The Primacy of Peter in Scripture
Matt. to Rev. – Peter is mentioned 155 times and the rest of apostles combined are only mentioned 130 times. Peter is also always listed first except in 1 Cor. 3:22 and Gal. 2:9 (which are obvious exceptions to the rule).
Matt. 10:2; Mark 1:36; 3:16; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:3; 2:37; 5:29 – these are some of many examples where Peter is mentioned first among the apostles.
Matt. 14:28-29 – only Peter has the faith to walk on water. No other man in Scripture is said to have the faith to walk on water. This faith ultimately did not fail.
Matt. 16:16, Mark 8:29; John 6:69 – Peter is first among the apostles to confess the divinity of Christ.
Matt. 16:17 – Peter alone is told he has received divine knowledge by a special revelation from God the Father.
Matt. 16:18 – Jesus builds the Church only on Peter, the rock, with the other apostles as the foundation and Jesus as the Head.
Matt. 16:19 – only Peter receives the keys, which represent authority over the Church and facilitate dynastic succession to his authority.
Matt. 17:24-25 – the tax collector approaches Peter for Jesus’ tax. Peter is the spokesman for Jesus. He is the Vicar of Christ.
Matt. 17:26-27 – Jesus pays the half-shekel tax with one shekel, for both Jesus and Peter. Peter is Christ’s representative on earth.
Matt. 18:21 – in the presence of the disciples, Peter asks Jesus about the rule of forgiveness. One of many examples where Peter takes a leadership role among the apostles in understanding Jesus’ teachings.
Matt. 19:27 – Peter speaks on behalf of the apostles by telling Jesus that they have left everything to follow Him.
Mark 10:28 – here also, Peter speaks on behalf of the disciples by declaring that they have left everything to follow Him.
Mark 11:21 – Peter speaks on behalf of the disciples in remembering Jesus’ curse on the fig tree.
Mark 14:37 – at Gethsemane, Jesus asks Peter, and no one else, why he was asleep. Peter is accountable to Jesus for his actions on behalf of the apostles because he has been appointed by Jesus as their leader.
Mark 16:7 – Peter is specified by an angel as the leader of the apostles as the angel confirms the resurrection of Christ.
Luke 5:3 – Jesus teaches from Peter’s boat which is metaphor for the Church. Jesus guides Peter and the Church into all truth.
Luke 5:4,10 – Jesus instructs Peter to let down the nets for a catch, and the miraculous catch follows. Peter, the Pope, is the “fisher of men.”
Luke 7:40-50- Jesus addresses Peter regarding the rule of forgiveness and Peter answers on behalf of the disciples. Jesus also singles Peter out and judges his conduct vis-à-vis the conduct of the woman who anointed Him.
Luke 8:45 – when Jesus asked who touched His garment, it is Peter who answers on behalf of the disciples.
Luke 8:51; 9:28; 22:8; Acts 1:13; 3:1,3,11; 4:13,19; 8:14 – Peter is always mentioned before John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.
Luke 9:28;33 – Peter is mentioned first as going to mountain of transfiguration and the only one to speak at the transfiguration.
Luke 12:41 – Peter seeks clarification of a parable on behalf on the disciples. This is part of Peter’s formation as the chief shepherd of the flock after Jesus ascended into heaven.
Luke 22:31-32 – Jesus prays for Peter alone, that his faith may not fail, and charges him to strengthen the rest of the apostles.
Luke 24:12, John 20:4-6 – John arrived at the tomb first but stopped and waited for Peter. Peter then arrived and entered the tomb first.
Luke 24:34 – the two disciples distinguish Peter even though they both had seen the risen Jesus the previous hour. See Luke 24:33.
John 6:68 – after the disciples leave, Peter is the first to speak and confess his belief in Christ after the Eucharistic discourse.
John 13:6-9 – Peter speaks out to the Lord in front of the apostles concerning the washing of feet.
John 13:36; 21:18 – Jesus predicts Peter’s death. Peter was martyred at Rome in 67 A.D. Several hundred years of papal successors were also martyred.
John 21:2-3,11 – Peter leads the fishing and his net does not break. The boat (the “barque of Peter”) is a metaphor for the Church.
John 21:7 – only Peter got out of the boat and ran to the shore to meet Jesus. Peter is the earthly shepherd leading us to God.
John 21:15 – in front of the apostles, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus “more than these,” which refers to the other apostles. Peter is the head of the apostolic see.
John 21:15-17 – Jesus charges Peter to “feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep,” “feed my sheep.” Sheep means all people, even the apostles.
Acts 1:13 – Peter is first when entering upper room after our Lord’s ascension. The first Eucharist and Pentecost were given in this room.
Acts 1:15 – Peter initiates the selection of a successor to Judas right after Jesus ascended into heaven, and no one questions him. Further, if the Church needed a successor to Judas, wouldn’t it need one to Peter? Of course.
