A scholarly look at the meaning of Matt. 16:18

I have been doing some research into the foundations of Catholic Theology. Last night I studied a passage that is central to the Catholic Doctrine of Apostolic Succession. Here are some quotes from Leon Morris in his commentary on Matthew with one from D.A. Carson.

“Although it is true that petros and petra can mean ‘stone’ and ‘rock’ respectively in earlier Greek, the distinction is largely confined to poetry. Moreover, the underlying Aramaic is in this case unquestionable; and most probably kepha was used in both clauses (‘you are kepha‘ and ‘on this kepha‘), since the word was used both for a name and for a ‘rock.’ The Peshitta (written in Syriac, a language cognate with Aramaic) makes no distinction between the words in the two clauses. The Greek makes the distinction between petros and petra simply because it is trying to preserve the pun, and in Greek the feminine petra could not very well serve as a masculine name.” (Carson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary [Zondervan, 1984], volume 8, page 368, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 17-18)

Some scholars, especially from among the Roman Catholics, have insisted that Jesus is saying that Peter is the rock on which the whole church is to be built, and accordingly that only the church that can claim to be built on the apostle is the true church. But it is not easy to establish that the whole of the early church was built on the foundation of Peter, and what are we to say of the descendants of the non-Petrine churches? And so in later times with, for example, the churches of the Reformation that separated from the churches that professed a connection with Peter. Are we to say that because they understand this passage in a different way they are no part of the true church? Moreover, the statement that the rock is Peter is true only as we keep in mind what that apostle has just said; it is not Peter simply as Peter but Peter who has confessed Jesus as the Messiah who is the church’s foundation on whom the church is to be built. We must not separate the man from the words he has just spoken. From the earliest times it has been recognized that Peter’s faith is important for an understanding of the passage. Thus Chrysostom cites the words “upon this rock will I build my Church” and immediately goes on, “that is, on the faith of his confession” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on St. Matthew (NPNF, 1st ser ., p. 333). Any interpretation that minimizes the importance of the faith that found expression in Peter’s words is to be rejected. Barclay puts it this way: Jesus “did not mean that the Church depended on Peter, as it depended on Himself, and on God the Rock, alone. He did mean that the Church began with Peter; in that sense Peter is the foundation of the Church” (II, p. 141).

We should also bear in mind McNeile’s point that to address Peter as this would be strange immediately following the direct address “You are Peter.” Why would Jesus not continue with something like “and upon you I will build my church”? This would be more natural if Jesus were addressing the whole group rather than Peter himself. And if Peter was here given the chief place, the question of the disciples just a little later as to who would have that place (18:1) is inexplicable. They at any rate knew nothing of Peter as the supreme pontiff.

There is no doubting that Peter is assigned a preeminence (which we see clearly in the early chapters of Acts), but it is not an absolute preeminence and we must be careful in defining it. In any case there is no mention of any successors of Peter; whatever position is assigned to him is personal and not transmissible to those who would succeed him. Jesus is speaking of the apostle and not of those who followed him. The early church knows nothing of a personal headship over the church possessed by Peter. He, together with John, was “sent” by the church (Acts 8:14), he is called by the church to give an account of himself (Acts 11:1–18), it is James, not Peter, who presides over the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15), and Paul rebukes him sharply (Gal. 2:11–14). That Peter was a great apostle, widely honored in the early church, is clear. That he was the earthly head of the church is not.

What does it mean to bind and loose?
Jesus continues with the promise that he will make Peter a gift, where the future tense probably points to the time subsequent to the resurrection (about which Jesus is about to speak, v. 21). He says that he will give Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom, of course, is not to be identified with the church. The kingdom has reference to the divine rule; the church to the people of God. They are closely related, but not identical. The key lends itself to metaphorical uses (e.g., the key of knowledge, Luke 11:52). It is an obvious symbol for admitting people through a door, but it was also used for exercising authority (the steward rather than the porter). We should understand it here in close connection with Peter’s confession of faith: it was on the basis of his confession and not on that of personal abilities that Peter was given the keys. In the Lucan passage the lawyers were excluding people from the knowledge of God by their handling of Scripture. Later in this Gospel Matthew will report that Jesus spoke of the scribes and Pharisees as shutting up the kingdom before people and thus preventing them from entering (23:13). Peter, by contrast, was to open the way. We see him doing this in Acts 2 and 3, where his preaching brought many into the kingdom, and in Acts 10, where he opened the way for the Gentile Cornelius to come in. We should see another aspect of the use of the keys in Acts 8:20–23, where he is excluding an impenitent sinner. And while the gift of the keys indicates that Peter is clearly given a certain primacy, we should not exaggerate this. The right to bind and loose , here connected with the gift of the keys, is given to the disciples as a whole in 18:18; thus we are not to think of Peter as elevated to a plane above all the others.
Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew. The Pillar New Testament Commentary (425–426). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.

