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Greek Fathers on Petrine Texts of the New Testament

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Greek Fathers on Petrine Texts of the New Testament

                                                                     Три_святителя_икона

The Greeks were consistently interpreting the 3 passages (Matt 16, John 21, Luke 22) as pertaining to Peter’s primacy, and via inheritance, the prerogative of Peter’s chair. Below is a Florilegium of Greek interpretation from the 5th to 9th centuries:

 
St. +Cyril of Alexandria, writing in his commentary on the gospel according to St. Matthew (444), says, “that by the words ‘on this rock I shall build my church’, Christ makes Peter its Pastor, literally he places Peter over it as shepherd” – Ταύτης ποιμένα τόν Πέτρον έφίστησω (Patrologia Graeca 72, 423)
 
St. + Gregory of Nyssa, spoke in a recorded sermon (395) saying that Peter is the head of the Church, “According to the privilege granted him by the Lord, Peter is that unbreakable and most solid rock upon which the Savior built His church” – ή άρραγής καί όχυρωτάτη πέτρα έφ ήν τήν Έκκλησίαν ό Σωτήρ ώκοδόμησε (Patrologia Graeca 46, 733)
 
St. John Chrysostom taught that St. Peter was the “leader of the Apostles” in his 88th homily in St. John’s gospel (PG 59, 478), and even went further than this. In his 5th homily on “Penitence”, Chrysostom writes that after Peter had been restored to his former apostleship after committing the three-fold denial, he was also given “jurisdiction over the universal church” (PG 49, 308).
 
Again, in his 8th discourse on the Jews, he writes on how the repentance of Peter wiped out his fault and , “he becomes again head of the Apostles and the whole world is committed to his care” (PG 48, 951)
 
During the Monophysite fall out in the East, there were bishops who were strongly Chalcedonian, and thus, wished above all to retain the communion of the Apostolic See. A famous letter of appeal was written to Rome, and these Greeks openly declared the following about Pope Symmachus (512 AD):
 
“…but for the precious salvation not only of the East, but of three parts almost of the inhabited world, redeemed, not with corruptible gold or silver, but with the precious blood of the Lamb of God, according to the doctrine of the blessed prince of the glorious Apostles, whose See Christ, the Good Shepherd, has entrusted to your blessedness….You have not only received the power of binding, but also that of loosing, in accordance with the example of the Master, those who long have been in bonds, nor only the power of uprooting and of destroying, but also that of planting and rebuilding, as Jeremias, or rather, as Jesus Christ, of whom Jeremias was the type….You are not ignorant of this malice, you whom Peter, your blessed Doctor, teaches always to shepherd, not by violence but by an authority fully accepted, the sheep of Christ which are entrusted to you in all the habitable world.” (Mansi viii. 221)
 
“Two bishop of Thessalonica wrote the following to Pope Boniface II (521): “For these things we appeal to your blessedness and the Apostolic See, and through it we believe we hear and adore thrice blessed Peter, and the chief Shepherd of the Church, Christ our Lord” (Mansi, viii, 748)
 
Patriarch St. Sophronius of Jerusalem had commissioned St. Stephen of Dor to appeal to the Roman See in order to procure the condemnation of the Monothelites occupying the Eastern Patriarchates. Stephen describes this aloud at the Council of Lateran 649:
 
““And for this cause, sometimes we asked for water to our head and to our eyes a fountain of tears, sometimes the wings of a dove, according to holy David, that we might fly away and announce these things to the Chair which rules and presides over all, I mean to yours, the Head and Highest, for the healing of the whole wound. For this it has been accustomed to do from of old and from the beginning with power by its canonical and apostolical authority, because the truly great Peter , head of the Apostles, was clearly thought worthy not only to be entrusted with the keys of heaven, alone apart from the rest, to open it worthily to believers, or to close it justly to those who disbelieve the gospel of grace, but because he was also first commissioned to feed the sheep of the whole Catholic Church; for ‘Peter’, said He, ‘Do you love me? Feed my sheep’, and again , because he had in a manner peculiar and special, a faith in the Lord stronger than all and unchangeable, to be converted and to confirm his fellows and spiritual brethren when tossed about, as having been adorned by God himself, incarnate for us, with power and sacerdotal authority…I was urged by the requests of almost all the pious bishops of the East in agreement with the departed Sophronius…Without delay I made this journey for this purpose alone; and since then thrice have I run to you Apostolic Feet, urging and beseeching the prayer of Sophronius and of all, that is, that you will assist the imperiled faith of Christians”” (Acts of Lateran Synod 649, Richard Price)
 
St. Theodore the Studite (+826) wrote a letter to Pope Paschal I, and in it reads:
 
“Hear me, O Head of the Apostles, placed by God as Shepherd of the Sheep of Christ, holder of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the rock of faith on which the Catholic Church has been built. For you are Peter; you adorn the throne of Peter and rule from it” (PG 99-1151).
 
And as insincere as one would like to think it is, the words of Photius the Great (9th century) to Pope John VIII:
 
“We may well ask who is the Master who has taught you to act in this fashion? — surely, above all, it is Peter, the leader of the Apostles whom the Lord has placed at the head of all the churches, when He said to him: ‘Feed my sheep’. ” (Mansi 17, 396D; MGH, Epp. VII, 167)

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https://www.the-highway.com/Matt16.18_Webster.html

Conclusion

From the primary documentation of the writings of the fathers and the comments of Church historians we can summarize the patristic understanding of Peter and the rock from Matthew 16. Generally speaking, the fathers viewed the rock and foundation of the Church as the person of Christ, or Peter’s confession of faith which pointed to Christ. Sometimes they speak of Peter as the rock or foundation in the sense that he is the example of true faith—that he exemplified faith. But they do not teach that he is representative of a papal office or that the Church was built upon him in a legalistic sense. They also viewed Peter figuratively as representative of the unity of the entire Church. What Christ spoke to Peter he spoke to the Church as a whole and what was given to Peter was given to all the apostles and through them to the entire Church. The keys are a declarative authority to teach truth, preach the gospel and exercise discipline in the Church.

