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« on: June 17, 2012, 11:21:56 PM »

Hello everyone,

I know I haven't posted in a while, but been extremely busy. Not only do I have a full time job, but I'm a full time grad student too. I can't wait for my graduation in September!

I'm sure you've answered this question before, but I could not really find anything using the search feature, so here it is: how does the Orthodox treat Matthew 16:18-19, where Jesus says he will build His Church on St. Peter?

I'm not asking to stump anyone. In a recent discussion with a priest, where I told him I was leaning towards Orthodoxy, he told me to reread Matthew 16. So I was hoping to get your feedback.
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« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2012, 11:35:49 PM »

Hello everyone,

I know I haven't posted in a while, but been extremely busy. Not only do I have a full time job, but I'm a full time grad student too. I can't wait for my graduation in September!

I'm sure you've answered this question before, but I could not really find anything using the search feature, so here it is: how does the Orthodox treat Matthew 16:18-19, where Jesus says he will build His Church on St. Peter?

I'm not asking to stump anyone. In a recent discussion with a priest, where I told him I was leaning towards Orthodoxy, he told me to reread Matthew 16. So I was hoping to get your feedback.

There will be a few answers here, you can do a quick search on St Peter and Orthodoxy and Matthew 16 to get a good idea of where this will go (use google with "orthodoxchristianity.net" followed by the the other terms. And keep the quotations around orthodoxchristianity.net). A quick rundown:

1. There is no authority Christ gives St Peter in this chapter that He does not give the rest of the Apostles in chapter 18.

2. The Petrine authority is shared by all the Apostles and bishops in Apostolic Succession.

3. Three of the five sees of the Pentarchy share Petrine descent- Alexandria through St Mark (a disciple of St Peter), Antioch through St Peter (founded by St Peter and predating Rome), and Rome.

Also, expect this to get moved from "Convert Issues" to Orthodox-Catholic discussion once the polemics start to fly.

The burden of proof lies on Rome that this particular see is the sole descendant of St Peter's authority.
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« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2012, 12:17:21 AM »

The typical Orthodox response is that it was in reference to the faith of St. Peter, which all of the Apostles share. Also fair to mention that the Roman Catholic view is sort of contradictory because St. Peter also established the Orthodox Church in Antioch, so if they are going to use the fact that St. Peter established Rome against us, then we could also use the argument that St. Peter established our Church of Antioch against him. Also, nearly none of the Church Fathers really supported the Roman Catholic notion of Petrine Supremecy.

'...For a rock is every disciple of Christ of whom those drank who drank of the spiritual rock which followed them, and upon every such rock is built every word of the Church, and the polity in accordance with it; for in each of the perfect, who have the combination of words and deeds and thoughts which fill up the blessedness, is the church built by God...But if you suppose that upon the one Peter only the whole church is built by God, what would you say about John the son of thunder or each one of the Apostles? Shall we otherwise dare to say, that against Peter in particular the gates of Hades shall not prevail, but that they shall prevail against the other Apostles and the perfect? Does not the saying previously made, ‘The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it,’ hold in regard to all and in the case of each of them? And also the saying, ‘Upon this rock I will build My Church?’ Are the keys of the kingdom of heaven given by the Lord to Peter only, and will no other of the blessed receive them?...‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ If any one says this to Him...he will obtain the things that were spoken according to the letter of the Gospel to that Peter, but, as the spirit of the Gospel teaches to every one who becomes such as that Peter was...'-Origen

Even St. Augustine of Hippo--a Latin Father--was undecided about the matter and around the end of his life was leaning towards the Eastern view.

