Saturday, October 03, 2009

Who is the Rock?

On Elena's blog, Visits to Candyland, we were having a discussion about Scott Hahn's view, as a Roman Catholic convert, of the papacy, which they claim is founded on Matthew 16:17-19 in which the RCC thinks Jesus is founding His church upon Peter. In the comment thread, I made some comments that I wanted to keep a record of, so I am reposting them here.

I'm not going to have much time to comment this weekend after this, as we've got a conference tonight and tomorrow and church on Sunday, but after so far reading half of Scott Hahn's article on the papacy, a couple of things occur to me.
First, if Jesus is specifically referring to Peter as the rock and giving him the keys, which I don't think is clear, how does this lead to the Bishop of Rome being the only successor of Peter? The Apostles appointed many pastors (bishops) and planted many churches all over the known world. Peter was in Jerusalem for many years and then I believe in Antioch, and then it is controversial whether he was even in Rome, or if he was, for how long. If Peter was in Rome at the end of his life, for some have added up the years and it couldn't have been long, it may have only been like Paul who was brougt there as a prisoner to be tried and then executed. Why is the claim of the Roman bishops any better than any other bishop?
Secondly, Hahn makes the point at the beginning of his article that the church is like a family rather than just a 'people'. If indeed Peter is established as a father (though I think this is debatable) how does this translate to there always being only one successor? Adam was the father of the human race, but there was not just one successor but many fathers came from him and had many children, who in turn became fathers/mothers as well. Peter and the Apostles appointed many bishops and led many to Christ and those in turn led many more until a great and constantly growing family was established. It is a building with a foundation upon which many stones are being added. I don't see anything that supports the idea of one successor or especially that it has to be the Roman bishop.
There is much more that could be said about infallibility, and how for instance one knows which statements of the pope are infallible and which are faulty. I hope someone else has time to address this, because I have to go.


In the Augustine passage in the Webster article I linked to above, Augustine seems to see a parallel between the raising of Lazarus and the Matthew 16 passage about Peter, the rock, and the keys.
Here is the passage from Augustine:
Let those who are bound fear, those who are loosed fear. Let those who are loosed be afraid of being bound; those who are bound pray to be loosed. 'Each one is tied up in the thread of his own sins' (Prv 5:22). And apart from the Church, nothing is loosed. One four days dead is told, 'Lazarus, come forth in the open' (Jn 11:43), and he came forth from the tomb tied hand and foot with bandages. The Lord rouses him, so that the dead man may come forth from the tomb; this means he touches the heart, so that the confession of sin may come out in the open. But that's not enough, he's still bound. So after Lazarus had come out of the tomb, the Lord turned to his disciples, whom he had told, 'Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,' and said, 'Loose him, and let him go' (Jn 11:44). He roused him by himself, he loosed him through the disciples.

Here are the two Bible passages:
John 11:38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”
40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”

Matthew 16:15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

These passages are parallel because they both show Christ, the Head, the Rock, the Cornerstone as the one who stands before the gates of Hades (death) and calls forth the one who is dead, and death cannot withstand Him. He calls the dead forth by His word in the power of the Spirit, and the dead obey His word. He then tells His people, the believers, the church, the disciples, to 'loose him and let him go.' Peter represents all the church, and all the church has the commission to share the gospel (remove the stone and let the dead hear His word) and to take off the graveclothes when the dead is called to life.

Jesus is the Head and the Rock upon which the Church, represented by Peter, is built. Peter himself said this: 1 Peter 2:4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,

“ Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”

Here are the quotes I used earlier from Augustine:
Remember, in this man Peter, the rock. He's the one, you see, who on being questioned by the Lord about who the disciples said he was, replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' On hearing this, Jesus said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jona, because flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you'...'You are Peter, Rocky, and on this rock I shall build my Church, and the gates of the underworld will not conquer her. To you shall I give the keys of the kingdom. Whatever you bind on earth shall also be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall also be loosed in heaven' (Mt 16:15-19). In Peter, Rocky, we see our attention drawn to the rock. Now the apostle Paul says about the former people, 'They drank from the spiritual rock that was following them; but the rock was Christ' (1 Cor 10:4). So this disciple is called Rocky from the rock, like Christian from Christ.
Why have I wanted to make this little introduction? In order to suggest to you that in Peter the Church is to be recognized. 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.1

Its clear, you see, from many places in scripture that Peter can stand for, or represent, the Church; above all from that place where it says, To you will I hand over the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall also be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Mt. 16:19). Did Peter receive these keys, and Paul not receive them? Did Peter receive them, and John and James and the other apostles not receive them? Or are the keys not to be found in the Church, where sins are being forgiven every day? But because Peter symbolically stood for the Church, what was given to him alone was given to the whole Church. So Peter represented the Church; the Church is the body of Christ.13

