August 25, 2011

Hard Sayings XIV: You Are Peter

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19

This verse is one of the foundations for the Roman Catholic Church’s Petrine doctrine to Papal primacy and authority and it is the supposed Petrine Guarantee. The Vatican Council I on June 29, 1868 defined the primacy of the bishop of Rome over the whole Catholic Church as an essential institution of the Church that can never be relinquished. The Papacy or authority of the Pope is "the system of centralized government in the Church exercised by him [the Pope], along with the claim that by Divine appointment he has universal authority over Christendom. According to Roman Catholic doctrine, St. Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, and the Pope is not only his lineal successor in that office, but also inherits the unique commission given him by Christ. The Papal Primacy is just another name for Apostolic Succession.

It is too bad it that it is based on a flawed and presumptuous interpretation of this passage and therefore in error. I have elucidated my position on this in my post: A Post I Was Hoping to Avoid: On Roman Catholicism. As I have said before this is not biblical and when any human or human institution makes a claim that they are the “only” lineal successor of Peter uniquely commission by Jesus, we know unequivocally that said institution or person has claimed more authority than they have been allowed by the Bible. The exact phrase, “authority over Christendom” is only given to Christ Himself as the head of the Church. All others are equals under Christ. Period. Go read your Bible again in case you missed it.

There are other puzzling idioms and statements in this passage such as “the gates of Hades” (in reference to Caesarea Philippi being a hotbed of worship to the Greek God Pan) but my primary focus of why this is a hard saying is because of the fact the it has been misused to perpetuate what I believe has been nearly two millennium of control over the true church of Christ by an impostor that is a hybrid of true Christianity and a form of Romanized Christianity after Constantine (or thereabouts). The sheer power and voluminous expanse of the Roman Catholic Church is staggering. Although much good came from them much bad did also. To have laid claim to such a huge portion of Christian history based on such scant evidence and so few verses (Matthew 16:18-19 and loosely John 21:17) in the Bible to validate their claim is scary. For the Roman Catholic Church to have laid claim to the entirety of Christendom and to practically demand the authority to do so based on the claim of what they “think” is in this verse alone is imprudent. To allow a religious empire of humanity to revolve around an isolated single saying (or two sayings) of Jesus and to make a claim to authority of an entire faith, based on what appear to be poor hermeneutics of said statements from Christ…well I do not agree with the Roman Catholic Church or their hermeneutics. Sorry.

I will state clearly that there is nothing in the text in Greek or otherwise based in its context that would lead me to believe that it is giving totalitarian control of the Church to either Peter or Rome. This statement is made (in all the Gospels) in the area of Caesarea Philippi which was one of the northernmost reach of Jesus’ actual ministry before His Crucifixion. All of the Gospels put this account in the context of Jesus’ interaction with His disciples Him asking them what the people were saying about Him. Their reply shows the confusion or ambivalence of “the people”. But Jesus, knowing that it would be those closest to Him that would be the ones who carried on is message in the immediate and most profound manner queried them directly, “Who do you say that I am?” We then get Peter’s clear and succinct answer acting as the spokesperson of the group, You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”. We then receive Jesus’ response, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Jesus then strictly forbids them from telling anyone this information because His time (kairos) had not yet come.

It is well known that You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church involves a word play in the Greek. In Greek Peter is Petros (masculine) and “rock” is petra (feminine). The only difference is that “os” is the masculine form and “a” is the feminine. Aramaic was the language common to the day and is in high probability the language Jesus spoke when He said these words. There were not these types of grammatical and syntactic distinctions in Aramaic speech. So it is likely Jesus said something to the nature of “You are kepha, and upon this kepha I will build my church”. This version of Peter is still seen in many modern versions of the Bible as Cephas (John 1:42). Kepha means “rock”. A Hebrew form of it kepha is used in Jeremiah 4:29. Many languages such as French can reproduce the exact intended word play like Pierre. This cannot be done in English. If the word play is to be brought out in English it requires transposing of the name or Proper noun with the inanimate object rock.

