Friday, June 08, 2012

As a “Key” to Understand Peter, See Reuben

Roman Catholics look to “typology” to show how Mary is somehow present in the Old Testament, and thus more important than she actually is in the New Testament. At Called to Communion, the folks there noted that “Mary is present in the Old Testament in three ways: in prophecy concerning the mother of the Redeemer, in Old Testament figures of Mary, and in the ultimate mission of Israel…”

Regarding Mary “typologically in Old Testament females, Bryan Cross explains:

Mary is present typologically in various female figures in the Old Testament …  Christ, the Church, the sacraments, and Mary are all prefigured in the Old Testament, in much the way a human author foreshadows future events in a novel. Mary is foreshadowed in the person of Eve, in that both are mothers of all the living, yet in different ways. Eve is the mother of all those living with natural life, while Mary is the mother of all those living with supernatural life, though in other ways they are opposites, for Mary’s obedience undoes the knot of Eve’s disobedience.

And regarding Mary typologically in the “ultimate mission of Israel”, he explains:

the liturgy of the Church recognizes the Old Testament references to the “Daughter of Zion” (and “Daughter of Jerusalem”) as references to Mary, because she sums up in herself the mission of the Jewish people. All Israel is the betrothed bride, but Mary is that bride most perfectly and without blemish; she is the model of Israel as bride, as daughter of Zion.

That’s interesting methodology, but how does it work when applied to Peter? Peter, too, is “foreshadowed” in the Old Testament, in the person of Reuben, and Reuben is a very close “figure”, with closer identification with Peter than than Eve with Mary.

After all, Peter has a number of characteristics that are far more common with Reuben than Mary, either with Eve, or with “the ultimate mission Israel”.

Here’s what the CCC says about Peter:

Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Our Lord then declared to him: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." Christ, the "living Stone", thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.

But this is clearly wrong. Paul (Ephesians 4, that great treatise on ecclesiology) and John, in Revelation, do not allow that Peter had any kind of “preeminence” or “primacy”. In both instances, he is at the same level with all the other apostles. If we allow the principle that “Scripture interprets Scripture” (as Irenaeus clearly said), consider all the parallels between Reuben, the oldest son of Jacob, and Peter, which are far more explicit than any “typological” representations of Mary in the Old Testament.

Reuben was the first, Peter was the first. Reuben was “preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power”. Peter, it is claimed, has those characteristics [his name is mentioned first in lists of the Apostles].

Yet in Revelation 4:4, Peter is explicitly compared with Reuben:

Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.

This is no mere “typological” identification of Peter with Reuben. What’s understood about Mary and the Old Testament can be seen far, far more clearly in the identification of Peter with Reuben. The clear implication is that the 12 tribes of Israel were the “foundation” of Israel, and the twelve Apostles were the foundation of the Church. These are clearly (and not merely implicitly) being equated.

And yet, of Reuben, it is explicitly said that Reuben “will not have preeminence” because of his sin.

“Reuben, you are my firstborn,
    my might, and the firstfruits of my strength,
    preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence,
    because you went up to your father's bed;
    then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!

Peter sinned, too, more grievously than Reuben sinned. The great forgiveness of Jesus, offered in John 21, was really a replacing him on his Apostolic throne, from which he could serve as one of the foundation stones of Ephesians 4 (and foundations are all on the same level), and one of the 24 Elders.

“Unstable as water”, you still are my firstborn son. But you “will not have preeminence”. The same thing was said to Peter. This is confirmed in the writings of both Paul and John. The Old Testament comparison is a direct, one-to-one equating of Peter with Reuben. If Roman Catholics want to find Mary in the Old Testament, they certainly must find Peter there.

1 comment:

  1. Great article, John (or Steve) I have also heard the allusion to Peter's "keys" being foreshadowed in Isa 22:22.

    So why can't we say the split of Israel/Judah, or Elijah's remnant are foreshadows of the Reformation?