Friday, July 7, 2017

Addressing The Roman Catholic Misinterpretation Of Matthew 16:18-19

  • Defining The Issues:
          -The meaning of the "rock" found in Matthew 16:18-19 has been disputed among Roman Catholic and non-Catholic scholars alike. Literally volumes of books have been written to defend various interpretations of this symbol. In fact, the three most prominent views on the identity of the rock are that it is representative of Jesus Christ Himself, the Apostle Peter's bold confession of faith, and Peter himself. However, the Church of Rome has made significant claims regarding the meaning of the rock in Matthew 16:18-19 in relation to its inflated views of its own authority. In short, the purpose of this article is to interact with the Roman Catholic interpretation of the rock found in Matthew 16:18-19.
  • How The Roman Catholic Church Interprets The Rock Of Matthew 16:18-19:
          -Roman Catholics argue that because the Apostle Peter is the rock of which Christ spoke, their church is built on him and is therefore His one, true, original church. Roman Catholicism maintains that 1.) Christ granted Peter special primacy over His entire church and 2.) that this apostle passed his unique position of spiritual authority to the Roman bishops who would succeed him in later generations (CCC #881-882). Consequently, it is claimed that the doctrines of the Church of Rome have been infallibly preserved throughout the centuries.
  • The Greek "Petros" And "Petra" Distinction:
          -The words "petros" and "petra" are used in the original Greek grammatical construction of Matthew 16:18. In other words, the passage reads, "You are Peter ("petros") and upon this rock ("petra") I will build my church." While "petros" means a piece of rock (masculine), "petra" means a mass of rock (feminine). Thus, there exists a distinction between both words occupied in Matthew 16:18. While this factor does not definitively rule out the Apostle Peter being the rock on which the church is built, this point is not without significance. If Peter was meant to serve as the foundation upon which the Christian church stands, then why do we see two different Greek words with two different meanings in Matthew 16:18?
  • The Rock Of Matthew 16:18-19 Is Not The Apostle Peter Himself, But Rather Is His Solid Confession Of Faith (Matthew 16:16):
          -The "rock" mentioned in Matthew 16:18 is Peter's confession of faith (Matthew 16:16). This interpretation of the passage best fits the context, which is about the spread of the gospel and the identity of the Messiah (Matthew 16:13-18). It is upon our confession of faith that the church stands. Thus, every doctrine and practice of the church should be in accordance to the will of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 16:16-18, the words "it" and "this" are referring to the Apostle Peter's statement identifying the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is built on the revelation that Christ is the promised Jewish Messiah.
  • Answering The Catholic Aramaic And Greek Word Gender Argument On Matthew 16:18:
          -"When Matthew’s Gospel was translated from the original Aramaic to Greek, there arose a problem which did not confront the evangelist when he first composed his account of Christ’s life. In Aramaic the word kepha has the same ending whether it refers to a rock or is used as a man’s name. In Greek, though, the word for rock, petra, is feminine in gender. The translator could use it for the second appearance of kepha in the sentence, but not for the first because it would be inappropriate to give a man a feminine name. So he put a masculine ending on it, and hence Peter became Petros." (https://www.catholic.com/tract/peter-and-the-papacy)
          -If Jesus had to change the gender from feminine to masculine in order to address Peter, then all that point indicates is that (1) rock is usually feminine and (2) Peter is a male. The Greek word has a gender. It had that gender long before the authors of the New Testament associated the term with the foundation of the church.
          -The Greek New Testament does use the Aramaic Cephas in reference to Peter (1 Corinthians 15:5; Galatians 2:14). It is also true that if Matthew wanted to tell us that Peter is the rock upon which the church is built, he could have used petros twice in the same sentence (i.e. "you are petros and upon this petros I will build my church"). But two separate terms are used in Matthew 16:18 (i.e. petros and petra).
          -Aramaic was not as advanced a language as the other semitic languages. It did not have an extremely rich or complex vocabulary. It could not utilize two different words in Matthew 16:18 as does Greek. Thus, the usage of kepha in Aramaic twice is not due to some unique primacy bestowed on the Apostle Peter by Christ, but to limitations in that language.
