Thursday, June 26, 2014

"Upon this rock": The readings for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

It is solely by accident that I have the privilege of writing the reflection on the readings of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. However, I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity.

The lectionary readings this Sunday climax with a selection from Matthew 16:13-19, a passage I have spent much time studying and writing about. Aside from treating it in a substantial way in my doctoral dissertation, I have also recently published an article on this passage in the Journal of Biblical Literature (see here).

Obviously, I cannot offer as in-depth a treatment of the passage here as I do there. In these reflections I want to highlight some key (pardon the pun) aspects of the lectionary readings, highlighting certain ways I think they compliment one another, focusing in a detailed way on Matthew 16:13-19.

So, without any further ado, let's begin. . .

FIRST READING: ACTS 12:1-11
In those days, King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them.
He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword,
and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews
he proceeded to arrest Peter also.
–It was the feast of Unleavened Bread.–
He had him taken into custody and put in prison
under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each.
He intended to bring him before the people after Passover.
Peter thus was being kept in prison,
but prayer by the Church was fervently being made
to God on his behalf. 
On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial,
Peter, secured by double chains,
was sleeping between two soldiers,
while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison.
Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him
and a light shone in the cell.
He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying,
“Get up quickly.”
The chains fell from his wrists.
The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.”
He did so.
Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.”
So he followed him out,
not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real;
he thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first guard, then the second,
and came to the iron gate leading out to the city,
which opened for them by itself.
They emerged and made their way down an alley,
and suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter recovered his senses and said,
“Now I know for certain
that the Lord sent his angel
and rescued me from the hand of Herod
and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”
At first glance, the story of Peter's deliverance in the book of Acts seems a bit comical. Peter, with the help of an angel, practically sleepwalks out of prison. It is only when Peter ends up down an alley alone that he finally believes what has happened to him is real and not a dream: "Now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me. . ."

Beneath the surface, however, there is more going on in this account than meets the eye. For one thing, the story highlights Peter's importance.

Petrine primacy in the New Testament. Indeed, New Testament underscores Peter's role as first among the apostles--i.e., his "primacy"--in various ways.

For one thing, in the Gospels Peter is always listed first among the apostles. This applies not only to lists of the twelve (cf. Matt 10:1–4//Mark 3:13–19//Luke 6:13–16; cf. Acts 1:13) but also to occasions where groups of disciples are mentioned
  •  the account of the Transfiguration (cf. Matt 17:1//Mark 9:2//Luke 9:28)
  •  the healing of the ruler’s daughter (cf. Mark 5:37//Luke 8:51)
  •  in the preparations for the Passover (cf. Luke 22:8)
  •  at the beginning of the Olivet discourse (cf. Mark 13:3)
  • in Gethsemane (cf.  Matt 26:37//Mark 14:33).
John P. Meier writes, “[Peter] is the most frequently mentioned, the most actively engaged, and hence the most prominent of the Twelve.”[1] Who could disagree with this assessment?

Likewise, Paul in Galatians explains that  the task of preaching Gospel to the uncircumcised had been entrusted to him just as Peter had been entrusted with the responsibility of preaching the Gospel to the circumcised (cf. Gal 2:7). He even describes Peter as one of the “pillars” of the community, naming James and John also (cf. Gal 2:9). All of this points to Peter's important role. In fact, it is Peter who he compares himself to--not James and John.