Acts 2:14 – Peter is first to speak for the apostles after the Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost. Peter is the first to preach the Gospel.
Acts 2:38 – Peter gives first preaching in the early Church on repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.
Acts 3:1,3,4 – Peter is mentioned first as going to the Temple to pray.
Acts 3:6-7 – Peter works the first healing of the apostles.
Acts 3:12-26, 4:8-12 – Peter teaches the early Church the healing through Jesus and that there is no salvation other than Christ.
Acts 5:3 – Peter declares the first anathema of Ananias and Sapphira which is ratified by God, and brings about their death. Peter exercises his binding authority.
Acts 5:15 – Peter’s shadow has healing power. No other apostle is said to have this power.
Acts 8:14 – Peter is mentioned first in conferring the sacrament of confirmation.
Acts 8:20-23 – Peter casts judgment on Simon’s quest for gaining authority through the laying on of hands. Peter exercises his binding and loosing authority.
Acts 9:32-34 – Peter is mentioned first among the apostles and works the healing of Aeneas.
Acts 9:38-40 – Peter is mentioned first among the apostles and raises Tabitha from the dead.
Acts 10:5 – Cornelius is told by an angel to call upon Peter. Angels are messengers of God. Peter was granted this divine vision.
Acts 10:34-48, 11:1-18 – Peter is first to teach about salvation for all (Jews and Gentiles).
Acts 12:5 – this verse implies that the “whole Church” offered “earnest prayers” for Peter, their leader, during his imprisonment.
Acts 12:6-11 – Peter is freed from jail by an angel. He is the first object of divine intervention in the early Church.
Acts 15:7-12 – Peter resolves the first doctrinal issue on circumcision at the Church’s first council at Jerusalem, and no one questions him. After Peter the Papa spoke, all were kept silent.
Acts 15:12 – only after Peter (the Pope) speaks do Paul and Barnabas (bishops) speak in support of Peter’s definitive teaching.
Acts 15:13-14 – then James speaks to further acknowledge Peter’s definitive teaching. “Simeon (Peter) has related how God first visited…”
Rom. 15:20 – Paul says he doesn’t want to build on “another man’s foundation” referring to Peter, who built the Church in Rome.
1 Cor. 9:5 – Peter is distinguished from the rest of the apostles and brethren of the Lord.
1 Cor. 15:4-8 – Paul distinguishes Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to Peter from those of the other apostles. Christ appeared “to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
Gal.1:18 – Paul spends fifteen days with Peter privately before beginning his ministry, even after Christ’s Revelation to Paul.
1 Peter 5:1 – Peter acts as the chief bishop by “exhorting” all the other bishops and elders of the Church.
1 Peter 5:13 – Some Protestants argue against the Papacy by trying to prove Peter was never in Rome. First, this argument is irrelevant to whether Jesus instituted the Papacy. Secondly, this verse demonstrates that Peter was in fact in Rome. Peter writes from “Babylon” which was a code name for Rome during these days of persecution. See, for example, Rev. 14:8, 16:19, 17:5, 18:2,10,21, which show that “Babylon” meant Rome. Rome was the “great city” of the New Testament period. Because Rome during this age was considered the center of the world, the Lord wanted His Church to be established in Rome.
2 Peter 1:14 – Peter writes about Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s death, embracing the eventual martyrdom that he would suffer.
2 Peter 3:16 – Peter is making a judgment on the proper interpretation of Paul’s letters. Peter is the chief shepherd of the flock.
Matt. 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:44 – yet Peter, as the first, humbled himself to be the last and servant of all servants.
Tradition / Church Fathers
I. Peter Built the Church in Rome
“Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him.” Clement of Rome, The First Epistle of Clement, 5 (c. A.D. 96).
“I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you.” Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans, 4 (c. A.D. 110).
‘You have thus by such an admonition bound together the plantings of Peter and Paul at Rome and Corinth.” Dionysius of Corinth, Epistle to Pope Soter, fragment in Eusebius’ Church History, II:25 (c. A.D. 178).
“Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:1:1 (c. A.D. 180).
“As Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out.” Clement of Alexandria, fragment in Eusebius Church History, VI:14,6 (A.D. 190)
“It is, therefore, recorded that Paul was beheaded in Rome itself, and that Peter likewise was crucified under Nero. This account of Peter and Paul is substantiated by the fact that their names are preserved in the cemeteries of that place even to the present day. It is confirmed likewise by Caius, a member of the Church, who arose under Zephyrinus, bishop of Rome. He, in a published disputation with Proclus, the leader of the Phrygian heresy, speaks as follows concerning the places where the sacred corpses of the aforesaid apostles are laid: ‘But I can show the trophies of the apostles. For if you will go to the Vatican or to the Ostian way, you will find the trophies of those who laid the foundations of this church.'” Gaius, fragment in Eusebius’ Church History, 2:25 (A.D. 198).
