Saturday, November 27, 2010

Built on Sinking Sand: The “Scriptural” Foundation for the Papacy (2)

I wanted to follow up with my look at the defense of the papacy that Scott Windsor gave (in conjunction with his “defense” of the Donation of Constantine).

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:
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....
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.

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.

(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).
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.

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.


steve said...

"Needless to say, I'm not inclined to accept Ratzinger's word on this topic."

Why not? Surely you don't think a Cardinal has a vested interest in favoring Roman Catholic ecclesiology? :-)

John Bugay said...

His seems to be just simply an argument from "authority". I've reviewed other work of his and I've found that he not only has a partisan bias, but he's also fundamentally dishonest in what I've read.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Truth Unites ... and Divides had also pointed this out in a comment, here.


I forgot about that comment and my giving an example of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy within the RC context.

John Bugay said...

Thanks Truth... -- but it's so true how that "no true Roman Catholic..." fallacy really pervades so much of RC apologetics these days.

It all falls into place when you think about it:

If I was a Roman Catholic large-mouth bass who unthinkingly gulped and swallowed all Magisterial Dogma, I'd employ a variant of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy to deny or blunt what Archbishop Kendrick points out. I'd use the "No True Catholic" fallacy by saying:

"No true Catholic would deny that Scripture (via Matthew 16:18) clearly and unequivocally established Apostle Peter as the Rock upon which Christ's Church, the Roman Catholic Church was founded. No true Catholic would use his or her private interpretation of Magisterial Dogma to reject, contradict, or refute Magisterial Dogma. Archbishop Kendrick has done what no true Catholic would ever do. Therefore, Archbishop Kendrick is not a true Catholic. And since he is not a true Catholic, then his arguments can be safely and happily rejected, dismissed, repudiated, and discredited. True Catholics only accept the arguments of true Catholics. This is as it should be, and definitely how God intends His followers to follow and obey His divinely established Teaching Office, the Magisterium. Further, no true Catholic would deign to privately interpret the Magisterium's infallible teachings."

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

A short and pertinent article on this issue can be found here.

Paul said...

Hi John,

Thanks for your continued work on this....

John wrote:

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 fact, some fairly recent scholarship suggests that in the overall context of Matthew's gospel, this passage is, in the spirit of the word play you mentioned earlier, Jesus being ironic:

“It is not an exaggeration to say that the image of Peter which Matthew presents is anything but that of a bedrock. On the contrary, Peter is presented as a vacillating figure on whom Jesus could not build...Matthew's overall description of Peter suggests that he might more fittingly be likened to the loose sand of 7.24-27 that cannot bear the weight of a house.” (Brian Stock, “Is Matthew's Presentation of Peter Ironic? Biblical Theology Bulletin 18(1989), pp. 65-66.

I can't put my finger on the exact source right now, but I recall that the term “rock” is used something like 37 times in the Old and New Testament and each time referring to Christ. So the fact that RC's take one instance and apply it to a human is another inexplicable anomaly.

One quick – but important – note to attach to Archbishop Kenrick's offering. The Archbishop, as a seminary professor, had taught his students that Catholic dogma must have the “unanimous consent of the Fathers”. So the importance of his citation of 5 different patristic interpretations of Matthew 16:18 is that Roman Catholics may not use this scripture in defense of the papacy. The Roman Catholic church had historically not allowed this passage to be used the way modern epologists do.

“The study of the history of the Roman primacy has shown that Catholics must resign themselves to the fact that the New Testament does not support claims for Peter’s position of primacy, nor for succession to that position, nor for papal infallibility... no historical foundation exists in the New Testament to justify the papal primacy. The concept of this primacy is, rather, a theological justification of a factual situation which had come about earlier and for other reasons.”

Ohlig, Karl-Heinz. Why We Need the Pope: The Necessity and Limitations of Papal Primacy. Trans. Dr. Robert C. Ware. St. Meinrad, Indiana, USA. Abbey Press, 1975. Trans. of Braucht die Kirche einen Papst?. Germany, 1973. Pgs. 91, 92


Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

Hi John,

If there is such clear Scriptural support for the papacy in Matthew 16:18, the question has to be asked why didn't the church “universal” universally accept it prior to Vatican I?

