Previously, I had written regarding the one true shepherd (Christ) as contrasted with the Roman bishop who seeks essentially to usurp that role (link to my post). In response, I have received some rather typical comments. Rather than beginning by characterizing the response, let me provide it to you:

In my reading of Catholic literature, I have never came across any author/theologian/bishop who has denied the fact that our Lord, Jesus Christ is the “single chief Shepard” of His Church. Yet with that said, I also do not of know any Catholic author/theologian/bishop who would deny that there is one true King of God’s Kingdom; and yet, Scripture speaks of many who were anointed as kings of God’s earthly Kingdom. If the one, true, single King can (and did) appoint earthly representatives to the position of king, why is the notion that He has appointed an earthly chief shepherds such a difficult concept for you?

(Comment by Roman Catholic David Waltz – spelling, grammar, and any other errors are his)

Now that you’ve already read the comment, I’ll provide my commentary on it. As I will show below, the comment contains misdirection/misinformation, scriptural confusion, ecclesiastical confusion, and confusion of reasoning. What’s sad is that this response (while it comes from someone who has not, to my knowledge, promoted himself as an apologist for his church) is not far from the typical response we see on this matter, and consequently worthy of a thorough response.

I. Misdirection / Misinformation

The first stage of the comment is misdirection and/or misinformation. No one, we are told, denies that Jesus is the single chief Shepherd. Here’s the problem, while there may be folks who claim that Jesus is the chief Shepherd, an official position (“official” in the sense that it is to be found in a papal encyclical, which – of course – is different from it being a de fide dogma) is that, on earth, the pope replaces Jesus:

Whoever, by Divine Commission, takes the place on earth of Jesus Christ, becomes thereby the Chief Shepherd who, far from being able to rest content with simply guiding and protecting the Lord’s Flock which has beer; [sic for “been”] confided to him to rule, fails in his special duty and obligations if he does not strive by might and main to win over and to join to Christ all who are still without the Fold.

– Pius XI, Rerum Ecclesiae, Section 1, 28 February 1926

That was not a one-time slip-up. We see the same title applied again to the Roman bishop (by himself):

Furthermore, in this one Church of Christ no man can be or remain who does not accept, recognize and obey the authority and supremacy of Peter and his legitimate successors. Did not the ancestors of those who are now entangled in the errors of Photius and the reformers, obey the Bishop of Rome, the chief shepherd of souls? Alas their children left the home of their fathers, but it did not fall to the ground and perish for ever, for it was supported by God. Let them therefore return to their common Father, who, forgetting the insults previously heaped on the Apostolic See, will receive them in the most loving fashion.

– Pius XI, Mortalium Animos, Section 11, 1 June 1928

This is not something that has disappeared with Vatican 2:

It is in friendship and brotherhood that I come to you today, desiring to strengthen the respect and love that unites us. But I come especially as chief Shepherd of the Catholic Church, to make a pastoral visit in this land.

– John Paul II, Address of John Paul II at the Arrival in Papua New Guinea, Section 2, 7 May 1984 (emphasis in original)

Perhaps even more clearly than in any of the above quotations, we see the matter expressed in an approved quotation from Bernard of Clairvaux (lived about A.D. 1090 — 1153), sometimes called “the last of the fathers”:

Then he addresses to him these powerful words: “Who art thou.? [sic] Thou art the High Priest and the Sovereign Pontiff. Thou art the prince of pastors and the heir of the apostles . . . by thy jurisdiction, a Peter; and by thy unction, a Christ. Thou art he to whom the keys have been delivered and the sheep entrusted. There are indeed other gate-keepers of heaven, and there are other shepherds of the flock; but thou art in both respects more glorious than they in proportion as thou hast inherited a more excellent name. They have assigned to them particular portions of the flock, his own to each; whereas thou art given charge of all the sheep, as the one Chief Shepherd of the whole flock. Yea, not only of the sheep, but of the other pastors also art thou the sole supreme Shepherd.”[34] And again: “He who wishes to discover something which does not belong to thy charge, will have to go outside the world.”[35]
[34] Ibid. [De Consid.], II, c. 8; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 751-c, d.
[35] Ibid., III, c. L; Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 757-b.

