Ecclesiology, Part 4. Structure and Intent

widpicCofC Christians,

If the Protestant Church of Christ would mind what it advertises as a principle—to “speak where the Bible speaks, and to be silent where the Bible is silent”—then your community would be built on St. Peter. The Catholic Church’s paradigm is precisely what the text communicates, as it only can, because the text is a product of the Church (the Church pre-dates the Bible). Structure, proximity, grammar, and intent, connect its three parts; and St. Matthew’s passage communicates an intent that is clearly supported by St. John’s Gospel. Jesus said, You [Peter] shall be called Cephas (John 1:42). Jesus did not say, “Your confession shall be called cephas (rock).” Nor did He say, “Any person’s confession of faith shall be called cephas (rock).” And therefore, St. Matthew’s passage ceases to be cryptic in any respect, but beautifully clear, and best understood when read in its fullness. St. Peter’s “confession of faith” provides a three-part context. It begins with Jesus’ response to St. Peter’s words, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

 

Part A)

St. Peter’s confession is predicated on his faith: 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.”

Part B)

St. Peter’s status as rock is predicated on his confession: “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.”

Part C)

St. Peter’s status as rock is the embodiment of an authoritative office: “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.”

 

In contrast, none of the Protestant Church of Christ’s objections (see previous post) allow for any cohesive exegesis of the full passage, and they create an awkward interpretation of what seems to be a logical literary structure. All three parts of the passage address the subject of St. Peter, and then offer commentary about its respective subject. Consider the following outline (emphasis added):

 

Part A)

Subject: Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!

Commentary: For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Part B)

Subject: And I tell you, you are Peter,

Commentary: and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.

Part C)

Subject: I will give you the keys of the kingdom,

Commentary: and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

 

The passage’s pattern (subject-commentary, subject-commentary, subject-commentary) offers no reason to believe Part B’s commentary refers to a preceding subject (St. Peter’s “confession of faith”); the structure implies intent to communicate that the subject of St. Peter is indeed the rock. And only St. Peter could be the rock because Jesus made a promise to give him the keys of the kingdom: I will give you . . . . For “faith” or a “confession of faith” cannot be given what the world knows to be figurative symbols of authority. And if St. Peter was not given the keys, then neither would there be any power to bind and loose, and the Church would be without authority—even for a short reign. There is no reason to torture the parts of the passage in ways your group attempts, unless of course, your group must do so to discredit the Catholic Church of Christ—a needed accomplishment for any sect that wishes to assume authority, that believes a modern (Fundamentalist) interpretation of the Catholic Church’s Bible (not Jesus’ actual words), somehow, is the agent that transfers authority to an alien sect that would not exist for nearly two thousand years after Jesus spoke face-to-face with His new clergy.

People who wish themselves Christian cannot so deliberately disconnect the parts of the passage from each other and continue to expect to be called “Bible Christians”. You cannot simply create objections and call them “truth” because they fit your theory; why would or should anyone believe you know how to interpret the words of eternal life? How do you, individually, from any language you prefer, read the full passage and not come to understand that the Catholic Church’s interpretation of her Scripture, at least in this case, is not more reasonable than yours? Can Jesus not be the Rock of Ages, and St. Peter the rock of orthodoxy? And cannot Jesus’ promise to give you [Peter] the keys actually be a promise He intended to keep? And if you are willing to concede that Jesus did keep His promise and established what is clearly an authoritative office with the power to bind and loose, then you must also concede that the real Church of Christ has a prime minister.

The Protestant Church of Christ’s catalog of interpretations of Matthew 16:16-19, once examined, share a common avoidance of what Christ Jesus said; and your varied positions as provided by your group’s preachers, elders, books, sermons apologetics websites, and radio personalities resemble a symphony of clanging gongs. The world cannot detect a coherent trend within your objections to the Catholic Church of Christ’s self-understanding of the passage, and it is clear your group is not capable of providing a unified interpretation of it. What your group can do, and does very well, is simply communicate any variation that might undermine the Catholic Church of Christ. Your community cannot say what it believes the passage to mean; it can only say what it hopes the passage does not mean.

 

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