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Milton V. Anastos

Constantinople and Rome

A Survey of the Relations between the Byzantine and the Roman Churches.

M. Anastos, Aspects of the Mind of Byzantium (Political Theory, Theology, and Ecclesiastical Relations with the See of Rome), Ashgate Publications, Variorum Collected Studies Series, 2001. ISBN: 0 86078 840 7.

2. The dogma of papal supremacy based on Matthew 16.18-19 and the Byzantine attitude towards the Roman traditions about Peter

As the Patriarch Joseph's remarks about Peter show, even in the fifteenth century many Byzantine ecclesiastics accepted the Roman view that Peter had visited Rome and had passed on to the bishops of Rome his privileged position in the Church.

Deeming themselves to be the heirs and rulers of the Roman Empire, the Byzantines never ceased to venerate Rome, its first capital, along with the Church there established and its bishops.(6) Accordingly, they referred to it as the "elder Rome,"; and conceded that in honour it stood higher than Constantinople, which at the Second Oecumenical Council (381) was first described as the "New Rome."(7) But their attitude towards the ecclesiastical position of Rome underwent considerable change, and was not completely consistent. In the early period, and even to some extent down through 1453, they freely granted that Peter had been the "Prince of the Apostles" (koryphaios), the first bishop of Rome, and the immediate source of the authority of the Roman Church.(8)

After the conflict between the Patriarch Photius and Pope Nicholas Ι, however,
which culminated in the excommunication of the latter by the former in 867, and especially after the Latin sack of Constantinople in 1204, Byzantine theologians rejected all three of these propositions concerning Peter.(9) They granted that Peter had visited Rome and had founded the church in that city. But, despite countless texts which testify to Byzantine veneration for Rome and a willingness to defer to the popes in matters not affecting the authority or autonomy of the Byzantine emperor and has Church in their own realm, Byzantium never accepted the Roman dogma of papal supremacy, or recognized Roman jurisdiction over the Eastern Church in either doctrine or discipline.

There were some notable episodes (10) which have been interpreted by some as implying such a recognition. But, as we shall see, these incidents cannot bear this interpretation; and in judging such cases, we must distinguish carefully between honour and respect, which the Byzantines almost always accorded Rome, especially before 1204, and Roman jurisdiction (i.e., juridical power) over the Church of Constantinople, to which they never submitted. Νor did Βyzantium ever subscribe to the Roman exegesis(11) of Matthew 16.18-19, which the popes and their supporters interpreted as the chief Scriptural support for their claims.

According to this celebrated logion, Jesus responded to Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi ("Thou art the Christ the son of the living God" [Μt. 16.16]) by saying, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock Ι will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it [v. 18]. And Ι will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bοund in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven [v. 19]."

The authenticity of this passage is no longer questioned, and the eighteenth verse is prized so highly by the popes that a portion of it (up to the semicolon) is inscribed in Greek around the base of the dome of the Church of St. Peter in Rome. In the papal tradition, the nineteenth verse is also of great significance. For the reference to binding and loosing is an allusion to the power of withholding or granting forgiveness for sin and admission to penance, which the popes found useful in their contests with the secular authorities during the Middle Ages.

Despite the great importance Matthew 16.18-19 was to acquire in the Scriptural arsenal of the Roman Church, no bishop of Rome appealed to this passage as a Dominical warrant of papal authority until early in the third century, when Callistus Ι (ca. 217-22),(12) it seems, did so to justify his extension of penance to members of his community who had been guilty of fornication or adultery, or even, it would appear, of murder or apostasy, all of which had previously been regarded as the deadliest and most unforgivable of sins. In discussing this incident, Tertullian (d. after 220) insisted that the words of Jesus in question applied only to Peter and not in any sense to Callistus, whom he ironically dubbed pontifex maximus, quod est episcopus episcoporum ("chief pontiff, i.e., bishop of bishops"), epithets which in point of fact correspond well with the position which the bishops of Rome later aspired to and eventually attained in the West.

