The "Retractationes" by S.Augustine and petrine primacy


#21

Hi PCM,

The question was not what the church says. The question is what Augustine says.

Right ! But the first issue was introduced in post 3.
Now it would be fine to deal with it.

Augustine clearly wrote that he originally taught (perhaps in one single work, depending how you read the text) that Peter was the rock, and then later, on many occasions, taught that Christ was the rock. He offered much less in explanation of the first view (the one being seemingly repudiated) than he did of his later interpretation, which he explained in detail so that the reader would fully understand it and its implications.

I can agree on a large part of this paragraph.
As you can expect I can’t with “the one being seemingly repudiated”.
As to why the second explanation is illustrated in good detail:

  • It is clearly more difficult ( it is in Augustine himself a late development )
  • It is elaborated. You have not only the proposal of Christ as Rock there. This is precisely the point I hope will be dealt with by Atemi, or by yourself. Let’s see “its implications”. See, please, post 11.

He then says “let the reader choose which of these is more likely to be true”. That doesn’t allow for a “these are both true” approach.

He doesn’t. He does state that the majority of his teaching on the subject was on the second interpretation, as opposed to the first, and he does not recant that later teaching. What he does do is explain that while he did explain it in one way a single time, he explained it in another way a great many times.

Actually, as I understand it (from looking up definitions of words and looking at a few translations of texts), it would actually mean “Let the reader choose between these which is more probable.” That implies that there is one that is right, and one that is not, and that he leaves it to the reader to select for themselves what they believe. It does not imply that one is more important than the other. It says (fairly explicitly) that one is more probable of being right. And that the reader has to choose between them indicates that both are not right at the same time, for if they were, no choice would be necessary.

Thus, at the very least, we know that Augustine did not hold to both interpretations being correct.

We are not told whether the first explanation was tought just once. But we agree, that’s not the point. :slight_smile:

It seems to me you got correctly the letter of Augustine’s words.
Let the reader … which is more probable". What I fail to see, is that the spirit of these words is that one of the two explanations, namely the first one, has to be wrong.

  • The passage really doesn’t say the first interpretation is repudiated. Moreover, we see how the second explanation is introduced: “But I realize that …”. Now, reconsidering this particular issue with attention, the great man realizes the presence of the two explanations in his teaching. It does not work like this with errors. About an error you just change your mind, you are aware of that from the time you correct it.
  • Is it that the man doesn’t like admitting errors, even now ? The very goal of the Retractationes is to explain what Augustine wants to leave as heritage, and what has to be, if necessary changed. Even later than in the Retractationes ( see “On the predestination of the Saints”, ch. 7) he openly declares that he had been in error concerning the grace of God. Not a minor issue in augustinian theology !

So, there is no binary logic here, something true versus something false.
None of the explanations is proposed here as false.
None of them is proposed as absolutely true. They are reproposed in the Retractationes, both of them, as good explanations, each with a degree of certainty. It’s up to us to choose which one, in our view, can have a higher degree of certainty.

Thank you for contributing.


#22

Now if the truth is so clearly proved as to leave no possibility of doubt, it must be set before all the things that keep me in the Catholic Church…For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church…for it was through the Catholics that I got my faith in it; and so, whatever you bring from the gospel will no longer have any weight with me. Wherefore, if no clear proof of the apostleship of Manichaeus is found in the gospel, I will believe the Catholics rather than you." Augustine, Against the Epistle of Manichaeus, 4:5,5:6 (A.D 397).

Thanks for these quotes. I just wanted to add this one.

  1. For if the lineal succession of bishops is to be taken into account, with how much more certainty and benefit to the Church do we reckon back till we reach Peter himself, to whom, as bearing in a figure the whole Church, the Lord said: “Upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!” Matthew 16:18 The successor of Peter was Linus, and his successors in unbroken continuity were these:—Clement, Anacletus, Evaristus, Alexander, Sixtus, Telesphorus, Iginus, Anicetus, Pius, Soter, Eleutherius, Victor, Zephirinus, Calixtus, Urbanus, Pontianus, Antherus, Fabianus, Cornelius, Lucius, Stephanus, Xystus, Dionysius, Felix, Eutychianus, Gaius, Marcellinus, Marcellus, Eusebius, Miltiades, Sylvester, Marcus, Julius, Liberius, Damasus, and Siricius, whose successor is the present Bishop Anastasius. In this order of succession no Donatist bishop is found. (AD 400 Letter to Generosus)

God bless,
Ut


#23

One meaning at the exclusion of the other does grave injustice to the scriptures. Peter’s confession as being the Rock is perfectly acceptable. It does not exclude what a person SAYS from what a person IS. What you are saying is that what Peter said has nothing to do with the person saying it. This is absurd.

"not on a man’ means not just anybody.
“not on a man” means no mere human can build a church apart from Christ, because IT IS CHRIST THAT DOES THE BUILDING, with Peter and the Apostles as the foundation. (Eph. 2:20)

[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-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
[18] And I tell you, your confession is Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.:eek:
[19] I will give your confession the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever your confession binds on earth shall be bound in heaven, and your cofession shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” :eek:

If ROCK is limited to Peter’s confession only, that is how the rest of the verses must be read. It is, of course, insane.

