Stephenray

A
Refutation of the Misrepresentations of the Writings of William
Webster and of the Church Fathers by Roman Catholic, Stephen
Ray, in His Book Upon This Rock

By
William Webster


Stephen Ray is a Roman Catholic
who has written a biblical and patristic defense of the papacy
in a book entitled Upon This Rock. It was published in
the Spring of 1999. In this book, Stephen Ray makes reference
to The Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter and the Rock and The
Church of Rome at the Bar of History,
both authored by William
Webster. In these references Mr. Ray makes a number of charges
against Mr. Webster and purposeful misrepresentations of his writings
that need to be addressed.

The
First Misrepresentation

The first misrepresentation
occurs in the Introduction in which Mr. Ray makes the following
statement:

Sometimes silence is more eloquent
than words. This is especially true in Church history. We hear
so much about what the Fathers say and so little about what they
do not say. This is revealing and should play a significant role
in our research. William Webster has written a book that we will
refer to several times in our study. Webster is an ex-Catholic
who decided to abandon the Church and cast his lot with the Fundamentalist
Protestants. His book is entitled Peter and the Rock and
asserts that, as the blurb on the back of the book says, “The
contemporary Roman Catholic interpretation [of Peter and the
rock] had no place in the biblical understanding of the early
church doctors.” To ascertain whether or not such an assertion
is true is one of the main goals of this book. But along with
what the Fathers say, we need to hear their silence as well.
While reading Webster’s book, I noticed, along with his
selective use of the Fathers in attempting to discredit the Catholic
Church’s teaching on the Papacy, that there are no citations
“revealed” in his book in which a Christian, especially
a Church Father, explicitly denies the Petrine primacy or the
Petrine succession. Webster collects a large number of passages
that are supposed to prove that the Fathers oppose Catholic teaching,
yet never is there a flat-out denial of the Petrine primacy or
the primacy of Rome. This is a silence that speaks volumes! We
may find differing interpretations of Peter’s primacy, which
is what we should expect, according to John Henry Newman, yet
we find no denial of that primacy.
I wrote to William Webster and asked him if he knew of any Church
Father who denied the primacy of Peter or of his successors.
Mr. Webster’s response was very telling, and I wish he had
been forthright about this matter in his book. His return E-mail
stated, “No father denies that Peter had a primacy or that
there is a Petrine succession. The issue is how the fathers interpreted
those concepts. They simply did not hold to the Roman Catholic
view of later centuries that primacy and succession were ‘exclusively’
related to the bishops of Rome.”’ What an extraordinary
admission; what an extraordinary truth. Many of the Fathers were
in theological or disciplinary disagreement with Rome (for example,
Cyprian and Irenaeus), yet they never denied Rome’s primacy.
They may have debated what that primacy meant, or how it was
to work out in the universal Church, but they never denied the
primacy. The quickest way to achieve jurisdictional or doctrinal
victory is to subvert or disarm the opponent. In this case it
would have been as simple as proving from the Bible or from tradition
that Peter, and subsequently his successors in Rome, had no primacy,
no authority to rule in the Church. Yet, as even Webster freely
admits, this refutation never occurred. Irenaeus may challenge
the appropriateness of a decision made by Victor, but he never
challenges Victor’s authority to make the binding decision.
Cyprian may at times disagree with a decree of Stephen’s
on baptism, but he never rejects the special place of the Roman
See, which would have been the easiest means of winning the debate.
The bishop of Rome was unique in assuming the authority and obligation
to oversee the Churches. Clement and Ignatius make this clear
from the first century and the beginning of the second. If the
authority exercised had been illegitimate, or wrongly arrogated,
it would have been an act of overzealousness at one end of the
spectrum, of tyranny at the other. Yet no one ever stood up and
said, “No, you have no authority. Who are you to order us,
to teach us, to require obedience from us, to excommunicate us?”
If the jurisdictional primacy of Rome had been a matter of self-aggrandizement,
someone would have opposed it as they opposed other innovations
and heresies in the Church. The silence is profound
(Upon This Rock (San Francisco:
Ignatius, 1999), p. 12-13).

Mr. Ray has charged that my
response in my email was somehow different from that which was
expressed in my book. He charges me with failure to be forthright
insinuating that I have purposefully misled people. First of all,
Mr. Ray failed to give my full response to his request in my email.
The full text of my answer is as follows:

Thanks for your e-mail, As to your
questions let me make this brief comment. No father denies that
Peter had a primacy or that there is a Petrine succession. The
issue is how the Fathers interpreted those concepts. They simply
did not hold to the Roman Catholic view of later centuries that
primacy and succession were “exclusively” related to
the bishops of Rome. They do not apply the special titles they
attribute to Peter to the bishops of Rome and what is more they
often attribute the same titles to the other apostles. The most
explicit denial of a Petrine primacy in the Roman Catholic sense
comes from Augustine which I have documented in the book where
he states in exegeting the rock of Matthew 16:18 that Christ
did not build his Church on a man but on Peter’s confession.
He specifically separates Peter’s faith from Peter’s person and
if the Church is not built upon the person of Peter there is
no papal office. This is not to say that the Rome did not have
authority in the eyes of the fathers. But Rome did not have exclusive
authority. The ecclesiology of the early Church was one of conciliarity
which was shared by all the major patriarchal sees. Rome was
the only patriarchal see in the West and therefore held authority
in the West, though in the beginning this was not universal but
regional, as Rufinus’ translation of the Nicene Council makes
clear. I would strongly urge you to read the historical works
that I have referenced from the various Orthodox, Roman Catholic
and Protestant historians. John Meyendorff is especially good.
Hope this is helpful
(Personal
email from William Webster to Stephen Ray).

Mr. Ray has purposefully misrepresented
me in his statements. He is very aware of the fact that I deal
extensively with the question he raises in a very forthright manner
in my book. Mr. Ray’s main argument rests on an argument
from silence, the fact that the Fathers never denied the primacy
of Peter or Petrine succession. Of course they didn’t. As
I mentioned in my email they explicitly affirm it. However, in
affirming it they do not interpret it in the same way Rome does
today. That is the point. When Roman apologists use the term ‘primacy’
they mean universal juridisdiction to rule the Church universal.
When they speak of Petrine succession they mean this in an exclusive
sense as applied to the bishops of Rome. But when the Fathers
speak of a Petrine primacy and succession and the primacy of Rome
they mean something quite different. They are not silent on the
issue. They never denied that Rome had a primacy, but it was interpreted
as a primacy of honor since the Church was located in the capital
of the Empire and was the site of the martrydom of Peter and Paul.
It was not a primacy of universal jurisdiction. They never denied
that the Church of Rome had a right to exercise authority. But
that authority was limited in its jurisdiction. But when the meaning
of primacy and rule is couched in the language of Vatican I we
find a vigorous opposition to such claims by the Church Fathers.
There is not silence. The Fathers do speak, and they make it clear
what they mean by the terms they use. They also speak by repudiating
the unlawful claims of Rome as they began to be expressed in the
third century and in all the subsequent centuries of the Church.
Stephen Ray, and Roman apologists in general, are guilty of a
major error of historiography. This is the error of importing
the theological understanding of terms developed in a later age
and to then impose these concepts on the same terms of the writings
of an earlier age, assuming that because they use the same word
you do, that they mean the same thing by it. The heretic, Pelagius,
used the term grace. He did not deny its necessity. But the issue
is not whether he used the word but what he meant by his use of
it. And when we examine his use of the word we find that his understanding
was definitely heretical. In like manner, when we examine the
way the Church Fathers employed the terms they used with respect
to Peter and the meaning of primacy we discover that their understanding
of those terms is very different from Vatican I and present day
Roman Catholic concepts.

With regard to Mr. Ray’s charges
that I have been less than honest with my readers on the Father’s
views of Peter and the primacy, the reader can judge for himself
whether those charges are valid. The following is the discussion
from my book, The Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter and the Rock
dealing with the issue of how the Fathers interpret the primacy
of Peter and Petrine succession when I deal with Augustine and
Chrysostom:

Augustine

According to Augustine the
Apostles are equal in all respects. Each receives the authority
of the keys, not Peter alone. But some object, doesn’t Augustine
accord a primacy to the apostle Peter? Does he not call Peter
the first of the apostles, holding the chief place in the Apostleship?
Don’t such statements prove papal primacy? While it is true
that Augustine has some very exalted things to say about Peter,
as do many of the fathers, it does not follow that either he
or they held to the Roman Catholic view of papal primacy. This
is because their comments apply to Peter alone. They have absolutely
nothing to do with the bishops of Rome. How do we know this?
Because Augustine and the fathers do not make that application
in their comments. They do not state that their descriptions
of Peter apply to the bishops of Rome. The common mistake made
by Roman Catholic apologists is the assumption that because some
of the fathers make certain comments about Peter—for example,
that he is chief of the apostles or head of the apostolic choir—that
they also have in mind the bishop of Rome in an exclusive sense.
But they do not state this in their writings. This is a preconceived
theology that is read into their writings. Did they view the
bishops of Rome as being successors of Peter? Yes. Did they view
the bishops of Rome as being the exclusive successors of Peter?
No. In the view of Augustine and the early fathers all the bishops
of the Church in the East and West were the successors of Peter.
They all possess the chair of Peter. So when they speak in exalted
terms about Peter they do not apply those terms to the bishops
of Rome. Therefore, when a father refers to Peter as the rock,
the ‘coryphaeus,’ the first of the disciples, or something
similar, this does not mean that he is expressing agreement with
the current Roman Catholic interpretation. This view is clearly
validated from the following statements of Augustine:

This same Peter therefore who had been
by the Rock pronounced ‘blessed,’ bearing the figure
of the Church, holding the chief place in the Apostleship
(Sermon 26).

The blessed Peter, the first of the
apostles
(Sermon
295).

Before his passion the Lord Jesus,
as you know, chose those disciples of his, whom he called apostles.
Among these it was only Peter who almost everywhere was given
the privilege of representing the whole Church. It was in the
person of the whole Church, which he alone represented, that
he was privileged to hear, ‘To you will I give the keys
of the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 16:19). After all, it isn’t
just one man that received these keys, but the Church in its
unity. So this is the reason for Peter’s acknowledged preeminence,
that he stood for the Church’s universality and unity, when
he was told, ‘To you I am entrusting,’ what has in
fact been entrusted to all
(Sermon
295).

Previously, of course, he was called
Simon; this name of Peter was bestowed on him by the Lord, and
that with the symbolic intention of his representing the Church.
Because Christ, you see, is the petra or rock; Peter, or Rocky,
is the Christian people
(Sermon
76).

So then, this self–same Peter,
blessed by being surnamed Rocky from the rock, representing the
person of the Church, holding chief place in the apostolic ranks
(Sermon 76).

For as some things are said which seem
peculiarly to apply to the Apostle Peter, and yet are not clear
in their meaning, unless when referred to the Church, whom he
is acknowledged to have figuratively represented, on account
of the primacy which he bore among the Disciples; as it is written,
‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’
and other passages of like purport: so Judas doth represent those
Jews who were enemies of Christ
(Exposition
on the Book of Psalms
, Psalm 119).

You will remember that the apostle
Peter, the first of all the apostles, was thrown completely of
balance during the Lord’s passion
(Sermon 147).

Christ, you see, built his Church not
on a man but on Peter’s confession. What is Peter’s
confession? ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’
There’s the rock for you, there’s the foundation, there’s
where the Church has been built, which the gates of the underworld
cannot conquer. (
Sermon
229).

And this Church, symbolized in its
generality, was personified in the Apostle Peter, on account
of the primacy of his apostleship. For, as regards his proper
personality, he was by nature one man, by grace one Christian,
by still more abounding grace one, and yet also, the first apostle;
but when it was said to him, I will give unto thee the keys of
the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth,
shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on
earth, shall be loosed in heaven,’ he represented the universal
Church, which in this world is shaken by divers temptations,
that come upon it like torrents of rain, floods and tempests,
and falleth not, because it is founded upon a rock (petra), from
which Peter received his name. For petra (rock) is not derived
from Peter, but Peter from petra; just as Christ is not called
so from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. For on
this very account the Lord said, ‘On this rock will I build
my Church,’ because Peter had said, ‘Thou art the Christ,
the Son of the living God.’ On this rock, therefore, He
said, which thou hast confessed, I will build my Church. For
the Rock (Petra) was Christ; and on this foundation was Peter
himself built. For other foundation can no man lay than that
is laid, which is Christ Jesus. The Church, therefore, which
is founded in Christ received from Him the keys of the kingdom
of heaven in the person of Peter, that is to say, the power of
binding and loosing sins. For what the Church is essentially
in Christ, such representatively is Peter in the rock (petra);
and in this representation Christ is to be understood as the
Rock, Peter as the Church
(Commentary
on the Gospel of John
, Tractate 124.5).