My concluding thoughts on Leon Morris and Matt. 16:18:

All of the apostles are the foundation of the church according to Eph. 2:20. It is the case with Peter that he is, chronologically the first apostle to preach and lead people into the kingdom (i.e. keys to the kingdom) as seen in Acts chapter 2. The church started with Peter preaching, and subsequently the other apostles came alongside of him. All of the apostles, in the form of their doctrines, are the foundation stones of the church. Peter was the first of these stones to be laid, and in that sense he has chronological preeminence. It is important to note here that the NT is the foundation of the church and it was written by the apostles, and in this manner their teachings are what the church is built on. The survival of the Apostolic writings, which was made possible through the preaching of Peter, is what the church has been built on for the past 2,000 years.

Josh

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6 Comments

  1. Pio

     /  July 14, 2012

    Hello Josh,

    You wrote “But it is not easy to establish that the whole of the early church was built on the foundation of Peter, and what are we to say of the descendants of the non-Petrine churches? And so in later times with, for example, the churches of the Reformation that separated from the churches that professed a connection with Peter. Are we to say that because they understand this passage in a different way they are no part of the true church?”

    This is not an accurate understanding of Catholic ecclesiology. Catholics make a distinction between local churches and the universal church. Schismatic eastern Orthodox churches, Old Catholics, some Anglicans, and perhaps some Lutherans, may indeed have apostolic succession. The Catholic Church for this reason has no problem saying that schismatic Eastern Orthodox churches that not only maintain apostolic succession but maintain a valid understanding of the Eucharist and ordination are in fact true local churches. This does not mean however that they are part of the universal church. Protestant churches that do not have Apostolic succession cannot in any way be considered true local churches, rather, they are ecclesiastical communions. So, a belief in Papal supremacy is not necessary in order to be a true local church, but it is necessary in order to be part of the universal church. As far as whether some Protestants do in fact have apostolic succession and would then be true local churches, that is another matter.

    You wrote “From the earliest times it has been recognized that Peter’s faith is important for an understanding of the passage. Thus Chrysostom cites the words “upon this rock will I build my Church” and immediately goes on, “that is, on the faith of his confession” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on St. Matthew (NPNF, 1st ser ., p. 333).”

    Sure, Peter’s faith is important in understanding the passage, but this is not incompatible with the Catholic understanding of Matthew 16:18-19. However, we know linguistically it is Peter who is the rock, not the confession. Just like it was Peter who was given the keys of the kingdom, not his confession. I don’t think Chrysostom’s view is incompatible with papal supremacy. He also had some interesting comments on the papacy elsewhere, for example:

    “And why, having passed by the others, does He [Jesus] speak with Peter on these matters? He [Peter] was the chosen one of the Apostles, the mouth of the disciples, the leader of the band; on this account also Paul went up upon a time to enquire of him rather than the others. And at the same time to show him that he must now be of good cheer, since the denial was done away, Jesus puts into his hands the chief authority among the brethren…. And if any should say, ‘How then did James receive the chair at Jerusalem?’ I would make this reply, that He appointed Peter teacher, not of the chair [of Jerusalem], but of the world…. For he [Peter] who then did not dare to question Jesus, but committed the office to another, was even entrusted with the chief authority over the brethren, and not only does not commit to another what relates to himself, but himself now puts a question to his Master concerning another. (Homily 88 on the Gospel of John)”

    The Fathers had many things to say about the papacy. Here are a few quotes http://www.churchfathers.org/category/the-church-and-the-papacy/peters-primacy/ and http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/02/the-chair-of-st-peter/

    You wrote “We should also bear in mind McNeile’s point that to address Peter as this would be strange immediately following the direct address “You are Peter.” Why would Jesus not continue with something like “and upon you I will build my church”? This would be more natural if Jesus were addressing the whole group rather than Peter himself. And if Peter was here given the chief place, the question of the disciples just a little later as to who would have that place (18:1) is inexplicable. They at any rate knew nothing of Peter as the supreme pontiff.”?