'...In a passage in this book, I said about the Apostle Peter: ‘On him as on a rock the Church was built’...But I know that very frequently at a later time, I so explained what the Lord said: ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,’ that it be understood as built upon Him whom Peter confessed saying: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ and so Peter, called after this rock, represented the person of the Church which is built upon this rock, and has received ‘the keys of the kingdom of Heaven.’ For, ‘Thou art Peter’ and not ‘Thou art the rock’ was said to him. But ‘the rock was Christ,’ in confessing whom, as also the whole Church confesses, Simon was called Peter. But let the reader decide which of these two opinions is the more probable...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...'
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« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2012, 01:00:49 AM »

I'm sure you've answered this question before, but I could not really find anything using the search feature, so here it is: how does the Orthodox treat Matthew 16:18-19, where Jesus says he will build His Church on St. Peter?
I'm under the Patriarchate of Antioch. The See of Antioch was founded by St. Peter and St. Paul, and the archbishops trace their lineage back to them.
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« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2012, 03:07:14 PM »

Hello everyone,

I know I haven't posted in a while, but been extremely busy. Not only do I have a full time job, but I'm a full time grad student too. I can't wait for my graduation in September!

I'm sure you've answered this question before, but I could not really find anything using the search feature, so here it is: how does the Orthodox treat Matthew 16:18-19, where Jesus says he will build His Church on St. Peter?

I'm not asking to stump anyone. In a recent discussion with a priest, where I told him I was leaning towards Orthodoxy, he told me to reread Matthew 16. So I was hoping to get your feedback.

There will be a few answers here, you can do a quick search on St Peter and Orthodoxy and Matthew 16 to get a good idea of where this will go (use google with "orthodoxchristianity.net" followed by the the other terms. And keep the quotations around orthodoxchristianity.net). A quick rundown:

1. There is no authority Christ gives St Peter in this chapter that He does not give the rest of the Apostles in chapter 18.

2. The Petrine authority is shared by all the Apostles and bishops in Apostolic Succession.

3. Three of the five sees of the Pentarchy share Petrine descent- Alexandria through St Mark (a disciple of St Peter), Antioch through St Peter (founded by St Peter and predating Rome), and Rome.

Also, expect this to get moved from "Convert Issues" to Orthodox-Catholic discussion once the polemics start to fly.

Maybe not. I can't really say I feel much inclined to stand up for Fr. What's-His-Name. In fact, if I were in CRC's shoes -- i.e. if I told a priest I was leaning towards Orthodoxy, and his response was "Reread Matthew 16" -- I think I would just feel annoyed.
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« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2012, 03:44:51 PM »

Hello everyone,

I know I haven't posted in a while, but been extremely busy. Not only do I have a full time job, but I'm a full time grad student too. I can't wait for my graduation in September!

I'm sure you've answered this question before, but I could not really find anything using the search feature, so here it is: how does the Orthodox treat Matthew 16:18-19, where Jesus says he will build His Church on St. Peter?

I'm not asking to stump anyone. In a recent discussion with a priest, where I told him I was leaning towards Orthodoxy, he told me to reread Matthew 16. So I was hoping to get your feedback.

There will be a few answers here, you can do a quick search on St Peter and Orthodoxy and Matthew 16 to get a good idea of where this will go (use google with "orthodoxchristianity.net" followed by the the other terms. And keep the quotations around orthodoxchristianity.net). A quick rundown:

1. There is no authority Christ gives St Peter in this chapter that He does not give the rest of the Apostles in chapter 18.

2. The Petrine authority is shared by all the Apostles and bishops in Apostolic Succession.

3. Three of the five sees of the Pentarchy share Petrine descent- Alexandria through St Mark (a disciple of St Peter), Antioch through St Peter (founded by St Peter and predating Rome), and Rome.

Also, expect this to get moved from "Convert Issues" to Orthodox-Catholic discussion once the polemics start to fly.

Maybe not. I can't really say I feel much inclined to stand up for Fr. What's-His-Name. In fact, if I were in CRC's shoes -- i.e. if I told a priest I was leaning towards Orthodoxy, and his response was "Reread Matthew 16" -- I think I would just feel annoyed.

LOL. Until Peter J pointed it out, I was misreading the OP as it being an Orthodox priest who told him to re-read Matthew 16--as in go back and read the actual words, which do not say He will build His Church on St. Peter, rather than what some people claim the words mean.
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« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2012, 03:53:21 PM »

LOL. Until Peter J pointed it out, I was misreading the OP as it being an Orthodox priest who told him to re-read Matthew 16--as in go back and read the actual words, which do not say He will build His Church on St. Peter, rather than what some people claim the words mean.

