Cyprian Contra Rome’s Mathew 16:18 Exposition

Church Fathers

In The Catholic Layman William Geraghty noted what he deemed to be Cyprian of Carthage’s doctrines:

First, that St. Peter’s person, and not his faith, was the rock upon which our Saviour promised to build His Church – epis. lxx. Ad episc. Numid., &c., &c.

Secondly, that St. Peter was the head of the Church under Christ, and the principle of unity to all the faithful – epist. lxxi., lxxiii. Et lib. De Unitat. Eccles.

Thirdly, that Bishops of Rome are his successors – ep. lii., lv.

Fourthly, that his successors are the principle of Christian unity – ep. xlv – or that they hold the principal see – ep. lv. – the root and matrice (or mother) ep. xlv. – not in the order of time, for that belonged to Jerusalem, but in the order of government of the Catholic Church – ep. lxvii. ; and that to be in their communion is to be in the communion of the Church of Christ – ep. lxvii., xlv. lii., xlii; and xl.?

Fifthly, that , consequently, to be separated from St. Peter’s successors is to be in schism? (Geraghty 1858:93)

Cyprian, like Origen, held the primacy of honor given to St. Peter, but not primacy of authority over other disciples. In this article I agreed with Geraghty’s first, second, fourth and fifth articles as correctly representing the doctrine of Cyprian, but quite the contrary to many Roman Catholic apologists who are unaware of the Church history, the third article is not entirely the doctrine of Cyprian.

De unitate ecclesiae is the treatise of this Northern African bishop that Rome has cited as a testimony for papal primacy exposition of Matthew 16. There are two versions of this treatise that are now widely accepted by Roman and Protestant scholars to be penned by Cyprian. One without what I italicized below and one with:

There Lord saith unto Peter, ‘ I say unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 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.’ And to the same (apostle) He says after His resurrection ‘Feed my sheep’. He builds His Church upon that one, and to him entrusts His sheep to be fed. And although after His resurrection He assigns equal power to all His apostles, and says ‘ As the Father sent me even so send I you, receive ye the Holy Ghost; whosesoever sins ye remit they shall be remitted unto him, and whosesoever sins ye retain they shall be retained,’ nevertheless in order to make the unity manifest, He established one Chair, and by His own authority appointed the origin of the same unity beginning from one. Certainly the rest of the apostles were that which Peter also was, endued with equal partnership both of honour and office, but the beginning set out from unity, and Primacy is given to Peter, that one Church of Christ and one Chair may be pointed out; and all are pastors and one flock is shown, to be fed by all the apostles with one-hearted accord, that one Church of Christ may be pointed out. It is this one Church the Holy Spirit in the Person of the Lord speaks of in the Song of Songs, saying ‘ My dove is one, my perfect one, one is she to her mother, elect to her who brought her forth.’ He that holds not this unity of the Church, does he believe that he holds the Faith? He who strives and rebels again the Church, he who deserts the Chair of Peter on which the Church was founded, does he truth that he is in the Church? (Cyprian Treatise I: On the Unity of the Church)

Regardless of which version one holds, contrary to Rome, Cyprian held that all the apostles had equal power. They, according to Cyprian, “as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power”. He understood that Peter, in Matthew 16, as representative of the episcopate as a whole. In the Epistles 33.1, Cyprian contended,

Our Lord whose precepts and warnings we ought to observe, determining the honour of a Bishop and the ordering of His own Church, speaks in the Gospel and says to Peter [quoting Matt. 16:18-19] Thence the ordination of Bishops, and the ordering of the Church, runs down along the course of time and line of succession, so that the Church is settled upon her Bishops; and every act of the Church is regulated by these same Prelates (Cyprian 1844: Ep. 33.1)

Thus contrary to Rome, Peter alone is not the rock on which the Church is built, according to Cyprian, but a paradigm of the principle of unity. For Cyprian, the whole episcopate is the rock on which Christ built His church. Peter was the first to receive the keys that all the bishops as one also now have. He held that “the Church is established in the bishop and the clergy, and all who stand fast in the faith.”(Epistle xxvi.1).

The case that Cyprian held that all the disciple had equal honour and office/authority as Peter, makes it impossible to attribute a view that Peter had authority over other apostles as his teaching since the bishop in Rome, according to Cyprian, had equal honour and authority as bishop in Carthage and other bishops.

Robert Eno, Roman Catholic historian, agreed that Cyprian did view all bishops as equal and it is far from his theology to think he understood the bishop of Rome to have had higher authority over him or other African bishops. Expounding the two versions of Cyprian’s De unitate ecclesiae Eno wrote,

Given what we have said above, it is clear that he [Cyprian] did not see the bishop of Rome as his superior, except by way of honor, even though the lawful bishop of Rome also held the chair of Peter in an historical sense (Ep. 52.2). Another term frequently used by the Africans in speaking of the Church was ‘the root’ (radix). Cyprian sometimes used the term in connection with Rome, leading some to assert that he regarded the Roman church as the ‘root.’ But in fact, in Cyprian’s teaching, the Catholic Church as a whole is the root. (Eno 1990: 57-60)

“It is clear that in Cyprian’s mind”, concluded Eno, “one theological conclusion he does not draw that the bishop of Rome has authority which is superior to that of the African bishops”(ibid). Eno was not alone. Another Roman Catholic historian, Michael Winter, had earlier drew the same conclusion. Winter argued,

Cyprian used the Petrine text of Matthew to defend episcopal authority, but many later theologians, influenced by the papal connexions of the text, have interpreted Cyprian in a propapal sense which was alien to his thought. […] Cyprian would have used Matthew 16 to defend the authority of any bishop, but since he happened to employ it for the sake of the Bishop of Rome, it created the impression that he understood it as referring to papal authority”(Winter 1960: 47-48)

Winter went even further to claim that both Catholics and Protestants “now generally agreed that Cyprian did not attribute a superior authority to Peter”(ibid 48)

Contrary to Rome, Cyprian, as Origen, believed that all bishops in accordance to the true faith have the honor and authority of Peter. Cyprian viewed all bishops as Peter’s successors. Thus Cyprian understanding of Matthew 16:18 is contrary to Rome. He indeed contended that Peter is the rock to which Christ built his Church, thus affirming his primacy of honour but quite the contrary to the doctrines of Rome, he neither view Peter as the only rock nor understood him to be the one of true and proper jurisdiction.