Peter's primacy in Acts. The book of Acts also underscores Peter’s importance in the early Church. While most scholars recognize this, the sheer number of instances in which this is evident is nothing short of staggering.
  • It is Peter who first stands up and speaks of the need to appoint a replacement for Judas—a direction which is dutifully followed without hesitation (cf. Acts 1:15–26).
  • It is Peter who addresses the crowds on Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:14–36) after which the crowds respond by addressing, “Peter and the rest of the apostles” (εἶπόν τε πρὸς τὸν Πέτρον καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς ἀποστόλους), and Peter himself responds (cf. Acts 2:37–40).
  • Peter performs the first miracle after Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1–10)
  • When Peter and John are arrested, it is Peter who speaks for them (cf. Acts 4:8–12).
  • It is Peter who deals with Ananias and Sapphire after they misrepresent their offering―an offering which was originally laid “at the apostles feet” (cf. Acts 5:1–11).
  • People are said to be brought to the “apostles” so that Peter’s shadow might fall on them to heal them (cf. Acts 5:12–16).
  • When the apostles are brought again before the Jewish leaders, Peter again is prominent (cf. especially Acts 5:29: ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ Πέτρος καὶ οἱ ἀπόστολοι εἶπαν).
  • When it is discovered that Christians in Samaria have been baptized but not yet received the Holy Spirit, Peter and John go to lay their hands upon them (cf. Acts 8:14–17). When a man named Simon wants to buy the ability to give the Spirit he approaches Peter, and it is Peter who rebukes him. Simon then asks Peter (note: John is not included) to pray for him (cf. Acts 8:18–24).
  • Peter is described as going out to all the Christians (Acts 9:32: γένετο δὲ Πέτρον διερχόμενον διὰ πάντων κατελθεῖν), performing miracles (cf. Acts 9:32–43).
  • It is Peter who is sought out by a Roman centurion, whose entire household ends up being baptized by him (Acts 10)—an episode which is described as the watershed moment as the Gospel is accepted by Gentiles.
  • It is Peter who first opposes the circumcision party (cf. Acts 11:1–18). Peter’s words “silences” them (ἡσύχασαν; Acts 11:18).
  • Peter plays a crucial role at the council of Jerusalem where “after there had been much debate” Peter speaks. The response is immediate—the assembly falls silent; while James comes up with the best pastoral solution, it was Peter’s statement that ended the debate (Acts 15:6:29).[2] 
Indeed, scholars have recognized that Peter’s baptism of the centurion appears to serve to validate the church’s--especially, Paul's--Gentile ministry in the book of Acts.[3] This, of course, also underscores the unique respect accorded to Peter by early Christians. 

The story in Acts 12 simply highlights this motif. After seeing how killing James scored political points with the Jews [=the Jewish leadership], Herod now, in an attempt to further ingratiate himself to them, now seems to set his sights on Peter, presumably an even greater prize. 

Peter, however, is delivered. The sense one gets is that Peter is too important to be lost to the church at this stage. This also underscores the value of his role.

Peter and Jesus. The story of Peter’s deliverance from prison in Acts 12 also seems to parallel the story of Jesus' deliverance from death in the Gospel of Luke. 
  • In Luke, it is women who are the first witnesses of the resurrection. Instructed by angels, they go and tell the disciples that Jesus has been raised from the dead (Luke 24:1–10). However, the disciples do not believe them (Luke 24:11).
  • In Acts 12, Peter is delivered from prison, having been arrested after the martyrdom of James. It seems clear that Peter was about to be executed (cf. Acts 12:1–2). Yet Peter is delivered by an angel―in a certain sense, he is delivered from death too. The first witness to his deliverance is a woman. She goes on and tells the disciples that she has seen him but they do not believer her (cf. Acts 12:15).
The book of Acts reveals that there is an inseparable relationship of Jesus and the church. This is perhaps most clearly highlighted in the story of Paul’s conversion. Saul/Paul, on his way to Damascus, sees a great light and hears a voice speaking to him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” To which Saul replied, “Who are you, Lord?” The answer given is remarkable: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. . .” (Acts 9:4-5).

Note here Jesus’ exact words: “Why do you persecute me?” Saul could have easily answered, “I’m not persecuting you―I am going after your disciples.”

But such a protest would seem to miss the major theme Luke-Acts stresses: Jesus is to be identified with his church.

I think Paul reflected on the significance of these words his entire life. The ecclesiology of the church as the Mystical Body of Christ seems to flow from reflection on this thought. As Paul says elsewhere, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

Thus, as Christ lived in his earthly body, he now lives in the church. What he did in his earthly body he now does in his Mystical Body. The ministry of the church continues the ministry of Jesus.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 
R. (5) The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
The liturgy appropriately uses Psalm 34, a psalm describing the way the Lord rescues his righteous one by the help of an angel, immediately after relating the story of Peter's deliverance by an angel.

The psalm is not haphazardly chosen though simply for that reason alone. This was apparently a psalm that was associated with Peter in the early church. The first letter attributed to Peter uses Psalm 34 repeatedly (cf. 1 Pet. 2:3 cited Ps. 34:9; 1 Pet 3:10-12 cites Ps. 34:13-17). Apparently, then, the New Testament bears witness to the memory that Peter himself meditated on this psalm and used it in his teaching. The story of Peter's deliverance from prison coheres well with that evidence.

SECOND READING: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day, and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.
 
The Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom.
To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.
The second reading has Paul describing what seems to be his imminent death. For the record, many biblical scholars actually doubt that this letter was originally penned by Paul himself, attributing it to a later disciple of Paul seeking to preserve his teaching. However, in my opinion, a strong case has been made for the authenticity of the letter by Luke Timothy Johnson.[4]

Much could be said about this reading but I need to save some room to talk about the Gospel passage so here I will simply highlight three important images.

1. Paul offers himself as a sacrifice. Specifically, Paul describes himself as a "libation"--a sacrificial drink offering. Christ is the one atoning sacrifice for sin but that does not mean that we Christians are thereby "let off the hook". Far from it! We are called to offer ourselves up as a "living sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1), uniting ourselves to the sacrifice of Christ. All of our pain, suffering, trials, etc., can and should be offered up as a true sacrifice to God, not in addition to Christ's sacrifice but as a participation in it. As Acts shows us, Christ is united to the church; Christ's offering is made present in believers.

2. Attaining the prize, gaining the crown. Paul elsewhere uses the language of a "race" and a "crown" in reference to gaining the reward of everlasting life (cf. 1 Cor. 9:25). Noticeably, however, in 1 Corinthians 9 Paul speaks with far less certainty about attaining salvation for himself. There he explains that he might lose it. Indeed, earlier in the letter, he writes,
"I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God." (1 Cor 4:4-5)
For Paul, one cannot be certain that one will attain the prize--not because God might be unfaithful but because we may not be. God will respect our choices. We can turn away from him and God will let us go our way. However, as Paul now approaches his martyrdom--being poured out as a libation--he can speak with much greater confidence. He is now on the verge of offering his life as a sacrificial offering. 

3. True deliverance and the Heavenly Kingdom. Alluding to Daniel, Paul announces that God has delivered him from the lion's mouth. 

But wait. . . isn't Paul about to be martyred? How can he say God has delivered him if he is about to die?

In the second reading we learn that deliverance from death--which Peter experienced--is not the truest kind of rescue. What we must ultimately be rescued from his spiritual death. The ultimate goal is the heavenly kingdom. In a sense, then, one does NOT want to be rescued from physical death; embracing death means attaining the prize: the heavenly kingdom. 

GOSPEL: Matthew 16:13-19
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
This is such a rich passage it is obviously impossible for me to do it full justice. Let me highlight a few elements here.

1. Jesus' two-fold question.   Notice that Jesus asks two questions of his disciples. First, he asks about popular opinion regarding his identity. Second, he asks them what they make of his identity.

Notice how Jesus teaches here. He first highlights incorrect answers before bringing the disciples to the right answer. This is how good teachers teach. They use bad answers as a way to clarify matters.

2. Many thought that Jesus was a prophet. The disciples' first answer is revealing. It suggests that many people recognized as a prophetic figure. Jesus was clearly doing things that were noteworthy. The truth of his identity, however, could not simply be ascertained by studying his words and actions. Something more was needed.

3. Peter's confession and Jesus' Davidic identity. As we have already mentioned, the New Testament highlights the primacy of Peter among the apostles. This is seen nowhere more clearly than in Matthew 16:13-19. Here it is Peter who announces clearly the identity of Jesus; he the "Christ"--the "Messiah".

Peter's identification of Jesus as the Messiah is loaded with Davidic imagery. This is significant. Messianic hopes in Jesus' day were far from monolithic. Some expected a kind of priestly Messiah to arrive on the scene. Others apparently were anticipating the coming of a kind of heavenly figure.

By identifying Jesus as the "son of the living God", Peter clearly identifies Jesus as the Davidic Messiah--i.e., the son of David. Indeed, more than anyone else in Scripture, divine sonship is particularly linked to the son of David. That Peter identifies Jesus as the "Christ, the son of the living God" would clearly underscore his role as the Davidic Messiah. Of course, many prophets speak of a coming Davidic king through whom the eschatological age would be realized (cf., e.g.Isa. 9:7; Isa. 11:1; Isa. 16:5; Jer. 23:5; Jer. 30:9; Jer. 33:25; Ezek. 34:23–24; Ezek. 37:24; Amos 9:11). Jesus is here identified as the fulfillment of such hopes. Indeed, Jesus' identity as the Davidic messiah is a major motif that recurs throughout the Gospel of Matthew.