Furthermore, Jesus spoke these words in Aramaic, not Greek, not Hebrew. The Aramaic text looks like this:
Thou art KEPHA and upon this KEPHA I will build my Church.
Look in any Aramaic Bible. KEPHA is one and the same word. Matthew translated, he did not interpret. If Peter’s confession is the only acceptable interpretation, and the person of Peter is irrelevant, then anyone can start a church, anyone has been given the keys, anyone has authority, all you have to do is quote Peter’s confession apart from Peter himself, and there you have the brick and mortar of Protestantism. Only God has the power to build a Church, and God chose mere men to build it on, not by men proof-texting a book apart from the Church.
Matthew 16
[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-Jona! 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, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.
[19] 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.”

  1. Peter is blessed by Jesus for what the Father revealed first, his confession came second…after the fact. Jesus didn’t say Peter was blessed over just what he said, but what was revealed by the Father.

  2. :…YOU are Peter…" His name was Simon. Jesus gave him a new name. ROCK is the Aramaic for Peter. It is the same word.

  3. the RSV shows Jesus saying YOU five times in 2 verses!!! None of those refer to a confession, but the person of Peter. Rock. Kepha.


#24

“not on a man” does not exclude Peter from his confession, so St. Augustine is not wrong. It is dishonest to assume St. Augustine didn’t accept Peter’s primacy based on one snippet that ignores the whole of Augustine’s teachings. It’s dishonest to proof-text lines from Church Fathers by applying the same Nominalism that proof-texts scripture. If a person wishes to accept what St. Augustine is saying in the above quote, fine. But to reject the whole of St. Augustine’s teachings, and accept 2 or 3 lines??? Is that fair?

St. Augustine is not wrong. He is placing the emphasis on one aspect of a truth. It’s plain dishonest to tout one snippet from St. Augustine to prove he didn’t believe in Peter’s primacy.
*

“Number the bishops from the See of Peter itself. And in that order of Fathers see who has succeeded whom. That is the rock against which the gates of hell do not prevail” Augustine, Psalm against the Party of Donatus, 18 (A.D. 393).

“I am held in the communion of the Catholic Church by…and by the succession of bishops from the very seat of Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection commended His sheep to be fed up to the present episcopate.” Augustine, Against the Letter of Mani, 5 (A.D. 395).

“Carthage was also near the countries over the sea, and distinguished by illustrious renown, so that it had a bishop of more than ordinary influence, who could afford to disregard a number of conspiring enemies because he saw himself joined by letters of communion to the Roman Church, in which the supremacy of an apostolic chair has always flourished.” Augustine, To Glorius et.al, Epistle 43:7 (A.D. 397).

“The chair of the Roman Church, in which Peter sat, and in which Anastasius sits today.” Augustine, Against the Letters of Petillian, 2:51 (A.D. 402).

"Peter bore the person of the church.” Augustine, Sermon 149:7 (inter A.D. 391-430).

“Number the priests even from that seat of Peter. And in that order of fathers see to whom succeeded: that is the rock which the proud gates of hades do not conquer.” Augustine, Psalmus contro Partem Donati (A.D. 393).


#25

:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

[LEFT]Jesus does not hand Himself the keys…[/LEFT]

[LEFT]Jesus does not hand the keys to a nearby large boulder…[/LEFT]

[LEFT]Jesus does not hand the keys to a “spoken confession” [thin air]…[/LEFT]

[LEFT]He is speaking to a man, whom he has just identified as Blessed by Heaven with knowledge. Jesus announced to those present that He was building an earthly Church [Kingdom] and then He hands over “Keys” that work on earth [locking and unlocking]. This earthly locking and unlocking is so powerful that is works to lock and unlock in heaven, as well. And Jesus is preparing for His departure form earth bound for Heaven [where He is going to prepare a place for this earthly following]. Jesus quotes Isaiah, where a Prime Minister acts on behalf of the King [in the kings physical absence]. This Prime Minster utlizes ‘keys’ for the entire Kingdom with absolute authority…no earthly counterpart can open or close in oposition to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is [on behalf of the King] a FATHER to the people … and he has to care for them as a FATHER or he will be removed from his position [MINISTERIAL OFFICE] by the King…[/LEFT]

[LEFT]Augustine recognized this…all authority ad power comes from and is derived from the KING…Jesus CHrist, the ROCK OF SALVATION…there is no conflict…Jesus told Peter to care for and feed His Flock [not Peter’s Flock bust the Flock of Jesus] This delegation of Shephard’s duties makes Peter a Shephard but not THE SHEPHARD - which of course is Jesus…[/LEFT]


#26

That Augustine changed his opinion is, to be more precise…
Atemi’s opinion.
My humble opinion is that he gained deeper insight without repudiating the former position.

That is the whole point, Ryan.

Since we’re here, and back to the passage from the Retractationes about the identification of the rock in Matt 16, quoted in the OP, I’d like to offer two more reasons, besides those in post 20, against the idea according to which Augustine is illustrating an error and a truth there.

  • The first one is the simplest of all. As a prolific writer he could choose 100 ways to tell us clearly that one exegesis is right and the other is wrong. He did not choose any. And he was very concerned on the difference between error and truth.
    That leads us to the second point.

  • It is not plausible that Augustine knows, writing the Retractationes, that one explanation is right and the other wrong, and nevertheless it is indifferent to him which one we choose of the two. That’s really not plausible for a man ( and a pastor) who fought error inexhaustibly throughout his christian life.

Thanks everybody for the contributions.


#27

Unfortunately, I don’t understand Latin very well, so the best I can do is either accept someone’s interpretation of it, or do the best I can to study for my self. I try to mix the two, accepting that translators hopefully will know how to properly translate.

