Prince of Peace—Jesus, or Pope Francis?

On Fox News Sunday today, Chris Wallace interviewed Father Thomas Rosica, Advisor to the Vatican. This was prompted by the upcoming visit to the U.S. by Pope Francis. Here’s what Rosica said about the importance of this visit:

The visit to the White House, the President and his wife, and the whole team at the White House, are doing a very good job, and they have a certain decorum that’s required of them at that stage, to welcome the Pope as the great, greatest, I should say—not just the great, the greatest—the greatest moral leader in the world right now. And this is an opportunity for the President and his whole team to welcome him and to listen to the message of a peacemaker. The backdrop of this whole visit is not what’s happening in American politics, or a presidential campaign; the backdrop is a world steeped in violence, and bloodshed, and rancor, and hatred. And here we have, coming to your city [New York], to your diocese, a real prince of peace. If there’s any princely title that should be associated with Francis, it’s a prince of peace, it’s a bringer of peace. And when peacemakers come, they upset those who are not at peace. So [if] people are going to be upset, on any side of the spectrum here, let them look inside themselves and see what those issues are first, because in the presence of Francis, as you know and as I know, you’re in the presence of extraordinary goodness, of kindness, of intelligence, and of humanity. So humanity is coming to teach us how to be more human.

“Prince of peace” is biblical language. In other words, it derives from its use in the Bible as a descriptive title with a very specific context. The title “Prince of Peace” is used of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6. It is, therefore—according to Christian orthodoxy—a reference to Jesus Christ. This is an extraordinarily honorific title. It denotes the full realization of messianic hope. In the Christian Scriptures it alludes to human reconciliation with God, and only by extension to the realization of peace within the human community. The agent, of course, is the Prince of Peace.

This agent is described in a series of four titles. The passage reads:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Notice:

  1. This passage is prophetic.
  2. It refers to the messiah by “name.” This name is captured by four descriptive titles. They are combined to express complementary and mutually reinforcing attributes of the messiah.
  3. Within this complex of titles are the superlative designations “Mighty God” and “Eternal Father.” The Prince of Peace, then, is the almighty God, creator of the universe, the beginning and the end. As “Mighty Counselor,” he is wise without limit and all-knowing.
  4. This prophecy will be fulfilled with the coming of the messiah, the incarnate son of God to be born into this world.
  5. The name of this son—denoted by this magnificent fourfold description—is linked to the role he is to play: the government will rest on his shoulders.
  6. The implication is that those who are governed will declare this figure to be the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” These are the titles they will use when speaking of him.

Verse 7 enriches the sense of things:

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

It is striking, then, that Father Thomas Rosica adopts this title when speaking of Pope Francis. In its biblical setting, which surely is Rosica’s source for the language he uses, “prince of peace” is an honorific title reserved for a specific individual who acts with uniquely divine authority. In a daring move, Rosica deploys the biblical language to express this pope’s gravitas as a peacemaker and as “the greatest moral leader” in the world today.

Rosica does not say that Francis comes as an emissary of the Prince Peace, the Lord of hosts. He simply calls him a prince of peace. In his defense, we might think that, in calling Francis a prince of peace, he does think of him as an emissary of peace. If asked, Rosica might explain that Francis is an emissary of the God who desires peace, an emissary of the Prince of Peace, as it were. In that respect, Francis would be an emissary of the Emissary of Peace!

But will this do as an explanation? There is overt and intentional grandeur in Isaiah’s use of the title for the messiah. This messiah, the Pope would no doubt agree, is none other than Jesus Christ. Christians boldly proclaim that Jesus is the incarnate son. He reconciles the world to Himself, and in this way he brings peace. He alone is worthy of the exalted titles ascribed to him in Isaiah 9:6. These titles should be reserved for the Lord of hosts who accomplishes these things, though he accomplishes them in part through the sons and daughters he has redeemed.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. the old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

The New Testament emphasizes the peacemaking role of individual believers in Christ. It’s called “the ministry of reconciliation.” Reconciliation here must be understood in the most basic sense; it is reconciliation between God and human persons. When a person is reconciled with God, He no longer counts their trespasses against them. Harmony with God is restored. That is true peace. And it falls to those who are in Christ, who are themselves restored creatures, who have been reconciled to God, to bear the “word of reconciliation” throughout the world.

There are two dimensions to peacemaking. The first and most fundamental is reconciliation with God so that personal sin is no longer a barrier to fellowship with God. The second dimension builds on this, pointing men and women to their need for fellowship with God through reconciliation with Him and making peace with others on that basis.