4. The need for faith. Jesus rewards Peter for his profession of faith by giving him his own beatitude: "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. . . "

Specifically, Jesus highlights that Peter did not come to the realization of Jesus' identity purely through a process of rational deduction: "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father who is in heaven."

In short, the gift of faith is necessary to know the truth about Jesus. Study is not enough to come to the truth. Faith comes first by grace. Paul makes a similar point when he explains, "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3).
5. Peter as the rock. Jesus goes on to rename Simon, "Peter": ". . . you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church." Here Jesus renames Simon, "Peter, i.e., "rock". Of course, this is significant. Name changes in Scripture usually involve someone receiving a special divine commission (e.g., "Abram" became "Abraham"; "Jacob" was renamed "Israel"; etc.). Peter is, therefore, also receiving a special kind of commission here.

It is worth mentioning that some have tried to make the case that the Greek suggests that Peter is not in fact the rock that Jesus builds his church on, highlighting that Jesus uses two different words for "rock" in the original Greek. In Greek, Jesus literally says, "you are petros and upon this petra I will build my church." Protestant scholars in particular have seized on this insisting that the rock (petra) Jesus will build his church upon is not Peter (petros) but something else, e.g., the confession of faith.

I can't offer a full rebuttal of that view here. For a full discussion, see this series of posts I did a few years back. Suffice it to say, there is a good reason Jesus named Simon "Petros" (=Peter) and not "Petra"--the latter term is feminine. Jesus could not have called Peter by a feminine name, i.e., "You are Petrina."

5. The Church as the Temple. After being described as the "son of the living God", it is no surprise Jesus responds by announcing his intention to begin a "building project": "upon this rock I will build my Church". 

As I explain in my Journal of Biblical Literature article on Matthew 16, texts linking the son of David to the status of being "son of God" famously also go on to describe the Davidide as a builder--specifically, a temple builder (cf. 2 Sam. 7:12-13; 1 Chr. 17:7-10). In other words, the church is here being described as a specific kind of building: a temple.

Indeed, the Greek word that is translated "church", ekklesia, is used in the Greek Old Testament to render the Hebrew word qahal, the word typically employed to describe the liturgical assembly (cf. Exod. 12:6; Lev. 16:17; 1 Kgs. 8:14; 2 Chr. 20:5).

In short, in Matthew 16 Jesus is being presented as the new son of David. As Solomon, the first Son of David, built the temple, Christ is establishing the new temple, the church... and he is doing this upon the rock that is Peter.

6. The Keys of the Kingdom as Priestly Imagery. Most scholars recognize that Jesus' act of bestowing "keys" upon Peter draws from the imagery of Isaiah 22 [5]. The passage announces that God will remove of a wicked man, Shebna, from the office of "chief steward"--a kind of "prime minister" position--and that a man named "Eliakim" shall take his place:
I will thrust you [Shebna] from your office, and you will be cast down from your station. 20 In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21 and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. 23 And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house. 24 And they will hang on him the whole weight of his father’s house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons. (Isa 22:19-24)
Aside from the obvious parallel of the keys, this passage contains a number of other parallels with Matthew 16:
  • Both describe the bestowal of authority using figurative language (cf. “opening and shutting” in Isa 22:22; “binding and loosing” in Matt 16:19). 
  • Both contain Davidic motifs,  e.g., Isaiah 22:22 has “the keys of the house of David,” Matthew links Jesus' messianic identity to Davidic imagery (e.g., “son of the living God,” “anointed one” /“Messiah,” and temple-builder).
  • The “weight of his father’s house” is on Eliakim in Isaiah (cf. Isa 22:24) in a way analogous to the way the church is built "upon" Peter
  • The language of the authority to “open” and “shut” in Isaiah 22:22 and the Greek words for “bind” and “loose” in Matt 16:19 appear linguistically related in an Aramaic context.[1]  That Jesus addresses Peter as Bar Jonah (Βαριωνᾶ) in fact strengthens an Aramaic connection.
What is often overlooked, however, is that there is good reason to think that the figure described in Isaiah 22 is a priestly figure. I can't develop this in great deal here, for a fuller argument, see my JBL article on Matthew 16 linked to above. Briefly, let me just point out that Shebna and Eliakim are described as wearing special garments: the "robe" and the "girdle". These garments are only closely associated with the high priest. In describing Peter, Jesus is comparing him to a priestly figure.

This makes sense. The church is the new temple and so its leadership is, therefore, not surprisingly described in priestly terms. Put simply, in Matthew 16, Peter is a priestly figure. 

