Friday, February 03, 2006

Matthew 16: Romanism and the Slippery Rock

Mr. Salza has commented on my article, “Evidence, Anachronisms, and John Salza.” This article here will be quite lengthy. This is because Mr. Salza’s comment necessitates such a length.

Mr. May,

I once again discovered your blog which criticizes me for evidently not meeting your standards of logic in debate. This is a common ploy among those of your persuasion to avoid addressing the evidence that has been presented to you. You certainly aren’t fooling me.

For example, when Mr. Blackaby argued that Mary’s sinless nature was not believed by the early Church, I rebutted his argument by providing quotes from the early church fathers demonstrating their belief that Mary was in fact sinless (same thing with Blackaby’s views on original sin). Mr. Blackaby did not interact with these quotes.

Instead of addressing my evidence head-on, you too took the easy way out. You said: “We aren’t supposed to assume that Mary was sinless and then attempt to prove it wrong. Rather, it must first be established.” Are you serious, Mr. May? By providing these quotes from the fathers, I have made an assumption? I guess the only assumption I made is that you would demonstrate some intellectual integrity, read the quotes, and provide a response.

By providing these quotes, I have demonstrated that the early Fathers viewed Mary as sinless, which rebuts Mr. Blackaby’s position that the early Church did not view Mary as sinless. Your accusation of me making assumptions is incredulous. Please don’t continue to say I am making unsubstantiated assumptions, when I am the one producing evidence of what the early Church believed, and you are not. This is getting old. Quit sitting on the sidelines, Mr. May. If you really want to enter this debate, please come on in.

While I provide quotes from the Fathers, you just make broad and unsubstantiated statements like: “In fact all of them [the fathers] unanimously disagree with Rome’s interpretation of Matt. 16 and the parallel passage in Luke.” Such a statement is also incredible. It just shows you haven’t read the Fathers. I have scores of quotes from the Fathers which provide their interpretation of Peter as the rock, Peter’s keys, Peter’s singular authority to bind and loose, Peter’s authority in the book of Acts, Jesus’ prayer and commission for Peter, Paul’s visit with and examination of Peter, etc. etc., all supporting the Catholic view. I will be happy to provide you with this information.

Since I have supported my claims about Mary and original sin with quotes from the Fathers (and will do so regarding the papacy), why don’t you do the same, Mr. May? According to your own rules, please provide us with quotes from the Fathers which support your statement “all of them unanimously disagree with Rome’s interpretation of Matt. 16…” Since according to you, the Fathers had a unanimity in their rejection of the Catholic view, this should be easy for you. I look forward to the fruits of your research.

And while you are at it, please provide us with your exegesis of Matt. 16:18-19. I would like to evaluate it and then offer a rebuttal. Thank you for your consideration.

John Salza

If anyone is aware of the actual occurrences in the situation to which Mr. Salza alludes, one would note that in the above paragraphs, Mr. Salza not only miscites me, but he completely ignores my response to him. He acts as if there was no response, apart from giving us a (miscited) quote by me followed by assertions for his own position that have no relevance to our actual exchange, followed further by a challenge to debate me on the text of Matthew 16. I will accept Mr. Salza’s offer to dialogue with him concerning the text of Matthew 16, but I would like to first clarify a few things where his response has betrayed obvious confusion on his part:

I once again discovered your blog which criticizes me for evidently not meeting your standards of logic in debate. This is a common ploy among those of your persuasion to avoid addressing the evidence that has been presented to you. You certainly aren’t fooling me.

No matter how much Mr. Salza believes I am trying to “fool” him, I must assure the reader that I did not employ any “standards of logic” that are not affirmed in any honest debate. I simply requested that he would present evidence for his position apart from semantic anachronisms. And in his very denial of utilizing anachronisms, he utilizes anachronisms! In his first response to me, he stated, “For example, you say that I anachronistically read the Catholic Church back into history. Interesting. Tell me why the Church is referred to as ‘Catholic’ as early as 107 A.D. by Ignatius?” I responded, “What irony: As Mr. Salza claims that he has, in fact, not anachronistically read the Roman church back into history, he does exactly that!” Is it unfair to point out such a thing in honest debate? How am I failing to address the evidence if the evidence presented has no direct connection to Mr. Salza’s position?

For example, when Mr. Blackaby argued that Mary’s sinless nature was not believed by the early Church, I rebutted his argument by providing quotes from the early church fathers demonstrating their belief that Mary was in fact sinless (same thing with Blackaby’s views on original sin). Mr. Blackaby did not interact with these quotes.

Instead of addressing my evidence head-on, you too took the easy way out. You said: “We aren’t supposed to assume that Mary was sinless and then attempt to prove it wrong. Rather, it must first be established.” Are you serious, Mr. May? By providing these quotes from the fathers, I have made an assumption? I guess the only assumption I made is that you would demonstrate some intellectual integrity, read the quotes, and provide a response.

