Lutherans: The King and the Royal Steward

Is Jesus our king? Did He re-establish the office of the Royal Steward?

In ancient times, a king might choose a second in command (known as the royal steward or prime minister) who literally wore a large key as a symbol of his office and who spoke with the authority of the king. The prophet Isaiah confirms this:

Isaiah 22:20-22
"In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”

In the passage above, God is speaking, and He confirms the existence of the office, the key, and the continuation of the office despite the change of office holder. In other words, the office of the royal steward continued even when the man who held the office died or was replaced by someone else. God Himself passes the key from one steward to the next.

In the New Testament, we learn that Jesus inherits the throne of his father, David.

Luke 1:31–33
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.

We also read the following:

Matthew 16:13-19
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

The passage quoted above from Matthew tells us that Jesus named Peter as His royal steward and gave him the “keys to the kingdom of heaven" as the symbol of his authority to speak in His name. Since Jesus is an eternal king, the office of royal steward in His kingdom will never end. Peter died as a martyr as Jesus foretold, but the successors of Peter have taken his place in the perpetual office that Jesus established in His royal court.

In addition to the reference to a key or keys, note the following parallels:

"What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Is. 22:22)
"Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt. 16:19)

Jesus specifically referenced the passage from Isaiah when He appointed Peter, and Peter received authority from Jesus to speak universally in His name. To do so faithfully, Peter must not teach error; therefore, Peter (and his successors who hold the office of the Royal Steward - also known as the Bishop of Rome) are protected by God through the charism of infallibility.

Randy, awesome question! And you’ve certainly made it very difficult to refute. Good job on making us squirm.

Two things immediately pop into my merge mind.

Lutherans don’t deny that the Bishop of Rome isn’t unique - we see him having primacy and not being Vicar of Christ as Catholic’s see him.

If remember correctly, Lutherans would say that the keys belong to the Church and not just Peter.

(Better Lutherans than I, feel free to correct me… I very well could be wrong)

I’ll defiantly look into your argument, in depth, later today.

Don’t forget Luke 12:41-43…

41 Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” 42 And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute [the] food allowance at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.

Peter’s question about “us” was general and concerned himself and all the other apostles but Jesus’ response seems to concern Peter alone and seems to compare Peter to the “steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants” If Jesus intended his words for all the apostles, would he not have used the plural forms, “stewards” and “those servants,” instead of the singular forms, “steward” and “that servant”?

That’s a stretch for me. I think it’s pretty clear that Eliakim was a type of Christ not a type of pope.

Protestant Scholars and Commentaries on Peter as Royal Steward

W.F. Albright and C.S. Mann

“In commenting upon Matthew 16 and Jesus giving to Peter the keys of the kingdom, Isaiah 22:15 and following undoubtedly lies behind this saying. The keys are the symbol of authority and DeVoe rightly sees here the same authority as that vested in the vicar, the master of the house, the chamberlain of the royal household of ancient Israel.” (The Anchor Bible; Matthew [Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1971], 195)

“It is of considerable importance, that in other contexts, when the disciplinary affairs of the community are discussed, the symbol of the keys is absent, since the saying applies in these 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 Old Testament chamberlain who held the keys.” (ibid.)

William Barclay

“We now come to two phrases in which Jesus describes certain privileges which were given to and certain duties which were laid on Peter.

“He says that he will give to Peter the keys of the Kingdom. This is obviously a difficult phrase; and we will do well to begin by setting down the things about it of which we can be sure…All these New Testament pictures and usages go back to a picture in Isaiah (Isaiah 22:22). Isaiah describes Eliakim, who will have the key of the house of David on his shoulder, and who alone [emphasis added] will open and shut. Now the duty of Eliakim was to be the faithful steward of the house. It is the steward who carries the keys of the house, who in the morning opens the door, and in the evening shuts it, and through whom visitors gain access to the royal presence. So then what Jesus is saying to Peter is that in the days to come, he will be the steward of the Kingdom.(William Barclay, Gospel of Matthew, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975, vol. 2, 144-145)

Raymond Brown, Karl Donfried and John Reumann

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 . . .

