Petros/petra revisited


#1

On another discussion board, I’ve been presented with the following evidence regarding the Aramaic from which Matt 16:18 may have been translated:

gpcredding.org/petra.html

In particular, the argument is that:
a. A reconstructed Aramaic/Syriac of the passage would properly be: “You are KE’PHA’ (a movable stone) and upon this SHU`A’ (a large massive rock) I will build my church.”

I have some thoughts on how to rebutt most of this article, but I’d appreciate any insights you guys can offer!

Thanks in advance.


#2

[quote=Schabel]On another discussion board, I’ve been presented with the following evidence regarding the Aramaic from which Matt 16:18 may have been translated:

gpcredding.org/petra.html

In particular, the argument is that:a. A reconstructed Aramaic/Syriac of the passage would properly be: “You are KE’PHA’ (a movable stone) and upon this SHU`A’ (a large massive rock) I will build my church.”

I have some thoughts on how to rebutt most of this article, but I’d appreciate any insights you guys can offer!

Thanks in advance.
[/quote]

A position that Jesus changed Peter’s name from Simon to Keph-whatever, and then gave a rock they were standing on a rock-name with a completely different Aramaic root, is stupid. Why bother changing Peter’s name? The assumption also wars mortally with the preceding and following language. BEFORE telling Simon, “You are Peter,” etc., Jesus says, “Blest are you, Simon son of Jonah! No mere man has revealed this to you, but my Heavenly Father!” AFTER telling Simon, “You are Peter,” etc., Jesus says, “I will entrust to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven!”

An argument that Jesus was carefully distinguishing between Simon and a rock that were standing on is ridiculous to all but those blinded by their opposition to the Chair of Peter.


#3

Good gravy. The common sense rendering of this passage is perfectly acceptable. It would be one thing if the naysayers simply suggested the passage could be interpreted differently. But no, nothing will do until they go through as much pointy-headed wrangling as possible in a tragi-comic attempt to render our interpretation impossible.

Scott

P.S. By the way, I notice they rely on Liddell and Scott, which is primarily for Attic Greek, not Koine.


#4

[quote=Scott Waddell]P.S. By the way, I notice they rely on Liddell and Scott, which is primarily for Attic Greek, not Koine.
[/quote]

Yes, this is one of the arguments I have been considering (although I didn’t remember the term “Attic” Greek). Thanks.

Does anyone know about the term SHU’A’ and it’s possible useage in this passage?


#5

Go to the Scriptures forum. John 17:3 keeps on insisting on the line of thinking that Jesus addressed Peter’s confession, not Peter himself. We go around in circles and he keeps dodging the obvious.


#6

I think that the impasse can be broken, though, by going back to the Church Fathers: no one from them ever denied that Jesus addressed Peter, not his confession. I think the fact that this has never been questioned until Luther came should put to rest this argument: Jesus addressed Peter himself, not his faith or confession.


#7

[quote=Schabel]On another discussion board, I’ve been presented with the following evidence regarding the Aramaic from which Matt 16:18 may have been translated:

gpcredding.org/petra.html

In particular, the argument is that:a. A reconstructed Aramaic/Syriac of the passage would properly be: "You are KE’PHA’ (a movable stone) and upon this SHU`A’ (a large massive rock) I will build my church."
I have some thoughts on how to rebutt most of this article, but I’d appreciate any insights you guys can offer!

Thanks in advance.
[/quote]

Well I noticed the guy is A Presbyterian pastor and not a scholar so right there a green light goes off he might have an agenda. Why do I think this is so? Well first of all he gives us no footnotes that supports his thesis. Also many things I have read say the opposite that Kepha is mentioned twice in the Peshista both catholic and protestants have pointed this out. SO are all these scholars wrong or is pastor Dave wrong?
Also he is a presbyterian pastor who speaks English in america there are catholics of the Chaldean rite who speak and read Aramaic I think they might have noticed this and broken with Rome long ago but somehow they still believe in the papacy. could pastor Dave be more an expert than the Chaldeans who have their liturgy in Aramaic in their church for 2000 years?

William Hendriksen
Member of the Reformed Christian Church, Professor of New Testament Literature at Calvin Seminary

The meaning is, “You are Peter, that is Rock, and upon this rock, that is, on you, Peter I will build my church.” Our Lord, speaking Aramaic, probably said, “And I say to you, you are Kepha, and on this kepha I will build my church.” Jesus, then, is promising Peter that he is going to build his church on him! I accept this view. (New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1973), 647.)