Question: Contrary to Roman Catholic, Cyprian did not recognized Peter alone to posses primacy of honour and authority. Should we let Cyprian, on this view, be an anathema?

Next: Tertullian Contra Roman Catholic’s Mathew 16:18 Exposition

Previous: Origen Contra Roman Catholic’s Mathew 16:18 Exposition

Bibliography:

Cyprian (1844) The Epistles of S. Cyprian, Ep. 33.1 in A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church. Oxford: Parker

Eno, Robert (1990). The Rise of the Papacy. Wilmington: Michael Glazier.

Geraghty, William (1858). What St. Cyprian Thought of St. Peter’s and the Pope’s Supremacy. The Catholic Layman, Vol. 7, No. 80: 92-95

Winter, Michael (1960). St. Peter and the Popes. Baltimore: Helikon.

Cover Image: Archidiocese Of Washington

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About Prayson Daniel

Prayson Daniel is a Tanzanian, married to Lea and a father to Eloise. Reformed theology, philosophy of religion, apologetics and church history are areas he enjoy reading, pondering and sharing with a motto "when love comes first, disagreement follows at its right and proper place".

44 comments

  1. Prayson, I want to apologize for being rather rude and combative toward you in this and other posts in this series. The Lord has really been dealing with me lately about my attitude in comment threads — I have a lot of pride that needs to be crushed. I pray for you in your journey, and I want to offer you my support and love in any way that I can.

    • Joseph we are united in Christ Jesus and I believe you were not rude, from my point of view, but differed passionately with my position. I am working in the same road as the Lord keep reminding that in all I should do in Christ Jesus for the glory of God the Father.

      I too have a lot of pride that needs to be crushed and I do apologize if my articles made you stumble. I hope we can begin with Christ love, and in love, share our difference in a way that glorifies God.

      • Thank you, brother. A reading in today’s Office of Readings made me think of you, a quotation from St. Augustine writing on Matthew 16:18. He says, as I think he said some other places, that Christ is the Rock, but agrees that the name is applied to Peter, and that Peter is here a symbol for the Church, which is founded on Christ the Rock:

        The Church is founded upon the rock which Peter acknowledged

        God never ceases to provide the human race with consolations in misfortune. But in addition to these, in the fullness of time, when he himself knew it should be done, he sent his own only-begotten Son through whom he created all things While remaining God, his Son was to become man and be the mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.

        Those who believed in him through baptism were freed from the guilt of all their sins, freed from eternal damnation to live in faith, hope and love. On their journey among the trials and dangers of this world, they received the consolations of God, both in body and in spirit. They were to walk in his sight, keeping to the path which Christ made for them.

        But even while walking on this path they were not without sin, since it develops subtly out of human weakness. Therefore Christ gave the saving remedy of charity to help them in their prayers, for he taught them to say: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

        Such is the practice which the Church in blessed hope carries out in this life of suffering. Now the apostle Peter, because of the primacy of his apostleship, stood as a symbol of the entire Church.

        In himself he was by nature one man, by grace one Christian, by a more abundant grace an apostle and the chief of the apostles. But Christ said to him: To you I shall give the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatever you will bind upon the earth will be bound also in heaven and whatever you will forgive upon the earth will be forgiven also in heaven. Now these words applied to the entire Church. In this life it is shaken by various trials, as if by rains, floods and tempests, but it does not fall because it is founded upon the rock from which Peter received his name.

        The Lord said: Upon this rock I shall build my Church because Peter has first said: You are Christ, the Son of the living God. The Lord was really saying: I shall build my Church upon the rock which you have acknowledged. For the rock was Christ, and upon this foundation even Peter himself was raised up. Another foundation indeed no one can lay except that which was laid, which is Jesus Christ.

        The Church, which is founded upon Christ, received from him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, that is, the power of binding and forgiving sins, in the person of Peter. Therefore this Church, by loving and following Christ, is set free from evil. But this is even more the case with those who fight in behalf of truth even to the death.

        This comes from Augustine’s Tractates on the Gospel of John (Tract. in ev. Joan.) 124.5, which is in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers vol. VII.

        Also, are you familiar with St. Thomas Aquinas’s Catena Aurea? I just recently discovered it. In it he collected quotations from many different Fathers expositing each passage of Scripture. The section on Matthew 16:18 was pretty lengthy and meaty.

        I recently splurged on a package from Logos Bible Software that contains a full set of the Church Fathers compilations, fully searchable and cross-referenced to each other and to Scripture. The Logos Protestant packages have always been amazing to me, but they are selling Catholic packages now, too, which feature the Church Fathers front and center. I think even the basic Verbum (Logos for Catholics) package has the Church Fathers. It is really powerful and I recommend it.

        • I have Logos 5 Diamond. I have being using it for almost 3 years now and I enjoy it dearly. I am currently reading through Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. Thomas is one of my favorite theologian.

          I will go through Augustine view of Matt. 16:16-18 in this series as I try to understand his view in its proper context. Thank you so much for a wonderful input.

      • Awesome. I have the Verbum Foundations package. I hope to upgrade to more and better packages — because it’s really addictive, having this much knowledge at my fingertips. :)

        I’m presently reading through a history of the doctrine of justification, Iustitia Dei by Alister McGrath. It’s a dense and slow read (lots of untranslated Latin!), but very interesting and enjoyable.

