Thanks for joining us today as we continue to examine and respond to Catholic apologist, Karlo Broussard’s book, “Meeting the Protestant Response” (2022). This week, Broussard continues with his arguments that Matthew 16:18 is a proof-text for Petrine primacy, the papacy, and the authority of the Roman Catholic church.
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church. – Matthew 16:13-18
Protestant Response #4: “The foundation is Peter’s confession of faith”
Writes Broussard, “Protestant apologists note that Jesus begins with a personal address directed to Peter using the second-person pronoun you. ‘And I tell you, you are Peter,’ but then switches to the demonstrative adjective this: ‘and upon this rock.’ James White infers from this that Jesus makes ‘the differentiation between ‘Peter’ and ‘this rock’ complete,’ and that Jesus is ‘speaking to Peter about the ‘rock.” If Jesus had intended ‘this rock’ to refer to Peter, the argument continues, he would have continued to use the second-person pronoun and said, ‘You are Peter, and upon you, Peter, I will build my church.’ Instead, he’s referring to the next-closest thing in the text: Peter’s proclamation that Jesus is the Christ” (pp. 25-26).
Broussard opens his rebuttal with the argument that “there’s no reason why the metaphorical rock can’t have a double meaning: one primary (Peter) and the other secondary (Peter’s confession of faith)” (p. 26). He admits the Catechism of the Catholic Church embraces this double meaning (see CCC 424 here). “However,” continues Broussard, “given the context of the passage…Peter’s profession of faith can only be a secondary meaning, since Peter is the direct recipient of Jesus’ address.” Broussard argues, “Just because Jesus switches from saying ‘you‘ to saying ‘this,’ it doesn’t follow that he must be changing his object from Peter to something else.” Broussard presents two examples in which Jesus’ disciples and Jesus are referred to using the demonstrative adjective, this (Matthew 5:14, implied) and Acts 4:10-11. Broussard also argues “that Peter’s declaration of faith is two verses removed from the ‘this.’ So, when Jesus says ‘this rock,’ it’s more reasonable to think he’s referring to Simon, whom he just renamed Rock, because he is the nearest thing for the pronoun to refer to” (p. 27).
As I mentioned last week, it’s certainly misleading that Broussard presents the Protestant position on Matthew 16:18 as two distinct “comebacks”: 1) “the foundation is Jesus” discussed last week and 2) “the foundation is Peter’s confession of faith,” convolutedly presented this week. It’s clear that the Truth of Jesus being THE Rock is contained in Peter’s confession and it’s upon that Truth, Jesus being the Christ, that the church would be built.
In this section, Broussard expends a great amount of effort examining grammar and sentence structure to defend the Roman misinterpretation of Matthew 16:18. It’s fair to say that the verse is not crystal clear in meaning by itself so as to validate either the Protestant interpretation or the Roman misinterpretation. It’s obvious we’re not going to get to the crux of this issue by debating sentence structure.
As we stated last week, Scripture interprets Scripture, and it’s clear from the many Scripture passages that we presented in the previous post that Jesus Christ Himself, not Peter (petros), is THE Rock (petra) upon which He would build His church.
Let us present several additional arguments showing that Jesus is the Rock and that Rome’s self-serving interpretation is fallacious:
- In Matthew 20:20-28, the mother of James and John comes to Jesus and requests that her two sons be granted pre-eminency among the apostles. Why would she have done so if Peter had already been granted that status in Matthew 16:18 as Catholics insist? Mark 8:27-30 includes the synoptic parallel of Matthew 16:13-18 and yet in Mark 9:33-37, we see the apostles arguing amongst themselves over who is the greatest, who has primacy? In neither account does Jesus correct them, saying, “Didn’t you hear me give Peter apostolic primacy?” No, instead we witness Jesus rebuking the apostles for desiring primacy: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you.” – Matthew 20:25-26. The authoritarian hierarchy implemented by the RCC, which was adopted from the Roman imperial model, was precisely the type of structure that Jesus forbade. Both Matthew 20 and Mark 9 thoroughly debunk the Catholic misinterpretation of Matthew 16:18. We could satisfactorily rest our case at this point, but there is much more.
- Let’s look at other Scriptures. In the Acts of the Apostles, we certainly see that Peter did play a leading role among the apostles, although nothing resembling a pope. However, beginning in chapter 13 and continuing until chapter 28, the end of the book, we see the emphasis shift to the apostle Paul. In none of Paul’s thirteen epistles do we see Peter acknowledged as preeminent or anything even remotely resembling the Roman Catholic pope. Zero. Zilch. Nada. In contrast, Paul wrote that he was the equal of any of the apostles, even the more influential ones like Peter (Galatians 2:6). In fact, Paul had to publicly confront Peter at Antioch because the allegedly infallible first pope had compromised the Gospel of grace by deferring to the legalistic Judaizers and segregating himself from Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11-14). In the eight epistles that follow Paul’s letters, two written by Peter himself, we see absolutely zero evidence for Petrine primacy or the RC papacy.
We have demonstrated from an abundance of Scripture that Petrine primacy and the office of pope are Roman Catholic inventions. As the bishops of Rome consolidated their power, they searched the Bible for supporting proof-texts and manipulated Matthew 16:18 to meet their devilish ends.
It’s quite interesting that Augustine, who Rome views as one of its premier theologians and a highly esteemed “doctor of the church” held to the Protestant interpretation of Matthew 16:18.
“But whom say ye that I am? Peter answered, ‘Thou art the Christ, The Son of the living God.’ One for many gave the answer, Unity in many. Then said the Lord to him, ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonas: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven.’ Then He added, ‘and I say unto thee.’ As if He had said, ‘Because thou hast said unto Me, “Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God;” I also say unto thee, “Thou art Peter.” ’ For before he was called Simon. Now this name of Peter was given him by the Lord, and in a figure, that he should signify the Church. For seeing that Christ is the rock (Petra), Peter is the Christian people. For the rock (Petra) is the original name. Therefore Peter is so called from the rock; not the rock from Peter; as Christ is not called Christ from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. ‘Therefore,’ he saith, ‘Thou art Peter; and upon this Rock’ which Thou hast confessed, upon this rock which Thou hast acknowledged, saying, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, will I build My Church;’ that is upon Myself, the Son of the living God, ‘will I build My Church.’ I will build thee upon Myself, not Myself upon Thee.For men who wished to be built upon men, said, ‘I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas,’ who is Peter. But others who did not wish to built upon Peter, but upon the Rock, said, ‘But I am of Christ.’ And when the Apostle Paul ascertained that he was chosen, and Christ despised, he said, ‘Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?’ And, as not in the name of Paul, so neither in the name of Peter; but in the name of Christ: that Peter might be built upon the Rock, not the Rock upon Peter.” – Augustine, from Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VI, St. Augustin, Sermon XXVI.1-4, pp. 340-341).
Broussard guilefully omits from the reader the view from Rome’s most venerated theologian on this matter. Other church “fathers” wrote that Jesus Christ was the Rock referred to in Matthew 16:18, including Origen, Eusebius, Chrysostom, Theodoret of Cyr, Cyril of Alexandria, Hilary of Poitiers, Jerome, Epiphanius, etc. (see William Webster’s excellent and nuanced article on the topic here). While we appreciate the views of Augustine and the other church fathers who correctly interpreted Matthew 16:8 to mean Jesus is the Rock upon which the church would be built, not Peter, we must always defer to Scripture for our spiritual truth and Scripture taken together shows that Jesus Christ is the Rock referred to in Matthew 16:18.
Next week: Protestant response #5: “The central theme of the passage is the identity of Jesus.”