Early Church Fathers and Peter as the Rock

I came across these quotes and maybe they’ve been used before but I wanted to put them all together as a starting point and ask you about what they say.

Augustine (354-430):
In a passage in this book, I said about the Apostle Peter: ‘On him as on a rock the Church was built.’ . . . But I know that very frequently at a later time, I so explained what the Lord said: ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,’ that it be understood as built upon Him whom Peter confessed saying: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ and so Peter, called after this rock, represented the person of the Church which is built upon this rock, and has received ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ For, ‘Thou art Peter’ and not ‘Thou art the rock’ was said to him. But ‘the rock was Christ,’ in confessing whom, as also the whole Church confesses, Simon was called Peter. But let the reader decide which of these two opinions is the more probable." (The Retractions, 1:20:1)

Chrysostom (349-407):
“Peter, James, and John, were both first called, and held a primacy among the disciples” (Commentary on Galatians, 1, vv. 1-3). How then is Peter alone the primary apostle?

Origen (185-254)
“And if we too have said like Peter, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ not as if flesh and blood had revealed it unto us, but by light from the Father in heaven having shone in our heart, we become a Peter, and to us there might be said by the Word, ‘Thou art Peter,’ etc. F*or a rock is every disciple of Christ of whom those drank who drank of the spiritual rock which followed them, and upon every such rock is built every word of the church, add the polity in accordance with it; for in each of the perfect, who have the combination of words and deeds and thoughts which fill up the blessedness, is the church built by God. But if you suppose that upon that one Peter only the whole church is built by God, what would you say about John the son of thunder or each one of the Apostles? Shall we otherwise dare to say, that against Peter in particular the gates of Hades shall not prevail, but that they shall prevail against the other Apostles and the perfect? Does not the saying previously made, ‘The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it,’ hold in regard to all and in the case of each of them? And also the saying, ‘Upon this rock I will build My church’? Are the keys of the kingdom of heaven given by the Lord to Peter only, and will no other of the blessed receive them? But if this promise, ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’ be common to the others, how shall not all the things previously spoken of, and the things which are subjoined as having been addressed to Peter, be common to them? For in this place these words seem to be addressed as to Peter only, ‘Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,’ etc; but in the Gospel of John the Saviour having given the Holy Spirit unto the disciples by breathing upon them said, ‘Receive ye the Holy Spirit,’ etc, . . . And if any one says this to Him, not by flesh and blood revealing it unto Him but through the Father in heaven, he will obtain the things that were spoken according to the letter of the Gospel to that Peter, but, as the spirit of the Gospel teaches, to every one who becomes such as that Peter was.” *(Commentary on Matthew, 12:10-11)

This is from "Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry

Scripture Alone is final Authority
renaeus, (130-202), “We have known the method of our salvation by no other means than those by whom the gospel came to us; which gospel they truly preached; but afterward, by the will of God, they delivered to us in the Scriptures, to be for the future the foundation and pillar of our faith,” (Adv. H. 3:1).

Clement of Alexandria (150?-213?), “They that are ready to spend their time in the best things will not give over seeking for truth until they have found the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves,” (Stromata 7:16:3).

Origen (185?-252), “No man ought, for the confirmation of doctrines, to use books which are not canonized Scriptures,” (Tract. 26 in Matt.).
St. Cyprian of Carthage (200?-258), “Whence comes this tradition? Does it descend from the Lord’s authority, or from the commands and epistles of the apostles? For those things are to be done which are there written . . . If it be commanded in the gospels or the epistles and Acts of the Apostles, then let this holy tradition be observed,” (Cyprian of Carthage, Ep. 74 ad Pompeium).

Athanasius (300?-375),
“The Holy Scriptures, given by inspiration of God, are of themselves sufficient toward the discovery of truth. (Orat. adv. Gent., ad cap.) The Catholic Christians will neither speak nor endure to hear anything in religion that is a stranger to Scripture; it being an evil heart of immodesty to speak those things which are not written,” (Athanasius, Exhort. ad Monachas).