Thereafter, echoes of Matthew 16.18-19 became frequent in papal documents. But the most advanced form of the Roman exegesis comes from the pen of Roman bishops like Damasus Ι (366-84),(13) who is usually regarded as having been the first to apply the expression sedes apostolica exclusively to Rome as the apostolic see par excellence. Possibly also to be attributed originally to Damasus is a text now included in the so-called Decretum Gelasianum, a work of the fifth or sixth century, according to which the primacy of the Roman Church was not the result of conciliar decisions but was established by Christ himself in the words recorded in Matthew 16.18-19.

Damasus' successor, Pope Siricius (384-99),(14) even went so far as to maintain that Peter was incarnate in the bishops of Rome. Α few years later, Pope Boniface Ι (418-22)(15) boldly affirmed that the government and essence (regimen ... et summa) of the universal Church, which Christ entrusted to Peter, descended to his successors, the bishops of Rome, and that the rulings of the latter were irreversible. No one, Boniface declared, who disobeyed them could remain a member of the Christian community
(Christianae religionis extorris) or hope for salvation (habitator caelestium nοn poterit esse regnorum).

Pope Gelasius Ι (492-96) was the first to refer to the pope as Vicarius Petri (vicar of Peter) and even Vicarius Christi (vicar of Christ).(16) Pope Leo Ι had laid the foundation for the former of these designations, but the latter was not frequently used by the popes until the time of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216).

The idea that the pope was the vicar of Peter is intimately connected with the Roman belief that Peter had been the first bishop of Rome. But the tradition to this effect is not attested before the end of the second century, and he was not fully taken up into the lists of the bishops of Rome before the latter part of the fourth.(17) Although it was not until the twelfth century that Byzantine critics denied that Peter had been bishop of Rome, many were sceptical of the Roman view of the descent of papal authority from Christ to Peter to the bishops of Rome.

Occasionally, under special circumstances to be detailed below, as in 519 and 536, the Byzantine emperor and patriarch, on the basis of Matthew 16.18-19, made what seemed to be singular concessions to Rome. But, apart from the small group of Byzantine Latinizers in the period between 1274 and 1439, who favoured the union of the two Churches, Byzantine exegetes found in this text no indication that Peter's successors should be accorded a primacy of jurisdiction, or that the "rock" ( petra in Greek) of Matthew 16.18, which is a pun on the name of Peter (Petros), should be identified with Peter himself or with the Church of Rome. On the contrary, they contended, the reference was to the faith of Peter,(18) and to the Church as established throughout the world.(19) Some, like Nicetas of Nicomedia (ca. 1150),(20) pointed out also, as do many modern scholars, that Matthew 16.18-19 is to be expounded in conjunction with Matthew 18.19 and John 20.23, which extend the powers claimed by Rome to all the disciples.

According to Matthew 18.18-20, "Whatsoever ye [note the plural] shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. ... If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For, where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am Ι in the midst of them.


6. - Franz Dölger, «Rom in der Gedankenwelt der Byzantiner,» "ZKirch", 56 (1937), 1-42, reprinted in "idem, Byzanz und die europaische Staatenwelt" (Ettal, 1953), 70- 115, n.b. 70-78, and "passim, with literature; William Hammer, "The concept of the New or Second Rome in the Middle Ages,» Speculum, 19 (1944), 50-62. Cf. Michael Seidlmayer, «Rom and Romgedanke im Mittelalter,» Saeculum, 7 (1956), 395-412; and the famous old classic, Α. Graf "Roma nella memoria del medio evo" (Turin, 1923).

7. On the designation "New Rome," which did not appear until 381, and was at first used only sparingly until after 732-33, see Dölger, «Rom in der Gedankenwelt,» in "Byzanz und die europäische Staatenwelt, 83-95; Hammer, loc. cit., 52 ff.