Augustine states that Peter
is the first and head of the apostles and that he holds a primacy.
However he does not interpret that primacy in a Roman Catholic
sense. He believes that Peter’s primacy is figurative in
that he represents the universal Church. Again, he explicitly
states that Christ did not build his Church upon a man but on
Peter’s confession of faith. Peter is built on Christ the
rock and as a figurative representative of the Church he shows
how each believer is built on Christ. In Augustine’s view,
Peter holds a primacy or preeminence, but none of this applies
to him in a jurisdictional sense, because he says that ‘Christ
did not build his Church upon a man.’ We can not get a clearer
illustration that the fathers did indeed separate Peter’s
confession of faith from Peter’s person. In commenting on
one of Augustine’s references to Peter and the rock, John
Rotelle, the editor of the Roman Catholic series on the Sermons
of Augustine, makes these observations:

‘There was Peter, and he hadn’t
yet been confirmed in the rock’: That is, in Christ, as
participating in his ‘rockiness’ by faith. It does
not mean confirmed as the rock, because Augustine never thinks
of Peter as the rock
. Jesus, after all, did not in fact call
him the rock…but ‘Rocky.’ The rock on which he
would build his Church was, for Augustine, both Christ himself
and Peter’s faith, representing the faith of the Church
(emphasis mine) (
John
Rotelle, Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle:
New City, 1993), Sermons, Sermon 265D.6, p. 258-259, n.
9.

Augustine does not endorse
the Roman Catholic interpretation. Again and again he states
that the rock is Christ, not Peter. Augustine claims no exclusive
Petrine succession in the Roman bishops and no papal office.
Karlfried Froehlich sums up Augustine’s views on Peter and
the rock of Matthew 16 in these comments:

Augustine’s formulation (of Matthew
16:18-19), informed by a traditional North African concern for
the unity of the church, that in Peter unus pro omnibus
(one for all) had answered and received the reward, did not suggest
more than a figurative reading of Peter as an image of the true
church. In light of Peter’s subsequent fall and denial,
the name itself was regularly declared to be derived from Christ,
the true rock. Augustine, who followed Origen in this assumption,
was fascinated by the dialectic of the ‘blessed’ Peter
(Matt. 16:17) being addressed as ‘Satan’ a few verses
later (v. 23). In Peter, weak in himself and strong only in his
connection with Christ, the church could see the image of its
own total dependence on God’s grace. Augustine rigorously
separated the name-giving from its explanation: Christ did not
say to Peter: ‘you are the rock,’ but ‘you are
Peter.’ The church is not built upon Peter but upon the
only true rock, Christ. Augustine and the medieval exegetes after
him found the warrant for this interpretation in 1 Cor. 10:4.
The allegorical key of this verse had already been applied to
numerous biblical rock passages in the earlier African testimonia
tradition. Matt. 16:18 was no exception. If the metaphor of the
rock did not refer to a negative category of ‘hard’
rocks, it had to be read christologically
(Reinhold Seeberg, Text-Book of the History
of Doctrines
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1952), Volume I, p. 182-183).

Karl Morrison sums up Augustine’s
views of ecclesiology in these words:

Peter was said to have received the
power of the keys, not in his own right, but as the representative
of the entire Church. Without contesting Rome’s primacy
of honor, St. Augustine held that all the Apostles, and all their
successors, the bishops, shared equally in the powers which Christ
granted St. Peter
(De
Schismate Donatistorum
, Book I.10; Book 2,3,4,6; C.S.E.L.
26. 12, 36. Cited by E. Giles, Documents Illustrating Papal
Authority
(London: SPCK, 1952), pp. 118-119).

Reinhold Seeberg, the Protestant
Church historian, makes these comments on Augustine’s interpretation
of Peter pointing out that it reflects the view of Cyprian:

The idea of the Roman Primacy likewise
receives no special elucidation at the hands of Augustine. We
find a general acknowledgment of the ‘primacy of the apostolic
chair,’ but Augustine knows nothing of any special authority
vested in Peter or his successors. Peter is a ‘figure of
the church’ or of ‘good pastors,’ and represents
the unity of the church (serm. 295.2; 147.2). In this consists
the significance of his position and that of his successors…As
all bishops (in contradistinction from the Scriptures) may err
(unit. eccl. II.28), so also the Roman bishop. This view is plainly
manifest from the bearing of Augustine and his colleagues in
the Pelagian Controversy…Dogmatically, there had been no advance
from the position of Cyprian. The Africans, in their relations
with Rome, played somewhat the role of the Gallicanism of a later
period
(Robert Eno, The
Rise of the Papacy
(Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1990), pp.
67-69).

W.H.C. Frend affirms the
above consensus of Augustine’s ecclesiology and his interpretation
of Peter’s commission:

Augustine…rejected the idea that
‘the power of the keys’ had been entrusted to Peter
alone. His primacy was simply a matter of personal privilege
and not an office. Similarly, he never reproached the Donatists
for not being in communion with Rome, but with lack of communion
with the apostolic Sees as a whole. His view of Church government
was that less important questions should be settled by provincial
councils, greater matters at general councils
(A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic
Church
(Oxford: Parker, 1844), The Epistles of St. Cyprian,
Epistle LXX. 17, 18, 20, pp. 279-281).

Chrysostom

What was Chrysostom’s
view of Peter and his interpretation of the rock of Matthew 16?
Does it coincide with the teaching of papal primacy espoused
by the Church of Rome? The answer is no. Chrysostom’s views
are very similar to those of Augustine. As we have seen Augustine
held a very high view of Peter. He called him the chief and first
of the apostles and yet stated that the rock was not Peter but
Christ. A very similar picture presents itself in the writings
of Chrysostom. In his book Studies in the Early Papacy,
the Roman Catholic apologist, Dom Chapman, has referenced approximately
ninety citations from Chrysostom’s writings which he claims
as proof of a clear and unambiguous affirmation of a Petrine
and thereby a papal primacy. But Dom Chapman has committed a
primary error of historiography—that of reading back into
the writings of a previous age the presuppositions and conclusions
of a later age. He assumes that because a particular father makes
certain statements about Peter that he must have a primacy of
jurisdiction in mind and that this applies in his thinking to
the bishop of Rome in an exclusive sense as well. But as we have
seen with Augustine this is not the case. A close examination
of the comments of Chrysostom demonstrates this to be true in
his case as well. Like Augustine, Chrysostom makes some very
exalted statements about Peter:

Peter, that chief of the apostles,
first in the Church, the friend of Christ who did not receive
revelation from man but from the Father, as the Lord bore witness
to him saying: ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar–Jonah, for
flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father who
is in heaven’: this same Peter (when I say ‘Peter,’
I name an unbreakable rock, an immovable ridge, a great apostle,
the first of the disciples, the first called and the first obeying),
this same Peter, I say, did not perpetrate a minor misdeed but
a very great one. He denied the Lord. I say this, not accusing
a just man, but offering to you the opportunity of repentance.
Peter denied the Lord and governor of the world himself, the
savior of all…
(De
Eleemos
III.4, M.P.G., Vol. 49, Col. 298).

Peter, the coryphaeus of the choir
of apostles, the mouth of the disciples, the foundation of the
faith, the base of the confession, the fisherman of the world,
who brought back our race from the depth of error to heaven,
he who is everywhere fervent and full of boldness, or rather
of love than boldness
(Hom.
de decem mille talentis
3, PG III, 20. Cited by Dom Chapman,
Studies in the Early Papacy (London: Sheed & Ward,
1928), p. 74).

These are exalted titles
but in using them Chrysostom 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. 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 applies similar titles to
the other apostles and did not interpret the rock of Matthew
16 to be Peter. 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).

Dom Chapman interprets these
statements in a limited sense this way:

Obviously, it is James who has the
‘rule’ and the ‘great power’ as bishop of
those believing Pharisees who had initiated the discussion. But
the idea that he had (rule) over Peter is, of course, ludicrous,
and the notion that he could possibly be the president of the
council certainly never occurred to Chrysostom’s mind
(Dom John Chapman, Studies on
the Early Papacy
(London: Sheed & Ward, 1928), p. 90).

The problem with what Chapman
says is that this is not what Chrysostom says. Chrysostom says
nothing about the chief rule of James being limited to that of
the believing Pharisees. There is not one word said about Pharisees.
His reference to the chief rule is of the overall Council over
which James presided. When all of his statements about Peter,
Paul, James and John are taken together, it becomes clear that
in the mind of Chrysostom, all the apostles together held the
care of the world and headship of the Church universally. Peter
did not hold a primacy of jurisdiction but of teaching, which
he says is equally true of John and Paul:

And if anyone would say ‘How did
James receive the chair of Jerusalem?’ I would reply that
he appointed Peter a teacher not of the chair, but of the world
(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).

Chrysostom interprets the
keys given to Peter as a declarative authority to teach and preach
the gospel and to extend the kingdom of God, not a primacy of
jurisdiction over the other apostles:

For the Father gave to Peter the revelation
of the Son; but the Son gave him to sow that of the Father and
that of Himself in every part of the world; and to mortal man
He entrusted the authority over all things in Heaven, giving
him the keys; who extended the Church to every part of the world,
and declared it to be stronger than heaven
(A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic
Church
(Oxford, Parker, 1844), Homilies of S. John Chrysostom
on the Gospel of St. Matthew
, Homily 54.3).

This authority was shared
equally by all the apostles. Chrysostom states, for example,
that John also held the authority of the keys and, like Peter,
he held a universal teaching authority over the Churches throughout
the world:

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).

It is also evident from Chrysostom’s
exegesis of Matthew 16 that he did not teach that Peter was made
supreme ruler of the Church. He did not interpret the rock of
Matthew 16 to be the person of Peter, but his confession of faith,
pointing to Christ himself as the rock and only foundation of
the Church:

‘And I say unto thee, Thou art
Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’; that
is, on the faith of his confession. Hereby He signifies that
many were on the point of believing, and raises his spirit, and
makes him a shepherd…For the Father gave to Peter the revelation
of the Son; but the Son gave him to sow that of the Father and
that of Himself in every part of the world; and to mortal man
He entrusted the authority over all things in Heaven, giving
him the keys; who extended the church to every part of the world,
and declared it to be stronger than heaven
(Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume X, Saint Chrysostom, Homilies
on the Gospel of Saint Matthew
, Homily 54.2-3; pp. 332-334).

He speaks from this time lowly things,
on his way to His passion, that He might show His humanity. For
He that hath built His church upon Peter’s confession, and
has so fortified it, that ten thousand dangers and deaths are
not to prevail over it…
(Philip
Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1956), Volume X, Chrysostom, On Matthew, Homily
82.3, p. 494).

‘For other foundation can no man
lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’ I say, no
man can lay it so long as he is a master–builder; but if
he lay it…he ceases to be a master–builder. See how even
from men’s common notions he proves the whole of his proposition.
His meaning is this: ‘I have preached Christ, I have delivered
unto you the foundation. Take heed how you build thereon, lest
haply it be in vainglory, lest haply so as to draw away the disciples
unto men.’ Let us not then give heed unto the heresies.
‘For other foundation can no man lay than that which is
laid.’ Upon this then let us build, and as a foundation
let us cleave to it, as a branch to a vine; and let there be
no interval between us and Christ…For the branch by its adherence
draws in the fatness, and the building stands because it is cemented
together. Since, if it stand apart it perishes, having nothing
whereon to support itself. Let us not then merely keep hold of
Christ, but let us be cemented to Him, for if we stand apart,
we perish…And accordingly, there are many images whereby He
brings us into union. Thus, if you mark it, He is the ‘Head’,
we are ‘the body’: can there be any empty interval
between the head and the body? He is a ‘Foundation’,
we are a ‘building’: He a ‘Vine’, we ‘branches’:
He the ‘Bridegroom’, we the ‘bride’: He is
the ‘Shepherd’, we the ‘sheep’: He is the
‘Way’, we ‘they who walk therein.’ Again,
we are a ‘temple,’ He the ‘Indweller’: He
the ‘First–Begotten,’ we the ‘brethren’:
He the ‘Heir,’ we the ‘heirs together with Him’:
He the ‘Life,’ we the ‘living’: He the ‘Resurrection,’
we ‘those who rise again’: He the ‘Light,’
we the ‘enlightened.’ All these things indicate unity;
and they allow no void interval, not even the smallest
(Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene
Fathers
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume XII, Saint
Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians,
Homily VIII.7, p. 47).