 Cheesy For my part, I hadn't thought of your interpretation, but that could possibly be what CRC meant, now that I think about it.
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« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2012, 02:51:16 PM »

It was an RC priest that I spoke with.
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« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2012, 03:34:29 PM »

It was an RC priest that I spoke with.

Oh yeah! (Not that I'm keeping score or anything. Grin)
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« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2012, 03:37:01 PM »

It was an RC priest that I spoke with.


A Roman Catholic priest telling you to read Matthew 16 is begging the question in the extreme. Just think about all of the logical leaps you have to make to come to the modern RC interpretation of this text. You have to:


  • Say that Christ was referring to the person of St Peter and not his faith
  • And that "build My Church" meant on the authority of St Peter
  • And that St Peter was the sole leader of the Apostles
  • And that leadership gave St Peter authority over the Apostles
  • And that St Peter founded the Roman See
  • And that St Peter's personal authority passed to the all of the bishops who came after him at Rome
  • And that his authority did not pass to the bishops of the other sees he founded
  • And that his authority consist of having universal jurisdiction and infallibility



So you see all of the steps you have to make? That's why I've never found this particular instance of proof texting to be particularly convincing.
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« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2012, 03:43:50 PM »

The majority of the fathers have interpreted the Rock to mean Christ and the faith and even though some say it is Peter they used it with a more distant meaning having said in other parts through their writings the Rock either to mean the faith or Christ.

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« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2012, 07:56:44 PM »

Just a few thoughts on all of these points.

Say that Christ was referring to the person of St Peter and not his faith

It could be both. Peter's confession of faith as Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of the Living God" is essential to the faith. But also at the same time, The person of Peter was the one who most often spoke for the apostles as a group (stating the shared opinion, not imposing his own on the rest), was the first to enter the empty tomb, first preached on Pentecost, first gave the commandment to men to be baptized after he preached, first along with John to confirm other churches outside of Jerusalem, was the one who pronounced the judgement of Ananias and Saphira (even though scripture does state the the goods were laid "at the feet of the apostles"), and was the first to receive gentiles into the Church, just to give a few examples of how he functioned in a prominent role in the the building of the Church.

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And that "build My Church" meant on the authority of St Peter

I don't really know of an Orthodox way of interpreting this.

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And that St Peter was the sole leader of the Apostles

Peter never acted alone or imposed his opinion over the other apostles. He preached and commanded what was only believed by all, reported to (was accountable to) the others when he received gentiles into the Church, and did not personally decide the outcome of the discussion in Acts 15 but sat in council with the others.

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And that leadership gave St Peter authority over the Apostles

He related to the other apostles more as an "alpha" than an appointed authority figure.

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And that St Peter founded the Roman See

Along with Paul, the two are always mentioned together when the founding of the Roman church is mentioned by the early fathers and in our hymns.

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And that St Peter's personal authority passed to the all of the bishops who came after him at Rome

This is a predominantly western idea. Even western fathers who could be intrepreted as describing Peter to be "first among equals" and not necessarily "universal jurisdiction" write that this place was passed down to the succeeding bishops of Rome.

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And that his authority did not pass to the bishops of the other sees he founded

Even people like Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, and if I'm not mistaken Jerome who are quote-mined for supporting any kind of papal primacy also give credit to Antioch and Alexandria (through Mark) as being Petrine sees.

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And that his authority consist of having universal jurisdiction and infallibility

Yeah, we don't believe this. Rome was always praised for proclaiming the truth, not defining and imposing it. Bishops of Rome have also been rebuked, corrected, and disagreed with by other bishops (some of which were western) during the first millenium.
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« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2012, 08:44:57 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Aside from the posts above discussing Orthodox interpretations as dealing with the confession of the Faith of Saint Peter being "the rock" and not necessarily the office of Saint Peter, I would add this.

I understand that in Orthodox and in the Fathers, there has never been a problem with the idea of Papal Primacy of Rome, just its the later assertions of Papal Supremacy that we disagree with.