My statement which Mr. Salza references is perfectly clear when taken in context:

I personally did not interact with your citations in my blog articles because I was more concerned with your authority. The utilization of both backwards logic and the anachronism permeated your response. For instance, you said, “If Mr. Blackaby disagrees, then have him produce just one quote from the first five centuries of the Church that denied Mary was sinless.” But this is simply backwards. We aren’t supposed to assume that Mary was sinless and then attempt to prove it wrong. Rather, it must first be established.

When my statement is read in context, it becomes evident that Mr. Salza was the one making the assumptions in his challenge to Mr. Blackaby. Nevertheless, in regards to Mr. Salza’s challenge to Mr. Blackaby, there is sufficient New Testament evidence which demonstrates that Mary was sinner like the rest of humanity. Furthermore, men like Tertullian, Origen, and John Chrysostom even name the sins they think she committed (is Mr. Salza really unaware of this?). In any case, that is not the debate here. My original exchange with Mr. Salza was concerned with the authority on which he bases his claims, not the claims themselves–no matter how lacking they may be.

By providing these quotes, I have demonstrated that the early Fathers viewed Mary as sinless, which rebuts Mr. Blackaby’s position that the early Church did not view Mary as sinless. Your accusation of me making assumptions is incredulous. Please don’t continue to say I am making unsubstantiated assumptions, when I am the one producing evidence of what the early Church believed, and you are not. This is getting old. Quit sitting on the sidelines, Mr. May. If you really want to enter this debate, please come on in.

I fail to see how anything in the above paragraph is at all relevant to the exchange which took place between Mr. Salza and me. A fair and honest reader who is familiar with the situation would agree. I stated in my initial critique of the debate between Salza and Blackaby:

We should note that the premise for any type of apologetics done by Romanists is that of Sola Ecclesia, as we will see in this exchange. I do not intend to respond to this lengthy debate, nor do I really want to address the issue of the Marian Dogmas. However, I would like to point out the ultimate authority in both of these positions, and note that RC Apologetics will never get past the circular argument, “This doctrine is true because the Church [and they mean, the Roman church] says it is true.” The Church is true because the Church says that the Church is true.

The title of the article was “Why RC Apologists Will Never be Exegetes,” and I clearly stated that I was not interesting in discussing the Marian dogmas but wished to point out the assumed authority on which Mr. Salza bases his doctrine and practice. It is my hope that Mr. Salza will read this article with more intent than he did the last three.

While I provide quotes from the Fathers, you just make broad and unsubstantiated statements like: “In fact all of them [the fathers] unanimously disagree with Rome’s interpretation of Matt. 16 and the parallel passage in Luke.” Such a statement is also incredible. It just shows you haven’t read the Fathers. I have scores of quotes from the Fathers which provide their interpretation of Peter as the rock, Peter’s keys, Peter’s singular authority to bind and loose, Peter’s authority in the book of Acts, Jesus’ prayer and commission for Peter, Paul’s visit with and examination of Peter, etc. etc., all supporting the Catholic view. I will be happy to provide you with this information.

The quote of mine that he cites is applied so out of context that this constitutes a miscitation. It also shows that he is reading my articles with the mentality of auto-responding, not with the desire to understand what I am saying. Once again, we are required to remind Mr. Salza of the original statement:

On the side of the negative, Tertullian, Origen, and Cyprian all related Mt. 16 to Peter. They all disagree with Rome. Tertullian said Peter is the rock through his preaching. Origen said Peter is the rock because he allegorically represents all Christians, and all who follow Jesus are “rocks.” Cyprian said Peter is the rock, because he represents the entire episcopate, and, because of this, no single bishop has authority to interfere in the episcopate of another. Cyprian’s view is closest to Rome, but Rome, contrary to Cyprian, infers that the Bishop of Rome rules over all other bishops and all the sees are dependent on Rome. Cyprian says that all the bishops are independent of one another and Rome. In fact all of them unanimously disagree with Rome’s interpretation of Matt. 16 and the parallel passage in Luke. So is your lineage unbroken?

The phrase “all of them” was obviously not referring to “all of the fathers” as Salza applies it, but “all of them” as in “Tertullian, Origen, and Cyprian.” But while we’re at it, let’s point out another mistake and semantic anachronism on the part of Mr. Salza in the above paragraph. He makes the mistake of equating a recognition of Peter as rock with a recognition of Peter as infallible pope. This is what Romanist apologists must do. They don’t see the modern papacy in the writings of the early fathers, so they must read the papacy into them.

Since I have supported my claims about Mary and original sin with quotes from the Fathers (and will do so regarding the papacy), why don’t you do the same, Mr. May? According to your own rules, please provide us with quotes from the Fathers which support your statement “all of them unanimously disagree with Rome’s interpretation of Matt. 16…” Since according to you, the Fathers had a unanimity in their rejection of the Catholic view, this should be easy for you. I look forward to the fruits of your research.