Jesus has now found (since he solicited the question) at least one that is prepared to confess the truth about Jesus' true identity. It has finally been revealed to Peter, by God the Father, through the Holy Spirit who Jesus is. God has finally deemed it the proper time (kairos) to reveal the true identity of Jesus through the Spirit. The very person of the Trinity that will indwell the believer as Jesus' replacement after Pentecost. Ironic? We must remember it is paramount that Jesus’ true identity was not revealed until the absolute perfect exact time as determined by God or the kairos / καιρός time (as opposed to chronos / χρόνος), which we will see unfold in John 12’s:

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” John 12:23

It is through Peter’s confession in the presence of the other disciples by the work of God through the Spirit that we see the truth given. Peter’s confession acts as a signpost in the road: NOW IS THE TIME for the disciples to understand. It is the time to understand what? It is the time that Jesus’ true identity and true purpose is revealed. It is no wonder we then hear Jesus’ prophetic response about His death immediately after this pronouncement by Peter. Peter is the foundation in time, faith and belief for Jesus to begin building His church. I do not think it is any accident that Jesus then immediate draws attention to His work (not Peter’s) when he predicts His own death. Jesus finally has in the form of Peter and his confession a basis for the church He had come to build as revealed by the Father through the Spirit, not Jesus' Himself. It is also probably not a surprise that Jesus really begins intensive training of the 12 disciples not long after. They too will launch Jesus' teaching into the surrounding Roman territories because they too believe the same thing Peter does (minus Judas). Everyone else up to this point except for a very rare few were trying to cram Jesus into a ready-made stereotypical mold like Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, his own disciples, etc. Peter changed this. Instead of trying to fit Jesus into a box of his own making (like we do even today), Peter accepted Jesus as He was (not the military leader everyone expected) and still recognized Jesus as the Messiah, Son of the Living God. This was revelatory and a major turning point in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus ups this scenario one more notch by mentioning His death as the Suffering Servant and it is at this point Peter must draw the line. It is too much for even Him to bear...and Jesus soundly rebukes Peter "Get behind me Satan!" Poor Peter...so close yet so far away.

It is at this point, in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus and His disciples literally and physically turn and will now make the long trek southward towards Jerusalem and Jesus’ miscarriage of justice called a trial, scourging, Crucifixion and Resurrection. Of course it would be Jesus’ most intimate companions the disciples that would bear witness to this shift, His death and eventually His Resurrection.

Peter reveals something profound here and Jesus responds to it. Peter reveals Jesus true identity and by doing as much reveals what Jesus’s true purpose is. Having stated this in the presence of witnesses Jesus knows it is time to turn and head down to his death.

He is Messiah…that revelation and what He will soon do because of the fact He is the Messiah is the basis for His Church.

If we believe it we become part of the Body of Christ-His Church. Thereby we build His Church. In reality though, it is not our work that builds Jesus’ Church, it is the work that He will do for Peter, work that He did for all that believe that He is Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

To bolster and back-up this idea we then see immediate reference to His work of atonement and the purpose for taking on his human attribute…death…nailed to a cross. Immediately after this we see a conversation between Jesus and the sole representatives of the Old Testament Laws and Prophets in the form of Moses and Elijah. All of them pointing to Jesus…the Law, the Prophets, Moses and Elijah. Coincidence? Hardly. Planned? Absolutely.

I guess what really matters here is the condition of the heart that confessed this truth or will confess this truth in the future. A rock-solid faith to build a church upon. It means the condition of the heart is fertile for acceptance of this truth. This truth is ready to take hold and bloom. Where one confesses that “Jesus is the Messiah the Son of the Living God”…is where Jesus’ Church resides…not just in Peter…but in all of us.

"You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God"


In the end even Peter himself reveals that he is not the Petra or "Living Rock" that Jesus was referring to. It only takes a little Bible literacy and comprehension of Scripture as a whole.

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”



3 comments:

ArtWerx said...

do you mind if i use that neat picture?

ArtWerx said...

i think you are on track, & good at explaining things. i have been getting that Scripture for a few days in my devotions. my take on the Roman Church is that the people of that region are being influenced/claimed by a power that links itself to the city...the same power that wished to form an empire & rule the world. those Christians seem to be in a bit of denial, & rather than spot their controllerator spirit, fossick around in the Bible for backup Scriptures! i had a friend who actually had a deliverance experience that caused him to push on in faith beyond his catholic up-bringing. thanks again for your insightful posts & the work you put in! Blessings to the fam! (:D

Andy Pierson said...

Thanks for the blessings and prayer Barbara. Gonna need it with the Hurricaine Irene coming. As for the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). I know many in the institution and I often get told that I am telling people about the errors in the RCC without love. I'm quite sorry about that but is there really any way to tell someone about error that doesn't sound like a harsh criticism? The truth is that I am to explain the truth. It is hard to not come across as abrasive when stating a fact online. I just know that much of the ritual and papal bulls are just that "bull". They are meer men claiming more authority that the Bible does not give them, nor did Jesus.

You are always one for brightening my day with your posts from down under. You are always welcome to post and comment :)...........Blessings, Andy

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