Was Peter the Rock? Latin Exegetical Interpretations of Matthew 16:18-19: From Late Antiquity to the Twelfth Century

Note: I have since added an addendum to this blog post. Also, I mistook Christian of Stavelot’s work for Dungal of Bobbio’s. I have since made this correction.

This post has its origins on Catholic Answers Forums, where once again the topic of Matthew 16:16-19 came up for discussion. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this topic, Matthew 16:18-19 is used to justify the Catholic doctrine of Papal Supremacy. The logic is as follows: 1.) Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ; 2.) Christ renames Peter (formerly Simon) as Peter, which means rock; 3.) that the rock unto which Christ proclaims that he will build his Church is Peter himself; 4.) although the rest of the apostles themselves receive the powers of binding and loosing as is later detailed in John 20:23, Peter alone received the keys; 5.) therefore in conclusion Peter holds supreme authority over the other apostles and thus too do Peter’s successors (the popes of Rome). This can be seen in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

553 Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). 287 The “power of the keys” designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17; 10:11). 288 The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles 289 and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom. (881, 1445, 641, 881)

http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/epub/index.cfm#

Most of the times that I see this topic discussed, it usually revolves around the discussion of certain dialects of Greek and Aramaic, the language that Jesus presumably spoke. However, what I noticed to be missing from every discussion was the verses’ interpretation throughout history. I grew curious, so I decided to sift through the various exegetical writings of holy men from Late Antiquity to the High Middle Ages. I focused only on exegetical writings solely because these writings are extremely difficult to take out of context, unlike decrees and letters, which apologists all too often do take out of context. I lack any knowledge of Greek, so I decided that I would engage the topic by concerning myself with only Latin writers, since I know Latin fairly well. What I found is that the present-day Catholic understanding of Matthew 16:16-19 is entirely alien to the understandings of the Latin Fathers, saints, and holy writers all the way up to at least the twelfth century. They understood the “rock” as being Peter only metaphorically, and that primarily it referred to either Christ or Peter’s confession of faith. Additionally, they understood the powers of binding and loosing to not be separate from the keys at all, and that these keys were at least given to all of the apostles. Listed below are the writings of St. Jerome, St. Hilary of Poitiers, pseudo-Bede, St. Paschasius Radbertus, St. Hrabanus Maurus, Christian of Stavelot, Rupert of Deutz, and St. Bruno of Segni. Note: Scriptural verses are not always translated, but are always italicized.

Matthew 16:18-19:

et ego dico tibi quia tu es Petrus
et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam
et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversum eam

et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum
et quodcumque ligaveris super terram erit ligatum in caelis
et quodcumque solveris super terram erit solutum in caelis

And I say to thee: That thou art Peter;
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven:
and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

-Matthew 16:18-19 Latin Vulgate, Weber-Gryson Fifth Edition

St. Jerome, who lived during the fourth and fifth centuries and is responsible for the Bible’s translation into Latin:

Quia tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam. Sicut ipse lumen apostolis donavit, ut lumen mundi appellarentur, caeteraque ex Domino sortiti sunt vocabula: ita et Simoni, qui credebat in petram Christum, Petri largitus est nomen. [Col.0117D] At secundum metaphoram petrae, recte dicitur ei: Aedificabo Ecclesiam meam super te.

Just as he himself gave the light to the apostles, so that the light of the world would be addressed, and the rest [of the apostles’] names are chosen by the Lord: and thus to Simon, who believed in Christ the Rock, the name of Peter is imparted. But following the metaphor of the rock, rightly it is said to him: “I will build my Church upon you.”

Jerome’s COMMENTARIORUM IN EVANGELIUM MATTHAEI AD EUSEBIUM LIBRI QUATUOR, Patrologia Latina 26: 0117C – 0117D

St. Hilary of Poitiers, who lived during the fourth century :

7. Confessionis merces.[Col.1009C] —Et dignum plane confessio Petri praemium consecuta est, quia Dei filium [Col.1010A] in homine vidisset. Beatus hic est, qui ultra humanos oculos et intendisse et vidisse laudatus est: non id quod ex carne et sanguine erat contuens, sed Dei filium coelestis patris revelatione conspiciens; dignusque judicatus, qui quod in Christo Dei esset, primus agnosceret. O in nuncupatione novi nominis felix Ecclesiae fundamentum, dignaque aedificatione illius petra, quae infernas leges, et tartari portas, et omnia mortis claustra dissolveret! O beatus coeli janitor, cujus arbitrio claves aeterni aditus traduntur, cujus terrestre judicium praejudicata auctoritas sit in coelo: ut quae in terris aut ligata sint aut soluta, statuti ejusdem conditionem obtineant et in coelo.

The Reward of Confession. And plainly the confession of Peter received a worthy award, because he had seen the Son of God in a man. Blessed is this man, who is praised to have seen and have contemplated [this truth] beyond human eyes: beholding not what was of flesh and blood, but seeing the revelation of the Son of God from the heavenly Father; and worthy and just, was he such that in Christ of God he was the first to recognize. Oh! By appellation of a new name the fruitful foundation of the Church, her rock is of a worthy build, [the rock] which (feminine) destroys the hellish laws, the gates of Hell, and all the barriers of death . O blessed door-keeper of heaven, by whose will had the keys of the eternal gates been delivered, by whose earthly judgment the authority was decreed beforehand in heaven : so that what was bound or loosed on earth, obtains the condition of the same status in heaven.

