Thanks for joining us today as we continue to examine and respond to Catholic apologist, Karlo Broussard’s book, “Meeting the Protestant Response” (2022). This week, Broussard begins yet another chapter arguing for Petrine primacy, titled “Chief Shepherd of the Flock,” in which he uses John 21:15-17 as his proof text:
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
States Broussard, “For Catholics, the exclusive command to feed Jesus’ sheep clearly signals Peter’s unique role as leader of Jesus’ Church” (p. 67).
Protestant response #18: “The exchange is merely to give Peter the opportunity to make up for the three times he denied Christ.”
Writes Broussard, “Perhaps the most common counter-response given to John 21:15-17 is that Jesus was simply giving Peter an opportunity to repent for his three denials. (Norman) Geisler and (Ralph) MacKenzie put it succinctly: The overall import of the passage in John speaks more to Peter’s weakness and need for restoration than to his unique authority. The reason Peter is singled out for restoration, being asked three times by Jesus…was that only Peter denied the Lord three times and so only Peter needed to be restored. Thus, Jesus was not exalting Peter above the other apostles here but bringing him back up to their level.”
Broussard readily concedes the connection between Peter’s threefold denial and his threefold restoration in John 21:15-17, but claims the passage reveals Peter’s primacy according to the following arguments:
- All of the apostles abandoned Christ, but Christ singles out Peter alone in the passage. Therefore, contends Broussard, Peter is restored to “a unique role of leadership to feed Jesus’ lambs and shepherd his sheep, including the other apostles” (p. 69).
- Contrary to Geisler’s and MacKenzie’s claim, the passage reveals Peter was not only restored, but also invested with shepherding duties – governance and leadership.
- The Greek word “tend” (poimainō) is used in the New Testament to convey not only a shepherd feeding/protecting his flock, but also the act of governing by rulers.
Peter was certainly a leader of the apostles prior to his thrice denial of Christ, which made his betrayal that much more scandalous. Jesus lovingly restores Peter as a leader of the apostles in John 21:15-17. In Acts 1-12, Peter plays a leading role among the apostles in declaring the Gospel to the Jews, to the Samaritans, and to the Gentiles, but we don’t see him ruling/governing the apostles or the early church in a papistic sense as Broussard contends. As I’ve stated previously in these multifarious assertions of Petrine primacy, we see no references to Peter in the Acts of the Apostles or in the thirteen Pauline epistles or in the eight other epistles which follow that either explicitly or implicitly suggest Petrine papastical authority over the other apostles or the early church. Rather, we see multiple texts that contradict the notions of Petrine primacy and papal authority (see previous installments).
Thanks for hanging in there with me throughout this tediously long harangue for Petrine primacy. Just five more installments and we’ll be “out of the Petrine woods.” It’s quite revealing that Catholic apologist Broussard devotes his opening 23 points to Petrine primacy as the basis for papal authority with very little focus on Jesus Christ.
Next week: Protestant response #19: “There are other shepherds.”