"Do you love me?" - A prerequsite for papacy?


Hey there,

I’ve been reading some of Luther’s writings. Luther, as you know, is not exactly fond of the papacy.

He writes - and I get the impression that there is a pretty good consensus about that - that the papacy is handed over to Peter when he asks him three times if Peter loves him, and when Peter confirms, he tells him to guard his sheep. Peter is ordained here, if you will.

So when Jesus for instance says that he will build his church on Peter, it is predicting about this, and not handing over any authority as such.

Luther argues, that this “test” is a prerequisite for having authority in the church, and thus that a pope cannot rightfully hold the office unless he loves the Lord.

What do you think?

  • Steffen


I agree that the passage involving the threefold committment to Peter is the clearest and truest “Papal Passage” next to “when you have turned back, strengthen your bretheren”. I don’t think there’s any way to apply such a “test”, however.

As is often the case with Luther, he seems convinced of the human ability (read: his own ability) to discern the hidden movements of God and read the hearts of people. This is why he had no problem trying to jettison books from the New Testament, and directly contradicting 1500 years of interpretation for his own new views.

I don’t think he can be relied upon to make such a determination about the meaning of the passage, but more importantly I don’t think WE can be relied upon to make such a judgement about another person. What we should put our Faith in is Christ’s prayer, not our own ability to discern. What did Christ say to Peter, before committing the Church to his care?


“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,
32: but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” *

Trust in Christ’s prayer, not in human frailty.

Peace and God bless!


Considering Jesus told people in Matthew 23:

*Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, *
*saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. *
*Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. *
*They tie up heavy burdens (hard to carry) and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. *

…it seems apparent that Jesus recognized that an office holder does not have to be free from defects to execute his duties.

It may or may not address the root of your question, but This Rock magazine had an article that discusses what it takes to have a valid Pope:

White Smoke, Valid Pope



I think Luther misread what Jesus was inviting Peter to do. Jesus is sitting behind a charcoal fire. The last time we saw a charcoal fire in the Gospel of John, Peter was denying Jesus three times.

Now we have Peter given the opportunity to express his love for Jesus three times, in a way, undoing his denials. There’s reasons that John puts these minor details in his Gospel (as do the other authors). They signal something far deeper than what is seen at the surface.

I don’t see Jesus saying to Peter, “Since, and only Because, you love me, Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep”.


Perhaps the connection between loving Jesus and being the shepherd is that the love is necessary if the sheep are going to be tended and fed in the manner Jesus desires.



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