        • It is very addictive. I mostly buy collections books in Community Price before they skyrocket the price above my paycheck. Example Plato, Kant, Descartes collection were given out for 10 dollar, but now the price is way up.

          I am so glad that they are bringing in Philosophy, Reformed, Orthodox, Catholic and more packages for us who love reading and sharing for the glory of our God and joy of His people.

  2. catholicboyrichard

    While possibly rightly fearing being stoned by fellow Catholic Christians here, the Church teaches, in practical terms, that the Bishops of an area do on several levels have equal authority as the See of Rome. While the Church is a unity, it is also a diversity. I would clarify clearly that this is not in the areas of final universal teaching on faith and morals, but rather in the execution of the already established doctrines of the Church. Our Catechism teaches that bishops (plural) are the main teaching ministers of the Church. Not the Pope alone.

    It also might be noted that the Papal office is to be considered, as Jesus Himself taught, as one who is the “servant of all.” I definitely believe in the primacy of Rome, and yet, in a modern and recent example, Pope Francis has just finished appointing 8 fellow bishops to at least work with him on reformulating some specific areas of concern. We also find this with Blessed John Paul II, when the Catechism itself was promulgated, first had it read and reviewed by all of the bishops of the world before signing off on it. Why would these men do so if they could just decide and tell the rest of the bishops to obey?

    Church Councils would indeed be worthless if Catholicism was a “one man show.” I think that the bottom line is a healthy respect for the leadership of the Pope, but realizing he seldom acts alone nor should he. The “bishops in union with Rome” concept gives us safety and protection from the idea that St Peter or his successors in every case have the final word. Doctrine is often in fact clarified and developed among the lay faithful as well, and that too is Catholic teaching. That is not to say that the layperson can just decide what to believe for him or herself. But very often it is the lay who bring doctrinal development, and as it spreads to a universal level, the bishops and, yes, the Holy Father, consider carefully what has been done or said within this process before making any “infallible declarations.” And that is how it should be.

    Do I believe that the Holy Father can, and sometimes does, eventually make solemn proclamations which settle all dispute in an area? Yes, and one example might be when again John Paul II settled the question once for all regarding the ordination of women. But he based that upon Sacred Scripture, long-standing and fairly universal Sacred Tradition, the study of hundreds of theologians over the centuries, and established norms that go back to the very beginning of the Church. He did not just arbitrarily wake up one morning and decide to make an infallible proclamation completely on his own. The body of Christ works as a unit. All bishops are given a very real piece of that process.

    So in answer to the argument here, I think it is a matter of balance. The Pope is a servant. Yes, he can and occasionally (and I mean occasionally) make proclamations which Catholics must follow in order to remain under the umbrella of Rome. But most of the time those decisions are not made in a vacuum, and generally not without the clear input of his fellow bishops, who do indeed have equal authority as priests to administer the Sacraments and teach the Word locally. One man cannot possibly decide all things for a billion people. I think in terms of Moses, and those he appointed to help make what were often life or death decisions under him and his authority, at the suggestion of Jethro his father-in-law. So I guess what I am saying is that our positions are not all that far apart, Prayson Daniel. I think Cyprian is saying that St Peter has primacy, and that so do the bishops in their jurisdictions, UNLESS they teach contrary to official established universal teaching of Rome.

    And, for the record, it is not Catholic teaching that you are headed for a flaming hell because you have honest disagreement with Rome on some issues!!! That is pure and simple nonsense. While that is a whole other issue, I think it is worth repeating. We are called upon, again in our Catechism of 1992, to love and respect our Protestant Christian brothers and sisters as exactly that–members of our family in Christ through faith and baptism into Him. I realize I did not in detail reference these points out but it would not be difficult to do so for anyone studying. We need to be seeing the Church through the eyes, not only of the Church Fathers, as important as they are, but also through the 2000 years of doctrinal development (note I did not say doctrinal change but clarification rather) which the legitimate ecumenical Council of Vatican II have given to us as a gift in this modern age. Vatican II did not produce “new doctrines” but helped open our understanding of the original teachings of the Church by a more in-depth and balanced view of already existing thought and belief. Nor do we teach that the Church Fathers were infallible. They are to be taken seriously and studied with reverence of course, but in the light of the “ever ancient, ever new.” In other words we are to look at the old and see how it applies today in the context of a 21st century Christianity.

  3. You seem to be falling into exactly the same fallacy you committed with Origen. Just because Matthew 16:18 can be used to affirm the authority of all bishops doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also affirm the primacy of Peter as the first among bishops. In fact, in this very passage, in the very words that you italicize, Cyprian affirms the primacy of Peter:

    in order to make the unity manifest, He established one Chair, and by His own authority appointed the origin of the same unity beginning from one. Certainly the rest of the apostles were that which Peter also was, endued with equal partnership both of honour and office, but the beginning set out from unity, and Primacy is given to Peter, that one Church of Christ and one Chair may be pointed out; and all are pastors and one flock is shown, to be fed by all the apostles with one-hearted accord, that one Church of Christ may be pointed out.

    He who strives and rebels again the Church, he who deserts the Chair of Peter on which the Church was founded, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?

    Primacy is given to Peter, that the unity of the Church might be known. The Church is founded on the Chair of Peter, and those who desert the Chair of Peter are breaking with that unity that Christ established. How is this “contra Rome” at all? Do you understand the Catholic position?

    • Thanks Joseph. Cyprian had to edit out italicized, according to Catholic historian Eno, because it was misused by bishop of Rome as giving testimony to primacy to Rome alone.

      Reading the two Catholic historians I cited, they both agree that Cyprian would use the same argument for any lawful bishop, not only the one in Rome.

      My point Joseph is to show that both Origen, Cyprian, and I will show the rests between 30-300 A.D. Cannot be used as giving testimony to the primacy of bishop in Rome only.

      I showed, if you read my comments, how it is contra Rome view of Matt. 16:18.