What I am challenging, is that here Augustine means that one of his two explanations has to be wrong.
If you pay attention to my post submitted yesterday at 1:06 pm, you can see why, IMHO, there would be nothing "magical"
in considering both explanations sound.

The thing is, if he had indeed believed that both interpretations were not only worthy of consideration, but factually correct, he would surely have stated such. The very fact that he did not shows that he was at least uncertain about one of the two, or perhaps certainly knew it to be wrong. The very point that he says the reader should choose which is more likely to be correct shows that he does not hold a personal belief which allows him to know which of the two that is (nor does it allow him to say with certainty that both are correct, and the overall text seems to be concerning the idea of comparing two interpretations which are at odds with one another).

To an extent. However, to me the distinct problem seems to be this…

Roman Catholics are guilty of an either/or situation here. (Let me finish, before you assume what I’m going to say.) This is not in regards to one interpretation over another, but rather an either/or regarding Peter’s status. On the one hand, you can interpret things such that Peter is the vicar of Christ, the rock of the church. On the other hand, Roman Catholics choose to interpret that Protestants totally dismiss the importance of Peter entirely, making him someone that wasn’t at all important. That can clearly be repudiated from scripture itself, quite obviously.

However, what isn’t often considered is a third point. If you openly read the passage, yes, you understand that Peter has some importance. He is used, in Matthew 16, as a symbol of an ideal believer, a true follower of Christ. This in itself is very important. In combining an overall Christocentricity of the passage, what you end up with is that Peter is important in how he glorifies God. It’s the same reason Paul was important, and Mary was important, etc. They point to the divine.

Is it not, however, possible to consider Peter as important, perhaps even as a leader of the early church, and somewhat of a role model for the uncertain disciples (at that point in time – we know he didn’t always hold to this unwavering devotion), without making him the Pope?

In other words – We’re called Christians, right? It means that (assuming we’re actually behaving like Christians should) we are a true example of Christ. Likewise, being named “Rocky”, Peter was given this same distinction – being named similarly to the rock, because of his devotion and behavior at the time.

Peter can be important without Peter being a pope. Augustine’s later interpretation of the passage allows for that. Peter is an example to be followed (even to this day), and his name (“Rocky”) is a symbol of that quality. Likewise, when we’re called Christians today, it’s not that we’re actually being called Christ, but rather it symbolizes our connection with Christ. Thus, we too can be called “Rocky”, if we have the same devotion as Peter had.

There actually is a difference between showing Peter’s true character and role in scripture and agreeing with the Roman Catholic inflation of that role.

Continued…


#28

We see Christ, the ultimate petra, naming Simon Petrus, after Himself. . The Lord establishes a unique connection between Himself and this man.

What tells you that it is unique? Certainly, we only have one direct passage with a naming like that occurring, but that doesn’t mean Peter was necessarily distinct.

In any case, all in all, Augustine’s writings don’t say “I have reconsidered, and now believe that both of these interpretations are correct.” Instead, it says, “I realize I taught one thing here at one time, and another thing there at many times later. Let the reader choose which is more probable of being the truth.”

“… quae sit probabilior, eligat lector.” You are not told: one is right, one is wrong. You can choose yourself which of the two is “probabilior”, ie with a higher degree of certainty.

But note a couple of things…

  1. At one point, Augustine taught, presumably with certainty, that Peter was the rock.
  2. At a later point, Augustine taught, presumably with certainty, that Peter’s confession in Christ was the rock, and perhaps by extension, Christ himself.
  3. Augustine seems to lack certainty in “Retractions”, and tells the reader, not that one explanation or the other is certainly right, but rather that it’s up to the reader to make a choice as to which is more likely to be correct and then, presumably, they would follow that choice, believing that interpretation to be correct.

So I ask you – if Augustine knew certainly that both interpretations were valid, why would he leave it as a choice to the reader? Does he have a habit of writing that way (I haven’t noticed that he does), or did he simply lack certainty in this issue?

It still seems off-topic (and rather useless to a Protestant vs. Roman Catholic debate anyway).

I can agree on a large part of this paragraph.
As you can expect I can’t with “the one being seemingly repudiated”.
As to why the second explanation is illustrated in good detail:

  • It is clearly more difficult ( it is in Augustine himself a late development )

I agree – it does take a bit more effort to understand the true purpose of the passage.

  • It is elaborated. You have not only the proposal of Christ as Rock there. This is precisely the point I hope will be dealt with by Atemi, or by yourself. Let’s see “its implications”. See, please, post 11.

I am unsure what you’re getting at. Could you please elaborate on what you want elaboration on?

It seems to me you got correctly the letter of Augustine’s words.
Let the reader … which is more probable". What I fail to see, is that the spirit of these words is that one of the two explanations, namely the first one, has to be wrong.

You’re probably expecting Augustine to say clearly that “this one is wrong – the end”, but such won’t usually be found in literary works that weren’t designed to answer our specific 21st-century questions. We do have a couple of clues though.

He says “but” or “however”. I’m not totally sure of the usage in Latin, but in English, such a word would be used to introduce a phrase contradicting a previous statement. Some links as to proper use of such wording in Latin would be appreciated (designed for a novice if possible).

  • The passage really doesn’t say the first interpretation is repudiated. Moreover, we see how the second explanation is introduced: “But I realize that …”. Now, reconsidering this particular issue with attention, the great man realizes the presence of the two explanations in his teaching.

I’m not totally sure he “But I realize that” is actually a correct translation, but if so, I can see some room for movement either way. I’d really like to understand the translation in more detail.

It does not work like this with errors. About an error you just change your mind, you are aware of that from the time you correct it.

