal sees, a view known as pentarchy:
The identification of the gates of hell with the great heresies of the second, third, and fourth centuries was generally accepted. Against these gates of hell not only the apostle Peter, but all the apostles, especially John, had successfully contended with the authority of the word of God. Indeed, the power of the keys conferred upon Peter by Christ in Matthew 16:19 was not restricted either to him or to his successors on the throne of Old Rome; all the faithful bishops of the church were imitators and successors of Peter. They had this status as orthodox adherents of the confession of Peter in Matthew 16:16: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ By attaching the promise in the following verses to that confession it was possible to admonish orthodox believers to ‘run to the faith…of this immovable rock…and let us believe that Christ is both God and man.’ The unshakable foundation of the church was the rock that was Christ, but at the same time Peter could be called ‘the foundation and support of our faith.’ He was this, however, principally because of his confession, which was repeated by all true believers. It was a polemical extension of this general Greek tendency when a later treatise, falsely ascribed to Photius, stated flatly that the rock in Christ’s promise was the confession of Peter rather than his person.
Thus Peter was the foundation of the church, so that whoever believed as he believed would not go astray. But for most Greek theologians Peter was above all ‘the chief of the theologians’ because of his confession. All the titles of primacy, such as foundation and basis and ‘president of the disciples,’ pertained to him as trinitarian theologian. The church was to be built on the rock, on Christ the cornerstone, on which Peter, as coryphaeus of the disciples of the Logos, had also been built—‘built that is by the Holy and divine dogmas.’ Primacy belonged to Peter on account of his confession, and those who confessed Christ to be the Son of the living God, as he had, were the beneficiaries of the promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church built on the rock (Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1974), Volume Two, pp. 160-161).
The Western version of apostolic polity, by contrast with the Eastern, had definitely become a form of monarchy by the time of the collision between Old Rome and New Rome in the ninth century. The Eastern version…was not the monarchy of New Rome in the place of the monarchy of Old Rome, but the doctrine of pentarchy. This doctrine came to its focus in the schism of the eleventh century, but its basic elements had been present earlier. Pentarchy was the theory that the apostolic polity of Christendom would be maintained through the cooperation between five patriarchal sees: Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria (Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1974), Volume II, p. 164).
Yves Congar affirms the fact that the Eastern Church did not have the same view of ecclesiology as that which developed over many centuries in the Western tradition, and that in practice, as well as in theology, it never viewed the Roman Church as having authority over the Church universal:
It must be confessed that the consciousness of the Roman primacy was not expressed in the East at the period when the primacy became classically fixed in tradition, at least not with a clarity that alone could have avoided schism. In the great councils held in the East, there had never been a formula on the universal primacy by divine right…We do not find texts in the East as strong as those in the West; the rescripts of Theodore and of Valentinian II and Valentinian III concern the West. In a number of documents Rome is merely portrayed as an ecclesiastical and canonical court of first instance. In other texts, Rome is recognized as having the right as first See, of intervening to preserve the purity of doctrinal tradition, but not to regulate the life of the churches or to settle questions of discipline in the East. Finally—and to our mind this is the most important point—although the East recognized the primacy of Rome, it did not imply by this exactly what Rome herself did, so that, even within the question on which they were in agreement, there existed the beginning of a very serious estrangement bearing upon the decisive element of the ecclesiastical constitution and the rule of communion (Yves Congar, After Nine Hundred Years (New York: Fordham University, 1959), pp. 61-62).
