The Two Pillars of Rome

Author: John W. Moran, S.S.

The Two Pillars of Rome

Rationalists and Modernists have spent much labor in trying to find differences between the theological views of St. Paul and the Synoptics. They have been well refuted by Catholic and by not a few non-Catholic scholars. The present article proposes to establish the identity of the theological tenets of St. Peter and St. Paul.

Christianity is based upon the revealed truths that Christ was God, and that by His death he redeemed us and atoned for our sins. These truths are clearly set forth by both Apostles.

Christ before his Incarnation "was by nature God . . . he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to death on a cross. Therefore God also has exalted him and has bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend of those in heaven, on earth and under the earth" (Phil. 2:5-11).1 Christ is "over all things, God blessed forever" (Rom. 9:5)2 As for the Prince of the Apostles, he boldly charged the Jews, "The author of life you killed" (Acts 3:15).

Christ by his death ransomed us from the slavery of sin and reconciled us to God, "You have been bought at a great price" (I Cor. 6:20).3 "You know that you were redeemed from the vain manner of life handed down from your fathers, not with perishable things, with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Pet. 1:18-20).4

Considered in its relation to us, Christ's death is a redemption or ransom; with respect to God it is atonement. God and man are thus reconciled. This is a favorite theme of the Apostle of the Gentiles. "God," he writes, "commends his charity towards us, because when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more now that we are justified by his blood, shall we be saved through him from the wrath. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:7-11). "You yourselves were at one time estranged and enemies in mind through your evil works. But now he has reconciled you in his body through his death, to present you holy and irreproachable before him" (Col. 1:21-23).

In fact, Modernists assert that the notion of an expiatory death on the part of Christ is exclusively Pauline.5 This is not true. The doctrine is clearly enunciated by St. Peter. Of Christ he says, "Who, when he was reviled, did not revile, when he suffered, did not threaten, but yielded himself to him who judged him unjustly; who himself bore our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died to sin, might live to justice; and by his stripes you are healed" (I Pet. 2:23-25).6 "Christ also died once for sins, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (I Pet. 3:18).

In I Cor. 15:3-9 St. Paul gives us the substance of his preaching.

For I delivered to you first of all, what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas,7 and after that to the Eleven.8 Then he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at one time, many of whom are with us still.... And last of all, as by one born out of due time, he was seen also by me.... Whether then it be I or they; so we preach and so you have believed.

The resurrection is the keystone of the Catholic faith, "For if the dead do not rise, neither has Christ risen; and if Christ has not risen, vain is your faith, for you are still in your sins" (I Cor. 15:17).

Hence it is not strange that the Apostle of the Gentiles frequently insisted on these three truths: (1) Christ died; (2) he rose on the third day; (3) this was in accordance with the Scriptures.

Resurrection was a repellent doctrine to the intelligentsia of Athens, but St. Paul preached it to them (Acts 17:31). In the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia, he said that the Jews in putting Christ to death fulfilled the Scriptures (Acts 13:27-32). To both Jews and Gentiles the "stumbling block" was proclaimed.

It was also announced by St. Peter in his first sermon to the Jews, on the day of Pentecost. "Him, when delivered up by the settled purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have crucified and slain by the hands of wicked men. But God raised him up" (Acts 2:23). Then he cites Psalm 15:8.9 After his first recorded miracle, the curing of the blind beggar, he stated that God raised up his son (Acts 3:26). To the priests, the officer of the temple, and the Saducees, who placed him in custody, he spoke of "Jesus Christ, whom you crucified, whom God has raised from the dead" (Acts 4:10).

But besides St. Peter's discourses, we have another source of his doctrine, i.e., his two Letters. In the first of these he writes, "You are believers in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory" (I Pet. 1:21).10

on the one hundred and twenty persons present in the Upper Room to select another apostle (according to the Scripture), St. Peter laid down this qualification, "Of those men who have been in our company all the time that the Lord Jesus moved among us, from John's baptism until the day when he was taken up from us, of those one must become a witness with us of his resurrection" (Acts 1:21-23).

Salvation is for all and is based on faith. "God our Saviour wishes all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, himself man, who gave himself a ransom for all" (I Tim. 2:4-7). Those who are actually saved are the just, and "He who is just lives by faith" (Rom. 1:17).11 This latter theme recurs frequently in the letters of the Apostle of the Gentiles.12

In fact, it is a central point in his theology. But it is equally important in the discourses and the epistles of the Prince of the Apostles. He asserts, for instance, "There is no other name under heaven given to men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

At the Council of Jerusalem, concerning the Gentile converts, he asserted, "God, who knows the heart, bore witness by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:8-10). "By the power of God you are guarded through faith for salvation.... In him you exult with a joy unspeakable and triumphant; receiving as the final issue of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (I Pet. 1:5-10).

