Ecclesiology, Part 3. Responses to CofC Protests


Your members ordinarily first object to the Catholic Church of Christ’s self-understanding of what Jesus’ spoken words mean by arguing from the written words of a different language—by divorcing the text from its creator or insisting that Jesus would build His Church on a subject He never once called rock; but apparently attempted to confuse future Greek interpreters by calling St. Peter rock, and then proclaiming to build His church upon that very subject. The language offers no wriggle room for Protestants to argue against the historical interpretation (and therefore, practice) of what could possibly be the simplest passage in all of the New Testament to understand: I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. And therefore, your communities, like much of the remainder of Protestantism, jettisons the clear pro-Catholic implication of the single verse and focuses attention on other verses that, presumably, present obstacles for the Catholic Church of Christ’s position.

(1) The Protestant Church of Christ argues that the rock Jesus built His Church upon was St. Peter’s “confession of faith”.

You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). I ask you, for a moment, to think of where you adopted your terminology. For a community that adamantly denies that it is Protestant, it is mysterious that its theological language is clearly adopted from the Protestant camp. You will not find any Scripture nor ancient Christian commentary that describes the rock as St. Peter’s “confession of faith” in such a simplistic way. True, you will find early Church fathers (= Catholic Church fathers) who would use many, many words to describe the rock as what could be interpreted and distilled as a tidy “confession of faith” (as assigned to the physical person of St. Peter), but there is no ancient usage of language from which your group has derived its modern term and meaning. True, the Protestant reformers (who did not reform the Church, but rather, re-defined “church” to suit their own theory of what Church ought to be), used many words to describe the rock as what could be interpreted and distilled as a simpler “confession of faith” (as assigned to any individual believer), but there is no usage of the term with such meaning in any early Protestant literature. True, the term can be found; not as a condensed exegesis of Matthew 16, but as a general term to replace the Catholic-esque use of the word “creed”.

The term developed and evolved within later Protestant commentary as a means to represent a new concept. The new concept is that a “confession of faith” is the ingredient that inducts a person into the believing body of Christ’s Church—that St. Peter’s “confession of faith” is not about St. Peter’s confession specifically, but about any person’s faith. In other words, Protestantism has effectively deleted part of the Scripture; essentially removing I tell you, you are Peter from the discourse. Your group is nearly incapable of providing an exegesis of Matthew 16 on its own, depends not on language found within antiquity, but on later Protestant terminology that was in vogue at the time of your group’s birth. The Protestant Church of Christ is immersed within the language it was born, like an American who thinks he is speaking American and not English, and its use of language reveals a thoroughly Protestant society that it ungratefully depends upon for its own birth and existence; your group cannot create, it can only imitate (Restorationist patternism = imitation, even of other Protestant traditions).

It is important to know that the Catholic Church of Christ, too, believes the rock Jesus built His Church upon is St. Peter’s faith. True, the Catholic Church of Christ is built on St. Peter, but it is built on St. Peter as predicated by his faith—his confession does not negate his physical, visible existence. St. Peter’s faith, manifest in his confession that Jesus is the Christ, was the ingredient that became foundational to Jesus calling St. Peter the foundation; and reveals the beauty of the unaltered text:

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 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” (Matthew 16:16-19, emphasis added).

St. Peter is the subject of verse 18: You are Peter, and on this rock . . . . St. Peter’s faith is not the subject—his “confession of faith” is two sentences prior. The passage itself shows that Jesus called St. Peter rock, but never was St. Peter’s confession called “rock”. It is impossible for any person, unless enamored with anti-Catholic traditions, to entertain the theory that St. Peter was not the rock Jesus would build His Church upon; language does not allow it, nor does the Scripture’s context.

The passage’s unaltered beauty consists of three parts: St. Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus stating that He will build His Church on St. Peter, and then proof beyond any reasonable doubt that He was not speaking of a “confession of faith” as the Church’s foundation, but that the rock can only be a subject that will be vested with authority: and whatever you bind on earth . . . . For a “confession of faith” has no authority on earth, but the King’s prime minister certainly does! This clear truth is undeniable, and some of your members admit that the meaning of the keys to the kingdom can only make sense if St. Peter was given some sort of status beyond that of making a “confession of faith”, and choose to teach that the keys refer to St. Peter’s preaching as revealed in the second chapter of Acts.

