Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Early Church Fathers On "Upon This Rock" (Matthew 16:18)

  • Defining The Issues:
          -The Church of Rome parades Matthew 16:18-19 as a proof text for the validity of its claims to ruling over Christendom. In other words, the Roman Catholic Church maintains that it is built on the Apostle Peter as its foundation and any spiritual gifts that Jesus Christ may have bestowed on him was passed on to succeeding popes of future generations. Thus, we see the reason that Rome's adherents fight so vigorously to protect their understanding of the meaning of the "rock" as recorded in Matthew 16:18-19. However, the church fathers were far from unanimous on accepting the "rock" metaphor found in Matthew 16:18 as being the Apostle Peter himself. The following source explains:

          “It may jolt them to hear that the great Fathers of the church saw no connection between it and the pope. Not one of them applies ‘Thou art Peter’ to anyone but Peter. One after another they analyse it: Cyprian, Origen, Cyril, Hilary, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine. They are not exactly Protestants. Not one of them calls the Bishop of Rome a Rock or applies to him specifically the promise of the Keys. This is staggering to Catholics...The surprises do not stop there. For the Fathers, it is Peter’s faith — or the Lord in whom Peter has faith —which is called the Rock, not Peter.” (“Vicars of Christ, The Dark Side of the Papacy”, p. 24)

          Following are actual excerpts from various church fathers, which were originally taken from this article.
  • The Roman Catholic Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick Once Stated:
          -“If we are bound to follow the majority of the fathers in this thing, then we are bound to hold for certain that by the rock should be understood the faith professed by Peter, not Peter professing the faith.” (Speech of archbishop Kenkick, p. 109; An inside view of the Vatican council, edited by Leonard Woolsey Bacon)
  • Basil of Seleucia, Oratio 25:
          -"You are Christ, Son of the living God.'...Now Christ called this confession a rock, and he named the one who confessed it 'Peter,' perceiving the appellation which was suitable to the author of this confession. For this is the solemn rock of religion, this the basis of salvation, this the wall of faith and the foundation of truth: 'For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.' To whom be glory and power forever." (Oratio XXV.4, M.P.G., Vol. 85, Col. 296-297)
  • Cyril of Alexandria:
          -"When [Peter] wisely and blamelessly confessed his faith to Jesus saying, 'You are 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 word 'rock', Jesus indicated, I think, the immovable faith of the disciple.” (Cyril Commentary on Isaiah 4.2)
  • Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Book XII):
          -“For all bear the surname ‘rock’ who are the imitators of Christ, that is, of the spiritual rock which followed those who are being saved, that they may drink from it the spiritual draught. But these bear the surname of rock just as Christ does. But also as members of Christ deriving their surname from Him they are called Christians, and from the rock, Peters.” (Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Book XII), sect. 10,11)
  • Augustine, sermon:
          -"Christ, you see, built his Church not on a man but on Peter's confession. What is Peter's confession? 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' There's the rock for you, there's the foundation, there's where the Church has been built, which the gates of the underworld cannot conquer." (John Rotelle, O.S.A., Ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, © 1993 New City Press, Sermons, Vol III/6, Sermon 229P.1, p. 327)
  • Bede:
          -"You are Peter and on this rock from which you have taken your name, that is, on myself, I will build my Church, upon that perfection of faith which you confessed I will build my Church by whose society of confession should anyone deviate although in himself he seems to do great things he does not belong to the building of my Church...Metaphorically it is said to him on this rock, that is, the Saviour which you confessed, the Church is to be built, who granted participation to the faithful confessor of his name." (Homily 23, M.P.L., Vol. 94, Col. 260. Cited by Karlfried Froehlich, Formen, Footnote #204, p. 156.)
  • Cassiodorus:
          -"It will not be moved is said about the Church to which alone that promise has been given: 'You are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.' For the Church cannot be moved because it is known to have been founded on that most solid rock, namely, Christ the Lord." (Expositions in the Psalms, Psalm 45.5, M.P.L., Vol. 70, Col. 330)
  • Even The Roman Catholic Catechism Leaves Room For The Interpretation Of The Rock Found In Matthew 16 To Be A Reference To The Apostle Peter's Confession Of Faith:
          -"Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess: 'You are Christ, the Son of the living God.' On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built His Church (cf. Mt 16:18; St. Leo the Great, Sermons, 4, 3: PL 54, 151; 51, 1: PL 54, 309B; 62 , 2: PL 54, 350C-351A; 83, 3: PL 54, 432A)." (CCC# 424)

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