Here St. Peter seems to say that we earn salvation as a reward. This truth is more clearly stated in his Second Epistle, "Therefore, brethren, strive even more by good works to make your calling and election sure.... In this way will be amply provided for you the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 1:10-12).

We need only to make the briefest reference to St. Paul's words on the "just judge" and the "crown of justice" (II Tim. 4:6-9).

By baptism one enters the Church. This has been the case since the day of Pentecost. At the conclusion of St. Peter's speech on that momentous day the multitude asked, "Brethren, what shall we do? But Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.' . . . And there were added that day about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:37-42).

Paul's experience of baptism left its mark on his whole future life. By it, after instruction, he became a Christian, "and straightway in the synagogues he began to preach that Jesus is the Son of God" (Acts 9:20).

On the subject of baptism he dwells at great length, especially in his Epistle to the Romans. This is very significant. The letter was destined for the Church at Rome (Rom. 1:7); in other words, to a congregation which the Apostle had not personally evangelized. Yet he takes it for granted that his doctrine was in full accord with that which they had received.13 The baptism of which he speaks is by immersion, and it not only sanctifies (Tit. 3:5; I Cor. 6:11 ), but is rich in symbolism. It is a mystical death. The old man of sin dies, the new man of grace arises from the water. He is buried with Christ, with Christ he rises, into Christ he is engrafted.14

Confirmation follows after baptism, and on this point we read an interesting story.

Paul . . . came to Ephesus and found certain disciples; and he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?" But they said to him, "We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." And he said, "How then were you baptized?" They said, "With John's baptism." . . . On hearing this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them (Acts 18:1- 8).

St. Paul's question shows that one could not be baptized without hearing the words Holy Spirit. The formula "in the name of the Lord Jesus" is a description of Christian baptism, in contradistinction to the baptism of John. The formula of baptism is not found in the New Testament except in Matt. 28:19 but the describes the baptismal ceremony in great detail.

Regarding baptism. Baptize as follows: after first explaining all these points, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in running water. But if you have no running water, baptize in other water; and if you cannot in cold, then in warm. But if you have neither, pour water on the head three times in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. s

St. Peter confirmed the baptized as we read in Acts 8:14-18. Baptism he describes in his First (3:21). Referring to the ark in which were saved Noe, his wife, his sons and their wives, he writes: "Its counterpart, Baptism, now saves you also (not the putting off the filth of the flesh but the inquiry of a good conscience after God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

St. Paul is the great exponent of the doctrine of the Mystical Body, and he informs us, "What is lacking of the sufferings of Christ I fill up in my flesh for his body, which is the Church" (Col. 1:24). This thought is echoed by St. Peter who tells the Christians that they are "partakers of the sufferings of Christ" (I Pet. 4:13).

There are many passages in the letters and speeches of the two apostles that are practically identical. Thus St. Peter writes, "Be subject to every human creature for God's sake, whether to the king as supreme or to governors as sent through him for evildoers.... Fear God; honor the king" (I Pet. 2:13-18). Well known is St. Paul's request of his converts that "Supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men; for kings,16 and all in high places" (I Tim. 2:1-3). "Let everyone be subject to higher authorities, for there exists no authority except from God, and those who exist have been appointed by God (Rom. 13:1).

Life in this world is a "tabernacle" (II Pet. 1:14); an "earthly house" (II Cor. 5:1). Both apostles warn the Christians of those who deceive the faithful for the sake of gain (II Pet. 2:3; Tit. 1:10-12).

By both St. Peter and St. Paul we have a pen picture of Christ which for brevity and clarity is unsurpassed. "He went about doing good," proclaims St. Peter (Acts 10:38); while St. Paul quotes our Saviour as stating, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

However, the Apostles differed on one point, or at least on a matter of conduct.


So he informed the Galatians (Gal. 2:11). This sentence used to be stressed by those who wished to find an argument against Papal supremacy. The sentence, therefore, demands study.

St. Paul had preached to the Galatians and had reaped an abundant harvest of conversions. Thereupon, Judaizers had arrived from Jerusalem and had taught that all should observe the Mosaic Law in full. They also questioned St. Paul's authority to teach.

In answer, the Apostle presented his credentials. "The gospel which was preached by me is not of man.... I received it as a revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1:11-13).

As for the Mosaic Law, it had been abolished. This St. Peter knew from a vision, and he had baptized Gentile converts without circumcision or any mention of the prescriptions of the Law (Acts 10). At the Council of Jerusalem, he had asked, "Why then do you now try to test God by putting on the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?" (Acts 15:10).