      • But the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Why are you supposing that they are? Peter is a bishop. All bishops have authority. But Peter is the first among the bishops. Just because all bishops have authority doesn’t mean that Peter doesn’t have primacy, as Cyprian explicitly affirms. Do you know what “primacy” means? How can more than one bishop have primacy?

      • I concurs with Ludwig Ott definition in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, viz., “Primacy means first in rank:. A primacy may be one of honour, of control, of direction (prilnatus directionis), or of jurisdiction, that is, of government. A primacy of jurisdiction consists in the possession of full and supreme legislative, juridical and punitive power.”(p. 279)

        According to Cyprian all lawful bishop have the authority of Peter. You are correct that there can not be more than one bishop having primacy. Cyprian viewed the episcopate as a whole in unity as having primacy.

      • “Primacy is given to Peter.” To Peter, who is one bishop, not to the episcopate in whole. If the whole episcopate of the Church has primacy, what do you suppose they have primacy over? Primacy (being first) demands that there is a second, something coming after in rank. Is there another episcopate of another Church to be second? Cyprian is clear that the bishops are equal in authority, but that Peter is the “first among equals,” the universal view in the Early Church, and still, in theory if not in practice, the view of the Catholic Church. The pope, the successor of Peter, is the bishop of Rome, in communion with all the other bishops of the Church, but as the prime bishop, he is the one all others defer to.

  4. I know this horse has been ridden until its legs have become stubs, but tonight I was reading in the Gospel of Luke. In chapter 22, Jesus was eating the Passover meal and instituting the Lord’s Supper. Missing the spiritual significance of the Lord’s words and deeds, the disciples were busy with an agenda of their own. “There was also rivalry among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest” (Lk 22:24).

    Here’s my question: If in Matthew 16:18, Jesus clearly identified Peter as the leader among leaders, why were the disciples still arguing about which of them was greatest?

    I’m not going to comment further, just something more to think about in this interesting discussion.

    • Thanks Richard. I just gave that argument in comment below. I think this passage refutes the notion that Peter was made a Prince of all the apostles in Matt. 16:18-19.

  5. If I may add, Cyprian view fits with the dispute of who among the disciples was the greatest(Luke 9:46 cf 22:24, Mark 9:34 all these account happens after Peter’s confession), while Rome’s does not. I will argue as follows:

    1. If Rome’s Matthew 16:18-19 view is correct, then it seems the disciple would not have a dispute on who is the greatest.

    2. The disciples seems to have had a dispute on who is the greatest.

    3. Therefore Rome’s Matthew 16:18-19 view is not correct.

    This adds to why Cyprian stated that all the disciples have equal honor and office, contrary to Rome.

    • But Peter is not the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven; Our Lady is, and she too was one of Christ’s disciples. The nature of the argument is explained in Matt. 18:1-5.

    • Yes, my point being that Peter’s primacy among the apostles does not translate into his having the first place in Heaven. Of all the disciples – including the Apostles – Mary has the highest place, and indeed the highest place of all creatures, in heaven.

      • O, then I think the same logic I used above would apply to Mary too.

        1. If the disciple knew Mary was the greatest, then it seems the disciple would not have a dispute on who is the greatest.

        2. The disciples seems to have had a dispute on who is the greatest.

        3. Therefore the disciple did not know Mary was the greatest.

    • We have no reason to believe that this was revealed to or fully understood by the Apostles at the time, so I don’t think you can argue that. They may have argued that James, as the brother of Christ (son of St Joseph by his first marriage), would be first in heaven, or they may have argued that no woman could be first in heaven, or any number of other (wrong) but understandable things. Bear in mind they were motivated impiously.

      • Can you back up your reply with Scriptural data?

      • I can’t prove a negative from the Scripture; I don’t know of any Scripture which demonstrates that the Apostles had knowledge of this (Mary’s exalted position in heaven). Revelation ends with the death of the last Apostle John, and I suppose they came to know the fullness of this doctrine when they witnessed our Lady’s bodily assumption into heaven, which is not recorded in Scripture, but by oral tradition.

      • I’m confused as to what you want evidence for; if you want evidence that the Apostles did not know that Mary took the highest place in heaven, the evidence is their dispute over who would be the highest in heaven among the disciples. It’s not proof, of course, but it is highly suggestive.

        If you want evidence for their coming to understand the full nature of Mary’s exalted calling only after the Ascension, I don’t know of any, it’s only a supposition. There is a definite tradition of Mary’s Assumption which can be traced as far back as the 5th century, and it would seem to me likely that this event would have impressed the apostles with the full nature of Mary’s role, if they had not previously had it revealed to them.

        • I think you are very correct by saying it is only a supposition. I will add a supposition without Scriptural nor Apostolic fathers support nor I dare add support between 180-300 A. D. of Christendom to back it up.

          Sadly I cannot leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.

      • I still don’t know what you’re talking about; you seem now to be talking about the dogma of the assumption as if that was the supposition.

        That was *not* my supposition, it is a dogma of the faith. I *supposed* that the apostles, at the time of the debate you were referring to, had not had certain things (including Mary’s exalted place in heaven) revealed to them. Quite a different matter.

        As to those ‘traditions of men’ you refer to, they are in fact part of the Holy Tradition of God. By despising the dogmas of the Faith in this way – and setting yourself up as a judge over God’s Church – you blaspheme Him, and commit a sin of presumption, for the which you will not escape Hell except you repent.

        • I beg to differ. As Pharisees love the traditions and forgot the essence of God’s words, his love, justice and holiness, you are doing the same.

          Paul wrote if I believe Jesus is Lord, that he lived, died, and rose again in my place, then I am saved not because of who I am or what I have done, that I may boast, but because of faith that I have in Christ, the Son of the living God.

          If I perish because I love Christ more that mans tradition, which man pronounced them holy, so be it. But I look at the cross. There is where my hope is.

