måndag 20 mars 2017

If Constantine had Founded the Catholic Church ...

Where did the Christian Church go?

Here is a scenario some believe in:

  • Christ founded His Church;

  • it was persecuted for 280 years to 313, when it was legalised;

  • in 325, after a twelve years' pause, the heir of the Persecutors changed the Church by the Council of Nicaea;

  • and the result of that change is the Catholic Church.

What happened to the Christian Church, if that is so, after 325?

There are some distinct possibilities:

  • "It lived on beside the Catholic one, openly, only unlike it continued to be persecuted like those 280 years previous to the twelve years pause, and it lives on to this day."

    Right, where is it?

    • Arians who were immediately condemned at Nicaea are out for two reasons:

      • a) the last Arians ceased to exist when Visigoths became Catholics in Spain, and if any few stragglers lived on after that, they became Muslims and helped open the door to the Muslim invasion of Visigothic and so recently finally also Catholic Spain;

      • b) Arians had lived as persecutors of the Catholic (occasionally disestablished) Church twice:

        • i) between Constantine and Julian the Apostate;

        • ij) as Goth lords (sorry, can't resist the pun!) Visigoths in Southern France and in Spain (provoking the conquest by Clovis of Southern Gaul through persecution of Catholics there), occasionally Burgundians, Ostrogoths if not en masse at least were diffident of a Catholic intellectual, Theoderic the Great killed Manlius Boëthius on the suspicion of betraying his state of "religious tolerance". Vandals, but not sure if they were Arians, Idolaters or without any kind of Religious affiliation.

    • Ethiopian Church, which seems to be popular with some anti-Constantinians, since they keep the book of Henoch, are out for another reason with some historic instances:

      • they participated in Nicaea and condemned Arius;

      • they participated in Constantinople and condemned Macedonius;

      • they participated in Ephesus (or Ephesus I) and condemned Nestorius, insisting very clearly that the Blessed Virgin is indeed the Mother of God;

      • they were only themselves the condemned party as late as Chalcedon, which I just checked was held from October 8 to November 1, AD 451. They have some difference from Armenians, also refusing Chalcedon : Ethiopian and Egyptian Copts, a k a Jacobites, defend Eutyches, who was condemned at Chalcedon, while Armenians condemn him and say there is a position neither Eutychian nor Chalcedonian (and obviously not Nestorian either).

  • "It lived on beside the Catholic one, but as a secret society."

    No. The Church of Christ cannot be a secret society. Not after Christ came.

    John 3: [16] For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting. [17] For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by him. [18] He that believeth in him is not judged. But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [19] And this is the judgment: because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil. [20] For every one that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved. [21] But he that doth truth, cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, because they are done in God.

    Note, the last verse excludes the Protestant reading of 3:16.

    Challoner says: He that doth truth: that is, he that acteth according to truth, which here signifies the Law of God. Thy law is truth. Psa. 118. 142.

    But all verses from 19 to 21 show that Christ cannot have meant His Church to exist in the shape of a secret society (after His arrival). See also prologue of St John, where precisely Incarnation is seen as posing the limit between when secret societies were licit (as "insider parts" of Jewish Church) and when it is no longer so.

  • "It lived on in Waldensian and Irish margins."

    • Irish Christianity, like Ethiopian, very clearly is "Constantinian", if Catholic Church is so. St Patrick trained for his work as missionary bishop in a monastery in Gaul, under a Roman administration, or even two:

      • Marmoutier near Tours, founded in 372, by St Martin, 47 years after Nicaea, and

      • Lérins Abbey, founded in 410 and which had achieved greatness by 427, 102 years after Nicaea.

      So, St Patrick, Irish monks, and these were the famous Culdees, Catholic Monks, though not same rule as that of St Benedict, all go back to the Church which was legalised by Constantine and which assembled in Nicaea.

    • Even if you can somewhat doubtfully trace Waldensians back to Claude of Turin, you cannot trace Claude of Turin back to St Ambrose, as some have proposed, you can rather trace him to contemporary Iconoclasts : who were a sect of heretics having the fullest support of certain Byzantine Emperors, which is why Byzantine overlordship over the West decayed, being replaced by Pope crowning Charlemagne.

  • "It lived in within the Catholic Church, and people who considered themselves as Catholic also truly belonged to it in an invisible way".

    • This is actually the solution of the Reformers, who were not so radical as certain later Protestants.

      Certain Protestants, such as Lutherans and Anglicans say that you must even adher to councils I to IV (Nicaea I, Constantinople I, Ephesus (I), Chalcedon) or even to Christological definitions a bit further on (Constantinople II and Constantinople III).