Though the fathers spoke in very exalted terms about the apostle Peter, their comments were not applied in an exclusive sense to the bishop of Rome, nor did they view the Roman bishops as given universal jurisdiction over the Church. Although they saw the bishops of Rome as successors of Peter, they did not see them as the exclusive successors of Peter, nor as the universal rulers of the Church, nor the see of Rome as the only apostolic see. Roman Catholics assume that when a Church father speaks of Peter he is also talking about the bishops of Rome but this is not the case. That is to read a preconceived theology into their writings. The fathers teach that all bishops are successors of Peter. In their interpretation of Matthew 16, Luke 22 and John 21 we do not find any affirmation of the teaching of Vatican I on papal jurisdiction and infallibility.

This reveals two important points from both a theological and historical perspective. Theologically, there is no evidence of patristic consensus to support the Vatican I papal interpretation of Matthew 16:18–19 equating the rock with the person of Peter, assigning to him and the Roman bishops the place of preeminence of rule in the Church through the authority of the keys. The Roman Catholic Church’s appeal to the ‘universal consent of the fathers’ to support its exegesis of Matthew 16 is fallacious. Such a consensus does not exist. The interpretation of Matthew 16:18 by the major fathers of the patristic age from both the East and West demonstrates that the overwhelming majority view of the Church historically is not that of the Roman Catholic Church today. The fact is, apart from the popes themselves—beginning in the late fourth century—and with those who have an interest in promoting the papacy, the Roman interpretation of Matthew 16:18–19 has historically been universally rejected by the Church in both East and West. And what is true in the exegetical history is true also in historical practice. It is clear from the history of the Church, in the attitudes and actions of the general Councils and with individual fathers in their dealings with the bishops of Rome, that in the patristic age, the Church never operated on the basis of a universal Roman primacy or in the belief in papal infallibility.... :citac:

