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Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 16:18’

Faint they may be one by one, but at least they are various, and are drawn from many times and countries, and thereby serve to illustrate each other, and form a body of proof. Thus St. Clement, in the name of the Church of Rome, writes a letter to the Corinthians, when they were without a bishop; St. Ignatius of Antioch addresses the Roman Church, and it only out of the Churches to which he writes, as “the Church which has the first seat in the place of the country of the Romans;” St. Polycarp of Smyrna betakes himself to the Bishop of Rome on the question of Easter; the heretic Marcion, excommunicated in Pontus, betakes himself to Rome; Soter, Bishop of Rome, sends alms, according to the custom of his Church, to the Churches throughout the empire, and, in the words of Eusebius, “affectionately exhorted those who came to Rome, as a father his children;” the Montanists from Phrygia come to Rome to gain the countenance of its Bishop; Praxeas, from Africa, attempts the like, and for a while is successful; St. Victor, Bishop of Rome, threatens to excommunicate the Asian Churches; St. Irenaeus speaks of Rome as “the greatest Church, the most ancient, the most consplicuous, and founded and established by Peter and Paul,” appeals to its tradition, not in contrast indeed, but in preference to that of other Churches, and declares that  “in this Church, every Church, that is, the faithful from every side must meet” or ” agree together, propter potiorem principalitatem.”

“O Church, happy in its position,” says Tertullian, “into which the Apostles poured out, together with their blood, their whole doctrine.” The presbyters of St. Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, complain of his doctrine to St. Dionysius of Rome; the latter expostulates with him, and he explains.

The Emperor Aurelian leaves  “to the Bishops of Italy and of Rome” the decision, whether or not Paul of Samosata shall be dispossessed of the see-house at Antioch; St. Cyprian speaks of Rome as  “the See of Peter and the principal Church, whence the unity of the priesthood took its rise, . . whose faith has been commended by the Apostles, to whom faithlessness can have no access;”

St. Stephen refuses to receive St. Cyprian’s deputation, and separates himself from various Churches of the East; Fortunatus and Felix, deposed by St. Cyprian, have recourse to Rome; Basilides, deposed in Spain, betakes himself to Rome, and gains the ear of St. Stephen. Whatever objections may be made to this or that particular fact, and I do not think any valid ones can be raised, still, on the whole, I consider that a cumulative argument…that the writers of the fourth and fifth centuries fearlessly assert, or frankly allow, that the prerogatives of Roman were derived from apostolic times, and that because it was the See of Saint Peter.

St Augustine: “Many Things Keep Me in the Catholic Church”

For in the Catholic Church, not to speak of the purest wisdom, to the knowledge of which a few spiritual, men attain in this life, so as to know it, in the scantiest measure, indeed, because they are but men, still without any uncertainty (since the rest of the multitude derive their entire security not from acuteness of intellect, but from simplicity of faith) – not to speak of this wisdom, which you do not believe to be in the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should, though from the slowness of our understanding, or the small attainment of our life, the truth may not yet fully disclose itself. But with you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me, the promise of truth is the only thing that comes into play. Now if the truth is so clearly proved as to leave no possibility of doubt, it must be set before all the things that keep me in the Catholic Church; but if there is only a promise without any fulfillment, no one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion.

St. Augustine [A.D. 354-430]

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I have always been fascinated by languages, and this interest has led me to  become a  fluent speaker of various languages. Unfortunately, I do not speak Greek, but if I did it would had been extremely useful in case I ever decided to embark  on writing a linguistic essay on Matthew 16:18.  I am glad other people do speak it and  have done just that! 

However, even though I do not speak Greek, being proficient in other languages helps me to have a rather good understanding of some common grammatical possibilities that many European languages allow.  As an introduction to this post, let me use a hypothetical situation to illustrate a grammatical peculiarity that some languages have, which doesn’t exist in English.

Imagine I wanted to name a male child ‘Rock’, say in Portuguese; I would have to name him Pedra, which is the word for rock in that language. However, such choise of word would sound  odd in Portuguese, considering that the word Pedra is a feminine noun in Portuguese and, therefore,  unsuitable for a male child. To make a simple analogy,  it would be like calling a boy “Rockina”  in English.

Therefore,  the logical thing to do would be to change the  feminine ending  ‘a’ in Pedra  for a masculine one: ‘o’. This would result into a new word: Pedro, which in effect would become a proper name, derived from the root word pedra, stone or rock in Portuguese.

Similarly, this is how I look at the exegetical examination of the noun ‘petra‘ in Greek in Matthew 16:18, which was transformed into a proper name Petros. Here is an explanation by a renowned scholar, B. Brunette:

kaiV ejpiV tauvth// th’/ pevtra/- ‘upon this rock’: The kaiv merely serves as a connective conjunction, so it should simply be translated as “and.” When used with the dative, ejpiv can be understood in a spatial, temporal, or causal sense.72 Here, a spatial understanding works best, and the word may be understood as “on, upon”.73 The object of ejpiv should be understood as pevtra.

The tauvth (“this”) also refers to pevtra. The use of the article th/’ with the demonstrative pronoun tauvth, which is in the predicate position, indicates attributive function.74 So, the phrase may be translated as such: “and upon this rock.” The word pevtra means “rock, stone”; literally, it refers to the rock out of which a tomb is hewn.75 According to Cullman, in the LXX, pevtra can be used to signify the following: a. “rock or cliff” (Exod 17:6; Ps 80:16); b. place-name or geographical note, (1 Βar 23:28); c. fig. (Isa 8:14), of an unbending character (Isa 50:7) or the hardened mind (Jer 5:3); d. occasionally a name for God (2 Βar 22:2).76 The word occurs fifteen times in the New Testament77; nine of those fifteen occurrences are in the Gospels78; five of the fifteen are in Matthew.79 Only in Matt 16:18 are pevtra and Pevtro” used in the same verse.

