Peter's Successor: In Rome or Antioch?


A few weeks ago I happened into a conversation with a Russian Orthodox fellow, and we got to talking about the differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. In the course of our discussion he asked why we would consider the bishop of Rome to be the inheritor of Peter’s primacy rather than the bishop of Antioch, who is also in Peter’s line of succession.

I replied that Rome’s primacy was well-attested from the beginning, and that no other see had ever seriously made such a claim. However, I can see how there is enough wiggle room here for someone to escape if he wants. If one denies the primacy of any bishop, then pointing to Antioch is a good way of passing the buck.

So my question is: Are there any Catholic apologetics works that deal with this question specifically? I’ve found little on the Web, but maybe I’m looking in the wrong places.

Any help would be appreciated.


I will kick this off. It is something I had stached away.
Peter: Origins of Peter as Bishop of Rome

The New Testament contains five different metaphors for the foundation of the Church (Matt. 16:18, 1 Cor. 3:11, Eph. 2:20, 1 Pet. 2:5–6, Rev. 21:14). One metaphor that has been disputed is Jesus Christ’s calling the apostle Peter “rock”: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

Some have tried to argue that Jesus did not mean that his Church would be built on Peter but on something else, even though the Greek word for “this” (touto) means “this very.”

Some argue that in this passage there is a minor difference between the Greek term for Peter (Petros) and the term for rock (petra), yet they ignore the obvious explanation: petra, a feminine noun, has simply been modifed to have a masculine ending, since one would not refer to a man (Peter) as feminine. The change in the gender is purely for stylistic reasons.

These critics also neglect the fact that Jesus spoke Aramaic, and, as John 1:42 tells us, in everyday life he actually referred to Peter as Kepha or Cephas (depending on how it is transliterated). It is that term which is then translated into Greek as petros. Thus, what Jesus actually said to Peter in Aramaic was: “You are Kepha and on this very kepha I will build my Church.”

The Church Fathers, those Christians closest to the apostles in time, culture, and theological background, clearly understood that Jesus promised to build the Church on Peter, as the following passages show.

Tatian the Syrian

“Simon Cephas answered and said, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah: flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee also, that you are Cephas, and on this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it” (*The Diatesseron *23 [A.D. 170]).


“Was anything withheld from the knowledge of Peter, who is called ‘the rock on which the Church would be built’ [Matt. 16:18] with the power of ‘loosing and binding in heaven and on earth’ [Matt. 16:19]?” (*Demurrer Against the Heretics *22 [A.D. 200]).

“[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]. . . . What kind of man are you, subverting and changing what was the manifest intent of the Lord when he conferred this personally upon Peter? Upon you, he says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys” (*Modesty *21:9–10 [A.D. 220]).

The Letter of Clement to James

“Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon [Peter], who, for the sake of the true faith, and the most sure foundation of his doctrine, was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was by Jesus himself, with his truthful mouth, named Peter” (Letter of Clement to James 2 [A.D. 221]). (Simon Bar Jonah)


It’s true that Peter ordained someone (perhaps multiple men) in Antioch to take over for him in the leadership of that Church. But then he continued on to Rome, remaining supreme head of the Church until his death. Because of this, the Antiochene bishops, while having received their orders from Peter, did not receive his universal authority. Rather, this was nearly immediately seen to have been conferred upon his successors in the see from which he departed this life, Rome.


Hi St. G,

Antioch is mentioned in Acts, but St. Peter certainly evangelized other cities and appointed sucessors there. No other city but Rome has ever claimed primacy, and the early testimonials for it are numerous.

The Orthodox prefer to argue that the various patriarchs are co-equal.



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