“[W]hat utterance also the Romans give, so very near (to the apostles), to whom Peter and Paul conjointly bequeathed the gospel even sealed with their own blood.” Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4:5 (inter A.D. 207-212).
‘We read the lives of the Caesars: At Rome Nero was the first who stained with blood the rising blood. Then is Peter girt by another (an allusion to John 21:18), when he is made fast to the cross.” Tertullian, Scorpiace, 15:3 (A.D. 212).
“Peter…at last, having come to Rome, he was crucified head-downwards; for he had requested that he might suffer this way.” Origen, Third Commentary on Genesis, (A.D. 232).
“Thus Peter, the first of the Apostles, having been often apprehended, and thrown into prison, and treated with igominy, was last of all crucified at Rome.” Peter of Alexandria, The Canonical Epistle, Canon 9 (A.D. 306).
“[W]hich Peter and Paul preached at Rome…” Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, 4:21 (A.D. 310).
“Peter…coming to the city of Rome, by the mighty cooperation of that power which was lying in wait there…” Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, II:14,5 (A.D. 325).
“This man [Simon Magus], after he had been cast out by the Apostles, came to Rome…Peter and Paul, a noble pair, chief rulers of the Church, arrived and set the error right…For Peter was there, who carrieth the keys of heaven…” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures ,6:14-15 (c. A.D. 350).
“And Peter, who had hid himself for fear of the Jews, and the Apostle Paul who was let down in a basket, and fled, when they were told, ‘Ye must bear witness at Rome,’ deferred not the journey; yea, rather, they departed rejoicing…” Athanasius, Defence of his Flight, 18 (c. A.D. 357).
“I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church whose faith has been praised by Paul…My words are spoken to the successor of the fisherman, to the disciple of the cross.” Jerome, To Pope Damasus, Epistle 15 (A.D. 377).
“For if when here he loved men so, that when he [Peter] had the choice of departing and being with Christ, he chose to be here, much more will he there display a warmer affection. I love Rome even for this, although indeed one has other grounds for praising it, both for its greatness, and its antiquity, and its beauty, and its populousness, and for its power, and its wealth, and for its successes in war. But I let all this pass, and esteem it blessed on this account, that both in his lifetime he wrote to them, and loved them so, and talked with them whiles he was with us, and brought his life to a close there.” John Chrysostom, Epistle to the Romans, Homily 32 (c. A.D. 391).
“Which was mere to the interest of the Church at Rome, that it should at its commencement be presided over by some high-born and pompous senator, or by the fisherman Peter, who had none of this world’s advantages to attract men to him?” Gregory of Nyssa, To the Church at Nicodemia, Epistle 13 (ante A.D. 394).
“But some people in some countries of the West, and especially in the city, [Rome] not knowing the reason of this indulgence, think that a dispensation from fasting ought certainly not to be allowed On the Sabbath, because they say that on this day the Apostle Peter fasted before his encounter with Simon [Magus].” John Cassian, Institutes, X (ante A.D. 435).
“The whole world, dearly-beloved, does indeed take part in all holy anniversaries [of Peter & Paul], and loyalty to the one Faith demands that whatever is recorded as done for all men’s salvation should be everywhere celebrated with common rejoicings. But, besides that reverence which to-day’s festival has gained from all the world, it is to be honoured with special and peculiar exultation in our city, that there may be a predominance of gladness on the day of their martyrdom in the place where the chief of the Apostles met their glorious end. For these are the men, through whom the light of Christ’s gospel shone on thee, O Rome, and through whom thou, who wast the teacher of error, wast made the disciple of Truth.” Pope Leo the Great (regn. A.D. 440-461), Sermon LXXXII (ante A.D. 461).
II. Primacy of Peter’s Apostolic See
“The church of God which sojourns at Rome to the church of God which sojourns at Corinth … But if any disobey the words spoken by him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger.” Clement of Rome, Pope, 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, 1,59:1 (c. A.D. 96).
“Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which has obtained mercy, through the majesty of the Mast High God the Father, and of Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son; the Church which is sanctified and enlightened by the will of God, who farmed all things that are according to the faith and love of Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour; the Church which presides in the place of the region of the Romans, and which is worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of credit, worthy of being deemed holy, and which presides over love…” Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans, Prologue (A.D. 110).
“There is extant also another epistle written by Dionysius to the Romans, and addressed to Soter, who was bishop at that time. We cannot do better than to subjoin some passages from this epistle…In this same epistle he makes mention also of Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians, showing that it had been the custom from the beginning to read it in the church. His words are as follows: To-day we have passed the Lord’s holy day, in which we have read your epistle. From it, whenever we read it, we shall always be able to draw advice, as also from the former epistle, which was written to us through Clement.’ Dionysius of Corinth, To Pope Soter (A.D. 171).
“Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:3:2 (A.D. 180).
“A question of no small importance arose at that time. For the parishes of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should be observed as the feast of the Saviour’s Passover. It was therefore necessary to end their fast on that day, whatever day of the week it should happen to be. But it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world to end it at this time, as they observed the practice which, from apostolic tradition, has prevailed to the present time, of terminating the fast on no other day than on that of the resurrection of our Saviour…Thereupon Victor, who presided over the church at Rome, immediately attempted to cut off from the common unity the parishes of all Asia, with the churches that agreed with them, as heterodox; and he wrote letters and declared all the brethren there wholly excommunicated.” Pope Victor & Easter (c. A.D. 195).
“And he says to him again after the resurrection, ‘Feed my sheep.’ It is on him that he builds the Church, and to him that he entrusts the sheep to feed. And although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single Chair, thus establishing by his own authority the source and hallmark of the (Church’s) oneness. No doubt the others were all that Peter was, but a primacy is given to Peter, and it is (thus) made clear that there is but one flock which is to be fed by all the apostles in common accord. If a man does not hold fast to this oneness of Peter, does he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the Church? This unity firmly should we hold and maintain, especially we bishops, presiding in the Church, in order that we may approve the episcopate itself to be the one and undivided.” Cyprian, The Unity of the Church, 4-5 (A.D. 251-256).
“After such things as these, moreover, they still dare–a false bishop having been appointed for them by, heretics–to set sail and to bear letters from schismatic and profane persons to the throne of Peter, and to the chief church whence priestly unity takes its source; and not to consider that these were the Romans whose faith was praised in the preaching of the apostle, to whom faithlessness could have no access.” Cyprian, To Cornelius, Epistle 54/59:14 (A.D. 252).
”The reason for your absence was both honorable and imperative, that the schismatic wolves might not rob and plunder by stealth nor the heretical dogs bark madly in the rapid fury nor the very serpent, the devil, discharge his blasphemous venom. So it seems to us right and altogether fitting that priests of the Lord from each and every province should report to their head, that is, to the See of Peter, the Apostle.” Council of Sardica, To Pope Julius (A.D. 342).
“And this case likewise is to be provided for, that if in any province a bishop has some matter against his brother and fellow-bishop, neither of the two should call in as arbiters bishops from another province. But if perchance sentence be given against a bishop in any matter and he supposes his case to be not unsound but good, in order that the question may be reopened, let us, if it seem good to your charity, honour the memory of Peter the Apostle, and let those who gave judgment write to Julius, the bishop of Rome, so that, if necessary, the case may be retried by the bishops of the neighbouring provinces and let him appoint arbiters; but if it cannot be shown that his case is of such a sort as to need a new trial, let the judgment once given not be annulled, but stand good as before.” Council of Sardica, Canon III (A.D. 343-344).
“Bishop Gaudentius said: If it seems good to you, it is necessary to add to this decision full of sincere charity which thou hast pronounced, that if any bishop be deposed by the sentence of these neighbouring bishops, and assert that he has fresh matter in defense, a new bishop be not settled in his see, unless the bishop of Rome judge and render a decision as to this.” Council of Sardica, Canon IV (A.D. 343-344).
“Bishop Hosius said: Decreed, that if any bishop is accused, and the bishops of the same region assemble and depose him from his office, and he appealing, so to speak, takes refuge with the most blessed bishop of the Roman church, and he be willing to give him a hearing, and think it right to renew the examination of his case, let him be pleased to write to those fellow-bishops who are nearest the province that they may examine the particulars with care and accuracy and give their votes on the matter in accordance with the word of truth. And if any one require that his case be heard yet again, and at his request it seem good to move the bishop of Rome to send presbyters a latere, let it be in the power of that bishop, according as he judges it to be good and decides it to be right that some be sent to be judges with the bishops and invested with his authority by whom they were sent.” Council of Sardica, Canon V (A.D. 343-344).
“Supposing, as you assert, that some offence rested upon those persons, the case ought to have been conducted against them, not after this manner, but according to the Canon of the Church. Word should have been written of it to us all, that so a just sentence might proceed from all. For the sufferers were Bishops, and Churches of no ordinary note, but those which the Apostles themselves had governed in their own persons…For what we have received from the blessed Apostle Peter, that I signify to you; and I should not have written this, as deeming that these things were manifest unto all men, had not these proceedings so disturbed us.” Athanasius, Pope Julius to the Eusebians, Defense Against the Arians, 35 (A.D. 347).
“For Dionysius, Bishop of Rome, having written also against those who said that the Son of God was a creature and a created thing, it is manifest that not now for the first time but from of old the heresy of the Arian adversaries of Christ has been anathematised by all. And Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, making his defense concerning the letter he had written, appears in his turn as neither thinking as they allege, nor having held the Arian error at all.” Athanasius, Dionysius of Rome, 13 (A.D. 352).
