Saturday, August 20, 2011

If Christ is the rock, can Peter also be the rock?

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Matthew 16:13-20
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the nether world shall not prevail against it.
It is well know that the name “Peter” (Petrus or Petros) means “Rock” and, as Christians have always understood it, our Savior gave Simon this name in order to signify that he is the “rock” upon which the Church is founded.
However, a difficulty arises, for we know that Christ alone is the true foundation of the Church – If Jesus Christ is the “Rock”, how can Peter be the “Rock”?

Are “Peter” and “rock” identical words?
Many protestants will claim that, while Christ called Simon son of Jona “Rock”, he did not refer to him as the rock upon which the Church is founded. By their interpretation, the words this rock (in the phrase and upon this rock I will build my church) do not refer to Peter because the words “Peter” and “rock” are supposedly not identical.
While it is true that the name “Peter” and the word “rock” are not identical in Greek – “Peter” or “Petros” is masculine, while “rock” or “petra” is feminine – it is important to notice that the words are identical in Aramaic (which is the language in which Jesus original spoke them). The Aramaic name “Peter” is “Kepha” and this is identical to the word “rock” (also “kepha”). Hence, it should be very clear that the meaning of the phrase is best expressed in English as follows: “You, Simon, are Rock and upon this rock I will build my Church.”
Peter is “the rock”, but is he “this rock”?
Nor can any claim that that our Lord did not intend St. Peter when he said this rock. On this point, consider the commentary of Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide:
That Peter is here called the Rock, is proved first, by the pronoun ‘this,’ upon ‘this rock;’ for since ‘this’ is demonstrative it ought thus to be understood, viz.:—this rock of which I have spoken, and to whom I speak, i.e., thou art Peter the rock of the Church, and upon thee as upon a rock I will build My Church. For there had been no mention made of any other rock to which the pronoun ‘this’ could refer, except Peter.
“Secondly—The same thing is plain from this, that there would be a want of connection to say thou art Peter and upon Myself the Rock I will build My church. In this indeed there would be a lessening of the speech, and an overthrow of the benefit bestowed. For Peter might say to Christ, ‘I am Peter, that is the rock of the Church, how then dost thou build Thy Church not upon me but upon Thyself?’
“Thirdly—Because all that goes before and that follows refer to Peter alone: ‘and I,’ he saith, ‘say to thee, o Peter, that is, I give and assign to thee as the reward and prerogative of thy great faith and confession, that after Myself, and after My death and resurrection, I will make thee the rock and foundation of the Church;’ for this is the meaning of I will build My Church.”
Christ is the Rock and Peter is the Rock
Finally, we come to our original difficulty: How can it be that Peter is the foundation and rock of the Church, when we know that the one foundation of the Church is Jesus Christ her Lord? If Jesus is the Rock, how can Peter also be the Rock?
To understand this point, we must know something of primary and secondary causality – which is precisely what the protestant reforms did not understand. It is possible for an action to be completed by two agents who are full and perfect authors of the single action, so long as the two agents do not operate on the same level of causality. Thus, we are able to have a primary cause which is the cause of an action and also a secondary cause which is also the cause of the same action.
Consider an analogy: If a man writes a word with a pencil and we ask, “Who/what wrote this?” We would be correct to say that the pencil wrote it and also to say that the man wrote it. And it is not that the man wrote part and the pencil wrote part, but the man wrote the whole and the pencil wrote the whole – and yet only one thing was written and there was only one act of writing.
Similarly, we may claim that the human authors of the Scriptures were true authors, while also maintaining that God is the primary author of the Bible. The individual men were secondary causes, but God was the primary cause – hence, there was only one thing written and only one act of writing; though both God and the individuals were true authors.
Now, we turn to the case of the foundation of the Church: Christ is the Rock in the sense of primary causality, but Peter is the Rock according to secondary causality. As St. Matthew is the author of a book which has God as its primary author, so too we assert that St. Peter is the foundation of the Church which has Christ as its primary foundation.
When Christ our Savior gave Simon the name Peter, he communicated a share in his own name and mission. As Peter is strengthened by Christ’s strength, there is no danger in affirming that Peter is the rock and foundation of the Church while also affirming that her sole foundation is the one Rock which is Christ the Lord.


Msgr. Pope said...

Excellent. I am especially grateful for your analogy about the pencil. It is a much better illustration of primary and secondary causality than I have used in my years.

