You Are Peter

`And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock ready to|i’ll} be able to build my church, and additionally the powers of death shall not prevail against it. i will be able to give you with the keys of the dominion of heaven, and regardless of you bind on earth shall take care in heaven, and regardless of you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Matt. 16:18-19)

Why ought to this be reckoned a tough saying? It will, to be sure, contain some figures of speech that need to be explained – `the gates of Hades’ (which RSV has understood for USA as `the powers of death’), `the keys of the kingdom’, `binding’ and `loosing’.

However it’s not owing to these figures of speech that the old saying is wide reckoned to be arduous – therefore arduous, indeed, that some interpreters have tried not solely to elucidate it however to elucidate it away.

One reason for concerning it as a tough speech communication is that Peter within the Gospels is just too unstable a personality to function the inspiration for any enterprise or to incline such authority as is sent in these words. however the most reason for locating a problem within the text is strictly digressive to its easy reading and interpretation.

Few Protestants, asked to call their favorite text, would consider quoting this one. it’s been invoked to support the mastery of the Roman Church over alternative Churches – additional exactly, to support the mastery of the bishop of Rome over alternative bishops – and people UN agency don’t acknowledge this use of it as valid have generally reacted by attempting to create it mean one thing abundant less positive than it seems to mean.

Some have prompt, with no manuscript proof to justify the suggestion, that the text has been corrupted from an ingenious `you have aforesaid’ (instead of `you area unit Peter’); others have argued that the Greek choice of words isn’t AN correct translation of the Aramaic type during which the old saying was forged by Deliverer – that what he said was, `I tell you, Peter, that on this rock i will be able to build my Church.’

However this too is conjecture. If we will get obviate the thought that the text has any relevance the Roman Church or to the authorities, we have a tendency to shall lose interest in such makes an attempt to get rid of what has been felt to be its awkwardness.

Certainly there’s nothing within the context to counsel Rome or the authorities. however the context of the old saying presents USA with a tangle of a special kind.

All 3 synoptic evangelists record the incident within the neighbourhood of seaport.

All of them tell however Deliverer, once asking his disciples what account folks were giving of him, asked them next what account they themselves gave: `Who does one say that I am?’ to the current question Peter, acting as their interpreter, replied `You area unit the Messiah’ (that is that the type of his answer in Mark 8:29; the opposite Gospels have variations in wording).

All 3 evangelists add that Deliverer strictly forbade them to repeat this to anyone. however Matthew inserts, between Peter’s answer and Jesus’s charge to the disciples to not repeat it, a private response by Deliverer to Peter.

This response begins, `Blessed area unit you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not unconcealed this to you, however my Father UN agency is in heaven.’ It then continues with the words we’ve got quoted as our arduous speech communication.

ll 3 evangelists add that Deliverer strictly forbade them to repeat this to anyone. however Matthew inserts, between Peter’s answer and Jesus’s charge to the disciples to not repeat it, a private response by Deliverer to Peter.

This response begins, `Blessed area unit you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not unconcealed this to you, however my Father UN agency is in heaven.

It then continues with the words we’ve got quoted as our arduous speech communication.

How area unit we have a tendency to to account for the very fact that the old saying, with its introductory benediction, doesn’t seem in Mark’s or Luke’s record of the occasion? If Matthew were the supply on that Mark and Luke depended, then we have a tendency to may say that they short his record for functions of their own, and that we ought to attempt to confirm what those functions were.

If, however, we have a tendency to area unit right in thinking that Mark was one among the sources on that Matthew Drew, then we’ve got to mention that Matthew has amplified Mark’s record by incorporating material derived from elsewhere. this is often not the sole place wherever Matthew expands Mark’s record by the inclusion of fabric regarding Peter not found in our alternative Gospels. we have a tendency to might imagine, as an example, of the episode of Peter’s obtaining out of the boat and setting out to sink once he tried to run to Deliverer on the water (Matt. 14:28-31).

It has been argued that the passage we have a tendency to area unit considering belongs to a later amount in Christian history instead of that to that Matthew assigns it.

Some have seen in it the report of words spoken by Deliverer to Peter once he gave the impression to him in resurrection – words that Matthew transferred to the seaport Philippi context owing to the aptness of the subjectmatter.

Others would date them later still: is it seemingly, they ask, that the historical Saviour would speak of his `church’? definitely it’s unlikely that he USAed the word within the sense that it always bears for us, however it’s not unlikely that he used AN Aramaic word that was painted in Greek by ekklesia, the term often rendered `church’ within the will. And if Jesus did, what did he mean by it?

