Thursday, August 30, 2007
Penalty: Intentional Grounding
Well now, that's interesting. I'm reading in the Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings, the free book I got along with my subscription to the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series and I come upon this commentary about the Gospel from St. Matthew 16:13-20. And here we have this little reading on the meaning of "Upon this Rock." Here's what the "church father" says:
"This is not the property of Peter alone, but it came about one behalf of every human being. Having said that his confession is a rock, he stated that upon this rock I will build my church. This means he will build his church upon this came confession and faith." (p. 197)
And I thought, Hmmm, well, what do you know, here's an early father asserting against the sway of Roman Catholic argument (you know, that the rock is Peter himself, the Pope, or at least, Peter as he confesses Christ).
In fact, there are a number of somewhat similar quotations, in Augustine, Ambrose, Bede, and others. Well, sort of. Their references are a bit different, in that they tend also to reference Peter's apostolic authority. This particular one, in contrast, seems not only anti-papistic, but a bit anticlerical.
What I find interesting about this quote is its author: Theodore of Mopsuestia. Theodore was condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council of A.D. 553. Now it's true that he was not condemned for his views about St. Matthew 16; no, it was for being a Nestorian, and that, after he was dead. And it's also true that of all the Ecumenical Councils, the 5th was the weakest, being quite politically motivated under the Emperor Justinian, with Monophysite fingerprints all over it. Still, the claim that Theodore of Mopsuestia is a representative "church father" is dubious at best. He was condemned, for crying out loud.
This series is published by InterVarsity Press, and has a gaggle of Lutherans on the editorial board. Methinks they might have done a bit more homework before letting this one out.
And in case anyone's wondering, the Lutheran Confessions call the "rock" the ministry of Peter; which is sort of like saying "the confessing Peter."
At any rate, this referee calls a foul against the editors of the series.