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    • Од Bernard,
      According to ancient Greek legend, the great warrior, Achilles, was invulnerable against attack, except for one area of weakness—his heel. That weakness would be exploited near the end of the Trojan War by Paris. As the story goes, he shot Achilles in the heel with an arrow, killing his seemingly undefeatable foe. 
      Okay, so referring to Sola Scriptura as the Protestant Achilles's Heel is not a perfect analogy. There are many weak spots in Protestant theology. But the use of the image of "Achilles's Heel" in prose today is employed not only to accentuate a singular weakness in an otherwise impenetrable person or institution, but a particularly acute weakness. It is in that sense that I think the analogy fits.
      Sola Scriptura was the central doctrine and foundation for all I believed when I was Protestant. On a popular level, it simply meant, “If a teaching isn’t explicit in the Bible, then we don’t accept it as doctrine!” And it seemed so simple. Unassailable. And yet, I do not recall ever hearing a detailed teaching explicating it. It was always a given. Unchallenged. Diving deeper into its meaning, especially when I was challenged to defend my Protestant faith against Catholicism, I found there to be no book specifically on the topic and no uniform understanding of this teaching among Protestant pastors.
      Once I got past the superficial, I had to try to answer real questions like, what role does tradition play? How explicit does a doctrine have to be in Scripture before it can be called doctrine? How many times does it have to be mentioned in Scripture before it would be dogmatic? Where does Scripture tell us what is absolutely essential for us to believe as Christians? How do we know what the canon of Scripture is using the principle of sola scriptura? Who is authorized to write Scripture in the first place? When was the canon closed? Or, the best question of all: where is sola scriptura taught in the Bible? These questions and more were left virtually unanswered or left to the varying opinions of various Bible teachers.
      The Protestant Response
      In answer to this last question, “Where is sola scriptura taught in the Bible?” most Protestants will immediately respond as I did, by simply citing II Tm. 3:16:
      All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
      “How can it get any plainer than that? Doesn’t that say the Bible is all we need?” Question answered.
      The fact is: II Timothy 3—or any other text of Scripture—does not even hint at sola scriptura. It says Scripture is inspired and necessary to equip “the man of God,” but never does it say Scripture alone is all anyone needs. We’ll come back to this text in particular later. But in my experience as a Protestant, it was my attempt to defend this bedrock teaching of Protestantism that led me to conclude: sola scriptura is 1) unreasonable 2) unbiblical and 3) unworkable.
      Sola Scriptura is Unreasonable
      When defending sola scriptura, the Protestant will predictably appeal to his sole authority—Scripture. This is a textbook example of the logical fallacy of circular reasoning which betrays an essential problem with the doctrine itself. One cannot prove the inspiration of a text from the text itself. The Book of Mormon, the Hindu Vedas, writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Koran, and other books claim inspiration. This does not make them inspired. One must prove the point outside of the text itself to avoid the fallacy of circular reasoning.
      Thus, the question remains: how do we know the various books of the Bible are inspired and therefore canonical? And remember: the Protestant must use the principle of sola scriptura in the process.
      II Tim. 3:16 is not a valid response to the question. The problems are manifold. Beyond the fact of circular reasoning, for example, I would point out the fact that this verse says all Scripture is inspired tells us nothing of what the canon consists. Just recently, I was speaking with a Protestant inquirer about this issue and he saw my point. He then said words to the effect of, “I believe the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth as Jesus said in Jn. 16:13. The Holy Spirit guided the early Christians and helped them to gather the canon of Scripture and declare it to be the inspired word of God. God would not leave us without his word to guide us.”
      That answer is much more Catholic than Protestant! Yes, Jn. 16:13 does say the Spirit will lead the apostles—and by allusion, the Church—into all truth. But this verse has nothing to say about sola scriptura. Nor does it say a word about the nature or number of books in the canon. Catholics certainly agree that the Holy Spirit guided the early Christians to canonize the Scriptures because the Catholic Church teaches that there is an authoritative Church guided by the Holy Spirit. The obvious problem is my Protestant friend did not use sola scriptura as his guiding principle to arrive at his conclusion. How does, for example, Jn. 16:13 tell us that Hebrews was written by an apostolic writer and that it is inspired of God? We would ultimately have to rely on the infallibility of whoever “the Holy Spirit” is guiding to canonize the Bible so that they could not mishear what the Spirit was saying about which books of the Bible are truly inspired.
      In order to put this argument of my friend into perspective, can you imagine if a Catholic made a similar claim to demonstrate, say, Mary to be the Mother of God? “We believe the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth and guided the early Christians to declare this truth.” I can almost hear the response. “Show me in the Bible where Mary is the Mother of God! I don’t want to hear about God guiding the Church!” Wouldn’t the same question remain for the Protestant concerning the canon? “Show me in the Bible where the canon of Scripture is, what the criterion for the canon is, who can and cannot write Scripture, etc.”
      Will the Circle be Unbroken?
      The Protestant response at this point is often an attempt to use the same argument against the Catholic. “How do you know the Scriptures are inspired? Your reasoning is just as circular because you say the Church is infallible because the inspired Scriptures say so and then say the Scriptures are inspired and infallible because the Church says so!”
      The Catholic Church’s position on inspiration is not circular. We do not say “the Church is infallible because the inspired Scriptures say so, and the Scriptures are inspired because the infallible Church says so.” That would be a kind of circular reasoning. The Church was established historically and functioned as the infallible spokesperson for the Lord decades before the New Testament was written. The Church is infallible because Jesus said so.
      Having said that, it is true that we know the Scriptures to be inspired because the Church has told us so. That is also an historical fact. However, this is not circular reasoning. When the Catholic approaches Scripture, he or she begins with the Bible as an historical document, not as inspired. As any reputable historian will tell you, the New Testament is the most accurate and verifiable historical document in all of ancient history. To deny the substance of the historical documents recorded therein would be absurd. However, one cannot deduce from this that they are inspired. There are many accurate historical documents that are not inspired. However, the Scriptures do give us accurate historical information whether one holds to their inspiration or not. Further, this testimony of the Bible is backed up by hundreds of works by early Christians and non-Christian writers like Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Josephus, and more. It is on this basis that we can say it is an historical fact that Jesus lived, died, and was reported to be resurrected from the dead by over 500 eyewitnesses. Many of these eyewitnesses went to their deaths testifying to the veracity of the Christ-event (see Lk. 1:1-4, Jn. 21:18-19, 24-25, Acts 1:1-11, I Cr. 15:1-8).
      Now, what do we find when we examine the historical record? Jesus Christ—as a matter of history–established a Church, not a book, to be the foundation of the Christian Faith (see Mt. 16:15-18; 18:15-18. Cf. Eph. 2:20; 3:10,20-21; 4:11-15; I Tm. 3:15; Hb. 13:7,17, etc.). He said of his Church, “He who hears you hears me and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Lk. 10:16). The many books that comprise what we call the Bible never tell us crucial truths such as the fact that they are inspired, who can and cannot be the human authors of them, who authored them at all, or, as I said before, what the canon of Scripture is in the first place. And this is just to name a few examples. What is very clear historically is that Jesus established a kingdom with a hierarchy and authority to speak for him (see Lk. 20:29-32, Mt. 10:40, 28:18-20). It was members of this Kingdom—the Church—that would write the Scripture, preserve its many texts and eventually canonize it. The Scriptures cannot write or canonize themselves. To put it simply, reason clearly rejects sola scriptura as a self-refuting principle because one cannot determine what the “scriptura” is using the principle of sola scriptura.
      Sola Scriptura is Unbiblical
      Let us now consider the most common text used by Protestants to “prove” sola scriptura, II Tm. 3:16, which I quoted above:
      All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
      The problem with using this text as such is threefold: 1. Strictly speaking, it does not speak of the New Testament at all. 2. It does not claim Scripture to be the sole rule of faith for Christians. 3. The Bible teaches oral Tradition to be on a par with and just as necessary as the written Tradition, or Scripture.
      1. What’s Old is Not New
      Let us examine the context of the passage by reading the two preceding verses:
      But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood (italics added) you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
      In context, this passage does not refer to the New Testament at all. None of the New Testament books had been written when St. Timothy was a child! To claim this verse in order to authenticate a book, say, the book of Revelation, when it had most likely not even been written yet, is more than a stretch. That is going far beyond what the text actually claims.
      2. The Trouble With Sola
      As a Protestant, I was guilty of seeing more than one sola in Scripture that simply did not exist. The Bible clearly teaches justification by faith. And we Catholics believe it. However, we do not believe in justification by faith alone because, among many other reasons, the Bible says, we are “justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24, emphasis added). Analogously, when the Bible says Scripture is inspired and profitable for “the man of God,” to be “equipped for every good work,” we Catholics believe it. However, the text of II Tim. 3:16 never says Scripture alone. There is no sola to be found here either! Even if we granted II Tm. 3:16 was talking about all of Scripture, it never claims Scripture to be the sole rule of faith. A rule of faith, to be sure! But not the sole rule of faith.
      James 1:4 illustrates clearly the problem with Protestant exegesis of II Tim. 3:16:
      And let steadfastness (patience) have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
      If we apply the same principle of exegesis to this text that the Protestant does to II Tm. 3:16 we would have to say that all we need is patience to be perfected. We don’t need faith, hope, charity, the Church, baptism, etc.
      Of course, any Christian would immediately say this is absurd. And of course it is. But James’s emphasis on the central importance of patience is even stronger than St. Paul’s emphasis on Scripture. The key is to see that there is not a sola to be found in either text. Sola patientia would be just as much an error as is sola scriptura.
      3. The Tradition of God is the Word of God
      Not only is the Bible silent when it comes to sola scriptura, but Scripture is remarkably plain in teaching oral Tradition to be just as much the word of God as is Scripture. In what most scholars believe was the first book written in the New Testament, St. Paul said:
      And we also thank God… that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God… (I Thess. 2:13)
      II Thess. 2:15 adds:
      So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions you have been taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.
      According to St. Paul, the spoken word from the apostles was just as much the word of God as was the later written word.
      Sola Scriptura is Unworkable
      When it comes to the tradition of Protestantism—sola scriptura—the silence of the text of Scripture is deafening. When it comes to the true authority of Scripture and Tradition, the Scriptures are clear. And when it comes to the teaching and governing authority of the Church, the biblical text is equally as clear:
      If your brother sins against you go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone … But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you … If he refuses to listen … tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Mt. 18:15-17)
      According to Scripture, the Church—not the Bible alone—is the final court of appeal for the people of God in matters of faith and discipline. But isn’t it also telling that since the Reformation of just ca. 480 years ago—a reformation claiming sola scriptura as its formal principle—there are now over 33,000 denominations that have derived from it?
      For 1,500 years, Christianity saw just a few enduring schisms (the Monophysites, Nestorians, the Orthodox, and a very few others). Now in just 480 years we have this? I hardly think that when Jesus prophesied there would be “one shepherd and one fold” in Jn. 10:16, this is what he had in mind. It seems quite clear to me that not only is sola scriptura unreasonable and unbiblical, but it is unworkable. The proof is in the puddin’!
      If you liked this post and you would like to dive deeper into this topic and more, click here.
       
