Hahn's Papacy argument


Scott Hahn’s biblical defense of the papacy. It cites Isaiah 22:15-22 and Mt 16:19 and argues on the basis of other biblical evidence too that Jesus restored the davidic kingdom and appointed Peter and his successors as the vizier or prime minister of it. Biblically it sounds ok, but here’s the question:

What is the history of this line of thought? Who was the first one to present the argument? How early was this connection made?
Appreciate any accurate information. Thanks.


Most evangelicals are not concerned with the “history” of anything, the important question to them is the biblical evidence for the belief. And modern evangelical scholarship does conclude there is a biblical basis for Hahn’s argument:


William F. Albright and C.S. Mann are quite certain when they comment on Matthew 16:19 –

“Isaiah 22:15ff undoubtedly lies behind this saying. The keys are the symbol of authority, and Roland de Vaux [Ancient Israel, tr. by John McHugh, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1961] rightly sees here the same authority as that vested in the vizier, the master of the house, the chamberlain, of the royal household in ancient Israel. Eliakim is described as having the same authority in Isaiah; it was Hilkiah’s position until he was ousted, and Jotham as regent is also described as ‘over the household’ [2 Kings 15:5]…It is of considerable importance that in other contexts, when the disciplinary affairs of the community are being discussed [cf. Matt 18:18; John 20:23] the symbol of the keys is absent, since the sayings apply in those instances to a wider circle…The role of Peter as steward of the Kingdom is further explained as being the exercise of administrative authority, as was the case of the OT chamberlain who held the ‘keys.’ The clauses ‘on earth,’ ‘in heaven’, have reference to the permanent character of the steward’s work.” (Albright/Mann, The Anchor Bible: Matthew, page 196-197)

The Evangelical New Bible Commentary states on Isaiah 22 –

“Eliakim stands in strong contrast to Shebna, over whom he seems to have been promoted when they reappear in 36:3…Godward he is called my servant (20)…manward he will be a father to his community (21)…The key…of David (22) comes in this context of accountability. A key was a substantial object, tucked in the girdle or slung over the shoulder; but the opening words of v. 22…emphasize the God-given responsibility that went with it, to be used in the king’s interests. The ‘shutting’ and ‘opening’ means the power to make decisions which no one under the king could override. This is the background of the commission to Peter (cf. Mt 16:19) and to the church (cf. Mt 18:18)… Ultimate authority, however, is claimed, in these terms, for Christ himself (cf. Rev 3:7-8).” (NBC page 647)

The Evangelical NIV Study Bible notes on Isaiah 22 –

on verse 15: “…in charge of the palace. A position second only to the king…”; on verse 22: “…key to the house of David. The authority delegated to him by the king, who belongs to David’s dynasty – perhaps controlling entrance into the royal palace. Cf. the ‘keys of the kingdom’ given to Peter (Mt 16:19) .”

The Lutheran/Catholic ecumenical study Peter in the New Testament comments –

“One suggestion is that the verse [Matt 16:19] is evocative of Isa 22:15-25 where Shebna, prime minister of King Hezekiah of Judah, is deposed and replaced by Eliakim on whose shoulder God places ‘the key of David; he shall open…and he shall shut.’ The power of the key of the Davidic kingdom is the power to open and to shut, i.e., the prime minister’s power to allow or refuse entrance to the palace, which involves access to the king. If this were the background of Matthew’s ‘keys of the kingdom,’ then Peter might be being portrayed as a type of prime minister in the kingdom that Jesus has come to proclaim, and the power of binding and loosing would be a specification of the broader power of allowing or refusing entrance into the kingdom…The prime minister, more literally ‘major-domo,’ was the man called in Hebrew ‘the one who is over the house,’ a term borrowed from the Egyptian designation of the chief palace functionary.” (Brown, Reumann, et al page 96-97, and footnote referring to Roland DeVaux Ancient Israel)

The Brethren/Mennonite commentary by Richard B. Gardner –

“The image of the keys likely comes from an oracle in Isaiah, which speaks of the installation of a new majordomo or steward in Hezekiah’s palace.” (Gardner, page 248)