I also ordered the Book you recommended on Philosophy and Ecumenism and eager await its arrival.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You'll love the "Philosophy and Ecumenism" book by Fr. Morerod.
I stole the pencil analogy from him! (he uses the idea of chalk, since we had the old chalk-boards at the Angelicum University)

Peace and blessings to you! +

Mary said...

Very good post. Thank you.
Another, minor point I might add if I ever have to make this argument, is the Petrus-Petra issue when the Gospel was translated into Latin. Those of us who's primary language is English don't have a real since of the detail required by highly inflected languages, like Latin. Inanimate objects generally don't have gender in English. Petrus and Petra are the same word, but since Peter was male and "latin rocks were female" the endings differed.

Restless Pilgrim said...

Would you say that there is primary and secondary causality in the keys as well, where in the Book of Revelation, Jesus says that He has the key of David?

"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open."

Shylo said...

Why is no distinction made between a pencil and a living human being relative to first and secondary causality? It would seem to make some difference in the force of the analogy.


Pencil said...

In the English language, what is "correct to say" in terms of word choice is typically a matter of convention, and it is unconventional to say that "the pencil wrote it". Similarly, although we might say that the hammer hit the nail, we do not say the hammer built the house. The building of a house is more than a hammer hitting a nail, and the writing of a word is more than a pencil scratching paper, and thus it is not "correct to say" that the hammer built the house and that the pencil wrote the word. Indeed, in terms of "cause", the statement "the pencil wrote it" does not identify any cause, whether primary, secondary, or whatever. Rather, the statement begs the question of whether it really happened, and if it did, what caused such a thing. Now, as to "the commentary of Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide", though he uses the word "proved", his linguistic commentary is not convincing. For example, his claim that "there had been no mention made of any other rock to which the pronoun 'this' could refer, except Peter" is problematic in multiple regards. The word "this" in "this rock" is not a pronoun, but an adjective. Moreover, Jesus had clearly led into the subject with the question to his disciples, "who do you say that I am?" And thus, he had been referring to himself. And the preceding use of the word "this", whether as a pronoun or however, was in the sentence, "For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father." Again, "this", i.e. "who that I am", referring to himself. The reality is that Jesus did not refer to "any other rock", for there is but One Rock, and Jesus knew that, and in knowing who Jesus is, so too did Peter know that. What Jesus said should be read with this in mind. Then there is no "want of connection", nor "a lessening of the speech", nor any reason for Peter to ask "how then dost thou build Thy Church not upon me but upon Thyself?" Lastly, the statement by Fr. Lapide that "all that goes before and that follows refer to Peter alone" should be reviewed in light of the fact that "all that goes before and that follows" does not exclude Jesus and his disciples. Nowhere does Jesus say, "Peter alone" or "you alone". As Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches... apart from me you can do nothing." Peter is not going it "alone" apart from Jesus and all who abide in him. Indeed, the session begins and closes with Jesus speaking to "his disciples", not "Peter alone". Therefore, Fr. Lapide's claim that "all that goes before and that follows refer to Peter alone" is problematic.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The point of the analogy was to show causality, not free will. Hence, the pencil is a better choice - since the causal relation is more clear.

If I wanted to emphasize free will, then I would have used a King and a servant ... the King delivers a message through his servant telling the Queen that it is time for the Fair. The message is caused 100% by the servant and 100% by the King.
(The reason I did not use this analogy, is that the causal relation is quite a bit less clear and their is a significant time-difference).

Peace. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

And yet the fact remains that it wasn't Thomas or Andrew or any other who was named "Peter" - "Rock", but only Simon the son of John.

And "this" in "this rock" clearly must refer to Peter, who shares in Christ's own name (for he is the Rock).

If you want to have an intelligent discussion, lets talk about the relation between primary and secondary causality.

Christ is the Rock.
Peter is the Rock.
The successors of Peter are the Rock.
All the Apostles (united to Peter) are the Rock.
The successors of the Apostles (united to the Pope) are the Rock.
The Church herself is the Rock.

All of these statements are true ... each according to the proper understanding.
So, where Christ is, there is the Church.
Where Peter (and his successors), there the Church.
Where the Apostles (and there successors united to the Pope), there the Church.
Where the faithful gathered together in unity of faith with the Pope and Bishops, there the Church.

Thus also, where Christ is not, there the Church is not.
Where not Peter (and his successors), there not the Church.
Where not the Apostles (and their successors) united to Peter (and his successors), there not the Church.
Where not the people of God (united to the Pope and the Bishops), there not the Church.