The East never accepted the regular jurisdiction of Rome, nor did it submit to the judgment of Western bishops. Its appeals to Rome for help were not connected with a recognition of the principle of Roman jurisdiction but were based on the view that Rome had the same truth, the same good. The East jealously protected its autonomous way of life. Rome intervened to safeguard the observation of legal rules, to maintain the orthodoxy of faith and to ensure communion between the two parts of the church, the Roman see representing and personifying the West…In according Rome a ‘primacy of honour’, the East avoided basing this primacy on the succession and the still living presence of the apostle Peter. A modus vivendi was achieved which lasted, albeit with crises, down to the middle of the eleventh century…From the perspective of an ecclesiology which is not only theoretical but is also put into practice, we are confronted by two logics. The East remained oriented on the logic of local or particular churches in communion with one another in the unity of faith, love and eucharist; this unity was realized by means of exchanges and communications and then, when the need made itself felt, by the holding of a council. It was a unity of communion. The West, which Islam had cut off from North Africa, accepted the authority of the Roman see, and over the course of history Rome occupied an increasingly prominent place. It is a fact that the two gravest crises between Byzantium and Rome arose in times when the papal authority was affirmed most strongly: with Photius under Nicholas I and John VIII, and with Cerlularius at the time of the so-called Gregorian Reform (Nicholas II, Leo IX, Humbert, Gregory VII) (Yves Congar, Diversity and Communion (Mystic: Twenty-Third, 1982), pp. 26-27).
John Meyendorff summarizes the views of the later Byzantine theologians towards the whole issue of apostolic succession showing how their ecclesiology was rooted in the patristic tradition. He clearly demonstrates that though the East recognized a position of primacy in the apostle Peter, in that they refer to him as chief of the apostles and first disciple of Christ, and rock of the Church, that this does not mean that they transfer this same view to the bishops of Rome, for in their minds all bishops are successors of Peter:
The reformed papacy of the eleventh century used a long-standing Western tradition of exegesis when it applied systematically and legalistically the passages on the role of Peter (especially Mt. 16:18, Lk. 22:32, and Jn. 21:15-17) to the bishop of Rome. This tradition was not shared by the East (emphasis mine) (John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology (New York: Fordham University, 1974), p. 97).
Eastern theologians repeat the views of the Eastern Fathers on the Petrine passages…The Eastern Churches had always recognized the particular authority of Rome in ecclesiastical affairs, and at Chalcedon had emphatically acclaimed Pope Leo as a successor of Peter, a fact which did not prevent them from condemning the monothelite Pope Honorius at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 681…The Byzantines unanimously recognized the great authority of old Rome, but never understood this authority in the sense of absolute power. The prestige of Rome was not due, in their eyes, only to the ‘Petrine’ character of this church. Indeed the famous Canon 28 of Chalcedon was for them one of the essential texts for the organization of the Church: ‘It is for right reasons, that the Fathers accorded privileges to old Rome, for this city was the seat of the Emperor and Senate…’ The Roman authority was thus the result of both an ecclesiastical consensus and of those historical realities, which the Church fully recognized as relevant to her own life, namely, the existence of a Christian Empire. The fact of the Pope’s traditional definition as the successor of Peter was by no means denied, but it was not considered as a decisive issue. In the East there were numerous ‘apostolic sees’: was not Jerusalem the ‘mother of all Churches’? Could not the Bishop of Antioch claim also the title of successor to Peter?…But the reason why the Roman Church had been accorded an incontestable precedence over all other apostolic Churches was that its Petrine and Pauline ‘apostolicity’ was in fact added to the city’s position as the capital city, and only the conjunction of both these elements gave the Bishop of Rome the right to occupy the place of a primate in the Christian world with the consensus of all churches…In their (the East) conception of the nature of primacy in the Church, the idea of ‘apostilicity’ played a relatively unimportant role, since in itself it did not determine the real authority of a Church.
It is therefore comprehensible why, even after the schism between East and West, Orthodox ecclesiastical writers were never ashamed of praising the ‘coryphaeus’ and of recognizing his preeminent function in the very foundation of the Church. They simply did not consider this praise and recognition as relevant in any way to the papal claims, since any bishop, and not only the pope, derives his ministry from the ministry of Peter.
The great Patriarch Photius is the first witness to the amazing stability in Byzantium of the traditional patristic exegesis. ‘On Peter,’ he writes, ‘repose the foundations of the faith.’ ‘He is the coryphaeus of the Apostles.’ Even though he betrayed Christ, ‘he was not deprived of being the chief of the apostolic choir, and has been established as the rock of the Church and is proclaimed by the Truth to be keybearer of the Kingdom of heaven.’ One can also find expressions in which Photius aligns the foundation of the Church with the confession of Peter. ‘The Lord,’ he writes, ‘has entrusted to Peter the keys of the Kingdom as a reward for his right confession, and on his confession he laid the foundation of the Church.’…By confessing his faith in the Divinity of the Saviour, Peter became the Rock of the Church.
