Do Orthodox believe Peter had a primacy among the Apostles, and was it of divine origin?

Instead of bickering about what offense is justified on the forums, I’d like to get back to the original question, as I think it is important. I for one am not going to be offended based on anyone’s honest answers.

The answer to your questions is rather simple. Orthodox believe that Peter was given by Christ apostolic authority first. Then shortly before ascending into heaven, Christ extended the same authority to the other apostles. Thus all of the apostles were equal, and hence all the bishops are equal.

The Orthodox understanding of the primacy has always been contingent upon several factors, none of which are understood to be divinely ordained. For Orthodox, Rome was considered first amongst equals for the following reasons: Both Peter and Paul died there, and it was the old capitol of the Roman Empire. Those are the only reasons why the East acknowledged a Roman primacy. Yes, Rome was sometimes referred to by the East as the Seat of Peter, but the East also never forgot that Antioch was also established by Peter, and that Alexandria was by proxy established by Peter as well.

The were ecclesial home churches in Rome, attended primarily by Jewish/Nazarene/Galileans headed by presbyters before SS Peter and Paul arrived. However when they did…they came there solely for the ecclesia with no interest in imperial matters.

The communities recognized them and their authority. And the greatest proof of them being co-founders as was stated in the previous post, was that they were martyred there. St. Peter’s son Mark assisted him in furthering hierarchical structure to the Church of Rome.

Peter was actually never a bishop but apostle and co founder. He was succeeded by Linus and then by St. Clement.

Peter and Paul were martyred under Emperor Nero between 64 AD to 67 AD.

Peter was given the keys to heaven. His primacy is evident throughout the New Testament, reference to him about 183 times in contrast to the apostles. In the first 100 years of Christianity, the Jewish Christians knew very well what it meant for someone to have the keys to heaven. Isaiah 22:22 is the reference pertaining to an elder named the steward and was given authority and recognized by his wearing of a large key on his person.

St. Paul also stated he first went to see Peter before beginning his ministry to make sure what he had learned through his experience with the Lord was correct. Later when Paul contested with Peter for the temptation of falling the old law, Paul exclaimed that Peter said he was right. Paul did not get the dream or inspiration or authority to teach the Christians that now they were free to eat of most things…except that of dead carcasses on the road, the drinking of blood, besides being forbidden to eat that sacrificed to idols. Paul did not have the inspiration; Peter did and Peter acknowledged Paul right for Peter to hold on to his authority and not waiver.

Regarding papal infallibility…this was decided at Vatican Council ! response to the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment and particularly the French Revolution where people now wanted self determination.

Papal infallibility is the first dogma of the Church. But what it means is that first, the pope looks upon the tradition of faith and beliefs held on by the people. He then draws up a dogma defining this tradition of belief…from the ‘sense’ of Scripture…and brings it to the bishops to vote. If the bishops fully consent to the pope to make a dogma in response to the long held faith traditions of all believer, then the pope is now able to make dogma.

The second dogma of faith is the immaculate conception, long debated by theologians, but this concept of Mary held since ancient times by the faithful. So the pope consulted the bishops, got their consent and affirmed this concept of Mary as being immaculately conceived as a declared dogma of the Church.

The third dogma of faith is that Mary assumed into heaven. She did not sin and thus did not earn the wages of death. Pope Pius XII in 1954 declared that Mary was assumed into heaven…we can only assume she followed gloriously the Lord into heaven…but how…through a miracle or she fell asleep…we do not know.

Other than that…there is nothing to add to faith in Christ and of Christ. Christ was fully and completely defined at the Council of Nicea in the 340’s. So how the pope teaches today is through encyclicals…and not all encyclicals carry the same weight and so we trust in our local bishop to instruct us in how we respond and receive a particular papal encyclical.

But at the end of Vatican I, it also declared that the pope and bishops are to be Servants of God…that this working of dogma and encyclicals is in the footsteps of Our Lord…humble servants and not dictators.

But some EO bishops designated as Patriarchs, and Metropolitans. Do Patriarchs have any particular authority that the average bishop doesn’t have?

re: the principle that Jesus extended “the same authority to the other apostles…equal”. Is that based on Scripture, or Tradition?

re: the principle that Peter was given apostolic authority “first”. Is there any significance to that, why would He give it to one apostle ahead of the others?

You describe all apostles as equal, and - separately - all bishops as equal. You make a distinction between those 2 groups. I assume you regard apostles as “primary” to bishops - earlier delegation from Christ - and thus more authoritative than bishops in general. Might it be possible that among the apostles, 1 apostle may have been “primary” to the others, by way of earlier authority from Christ?