As I reflect on these things, it seems fitting to call the pope a peacemaker. That surely is one of his goals. And he has a useful platform for acting as a peacemaker. I would hope that both dimensions of peacemaking, carried out in their proper order, will be exhibited during the pope’s visit. But I would reserve the title “prince of peace” for him alone who has purchased peace between almighty God and human persons, namely, Jesus Christ. Is the pope a “peacemaker”? Yes. “Prince of peace”? I think not.

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

13 Responses to Prince of Peace—Jesus, or Pope Francis?

  1. Doug Geivett says:

    No worries, Fro.

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  2. Doug Geivett says:

    Thank you, Fro. I don’t have an infallible understanding of Scripture, nor does anyone else. There is no infallible authority in these matters, other than the Bible, which we understand to the best of our ability in humble desire to submit to its revealed commands. I’m glad for your interest in this blog and I hope you continue to visit!

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  3. Fro says:

    Also, I do greatly apologize for the grammar and punctuation. Responding by phone or on breaks from work make it difficult to edit posts.

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  4. Fro says:

    I concede on the ad hominem attack, and I apologize in that regard. So, carrying on:

    1) Your point on the Jesuit university failing to maintain an authenticly Catholic culture speaks for itself? In what regard. You could mean several things by that… I hope it isn’t what I think you mean, but clarify if you desire.

    2) I still maintain Evangelical friends as well as Anglican friends. Due to my past in both forms of Protestant ecclesiastical forms of play, I learned the intricacies in how both cultures use language and even understand biblical language. I, like you, applied those forms onto what I knew about the Catholic world and judged it, like you, accordingly. In my current Catholic experience, I can see that it is exactly the boat you are in. You making judgements about members of the Catholic Church’s statements and defining them using your personal evangelical standard of defining terms and assuming they are universal. This is the problem in Evangelicalism, you cannot do that. You can, of course, write a blog about it. Yet, at the end of the day, it is just your own opinion because you cannot know that the way you interpreted such statements can be taken as infallibly declared based on your own personal view of scripture.

    If you so desire to respond to either of these you are certainly free to. I am a newcomer to this blog because my Catholic friend (convert from Evangelical Protestantism) saw similar errors in this and asked me to weigh in. For his sake, maybe it would not hurt to continue the discussion. Anyways, have a good afternoon.

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  5. Doug Geivett says:

    Dear Fro,

    Some would say that the failure of Catholic universities to preserve their Catholic identity speaks for itself. I wish it were not so. In any case, you should know better than to make ad hominem accusations rather than reasoned arguments. And of course I argue from inside a perspective, just as you do. But we should reason from an informed perspective, nevertheless. Nothing in my post supports your claim that I don’t know anything about Catholicism. The truth is, I have many Catholic friends and acquaintances with whom I’ve had detailed conversations about Roman Catholicism. For that matter, you don’t know me well enough to be sure that there is no other Catholic experience in my background, or that I have not investigated Catholicism at least as thoroughly as you did before your conversion.

    Finally, in all disagreement I seek to reason without resorting to the ad hominem fallacy and the use of pejorative and undefined labels.

    At this point, Fro, we’ve moved away from the focus of my post and entered into unproductive disagreement about something else entirely. So any further discussion will have to be saved for another time.

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  6. Fro says:

    Firstly- you fail to acknowledge the current problem that exists in “Catholic” universities such as Gonzaga that fail to maintain an authentic Catholic identity and have allowed progressive ideology to come in. This has been a problem for the last 7-8 years.

    Second- I went to Vanguard University, but that doesn’t mean that because I went to Vanguard that I understand the ins and outs of Protestant, or even let alone the Assemblies of God denomination and its history. So the same would go for you attending Gonzaga. As a former Evangelical, now Catholic, I can speak with complete confidence you don’t understand how the Catholic Church uses language within her own structure. This entire blog post is quintessentially an Evangelical’s outside interpretation of the “going on” inside the Catholic world. I highly recommend really spending a lot of time on Catholic websites and blogs and understanding how Catholic’s understand all this. This whole approach is very fundamentalist, and for someone as educated as yourself I think you should strive for better. A simple place to hang out would be the forums on Catholic.com and over time you may develop a better understanding.

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  7. Doug Geivett says:

    Fro, you may have overlooked the fact that I was a graduate student at Gonzaga University, a Jesuit university, where I was awarded the M.A. in philosophy. Most of my teachers and fellow students were Jesuits. It is possible to take exception with the way language is used within a tradition. I’ve done that here and presented my reasons. I do so with an understanding of how such terms are employed within Roman Catholicism. I don’t deny that these terms are used by (some) Catholics in the way we find them used in this case. I explain why using these terms this way is in tension with a plausible hermeneutic applied to Scripture.