The keys to the kingdom is much greater than only preaching, and is more than an alleged prophecy of St. Peter’s sermon (of which the Bible offers no indication that Acts 2 is some sort of prophetic fulfillment of Matthew 16; the theory is a historically absent and modern rationalization designed to legitimize rebellion); it is a term rich with authority and societal context: authority that the Protestant Church of Christ cannot acknowledge and within a societal context that understood what the term meant. Those facts will be demonstrated throughout the remainder of this series and website, but the topic at hand demands that members of your group admit to possessing an unexplainable and contradicting exegesis of the passage. For if the rock, as you say, is St. Peter’s “confession of faith”, then there is no need for you to create a rationale for equating the keys with St. Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Additionally, admitting that the keys do allude to a kind of authority demands that you seek what that authority actually entails, instead of desperately forcing its meaning into a limited and speculative future sermon account.

The living Catholic Church of Christ has a memory, and does not require the passage to be deciphered in ways to support modern theories. In addition to its memory, she possesses the remainder of Scripture (as well as ancient commentary your group stigmatizes) that culminate into an immovable mass of evidence that can only support her paradigm. Conversely, your group has no memory because it is modern and denies that the remainder of the Bible supports what can only be a proper (= Catholic) interpretation of the passage, as proved by perverting the structure of the very passage at hand, and an overarching sect-wide denial that the keys allude to an authoritative office of prime minister.

Reason alone proves the rock is more than a “confession of faith”, and that the keys represent authority over the worldwide Church because St. Matthew’s Gospel would not have received residence in the Bible if the nascent Church were not the Catholic Church—if she had not determined that she had the authority to determine the Christian canon; because only books recognized as inspired by the recipients (successors) of the keys (fourth century Catholic bishops) are bound within the covers of even the abridged Protestant Bible from which you argue. In other words, the fact that your group considers the passage to be inspired should also prove to you that the Catholic Church of Christ’s interpretation of the passage is correct, and of course, that the keys are with her.

As you have now noticed, any discussion of Jesus’ words, And I tell you, you are Peter, must acknowledge the context in which it is nested. Your group can only discuss portions of the passage, separate St. Peter from his “confession of faith”, or at best, insert unreasonable inferences into Jesus’ spoken word. The Protestant Church of Christ is built on an avoidance of rock; the real Church of Christ is built on rock.

(2) The Protestant Church of Christ argues that Jesus was calling Himself “rock”.

Your members often interpret, And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church . . . (Matthew 16:18), as “And I tell you, you are Peter, but on myself, I will build my church.” Would it not be awkward for Jesus to confuse St. Peter by calling him rock (Cephas), and then change subjects to a different rock (cephas), and then expect St. Peter to think that Jesus was referring to Himself? Was Jesus giving Himself the keys? Was Jesus assigning binding and loosing powers to Himself? And of course, how is the rock Jesus was referring to actually be Himself, when, as your ministers also teach, was St. Peter’s “confession of faith”? (See objection #1)

(3) The Protestant Church of Christ argues that Jesus is the rock and foundation of the Church, and therefore, nobody or nothing else can be rock and foundation.

The argument quickly falls apart because it conflicts with your group’s argument that the rock Jesus was referring to in Matthew 16:18 is St. Peter’s “confession of faith”, or the “confession of faith” of any individual, as shown in objection #1; and it conflicts with your group’s argument that the rock is Jesus Himself (see objection #2). In other words, your objections to the Catholic Church of Christ, as it is built on rock, have thus far invalidated themselves because they exclude each other.

Each of your group’s theories regarding the rock of Matthew 16:18 share a characteristic: they draw attention away from the clear subject of the sentence, which is the person of St. Peter. But you are correct when you suggest that Jesus is “the rock” in a particular sense, but He is not the only rock in all senses. Your group counters by quoting St. Paul: For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). Your counter is presented as a last word—a way to finalize an argument with a Christian-sounding “the Bible says it, that settles it” closure, yet fails to recognize that the Bible “says” nothing; heresy is not in the text, but in the interpretation of the text. In other words, the Catholic Church of Christ acknowledges Jesus is the foundation of the Church, yet she also acknowledges that St. Peter participates within that foundation as rock.

St. Paul also called St. Peter Cephas—Rock (1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:22, 9:5, 15:5, Galatians 1:18). Since St. Paul was not confused by arguments that would be conjured centuries later within Protestantism (and post-Protestant Restorationism), he was able to recognize St. Peter by the name Jesus gave him—Rock, which also indicates St. Paul’s understanding that Jesus built His Church on Cephas and not on only a confession of any sort; for he never called “faith” or a “confession of faith” “rock”.

