Peter’s authority compared to Joseph’s authority

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.

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9 thoughts on “Peter’s authority compared to Joseph’s authority

  1. I’m a guy who likes to look for answers, but some times looking for questions is even better to gain perspective. So here is my request. Ask your questions, that made you question or turn away from any or all religions. Don’t expect an answer from me though. I’ve heard some tough questions before. Ones I’ve had no answer for. All I’m looking for is more perspective. (No harm in sharing a perspective right?)

  2. I don’t know about anyone else,but christians,jews,muslims,have me totally paranoid with their continuing fighting and killing each other. These 3 religious groups claim to be about peace,love,happiness.But they continue to show hate for each other since the origin of their religion began. When you ask about their intention for peace, christians, jews,muslims,have no answers.Leads me to believe they will never stop fighting and killing each other anytime soon. My peace plan for christians,jews,muslims,is to Ban their system of beliefs,for the safety of All Mankind? I would like boarding a plane with-out being searched. Who has a better Peace Plan?

    • I can only speak as a Catholic on the subject since I am one and have not been any of the other religions you mentioned. The Catholic Church teaches principals on when it is acceptable to fight, such as the just war theory. This stands in contrast to the actions of atheistic regimes such as that of Pol Pot and Stalin. The wake of death from these regimes dwarfs the amount caused by religious conflict.

      Catholics acknowledge that there is an afterlife and that we will have to answer for what we do here on earth. Those without this acknowledgement of God don’t have this thought guiding their decisions. This doesn’t mean that atheists are bad by default. I know many who try to lead good lives as much as any religious person. But someone like Stalin chooses to kill millions of people, by what standard can anyone tell him that he is doing evil? We can tell him that it is immoral and unjust and he can reply, “Who are you to force your morality upon me?”

      I can also say that as a Catholic, I don’t hate anyone. Hate won’t get you very far on judgement day.

  3. There is obviously a lot to know about his, I think you made some good points. Anyhow keep up the good work.

  4. It’s funny how people with opposing views argue with each other as often as they do. More often (at least here on thoughts) do I see someone to say your wrong about this this and that, then I hear someone say, great post I totally agree with you. But here specifically in the religous sections this is so much more evidant. It’s like we’re attracted to what sets us off. Or attracted to what we must correct (regardless if intentions are positive or negitive).

    • I do often argue with people but not in the sense of fighting. Many of the people I argue with have become friends of mine. I hope it doesn’t come across as sounding mean. That is not my intent. I see it more as people struggling to get a clearer picture of what is true. More like the way the philosophers of ancient Greece argued.

  5. but I thought you could tell me how to do that!! 😉

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