    Because in the original language he wanted to make a pun (as noted by D.A. Carson) and to say “upon you” instead of “upon this rock” would not make a pun. But he pun is as follows: You are rock (Cephas) and upon this rock I will build my church. If he had simply said “you are rock and upon you I will build my church, the pun would not be made. Is it true the Apostles knew nothing of Peter as the supreme pontiff? Surely they would not have known him by such at title but they would have known him by the concept of the title. J.N.D. Kelly notes:

    ““[In the first half of Acts]…Peter was the undisputed leader of the youthful church. It was he who presided over the choice of a successor to Judas (1:15-26), who explained to the crowd the meaning of Pentecost (2:14-40), who healed the lame beggar at the Temple (3:1-10), who pronounced sentence on Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11), and who opened the church to Gentiles by having Cornelius baptized without undergoing circumcision (10:9-48). He was to the fore in preaching, defending the new movement, working miracles of healing, and visiting newly established Christian communities..” (J.N.D. Kelly The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1986) under Peter, St, Apostle (page 5-6), as quoted here http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/PeterRockKeysPrimacyRome.htm#HISTORY)”

    You wrote “There is no doubting that Peter is assigned a preeminence (which we see clearly in the early chapters of Acts), but it is not an absolute preeminence and we must be careful in defining it. In any case there is no mention of any successors of Peter; whatever position is assigned to him is personal and not transmissible to those who would succeed him.”

    Your assertion that there is no mention of any successors of Peter does not account for the early church that taught Peter had successors with the same authority Peter had as can be seen here http://www.churchfathers.org/category/the-church-and-the-papacy/peters-successors/ Neither does this account for Isaiah 22:20-22 which is clearly what Christ is using as a parallel for Peter’s office. The steward in Isaiah 22:20-22 who was given the key to the kingdom of David was not a one time ordeal but was a successive office. Likewise, Peter’s office was successive. Here is a good article on how Matthew 16:18-19 is to be understood in light of Isaiah 22:20-22 http://www.catholic-pages.com/pope/hahn.asp Additionally, Acts 1 shows us that upon the death of an Apostle, another is chosen to take his “office” or “Bishopric”.

    You wrote “it is James, not Peter, who presides over the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15), and Paul rebukes him sharply (Gal. 2:11–14).”

    James merely confirmed what Peter had already determined, this is not incompatible with Papal supremacy. Much can be said here but consider the following:

    “As it was, the Council of Jerusalem started out with much debate (Acts 15:6). Then Peter spoke, and the dispute promptly ended (Acts 15:7-11). That sounds like he spoke with some authority. In fact, “the whole assembly became silent,” enabling Paul and Barnabas to speak next (Acts 15:12). When St. James finally spoke at the very end, he agreed with what St. Peter said. In fact, in support of his own views, James cited to two sources: Scripture (Acts 15:15-18), and St. Peter (Acts 15:14). So when James spoke with authority, it was by appealing to Peter’s authority. Is there any question that if the reverse had happened, Protestants would point to this to prove that Peter wasn’t really the pope?” http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/search?q=papacy+james

    Indeed Paul rebuked Peter sharply, this has nothing to do with Papal supremacy. In case you are not familiar with the story, even St. Catherine of Siena, a lay Catholic woman, rebuked the Pope, and note she is a saint. Paul’s rebuke of Peter doesn’t mean that the Paul is more authoritative than the Peter. For example, I can rebuke the President but that doesn’t make me more authoritative than he. Paul’s rebuke of Peter is perfectly compatible with the Catholic understanding of Papal supremacy.

    You wrote “That Peter was a great apostle, widely honored in the early church, is clear. That he was the earthly head of the church is not.”

    Only if you ignore Isaiah 22:20-22 and the vast majority of Church history. Here are some of the Fathers on papal supremacy http://www.churchfathers.org/category/the-church-and-the-papacy/peters-primacy/

    You wrote “He says that he will give Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom, of course, is not to be identified with the church. The kingdom has reference to the divine rule; the church to the people of God. They are closely related, but not identical.”