Hilary of Poitiers, IN EVANGELIUM MATTHAEI COMMENTARIUS, Patrologia Latina 9: 1009C – 1010A

Had ye seen, O holy and blessed men (the apostles), who for the reward of your faith have received the keys of the kingdom of heaven and power to bind and to loose in heaven and earth, works so great, so truly Divine, wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God; and do ye yet profess that it was not until He had first told you that He had gone forth from God that you attained the knowledge of the truth?

Hilary of Poitiers’ On the Trinity 6.33

This faith it is which is the foundation of the Church; through this faith the gates of hell cannot prevail against her. This is the faith which has the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever this faith shall have loosed or bound on earth shall be loosed or bound in heaven. This faith is the Father’s gift by revelation; even the knowledge that we must not imagine a false Christ, a creature made out of nothing, but must confess Him the Son of God, truly possessed of the Divine nature. What blasphemous madness and pitiful folly is it, that will not heed the venerable age and faith of that blessed martyr, Peter himself, for whom the Father was prayed that his faith might not fail in temptation; who twice repeated the declaration of love for God that was demanded of him, and was grieved that he was tested by a third renewal of the question, as though it were a doubtful and wavering devotion, and then, because this third trial had cleansed him of his infirmities, had the reward of hearing the Lord’s commission, Feed My sheep, a third time repeated; who, when all the Apostles were silent, alone recognised by the Father’s revelation the Son of God, and won the pre-eminence of a glory beyond the reach of human frailty by his confession of his blissful faith! What are the conclusions forced upon us by the study of his words? He confessed that Christ is the Son of God; you, lying bishop of the new apostolate, thrust upon us your modern notion that Christ is a creature, made out of nothing. What violence is this, that so distorts the glorious words? The very reason why he is blessed is that he confessed the Son of God. This is the Father’s revelation, this the foundation of the Church, this the assurance of her permanence. Hence has she the keys of the kingdom of heaven, hence judgment in heaven and judgment on earth.

Hilary of Poitiers’ On the Trinity 6.37

Pseudo-Bede:

Et ego dico tibi quia tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam. Metaphorice ei dicitur: Super hanc petram, id est, Salvatorem, [Col.0079A] quem confessus es, aedificatur Ecclesia, qui fideli confessori sui nominis participium donavit.

Metaphorically it is said: Upon this rock, that is, the Savior, which you have confessed, the Church shall be built, who had given a participation of his name to the sincere confessor [Peter].

Et tibi dabo claves regni coelorum. Id est, discernendi scientiam potentiamque, qua dignos debeas in regnum recipere, et indignos secludere.

Et quodcunque ligaveris, etc. Haec potestas sine dubio cunctis datur Apostolis, quibus ab eo post resurrectionem dicitur generaliter: Accipite Spiritum sanctum, etc. (Joan. XX).

That is the knowledge and power for discerning by which you may ought to receive the worthy into the kingdom and exclude the unworthy [therefrom].

This power is without a doubt given to those apostles, to whom by Him it is generally said after the resurrection: Receive the Holy Spirit, etc. (John 20).

pseudo-Bede’s IN MATTHAEI EVANGELIUM EXPOSITIO, Patrologia Latina 92: 0078D – 0079A

St. Paschasius Radbertus, a Frankish monk and abbot of Corbie who wrote numerous important theological and hagiographical works during the ninth century:

Non enim, ut quidam male putant, Petrus fundamentum totius Ecclesiae est: Quia fundamentum nemo aliud potest ponere, praeter id quod positum est, quod est Christus Jesus (I Cor. III, 11). Licet super eodem fundamento primus, ac si caput Petrus recte positus credatur, tamen in ea petra, de qua nomen sibi ex dono traxit, et super eam tota construitur et constabilitur illa coelestis Jerusalem, id est, supra Christum, ut firma permaneat in sempiternum.

It is not in fact so that someone badly reckons that Peter is the entire foundation of the Church. For another foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid: Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). It is allowed upon the same foundation that the first, as if the head Peter rightly believed to have been fixed, but in it, the rock, from which itself the name derives by gift, and upon the entire rock that the heavenly Jerusalem is built and is established, that is upon Christ, so that it may be permanently strong and everlasting.

Tu es, inquit, Simon Joannis, tu vocaberis Cephas, quod interpretatur Petrus (Joan. I, 42). Et non dixit, tu vocaberis Petrus, quo jam vocatus erat nomine, sed ait signanter: Tu es Petrus, [Col.0560D] et super hanc petram, a qua petra factus es, aedificabo Ecclesiam meam. Non quod jam, ut dixi, tam firmus esset, sed quod futurum erat ut fieret a Christo, Qui vocat ea quae non sunt, tanquam ea quae sunt (Rom. IV, 17). Et per Spiritum sanctum ita firmaretur: Ut neque mors, neque vita, neque instantia, neque futura, neque ulla creatura posset eum separare a charitate quae est in Christo (Rom. VIII, 38, 39).

And he did not say, “You will be called Peter,” by which name he was called, but distinctly he says: You are Peter, and upon this rock, from which rock you are made, I will build my Church. Not that now, so that it is said, so much that he was strong, but that he will be made in the future from Christ, He who calls those who are not, as if they are those. (Romans 4:17) And through the Holy Spirit he would thus be strengthened: So that neither death, nor life, nor present things, nor future things, nor any created thing is able to separate him from love, which is in Christ (Romans 8:38-39).

Petrus autem talem ac tantam expressit de corde confessionem, ut ejus confessio sit omnium apostolorum. Et sicut simul omnes interrogantur, ita in eo omnium est responsio una, supra quam fundatur Ecclesia, et contra quam portae inferorum non praevalebunt.

However Peter expressed such and such from the heart of confession, so that his confession (feminine) shall be [the confession] of every apostle. And just as at once all are asked, thus in him [Peter] is the one response of everyone, upon which [response/faith (feminine)] the Church is founded, and against which [response/faith] the gates of hell will not prevail.

