Friday, April 07, 2006

A Reply

My post below on the role of Peter has provoked some discussion at Spruce Island, for which I am thankful. Both David Pasivirta and Fr. Justin offered substantive critiques, which I hope to give some answer to here.

Fr. Justin finds unfair my statement "the passages which show the particular role of Peter are given no effect in the Church in Orthodox interpretation." He's right- but the significance of Peter in the passages is minimized, if not wholly eliminated in a manner entirely inconsistent with the way we approach Scriptural passages about the Apostles as a whole or the Sacraments. And I'm afraid that the interpretation Fr. Justin offers for Mt. 16:18 is poor not only for being incongrous with how we approach other New Testament passages, but on a more basic exegetical level. According to Fr. Justin: "This is, in fact, where I believe the problem lies with the Roman interpretation of Christ's remark ("upon this rock, I will build my Church..."): the focus is shifted from Peter's confession to Peter himself."

This interpretation is predicated on the suggestion that the rock (petra) which Christ founds his Church is not precisely the same as Peter (Petros). Protestant interpreters often attempt to draw a distinction between the two words, using questionable semantic differences derived from Attic Greek (the NT is in Koine Greek)- but overlooks the fact that the two words are grammatically necessary since they are gendered nouns. Moreover Aramaic, in which Jesus presumably spoke uses only one word for rock: Kephas.

David notes the seeming disjunct between the scriptural description of Peter and the current role of the papacy, and offers some intriguing thoughts about the use of history as an interpretive lens for Scripture. I'll write a separate post about the intersection of historical circumstances and the role of the Petrine Office, but here I'll just say a few things about David's reflections on Scripture:
Scripture took a long time to be canonized, and the lives of the saints and the history of the church show us infinite examples of interpretations of the scripture through experience. living life, undulating back and forth, breathing the Spirit, many people writing it all down.

We can't use the scriptures in a vacuum, as if the rest of history is not an interpretive lens to help us see it through.
While I agree with the sentiment that we can't read the Scriptures in a vacuum, I don't see the relevance of the time in which it took for the Canon to be fixed. Of course we should read Scripture with the mind of the Church. But where the mind of the Church is divided on a particular, we must apply the broader principles (still with the mind of the Church), which is what I have hoped to do.

For a reference post to the entire debate go here.


Blogger Fr. Justin (Edward) said...

Thanks, Gabriel. Since your critique required a bit more than a cursory response, I've placed my reply in the main body of the St. Herman's blog, here.

April 08, 2006 2:24 AM  

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