      I think the "six councils stand" is the more classical one, the "four councils stand" a reduction of it (popular among modernists who like to avoid Constantinople II and its condemnation of Origenism), while it also exists in an extended version among "High Church" : they also include Nicaea II, the Council which condemned Iconoclasm.

      I was basically High Church Lutheran before deciding to convert to the Catholic Church.

    • But this position also is problematic.

      • It makes the Church "invisible" both as to authority and as to what its teachings are, which contradicts Luke 10:16 (along with its parallel Ecclesiasticus 24:30), Luke 11:33 as well as Matthew 5:14 (note as per first words, the Sermon in St Matthew was spoken to the disciples, after they had withdrawn up into the mountain away from the crowd, it was only a bit later that He went down to the crowd and adressed them with the words in St Luke : the twelve apostles are therefore, with successors, the light of the world), 1 Timothy 3:15.

      • It poses the question of how to know when it became compulsory to leave the Catholic Church because it dogmatises "unbiblical positions" : how can we know that one could be Catholic and Christian in 1500 but not in 1600, because in between Catholicism had dogmatised "justification by works" (actually by faith and works, see James).

      • It makes even the personal adhesion to Christ's Church or to Christ doubtful : if St Bernhard belonged to the Church of Christ (as Luther thought) how is that notsmudged by his believing he belonged to the Catholic Church? If St Bernhard belonged to the Church of Christ by seeking salvation from Christ alone, without any obligation to adher to a Church, how is that not smudged by his believing that to adher to Christ involves adhering to His Church and getting salvation from Christ involves getting it by intermediary of the Sacraments of Christ's Church?

        Or, if nothing in St Bernhard's position can be shown to be opposed to the kind of non-Church adhesion to Christ (have you heard "Christianity, not Churchianity"?) which some say is required to be saved, why would today a Catholic NOT be saved by sharing the exact thoughts of St Bernhard on the matter?

      • Some have therefore admitted (quotation marks here for approximate quotes from memory, paraphrases) "the Catholic Church is the Mother Church, you could be saved as a Catholic before the Reformation, and can be saved as a Catholic even today", as Beza is claimed to have admitted to the patron of this blog, St Francis of Sales.

      Not unreasonably, St Francis of Sales replied "if so, why be Protestant, when we say it damns you, why not be Catholic, when you yourselves admit it doesn't damn you?"

Note, not just that that was obvious to me while I decided to convert, but by then I had long since left behind the idea of Constantine founding the Catholic Church as unhistorical. I was a history buff before I was a Catholic convert.

Also, I disliked the idea, as if being persecuted were the main duty of the Church through all centuries. As if being a state Church were some kind of unforgivable sin (the state Churches of Protestantism were sins as in being "one-state Churches" bound to monarch or city council rather than to Rome, not as in being established ones).

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Monday after
III Lord's Day in Lent
which was also St Joseph

On "Works of Supererogations"

I will not start with a direct proof text, here. I am going to a text which has been claimed to refute these, rather.

Luke 17:5 And the apostles said to the Lord; Increase our faith. [6] And the Lord said: If you had faith like to a grain of mustard seed, you might say to this mulberry tree, Be thou rooted up, and be thou transplanted into the sea: and it would obey you. [7] But which of you having a servant ploughing, or feeding cattle, will say to him, when he is come from the field: Immediately go, sit down to meat: [8] And will not rather say to him: Make ready my supper, and gird thyself, and serve me, whilst I eat and drink, and afterwards thou shalt eat and drink? [9] Doth he thank that servant, for doing the things which he commanded him? [10] I think not. So you also, when you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do.

Comment by Challoner:
[10] Unprofitable servants: Because our service is of no profit to our master; and he justly claims it as our bounden duty. But though we are unprofitable to him, our serving him is not unprofitable to us; for he is pleased to give by his grace a value to our good works, which, in consequence of his promise, entitles them to an eternal reward.

Collected comments in Haydock: Ver. 5. Increase our faith. The disciples having heard our Saviour inculcating maxims hard to flesh and blood, such as avoiding scandal, and forgiving our enemies, humbly beg their faith may be increased, that they may be able to comply with these maxims; for they had heard Christ say, that every thing was possible to him that believed. (Theophylactus) --- Christ compares faith to a grain of mustard seed; because, though the grain be small, it is nevertheless stronger than most herbs. (St. Chrysostom)

Ver. 6. To this mulberry-tree. In St. Matthew, (xvii. 19.) we read, to this mountain. Christ might say both at different times. (Witham)