Chrysostom argues that the
rock is not Peter but Peter’s confession of faith in Christ
as the Son of God. Even Dom Chapman is forced to admit that Chrysostom
consistently interpreted the rock to be Peter’s confession
of faith: ‘The rock on which the Church is to be built is
regularly taken by St. Chrysostom to be the confession of Peter,
or the faith which prompted this confession.’
(Dom
John Chapman, Studies on the Early Papacy (London: Sheed
& Ward, 1928), p. 77).

It is Peter’s confession
that is the foundation of the Church. Peter is not the foundation.
According to Chrysostom that position belongs to Christ alone.
Dom Chapman objects to this claiming that in Chrysostom’s
mind, the rock is not only Peter’s faith but also Peter’s
person. He cites a quote where Chrysostom speaks of Peter as
being strengthened by Christ to stand as a rock against a hostile
world:

For those things which are peculiar
to God alone, (both to absolve from sins, and to make the church
incapable of overthrow in such assailing waves, and to exhibit
a man that is a fisher more solid than any rock, while all the
world is at war with him), these He promises Himself to give;
as the Father, speaking to Jeremiah, said, He would make him
as ‘a brazen pillar, and as a wall;’ but him to one
nation only, this man in every part of the world
(A Library of Fathers of the Holy
Catholic Church
(Oxford, Parker, 1844), Homilies of S.
John Chrysostom on the Gospel of St. Matthew
, Homily 54.3.

In light of these statements
Chapman says:

I think this statement alone would
have made it clear that the Rock is Peter, in St. Chrysostom’s
view, as well as, and because of, the firmness of his confession.
He has no idea of the two notions, ‘Peter is the Rock’
and ‘his faith is the Rock’ being mutually exclusive,
as, in fact, they are not
(Dom
John Chapman, Studies on the Early Papacy (London: Sheed
& Ward, 1928), p. 79).

But this statement is a complete
misrepresentation. In exegeting the rock of Matthew 16, just
prior to the above statements, Chrysostom states that Peter is
not the rock. In the quotes given by Chapman, what Chrysostom
is saying is that just as the Lord strengthened Jeremiah for
his calling so he would strengthen Peter. He says he will be
like a rock, not that he is the rock of Matthew 16. This is very
similar to Augustine’s position on Peter:

So is it the case that Peter is now
true, or that Christ is true in Peter? When the Lord Jesus Christ
wished, he left Peter to himself, and Peter was found to be a
man; and when it so pleased the Lord Jesus Christ, he filled
Peter, and Peter was found to be true. The Rock had made Rocky
Peter true, for the Rock was Christ
(John
Rotelle, The Works of Saint Augustine (Brooklyn: New City,
1992), Sermons, Sermon 147.3, p. 449).

According to Augustine, the
rock is Christ and Christ made Peter a rock of strength in his
faith. But Peter is not the rock of Matthew 16. He simply derives
strength to be a rock from the rock, Christ Jesus himself. And
what is true for Peter becomes true for all Christians because
Peter is a figurative representative of the Church. In contradistinction
to Chapman’s assertions the fathers do in fact separate
Peter’s faith from Peter’s confession, making them
mutually exclusive, as we have seen with Augustine and Ambrose.
While it is true that it is the person of Peter who makes the
confession, the focus of Chrysostom is not on Peter’s person
but on Peter’s faith. Chrysostom holds a similar view to
that of Ambrose which we referenced earlier. Ambrose says that
where Peter is (his confession), there is the Church. Chrysostom
affirms the same point when he says: ‘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).

While holding a very high
view of the status of the apostle Peter, Chrysostom, like Augustine,
did not transfer this status to the bishops of Rome. In his thinking,
along with Cyprian, Augustine, Jerome and Ambrose, all bishops
are successors of Peter. There is no supreme authority of one
bishop over another. In all his remarks about Peter, where does
Chrysostom apply them to the bishops of Rome in an exclusive
sense? He never does that. He never personally makes that application
in his statements and it is historically dishonest to assert
that that is what he meant when he personally never said it.
In similar fashion to Cyprian, Chrysostom refers to the chair
of Peter, stating that the bishop of Antioch possesses that chair,
demonstrating that in his mind all legitimate bishops are successors
of Peter and not just the bishop of Rome:

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).

In his book, The Eastern
Churches and the Papacy, Herbert Scott makes the assertion that
John Chrysostom held to the view of papal primacy because he
expressed exalted views about the apostle Peter. He makes the
assumption that because Chrysostom speaks of Peter in exalted
terms that such statements apply to the bishops of Rome in an
exclusive sense. But when pressed by the question as to whether
Chrysostom actually makes this application himself, Scott is
forced to this significant admission:

Granted that Chrysostom reiterates
that Peter is the coryphaeus, ‘the universal shepherd,’
etc., what evidence is there, it is asked, that he recognised
these claims in the Bishop of Rome? Is there anything in his
writings to that effect?…If it be held that all this labouring
by Chrysostom of the honour and powers of Peter does not of itself
demand the exalted position of his successors as its explanation,
it must be conceded that there is little or nothing in his writings
which explicitly and incontestably affirms that the Bishop of
Rome is the successor of S. Peter in his primacy
(S. Herbert Scott, The Eastern
Churches and the Papacy
(London: Sheed & Ward, 1928),
p. 133).

In other words, there is
no evidence in any of the writings of Chrysostom that he applied
his statements about Peter to the bishops of Rome. Nevertheless,
Scott goes on to suggest that Chrysostom’s statements imply
a papal interpretation to his words. As Scott puts it:

Surely, however, if Peter is the foundation
of the Church as Chrysostom constantly affirms, and if the Church
is eternal as the Founder made it, he must last as long as the
building, the Church, which is erected upon him
(S. Herbert Scott, The Eastern
Churches and the Papacy
(London: Sheed & Ward, 1928),
p. 133).

The logic employed here by
Scott is flawed. Chrysostom never makes such a statement. He
has in fact explained what he means when he says that Peter is
the foundation. There is no reason to suppose that Chrysostom
envisioned a papal office when he speaks of Peter as the foundation
of the Church. We have seen quite clearly from Chrysostom’s
statements that he taught that the Church was built on Peter’s
confession of faith. It can be said to be built on Peter only
in the sense that it is built on his confession. Chrysostom’s
comments given above on Antioch demonstrate that he teaches that
the Church’s foundation is preserved throughout history
as Peter’s confession of faith is preserved. It is not preserved
by being built upon the bishops of Rome as supposed exclusive
successors of Peter, but upon Peter’s confession. As Chrysostom
put it, ‘Where you have Peter’s confession there you
have Peter: ‘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)
. Nevertheless, Scott goes on to offer what he
considers incontrovertible proof of the expression of papal primacy
from Chrysostom’s writings:

There is indeed one passage which may
be a categorical affirmation of the primacy of the pope: De Sacerdotio
53: ‘Why did Christ shed His Blood? To purchase the sheep
which He confided to Peter and those who came after him.’
It may be urged that S. Chrysostom means no more by this than
all those who have the care of souls. On the other hand, there
may be a reference to Peter only and to his personal commission:
‘Feed my sheep’; and Chrysostom soon afterwards actually
quotes these words. And when one recalls his comments on them
given above, as meaning Peter’s ‘government’ and
‘ruling the brethren,’ it is at least likely that here
is a reference to Peter’s successors in the see of Rome
(S. Herbert Scott, The
Eastern Churches and the Papacy
(London: Sheed & Ward,
1928), p. 133).

These assertions are refuted
by Dom Chrysostom Baur, the Roman Catholic biographer on the
life of John Chrysostom. He points out that Chrysostom’s
writings contain no allusion to a papal primacy and that the
supposed evidence as that appealed to by Scott twists his writings
to say what one wants them to say. It is to read a preconceived
theology into his writings that Chrysostom himself never expressed.
Baur comments:

A more important question is whether
Chrysostom considered the primacy of Peter as only personal,
or as an official primacy, hence a permanent arrangement of the
Church, and whether he correspondingly attributed the primacy
of jurisdiction in the Church also to the Bishops of Rome…Chrysostom
never made in his works any questionable deductions, never passed
sentence with clear words on the jurisdiction of the Pope. Even
P. Jugie admits this frankly. N. Marini, who later became a Cardinal,
published a book on this question. In this he seeks, with the
help…of a number of quotations from Chrysostom, to prove that
this must pass for unqualified evidence of the jurisdictional
primacy of the successors of Peter in Rome. His first argument
is borrowed from the Treatise on the Priesthood. In Book 2.1
Chrysostom asks: ‘Why did Christ shed His blood? In order
to ransom His sheep, which He entrusted to Peter and to those
after him.’ Marioni translates here ‘Peter and his
successors,’ which naturally facilitates his proof. But
Chrysostom actually expressed himself in a more general way,
and means by ‘those after him’ all the pastors generally,
to whom the sheep of Christ had been entrusted after Peter. So
it is not practicable to interpret this passage so narrowly as
Marini has done. Still less convincing is Marini’s second
piece of evidence. In a letter which Chrysostom addressed to
Pope Innocent from his exile, he says that he would gladly assist
in putting an end to the great evil, ‘for the strife has
spread over almost the entire world.’ So then, one concludes,
Chrysostom ascribes to the Pope authority over the whole world.
Then Chrysostom writes once more, to the Bishop of Thessalomki:
‘Do not grow weary of doing that which contributes to the
general improvement of the Church,’ and he praises Bishop
Aurelius of Carthage, because he put forth so much effort and
struggle for the churches of the whole world. It would not occur
to anyone to wish to construe from this a possible proof of the
primacy of the bishops of Saloniki or of Carthage
(Dom Chrysostumus Baur, O.S.B., John
Chrysostom and His Time
(Westminster: Newman, 1959), Vol.
I, pp. 348-349).

Clearly, Chrysostom cannot
be cited as a proponent of a Petrine or papal primacy in the
Roman Catholic sense any more than Augustine. 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).

Stephen Ray gives a further
criticism of my comments in these statements:

Webster continues, “On the one
hand the Eastern Fathers and theologians held very high views
of the status of the apostle Peter but they did not transfer
that status to the bishops of Rome” (ibid.). We will provide
plenty of evidence to disprove Webster’s assertion later
in our study; but here is a single reference to put the lie to
Webster’s claim. Methodius (c. 815-885), the famous Eastern
Father and “apostle to the Slavs”, or one of his disciples,
wrote, “It is not true, as this Canon states, that the holy
Fathers gave the primacy to old Rome because it was the capital
of the Empire; it is from on high, from divine grace, that this
primacy drew its origin. Because of the intensity of his faith
Peter, the first of the Apostles, was addressed in these words
by our Lord Jesus Christ himself ‘Peter, lovest thou me?
Feed my sheep’. That is why in hierarchical order Rome holds
the pre-eminent place and is the first See. That is why the leges
of old Rome are eternally immovable, and that is the view of
all the Churches”
(N.
Brian-Chaninov, The Russian Church (1931), 46; cited by
Butler, Church and Infallibility, 210) (Upon This Rock
(San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999), p. 177).

Please note the defense Mr.
Ray employs for his position that the Fathers of the church apply
the prerogatives of Peter to the bishops of Rome in an exclusive
sense as a refutation of my statements. He gives a questionable
quotation from a ninth century Eastern theologian. Notice how
he introduces the quotation: ‘Methodius, or one of his disciples,
wrote.’ In other words we do not know for sure who wrote
this. There is no reference given to the writing itself as to
its genuinness and the citation comes from a source, that is taken
from another source, which simply lists it as a quotation. This
is very sloppy scholarship if we can call it that at all. In addition,
the ninth century is hardly what we would call the patristic age.
Historically, the patristic age is considered to have ended with
John of Damascus in the mid eighth century. Furthermore, Yves
Congar, the Roman Catholic theologian and historian, affirms the
fact that the Eastern Fathers of the patristic age and afterwards
did not hold to the view of an exclusive Petrine primacy at Rome.
These are not the comments of a Protestant historian, but of one
of the most eminent Roman Catholic theologians and historians
of this century:

Many of the Eastern Fathers who are
rightly acknowledged to be the greatest and most representative
and are, moreover, so considered by the universal Church, do
not offer us any more evidence of the primacy. Their writings
show that they recognized the primacy of the Apostle Peter, that
they regarded the See of Rome as the prima sedes playing a major
part in the Catholic communion—we are recalling, for example,
the writings of St. John Chrysostom and of St. Basil who addressed
himself to Rome in the midst of the difficulties of the schism
of Antioch—but they provide us with no theological statement
on the universal primacy of Rome by divine right. The same can
be said of St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil,
St. John Chrysostom, St. John Damascene
(Yves Congar, After Nine Hundred Years
(New York: Fordham University, 1959), pp. 61-62).