Mr. Salza continues to respond to the same miscitation. Failing to interact with what I actually stated (my first article contained evidence of the early church’s affirmation of Sola Scriptura–evidence that has been completely ignored by Mr. Salza), he must attack what I have not said. Suffice to say, I have no obligation to provide evidence for what I have not said, even if Mr. Salza continues to claim that I have. However, I will provide evidence for the fact that the majority of the early church fathers rejected the Romanist interpretation of Matthew 16.

And while you are at it, please provide us with your exegesis of Matt. 16:18-19. I would like to evaluate it and then offer a rebuttal. Thank you for your consideration.

I must say, Mr. Salza is quite demanding for someone who fails to address the original issues, continues to misrepresent me, and continues to engage in the same errors that were pointed out to him from the beginning. Nevertheless, I will do as he asks.

Matthew 16: Biblical Exegesis

Matthew 16 is among the list of famous isolated prooftexts that Roman Catholic scholarship has continually presented to the field of apologetics. It has been refuted for centuries, and yet Romanists cite it as quickly today as they ever have. The amount of assumptions, however, that the Romanist must force into this passage is innumerable. Equally innumerable are the assumptions and anachronistic readings that are forcibly read into the early fathers that comment on this text. Romanism simply cannot be defended exegetically. For this reason, the defender of the gospel of Rome starts with the assumption that the modern Roman church, with its doctrine and practices of today, is indeed the one true church. This is not something that is ever demonstrated. The mistake of this assumption is shown when the modern papacy is read back into the New Testament text, where such a concept never existed in the first place. The error is undeniable.

Matthew 16 13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

From the beginning the focus is on the person of Christ. Jesus asks the question, “Who do men say that I am? The Son of man?” He asks his disciples if men own him as the Messiah. They give differing, false opinions from the people. These opinions were good and honorable, but they were not true. They are high opinions, but not high enough. These opinions might honor Christ as prophet, but they do not rightly honor him as Messiah and Savior.

15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Jesus then questions the opinions of the disciples. Surely the disciples, who were taught better than all others and shared more intimacy with Christ should render a correct answer. Before the disciples can be sent out for the work of ministry, they must display that they grasp the most important thing. If to them Christ was merely John the Baptist or Elijah, their mission for the church would surely fail. The success of the mission is based upon what truth it is built, and Jesus makes sure that the disciples are grasping the very essence of his ministry. Therefore, Jesus begins the examination. He questions to explore whether or not his closest followers have their mission built upon the firm foundation of who he is.

Peter speaks for the other disciples and answers the question. Peter did indeed have the boldness to be forward on such matters, as we see in other New Testament texts. But this does not communicate any primacy or superiority of Peter above the rest of the Apostles, for we see others speaking as the mouth for the rest elsewhere (Mark 9:38; John 14:5, 8, 22). Peter answers the question correctly; the disciples knew Christ to be the Son of the living God. While others thought him to be the ghost of Elijah or Jeremiah, they knew Christ to be the Son of the living God. But it is not as if anything within the disciple set them apart to know this correct answer. The fact that Peter answered correctly does not set Peter apart from the rest of the disciples, or even from those who answered incorrectly. This is because Peter’s knowledge depended upon divine revelation. It was God who was to receive the glory, not flesh and bone. Peter received an undeserving blessing from above so that he was enabled to know the very truth on which all others were to be built–the very foundation on which the mission of the Apostles was to be fulfilled. Christ’s declaration of blessing upon Peter removed the opportunity for Peter to claim any glory for himself–something very habitual of the disciples. The grace of God mortifies pride, and Christ’s declaration of the grace of God upon the life of Peter in revealing truth to him removed any possibility for God’s glory to be robbed by a creature. Christ also reminds Peter of his roots: he was Bar-Jonah. Peter was not born to this dignity, but it was granted to him by divine grace–grace that does not allow the glory of God to stolen by the creature of God.

18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Jesus, using the emphatic pronoun (alluding back to Peter’s confession), states, “But I, the Messiah, for my part, tell you.” Peter had just received a revelation of truth from the father. Now he is about to receive truth from the Son. It is Christ who makes this statement. He is the church’s head. He is the ultimate authority. Jesus singles out Peter, once again alluding back to the statement, “You, you who just made that statement.” Just as Peter singled out Jesus and revealed his identity, Jesus is about to single out Peter and reveal his identity. He states, “You are πετρος (Petros),” and follows that up with, “and on this πετρα (petra) I will build my church.” To what petra refers has been debated among exegetes. It can basically be broken down into three categories:

1. Christological (Christ is the Rock) -Augustine
2. Petrine (Peter is the Rock) -Tertullian, Cyprian, and Basil the Great
3. Faith (the confession is the Rock) -Chrysostom and Cyril of Jerusalem