      https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/the-protestant-achilles-heel
    • Од Bernard,
      At Catholic Answers, we often get the question: “If St. Peter was made the visible head of the Church, why don’t we see it in the book of Acts? Is not St. James (or perhaps St. Paul) the real leader of the early Church?”
      How do we reply?
      Actually, St. Peter is quite obviously the visible head of the Church in Acts. When you consider the inspired author of Acts was St. Luke, a companion of St. Paul, it is quite telling that for the first 15 of 28 chapters, Peter is the center of attention rather than Paul. Why this focus on Peter?
       
      Let’s take a look.
      1. Acts 1:15-26: It is St. Peter who is clearly in charge in choosing and ordaining a new apostle to replace Judas when he gives an authoritative interpretation of Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8. And I might add that these texts do not have an obvious interpretation. Psalm 69:25, for example, speaks of the messiah’s persecutors (plural) who “give him gall for (his) food and sour wine to drink” – in 69:21. Then in verse 25 it says “May their (plural) camp be a desolation, let no one dwell in their tents.”
      There is never a question from the rest of the apostles, “Hey, Peter, that’s a pretty shaky interpretation of those two texts. What hermeneutical principles are you using, anyway?”
      2. Acts 2:14-41: It is St. Peter who is in charge at Pentecost and preaches the first sermon whereby 3,000 are baptized. 
      3. Acts 3:1-4:4:  It is St. Peter who performs the first miracle in Acts, healing the man with withered feet and ankles. He then preaches again and, this time, 5,000 are converted in chapter 4:4.
      4. Acts 4:3-12: When St. Peter and St. John are arrested and called before the Sanhedrin, it is St. Peter, in verse 8, who speaks for both and preaches boldly of Christ and the name of Jesus.
      5. Acts 5:1-29: It is St. Peter who is in charge of the Church in collecting funds for world evangelism and pronounces God’s judgment on Ananias and Sapphira. It is then, in verse, 15, the people desire St. Peter’s shadow to pass over them that they may be healed. Then, in verse 29, after the apostles were arrested and miraculously set free by the angel of the Lord, they are before the Sanhedrin for the second time. St. Luke records:
      Peter and the apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men.”
      St. Peter is set apart. It’s “Peter and the apostles.”
      6. Acts 8:14-24: We see St. Peter leading (listed first) when he and St. John confirm new converts in Samaria after the evangelistic efforts of St. Phillip. And it is St. Peter who pronounces judgment on Simon the sorcerer who wanted to buy the power to convey the Holy Spirit.
      7. Acts 9:32,40-43: Here we have an interesting little passage most pass over too quickly.
      As Peter was passing through every region, he went down to the holy ones living in Lydda (NAB).
      Here we have St. Peter making his pastoral rounds. To what part of the Church? All of it! He then proceeds to do another first. He raises Tabitha from the dead in Joppa.
      8. Acts 10-11:18: It is St. Peter to whom God gives a vision to lead the Church in allowing the gentiles to be baptized and enjoy full membership in the Church. This was a radical move! If you think we have a problem with racism in the 21st century, we have nothing on first century opinion of the gentiles! Notice, after the other apostles and other disciples heard Peter declare what God had done, they say, in 11:18:
      When they heard this they were silenced. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life.”
      They heard St. Peter speak and the question was settled.
      9. Acts 12:1-17: St. Peter is arrested again. Notice that the entire Church then goes to “earnest prayer” (vs. 5) and into the night (vs. 6, 12) until he is released miraculously. This is not recorded to have been the case when St. James or any others were arrested.
      10. Acts 15-16:4: We read of an enormous problem in the early Church, the heresy of the Judaizers. They taught believers in Christ must not only believe and obey the New Testament law as given by Christ and the apostles, but they must keep the Old Testament law given by Moses as well, especially circumcision.
      Notice, St. Paul and Barnabas could not quell the upheaval. 
      Even more importantly, however, is the manner in which the problem is dealt with. Do they get out their Bibles and start arguing passages? No! They respond decisively, but not in the way a “Bible Christian” would today. They respond to the difficulty in obedience to the command of our Lord in Matthew 18:15-18. Jesus gives us authoritative instructions on what to do in the case of a disagreement over doctrine or discipline in the Church. First, go to your brother. Second, if he won’t hear you, take two or three witnesses with you. If he won’t hear them, the final arbiter of the situation will be the Church. 
      The Christians in Antioch, no doubt, tried to handle the problem on a local level first. That is what the text indicates. But they couldn’t take care of the dispute. Then they brought in the big guns—Paul and Barnabas—a pretty formidable “one or two” to employ!
      It did not work!
      This problem was so enormous, St. Paul could not even settle it. Where do they go then? Just as our Lord said, they “take it to the Church.” The church at Antioch obeys our Lord and takes it to the Church in Jerusalem. Whence cometh the first Church Council.
      Do you notice how sola scriptura is nowhere to be found here?
      Peter or James?
      But now we need to answer another question. Some Bible Christians will say, “Was not James the true leader of the early Church and not Peter?”
      If you examine the text of Acts 15 carefully, you will see this is not the case. In verses six and seven, we see all of the apostles and elders gathered together and doing what? Disputing!
      Notice, it is Peter who speaks first, in verses 7-11. After so much disputing in Antioch that St. Paul and Barnabas could not settle the difficulty:
      And afterthere had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them… “But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” And all the assembly kept silence…
      “After much debate” here at the Council, Peter declares the truth and then—“the whole assembly fell silent” in verse 12. The issue was settled.
      This speaks volumes.
      And notice as well: Peter uses the first person personal prounoun in the plural. “We believe…” Peter does not speak just for himself. He speaks for all.
      However, there was still a pastoral issue. How are we going to bring about unity, in a pastoral sense, between the Jews and Gentiles? The Jewish Christians were worshipping in a Jewish manner which involved many Old Testament practices. St. Paul himself acknowledged the validity of this manner of worship, and participated in it himself in Acts 21:15-26. Many of these Jews wanted to make their rules the universal norm for everyone and even believed it necessary for salvation. The question: How do we unify the Gentile and Jewish Rites without compromising the truth? The Church could not say Gentiles had to keep what were peculiarly Old Testament practices in order to be saved, but the Church also wanted to respect some of the ancient practices of the Jews.
      St. James stands up in Acts 15:13-23, and gives his pastoral opinion on the matter:
      My brothers, listen to me. Symeon has [declared] how God first concerned himself with acquiring from among the Gentiles a people for his name… It is my judgment, therefore, that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God, but tell them by letter avoid [1] the pollution from idols, [2] unlawful marriage, [3] the meat of strangled animals, and [4] blood. Then the apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas… This is the letter delivered by them: “The apostles and the presbyters, you brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings…”
      Two Key Points:
      1. When James stands up to speak, the first thing he says after getting the attention of the Council is, “Symeon has related…” In other words, Peter has spoken… He repeats what Peter has already said definitively. Then, rather than speaking for all, St. James says, “It is my judgment…” 
      A little over 400 years after this proclamation by St. James, the fathers of the Council of Chalcedon would similarly declare, “Peter has spoken through Leo, the question is settled” after hearing a written declaration of St. Peter’s successor, Pope St. Leo the Great, read at that great Ecumenical Council. In AD 451, the issue was concerning the monophysite heresy and the nature of the God-man Jesus Christ. But both times, the same Principle was in effect. God spoke definitively through the authority He established on this earth to Shepherd his people.
      2. When St. James gives his pastoral judgment, in verse 19, his judgment was that the Church ought to bind the Gentiles to four laws:
      … abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood.
      But notice what happens immediately thereafter, in verses 22-28:
      Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas… with the following letter: “The brethren, both the apostles and the elders, to the brethren who are of the gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greeting. Since we have heard that some persons from us have troubled you with words, unsettling to your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us in assembly to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul… We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…”
      Three sub-points:
      1. When Peter speaks in Acts 15:7-11, just as we saw in Acts 10-11:18, the question was settled. St. Peter’s authority is unique. He has the keys of the kingdom and as such speaks for Christ with or without the consent of the others (Matthew 16:15-19).
      2. When James gives his pastoral judgment concerning how to deal with an extremely difficult situation, the apostles, elders and the whole church had to agree before an epistle could be written to be sent out to the troubled churches. Why? Because the other apostles’ authority is depicted in a collegial manner. Jesus gave Peter and all the apostles the authority to “bind and loose” in Matthew 18:15-18. Notice, it was all the apostles with Peter that acted in sending out the decree to the troubled churches. James and the apostles authority was exercised as a college. Only St. Peter was given the keys of the Kingdom. Only St. Peter acted alone in the context of all of the apostles at the Council. 
      3. Notice the nature of the letter sent out by the Church. When the Council of Jerusalem sends out the decree, the Church declares:
      It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell. (Acts 15:28, NAB)
      As St. Paul and Silas traveled about delivering the decree of the Church, the Scripture records:
      As they traveled from city to city, they handed on to the people for observance the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.
      Catholic trivia point:
      The Greek word for decisions there is “dogmata” in Greek.
      One Final Note:
      When St. Paul and Barnabas went to Antioch (this was where the trouble started according to Acts 14:26-15:2) immediately after the Council and delivered the teachings, the people “were delighted with the exhortation” (see Acts 15:30-31). The dispute was settled. However, not everyone was obedient. Judging from the letters of St. Paul to the Galatians and Romans, and the letter to the Hebrews, we can clearly see that there were rebels then just as there are now who will not listen to the Church.
      St Irenaeus gives us some interesting insight as to one problem person who would not obey the Church. He was the seventh deacon who is listed among the first deacons ordained in Acts 6:5. You’ll notice that among the seven, he is listed last. According to St. Irenaeus, in Against Heresies, Bk. 1, ch. 26, para. 3, he was one of the leaders of the rebellion against the Council. Scripture records Nicolas the deacon was a “convert from Antioch.” Antioch is where all the trouble started.
      The final point I want to make here is that Jesus himself has very strong words for these Nicolaitanes! These were basically anti-nomians who thought they did not have to obey the laws of the Church. When Jesus gives a personal message to St. John in the beginning of the Book of Revelation, he has a special message for those who would disobey the Church.
      Remember then from what you [the church in Ephesus] have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have, you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (Rev. 2:5-6).
      I have a few things against you [the church in Pergamum]: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality. So you also have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth (Rev. 2:14-16).
      I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be on the side of folks whose deeds are “hated” by the Lord. I will remain on the side of the Church!
      If you want to remain on the side of the Church, you must remain with the Vicar of Christ, St. Peter, and his successors the Popes.
      If you liked this and would like to learn more, click here.
       