Ver. 7. The design and end of this parable is to shew that, rigorously speaking, we are useless servants with regard to God. This sovereign Master has a right to exact of us every kind of service, and to make us apply ourselves to any task he may think proper, without our having any reason to complain either of the difficulty, trouble, or length of our labours; we are entirely his, and he is master of our persons, time, and talents. We hold of him whatever we possess, and woe to us if we abuse his trust, by applying our talents to any use contrary to his designs. But though he be Lord and Master, he leaves our liberty entire. If he produces in us holy desires, if he works in us meritorious actions, gives us virtuous inclinations and supernatural gifts, he sets to our account the good use we make of them; and in crowning our merits, he crowns his own gifts. (St. Augustine, lib. ix. Confes. and Serm. 131.) (Calmet)

Ver. 10. Unprofitable servants. Because our service is of no profit to our Master; and he justly claims it as our bounden duty. But though we are unprofitable to him, our serving him is not unprofitable to us; for he is pleased to give, by his grace, a value to our good works, which, in consequence of his promise, entitles them to an eternal reward. (Challoner) --- The word useless, when joined to servant, generally means a servant from whom his master does not derive the service he has a right to expect; as in St. Matthew xxv. 30. Here the word is taken in a less odious sense. It means a servant who does not testify sufficient zeal and ardour in his master's service, who is not very eager to please him. With regard to God, we are always useless servants, because he wants not our services; and without his assistance, we can neither undertake nor finish any thing to please him. (Calmet)

Why did I come here?

Well, someone claimed that Anglicanism does believe Eucharist is a propitiatory sacrifice, I looked up 39 articles of religion and found, at least 39-articles Anglicanism does not do that (which is of course blatant heresy, condemned by Trent and by Tradition, by Hebrews "we have an altar" and by Malachi 1:11.

Now, while looking up the 39 articles, I also found this, which is clearly questionable exegesis, not to say eisegesis:

XIV. Of Works of Supererogation

Voluntary Works besides, over, and above, God's Commandments, which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety: for by them men do declare, that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for his sake, than of bounden duty is required: whereas Christ saith plainly, When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We are unprofitable servants.

I would say that those who work miracles and tell mulberry trees to root themselves up and they do so are on the contrary really obedient to Christ who here said one "might" but does not command the apostles to do it.

Mustard Seed Faith is itself a supererogatory work over and above the faith in the articles of the Apostolic or Nicene Creed and their explanations in other dogma defined by the Church.

And Christ was recommending it, just after saying the "attitude formula" which Anglicans in Elisabeth's time claimed excluded supererogatory works.

The actual proof texts are there in any Catholic Catechism. Especially, selling all one has and giving it to the poor is mentioned twice over as such a thing. You can laud a man for doing it, you cannot blame me for not doing it. The rich man is told, not that he must do that to be saved, but that he must do that to be perfect. Ananias and Sapphira who pretended to comply with this supererogatory work were told it was such a thing, that they had been free to keep their possessions. In other words, Acts 2:44 is describing a supererogatory work:

Acts Of Apostles 2:44
And all they that believed, were together, and had all things common.

Did they have to, to be Christians? No, it is just that all who were were doing this supererogatory work.

The Acts Of The Apostles 5:[1] But a certain man named Ananias, with Saphira his wife, sold a piece of land, [2] And by fraud kept back part of the price of the land, his wife being privy thereunto: and bringing a certain part of it, laid it at the feet of the apostles. [3] But Peter said: Ananias, why hath Satan tempted thy heart, that thou shouldst lie to the Holy Ghost, and by fraud keep part of the price of the land? [4] Whilst it remained, did it not remain to thee? and after it was sold, was it not in thy power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thy heart? Thou hast not lied to men, but to God. [5] And Ananias hearing these words, fell down, and gave up the ghost. And there came great fear upon all that heard it.

I underline:

[4] Whilst it remained, did it not remain to thee? and after it was sold, was it not in thy power?

Having all things in common was a supererogatory work.

One which monks and friars and nuns and sisters were doing in England up to the Reformation.

And which Anglican and Royal Civil and Ecclesiastic Establishments ruthlessly sacked.

It is like sacking the first Church of Jerusalem. If this continued up to when Jerusalem Church fled to Pella, Henry VIII and Elisabeth and Edward VI between them (or rather his adult counsellors acting in his name, he died a boy) can be compared to Titus coming to sack Jerusalem.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Monday after St Joseph's Day
and Third Lord's Day in Lent

torsdag 16 mars 2017

Barnes on Jewish Tradition

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible : 2 Timothy 3

Verse 8

Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses - The names of these two men are not elsewhere mentioned in the Bible. They are supposed to have been two of the magicians who resisted Moses (Exodus 7:11, et al.), and who opposed their miracles to those of Moses and Aaron. It is not certain where the apostle obtained their names; but they are frequently mentioned by the Hebrew writers, and also by other writers; so that there can be no reasonable doubt that their names were correctly handed down by tradition. Nothing is more probable than that the names of the more distinguished magicians who attempted to imitate the miracles of Moses, would be preserved by tradition; and though they are not mentioned by Moses himself, and the Jews have told many ridiculous stories respecting them, yet this should not lead us to doubt the truth of the tradition respecting their names. A full collection of the Jewish statements in regard to them may be found in Wetstein, in loc.