#8

http://catholicoutlook.com/images/cleardot.gif Protestant Scholars Agree: Peter Is the Rock

Quotations from Protestant scholars who agree that Matthew 16:18 refers to Peter personally

by Gary Hoge One day, when Jesus was in the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matt. 16:13). The disciples gave a variety of answers before Peter finally said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:16). What happened next is the subject of some controversy:
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:17-19).To whom or to what was Jesus referring when He said, “On this rock I will build my Church”? What rock was He talking about? Catholics, noting that the name “Peter” (Greek: Petros) is really just the masculine form of the Greek word for “rock” (petra), say He was referring to Simon son of Jonah. If they’re right, if the Church was to be built in some sense on Peter himself, as head of the apostles, then this supports the Catholic doctrine of the papacy. Naturally, Protestants aren’t comfortable with that at all, and so historically, they have claimed that the “rock” to which Jesus referred was Peter’s faith, or perhaps, Christ Himself.

But as the passions of the Reformation era have cooled, and Protestant scholars have taken a more dispassionate look at this text, they have come to agree more and more that Jesus was referring to Peter himself as the rock. Of course, they disagree with the Catholic interpretation of what this means, but many now agree that the Catholic explanation of the grammar of the text is correct.

The following quotations, all of which are from Protestant Bible scholars, are taken from the book Jesus, Peter & the Keys: a Scriptural Handbook on the Papacy (Scott Butler et al., (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing), 1996).

Gerhard Maier
Leading conservative evangelical Lutheran theologian

Nowadays a broad consensus has emerged which – in accordance with the words of the text – applies the promise to Peter as a person. On this point liberal (H. J. Holtzmann, E. Schweiger) and conservative (Cullmann, Flew) theologians agree, as well as representatives of Roman Catholic exegesis. (“The Church in the Gospel of Matthew: Hermeneutical Analysis of the Current Debate,” Biblical Interpretation and Church Text and Context, (Flemington Markets, NSW: Paternoster Press, 1984), 58.)Donald A. Carson III
Baptist and Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Seminary

Although it is true that petros and petra can mean “stone” and “rock” respectively in earlier Greek, the distinction is largely confined to poetry. Moreover the underlying Aramaic is in this case unquestionable; and most probably kepha was used in both clauses (“you are kepha” and “on this kepha”), since the word was used both for a name and for a “rock.” The Peshitta (written in Syriac, a language cognate with Aramaic) makes no distinction between the words in the two clauses. The Greek makes the distinction between petros and petra simply because it is trying to preserve the pun, and in Greek the feminine petra could not very well serve as a masculine name. (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 8 (Matthew, Mark, Luke), (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 368.) The word Peter petros, meaning “rock” (Gk 4377), is masculine, and in Jesus’ follow-up statement he uses the feminine word petra (Gk 4376). On the basis of this change, many have attempted to avoid identifying Peter as the rock on which Jesus builds his church. Yet if it were not for Protestant reactions against extremes of Roman Catholic interpretations, it is doubtful whether many would have taken “rock” to be anything or anyone other than Peter. (Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary – New Testament, vol. 2, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 78.)

John Peter Lange
German Protestant scholar

The Saviour, no doubt, used in both clauses the Aramaic word kepha (hence the Greek Kephas applied to Simon, John i.42; comp. 1 Cor. i.12; iii.22; ix.5; Gal. ii.9), which means rock and is used both as a proper and a common noun. . . . The proper translation then would be: “Thou art Rock, and upon this rock,” etc. (Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: The Gospel According to Matthew, vol. 8, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976), 293.)


#9

John A. Broadus
Baptist author

Many insist on the distinction between the two Greek words, thou art Petros and on this petra, holding that if the rock had meant Peter, either petros or petra would have been used both times, and that petros signifies a separate stone or fragment broken off, while petra is the massive rock. But this distinction is almost entirely confined to poetry, the common prose word instead of petros being lithos; nor is the distinction uniformly observed. But the main answer here is that our Lord undoubtedly spoke Aramaic, which has no known means of making such a distinction [between feminine *petra and masculine petros in Greek]. The Peshitta (Western Aramaic) renders, “Thou are kipho, and on this kipho.” The Eastern Aramaic, spoken in Palestine in the time of Christ, must necessarily have said in like manner, “Thou are kepha, and on this kepha.” . . . Beza called attention to the fact that it is so likewise in French: “Thou art Pierre, and on this pierre”; and Nicholson suggests that we could say, “Thou art Piers (old English for Peter), and on this pier.” (Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1886), 355-356.)