From a theological perspective, any of the three could be accepted. Christ is the Rock on which the church is built (Isaiah 28:16). The stone is laid by Christ (”I will build it”), and the stone is Christ. Christ is the only solid foundation. He is the firm rock that will not sink under the weight of the building. But we also see an emphasis from the text on the confession of who Christ is. From the beginning, Jesus examined his disciples, asking “But who do you say that I am.” He made certain that they passed the examination of affirming that which is most important. This confession was given to the disciples by divine revelation. But there is also a possibility of the Rock, while primarily and most importantly representing Christ himself, being allegorical of the apostles (represented by Peter) who were to be the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20). For Romanists, this verse not only affirms the preeminence of Peter as the Prince of the apostles, but it also lays the groundwork for the establishment of a permanent Roman see with full Petrine authority. But this is simply not something that is presented in this passage. Is the man who lays the first stone to be the sole foundation? Does Peter’s being called “Rock” necessitate an infallible pontiff of the entire church, from whom there is an apostolic succession? I think we can fairly answer “Absolutely not.”

Christ promises to preserve his church. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. This is because it is built upon the firm foundation of Christ himself, upon the very confession that Christ is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, upon Christ’s laying of the foundation of the Apostles (represented by Peter the Rock). It is all about Christ!

19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Christ the king will (future tense) give the keys of the kingdom to his Apostles. They will unlock the door to the Gentiles, an act that specifically Peter performs (Acts 10:28). As Christ ascended on high, he gave gifts to the Church (Eph 4:11). From Christ, the ministers (not just Peter but the rest as well [John 20:21]) receive the authority and power. With the keys of doctrine and discipline, the Apostles will bind and loose, unlock and lock, doing so with the authority of heaven. Matthew Henry states, “It shall be bound in heaven, and loosed in heaven: not that Christ hath hereby obliged himself to confirm all church-censures, right or wrong; but such as are duly passed according to the word, clave non errante - the key turning the right way, such are sealed in heaven; that is, the word of the gospel, in the mouth of faithful ministers, is to be locked upon, not as the word of man, but as the word of God, and to be received accordingly (1 Thess. 2:13, John 12:20).”

This is what the text states. It is neither less nor more than what the text states. It is as far as the text allows, and exactly that far. This is consistent Biblical exegesis that does not attempt to impose theological agendas upon unsuspecting passages. Yet there are other questions we must ask. Do Romanists really believe that Peter understood these words in the sense that they interpret them? Did Peter view this as Jesus giving him ultimate and infallible authority over the church? Did the rest of the disciples view it in this manner (the disciples who later argued over who was the greatest)? Peter himself gives us an answer:

1 Peter 2 4As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

The precious stone and cornerstone, the rock upon which the Church will be built, according to Peter, is not himself, but the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, he does not view himself as being vested with authority over the other apostles:

1 Peter 5 1So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Peter refers to himself merely as a fellow elder with the other elders of the Church. All of these elders are under the ultimate authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter does not think of himself as the vicar of Christ or the visible head of the Church. Rather, he views himself as an apostle among other apostles, as a fellow elder with other elders. The only head and ruler of the Church is Jesus Christ.

Matthew 16: Examining Vatican I

Before examining Matthew 16 from a historical perspective, we must be reminded of the qualifications which Vatican I has set for us. What is the interpretation that Vatican I demands? The First Vatican Council (1869-70) convened by Pope Pius IX, affirmed that it could validate its claims and its interpretation of Matthew 16:18-19 by the practice of the Church throughout the ages, as well as through the “unanimous consent” of the Fathers. We must remember this as we look from the historical perspective. Vatican I necessitates that its interpretation of Matthew 16 be the unanimous consent of the early fathers. Vatican I necessitates that we see Peter as the undisputed head and ruler of the Church, acknowledged as such by the apostles and the Church in general. It necessitates that the early church recognize the bishop of Rome as the infallible successor of Peter, with all authority concerning doctrine and practice.

From the council of Trent:

Furthermore, to check unbridled spirits, itt decrees that no one relying on his own judgment shall, in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, distorting the Holy Scriptures in accordance with his own conceptions, presume to interpret them contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, to whom it belongs to judge of their true sense and interpretation, has held and holds, or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers, even though such interpretations should never at any time be published.–The Council of Trent, 4th Session, the Canonical Scriptures, Rockford:Tan (1978), pp. 18-19

Later affirmed by Vatican I:

And as the things which the holy Synod of Trent decreed for the good of souls concerning the interpretation of Divine Scripture, in order to curb rebellious spirits, have been wrongly explained by some, we, renewing the said decree, declare this to be their sense, that, in matters of faith and morals, appertaining to the building up of Christian doctrine, that is to be held as the true sense of Holy Scripture which our holy Mother Church hath held and holds, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scripture; and therefore that it is permitted to no one to interpret the Sacred Scripture contrary to this sense, nor, likewise, contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.–Philip Schaff, Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican Council, as found in The Creeds of Christendom, Vol II, New York:Harper (1877), p. 242

From these quotes we learn two things:

1. Only the Roman Catholic church has the authority to accurately interpret Scripture.
2. No one, not even the RCC herself, is to hold an interpretation contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

Matthew 16: Historical Perspectives

How did the early Fathers view Matthew 16? Did they view it as an establishment of Peter as infallible pope, with authority over all of the church, with a line of successors coming from him?