All Byzantine theologians, even after the conflict with Rome, speak of Peter in the same terms as Photius…Their quiet assurance proves once more that they did not think of these texts (Mt. 16:18; Lk. 22:32; Jn. 21:15-17) as being an argument in favour of Roman ecclesiology, which they moreover ignored, and the ‘logic’ of which was totally alien to Eastern Christianity. The following points however seemed evident to them:
1) Peter is the ‘coryphaeus’ of the apostolic choir; he is the first disciple of Christ and speaks always on behalf of all. It is true that other apostles, John, James, and Paul are also called ‘coryphaei’ and ‘primates,’ but Peter alone is the ‘rock of the Church.’
2) The words of Jesus on the road to Caesarea Philippi—‘On this rock I will build my Church’—are bound to the confession of Peter. The Church exists in history because man believes in Christ, the Son of God; without this faith there can be no Church. Peter was the first to confess this faith, and has thus become the ‘head of theologians.’
3) The Byzantine authors consider that the words of Christ to Peter (Matt. 16:18) possess a final and eternal significance. Peter is a mortal man, but the Church ‘against which the gates of hell cannot prevail,’ remains eternally founded on Peter.
We must note…the essential distinction made between the function of the apostles and that of the episcopal ministry in the Church; the function of Peter, as that of the other apostles, was to be a witness for the whole world, whereas the episcopal ministry is limited to a single local church…Thus the Byzantine theologians explain the New Testament texts concerning Peter within a more general ecclesiological context and more specifically in terms of a distinction between the episcopal ministry and the apostolic one. The apostles are different from the bishop in so far as the latter’s function is to govern a single local church. Yet each local church has one and the same fullness of grace; all of them are the Church in its totality; the pastoral function is wholly present in every one, and all of them are established on Peter.
Faced by Roman ecclesiology, Byzantine theologians defend the ontological identity and the equality in terms of grace of all local churches. To the Roman claims to universalism, based on an institutional centre, they oppose the universalism of faith and grace.
But then why was the Church of Rome vested with primacy among other Churches, a primacy ‘analogous’ to the one Peter had among the Apostles? The Byzantines had a clear answer to this question: this Roman primacy came not from Peter, whose presence had been more effective and better attested in Jerusalem or in Antioch than in Rome, but from the fact that Rome was the capital of the Empire. Here all the Byzantine authors are in agreement: the 28th Canon of Chalcedon is for them an axiom.
For the whole patristic tradition, accepted also by the Byzantines, the succession of Peter depends on the confession of the true faith. The confession is entrusted to each Christian at his baptism, but a particular responsibility belongs, according to the doctrine of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, to those who occupy in each local church the very throne of Christ in apostolic succession, i.e. to the bishops. The responsibility belongs to every one of them, since each local church has the same fullness of grace. Thus the teaching of the Byzantine theologians agrees perfectly with the ecclesiology of St. Cyprian on the ‘Cathedri Petri’: there is no plurality of episcopal sees, there is but one, the chair of Peter, and all the bishops, within the communities of which they are presidents, are seated, each one for his part, on this very chair…Such is the essential notion of the succession of Peter in the Church in Orthodox ecclesiology (John Meyendorff, St. Peter in Byzantine Theology. Taken from The Primacy of Peter (London: Faith, 1963), pp. 7-29).
In light of these comments and the documentation provided on Chrysostom’s perspective, it is clear that neither he nor the Eastern Church can be cited in favor of the teachings of Vatican I on papal primacy and infallibility. Such teaching is antithetical to the overall patristic eccesiology in both the East and West. Stephen Ray and Roman apologists in general distort the historical facts to make them fit a preconceived papalist theology and mindset.