Monday, March 12, 2007

Dialogue: Is St. Paul Superior to St. Peter?

 
 A Baptist wrote on a public bulletin board (his words in blue):

And, of course, some things happened after Paul's conversion . . . 1) He magnifies HIS office as the Apostle to the Gentiles. Romans 11:13, Romans 15:16.
 
Paul being sent to the Gentiles has not a whit to do with Peter's office and function. Why would you think it did? Peter's ministry is universal, so this merely reinforces our point in a roundabout sort of way.

2) He authenticates his apostleship by claiming that he supposes he is not one whit less than the chiefest apostles (including Pope Peter). II Corinthians 11:5.

This whole passage is tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic, but you neglect context in your attempt to undermine Peter's authority. He speaks of the "foolishness" of his rhetorical remarks in 11:1. In 11:3-4 he speaks of those proclaiming "another Jesus." These are the people he says he is "not in the least inferior to" (NRSV). In that version, he refers to these false evangelists as "super-apostles" (11:5). He reiterates that these deceivers are wolves in sheep's clothing, in 11:12-15. Needless to say, this passage has nothing whatsoever to do with St. Peter, unless you want to claim that he is "Satan in disguise" (11:14).

3) He is so confident of the New Testament truths given to him that he rebukes Pope Peter I to his face when he lapses into Judaistic practices contrary to the revealed truth of the gospel. Galatians 2:11-14.

Precisely: Peter was rebuked for hypocritical practices, as you correctly note. This has no bearing on his office, nor Paul's position relative to it. Catholics have a long history of laymen rebuking decadent popes, while remaining faithful to the Church (e.g., St. Bernard, St. Francis, St. Catherine of Siena). Peter was inconsistent with his own doctrine -- hence the hypocrisy which Paul rebuked -- otherwise the charge makes no sense at all. Upon reading Galatians 2:11-14, one sees the word "hypocrisy" or "insincerity" or "dissimulation," according to various translations (NRSV, RSV, and KJV, respectively).

The word "dissimulation" in Gal 2:13 in the KJV is the Greek hupokrisis (Strong's word #5272) - from which is derived the English "hypocrisy." It is translated as "hypocrisy" in the KJV at Mt 23:28; Mk 12:15; Lk 12:1; 1 Tim 4:2; 1 Pet 2:1. The cognate hupokritees is often applied by Jesus to the Pharisees (e.g., Mt 6:2, 5, 16; 7:5; 15:7, 16:3; 22:18; 23:13-15, 23, 25, 27, 29; Mk 7:6; Lk 11:44). We all know what "hypocrite" means. This is what Peter was rebuked by Paul for.

I find it very interesting that Jesus, while He often scathingly rebuked the Pharisees, nevertheless says:
    The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. (Matthew 23:2-3; NRSV)
Pharisees had the teaching authority at that time, but were hypocritical in not following their own teaching. Yet Jesus (somewhat surprisingly) said to follow them as authorities anyway, because they sat on "Moses' seat" (i.e., they preserved the ongoing Tradition). Likewise, with Peter as the first pope, and likewise with all popes. We are obligated to obey them. If this was true even with regard to the thoroughly arrogant and spiritually-warped Pharisees, according to Jesus' own injunction, how much more so in the case of popes -- an office expressly designated by our Lord to lead the Church?
 
Are popes perfect? Obviously not. Peter wasn't (he denied Christ). Others have faltered in various ways. This is impeccability, which the Church doesn't teach. But this notion that popes' teaching can be dissented from is pure Protestantism and private judgment. They can indeed be rebuked for lapses of duty, cowardly behavior, etc. I have long since had a paper on that subject on my website: "Laymen Advising and Rebuking Popes."
 
Note also how the Apostle Paul respects the authority of the high priest, who wasn't even a Christian. In the account of his "trial" before the chief priests (Acts 23:1-5), Paul was ordered by the high priest Ananias to be struck on the mouth. Paul immediately lashed out at him, saying, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! . . . " (similar to Jesus' denunciations of the Pharisees). But when informed that he was the high priest, Paul appealed to his ignorance of that fact, desists, and says, ". . . for it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of a leader of your people.' "

In other words, he respected the leader, though not even a Christian, and far less an authority -- in one sense -- on spiritual matters than St. Paul. Then in 23:6 he calls himself a Pharisee, and many Pharisees defend him in 23:9. The whole point is that obedience to divinely-appointed leaders is not an option for the Catholic. Paul wouldn't even speak ill of the high priest. He calls us to imitate him elsewhere.
 
4) Paul had a specific dispensation of the gospel given to him after Peter went to evangelize the circumcision, and Paul was to take the message of the church to the Gentiles. Ephesians 3:2, I Corinthians 9:16,17.
 
No one would argue that St. Paul isn't sent to the Gentiles. Our point as Catholics would be to say that this doesn't undermine in the least St. Peter's role as the leader of the Apostles and the Church (see my 50 NT Proofs). If Peter was sent just to the Jews, why then, did he go to Antioch, and then Rome?
 
5) Peter was promised a throne in the regeneration, which is the earthly Millenium, judging the TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL (Matthew 19:28), Paul is given a vision of the THIRD HEAVEN (II Corinthians 12:1-4).
 
Funny you would mention something like this to the neglect of the mass of biblical evidence presented. Many people have visions, but only one was the rock upon which Christ built his Church, and only one was given the "keys of the kingdom of heaven."
 
The distinction between Peter and Paul is a dispensational one. Peter is clearly the chief of the apostle to the nation of Israel, but Paul is clearly the chief apostle to the Gentile nations during the church age.
 
Again, with regard to Paul, this is clear. What you assert about Peter is not so clear in Scripture. In fact, quite the contrary would hold, in my opinion.
 
With the rejection of Christ by the nation of Israel, God's separation from the Jews began, and His ministering to the Gentiles became more pronounced. (Acts 13:48) This is why the Holy Spirit is more concerned with the ministry of Paul from Acts 16-28, as opposed to the primacy of Peter in Acts 1-15.
 
Yes, since the book of Acts is about the spread of early Christianity to the world beyond Israel, it is logical that Paul's journeys would be in the forefront. But there is also much about Peter in the earlier chapters. So what do you disprove of my thesis? Exactly nothing . . .
 

Compiled in 1998 by Dave Armstrong. Expanded on 13 May 2002.



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1 comment:

Ron Van Brenk said...

Dave linked me to this page of his.

Is it only fair to link him to this page of mine?

http://www.brandatthebrink.blogspot.com/2011/12/generous-dave.html