          -The New Testament does apply the feminine petra to the man Jesus Christ (Romans 9:33; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:8). There are no Aramaic manuscript copies of Matthew, which means any discussion of such involves speculation.
  • The Meaning Of The Keys, Binding, And Loosing:
          -The "keys" represent the authority to proclaim the salvation of converts and the condemnation of sinners (Luke 10:16). The keys are knowledge of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 23:13; Luke 11:52). The door of salvation is opened to those who accept the message of the gospel (Acts 14:27; Revelation 1:5), whereas the door of eternal condemnation is opened for those who reject the salvific message of the gospel. The mission of the church is to preach the gospel to the world (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:45-49). In the Book of Acts, converts such as Paul and Cornelius received the gift of the Holy Spirit. They rejoiced as a result of hearing the proclamation of eternal salvation. Notice how Christ instructed His original disciples to shake the dust off their feet when they encountered cities who rejected them for preaching the gospel message (Matthew 10:14-15; Mark 6:11; Acts 13:51). This is a perfect way of applying the principle of "loosing," or announcing the condemnation of sinners. Today, we serve as ambassadors for Christ by performing the ministry of reconciliation through the preaching of the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Christians have been authorized to declare the terms of forgiveness as provided by the gospel: holding fast by faith in Jesus Christ's death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). This power of the keys was not possessed by the Apostle Peter alone, nor does the Scripture passage in question point to that interpretation. Rather, it was given to all the apostles (Matthew 18:18).
          -"What is the power of binding and loosing? These disciples immediately recognized the background of its meaning. If you were a Jew, living at the time of Christ, and you had done something that you thought could be a violation of the Mosaic Law, you would have to take your problem to the ruling elders. They would have debated your case; then they would have come to one of two conclusions. They would have either bound or loosed you. If they had bound you, this meant that you had violated the Mosaic Law and that you were obligated to pay the penalty-sacrifice and/or restitution. If they had loosed you, this meant that you had not violated the Mosaic Law. No sacrifice was necessary. These ruling elders were simply declaring what had already been legislated by Moses" (Was the Church Established by Peter?, Robert Gromacki, cited by Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics, p. 109-110)
  • The Apostle Peter Was Not The First Pope:
          -The New Testament never mentions the one-head bishop structure that is found in the modern Church of Rome. In fact, the Bible never even records the Apostle Peter as passing on his apostolic authority to a designated successor or a discussion on who would occupy his seat of authority after his departure from this world. In Scripture, the Apostle Peter does not act in the dictatorial manner that popes have done. Although he can rightly be accredited as playing an important role in preaching the gospel, we never see him acting as "Prince of the Apostles."
  • Even If The Apostle Peter Were The Rock Of Matthew 16:18, That Fact Would Still Not Grant The Pope Universal Jurisdiction Over Christendom: 
          -The establishment of some sort of authoritative office with successors is nowhere present in Matthew 16. The Scripture text addressed in this article says nothing about a teaching Magisterium. Neither does Matthew 16:18 command us to adhere to a mysterious body of extra-biblical oral tradition, as Roman Catholicism does. This passage says nothing about submission to an earthly institution that is headquartered in Rome, Italy. So appealing to Matthew 16:18-19 as a biblical proof-text for the Papacy is completely unwarranted. Roman Catholics are placing too much weight on a single passage of Scripture. They are merely reading their ideas into a passage where such notions are absent.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Amen.

Improver said...

When I tell someone who has professed belief in the gospel that their sins are forgiven, it's not my statement to them that makes it true, but it's already true in heaven. Christ death and sacrifice is a blanket across history and he lives to now intercede for us.