Saturday, April 08, 2006

More on Matthew 16:18

I suspect that I'm officially out of my depth- debating an Orthodox priest with Origen at his fingertips. I'll happily admit to being completely unaware of the patristic roots of the interpretation in question- I hadn't encountered it anywhere except from Protestant sources, and they rarely quote John Cassian. Secondly, I'd like to note that the original case I made referred to a number of NT passages, and so I hope readers will not get lost in the detailed questions of exegesis over this particular passage.

To the merits of Fr. Justin's case- well, I don't want to dispute the idea that the faith Peter confesses is important to understanding the passage. Indeed, it is very clear that Peter's confession occasions Christ's statement. And in a very common-sense way, the faith of Peter undergirds any and all things Peter might do as Christ builds the Church. So the Church Fathers are entirely right in their interpretations- I never said otherwise. The issue I took was with Fr. Justin's claim that we need to shift the focus of the interpretation from Peter to his confession of faith. On what I hope are sound exegetical principles, I believe that Peter rather than his confession is the immediate subject of "this rock on which I will build my Church." I would add, in addition to my earlier comments, that Jesus' statement in Matthew 16:19 ("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.") would be an awkward shift in direction if petra (the rock) refered to Peter's confession.

The interpretation of Scripture often is not an either/or proposition, and I think this passage illustrates that. Fr. Justin also refers to the interpretation where Peter is really a representative for all the apostles in this passage. Again, I'm not sure I disagree with the interpretation- who claims that Christ in Mt. 16:18 intends to build His Church solely on Peter? A still broader interpretation would be that Peter is a model for all believers in this passage- and does not Christ use all believers in building his Church? But these broader meanings by no means exclude the specific interpretation- that Peter is paradigmatically the rock on which the Church is built. And this interpretation recommends itself not only on standard exegetical principles, but also because the specific, enduring interpretation is the one we prefer when approaching other NT passages relating to the structure of the Church- which I explored in greater depth in my first post on this subject.

I'm hoping to get around to posting on a few other topics which have been raised, but it may take a little while.

For a reference post to the entire debate go here.


Blogger pasivirta said...

Hey, thanks for being willing to engage, this is most insightful. ( I am working so I can only peep in here and there, but after exams come on out and visit)


April 08, 2006 2:31 PM  
Blogger matthew christopher davidson said...

Hey, check out this interview with Zizioulas!

April 08, 2006 3:26 PM  
Blogger Fr. Justin (Edward) said...

Not wanting to lose sight of some of your other arguments and Scriptural references, I have expanded a bit on my reply with another post to the St. Herman's blog, here.

Love in Christ,

Fr. Justin.

April 08, 2006 3:54 PM  
Blogger Peter T Chattaway said...

Gabriel, isn't your reliance on scripture, and not on the interpretation of said scripture provided to us by the Early Church, somewhat eerily like the Protestant principle of sola scriptura?

April 09, 2006 1:03 AM  

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