Et tibi dabo, inquit, claves regni coelorum. … Omnis namque species virtutum cum ex corde fuerit adimpleta, quasi ipsa clavis regni videtur, ita ut inveniatur eadem virtus et clavis esse portae simul et porta per quam introitur ad regnum.

For with every type of virtue he will have been filled from the heart, as is seen with the keys to the kingdom,  thus so that the same virtue and keys shall be discovered to be both the gates [of the Church] and the gate through which one is accepted into the Kingdom [of Heaven].

Et quodcunque ligaveris supra terram, erit ligatum et in coelis, et quodcunque solveris super terram, erit solutum et in coelis. Quaeso unusquisque circumstantiam lectionis hujus diligenter intendat, maxime tamen episcopi, quibus videtur cum Petro et cum omnibus apostolis haec potestas specialius a Domino attributa, licet et omni Ecclesiae eadem sit concessa…

I look at every circumstance of its reading diligently which he extends, but maximally to the bishops, to whom are seen with Peter and with all of the apostles to have been attributed this special power by the Lord, and granted that in the same way everyone of the Church is given…

Paschasius Radbertus’ EXPOSITIO IN EVANGELIUM MATTHAEI, Patrologia Latina 120: 0560B; 0560C – 0560D; 0561A; 0562C – 0562D; 0563A

St. Hrabanus Maurus, a highly influential Frankish theologian who was abbot of Fulda and archbishop of Mainz during the ninth century:

Et dabo tibi claves regni coelorum. Qui regem coelorum majori prae caeteris devotione confessus est, merito prae caeteris ipse collatis clavibus regni coelestis donatus est, ut constaret omnibus, quia absque ea confessione, ac fide, regnum coelorum nullus potest intrare. Claves autem regni coelorum ipsam discernendi scientiam potentiamque nominat, qua dignos recipere in regnum, indignos secludere deberet a regno.

He who has confessed the Kingdom of Heaven well before with heavenly devotion, merits before Heaven itself the gifted keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, so that it may correspond with all, because it is without this confession, and faith, that no one is able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. However, the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven themselves are for discerning the powerful knowledge that he names, by which the worthy receive in the Kingdom, and the unworthy ought to be separated from the Kingdom.

Et quodcunque ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum et in coelis, et quodcunque solveris super terram, erit solutum et in coelis. Quae solvendi ac ligandi potestas, quamvis soli Petro data videatur a Domino, absque [Col.0992B] ulla tamen dubietate noscendum est quod et caeteris apostolis datur, ipso teste, qui post passionis, resurrectionisque suae triumphum apparens, eis insufflavit et dixit omnibus: Accipite Spiritum sanctum; quorum remiseritis peccata, remittentur eis, et quorum retinueritis, retenta sunt (Joan. XX). Nec non etiam nunc in episcopis ac presbyteris omnibus Ecclesiae officium idem committitur, ut videlicet agnitis peccantium causis, quoscunque humiles ac vere poenitentes aspexerit, hos jam a timore perpetuae mortis miserans absolvat; quos vero in peccatis quae egerint persistere cognoverit, illos perennibus suppliciis obligandos insinuet. Omni igitur electorum Ecclesiae, ut diximus, juxta modum culparum vel poenitentiae, ligandi ac solvendi datur auctoritas.

What power is for unbinding and for binding, as you will it may be seen as given only to Peter by the Lord, but without any doubt it is known that it is given to the rest of the apostles, witness yourself, he who after his passion and resurrection appearing to them in triumph breathed and said to all: Receive the Holy Spirit; the sins of all that you remit, they are remitted, and of all that you retain, they are retained (John 20). In fact, also presently in the bishops and presbyters is the same office committed to the everyone of the Church, so that clearly by the recognized causes of sins, whatever humble and true penitents he may have seen, he absolves them now from lamenting fear of perpetual death; truly he must have known that they led those in sin to continue steadfastly. He may recommend those towards unceasing supplication for obligation. Therefore, so that we have said, near an extent of culpability and of penance, the authority for binding and loosing is given to all of the elect of the Church.

Hrabanus Maurus’ COMMENTARIORUM IN MATTHAEUM LIBRI OCTO, Patrologia Latina 107: 0992A-0992B

Christian of Stavelot, monk from ninth-century Aquitaine:

Et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam. Super hanc firmitatem fidei quam confessus es, aedificabo Ecclesiam meam, et super me aedificabo te cum omni Ecclesia mea.

Upon this strength of faith that you have confessed, I will build my Church, and upon me I will build you with all my Church.

Et tibi dabo claves regni coelorum. Claves regni coelorum scientia discernendi, potentiaque qua dignos recipere in regnum, indignos excludere debeat intelligitur. Et quodcunque ligaveris super terram erit ligatum et in coelis, et quodcunque solveris super terram erit solutum et in coelis. Hoc tam Petro quam omnibus apostolis et successoribus [Col.1397B] eorum qui in Ecclesia eumdem locum tenent recte credimus concessum, quia ipse post passionem apparens eis, dixit: Accipite Spiritum sanctum; quorum remiseritis peccata, remittuntur eis; et quorum retinueritis, retenta sunt…

The keys of the Kingdom of Heaven are for discerning knowledge, and the power which receives the worthy into the Kingdom, and excludes the unworthy ought to be understood. And whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. This [applies] as much to Peter as to the all of the apostles and their successors, who hold the same office rightly we lend permission, because he himself appears to them after the passion, saying: Receive the Holy Spirit; every sin that you forgive are forgiven; and every sin that you retain are retained…

Christian of Stavelot’s EXPOSITIO IN MATTHAEUM EVANGELISTAM, Patrologia Latina 106: 1396D; 1397A – 1397B

Rupert of Deutz, abbot of Deutz Abbey who publicly debated a number of scholastic professors during the twelfth century:

Hinc est illud quod huic Simoni Petro dixit: «Et ego dico tibi, quia tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam (Matth. XVI).» Super petram fidei, quam confessus est Petrus, Ecclesiam suam aedificavit, eamque regendam illi, caeterisque apostolis eorumque similibus, commisit.