“You cannot deny that you know that in the city of Rome the Chair was first conferred on Peter, in which the prince of all the Apostles, Peter, sat…in which Chair unity should be preserved by all, so that he should now be a schismatic and a sinner who should set up another Chair against that unique one.” Optatus of Mileve, The Schism of Donatists, 2:2-3 (c. A.D. 367).
“For the good of unity Blessed Peter deserved to be preferred before the rest, and alone received the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, that he might communicate them to the rest.” Optatus of Mileve, The Schism of Donatists, 7:3 (c.A.D. 367).
“No prejudice could arise from the number of bishops gathered at Ariminum, since it is well known that neither the bishop of the Romans, whose opinion ought before all others to have been waited for, nor Vincentius, whose stainless episcopate had lasted so many years, nor the rest, gave in their adhesion to such doctrines. And this is the more significant, since, as has been already said, the very men who seemed to be tricked into surrender, themselves, in their wiser moments, testified their disapproval.” Pope Damasus [regn. A.D. 366-384], About Council at Arminum, Epistle 1 (A.D. 371).
“…I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church whose faith has been praised by Paul…The fruitful soil of Rome, when it receives the pure seed of the Lord, bears fruit an hundredfold…My words are spoken to the successor of the fisherman, to the disciple of the cross. As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the church is built! This is the house where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten. This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails.” Jerome, To Pope Damasus, Epistle 15:1-2 (A.D. 375).
“But he was not so eager as to lay aside caution. He called the bishop to him, and esteeming that there can be no true thankfulness except it spring from true faith, he enquired whether he agreed with the Catholic bishops, that is, with the Roman Church?” Ambrose, The death of his brother Satyrus, 1:47 (A.D. 378).
“Your grace must be besought not to permit any disturbance of the Roman Church, the head of the whole Roman World and of the most holy faith of the Apostles, for from thence flow out to all (churches) the bonds of sacred communion.” Ambrose, To Emperor Gratian, Epistle 11:4 (A.D. 381).
“To your inquiry we do not deny a legal reply, because we, upon whom greater zeal for the Christian religion is incumbent than upon the whole body, out of consideration for our office do not have the liberty to dissimulate, nor to remain silent. We carry the weight of all who are burdened; nay rather the blessed apostle Peter bears these in us, who, as we trust, protects us in all matters of his administration, and guards his heirs.” Pope Sircius [regn. A.D. 384-399], To Himerius, Epistle 1 (A.D. 385).
“Or rather, if we hear him here, we shall certainly see him hereafter, if not as standing near him, yet see him we certainly shall, glistening near the Throne of the king. Where the Cherubim sing the glory, where the Seraphim are flying, there shall we see Paul, with Peter, and as a chief and leader of the choir of the Saints, and shall enjoy his generous love. For if when here he loved men so, that when he had the choice of departing and being with Christ, he chose to be here…” John Chrysostom, Epistle to the Romans, Homily 32:24 (c. A.D. 391).
“Number the bishops from the See of Peter itself. And in that order of Fathers see who has succeeded whom. That is the rock against which the gates of hell do not prevail” Augustine, Psalm against the Party of Donatus, 18 (A.D. 393).
“I am held in the communion of the Catholic Church by…and by the succession of bishops from the very seat of Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection commended His sheep to be fed up to the present episcopate.” Augustine, Against the Letter of Mani, 5 (A.D. 395).
“Carthage was also near the countries over the sea, and distinguished by illustrious renown, so that it had a bishop of more than ordinary influence, who could afford to disregard a number of conspiring enemies because he saw himself joined by letters of communion to the Roman Church, in which the supremacy of an apostolic chair has always flourished.” Augustine, To Glorius et.al, Epistle 43:7 (A.D. 397).
“The chair of the Roman Church, in which Peter sat, and in which Anastasius sits today.” Augustine, Against the Letters of Petillian, 2:51 (A.D. 402).
“In making inquiry with respect to those things that should be treated with all solicitude by bishops, and especially by a true and just and Catholic Council, by preserving, as you have done, the example of ancient tradition, and by being mindful of ecclesiastical discipline, you have truly strengthened the vigour of our religion, no less now in consulting us than before in passing sentence. For you decided that it was proper to refer to our judgment, knowing what is due to the Apostolic See, since all we who are set in this place, desire to follow the Apostle from the very episcopate and whole authority of this name is derived. Following in his footsteps, we know how to condemn the evil and to approve the good.” Pope Innocent [regn A.D. 401-417], To the Council of Carthage, Epistle 29 (A.D. 417).
“Although the tradition of the Fathers has attributed to the Apostolic See so great authority that none would dare to contest its judgments…For (Peter) himself has care over all the Churches, and above all that in which he sat nor does he suffer any of its privileges or decisions to be shaken” Pope Zosimus [regn A.D. 417-418 ],To Aurelius and the Council of Carthage, Epistle 12 (A.D. 418).
