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The Early Church Fathers Church Fathers on the Primacy of Peter.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. St. Ignatius of Antioch, (A.D. 50-107)
    Pope St. Clement I of Rome, (A.D. 60-97)
    St. Clement of Alexandria, (A.D. 150-220)
    Tertullian, (A.D. 160-218)
    Letter of Clement to James, (A.D. 221)
    Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253)
St. Ignatius of Antioch, (A.D. 50-107), Syrian; ecclesiastical writer, bishop, martyr. A disciple of St. John, the Apostle; he was bishop of Antioch, in which see he succeeded St. Peter, or, as others think, Evodius. He is supposed to have governed that church for about forty years. He suffered martyrdom at Rome in the year 107.

You [the See of Rome] have envied no one, but others have you taught. I desire only that what you have enjoined in your instructions may remain in force.

Epistle to the Romans 3:1 [A.D. 110]

Pope St. Clement I of Rome, (A.D. 60-97), Roman; Pope from A.D. 88-97; martyr. That St. Clement was honored by the friendship of the great Apostle, St. Peter, is not doubted. There are good reasons to believe that he was designated by that Apostle as his successor in the see of Rome. The authenticity and genuineness of St. Clement's First Epistle to the Corinthians are acknowledged. We learn from Eusebius and from other writers, that it was publicly read in many churches. This second epistle is the oldest extant Christian homily we have attributed to him, (A.D. 150).

Accept our counsel and you will have nothing to regret. . . . If anyone disobeys the things which have been said by him [Jesus] through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in no small danger. We, however, shall be innocent of this sin and will pray with entreaty and supplication that the Creator of all may keep unharmed the number of his elect.

Letter to the Corinthians 58:2, 59:1 [A.D. 95]

St. Clement of Alexandria, (A.D. 150-220), Greek; theologian, a scholar of Pantaenus, to whom he succeeded as head of the Catechetical School at Alexandria, Egypt. His writings display great acquaintance with the Gentile philosophy. He wrote with the express design of hiding the mysteries of the Christian religion from the Pagans, and the uninitiated, while at the same time, laboring to show the immense practical superiority of the Christian code of morals over that of every Pagan sect and system of philosophy.

Nor does the kingdom of Heaven belong to the sleeping and the lazy; rather, the violent take it by force . . . [4] On hearing these words, the blessed Peter, the chosen, the
pre-eminent, the first among the disciples, for whom alone with Himself the Savior paid the tribute [Matthew 17:27], quickly grasped and understood their meaning. And what does he say? "Behold, we have left all and have followed you" [Matthew 19:2 7, Mark 10:28]

Who is the Rich Man That is Saved? 21:3-5 [A.D. 200]

Tertullian, (A.D. 160-218), North African; ecclesiastical writer, Christian apologist and lawyer, son of a centurion and contemporary of St. Irenæus, a native and citizen of Carthage. The zeal and ability with which he defended the Christian cause, and vindicated its faith and discipline, have immortalized his name, though it has suffered by his adoption, around the year A.D. 200, of some of the Montanist's errors, whose cause he is thought to have supported until his death. His works are numerous, and are written with great ability and erudition, but in an harsh style.

I now inquire into your opinion, to see whence you usurp this right for the Church.

      • Do you presume, because the Lord said to Peter, "On this rock I will build my Church,
        I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven", or "whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven," that the power of binding and loosing has thereby been handed on to you, that is, to every Church akin to Peter?

      • What kind of man are you, subverting and changing what was the manifest intent of the Lord when He conferred this personally upon Peter?

On you He says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys, not to the Church; and whatever you shall have bound or you shall have loosed, not what they shall have bound or they shall have loosed."

Modesty 21:9-10 [A.D. 220]

Peter alone [among the Apostles] do I find married, and through mention of his mother-in-law. I presume he was a monogamist; for the Church, built upon him, would for the future appoint to every degree of orders none but monogamists.