Upon the rock of faith, which Peter confessed, he built his Church, which for the sake of being guided by them, and the rest of the apostles and of those similar, he entrusted.

Rupert of Deutz’ IN OPUS DE GLORIA ET HONORE FILII HOMINIS SUPER MATTHAEUM, Patrologia Latina 168: 1385A

St. Bruno of Segni, the bishop of Segni and abbot of Montecassino as well as a supporter of the Gregorian Reform Movement in the eleventh and twelfth centuries:

Et ego dico tibi, quia tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam. Tu dicis, et verum dicis, quia ego sum Christus Filius Dei vivi: [Col.0213B] et ego dico tibi, quia tu es Petrus, fide fortis, et doctrina stabilis. Nisi enim in hoc nomine fortitudinem et stabilitatem Christus intellexisset, non ea quae sequuntur protinus addidisset, dicens; et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam. Si Petrum non intelligis, petram respice: petra autem erat Christus. Sic igitur a petra Petrus, sicut a Christo Christianus. Videamus itaque quid sit et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam. Super hanc petram, quam tu modo in fidei fundamentum posuisti; super hanc fidem, quam tu modo docuisti, dicens: Tu es Christus, Filius Dei vivi; super hanc petram et super hanc fidem aedificabo Ecclesiam meam.

You say, and you speak truth, because I am the Christ, Son of the living God: and I speak to you, because you are Peter, strong in faith, and in stable doctrine. In fact, unless in this name of fortitude and stability Christ would have had understood, not by it [the rock/petram] which onward it is followed to have had been joined, saying: and upon this rock I will build my Church. If you do not understand Peter, [then] look at the rock: but the rock is Christ. Yes, therefore, Peter [is] from the rock, just as a Christian [is] from Christ. Accordingly we may see what shall be and upon this rock I will build my Church. Upon this rock, which only you have laid in the foundation of faith; upon this faith, which only you have taught, saying: You are Christ, Son of the living God; upon this rock and upon this faith I will build my Church.

Et tibi dabo claves regni coelorum. Hoc enim quod principaliter Petro [Col.0214B] dicitur, caeteris quoque apostolis dictum esse intelligi debet.

In fact, this is principally said to Peter, and it ought to be understood as being said to the rest of the apostles.

Bruno of Segni’s COMMENTARIA IN MATTHAEUM, Patrologia Latina 165: 0212A – 0213B; 0214A – 0214B

As it can be seen, all of these writers understood Peter as the rock only metaphorically. They focused on the rock as either being Christ or the confession of faith. Almost all of the writers considered the keys to be the exact same as the powers of binding and loosing, and not to be a distinct entity. The only exceptions are Jerome and Rupert, only because Jerome and Rupert do not discuss the keys. Therefore, they all believed that all of the apostles received the keys, with a few exceptions: Hrabanus Maurus, Paschasius Radbertus, and Hilary of Poitiers . Their positions were quite radical in that they believed that every Christian believer held the keys by virtue of faith, not just the apostles and their successors.

While my labors here by no means resolve the issue of Matthew 16:18-19 definitively, especially if one is more concerned with modern biblical hermeneutics, they do at least call into question if not falsify the idea that the present-day Catholic Church’s understanding of Matthew 16:18-19 is the same as how the Latin West understood it before the Great Schism of 1054 and shortly thereafter.

P.S. My sources come from the Patrologia Latina, which is freely available on Google Books, should anyone feel the need to check my sources.

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17 Responses to Was Peter the Rock? Latin Exegetical Interpretations of Matthew 16:18-19: From Late Antiquity to the Twelfth Century

  1. E.T. Ybarra says:

    A friend of mine introduced me to this website. If you have time, I have made an audio concerning this issue of Peter as the rock.

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    • Alura says:

      Many thanks for this. I have just finished listening to this video/podcast and I found it quite interesting. I do just have a number of comments. First, I cannot comment much about Michael Whelton or his book, as I have not read it.

      Concerning the various letters you discuss, including those of Pope Symmachus, St. Eulogius to St. Gregory the Great, etc., I don’t find anything in the quotations of the letters themselves that imply a Catholic ecclesiology. They are merely making the observation that Rome is a successor to Peter and that it is a core characteristic of the see’s honor and prestige. This is why I am very adamant in the beginning of the article here on the exact context of quotations here, and why some genres of literature need far more description and qualification than others. Letters are especially flowery and are designed to give heaps of honor, generally speaking. So it isn’t surprising to find in any letter a description of the pope of Rome in glowing terms, just as it isn’t surprising to find letters to the Patriarch of Jerusalem as the “Mother of the Church,” yet still be at the bottom of the totem pole in the Pentarchy. Again, this is why in my article here, I specifically stuck with exegeses, although I did take some liberties and dabble a bit into St. Hilary’s On the Trinity, because their context can be given briefly and sufficiently. In short, I think that you should give more historical background for your letters and quotations and scrutinize the evidence more.