“For it has never been allowed to discuss again what has once been decided by the Apostolic See.” Pope Boniface [regn A.D. 418-422], To Rufus Bishop of Thessalonica, Epistle 13 (A.D. 422).
“The rising pestilence was first cut short by Rome, the see of Peter, which having become the head to the world of the pastoral office, holds by religion whatever it holds not by arms.” Prosper of Aquitaine, Song on the Enemies of Grace, 1 (A.D. 429).
“Joining to yourself, therefore, the sovereign of our See, and assuming our place with authority, you will execute this sentence with accurate rigour: that within ten days, counted from the day of your notice, he shall condemn his [Nestorius’] false teachings in a written confession.” Pope Celestine [regn. A.D. 422-432], To Cyril of Alexandria, Epistle 11 (A.D. 430).
“The Holy Synod said: ‘Since most impious Nestorius will not obey our citation, and has not received the most holy and God-fearing bishops whom we sent to him, we have necessarily betaken ourselves to the examination of his impieties; and having apprehended from his letters, and from his writings, and from his recent sayings in this metropolis, which have been reported, that his opinions and teachings are impious, we being necessarily compelled thereto by the canons and by the letter of our most holy father and colleague, Celestine, bishop of the Roman Church, with many tears, have arrived at the following sentence against him:–‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has been blasphemed by him, defines by this present most holy synod that the same Nestorius is deprived of episcopal dignity and of all sacredotal intercourse.” Council of Ephesus, Session I (A.D. 431).
“Philip, presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See, said: There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: Our holy and most blessed Pope Celestine the bishop is according to due order his successor and holds his place…Accordingly the decision of all churches is firm, for the priests of the eastern and western churches are present…Wherefore Nestorius knows that he is alienated from the communion of the priests of the Catholic Church.” Council of Ephesus, Session III (A.D. 431).
“Peter in his successors has delivered what he received.” Pope Sixtus III [regn. A.D. 432-440], To John of Antioch, Epistle 6 (A.D. 433).
“For he [Pope Sixtus] wrote what was in accord with the holy synod [Council of Ephesus], and confirmed all of its acts, an is agreement with us.” Cyril of Alexandria, To Acacius of Meletine, Epistle 40 (A.D. 434).
“Once on a time then, Agrippinus, bishop of Carthage, of venerable memory, held the doctrine–and he was the first who held it –that Baptism ought to be repeated, contrary to the divine canon, contrary to the rule of the universal Church, contrary to the customs and institutions of our ancestors. This innovation drew after it such an amount of evil, that it not only gave an example of sacrilege to heretics of all sorts, but proved an occasion of error to certain Catholics even. When then all men protested against the novelty, and the priesthood everywhere, each as his zeal prompted him, opposed it, Pope Stephen of blessed memory, Prelate of the Apostolic See, in conjunction indeed with his colleagues but yet himself the foremost, withstood it, thinking it right, I doubt not, that as he exceeded all others in the authority of his place, so he should also in the devotion of his faith. In fine, in an epistle sent at the time to Africa, he laid down this rule: Let there be no innovation–nothing but what has been handed down.’” Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith, 6 (A.D. 434).
“And since these heretics were trying to bring the Apostolic See round their view, African councils of holy bishops also did their best to persuade the holy Pope of the city (first the venerable Innocent, and afterwards his successor Zosimus) that this heresy was to be abhorred and condemned by Catholic faith. And these bishops so great a See successively branded them, and cut them off from the members of the Church, giving letters to the African Churches in the West, and to the Churches of the East, and declared that they were to be anathematised and avoided by all Catholics. The judgment pronounced upon them by the Catholic Church of God was heard and followed also by the most pious Emperor Ho they had wandered, and are yet returning, as the truth of the right faith becomes known against this detestable error.” Possidius, Life of Augustine, 18 (A.D. 437).
“After the reading of the foregoing epistle [the Tome of Pope Leo], the most reverend bishops cried out: This is the faith of the fathers, this is the faith of the Apostles. So we all believe, thus the orthodox believe. Anathema to him who does not thus believe. Peter has spoken thus through Leo [regn. A.D. 440-461]. So taught the Apostles. Piously and truly did Leo teach, so taught Cyril. Everlasting be the memory of Cyril. Leo and Cyril taught the same thing, anathema to him who does not so believe. This is the true faith. Those of us who are orthodox thus believe. This is the faith of the fathers. Why were not these things read at Ephesus [i.e. at the heretical synod held there]? These are the things Dioscorus hid away.” Council of Chalcedon, Session II (A.D. 451).
