I received a comment the other day regarding my post on church hierarchy and Matthew 16. I’ve moved the comment and pasted it below. It’s brings up an interesting point because it addresses a part of the passage that I didn’t focus on in my post. Because I don’t have another post in mind for today and I’m homebound with two sick kids I thought I’d take the time to address the comment and the part of the passage where Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter.
Lingo South’s comment:
Hi I agree with your love….unconditional
I sincerely believe you hve missed the original language of Matthew 16…
The rock the church is buiit upon is not Peter,but the revelation of who Jesus is…
Peter was a tremendous man of God, but Paul wrote the gospel to adn for the gentiles…the rest of the NT was to the Jews…FOR us too, but TO the Jews.
I would ask you to consider taking a look at this link
Truth is what we should all seek…denominations are not in what Jesus called truth…although belonging to a certain church is not a problem, for me at least, but lets get our allegiance correct. thank you for the work you do.
Dear Lingo South:
Thanks for dropping by and commenting. And thanks for the link. I checked it out and what I read was familiar. I carefully considered many positions just like those put forth on that website before choosing to become Catholic. But I still appreciate the link because it always helps to know where someone is coming from when they post comments on my blog.
I really do understand why you wouldn’t agree with the Catholic interpretation of this passage in Matthew. The implications of this interpretation challenge one to re-examine their theology regarding Church leadership and authority and perhaps their beliefs about the Catholic Church. However, I am convinced that this interpretation of Scripture is logical and consistent. It’s not an effort to somehow distort the text so that it fits a pre-conceived idea or belief system. I believe this because for many years I twisted this passage so that it fit my Reformed beliefs. I twisted it so that I could argue that what Jesus really meant to say was that “the rock” was the revelation about Him instead of letting the passage stand on its own. But that’s not what is going on in this interaction between Jesus and Simon.
In this passage (Matt. 16:17-19) Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter, Jesus says “you are Petros (or Kepha in Aramaic – both mean rock) and on this rock I will build my church.” Jesus calls Peter the rock and then says he’ll build his church upon this rock. He doesn’t say that the revelation that Peter was given about Christ’s identity is the rock. He calls Simon the rock. If you were trying to make the point that the rock was Peter’s revelation about Jesus, then your average high school English teacher would tell you the sentence doesn’t work or make sense. I respect that you disagree with me but the interpretation you’re suggesting isn’t even correct grammatically. No where does Jesus call Peter’s response “the rock.” The only noun he calls a rock is Simon when He changes his name to Peter.
There is huge significance in the fact that Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter.
In scripture when God changes someone’s name it was a sign of a significant event [think Abram/Abraham]. The significance of this event: Jesus is establishing His Church upon Peter and his leadership. [Note: Peter’s primacy among the disciples is pretty clear in scripture]. Jesus declares Peter as the rock upon which the church on earth would be built. Of course this in no way supplants Christ’s authority nor does it mean that one’s allegiance is now to a human instead of God. It’s a both/and kind of thing. Jesus is the head of the Church and as such He can give His authority to anyone He wants. He gave HIS authority (the keys) to Peter and is guiding, leading and protecting His Church through the leadership that He established. He makes it clear that He’ll protect His Church when He says “the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
Why would Jesus tell Simon he is now called Peter (the rock), then say the church will be built on another rock, but then give Peter the keys of the Kingdom and the power to bind and loose? That just doesn’t make sense. Unless of course, you’re trying to avoid the conclusion that Jesus set up an authoritative position of leadership on which He would build His church.
A more consistent and cohesive interpretation is this: Jesus tells Simon he is now to be called Peter (the rock). In the next breath he says His church will be built on this rock and promises to protect His Church from the gates of hell. Then he gives Peter the official authority, the keys of the Kingdom, along with the power to bind and loose so that he can fulfill this role.
I’d like to remind you that it’s about Jesus and His Church, Jesus and His authority. It’s about how Jesus will establish and manifest His church and His authority here on earth. It’s not about humans exacting some authority over the Church independent of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Peter is nothing a part from God. Jesus tells Peter that “this was not revealed to you by man but by my Father in heaven.” God, not man, gave this revelation to Peter. Jesus, not man, gave Peter and the Church it’s authority. And our God is certainly big enough to protect this gift of leadership for the church.
I think some protest against this interpretation of Matthew 16 because it just doesn’t fit with their preconceived ideas about how the church should look and because they can’t imagine that the Catholic Church could be right on any matter. The implication that the Catholic interpretation might be correct means that one might have to accept their teachings. Because there’s so much misunderstanding about what the Catholic Church really believes it’s easier to outright dismiss the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16 rather than honestly examine the Catholic faith. It’s easier to twist the text to mean something else so that it fits with one’s preconceived theological worldview. I did that for many years. I would read Matthew 16 and even thought at times that something didn’t seem right with my Reformed interpretation of that passage and yet I never dared to really question it. Well, not until six years ago.
When I first realized that Jesus was calling Peter the rock and saying He would build his church on this rock I struggled. I didn’t blindly accept this conclusion and therefore accept all the teachings of the Church. There were far too many theological hurdles for me to overcome at that point. But I couldn’t deny that I’d been twisting that passage to make it fit my beliefs. So, as I examined what this passage meant I also studied the teachings of the Church on matters of faith and morals. I soon realized that much of what I thought I knew about the Catholic faith was based on distortions, misperceptions and even a few lies I’d been taught. Eventually I became convinced of the teachings of the Church and its authority.