    I think this misses the point, besides I would think the church is part of the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 16:18-19 is to be read in light of Isaiah 22:20-22. As the one who had the key to the kingdom of David had authority over everyone in the king’s kingdom in the King’s absence, so the one who has the keys to the kingdom of heaven has authority over everyone in Christ’s kingdom in Christ’s absence. The steward over the kingdom of David did not merely have the authority to admit people in the kingdom but also had authority over the people already in the kingdom. Likewise the one over the kingdom of heaven does not merely have the authority to admit people in the kingdom of heaven but also has the authority over the people already in the kingdom of heaven. The purpose of the steward of Davids kingdom was not merely to admit people into the kingdom but was also to govern the people of the kingdom. Likewise the steward over Christ’s kingdom doesn’t merely have the authority to admit people into the kingdom but is also to govern the people of the kingdom. Here are a few interesting points on the keys:

    “Albright goes on in his commentary to speak about the keys of the kingdom that Jesus entrusted to Peter. Here’s what he says, “Isaiah 22, verse 15, undoubtedly lies behind this saying of Jesus. The keys are the symbol of authority and Father Roland DeVoe rightly sees here the same authority vested in the vicar, the master of the house, the chamberlain of the royal household in ancient Israel. In Isaiah 22 Eliakim is described as having the same authority.” http://www.catholic-pages.com/pope/hahn.asp

    You wrote “We should understand it here in close connection with Peter’s confession of faith: it was on the basis of his confession and not on that of personal abilities that Peter was given the keys.”

    I’m not aware of any Catholic who asserts Peter was given the keys because of his “personal abilities”. Could it be Peter was given the keys on the basis of neither his confession nor his personal abilities but upon the basis of God’s election of Peter to that office? I think you understanding of the keys is lacking if not read in light of Isaiah 22:20-22. If you read Matt. 16:18-19 in light of this passage then you will see Peter’s role was much more than letting the gentiles into the church.

    You wrote “The right to bind and loose , here connected with the gift of the keys, is given to the disciples as a whole in 18:18.”

    Yes, the Apostles had the authority to bind and loose but the text does not say they were given the keys to the kingdom, this was said of Peter alone. As noted here:

    “Now, what he means there is that nowhere else, when other Apostles are exercising Church authority are the keys ever mentioned. In Matthew 18, the Apostles get the power to bind and loose, like Peter got in Matthew 16, but with absolutely no mention of the keys. That fits perfectly into this model because in the king’s cabinet, all the ministers can bind and loose, but the Prime Minister who holds the keys can bind what they have loosed or loose what they have bound. He has, in a sense, the final say. He has, in himself, the authority of the court of final appeal and even Protestants can see this.” http://www.catholic-pages.com/pope/hahn.asp

    Also, you did not address what binding and loosing actually meant during the time of Christ. Jimmy Akin notes:

    “As can be seen in rabbinic literature, the terms binding and loosing are not ambiguous terms without a known meaning. Akin notes that these are rabbinic terms which mean:

    “[t]he ability to make, modify, and abolish authoritative rules of conduct for the community…Under Queen Alexandra the Pharisees, says Josephus (Wars of the Jews 1:5:2), ‘became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind.’ . . . The various schools had the power ‘to bind and to loose’; that is, to forbid and to permit (Talmud: Chagigah 3b); and they could also bind any day by declaring it a fast-day ( . . . Talmud: Ta’anit 12a . . . ).This power and authority, vested in the rabbinical body of each age of the Sanhedrin, received its ratification and final sanction from the celestial court of justice (Sifra, Emor, 9; Talmud: Makkot 23b).”

    Clearly, Peter, and the Apostles, had more authority than to simply admit gentiles into the kingdom, as you seem believe is all Peter and the Apostles had the authority to do.

    You wrote “All of the apostles are the foundation of the church according to Eph. 2:20.”

    This is true, but it does not mean Peter is not the rock of that foundation. The two are compatible.

    You wrote “It is the case with Peter that he is, chronologically the first apostle to preach and lead people into the kingdom (i.e. keys to the kingdom) as seen in Acts chapter 2”

    Again, the keys of the kingdom mean this and much more in light of Isaiah 22:20-22.

    You wrote “All of the apostles, in the form of their doctrines, are the foundation stones of the church.”

    That is not what the Bible says, it never says the Apostles in the form of their doctrines are the foundation, but it says the Apostles are the foundation “having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” To quote Tom Brown at Called to Communion on this passage, addressing where Calvin made the same error:

    “Words of law do not have authority in isolation from their source, but are authoritative because of their relationship to their source. For example, the U.S. Constitution is not authoritative apart from its source, but represents the authority of the People who promulgated it. Likewise, the words of the Bible are authoritative because of their relation to their authors, especially their divine Author. The Church is not founded upon these words, the teachings of prophets and apostles, but upon the prophets and apostles themselves based on their divine authority.” http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/01/the-canon-question/

    You wrote “It is important to note here that the NT is the foundation of the church and it was written by the apostles, and in this manner their teachings are what the church is built on.”