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 . . . Peter might be portrayed as a type of prime minister in the kingdom that Jesus has come to proclaim . . . What else might this broader power of the keys include? It might include one or more of the following: baptismal discipline; post-baptismal or penitential discipline; excommunication; exclusion from the eucharist; the communication or refusal of knowledge; legislative powers; and the power of governing. (Peter in the New Testament, Brown, Raymond E., Karl P. Donfried and John Reumann, editors, Minneapolis: Augsburg Pub. House/New York: Paulist Press, 1973, 96-97. Common statement by a panel of eleven Catholic and Lutheran scholars)

F.F Bruce

And what about the “keys of the kingdom”? . . . 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 . . . (Isa. 22:22). So in the new community which Jesus was about to build, Peter would be, so to speak, chief steward. (F.F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1983, 143-144)

Adam Clarke

For further references to the office of the steward in Old Testament times, see 1 Kings 4:6; 16:9; 18:3; 2 Kings 10:5; 15:5; 18:18, where the phrases used are “over the house,” “steward,” or “governor.” In Isaiah 22:15, in the same passage to which our Lord apparently refers in Matt 16:19, Shebna, the soon-to-be deposed steward, is described in various translations as:

  1. “Master of the palace” {Jerusalem Bible / New American Bible}
  2. “In charge of the palace” {New International Version}
  3. “Master of the household” {New Revised Standard Version}
  4. “In charge of the royal household” {New American Standard Bible}
  5. “Comptroller of the household” {Revised English Bible}
  6. “Governor of the palace” {Moffatt}

As the robe and the baldric, mentioned in the preceding verse, were the ensigns of power and authority, so likewise was the key the mark of office, either sacred or civil. This mark of office was likewise among the Greeks, as here in Isaiah, borne on the shoulder. In allusion to the image of the key as the ensign of power, the unlimited extent of that power is expressed with great clearness as well as force by the sole and exclusive authority to open and shut. Our Saviour, therefore, has upon a similar occasion made use of a like manner of expression, Matt 16:19; and in Rev 3:7 has applied to himself the very words of the prophet. (Adam Clarke, [Methodist], Commentary on the Bible, abridged ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1967 [orig. 1832], 581)


Oscar Cullman

Just as in Isaiah 22:22 the Lord puts the keys of the house of David on the shoulders of his servant Eliakim, so does Jesus hand over to Peter the keys of the house of the kingdom of heaven and by the same stroke establishes him as his superintendent. There is a connection between the house of the Church, the construction of which has just been mentioned and of which Peter is the foundation, and the celestial house of which he receives the keys. The connection between these two images is the notion of God’s people. (Oscar Cullmann, Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr, Neuchatel: Delachaux & Niestle, 1952 French ed., 183-184)

R.T. France

Not only is Peter to have a leading role, but this role involves a daunting degree of authority (though not an authority which he alone carries, as may be seen from the repetition of the latter part of the verse in 18:18 with reference to the disciple group as a whole). The image of ‘keys’ (plural) perhaps suggests not so much the porter, who controls admission to the house, as the steward, who regulates its administration (cf. Is 22:22, in conjunction with 22:15). The issue then is not that of admission to the church . . . , but an authority derived from a ‘delegation’ of God’s sovereignty. (R.T. France; in Morris, Leon, Gen. ed., Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1985, vol. 1: Matthew, 256)
Richard B. Gardner (Brethren/Mennonite)

“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)
Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary

In accordance with Matthew’s understanding of the kingdom of heaven (i.e., of God) as anywhere God reigns, the keys here represent authority in the Church. (Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, ed. Allen C. Myers, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, rev. ed., 1975, 622)

The Interpreter’s Bible

“The keys of the kingdom would be permitted to the chief steward in the royal household and with them goes plenary authority, unlimited power, total. Post- apostolic Christianity is now beginning to ascribe to the Apostles the prerogatives of Jesus.”

New Bible Commentary

Eliakim stands in strong contrast to Shebna . . . Godward he is called ‘my servant’ (v.20; cf. ‘this steward’, v.15); manward, he will be ‘a father’ to his community (v.21) . . .

The opening words of v.22, with their echo of 9:6, emphasize the God-given responsibility that went with it [possession of the keys], to be used in the king’s interests. The ‘shutting’ and ‘opening’ mean 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). (New Bible Commentary, Guthrie, D. & J.A. Motyer, eds., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 3rd ed., 1970 [Reprinted, 1987, as The Eerdmans Bible Commentary], 603)

The phrase is almost certainly based on Is 22:22 where Shebna the steward is displaced by Eliakim and his authority is transferred to him. ‘And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.’ (This is applied directly to Jesus in Rev 3:7). (New Bible Commentary, Guthrie, D. & J.A. Motyer, eds., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 3rd ed., 1970 [Reprinted, 1987, as The Eerdmans Bible Commentary], 837)

New Bible Dictionary

In the . . . exercise of the power of the keys, in ecclesiastical discipline, the thought is of administrative authority (Is 22:22) with regard to the requirements of the household of faith. The use of censures, excommunication, and absolution is committed to the Church in every age, to be used under the guidance of the Spirit . . .