"5. Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called Catholic), seven, viz., of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John. 6 These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ And He reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of Me.’ " (Athanasius, Festal Letter 39:5-6).
“Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrine so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture.” (Athanasius, De Synodis, 6).

Ambrose (340?-396), “How can we use those things which we do not find in the Holy Scriptures?” (Ambr. Offic., 1:23).

Cyril of Jerusalem (315?-386), “Not even the least of the divine and holy mysteries of the faith ought to be handed down without the divine Scriptures. Do not simply give faith to me speaking these things to you except you have the proof of what I say from the divine Scriptures. For the security and preservation of our faith are not supported by ingenuity of speech, but by the proofs of the divine Scriptures,” (Cat. 4).

Jerome (342?-420), “Those things which they make and find, as it were, by apostolical tradition, without the authority and testimony of Scripture, the word of God smites. (ad Aggai 1) As we deny not those things that are written, so we refuse those things that are not written. That God was born of a virgin we believe, because we read it; that Mary did marry after she was delivered we believe not, because we do not read it,” (Adv. Helvidium).
Scripture Alone is not final Authority

Athanasius (300?-375), “But beyond these [Scriptural] sayings, let us look at the very tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached, and the Fathers kept." (Athanasius, Four Letters to Serapion of Thmuis, 1:28).

Basil (330-379), “Now I accept no newer creed written for me by other men, nor do I venture to propound the outcome of my own intelligence, lest I make the words of true religion merely human words; but what I have been taught by the holy Fathers, that I announce to all who question me. In my Church the creed written by the holy Fathers in synod at Nicea is in use.” (To the Church of Antioch, Epistle 140:2).

Ambrose (340?-396), “Wherefore all other generations are strangers to truth; all the generations of heretics hold not the truth: the church alone, with pious affection, is in possession of the truth,” (Commentary of Psalm 118,19).

Cyril of Jerusalem (315?-386), “But in learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to thee by the Church, and which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures . . . Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which ye now receive, and write them and the table of your heart.” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 5:12 (A.D. 350).

Gregory of Nyssa (330-394), “And let no one interrupt me, by saying that what we confess should also be confirmed by constructive reasoning: for it is enough for proof of our statement, that the tradition has come down to us from our Fathers, handled on, like some inheritance, by succession from the apostles and the saints who came after them," (Against Eunomius, 4:6).

What are you trying to prove with these? The Catholic Faith (note bolded above).

Remember, us Catholics whole the scripture as Gods word. We use the scripture to defend the faith.

What we don’t do is remove the scripture from its traditional understanding.

So if the apostles taught verse x means x we don’t say, “I think it means y” and then run with that.

Your quotes show that the fathers spoke about both tradition and scripture, both the authority of the church and the scripture. The fact that all those individuals submitted to their bishop, the pope, celebrated mass, participated in councils, etc… Is further evidence.

What you are doing is taking a bunch of catholics and trying to refute the catholic faith with them.

If I wanted to refute Mormonism I wouldn’t find a bunch of Mormons writings trying to prove that they are correct and the Mormon church got it wrong. The witness of the individuals as practicing Mormons would indicate I am twisting or misunderstanding.

The exact same thing with the Practicing Catholic Church Fathers.

Regarding your first post.

Re: Augustine

This is another example of the Catholic “both and” as oppossed to the protestant " either or"

Here are the simple facts:

In 396 AD Augustine was made Coadjutor Bishop of Hippo (assistant with the right of succession on the death of the current bishop), and became full bishop shortly thereafter. He remained in this position at Hippo until his death in 430 AD.

Hippo was part of the Westen Church. Therefore he was in full communion with the Pope and Rome, else he would not have remained in his post. Even anti-Catholics, who wrongly believe that the Catholic Church was “invented” in 325 AD must take note of the dates of Augustine’s time in office as Bishop.

There is no way that Augustine was anything but a faithful Catholic Bishop who was in communion with the Bishop of Rome.

RE: St John Crysostum

St. John Chrysostom on the Apostle Peter

“…If the primacy of St. Peter is so unimportant a fact – if it gave him no prerogatives, no duties, no successors – why on earth is it so extraordinarily prominent in Holy Writ?”