    Where does the Bible say this? In fact, the Bible says the exact opposite in 1 Tim. 3:14-15 “I am writing these things to you now, even though I hope to be with you soon, so that if I am delayed, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth.” The church is the foundation of the truth, which includes the New Testament. Not the other way around. Keep in mind the church predated the New Testament. To whom were the New Testament books written if not to the Church? If the New Testament books were written to the church then it is impossible for the NT to be the foundation of the church. Christ is the invisible foundation of the church with the Apostles being its visible foundation, which predates the writing of the New Testament.

    I highly recommend you read Scott Hahn’s lecture on the papacy found here: http://www.catholic-pages.com/pope/hahn.asp and also the Catholic Encyclopedia’s article on the Pope here http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12260a.htm

    Reply
    • You said, “Only if you ignore Isaiah 22:20-22 and the vast majority of Church history.”
      We will get to the church fathers later. I believe that there is a bit less being said of Peter and his authority in many cases. Since the Father’s err, I would prefer sticking to a discussion of the Scriptures on the matter, at least for the first stage.
      Though there are some resemblances in the text from Isaiah to that of Matthew, the text in Isaiah is specifically fulfilled in Rev. 3:7, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. ” This is clearly the fulfillment of that passage. There, in Matthew, the “binding” and “loosing” introduce another figure, though one similar in description; whereas here in Isaiah and in Revelation, in the “opening” and “shutting,” the figure of the key (and door) is retained.

      James did not appeal to Peter’s authority, but to his testimony of what happened at the house of Cornelius. Peter, at the house of Cornelius, recognized that he didn’t have the authority to “not baptize” them, seeing as they received the same Spirit as he himself had. James appealed to this, as a way of saying that God had already established his acceptance of those who aren’t circumcised. In any case, it was James with the last and final say, which is inconsistent with the “vicar of Christ” theology.

      You said, “I’m not aware of any Catholic who asserts Peter was given the keys because of his “personal abilities”. Could it be Peter was given the keys on the basis of neither his confession nor his personal abilities but upon the basis of God’s election of Peter to that office? I think you understanding of the keys is lacking if not read in light of Isaiah 22:20-22. If you read Matt. 16:18-19 in light of this passage then you will see Peter’s role was much more than letting the gentiles into the church.”

      Jesus as the fulfillment of that passage from Isaiah 22, extended his authority to the apostles. The first apostle that was given this authority was Peter.
      So, let me clarify something, I do not believe it was Peter’s personal abilities that established his authority, nor do I believe that that is your stance. What I am saying is that the apostles, all of them who taught as apostles, by nature of their office, held the keys to the kingdom in at least this sense: they were entrusted with the message that was necessary for salvation; apart from which people would be condemned. Peter was the first apostle to be given this authority, and the first apostle to operate with this authority; and it is in this sense that he is the rock upon which the church is built. The truth of his confession is the theological foundation of his authority, and his authoirty is given with the primary purpose of proclaiming this truth.

      You wrote “It is important to note here that the NT is the foundation of the church and it was written by the apostles, and in this manner their teachings are what the church is built on. Where does the Bible say this?” The clarifying question is: how do the apostles usurp their authority over us? Here is a small excerpt from Greg Bahnsen:

      “You see, the authority of the Apostles continues in the Church not by their oral instruction — that should be obvious; the Apostles are dead! The authority of the Apostles continues in the Church through their teaching, through the deposit that they have passed to the Church. And the only way in which we now receive that deposit is in writing. The Apostles are dead! They don’t orally instruct us! But what they taught continues in their writings, in the Scriptures, which we take as the standard of our faith.

