Anthony: Dear John, my name is Anthony XXXX and I live in Dublin, Ireland. I have just read a portion of your website and I would like to ask you a few questions.
On one of your website pages, sourcing Catholicism in Scripture, you say that the Scriptures actually tell us that Peter was to be the foundation of the church, linking him to be ” the rock”. The Scriptures do not tell us this, let me explain.
After asking his disciples what did men say who he ( Jesus ) was, his disciples gave various answers. And Peter replied with these beautiful words ” Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Now pay attention to what Jesus replies. “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it “. Peter cannot be the rock, because Jesus is the rock, the true foundation of the Church.
J. Salza: Anthony, “this” (in Greek, tautee) is a demonstrative adjective which is describing Peter, its nearest referent. As a result, Jesus did not have to use any of the possible alternatives that you provide. This is demonstrated when you pull out “rock” in the second clause. It would read: “You are Peter, and upon this I will build my church.” You see, “this” refers to Peter, the nearest referent, which is what the demonstrative adjective in Greek requires. The meaning of the sentence is clear. There is no ambiguity here.
However, there would be ambiguity in your alternatives if Jesus used a non-demonstrative adjective such as “the” or “a” like: “You are Peter, and upon the I will build,” or “upon a I will build.” Thus, the original Greek language, which you evidently did not consider, displays the error of your arguments.
Anthony: Allow me to read to you another verse, this time from the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 4.
” And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ”. Again, we learn that the rock is Christ.
J. Salza: This is a fallacious hermeneutic. First, you are assuming that words in Scripture can only have one meaning. This is not true. Christ is called the shepherd and guardian in one Scripture, and the apostles are called shepherds and guardians in another Scripture. Christ is called the foundation in one book, and the apostles are called the foundation of the church in another book. See my website for these Scriptures (1 Cor. 3:11/Eph 5:20; 1 Pet. 2:25/Acts 20:28).
Second, no one is debating that Jesus is not the real rock. He is. Jesus is also the one with the keys of death and Hades, as the Apocalypse shows us. But Jesus confers these distinctions upon Peter, as His chief representative once Jesus has ascended to the Father. This underscores that Jesus is giving Peter a divine appointment. Your argument again proves nothing for you.
Anthony: But let us go back to the book of Matthew for a moment and examine another reference to the ” rock “. This time lets look at the verse from Matthew again, notice the last wording in this sentence, “…….and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. If Peter, as you assume, is the rock, did the gates of hell fail to prevail against him? If you continue to read on, you will find that Peter was the one to fail. Jesus rebuked him to his face,
J. Salza: The nearest referent of “it” is “church,” not Peter. This again is demonstrated by the Greek, which I suggest you study if you are going to properly exegete Scripture and make assertions against the Catholic Church. It is the Church that will not be subject to the powers of death, not Peter or any pope. A pope in fact can make errors, unless he invokes the divine charism of infallibility which Christ gave Peter with the authority to bind and loose. So, again, your analysis fails to support your claim.
Anthony: ” From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he ( Jesus ) turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God but those things that be of men”. (Matthew 16:21-23 ).
J. Salza: First, this verse demonstrates that Jesus has given Peter a divine appointment, that is, to be the chief shepherd of the Church after Christ was no longer with them. Jesus only speaks about His death after appointing Peter the chief shepherd. When Jesus gives Peter the keys to the kingdom, Jesus is establishing Peter as the authority over the Church, and this also facilitates apostolic succession to his chair. See Isaiah 22:15,19-22 which is the only other place where “keys” are used to descibe dynastic succession to the Davidic kingdom, which Jesus came to fulfill in His Holy Catholic Church.
Second, Jesus’ rebuke of Peter actually underscores Peter’s importance among the apostles. None of the other apostles understood what Jesus was saying at this time either. Note also that Peter is rebuked for his private opinion, not for his official teachings. Any pope can be rebuked for private opinions. Thus, Jesus’ rebuke of Peter in no way undermines the papacy or Peter’s teaching authority.
Anthony: Again, Peter is rebuked, this time by Paul in the book of Galatians;
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed”. Basically, Peter in this case, was setting a bad example. Not a great start for a man who you claim to be the ” rock “.
J. Salza: Before I answer you here, the other proof that destroys your arguments against Peter as the rock is the fact that Jesus calls Simon the rock in Mark 3:16 and John 1:42! (Cephas is a Greek transliteration of Kepha which, in Aramaic, means rock). This is one of those moments of “game over” for those who say Peter is not the rock. Now, regarding Galatians, you would agree that Peter taught and wrote infallibly regarding the salvation of the Gentiles, right? So, Peter’s teaching authority is not being rebuked. Peter’s individual behavior is the issue, and this is always fair game for rebuke, which Paul rightly did. There is nothing that undermines Peter’s authority. Any pope can be criticized for his behavior and personal opinions, which Catholic apologists sometimes do (so long as it is done with holy fear, dignity and respect).
Anthony: Another verse which totally counters your idea of Peter ” the rock ” is found in the book of Luke, chapter 9, verse 20 and verse 46. In verse 20, Peter again gives his confession of Christ, similar to what he said in the book of Matthew. If at this stage, it had been decided that Peter was the ” rock”, the pope, why do we find later in verse 46 the disciples arguing over who was the greatest among them?
J. Salza: Verse 46 is, at a minimum, nine days after verse 20 so there is no connection between the two, and hence no direct Scripture that takes away the authority that Jesus confers upon Peter in Matt. 16:18-19. Yet, that is the type of desperate attempt that non-Catholics must make to somehow rescind the binding and loosing / keys to the kingdom authority that Jesus gave Peter in Matt. 16.
Regarding verse 46, first we can safely assume that the apostles didn’t understand Jesus mission at this point, for Scripture shows how confused and faithless they were until after the Resurrection. So such an argument does not undermine the actual authority that Jesus gives to Peter. Moreover, after the Resurrection, we see in John 21:15-18 how Jesus commands Peter to “tend the sheep.” The Greek word for “tend” (poimane) means to “rule.” Jesus is thus commanding Peter to “rule” over the other apostles as their head. This is the same word that is used in Rev. 12:5 which describes that Jesus will “rule” all the nations with an iron rod. This is because Peter is the rock on which Jesus has built His Church.
Anthony: I pray that the Holy Spirit may open your eyes to the truth.
J. Salza: Anthony, He has, and that is why I am Catholic. I pray that He will move you to study the Church fathers who all bear witness to the truth of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.