I’ve already noted that he misunderstood or misrepresented what William Webster was saying about that document; I’ve also commented his “scriptural evidence”:
Scriptural Foundation:This notion is very thoroughly dismantled by an investigation of the earliest translations of the Gospel into the Syriac language, which itself is a later version of the Aramaic.
Matthew 16:18 – “And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Here we have Jesus bestowing upon Peter (whose name means “rock”) the foundation of the Church. In fact, in the Aramaic, which is what Jesus was likely speaking when speaking to His Apostles, and also the likely original language that the book of Matthew was written in, there is no distinction between the name “Peter” (Kepha) and the term for “rock” (kepha). Hence, if we stuck closer to the original language (instead of transliterating it to Greek and then English), that same verse would read something like: “… thou art Kepha, and upon this kepha will I build My Church.” This one verse alone is enough for one who has The Faith....
In my first response to this Scriptural argument, I cited David Garland (“Reading Matthew”, New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1995) contending that there is a very good possibility that the possible “underlying Aramaic” for the “petros/petra” wordplay (possibly “kepha/kepha” in the unknown Aramaic) may well have been “kepha/tnra” – which then separates the Greek “petros/petra” by more than just gender issues; it changes the whole meaning of the wordplay. And this “changed wordplay” greatly advances the (already likely) scenario that Peter is not “the rock” of that verse.
Following on what Garland pointed out, Everett Ferguson, in his “The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today” (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), also affirms that in the Syriac language, which is a later form of Aramaic, does indeed make the “kepha/tnra” distinction in existing Syriac translations of the Gospel of Matthew:
The difficulties of applying the rock to Peter come in the text of Matthew 16 itself.So like Garland, Ferguson here is citing Caragounis’s intensive look into the Syriac. The argument that many of us former Roman Catholics have heard all of our lives, that Jesus used the same word for both Peter and for the rock upon which he would build the church [“Thou art Kepha, and on this kepha”] is literally without foundation.
(1) The wording does not naturally lend itself to this interpretation. On the surface level there is the change from the second person of direct address (“You are Peter”) to the third person of indirect address (“on this rock”). If the author of Matthew had wanted to say that Jesus intended to build the church on Peter, there were certainly less ambiguous ways of doing it.
(2) The Greek text of Matthew and some strands of the Syriac tradition (pertinent here because Syriac is a later form of Aramaic) make a distinction between the words for Peter and the Rock. They seem to understand a different referent for Jesus’ words.
(3) Aramaic perhaps could have made a distinction, as Syriac did, either by different words or by the distinction between masculine and feminine (preserved in Greek by different endings).
(4) At any rate, if Jesus used the same word with the same sense in both cases, the wordplay is lost. There is no wordplay if the same word is used twice with the same meaning [“kepha/kepha”]. A play on words requires similarities of sound, different meanings of the same word (possible here if Jesus used the same word, once for Peter and once for another “rock”), or different words with the same idea (again possible here if Jesus used two different expressions represented by different but similar words in Greek). The difference in Greek and some Syriac texts indicate that a wordplay was intended here.
(5) Nowhere else in the New Testament or earliest Christian texts is Peter understood as the foundation stone of the church. Where Matthew uses rock elsewhere in a symbolic sense, the reference is to the teachings of Jesus (Matt 7:24).
In a private email, “Constantine” has pointed out that, at Vatican I, Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick pointed out that there were no less than five different scenarios for that verse extant in the early church Schaff summarizes this:
But of the passage Matt. xvi., which is more frequently quoted by Popes and Papists than any other passage in the Bible, there are no less than five different patristic interpretations; the rock on which Christ built his Church being referred to Christ by sixteen Fathers (including Augustine); to the faith or confession of Peter by forty-four (including Chrysostom, Ambrose, Hilary, Jerome, and Augustine again); to Peter professing the faith by seventeen; to all the Apostles, whom Peter represented by his primacy, by eight; to all the faithful, who, believing in Christ as the Son of God, are constituted the living stones of the Church.Truth Unites ... and Divides had also pointed this out in a comment, here.
The Schaff citation is Volume 1, “Creeds of Christendom,” pg 186, and can be found at this link.
And as for the “five different patristic interpretations,” that would be corroborated by primary-source research by William Webster.
Caragounis’s work supports the interpretation that it was “Peter’s confession” that is the “this petra” of Matt 16:18 – and according to Vatican I’s Archbishop Kenrick, this particular interpretation is supported by no less than forty-four patristic interpreters.
As another aside here: Ratzinger makes mention of the Caragounis work in his “Called to Communion.” He says that Caragounis’s work is “just as unconvincing as earlier interpretations of this sort.” (Pg 60, n. 14. But one wonders if he is exercising the Roman practice of “lying without lying” otherwise known as mental reservation. Ratzinger says that Caragounis's study “is just as unconvincing [to me] as earlier interpretations of this sort.” He of course concludes his note here without any effort at all to say precisely why it is unconvincing.
Needless to say, I'm not inclined to accept Ratzinger's word on this topic.
As Windsor says, "This one verse alone is enough for one who has The Faith, but for the Protestant opposition, they require more so let us go on."
In upcoming posts, I'll look at his treatment of this topic in the early church.