But his conduct at times had been inconsistent with his doctrine. He had at first eaten with Gentiles, paying no respect to the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law, as to clean and unclean foods. Later, as St. Paul wrote to his Galatians, "he began to withdraw and to separate himself, fearing the circumcised, and the rest of the Jews dissembled with him, so that Barnabas17 was led away by them in that dissimulation" (Gal. 2:12-14).

So St. Paul "said to Cephas before them all, 'If thou, though a Jew, live like Gentiles, and not like the Jews, how is it that thou cost compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?'" (Gal. 2:14). St. Peter did not defend his conduct. He knew that St. Paul was right on this issue.

And that he acknowledged that his fellow Apostle was right on all issues, we have a striking proof in his two epistles.

The first is to "sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia" (I Pet. 1:1). Now Asia and Galatia had been evangelized by St. Paul, yet St. Peter writes as to people who will follow his instructions.

However, from the Second Epistle we have a much more convincing argument. The Prince of the Apostles writes, "Just as our most dear brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given him, has written to you, as indeed he did in all his epistles, speaking of them of these things. In these epistles there are things difficult to understand, which the unlearned and the unstable distort" (II Pet. 16).

This is a most significant line. It is only by distorting St. Paul that one can find any dissimilarity between his doctrines and those of his fellow Apostle.


Weston College Weston, Mass.


1 This is the Hebrew conception of God. Compare: "Every knee shall be bowed to me" (Isaias 45:24).

2 For a study of Pauline Christology, see A. C. Cotter in , VII (1945), 259-90; also J. W. Moran in AER, CXX (1949), 463-68. Rationalists who hold that Paul, not Christ, is the founder of Christianity, in general admit that the former taught the divinity of Jesus. This, however, is denied by Charles A. A. Scott, (Cambridge, 1928), pp. 270-79.

3 Cf. also Eph. 1:7.

4 From the words "you know" we see that St. Peter assumes that the recipients of the letter were well acquainted with this truth. Cf. also I Pet. 2:9.

5 One of the propositions condemned in the decree of Pius X is: (DB, 2038). Most of the errors condemned in this decree are found in the works of Loisy.

6 This line is implicitly cited by Polycarp, 81. Found in VI (Westminster, Md., 1948), 79 f.

7 St. Peter in his modesty does not tell us this fact, but it is attested by St. Luke. When the two disciples returned from Emmaus, they were greeted with the triumphant cry, "The Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon" (Luke 24:34). Peter is always first. In the enumeration of the apostles, his name heads the list (Matt. 10:2-5; Mark 3:16-20; Luke 6:14-17). Peter, James, and John witnessed the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1); to be present with him in his agony, Our Lord selected Peter, James, and John (Matt. 26:37).

8 The apostles were official witnesses of the resurrection. When calling

9 Thus the death and resurrection were according to the Scriptures.

10 Compare "he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross. Therefore God also has exalted him" (Phil. 2:8-10).

11 A few Protestant theologians follow Luther and hold that St. Paul asserted that justification (righteousness) comes from faith alone. "The triumph of the Gospel means justification by faith alone," E. Brunner, (New York, 1937), p. 64. "Salvation according to Paul was dependent solely on faith," J. G. Machen, (New York, 1921), p. 284. "Protestantism follows St. Paul in representing the Christian as freed from the law and removed from all questions of merit, being justified by faith alone," Robert S. Franks, (London, 1934), p. 89. There is no line in St. Paul which asserts that man is justified by faith alone.

12 For instance, Rom. 3:26; 5:1; Gal. 2:16; 3:8; 3:11; Phil. 3:9.

13 "Do you not know that all who have been baptized into Jesus have been baptized into his death" (Rom. 6:3).

14 On St. Paul's doctrine on baptism, see W. McGarry, (New York, 1939), pp. 180-87; also F. Prat, I (20th ed. [Paris, 1930]), 264-68; and I (18th d. [Paris, 1928]), 306-12.

15 , VII, , VI (Westminster, Md., 1948), 19. In Chap. 9 we read, "Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist but those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord." Here we have another confirmation of the meaning of baptism in the name of the Lord. It signifies Christian baptism.

16 Both apostles wrote 'basileus' which was the word which the Greeks used for emperor (F. Zorell, s.v.).

17 This shows the pre-eminence of St. Peter in the early Church. His authority was so great that he influenced the conduct of Barnabas, though the latter was a close companion of St. Paul.

Taken from the January 1954 issue of "The American Ecclesiastical Review".