“I know no more emphatic testimony to the supreme jurisdiction of St. Peter in any writer, ancient or modern, than the view taken in this homily [of St. John Chrysostom] of the election of St. Matthias, for I know of no act of jurisdiction in the Church more tremendous than the appointment of an apostle.”

Read the whole entire paper and you will find your quote quite inadequate. biblicalcatholic.com/apologetics/num52.htm

Like I said, I came across them and wanted input…not trying to prove anything.

Jon, Thanks for the link. I will look at it and read it in context of the writing as a whole.

Not trying to prove anything. I’ve been told to read the early church fathers. I found these and thought I would ask questions. I am one of many people on here trying to discern the truth but get rebuffed if you post something that others take offensive.

I hope I haven’t offended you!!! Not at all my intent.

How refreshing that you are discerning the truth, and forgive me if I jumped the gun on thinking you were here to prove something against Catholicism. As I’m sure you know there are LOTS of those types of posts here.

I hope my resources are helpful starting points for you. You are correct to read the Church Fathers in their entirety.

Nothing is more frustrating than someone trying to prove St Augustine was a Calvinist (for example) and they ignore pages and pages and volume after volume of him doing “catholic stuff”.

Reading the fathers in their entirety is a very good practice.

I recommend Jimmy Akins “The Fathers Know Best”. It is a good resource to narrow down which document you want to dive into.

Spedteacherita, Lutherans (generally) tend not to discount the claim that Peter was unique among the apostles and that he had Primacy - scripture is clear about this, and the writings of other ECF support it.

The Lutherans objection centers around the modern additions to the Bishop of Rome’s role: Universal jurisdiction, papal infallibility, wielding the two swords, and being the Vicar of Christ.

In my opinion, if reunification takes place between Lutherans and Catholics, the Bishop of Rome will be our Bishop - but with his role as understood in church history and not as now.

Can you articulate what primacy means to you if it means the pope is not really much different than any other bishop?

The passage you quoted from St Augustine was not in the exclusive sense. Augustine knew Peter was also the rock (as you can see below). That is why our Blessed Lord changed Simon’s name. It was reminiscent of the way he change Jacob to Israel or Abram to Abraham, etc. It was a new vocation. Almost like a rebirth into a new role appointed by God.

*“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).

Mt. to Rev. - Peter is mentioned 155 times and all other apostles combined are 130 times. Peter is always listed first but for two obvious exceptions to the rule (1Cor 3:22; Gal 2:9).

Mt. 16:16; Mk. 8:29; Jn. 6:69 - Peter is first among the apostles to confess the divinity of Christ.

**Mt. 16:17 **- Peter alone is told he has received divine knowledge by a special revelation from God the Father.

Mt. 16:18 - Jesus builds the Church only on Peter with the other apostles as the foundation and Jesus as the Head.

Mt. 16:19 Isa. 22:22 - Only Peter receives the keys, which represent authority and dynastic succession to his authority.

Jn. 21:15-17 - Jesus tells Peter to “feed my lambs” “tend my sheep” “feed my sheep”. Peter feeds all, including apostles.

Mt. 17:24-25 - Peter is asked for Jesus’ tax. Peter is the spokesman for Jesus. He is the Vicar of Christ.

Gal. 1:18 - Paul spends fifteen days with Peter before beginning his ministry, even after Christ’s Revelation to Paul.

**Acts. 1:20-26 **– By word of Peter, a new bishop/apostle is chosen by lots under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

**Acts. 5:1-6 **– Peter passes judgment on Ananias and his wife for their incorrect behavior as disciples.

Acts. 15:7-12 – Peter resolves a doctrinal issue. After Peter spoke, all were silent. Paul and Barnabas speak in support.

