Today, we begin our series examining and responding to Catholic apologist, Karlo Broussard’s book, “Meeting the Protestant Response” (2022). Thanks for joining me and I hope to see you every Friday for the next seventy-seven weeks.
The first chapter of this book is titled, “Rock of the Church, Matthew 16:18,” and deals with the Catholic claim of Petrine primacy, i.e., that Peter was chief among the apostles and the first pope based upon Matthew 16:18: “You are Peter (Greek: petros, “small stone or pebble”), and on this rock (petra, “a large rock or rock mass; a solid rock formation”) I will build my church.” Roman Catholics interpret this verse to mean that Matthew, and hence, Jesus Christ, intended “Peter” and “rock” as one and the same. Connected to this claim of Petrine primacy is the Roman Catholic church’s assertion that its long line of popes are the divinely anointed successors of Peter and that it is therefore the only authorized and true church.
Broussard examines seven Protestant responses to Catholicism’s claim of Petrine primacy based upon Matthew 16:18. Please bear with me. As you will see, Broussard scrupulously builds his false case far beyond the point of mendacious overkill, but we will eventually get to the crux of the debate.
Let’s look at the first Protestant response along with Broussard’s attempted rebuttal.
Protestant response #1: “‘Petros’ and ‘Petra’ are two different words”
The implication is that two different and opposing words were used because two different meanings were intended.
While Peter (petros) means “rock” it is spelled differently than the rock (petra) Jesus said He would build His church upon. Broussard will begin to focus on the difference in meaning between the two words next week, but for now he posits on why Matthew might have possibly used the two different Greek words for rock. He suggests,
A) Matthew’s Greek-reading audience was not as familiar with Peter/petros, so he resorted to the more familiar petra for the second noun.
B) Matthew used petra because he desired to make a connection to another passage in his gospel, Matthew 7:24-25:
24 “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock (petra); 25 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock (petra).
C) Different words were used “to preserve the distinction between a proper noun (Petros as a proper name) and a common noun (in this case, petra as a metaphor)” (p. 20).
Broussard concludes, “Given that we can provide plausible reasons as to why there might be a difference in words without denying that the rock refers to Peter, the argument that Peter is not the rock, simply based on the use of petros and petra are different words, fails.”
It’s difficult to address this “Why were two different words, petros and petra, used in Matthew 16:18?” question without also discussing the different meanings of the words, but as I mentioned, Broussard begins to introduce that argument next week. Suffice to say that Matthew’s Greek-reading audience would have immediately picked up on the starkly contrasting meanings of the two words. Matthew would not have used the two polar-opposite words if he intended the same meaning. While Broussard congratulates himself for presenting “plausible reasons” as to why Matthew used opposing words to allegedly intend the same meaning, I see Broussard’s efforts as Jesuitical sophistry and grasping at straws. Matthew, inspired by the Holy Spirit, recorded Jesus Christ using two polar-contrasting words to convey that Peter and “this rock” were contrastingly different. That was the intention of Matthew and that would have been the interpretation of his 1st-century, Greek-reading audience.
Next week: Protestant response #2: “Petros and Petra mean different things.”