The Authority to Bind and Loose. The language of "binding" and "loosing" appears closely associated with three responsibilities: teaching, juridical authority, and forgiveness of sins. Indeed, these three tasks involved a certain amount of overlap (e.g., if one has the authority to interpret/teach the meaning of the law, one also has the authority to determine if one is guilty of violating it or not). 

It is rather difficult to figure out which of these three tasks are in view here--it is likely a combination of all three may be in view. Indeed, the fact that the scene immediately follows Jesus' instruction that the disciples ought to beware of the teaching of the Pharisees (Matt. 16:5-12) makes it hard to believe teaching authority is not in view. Moreover, juridical authority over the community is clearly closely associated with the language of binding and loosing in Matthew 18:18. 

Suffice it to say, what is most striking is that all three of the interpretive options involve responsibilities associated with the priesthood in first-century Judaism. The imagery, therefore, continues the along the lines we have already been tracing: Jesus is the Davidic Messiah who, like the son of David, is building a temple, the church; Peter is the priestly leader over the church. 

All of this underscores the liturgical nature of the church. The church realizes its mission in a particular way in its worship. The church is not merely a social organization. It is not simply a charity or a social club. The church exists to worship God. 

The selection from Paul's letter to the Philippains treated above, of course, highlights what the church's worship is meant to lead us to--the sacrificial offering of our lives to God in union with Christ. 

Apostolic succession. Of course, in describing Peter's authority in terms of keys Jesus is drawing specifically from a passage that describes dynastic succession. It would seem then that what Jesus is described as doing in Matthew 16 involves more than simply establishing the particular authority of one apostle. Given the background of the passage Jesus cites to describe Peter's ministry, namely, Isaiah 22, it would seem that Jesus is instituting an office--an authoritative role that is meant to be passed on to someone else. Indeed, that is the whole point of the image of the key in Isaiah 22--it signifies the passing on of authority from one person to the next.

It is no wonder, then, that the book of Acts opens with a description of the apostles choosing a successor to Judas. The apostolic authority was meant to be passed on, as Peter explains, citing the psalms, "His office let another take" (Acts 1:20). Such an understanding is present in the earliest Christian writings. For example, 1 Clement, a document that likely dates to around A.D. 96, states:
"Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. . . . Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry" (42:4–5, 44:1–3).
Of course, for Catholics, apostolic succession is no mere relic of the past. The bishop of Rome, who later became known as the "pope" is recognized as the successor to Peter. "Pope" simply means, "papa," i.e., "father". Indeed, Isaiah 22 describes Eliakim as a "father" to God's people. Since Jesus describes Peter as a new Eliakim and since the bishop of Rome is understood to be his successor, "Pope" is a natural appellation; he rightly seen as the "Holy Father".

The Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul reminds of the great gift of the papacy. Let us remember to pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis. Let us ask to the Lord for a renewed appreciation of the gift of the keys bestowed upon Peter and his successors. And, most of all, let us ask the Lord to give us the gift of faith Peter first confessed: Jesus is the Christ! 



[1] See Meier, Marginal Jew, 3:221.

[2] For further discussion see Brown et al, Peter in the New Testament, 39–56.

[3] This is widely recognized.  See, e.g., Tannehill, The Narrative Unity of Luke—Acts, 110; F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts (NICNT; rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 202–3; Perkins, Peter, 93; Philip Francis Eslor, Community and Gospel in Luke–Acts: The Social and Political Motivations of Lucan Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 99–100 In fact, as Charles H. Talbert (Reading Luke–Acts in the Mediterranean Milieu [Leiden: Brill, 2003], 49) has demonstrated, the book of Acts evidences a two-fold concern to demonstrate that the validity of Peter and Paul’s ministry.  First, Peter’s actions are cast as mirroring those of Jesus. Paul is then seen to be like Peter:

Jesus
Peter
Paul
Heals a lame man
Luke 5:17–26
Acts 3:1–10
Acts 14:8–18
Heals by power that comes forth from his body
Luke 6:19
Acts 5:15
Acts 19:11–12
Raise the dead
Luke 7:11–17
Acts 9:36–43
Acts 20:7–12
Performs exorcisms
Luke 4:31–37
Acts 5:16
Acts 16:16–18
Moreover, just as the early church’s ministry commences with Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, Paul’s also begins with a speech in Acts 13:16–47—a speech which contains similar augmentation to that of Peter’s earlier one (i.e., citing Psalm 16 as pointing to the resurrection). In addition, Paul, like Peter, is also miraculously delivered from prison (cf. Acts 12:7–11; 16:25–26). Furthermore, see Clare K. Rothschild, Luke-Acts and the Rhetoric of History: An Investigation of Early Christian Historiography (WUNT 2/175; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2004), especially 115–116 and 134 who further examines these parallels. Behind all of this appears to be a desire to authenticate the ministry of those who are in some way under suspicion: Peter, who had deserted Jesus, and Paul, who had persecuted the church. There is little doubt then that the validity of Paul’s ministry is strengthened—at least in part—by the fact that he parallels Peter, who is vindicated by the end of the first part of the book of Acts (cf. Rothschild, Luke–Acts and the Rhetoric of History, 133–34). 

[4] See Luke Timothy Johnson, The First and Second Letters to Timothy (AB 35A; New York: Doubleday, 2001), 55–90; idem, “The Paul of the Letters: A Catholic Perspective,” in Four Views on the Apostle Paul (ed. M. F. Bird; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 65–96.

[5] H. Benedict Green (Matthew, Poet of the Beatitudes [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001], 135), explains that “a reference to Isa. 22:22 . . . is inescapable.” See, e.g., J. A. Emerton, “Binding and Loosing—Forgiving and Retaining,” JTS 13 (1962): 325–31; Davies and Allison, Matthew, 2:640; France, Gospel of Matthew, 625.


[6] In particular, see J. A. Emmerton, “Binding and Loosing—Forgiving and Retaining,” JTS 13 (1962): 325–31 and Davies and Allison, Matthew, 2:640.

22 comments:

Myshkin said...

2 Tim 4:7: "I have competed well" would better be translated, "I have fought the good fight." "Bonum certain certavi...." in my Novum Testamentum.

Why did the USCCB authorize a watered-down translation when approving the current Lectionary? Is there something wrong with the stronger terminology, "I have fought the good fight"?

Myshkin said...

Sorry: The spell checker changed the Latin:

It should say: "Bonum cer..tamen certavi".

Wesley Vincent said...

Others have pointed out that Jesus spoke Aramaic and actually renamed Peter "Cephas", "the Rock". Aramaic, unlike Greek has only one form for rock, therefore literally meant, "you are the Rock and on this Rock I will build my Church." Evidence for this is supported by the fact that Peter is referred to as Cephas in all early English Bibles.

Anthony Fisher said...

Something I thought about in lectio divina at Bible Study Monday was that phrase in Acts, "So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision." I wondered why Peter would think it was a vision.

The thing that popped into my head was something Jesus says to Peter in the Vigil Gospel reading: "Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go...Follow me." This might be speculation (and I know primarily in the end Jesus was talking to him about his eventual crucifixion), but might Peter have been remembering what Jesus told him, pondering what He meant? And then when the angel says to him, "Put on your belt and your sandals...Put on your cloak and follow me," might Peter have thought he was re-living, re-seeing what Jesus was telling him?

I don't know, might be just an over active pious imagination. Great reflection, by the way!

Michael Barber said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments.

Myshkin: I'm not sure if the attempt was to "tone down" the reading. Perhaps they thought the language was meant to be broader. Whatever the thinking, I do like "fight the good fight" better as Paul uses such imagery elsewhere.

Wesley Vincent: It is possible Jesus spoke this in Aramaic. That Peter is referred to as "Bar-Jonah" would further support such a reading. However, as a growing number of scholars recognize, it is also possible that Jesus was able to speak some Greek. I think Catholic apologists sometimes overlook that possibility so I wouldn't rule it out.

Anthony: That's an interesting meditation. While I'm not sure we could demonstrate that, it is certainly fruitful to take to prayer.

Susan Moore said...

Part 1 of 5.
Without negating anything you have said, whatsoever, I would simply like to share an observation based out of the longitudinal way I learned to study the Bible (By the Spirit, as a psychotic child who had only a circumstantial memory, before having any concordances, using only the NAB 1971 my parents had given me for Christmas when I was 12. Good God -what kind of faith was I given?).
Strongs # 4073 ‘Petra’ that is referenced in Math.16:18 is also grammatically linked (among other verses) to:
Romans 9:30-33 (NAB 1971), specifically vs.33, “as Scripture says: ‘Behold, I am placing in Zion a stone to make men stumble and a rock to make them fall; but he who believes in me will not be put to shame.” So here, it seems, we learn that He will place a rock (and also a stone?). The OT scripture that is referred to (linguistically linked) is
Isaiah 8:13-15, “But with the Lord of hosts make your alliance –for Him be your fear and your awe. Yet He shall be a snare, and obstacle [‘rock’ in KJV] and a stumbling stone to both the houses of Israel. A trap and a snare to those who dwell in Jerusalem: And many among them shall stumble and fall, broken, snared and captured.”