“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.”
Pope St. Clement of Rome, 1st Epistle to the Corinthians (A.D. 96)

“… 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…”
St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans (A.D. 110)

" [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…"
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies (A.D. 180)

Many quotations you have presented! Too many, perhaps for one thread. Nevertheless, here is a Catholic response to your first quote from St. Augustine. This is from the book, Jesus, Peter, and the Keys; A Scriptural Handbook on the Papacy by Butler, Dalgren and Hess. This particular response is from Dom John Chapman O.S.B. (1865-1933). He refutes the claim that:

**"St. Augustine invented a new exegesis (of Matt. 16:18-19) - that the rock is Christ. The last opinion may be at once pronounced impossible. It rests on a distinction between Petra and Petrus which could not have been made in the language Our Lord was using (St. Augustine invested this interpretation as a part of his argument against the Donatists that the validity of the sacrament does not depend on the sanctity of the minister, because Christ acts in the minister. Peter has his name from Christ, Petrus a Petra); it would be hardly comprehensible unless Our Lord said, “but upon this rock,” instead of “and upon this rock”; and if St. Matthew had meant for us to understand thus, he would have told us that Christ pointed to himself as he spoke…

He (St. Augustine) says in the* Retractions* that he is now inclined to think another explanation of the text more correct; but the doctrine founded on it (which is of course an infinitely more important matter) he leaves untouched. He had not ceased to believe that the Roman See, to the enumeration of whose bishops he so frequently appeals, was truly the rock upon which the Church is founded, and against which the gates of hell do not prevail. He had originally meant to emphasize in a telling way the position of the Church with which the Donatists were not in communion; and the remembrance of St. Peter the rock naturally suggests a transference (occasionally but rarely met with elsewhere among ancients and moderns) of the metaphor to Peter’s see. Never does he suggest that though the metaphor might be mistaken, the fact expressed by it was doubtful." **

That’s a mouthful, but the basic gist is that Augustine was bringing up a point to refute a heretical group, but this point in no way invalidates the greater truth that Peter was the rock, which is the basis for the papacy.

By the way, my grandfather was born in Port Hope, MI, and attended St. John’s Lutheran there.

My poor understand would be that his agreement would be regularly be required for an ecumenical council, and that he would typically preside over the council.

My intention would be that this fits with the understanding that the twelve apostles were appointed as a group by Christ.

That sounds fine. I think you would maybe be ok with the eastern church view.

But don’t let terminology hang you up.

The pope is prime as you stated but he also needs the authority of final arbiter. So if a council dissolves into bickering he can settle it. Likewise with other church affairs.

benjohnson #12
My poor understand would be that his agreement would be regularly be required for an ecumenical council, and that he would typically preside over the council.

My intention would be that this fits with the understanding that the twelve apostles were appointed as a group by Christ

The reality is that the appointment as a group follows Christ specifically giving St Peter the leadership with powers not given to the other eleven in installing Peter as His Supreme Vicar:
All four promises to Peter alone:
“You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18)
“The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”(Mt 16:18)
“I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven." ( Mt 16:19)
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) [Later to the Twelve, also]

**Sole authority: **
“Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
“Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).

So the other Apostles were NOT given this supreme authority given to Christ’s Supreme Vicar.

Already, Peter had exercised his supreme authority in the upper room before Pentecost to have Judas’ place filled. At the first Apostolic Council of Jerusalem Peter settled the heated discussion over circumcising the gentiles and “the whole assembly fell silent” (Acts 15:7-12). Paul made sure that his ministry to the gentiles was recognised by, Peter (Gal 1:I8).

The third successor of St Peter, Clement, wrote to the Catholics of Corinth in A.D. 95: “If any man should be disobedient unto the words spoken by God through us, let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and danger… Render obedience to the things written by us through the Holy Spirit.” (I Clem. ad Cor. 59,1). This Is The Faith, Francis J Ripley, Fowler Wright Books, 1971, p 151; 139-141].

About Pope Victor I’s declaration by edict, about the year 200, that any local Church that failed to conform with Rome was excluded from the union with the one Church by heresy, none other than the radical protestant Adolph von Harnack admitted that Victor I was “recognised, in his capacity of bishop of Rome, as the special guardian of the ‘common unity’… " (See And On This Rock, p 118, 1987, Trinity Communications, Fr Stanley L Jaki).