      https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/who-was-at-the-helm-in-the-book-of-acts-peter-james
    • Од Bernard,
      The 15th chapter of Acts is significant for its description of the first council of the Christian Church, providing insights into the inner workings of the early Church and the relationships among key leaders. The chapter is also notable as a battleground for ongoing, current-day disputes over Church authority. On one side stands the Catholic Church, upholding Peter as the foremost apostle and leader of the universal Church. In opposition, in a diverse array of attitudes, stands a host of scholars and theologians who claim that James, the “brother of Jesus” (Mk 6:3; Gal 1:19), was the leader of the early Church, perhaps even the first pope. This position has roots going back to the Reformation, and many Protestants—whether they be conservative, liberal, or progressive in theological terms—consider James the greatest of the early Church leaders.
      James, Greater than Peter?
      Since the late 1990s, several books have been written about James, the “brother of Jesus,” most notably Just James: The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition (Columbia, SC: University of South Caroline Press, 1997), by John Painter; James, Brother of Jesus (London: SCM Press Ltd, 1996), by Pierre-Antoine Bernheim; and James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Viking Press, 1997), by Robert Eisenman. All three authors write about the “minimizing” of James by early Church writers and authorities, and either overtly or implicitly claim James was the victim of Church politics aimed at keeping Peter’s pre-eminence intact.
       