That’s an interesting point – can we establish a time line showing all of Augustine’s teachings on the subject? Perhaps he did change his mind, and this could be evidenced by such a study. It might also show that he didn’t. I’d be curious to see such a compilation.

Continued…


#29

So, there is no binary logic here, something true versus something false.

I don’t think, at this point, we can say definitively either way what his intention was, except to say that he doesn’t ever clearly espouse the “both interpretations are correct” theory.

Actually, it is an interpretation of the scriptures. What it would do grave injustice to is a particular theology developed from a certain interpretation of the scriptures.

"not on a man’ means not just anybody.

Actually, since we’re comparing, in this text, a man versus a confession of faith, the statement of “not on a man”, would seem to highlight the comparison, rather than somehow making Peter a special man, worthy of this honor.

“not on a man” means no mere human can build a church apart from Christ, because IT IS CHRIST THAT DOES THE BUILDING, with Peter and the Apostles as the foundation. (Eph. 2:20)

Actually, Ephesians 2:20 says that the foundation of the church are the apostles and the prophets, with Jesus himself as the chief corner stone. It doesn’t specifically mention Peter outside of the apostles. Please don’t write things to make it seem as though it does.

[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-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
[18] And I tell you, your confession is Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.:eek:
[19] I will give your confession the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever your confession binds on earth shall be bound in heaven, and your cofession shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” :eek:

If ROCK is limited to Peter’s confession only, that is how the rest of the verses must be read. It is, of course, insane.

Not at all…

Jesus asks his disciples “who do men say I am”? They respond, telling him what others believe about Jesus.

Jesus then asks “and who do you (my disciples, who have followed me around all this time) say that I am”?

Simon (Peter) answers for the group in saying “you are the Christ, the son of God”.

Jesus says that Simon (Peter) is blessed (that is, very fortunate and happy) because he received this revelation (about Christ) from God.

He then names Simon after himself, and states that on “this rock” he will build his Church, which will not be prevailed against by the gates of hell.

A Christocentric view makes much more sense.

Furthermore, Jesus spoke these words in Aramaic, not Greek, not Hebrew. The Aramaic text looks like this:
Thou art KEPHA and upon this KEPHA I will build my Church.
Look in any Aramaic Bible. KEPHA is one and the same word. Matthew translated, he did not interpret.

We’ve covered this argument in another thread, and there’s no good reason to believe that the current Aramaic translations are reliable. Additionally, there are other Aramaic words which could have been originally used which could result in the same translation, yet with a very different meaning.

The brunt of it is this – Kepha is generally a smaller stone…a boulder, but not a large foundational sort of rock. Petra (Greek) generally comes from the Aramaic “sela”, which is a distinctly different word.

If Peter’s confession is the only acceptable interpretation, and the person of Peter is irrelevant, then anyone can start a church, anyone has been given the keys, anyone has authority, all you have to do is quote Peter’s confession apart from Peter himself, and there you have the brick and mortar of Protestantism. Only God has the power to build a Church, and God chose mere men to build it on, not by men proof-texting a book apart from the Church.

Actually, Origen explains this rather well (Commentary on Matthew – the passages relating to Matthew 16). There are many who will come and make such a confession, but who will lack a truthfulness to that confession, and who are thus not “Rocky” as true believers (the other apostles at the least) are.


#30

The thing is, if he had indeed believed that both interpretations were not only worthy of consideration, but factually correct, he would surely have stated such. The very fact that he did not shows that he was at least uncertain about one of the two, or perhaps certainly knew it to be wrong. The very point that he says the reader should choose which is more likely to be correct shows that he does not hold a personal belief which allows him to know which of the two that is (nor does it allow him to say with certainty that both are correct, and the overall text seems to be concerning the idea of comparing two interpretations which are at odds with one another).

Fine. Let’s go on through exclusions.
We agree that we can exclude that for Augustine:

  • Both explanations are wrong
  • Both are undoubtedly right

I believe we can exclude that for him one is wrong and one is right.
I presented several reasons for this. It is not the least of them that it appears inconceivable that to a scrupolous pastor is indifferrent
whether believers choose error or truth. And then ?

I am trying to outline clearly my positive proposal. We have to do with the concept of probability. The expression “sententia probabilis” appears to have been usual enough in fields of secular latin such as law ( whence it would enter the technical language of the Church) . The expression means what it appears to mean: a statement which can be given a good confidence level.

I am “confident” (:slight_smile: ) that Augustine is telling us something like:
“Here are two interpretations, each with a good confidence level.
Their meanings, and their consequences are not at odds with each other, and, anyway, I could not honestly say which has a higher confidence level. Therefore, dear reader and believer, you can safely retain both of them, and decide by yourself which one can be given a higher confidence level”.

For the reasons illustrated above, we have, indeed, to exclude, IMHO, that the possible consequences deriving from retaining any of the two explanations, can lead the believer into error, according to Augustine.

, to me the distinct problem seems to be this…

Roman Catholics are guilty of an either/or situation here. This is not in regards to one interpretation over another, but rather an either/or regarding Peter’s status. On the one hand, you can interpret things such that Peter is the vicar of Christ, the rock of the church. On the other hand, Roman Catholics choose to interpret that Protestants totally dismiss the importance of Peter entirely, making him someone that wasn’t at all important. …

Is it not, however, possible to consider Peter as important, perhaps even as a leader of the early church, and somewhat of a role model for the uncertain disciples (at that point in time – we know he didn’t always hold to this unwavering devotion), without making him the Pope? …

Peter can be important without Peter being a pope. Augustine’s later interpretation of the passage allows for that. Peter is an example to be followed (even to this day), and his name (“Rocky”) is a symbol of that quality. Likewise, when we’re called Christians today, it’s not that we’re actually being called Christ, but rather it symbolizes our connection with Christ. Thus, we too can be called “Rocky”, if we have the same devotion as Peter had.