It does sometimes happen that some
Fathers understood a passage in a way which does not agree with
later Church teaching. One example: the interpretation of Peter’s
confession in Matthew 16:16–19. Except at Rome, this passage
was not applied by the Fathers to the papal primacy; they worked
out an exegesis at the level of their own ecclesiological thought,
more anthropological and spiritual than juridical
(Yves Congar, Tradition and Traditions
(New York: Macmillan, 1966), p. 398).

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)

Pierre Batiffol likewise affirms
the fact that the Eastern Church, historically, has never embraced
the ecclesiology of Roman primacy:

I believe that the East had a very
poor conception of the Roman primacy. The East did not see in
it what Rome herself saw and what the West saw in Rome, that
is to say, a continuation of the primacy of St. Peter. The bishop
of Rome was more than the successor of Peter on his cathedra,
he was Peter perpetuated, invested with Peter’s responsibility
and power. The East has never understood this perpetuity. St.
Basil ignored it, as did St. Gregory Nazianzen and St. John Chrysostom.
In the writings of the great Eastern Fathers, the authority of
the Bishop of Rome is an authority of singular grandeur, but
in these writings it is not considered so by divine right
(Cited by Yves Congar, After Nine
Hundred Years
(New York: Fordham University, 1959), pp. 61-62).

It should be clear from the
foregoing documentation that Mr. Ray’s charge is a purposeful
misrepresentation. How does what I wrote to him in my email differ
from what I have written in The Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter
and the Rock
? My statements in the book affirm in every detail
and in much greater length what I wrote to him in my email. I
have given full documentation from the writings of the Church
Fathers and then have backed up my conclusions with the judgments
of leading Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant historians.

A
Second Misrepresentation

A second misrepresentation
has to do with Tertullian’s interpretation of the rock of
Matthew 16. In my book The Church of Rome at the Bar of History
and The Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter and the Rock I make
reference to the writings of Tertullian and in particular his
comments from his treatise, On Modesty. The reason for
concentrating on this work is because this is the first instance
of an actual exegesis of the meaning of the rock of Matthew 16:18
in the history of the Church. There are passing comments in other
of Tertullian’s writings, such as his treatise, On Prescription
Against Heretics
, in which he refers to Peter as the rock.
But in his treatise, On Modesty, while he again affirms
that Peter is the rock, he explains what he means by this statement.
In other words he gives an exegesis of the passage. Stephen Ray
makes the following criticism of my comments:

On Modesty 21, ANF 4:99. This treatise was
written in 220, at the peak of Tertullian’s Montanist period.
He was in a sect that would have been extremely odious to Protestants
and Orthodox today. He scorned the orthodox teaching of the Church
and depended upon the ecstatic trances and revelations of two
women prophets: Prisca and Maximilla. Interestingly enough, this
is the only quotation from Tertullian that William Webster refers
to in his book The Church of Rome at the Bar of History
– a book with the intent of discrediting the Catholic Church.
Webster writes, “Tertullian, at the beginning of the third
century, was the first to identify the ‘rock’ of Matthew
16:18 with Peter in his treatise On Modesty. But what
he means by this identification is not that Peter is the rock
in the sense that the Church is built on him, but that it is
built through him as he preaches the gospel” (48-49). He
then quotes the above passage in its entirety. Whether Webster
is being dishonest by withholding pertinent information, or whether
he failed to research the issue thoroughly, is not certain; but
there are two severe problems with his assertion. First, he does
not tell us that there is actually a reference to Peter as the
“rock” twenty years earlier, made, by Tertullian himself
while in his orthodox period. We read it a few pages back: “‘anything
withheld from the knowledge of Peter, who is called ‘the
rock on which the church should be built,’ who also obtained
‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’ with the power
of ‘loosing and binding in heaven and on earth.’ We
also find Tertullian referring to the Church as “built upon
him (Peter)”. Why does Webster not inform his readers of
Tertullian’s earlier orthodox teaching? Second, Webster
neglects to alert his reader to the fact that the passage cited
is from the depths of Tertullian’s Montanist period-his
descent into heresy. Webster himself would recoil at Montanist
extremes and would shun Montanist theology, especially the expectation
of the imminent descent of the heavenly Jerusalem, coming down
from the sky to settle near Pepuza in Phrygia. Is it not curious
that Webster, in rejecting the orthodox teaching, the early Church
on Peter’s primacy (as reflected in Tertullian’s orthodox
writings), sides with the heretical Tertullian in the interpretation
of this Scripture passage?
It should be remembered that Tertullian had turned his back on
the Church; and was writing in indignation – with all the acrimony
he could muster-to repudiate the Church and her foundations.
All the orthodox theologians of the time condemned him and his
Montanist theology. Tertullian’s indictment of the Church’s
understanding of Matthew 16, however, only serves to prove beyond
a shadow of doubt that the Church did teach that Matthew 16 referred
to Peter as the Rock and that that office and authority had been
passed on to the Church. If the Church had not assumed this foundational
understanding, and overtly taught it, why else would Tertullian
strike out vindictively to subvert the accepted interpretation?
(Upon This Rock
(San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999), pp. 175-176).

In my reference to Tertullian’s
comments in The Church of Rome at the Bar of History I
was not intentionally witholding information from the reader.
I was simply making reference to the fact that Tertullian is the
first church Father to identify the rock of Matthew 16 with Peter
and I use his treatise On Modesty as an example of that
fact. In addition, I used this treatise because it gives Tertullian’s
full explanation of what he means by the terms he uses. Mr. Ray
implies that I am possibly dishonest or am ignorant of the true
facts regarding Tertullian’s writings. But this is a baseless
charge. William Jurgens, who is a Roman Catholic patristics scholar,
in citing evidence for the papal primacy in the early Church,
cites the very same quotation from Tertullian’s treatise,
On Modesty, which I also cite in The Church of Rome
at the Bar of History
, except that he fails to give the full
quotation thereby distorting the meaning of the passage. But he
does not inform the reader of any other passages from the writings
of Tertullian that pertain to that subject. He is content to allow
this passage to stand on its own as an expression of the fact
that Tertullian identified the rock with Peter. That does not
mean that there were no other references to that fact or that
Mr. Jurgens is ignorant of those writings. The same pertains in
my reference to Tertullian in The Church of Rome at the Bar
of History
. But Mr. Ray knows this is so and that his charges
against me are disingenuous because of what I have written in
The Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter and the Rock. It is significant
that Mr. Ray completely neglects to inform his readers of what
is written there. He is being purposefully deceitful and misleading
because I cite the very passage he references above from Tertullian’s
treatise, On Prescripion Against Heretics, in addition
to the passage from, On Modesty, as an affirmation of Tertullian’s
identification of the rock with Peter. The following are my comments
from The Matthew 16 Controversy:

Tertullian was born in Carthage
in North Africa and practiced law before his conversion to Christianity
ca. A.D. 193. As a Christian he was a prolific writer and has
been called the ‘Father of Latin Christianity’. He
was most likely a layman and his writings were widely read. He
had a great influence upon the Church fathers of subsequent generations,
especially Cyprian. He is the first of the Western fathers to
comment on Matthew 16. In one of his writings Tertullian identifies
the rock with the person of Peter on which the Church would be
built:

Was anything withheld from the knowledge
of Peter, who is called the ‘rock on which the church should
be built’ who also obtained ‘the keys of the kingdom
of heaven,’ with the power of ‘loosing and binding
in heaven and earth?
(Alexander
Roberts and James Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1951), Volume III, Tertullian, Prescription
Against Heretics
22).

Though Tertullian states
that Peter is the rock he does not mean it in a pro–papal
sense. We know this because of other comments he has made. But
if we isolate this one passage it would be easy to read a pro–Roman
interpretation into it. However, in other comments on Matthew
16:18–19, Tertullian explains what he means when he says
that Peter is the rock on which the Church would be built:

If, because the Lord has said to Peter,
‘Upon this rock I will build My Church,’ ‘to thee
have I given the keys of the heavenly kingdom;’ or, ‘Whatsoever
thou shalt have bound or loosed in earth, shall be bound or loosed
in the heavens,’ you therefore presume that the power of
binding and loosing has derived to you, that is, to every Church
akin to Peter, what sort of man are you, subverting and wholly
changing the manifest intention of the Lord, conferring (as that
intention did) this (gift) personally upon Peter? ‘On thee,’
He says, ‘will I build My church;’ and, ‘I will
give thee the keys’…and, ‘Whatsoever thou shalt have
loosed or bound’…In (Peter) himself the Church was reared;
that is, through (Peter) himself; (Peter) himself essayed the
key; you see what key: ‘Men of Israel, let what I say sink
into your ears: Jesus the Nazarene, a man destined by God for
you,’ and so forth. (Peter) himself, therefore, was the
first to unbar, in Christ’s baptism, the entrance to the
heavenly kingdom, in which kingdom are ‘loosed’ the
sins that were beforetime ‘bound;’ and those which
have not been ‘loosed’ are ‘bound,’ in accordance
with true salvation…
(Alexander
Roberts and James Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1951), Volume IV, Tertullian, On Modesty
21, p. 99).

When Tertullian says that
Peter is the rock and the Church is built upon him he means that
the Church is built through him as he preaches the gospel. This
preaching is how Tertullian explains the meaning of the keys.
They are the declarative authority for the offer of forgiveness
of sins through the preaching of the gospel. If men respond to
the message they are loosed from their sins. If they reject it
they remain bound in their sins. In the words just preceding
this quote Tertullian explicitly denies that this promise can
apply to anyone but Peter and therefore he does not in any way
see a Petrine primacy in this verse with successors in the bishops
of Rome. The patristic scholar, Karlfried Froehlich, states that
even though Tertullian teaches that Peter is the rock he does
not mean this in the same sense as the Roman Catholic Church:

‘Tertullian regarded the Peter
of Matthew 16:18–19 as the representative of the entire
church or at least its ‘spiritual’ members.’
(Karlfried Froehlich, Saint Peter,
Papal Primacy, and Exegetical Tradition, 1150-1300
, pp. 13.
Taken from The Religious Roles of the Papacy: Ideals and Realities,
1150-1300
, ed. Christopher Ryan, Papers in Medieval Studies
8
(Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1989)

It is a common practice of
Roman Catholic apologists to omit part of the quotation given
above by Tertullian in order to make it appear that he is a proponent
of papal primacy. An example of this is found in a recently released
Roman Catholic defense of the papacy entitled Jesus, Peter and
the Keys. The authors give the following partial citation from
Tertullian:

I now inquire into your opinion, to
see whence you usurp this right for the Church. Do you presume,
because the Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build
my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven’
[Matt. 16:1819a] or ‘whatever you shall have bound or loosed
on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:19b] that the power of binding and loosing has thereby been handed
on to you, that is, to every church akin to Peter? What kind
of man are you, subverting and changing what was the manifest
intent of the Lord when he conferred this personally upon Peter?
On you, he says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you
the keys, not to the Church; and whatever you shall have bound
or you shall have loosed, not what they shall have bound or they
shall have loosed
(Scott
Butler, Norman Dahlgren, David Hess, Jesus, Peter and the
Keys
(Santa Barbara: Queenship, 1996), pp. 216-217).

When comparing this citation
with the one given above it is clear that these authors have
left out the last half of the quotation. The part of the quotation
that is omitted defines what Tertullian means when he states
that Christ built his Church on Peter and invested him with authority.
Again, what he means by these words is that Christ built his
church on Peter by building it through him as he preached
the gospel. This is a meaning that is clearly contrary to the
Roman Catholic perspective. To omit this is to distort the teaching
of Tertullian and to give the impression that he taught something
he did not teach. So, though Tertullian states that Peter is
the rock, he does not mean this in the same way the Roman Catholic
Church does. Peter is the rock because he is the one given the
privilege of being the first to open the kingdom of God to men.
This is similar to the view expressed by Maximus of Tours when
he says: ‘For he is called a rock because he was the first
to lay the foundations of the faith among the nations’
(Ancient
Christian Writers
(New York: Newman, 1989), The Sermons
of St. Maximus of Turin
, Sermon 77.1, p. 187).

Not only do we see a clear
denial of any belief in a papal primacy in Tertullian’s
exegesis of Matthew 16, but such a denial is also seen from his
practice. In his later years Tertullian separated himself from
the Catholic Church to become a Montanist. He clearly did not
hold to the view espoused by Vatican I that communion with the
Bishop of Rome was the ultimate criterion of orthodoxy and of
inclusiveness in the Church of God
(The
Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter and the Rock
(Battle Ground:
Christian Resources, 1996), pp. 26-28).