While the argument from Aramaic would work well in proving that the pevtra in question is Peter, it is not certain that Jesus spoke Aramaic here.80 Given the possibility that Jesus may have spoken Greek here, and given the fact that Matthew’s verses are in the Greek, one might do well to stick to a Greek understanding of the pevtra-Pevtro” word-play. If this is done, a wide variety of interpretations may be obtained. Gundry, for example, argues that the pevtra is the teachings of Jesus. He argues that Matthew essentially quotes 7:24, so the pevtra consists of Jesus’ teaching (i.e., the law of Christ).81

Scholars such as Keener, Carson, and Ridderbos argue that the pevtra is Peter. Against Caragounis, Ridderbos argues that the difference between pevtra and Pevtro” is rather insignificant. He asserts:

The explanation for the change from petros (“Peter”) to petra is that petra was the normal word for “rock.” Because the feminine ending of this noun made it unsuitable as a man’s name, however, Simon was not called petra but Petros. The word Petros was not an exact synonym of petra, as it literally meant “stone.” Jesus therefore had to switch to the word petra when He turned from Peter’s name to what it meant for the church. There is no good reason to think that Jesus switched from petros to petra to show that he was not speaking of the man Peter but of his confession as the foundation of the church. The words “on this rock [petra]” indeed refer to Peter. Because of the revelation that he had received and the confession that it motivated in him, Peter was appointed by Jesus to lay the foundation of the future church. Only Peter is mentioned in this verse, and the pun on his name of course applied to him alone.91

Cullman agrees with Ridderbos’ assessment. He also maintains that since the word pevtra is feminine in the Greek and has a feminine ending (-a), the New Testament chose a less usual Greek word which had the masculine ending (-o”) for the apostle: Pevtro”.92 Cullman goes on to state that there is no essential difference between pevtra and Pevtro“, for even though pevtra denoted a “live rock” and Pevtro” meant a “detached stone,” the distinction was not strictly observed.93 In several instances, pevtra is used with the meaning “piece of rock” or “stone.”94

Exegetically, it seems least probable that Jesus is referring to himself as the pevtra. Carson maintains that if Matthew wanted to say no more than that Peter was the stone while Jesus was the rock, then the more common word to use would have been lithos (which denotes a “stone” of almost any size) and no pun would have existed.95 It is true that there are numerous instances of God the Father being described as “rock” in the OT  and Jesus being described as “rock” or “foundation” in the NT (1 Cor 3:11, 10:4); however, that does not necessarily mean that Jesus is referring to himself (or the Father) as the “rock” of Matt 16:18.96 As a chapter, Matthew 16 does concentrate heavily on the theme of Jesus’ identity, but vv. 17-19 seem to focus particularly on Peter and his statements regarding Jesus’ identity. Therefore, it would seem likely that the pevtra of v. 18 either refers to the man or to his confession of faith.

In all of the Synoptic Gospels, Peter is named first in the lists of the apostles (Matt 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16); the same is true for the book of Acts (see 1:13). Peter, along with James and John, is included among the innermost circle of Jesus’ apostles; even among this band, though, Peter is listed first (Matt 17: 1-8; 26:37; Mark 5: 37; 9:2-8; Luke 9: 28-26; 13:3). Peter asks questions for the disciples (15:15: 18:21), and on one occasion, outsiders addressed him instead of Jesus (17:24).115 It is Peter who is the leading character in the story of the miraculous catch (Luke 5: 1-11).116 It is Peter who tries to imitate Jesus by walking on water (Matt 14:28).117 It is Peter who is called “blessed” for confessing that Jesus is the Christ (Matt 16:17), and it is Peter who is reprimanded for rebuking Jesus when the latter spoke of his impending death (Matt 16:23). It is Peter who cuts off Malchus’ ear in order to defend Jesus (John 18:10); it is Peter who is rebuked for doing so (John 18:11). It is Peter who denies Jesus three times (Matt 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:55-62; John 18:16-18, 25-27); it is Peter who receives a special commission from the post-resurrected Jesus (John 21:15-18). The occurrence of phrases such as “Peter and those who were with him” (see Mark 1:36 and Luke 9:32) is worth noting.118 On the morning of the resurrection, even the angel singled out Peter by saying: “Go and tell the disciples and Peter” that Jesus had risen from the dead. All four of the gospel writers, then, seem to attribute a unique position to Peter.119

Peter is also featured prominently in the first half of Acts. He guides the process of choosing Matthias as a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15-26); he functions as a preacher within the Jerusalem Church and as a missionary to those who are outside (Acts 2:14-36; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43); he is a miracle worker and (as in the case of Paul) some of his miracles resemble that of Jesus (Acts 3:1-10; 5:1-11, 15; 9:32-42); he is the object of divine care and receives visionary or heavenly guidance (Acts 5:17-21; 10:9-48; 12:6-11); and he is a spokesperson for the Jerusalem community (Acts 8:14-25; 11:1-18; 15:7-11).120 Despite the fact that it is James who becomes the leader of the Jerusalem Church, he is not consistently singled out like Simon Peter. Even with James’ eminent position in Jerusalem, it appears that Peter was the leader of the “apostolic band” that is, of the Twelve. It should also be noted that James’ rise in the Jerusalem Church did not occur until after Peter began his missionary work.121 Whether the interactions were positive or negative, it appears that Peter became a central apostolic figure because of his close and unique relationship to Jesus.122 Even though the position has its weaknesses, the interpretation of pevtra as Peter the apostle still seems most likely.

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