      Acts and the Letter to the Galatians attribute considerable authority to James, seemingly greater than that of Peter. Questions of power and authority in the primitive church are of more than academic interest, since the Roman Catholic Church bases the supremacy of the pope, the Bishop of Rome, on the primacy of Peter. According to Catholic doctrine, Peter, who was designated the foundation and the ultimate authority of the apostolic Church (Mt 16:13-20), maintained his primacy throughout his life and transmitted it to his successors as bishops of Rome. (James, Brother of Jesus, 191)
      Bernheim is correct to note the importance of Matthew 16 in the matter of Petrine authority. But does Acts 15 contradict the famous “keys of the kingdom” passage and even portray James as a greater authority than Peter? Pentecostal author Rosanna J. Evans makes such a case in her booklet, “Crossing The Threshold of Deception”:
      Among the more compelling arguments [for Peter not being pope], is that of the leadership at the Jerusalem Council. . . . What is of interest here, is not necessarily the proclamations made at this council, but the conspicuous position (or lack thereof) Peter held. While he was, without doubt, present at this momentous council, he certainly did not preside over it; this honor went to James, not Peter. Additionally, although Peter had some say in the procession itself, it was James, not Peter, who decided the outcome of the deliberations . . . Without a doubt, the man James was the one who presided over the Jerusalem Council. (18, 19)
      In his commentary on Acts, Evangelical scholar I. Howard Marshall presents Peter as a central but still lesser authority than James, a perspective held by numerous Evangelical commentators. While Peter appealed to experience, Marshall states, “The decisive voice in the meeting, however, lay neither with Peter nor with the delegates from Antioch, but with James. This may have been due partly to the position which he increasingly came to hold as the foremost leader in the church (12:17), and partly also to the fact that he was regarded as a champion of a conservative Jewish outlook” (Acts, 249, 251).
      Was Peter really inconspicuous at the Jerusalem Council? Did he take a secondary role to James? What does the text really say?
      Context and Choices
      In the 1973 book Peter in the New Testament, published as a “collaborative assessment by Protestant and Roman Catholic Scholars” and sponsored by the United States Lutheran–Roman Catholic Dialogue as Background for Ecumenical Discussions of the Role of the Papacy in the Universal Church, three basic theories of early Church authority based upon Acts 15 are presented. The three theories of authority are:
      1) Peter and the other members of the twelve were concerned with a Christian mission far more extensive than just Jerusalem. They were never really local church leaders, once Jerusalem became big enough to require such caretakers. James was the first leader of the local church at Jerusalem (at least for the Hebrew Christians) and remained there after Peter and the other members of the twelve left the scene, whether through death or on travels. James had authority only in Jerusalem (and its “province”), but his name was known more widely because he was a blood relative of Jesus. Paul’s loyalty was to the “mother church” or community of saints in Jerusalem. His respect for James was a respect for the local leader of that church.
      2) Peter was a local leader at Jerusalem (even though he was known more widely because he had been a close follower of Jesus during the ministry). James took Peter’s place as the local Jerusalem leader (when Peter left Jerusalem or even earlier). Neither of them had a role as leader in the Universal Church, for, in fact, there was no single leader in the Universal Church.
      3) Peter was a universal leader, operating from Jerusalem as the center of Christianity, and was succeeded by James. In other words, the position of universal influence that Peter had at Jerusalem (except his apostleship) was transferred to James when Peter left Jerusalem or even earlier.
      The first theory aligns essentially with the Catholic belief; the second covers a wide range of mainline Protestant perspectives; and the third—the most extreme view—is embraced by more radical, liberal scholars.
      Acts 15 can be broken into four basic sections.
      1.     The first (vs. 1-5) sets the scene and explains the conflict between Gentile and Jewish Christians over the observance of various Mosaic customs and laws.
      2.     The second (vs. 6-18)—the section that concerns us here—contains the discussion, including debate (v. 7a), Peter’s speech (vs. 7b-11), the witness of Paul and Barnabas (v. 12), and James’ speech (vs. 13-21).
      3.     The third section (vs. 19-29) explains the decision reached at the council, including the letter to be sent to the churches.
      4.     The final section (vs. 30-35) presents some of the reaction to the letter.
      The council consisted of “the apostles and the elders” who had gathered together to “look into the matter” and come to some sort of solution. The Catholic understanding is that this gathering was a blueprint and prototype for future Church councils. As such, it included the gathering of leaders from the entire Church, not just a particular region; it made decrees binding on all Christians; it addressed matters of faith and morals; and it issued documents recording essential statements, decrees, canons, and so forth. Finally, but certainly not least, it was presided over by the pope (either in person or by representative).
      The Jerusalem Council began with a spirited debate (v. 7a). Then Peter spoke, appealing to the “early days” and his experience in bringing the gospel to the household of Cornelius, a Gentile (Acts 10). We are saved by grace, Peter stated, not by works of the Law (v. 11). A marked silence followed his speech (v. 12a). Then Barnabas and Paul testified to God’s work “among the Gentiles” (v. 12b). After they had finished, James gave his speech, pointing to both the words of Peter (“Simeon,” v. 14) and the Prophets (vs. 15-18). He then offered his “judgment”: the Gentiles would not have to observe the ceremonial Law. An authoritative letter was then written, stating “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us to lay upon you no greater burden” than abstaining from “things sacrificed to idols,” from blood and things strangled, and “from fornication” (vs. 28-29).
      Unlikely Allies
      As noted already, the Fundamentalist anti-Catholic position is that Peter’s role at the council was so minimal he was essentially persona non grata. Noted anti-Catholic and Presbyterian theologian Loraine Boettner wrote the following in his Roman Catholicism:
      At that council not Peter but James presided and announced the decision with the words, “Wherefore my judgement is . . .” (vs. 19). And his judgement was accepted by the apostles and presbyters. Peter was present, but only after there had been “much questioning” (vs. 7) did he even so much as express an opinion. He did not attempt to make any infallible pronouncements although the subject under discussion was a vital matter of faith. In any event it is clear that the unity of the early church was maintained not by the voice of Peter but by the decision of the ecumenical council which was presided over by James, the leader of the Jerusalem church. (116)
      Ironically, the Fundamentalist view of Peter and James is very similar to that of the liberal and radical scholars. The same anti-Catholic, anti-authoritarian sentiment runs through their writings. They even use some of the same arguments, particularly an appeal to Galatians 2 as the final say about Peter’s role in the early Church. Martin Hengel, in Acts and the History of Earliest Christianity, clearly thinks James was the leader of the early Church while Peter either faded or fled.