– Pius XII, Doctor Mellifluus (aka Bernard of Clairvaux), Section 25, 24 May 1953 (quotations taken from Bernard – elipsis in original)

Without a doubt, while Roman bishops (and others in that church) may often refer to Jesus as the “chief shepherd” they also claim that title for themselves, even to the point of acknowledging that they view themselves as being in the place of Christ. As with so many issues, they may attempt to deny that it is a contradiction that both they and Jesus be the “sole supreme Shepherd” but eventually folks see through that charade.

II. Scriptural Confusion

Next, we are presented with Scriptural confusion. We are given an argument from analogy, namely that Saul, David, and Solomon were kings over Israel, and consequently that a single earthly sovereign over the church is acceptable to God. The thickets of error are thick here. Let’s try to cull through them:

(1) Analogy to Israel’s Kings is Correct

1 Samuel 8:4-9
Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto him, “Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. And the LORD said unto Samuel, “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.”

Israel’s human kings were a symbol of their rejection of God. We agree with the analogy to the appointment of a human pontiff over the church. It too is a sign of a rejection of God. Because they will not truly have Jesus to be the head of their church, they seek an earthly head when they should be content with rule by elders and God.

(2) Why not High (or “chief”) Priest Analogy?

What is odd about the analogy to the kings is not so much the ignorance of the Scriptural condemnation of Israel’s human regime, but overlooking the more obvious parallel of chief priest. There was a chief priest in the Old Covenant, why couldn’t there be one in the New?

After all, the title of “chief priest” is also not something that Roman pontiff has failed to appropriate for himself:

But since the successor of Peter is one, and those of the Apostles are many, it is necessary to examine into the relations which exist between him and them according to the divine constitution of the Church. Above all things the need of union between the bishops and the successors of Peter is clear and undeniable. This bond once broken, Christians would be separated and scattered, and would in no wise form one body and one flock. “The safety of the Church depends on the dignity of the chief priest, to whom if an extraordinary and supreme power is not given, there are as many schisms to be expected in the Church as there are priests” (S. Hieronymus, Dialog, contra Luciferianos, n. 9).

Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, Section 14, 29 June 1896

(As an aside, Jerome’s reference to “chief priest” there is not to the Roman Bishop but to every bishop: “The well-being of a Church depends upon the dignity of its chief-priest, and unless some extraordinary and unique functions be assigned to him, we shall have as many schisms in the Churches as there are priests. Hence it is that without ordination and the bishop’s license neither presbyter nor deacon has the power to baptize.” (Jerome, Dialog Against the Luciferians, Section 9) Thus, it is a misleading use of the quotation. In the text of the dialog itself, moreover, Jerome refers to orthodoxy (not a man) as the chief priest: “For the Holy Ghost must have a clean abode: nor will He become a dweller in that temple which has not for its chief priest the true faith.” (Jerome, Dialog Against the Luciferians, Section 9))

Nevertheless, notice that Leo XIII plainly applies the title his own office. So, it would not be totally surprising if the commenter had made this analogy likewise. Why, then, did he not use it?

Perhaps the reason is that Hebrews makes clear that Christ fulfills the role of the Old Testament high priest. We see this several times:

Hebrew 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

Hebrews 3:1-2
Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.

Hebrews 4:14-15
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 5:5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.

Hebrews 5:10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.

Hebrews 6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Hebrews 7:26-27
For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.

Hebrews 8:1-2
Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.

Hebrews 9:11-12
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

Hebrews 10:19-22
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

These passages make it abundantly clear that Christ himself is the high priest of the New Covenant, and that consequently there is no room for another high priest, and especially not a merely human high priest. This presumably explains why our Roman Catholic commentator was reluctant to make such a claim and analogical comparison.

(3) Christ our King

What the commenter has overlooked, however, is that Christ is likewise the fulfillment of the kings of Israel. He is not only the high priest but he is also the King. Jesus has not only the Melchizedek priesthood but the Davidic throne.

Luke 1:32-33
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

This was a fulfillment of God’s promise to David:

Psalm 132:11 The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.

