Friday, October 16, 2015

Questions for Catholics - Part 4 - The Rock

For this section we will be dealing with Prasch's questions on the "Rock."
The second question I would like to ask is this one: I was always told in Catholic schools and by my mother that Peter was “the rock”. “Upon this rock I will build my church” from Matthew 16. (Mt. 16:18)  I was told that in English and, when I was a little boy, I was taught to read Latin. The Bible was the Vulgate, the only one read ritually; it was not studied. However, having learned to read the original Greek and Hebrew languages, I looked at the original meaning in the original languages. I would not call myself a Protestant, but remember Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Cranmer and every one of the reformers, every one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation was from the intelligentsia of the Roman Catholic priesthood. Everyone had been a Roman Catholic priest who went back and read the Scriptures in the original languages. I’m not defending Protestantism, I don't identify with it; I’m a Christian, but I’m just asking the question, “Is Peter the rock?”

Let us first look at the term "Protestant," what does it mean?  A Protestant is one who protests - and clearly, Mr. Prasch is protesting against the Catholic Church.  He can say he doesn't identify with it - but "it" identifies with him in his protesting. 
I lived in Israel for many years and at the base of Mt. Herman there’s a place called “Banyas”. In the Bible it was called “Caesarea Philippi” and it is there where Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build My church”. And I was told that He gave the keys and power to Peter. “Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”. (Mt. 16:19)
Where one has lived really doesn't add weight, one way or the other, to the argument.
I'd like to read directly from the Greek language what it says in the New Testament. Jesus spoke Aramaic, but when Matthew wrote it down on the testimony of the apostles who’d been eyewitnesses he wrote it in Greek. Or if it was written in another language it was quickly translated into Greek. We have one historical reference that Matthew might have been in Hebrew or the Hebrew dialect of Aramaic according to Haggis Sippus, but there’s no manuscript ever found. We have the Greek. And it is the translation of the Greek which the Roman Catholic church bases its doctrine that Peter is “the rock”. Is that what it says?
Verse 18, and I’ll translate it word by word:
Kago de” – “Also I” or “And also I”…
…”soi lego” – “to thee” or “to you say”…
…”hoti sy ei Petros” – “thou art Peter” or “you are Peter”…
…”kai” – “and”…
…”epi” – “around” or “on, but in the context it would mean “on”, with that I agree…
…”taute te petra” – “on this rock”…
…”oikodomeso… (from where we get the word “oikos” – “house”) …"mou” – “I will build of Me”…
…”ten ekklesian” – “the church”.
It would be built on Christ, not of Peter.
Even with Mr. Prasch's translation it says "I will build OF Me," not "ON" Me! That is saying that Jesus is the Builder, not the one being built upon.

At Banyas – Caesarea Philippi, there’s a cascade with millions and millions of flat chips of stone washed out of the cascade. The Greek word “petros” – “Peter”, “little Peters”. There is a big boulder on which the temple of the Greek god Pan that had been there at one time had been built and the temple to Caesar Augustus, the deified emperor, had been built that Jesus was referring to where the house would be built. That is called a “petra”. “You are one of these little chips of stone; upon this boulder I will build my church of Me.”
Mr. Prasch makes the mistake, as many Protestant apologists make, of not recognizing that the Greek language has gender specific terms.  When speaking of a man's name, in this case "Peter" - or in the Greek, "Petros," the word is masculine.  However, when speaking of an inanimate object, such as a "rock," the word would indeed be "petra" (or "petras").  The explanation of Prasch's abuse of the Greek is quite simple.  He attempts to anticipate this objection next...
When asked to explain this, Roman Catholic scholars say, “But Jesus was speaking Aramaic, or a language related to Hebrew. and because Peter was a male He had the use the masculine form 'petros', which is the word for 'a little rock' instead of 'petra' which is the word for 'a boulder’”. I went to a pretty good university and a pretty good bible college and I'm told by people who are from Greece that my Greek is not bad so far as my understanding of its meaning. But I know people who are really, really fluent in Greek, they grew up speaking it and they’re experts in reading the Old Testament, the church fathers, and so forth, they are from Greece. I know people like this in Australia particularly, and they confirm what I say is right. And so if there’s any academic or a person with a degree in Greek saying what I say is right, what I say is what I was taught. Gender in Greek does not have to do with sex in any primary sense; it has to do with the way a word is used in the context of the sentence. It is not male and female as in sex, it’s male and female as in the way the word is used in the context.
No, Mr. Prasch, gender specific terms are exactly that - gender specific.  It would be improper to call a man by a feminine gendered noun of "petras."  Regardless of your unnamed "people who are really fluent in Greek," (unnamed sources are essentially worthless), the other problem you would have here is we're not talking about the modern use of Greek, but biblical Greek.  But, without seeing what these "fluent speakers" are actually translating, you really have presented us with a lot of words, but an empty assertion.  