Augustine said in the same passage as above:
None of us lacks Christ. He is complete in all of us, and still there is more of his body waiting for him. Those disciples believed, through them many inhabitants of Jerusalem came to believe, Judea came to believe, Samaria came to believe. Let the members join the body, the building attach itself to the foundation. For no other foundation can anyone lay, says the apostle, except what has been laid, which is Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 3:11).30

That Jerusalem of ours, though, still in exile, is being built in heaven. That's why Christ, its foundation, preceded it into heaven. That, you see, is where our foundation is, and the head of the Church, because a foundation too is also called a head; and indeed that is what it is. Because the head of a building too is its foundation; its head isn't where it is finished, but where it starts growing upward from. The tops of earthly buildings are raised up high; yet they set their head firmly in the solid ground. In the same sort of way the head of the Church has gone ahead into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Just as men go about their work, when for laying foundations they bring along suitable material to make a solid base, to ensure the security of the mass that is going to be placed on top of it in construction of the edifice to be; so in the same sort of way, by all those things that took place in Christ, being born, growing up, being arrested, enduring abuse, being scourged, crucified, killed, dying, being buried, it was like material being brought along for the heavenly foundations.


Going back to our original discussion about the papacy, and Peter as the rock, I have been trying to get the ideas in scripture organized in my mind for the last several days and finally I have it clearly in my mind.
I don't want to go into a long discourse, but just summarize the way it all seems to fit together.
First of all, the idea that God (Christ) is the first, unshakeable, foundational Rock is one of the overarching themes of scripture from beginning to end. Because some mere mortals are referred to as rocks as well, such as Abraham and Peter, doesn’t mean that they are the first bedrock stone, the ‘Head of the Corner’ type of stone that Christ is. They are only worth anything as stones because they are built upon Christ who upholds everything by the power of His word. In the New Testament, Christ is always Petra, the cornerstone. One of the rules of interpretation is that obscure passages must be interpreted in light of what is known for sure. We know for sure that Jesus is the One foundational stone upon which all other stones are laid. The Matthew 16 passage has been debated for centuries. Even in the 4th century there was not agreement on it , as we have already seen, though many then saw it as protestants do.
Along with this are many scriptures that support the idea that Christ is the one cornerstone, and the Apostles are together the 12 foundation stones built upon Him, along with the OT prophets. Then the other stones (believers) are built upon these. See 1 Peter 2:4-8 and Revelation 21:14. Revelation shows all the Apostles as the foundations of the New Jerusalem, which is the Bride. The Apostles are part of the moveable stones built upon the immovable Rock of Christ.
Remember also the Rock in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2, and Elijah in the cleft of the Rock, and Moses and the water from the Rock, and Isaiah 32:2 ‘the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.’
Secondly, if you look at the story of the raising of Lazarus as a parallel passage to Matthew 16, as Augustine did, which I quoted in an earlier comment, you will see that it is Christ who stands before the gates of Death and by His word and Spirit brings the dead to life, showing that the gates of Hades cannot withstand Him who is the Rock, the Head of the Church who is built upon Him. If we are standing upon Him, and His word, death will not stand before us, His church. We speak His word by the Spirit and people will be set free. I believe it is the Rock of Christ first, and THEN the church built upon Him which the gates of death cannot withstand.
Thirdly, as I said at the beginning of this thread, where are the scriptures that show a that a single succession from Peter as the authority for the Church is what was established? Where is the proof that Rome is that succession, and not all the other bishops who descended from the Apostles? There is not agreement on this universally, and it is not in scripture, and not supported by the Fathers.


Also, Augustine brought out in that same passage I quoted earlier from Webster, that Peter represents all the Apostles, and all the church. We are all his successors if we are built upon Christ and His word, as taught by the Apostles, by faith.

Here again is the link to Webster.

Except I don't agree with Augustine and others that it is Peter's confession that is the Rock upon which the church is built, but the One Whom Peter confessed.


the story of Lazarus shows that the moveable stones (us) have to be moved out of the way so the immovable Rock can do His work, so the dead can hear His voice. That means Peter and all believers have to bow to Him and move out of the way.

Here are some other helpful links: These first two links were provided by Paul, who also commented on Elena's blog and mine: An article by William Webster on Forgeries and the Papacy and an article from New Advent on Liber Pontificalis, a document that is referred to in Webster's article. In view of Webster's article, which shows the faulty foundation of forgery upon which the modern Roman Catholic view of the papacy is built, I believe much of what today's Roman Catholic apologists say on this subject should be held as suspect.
There is much information on the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church on Webster's website, Other good sources are, and


Paul said...

Excellent post. I hope to contribute to this in the upcoming days.

Paul said...

Here is Tony Bartolucci's outline and audio regarding the Papacy.

Papacy Outline

The Papacy: The Claim upon which the Church Stands or Falls