Augustine:

But whom say ye that I am? Peter answered, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ One for many gave the answer, Unity in many. Then said the Lord to him, ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonas: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven.’ Then He added, ‘and I say unto thee.’ As if He had said, ‘Because thou hast said unto Me, ‘Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God,” I also say unto thee, ‘Thou art Peter.” For before he was called Simon. Now this name of Peter was given him by the Lord, and in a figure, that he should signify the Church. For seeing that Christ is the rock (petra), Peter is the Christian people. For the rock (petra) is the original name. Therefore Peter is so called from the rock; not the rock from Peter; as Christ is not called Christ from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. ‘Therefore,’ he saith, ‘Thou art Peter; and upon this Rock’ which thou hast confessed, upon this rock which thou hast acknowledged, saying, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, will I build My Church;’ that is upon Myself, the Son of the Living God, ‘will I build My Church.’ I will build thee upon Myself, not Myself upon Thee.

Augustine considered Christ to be the petra in this passage, and Peter, being the Petros, represented all Christians who are built upon the firm foundation of Christ himself.

Cyprian:

Certainly the other Apostles also were what Peter was, endued with an equal fellowship both of honour and power; but a commencement is made from unity, that the Church may be set before us as one; which one Church, in the Song of Songs, doth the Holy Spirit design and name in the Person of our Lord.

Cyprian, though recognizing the rock as Peter, recognized the true Rock to be Christ, and Peter representing all of the church in unity. Roman Catholic historian Michael Winter acknowledges that Cyprian refers to Peter in a non-Roman sense:

Cyprian used the Petrine text of Matthew to defend episcopal authority, but many later theologians, influenced by the papal connections of the text, have interpreted Cyprian in a pro-papal sense which was alien to his thought. . . Cyprian would have used Matthew 16 to defend the authority of any bishop, but since he happened to employ it for the sake of the Bishop of Rome, it created the impression that he understood it as referring to papal authority. . . Catholics as well as Protestants are now generally agreed that Cyprian did not attribute a superior authority to Peter. Michael Winter, St. Peter and the Popes (Westport: Greenwood, 1960), pp. 47-48.

John Chrysostom:

Chrysostom viewed the rock to be Peter’s confession of faith:

The Lord favours Peter, giving him a great reward, because he built the church upon him. For since Peter had confessed Jesus son of God, Jesus said that this confession which Peter uttered would be the foundation of future believers, just as every man should be about to raise up the house of faith and should be about to lay this foundation. For even if we put together innumerable virtues, we, however, may not have the foundation — a proper confession, and we build in vain. Moreover since Jesus said my church, he showed himself to be the lord of creation: for all realities serve God. . . .Therefore if we shall have been confirmed in the confession of Christ, the gates of hell, that is, sins, will not prevail against us. –Cited by John Bigane, Faith, Christ or Peter: Matthew 16:18 in Sixteenth-Century Roman Catholic Exegesis (Washington D.C.: University Press, 1981), pp. 31-32.

Furthermore, while Chrysostom refers to Peter as the first of the apostles, the leader of the apostles, etc, he also refers to other apostles having primacy in other passages:

“James was invested with the chief rule [in Acts 15], and think it no hardship. So clean was their soul from love of glory. ‘And after that they had held their peace, James answered,’ etc. (v. 13.) Peter indeed spoke more strongly, but James here more mildly: for thus it behooves one in high authority, to leave what is unpleasant for others to say, while he himself appears in the milder part.” (Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 33)

In regards to apostolic succession, Chrysostom refers to Ignatius, a bishop of Antioch, as the successor of Peter:

“At all events the master of the whole world, Peter, to whose hands He committed the keys of heaven, whom He commanded to do and to bear all, He bade tarry here [Antioch] for a long period. Thus in His sight our city was equivalent to the whole world. But since I have mentioned Peter, I have perceived a fifth crown woven from him, and this is that this man [Ignatius of Antioch] succeeded to the office after him. For just as any one taking a great stone from a foundation hastens by all means to introduce an equivalent to it, lest he should shake the whole building, and make it more unsound, so, accordingly, when Peter was about to depart from here, the grace of the Spirit introduced another teacher equivalent to Peter, so that the building already completed should not be made more unsound by the insignificance of the successor.” (Homily on St. Ignatius, 4)

Does this mean that Chrysostom considered James to be Pope? Does this mean that Chrysostom considered Ignatius to be Pope? No, and neither was Chrysostom referring to Peter as Pope when he referred to him as Rock. Rather, it is the message of the gospel that leads to true apostolic succession.