It’s important to understand that the Catholic Church does not believe that Peter or his successors are personally impeccable and without sin. However, when it comes to official declarations on matters of faith (like the one Peter made in front of the Apostles) and morals (like in Matthew 18), Catholics believe that God has and continues to fulfill His promise to protect His Church. He protects the truth of the faith so that His children will not be led astray by all kinds of teaching that tickles their ears and appeals to their flesh. Without this protection, truth becomes relative. It’s each Christian out for himself coming up with their own private interpretations of scripture and declaring that their interpretation is truth because, well, “Jesus told me so.” This of course leads to the chaos we see in the Christian faith. I don’t believe that this chaos was/is God’s plan for His Church. Truth is not relative therefore each private interpretation of scripture on matters of faith and morals can’t be truth.
The early church constantly battled the heresies of their day. Why? Because it was and still is important to preserve the unity and truth of the faith. I believe the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth like the Bible says. It’s not a contradiction to say that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and to say His Church is the pillar and foundation of truth. If that were the case then the Bible would be contradicting itself. The Church is the foundation of truth because Jesus made it so and because God is leading it and guiding it. I believe it’s a stable foundation meant to hold believers together in unity as a light for the unbelieving world to see. An invisible collection of believers who believe contradicting truths cannot be a pillar and foundation of truth and light for the world to see. Jesus didn’t establish His church so that it could be invisible and hidden like a lamp in a jar or under a bed. What’s the point in that?
There are those who claim the Catholic Church has changed its doctrine which would make its claim to uphold the faith false. I’ve not seen definitive evidence of those changes. I’ve seen claims supported by faulty evidence but nothing substantial. I have seen how an understanding of a doctrine has been developed and clarified throughout the centuries but never changed or invented.
Of course, just like no Pope is personally impeccable, not everything done by individuals in the Church or in the name of the Church is/was right. However, I firmly believe God protects His Church and the truths of the faith from error when it comes to official teaching on faith and morals. Richard John Neuhaus, a former Lutheran pastor who converted to the Catholic faith, points out in his book Catholic Matters that at some point in a convert’s studies he/she finally takes a step of faith and stops worrying about the “what ifs” such as what if the Church did change a doctrine. There comes a point in time when you see the cohesiveness and beauty of the Catholic faith and its interpretation of scripture . At that point the “what ifs” don’t compare to the hope and love you have in this faith.
Based on the website you sent me to it’s clear you don’t agree. We could easily get into a scripture interpretation war. But in the end, for me it would always come back to this question: “Why is your interpretation right and my or the Catholic interpretation wrong?” If, as many Christians believe, God didn’t leave us an authoritative church to lead us in truth on matters of faith and morals, and all believers are to come up with truth on their own (either from Scripture or through some direct revelation from Jesus), then why does your personal “truth” trump my “truth?”
The bottom line is this: If there is no authority besides the claim that “this is what Jesus tells me and this is how I interpret scripture” then no one can really claim that their beliefs are truth. No one can tell someone else their beliefs about communion are wrong or their beliefs about baptism are heresy. If there is no authority then we can’t know the truth about these things. We can offer our personal convictions about what we think Jesus is saying to us and our private interpretations of scripture. But, it would be pretty arrogant of us to claim our personal convictions and private interpretations of scripture are the truth and those who don’t agree with us are missing it and in error.
However, if Christ did give His authority to the Church beginning with Peter and the Apostles and following with their successors then we can have confidence that the truth on matters like communion, baptism, artificial birth control, homosexuality, the church, marriage and divorce etc. have been protected from the gates of hell and can be known and declared to the world. All believers can be unified and speak with one voice instead of the fragmented and divisive voices we hear among believers.
Yes, I believe God intended for there to be one authoritative voice and He gave us that voice (His voice) in His Church. And He established that Church on Peter, the first Pope. Without that authority the Church is reduced to an invisible group of individuals, each one doing what is right in their own eyes. The believer and his individual belief system is just one opinion or interpretation among many different Christian belief systems.
Based on your comment I can only conclude that do not believe in an authoritative church when it comes to the truth on matters of faith and morals. If that is the case, perhaps you can offer a reason for why your beliefs are “more right” or authoritative than mine or those of the Catholic faith?
In the meantime I suppose we are left with having to respectfully agree to disagree. And I say that with sincere respect for you as a brother in Christ. Some of my dearest friends do not agree with me, nor I with them, but we have great love for one another.
As I see it, it’s up to each Christian to inform and follow their conscience. We do not live in a vacuum with Jesus. Truth matters, it mattered to the Apostles and the early Church and it should matter to us. History matters. The history of the Jews matteres God and should matter to us. The history of the early church matters. It’s our family tree. In my opinion this means that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we should inform our conscience with an objective and prayerful examination of Sacred Scripture and Church history (which includes Sacred Tradition). Each person must follow his conscience. But, we he has a responsibility to inform his conscience.
When I stepped out of the Reformed theology bubble I’d created for myself and began to objectively examine the faith I came to believe that God established and protected a visible authoritative Church here on earth. I believe that Church is the Roman Catholic Church. And lest you think that it’s simply about denominations and allegiance to something other than my Father in heaven let me make it clear that it’s the visible expression of Christ’s love and who Christ is that I’ve seen through the Church and it’s teaching that daily draws me closer to my Jesus. Slowly the Holy Spirit is transforming me into Christ’s image, the image of love. And for me, this is what matters most.
Thanks again for commenting and asking me to look at that link. It’s always good to be challenged to think about the reasons for my faith in Christ and His Church. Peace to you.