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  8. Fro says:

    You really don’t understand Catholicism. How would you? You went to a school that taught you a very minor subset branch of a group that sprung off from the one Church Christ founded. Read articles from Catholic websites and understand how Catholic’s use language and terms, especially in the media and blogosphere. You’re putting your silly evangelical terminology onto a scenario where it does not apply, and coming to a twisted conclusion. It all comes down to, your analysis of said scripture is merely your own interpretation and does not have any authority outside this blog or your own head. Who has that authority? It’s the guy in white you’re bashing.

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  9. Bela says:

    It is offensive to Christians to hear the Pope they call Francis referred to as “the Prince of Peace.” Only JESUS deserves that title.

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  10. gk says:

    As long as you’re good with ‘Your Holiness’, we can drop the prince of peace. Cardinals are often referred to as princes of the church. I suspect Fr Rosica was thinking along these lines. For us as Catholics, a number of titles sound conflated to Protestant ears (think ‘in persona Christi’), but we no more think of the person “as Christ” than many Protestants think of the Bible as The Word (Logos). We Big C Catholics are happy to recite little c catholic in the Creed each Sunday, and recognize that many other small c churches do the same. In other words, Francis is a prince of the church, a man of peace, and in the service of—as all Popes regularly state—the one Head of the Church, the only Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.

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  11. Pingback: Pope Francis, Fidel, Argentina: Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens |

  12. Bran says:

    Is the pope a “peacemaker”? ? ? “Prince of peace”? I think not.

    ” the backdrop is a world steeped in violence, and bloodshed, and rancor, and hatred. And here we have, coming to your city [New York], to your diocese, a real prince of peace. If there’s any princely title that should be associated with Francis, it’s a prince of peace, it’s a bringer of peace.”

    Thankfully no mention of addressing the worlds financial problems here,… yet!
    I was filled with horror when I saw the news.
    Using the title “Prince of Peace” was/is clearly a strategic publicity stunt.
    This Pope is certainly no ‘prince of peace,’ although the ‘world’ will be deceived into thinking he truly is Gods representative on earth, (as all Popes in the past).
    Maybe he’ll get the credit for Madeline McCann being ‘found’ and promote the Microchip implant?

    I don’t expect you to believe me yet… but remember this…
    Matthew 7:19-20 (NIV) 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
    For centuries, 80 Popes in succession used the Inquisition to slaughter thousands of Jews and Christians, … “by their fruit you will recognize them.”
    Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger was the Grand Inquisitor, renamed ‘Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.’

    Matthew 24:9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by ALL nations because of me. (Jesus)

    The book of Revelation describes the final Pope and the Papacy as a false prophet, having “two horns like a lamb,” Revelation 13:11-18.
    Basically, having the appearance of a ‘Prince of Peace,’ a lamb of God, ‘Saviour’ of the World. “but it spoke like a dragon,” (under Satan’s control).

    2 Thessalonians 2:2-4King James Version (KJV)
    2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
    3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
    4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

    To prove himself to be this second beast the Pope must one day soon unbelievably, get involved in re organising the worlds financial systems, a One World currency (digital?), ultimately the RFID, ‘666’ ‘Microchip’ in the right hand.
    It makes no sense at all in the natural, that the Pope would be allowed to have any influence, in a new world order where God is an irrelevance, especially in Obama’s America, unless he is The One.
    Listen very carefully to ALL future speeches the Pope makes, in time he will reveal who HIS God really is.

    Rev 13:16″It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
    18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.

    Vicarius Filii Dei, Latin: Vicar or Representative of the Son of God,
    Vicarius Filii Dei, numerically adds up to ‘666’

    Rev14:9 A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, 10 they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.” 12 This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.
    13 Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
    “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.”
    Revelation 16 (New International Version)

    The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath

    16:1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”
    2 The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
    10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in agony 11 and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.

    12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl … THE REAL PRINCE OF PEACE, JESUS IS COMING SOON…
    15 “Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.”

    16 Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

    “Prince of peace”? NO,

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  13. Mark says:

    I wonder if Pope Francis will offer some words to correct what his spokesman said. If he disagrees with what Rosica said, and I should hope he would for the reasons given above, he should say it or more likely direct Rosica to offer a correction. If words mean anything, surely the Pope or Rosica has to walk this back. If not I suppose it may be a revealing moment of hubris, or at least loose and dangerous talk.

    If not perhaps we can refashion an old joke. Q: What’s the difference between God and the Pope? A: God knows he’s not the Pope.

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