      Indeed, in the NT, what the Apostles wrote was to be accounted as the very Word of God. Look at I Corinthians 14:37, “If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord.” And indeed, what the Apostles wrote was not only accounted as the very Word of God, their written epistles came to have for the Church the same authority as what Peter called “the other Scriptures.” Look at II Peter 3:16! Peter’s talking about “our beloved brother Paul,” and he says, “as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unsteadfast twist, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” Peter puts the writings of Paul in the same category as “the other Scriptures” (that would be the OT). Paul and what he writes has the same authority as did the Old Testament for God’s people in that day! There is no continuing supply of new Apostolic oral instruction! But in the Scriptures, written by the Apostles, we find the same authority, the same inspired Word of God as the Old Testament for us. Beyond the first generation of the Church, after the Apostles passed away, the authority of the Apostles was found in their written word in the objective testimony that they left the Church, not in their subjective personal instruction. Because the office of Apostle and the gifts which accompany the ministry of the Apostles were intended to be temporary, they were confined to the founding of the Church.

      The office of Apostle is not a continuing office in the Church! To be an Apostle it was required to be a witness of the resurrected Christ as we see in Acts 1:22 — also reflected in Paul’s defense of his Apostolic credentials in I Corinthians 9:1. Moreover, it was required that you be personally commissioned by the Lord Himself which is what Paul claims in Galatians 1:1, that He is an Apostle not by the Word of men but by revelation of Jesus Christ! The Apostles were those who were witnesses of the resurrected Christ and personally commissioned by Him. And thus the Apostolic office was restricted to the first generation of the Church. Paul considered Himself “the least” (perhaps translated “the last”) of the Apostles in I Corinthians 15. And Paul’s personal successor Timothy is never given that title in the New Testament. And so in the very nature of the case, Apostolic revelation did not extend beyond the Apostolic generation. It never extended beyond the foundational days of the Church! Ephesians 2:20 says the Church is founded upon the Apostles and Prophets, Christ being the chief cornerstone. And beyond the foundational days of the Church, the foundation-laying days of the Church, there is no Apostolic revelation. And that’s why when you look at Jude (the 3rd verse) you see the author in his own day — when Apostolic instruction was still current by the way — Jude in his own day could speak of “the faith” as “once for all delivered unto the saints.” The ‘faith’ here is the teaching content of the Christian faith! It is that dogma (if you will), that truth given by the Apostles through the Revelation of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Jude says “the faith” has “once for all” been ‘delivered unto the saints’.” (Greg Bahnsen, defense of Sola Scriptura).

      Josh

      Reply
  2. Garrison

     /  July 15, 2012

    Josh,

    You say:
    “We will get to the church fathers later. I believe that there is a bit less being said of Peter and his authority in many cases. Since the Father’s err, I would prefer sticking to a discussion of the Scriptures on the matter, at least for the first stage.”

    The Church agrees that the Fathers individually may err, but when they all teach with a unified voice, they witness to what is true; the same is true with the bishops: individually, (even en masse) they can and do teach incorrectly, but they teach with the guarantee of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28) when they do so collectively with the Bishop of Rome (the successor of Peter). Regardless, the Scriptures were not written in a vacuum; the Fathers are witnesses to what the earliest Christians believed and how they understood the Scriptures.

    You say:
    “James did not appeal to Peter’s authority, but to his testimony of what happened at the house of Cornelius. Peter, at the house of Cornelius, recognized that he didn’t have the authority to ‘not baptize’ them, seeing as they received the same Spirit as he himself had. James appealed to this, as a way of saying that God had already established his acceptance of those who aren’t circumcised. In any case, it was James with the last and final say, which is inconsistent with the ‘vicar of Christ’ theology.”

    It was Peter’s voice that silenced the assembly and allowed Paul to give his report. James’ ruling is not inconsistent with the idea that Peter is the Prince of the Apostles, especially since he makes reference to Peter’s testimony as being decisive (once again). You agree that Peter had an office preeminent among them. Christ repeatedly tells Peter himself to take care of the Church (and even the other Apostles!) in ways no other Apostle receives (Luke 22:32, John 21:15-19).

    Peter himself and his confession are both understood to be the rock; I absolutely agree that they cannot be separated. Catholics do not say it was because of any spectacular facet of Peter that he received his ministry, as you note. The Church also affirms that the purpose of the Apostles’ authority, in general, and Peter’s, specifically, was for the “purpose of proclaiming this truth”.

    The Church has now and always rejected Brahnson’s idea (“the only way in which we now receive that deposit is in writing”). The Fathers have consistently emphasized the idea of direct and public succession from bishop to bishop from the Apostles as the way to distinguish who holds the true Faith.