Basil the Great:

And the house of God, located on the peaks of the mountains, is the Chruch according to the opinion of the Apostle. For he says that one must know “how to behave in the household of God.” Now the foundation of this Church are the holy mountains, since it is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. One of these mountains was indeed Peter, upon which rock the Lord promised to build his Church. Truly indeed and by highest right are sublime and elevated souls, souls which raise themselves above earthly things, called “mountains.” The soul of the blessed Peter was called a lofty rock because he had a strong mooring in the faith and bore constantly and bravely the blows inflicted by temptations. All, therefore, who have acquired an understanding of the Godhead–on account of the breadth of mind and of those actions which proceed from it–are the peaks of the mountains, and upon the house of God is built. (Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah, Cap. II.66, PG 30:233)

In this passage, Basil states that Peter is one part of the foundation, that the mountains are the apostles and prophets, and Peter is but one of them. He is a rock, not because he is the foundation of the church, but “because he had a strong mooring in the faith and bore constantly and bravely the blows inflicted by temptations.”

Cyril of Alexandria:

Cyril viewed the rock to be the confession of faith:

But what why do we say that they are foundations of the earth? For Christ is the foundation and unshakeable base of all things–But the next foundations, these nearer to us, can be understood to be the apostles and the evangelists, those eyewitnesses and ministers of the word who have arisen for the strengthening of the faith. For when we recognize that their own traditions must be followed, we serve a faith which is true and does not deviate from Christ. For when he wisely and blamelessly confessed his faith to Jesus saying, ‘You are the Christ, Son of the living God,” Jesus said to divine Peter: ‘You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.” Now, by the work ‘rock’ Jesus indicated, I think, the immoveable faith of the disciple…And I tell you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Chruch, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ The surname, I believe, calls nothing other than the unshakeable and very firm faith of the disciple ‘a rock’ upon which the Church was founded and made firm and remains continually impregnable even with respect to the very gates of Hell. (Commentary on Isaiah IV.2 PG 760:940; Dialogue on the Trinity IV, PG 75:866)

Gregory of Nyssa:

Gregory as well viewed the rock to be the confession of faith:

The warmth of our praises does not extend to Simon insofar as he was a catcher of fish: rather it extends to his firm faith, which is at the same time the foundation of the whole Church (Panegyric on St. Stephen, PG 46:733)

Jerome:

For Jerome, the Rock was Christ:

The one foundation which the apostolic architect laid is our Lord Jesus Christ. Upon this stable and firm foundation, which has itself bee laid on solid ground, the Church of Christ is built…For the Church was founded upon the rock, Christ, the Catholic Church, is the one dove; she stands the perfect one, and near to His right hand, and has nothing sinister in her…The rock is Christ, Who gave to His apostels, that they also should be called rocks, “Thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church (Commentary on Mt 7.25 M.P.L., Vol. 26, Col. 51; Epistle 65:15, Ad Principiam, Cited by J. Waterworth S J., A Commentary)

Paul of Emesa:

Paul of Emesa affirms that the rock was the confession of faith:

Upon this faith the Church of God has been founded. With this expectation, upon this rock the Lord God placed the foundations of the Church. When then the Lord Christ was going to Jerusalem, He asked the disciples, saying, “Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?” The apostles say, “Some Elias, other Jeremias, or one of the prophets,” And he says, but you that is, My elect, you who have followed Me for three years, and have seen My power, and miracles, and beheld Me walking on the sea, who have shared My table. “Whom do you say that I am” Instantly, the Coryphaeus of the apostles, the mouth of the disciples, Peter, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Homily of the Nativity)

Tertullian:

Tertullian was the first to recognize the rock as Peter, but he does not identify him as being the rock in the sense that the Church was built upon him, but in the sense that the church is built through him as he preaches the gospel.

The list could go on and on. Eusebius viewed the rock as Christ. Ambrose viewed the rock as the confession of faith. Bede viewed the rock as Christ. Pallaudius of Helenopolis viewed the rock as the confession of faith. Here is the point: we hardly have the “unanimous consent” that is demanded by Trent and Vatican I. Why does Rome demand an outrageous interpretation of the passage, with no exegetical warrant, that scores of church fathers simply missed? The answer is Sola Ecclesia.

Evan May.

3 comments:

  1. It should be noted that while Catholics like John Salza refer to the church fathers believing in and advocating Mary's sinlessness, other Catholics will acknowledge that the concept was absent and widely contradicted for centuries. Catholics will make mutually exclusive claims about the history of their doctrines, and anybody who responds to something like John Salza's view will be accused by other Catholics of misrepresenting Catholicism.

    To make matters worse, those Catholics who acknowledge that their doctrines were absent or widely contradicted early on will claim that the doctrines are credible anyway, yet won't ever give a coherent and verifiable explanation of why we're supposed to believe that the doctrines are credible. We'll get vague references to doctrinal development, an allegorical method of scripture interpretation, etc., but we won't get any coherent, verifiable argument that leads us to the conclusion that the doctrine in question is true.

