February 27, 2009
A bedrock Protestant argument against the Papacy gets reduced to rubble.
You participate in an employee Bible study every day on your lunch hour. This particular Monday, Fred, a new employee, is introduced to the group. He announces he's a former Catholic and is also a part-time minister at a nondenominational “Bible church” in a nearby town.
As you begin, Fred opens his Bible and begins to “explain” why the papacy is “unbiblical.” The other Catholics in the room look to you expectantly. They know you've been attending a Catholic apologetics training course at your parish, and as you look around, you realize you're the only one in the room who is ready to respond.
You take a deep breath and interrupt. “Fred, what exactly is your main objection to the Catholic teaching on the papacy?”
Fred's response is as blunt as it is sincere. “It's unbiblical.”
You grin to hide your nervousness. “Actually, it is biblical, and if you turn to...”
“No, it's not.”
“Yes, it is.”
Man, oh man, this is getting off to a great start, you think to yourself in exasperation as you open your Bible to Matthew 16:17-19 and read aloud: “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.' “
“That passage does not refer to Peter as the rock!” Fred emphatically declares. “Contrary to the erroneous Catholic interpretation, it refers to Christ as the rock. For 30 years, I believed that Peter was the rock, but then I found the original Greek proves he wasn't. There's a distinction between the two “rocks” in Greek. The text actually reads, 'You are petros,' which means small pebble, 'and on this petra,' which means massive boulder, 'I will build My Church.' The first rock is Peter, the second rock is Christ. See? Christ didn't build the Church on Peter, but on Himself.”
“I understand your argument, but there are problems with it. Petros is simply the masculine form of the feminine Greek noun petra. Like Spanish and French, Greek nouns have gender. So when the female noun petra, large rock, was used as Simon's name, it was rendered in the masculine form as petros. Otherwise, calling him Petra would have been like calling him Michelle instead of Michael, or Louise instead of Louis.”
“Wrong.” Fred shakes his head. “Petros means a little rock, a pebble. Christ didn't build the Church on a pebble. He is the Rock, the petra, the big boulder the Church is built on.”
You take a deep breath, calm your nerves a little, and continue. “Well, what would you say if I told you that even Protestant Greek scholars like D.A. Carson and Joseph Thayer admit there is no distinction in meaning between petros and petra in the Koine Greek of the New Testament? [Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), 507; D.A. Carson, “Matthew,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), vol. 8, 368.] As you pointed out, petra means a 'rock.' It even usually means a 'large rock.' And that's exactly what petros means, too — large rock. It does not mean 'pebble' or 'small stone,' as you've been told. The Greek word for 'pebble' or 'small stone' is lithos, not petros.
“In Matthew 4:3,” you continue, “the devil cajoles Jesus to perform a miracle and transform some stones, lithoi, the Greek plural for lithos, into bread. In John 10:31, certain Jews pick up stones, lithoi, to stone Jesus with. In 1 Peter 2:5, St. Peter describes Christians as 'living stones,' lithoi, which form a spiritual house. If St. Matthew had wanted to draw a distinction between a big rock and a little rock in Matthew 16:17-19, he could have by using lithos, but he didn't. The rock is St. Peter!”
Wilma, the VP of finance and a member of your parish has a thought, “Fred, how do you explain the fact that Jesus addresses St. Peter directly seven times in this short passage? It doesn't make sense that He would address everything to St. Peter and then say, 'By the way, I'm building the Church on Me.' The context seems pretty clear that Jesus gave authority to St. Peter, naming him the rock.”
Fred shakes his head. “I don't think so. And even if petros and petra mean the same thing, Jesus surely made the distinction with His hand gestures or tone of voice when He said, 'You are rock, and on this rock I will build My Church.' “
Betty, another young Catholic in the group, chimes in. “I don't think it's much use to conjecture about what Jesus' hand gestures or voice intonations might have been, since we can't know what they were. And doesn't that kind of speculation contradict your belief in the 'Bible alone' theory? Anyway, speculation aside, we do know that Jesus definitely said, 'You are rock, and on this rock I will build My Church.' Going from the text alone, His meaning seems crystal-clear to me.”