      • You would set Holy Scripture against the authority of the Church, and yet it is only as moved by the authority of the Church that you have Holy Scripture to acknowledge in the first place. The Canon did not drop out of the air: it was established, by the Church, which was in turn established by Christ.

        You claim that parts of the Church’s Tradition should be discarded as ‘the traditions of men’, because – you will claim, on your own authority – they contradict Scripture, and then you call me a Pharisee for acknowledging the divinity of those traditions claimed as divine (unlike the Pharisees, I would point out, whose fault was rather in elevating particular and avowedly *human* traditions – small t – to the point where they eclipsed dogma, which is a sin, even if those traditions were not in themselves contrary to the Faith). Understand this: I recognise the Tradition – all of it, not just the odd idiosyncrasy here and there – precisely because Christ binds me to obedience to the Church, saying, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.” (Luke 10:16) I deny that they contradict Scripture, but I admit that they cannot all be deduced from Scripture in isolation.

        You are worse than a Pharisee, because, more than elevating a human *consensus* (tradition, small t) to eclipse dogma, you in fact have the brass neck – where you are not merely misappropriating doctrine from the Catholic Church and claiming it for your heresies – to elevate your *own* private opinion, on its own merits, regardless of any consensus, to the point where it eclipses dogma, and you justify this on the grounds that if your hope is in the cross, you are secure. If your hope were in Christ, you would be secure: but how do you know if your hope is in Christ, or if you are worshipping demons? Answer: you can tell, by whether or not you agree with the Catholic Church, because – iterum iterumque dicam – the Church is “the pillar and foundation of all Truth” (1 Tim 3:15). That’s what Christ founded it for.

        You are not the pillar and foundation of all Truth, and neither am I. The Church is: but you are pleased (whereas the very thought of it grips me with a pious dread) to abuse the Church, and disregard her teachings. Not all of which in every detail can be fully evidenced from the earliest times, I concede (no archaeological record is complete), but all of which, I will maintain, magnify and do not diminish Christ (this you cannot see, because you do not know Christ), and all of which by the same token are certainly true and require the universal assent of the faithful. Concerning the dogma of the assumption, I will not attempt to persuade you. But apart from this, you will, I am prepared to bet, deny the doctrine of Transubstantiation, and this is better evidenced in the early Church than any other, and indeed is taught very clearly in Scripture (even the heresiarch Luther couldn’t wriggle out of it, much as he desired to): but you and your ilk will ignore it, or claim that the Church already by that time had become corrupted or whatever other faithless and blasphemous thing. Who is the Pharisee between us? Or who is the heretic?

  6. P.S.

    You say, “He indeed contended that Peter is the rock to which Christ built his Church, thus affirming his primacy of honour but quite the contrary to the doctrines of Rome, he neither view Peter as the only rock nor understood him to be the one of true and proper jurisdiction.”

    Yes, he’s not the only rock. But he’s also ‘not only a rock’, but*the rock*, just as the keystone is a stone like the others, but can not just be called any old stone (that’s why we call it the *key*stone). In this sense the episcopacy *is* ‘proper’ to Peter in a way that it is not to his brother bishops, because of their dependency on him, which directly follows from his God-ordained primacy. His primacy is an honour, yes, but it’s an efficacious honour: just as the honour of the keystone, to be the capital of the arch, is an honour, but an efficacious one.

    • Thank you again for another input. The aim in this post was to show that Cyprian gave testimony for the papal primacy of all lawful bishops, not only the bishop of Rome. For Cyprian the whole episcopacy is the rock which Christ built his Church.

      As I have contended on my article, I agree that Cyprian taught what the first, second, fourth and fifth article outlined by William Geraghty at The Catholic Layman.

      Cyprian words viz., “Certainly the rest of the apostles were that which Peter also was, endued with equal partnership both of honour and office”, are contrary to Rome. Cyprian understood Peter in Matthew 16:18 not as being given honour or office above the rest, but a symbol of unity. This is what both Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant historian agree on.

      I am not an historian, thus I depend heavily on the works of those who have taken Cyprian text into depth. You said that you disagree with these Roman Catholic historians. I believe the burden of proof is on your shoulder to show that they, mostly English Jesuit Fr. Maurice Bevenot who gave most of his scholarly carrier studying this text, are incorrect by sharing more that your on opinion, viz., backing it up your thought with historians who have studied this text.

      • “Certainly the rest of the apostles were that which Peter also was, endued with equal partnership both of honour and office”.

        That is not contrary to the Catholic view, so far as it goes – I’ve said I agree that, qua apostle, Peter was an apostle like every other apostle.

        I am not in a position to mount an attack on the works of the men you quote, because I don’t know them. But the proof of my contention that when e.g. you say “not as being given honour or office above the rest, but a symbol of unity” you are wrong is simple.

        Cyprian says, “Peter also was, endued with equal partnership both of honour and office, but the beginning set out from unity, and Primacy is given to Peter, that one Church of Christ and one Chair may be pointed out; and all are pastors and one flock is shown, to be fed by all the apostles with one-hearted accord”.

        Notice that the Primacy of Peter, in Cyprian’s thought, serves a practical function; he does not elaborate how this plays out, but you cannot maintain that it is merely symbolic. Cyprian clearly teaches, 1) that Christ ordained Apostles (Peter is, qua Apostle, equal to the other Apostles), AND 2) Christ established a Petrine Primacy, to serve as an immovable datum and unifying principle for the whole Church, “that one Church of Christ and one Chair may be pointed out”. The role of Peter, then, among the apostles is not merely symbolically differentiated, but practically differentiated, because he has this extra function as the keystone. As first among equals, he is more than his fellows, qualitatively so. Thus, Cyprian’s doctrine contains both the Papal Primacy and – flowing from this – the Papal Supremacy; for who will raise himself up against the See of Peter, or who will claim that he has the faith, if, in the end, he is disobedient to the Roman Pontiff? “He that holds not this unity of the Church, does he believe that he holds the Faith? He who strives and rebels again the Church, he who deserts the Chair of Peter on which the Church was founded, does he truth that he is in the Church?”