      Concerning specifically St. Jerome’s Letter 15 to Pope Damasus, I really think you’ve made quite a leap in claiming it showcases a Catholic ecclesiology here. First, I think it is worth pointing out that throughout the Arian Crisis, the Latin West was the most stalwart in its support of Nicaean Christianity. Second, it is also noteworthy that Jerome was personally close to Damasus. So I don’t find it particularly surprising that Jerome would write to Damasus concerning the issue of who he should worship with. Furthermore, I don’t find it particularly surprising that he refers to a chair of Peter, etc. I don’t agree with your logic towards the end of the podcast in that you say that if the Orthodox ecclesiology is correct, then the there would be no reference or emphasis on the chair of Peter, etc. Again, the genre of this document is a letter, so of course it is flowery and will emphasize characteristics of Rome. Recognizing that their is a successor to Peter is not the same as recognizing that there is a papal office as Catholics understand it.

      As for your comments about Apostolic Canon 34, I cannot say much since I do not know Greek. I likewise cannot comment about your point regarding the Aramaic.

      I am a little confused about your point regarding the distinction between Order and Jurisdiction that you make. According to Catholic ecclesiology, there is the papal office (the head) and there is the body of bishops. The head can function quite well without the body of bishops should any severe crisis arise. However, under the Catholic framework, the body cannot function without the head. That’s sends out red flags to the average Orthodox. I don’t see how the distinction between Order and Jurisdiction resolves this issue or concern.

      Although I have not read Fr. Laurent Cleenewerck’s book, I agree with his understanding of the rock and Matthew 16:18-19. I also agree with Origen’s understanding here. I’m not sure why you find it so peculiar, especially since it is echoed elsewhere, such as by St. Bruno of Segni above. You’ve made the contention that this understanding runs contrary to even the powers of the episcopate, but I don’t think that necessarily follows if one makes the distinction between the rock and the powers of binding and loosing. Again, as I have said here and in my follow-up article to this one, I think it is proper to understand the rock as the faith, Christ, and Peter, which both Pseudo-Bede and St. Jerome explicitly said was more of a metaphorical sense. Indeed Peter was honored specifically for this and no other, but this does not imply a Catholic understanding of a distinct office.

      Lastly, I would like to say that I agree with your assessment that the other interpretations of the rock are not mutually exclusive to Peter being the rock. Nor have I denied that Peter is the rock. My overall point, however, is to underline the Latin tradition that highlights all of the senses of the verses at hand and to showcase their meaning in an Orthodox understanding.

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      • E.T. Ybarra says:

        Thank you for your response, Alura. Allow me to correspond in points:

        (1) It is not worth reading Michael Whelton. If you want challenging work from Eastern Orthodox, I think Fr. Laurent Cleenewerck is far more researched and nuanced. He has a work entitled “His Broken Body”. I also have an mp3 lecture of his where he responds to Dr. James Likoudis.

        (2) I have noticed in the dialogue between East and West (especially online), it is as if both sides seem to be thinking that in each point, the other side is trying to “imply a Catholic or Orthodox ecclesiology”. When, that is impossible in any particular point. All that I had intended with citing certain letters from the 1st millennium East is to rebut Whelton’s claim that the East all saw the primacy of the Roman see to have derived from its political place in history, and that there was no such thing as a Petrine inheritance , comparable to what Catholics hold it to be. That is different than trying to prove Catholic ecclesiology.

        (3) I am well-aware of the “flowery language” that goes on in ancient letters, and I agree that sometimes Roman Catholics might be led to be mistaken. This can be seen in Justinian’s words to the Patriarch of Jerusalem that “it is the mother church, which no one must depart from” (paraphrase). Catholics using their own standards (at times) would have to Papalize Jerusalem! But we hope that is not the case in my presentation. I would argue that the instances I bring up indicate more than that.

        (4) On St. Jerome’s letter (15/16). I have done studies in the background of this letter and his language, though filled with metaphor and symbolism, is rather realistic in intent. I don’t you’ve provided any evidence that would prove it is purely symbolic. The dispute going on is a matter of communion in the East. That right off the bat entails that there is a real dispute at hand. Secondly, he describes the chair of Damasus as the chair of Peter. This is another indication that Jerome thought of the prelate of the Roman see as occupying the succession from Peter. Now, you might be able to sustain a reasonable skepticism if it were not for the 7 books St. Optatus of Mileve wrote to the Donatist Parmenian in North Africa. In book 2 of this work entitled “Against the Donatists” (it is free online), Optatus describes what had been known in the West, namely, that the Roman bishopric is the chair of Peter by divine origin, and that , as such, is possesses the prerogative of being the chair of unity to all the churches of the world. Optatus is not even writing to a Pope, so the “flowery language” solution does not work in this instance. Optatus is actually a contemporary of Jerome, and Augustine praised his writings as “gold”. There is also the writings of St. Augustine and the Africans which provide an enormous amount of witness to the fact that Rome held the see of Peter, in contradistinction to all other churches. Now, to respond to your statement that Orthodox ecclesiology would have no problem with the letter of Jerome. I would ask – What Orthodox ecclesiologist today would admit that the bishopric of Rome is the unique successor of Peter and that all who partake of the Lamb outside this house are schismatics? Technically speaking, the very see of Antioch, which Jerome was concerned about, was a “chair of Peter” according to St. Gregory the Great’s standards, but it is clear Jerome has something distinct going on in his reference to the Petrinias of the Roman see. It would seem to me the only chance the Orthodox have to salvage continuity with Jerome is the “flowery language” solution, which has little proof. Simply pointing out that such tact existed in the past does not prove your point.

        (5) For more background on the Apostolic canon of the Apostles #34, see A. Bogolepov “Toward an American Orthodox Church: The Establishment of an Autocephalous Orthodox Church” (New York, 1965). This will go through the history of this canon and its attempt to be applied in modern Orthodoxy.