Susan Moore said...

Part 2 of 5.
1 Cor. 10:1-5, “Brothers, I want you to remember this: our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; by the cloud and the sea all of them were baptized into Moses. All ate the same spiritual food. All drank the same spiritual drink –they drank from the spiritual rock that was following them and the rock was Christ- yet we know that God was not pleased with most of them, for ‘they were struck down in the desert.” Paul is referencing the OT exodus and the feeding of quail and manna,
Exodus 16 and 17. (As an aside, in lieu of recently celebrating Corpus Christi, please consider Psalm 78:13-22, vss. 19-20, “Yes, they spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the desert? For when He struck the rock, waters gushed forth, and the streams overflowed; Can He also give bread and provide [flesh] for His people?”)

Susan Moore said...

Part 3 of 5.
Without going into further lengthy details, linguistically we have Christ as the cornerstone, as the head of His body: His Church-bride. Peter as the linking stone, as the stone from which His body extends: His body which also functions as the fruit-yielding branches of the Tree of Life (pulling from Professor Bergsma’s most previous blog).
1 Peter 2:7-11a, “The stone is of value for you who have faith. For those without faith, it is rather, ‘A stone which the builders rejected that became a cornerstone.’ It is likewise ‘an obstacle and a stumbling stone.’ Those who stumble and fall are the disbelievers in God’s word; it belongs to their destiny to do so. You, however, are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people He claims for His own to proclaim the glorious works; of the One who called you from darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were no people, but now you are God’s people; once there was no mercy for you, but now you have found mercy. Beloved, you are strangers and in exile…”

Susan Moore said...

Part 4 of 5.
But one may linguistically ask how we became stones, and what is our function as stones. The answer:
Matthew 3:9, “Do not pride yourselves on the claim, ‘Abraham is our father.’ I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these very stones.”
1Peter 2:4-5, “Come to Him, a living stone, rejected by men but approved, nonetheless, and precious in God’s eyes. You too are living stones, built as an edifice of spirit, into a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
And where are we going?
Zechariah 12 and 13 (in my mind), “I will bring the one third through the fire, and I will refine them as silver is refined, and I will test them as gold is tested. They shall call upon my name, and I will hear them. I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they shall say, ‘The Lord is my God” (Zech. 13:9).

Susan Moore said...

Part 5 of 5.
The fire being the love of God, who purifies our faith by testing it. He continually asks us to give up our idols; our impure, fleshy and unholy cravings, desires and habits, and surrender our will to His. Only when we submit to His will can we be fruitful, and multiply.
After all, “It shall be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt, when they cry out to the Lord against their oppressors, and He sends them a savior to defend and deliver them. The Lord shall make Himself known in Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day: they shall offer sacrifices and oblations, and fulfill the vows they make to the Lord. Although the Lord shall smite Egypt severely, He shall heal them; they shall turn to the Lord and He shall be won over and heal them.”

Dr. Barber, feel free to rip it apart. My Latin professor explained, too, that good teacher use wrong answers from which to teach the correct ones.

Jake81703 said...

I wish that the show Life on the Rock by EWTN was on Matthew 16. The picture they have at the beginning of the show of Mount Calvary indicates that they are talking about Jesus being the rock, but Peter the Pope is also a very important rock that we live our life on.

Jake81703 said...

Susan Moore, please don't write a whole anti-catholic article in the comments area. Just e-mail him outside of the comments or put it up on your own blog. It's just so long....he's going to have to write an article length response in the comment area to all your misinterpretations.

Jake81703 said...

Susan, the book The Strong's Exhaustive Concordance is a non-Catholic book. Why cite it here? Also, the KJV is a non-Catholic bible. If you want an old Catholic bible with words like thee and thou there's the Doauy-Rheims Catholic Bible.
I guess you didn't make too many mistakes in your post, I just guess you would since you have your ear to non-Catholic protestants. What's with the looking outside of Catholicism for answers when we have so much?
And I agree the New American Bible is a poor translation. I recommend the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible. It's a literal translation.