        It’s not that Christ gives Peter ‘power’ over the other Apostles – power is the antithesis of love – and it would be wrong to construe the Catholic view as if we looked at it like that in any case. Rather, he makes him servus servorum, and grants him and his successors a special charism of infallibility to fulfil that divine vocation.

        I repeat: I can see no contradiction between Cyprian’s view and orthodoxy either re primacy or supremacy.

        • Cyprian’s understanding that “the rest of the apostles were that which Peter also was, endued with equal partnership both of honour and office” is in contradiction with Vatican Council that anathematize any who think that “the blessed apostle Peter was not constituted, by Christ Our Lord, Prince of all the Apostles and visible head of all the Church Militant”(Ludwig Ott 1954: 279 emp. add)

          Robert Eno pointed out that it was for those reasons as, you and Rome did, misusing Cyprian work, that led Cyprian to reedited his works, as an explanation to why we have two version of this treatise.

          You are correct that Cyprian taught that Christ established a Petrine Primacy, to serve as an immovable datum and unifying principle for the whole Church.

          What we differ is that you, as Winter explain to which other Roman Catholics did, read-into-the-text that this meant one Chair which is the bishop of Rome who are the successors of Peter, while Cyprian viewed the whole episcopate as the one Chair, as the whole episcopate is the successor of Peter.

          Here is where we differ. I presented my case backing it up by citing the same conclusion reached by Roman Catholic historians.

          So I welcome you to do the same. Show how I together with these Roman Catholic historians, misunderstood Cyprian, by not only sharing your opinion but backing it up with either Rome or Protestant historians.

    • “What we differ is that you, as Winter explain to which other Roman Catholics did, read-into-the-text that this meant one Chair which is the bishop of Rome who are the successors of Peter, while Cyprian view the whole episcopate is the one Chair, as the whole episcopate is the successor of Peter.”

      To clarify: I explicitly said that I agree that Cyprian doesn’t fully develop the Catholic teaching, and my contention was *merely* that Cyprian’s view contains 1) all the germinal elements of that teaching and 2) nothing contradictory to it.

      I don’t agree that the Catholic view rejects the idea that bishops are all in some sense stones or Peters in their own right: I at any rate haven’t denied it. I am quite content to concede that Cyprian teaches this: my contention – and our disagreement – lies in the fact that, whereas I see in his writings, implicitly, the full doctrine of the Papacy in germinal form (according as I have outlined) you do not, and moreoever you say that Cyprian diverges from the Church’s view. If the Pope of Rome, as I will maintain, is the Stone of Stones, tell me how Cyprian’s view – viz. that all bishops are stones – excludes the view that the Bishop of Rome is the Stone of Stones. None of these scholars even discuss this possibility, because – as I’ve said – they work on wrong assumptions, and so engage there efforts against a straw man. I can’t even really engage their arguments, because I am talking at cross purposes with them.

      As to the burden of proof from authority, it is neither here nor there, so far as I can see, because I don’t in fact deny any of the observations of the scholars, only their general conclusions (which I attack at a logical level), of the form, “x y z &c. being the case, and the Catholic teaching on the Papacy being n, Cyprian’s teaching is therefore NOT consistent with the Catholic teaching on the Papacy.” propositionibus ablatis, argumentum quoque ablatum est. If you don’t think my logic is sound, then by all means attack it; however, until you persuade me to drop it, I will maintain that the scholarship you invoke has no weight in this case, and that I am under no obligation to answer in kind.

      Forgive my rustic simplicity, but I should make clear that I do not base my position on any scholarship whatsoever, but on 1) the assumption that St Cyprian – being a canonised Saint of the Church – was a Catholic, 2) my identification of some bad assumptions/logic in the positions of those historians you have mentioned, 3) my honest impression that there is nothing at odds with the Catholic doctrine in what you have quoted of Cyprian here.

      • Perhaps it was at the time abused – but I don’t see how that has any bearing on the question. Perhaps that Pope misguidedly tried to prove too much from Cyprian, or perhaps that Pope was one step ahead of the great Saint, and the misunderstanding was Cyprian’s. I am concerned to compare what Cyprian teaches with what the Church has formulated definitively.

        However and for whatever reason he redrafted it, Cyprian undoubtedly believed 1) that the Petrine See is the sine qua non of the Church’s visible unity, 2) that Peter was ordained to Primacy by God Himself, 3) that it is on Peter’s primacy that the Church rests, whatever else he believed.

        “A primacy is given to Peter, and it is thus made clear that there is but one Church and one Chair.”

        “If a man does not hold to this oneness of Peter, does he imagine that he still holds the truth? If he deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the Church?”

        “Now this oneness we must hold firmly and insist on—especially we who are bishops and exercise authority in the Church—so as to demonstrate that the episcopal power is one and undivided too. Let none mislead the brethren with a lie, let none corrupt the true content of the faith by a faithless perversion of the truth.”

        • It was abused in a way you do. The bishop of Rome thought Cyprian was placing honor and authority to bishop of Rome only.

          Cyprian, as Catholic historian Winter pointed out, was apply Matt 16 Peter to all bishops, being in Rome or in Carthage since he viewed that all lawful bishops were equal in honor and authority. The bishop of Rome and bishop of Carthage or any other bishop possessed what wad promised to Peter.

          So it is putting in Cyprian mouth what he did not wish his text to say. Good thing is, it his text was abused while he was alive and had to reedit his work to avoid what you are claiming of him.

    • I do not say how you agree their observation but deny their conclusion. Their conclusion follows from their observation. As Eno obsreved that Cyprian reedited his work because of misuse by the bishop of Rome, to make it clear that he viewed all lawful bishops have equal honor and office. All bishops united are the Chair of the rock, Peter for they are all successors of Peter.