Hence, when I say "Peter alone", I do not exclude Christ. Just as when I say, "Jesus alone is my Savior", I do not exclude the Father.
But, without Peter, there is no Church. As, without Jesus Christ there is not access to the Father.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Oh, by the way, if you had studied Greek carefully you would know that the "this" in "this rock" is a demonstrative PRONOUN (just as Fr. Cornelius a' Lapide says ... he is after all a master of Greek, having dedicated his whole life to the study of the Scriptures).
Look at the examples "that man" and "this man" (which are demonstrative PRONOUNS in Greek), see under the heading "Word Order"

Cesário Lange por Fernando Antônio Batista de Almeida said...

French is a modern language and it translates very well these words:

Tu es Pierre, et sur cette pierre je bâtirai mon Eglise.

Pencil said...

Fr. Erlenbush, the Bible does not say what it does not say. The Bible does not say that "it wasn't Thomas or Andrew or any other who was named 'Peter' - 'Rock'". Rather, that is what you say. Likewise, there are people who say that Peter also was not named "this rock" or "pope", that such things are a matter of interpretation. And indeed, your post with your quotes from Fr. Lapide supports the view that it is a matter of interpretation, as all language is. And so "the fact remains" that Matthew 16 doesn't say "you alone" or "Peter alone". The word "alone" is not in Matthew 16. Hence, when you say "Peter alone", that is not what the Bible says. Rather, it is what you say. As to "talk" about causality, there are as many theories as anyone cares to imagine. Likewise as to so-called "intelligent conversation", it is said that "This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind." Now, as to "this" and "pronoun", these are English words, not Greek, and in the English language, the word "this" as in "this rock" is an adjective, sometimes called a demonstrative determiner, as in "This rock is granite". As such, it is a demonstrative but not a demonstrative pronoun, for a demonstrative pronoun, rather than modifying a noun or noun phrase, stands on its so-called own, as in "This is granite". Perhaps if you had written in Greek, then Greek language rules would apply to what you wrote in Greek, but you didn't write in Greek. It simply is not "correct" to call "this" in the phrase "this rock" a "pronoun". Anyway, as I've pointed out, it is just one of many problematic issues with your post. You also wrote, "it is important to notice that the words are identical in Aramaic (which is the language in which Jesus original spoke them)". Again, Matthew 16 does not say that. It is someone's theory.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You got me there ... I did write the word "pronoun" in English, but (as you well know) I was referring to the GREEK New Testament.
Now, if you don't know that the NT was written in Greek (and that Jesus spoke Aramaic) and that the word for "this" in Greek is a pronoun and not an adjective, that is your problem (not Fr. Cornelius a' Lapde's) [and, if you are wondering, he wrote in Latin, not that it matters, since he is speaking of the GREEK New Testament].

As to your point about whether or not Andrew or Thomas is called Peter ... can you remind me of where we read "Andrew Peter..." or "Thomas Peter..."? The only one I know of called Peter is "Simon Peter".

[and I know that there are people who say that Simon was not named "Peter" or "this rock" ... they (like you) do not understand Greek and Aramaic grammar].

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Oh, and this will really blow your mind, I should mention that the word "you" (which, fyi, is also a pronoun [in English and, more importantly, in Greek]) is in the singular rather than the plural.
[I know that this singular/plural difference is visible only in the Greek and Aramaic and not in the English, but please try not to complain about that]

So, when Jesus says, "You are Peter (Rock)", he is speaking only to Simon and not to all the Apostles together.
[else our Savior would have used the plural "you" form, and also a plural verb]
Thus, only Simon is called Rock ... hence, he is regularly named "Simon Peter" or even just "Peter" (sometimes, "Cephas") throughout the New Testament.

Anonymous said...

"Upon this rock" was referring to OUR confessing Christ as the promised Son of Man. That was the foundation. "Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God."

Pencil said...

Fr. Erlenbach, it is not "known" what language Jesus spoke at every particular moment. Likewise, there are theories about the original language(s) of the NT. Perhaps you subscribe to one of them. As to the word "you" being in the singular, that's not news to me and it doesn't "blow my mind". "Rock" is not in the plural either. And as to "where we read 'Andrew Peter' or 'Thomas Peter'", I did not say we would or that we'd read "Peter alone" in the Bible either. However, we can read these names and phrases in your posts.

Don M. Jones said...

Why not 'God Powered Pencil' working through his disciples..........