So Peter, in T.W. Manson’s words, is to be ‘God’s vicegerent . . . The authority of Peter is an authority to declare what is right and wrong for the Christian community. His decisions will be confirmed by God’ (The Sayings of Jesus, 1954, p.205). (New Bible Dictionary, ed. J.D. Douglas, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1962, 1018)

In the Old Testament a steward is a man who is ‘over a house’ (Gen 43:19, 44:4; Is 22:15, etc). In the New Testament there are two words translated steward: ‘epitropos’ (Mt 20:8; Gal 4:2), i.e. one to whose care or honour one has been entrusted, a curator, a guardian; and ‘oikonomos’ (Lk 16:2-3; 1 Cor 4:1-2; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet 4:10), i.e. a manager, a superintendent – from ‘oikos’ (‘house’) and ‘nemo’ (‘to dispense’ or ‘to manage’). The word is used to describe the function of delegated responsibility. (New Bible Dictionary, ed. J.D. Douglas, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1962, 1216)

NIV Study Bible

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) .”

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament

In biblical and Judaic usage handing over the keys does not mean appointment as a porter but carries the thought of full authorization (cf. Mt. 13:52; Rev. 3:7) . . . The implication is that Jesus takes away this authority from the scribes and grants it to Peter. (J. Jeremias, in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Kittel, abridgement of Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985, 440)

A bunch of guys that I never heard of who all miss the point.

Eliakim was a type of Christ not a type of Peter. If we actually saw Pete excercise go sole, universal jurisdiction and authority over the whole church then I would be inclined to buy into it. But even his supposed successor in Rome didn’t claim that authority for hundreds of years. Seems this is an ad hoc assessment to justify a power grab.

Even so. Hezekiah owned the kingdom and placed Eliakim in charge, just like the Father owns the world and placed Jesus Christ in charge.

That says more about you than it does about them.

Eliakim was a type of Christ not a type of Peter. If we actually saw Pete excercise go sole, universal jurisdiction and authority over the whole church then I would be inclined to buy into it. But even his supposed successor in Rome didn’t claim that authority for hundreds of years. Seems this is an ad hoc assessment to justify a power grab.

Not so much. Here’s why:

Bl. Cardinal Newman on the Development of Papal Infallibility

The following excerpt is taken from John Henry Cardinal Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine written just prior to his conversion to the Catholic Church from Anglicanism. In this passage, Newman considers the development of the modern papacy and explains why an explicit understanding of Papal Supremacy by the early Church Fathers is not necessary and the lack thereof not fatal to the Catholic claims defined at the First Vatican Council in 1870.

Let us see how, on the principles which I have been laying down and defending, the evidence lies for the Pope’s supremacy.

As to this doctrine the question is this, whether there was not from the first a certain element at work, or in existence, divinely sanctioned, which, for certain reasons, did not at once show itself upon the surface of ecclesiastical affairs, and of which events in the fourth century are the development; and whether the evidence of its existence and operation, which does occur in the earlier centuries, be it much or little, is not just such as ought to occur upon such an hypothesis.

. . . While Apostles were on earth, there was the display neither of Bishop nor Pope; their power had no prominence, as being exercised by Apostles. In course of time, first the power of the Bishop displayed itself, and then the power of the Pope . . .

. . . St. Peter’s prerogative would remain a mere letter, till the complication of ecclesiastical matters became the cause of ascertaining it. While Christians were “of one heart and soul,” it would be suspended; love dispenses with laws . . .

When the Church, then, was thrown upon her own resources, first local disturbances gave exercise to Bishops, and next ecumenical disturbances gave exercise to Popes; and whether communion with the Pope was necessary for Catholicity would not and could not be debated till a suspension of that communion had actually occurred. It is not a greater difficulty that St. Ignatius does not write to the Asian Greeks about Popes, than that St. Paul does not write to the Corinthians about Bishops. And it is a less difficulty that the Papal supremacy was not formally acknowledged in the second century, than that there was no formal acknowledgment on the part of the Church of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity till the fourth. No doctrine is defined till it is violated . . .

Moreover, an international bond and a common authority could not be consolidated, were it ever so certainly provided, while persecutions lasted. If the Imperial Power checked the development of Councils, it availed also for keeping back the power of the Papacy. The Creed, the Canon, in like manner, both remained undefined. The Creed, the Canon, the Papacy, Ecumenical Councils, all began to form, as soon as the Empire relaxed its tyrannous oppression of the Church. And as it was natural that her monarchical power should display itself when the Empire became Christian, so was it natural also that further developments of that power should take place when that Empire fell. Moreover, when the power of the Holy See began to exert itself, disturbance and collision would be the necessary consequence . . . as St. Paul had to plead, nay, to strive for his apostolic authority, and enjoined St. Timothy, as Bishop of Ephesus, to let no man despise him: so Popes too have not therefore been ambitious because they did not establish their authority without a struggle. It was natural that Polycrates should oppose St. Victor; and natural too that St. Cyprian should both extol the See of St. Peter, yet resist it when he thought it went beyond its province . . .