Evangelical scholar F.F. Bruce comments –

“And what about the ‘keys of the kingdom’ ? The keys of a royal or noble establishment were entrusted to the chief steward or majordomo; he carried them on his shoulder in earlier times, and there they served as a badge of the authority entrusted to him. About 700 B.C. an oracle from God announced that this authority in the royal palace in Jerusalem was to be conferred on a man called Eliakim …(Isaiah 22:22). So in the new community which Jesus was about to build, Peter would be, so to speak, chief steward.” (Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus [Intervarsity Press, 1983], 143-144, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 41)

See also Stephen K. Ray, Upon This Rock [Ignatius Press, 1999] and his essay “Appendix B: An Old Testament Basis for the Primacy and Succession of St. Peter,” page 273-4.

Phil P



Thus the prime minister or chief steward of the house of David had successors. He is described as being “over the household” and “in charge of the palace” (Isa 22:15; 36:3; 1 Kings 4:6; 18:3; 2 Kings 10:5; 15:5; 18:18); as for his authority “what he shall open, no one shall shut…and what he shall shut, no one shall open” (Isa 22:22; Matt 16:19; Rev 3:7). The prime minister had an incredible amount of authority, what can only be called a supreme or plenary authority beside that of the King. This is the language of the “keys,” “binding,” and “loosing” that Jesus was using in Matthew 16:19. Peter was given the “keys” just as the prime minister had the “key to the house of David” (Isa 22:22). And this is important in seeing the parallel to Matthew 16:19 – the prime minister was an office of dynastic succession (Isa 22:19,22). In other words, when the prime minister or chief steward died, another one would be selected to fill the office and take his place. Jesus recognizes the office of prime minister or chief steward (“manager” NIV) in his parables, as one who has been placed in charge and set over the household (Matt 24:45ff; 20:8; Luke 12:42; 16:1ff; cf. Gen 41:40ff; 43:19; 44:4; 45:8ff).

Just as the prime minister or chief steward (other terms include major domo, grand vizier, royal chamberlain, or palace administrator) had the “keys” and the other ministers did not, the Lord made Peter the prime minister in His visible Church, making him the visible head of the apostles over the Church, giving him the “keys of the kingdom” with a special and unique authority in Matthew 16:18-19. The office of prime minister was one of dynastic succession, and this is the language Jesus borrows from Isaiah 22:15ff. While Protestant scholars (such as those I have cited) typically would try to deny the full Catholic conclusions from the passage, it is clear St. Peter did have successors in the Bishops of Rome. That is how the Catholic Church of the earliest centuries came to understand the ongoing ministry and authority of Peter in the Church (the Bishop of Rome was the “Chair [or See] of Peter” or simply “the Apostolic See”).

From my article St. Peter, the Rock, the Keys, etc

Phil P


Isaiah is full of Messianic prophecy, and the reference is entirely appropriate. In simple terms, God changes the names of those for whom He has great plans. Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Isaac to Israel, Simon (a reed which sways) to Cepha (rock). From scripture’s wording in Matthew 16, through the actions and behaviors of the early church, it is plain that Peter (Cepha) was left in charge of the church. He is mentioned 195 times in the NT. The next closest is “the beloved disciple” John at only 29 times. Peter is always listed first among the twelve. The twelve are often referred to as “Peter and the rest of the Apostles” or “Peter and his companions” (Lk 9:32, Mk 16:7, Acts 2:37). Peter was the only Apostle who denied Christ three times, then affirmed Him three times after the Resurrection.

Further, Peter was the only one who walked on water (Matthew 14:30), raised the dead (Acts 9:36-42), and whose healings were individually recorded (Acts 3:3-8). Also, Peter was sent to the Gentiles as well as Paul (Acts 15:7).

So, the information you are looking for is simple: Christ made Peter prime amongst his fellow Apostles in Matthew 16. It formed the very church that exists today. In Protestant theology, men’s names and dates are important, as they denote the men and years of doctrines that were put forward. The church Christ founded was based on Tradition and letters. But, the letters did not form the foundation of the church, rather, they were derived from it. The “it” being the oral teaching tradition modeled after Christ Himself. There is no better method.