“Wherefore the most holy and blessed Leo, archbishop of the great and elder Rome, through us, and through this present most holy synod together with the thrice blessed and all-glorious Peter the Apostle, who is the rock and foundation of the Catholic Church, and the foundation of the orthodox faith, hath stripped him of the episcopate, and hath alienated from him all hieratic worthiness. Therefore let this most holy and great synod sentence the before mentioned Dioscorus to the canonical penalties.” Council of Chalcedon, Session III (A.D. 451).
“The great and holy and universal Synod…in the metropolis of Chalcedon…to the most holy and blessed archbishop of Rome, Leo…being set as the mouthpiece unto all of the blessed Peter, and imparting the blessedness of his Faith unto all…and besides all this he [Dioscorus] stretched forth his fury even against him who had been charged with the custody of the vine by the Savior, we mean of course your holiness…” Pope Leo the Great, Chalcdeon to Pope Leo, Epistle 98:1-2 (A.D. 451).
“Who does not cease to preside in his see, who will doubt that he rules in every part of the world.” Pope Leo the Great [regn. A.D.440-461], Sermon 5 (A.D ante 461).
“For the solidity of that faith which was praised in the chief of the Apostles is perpetual: and as that remains which Peter believed in Christ, so that remains which Christ instituted in Peter…The dispensation of Truth therefore abides, and the blessed Peter persevering in the strength of the Rock, which he has received, has not abandoned the helm of the Church, which he undertook. For he was ordained before the rest in such a way that from his being called the Rock, from his being pronounced the Foundation, from his being constituted the Doorkeeper of the kingdom of heaven, from his being set as the Umpire to bind and to loose, whose judgments shall retain their validity in heaven, from all these mystical titles we might know the nature of his association with Christ. And still to-day he more fully and effectually performs what is entrusted to him, and carries out every part of his duty and charge in Him and with Him, through Whom he has been glorified. And so if anything is rightly done and rightly decreed by us, if anything is won from the mercy of God by our daily supplications, it is of his work and merits whose power lives and whose authority prevails in his See.” Pope Leo the Great [regn. A.D.440-461], Sermon 3:2-3 (A.D ante 461).
III. Peter’s Successors Claim Authority over the Church
“The Church of God which sojourns in Rome to the Church of God which sojourns in Corinth….If anyone disobey the things which have been said by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger.” Pope Clement of Rome [regn. c A.D.91-101], 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, 1,59:1 (c. A.D. 96).
“Thereupon Victor, who presided over the church at Rome, immediately attempted to cut off from the common unity the parishes of all Asia, with the churches that agreed with them, as heterodox; and he wrote letters and declared all the brethren there wholly excommunicate…” Pope Victor I [regn. A.D. 189-198], in Eusebius EH, 24:9 (A.D. 192).
“Stephen, that he who so boasts of the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession from Peter, on whom the foundations of the Church were laid…Stephen, who announces that he holds by succession the throne of Peter.” Pope Stephen I [regn. A.D. 254-257], Firmilian to Cyprian, Epistle 74/75:17 (A.D. 256).
“I beseech you, readily bear with me: what I write is for the common good. For what we have received from the blessed Apostle Peter s, that I signify to you; and I should not have written this, as deeming that these things were manifest unto all men, had not these proceedings so disturbed us.” Pope Julius [regn. A.D. 337-352], To the Eusebians, fragment in Athanasius’ Against the Arians, 2:35 (c. A.D. 345).
“Why then do you again ask me for the condemnation of Timotheus? Here, by the judgment of the apostolic see, in the presence of Peter, bishop of Alexandria, he was condemned, together with his teacher, Apollinarius, who will also in the day of judgment undergo due punishment and torment. But if he succeeds in persuading some less stable men, as though having some hope, after by his confession changing the true hope which is in Christ, with him shall likewise perish whoever of set purpose withstands the order of the Church. May God keep you sound, most honoured sons.” Pope Damasus [regn. A.D. 366-384], To the Eastern Bishops, fragment in Theodoret’s EH, 5:10 (c. A.D. 372).
“We bear the burdens of all who are heavy laden; nay, rather, the blessed apostle Peter bears them in us and protects and watches over us, his heirs, as we trust, in all the care of his ministry….Now let all your priests observe the rule here given, unless they wish to be plucked from the solid, apostolic rock upon which Christ built the universal Church….I think, dearest brother, disposed of all the questions which were contained in your letter of inquiry and have, I believe, returned adequate answers to each of the cases you reported by our son, the priest Basianus, to the Roman Church as to the head of your body….And whereas no priest of the Lord is free to be ignorant of the statutes of the Apostolic See and the venerable provisions of the canons.” Pope Sircius [regn. c A.D. 384-399], To Himerius, bishop of Tarragona (Spain), 1,3,20 (c. A.D. 392).
“Care shall not be lacking on my part to guard the faith of the Gospel as regards my peoples, and to visit by letter, as far as I am able, the parts of my body throughout the divers regions of the earth.” Pope Anastasius [regn. A.D. 399-401], Epistle 1 (c. A.D. 400).
