How do the Orthodox understand the passage in Matthew where Jesus gives Peter the Keys of The Kingdom?

"Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18"I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven

Is it so that Peter symbolizes the entire Church, so in fact Jesus talked to Peter to speak to the entire Church?

And you have Ephesians 2:19-20
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[a] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,

But if Jesus spoke to Peter as to the entire Church, it would strenghten his primacy, in my opinion.

SO, how do my orthodox brothers interpret the scene in Matthew?

I almost converted to Orthodoxy, but then realized the Catholic Church was the truth so I never became one of them. But while I was becoming one of them I did know alot of their theology, including their theology about this verse. There are a range of different opinions, the most widely held opinion is also widely held among Protestants and that is, that Peter’s faith was what Christ was building on, they and Protestants alike will point back two verses to prove this.

There is a problem with this though,

In verse 18 Jesus says, “and I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church”. Peter is the object of that sentence; so when Jesus says in the second part of the sentence, “…and on this rock I will build my church” he is simply referring back to the object which is Peter. “This rock” must relate back to the closest noun, not to a noun two sentences back.

Then they will point to the difference in Greek between petros and petras, meaning two different things. But again, another problem. Greek scholars—even non-Catholic ones—admit, the words petros and petra were synonyms in first century Greek. They were only different in ancient Greek.

Another view by Orthodox is not a Protestant or a Catholic one. They will go onto say that the church was built on Peter, but that it only made Peter first among equals instead of the head of the visible church. But this the next verse he gives Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven! This more then just “first among equals” Jesus is making Peter the visible head!

God bless. :smiley:

Adding to what whoisdiss said: it is often argued, that even if the Church was initially built on Peter, it has no relation to the primacy of Bishop of Rome.

Not speaking for Orthodox, as they do quite well for themselves, but my understanding is that it isn’t primacy, per se, but how primacy is defined. If it is defined as supremacy, as universal ordinary and immediate jurisdiction, then yes, they (and we) have a problem with it.


This was implied by Agnessa but I think the Orthodox might also point to the fact that Peter founded the see of Antioch in addition to Rome. So if one is to argue that Peter alone has the keys I think there is an issue for why Rome and not Antioch. This also fits rather well with the Orthodox idea that Rome is the first among equals because of Peter, Paul, and its status as the imperial city, not from Peter alone. Because I’m not quite sure how Rome can have the supremacy it claims from Peter alone if these same things are not given to Antioch, and if the supremacy is not from Peter alone then I’m not even sure how Catholics can claim Rome to be supreme because of Peter.

JonNC and Sharpag made great points. Also, I have read that the KJV reads “I will give ye (plural) the keys …]”

This too - still, Rome has primacy over Antioch here, since this is where Peter stayed and died).

However, also the Church tradition is clear in naming the Bishop of Rome as the successor of Peter, not Bishop of Antioch. What is often argued, is even if Peter had the primacy, it does not mean that his successors should have the primacy as well.

Ok, so it is not like the king of France claiming also Great Britain :smiley:

WHat about the KJV translation of the plural you?

Actually, Church tradition is that Antioch, Alexandria and Rome are successors of St. Peter… this doesn’t answer primacy one way or the other.

The fact that Peter also founded the See of Antioch in addition to Rome does no damage to the claim that the bishop of Rome is his rightful successor. The office of the head of the universal church, the keeper of the keys to the kingdom, remained with Peter throughout his life. So when he left Antioch the office of the head of the church went with him. That office did not pass from him until his death, and the last place that that office resided was in Rome. It would not make sense for the office to revert back to an earlier See that Peter had founded but subsequently left. No, it would remain with the See in which he was last active, which was Rome.

Why would there only be one “rightful successor”? It’s perfectly acceptable for each of the Sees Peter founded to be rightly Peter’s successor in the area they head. You are mixing up the argument regarding the Primacy of Rome and melding it into succession.

“Rightful successor” was probably not the clearest way to express what I meant. Of course, any bishop that is the head of a See founded by Peter is in that sense “Peter’s successor.” What I meant was that the office of head of the universal Church remained with Peter until his death in Rome. Upon Peter’s death, this office became vacant. As such, in accordance with the principle of Apostolic Succession (Acts 1:15-26), the person chosen to succeed Peter in Rome ascended to the office of head of the universal church (“let his office another take” Acts 1:20). Of course, this assumes that Peter was indeed the head of the universal Church, which is, as you rightly pointed out, a separate argument. I was simply answering the question of “why Rome and not Antioch?”. The answer to which is that Peter’s office (assuming arguendo that he held the office of head of the universal Church) was not abdicated until Peter’s death, which occurred in Rome while he was Bishop of Rome. Therefore, the rightful successor to that office would be the next Bishop of Rome.

We interpret it the same way St Augustine of Hippo and most of the Church intrepreted it in the first 500 years or so of the Church; Christ gave the keys to the Church through Peter who in that episode was representing the whole Church. We believe the same authority was given in Matt 18 to a wider group, and solemnly given to the apostles in John 21. The verse from Ephesians is instructive for us: the foundation is “the apostles and prophets”. Also instructive for us is Acts 15, the Council of Jerusalem, where, although St Peter gave an influential speech, the decision was made by St James in union with the rest of the gathered bishops and presbyters.

If you want an in depth Orthodox treatment of this issue, I have a book to suggest: Church, Papacy and Schism by Philip Sherrard,

So if the see of Rome has supremacy because it is where Peter died and because Peter was given the keys, does this mean that Peter could not fully give all of his authority to his successor in Antioch because he [Peter] was still alive? I understand that the supremacy comes from Peter’s person, but why could this not be given away through apostolic succession to Antioch? I guess I just don’t understand the logic that because Peter alone received the keys his authority must only pass on to one person, and that Peter himself could not dictate to whom this authority was given.

Singular you would mean that Peter only gets the keys - which means, after he dies, no person on hearth is holding them. Instead, the keys were given to the whole Church, which Peter is representing, especially to Peters successors.

Still, the fact that it was Peter to represent the Church already points at primacy.

I can see this; i am sorry if it wasn’t clear. I mean is that the proper translation from the greek?

Also, I misunderstood. Do you refer to Matthew 16:19? If so, it’s singular “you” in the translations I’ve seen (by which I largely mean the Russian Synodian Translation), and it is also clear that Christ speaks to Peter personally. There is another passage, however, about giving the keys, where plural “you” is used.

I am thinking of the King James Bible, which reads

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18 And** I say also unto thee**, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

And I can’t see any plural here :smiley:

thee (second-person singular, objective case, nominative thou, reflexive thyself)

(archaic, literary) Objective case of thou.
(Quaker, Amish, Pennsylvania Dutch English) Thou.  
Usage notes[edit]
When used in place of the nominative thou, thee uses the third-person singular form of verbs (see example at “quotations”).

19 δώσω σοι τὰς κλεῖδας τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν…


second pers. sing. pers. pronoun

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