As far as I know, the hierarchy of bishops is a practical matter for the sake of ecclesiastical order and management of the church. If there was an actual council, then all bishops are most certainly equal.

And regarding the other apostles, what I have read seems to indicate that Orthodox views the keys as being tied to the power of binding and loosing. So the rest of the apostles also receive the keys in Matthew 18:18, if I am not mistaken. I believe it may have been Origen who mentioned that the keys are tied to the power of binding and loosing. Furthermore since Orthodox view all the Bishops sharing in Peter’s succession (instead of historically the specific apostle)… You get the idea.

And I do think there are Orthodox who recognize that St. Peter had a primacy. However this is not synonymous as a ruling monarch.

I don’t think so. The key was specifically given to Peter and one has to read Mt 16 in context. The binding and loosing in Mt 18 speaks more on the forgiveness of sin, an authority given to all apostles. To allude the key being given to all apostles is quite a stretch, in my opinion, that one really has to find rather complicated argument to support the contention.

This, I understand how the Orthodox feel and certainly a valid point. The idea, of course, is how far does Peter’s primacy or jurisdiction rather, on the other apostles/bishops.

Today the issue is made more complicated with the official declaration of Papal’s infallibility, an issue that unfortunately helps intransigence to dig its heel deeper.

There is no denying that much has happened after the schism of 1054. We feel for the Orthodox who would rather prefer the status quo before the schism. Unfortunately time does not stand still and we had to move one.


You must understand my Catholic brother that the Eastern Orthodox Church sees Peter with a different light than what our Catholic brothers and sisters see. The whole development of the Petrine ministry which the Church of Rome adheres to has this first principal which defines the role of the Pope as the first Bishop of the Church. This first principal gives the Pope much more authority than what a Patriarch enjoys in an Eastern Church. The first principal type of government was developed under the guidelines which only the Church of Rome had adopted. These guidelines and principals had given the Pope more authority to govern and serve the Church. However in the East another type of government was developing which is the Conciliar way of serving the Church. This type of government was best serving the Eastern Churches and here the role of Peter was considered to be founded in every Bishop of the East. So in effect the role of Peter in the Church of Rome was guided into this first principal model and the role of Peter in the Eastern Churches was guided into this Conciliar model which was best served as a shared ministry. The problem with the Church of Rome and the Eastern Churches was which model would be able to best serve the whole Church. Since Peter was founded within every Bishop in the East and here within the Pope of Rome in the West how do we define a role that will best serve the whole Church? This is what this whole question of unity rests upon. Perhaps with more and better understanding on both sides a more integrated version of both models will help best serve the whole Church. We the Orthodox see Peter in every Bishop while the Catholic sees Peter only in the Pope. I believe in the Papacy as I also believe in the Eastern Church’s understanding of authority.

God bless you for being gracefully and eloquently stating your belief and yet refreshing to the hearts of the listeners. If more of us are like you, perhaps on both sides, nothing will be impossible and our schism would seem small by comparison.


Great response.

But the position of Peter is that holding the keys to heaven…to bind and loosen. And historically speaking, disputes were settled in Rome. The Patriarchs are representative of their people and regions and the problems that can arise. Practically all disputes should be settled within their own jurisdiction.

And today…and this began emerging with Unam Sinct…that the pope is the symbol of unity of one faith, one baptism, one body as Church, which is both spiritual and physical.

The pope’s relationship to the Eastern Churches is as a Servant of God, not a dictator, but likewise this ongoing representative of the sacred unity we should all hold dear.

As my pastor said, ‘when the pope speaks, the world listens’. What is happening is not his savvy with the media…but it is the Living Revelation of Christ. Likewise as People of God…in this context the Pope, bishops and lay are all on equal footing before God.

So it is very hard for non Latin Christians to understand how flexible we are in relating to the Holy Father…He is representing all of us. I may disagree on some things…but it is the Holy Spirit Who unites us and keeps us in peace.

While in principle, this is true, the degrees vary among Orthodox Churches on how much authority is too much and how much is too little. Among Syriac, Armenian and Coptic Churches, the high Petrine view is very common; while among certain Byzantines it goes from low to high. There are interesting historically anomaly, how each church interprets this pretty much determines how they view the Roman Church’s Papal claims. Here’s an interesting video from a convert Latin PhD (from Lutheranism) with very close ties to the Melkite Church:

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