      If Peter was a Prince of all Apostles, as Rome teaches, how then should we understand Cyprian saying all Apostles had equal partnership both of honour and office? If Cyprian is correct, Rome is incorrect and the verse.

      • I think it works like this. Cyprian says that God assigns all the apostles an equal power/faculty; this is true, and the scholarship picks up on it (re the Eno observation you mention, I don’t reject it, but nor can I confirm it – I don’t know whether the Pope of Rome abused Cyprian’s work, he may have done). But Cyprian also says that God gives Peter a primacy. So the Apostles, qua Apostles, are equal, but there is this extra thing – the Petrine Primacy – in Cyprian’s thought. You say it’s purely symbolic, and excludes the stronger notion that Peter was the prince of the apostles. I don’t see that: prince means, ultimately, the “first”. As in the case of real princes, who may be rightly called the first among a number of nobles, they are *nobles*, yes, and nobles in exactly the same way that every other noble is a noble, having the same attributes and faculties qua noble, but *because of their primacy* among the nobles this modulates their office practically as well as symbolically. It’s all very well to talk about e.g. a primacy of honour for this Prince among nobles, but if you don’t mention the way that this primacy of honour impacts indelibly on the character of his office and his relations to the other nobles, you’re missing something important out of the picture.

        It seems to me that Papal Supremacy is inextricable from Papal Primacy, and since Cyprian admits Papal Primacy of a kind completely consistent with the idea that Peter was Prince of the Apostles, in the way I have described, the fact that he also affirms, e.g. the participation of other bishops in Peter’s ‘rock-likeness’ – quite legitimately -, even to the extent of saying that they are all Peter (which they are) seems to me completely unproblematic unless he would go a step further and say, “Peter was no different from the others essentially, his primacy was *merely* symbolical”. But he doesn’t say this; he takes to point out that Peter is differentiated from the others, according to his primacy, and further that this primacy serves a concrete practical purpose, rather than being purely some kind of token honorific.

        • As Catholic historian Winter put, Cyprian would use Matt 16 to defend the primacy of any bishop since all that was said of Peter applies to all lawful bishops.

          I think Cyprian is correct that Peter should be viewed as a sign of united not as Rome viewing Matt 16 as Peter has more honor and authority above other disciples.

      • re “Cyprian would use Matt 16 to defend the primacy of any bishop since all that was said of Peter applies to all lawful bishops.”

        Yes, but significantly he would argue this *from the case of Peter*, and he would argue it because of the practical function of every primate, qua primate, in God’s economy, of whom Peter is, if you like, the primate of primates. I don’t see how it contradicts the view that Peter is a symbol of visible unity to go further and say that he is also *efficacious* of visible unity. Peter not only represents the unity of the church by way of a figure, but cements it in practice, by virtue of his overall primacy/supremacy, in which every other bishop – through the Apostolic succession – participates.

        Cyprian explicitly affirms the Petrine primacy, “Primacy is given to Peter”. So on no account, at any rate, can you maintain that Peter has neither more honour NOR authority than the others. Whatever else it is, Primacy is at least an honour, and that honour is Peter’s alone.

  7. It’s a pleasure to discuss these things.

    I am not conversant with either Eno or Winter, but I dispute their common hypothesis as you have presented it, Roman Catholics though they may be. I do understand that you are trying to take an historical approach, but it is impossible to avoid reading our own theology back into Patristics (just one of the many reasons Christ founded an infallible Church).

    As to this, “But one thing both scholars agree is that Cyprian viewed all lawful bishops as successors of Peter having all as Peter, honor and authority.” I don’t have a problem with that, really, since e.g. we believe Peter ordained bishops in Antioch too. As I tried to explain in my post, I don’t think that Peter being one among several bishops and Peter having primacy and supremacy over his brother bishops are two mutually exclusive ideas, and I tried to illustrate this with my analogy of the arch and the keystone. Many stones, of which the keystone is one: but it is on the keystone that all the other stones rest, though they each have their own role to play in supporting the structure as a whole.

    You cannot have it both ways, when you say “Cyprian pointed, using Paul correcting Peter, how all bishops, who remain faithful, possesses equal honor and authority.” You cannot claim for Cyprian a doctrine of primacy of honour, and then claim that Cyprian equates the honour of Rome with that of the other bishops.
    No one believes that the Pope can never personally be wrong – that’s not what infallibility means: a Pope can even privately hold or teach material heresy as e.g. John XXII did before he was corrected. Infallibility obtains when the Pope teaches the whole church ex cathedra (from the see of Peter) definitively concerning faith and morals, resolving an ongoing theological discussion in the church; “Roma locuta est, causa finita est”. This is laid out categorically in the documents of the First Vatican Council.

    Anyone, bishop or no, who knows that the Pope is wrong about something has a duty to correct him, approaching him with reverence as his Holy Father in Christ, yes, but never compromising the truth for the sake of human respect.

    Re “Cyprian used the Petrine text of Matthew to defend episcopal authority, but many later theologians, influenced by the papal connexions of the text, have interpreted Cyprian in a propapal sense which was alien to his thought”, I reject Winter’s conclusion, because I reject his assumptions. If you refuse axiomatically to accept that the theology of the papacy and the theology of the episcopacy might be intimately – not to say inextricably – linked, then you can disregard any reading of Cyprian which champions a ‘pro-papal sense’, because of how narrowly you’ve defined ‘pro-papal’. I completely reject the assumption that the two theologies are distinct in this way. They are, in fact, intimately linked, and it simply won’t do, puto, to write off Cyprian’s especial reference to the ROMAN See as a mere accident here. He is not defending the theology of the episcopacy *simply*, though he is indeed defending it. Rather, he is defending the whole theology of the Apostolic Succession, which treats all of the episcopacy in general, including Peter as primus inter pares, and Peter in particular, as the head of the Apostolic college, that is, as the Vicar of Christ; the keystone of the Church, on which the rest of it is built.