As also prophesied by the great prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

And Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 33:14-21:

“Behold, the days come,” saith the LORD, “that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.'” For thus saith the LORD; “David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually.”
And the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah, saying, “Thus saith the LORD; ‘If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers.'”

Jesus is that “Branch” that fulfills the promise to David and the priests. Jesus is both our King and High Priest, the fulfillment of both those types and shadows.

We see the same thing prophesied in Zechariah.

Zechariah 6:9-13:

And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, “Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah; then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest; and speak unto him, saying, ‘Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD: even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.‘”

This prophesy had its first fulfilment in a man named Joshua the son of Josedech, but its primary fulfillment was in Jesus Christ, who rebuilt the temple of his own body in three days and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father.

As Peter preached, Acts 2:30-32:

Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

We also find confirmation in other passages:

Revelation 3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

Hebrews 8:1-2
Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.

Hebrews 10:12-13
But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Indeed, Jesus is our eternal King:

Hebrews 1:8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

III. Ecclesiastical Confusion

(1) Limits on the Pride of the Popes

Now while the popes have exalted themselves, thinking to place themselves as governors over the Church of God, I have yet to find a place where one referred to himself as “King” of the church. Perhaps it is there in some place that I have yet to find, but none has been so bold in recent memory. Was David a divinely ordained king? Yes. Is the pope? Certainly not, nor (apparently) does he even blasphemously take such a title on himself, whatever analogies his servants may use.

(2) Chief Steward Analogy?

More frequently, Rome’s apologists will attempt to make the analogy that although perhaps the pope cannot be the king of the church, he can be a sort of vice-roy or prime minister. They attempt to assert that the “power of the keys” has something to do with this notion, attempting to make a connection to a reference in Isaiah regarding someone who had the “key of David.” I’ve discussed this more fully in a previous post (link), but suffice to say that this old testament prophecy:

Isaiah 22:22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

had a preliminary fulfillment at the time, and a primary fulfillment in Christ, as it is written:

Revelation 3:7-8
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

IV. Confusion of Reasoning

I was going to call this section “rational confusion,” for the sake of parallelism, but the connotation in English would be wrong. The confusion of reasoning in this comment lies in trying to change the question from “did” to “could.” Since, by now, the comment may no longer be fresh in your mind, I’ll remind you what he said: “If the one, true, single King can (and did) appoint earthly representatives to the position of king, why is the notion that He has appointed an earthly chief shepherds [sic] such a difficult concept for you?”

Notice how the comment seems to argue (implicitly, of course) from the idea that God could appoint a king while still being the one true King, to the idea that God did (just assumed, not demonstrated) appoint an earthly chief shepherd. From a logical standpoint, that misses the main argument by simply assuming what needs to be demonstrated. It needs to be demonstrated that God did appoint such a chief shepherd.

What’s worse about this argument is that it opens a really unnecessary can of worms, but doesn’t close it. Is it really possible for there to be one earthly head of the church? The argument from analogy has failed, as we saw above. Furthermore, while God is omnipotent, if appointing such an earthly monarch over the church would tread on Christ’s unique prerogatives, then it would certainly be impossible for God to do what our commenter suggests, because it would violate God’s character.

The final confusion of reasoning is the commenter’s attempt to suggest that non-acceptance of Rome’s claims is the result not of Rome having a weak argument, but of a flaw in the critic. While a comment such as, “such a difficult concept for you?” may sometimes be justified (particularly after a thorough and logical explanation has been provided) it is easy to abuse it, substituting this kind of remark for an argument in support of the thesis being considered.


The comments have been addressed, and it has been shown that they were misleading, confused (both Scripturally and ecclesiastically), and illogical. There is no reasonable defense for the Roman bishop’s attempted usurpation either of Christ’s unique role as Shepherd, nor of his unique role of King and Priest, which are connected to that Shepherdly role. Likewise, as well, though we have not discussed it above, we might add that the Roman magisterium (by adding to the Word of God) treads also on Christ’s prophetic role. Hopefully the demonstration above will help to shed some light on the errors in the typical response to the idea that the pope is somehow analogous to the kings of Israel, and perhaps it will open some eyes as to the usurpation in which the papacy is involved.


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