Peter, head of the Church

Hello everyone,

I have a question about Peter. If he was the first Pope and authoritative figure of the Church, what happened in Galatians 2? Paul blatantly called Peter a hypocrite for not eating with the Gentiles. If he is a figure that is supposed to bring unity, where was this attitude of division coming from? Perhaps I am getting my timeline wrong and Peter hadn’t yet been given the Keys of the Kingdom. Or perhaps this is just a situation where Peter’s humanity and sinful nature are at work, just as a Pope is capable of sin.

Also, this passage calls James, Peter, and John “pillars”, implying they were on the same plane, not necessarily elevating Peter as the leader or head.

Thoughts?

8 For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James, Cephas[c] and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

No, you got the timetable right. Peter was given the keys and named head of the Church before the Crucifixion (Matt 16:18) - before this incident.

Or perhaps this is just a situation where Peter’s humanity and sinful nature are at work, just as a Pope is capable of sin.

Yes, that is the case. Peter was acting badly - Popes can do that. Peter was given the keys (authority) even before he denied Jesus three times (which I consider a much more egregious act than making a poor choice of dinner companions).

Also, this passage calls James, Peter, and John “pillars”, implying they were on the same plane, not necessarily elevating Peter as the leader or head.

Construction metaphors seem pretty popular. Jesus says that Peter is the rock upon which he will build his Church (“Peter” means rock) - this metaphor would mean natural rock (usually bedrock, which would be excavated to support the building foundation). Paul tells us that the Church is built “on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone” (Eph 2:20). Now we have pillars. Pillars are supported by the foundation, which is supported by bedrock. People just can’t seem to make up their minds which metaphor to use.

When you mix them all together, you come up with some unsatisfactory results. Christ is the “cornerstone” of the foundation - but the whole foundation is built on rock. Since Peter is the rock, we can conclude that Christ is built on Peter. Hmmmm. No, I don’t think that’s right.

Obviously you can’t compare metaphors like that. Peter is the rock (the foundation of the Church), and he is also one of the pillars (which support the Church). It would be like saying the mayor is one of the pillars of the community - that doesn’t imply in any way that he is not also the top community leader.

This is kind of like asking why, if he was supposed to be the king, David wasn’t bigger than Goliath.

God chooses unlikely men (and women!) to accomplish His work precisely because when the underdog wins time and again it greater demonstrates the Glory of God acting through that person. Peter wasn’t a perfect man. Heck, He wasn’t even as morally behaved as some other men. Certainly he’s the only one described as denying Christ three times! But all that isn’t to say that Peter wasn’t the leader of the church… it merely highlights the EXCEPTIONAL and GOD GIVEN nature of the church.

Or perhaps this is just a situation where Peter’s humanity and sinful nature are at work, just as a Pope is capable of sin.

Bingo.

Also, this passage calls James, Peter, and John “pillars”, implying they were on the same plane, not necessarily elevating Peter as the leader or head.

So? Different metaphor. You can’t just willy-nilly mix metaphors. Peter is the rock of on which the church is built. The first among bishops. The first ORDAINED by Christ. He’s also a bishop of equal dignity to the other bishops of the church. At BEST I could see this as an eastern orthodox argument… but again, only if we invalidly mix metaphors.

Jerome was having a discussion with Augustine over this very issue.

Summarizing Jerome’s points Paul rebuking Peter. Jerome observes, [LIST=1]
*]Peter was well aware of the law of Moses, but was playing to those who were weak in their faith and out of fear that he might lose them, did what he did so like the Good Shepherd, would not lose ANYONE given to him. Now he observs what Paul did
*]In Acts 16:1-3 Paul took a disciple named Timothy… and on account of the Jews of that region, Paul had Timothy a gentile, circumcised. Then
*]Acts 18:18, Acts 21: 18-26 Paul shaved his head, purified himself and made sacrifice according to the Mosaic law, which he had previously said is no longer to be followed.
[/LIST]Catch that? Paul rebukes Peter while giving himself a pass on far more? Hypocrit on steroids you might say? But actually, Paul learned from Peter in this exercise that he would enjoin Peter’s behavior and attitude later, in his own ministry… Because Paul later in his travels explains HIS behavior by saying, to the Gentiles he becomes as a Gentile, to win them over, as to the Jews he became a Jew so that some might be saved. [1 cor 9:20] Gee, isn’t this exactly what Peter did earlier with the gentiles and was rebuked by Paul for it? Yep! Then Paul embraces this very same behavior for himself…:cool:

St Jerome points out.

“O blessed Apostle Paul, who has rebuked Peter
for hypocrasy because he withdrew himself from the
Gentiles for fear of the Jews who’ came from
James, why are you, not withstanding your own
doctrine, compelled to circumcise Timothy, the son of a
Gentile, for he was not a Jew, having not been circumcised? Will you answer, ‘Because of the Jews which are in these quarters.? If so, then forgive yourself the circumcision of a disciple coming from the Gentiles, and forgive Peter also, who has precedence above you, his doing some things of the same kind through fear of the believing Jews.”

Jerome continues, “Why did you [Paul] shave your head, why did you walk barefoot according to the Jewish ceremonial law, why did you offer sacrifices, why were victims slain for you according to the law? Will you answer, ‘To avoid giving offense to those of the Jews who had believed.’ To gain the Jews, you did pretend to be a Jew”. [snip]

I tried to highlight and compress ( albeit a poor job on my part) what Jerome writes to Augustine concerning this subject. I focused particularly starting with ch’s 3…. of his letter. Here is Jerome’s full letter. Please read it. Forget my inept job at trying to summarize. [/FONT]http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1102075.htm

Next time someone in a bible study, or in a sermon, uses Gal 2 as a swipe against the papacy, share this discussion Jerome had with Augustine.

Jesus in the Gospels was very clear about who Peter is to the Church. Look at all the times Jesus singles Peter out from all the others, to give him a special position and office.

For further reading:

Source: blog.adw.org/2010/10/what-st-paul-can-teach-us-about-respect-for-church-authority/

  1. But here is where we also see a fascinating and somewhat refreshing portrait of what true respect for authority includes. It is clear, from what we have seen, that Paul respected the authority of Peter and had both conferred with him early on and later set forth the gospel that he preached. However, there is also a description of Paul offering fraternal correction to Peter:

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? (Gal 2:11-14)

There is something refreshing about this understanding of authority. It understands that having authority does not mean one is above reproof. Too many people shy away from speaking honestly to those in authority. There is an old saying about bishops: When a man becomes a bishop he will never again have a bad meal and he will never again hear the truth. Too many of us flatter those who have authority. In so doing we tend to isolate them. They do not have all the information and feedback they need to make good decisions. And then we they do make questionable decisions we criticize them. Of course we seldom do this to their face. Rather we speak ill of them behind their back and continue to remain largely silent and flattering to their face. The cycle continues, and everyone suffers.

But here Paul stands face to face (κατὰ πρόσωπον αὐτῷ ἀντέστην) with Peter and accuses him of a moral fault. Peter had taught rightly of the equality of the Gentiles but drew back from keeping company with them. We as Catholics teach of the infallibility of the pope but we do not teach that he is impeccable (sinless). Even those who teach rightly (as Peter did) sometimes struggle to fully live the truth they preach (believe me, I know).

And my question would be, why would this be a hindrance to St Peter be the leader of the Church?

When David was a king, he did something bad and he was adominoshed by his servant. David still was the King. the highest authority in Israel.

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