The Gospel of Matthew records the bestowing of authority to lead the Church that Jesus was founding onto Peter. The narrative from the Gospel coincides with the Old Testament account of Joseph’s authority bestowed unto him by Pharaoh. Here is a summary of the key points to help demonstrate the intent of Jesus to set Peter up with God given authority.
Parallel between Peter compared to Joseph:
- Both men deal with a king: Joseph’s dealings were with the pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Peter’s dealings were with Jesus, the king of kings.
- Each king asked a question that no man could answer: Pharaoh had a dream that he asked people to interpret. “So he summoned all the magicians and sages of Egypt and recounted his dreams to them; but no one could interpret his dreams for him.” Only Joseph was able to tell Pharaoh what his dream meant. Jesus asked in Matt 16, “But who do you say that I am?”. Wrong answers had been provided to Jesus’ question, “‘Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.'”. Peter was able to provide the correct answer.
- Both Peter and Joseph answer the question but only because of a divine revelation. Joseph answers the question about Pharaoh’s dream but said that God told him what Pharaoh’s dream meant, “‘It is not I,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God who will give Pharaoh the right answer.'”. Peter answered Jesus question, but in Matt 16, Jesus says “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father”.
- The respective kings changed the men’s names as a result of their dealings with the kings. A change in name indicates a change of status in ancient cultures. According to Gen 41:45 “And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnathpaaneah” and according to Matt 16 “And so I say to you, you are Peter”. Peter’s name had been Simon before this.
- The respective kings then gives each man symbol of authority: According to Genesis 41:42 “With that, Pharaoh took off his signet ring and put it on Joseph’s finger. He had him dressed in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck.” According to Matt 16 “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.”
- This symbol of authority bestows on each man the power of binding and loosing: According to Gen 41 “Thus was Joseph installed over the whole land of Egypt. ‘I, Pharaoh, proclaim,’ he told Joseph, ‘that without your approval no one shall move hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.'” Jesus tells Peter “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” according to Matt 16.
The conclusion of these parallels is that both men were set up as the prime minister or right hand man of the king. The king recognized that they were being set apart because of a divine revelation that each man had. Each king changed the status of the men with a change of name, a granting of authority, and a symbol of that authority. With these facts in mind, we can recognize the authority of Peter as the head of the Church as ordered by Jesus.
You can read more about this topic in Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church (Modern Apologetics Library)
. The study was paraphrased from the appendix of this book.