They are also mentioned by Pliny, Nat. Hist. 30:7; and by Numenius, the philosopher, as quoted by Eusebius, 9:8, and Origen, against Celsus, p. 199. See Wetstein. By the rabbinical writers, they are sometimes mentioned as Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses in Egypt, and sometimes as the sons of Balaam. The more common account is, that they were the princes of the Egyptian magicians. One of the Jewish rabbins represents them as having been convinced by the miracles of Moses, and as having become converts to the Hebrew religion. There is no reason to doubt that these were in fact the leading men who opposed Moses in Egypt, by attempting to work counter-miracles. The point of the remark of the apostle here, is, that they resisted Moses by attempting to imitate his miracles, thus neutralizing the evidence that he was sent from God. In like manner, the persons here referred to, opposed the progress of the gospel by setting up a similar claim to that of the apostles; by pretending to have as much authority as they had; and by thus neutralizing the claims of the true religion, and leading off weak-minded persons from the truth. This is often the most dangerous kind of opposition that is made to religion.


Where did Barnes have it from that Jannes and Mambres (Barnes and the Bible of studylight have instead Jannes and Jambres) were precisely magicians of Pharao, and not other men who had resisted Moses on another occasion?

From tradition.

But the problem is he has this high regard for Jewish tradition of even rabbinical type, but not for Apostolic Tradition.

I wonder why?/HGL

tisdag 28 februari 2017

Contra Sproul

Sproul had very proud words to say about the Reformation. "The Reformation Rescued the Gospel"*, as more detailed in this passage:

Since the gospel stands at the heart of Christian faith, Luther and other Reformers regarded the debate over justification as involving an essential truth of Christianity, a doctrine no less essential than the Trinity or the dual natures of Christ. Without the gospel, the church falls. Without the gospel, the church is no longer the church.

The Reformers followed this logic:

  • 1) Justification by faith alone is essential to the gospel.
  • 2) The gospel is essential to Christianity and to salvation.
  • 3) The gospel is essential to a church’s being a true church.
  • 4) To reject justification by faith alone is to reject the gospel and to fall as a church.

Pushing Back the Dark

The Reformers concluded that when Rome rejected and condemned sola fide, it condemned itself and ceased to be a true church. ...

Apart from the fact that the statues alluded to in the beginning of the essay smell somewhat of the veneration of Saints, vehemently condemned by Calvin, John Knox, Huldrych Zwingli, Theodore Beza, and at least some others (though not totally Luther or Melanchthon, nor Cranmer), this is nearly a good logic.

It falls on exactly one statement:

1) Justification by faith alone is essential to the gospel.

The final statement, which is equally wrong, cannot be concluded without that first one.

Unless, of course, they could document that this had been the fully embraced doctrine of Catholicism before their own time, before their own conflict.

So far, the Bible part involves Luther faking a quote of St Paul about Abraham and even admitting it, while the Patristics part involves overrelying on only St Augustine and even that reading him selectively (Jesuits have amply refuted the Protestant reading of St Augustine), and the scholastic part is lacking.

When what's his name Caerularius condemned Azymes, he argued that Leavened Bread was not just the traditional discipline in Constantinople, but had been so in "the Ancient Rome" (Rome on Tiber, Rome usually so called**) as well.

He therefore concluded that Rome in using Azymes (Unleavened Bread, in the Greek if his time usually referred to as Unleavened, without adding "Bread", which in Greek is azymoi, Azymes) had left what was essential to the Gospel.

While some could shake their heads on this, thinking that the Last Supper at least was Jesus Christ celebrating "the Feast of Unleavened Bread", Caerularius insisted "the Gospel says 'bread' and we don't call Azymes that". While I believe he can be proven wrong, also in assuming that Christ used Leavened Bread, he at least had the local tradition going for him.

A local tradition which Rome has respected. It was not Rome, it was a Norman Lord, who had on Sicily unjustly persecuted the usage of Leavened Bread.

But the Reformers were not claiming to continue even a local tradition.

The monument is clear enough : at least after more discussions, their claim crystallised in the memory of the later Protestants as Post tenebras lux.