You notice several heads nodding in agreement. Fred's isn't one of them. “But getting back to the Greek, Fred,” you say, “notice Matthew used the demonstrative pronoun taute, which means 'this very,' when he referred to the rock on which the Church would be built: 'You are Peter, and on taute petra,' this very rock, 'I will build My Church.'
“Also, when a demonstrative pronoun is used with the Greek word for 'and,' which is 'kai,' the pronoun refers back to the preceding noun. In other words, when Jesus says, 'You are rock, and on this rock I will build My Church,' the second rock He refers to has to be the same rock as the first one. Peter is the rock in both cases.
“Jesus could have gotten around it if He'd wanted to. He didn't have to say, 'And,' kai, 'on this rock I will build My Church.' He could've said, 'But,' alla, 'on this rock I will build My Church,' meaning another rock. He would have then had to explain who or what this other rock was. But He didn't do that.”
Fred flips through his Bible. “God says in Isaiah 44:8, 'And you are My witnesses! Is there a God besides Me? There is no Rock; I know not any.' And 1 Corinthians 10:4 says, 'And all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ.' See? These passages tell us Peter could not have been the rock of Matthew 16:17-19. Only God — Christ — is a rock.”
“That's a good point,” you say. “Yes, God is called 'rock' in Isaiah 44:8 and elsewhere. But notice that just seven chapters later in Isaiah 51:1-2, God Himself calls Abraham the rock from which Israel was hewn. Is this a contradiction? No. Jesus is the one foundation of the Church in 1 Corinthians 3:11, but in Revelation 21:14 and Ephesians 2:20, we're told that the Apostles are the foundation of the Church. Jesus said He is the light of the world in John 9:5, but the Bible also says in Matthew 5:14 that Christians are the light of the world. Jesus is our 'one teacher' in Matthew 23:8, yet in Ephesians 4:11 and James 3:1, it says 'there are many teachers' in the Body of Christ.
“Are these contradictions? Of course not. The Apostles can be the foundation of the Church because they are in Christ, the one Foundation. The Church can be the light of the world because she is in the true Light of the world. A teacher can teach because he is in the one true Teacher, Christ. In the same way, St. Peter is indeed the rock of Matthew 16, and that doesn't detract from Christ being the rock of 1 Corinthians 10:4. St. Peter's 'rock-ness' is derived from Christ.
“Aside from everything we said earlier about the Greek,” you continue, “there's an even stronger case that can be made for Christ meaning Peter was the rock on which He would build His Church. When Jesus gave Simon the name 'Rock,' we know it was originally given in Aramaic, a sister language of Hebrew, and the language that Jesus and the Apostles spoke. And the Aramaic word for 'rock' is kepha. This was transliterated in Greek as Cephas or Kephas, and translated as Petros. In Aramaic, nouns do not have gender as they do in Greek, so Jesus actually said, and St. Matthew first recorded, 'You are Kephas and on this kephas I will build My Church.' Clearly the same rock both times.
“And just as Greek has a word for 'small stone,' lithos, so does Aramaic. That word is evna. But Jesus did not change Simon's name to Evna, He named him Kephas, which translates as Petros, and means a large rock.”
“No way,” Fred shakes his head. “There's no evidence in Scripture that Christ spoke in Aramaic or originally gave Simon the name 'Kephas.' All we have to go on is the Greek, and the Greek says Simon was called Petros, a little stone.”
“Actually, Fred, you're mistaken on both counts. The second point we've already discussed, and as far as your first point, well, take a look at John 1:42. 'Jesus looked at [Simon] and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).' See? St. John knew that the original form of the name was Kephas, large rock, and he translated it into Greek as Petros, or Peter.”
Just then, your watch beeps 1:00, signaling the end of your lunch hour. You close in a quick prayer, then grab a Catholic apologetics tract from inside your Bible and catch Fred on his way out.