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The idea that "this rock" is our confession of faith is completely unsupported by the text.
Jesus says to Simon, "You are Rock", then he says "upon this rock" ... now, since none other is named Rock (and since Christ then immediately continues speaking to Peter [and to Peter alone, with a singular "you"] "and I will give you the keys of the Kingdom", there is no grammatical reason to think that "this rock" is any other than the "Rock" he had just named, namely Simon Peter.

Look at the text.
In any case, do YOU really think that YOUR CONFESSION is the foundation of the Church? Did Christ really build his Church upon YOU?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

1, it's "Fr. Erlenbush"
2, are you seriously questioning whether or not 1st century Jews spoke Aramaic? [I'm not questioning whether the NT was written in Greek, I'm telling you that Jesus was speaking Aramaic ... are you really not able to understand the difference?]
3, If Jesus says "you are Peter/Rock" and "you" is singular, then this means he is speaking to Simon Peter alone (at that moment).
4, Please look at my earlier comment to the effect that Christ is the Rock, Simon is the Rock, all the Apostles (united with Peter) are the Rock, and even the Church herself is the Rock. [and yet, Simon Peter is the only one singled out, and there is no Thomas Peter or Pencil Peter or Fr. Erlenbush Peter].

Pencil said...

Fr. Whoever, the subject is not "whether or not 1st century Jews spoke Aramaic", i.e. whether Jews often spoke Aramaic across the century. Rather, the subject is a very specific instance for which records available today are not a recording made at the original moment in whatever language was actually spoken at that original moment but are transcriptions/translations at a later time in Greek, etc. Scholars disagree whether Jesus originally uttered Aramaic at that specific moment in time, even if he often spoke Aramaic at other times. And whether or not it was Aramaic or whatever language that he actually uttered at that specific moment, scholars have not proven what specific words he actually said, and thus, for example, as to whether or not he used "identical" words, or if he did, whether he meant them to have the same meaning. As to your claim that "If Jesus says 'you are Peter/Rock' and 'you' is singular, then this means he is speaking to Simon Peter alone (at that moment)," that is your interpretation, your words, but not the words from the Bible. Other people can have different words, different interpretations. Perhaps you think other words/interpretations are wrong, and if so, that too would be your interpretation, your opinion. Given the nature of language, your words and mine are subject to interpretation, as are subsequently worded explanations thereof. We (you and I) may remain unsure what it is we've said (meant), indeed even as to whether we agree or disagree. And yet, "All of these statements are true ... each according to the proper understanding."

Pencil said...

Fr. Erlenbush. you asked "Did Christ really build his Church upon YOU?" But who do you say that I am? The Catholic Church teaches that our deepest identity (note the singular form) is Christ within us, and as you have said, "Christ is the Rock."

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

1) It's not "Fr. Whoever", it's "Fr. Erlenbush" or "Fr. Ryan" ... I don't call you "pen" or "crayon", I call you "Pencil" because that's the name you provided. Please show me the same respect I have shown you.

2) You say that "you" ("you are Peter") being singular is "not the words from the Bible" but my own interpretation.
WRONG! The inspired text is in Greek and, in the inspired text, the "you" is singular. So, no, it's not just a matter of interpretation whether "you" is singular and whether "rock" is singular (and whether Jesus is speaking to all or just to Simon Peter) - it's just the words themselves!
You speak about the "nature of languages" ... well, I don't care about the nature of "languages", I care about the nature of Greek. And, in the Bible (which again is written in Greek), Jesus says "you are Peter" only to Simon Peter and not to all of the Apostles together.

3) As to whether or not our Savior said "Peter" in Greek or Aramaic ... the simple fact is that Peter is regularly called "Cephas" (especially by St. Paul [i.e. it's in the Bible]) ... now, "Cephas"/"Kepha" is the Aramaic of the word "Rock" which is translated into Greek/Latin as "Peter" (Petros in Greek, Petrus in Latin).
Now, how exactly did Peter get to be called "Cephas"/"Kepha" (the Aramaic word "Rock")? Perhaps it is because Jesus and the Apostles and disciples regularly called him "Cephas"/"Kepha"?! Yes!
Now, returning to Matthew 16 ... "You are Peter/Petros", "You are Kepha"; "and upon this rock/petros", "upon this kepha".
So, you can see why Fr. Cornelius says what he says.

4) Regarding your comment of 6:34pm, if you really think that Jesus built his Church upon you, then you shouldn't be wasting your time on a blog; there's a seat over in Rome with your name on it.

Mary Me said...

First, I appreciate the fact that there is no name-calling in this dialogue, other than a presumed misspelling of a name.