Christ’s peace.


Thanks, bros, but that’s not the information I’m looking for. Don’t avoid my question. I’m writing my bachelor’s thesis in theology on Hahn’s ecclesiology and I need to include a critical view as well and White’s argument in Ray’s book is that this is a novelty in Catholic apologetics. I want to know when this argument was discovered and used for the first time since Protestants could deny and are in fact like White denying it based on this. The same goes for the Mary’s Queen Mother Queenship. There I found an answer from Sri’s book Queen Mother that this argument came up in the 1950s or so. Of course that doesn’t have to mean it’s a bad or invalid argument.


Why not contact Prof. Hahn directly, since as a former Protestant, he may very well have held the same beliefs? Or, contact the Vatican’s office of theology.

and White’s argument in Ray’s book is that this is a novelty in Catholic apologetics.

I cannot take White seriously. He is so far into error that I dare not approach. His heart appears to be extremely hardened against the One True Church. This is not a theological debate - it is spiritual warfare. We pray for him.

I want to know when this argument was discovered and used for the first time since Protestants could deny and are in fact like White denying it based on this.

Well, this is akin to moderating a debate between one who knows the truth, and another who is in error. It’s Matthew 16, the Word made flesh. This is how Christ founded the church. Please do not think that White, or any Protestant stands on equal footing to the organization founded by Christ. This borders on theological relativism. I cannot give equal stance to those who detract from the church by making *man-made *assertions.

I would examine a copy of the Catechism, and read the early church fathers. Your profile says Catholic, but this proposition almost asks us to think as Protestants do. We do not use man to prove the faith, as it came from the Word made flesh, Christ Himself. It all traces directly to that which is documented in Matthew 16. Examine the structure of the church from day one. Consider the physical and spiritual actions of the Apostles. This alone bears out Peter’s primacy at the command of Christ. Men who attempt to prove otherwise are living in a house built on sand. Oh, they have followers alright, but the house will fall.

Christ’s peace to you.


I need to include a critical view as well and White’s argument in Ray’s book is that this is a novelty in Catholic apologetics.

The only people calling this view a “novelty” are protestants. The only way you can play the devils advocate and still be a Catholic would be to make comments like “White appears to think…”. Otherwise you are arguing against your faith.


“And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” In the following verse (Matthew 16:19) He promises to bestow on Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

The words refer evidently to Isaiah 22:22, where God declares that Eliacim, the son of Helcias, shall be invested with office in place of the worthless Sobna:

And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut and none shall open.
In all countries the key is the symbol of authority. Thus, Christ’s words are a promise that He will confer on Peter supreme power to govern the Church. Peter is to be His vicegerent, to rule in His place.

Hebrews 7:23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.

Jesus’ priesthood is non-transferable.


The office of viceregent, or vizier did not supplant the office of the king. It was a proxy function while the king was away, or for those tasks that the king did not want to handle himself. There is no sense that Peter’s priesthood somehow suppercedes that of Jesus’. I’m not sure what your point is…

As for the subject of this thread, I know of no church father who makes Scott Hahn’s association, however, there are many who clearly indicate Peter’s primacy and jurisdiction over the whole church. So in this sense, I feel Scott’s arguments complement those of the church fathers.

God bless,


I’m not arguing against the faith or anything none of you is addressing my point which is simply to know when historically the connection was made between Is 22 and Mt 16 in defense or explanation of the papacy. If no one knows perhaps I’ll have to try to contact Dr. Hahn on the issue.


Sorry if I was obtuse, or offensive in any way. It’s just that the proposition strikes me as somewhat Protestant in nature. Those who have only the bible and lack tradition, demand written proof of nearly everything before they will believe. Since NT scripture is derived form the church, it lacks a certain completeness which is contained within Tradition. I encourage you to contact Dr. Hahn. If he doesn’t know, perhaps a Vatican source will be a good reference. I would bet that he has the answer, though. I can PM a few of the scripture and history whizzes here and see if they will come on-line.

Christ’s peace.


