Friday, 3 April 2015

A. Edward Siecienski: Beyond Matthew 16: The Patristic Portrait of Peter

During the centuries-long debate over the papacy, much attention has been given to the writings of the Church Fathers on Peter, whose ongoing ministry the Bishop of Rome claims to exercise.   Unfortunately, discussions of the patristic treatment of Peter have focused almost exclusively on two or three passages (e.g., Matthew 16, John 21) while ignoring the many other ways the Fathers used Peter in their homiletical and theological writings.  Peter’s qualities, both good and bad, were a rich source of material mined by the Fathers for their own purposes, emphasizing (among other things) his ardent love, his need for grace, his human fears, his abiding faith, his impetuous nature, his missionary zeal, and his repentant spirit.  If discussion about the petrine office is to move beyond the stale polemics of the past, this fuller portrait of Peter himself must be taken into account, allowing us to read the Father’s handling of the oft-debated texts in Matthew and John in their proper context.  This paper will thus examine the person of Peter in the works of the Fathers, focusing particularly on those passages (e.g., his call, the Transfiguration, the threefold denial) where his virtues and shortcomings are brought to the fore.  Special attention will be given not only to what the Fathers wrote, but also to the pastoral or theological needs that helped shape their views.

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