8. See Jugie, Le schisme byzantin, 48-100; "idem, Theologia dogmatica, 1, 110 ff., 119 ff.; cf. 4, 320-98.

9. See § 21 (b).

10. See below, passim. One conspicuous example concerns the definition of the Council of Chalcedon.

11. For bibliography on the interpretation of this famous text, see the works cited in notes 5 above and 21 below, which give extensive bibliographies. N.b. Joseph Ludwig, "Die Primatworte: Mt 16, 18.19 in der altkirchlichen Exegese (Neutestamentliche Abhandlungen, 19, 4 [Münster Westf., 1952]); Pierre Batiffol, "Cathedra Petri" (Paris, 1938), 181-95. Ludwig and Batiffol give the Roman Catholic point of view. The opposing hypotheses are best set forth by Cullmann, Turmel, Guignebert (cited in note 21 below), and Jalland, The church and the papacy, 131 ff., 146 ff., 148; J. Κ. Mozley, «Binding and loosing,» "Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, 2 (New York, 1928), 618-21; William Α. Curtis, «Infallibility,» "ibid.", 7 (New York, 1928), 290 f.

12. - "De pudicitia", 1. 6; 21, 9 ff., ed. Ε. Dekkers, CChr, ser. lat., 2, "Tertulliani opera, 2 (Turnhout, 1954), 1281 f., 1327; Hippolytus, Philosophumena", 9, 12, 20 ff. See Cullmann, "Peter" (cited in note 21 below), 121, 159 f. (with English trans. and bibliography); Κ. Gross, «Calixtus Ι (Kallistos),» "LThK", 2 (1958), 883 f.; Jules Lebreton and Jacques Zeiller, "De la fin du 2e siècle à la paix constantinienne" (Fliche-Martin, "Ηistoire de l'église", 2 [Paris, 1935]), 79-83; Batiffol, "Cathedra Petri", 175-78; Β. J. Kidd, "Α History of the church to A.D. 461", 1 (Oxford, 1922), 374 ff.; Α. d'Alès, "L'édit de Calliste" (Parίs, 1914). Cf. also Ε. Langstadt, «Tertullian's doctrine of sin and the power of absolution in 'De pudicitia'» in "Studia Patristica", 2 ("TU", 64 [Berlin, 1957]), 251-57.

13. - Batiffol, "Cathedra Petri", 151 ff. (on "sedes apostolica"). According to the "Decretum Gelasianum", «sancta tamen Romana ecclesia nullis synodicis constitutis ceteris ecclesiis praelata est sed evangelica voce domini et salvatoris nostri primatum obtenuit" (then follows Matthew 16.18-19), ed. Cuthbert Η. Turner, "Ecclesiae occidentalis mοnumenta iuris antiquissima, 1, 2 (Oxford, 1904), 156.9 ff. Cf. Caspar, "Geschichte des Papsttums", 1, 247 ff. , 598. For Boniface, PL, 20, 777, ed. Silva-Tarouca (cited in note 15 below), 34.4-35.11, quoted by Pope Nicholas Ι (858-67), Εp. 88 MGH "Epist.", 6, 476.

14. - Εp. 1, PL,13, 1132; PL, 56, 555 Β; Denzinger-Umberg, "Enchiridion: symbolorum", no. 87: «Portamus onera omnium, qui gravantur; quin immo haec portat in nobis beatus apostolus Petrus, qui nos in omnibus, ut confidimus, administrationis suae protegit et tuetur heredes.» Οn notes 14-16, see G. Bardy in Ρ de Labriolle et a1., "De la mort de Théodose à l'election de Grégoire le Grand" (Fliche-Martin, Histoire de l'église", 4 [Paris, 1937]), 242 ff.; Turmel, "οp. cit." in note 21 below, 3, 169-72.

15. - Εp. 14, PL. 20, 777Α-779Α; ed. C. Silva-Tarouca, "Epistularum romanorum pοntificum ad vicarios per lllyricum aliosque episcopos Collectio Thessalonicensis" (Pontificia Universitas Gregoriana, "Textus et documenta, Series theologica", 23 [Rome, 1937]), 34.4-35.14, 29.54-69, 30.84 ff.