    Regarding Mary, Catholics often quote church fathers referring to her as "undefiled", "spotless", etc. without realizing either that virginity is being addressed rather than sinlessness or that a temporary sinlessness is in view. (Remember, a term like "undefiled" can sometimes refer to virginity rather than sinlessness.) For example, Ephraim the Syrian and Augustine are often cited referring to Mary as sinless in some sense, but those same fathers refer to Mary as a sinner in other contexts. Some of these sources thought of Mary as sinless for part of her life (after her conception or around the time of her conceiving Jesus, for example), but viewed her as a sinner during another part of her life.

    Nobody in the earliest centuries of church history refers to Mary as sinless from conception onward. Many sources either directly or indirectly refer to her as a sinner. Evan, in a previous thread, has referred to my comments on Luke 2:48-50. See my article on the subject at:

    http://ntrminblog.blogspot.com/2006/01/bible-teaches-that-mary-sinned.html

    Other passages of scripture could be cited as well. The most natural reading of the Bible leads to the conclusion that Mary was a sinner.

    Justin Martyr refers to Jesus as the only sinless human and denies that his Jewish opponent Trypho can cite any human who completely obeyed God so as to not need the salvation Christ offers (Dialogue With Trypho, 17, 88, 95). Clement of Alexandria is emphatic on the point that Jesus is the only sinless human (The Instructor, 1:2, 3:12). Tertullian accuses Mary of such sins as "keeping aloof" from Christ and "want of adherence" to Christ, and he refers to Mary's "unbelief" (On the Flesh Of Christ, 7). Origen denied that Mary was sinless both indirectly (Against Celsus, 3:62, 4:40) and directly. J.N.D. Kelly comments:

    "Origen insisted that, like all human beings, she [Mary] needed redemption from her sins; in particular, he interpreted Simeon's prophecy (Luke 2, 35) that a sword would pierce her soul as confirming that she had been invaded with doubts when she saw her Son crucified." (Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco, California: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978], p. 493)

    Athanasius maintained that it was Jesus, not Mary, who introduced consistent righteousness into the world (Four Discourses Against The Arians, 1:51). Basil of Caesarea explains that the meaning of Luke 2:34-35 is clear: Mary sinned, and she needed to be restored after Jesus' resurrection, just as Peter was restored (Letter 260:6-9). John Chrysostom accuses Mary of lack of virtue and "superfluous vanity", for example, and comments that she didn't hold a high enough view of Christ (Homilies On Matthew, 44). Ambrose maintained that Jesus was the only immaculately conceived human (cited in Augustine, On The Grace Of Christ, And On Original Sin, 2:47). I could give many other examples, but I'll move on to a category that's particularly relevant when addressing Roman Catholicism.

    The Protestant historian Philip Schaff counted seven different Roman bishops who denied the sinlessness of Mary (The Creeds of Christendom [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998], Vol. I, p. 123). Even as late as the second millennium we see the sinlessness of Mary rejected by the Roman bishop Innocent III. The Roman Catholic scholar Michael O'Carroll cites the Pope saying that Mary was "begotten in guilt", that she needed "cleansing of the flesh from the root of sin" (Theotokos [Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1988], p. 185).

    Again, the examples I'm giving here are just a portion of what could be cited. The concept of Mary as sinless throughout her life, from conception onward, is unmentioned in the earliest centuries and is a small minority view when it first arises in later centuries. The concept is explicitly and repeatedly denied by a wide range of church fathers and Roman bishops for hundreds of years. It's denied so much that Augustine could refer to Jesus as the only immaculately conceived human and think that his belief was consistent with the faith of the universal church (On The Grace Of Christ, And On Original Sin, 2:47-48).

    It's undeniable that Evan is on the correct side of this dispute. But, given the state of modern Roman Catholicism, John Salza can radically change his argument, yet remain within mainstream conservative Roman Catholicism. Salza could begin arguing that although the sinlessness of Mary was absent and widely contradicted for hundreds of years, including among Roman bishops, the doctrine is still credible and part of the apostolic tradition always held by the church. When asked for an explanation, he could make vague appeals to doctrinal development, allegorical scripture interpretation, etc. and suggest that people read Cardinal Newman. When people ask him for more details, and he can't provide them, he can then try to change the subject to baptismal regeneration, apostolic succession, or something else with more patristic support. When he's losing the debate on those other subjects, he can change the subject again. That's the flexibility of modern Catholicism. You keep going around and around, and you never get to a coherent, verifiable argument.

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  2. As Evan has explained, nobody denies that Peter is a rock upon whom the church is built. That's not in dispute. No Protestant denies Peter's foundational role in Ephesians 2:20. But the other apostles are included in that passage. Jesus is singled out as the cornerstone, but Peter isn't singled out. Thus, the issue with regard to Matthew 16 isn't whether Peter is a foundation stone of the church. He is. The issue in dispute is whether Matthew 16 logically leads us to the conclusion that Peter is a foundation stone in a unique way that makes him a Pope. And, if he was a Pope, do we have reason to conclude that he would have successors in that role and that the successors would exclusively be Roman bishops? Catholics are trying to place far more weight on Matthew 16 than it can carry.