#10

Donald A. Hagner
Fuller Theological Seminary

The natural reading of the passage, despite the necessary shift from Petros to petra required by the word play in the Greek (but not the Aramaic, where the same word kepha occurs in both places), is that it is Peter who is the rock upon which the church is to be built. . . . The frequent attempts that have been made, largely in the past, to deny this in favor of the view that the confession itself is the rock . . . seem to be largely motivated by Protestant prejudice against a passage that is used by the Roman Catholics to justify the papacy. (“Matthew 14-28,” Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 33b, (Dallas: Word Books, 1995), 470.)

Gee we have all these Protestant scholars saying Pastor Bob is down right lying. These are well respected men in their field and even given a tendancy to come down on the side of protestants as they are protestants they weight the evidence and give the arguments weight to catholcism as they burden is to heavy to do otherwise. There you have it the truth. Any idiot can type away on their website without footnotes and make a claim but can they back it up. Notice this man is not published by anyone theological value. The man is just on an anti-catholic rant as many posters here are on. I give him the same credecne as the fundamentilist who post here. None.

Notice he says in his argument that it should probably be Kepha and Shua. Pastor Dave did not say it was this way. He is reading into what he thinks the text should be read as without ever looking at the to begin with. He is inventing thins to confrom to his theology this is very unscholarly and any self-respecting protestant wouldn’t go to such tactics. He is just an unscholarly pastor trying to play lowball as he cannot win the argument fair handed. 20 centureis of rebellion for the obvious can make one very desperate.


#11

Great stuff here. Mind if I offer some of these up to a closed-minded Baptist I work with? He will likely fall back on his “right” to interpret scripture on his own, but having a few of his peers telling him otherwise may cause him to take pause, at least for a moment or two…:wink:


#12

Being a student of history, I discovered that doing history (or any other subject requiring the consideration of evidence) is very easy if you keep three questions before you:

  1. What do we know?
  2. What can we reasonably infer from what we know?
  3. What can we never know?

Using these three questions while looking at Matt 16:

  1. What we know is the Greek text before us.

  2. What we can reasonably infer is that the Greek is simply rendering a feminine noun masculine because Simon is a male.

  3. What we can never know is the Aramaic original (unless it turns up) and whether the gospel writer is trying to play a word game between small and big rocks.

This site has pinned its hopes on #3. It is really not much better than suggesting that because we don’t know how the Egyptians built the pyramids, extra-terrestrials must have done it.

Also, look at what the anti-Catholic polemic is reduced to: trying to build a case on a single word (such as “until” in the case of Mary’s post-birth relationship with Joseph), or even fractions of a word in the case here of petros versus petras. Some much for the biblical perspicuity they are always on about.

Scott


#13

[quote=Maccabees]Well I noticed the guy is A Presbyterian pastor and not a scholar so right there a green light goes off he might have an agenda.
[/quote]

Well, of course this guy has an agenda, as does the guy (guys, actually) I’m discussing this with. Be that as it may, though, I’m not going to get away with an ad hom argument attacking this guy’s credentials.

Also he is a presbyterian pastor who speaks English in america there are catholics of the Chaldean rite who speak and read Aramaic I think they might have noticed this and broken with Rome long ago but somehow they still believe in the papacy. could pastor Dave be more an expert than the Chaldeans who have their liturgy in Aramaic in their church for 2000 years?

OK, and I agree. But that still doesn’t go against the argument he has made, and I don’t speak or read Aramaic, either. I was hoping that someone here would have seen that same argument made before, and would know of an expert who has refuted it.


#14

I have studied the Peshitta for quite some time, and I am studying Syriac/Aramaic. And even though I do believe that most of the NT was originally written in Greek, I do hold the position that Matthew wrote his gospel orignally in Aramaic, and that is based upon the fact that the Fathers of the Church proclaimed that from the beginning with Papias to St. Jerome.

It is a fact that the Syriac has its roots that go back to the 1st century, and the Diatesseron is a testimony to that, which happens to be a work by Tatian. You have other very early versions that follow it such as the Sinaitic, Curetonion, Peshitta, etc etc. The Peshitta is much like the Vulgate to the Latin manuscripts.