It is as if Caerularius had been born in a Latin family, celebrating with Azymes, never heard of anyone using Leavened Bread and even so imposing it as a Gospel necessity. To do him justice, that was not what he was doing.

To do him justice, he was claiming for Constantinople "Post Lucem Lux"***.

While both he and Reformers were claiming for Rome Post Lucem Tenebras*** - and while both he and Reformers could not quite find a clear age up to which Rome had either been celebrating with Leavened Bread or dogmatising that Justification is by Faith Alone.

At least for his own city, he was more coherent than they. Since, for Geneva or Wittenberg, for Sweden and Denmark, for England and Scotland, they were claiming, basically, with one mouth "Post Tenebras Lux", and they could not and cannot now agree on what hour the Tenebrae started in their own Roman birthplaces and missions as well as in Rome.

Why are Catholic Trads not in the same Position? Well, we can point back to Trent as a formally undisputed authority, and we can check that materially it does mean literal inerrantism in Church Father after Church Father making up the overall consensus required by Trent : at least on subjects such as Young Earth and Geocentrism.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Holy Roman Martyrs
Makar, Rufin, Just and Theophil

* The Reformation Rescued the Gospel
R.C. Sproul / January 23, 2017

** By contrast with Constantinople, nicknamed New Rome or Second Rome.

*** I had to correct my use of case after post, it is accusative, not ablative. This for those who saw the essay while it said "post luce" in two places.

torsdag 2 februari 2017

Since St Francis of Sales had Real Objections to Calvinism ...

... I am glad "Geisler's" TULIP is not quite as black as those Dutch ones back in the heighday of Black Tulips and Calvinism. [Wiki is citing it after Allen, Bob. "Traditional Southern Baptists counter Calvinism". Baptist News Global. Retrieved 23 December 2014.]*

otal depravity extends to the whole person but does not destroy the image of God in fallen human beings;

Election is unconditional from the standpoint of God’s giving it and only one condition for human’s receiving it—faith;

The atonement is unlimited in its scope—Christ died for all mankind—but limited in its application to only the elect;

Grace is irresistible on the willing but does not force the unwilling;

All those who are regenerate will, by God’s grace, persevere to the end and be saved

Now, to the criticism. Some black tulip infection actually still remains, unfortunately.

That depravity extends to the whole person of the unregenerate is correct. An unregenerate person who dies still or again unredeemed will have his whole soul and whole body cast into Hell - Limbo for the infants and Down's syndromers who aren't baptised, Hell of Tortures for the ones who after the use of reason have committed mortal sins that prevent or forfeit the fruits of regeneration and not been forgiven these on the right side of the grave.

A man who blasphemed but gave alms will not have his tongue in Hell and his hand in Heaven. A man who was chaste but hated God will not have half his soul in Heaven for chastity and other half in Hell for hatred of God.

But the totality from the side of persons solidarity in being damned does not mean a totality in respect to the aspects which are there before actual damnation.

The chaste but loveless soul still alive will have his chastity (insofar as genuine) pulling him toward redemption "as much as" his hatred toward God toward damnation.

No, not as much as, since love of God is a more important virtue than chastity, sorry.

This does not mean he can be saved without grace : it means grace is building on aspects of his nature.

It is therefore not totally depraved.

Rather, when he is finally saved, if finally saved, "to whom has shall be given", what was wanting in non-mortal sins will be filled with grace. As what was wanting in repentance for former mortal sins. And, when he is damned, if he is damned, whatever was grace in him during life shall be taken away from him, since he did not use it to save his soul before dying.

That election is not given by conditions yet to be fulfilled from the side of God is certainly correct, that there are nevertheless conditions from the side of those elect to be fulfilled and faith is among them, is correct, but this is actually faith and obedience.

John 3:[16] For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting. [17] For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by him. [18] He that believeth in him is not judged. But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [19] And this is the judgment: because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil. [20] For every one that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved. [21] But he that doth truth, cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, because they are done in God.

So, doing truth is a condition, not separate from, but connected to faith.

Saying that faith alone is condition on part of the elect is as un-Biblical as it is heretical and condemned by Trent.

The atonement is unlimited in its scope—Christ died for all mankind—but limited in its application to only the elect.

Catholics actually agree on this one. Mgr Lefèbvre opposed the faulty translation "which is shed out for all", and kept the Latin "qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur" - "which is shed out for you and for many" for this precise reason.

"Grace is irresistible on the willing but does not force the unwilling"

Does not force the unwilling sounds like contradicting - very soundly - the substance of "irresistible grace".

It would be better of course to speak in the case of the willing of "efficacious grace". And to admit the unwilling were offered a real grace, but did not take it and so it was not efficacious.