      After the withdrawal of the “twelve,” James, at the head of the elders, was able to take over complete control of the Jerusalem community. Given this situation in Jerusalem, the only possibility for Peter . . . was to move out into the Greek-speaking Diapora, where we can see his activity in Antioch and Rome, and at least his influence in Corinth. . . . Nevertheless, the succession of apostles and elders marks inner changes in the Jerusalem community which resulted in James and the elders taking over the leadership, gradually suppressing Peter and the older group of apostles . . . (96-96, 115)
      John Painter, the author of Just James, also appeals to Galatians 2 as the final court of appeal regarding Peter and James, saying that “it is likely that James was the first leader of the Jerusalem church” and,
      In Acts Luke tries to reconcile conflicts and to reconcile the later tradition of Petrine leadership in the church at large with the tradition of the original leadership of James in Jerusalem. This strategy is possible because of the authority of James over Peter, even exercised at a distance, is demonstrated in Gal[atians] 2:11-14, and there is no reason to think that the situation was different at the beginning of the Jerusalem church. (84)
      It is Bernheim, however, who appears most driven to discredit the Catholic Church’s claim to authority by showing Peter’s utter submission before James. James’s “dominant position” is fully realized at the council, he argues. “Regardless of the historicity of Acts 15, James, by speaking last, summing up the discussion and proposing the decision which figures in the Apostolic Decree, appears as the one who presided over the assembly” (193).
      Bernheim continually questions the authenticity of Jesus’ words in Matthew 16, but has no problem building the vast majority of his case from the incident in Galatians 2. He arbitrarily makes a convenient distinction between authority among the disciples before and after Christ’s death, claiming that Peter’s leadership dissolved following the death of Jesus and that the early Christians broke into small, competing groups in the aftermath of the Crucifixion. As usual, an assault on the continuity of early Church authority is meant to undermine the papacy and the magisterium today.
      Petrine Primacy in Acts
      The Catholic claim that Peter was the first pope is not based on sola scriptura, selective use of Scripture, or just a single passage of Scripture. (See “Beyond Matthew 16:18,” page 30.)
      As for Acts 15, a number of factors point to Peter actually being both the leader at the council and the leader of the early Church. First, there is the manner in which his speech begins and ends. By standing up to speak after the debate had subsided, Peter made an emphatic physical gesture affirming his authority and centrality. The silence afterwards indicated the finality of what Peter had just said; no one disputes either his speech or his right to make it. In fact, the witness of Paul and Barnabas, along with James’s speech, only reinforce and agree with what Peter says.
      Secondly, few non-Catholic commentators seem to notice the striking wording Peter used in his speech. If he was only a witness, wouldn’t he have appealed only to his experience? But while Peter did focus on his experience, the main object of his speech was God: “God made a choice among you, that by my mouth . . .”; “And God . . . bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit”; “He made no distinction”; and “why therefore do you put God to the test?” (vs. 7-10). It is readily apparent that Peter was quite comfortable in being a spokesman for God. Even James seems to take this for granted by stating, “Simeon has related how God first concerned himself . . .” (v. 14). There is an immediacy to Peter’s relating of God’s work which is noticeably absent from James’s speech.
      As mentioned, Paul, Barnabas, and James all reinforced and agreed with Peter’s declaration, albeit in different ways. The first two related “the signs and wonders God” had been working “among the Gentiles” (v. 12). James pointed first to the words of Peter and then to the Prophets (vs. 14-15). Those who claim James’s speech was the definitive one point to the language in verse 19 (“Therefore it is my judgement . . .”) as evidence for James’s primacy. Yet James is simply suggesting a way of implementing what Peter had already definitively expressed. “Peter speaks as the head and spokesman of the apostolic Church,” state Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, “He formulates a doctrinal judgment about the means of salvation, whereas James takes the floor after him to suggest a pastoral plan for inculturating the gospel in mixed communities where Jewish and Gentile believers live side by side (15:13-21)” (232).
      Problems with Authority
      One can only conclude that those commentators and scholars who take issue with Peter’s primacy have, for various reasons, taken an anti-Catholic, anti-papal stance. They labor under a skewed understanding of what the papacy is and how the papal office relates to the Church as a whole. As a result, they are prone to interpret Peter’s actions and the history of the early Church incorrectly.
      If James was the leader of the early Church, or even the first pope, why aren’t his successors the head of the universal Church? These and related questions are not adequately addressed by those who say James, not Peter, was the leader of the early Church.
      SIDEBARS
      Beyond Matthew 16:18
      Although Matthew 16 is a central and key passage attesting to Peter’s unique position, the rest of the New Testament provides ample evidence for it. For example:
      1. Peter’s name occurs first in all lists of apostles (Mt 10:2, Mk 3:16, Lk 6:14, Acts 1:13), except Galatians 2. Matthew even calls him the “first” (10:2).
      2. Peter alone receives a new name, Rock, solemnly conferred (Jn 1:42, Mt 16:18).
      3. Peter is regarded by Jesus as the Chief Shepherd after himself (Jn 21:15-17), singularly by name, and over the universal Church, even though others have a similar but subordinate role (Acts 20:28, 1 Pt 5:2).
      4. Peter alone among the apostles is mentioned by name as having been prayed for by Jesus Christ in order that his “faith may not fail” (Lk 22:32).
      5. Peter alone among the apostles is exhorted by Jesus to “strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:32).
      6. Peter first confesses Christ’s divinity (Mt 16:16).
      7. Peter alone is told that he has received divine knowledge by a special revelation (Mt 16:17).
      8. Peter is regarded by the Jews (Acts 4:1-13) as the leader and spokesman of Christianity.
      9. Peter is regarded by the common people in the same way (Acts 2:37-41; 5:15).
      In Acts, Peter gave the sermon at Pentecost (Acts 1:14-36), led the replacing of Judas (1:22), worked the first miracle of the Church age (3:6-12), and condemned Ananias and Sapphira (5:2-11). His mere shadow worked miracles (5:15); he was the first person after Christ to raise the dead (9:40), and he took the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10). Peter’s name appears at least 54 times in Acts; James appears a total of four times.
      Further Reading
      The Acts of the Apostles (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible; Ignatius Press, 2002), with commentary by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch Jesus, Peter & The Keys: A Scriptural Handbook on the Papacy (Queenship, 1996), by Scott Butler, Norman Dahlgren, and David Hess Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church (Ignatius Press, 1999), by Stephen K. Ray The Early Papacy: To the Synod of Chalcedon (Ignatius Press, 2008; orig. 1920), by Adrian Fortescue Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith (Sapientia Press, 2007), by Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.
       