    It's reasonable to see Peter as the rock in that passage. Many Protestant and Eastern Orthodox scholars do. But Peter's being the rock in that passage doesn't logically lead to a jurisdictional primacy of Peter, much less a jurisdictional primacy of Roman bishops.

    The keys don't lead to papal conclusions either. Other figures are referred to as having keys (Matthew 18:18, 23:13, Luke 11:52, Revelation 3:7, 9:1, etc.). Remember, binding and loosing and opening and shutting are functions of the keys. (That's why passages like Isaiah 22, Matthew 16, and Revelation 20 mention the opening and shutting or binding and loosing just after mentioning the keys.) To suggest that the apostles in Matthew 18:18 can bind and loose, but don't possess the keys, would be nonsensical. Similarly, it would be ridiculous to suggest that the angel in Revelation 20 didn't use a key to release Satan in verse 7, just because that verse doesn't mention a key. A key is mentioned in verse 1, and binding and loosing Satan would involve a key, even if the key isn't mentioned each time the binding and loosing are mentioned. When Matthew 18 refers to all of the apostles performing the function of the keys, it logically follows that they possess the keys. Possession of those keys isn't unique to Peter.

    Why is Peter singled out in Matthew 16, then? Because he singles himself out. He's the one who answered Jesus' question. Similarly, John and James are singled out in Mark 10:35-40 because they were the ones who initiated the discussion with Jesus, not because they were being given some sort of primacy.

    Catholics sometimes argue for a papacy by interpreting Matthew 16 in light of Isaiah 22:20-22. But whatever relevance Isaiah 22 would have to Matthew 16, it would have that same relevance for Matthew 23, Luke 11, and other passages that use such imagery. And any Catholic appeal to Isaiah 22 would have to be a partial appeal, not a complete parallel, since a complete parallel wouldn't favor the claims of Roman Catholicism. God is the one who gives the key in Isaiah 22, so an exact parallel would put Jesus in the place of God, not in the place of the king. So, if Jesus is God and Peter is the prime minister, then who is the king? Some church official with more authority than Peter? What about Isaiah 22:25? Should we assume that Popes can "break off and fall", and that the keys of Matthew 16 can eventually pass to God Himself (Revelation 3:7) rather than to a human successor? If Catholics only want to make a general appeal to Isaiah 22, without making an exact parallel, then how can they claim that papal authority is implied by the parallel? Why can't the Isaiah 22 background convey a general theme of authority without that authority being papal authority?

    Why do Catholics have to resort to a passage like Matthew 16? What if we had to resort to such passages to argue for the existence of other church offices, such as the office of deacon? Instead, as we would expect, offices such as that of the deacon and the bishop are mentioned explicitly and often. Not only are the offices mentioned (Acts 20:17, Philippians 1:1), but we also see repeated references to their appointment (Acts 14:23, Ephesians 4:11, Titus 1:5), their qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9), their discipline (1 Timothy 5:19-20), their responsibilities (Ephesians 4:12-13, Titus 1:10-11, James 5:14, 1 Peter 5:1-3), their reward (1 Timothy 5:17-18, 1 Peter 5:4), their rank (1 Corinthians 12:28), the submission due them (1 Timothy 2:11-12), etc. If there was an office that was to have jurisdictional primacy and infallibility throughout church history, an office that could be called the foundation of the church, wouldn't we expect it to be mentioned explicitly and often? But it isn't mentioned at all, even when the early sources are discussing Peter or the Roman church and its bishops.

    Craig Keener, citing Jaroslav Pelikan, comments that "most scholars, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, concur that Peter died in Rome but doubt that Mt 16:18 intended the authority later claimed by the papacy (Pelikan 1980: 60)" (A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew [Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999], p. 425). The Roman Catholic historian Klaus Schatz comments:

    "There appears at the present time to be increasing consensus among Catholic and non-Catholic exegetes regarding the Petrine office in the New Testament….The further question whether there was any notion of an enduring office beyond Peter’s lifetime, if posed in purely historical terms, should probably be answered in the negative. That is, if we ask whether the historical Jesus, in commissioning Peter, expected him to have successors, or whether the author of the Gospel of Matthew, writing after Peter’s death, was aware that Peter and his commission survived in the leaders of the Roman community who succeeded him, the answer in both cases is probably 'no.'…If we ask in addition whether the primitive Church was aware, after Peter’s death, that his authority had passed to the next bishop of Rome, or in other words that the head of the community at Rome was now the successor of Peter, the Church’s rock and hence the subject of the promise in Matthew 16:18-19, the question, put in those terms, must certainly be given a negative answer." (Papal Primacy [Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1996], pp. 1-2)

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  3. where did my comment go?

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