I have this from Mark Bonocore but haven’t verified his quotations:

White: << 3) I’ve asked Gerry Matatics and others this question, and never gotten an answer: can you name anyone in the first 1000 years of church history who presented the argument you do from Isaiah 22? >>

Bonocore: Sure. What about St. John Cassian (c. 362-435), who writes:

“O Peter, Prince of Apostles, it is just that you should teach us, since you were yourself taught by the Lord; and also that you should open to us the gate of which you have received the Key (singular). Keep out all those who are undermining the heavenly House; turn away those who are trying to enter through false caverns and unlawful gates since it is certain that no one can enter in at the gate of the Kingdom except the one unto whom the Key (singular), placed by you in the churches, shall open it.” (John Cassian, Book III, Chap 12, Against the Nestorians on the Incarnation)

Compare this to Isaiah 22, which reads:

“On that day I shall summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah. …I will place the Key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, and when he shuts, no one shall open.”

Cassian is clearly drawing from Isaiah 22, and applying it to Matt 16.

I believe the reason we don’t see Isaiah 22 used more extensively is that it’s rooted in a sense of Jewish national identity. And, since most of the fathers were Gentiles, it’s not surprising that they see the Keys of Matt 16 referring to authority in a more generic sense (which is equally valid). However, we do see the Kingly, Davidic aspect of the Keys alluded to more often in the Semetic-speaking branches of the Church. For example, Aphraates the Sage (c. 330 A.D.), one of the oldest fathers of the Syrian Church, says:

David handed over the Kingdom to Solomon and was gathered to his people; and Jesus handed over the Keys to Simon and ascended and returned to Him Who sent Him.” (Aphraates, xxi, 13).

Also, St. Ephraem the Syrian (c. 350) writes:

Then Peter deservedly received the Vicariate of Christ over His people.” (Ephraem, Sermon de Martyrio. SS. App. Petri et Pauli).

From Answer to James White on the Early Papacy

Phil P

How can people believe Peter is the rock but still not be Catholic?

Interesting. Looks like the earliest we can find so far is Aphraates. I’ll have to bookmark that one. Here is paragraph 13 in context.

God bless,


Man, Phil. As I said, you’re simply the best:) Good to know I can always count on someone:) When are you going to publish your stuff as a book?


Scott Hahn has said in his talks that the Isaiah 22 and Matthew 16 connection was made by Cajeton against Luther and the Protestants, so he traces it back to the Reformation disputes at least. The question is where is it explicitly in the Fathers. Old books by Thomas W. Allies might help (see bibliography at end).

Here is a transcription of Hahn’s talk on the Pope from his popular tape series “Answering Common Objections” (mp3) :

Hahn << …Jesus in giving to Peter not only a new name, Rock, but in entrusting to Simon the keys of the kingdom, He is borrowing a phrase from Isaiah 22. He’s quoting a verse in the Old Testament that was extremely well known. This, for me, was the breakthrough. This discovery was the most important discovery of all. Let’s go back to Isaiah 22 and see what Jesus was doing when He entrusted to Peter the keys of the kingdom.

Hahn << By the way, I do not find hardly any Catholic defenders of the faith these days with awareness of this particular point. This was the point above all points for me. It was the point that the defenders of the Catholic faith in the 16th and 17th Centuries were very aware of, but for some reason amnesia has set in upon many defenders and interpreters not aware of how crucial this particular passage is. In Isaiah 22 beginning back in verses 19 and 20, we have some very interesting background. This is where Jesus goes for a quotation to cite this passage. >>

Rest found here Hahn on the Papacy

Phil P


fin << When are you going to publish your stuff as a book? >>

I don’t want to compete with Dave Armstrong’s books. :stuck_out_tongue: Besides, I’m better at compiling other people’s stuff, rather than coming up with my own. I’m an (amateur) editor not a writer. Hee hee.

Phil P


You could edit a book called “a summary of the case for Catholicism by modern Catholic apologists in America” and another one called “Catholic apologists respond to Protestant apologists’ arguments”:slight_smile:

Anyway I had listened to Hahn’s tape and now that u mention it I recall him saying that. It’d be good to have some documentation on Cajetan using Is 22 though.


here is a great link that notes and give a brief discription on just about everything on St.Peter




DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.