Surely these comments demonstrate
that Mr. Ray’s charges are groundless and misleading because
he purposefully omits reference to them. Now Mr. Ray would have
us believe that Tertullian’s comments are to be discounted
because he is writing as a Montanist and that his point of view
expressed in the treatise On Modesty is somehow different
from his earlier references to Peter as the rock in his pre-Montanist
days in his treatise On Prescription Against Heretics.
But where is the evidence for this? The Montanist heresies embraced
by Tertullian were condemned by his contemporaries but where is
the censure for his exegesis of Matthew 16:18-19 which is antithetical
to present day Roman ecclesiology? There was none. The fact of
the matter is, Tertullian makes precisely the same statement as
a Montanist that he made in his pre-Montanist days as recorded
in his treatise On Prescription Against Heretics in which
he refers to Peter as ‘the rock on which the Church would be built.’
In his treatise On Monogamy, written as a Montanist,
Tertullian makes this statement about Peter: ‘Peter alone do I
find…to have been married. Monogamist I am led to presume by
consideration of the Church, which, built upon him, was destined
to appoint every grade of her Order from monogamists’
(Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson,
Ed, Ante-Nicene Fathers (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Volume
4, On Monogamy Chapter VIII, p. 65).
There
is no difference between these statements. In both cases he states
that the Church is built upon Peter. Regarding this statement
by Tertullian as a Montanist Mr. Ray offers these comments:

Even during his heretical
Montanist period, Tertullian verifies that the early Church accepted
the interpretation of Matthew 16, which declared Peter as the
rock and the foundation of the Church. It was not contested;
in fact, Tertullian uses it as given in his argument. Had the
interpretation not been a given, his argument would have fallen
flat. That Tertullian says the Church was built upon Peter is
not as significant as the manner in which he says it. He states
it, not as a point to be proved, but as a proof for his point.
The early Church was extremely conservative and held tenaciously
to the teaching passed down from the apostles, both written and
in practice. Tertullian, even as a Montanist makes this statement
confidently, knowing that all those who heard or read his statement
would agree without question, since it was the clear understanding
of the whole of Christendom
(Upon
This Rock
(San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999), Footnote #47 pp.
172-173).

Tertullian states that Peter
is the rock on which the Church was built. He says this as a Montanist.
Mr. Ray contends that Tertullian is expressing the belief of the
universal Church, a belief handed down from the Apostles themselves.
And then in his treatise On Modesty Tertullian tells us
what he actually means when he says that Peter is the rock on
whom the Church would be built and his exegesis is completely
contrary to the Roman Catholic interpretation. Mr. Ray states
that from Tertullian’s words it is obvious that the early Church
accepted the interpretation which declared Peter as the rock and
foundation of the Church. It follows then that the early Church
also followed Tertullian’s exegesis of what that meant. Let me
point out again that this is the first instance of the actual
interpretation of the Matthew 16 passage in the history of the
Church. So one cannot argue that Tertullian’s exegesis is somehow
contrary to the prevailing exegesis of the day. While it is true
that Tertullian embraced heretical tendencies in certain areas
as a Montanist, this does not mean that he was wrong in everything
he wrote. Many of his treatises written in defense of the faith
during his Montanist period were orthodox. As the editor writes
in the Introduction to Tertullian’s works in the Ante-Nicene
Fathers
: ‘Whatever perverting effect Tertullian’s secession
to the sect of Montanus may have had on his judgment in his latest
writings; it did not vitiate the work against Marcion. With a
few trivial exceptions, this treatise may be read by the strictest
Catholic without any feeling of annoyance’
(Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson, Ed.,
The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994, Volume
3, pp. 7-8)
. Mr. Ray speaks
in glowing terms of Origen in his book but Origen was also condemned
as a heretic by the Church. But he is completely silent on this
fact. He is willing to accept Origen’s statements, even though
he is a heretic, because he feels that Origen supports his position,
which in fact he doesn’t. When Tertullian gives his exegesis
of the rock and keys of Matthew 16 he is explaining what he means
when he states that Peter is the rock and the Church is built
on him. Mr. Ray is willing to accept Tertullian as a Montanist
when he states that Peter is the rock, without any qualifying
exegesis. But the moment he interprets his words he suddenly becomes
a heretic whose words are to be rejected. The double standard
here is plain for all to see.

Mr. Ray makes much of the
fact that Tertullian and the early Church positively state that
the rock is Peter. There is no debate about this. But what Mr.
Ray blinds himself to is the fact that these Fathers do not mean
this in a pro-papal sense. He imports theological meanings developed
from a later age into their words. It is possible to believe that
Peter is the rock and not believe this means a papal office. We
must allow the words of the Fathers themselves to give us the
understanding of what they meant by the words they used
and not force them to say what we want them to say because we
have a theological agenda we are promoting. Tertullian has told
us precisely what he means when he states that Peter is the rock
and it is a meaning contrary to the Roman Catholic position espoused
today.

A
Third Misrepresentation

A third misrepresentation
by Stephen Ray has to do with the teachings of Cyprian. The following
are my comments on Cyprian and his teaching from The Matthew
16 Controversy: Peter and the Rock:

Cyprian was a bishop of Carthage
in North Africa in the mid–third century. He was one of
the most influential theologians and bishops of the Church of
his day and gave his life in martrydom for his faith. He was
greatly influenced by the writings of Tertullian, the North African
father who preceded him. He is often cited by Roman Catholic
apologists as a witness for papal primacy. In his treatise On
the Unity of the Church
Cyprian gives the following interpretation
of the rock of Matthew 16:

The Lord saith unto Peter, I say unto
thee, (saith He,) that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will
build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against
it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,
and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven,
and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in
heaven (Matt. 16:18–19). To him again, after His resurrection,
He says, Feed My sheep. Upon him being one He builds His Church;
and although He gives to all the Apostles an equal power, and
says, As My Father sent Me, even so I send you; receive ye the
Holy Ghost: whosoever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted to
him, and whosoever sins ye shall retain, they shall be retained
(John 20:21);—yet in order to manifest unity, He has by
His own authority so placed the source of the same unity, as
to begin from one
(A
Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church
(Oxford: Parker, 1844), Cyprian,
On The Unity of the Church 3-4, pp. 133-135).

Cyprian clearly says that
Peter is the rock. If his comments were restricted to the above
citation it would lend credence to the idea that he was a proponent
of papal primacy. However Cyprian’s comments continue on
from the statements given above. His additional statements prove
conclusively that although he states that Peter is the rock he
does not mean this in a pro–Roman sense. His view is that
Peter is a symbol of unity, a figurative representative of the
bishops of the Church. Cyprian viewed all the apostles as being
equal with one another. He believed the words to Peter in Matthew
16 to be representative of the ordination of all Bishops so that
the Church is founded, not upon one Bishop in one see, but upon
all equally in collegiality. Peter, then, is a representative
figure of the episcopate as a whole. His view is clearly stated
in these words:

Certainly the other Apostles also were
what Peter was, endued with an equal fellowship both of honour
and power; but a commencement is made from unity, that the Church
may be set before as one; which one Church, in the Song of Songs,
doth the Holy Spirit design and name in the Person of our Lord:
My dove, My spotless one, is but one; she is the only one of
her mother, elect of her that bare her
(Cant. 9:6) (A Library of the Fathers of
the Holy Catholic Church
(Oxford: Parker, 1844), Cyprian,
On The Unity of the Church 3, p. 133).

Our Lord whose precepts and warnings
we ought to observe, determining the honour of a Bishop and the
ordering of His own Church, speaks in the Gospel and says to
Peter, I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and on this rock
I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail
against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom
of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound
in heaven. Thence the ordination of Bishops, and the ordering
of the Church, runs down along the course of time and line of
succession, so that the Church is settled upon her Bishops; and
every act of the Church is regulated by these same Prelates
(A Library of the Fathers of the
Holy Catholic Church
(Oxford: Parker, 1844), The Epistles
of S. Cyprian, Ep. 33.1).

Cyprian, like Tertullian
and Origen, states that Peter is the rock. But such a statement
must be qualified. He definitely does not mean this in the same
way the Church of Rome does. In his treatise, On the Unity of
the Church, Cyprian teaches that Peter alone is not the rock
or foundation on which the Church is built, but rather, he is
an example of the principle of unity. He is representative of
the Church as a whole. The entire episcopate, according to Cyprian,
is the foundation, though Christ is himself the true Rock. The
bishops of Rome are not endowed with divine authority to rule
the Church. All of the bishops together constitute the Church
and rule over their individual areas of responsibility as co–equals.
If Cyprian meant to say that the Church was built upon Peter
and he who resists the bishop of Rome resists the Church (cutting
himself off from the Church), then he completely contradicts
himself, for he opposed Stephen, the bishop of Rome, in his interpretation
of Matthew 16 as well as on theological and jurisdictional issues.
His actions prove that his comments about Peter could not coincide
with the Roman Catholic interpretation of his words. To do so
is a distortion of his true meaning.

Historically there has been
some confusion on the interpretation of Cyprian’s teaching
because there are two versions of his treatise, On the Unity
of the Church. In the first Cyprian speaks of the chair of Peter
in which he equates the true Church with that chair. He states
that there is only one Church and one chair and a primacy given
to Peter. In the second, the references to a Petrine primacy
are softened to give greater emphasis to the theme of unity and
co–equality of bishops. Most Roman Catholic and Protestant
scholars now agree that Cyprian is the author of both versions.
He wrote the second in order to offset a pro–Roman interpretation
which was being attached to his words which he never intended.
The episcopate is to him the principle of unity within the Church
and representative of it. The ‘chair of Peter’ is a
figurative expression which applies to every bishop in his own
see, not just the bishops of Rome. The bishop of Rome holds a
primacy of honor but he does not have universal jurisdiction
over the entire Church for Cyprian expressly states that all
the apostles received the same authority and status as Peter
and the Church is built upon all the bishops and not just Peter
alone. Some object to these conclusions about Cyprian citing
his statements about the chair of Peter. Roman Catholic apologists
would lead us to believe that Cyprian’s comments refer exclusively
to the bishops of Rome and that they therefore possess special
authority as the successors of Peter.

The Roman Catholic historian,
Robert Eno, repudiates this point of view as a misrepresentation
of Cyprian’s view. As he points out Cyprian did not believe
that the bishop of Rome possessed a higher authority than he
or the other African bishops. They were all equals:

Cyprian makes considerable use of the
image of Peter’s cathedra or chair. Note however that it
is important in his theology of the local church: ‘God is
one and Christ is one: there is one Church and one chair founded,
by the Lord’s authority, upon Peter. It is not possible
that another altar can be set up, or that a new priesthood can
be appointed, over and above this one altar and this one priesthood’
(Ep. 43.5).
The cathedri Petri symbolism has been the source of much misunderstanding
and dispute. Perhaps it can be understood more easily by looking
at the special treatise he wrote to defend both his own position
as sole lawful bishop of Carthage and that of Cornelius against
Novatian, namely, the De unitate ecclesiae, or, as it was known
in the Middle Ages, On the Simplicity of Prelates. The chapter
of most interest is the fourth. Controversy has dogged this work
because two versions of this chapter exist. Since the Reformation,
acceptance of one version or the other has usually followed denominational
lines.
Much of this has subsided in recent decades especially with the
work of Fr. Maurice Bevenot, an English Jesuit, who devoted most
of his scholarly life to this text. He championed the suggestion
of the English Benedictine, John Chapman, that what we are dealing
with here are two versions of a text, both of which were authored
by Cyprian. This view has gained wide acceptance in recent decades.
Not only did Cyprian write both but his theology of the Church
is unchanged from the first to the second. He made textual changes
because his earlier version was being misused.
The theology of the controverted passage sees in Peter the symbol
of unity, not from his being given greater authority by Christ
for, as he says in both versions, ‘…a like power is given
to all the Apostles’ and ‘…No doubt the others were
all that Peter was.’ Yet Peter was given the power first:
‘Thus it is made clear that there is but one Church and
one chair.’ The Chair of Peter then belongs to each lawful
bishop in his own see. Cyprian holds the Chair of Peter in Carthage
and Cornelius in Rome over against Novatian the would–be
usurper. You must hold to this unity if you are to remain in
the Church. Cyprian wants unity in the local church around the
lawful bishop and unity among the bishops of the world who are
‘glued together’ (Ep. 66.8).
Apart from his good relations and harmony with Bishop Cornelius
over the matter of the lapsed, what was Cyprian’s basic
view of the role, not of Peter as symbol of unity, but of Rome
in the contemporary Church? Given what we have said above, it
is clear that he did not see the bishop of Rome as his superior,
except by way of honor, even though the lawful bishop of Rome
also held the chair of Peter in an historical sense (Ep. 52.2).
Another term frequently used by the Africans in speaking of the
Church was ‘the root’ (radix). Cyprian sometimes used
the term in connection with Rome, leading some to assert that
he regarded the Roman church as the ‘root.’ But in
fact, in Cyprian’s teaching, the Catholic Church as a whole
is the root. So when he bade farewell to some Catholics travelling
to Rome, he instructed them to be very careful about which group
of Christians they contacted after their arrival in Rome. They
must avoid schismatic groups like that of Novation. They should
contact and join the Church presided over by Cornelius because
it alone is the Catholic Church in Rome. In other words, Cyprian
exhorted ‘…them to discern the womb and root…of the
Catholic Church and to cleave to it’ (Ep. 48.3).
It is clear that in Cyprian’s mind…one theological conclusion
he does not draw is that the bishop of Rome has authority which
is superior to that of the African bishops
(Robert Eno, The Rise of the Papacy (Wilmington:
Michael Glazier, 1990), pp. 57-60).