During the eighteenth century, therefore, the claims of the Church of Rome were not only questioned by heretics, deists or supporters of the voluntary principle such as freemasons, but by many orthodox Catholics who felt that secular, royal or episcopal authority had a greater part to play in the reform and the government of Church than the popes in Rome. At the same time, the Roman authorities themselves who were frequently preoccupied with secular politics lacked a united or defined view on the nature and extent of ecclesiastical authority and relations between Church and State. There was a steady decline in papal authority which was too vaguely defined to impose effective demands on Catholic loyalty. Most Catholics granted the Pope a primacy of honour, but many of them shared the opinion that ultimate authority lay with a General Council in matters of faith and morals. Only Italian theologians tended to be Ultramontane, whereas French theologians argued that the Pope alone might err in matters of faith and morals. In 1718, the theological faculty of Caen, for example, was able to dismiss papal infallibility as a ‘frivolous claim’.”

Holmes, J. Derek. The Triumph of the Holy See: A Short History of the Papacy in the Nineteenth Century. London: Burns and Oates Ltd., 1978. Pp. 4-5.

In fact, it was not until Rome's Concordat with Napoleon in 1801 that Rome had any jurisdiction over the Gallican Church at all. It was Napoleon’s power, not the Scripture's which gave jurisdiction to Rome.


John Bugay said...

Constantine, thanks for your contributions here. You really add life to some of the skeletal structures I'm trying to portray.

There is something not quite right about presentations of Peter. I believe that Duffy's comment to the effect that "virtually everything we know about Peter is a pious fiction" is an understatement; the real story about Peter would have been something of an embarrassment to the early church that they sought to hide. I'll have to refer back to some of the things that Cullmann suggests that the "Pseudo-Clementine" literature of the 2nd century suggests. 1 Clement says practically nothing about Peter, whereas he goes on and on about Paul. There is something to that that we won't know this side of heaven.

zipper778 said...

Good work John. I'm still learning when it comes to the original texts, and you give excellent incite into this subject. It always amazed me how much the popes in Rome were able to get away with until you realize how many people in those days were uneducated and how many false documents and statements were made because of the lack of knowledge. Knowledge is power.

John Bugay said...

Thanks Zipper :-)

Tim said...

In Luke 22:24~27 Jesus clearly bans lordship among the apostles

In Galatians St. Paul doesn't seem to agree with St. Peter all that much, but if was the head of the church why would he question (never the less oppose) St. Peter?

If the Bishop of Rome had always been head of the church, why did the Council of Niceae resolve that the biship of Alexandria should be the churches of the East, and the bishop of Roman be head over the churches of the West?

St. Jerome had this to say on this matter: If there question about authority, the world is greater than the city. Wherver there has been a bishop, wheter at Rome, or Eugubium, or Constantinople, or Rhegium, of Alexandria, he has the same dignity and priesthood.

The Catholic Voyager said...

>>>"(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”)."<<<

This statement does not make sense. You are asserting because Jesus said "this rock" that He therefore didn't say "Peter, you are rock." But He did say that.

The reason the wording of the text naturally fits the Catholic interpretation (which by the way does NOT exclude an understanding that the rock is ALSO Peter's CCC#424) that Peter the person is also the rock is because of the simple symmetry of the passage.

Peter starts with Thou art the Son of the living God, the Christ. He tells Jesus of Whom He is the son, followed by a personal attribute of Jesus---He is the Christ.

Jesus responds symmetrically. He says, Peter, son of John...thou art rock. Same thing. Jesus tells Peter of whom he is the son, followed by a personalized attribute of Peter---he is rock.

The contra-Catholic interpreter has no need to feign confusion at the words "thou art rock" because of the word "this." If the contra-Catholic interpreter were willing to accept more than one application of the word rock (i.e. Peter as well as his confession) he would not have to go to war with parts of the text, favoring only the "this" side of the text and rejecting the "you are" side of the text.

But needless to say, there is an abundance of other respected Protestant scholars, who agree with Peter is rock interpretation, including a number of linguistic scholars. Here are at least a dozen well-known Protestant scholars and commentaries breaking down the verse:

The Catholic Voyager said...

p.s. John 4:29 asks the question of Jesus "Can this be the Christ?" Same with 6:27 and elsewhere. So because the word "this" is referred to the Christ, does it somehow exclude personalization of Jesus as Christ now? Of course not. The word this does not equal impersonal in Biblical language.