      https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/was-james-the-real-leader-of-the-early-church
    • Од Bokisd,
      Abstract:
      The thesis begins by analysing past treatments in theological literature of the Schism at Antioch, and by discussing the distinctive features of the Antiochene Church. The character of Antiochene theology is considered, beginning with Paul of Samosata, the 'school of Lucian', and the rise and fall of Eustathius of Antioch. The early stages of the Schism, especially under the episcopate of Leontius are considered, and the events surrounding the election and first exile of Meletius; these are related to the wider context of relations between East and West following the Council of Serdica, and to Eastern creed-making after Nicaea. The events following the accession of the emperor Julian, especially the Synod of Alexandria in 362 and the consecration of Paulinus as rival bishop of Antioch are discussed. Attention is given to the role of Basil of Caesarea, as shown in his letters, and to the role of Pope Damasus in the West, and Apollinarianism in the East, in particular as relating to the recognition of Paulinus at Rome in 375/6. The restoration of Meletius on the death of Val ens, and the subsequent conciliar activity at Antioch, Constantinople and Rome is considered, with reference to the alleged compact between Meletius and Paulinus and the position of Gregory of Nazianzus, and the controversy resulting from the election of Flavian on Meletius' death as bishop of Antioch. The continuing local Schism is illustrated from the sermons of John Chrysostom, and the efforts of Flavian to extinguish the Schism are described. The final reconciliations between Alexandria and Antioch and between Rome and Antioch are described, and the efforts made to bring about reunion in Antioch itself. The thesis concludes with an analysis of the theological, christological and canonical considerations which caused the Schism, and a reflection on the characters of the principal parties involved.

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