The above being said, you started off that paragraph stating we (Catholics) would say Jesus was speaking Aramaic, to which there is evidence to that end since in Aramaic "Peter" would be "Kephas" or "Cephas" and we see the untranslated Aramaic used in John 1:42; 1 Cor. 1:12, 3:22, 9:5, 15:5 and Gal. 2:9 (KJV).  So, if we go with the Aramaic approach Matthew 16:18 would read something like, "Thou art Kephas and upon this Kephas I will build My Church."  You see, there's no variation in Aramaic, as there is in Greek.  Going to the Aramaic, which I would agree, is most likely the language Jesus was actually speaking at the time, Prasch's argument loses even more ground.

Next, Prasch goes into other contexts which use similar language, but the context is not talking about building the Church - let us us look at what he presents and look at what is actually being discussed in context.
Let us look 1 Corinthians 10:4
and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.In Greek it says, “de he petra en ho Christos”. “Petra”. Christ Himself who was a male is referred to in the feminine. The idea that they changed the gender because Peter was a male is ridiculous. That is not how Greek grammar works. I don't believe St. Paul made a mistake, nor did the Holy Spirit when He inspired St. Paul to write Corinthians. “The rock” is Christ and it’s called “petra”. What does it say in Matthew 16? “You are ‘petros’ and upon the ‘petra’ I will build My church.” You cannot use a little chip of stone the size of your thumb as the foundation for a building; you cannot use a “petros” as the foundation for a building; you can only use a “petra”. If you’ve been to Caesarea Philippi you would see it makes no logical sense. If you know Greek you would see it makes no logical sense.
Two things here, 1) the "petra" in 1 Cor. 10:4 is not a name - it is a descriptor; 2) the context is not speaking of building the Church, but of what the Jewish forefathers in the desert did.  That manna which they partook of in the desert was from this rock which was following them (in the desert).  The analogy is the rock was Jesus Christ.  Prasch continues...

But there's more. In 1 Corinthians 3:11 we read something else.
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.If anyone – if anyone – builds on the foundation of something else – gold, silver, precious stones, etc., it’ll be manifested on the day of the Lord; it will be revealed with fire; it won't stand. The only foundation we can build on is Christ, not Peter. Was St. Paul wrong? For that matter, were the early Roman Catholic popes and councils wrong? Or were the later ones wrong who said that Peter is “the rock” instead of Christ even though the New Testament says the opposite, and even though their early popes said the opposite?
Wow!  At face value Prasch's argument sounds quite convincing!  It speaks of building on a foundation other than Jesus Christ.  Yes, it does!  However, the context is not about the building of the Church, it is about the works of men.  If the man does not build his works in the State of Grace, that is, within Christ, then when those works are tested by fire - they will be burned up and the man will suffer loss, yet he will be saved.  This has nothing to do with the building of the Church!  Just because the term "petra" or "rock" is used does not mean it is comparable to Matthew 16:18-19.
The Roman Catholic Church claims that its doctrines are not only “apostolic”, but “patristic” – they come from the church fathers. I do not believe in the doctrinal authority of the church fathers. I do not believe the “apostolic” necessarily equals the “patristic”. However, even if I did, of the church fathers the Roman Catholic church looks to as a way to define what the apostles believed, most of the church fathers said that “the rock” was Christ, not Peter. A minority of them said “the rock” was the faith of Peter. Most say “the rock” was Christ, a few said “the rock” was Peter’s faith. None – not even one of their own church fathers – not only one of your church fathers has ever said that “the rock” was Peter,
Really?  First of all, "apostolic" and "patristic" are not equivalent terms and the Church does not teach that they are - red herring.  

Secondly, Prasch claims that "not even one of (our) own church fathers" teach that Peter is the rock.  

St. Cyprian of Carthage
"The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. . . . ’ [Matt. 16:18]. On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. . . . If someone [today] does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?" (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; first edition [A.D. 251]). 

"You cannot deny that you are aware that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter; the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head—that is why he is also called Cephas [‘Rock’]—of all the apostles; the one chair in which unity is maintained by all" (The Schism of the Donatists 2:2 [A.D. 367]).  

Pope Damasus I
"Likewise it is decreed: . . . [W]e have considered that it ought to be announced that . . . the holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of other churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall have bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall have loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. The first see [today], therefore, is that of Peter the apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither stain nor blemish nor anything like it" (Decree of Damasus 3 [A.D. 382]).  