Harnack asked: “How would Victor have ventured on such an edict – though indeed he had not the power of enforcing it in every case – unless the special prerogative of Rome to determine the conditions of the ‘common unity’ in the vital questions of faith had been an acknowledged and well-established fact?”


The apostles were a collegial community, under Peter. “By the end of the apostolic age, the bishops of the Catholic Church began meeting together on a regional basis, and with the first ecumenical council at Nicaea in 325, this co-operative activity reached worldwide proportions.” (Fr John A Hardon, S.J., The Catholic Catechism, Doubleday, 1975, p 320-321). The teaching of Ecumenical Councils has to be approved by Christ’s Supreme Vicar.

What you’ve said here wouldn’t be too hotly contested by most Lutherans. God has given much care are responsibility to the chair of St. Peter.

Agreed - where we come to disagreement is in not recognizing the modern title of Christ’s Supreme Vicar.

In the Lutheran opinion, the Apostles were given too much by Christ to discount their calling by claiming ultimate power for Peter.

And lutherans added something too…you confess that the pope os anti-christ…something no ecd confessed.

benjohnson #16
Agreed - where we come to disagreement is in not recognizing the modern title of Christ’s Supreme Vicar.

In the Lutheran opinion, the Apostles were given too much by Christ to discount their calling by claiming ultimate power for Peter.

Such an “opinion” denies the relevant quoted mandate from Christ which cannot be disputed.

St. Paul says also, “through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph 3:10).” The Church teaches even the angels! This is with the authority of Christ!

So, clearly the Holy Spirit protects the teaching of the Church by the infallibility given to and possessed by the popes. Infallibility is expressed through and by the papacy.

Quite obviously Christ cannot teach error and has protected His Church, through His chosen Supreme Vicar, from teaching error on faith and morals – binding and loosing.

What Christ empowered His Church with is infallibility in teaching dogma or doctrine only, to the whole Church on faith or morals through His Supreme Vicar, the Pope, or an Ecumenical Council approved by him. Christ’s chosen Judas is the one who betrayed Him. The Holy Spirit keeps the Popes from teaching error when defining a dogma or doctrine as prescribed by Ecumenical Council Vatican I.

“As explained in Vatican II’s *Dogmatic Constitution on the Church *(No. 25), this charism of infallibility is exercised in two ways:
First, the college of bishops united with the Holy Father…
Second, the pope, as successor of St. Peter—the one declared as Rock and given the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven along with the authority of bonding and loosing (Mt 16:13ff)—by virtue of his office as supreme pastor and teacher of the faithful, enjoys the charism of infallibility.”


CARM is one of the most virulently anti-Catholic websites in the Internet. Not the best source for fair and balanced perspectives.

Early Church Fathers – Peter the Rock


“[T]he Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven [and] whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. . . . Upon 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” (Modesty 21:9–10 [A.D. 220]).

“Was anything hidden from Peter, who was called the Rock whereon the Church was to be built; who obtained the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the power of loosing and of binding in heaven and on earth?” (De Praescript Haeret, n.22, p. 209, in Colin Lindsay, The Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans, 1870), 19, c.A.D. 200-220,)

Cyprian of Carthage (251 A.D.)

“The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever things you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed also in heaven.’ And again He says to him after His resurrection: ‘Feed my sheep.’ On him He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the Apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4 [A.D. 251]).


“[Christ] made answer: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church . . .’ Could he not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on his own authority, he gave the kingdom, whom he called the rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church [Matt. 16:18]?” (The Faith 4:5 [A.D. 379]).

"…Christ ‘bestow[ed] the favor of this title upon His disciple, so that HE TOO might be Peter [rock]” (that is, the Rock of the Church in a vicarious sense).

“Peter is called the Rock because, like an immovable rock, he sustains and joins the mass of the entire Christian edifice.” (Ambrose, Sermon 4).

“It is to Peter that he says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ [Matt. 16:18]. Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church, no death is there, but life eternal” (Commentary on Twelve Psalms of David 40:30 [A.D. 389]).

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