"All those who are regenerate will, by God’s grace, persevere to the end and be saved."

Sorry, this is wrong.

The grace of regeneration can be lost. Until one dies, it can also be regained, by confession, and St Peter was asked to forgive 70 times 7. But it can be momentarily lost, and it can also be finally lost.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Paris III

* Added [...] after signature, as an afterthought, lest I should be misrepresenting Norman Geisler. What I have criticised is the wiki's version - and looking at the source, it seems the wiki was somewhat mangled after citing it. Hence I also added "" around "Geisler's".

fredag 23 december 2016

Barnes NOT getting around Matthew 28:20 ...

1) Makarios · 2) Once Saved, Always Saved - True for Church, Not True for All Christians Individually · 3) Protestants - Not - Getting Around Matthew 28 Last Three Verses: John Calvin's Attempt · 4) Barnes NOT getting around Matthew 28:20 ...

First, a hat tip to Armstrong for citing Barnes on Matthew 16!

Peter the “Rock”: Protestant Contra-Catholic Exegetical Bias
October 20, 2016 by Dave Armstrong

Now to Barnes.

Matthew 16:18

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter - The word “Peter,” in Greek, means “a rock.” It was given to Simon by Christ when he called him to be a disciple, John 1:42

Cephas is a Syriac word, meaning the same as Peter - a rock, or stone. The meaning of this phrase may be thus expressed: “Thou, in saying that I am the Son of God, hast called me by a name expressive of my true character. I, also, have given to thee a name expressive of your character. I have called you Peter, a rock, denoting firmness, solidity, stability, and your confession has shown that the name is appropriate. I see that you are worthy of the name, and will be a distinguished support of my religion.”

And upon this rock … - This passage has given rise to many different interpretations. Some have supposed that the word “rock” refers to Peter‘s confession, and that Jesus meant to say, upon this rock, this truth that thou hast confessed, that I am the Messiah and upon confessions of this from all believers, I will build my church. Confessions like this shall be the test of piety, and in such confessions shall my church stand amid the flames of persecution, the fury of the gates of hell. Others have thought that Jesus referred to himself. Christ is called a rock, Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:8. And it has been thought that he turned from Peter to himself, and said, “Upon this rock, this truth that I am the Messiah - upon myself as the Messiah, I will build my church.” Both these interpretations, though plausible, seem forced upon the passage to avoid the main difficulty in it. Another interpretation is, that the word “rock” refers to Peter himself.

This is the obvious meaning of the passage; and had it not been that the Church of Rome has abused it, and applied it to what was never intended, no other interpretation would have been sought for. “Thou art a rock. Thou hast shown thyself firm, and suitable for the work of laying the foundation of the church. Upon thee will I build it. Thou shalt be highly honored; thou shalt be first in making known the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles.” This was accomplished. See Galatians 2:9. But Christ did not mean, as the Roman Catholics say he did, to exalt Peter to supreme authority above all the other apostles, or to say that he was the only one upon whom he would rear his church. See Galatians 2:11, where Paul withstood Peter to his face, because he was to be blamed - a thing which could not have happened if Christ (as the Roman Catholics say) meant that Peter was absolute and infallible. More than all, it is not said here, or anywhere else in the Bible, that Peter would have infallible successors who would be the vicegerents of Christ and the head of the church. The whole meaning of the passage is this: “I will make you the honored instrument of making known my gospel first to Jews and Gentiles, and I will make you a firm and distinguished preacher in building my church.”

Will build my church - This refers to the custom of building in Judea upon a rock or other very firm foundation. See the notes at Matthew 7:24. The word “church” literally means “those called out,” and often means an assembly or congregation. See Acts 19:32, Greek; Acts 7:38. It is applied to Christians as being “called out” from the world. It means sometimes the whole body of believers, Ephesians 1:22; 1 Corinthians 10:32. This is its meaning in this place. It means, also, a particular society of believers worshipping in one place, Acts 8:1; Acts 9:31; 1 Corinthians 1:2, etc.; sometimes, also, a society in a single house, as Romans 16:5. In common language it means the church visible - i. e., all who profess religion; or invisible, i. e., all who are real Christians, professors or not.

And the gates of hell … - Ancient cities were surrounded by walls. In the gates by which they were entered were the principal places for holding courts, transacting business, and deliberating on public matters. See the notes at Matthew 7:13. Compare the notes at Job 29:7. See also Deuteronomy 22:4; 1 Samuel 4:18; Jeremiah 36:10; Genesis 19:1; Psalm 69:12; Psalm 9:14; Proverbs 1:21. The word “gates,” therefore, is used for counsels, designs, machinations, evil purposes.