But my point is this, Matthew wrote his gospel in Aramaic, and it was later translated into Greek, and the structure of the early Syriac shows that it is an independant tradition apart from the Greek as far as the gospel of Matthew goes, so it is of my belief that the Aramaic rendering of Matthew 16:17-18 is perserved the best as it is in the critical edition of the ancient Syriac, which is not in an agreement with a Protestant ‘reconstruction’ of the Aramaic in order to reject the Pope. The differnce between the Protestant ‘reconstruction’ of the Aramaic and the Aramaic that supports the Pope passage in Syriac is that the Protestants have no manuscript evidence to prove their case! But there are over 300 ancient Syriac/Aramaic manuscripts to back up the our argument!


#15

Don’t know if this helps, but in re “confessional interpretation” - that the rock is Peter’s faith, I have the following Protestant references to the contrary:

W.F Albright, in his commentary on Matthew, states;
“Peter as the Rock will be the foundation of the future community, the church. Jesus here uses Aramaic, and so, the only Aramaic word which would serve his purpose. In view of the background to verse 19, one must dismiss as confessional interpretation, any attempt to see this rock as meaning the faith or the confession of Peter.”

R.T. France, in his Matthew commentary, states: …
“The word rock, or Peter, refers not to his faith, but rather to his function as the foundation stone of the church.”

Title: Matthew: Introduction, Translation, and Notes by W. F. Albright and C. S. Mann. Published: Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday; 1971
Title: The Gospel according to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary, by R. T. France. Published: Leicester, England, Inter-Varsity Press; 1987

I heard this in a Scott Hahn tape, and looked up the references… It probably won’t help, but just in case.

Jim


#16

This is laughable.

The argument goes like this,
In the syriac, (e.g. the peshitta), two words exist for rock/stone.
Shua, and Kepha.

In the argument,
Shua is taken to mean a large rock.
Kepha is taken to mean a moveable rock.

In the Syriac Matthew 16:18, the word KEPHA is used in both places!!!
(E.G. the translators of the peshitta chose to use the same word for BOTH Petros and Petra.)

The word lithos (small stone) is always translated as KEPHA in syriac. ( So what? )

The word PETRA is usually translated as SHUA (EXCEPT in Matthew 16:18 – DUH ).

So, the argument goes, since Petra is ALWAYS translated as PETRA in the N.T. (with the exception of Mt. 16:18), the word in Mt. 16:18 should have been translated Shua. (Question begging anyone?).

The argument amounts to this: The ambiguous term in Greek (petra) should be translated as if it weren’t ambiguous, becase everywhere ELSE it was tranlated as large-rock.
(I am not even sure that is true, but leave it be for the sake of argument.)

But if Syriac is definitive, then the translation of Petros as KEPHA in Mt. 16 should be used as definitive. Who is more versed in the proper translation of syriac, the original translator or a protestant today? The person translating into syriac clearly understood Jesus to be speaking of the same person Petros and Petra.

The argument from the Syriac is blatant question begging.
The argument could be simply: Everywhere else in the Greek NT, PETRA can be interpreted as large rock , therefore it should be in Mt. 16:18 too…

This is precisely what is at issue.
The Catholic perspective is that the word can be used interchangably in Greek (and Even in older Homeric Greek Poetry).
The arguments striking a wedge between Petros and Petra are mere statistics – it is a known fact that the words ARE, and have been INTERCHANGABLE.

Was the peshitta translated from the Greek or the Hebrew?
Arguing this way even presupposes the syriac came from the Greek (Who knows that for certain either?).

:smiley:


#17

Errata:
Since Petra is always translated as Shua (not PETRA…)
:stuck_out_tongue:


#18

[quote=Schabel]Well, of course this guy has an agenda, as does the guy (guys, actually) I’m discussing this with. Be that as it may, though, I’m not going to get away with an ad hom argument attacking this guy’s credentials.

OK, and I agree. But that still doesn’t go against the argument he has made, and I don’t speak or read Aramaic, either. I was hoping that someone here would have seen that same argument made before, and would know of an expert who has refuted it.
[/quote]

You don’t have to take that route. You can just quote the protestant scholars with outstanding credentials who refute and deny his understanding of the Peshitta text. THis is petty protestant rebellion tactics. Show him overwhelming evidence contrary to his pet thoery and he will still deny the obvious.


#19

Kepha is used in both instances. Here is a link to the peshita with English translations.

aramaicpeshitta.com/AramaicNTtools/peshitta_interlinear.htm


#20

Here’s another discussion of the topic: forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=44629 And yes, John 17:3 is getting annoying.


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