- John 21:16
- " . . . Feed my sheep."
- The Roman Church finds in this passage support for its papal doctrine of infallibility
for Peter and his "legitimate successors", the bishops of Rome. The Vatican
Decrees assert: "It was upon Simon alone that Jesus after His resurrection, bestowed
the jurisdiction of Chief Pastor over His fold in the words: 'Feed my lambs; feed my
- This passage contains no such monopoly conferred upon Peter as decreed by the Vatican.
Feeding the sheep is enjoined upon others as well as Peter:
- Paul instructed the elders at Ephesus, "Feed [poimaino] the church of God. ."
- Peter exhorts the elders, "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an
elder2 . . . feed [poimaino] the flock
of God . . . neither as lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock."
(1 Pet. 5:1-3). Peter considers himself a "fellow elder" R.S.V., not the
"Pastor" and "Ruler" of the ecclesia.
- The word "feed" (poimaino) relied upon by R.C.'s to establish unique authority
for Peter is used by Peter of the elders to whom he writes. (1 Pet. 5:2). Why interpret it
in John 21:16 as imparting exclusive sovereignty of jurisdiction and not in the other?
- "Feed my sheep" gave Peter no superior jurisdiction over the rest of the
apostles. It would appear that Jesus in this passage reconfirms Peter after his threefold
denial (Matt. 26:33-34) hence Peter's threefold confession in this passage. The
interpretation of his role as a "fellow elder" is in keeping with other
New Testament references which give him a place of reward alongside the other apostles but
not a position of superiority. For example:
- In Matt. 19:27, 28, Peter questions the Lord, "Behold, we have forsaken all and
followed thee; what shall we have therefore?" The Lord's answer contained no hint of
any unique place reserved for Peter - nothing beyond what all the disciples were given.
"Ye (plural) which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall
sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve
tribes of Israel."
- "The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve
apostles of the Lamb." (Rev. 21:14). Peter is a foundation-stone alongside the other
apostles; he is not considered to be the cornerstone or even the chief foundation stone.
- The role of Peter in the early ecclesia is one of prominence but not of monopoly:
- Although Peter proposes that one be appointed to fill the place of Judas (Acts 1:15) he
does not attempt to fill the vacant place on his own authority (as do the Popes of the
Roman Church in appointing cardinals). The final selection was made by lot (vs. 22-26).
- Peter expresses concern in his Epistle for the continuance of the purity of the gospel
(2 Pet. 2:1,2) yet he never once exhorts the flock of a "legitimate successor"
whom they were to follow when he passed away. (It seems Peter was nearing his death when
he wrote this Epistle, see 2 Pet. 1:13- 15).
- In Acts 6:2 it was the twelve who called the multitude together and appointed the seven
to administer the welfare needs. Peter is not singled out as having a monopolizing voice
in what was to be done.
- Paul warned the Ephesian elders of heresies and disunity (Acts 20:29, 30), but he omits
to tell them to cling to Peter, the supreme "Pastor" and infallible "guide
of the whole church militant."
- Quoted in William Shaw Kerr, A Handbook on the Papacy, (London: Marshall, Morgan
and Scott, 1962), p. 52. Return
- Roman Catholic writers dismiss this as merely an indication of Peter's humility. If
Peter were commissioned to be Christ's vicar then it was his duty to make this known. If
he had been appointed "Ruler" and "Teacher" why should he disguise
what has been stridently proclaimed by his alleged "successors" as an essential
part of God's plan for the salvation of the world? Return