There actually is a difference between showing Peter’s true character and role in scripture and agreeing with the Roman Catholic inflation of that role.

I can appreciate this reasoning. So far as it does not lead to the creation of a moving target, the kind of “Yes this tells us that Peter is pre-eminent, and yes that too can point to the same …, but that’s not enough”, and … it will never be enough. I am not saying, of course, that one cannot repeat “this point is not enough, that point is not enough”. That’s absolutely fair, and the very raison d’etre of a debate. What I am afraid of is the possible development of a mindset for which… nothing will ever be enough. Saying so, I do imagine that for the “primacy field” too there can theoretically be similar risks, mirroring what I’m describing.
But we’re going a little off-topic …


#31

I generally (though not with 100% certainty) would agree with your first statement. However, the second is very leading. What’s the difference between being right and being undoubtedly right? I see no difference. Either something is correct, or it is not.

I believe we can exclude that for him one is wrong and one is right.

If you exclude that both are wrong, and that both are right, and then that one is wrong and one is right, all you’re left with is that Augustine really didn’t know for sure which was right (if any) at this point, because you’ve excluded every possibility. Either one is wrong and one is right, or both are wrong, or both are right. Those are pretty much the choices.

The facts we have…

  1. Augustine did not explicitly condemn either view, unless he did so elsewhere in his text – I have not read any such passage, however.
  2. Augustine would (hopefully) not knowingly teach something he did not himself believe. Thus we can assume he did not conclusively believe both to be wrong.
  3. He did allow the reader to choose which is “more likely of being correct”, implying that he thought the two were not equal. For if both were equally valid in his mind, no choice would be required.

So, we know, from simple logic that…
• Augustine did not believe both were equally right.
• Augustine did not believe both were wrong.
• Augustine did not believe in either one strongly enough over the other to advocate a particular choice.

As to the latter point – Whether or not this was simply his practice – to allow the reader to choose – or a rhetorical device – designed to illicit a particular response, I cannot say, for I haven’t read enough of his work. It could, however, be something like this…

If you wait until tomorrow to eat food, you will be hungry today. However, if you eat the food on the plate in front of you, I will break your arm. The choice is yours.

The point of something like that is to encourage the recipient of the message to make a specific choice (in this case, to wait until tomorrow to eat food) rather than to actually offer a choice.

Whether or not this was Augustine’s intent, I cannot say.

I presented several reasons for this. It is not the least of them that it appears inconceivable that to a scrupolous pastor is indifferrent
whether believers choose error or truth. And then ?

And from this, we can only exclude that he clearly knew one to be right, with the other clearly being wrong. We cannot conclude that both were right in his mind, for if they were, what reason is there to allow a choice? I can see none.

I am trying to outline clearly my positive proposal. We have to do with the concept of probability. The expression “sententia probabilis” appears to have been usual enough in fields of secular latin such as law ( whence it would enter the technical language of the Church) . The expression means what it appears to mean: a statement which can be given a good confidence level.

In other words, he is allowing the reader to place whatever confidence level they choose (including no confidence) in each of the choices.

I am “confident” (:slight_smile: ) that Augustine is telling us something like:
“Here are two interpretations, each with a good confidence level.
Their meanings, and their consequences are not at odds with each other
, and, anyway, I could not honestly say which has a higher confidence level. Therefore, dear reader and believer, you can safely retain both of them, and decide by yourself which one can be given a higher confidence level”.

Now see, I don’t see any of the bolded words above in the original text. Where does “you may choose which of these” imply that both are on equal footing?

What I am afraid of is the possible development of a mindset for which… nothing will ever be enough. Saying so, I do imagine that for the “primacy field” too there can theoretically be similar risks, mirroring what I’m describing.
But we’re going a little off-topic …

I agree, except that I fear both sides have fallen into this trap. There are some from each camp who, no matter the evidence presented, would never believe the other perspective. I sometimes think we are each less open to the truth than we would like to believe.

Regardless, as you say, it certainly is off-topic. We should keep to discussing Augustine’s position on the issue (and probably only his). We can always continue the discussion into another general papacy debate at a later date.


#32

What tells you that it is unique? Certainly, we only have one direct passage with a naming like that occurring, but that doesn’t mean Peter was necessarily distinct

.
You answered yourself from “certainly” to “occurring”, IMHO.

In any case, all in all, Augustine’s writings don’t say “I have reconsidered, and now believe that both of these interpretations are correct.” Instead, it says, “I realize I taught one thing here at one time, and another thing there at many times later. Let the reader choose which is more probable of being the truth.”

See my last post.

  1. At one point, Augustine taught, presumably with certainty, that Peter was the rock.
  2. At a later point, Augustine taught, presumably with certainty, that Peter’s confession in Christ was the rock, and perhaps by extension, Christ himself.
  3. Augustine seems to lack certainty in “Retractions”, and tells the reader, not that one explanation or the other is certainly right, but rather that it’s up to the reader to make a choice as to which is more likely to be correct and then, presumably, they would follow that choice, believing that interpretation to be correct.