The apparent problem is for Christians to reconcile Jesus’ status as the foundation with St. Peter’s status as a participant in the Church’s foundation. Either both passages (Matthew 16:18 and 1 Corinthians 3:11) need to make sense together, or one passage must be jettisoned or altered in some fashion to fit new (= Protestant) beliefs. The real Church of Christ accepts both passages, and your community does not. Your group emphasizes 1 Corinthians 3:11 to the exclusion of Matthew 16:18 to avoid what your group perceives as a conflict, and to offer what you believe to be a “silver bullet” proof against the Catholic Church of Christ, but the conflict is invented; it only exists within the minds of groups that must avoid the subject and authority of the Petrine Office.

To pit Matthew 16 against 1 Corinthians 3, though, is short sighted for other reasons as well, because there are many rocks. And “Bible Christians” ought not sacrifice one Scripture for another, nor one Scripture for many others, because they are all God-breathed, and collectively, not singularly, provide a proper sense of the Bible’s meaning. Recall Isaiah 51, which refers to Abraham as rock: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and Sarah as the quarry from which you were digged. Are not both individuals, separately, though synergistically, providing the foundational rock of many nations? Is it not clear that a proper theology incorporates more of a Catholic “both / and” understanding than a Protestant “either / or” understanding?

Consider St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Was he contradicting his letter to the Corinthians (no other foundation . . . Jesus Christ) when he wrote, the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-20)? Was St. Paul, again, confused when he called the Church, not any confession nor the Scriptures, the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15 New International Version)? Is not St. Paul’s theology clearly capable of entertaining a broader understanding of rock and foundation than yours? Is St. Paul not more Catholic than Restorationist?

Consider St. John’s Apocalypse: And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14). So, then, can you not detect a pattern? One in which rock and foundation are not metaphors that Scripture reserves for Jesus specifically, but rather, are words ascribed also to agents in concert with Christ Jesus? Abraham, Sarah, the Apostles, St. Peter, Jesus, and the Church, are called rocks and foundations of Christ’s covenant assembly, of his royal priesthood and holy nation, and of truth. And we Christians ought not sacrifice the full spectrum of the Scriptures that might reveal as such, for a preferred passage that provides, at least among some Protestant communities such as yours, a forced preference for a confused and agenda-driven anti-Catholic conclusion.

And so there is no great quandary to reconcile, and there is no dissonance between Scripture’s portrayal of St. Peter as rock and its portrayal of Jesus as foundation. The quandary, rather, is in your group’s insistence to interpret the Scriptures in an obviously unscriptural, limiting sense. Is there any reason to think Jesus has not given us teachers and shepherds (cf. Ephesians 4:11) even though He declared that we have one teacher . . . the Christ (Matthew 23:8) and that He is the good shepherd (John 10:11), or is Scripture communicating a gulf of majesty between God and man? Do we cease to be fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) when we read that Jesus is the heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2)? Can Jesus not be Foundation of our Faith, and St. Peter foundation of the Church?

Jesus is Foundation by nature, and St. Peter is foundation by calling. Jesus is Foundation and Creator, and St. Peter is foundation of the created. Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone, and St. Peter is subject to the Chief. Jesus is Shepherd and King, and St. Peter is shepherd and prime minister; and the King remains the King when He assigns a prime minister. Both are foundation, yet different. Both are rock, yet different.

(4) The Protestant Church of Christ argues that the Greek supports the Protestant paradigm.

As heirs of the Protestant model, your group continues to expect Christians to disregard the logic and structure of the passage, and instead, become distracted and preoccupied with a language that Jesus was not speaking: Greek. I referred to this distraction earlier, and prefer to give it the near-footnote’s amount of attention that its red herring nature deserves, but for thoroughness and worthwhile comparative value I must illustrate how your group’s exegesis of Matthew 16:18 and its understanding of “rock” has little to do with the text, but agenda. The Greek does not harm the Catholic Church of Christ; it proves without a doubt the Church is built on St. Peter.

Within Protestantism, Greek is not a dead language—its words are often used as only props to provide an aura of antiquity to a relatively modern movement that defines itself as a non-something—non-Catholic—and distortions of the language are presented as ancient when they are truly not. As a result, Greek scholarship within your group is poisoned and greatly exaggerated, and its deficiencies are absorbed by its military in the mission field.