As Charles Gore has pointed
out, Cyprian used the phrase, the Chair of Peter’ in his
Epistle 43, which Roman apologists often cite in defense of an
exclusive Roman primacy, to refer to his own see of Carthage,
not the see of Rome. This is confirmed as a general consensus
of Protestant, Orthodox and Roman Catholic historians. James
McCue, writing for Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue, in the
work Papal Primacy and the Universal Church, affirms this interpretation
of Cyprian’s view in the following comments:

According to Cyprian’s interpretation
of Matthew 16:18, Jesus first conferred upon Peter the authority
with which he subsequently endowed all the apostles. This, according
to Cyprian, was to make clear the unity of the power that was
being conferred and of the church that was being established.
Cyprian frequently speaks of Peter as the foundation of the church,
and his meaning seems to be that it was in Peter that Jesus first
established all the church–building powers and responsibilities
that would subsequently also be given to the other apostles and
to the bishops.
Peter is the source of the church’s unity only in an exemplary
or symbolic way…Peter himself seems, in Cyprian’s thought,
to have had no authority over the other apostles, and consequently
the church of Peter cannot reasonably claim to have any authority
over the other churches
(Papal
Primacy and the Universal Church,
Edited by Paul Empie and
Austin Murphy (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1974), Lutherans and
Catholics in Dialogue
V, pp. 68-69).

This judgment is further
affirmed by the Roman Catholic historian, Michael Winter:

Cyprian used the Petrine text of Matthew
to defend episcopal authority, but many later theologians, influenced
by the papal connexions of the text, have interpreted Cyprian
in a propapal sense which was alien to his thought…Cyprian
would have used Matthew 16 to defend the authority of any bishop,
but since he happened to employ it for the sake of the Bishop
of Rome, it created the impression that he understood it as referring
to papal authority…Catholics as well as Protestants are now
generally agreed that Cyprian did not attribute a superior authority
to Peter
(Michael Winter,
St. Peter and the Popes (Baltimore: Helikon, 1960), pp.
47-48).

This Roman Catholic historian
insists that it is a misrepresentation of Cyprian’s true
teaching to assert that he is a father who supports the Roman
Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16. And he says that both
Protestant and Roman Catholic scholars are now agreed on this.
Once again, Roman Catholic historians specifically repudiate
what some Roman apologists often teach about Cyprian and his
comments on the ‘Chair of Peter’. Karlfried Froehlich
states:

Cyprian understood the biblical Peter
as representative of the unified episcopate, not of the bishop
of Rome…He understood him as symbolizing the unity of all bishops,
the privileged officers of penance…For (Cyprian), the one Peter,
the first to receive the penitential keys which all other bishops
also exercise, was the biblical type of the one episcopate, which
in turn guaranteed the unity of the church. The one Peter equaled
the one body of bishops
(Karlfried
Froehlich, Saint Peter, Papal Primacy, and the Exegetical
Tradition,
1150-1300, p. 36, 13, n. 28 p. 13. Taken from
The Religious Roles of the Papacy: Ideals and Realities,
1150-1300, ed. Christopher Ryan, Papers in Medieval Studies
8
(Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1989).

John Meyendorff explains
the meaning of Cyprian’s use of the phrase ‘chair of
Peter’ and sums up the Cyprianic ecclesiology which was
normative for the East as a whole:

The early Christian concept, best expressed
in the third century by Cyprian of Carthage, according to which
the ‘see of Peter’ belongs, in each local church, to
the bishop, remains the longstanding and obvious pattern for
the Byzantines. Gregory of Nyssa, for example, can write that
Jesus ‘through Peter gave to the bishops the keys of heavenly
honors.’ Pseudo–Dionysius when he mentions the ‘hierarchs’—i.e.,
the bishops of the early Church—refers immediately to the
image of Peter….Peter succession is seen wherever the right
faith is preserved, and, as such, it cannot be localized geographically
or monopolized by a single church or individual
(John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology
(New York: Fordham University, 1974), p. 98).

Cyprian’s view of Peter’s
‘chair’ (cathedri Petri) was that it belonged not only
to the bishop of Rome but to every bishop within each community.
Thus Cyprian used not the argument of Roman primacy but that
of his own authority as ‘successor of Peter’ in Carthage…For
Cyprian, the ‘chair of Peter’, was a sacramental concept,
necessarily present in each local church: Peter was the example
and model of each local bishop, who, within his community, presides
over the Eucharist and possesses ‘the power of the keys’
to remit sins. And since the model is unique, unique also is
the episcopate (episcopatus unus est) shared, in equal fullness
(in solidum) by all bishops
(John
Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions (Crestwood:
St. Vladimir’s, 1989), pp. 61, 152).

And finally, Reinhold Seeberg
explains Cyprian’s interpretation of Matthew 16 and his
ecclesiology in these words:

According to Matt. 16:18f., the church
is founded upon the bishop and its direction devolves upon him:
‘Hence through the changes of times and dynasties the ordination
of bishops and the order of the church moves on, so that the
church is constituted of bishops, and every act of the church
is controlled by these leaders’ (Epistle 33.1)…The bishops
constitute a college (collegium), the episcopate (episcopatus).
The councils developed this conception. In them the bishops practically
represented the unity of the church, as Cyprian now theoretically
formulated it. Upon their unity rests the unity of the church…This
unity is manifest in the fact that the Lord in the first instance
bestowed apostolic authority upon Peter: ‘Hence the other
apostles were also, to a certain extent, what Peter was, endowed
with an equal share of both honor and power; but the beginning
proceeds from unity, in order that the church of Christ may be
shown to be one’ (de un. eccl. 4)…In reality all the bishops—regarded
dogmatically—stand upon the same level, and hence he maintained,
in opposition to Stephanus of Rome, his right of independent
opinion and action…
(Reinhold
Seeberg, Text-Book of the History of Doctrines (Grand
Rapids: Baker, 1952), Volume I, p. 182-183).

The above quotations from
world renowned Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox historians
reveal a consensus of scholarly opinion on Cyprian’s teaching
effectively demonstrating the incompatibility of Cyprian’s
views with those espoused by Vatican I. This consensus also reveals
the danger of taking the statements of Church fathers at face
value without regard for the context of those statements or for
seeking a proper interpretation of the meaning of the terms they
use. It is easy to import preconceived meanings into their statements
resulting in misrepresentation of their teaching. The authors
of Jesus Peter and the Keys are guilty of this very thing.
They list quotations from Cyprian in total disregard of the true
facts as they have been enumerated by the above historians giving
the impression that Cyprian believed in papal primacy when in
fact he did not. Their point of view and that of many of the
Roman apologists of our day is thoroughly repudiated even by
conservative Roman Catholic historians. Cyprian is an excellent
example of a father who states that Peter is the rock but who
does not mean this in a Roman Catholic sense. But without giving
the proper historical context and understanding of his writings
it would be quite easy to mislead the unintiated by investing
Cyprian’s words with the doctrinal development of a later
age thereby misrepresenting his actual position
(The
Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter and the Rock
(Battle Ground: Christian Resources, 1996),
pp. 32-40).

Stephen Ray makes the following
observations on my comments:

William Webster, who mentions
only the passages he considers harmful to the Catholic Church,
fails, of course, to mention this quotation and others from Cyprian
in his The Church of Rome at the Bar of History and Peter
and the Rock
because it does not fit his “proof-texting”
agenda. In his book Peter and the Rock , Webster attempts
to prove that Cyprian had no concept of Roman primacy and says
that the citations he provides “reveal a consensus of scholarly
opinion on Cyprian’s teaching effectively demonstrating
the incompatibility of Cyprian’s views with those espoused
by Vatican 1” (39). His comments seem to betray an ignorance
of scholars who disagree with him. His imagined “consensus”
is one built upon selective proof-texting. He quite blithely
dismisses a complete modern consensus that cuts across Protestant,
Catholic, and even secular (as well as conservative and liberal)
lines with respect to the identification of Peter and the Rock
in Matthew 16: 18). Instead, he points to Protestant apologists
who often cite modernist Catholic theologians – those who have
abandoned the historic teachings of the Church – to try to show
that “our own” scholars have rejected our position
but then refuse even to acknowledge their own Evangelical Protestant
scholars who disagree with their position. This amounts to a
huge double standard that needs to be exposed for what it is.
Scholars who do not fit Webster’s “consensus”
include B. C. Butler, John Chapman, E. Giles, A. H. Cullen, William
Barry, and Warren Carroll, to mention only a few.
Webster’s section on St. Cyprian also demonstrates his unwillingness
to represent fairly the process and necessity of doctrinal development
within the Church. As we have demonstrated earlier in this book:
the oak tree has grown and looks perceptibly different from the
fragile sprout that cracked the original acorn, yet the organic
essence and identity remain the same. Do the words of the very
first Christians contain the full-blown understanding of the
Papacy as expressed in Vatican I? No, they do not, as Webster
correctly observes. But then, neither do the words of the first
Christians present the fully developed understanding of the Trinity
and the divinity of Christ (or the canon of the New Testament,
for that matter) as expounded and practiced by later generations
of the Church. One must be careful not to read too much into
the early centuries-but one must also be careful not to ignore
the obvious doctrinal substance contained and practiced by our
forebears, which was simply developed and implemented as the
need arose throughout subsequent centuries

(Upon This Rock
(San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999), p. 183-184, Footnote #70).

The consensus of scholarly
opinion I make reference to come partially from the comments of
two conservative Roman Catholic historians, Robert Eno and Michael
Winter. In fact, Mr. Ray quotes extensively and approvingly from
Michael Winter throughout his book as a reliable source. These
are not men who are ‘liberal’ and have been censured
by the Roman Church as Mr. Ray falsely claims. Note the conclusions
of these two historians:

Robert Eno: It is clear that in Cyprian’s
mind…one theological conclusion he does not draw is that the
bishop of Rome has authority which is superior to that of the
African bishops
(Robert
Eno, The Rise of the Papacy (Wilmington: Michael Glazier,
1990), pp. 57-60).

Michael Winter: Catholics as well as
Protestants are now generally agreed that Cyprian did not attribute
a superior authority to Peter
(Michael
Winter, St. Peter and the Popes (Baltimore: Helikon, 1960),
pp. 47-48).

Are we to conclude that these
Roman Catholic historians are guilty of proof-texting because
they come to a conclusion which is unsatisfactory to Mr. Ray.
These men are true historians who deal honestly with the facts.
Michael Winter affirms that the consensus of scholarly opinion
today is that Cyprian’s ecclesiology is antithetical to claims
of Rome. That is not just my own personal opinion but that of
a Roman Catholic historian. Go argue with your own authorities
Mr. Ray.

Mr. Ray goes on to state that
I am guilty of a double standard because I will quote Roman Catholic
historians who discredit Roman Catholic claims all the while neglecting
to mention Evangelical scholars who disagree with our own. He
says that my comments on a scholarly consensus relative to Cyprian
‘seem to betray an ignorance of scholars who disagree with
him. His imagined “consensus” is one built upon selective
proof-texting. He quite blithely dismisses a complete modern consensus
that cuts across Protestant, Catholic, and even secular (as well
as conservative and liberal) lines with respect to the identification
of Peter and the Rock in Matthew 16: 18).’ Now Mr. Ray has
just performed a subtle sleight of hand. He has changed the subject.
I was dealing with a scholarly opinion with respect to Cyprian’s
perspective. He suddenly shifts the ground of discussion to a
scholarly Evangelical consensus on the meaning of the rock of
Matthew 16. The scholarly opinion with regard to Cyprian stands.
What Ray is referring to on the other is that a number of prominent
evangelical scholars and theologians such as Oscar Cullmann, D.A.
Carson and William Hendriksen have stated that Peter is the rock.
And so he leaves the reader with the implication that these evangelicals
agree with the Roman Catholic interpretation. The authors of the
book, Jesus, Peter and the Keys have done precisely the same thing.
What he fails to mention is that none of these scholars agree
with the Roman Catholic interpretation. There indeed are a number
of evangelical scholars who agree that Peter is the rock, but
there is likewise a unanimous consensus from these same scholars
that this does not mean papal primacy. Just as it is possible
for Tertullian, Origen and Cyprian to state that Peter is the
rock and not mean that in a Roman Catholic sense, it is the same
with these scholars.