He meant the new community that he aimed to bring into being, the new Israel during which the twelve apostles were to be the leaders, leading by service and not by dictation.

A helpful analogy to Jesus’s words to Peter is provided by an allegory found in rabbinical tradition setting forth God’s dealings with humanity from the beginning to the time of Abraham.

The written documents in which this allegory is found are later than our Gospels, but behind the written form lies a period of oral transmission. In Isaiah 51:1 Abraham is called `the rock from which you were hewn’, and the allegory undertakes to explain why Abraham should be called a ‘rock’.

It tells how a certain king wished to build a palace, and set his servants to dig to find a foundation. They dug for a long time, and took soundings twice, but found nothing but morass.

(The soundings were taken first in the generation of Enosh, Adam’s grandson, and then in the generation of Noah.) After further digging they took soundings again, and this time they struck rock (petra). `Now’, said the king, `at last I can begin to build.”

In the allegory the king, of course, is God; the palace which he planned to build is the nation of Israel, and he knew that he could make a beginning with the project when he found Abraham, a man ready to respond to his call with implicit faith and obedience.

It would be precarious to envisage any direct relation between this allegory and Jesus’s words to Peter, as recorded by Matthew, but there is a notable resemblance.

According to John’s account of the call of the first disciples, it was during John the Baptist’s ministry in Transjordan that Peter heard his brother Andrew say, with reference to Jesus, `We have found the Messiah’ (John 1:41).

Evidently Peter then believed Andrew’s testimony, but that would have been an instance of what Jesus now described as `flesh and blood’ (a human being) telling him. There were various ideas abroad in the popular mind at that time regarding the kind of person the Messiah was and the kind of things he would do, but Jesus’s character and activity, as his disciples had come to know them, probably corresponded to none of those ideas.

If Peter believed Jesus to be the Messiah when he first received his call, and now confessed him to be the Messiah a year or more later, the concept `Messiah’ must have begun to change its meaning for him.

Not long before, he had seen his Master repel the attempt of a band of eager militants, five thousand strong, to make him their king so that he might lead them against the occupying forces of Rome and their creature, Herod Antipas (John 6:15).

The Messiah as popularly conceived ought surely to have grasped such an opportunity. Some at least of the disciples were disappointed that he refused to do so.

The fact that Peter, even so, was prepared to confess Jesus as the Messiah was evidence that a change had at least begun to take place in his thinking – that he was now coming to understand the term `Messiah’ in the light of what Jesus actually was and did, rather than to understand Jesus in the light of ideas traditionally associated with the term `Messiah’. Hence the pleasure with which Jesus greeted his response: hence the blessing which he pronounced on him.

For, like the king in the Jewish parable, Jesus said in effect, `Now at last I can begin to build!’

It is well known that `You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church’ involves a play on words. In Greek `Peter’ is petros and `rock’ is petra (the difference being simply that between the masculine termination -os, necessary in a man’s name, and the feminine termination -a).

In the Aramaic which Jesus probably spoke, there was not even such a minor grammatical distinction between the two forms: `You are kepha,’ he said, `and on this kepha I will build my church.’ The form kepha, as applied to Peter, appears in many of our New Testament versions as Cephas (e.g. in John 1:42; 1 Cor. 1:12), an alternative form of his name.

As a common noun, the Aramaic kepha means `rock’; the Hebrew equivalent keph is used in this sense in Job 30:6 and Jeremiah 4:29. In some modern languages the play on words can be exactly reproduced: thus in most editions of the French New Testament Jesus says to Peter, `Tu es Pierre, et sur cette pierre je batirai mon eglise.’ But this cannot be done in English; if the play on words is to be brought out, a rendering like that of the NEB has to be adopted:

`You are Peter, the Rock; and on this rock I will build my church.’ Now that someone has been found who is prepared to confess Jesus as what he really is, and not try to fit him into some inherited framework, a start can be made with forming the community of true disciples who will carry on Jesus’s mission after his departure.

Peter personally might be thought too unstable to provide such a foundation, but it is not Peter for what he is in himself but Peter the confessor of Jesus who provides it.

In that building every other confessor of Jesus finds a place. What matters is not the stature of the confessor but the truth of the confession.

Where Jesus is confessed as the Messiah or (as Matthew amplifies the wording) as `the Christ, the Son of the living God’, there his Church exists.

It is in the one who is thus confessed, and not in any durable quality of her own, that the Church’s security and survival rest.

While she maintains that confession, the gates of the prison-house of Hades (i.e. death) will never close on her.

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