So I ask you – if Augustine knew certainly that both interpretations were valid, why would he leave it as a choice to the reader? Does he have a habit of writing that way (I haven’t noticed that he does), or did he simply lack certainty in this issue?

He did say that the Rock is Christ Himself, not only perhaps by extension. See the passage quoted by Atemi.
For my proposed interpretation of the passage of the Retractationes, please see again last post.

It still seems off-topic (and rather useless to a Protestant vs. Roman Catholic debate anyway).

I can agree that we can “forget” here what the teachings of the Church are. Except, maybe, in a final stage of our considerations.

I agree – it does take a bit more effort to understand the true purpose of the passage.

I don’t completely agree with this formulation.

Could you please elaborate on what you want elaboration on?

The specific proposal in post 11 about why the two explanations can be in harmony with each other.

literary works that weren’t designed to answer our specific 21st-century questions.

. :thumbsup:

He says “but” or “however”. I’m not totally sure of the usage in Latin, but in English, such a word would be used to introduce a phrase contradicting a previous statement. Some links as to proper use of such wording in Latin would be appreciated (designed for a novice if possible).

I’m not totally sure he “But I realize that” is actually a correct translation, but if so, I can see some room for movement either way. I’d really like to understand the translation in more detail.

That translates “Sed scio me…”, IMHO correctly. Litterally: “But I know that …”. The only doubt that I can now see about the meaning of this beginning of the sentence can be whether Augustine says he is fully realizing just now, writing the Retractationes, this presence of more than one illustration of Matt 16 in his teaching, or “scio” can just mean he was even before of this reconsideration aware of that, and even he possibly was constantly aware of that.

That’s an interesting point – can we establish a time line showing all of Augustine’s teachings on the subject? Perhaps he did change his mind, and this could be evidenced by such a study. It might also show that he didn’t. I’d be curious to see such a compilation.

That would be an interesting homework, if you want to do it.


#33

What’s the difference between being right and being undoubtedly right? I see no difference. Either something is correct, or it is not.

The difference we can usefully consider is between something
you can have safely confidence about, and something you can bet your life or your soul about. From a pastor’s point of view, in the latter case he can feel he is entitled (or even compelled) to teach with full authority. In the former he doesn’t feel so, and should speak about that issue accordingly.

If you exclude that both are wrong, and that both are right, and then that one is wrong and one is right, all you’re left with is that Augustine really didn’t know for sure which was right (if any) at this point, because you’ve excluded every possibility. Either one is wrong and one is right, or both are wrong, or both are right. Those are pretty much the choices.

Not completely.

The facts we have…

  1. Augustine did not explicitly condemn either view, unless he did so elsewhere in his text – I have not read any such passage, however.

OK

  1. Augustine would (hopefully) not knowingly teach something he did not himself believe. Thus we can assume he did not conclusively believe both to be wrong

.OK

  1. He did allow the reader to choose which is “more likely of being correct”, implying that he thought the two were not equal. For if both were equally valid in his mind, no choice would be required.

I’d see the choice more as permitted, let free, rather than required.

So, we know, from simple logic that…
• Augustine did not believe both were equally right.

I’d say that he did not see reason to teach which, of the two good
interpretations, had to be considered the better.

Augustine did not believe both were wrong.
• Augustine did not believe in either one strongly enough over the other to advocate a particular choice.

OK and OK
My comment on your first point here is, indeed, a specific support of your point 3. I only add that Augustine sees two good explanations.

As to the latter point – Whether or not this was simply his practice – to allow the reader to choose – or a rhetorical device – designed to illicit a particular response, I cannot say, for I haven’t read enough of his work. It could, however, be something like this…

If you wait until tomorrow to eat food, you will be hungry today. However, if you eat the food on the plate in front of you, I will break your arm. The choice is yours.

The point of something like that is to encourage the recipient of the message to make a specific choice (in this case, to wait until tomorrow to eat food) rather than to actually offer a choice.

Whether or not this was Augustine’s intent, I cannot say

What we can say is that Augustine was no Al Capone.:slight_smile:

And from this, we can only exclude that he clearly knew one to be right, with the other clearly being wrong. We cannot conclude that both were right in his mind, for if they were, what reason is there to allow a choice? I can see none.

We agree that the choice is allowed, not required. My opinion is that the allowed choice is more or less “which one of these two good interpretations you want to consider better”.

In other words, he is allowing the reader to place whatever confidence level they choose (including no confidence) in each of the choices.

Not my guess. He allows to choose which of two explanations, each with a good level of confidence, a reader will consider the one with the better level.

Now see, I don’t see any of the bolded words above in the original text. Where does “you may choose which of these” imply that both are on equal footing?

They ( the two interpretations, we mean) are for sure on similar footing, in my humble view of Augustine’s opinion. My guess, in reading the passage in the OP again and again, is that he “loves” both of them. The bolded words I regard as likely consequences of my overall reading.

I agree, except that I fear both sides have fallen into this trap. There are some from each camp who, no matter the evidence presented, would never believe the other perspective. I sometimes think we are each less open to the truth than we would like to believe.
Regardless, as you say, it certainly is off-topic. We should keep to discussing Augustine’s position on the issue (and probably only his). We can always continue the discussion into another general papacy debate at a later date.

You’re a becoming a real expert on that kind of debate:)

Thank you for the insightful and positive attitude of your contributions to the present thread.


#34

So your response is basically that the very fact that there’s only one passage in the gospels about it, and that it relates to Peter, is proof that Peter was unique?

He did say that the Rock is Christ Himself, not only perhaps by extension. See the passage quoted by Atemi.