“Hey, Fred,” you smile warmly. “I really appreciate your input in this group, and I'm glad you've joined us. You're going to add a great new dimension to the group. Welcome!” You extend your hand to shake his.
Fred shakes politely, but you can see on his face that he's not pleased with the way the day's discussion went. But he's a good sport and he promises to be back tomorrow for “round two,” as he calls it.
On the way out, you hand him the apologetics tract and smile inwardly at the odd look he gives you as he slips it into his Bible. He's clearly not used to being on the receiving end of a tract, especially not one that's handed to him by a Catholic.
— By Tim Staples
Baptism = Born Again
By Fr. Hugh Barbour, O.Praem.
The early Church knew how to get born again the “Bible way.”
Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:5, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus was speaking about baptism, the effects of which are eradication of original sin, remission of all actual sins, and an infusion of sanctifying grace.
In spite of the scriptural evidence (Acts 2:14-40, 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 6:11; Col. 2:11-12; Gal. 3:27; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21), many if not most Protestants deny that the sacrament of baptism is necessary for salvation and that it has any intrinsic power to take away sin or bestow divine grace. Let's look at what the earliest Christians believed and taught on this subject.
“Before a man bears the name of the Son of God he is [spiritually] dead, but when he receives the seal he lays aside his deadness and receives life. The seal then is the water; they descend into the water dead and they arise alive. And to them accordingly was this seal preached, and they made use of it that they might enter into the kingdom of God” (The Shepherd 9:16 [A.D. 96]).
“Regarding [baptism], we have the evidence of Scripture that Israel would refuse to accept the washing which confers the remission of sins, and would set up a substitution of their own instead . . . Here he is saying that after we have stepped down into the water burdened with sin and defilement, we come up out of it bearing fruit, with reverence in our hearts and the hope of Jesus in our souls” (ibid. 11:1-10).
The Epistle of Barnabas
“We descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear of God and trust in Jesus in our spirit” (11 [A.D. 138]).
Just as in the Gospels, baptism is an indispensable source of forgiveness and salvation, under the condition of faith and good works:
“[Christ says] And I poured out upon them with My right hand the water of life and forgiveness and salvation from all evil, as I have done unto you and to them that believe in Me. But if any believes in Me and does not follow My commandments, although he has confessed My Name he shall have no profit from It” (27 [A.D. 140]).
St. Justin Martyr
This great apologist for the Catholic Faith is worth quoting more than once. He defended the Church's teachings against pagan attacks.
“Then they [catechumens] are brought by us to where there is water, and they are reborn in the same manner in which we were ourselves reborn. For in the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, 'Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.'. . . That they may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again and has repented of his sins, the Name of God the Father and Lord of the universe . . . But also in the Name of Jesus Christ Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the Name of the Holy Spirit, Who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed” (First Apology 61 [ante A.D. 165]).
St. Irenaeus of Lyons
This great defender of the Faith refuted the prominent heresy of his day, Gnosticism (an early version of today's New Age Movement). He was a disciple of St. Polycarp, who was himself a disciple of St. John the Evangelist. Irenaeus speaks of how Polycarp taught him the truths of the Faith and how he often heard Polycarp reminisce about his personal encounters with St. John.
“Before all else the Faith insistently invites us to remember that we have received baptism for the remission of sins in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of Jesus Christ, Son of God incarnate, dead and risen, and in the Holy Spirit of God, that baptism is the seal of eternal life, the new birth in God, so that we are no longer sons of mortal men, but of God, eternal and indestructible” (Demonstration of the Apostolic Teaching 3 [A.D. 175]).
“The baptism which makes us be born again passes through these three articles of faith (in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), and permits us to be reborn to God the Father through His Son and in the Holy Spirit” (ibid. 7 [A.D. 175]).