Pre-Protestant scholars (= Catholic scholars) have wrestled with the Scriptures for centuries, and we have such sacred libraries today—we call them Bibles, and they are now translated into every language. Your group, however, has never produced any raw material for a Bible, but relies on Catholic scholars, and then co-Protestant scholars in order for it to even begin its campaign and claim to be “true Bible Christians”. With this very real backstory, please consider your Johnny-come-lately status and acknowledge there has been centuries of labor your group disregards as yesterday’s garbage; proved every time your members assert that St. Peter was a “small stone”, and therefore, Jesus could not have given him any significant status. And this “small stone” assertion is your fourth objection, and it is flawed in several ways.

Our oldest copies of St. Matthew’s Gospel translate St. Matthew’s original Aramaic text into Koine Greek. The Greek words chosen for the passage at hand are: You are Peter (Πέτρος / Petros), and on this rock (τῇ πέτρᾳ / petra) I will build my church. In Aramaic, the words would read: You are Cephas (Rock), and on this cephas (rock). Appropriately, English translations treat the passage as Jesus spoke: You are Peter (Rock), and on this rock. Your argument is that Petros and petra are different things (small rock / large rock), and therefore, St. Peter cannot be this rock. Your adopted argument existed before your group existed—invented by early Protestant groups one and a half millennia after Jesus spoke the sentence, and whose scholars have since backtracked to a large degree, and have come to admit that their forced interpretation was too far-reaching in its attempt to discredit the Catholic Church; those who cling to the theory tend to be part of less-educated Fundamentalist sects. Unfortunately, such Reformed thinkers who admit to their intentional error remain Protestant and continue to behave as though St. Peter is not this rock; or admit that he was this rock, but that the Petrine Ministry forfeited its stewardship at some contrived, arbitrary point in history. Your group, younger and more adamant in thinking that it can only be right, clings to the early Protestant theory, and ignores that the Greek use of Petros and petra are renderings of the exact same word—rock.

Petros does not mean large rock, it does not mean small rock, it means rock; and petra does not mean large rock, it does not mean small rock, it means rock. Because the subject of St. Peter is masculine, the Greek word for rock was made masculine, and that is the reason why the words’ endings differ. Jesus was not using Greek to equate St. Peter with something little, as your group teaches, but rather, St. Matthew (or perhaps somebody other than St. Matthew who translated his Aramaic autograph into Greek) rightly recognized that St. Peter was a man, and assigned the masculine subject a masculine ending for a feminine Greek word.

Unlike Attic Greek (an older dialect), which was in use centuries before the time of Christ, Petros and petra in New Testament Koine Greek do not refer to “small” or “large” rocks, but mean the exact same thing. Any minister of your group who suggests otherwise is wrong, has probably never investigated the matter, is begging the question with preferred proof-text examples at the exclusion of other passages, or is simply parroting what he has been taught to believe by like-minded people who, like him, have never investigated the claim, yet fancy its conclusion for its anti-Catholic implication. For any truth-seeker can browse the New Testament for some sort of support for your group’s claim, but she will find herself searching in vain—it does not exist, nor has any legitimacy to your group’s objections ever existed. Does this very true background cause you to consider how your group’s exegesis (interpretation) of Matthew 16 is more about theological preference (agenda) than the meaning of the text?

Your group’s use of the argument is a reliance on what is easily proved as flawed early Protestant theory. In other words, it is easily proved Jesus did not say, “You are a small stone, and a different stone than the aforementioned larger rock of faith (which you have no reason to believe is rock), and I will build my church on that other rock.” Instead, what the facts suggest is exactly what the Catholic Church of Christ has known since Jesus said it, and what He said was, You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.

If the writer of St. Matthew’s Gospel were some sort of pre-Campbellite / Restorationist sympathizer, he did have at his disposal the proper Greek word for what is most commonly used for “small (movable) rock”, which was lithos. (There are only two occurrences of lithos that do not pertain to a “small” or “movable” rock in the Bible, and are found in 2 Maccabees—one of seven books Protestants removed from the Bible.) But he was not a member of your not-yet existing sect; he was Catholic, and chose to record Jesus’ words and also recognize St. Peter as the masculine subject of the sentence.

Instead of considering the actual language Jesus spoke (Aramaic), instead of considering the actual language used within the Bible (Koine, not Attic, Greek), and instead of recognizing the structure and logic of the passage as revealed in English, your group pretends to rely on the Sacred Scriptures, not its agenda, to form its theology—a theology that must always, by use of any of the above objections, demote St. Peter from being the rock Jesus built His Church upon.


© Copyright. All written material is property of Patrick Vandapool. All rights reserved.
If this sort of stuff interests you then please help me via Patreon!
This entry was posted in apologetics, catholic, churches of christ and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.