Ah, indeed.

For my proposed interpretation of the passage of the Retractationes, please see again last post.

I previously saw, and rejected such an interpretation, for the words do not say “these are both good – choose whichever you think is more likely”. It says “I taught X, and then taught Y. Let the reader choose which is more probable.”

I can agree that we can “forget” here what the teachings of the Church are. Except, maybe, in a final stage of our considerations.

Well, if you let the decisions of the RCC play into it, you get into circular logic. Either the early fathers believed in Petrine primacy, and the church operated accordingly, or the early fathers didn’t, in which case, the modern RCC saying they did doesn’t matter.

The specific proposal in post 11 about why the two explanations can be in harmony with each other.

While I’m not exclusively saying that the two can’t harmonize, I am saying that Augustine didn’t indicate any thoughts like this. He said “I taught one, then I taught the other. You choose which you’ll believe.” Never does he say “both”.

That translates “Sed scio me…”, IMHO correctly. Litterally: “But I know that …”. The only doubt that I can now see about the meaning of this beginning of the sentence can be whether Augustine says he is fully realizing just now, writing the Retractationes, this presence of more than one illustration of Matt 16 in his teaching, or “scio” can just mean he was even before of this reconsideration aware of that, and even he possibly was constantly aware of that.

Okay. Could “but” not be replaced with “however”? I’m not a Latin expert, so I’m not really sure. I’ll have to check into that. A use of “however” would support the idea of the second explanation being a contradiction of the first, putting the two clearly at odds.

That would be an interesting homework, if you want to do it.

Actually, I was hoping someone else had already done it. I barely have the time to keep up with posting here, and trying to read bits of the ECFs, much less the time to comprehensively study and assemble a chart on the subject.

How do you justify that? How do you gather that the words exclude choosing one and dismissing the other entirely?

Not completely.

Then what other choice is there? I only see the following…

  1. Augustine believes both are right. He doesn’t say this. He says “choose” (select an option from multiple candidates).
  2. Augustine believes both are wrong. Again, this is excluded for the same reason that both being right is excluded. If both were wrong, he would condemn them both.
  3. Augustine clearly believe one or the other are wrong. Again, excluded, for he does not explicitly condemn one over the other.
  4. Augustine is not certain of which is right, but knows he has offered contradictory interpretations throughout his life. He leaves it to the reader to decide which is correct, since he himself doesn’t clearly know at this point.

I’d see the choice more as permitted, let free, rather than required.

That’s exactly what a choice is – a permission to select one.

I’d say that he did not see reason to teach which, of the two good interpretations, had to be considered the better.

You keep saying he assumed both of these interpretations to be good, but you have yet to support this claim with anything he’s said. We can assume, as a good teacher, he wouldn’t allow the reader to choose an option he certainly knew to be wrong, but beyond that, we can’t say.

We agree that the choice is allowed, not required.

The very use of the word choice (“choose which of the two is more probable [of being important]”) implies that Augustine does not believe both can be equally right.

Consider this – does what Augustine has said contradict the idea of choosing one, and disregarding the other? I choose to believe that Christ as the rock is more probable, and Peter as the rock is not probable at all. How does this contradict Augustine’s view?


#35

So your response is basically that the very fact that there’s only one passage in the gospels about it, and that it relates to Peter, is proof that Peter was unique?

Dear PCM,
we don’t know anybody else named by Christ “Petros” after Himself, named rock after the ultimate Rock. Do we ? That’s why I read, to the best of my poor knowledge, Augustine’s second interpretation as teaching a “unique connection”.
Anyway, that’s matter for your planned next general debate. :slight_smile:

I previously saw, and rejected such an interpretation, for the words do not say “these are both good – choose whichever you think is more likely”. It says “I taught X, and then taught Y. Let the reader choose which is more probable.”

I am going to come back on this commenting your further paragraphs.

Well, if you let the decisions of the RCC play into it, you get into circular logic. Either the early fathers believed in Petrine primacy, and the church operated accordingly, or the early fathers didn’t, in which case, the modern RCC saying they did doesn’t matter.

No objection. Let us not let the decisions of the Church “play into it”, either way.

While I’m not exclusively saying that the two can’t harmonize, I am saying that Augustine didn’t indicate any thoughts like this. He said “I taught one, then I taught the other. You choose which you’ll believe.” Never does he say “both”.

.
Taken that you don’t exclude they harmonize.

Okay. Could “but” not be replaced with “however”? I’m not a Latin expert, so I’m not really sure. I’ll have to check into that. A use of “however” would support the idea of the second explanation being a contradiction of the first, putting the two clearly at odds.

“Sed” is the Latin for “but”. That’s sure. For possible secondary meanings, related to this one, we should consult the best latin dictionaries. Normally, for a “however”, you can use the word “autem”, which is a little weaker than “however”. For a stronger “however” you could prefer “tamen” ( more similar to “nevertheless”).

How do you justify that? How do you gather that the words exclude choosing one and dismissing the other entirely?

Then what other choice is there? I only see the following…

  1. Augustine believes both are right. He doesn’t say this. He says “choose” (select an option from multiple candidates).
  2. Augustine believes both are wrong. Again, this is excluded for the same reason that both being right is excluded. If both were wrong, he would condemn them both.
  3. Augustine clearly believe one or the other are wrong. Again, excluded, for he does not explicitly condemn one over the other.
  4. Augustine is not certain of which is right, but knows he has offered contradictory interpretations throughout his life. He leaves it to the reader to decide which is correct, since he himself doesn’t clearly know at this point.