St. Jerome

"I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails" (Letters, 15:2).
"The church here is split into three parts, each eager to seize me for its own. . . . Meanwhile I keep crying, ‘He that is joined to the chair of Peter is accepted by me!’ . . . Therefore, I implore your blessedness [Pope Damasus I] . . . tell me by letter with whom it is that I should communicate in Syria" (ibid., 16:2).
So, while Prasch has asserted that not even ONE Church Father supports Peter as being "the rock" I have presented FOUR and there are more.  Prasch should be a little more careful in making absolute statements such as "not one..." for it makes it extremely easy for anyone to find even ONE to make his statement absolutely false.
Given the fact that you cannot use a chip of stone the size of your thumb – a flat chip of stone the size of your thumb – as the foundation for a building, given the fact that the original language says “You are the ‘chip of stone’ and upon ‘the boulder’ I will build My church”, given the fact as St. Paul says we can build on no foundation other than Christ Himself, and given the fact of the New Testament says that Christis “the rock” – “petra”, “the boulder”, and given the fact that none of your own church fathers of the Roman Church believed that “the rock” was Peter, why do you? Why do you believe something which is practically, historically, biblically, patristically unfounded? And in fact, having been to Caesarea Philippi so many times, I have to say asbsurd. Why, in the early centuries, did no one believe it? Popes were fired – sacked by church councils. That is the question.
Prasch's question includes an assertion which begs the question!  As we have already seen, he is wrong about the historical and patristic recording of Peter being the rock upon which Jesus would build His Church and biblically, it is still Matthew 16:18-19 and John 21:15-17.  So, why do we believe this?  Because Jesus Christ Himself established it and it IS evidenced throughout history, including patristic writings.  

At the end of that paragraph, Prasch inserts an unsubstantiated comment that "popes were fired - sacked by church councils," as if that has anything to do with Jesus naming Peter "Rock" and promising to build His Church on "this Rock."  Church councils do not have that authority!  I am aware of a pope being judged postmortem but I am wholly unaware of ANY pope being fired or "sacked" by a Church council, therefore I would challenge Prasch (or anyone else who might support his position) to document this claim, or retract it as a false statement.
My mother has the view that many people would have – Irish, Catholic, British, Protestant. I just got back from Ireland a few days ago and I‘ve studied Irish history at some length. I was astounded to discover that most of the founders of Irish Republicanism, originally called “The Home Rule Movement” – Isaac Butt, Theobold, Napper Tandy, Charles Parnell, Wolfe-Tone – every one of them was a Protestant. “The Irish patriots like Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver's Travels, was a Protestant. It was only later identified with Catholicism in the times of Daniel O'Connor and so forth. But I was more astounded to learn how the “English”, quote/unquote, first got involved in Ireland. There was a non-English king, an ethnic Norman. He was not Anglo-Saxon, he was a French Viking. Henry II was threatened with excommunication by Pope Adrian IV if he would not invade Ireland and put an end to the local Celtic church in Ireland, and force them to acquiesce to Rome and the papacy. How did the English first become involved in invading and occupying Ireland? The pope sent them.

The term is “revisionism”. I’m no admirer of Voltaire’s values, but he was a talented writer. And he was right about one thing: “History is the lie everybody agrees on”. When you read what really happened you get a different picture. But the problem I have in speaking to my very Catholic mother is her Catholic identity is part and parcel of her Irish identity and can't see beyond it. There is a historical prejudice that's emotionally charged. It would be family disloyalty. Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me”. (Mt.10:37) Do I love my mother? Yes, but I love God first and I want them to know the truth.
Wow!  Where did Prasch study Irish history?  Does he realize that the history of Christendom in Ireland goes back much further than the 12th Century Pope Adrian IV?  I think not!  Prasch's view ignores the fact that St. Patrick, after first being captured as a slave in pre-Christian Ireland, returned years later to convert the people to Christ and is acknowledged to be the first Bishop or Prelate of Ireland.  When was St. Patrick in Ireland?  Born at the end of the 4th Century, St. Patrick was sent as a missionary to Ireland in 433 A.D. to convert the Druids.  Mr. Prasch, listen to your mother, she's got this right!
Prasch continues:
When I looked for the truth I found that “the rock” was and is Christ, not Peter, not only according to the New Testament but according to Roman Catholic history itself, That's my second question: Why do you believe Peter is “the rock” when the New Testament and your own church fathers and just the practical circumstances of trying to build a house on a chip of stone all dictate he could not possibly be?
We've already seen Mr. Prasch's argument here answered and his position demonstrated to be false regarding St. Peter and the Rock.  Now he asks the "little stone" or "chip of stone" v. the "large stone" or "boulder" - which again takes us back to the Greek of petros v. petra, and the reasoning for using those two words in the Greek has already been presented.  