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« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2012, 03:54:00 AM »

Amateur apologetic use (so-called because of a glaring lack of support among major historians and biblical scholars) of Matt 16:18 as proof of later Roman Catholic claims imports an anachronistic reading into the text that is neither demanded by exegesis nor found anywhere in the first centuries of the Church.

"The promise to Peter from the gospel of Matthew (16:18), 'You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,' which is so central for today's bishops of Rome and which now adorns the interior of St. Peter's in gigantic black letters on a gilt background, is not once quoted in full in any of the Christian literature in the first centuries -apart from a text in Tertullian, and this does not quote the passage in connection with Rome but in connection with Peter. Only in the middle of the third century did a bishop of Rome, by the name of Stephen, appeal to the promise to Peter, he did so in a dispute with other churches as to which had the better tradition. However he was no more successful than Bishop Victor had been fifty years previously. Victor attempted to force through in an authoritarian way a uniform date for Easter, without respect for the character and independence of the other churches, and was put in his place by the bishops of the East and West, especially by the highly respected bishop and theologian Irenaeus of Lyons. At the time the rule of one church over the other churches was rejected even in the West." Kung, The Catholic Church: A Short History, pp. 40-41.

It would almost seem oversimplistic if it were not so often simply assumed to point out that the bishop of Rome is not mentioned in Matt 16. Neither do we find in the earliest fathers the presumption that the bishop of Rome the sole successor to St. Peter, but the presumption that he is not.

St. Cyprian devotes an entire treatise to interpreting Matt 16:17-19 without so much as a single specific mention of the Bishop of Rome; instead he applies the text to the entire episcopate, with every bishop holding the place of Peter in the local church.
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/050701.htm

Regarding Matt 16:18-19, Jaroslav Pelikan writes "As Roman Catholic scholars now concede, the ancient Christian father Cyprian used it to prove the authority of the bishop—not merely of the Roman bishop, but of every bishop" Pelikan, Jaroslav, The Riddle of Roman Catholicism (NY: Abingdon Press), p. 78.

As Fr. John Meyendorff affirms "A very clear patristic tradition sees the succession of Peter in the episcopal ministry. The doctrine of St Cyprian of Carthage on the “See of Peter” being present in every local Church, and not only in Rome, is well-known. It is also found in the East, among people who certainly never read the De unitate ecclesia of Cyprian, but who share its main idea, thus witnessing to it as part of the catholic tradition of the Church. St Gregory of Nyssa, for example, affirms that Christ “through Peter gave to the bishops the keys of the heavenly honors,” and the author of the Areopagitica, when speaking of the “hierarchs” of the Church, refers immediately to the image of St Peter. A careful analysis of ecclesiastical literature both Eastern and Western, of the first millennium, including such documents as the lives of the saint, would certainly show that this tradition was a persistent one; and indeed it belongs to the essence of Christian ecclesiology to consider any local bishop to be the teacher of his flock and therefore to fulfill sacramentally, through apostolic succession, the office of the first true believer, Peter" (John Meyerendorff, The Primacy of Peter, p. 89).

"Cyprian, along with his synod of North African bishops, left no room for doubt: 'For neither does any of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops, nor by tyrannical terror does any compel his colleague to the necessity of obedience; since every bishop, according to the allowance of his liberty and power, has his own proper right of judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another' (Acts of the Seventh Council of Carthage under Cyprian, The Judgment of Eighty-Seven Bishops on the Baptism of Heretics)" -Laurent Cleenewerke, His Broken Body, p. 80.

Applying typical canons of textual criticism analogically to the history of an idea, the Cyprianic idea about Petrine succession was primitive and persistent, spanning many centuries and attested widely geographically; it is still found represented today in the Orthodox Church. By contrast the understanding of the text often championed by amateur apologists is later, then sporadic, and geographically isolated.

"The “Peter Syndrome” is the automatic (and unjustified) application of anything about Peter to the bishop of Rome exclusively. This is deeply rooted in Roman Catholic consciousness" (Laurent Cleenwerke, op cit, p. 78).

The Gelasian Decretal, which is often mistakenly attributed to Pope Damascus of Rome, identifies the divine primacy continuing in all three Churches- Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch.