    “There is no continuing supply of new Apostolic oral instruction! But in the Scriptures, written by the Apostles, we find the same authority, the same inspired Word of God as the Old Testament for us. Beyond the first generation of the Church, after the Apostles passed away, the authority of the Apostles was found in their written word in the objective testimony that they left the Church, not in their subjective personal instruction. Because the office of Apostle and the gifts which accompany the ministry of the Apostles were intended to be temporary, they were confined to the founding of the Church.”

    The Church agrees that there is no more divine revelation. There is one Faith, delivered once and for all to the Apostles. The Church cannot make up or add new doctrine, only clarify what has been taught. Everything the Church teaches is at least implicit from the Sacred Scriptures. You would certainly contest that point, but that is what the Church teaches and has taught from the beginning, that theological nova are not part of the Faith. It is the duty of the Church to look to the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, discern what is part of the Deposit of Faith and what is spurious, and rule decisively and infallibly with the protection of the Holy Spirit on any particular point.

    The Apostles did appoint successors (you, yourself, mention that Timothy is Paul’s successor) to tend to the local and universal Church. Remember the office of steward, which is signified by the keys and the ability to “bind and loose”, is an office with succession and not a “temporary ministry”.

    Reply
    • You said:
      “The Church agrees that there is no more divine revelation. There is one Faith, delivered once and for all to the Apostles. The Church cannot make up or add new doctrine, only clarify what has been taught. Everything the Church teaches is at least implicit from the Sacred Scriptures. You would certainly contest that point, but that is what the Church teaches and has taught from the beginning, that theological nova are not part of the Faith.”

      The dogmas involved with Rome’s Mariology, is not even taught implicitly in Scripture. It is taught by the magisterial use of allegory which assumes authority for itself (unless it true).

      It is the duty of the Church to look to the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, discern what is part of the Deposit of Faith and what is spurious, and rule decisively and infallibly with the protection of the Holy Spirit on any particular point.

      The problem word there is “infallibly.” The church, and the ecclesial authority within the church even from the beginning; this is not what is denied by protestants. It is the belief that there was an infallible ecclesial authority established that we, as Protestants, disagree with. We believe that a church (even the pope in his seat) is always subject to the ongoing correcting, reforming, and maturing effects of being surrendered to the authority of the infallible word of God. The church, from the magesterium to the pope (ex cathedra) can err, and err she does; but if she positions herself under the authority of the apostles as passed down to us in their inspired writings, then she will be corrected and continually reforming. This reality, I believe is what led to the Reformation.

      The Apostles did appoint successors (you, yourself, mention that Timothy is Paul’s successor) to tend to the local and universal Church. Remember the office of steward, which is signified by the keys and the ability to “bind and loose”, is an office with succession and not a “temporary ministry”.”

      Here we agree! That is until we get to the application of how this worked itself out. I believe that every leader who aligns themselves (or are aligned by God), under the authority of the apostolic writings, are on that basis in possession of the keys to the kingdom. The authority to bind and loose (as you said) cannot be divorced from the confessional statement. It is the truth of the gospel with the essentials that it entails that establishes a person’s authority. (Note: the gospel itself entails the apostolic authority, and therefore the authority of the New Testament. (Cf 1 Cor. 15)

      Reply
  3. Garrison

     /  July 15, 2012

    No. Scripture attests to the belief of the earliest Christians that the Church does teach infallibly. Consider the letter sent to the Gentiles from the Council of Jerusalem: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements…” (Acts 15:28). And yes, Protestants do deny the Church any authority. Case in point: Protestantism is fragmented, the various traditions of the Reformation cannot agree with each other and entertain mutually contradictory views on salvation itself (much less anything else of consequence, e.g.: Eucharist, baptismal regeneration, etc.), and no Protestant can definitively declare a position wrong as an ecumenical council can. This doesn’t even take into account the gap between the various Protestant positions and those of the Church Fathers as a whole. Instead, the Reformers themselves only appealed to select Fathers (Augustine, Jerome) over and opposed to all others assuming the others had so misunderstood the Faith from the beginning.

    Yes, the Marian dogmas are implicit in Scripture. Like the title “Theotokos”, which was confirmed by the Council of Ephesus, they point to greater realities that are affirmed in Scripture. Remember, Mary is the icon of the Church (Revelation 12:1-6). Anything we say about Mary is saying something about the Church and Christ.

    Reply
  4. Garrison

     /  July 15, 2012

    Also, you affirm the Apostles had the power to bind and loose. Yes, indeed, they did as do their successors. Question: Is there any example from Scripture that shows the Church can err, that the Church can bind or loose incorrectly?

    Reply

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