Jake81703 said...

Sorry for jumping the gun Susan. You did a fine job in your comments. I just saw non-Catholic citations so I assumed it was a non-Catholic commenting. Sorry.

Susan Moore said...

Jake81703
Thanks for your thoughts. I guess I refer to KJV at times, still, for the same reason other Bible studiers do; there seems to be no Strong's type concordance for the Catholic Bible: specifically a concordance taken from the oldest Hebrew-language manuscripts available that also includes the 7 OT books found in the Catholic Bible(not taken from Greek manuscripts unless the Hebrew texts are no longer available, or any other language). If you know of one, pray tell.

Ursala said...

How is dost able to readith the kingth jameith versionith?

Heidi said...

Dr Barber,
Thank you for your wonderful post, as always enlightening. I am working on a catechesis for non-phd's like myself and I featured teaching from your blogging confreres in the newest video.
Check it out.
The Bible and the Papacy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIqK_713Mek&sns=en

kentuckyliz said...

Ursula: verily thou art funnyeth.

If Elizabethan English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me. LOL

Oddly it's the fave Bible of the hillbillies around here who can barely speak/write standard contemporary English.

You'd think they'd also be fans of Shakespeare.

kentuckyliz said...

The Catholic Bible can/does come with Strong's and Louw-Nida references. My interlinear RSVCE1 in Logos/Verbum has both. However, I just checked a deuterocanonical book and there's no interlinear, Strong's, or Louw-Nida there. Harumph.

kentuckyliz said...

When it comes to Jesus building his church on the Rock, Peter, indeed, the wise man built his house on a rock. (Mt 7:24)

kentuckyliz said...

Louw-Nida on petra - and as you read, keep in mind the geographical setting in which Jesus said these words--he made everyone walk all the way up to Caesarea Phillipi so he could pronounce this in front of the vast rock wall there, atop of which was built a white marble temple of Pan, and below which was a deep cave with springs that form part of the source of the Jordan, and was believed to be the gate to Hades:

2.21 πέτρα, ας f: bedrock (possibly covered with a thin layer of soil), rocky crags, or mountain ledges, in contrast with separate pieces of rock normally referred to as λίθοςa (see 2.23)—‘rock, bedrock.’ ὁμοιωθήσεται ἀνδρὶ φρονίμῳ, ὅστις ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν ‘he is like a wise man who built his house on bedrock’ Mt 7:25; ἔθηκεν αὐτὸν ἐν μνημείῳ ὃ ἦν λελατομημένον ἐκ πέτρας ‘they then put him in a grave which had been hewn from rock’ Mk 15:46; λέγουσιν τοῖς ὄρεσιν καὶ ταῖς πέτραις, Πέσετε ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς ‘they said to the mountains and to the rock cliffs, Fall on us’ Re 6:16. In these three contexts πέτρα must be translated in some languages by three quite different terms. Bedrock, that is to say, the rock which lies horizontally and often just below the surface, may be referred to by one term, while rock with an exposed face into which a tomb could be hewn would be quite different. Similarly, the rocks which would be called upon to fall upon people would be rendered by a term referring to ‘cliffs’ or ‘precipices.’....
In those passages which involve a play on words with the name Πέτρος ‘Peter,’ πέτρα refers to bedrock, that is to say, the rock on which a foundation may be placed.

Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains. New York: United Bible Societies.

kentuckyliz said...

Another clue about Peter's commission is in Luke 22:31-32. The English uses one word "you" for both the singular you and the plural you, so it's easy for English speakers/readers to miss this in this verse. I turned on visual filters in my Logos/Verbum software to double-box plural you's and single-box singular you's, to spot the difference. Here, I use the Southern y'all to indicate the plural you that is directed to all the apostles. Notice the shift to the singular you and what that means for Peter's unique role and mission in strengthening the brethren:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have y'all, that he might sift y'all like wheat, but I have prayed for you [singular-Simon] that your faith may not fail; and when you [singular-Simon] have turned again, strengthen your [singular-Simon's] brethren.”

Morris Procter even led us through this exercise in Camp Logos training in Logos Bible Software. I was the only Catholic, woman, non-pastor there; the rest of the group were all Protestant pastor men. I was like YEAH...score one for the Catholics!!! That's what I'm talking about!!!