And finally Mr. Ray states
that my comments on the church Fathers belie an ignorance of the
truth of doctrinal development. He would have us believe that
the Roman Catholic teaching is that the early Church only believed
in the Roman primacy in an implicit sense and that it eventually
flowered fully at a later age. Mr. Ray is forced to this conclusion
by the weight of patristic evidence against his position. But
unfortunately for Mr. Ray, Vatican I, in promulgating the decrees
on papal primacy, has stated that there was no development of
this doctrine in the Church, that it was there in full belief,
understanding and practice from the very beginning because it
was established by Christ himself.

A
Fourth Misrepresentation

Mr. Ray has gone on in the
book to make several other assertions which need to be addressed.
In dealing with several quotes from Origen, he puts forth the
following challenge: ‘Can anyone claim that the Fathers attributed
Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, ‘You
are Peter (Rock) and upon this Church I will build my Church’
(Mt 16:18), to Peter’s confession alone and not to Peter
himself?’ The answer quite simply is yes. Augustine does
precisely that. He makes the following statement in one of his
sermons:

Remember, in this man Peter, the rock.
He’s the one, you see, who on being questioned by the Lord
about who the disciples said he was, replied, ‘You are the
Christ, the Son of the living God.’ On hearing this, Jesus
said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jona, because flesh
and blood did not reveal it to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
And I tell you’…‘You are Peter, Rocky, and on this
rock I shall build my Church, and the gates of the underworld
will not conquer her. To you shall I give the keys of the kingdom.
Whatever you bind on earth shall also be bound in heaven; whatever
you loose on earth shall also be loosed in heaven’ (Mt 16:15–19).
In Peter, Rocky, we see our attention drawn to the rock. Now
the apostle Paul says about the former people, ‘They drank
from the spiritual rock that was following them; but the rock
was Christ’ (1 Cor 10:4). So this disciple is called Rocky
from the rock, like Christian from Christ.
Why have I wanted to make this little introduction? In order
to suggest to you that in Peter the Church is to be recognized.
Christ, you see, built his Church not on a man but on Peter’s
confession. What is Peter’s confession? ‘You are the
Christ, the Son of the living God.’ There’s the rock
for you, there’s the foundation, there’s where the
Church has been built, which the gates of the underworld cannot
conquer
(John Rotelle,
O.S.A., Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine (New Rochelle:
New City Press, 1993), Sermons, Volume III/6, Sermon 229P.1,
p. 327).

Another example that can be
cited is Ambrose. he states:

He, then, who before was silent, to
teach us that we ought not to repeat the words of the impious,
this one, I say, when he heard, ‘But who do you say I am,’
immediately, not unmindful of his station, exercised his primacy,
that is, the primacy of confession, not of honor; the primacy
of belief, not of rank.
This, then, is Peter, who has replied for the rest of the Apostles;
rather, before the rest of men. And so he is called the foundation,
because he knows how to preserve not only his own but the common
foundation…Faith, then, is the foundation of the Church, for
it was not said of Peter’s flesh, but of his faith, that
‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ But
his confession of faith conquered hell. And this confession did
not shut out one heresy, for, since the Church like a good ship
is often buffeted by many waves, the foundation of the Church
should prevail against all heresies
(The
Fathers of the Church
(Washington D.C., Catholic University,
1963), Saint Ambrose, Theological and Dogmatic Works, The
Sacrament of the Incarnation of Our Lord
IV.32-V.34, pp.
230-231).

Peter therefore did not wait for the
opinion of the people, but produced his own, saying, ‘Thou
art the Christ the Son of the living God’: Who ever is,
began not to be, nor ceases to be. Great is the grace of Christ,
who has imparted almost all His own names to His disciples. ‘I
am,’ said He, ‘the light of the world,’ and yet
with that very name in which He glories, He favored His disciples,
saying, ‘Ye are the light of the world.’ ‘I am
the living bread’; and ‘we all are one bread’
(1 Cor. x.17)…Christ is the rock, for ‘they drank of the
same spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ’
(1 Cor. x.4); also He denied not to His disciple the grace of
this name; that he should be Peter, because he has from the rock
(petra) the solidity of constancy, the firmness of faith. Make
an effort, therefore, to be a rock! Do not seek the rock outside
of yourself, but within yourself! Your rock is your deed, your
rock is your mind. Upon this rock your house is built. Your rock
is your faith, and faith is the foundation of the Church. If
you are a rock, you will be in the Church, because the Church
is on a rock. If you are in the Church the gates of hell will
not prevail against you…He who has conquered the flesh is a
foundation of the Church; and if he cannot equal Peter, he can
imitate him
(Commentary
in Luke
VI.98, CSEL 32.4).

Both of these Fathers separate
Peter’s confession from Peter’s person. Augustine states
explicitly that the Church is not built on Peter’s person
but on his confession of faith. This was Augustine’s personal
perspective throughout his ministry. But one will not find this
citation or that from Ambrose in Mr. Ray’s book even though
he knows they exist because they are listed in my book The
Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter and the Rock.

Mr. Ray makes some additional
comments on this subject when he references the teaching of the
Church Father, James of Nisbis. He provides the following quotation
from James: ‘And Simon the head of the Apostles, he who denied
Christ…our Lord received him, and made him the foundation, and
called him the rock of the edifice of the Church.’ He then offers
the following critique of my comments:

To William Webster’s
credit, he included this passage from Jacob of Nisbis along with
another, which reads “Our Lord Jesus Christ is the firm
and true foundation; and upon this rock our faith is established.
Therefore, when any one has come to faith, he is set upon a firm
rock…. And Simon, who was called a rock, was deservedly called
a rock because of his faith”, and another referring to “Simon
the rock of faith”. However, Webster concludes by saying
that “James, like Eusebius and Augustine, states that the
rock of the Church is Christ. He alone is the true and unique
foundation. However, Peter is also called a rock foundation of
the Church but only because of his faith. The Church is built
upon Christ as the foundation, not upon Peter. It can be said
to be built on Peter only in the sense that it is built upon
his faith which points to Christ”
(Webster, Peter and the Rock, 100). Why does Webster have to work so
hard to establish the either-or dichotomy? Why not accept
the both-and position of the Fathers and the Catholic
Church?
(Upon This
Rock
(San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999), Footnote #93, p. 193).

I appreciate the fact that
Stephen Ray had the courtesy to note that I had included the additional
quotations from James of Nisbis, in addition to the one citation
he gave in his book. The additional citations are important because
they explain what James means when he states that Peter is the
foundation and rock of the Church. He is consistent in his perspective
with that expressed by Eusebius, a contemporary of James, and
Augustine. The emphasis in James’ writing is on the faith of Peter
and as we have seen in the above citations from Ambrose and Augustine,
the early Church Fathers separated the faith of Peter from his
person. Stephen Ray asks, ‘Why does Webster have to work so hard
to establish the either-or dichotomy? Why not accept the
both-and position of the Fathers and the Catholic Church?’
The simple answer, Mr. Ray, is that the Fathers themselves established
the either-or dichotomy. They do not have the both-and
position that the Roman Church would like to promote in terms
of papal primacy. I am not laboring hard to twist the words of
this church Father to say something that is inconsistent with
the prevailing view of his day. These comments are consistent
with the overall patristic interpretation. Christ is the rock
and foundation of the Church. Peter is the rock and foundation,
along with all the other apostles (Eph. 2:20), because of their
faith and teaching. The Church is built upon this faith, which
points to Christ. But as Augustine points out, the Church is not
built upon Peter’s person. Therefore when the Fathers say that
the Church is built upon Peter they mean upon his confession of
faith. This is why James of Nisbis refers to Peter as the ‘rock
of faith.’

A
Fifth Misrepresentation

Another misrepresentation
that needs to be addressed by Mr. Ray are some of his comments
on Ambrose. In his writings Ambrose makes the following statement:

It is to Peter himself that He says:
‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.’
Where Peter is, there is the Church
(W.A.
Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers

(Collegeville: Liturgical,
1979), Volume 2, St. Ambrose, On Twelve Psalms 440,30, p. 150).

Mr. Ray gives the following
interpretation to these words: ‘Peter is the rock upon which
the Church is built. If one is with Peter, that is, the bishop
of Rome, he is with the Church—all others are on the outside’
(Upon This Rock (San
Francisco: Ignatius, 1999), p. 218)
. What Mr. Ray would have us believe
is that when Ambrose states that ‘Where Peter is there is
the Church’, what he means is ‘Where the Bishop of Rome
is there is the Church’. I give the following refutation of that
position in the following comments from The Matthew 16 Controversy:

The impression given by (Roman
Catholic apologists) is that in these comments Ambrose supports
the Roman Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16. They apply the
following logic to his statement: The above quote seems to suggest
that Peter’s person is the rock. And since the bishops of
Rome are the successors to Peter they are, therefore, by succession,
the rocks of the Church. Therefore, according to Ambrose, the
Church is founded upon the universal rule of the bishops of Rome.
To be in communion with Rome is to be in the Church. To be out
of communion with Rome is to be out of the Church for where Peter
(that is, the bishop of Rome) is, there is the Church. Is this
what Ambrose meant? If we divorce this one sentence from its
context and from the rest of his comments on Peter in other writings,
we could certainly lean towards that interpretation. However,
Ambrose made other comments on Peter and Matthew 16 which explain
exactly what he meant when he said that Peter is the rock. Unfortunately,
these other comments are often neglected in discussions by Roman
Catholic apologists. Often a quote like this is given out of
the context. The result is that an interpretation is given the
words of Ambrose that is completely foreign to his true meaning.
This becomes clear upon examination of his other statements:
(I then list the quotations from Ambrose cited above).
What does Ambrose mean when he says that Peter is the foundation?
In the sense that he was the first to openly confess faith in
Christ as the Messiah and Son of God. The rock is not Peter himself
but Peter’s confession of faith! It is this faith which
is the foundation of the Church. Peter possesses a primacy, but
he explains that primacy as one of confession and faith and not
of rank in the sense of ruling over the other apostles. Thus,
when Ambrose says that ‘where Peter is there is the Church,’
he means that where Peter’s confession is, there is the
Church. He does not mean the bishop of Rome at all. He goes on
to give an exposition of the rock reminiscent of the interpretation
of Origen who says that all believers are rocks. As (Roman Catholic
historian) Robert Eno points out, when the overall context of
Ambrose’s statement is taken into account, it demonstrates
that the interpretation given by (Roman Catholic apologists)
is a complete misrepresentation of Ambrose’s statement since
his statement has nothing to do with ecclesiology and papal authority.
Robert Eno gives the following explanation
:

There is no question then that Ambrose
honored the Roman see, but there are other texts which seem to
establish a certain distance and independence as well. He commented,
for example, that Peter’s primacy was a primacy of confession,
not of honor; a primacy of faith, not rank…Finally, one further
text should be mentioned in connection with Ambrose since it
is a text which like Roma locuta est has become something of
a shibboleth or slogan. This is the brief phrase from his commentary
on the fortieth Psalm: Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia (where Peter
is, there is the Church)…As Roger Gryson has shown, in his
study on Ambrose and the priesthood, the context of such a statement
has nothing to do with any treatise on ecclesiology. It is but
one statement in a long chain of allegorical exegesis starting
with the line from Ps. 41:9: ‘Even my bosom friend in whom
I trusted…has lifted his heel against me.’ This is not
to deny the fairly common association of Peter as the symbol
of the Church, the figura ecclesiae we have seen in Augustine.
But it says little that is new and nothing at all about papal
authority
(Robert Eno,
The Rise of the Papacy (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1990),
pp. 83-84).

In the view of the fathers,
as seen in the examples of Cyprian, Ambrose and Augustine, the
Church is not embodied in one individual but in a confession
of right faith. Where you have that right confession you have
Peter. This is explicitly stated for example by Chrysostom. Like
Ambrose, he says that where Peter is there is the Church in the
sense of Peter’s confession and he applies it not to Rome
but to Antioch: ‘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 Acts,
II. Taken from E. Giles, Documents Illustrating Papal Authority
(London: SPCK, 1952), p.168)(The Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter
and the Rock
(Battle Ground: Christian Resources, 1996),
pp. 62-66).