“Hell” means, here, the place of departed spirits, particularly evil spirits; and the meaning of the passage is, that all the plots, stratagems, and machinations of the enemies of the church would not be able to overcome it a promise that has been remarkably fulfilled.

Matthew 16:19

And I will give unto thee … - A key is an instrument for opening a door.

He that is in possession of it has the power of access, and has a general care of a house. Hence, in the Bible, a key is used as a symbol of superintendence an emblem of power and authority. See the Isaiah 22:22 note; Revelation 1:18; Revelation 3:7 notes. The kingdom of heaven here means, doubtless, the church on earth. See the notes at Matthew 3:2. When the Saviour says, therefore, he will give to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, he means that he will make him the instrument of opening the door of faith to the world the first to preach the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles. This was done, Matthew 18:18. The only pre-eminence, then, that Peter had was the honor of first opening the doors of the gospel to the world.

Whatsoever thou shalt bind … - The phrase “to bind” and “to loose” was often used by the Jews. It meant to prohibit and to permit. To bind a thing was to forbid it; to loose it, to allow it to be done. Thus, they said about gathering wood on the Sabbath day, “The school of Shammei binds it” - i. e., forbids it; “the school of Hillel looses it” - i. e., allows it. When Jesus gave this power to the apostles, he meant that whatsoever they forbade in the church should have divine authority; whatever they permitted, or commanded, should also have divine authority - that is, should be bound or loosed in heaven, or meet the approbation of God. They were to be guided infallibly in the organization of the church:

  • 1.by the teaching of Christ, and,
  • 2.by the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

This does not refer to persons, but to things - “whatsoever,” not whosoever. It refers to rites and ceremonies in the church. Such of the Jewish customs as they should forbid were to be forbidden, and such as they thought proper to permit were to be allowed. Such rites as they should appoint in the church were to have the force of divine authority. Accordingly, they commanded the Gentile converts to “abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood” Acts 15:20; and, in general, they organized the church, and directed what was to be observed and what was to be avoided. The rules laid down by them in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles, in connection with the teachings of the Saviour as recorded in the evangelists, constitute the only law binding on Christians in regard to the order of the church, and the rites and ceremonies to be observed in it.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible : Matthew 16

So, what does Barnes concede?

1) "Peter" means "rock" and "upon this rock" means "upon Peter previously called Simon Bar Jonah". 2) Church means here community of ALL faithful, so that anything pretending to be or be part of it, but not being built on Peter is not part of all faithful, especially not part of their ordinary and regular community. 3) Keys mean power to open gates, which includes-Barnes adds "is limited to" which I do not add-opening the gates of the Church to Gentiles. 4) Binding and loosing means ruling over - in this case, as per "whatever - acts, whether moral or ritual, as binding or as permissible.

What does he say to counter the Roman claim?

  • 1) That we claim the Church was to be built solely on Peter - which is a strawman - which is contrary to other passages of Scripture, sth which we acknowledge.

  • 2) That there is no set of successors to the end to time in this power of binding and loosing.

    "The rules laid down by them in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles, in connection with the teachings of the Saviour as recorded in the evangelists, constitute the only law binding on Christians in regard to the order of the church, and the rites and ceremonies to be observed in it."

    No later binding, no later loosing allowed, then.

    This is very interesting when we go to his exposition of Matthew 28:18-20.

  • 3) Perhaps this is overreading, but since he explicitly mentions ... "This does not refer to persons, but to things - 'whatsoever,' not whosoever." ... perhaps one can infer he thought Peter and other apostles only had power over legal aspects of organisation, not over judicial aspects over persons.

    This is of course counter to the express words of Acts where St Peter is judging Ananias and Sapphira, persons, not just things, and judging favourably over Cornelius, again, over a person, not just a thing, and also is an overreading - if Barnes intended it as I suspect - of the choice of words "whatsoever".

    Elsewhere Jesus says sth about "whomsoever", namely in John 20, when He gives the apostles the keys of absolution which the Church uses in confession.

Now, I already dealt with "solely on Peter" as being a strawman, I also dealt with whatsoever and whomsoever as powers given at diverse occasions, remains the aspect of successors or no successors.

Here we go to Matthew 28:19 and 20.

Verse 19

Go ye therefore - “Because” all power is mine, go! I can defend you. The world is placed under my control. It is redeemed. It is given me in promise by my Father, as the purchase of my death. Though you are weak, yet I am strong! Though you will encounter many troubles and dangers, yet I can defend you! Though you die, yet I live, and the work shall be accomplished!