St. Theophilus of Antioch
Theophilus, like Ignatius, was bishop of Antioch in Syria. He wrote a treatise to a pagan friend explaining Christianity and answering his friend's objections. Interestingly, he is the first Christian writer to use the word “trinity” (Greek: triados, the cognate of the Latin, Trinitas) in reference to the mystery of three Persons in one God. Here he discusses the divine life which is at the heart of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration:
“Those three days of creation before the lights in the heavens are an image of the Trinity, of God, of His Word, and His Wisdom (i.e., the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). God blessed the creatures of the water, so that this might be a sign that men would receive penance and remission of sins through water and the bath of rebirth, as many, that is, as came to the truth and were reborn, and received blessing from God” (Ad Autolycum 2:15 [A.D. 181]).
While he was still a Catholic, during the time of persecutions before the legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire, Tertullian wrote the only complete work on a sacrament of baptism. This treatise, On Baptism, is a powerful defense of baptismal regeneration. Specifically, he refutes those who claim that faith in Christ alone (apart from the sacrament of baptism) is sufficient for the forgiveness of sins and spiritual rebirth described by Christ in John 3:3-5:
“A treatise on our sacrament of water, by which the sins of our earlier blindness are washed away and we are released for eternal life will not be superfluous. . . . [t]aking away death by the washing away of sins. The guilt being removed, the penalty, of course, is also removed. . . . Baptism itself is a corporal act by which we are plunged into the water, while its effect is spiritual, in that we are freed from our sins” (On Baptism 1:1; 5:6; 7:2 [circa A.D. 198]).
“Good enough, but faith means faith in all Christ did and said to do, so it includes being baptized. . . . And so they say, 'Baptism is not necessary to them to whom faith is sufficient, for after all, Abraham pleased God by no sacrament of water, but of faith.' But in all cases it is the later precedent that proves the point. Grant, for the sake of argument, that in days gone by, there was salvation by means of bare faith, before the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord. But now that faith has been enlarged, and has become a faith which believes in His Nativity, Passion, and Resurrection, there has been an amplification added to the faith; this is the sealing act of baptism. . . . For the law of baptism has been imposed, and the formula prescribed: 'Go,' He said 'and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.' The comparison of this law with that definition, 'Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,' has tied faith to the necessity of baptism” (Ibid. 13 [A.D. 198]).
St. Clement of Alexandria
“When we are baptized we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as sons. Adopted as sons, we are made perfect. Made perfect, we become immortal. 'I say,' God declares, 'you are gods and sons all of the Most High' (Psalm 81:6). This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins; a gift of grace by which the punishments due our sins are remitted; an illumination by which we behold that holy light of salvation - that is, by which we see God clearly; and we call that perfection which leaves nothing lacking. Indeed, if a man know God, what more does he need? Certainly, it were out of place to call that which is not complete a true gift of God's grace. Because God is perfect the gifts he bestows are perfect” (The Instructor of Children 1:6, 26:1 [ante A.D. 202]).
St. Cyprian of Carthage
“As water extinguishes fire, so almsgiving quenches sin.' Here also is shown and proved, that as in the bath of saving water the fire of hell is extinguished, so by almsgiving and works of righteousness the flame of sins is subdued. And because in baptism the remission of sins is granted once only, constant and ceaseless labor, following the likeness of baptism, once again bestows the mercy of God. . . .” (On Works and Alms 2 [A.D. 254]).
“In the baptism of water is received the remission of sins, in the baptism of blood, the reward of virtues,” (To Fortunatus preface [A.D. 257]).
St. Ephraim the Syrian
Outside the Roman Empire, coming from a background that was neither Latin nor Greek, the teachings of this Syrian Father, St. Ephraim, are proof that the Catholic Faith is not some Greco-Roman perversion of the New Testament Church. Here is a passage from one of his hymns for use in liturgical worship, a hymn still used today by Syrian Catholics. It is addressed to the newly baptized:
“Your garments glisten as snow; and fair is your shining in the likeness of angels. . . . Woe in paradise did Adam receive, but you have received glory this day. . . . The good things of heaven you have received; beware of the devil lest he deceive you. . . . The evil one made war and deceived Adam's house; through your baptism, behold! he is overcome today. . . Glory to them that are robed in the birth that is from the water; let them rejoice and be blessed!” (Hymn for the Feast of the Epiphany: of the Baptized 12 [A.D. 370]).