A
Sixth Misrepresentation

One final misrepresentation
I would like to address are some additional comments Mr. Ray makes
in his Introduction. He states:

The bishop of Rome was unique in assuming
the authority and obligation to oversee the Churches. Clement
and Ignatius make this clear from the first century and the beginning
of the second. If the authority exercised had been illegitimate,
or wrongly arrogated, it would have been an act of overzealousness
at one end of the spectrum, of tyranny at the other. Yet no one
ever stood up and said, “No, you have no authority. Who
are you to order us, to teach us, to require obedience from us,
to excommunicate us?” If the jurisdictional primacy of Rome
had been a matter of self-aggrandizement, someone would have
opposed it as they opposed other innovations and heresies in
the Church. The silence is profound
(Upon
This Rock
(San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999), p. 13).

These statements are a complete
misrepresentation of the truth and demonstrate a profound ignorance
of church history. The church Fathers and ecumenical councils
are not silent on their opposition to the claims of the bishops
of Rome which they considered to be in fact illegitimate and innovations.
The fact that Cyprian changed the wording of his treatise, On
the Unity of the Church
, because Stephen the bishop of Rome
misapplied his words to mean papal primacy is clear evidence that
they were opposed to any thought that the bishop of Rome held
universal jurisdiction within the Church. This is also seen in
the example of Cyprian and the Eastern Fathers who opposed Stephen
and his demands for their submission to his teaching on the rebaptism
of heretics. I give the following summation of that controversy
in The Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter and the Rock:

The conflict regarding heretical
baptism was over whether or not it was necessary to rebaptize
those who had been baptized by Novationist groups—which
baptized in the name of the Trinity—who were then later
converted and sought membership in the orthodox Church. Cyprian
and many Eastern bishops said yes, while Stephen said no. The
controversy escalated to the point where Stephen demanded submission
by Cyprian and the others to his point of view on pain of exclusion
from communion with Rome upon refusal. Stephen went so far as
to denounce Cyprian as a false prophet and deceitful worker.
It is evident from Cyprian’s correspondence that such a
demand by Stephen was made on the basis of his application of
Matthew 16 to himself as Peter’s successor. In light of
this, the response of Cyprian and the Eastern bishops is significant.
Did they submit to Stephen? They did not. In fact, Stephen’s
demand, his interpretation of scripture, and the ecclesiology
which it represented, was unanimously repudiated by these bishops.
Their response was a North African Council in 256 A.D., attended
by eighty–seven North African bishops, with the full support
of the Eastern Churches as represented by Firmilian of Cappadocia
who wrote to Cyprian to encourage him in his defiance of Stephen.
All agreed with Cyprian in rejecting not only Stephen’s
theology and practice on heretical baptism but also his claims
to authority. In their opening remarks to the Council the bishops
give the following remarks which clearly reflect their understanding
of ecclesiology:

It remains that we severally declare
our opinion on this same subject, judging no one, nor depriving
any one of his right of communion, if he differ from us. For
no one setteth himself up as a Bishop of Bishops, or by tyrannical
terror forceth his Colleagues to a necessity of obeying; inasmuch
as every Bishop, in the free use of his liberty and power, has
the right of forming his own judgment, and can no more be judged
by another than he can himself judge another. But we must all
await the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who alone has the
power of both setting us in the government of His Church, and
of judging of our acts therein
(A
Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church
(Oxford:
Parker, 1844), The Epistles of St. Cyprian, The Judgments
of Eighty-Seven Bishops in the Council of Carthage on the Question
of Baptizing Heretics,
pp. 286-287).

It is obvious from these
comments that these bishops reject the notion that one particular
bishop holds a position of authority over other bishops as head
of the Church universal. No single bishop can legitimately claim
to be ‘Bishop of Bishops’ as they put it. This is further
illustrated by Firmilian, the leading bishop of Cappadocia, who
completely supported Cyprian in his opposition to Stephen. In
a personal letter to Cyprian he expressed his own personal opposition
to Stephen by stating that Stephen had fallen into error and
adopted a false ecclesiology by misinterpreting Matthew 16. He
gives his point of view in the following words:

But how great his error, how exceeding
his blindness, who says, that remission of sins can be given
in the synagogues of heretics, and abideth not on the foundation
of the one Church which was once fixed by Christ on a rock, may
be hence learnt, that Christ said to Peter alone, Whatsoever
thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever
thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven: and again
in the Gospel, when Christ breathed on the Apostles only, saying,
Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are
remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are
retained. The power then of remitting sins was given to the Apostles,
and the Churches which they, sent by Christ, established, and
to the Bishops who succeeded them by vicarious ordination.
And herein I am justly indignant at such open and manifest folly
in Stephen, that he who boasts of the seat of his episcopate,
and contends that he holds the succession from Peter, on whom
the foundations of the Church were laid, introduces many other
rocks, and buildeth anew many Churches, in that by his authority
he maintains baptism among them…Nor does he perceive that he
who thus betrays and abandons unity, casts into the shade, and
in a manner effaces, the truth of the Christian Rock…Stephen,
who proclaims that he occupies by succession the chair of Peter,
is roused by no zeal against heretics…He who concedes and assigns
to heretics such great and heavenly privileges of the Church,
what else does he than hold communion with them, for whom he
maintains and claims so much grace?…But as to the refutation
of the argument from custom, which they seem to oppose to the
truth, who so foolish as to prefer custom to truth, or not to
leave darkness, when he sees light?…And this you of Africa
may say in answer to Stephen, that on discovering the truth you
abandoned the error of custom. But we join custom to truth, and
to the custom of the Romans we oppose custom, but that of truth;
from the beginning holding that which was delivered by Christ
and by His Apostles
(A
Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church
(Oxford:
Parker, 1844), The Epistles of St. Cyprian, Epistle LXXV.
17, 18, 20, pp. 279-281).

Firmilian expresses a view
of the overall government of the Church which is directly opposed
to that of Vatican I. He states that the keys were given to Peter
alone as a representative of the Church universal, but were subsequently
given to all the Apostles who then passed them on to every legitimate
succeeding bishop. In the mind of Firmilian, all bishops are
on an equal footing. He mocks Stephen’s claim of superiority
to other bishops based on his possessing a unique Petrine succession.
According to Firmilian all bishops possess the chair of Peter
and are built upon the rock. This is not the exclusive and unique
possession of the bishops of Rome. And if, as Firmilian claims
Stephen did, they depart from the unity of the Church which is
expressed in the collegiality of its bishops, they separate themselves
from the rock and foundation of the Church. Because Stephen,
in Firmilian’s view, had departed from Apostolic truth,
he was no longer in unity with Apostolic succession and the rock
foundation of the Church. The Roman see itself was not inherently
authoritative simply because it could claim a Petrine foundation
and succession. This did not impress the Eastern bishops. The
important thing to them, and to Cyprian as well, was conformity
to Apostolic truth. Where Roman custom opposed what they considered
to be truth, they felt obliged to oppose the bishop of Rome.
These bishops did not submit to the bishop of Rome and Cyprian
died out of communion with him. They clearly did not view the
Roman bishop as the universal ruler of the Church, nor communion
with him a necessary condition for membership in the Church universal.
Cyprian could say, ‘He who does not have the Church for
his mother does not have God for his father,’ but in so
stating he did not mean submission to and communion with the
bishop of Rome. Karl Morrison sums up the controversy between
Stephen and Cyprian and the Eastern bishops in these words:

Stephen had condemned Cyprian as ‘false
Christ, false apostle, and practicer of deceit,’ because
he advocated re–baptism; and the Bishop of Carthage reciprocated
in kind. Since the headship which Stephen claimed was unwarranted,
by the example of St. Peter, he could not force his brethren
to accept his views. Even worse, his judgment opposed the authentic
tradition of the Church. The bishop of Rome, wrote Cyprian, had
confounded human tradition and divine precepts; he insisted on
a practice which was mere custom, and ‘custom without truth
is the antiquity of error.’ Whence came the ‘tradition’
on which Stephen insisted? Cyprian answered that it came from
human presumption. Subverting the Church from within, Stephen
wished the Church to follow the practices of heretics by accepting
their baptisms, and to hold that those who were not born in the
Church could be sons of God. And finally, Cyprian urged that
bishops (Stephen was meant) lay aside the love of presumption
and obstinacy which had led them to prefer custom to tradition
and, abandoning their evil and false arguments, return to the
divine precepts, to evangelical and apostolic tradition, whence
arose their order and their very origin.
In a letter to Cyprian, Firmilian endorsed everything the bishop
of Carthage had said and added a few strokes of his own…Recalling
the earlier dispute about the date of Easter, he upheld the practice
of Asia Minor by commenting that, in the celebration of Easter
and in many other matters, the Romans did not observe the practices
established in the age of the Apostles, though they vainly claimed
apostolic authority for their aberrant forms. The decree of Stephen
was the most recent instance of such audacity, an instance so
grave that Firmilian ranked Stephen among heretics and blasphemers
and compared his doctrines and discipline with the perfidy of
Judas. The Apostles did not command as Stephen commanded, Firmilian
wrote, nor did Christ establish the primacy which he claimed…To
the Roman custom, Firmilian, like Cyprian, opposed the custom
of truth, ‘holding from the beginning that which was delivered
by Christ and the Apostles.’ And, Firmilian argued, by his
violence and obstinacy, Stephen had apostacized from the communion
of ecclesiastical unity; far from cutting heretics off from his
communion, he had cut himself off from the orthodox and made
himself ‘a stranger in all respects from his brethren, rebelling
against the sacrament and the faith with the madness of contumacious
discord. With such a man can there be one Spirit and one Body,
in whom perhaps there is not even one mind, slippery, shifting,
and uncertain as it is?’
(Karl
Morrison, Tradition and Authority in the Western Church
(Princeton: Princeton University, 1969), pp. 31-32).

These facts are certainly
no endorsement of the views promulgated by the First Vatican
Council. The writings and practice of Cyprian reveal that he
held an opinion directly opposing that of Vatican One on papal
supremacy. William Jurgens affirms this in the following summation
of Cyprian’s practice which reflected his theory of ecclesiology:

Although Cyprian was on excellent terms
with Pope St. Cornelius…he fell out sharply with Cornelius’
successor, Pope St. Stephen…on the question of the rebaptizing
of converted heretics. It was the immemorial custom of the African
Church to regard Baptism conferred by heretics as invalid, and
in spite of Stephen’s severe warnings, Cyprian never yielded.
His attitude was simply that every bishop is responsible for
his own actions, answerable to God alone
(William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early
Fathers
(Collegeville: Liturgical, 1970), Volume I, p. 216-217)
(The Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter and the Rock (Battle
Ground: Christian Resources, 1966), pp. 196-199).

Stephen Ray says, ‘If
the authority exercised had been illegitimate, or wrongly arrogated,
it would have been an act of overzealousness at one end of the
spectrum, of tyranny at the other. Yet no one ever stood up and
said, “No, you have no authority. Who are you to order us,
to teach us, to require obedience from us, to excommunicate us?”
If the jurisdictional primacy of Rome had been a matter of self-aggrandizement,
someone would have opposed it as they opposed other innovations
and heresies in the Church. The silence is profound’
(Upon This Rock (San Francisco:
Ignatius, 1999), p. 13).

The foregoing facts give the
lie to these assertions. It is not the silence but the clear expression
of outrage and opposition that is profound. The Council of Carthage
explicitly denies the right of any bishop to call himself the
Bishop of Bishops and to demand obedience to his demands. William
Jurgens is a Roman Catholic patristic scholar quoted over and
over again by Stephen Ray. He repudiates the the above assertions
of Mr. Ray when he says that ‘in spite of Stephen’s
severe warnings, Cyprian never yielded. His attitude was simply
that every bishop is responsible for his own actions, answerable
to God alone’
(William
Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers (Collegeville:
Liturgical, 1970), Volume I, p. 217).

This is just one example of
many that could be cited. Others would be the opposition of the
Eastern Churches to Victor, the bishop of Rome, in the second
century; the opposition of Augustine and the North Africans to
Zosimus in the fifth century; the excommunication of Vigilius
by the North African bishops in the sixth; the repudiation of
the primacy claims of Rome by the Second (I Constantinople) and
the Fourth (Chalcedon) ecumenical councils; the official condemnation
of Honorius as a heretic by the Sixth (III Constantinople) ecumenical
council. And all of these culminating of course in the final and
continuing repudiation by the Eastern Churches of the primacy
claims of Rome with the split between the East and West in the
eleventh century. But since Mr. Ray states that there is not one
single example in all the history of the early Church this one
example will suffice.

These are only a few of the
many misrepresentations that are evident in Mr. Ray’s book,
Upon This Rock. He has consistently misrepresented my statements
and those of the Church Fathers. If there is anyone guilty of
proof-texting and of promoting an agenda it is Mr. Ray.