"Chrysostom also calls Ignatius of Antioch successor of Peter. There is no doubt that his reference to “Peter and his successors” applies to the bishops everywhere, not to the bishops of Rome exclusively. In fact, there is a real possibility that Chrysostom’s perception of Peter’s role stems from his view of the episcopate (not the other way around)." -Laurent Cleerenwerke, op cit, p. 84.

Pope Gregory the Great (died 604 AD), held all three Patriarchates which existed in his time -Rome, Alexandria and Antioch- all founded by Peter, were equal in power and authority and all possessed the Keys.

St Vincent of Lerins defined true catholic doctrine as marked by universality, antiquity, and consent. The Cyprianic understanding of Peter and the keys fulfills all three criteria; the interpretation argued by amateur RC apologists fulfills none of them.
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« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2012, 08:16:04 AM »

On this one:

This has been dealt with a lot (including on St. Chrysostom's words on St. James and St. John, in addition to St. Peter). For an example:
Witega, you seem to say the Fathers often understood references to Peter as meaning the whole group of Apostles.  Does that apply here with Chrysostom's quote?

I found this quote, on the topic of it not only applying to the whole group of Apostles, but also to the lowly bishop of a rural town way down in the stix of Upper Egypt:

Due to the ongoing debate on the Fourth Council, I by chance was reaquainted with a text I thought appropriate here.  It is from the "Life of Shenoute" by his disciple St. Besa.  St. Shenoute's writings were the examplar of Coptic literature, but his chief claim to fame was cracking his staff over Nestorius' head at the Council of Ephesus.  In one episode, "One day," Besa says, "our father Shenoute and our Lord Jesus were sitting down talking together" (a very common occurance according to the Vita) and the Bishop of Shmin came wishing to meet the abbot.  When Shenoute sent word that he was too busy to come to the bishop, the bishop got angry and threatened to excommunicate him for disobedience:

Quote
The servant went to our father [Shenouti] and said to him what the bishop had told him.  But my father smiled graciously with laughter and said: "See what this man of flesh and blood has said! Behold, here sitting with me is he who created heaven and earth! I will not go while I am with him." But the Savior said to my father: "O Shenoute, arise and go out to the bishop, lest he excommunicate you. Otherwise, I cannot let you enter [heaven] because of the covenant I made with Peter, saying 'What you will bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and what you will loose on earth will be loosed in heaven' [Matthew 16:19].  When my father heard these words of the Savior, he arose, went out to the bishop and greeted him.

 Besa, Life of Shenoute 70-72 (trans. Bell). On the context of this story see Behlmer 1998, esp. pp. 353-354. Gaddis, There is No Crime for those who have Christ, p. 296
http://books.google.com/books?id=JGEibDA8el4C

Now this dates not only before the schism of East-West, and the Schism of Chalcedon, but nearly the Schism of Ephesus.  Now Shmin is just a town in southern Egypt, and the bishop there just a suffragan of Alexandria.  So it would seem to be odd if the Vatican's interpretation of Matthew 16:19 were the ancient one why this would be applied to a bishop far from Rome, in a land where St. Peter never founded any Church.  But it makes perfect sense from the Orthodox interpretation of Matthew 16:19, and indeed, according to "the Catholic Encyclopedia," the overwhelming consensus of the Fathers.

Btw, it is interesting that if St. Peter's supremacy was so evident in Matthew 16, it is a little odd that the disciples are arguing among themselves just a few verses down on who is the greatest.  It is also interesting how this "proof-text" is not in the Gospel associated with Rome (St. Mark) but in St. Matthew, the Gospel associated with his first see in Antioch.
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« Reply #15 on: June 20, 2012, 11:43:45 AM »

the place of first of Jesus is not something determined but whoever wants to be the greatest among you let him be your servant and who will be the least will be the first.. This is Jesus' answer to the Apostles when they were arguing about this , and i think that answer is more for us today than for them than.. Jesus did not chose or name a first when they were arguing who it is.. That is something only through virtue one can obtain it.
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« Reply #16 on: June 21, 2012, 12:16:01 AM »

Thanks for the feedback so far everyone.
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