        (6) On “order” and “jurisdiction” – The episcopate, as you know, is what succeeds the Apostolate of the 12 (unless you are of the persuasion that, historically, only the presbyterate was in existence until pragmatics and circumstance motivated the church to create bishops). All members of the episcopate, a la Cyprian/Jerome/Augustine/Gregory of Nyssa, are equal when it comes to the priestly powers of binding/loosing, absolving/retaining, etc,etc, This is the realm of “order”. Equality, therefore, exists in all members, even the bishop of Rome, since he is just as much a recipient of the sacramental grace that comes through the ordination to the order of Bishop. However, “jurisdiction” is something different. It pertains to the scope of one’s pastoring a flock. All bishops have jurisdiction over their local communities. Although existing from post-Apostolic times, the office of Metropolitan/Archbishop/Patriarch has a different jurisdiction than local bishop. Etc,Etc. The Pope has universal jurisdiction because the field of his pastorate is the whole world. So while the Pope has the same Eucharist, absolving hand, power of Chrism as all other bishops (equality of order), he has certain prerogatives that pertain to his pastoral ministry that exist on a different order, that of pastoral jurisdiction. For a more thorough explanation, see this link to the Catechism of the Council of Trent on the matter – http://www.cin.org/users/james/ebooks/master/trent/tsacr-o.htm

        (7) Proving that Peter has a distinct off granted by Christ to be primate, and that this defines “rock”, does not come close to proving the Catholic ecclesiology. Much more would be needed.

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      • Alura says:

        I still take issue with your understanding of St. Jerome’s letter. First, St. Jerome is St. Jerome and St. Optatus is St. Optatus. Let’s not mix the two when trying to understand Jerome’s letter. I never denied that Jerome was writing about a real crisis, and it does not imply that he recognized some sort of distinct office there. At best, and something I willingly have already admitted, Jerome is granting that Rome is a successor to Peter the Apostle. But as you have already mentioned, this can be understood in St. Gregory the Great’s sense, who recognized Petrine succession in Alexandria and Antioch. And it is worth pointing out that Antioch, even in papal correspondence as late as the eleventh century, emphasized its Petrine succession. As I’ve said before, I don’t find Jerome’s letter here as pertaining to something that Rome holds exclusively nor as something constituting a separate office from the rest of the episcopacy. You claim that it does, but you do not mention the specifics as to why it must be so. Additionally, your interpretation becomes increasingly untenable when looking at another one of Jerome’s works titled “Against Jovianus.” In Book I, Chapter 26, St. Jerome argues against the Donatist Jovianus who claims that the Church was founded upon Peter. St. Jerome affirms this position, but then adds “although elsewhere the same is attributed to all the Apostles, and they all receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the strength of the Church depends upon them all alike, yet one among the twelve is chosen so that when a head has been appointed, there may be no occasion for schism.” Jerome clearly affirms a presidency of sorts, something Orthodox have not denied, but Jerome’s interpretation here of the keys and divine power clearly contradict the Catholic understanding of the keys, etc.

        As for St. Optatus, this is something I’ve been meaning to write about for some time in my long delayed “Part 2” of one-liners debunked. I’ll keep it brief, although shortcomings are bound to arrive because of such. St. Optatus is writing against the Donatists and is explicitly mocking their universalist/catholic pretensions. Specifically, he is mocking their attempts to set up their own bishopric in Rome to rival the Orthodox bishopric of Rome. He is highlighting the fact that the Donatist Church is geographically restricted and the fact that the Donatists are attempting to compensate for this shortcoming reveals that it is farcical. He does indeed write, “You cannot deny that you know that in the city of Rome the Episcopal chair was the first conferred on Peter. In this Peter, the head of all the Apostles (hence his name Cephas), has sat; in which chair alone the unity was to be preserved by all lest any of the other Apostles should claim anything as exclusively his own. So much so that he who would place another chair against that one chair would be a schismatic and a sinner.” However, he also writes the following to the Donatists: “Without the Seven Churches – whatever is beyond their pale – is alien [from the Orthodox Church]. Or if you have some one Angel derived from them, through that one you hold communion with the other Angels, and through the Angels with the Churches before mentioned, and through the Churches with us, [the Orthodox], whom, however, you regard as polluted and refuse to own.” In this latter quote, Optatus is emphasizing the same point as he does with his argument about Rome. That there is proof in the pudding that Donatist Church is schismatic. Just as communion with the Orthodox bishop of Rome is necessary for being the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, so too is communion with the Seven Churches of Asia. No amount of setting up rival bishoprics is going to amend that problem. St. Optatus is emphasizing the necessary universal nature for telling what the One True Church is, a sentiment that the near contemporaneous Church Father, Tychonius of Africa, emphasized as well, which got him excommunicated from the Donatist Church.