I’d like to underline that statements cannot be regarded as simple bits: right-wrong, 0-1 . We don’t live our faith and our life dealing with statements as with simple bits. Let me give an imperfect example. You could say:

  • A) Tomorrow the sun will rise again
  • B) I will never cross the Tiber
  • C) I will get married.

I guess you can tell us A,B and C, considering them, broadly speaking, certain statements. Looking at them more precisely, however, what we have is that each of them has for you its own high degree of certainty (or confidence level, or CL, as we prefer), not necessarily beyond any remote doubt.
You can declare all of them in full awareness and sincerity as broadly certain, but that does not mean the CL is necessarily exactly the same for all of them. There exists, probably, a sort of CL ranking, which could be fuzzy or clear, among statements A,B and C.

Or, I could say that I have a good CL on the reading of the passage in the OP that I am proposing. That’s why I am proposing it.
But if I told you: “I will never leave my wife”, I know that about the latter statement I have a definitely higher CL.

Now, let us suppose that in 2012 I come to see a new reading, and propose that as well, for its CL appears good as well.
Then, I realize I have been offering two proposals. If, and I repeat if, I consider them in harmony with each other, and if honestly there is no major difference between my CL on the former and my CL on the latter, I guess I’d tell (much, much more modestly :slight_smile: ), something like what Augustine tells us in the last sentence of the passage. TBC


#36

You keep saying he assumed both of these interpretations to be good, but you have yet to support this claim with anything he’s said. We can assume, as a good teacher, he wouldn’t allow the reader to choose an option he certainly knew to be wrong, but beyond that, we can’t say.

For what illustrated above, I cannot assume that for Augustine

  1. one is wrong, one is right. And we have already agreed on this.
  2. one has a very high CL, one has a very low one.

The second exclusion is admittedly a little weaker, but it definitely does pass the " put yourself into Augustine’s place" experiment. You would not write like that in case 2) were your tenet.

The very use of the word choice (“choose which of the two is more probable [of being important]”) implies that Augustine does not believe both can be equally right.

See above. I mean: what he can see, when writing the Retractationes, is a minor difference in his own two CLs on the interpretations, and no major difference in the possible consequences of both.

Consider this – does what Augustine has said contradict the idea of choosing one, and disregarding the other? I choose to believe that Christ as the rock is more probable, and Peter as the rock is not probable at all. How does this contradict Augustine’s view?

With such a persuasion, you would not have written the final sentence as Augustine wrote it. Would you ? Then, you and Augustine are in contrast about this issue.


#37

Allow me a long quotation (New Advent translation), from Sermon 26 ( or 76, in other lists)

"The Gospel which has just been read touching the Lord Christ, who walked on the waters of the sea; and the Apostle Peter, who as he was walking, tottered through fear, and sinking in distrust, rose again by confession, gives us to understand that the sea is the present world, and the Apostle Peter the type of the One Church. For Peter in the order of Apostles first, and in the love of Christ most forward, answers oftentimes alone for all the rest. Again, when the Lord Jesus Christ asked, whom men said that He was, and when the disciples gave the various opinions of men, and the Lord asked again and said, “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” One for many gave the answer, Unity in many. Then said the Lord to Him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjonas: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but My Father which is in heaven.” Then He added, “and I say unto you.” As if He had said, “Because you have said unto Me, ‘You are the Christ the Son of the living God;’ I also say unto you, ‘You are Peter.’” For before he was called Simon. Now this name of Peter was given him by the Lord, and that in a figure, that he should signify the Church.

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 be 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.

  1. This same Peter therefore who had been by the Rock pronounced “blessed,” bearing the figure of the Church, holding the chief place in the Apostleship, a very little while after that he had heard that he was “blessed,” a very little while after that he had heard that he was “Peter,” a very little while after that he had heard that he was to be “built upon the Rock,” displeased the Lord…

  2. …Yet see this Peter, who was then our figure; now he trusts, and now he totters; now he confesses the Undying, and now he fears lest He should die. Wherefore? because the Church of Christ has both strong and weak ones; and cannot be without either strong or weak; whence the Apostle Paul says, “Now we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.” In that Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” he represents the strong: but in that he totters, and would not that Christ should suffer, in fearing death for Him, and not acknowledging the Life, he represents the weak ones of the Church. In that one Apostle then, that is, Peter, in the order of Apostles first and chiefest, in whom the Church was figured, both sorts were to be represented, that is, both the strong and weak; because the Church does not exist without them both."

Now we have the context of this frequent quotation, and we can see that:

  • in teaching that Christ is to be considered the Petra and Petros is so called from Christ, and built on Christ ( which is beautiful BTW, IMHO)
  • in teaching that Peter is the type of the One Church (same as above, IMHO) …
    Augustine teaches us petrine primacy. Repeatedly and clearly.
    And teaches that it is a primacy in love. And that it is a very real primacy, not just a matter of place of honor. “Chief place” of New Advent translates “principatus”. This is a strong word for a primacy. It can look like “rule”, “supremacy”.

Many people, quoting out of context the central passage, suppose and let suppose that this sermon by Augustine …disproves petrine primacy !

I hope, therefore, that this contextualization can be useful to understand several things.


#38
  • in teaching that Christ is to be considered the Petra and Petros is so called from Christ, and built on Christ ( which is beautiful BTW, IMHO)
  • in teaching that Peter is the type of the One Church (same as above, IMHO) …

Thank you for this post Pneuma. I agree. Augustine’s words are beautiful.

God bless,
Ut


#39

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