St. Cyril of Jerusalem
“If any man does not receive baptism, he does not have salvation. The only exception is the martyrs, who, even without water will receive baptism, for the Savior calls martyrdom a baptism (cf., Mark 10:38). . . . Bearing your sins, you go down into the water; but the calling down of grace seals your soul and does not permit that you afterwards be swallowed up by the fearsome dragon. You go down dead in your sins, and you come up made alive in righteousness” (Catechetical Lectures 3:10,12 [circa A.D. 350]).
St. Basil the Great
“For prisoners, baptism is ransom, forgiveness of debts, death of sin, regeneration of the soul, a resplendent garment, an unbreakable seal, a chariot to heaven, a protector royal, a gift of adoption” (Sermons on Moral and Practical Subjects: On Baptism 13:5 [ante A.D. 379]).
St. Ambrose of Milan
“The Lord was baptized, not to be cleansed himself but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the Flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of baptism. Whoever comes, therefore, to the washing of Christ lays aside his sins” (Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 2:83 [circa A.D. 389]).
St. John Chrysostom
“How then shall we be able to give an account of the unseen birth by baptism, which is far more exalted than these?... Even angels stand in awe while that birth takes place . . . the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit work it all. Let us then believe the declaration of God, for that is more trustworthy than actual seeing. The sight often is in error, but God's Word cannot fail; let us then believe it. . . . What then does it say? That what happens is a birth. . . . If any inquire, 'Why is water needed?' let us ask in return, 'Why did God use earth to form man?'. . . Do not be over-curious. That the need of water is absolute and indispensable you may learn in this way” (Homily 25 on John 2 [A.D. 391]).
St. Augustine of Hippo
Baptism is not merely an external sign of faith already possessed by the one to be baptized; it is the power of God cleansing the soul of the sinner, even in the case of infants:
“The cleansing would not at all be attributed to a passing and corruptible element, unless the word were added to it. This word possesses such power that through the medium of him who in faith presents, blesses, and pours it, even a tiny infant is cleansed, although he is as yet unable to believe with the heart unto justice, and to make profession with the mouth for salvation” (Commentaries on St. John 80:3 [A.D. 411]).
Additional texts from the Church Fathers on baptismal regeneration:
St. Ignatius of Antioch: Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 7 (A.D. 117); St. Justin Martyr: Dialogue with Trypho 14 (ante A.D. 165); Didymus the Blind: On the Trinity 2:12 (A.D. 391); St. Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechetical Lectures 2:4; Protocatechesis 16 (A.D. 350); St. John Chrysostom: Homilies on John 10:3, 25:2 (A.D. 391); Homilies on Hebrews 5:3,19:2-3 (A.D. 403); St. Ambrose of Milan: On the Mysteries 1-7 (A.D. 390); St. Pacian of Barcelona: Sermon on Baptism (ante A.D. 392); St. Jerome: Letter 69 5-7 (A.D. 397); Dialogue Against the Pelagians 3:1 (A.D. 413); St. Augustine of Hippo: Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Charity 64 (A.D. 421); On Marriage and Concupiscence 1:33-38 (A.D. 419); On Adulterous Spouses 2:16 (A.D. 420); On the City of God 20:6 (A.D. 426); On Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism 1:9, 24; 2:27 (A.D. 412); On Baptism 1:12 (A.D. 400); Sermon on the Creed 1:7 214 (A.D. 418?); On the Gospel of John 6:7, 15-16 (A.D. 408); Pope St. Leo the Great: Letter 16 2-7 (A.D. 447).
Source: Envoy Magazine. Copyright 1996-2009, all rights reserved.
Source: Envoy Magazine. Copyright 1996-2009, all rights reserved.