On the whole, supposing the power to be divinely bestowed, yet in the first instance more or less dormant, a history could not be traced out more probable, more suitable to that hypothesis, than the actual course of the controversy which took place age after age upon the Papal supremacy.

It will be said that all this is a theory. Certainly it is: it is a theory to account for facts as they lie in the history, to account for so much being told us about the Papal authority in early times, and not more; a theory to reconcile what is and what is not recorded about it; and, which is the principal point, a theory to connect the words and acts of the Ante-Nicene Church with that antecedent probability of a monarchical principle in the Divine Scheme, and that actual exemplification of it in the fourth century, which forms their presumptive interpretation. All depends on the strength of that presumption. Supposing there be otherwise good reason for saying that the Papal Supremacy is part of Christianity, there is nothing in the early history of the Church to contradict it . . .

Moreover, all this must be viewed in the light of the general probability, so much insisted on above, that doctrine cannot but develop as time proceeds and need arises, and that its developments are parts of the Divine system, and that therefore it is lawful, or rather necessary, to interpret the words and deeds of the earlier Church by the determinate teaching of the later.

(Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman, Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, 1878 ed., Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1989, pp. 148-155; Part 1, Chapter 4, Section 3.)


Even so. Hezekiah owned the kingdom and placed Eliakim in charge, just like the Father owns the world and placed Jesus Christ in charge.

Pretty much wrong.

Matthew 11:27 New International Version (NIV)
27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father.

The Father gave Jesus all authority, and He, as heir to the David throne, established Peter as the head of His universal church by invoking the symbols of the Royal Steward of the House of David.

Kinda rattles your Protestant cage, doesn’t it? :wink:

This is not in contradiction to the Catholic Tradition. However, Catholic Tradition recognizes Jesus as fashioning the Church in His image. In Jesus the whole Body is complete. In us, we are complete when unified as one body. We are unified through His authority and submission to His authority. The pope has received the office which Peter was given by Jesus. Scripture tells us that “Peter went in and out among all the Churches” and “In those days, Peter stood up among the brothers, in all were 120” He had a special place within the body of Christ but only as an equal member. Peter’s place in the kingdom is two fold. One is a position of leadership, which was the chief and first within the magisterium, able to speak on behalf of the whole group. The other was a member of the faithfull believers which only his personal obedience to the Father’s Will determines his status or greatness.

As the entire history of the House of David in the Old Testament (and Matthew 16 for that matter) shows, the granting of authority does not mean it will be properly understood or exercised. This is why the authority to bind and loose was later broadened to include all disciples in Matthew 18.

It would definitely rattle my “protestant cage” if we saw Peter, or his supposed successors for hundreds of years claiming to be the sole, universal steward of the kingdom, that is the church. But we don’t. No that took hundreds of years to show up. And bishops for hundreds of years seemed unaware of such a doctrine. It’s an innovation and extrabiblical.

No. Eliakim prefigured Christ, not the pope.

Did any of the Apostles in Matthew 18 receive copies of the keys given to Peter?


There was only ONE Royal Steward who was given Keys as the symbol of that office.

Apparently, you did not read (or understand) post #8. These “hundreds of years” are explained in that post.

No. Eliakim prefigured Christ, not the pope.

So, if Jesus is the merely royal steward of God, then why does Jesus give the symbol of his own office to Peter?


I understand why you must try to explain this away, but scripture tells us that Jesus inherits the throne of David, and as king, He appoints His royal steward, Peter.

As a side note: Who were the queens of the Davidic kingdom? The Mothers of the kings (to avoid controversy and conflict since the kings may have had multiple wives but only one mother).

Consequently, Mary is the Queen of Heaven reigning with her divine son, Jesus.

I read it. I thought it was silly. It’s simply old Henry Newmans ad hoc explanation for why his church in 1878 didn’t look very much like the early church of scripture or history.

The supposed successors of Peter in Rome didn’t know they were the Royal stewards of Gods church because of the mean old Romans.

That might convince some people I guess.

So you don’t consider Christ the King, and the Pope His servant?

Yes, it does.

Brilliant men like Cardinal Newman among them.:thumbsup:

Sure I do.


Here’s the thing: I’ve presented the scriptures which provide the basis for the understanding of Peter as the Royal Steward in the court of Jesus, our king. Additionally, I’ve provided a range of Protestant scholars and commentaries which support the view I have offered.

All you have said in reply is, “I don’t believe it.”

Okay. Fine.

But you’re going to need more than that to remain intellectually honest with yourself outside the Church you left.

I don’t believe it because it’s extra biblical and ahistorical. Not because I simply refuse to.

If in scripture there were evidence of Peter exercising his sole universal jurisdiction over the whole church and the rest of the Apostles, and his supposed successors doing the same I would be more compelled.

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