Monogamy, post A.D. 213, 8,4

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, the first-fruits of our Lord, the first of the apostles; to whom first the Father revealed the Son; whom the Christ, with good reason, blessed; the called, and elect.

Letter of Clement to James 2 [A.D. 221]

Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253), Alexandrian; born in Egypt, philosopher, theologian, writer.

"On that same day the disciples came to Jesus saying: Who is the greater in the kingdom of Heaven ?" (Matthew 18) . . . We must not let the design of the evangelist, in the words on that same day, pass by unexamined. . . . Jesus, therefore, had come, together with His disciples, "to Capharnaum; there they who received the didrachma came to Peter", and asked of him: "Does not your master pay the didrachma?" Then when Peter had answered them, and said "Yes"; Jesus having assigned a reason for paying the tribute-money, sends Peter to draw out with the hook a fish, in the mouth of which He declares a stater would be found, to be given for Himself and Peter. It seems, therefore, to me, that they, — considering this to be the greatest honor to Peter on the part of Jesus, as judging him greater than the rest of the disciples, — wished to ascertain clearly that which they fancied; and they accordingly inquired, in order to learn from Jesus, whether, as they suspected, He had separated Peter as greater than they; and they, at the same time, hoped to know the cause of Peter's having been preferred before the rest."

T. iii. Comment, in Matt. Tom. xiii. n. 14. pp. 588-9.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 5-6

"Peter was, by the Lord, called a rock, since to him is said. "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church."

T. iii. Comm. in Matthew n. 139, p. 927 (Alib. Tr. 35).
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 7

"Peter upon whom is built Christ's Church, against which the gates of Hell shall not prevail, has left behind him but one epistle, that is universally acknowledged."

T iv. In Joan. Tom. 5, p. 95. (Ex. Euseb. H. E. l. vi. c. 25.)
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 7

"When the chief authority as regards the feeding of the sheep was delivered to Peter; and on him, as on the earth, the Church was founded; of no other virtue was the confession required, than that of love."

T. iv. lib. 5, in Ep. ad Rom. n. 10, p. 568.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 7-8

"If we were to attend carefully to the Gospels, we should also find, in relation to those things which seem to be common to Peter . . . a great difference and a preeminence in the things [Jesus] said to Peter, compared with the second class [of apostles].

For it is no small difference that Peter received the keys not of one heaven but of more, and in order that whatsoever things he binds on earth may be bound not in one heaven but in them all, as compared with the many who bind on earth and loose on earth, so that these things are bound and loosed not in [all] the heavens, as in the case of Peter, but in one only; for they do not reach so high a stage [with power] as Peter to bind and loose in all the heavens"

(Commentary on Matthew 13:31 [A.D. 248])
Sent in by Anthony Kulusic




Catholics believe, that unique and superior powers were given to St. Peter and His successors by Christ, and that the bishop of Rome, as his successor, is the head of the whole Catholic Church. For this reason, what the Early Church Fathers referred to as the Church of Rome, we refer to today as the Roman Catholic Church; being a universal visible body, united under one visible head.


The Church's Scriptures that support the Primacy of Peter in the Church:


Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

13 When Jesus came into the region of Cæsarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" 14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven."


Matthew 16:13-19

Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial but prays for his (singular) faith.

31 "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you (second person plural pronoun, meaning "all of you") that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee (singular, Peter) that thy faith fail not: and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren."

Luke 22:31-32

Christ, after His resurrection, commissioned St. Peter to feed His lambs, and to feed His sheep, i.e., to be Shepherd over the whole flock:

15 "When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? He saith to Him: Yes, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again: Simon son of John, do you love me? He saith to Him: Yes, Lord, thou knowest that I love you. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. 17 He saith to him the third time: Simon son of John, do you love me? Peter was grieved, because He had said to him the third time, Do you love me? And he said to Him: Lord, Thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love Thee. He said to him : Feed my sheep."

John 21:15-17

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