Teach all nations - The word rendered “teach,” here, is not the one that is usually so translated in the New Testament. This word properly means “to disciple, or to make disciples of.” This was to be done, however, by teaching, and by administering baptism.

All nations - This gracious commission was the foundation of their authority to go to the Gentiles. The Jews had expected that the offers of life under the Messiah would be confined to their own nation. Jesus broke down the partition wall, and commissioned his disciples to go everywhere, and bring the “world” to the knowledge of himself.

Baptizing them - as an emblem of the purifying influences of the Christian religion through the Holy Spirit, and solemnly devoting them to God.

In the name … - This phrase does not mean, here, “by the authority” of the Father, etc. To be baptized in the name of the Father, etc., is the same as to be baptized “unto” the Father; as to believe on the “name” of Christ is the same as to believe “on Christ,” John 1:12; John 2:23; John 3:18; 1 Corinthians 1:13. To be baptized “unto” anyone is publicly to receive and adopt him as a religious teacher or lawgiver; to receive his system of religion. Thus, the Jews were baptized “unto Moses,” 1 Corinthians 10:2. That is, they received the system that he taught; they acknowledged him as their lawgiver and teacher. So Paul asks 1 Corinthians 1:13, “Were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” - that is, Were you devoted to Paul by this rite? Did you bind yourselves to “him,” and give yourselves away to “him,” or to God? So to be baptized in the name of the Father, or unto the Father, means publicly, by a significant rite, to receive his system of religion; to bind the soul to obey his laws; to be devoted to him; to receive, as the guide and comforter of the life, his instructions, and to trust to his promises. To be baptized unto the Son, in like manner, is to receive him as the Messiah - our Prophet, Priest, and King - to submit to his laws, and to receive him as a Saviour. To be baptized unto the Holy Spirit is to receive him publicly as the Sanctifier, Comforter, and Guide of the soul. The meaning, then, may be thus expressed: Baptizing them unto the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by a solemn profession of the only true religion, and by a solemn consecration to the service of the sacred Trinity.

The union of these three names in the form of baptism proves that the Son and Holy Spirit are equal with the Father. Nothing would be more absurd or blasphemous than to unite the name of a creature - a man or an angel - with the name of the ever-living God in this solemn rite. If Jesus was a mere man or an angel, as is held by many who deny his divinity, and if the Holy Spirit was a mere “attribute” of God, then it would have been the height of absurdity to use a form like this, or to direct the apostles to baptize people under them. How absurd would be the direction - nay, how blasphemous - to have said, “Baptize them unto God, and unto Paul, and unto the “wisdom or power” of God!” Can we believe that our Saviour would have given a direction so absurd as this? Yet, unless he himself is divine, and the Holy Spirit is divine, Jesus gave a direction substantially the same as this. The form of baptism, therefore, has been always regarded as an unbreakable argument for the doctrine of the Trinity, or that the Son and Holy Spirit are equal with the Father.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible : Matthew 28

A great plus that he refutes JW in this passage, precisely as do the Haydock commenters! Only, I can just now not find where ...

What is Barnes omitting? He is omitting first part of next verse "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:" where Christ is using the same "whatsoever" as in Matthew 16:19.

Back to Barnes:

Verse 20

Lo, I am with you - That is, by my Spirit, my providence, my attending counsel and guidance. I will strengthen, assist, and direct you. This also proves that Christ is divine. If he is a mere man, or a creature, though of the highest order, how could he promise to be “with” his disciples “always,” or at all? They would be scattered far and wide. His disciples would greatly increase. If he was “with them” always, he was God; for no finite creature could thus be present with many people scattered in different parts of the world.

Unto the end of the world - The word rendered “world,” here, sometimes means “age or state” and by some it has been supposed to mean, I will be with you until the end of this “age,” or during the continuance of the Jewish state, to the destruction of Jerusalem. But as the presence of Christ was no less necessary after that than before, there seems to be no propriety in limiting the promise to his own age. It may therefore be considered as a gracious assurance that he would aid, strengthen, guide, and defend all his disciples, but more especially his ministers, to the end of time.

Here he is admitting ministers up to the end of time - rather than, as some, limiting this promise to the age up to destruction of Jerusalem (which would leave St John without this assistance when writing Apocalypse and Gospel, at least!).

But he is a little less eager to admit that the ministers are successors of precisely the eleven to which Christ adressed the words (verses 16-18a : [16] And the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. [17] And seeing him they adored: but some doubted. [18] And Jesus coming, spoke to them,)

He has also omitted to comment on the fact that they are given as teachers of ALL Christian specifically moral and ritual, but by extension also explanatory doctrine. That is, that there is a Church with teaching authority extending from Apostles to us and beyond.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
St Victoria of Rome