“In making inquiry with respect to those things that should be treated … by bishops … as you have done, the example of ancient tradition … For you decided that it was proper to refer to our judgment, knowing what is due to the Apostolic See, since all we who are set in this place, desire to follow that Apostle from whom the very episcopate and whole authority of this named derived … that whatsoever is done, even though it be in distant provinces, should not be ended without being brought to the knowledge of this See, that by its authority the whole just pronouncement should be strengthened, and that from it all other Churches (like waters flowing from their natal source and flowing through the different regions of the world, the pure streams of one incorrupt head)…you also show your solicitude for the well being of all, and that you ask for a decree that shall profit all the Churches of the world at once.” Pope Innocent I [regn. A.D. 401-417], To the Council of Carthage, 1,2 (A.D. 417).
“It is therefore with due care and propriety that you consult the secrets of the Apostolic office that office, I mean, to which belongs, besides the things which are without, the care of all the Churches…Especially as often as a question of faith is discussed, I think that all our brothers and fellow bishops should refer to none other than to Peter, the author of their name and office.” Pope Innocent I [regn. A.D. 401-417], To the Council of Mileve, 2 (A.D. 417).
“Although the tradition of the fathers has attributed to the Apostolic See so great authority that none would dare to contest its judgment, and has preserved this ever in its canons and rules, and current ecclesiastical discipline in its laws still pays the reverence which it ought to the name of Peter…For he himself has care over all the churches, and above all of that which he sat…Since, then Peter is the head of so great authority, and has confirmed the suffrages of our forefathers since his time…and as bishops you are bound to know it; yet; though such was our authority that none could reconsider our decision.” Pope Zosimus [regn. A.D. 417-418], To the Council of Carthage (c. A.D. 418).
“For it has never been lawful to reconsider what has once been settled by the apostolic see.” Pope Boniface [regn. A.D. 418-422], To Rufus bishop of Thessalonica (c. A.D. 420).
“The universal ordering of the Church at its birth took its origin from the office of blessed Peter, in which is found both directing power and its supreme authority. From him as from a source, at the time when our religion was in the stage of growth, all churches received their common order. This much is shown by the injunctions of the council of Nicea, since it did not venture to make a decree in his regard, recognizing that nothing could be added to his dignity: in fact it knew that all had been assigned to him by the word of the Lord. So it is clear that this church is to all churches throughout the world as the head is to the members, and that whoever separates himself from it becomes an exile from the Christian religion, since he ceases to belong to its fellowship.” Pope Boniface [regn. A.D. 418-422], To the bishops of Thessaly (c. A.D. 420).
“None has ever been so rash as to oppose the apostolic primacy, the judgment of which may not be revised; none rebels against it, unless he would judge in his turn.” Pope Boniface [regn A.D. 418-422], To Rufus and bishops of Macedonia (c. A.D. 420).
“Wherefore, assuming to yourself the authority of our see and using our stead and place with power, you will deliver this sentence with utmost severity.” Pope Celestine [regn A.D. 422-427], To Cyril of Alexandria, Epistle 1 1 (A.D. 430).
“The blessed apostle Peter, in his successors, has handed down what he received. Who would be willing to separate himself from the doctrine of whom the Master himself instructed first among the apostles?” Pope Sixtus III, [regn A.D. 432-440], To John of Antioch (A.D. 433).
“But this mysterious function the Lord wished to be indeed the concern of all the apostles, but in such a way that He has placed the principal charge on the blessed Peter, chief of all the Apostles: and from him as from the Head wishes His gifts to flow to all the body: so that any one who dares to secede from Peter’s solid rock may understand that he has no part or lot in the divine mystery.” Pope Leo the Great [regn. A.D.440-461], Epistle 10 (A.D 445).
“And so he too rejoices over your good feeling and welcomes your respect for the Lord’s own institution as shown towards the partners of His honour, commending the well ordered love of the whole Church, which ever finds Peter in Peter’s See, and from affection for so great a shepherd grows not lukewarm even over so inferior a successor as myself.” Pope Leo the Great [regn. A.D.440-461], Sermon 2 (A.D ante 461).
“‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ and every tongue which confesses the Lord, accepts the instruction his voice conveys. This Faith conquers the devil, and breaks the bonds of his prisoners. It uproots us from this earth and plants us in heaven, and the gates of Hades cannot prevail against it. For with such solidity is it endued by God that the depravity of heretics cannot mar it nor the unbelief of the heathen overcome it.” Pope Leo the Great [regn. A.D.440-461], Sermon 3:2-3 (A.D ante 461).
“Who does not cease to preside in his see, who will doubt that he rules in every part of the world.” Pope Leo the Great [regn. A.D.440-461], Sermon 5 (A.D ante 461).