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      • E.T. Ybarra says:

        (1) Well, let’s be frank. A 4th century writer, with the prominence of the scholar-traveler Jerome, writing to a Pope and emphasizing that the latter occupies the “cathedra Petri”, and that as such, holds the principle of ecclesiastical unity for the whole universal chamber of churches is quite striking, to say the least. What he *meant* by it is, of course, subject to interpretation. Though, I hardly think the “flowery language” solution, often applied aimlessly by Orthodox/Anglicans, suffices to explain. It does not answer the question of why Jerome associates Rome with Peter, much less Peter’s chair. It does not answer why Peter continues to have relevance to high-critical situations more than 300 years after the ministry of the Apostles. It does not answer why Jerome did not have recourse to the Petrine magisterium of Antioch, since that is the supposed inference from the oft wrongly cited Petrine-triad of Rome/Alex/Antioch (from St Gregory’s letter to Eulogius). Even Jaroslav Pelikan (a Lutheran historian turned Orthodox, though his publication was prior) understands that this is a baseless appeal to downplay the exclusive Roman petrine primacy. See my article here – https://erickybarra.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/pope-gregory-the-great-universal-papal-authority/

        (2) St. Jerome’s statement in contra Jovinianus #1 only supports Catholic teaching, namely, that as all the apostles were equal in their vocative order (keys, binding, loosing retaining, absolving, a la Matt 16, 18, and John 21), there was a prerogative existing on a different order, namely, the vocative call to the pastor who is the principle of unity (jurisdiction). According to the New Testament, all the Apostles are constituted, along with the prophets, the rock of the Church. However, this does not undermine Peter’s peculiar position of authority and ministry. Jerome actually only confirms here that Peter’s vocation to suppress schism is actually the very vocation of Damasus in the dispute over the hypostases-debate in Syria. Unless you are ready to say his writing contra Jovinianus was tinged with “flowery language” towards Peter. I see now reason to think so. And, as a matter of fact, this may furnish proof that his epistle to Damasus was not in fact a flowerly description, but a function he thinks was truly real and apostolic (a la Peter). And one would then wonder why Antioch or Alexandria was not the one he wrote to? One might say it was because he received his “cloth” @ Rome, as Damasus’ secretary and priest. But I don’t think it achieves the objection.

        (3) St. Optatus is truly Optatus, and an African at that. But it shows that a high Churchmen of the 4th century was recognized by both St. Augustine (De Doctrina Christ., xl) and St. Jerome (De viris illustribus, # 110) knew of his particular work against the Donaitsts, and held it in high esteem. This work clearly speaks to the *institution* of the Church, and not so much to flowery happenstance.

        (4) There has been a tendency (only of recent interpretation) to read St. Optatus as merely speaking to the rival situation of the rightful bishop of the Roman see. It does not work for several reasons. For the simple fact that, for Optatus, it is the historical Peter who was given the chair of unity, and it is his historical successors that occupy the very same chair unto his present day (Damasus, Siricius, depending on which publishing date is accepted). Now, Optatus holds to the 4th/5th century idea (which still yields) that the whole episcopate is Petrine. Every bishop descends, as from the beginning of a line, from St. Peter. However, there is a single succession out of all the successions which mark its principle, i.e. the historical/physical successors of the historical Peter. All bishops retain their Petrinity on condition of being united to the actual successor of Peter. But we can go more into the exegesis of his 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 7th book whenever you happened to write your article. Unless you feel the need to elaborate here.

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      • Alura says:

        Ybarra, I’ve already answered why Jerome wrote to Rome instead of Antioch. Secondly, Jerome’s teaching on the keys directly contradicts Catholic claims made in the Catholic Catechism which claims that the keys are exclusively Peter’s alone (see the online Catechism put out by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). Furthermore, it precludes that they are received through Peter, who according to Lumen Gentium and the Second Vatican Council holds the keys alone.

        It seems to me that you’ve entirely missed my point about St. Optatus. I’ll not repeat it.

        These comments are already quite extensive, so I am afraid that I will refrain commenting about your treatment of St. Gregory the Great’s letter. Perhaps I will address your article that you kindly linked sometime in the future either directly or indirectly.

        Like

      • E.T. Ybarra says:

        Alura,

        Again, in points (to make it easier)

        (1) I read that you said St. Jerome wrote to St. Damasus because they were close. And I told you why this is not a sufficient explanation given the terms he used. He would not use those terms to people *he was merely close with*, and we know that because of his theological articulation of the Petrine discrimination to Jov, book 1. That is not a flowery ordeal. Damasus literally fulfills the Petrine prerogative for the whole church, such that it is effective for identifying the real churches far out in Syria. In fact, Jerome alludes to certain “colleagues”, those Egyptian monks who were in peace with Rome. “He who does not gather with you [i.e. the Eastern schismatics], scatters”.

        (2) There is a discriminate uniqueness to Peter’s reception of the keys of the kingdom, and the moral consensus of the Fathers and Councils understood this. For example, both St. Optatus and St. Gregory of Nyssa, for just 2 witnesses on both sides, teach that the Apostles received the keys of the kingdom through Peter. That is not to say they did not think something unique about Peter. Obviously they did. And obviously Jerome did. And that distinction is on the level of jurisdiction, or the office of unity which does not belong to the whole, but to the part, the Head. If all received the keys of the kingdom, then each would be equal altogether in every which way, and this goes contrary to the Fathers & Councils.

        (3) If you read a little more closely, the Catechism reflects the dynamism of the Patristics on the subject of the keys. Yes, there is a distinct reality of Peter receiving the keys, making him the primate and origo of unity. But then there is the general equality of the priesthood. For example (CCC 981):

        981 After his Resurrection, Christ sent his apostles “so that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.”524 The apostles and their successors carry out this “ministry of reconciliation,” not only by announcing to men God’s forgiveness merited for us by Christ, and calling them to conversion and faith; but also by communicating to them the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, and reconciling them with God and with the Church through the power of the keys, received from Christ:525

        [The Church] has received the keys of the Kingdom of heaven so that, in her, sins may be forgiven through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit’s action. In this Church, the soul dead through sin comes back to life in order to live with Christ, whose grace has saved us.