16. - See the references in Albert Blaise (with Henri Chirat), "Dictionnaire latin français des auteurs chrétiens" (Strasbourg, 1954), s.v. vicarius, 846 f. Caspar, "Geschichte des Papsttums, l, 430 f., attributes the first use of the idea of the pope as vicar of Peter ("cuius [= Petri] vice fungimur": PL, 54, 147ΑJ to Pope Leo Ι (440-61). Michele Maccarrone, "Vιcarius Christi: Storia del titοlο papale (Lateranum, N.S. 18, 1-4 [Rome, 1952]), carefully traces the history of both designations, from the Roman point of view, but quotes the texts fully, and thus enables critical readers to draw their own conclusions. He claims that the idea goes back to Cyprian of Carthago (d. 258), but cannot point to any actual texts before Apionius. Nevertheless, he demonstrates, against Caspar, that this expression was used of the pope by papal legates at the Council of Ephesus (431), "ACO", 1, 1, 3, 60.25-35. Documents of Pope Felix ΙΙΙ (483-92), probably drawn up by Gelasius, refer to the pope as "qualiscumque vicarius, i.e., «a kind of vicar» of Peter. Cf. Adolf von Harnack, "Christus praesens-vicarius Christi,» "Sitzungsberichte der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philos.-hist. Κl.", 1927, no. 34 (Berlin 1928) 415-46.

17. - Tertullian ("De praescriptione hereticorum", 32) was the first to describe Peter as bishop of Rome. Eusebius, "ΗΕ", 3, 48; 5, 28, 3. On the whole question see Caspar, "Geschichte des Papsttums", 1, 1 f., 8-16, 73 ff., 577 f.; "idem, Die alteste römische Bischofsliste (Schriften der Königsberger Gelehrten Gesellschaft, 2, Geisteswissenschaftliche Kl.", 4 [Berlin, 1926]), 373 ff., 381 ff., 394, 408, 428-35, 437, 454 ff., and "passim".

18. - E.g., Joseph Reuss, "Matthäus-Kommentare aus der griechischen Kirche (TU, 61 = 5. Reihe 6 [Berlin, 1957]), 129 nο. 92;J. Α. Cramer, "Catenae graecorum patrum in Novum Testamentum", 1 (Oxford, 1844), 132, 6 f. Pierre L Huillier, «Tu es Petrus;» "Messager de l'exarchat du Patriarche russe en Europe occidentale", 7 (1957), 197-212, notes that seventeen fathers of the Church considered Peter himself to be "the rock," which forty-four identified with his faith and fifteen (including St. Augustine, PL, 32, 618) with Christ. On the pun "the rock," see Henri Clavier, «Petros kai petra,» in "Neutestamentliche Studien für Rudolf Βultmann zu seinem 70. Geburtstag am 20. August 1954 (Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft", 21 [Berlin, 1954]), 94-109.

19. - Mauricius Cordillo, «Photius et primatus romanus,» "OrChrP", 6 (1940), 11 f. (Greek text); Martin Jugie gives a Latin translation on the basis of a somewhat different text: "Theologia dogmatica", 1, 13, 2 f. On the authorship of this work, see Cordillo and Jugie,"lοcc. citt.", and note 150 below.

20. - As quoted by Anselm οf Havelberg, "Dialogi", 3, 9, PL, 188, 1221; cf "ibid.", 3, 11, PL, 188, 1223 Β; Jugie, "Theologia dogmatica", 4, 339 f. Theodore the Studite has also cited Matthew 18.19 as proof that Christ gave all five of the patriarchs the right to decide questions that concerned the Church: PG, 99, 1417C; cf. Ernest Barker, "Social and political thought in Βyzantίum (Oxford, 1957), 88. This he does in argument against the Emperor Leo V, without any anti-Roman intention. On Nicetas, see Beck, Kirche, 34 f., 313 f., 319.

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