Second, having been a court reporter, I learned that communication is way harder than most of us realize. So this is my mantra when I disagree with someone: "I know you think you understand what it is that you think that I said [or in this context, 'wrote,'], but what you don't understand is that how you read my comments may not be what I meant to write."

The Bible is inspired, and thus it is not interpretable however we, as lay people, see fit to interpret it; it is interpreted by people who have expertise and who are led by the Holy Spirit. If we get too technical or nit-picky and challenge knowledgeable people with small details, I think we miss the overall meaning. When we are arguing, I don't think we're loving ourselves or our neighbor.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Mary Me,
well, unfortunately, I was not able to publish some comments from "Pencil" because he did intentionally begin to use highly derogatory and inflammatory language ... oh well ... such is the standard approach of those who want to interpret Scripture outside of the tradition.

Which brings us to your main point: That lay people should not by trying to interpret the Bible without the guidance of experts.
I completely agree, but I will go further ... NO ONE should be trying to interpret the Bible without the guidance of TRUE experts, i.e. the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.

When I come across a Bible commentary, I first look to see if the author is using not only the Church Fathers, but also the Doctors of the Church and the great Catholic scholars from the 17th and 18th centuries ... if he is not, then the book is not worth my time or energy.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia says:

"In the original Greek the word translated as "Peter" is Πέτρος (Petros) and that translated as "rock" is πέτρα (petra), two words that, while not identical, give an impression of one of many times when Jesus used a play on words. Furthermore, since Jesus presumably spoke to Peter in their native Aramaic language, he would have used kepha in both instances. The Peshitta Text and the Old Syriac text use the word "kepha" for both "Peter" and "rock" in Matthew 16:18.

"Protestant counter-claims to the Catholic interpretation are largely based on the difference between the Greek words translated "Rock" in the Matthean passage. In classical Attic Greek petros generally meant "pebble," while petra meant "boulder" or "cliff." Accordingly, taking Peter's name to mean "pebble," they argue that the "rock" in question cannot have been Peter, but something else, either Jesus himself, or the faith in Jesus that Peter had just professed. However, the New Testament was written in Koiné Greek, not Attic Greek, and some authorities say no significant difference existed between the meanings of petros and petra."

"...the Gospel of Matthew was not written in the classical Attic form of Greek, but in the Hellenistic Koine dialect in which there is no distinction in meaning between petros and petra. Moreover, even in Attic Greek, in which the regular meaning of petros was a smallish "stone," there are instances of its use to refer to larger rocks, as in Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus v. 1595, where petros refers to a boulder used as a landmark, obviously something more than a pebble. In any case, a petros/petra distinction is irrelevant considering the Aramaic language in which the phrase might well have been spoken. In Greek, of any period, the feminine noun petra could not be used as the given name of a male, which may explain the use of Petros as the Greek word with which to translate Aramaic Kepha."

"Matthew uses the demonstrative pronoun taute, which allegedly means "this very" or this same, when he refers to the rock on which Jesus' church will be built. He also uses the Greek word for "and", kai. It is alleged that when a demonstrative pronoun is used with kai, the pronoun refers back to the preceding noun. The second rock Jesus refers to must then be the same rock as the first one; and if Peter is the first rock he must also be the second."

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Well, there you have it ... even Wikipedia agrees with Fr. Cornelius a' Lapide! :-)

@Anonymous, please use at least a pseudonym in the future.

Flamen said...

The pencil is an instrument which is completely controlled by the primary cause. The scripture writers are not mere instruments but maintain their own individuality, style, world views and language under the influence - inspiration, whatever that is - of the Holy Spirit. A dictation theory of the scriptures has been long discarded.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You miss the profundity of the analogy.

The pencil contributes greatly to the final product ... it writes in the color of the graphite (black/grey, yellow, orange, etc), it writes differently than a pen.

In any case, you are the first one to have mentioned the idea of dictation.

Again, the example is meant to show primary/secondary causality, not the relation between freedom and grace.

JQP said...

Thanks for the analogy and discussion. I always like it to hear what the original scripts technically say even though I feel the meaning is very clear in our modern translation. I first heard this scriptural text in a Vietnamese children Bible and while it says 'you are Peter' and 'on this rock, I will build my Church'. God's voice was clear to the 10 year old that He is calling Peter the rock even if I didn't know Peter meant rock in any language (as a 10 year old I hardly knew the concept of language). God's voice comes through His words no matter the language as long as your are listening to the Spirit in an accurate translation.

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