    Show me what in Cyprian seems to you to contradict the eternal doctrine re Papal Supremacy/Primacy. I don’t see it, myself – certainly not from this passage.

  8. The most that can be said of Cyprian in this regard is that he doesn’t fully flesh-out a doctrine of the Petrine Supremacy in this passage. But all the elements of the eternal doctrine of the Papacy, both re Primacy and Supremacy, are here, and there is certainly nothing to contradict it. You seem to conflate ‘Power’ and ‘Authority’, which is a typical Protestant error. Two men may have equal power, but one may have all authority in the world, being holy, and another none at all, being wicked. Also, I would recommend reviewing the text in its original language; you may find that power here is simply the translation for a word meaning essentially ‘faculty’ or ‘capacity’ (probably dunamis or a synonym, used as Plato uses it in the Republic) which doesn’t carry quite the same connotations as our English word in present usage (though ‘power’ can still be used to mean something like this, it sounds archaic).

    It is sophistry to construe Cyprian’s doctrine as that of a *mere* primacy of honour, as if the primacy thus afforded was understood to have no discrete and important bearing on the practical role of the Roman Pontiff over his brother bishops, or as if it wasn’t seen to derive from something very significant in the Holy Tradition. Cyprian says that Peter was a bishop, and, qua bishop, was as much a bishop as any other Apostle, and the same goes for his successors. That is perfectly orthodox and historically true. But he also says, “nevertheless in order to make the unity manifest,[God] established one Chair, and by His own authority appointed the origin of the same unity beginning from one.” and, further “He that holds not this unity of the Church, does he believe that he holds the Faith? He who strives and rebels again the Church, he who deserts the Chair of Peter on which the Church was founded, does he truth that he is in the Church?”

    You say, “Peter alone is not the rock on which the Church is built, according to Cyprian, but a paradigm of the principle of unity.” I say, you’re dodging the issue and obfuscating it by speaking as if the paradigm were merely theoretical and not a concrete and terrible reality. I grant that Peter is not the *only* rock: but, though an arch be made of 5 stones, we should still maintain that it rests *ON* the keystone, and that keystone must not fail, lest the whole edifice fail. The keystone’s ‘primacy of honour’ is not a nicety – it’s an absolute architectural necessity, in relation to the other stones – though they all be stones – he is their head, their source, their unifying principle. Other bishops may be Peters in their own right, but there is only one Peter, and only one Petrine See, and on this the Church is built, and according the fidelity of which the Church is preserved against the assaults of the Devil and his minions.

    The incumbent of the Petrine See enjoys the unique status he does, being as it were the unity of the Church made flesh, because of the special charism of infallibility afforded to Peter and his successors by God, in accordance with Christ’s prayer, “And I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail” (Luke 22:32) Yes, he’s just another bishop: but he’s also the vicar of Christ, because he is Peter’s – and therefore Christ’s – direct successor, the keystone or cornerstone of the Church. Those are not mutually contradictory beliefs, and in fact the two truths enrich one another. A special and inalienable function (disunity with Peter alone is the litmus test of schism and heresy), and, what is more, an essential and primary function (Peter confirms his brethren, and God preserves his faith in perpetuity), obtains for the Roman Papacy: that much is very clear from this passage.

    I suggest you should be more worried about your own salvation, in light of the second excerpt quoted in my second paragraph here, than you should be worried about St Cyprian’s orthodoxy, which is clearly the orthodoxy of the Holy Roman Church.

    • Thank you so much for your input. It is an honor to address the point you have pointed out giving me a chance to further present Cyprian’s case, which because of blog length I reserved until needed.

      I hope you understand that I am going through this from historical point of view. To show you that you are not only incorrect that “all the elements of the eternal doctrine of the Papacy, both re Primacy and Supremacy, are here, and there is certainly nothing to contradict it.” but quite the contrary is true, I will use Roman Catholic historians.

      Robert Eno observed the works of English Jesuit Fr. Maurice Bevenot who he said devoted most of his scholarly life on this text and persuasively presented what English Benedictine John Chapman on the two versions of Cyprian text, Eno wrote,

      “Not only did Cyprian write both but his theology of the Church is unchanged from the first to the second. He made textual changes because his earlier version was being misused. There theology of the controverted passages sees in Peter the symbol of unity, not from his being given greater authority by Christ for, as he say in both versions, ‘.. a like power is given to all the Apostles’ and ‘… No doubt the others were all that Peter was.’ Yet Peter was given the power first: ‘Thus it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair.’ There Chair of Peter then belongs to each lawful bishop in his own see. Cyprian holds the Chair of Peter in Carthage and Cornelius in Rome over against Novatian the would-be usurper. You must hold to this unity if you are to remain in the Church. Cyprian wants unity in the local church around the lawful bishop and unity among the bishops of the world who are ‘glued together’(Ep. 66.8)”(Eno 1990:57-60)

      Thus according to Eno, a Roman Catholic historian, Cyprian does not give all the elements of the eternal doctrine of the Papacy. This is why Michael Winter, another Roman Catholic historian wrote “Roman Catholic historian, Michael Winter:

      Cyprian used the Petrine text of Matthew to defend episcopal authority, but many later theologians, influenced by the papal connexions of the text, have interpreted Cyprian in a propapal sense which was alien to his thought”(Winter 1960:47)

      I have not done a heavy research as Eno nor Winter, for I had only a two weeks of reading Cyprian’s work and historians, both Roman Catholics and Protestants, works mostly on his treatise On the Unity of the Church. But one thing both scholars agree is that Cyprian viewed all lawful bishops as successors of Peter having all as Peter, honor and authority.

      We have to also remember that while disputing with the Stephen, the bishop of Rome, Cyprian pointed, using Paul correcting Peter, how all bishops, who remain faithful, possesses equal honor and authority.

      Let me know your thoughts.

      - Prayson

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