Another point, in modern Greek there's a slight difference between petras and petros though the meanings overlap (they both can mean the same thing even in modern Greek) but in Koine Greek, the words are synonymous.  We are reminded that the Prasch brought up Aramaic as the language which Jesus was actually speaking - and again, there's only one word in the Aramaic - "Kephas" (or "Cephas").  The bottom line here, no matter how you slice it, the inflected difference in the Koine Greek really makes no difference in the meaning of the words, the only difference is the nouns being named.  An inanimate rock gets the feminine gendered "petras" but a male person would get the masculine gendered "petros." 
Popes have been warlords. They ordered nations to go to war with each other. They’ve been homosexuals, they’ve had illegitimate children. The banking families of Europe would vie to get their man into the papacy – the Borgia popes, the Medici family. Sometimes there would be two or three people claiming to be pope and the one that had the biggest military backing, usually from France, would declare the others to be antipopes. Well, I'll leave that to others to sort out. The only question I'm asking you is how can Peter be “the rock”?
Prasch's argument here is a non sequitur.  It does not follow from the previous to the conclusion.  In other words, the type or number of persons who were popes has absolutely no bearing on Peter and "the rock."  This then becomes nothing but a diversionary (red herring) argument, and the objective reader must reject it as just that.
And even if he was “the rock”, where does it say that Peter was empowered to pass that position on to others? If Peter was the first pope, why is it in the book of Acts 15 at the first council of the church that James presided, not Peter? James says, “Brethren, listen to Peter”? No, “Listen to me”. (Acts 15:13) And he does not rule by decree. He says, “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us”. (Acts 15:28) It was a collective decision by all the apostles, it was not the pope speaking autocratically ex cathedra. Why was James presiding and doing all the talking if Peter was the pope? It’s a fair question.  Why did James preside if Peter was the pope?
I'll accept this as a "fair question," but an ignorant one.  The council was held in Jerusalem, and James was the Bishop of Jerusalem.  As such, the bishop of that jurisdiction should convene and conclude the council.  Note as well, when James said "listen to me" he was also assenting to the decision made by Peter to settle the dispute.  James did not make the decision, he agreed and consented to Peter's decision, see Acts 15:7.  St. Peter also was not the only one to speak out at the council - note that the whole council fell silent when Barnabas and Paul spoke about how moved the Gentiles were when they spoke among them (Acts 15:12).  Church councils also do make decisions based upon consensus of the bishops in attendance - so inadvertently, Prasch has given testimony to how Church councils work.  I would add, no council can be called "ecumenical" without the consent/approval of the Bishop of Rome.  Clearly St. Peter was in agreement with the decision at the Council of Jerusalem - as it was HIS decision.
Why did St. Paul rebuke Peter in the presence of all in the book of Galatians? (Gal. 2:11-14) When is the last time you saw a bishop or a cardinal or a priest standing up in public and face-to-face challenging the pope and telling him off for being a hypocrite or behaving hypocritically? I've seen them kneel down and kiss his ring, but I've never seen any of them tell him off. You don't talk that way to the pope. If Peter was the pope, why did Paul talk to him that way? Fair question?
Being pope does not equate to being impeccable.  Many Protestants seem to confuse the teaching of infallibility with impeccability.  No pope is perfect.  All popes make mistakes.  All popes go to confession.  Some popes have made serious errors in judgment and/or actions.  None of that affects the fact that they are successors to St. Peter's bishoprick/office.  Why did St. Paul correct St. Peter?  Because St. Peter was wrong.  St. Peter was the first pope, and he made mistakes, we should not expect that St. Peter's successors would be impeccable either.
Even in its earlier centuries the Roman Church didn’t believe that. Now of course I would argue that the Roman Catholic Church did not exist as such until the 4th Century, but we’ll put that aside. The question I'm asking is in light of the evidence – biblical, patristic, and historical and practical, how can you possibly believe Peter is “the rock” when the Bible says “the rock” is Christ and we can build on no other foundation?
Prasch is repeating himself in this question and we've already answered it, but I shall recap it briefly again.  The Scripture which Prasch quotes citing we can "build on no other foundation" is in the context of the works of men.  Works not built upon Christ, or as Catholics would call it, "in the state of grace," will be burned up and the person will "suffer loss" (1 Cor. 3:15).  That passage is NOT about building the Church, as Matt. 16:18-19 states.  

Prasch has committed so many errors in his premises, no one could or should accept his conclusions.  I say this in all charity, Mr. Prasch, listen to your mother and come back to your Holy Mother, the Church.
Questions for Catholics Index

Part Three - Purgatory

Part Five - The Eucharist and John 6

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