        (4) Then, in the 1st Constitution of the Council of Lateran 1215:

        “There is indeed one universal church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved, in which Jesus Christ is both priest and sacrifice. His body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine, the bread and wine having been changed in substance, by God’s power, into his body and blood, so that in order to achieve this mystery of unity we receive from God what he received from us. Nobody can effect this sacrament except a priest who has been properly ordained according to the church’s keys, which Jesus Christ himself gave to the apostles and their successors”

        Like

    • E.T. Ybarra says:

      Alura,

      Again, in points (to make it easier)

      (1) I read that you said St. Jerome wrote to St. Damasus because they were close. And I told you why this is not a sufficient explanation given the terms he used. He would not use those terms to people *he was close with*, and we know that because of his theological articulation of the Petrine discrimination to Jov, book 1. That is not a flowery ordeal. Damasus literally fulfills the Petrine prerogative for the whole church, such that it is effective for identifying the real churches far out in Syria. In fact, Jerome alludes to certain “colleagues”, those Egyptian monks who were in peace with Rome. “He who does not gather with you [i.e. the Eastern schismatics], scatters”.

      (2) There is a discriminate uniqueness to Peter’s reception of the keys of the kingdom, and the moral consensus of the Fathers and Councils understood this. For example, both St. Optatus and St. Gregory of Nyssa, for just 2 witnesses on both sides, teach that the Apostles received the keys of the kingdom through Peter. That is not to say they did not think something unique about Peter. Obviously they did. And obviously Jerome did. And that distinction is on the level of jurisdiction, or the office of unity which does not belong to the whole, but to the part, the Head. If all received the keys of the kingdom, then each would be equal altogether in every which way, and this goes contrary to the Fathers & Councils.

      (3) If you read a little more closely, the Catechism reflects the dynamism of the Patristics on the subject of the keys. Yes, there is a distinct reality of Peter receiving the keys, making him the primate and origo of unity. But then there is the general equality of the priesthood. For example (CCC 981):

      981 After his Resurrection, Christ sent his apostles “so that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.”524 The apostles and their successors carry out this “ministry of reconciliation,” not only by announcing to men God’s forgiveness merited for us by Christ, and calling them to conversion and faith; but also by communicating to them the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, and reconciling them with God and with the Church through the power of the keys, received from Christ:525

      [The Church] has received the keys of the Kingdom of heaven so that, in her, sins may be forgiven through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit’s action. In this Church, the soul dead through sin comes back to life in order to live with Christ, whose grace has saved us.

      (4) Then, in the 1st Constitution of the Council of Lateran 1215:

      “There is indeed one universal church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved, in which Jesus Christ is both priest and sacrifice. His body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine, the bread and wine having been changed in substance, by God’s power, into his body and blood, so that in order to achieve this mystery of unity we receive from God what he received from us. Nobody can effect this sacrament except a priest who has been properly ordained according to the church’s keys, which Jesus Christ himself gave to the apostles and their successors”

      Like

      • E.T. Ybarra says:

        merely close with *

        Like

      • Alura says:

        Interesting read from the Lateran Council 1215. I’ll have to look more into it some time. I appreciate your other citations from the catechism as well. I will look into the issue more in the future.

        As I’ve said before regarding Jerome, his writing to St. Damasus is not indicative of the Catholic view. You keep emphasizing the Petrine language, but as I have said before, recognizing that Rome is a seat of Peter and a successor of Peter is not indicative of a Catholic view. Patriarch John the Oxite even acknowledged Rome’s Petrine succession while rejecting the Catholic ecclesiology and claims. Again, Jerome personally knew Pope Damasus. Furthermore, Jerome had at this point only been a Christian for nine years, if I recall correctly. So him, amidst a controversy in the Christian East, writing to someone whom he knew and trusted personally, and most importantly writing to his very own bishop (since Jerome was from the city of Rome himself) is hardly significant. This is exactly why when addressing Damasus, Jerome emphasizes his home as being the city of Rome (novellum a me homine Romano nomen exigitur). And as I have stated before, the bishops of the Latin West remained stalwart on the Nicaean formula even under the reign of Constantine II, a noteworthy achievement. And this is exactly why he says that currently at the time of his writing, the West was Orthodox (nunc in occidente sol justitiae oritur: in oriente autem Lucifer ille qui ceciderat, supra sidera posuit thronum suum). So again, who better to consult than the bishop of Rome on this matter?

        Like

      • E.T. Ybarra says:

        Well, perhaps we will just have to agree to disagree on St. Jerome. I think it overly odd that Jerome would believe what he does about Peter in relation to the apostles, and then attribute this to Damasus in relation to the whole world. Sounds an awful lot like the logic of Optatus, Augustine, and Damasus’ succcessor Siricius. To break these authors up so that it is not a cohesive (or even near cohesive ) view is more problematic.

        And as for the Petrine succession. There are more than one Petrine succession. There is Rome and Antioch. However, only Rome retains the succession to Peter’s primacy, whereas Antioch is honored by having Peter once there in leadership. Rome always was head, and antioch was subservient as all other churches, says St. Gregory the Dialogist

        Like

      • E.T. Ybarra says:

        I would like to say that the evidence does not demonstrate the Papacy. It is a witness nonetheless.

        Like

  2. Reblogged this on Reformed Christian Theology and commented:
    When we evaluate the historical understanding of the Church when it pertains to Roman Supremacy, the whole issue hangs on Matt 16:19. The text was cited by many a Pope from the fourth century and on when he was pressing his rights as the Bishop of Rome. But, how did western Christian interpreters view the matter when not directly debating issues of politics?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Upon this Rock: An Addendum | Shameless Orthodoxy

  4. Pingback: Catholic Proof Texts and One-liners Debunked: Part One | Shameless Orthodoxy

  5. Pingback: On the Issue of Infallibility: An Absolute Value or Just an Honorific? | Shameless Orthodoxy

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