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turned from the opinion of the multitudes’to elicit the faith of the
and its equally representative application: With the mouth con* Rom. x. 10 fession is made unto salvation.'a The words of the confession are
given somewhat differently by the three Evangelists. From our standpoint, the briefest form (that of St. Mark): “Thou art the Christ,' means quite as much as the fullest (that of St. Matthew): "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.' We can thus understand, how the latter might be truthfully adopted, and, indeed, would be the most truthful, accurate, and suitable in a Gospel primarily written for the Jews. And here we notice, that the most exact form of the words seems that in the Gospel of St. Luke: "The Christ of God.'
In saying this, so far from weakening, we strengthen the import of this glorious confession. For, first, we must keep in view, that the confession: Thou art the Messiah’ is also that: Thou art the Son of the Living God.' If, according to the Gospels, we believe that Jesus was the true Messiah, promised to the fathers—the Messiah of God'—we cannot but believe that He is the Son of the Living God.' Scripture and reason equally point to this conclusion from the premisses. But, further, we must view such a confession, even though made in the power of God, in its historical connection. The words must have been such as Peter could have uttered, and the disciples acquiesced in, at the time. Moreover, they should mark a distinct connection with, and yet progress upon, the past. All these conditions are fulfilled by the view here taken. The full knowledge, in the sense of really understanding, that He was the Son of the Living God, came to the disciples only after the Resurrection. Previously to the confession of Peter, the ship's company, that had witnessed His walking on the water, had owned: Of a truth Thou art the Son of God,'' but not in the sense in which a well-informed, believing Jew would hail Him as the Messiah, and the Son of the Living God,' designating both His Office and His Nature-and these two in their
Rom. i. 4
e St. Matt. xiv. 33
THOU ART PETER.'
combination. Again, Peter himself had made a confession of Christ, CHAP. when, after His discourse at Capernaum, so many of His disciples had XXXVII forsaken Him. It had been : 'We have believed, and know that Thou art the Holy One of God.' a 1 The mere mention of these words • St. Jolin shows both their internal connection with those of his last and crowning confession : ‘Thou art the Christ of God, and the immense
The more closely we view it, the loftier appears the height of this confession. We think of it as an advance on Peter's past; we think of it in its remembered contrast to the late challenge of the Pharisees, and as so soon following on the felt danger of their leaven. And we think of it, also, in its almost immeasurable distance from the appreciative opinion of the better disposed among the people. In the words of this confession Peter has consciously reached the firm ground of Messianic acknowledgment. All else is implied in this, and would follow from it. It is the first real confession of the Church. We can understand, how it followed after solitary prayer by Christ b_we can scarcely doubt, for that very revelation by the St. Luke Father, which He afterwards joyously recognised in the words of Peter.
The reply of the Saviour is only recorded by St. Matthew. Its omission by St. Mark might be explained on the ground that St. Peter himself had furnished the information. But its absence there and in the Gospel of St. Luke 2 proves (as Beza remarks), that it could never have been intended as the foundation of so important a doctrine as that of the permanent supremacy of St. Peter. But even if it were such, it would not follow that this supremacy devolved on the successors of St. Peter, nor yet that the Pope of Rome is the successor of St. Peter; nor is there even solid evidence that St. Peter ever was Bishop of Rome. The dogmatic inferences from a certain interpretation of the words of Christ to Peter being therefore utterly untenable, we can, with less fear of bias, examine their meaning. The whole form here is Hebraistic. The blessed art thou ’ is Jewish in spirit and form; the address, Simon bar Jona,' proves that the Lord spake in Aramaic. Indeed, a Jewish Messiah responding, in the hour of His Messianic acknowledgment, in Greek to His Jewish confessor, seems utterly incongruous. Lastly, the expression “flesh and blood,' as contrasted with God, occurs not only in that Apocryphon of strictly Jewish authorship, the Wisdom of the
This is the correct reading.
Petrine tendency in this, since it is equally * There could have been no anti- omitted in the Petrine Gospel of St. Mark. VOL. II.
* Ecclus, xiv.
.(אָבִינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם) but is clothed in language familiar to Jewish ears
a Pesikta, ed, Buber,
Son of Sirach, and in the letters of St. Paul, but in almost innumerable passages in Jewish writings, as denoting man in opposition to God; while the revelation of such a truth by the Father Which is in Heaven,' represents not only both Old and New Testament teaching,
(). Not less Jewish in form are the succeeding words of Christ : • Thou art Peter (Petros), and upon this Rock (Petra) will I build my Church.' We notice in the original the change from the masculine gender, Peter' (Petros), to the feminine, Petra' ('Rock'), which seems the more significant, that both Petros and Petra are used in classical Greek for · Rock' or ' Stone. The change of gender must therefore have some definite object.
When Peter first came to Christ, the Lord had said unto him: Thou shalt be called * St. John i. Cephas, which is, by interpretation, Peter [a Rock]'—the Aramaic
word Cephas (??, or app) corresponding to the Greek Peter. But both the Greek Petros and Petra have (as already stated) passed into Rabbinic language. Thus, the name Peter, or rather Petros, is Jewish, and occurs, for example, as that of the father of a certain Rabbi
(Jose bar Petros). When the Lord, therefore, prophetically gave p. 168 a, line the name Cephas, it may have been that by that term He gave only
a prophetic interpretation to what had been his previous name, Peter (obs). This seems the more likely, since, as we have previously seen, it was the practice in Galilee to have two names,' especially when the strictly Jewish name, such as Simon, had no equivalent among the Gentiles. Again, the Greek word Petra-Rock-on this Petra [Rock] will I build my Church ') was used in the same sense in Rabbinic language. It occurs twice in a passage, which so fully illustrates the Jewish use, not only of the word, but of the whole figure, that it deserves a place here. According to Jewish ideas, the world would not have been created, unless it had rested, as it were, on some solid foundation of piety and acceptance of God's Law-in other words, it required a moral, before it could receive a physical, foundation, Rabbinism here contrasts the Gentile world with Israel. It is, so runs the comment, as if a king were going to build a city. One and another site is tried for a foundation, but in digging they always come upon water. At last they come upon a Rock (Petra,
). So, when God was about to build His world, He could not rear it on the generation of Enos, nor on that of the flood, who
8 from bottom
I See the remarks on Matthew-Levi in vol. i. ch. xvii. p. 514 of this Book.
2 Thus, for example, Andrew was both
'Avopéas and 89718 (Anderai)="manly,' brave.' A family Anderai is mentioned Jer. Chethub. 33 a.
• UPON THIS ROCK WILL I BUILD MY CHURCH.'
a Ig. li, 1
vol. i p. 243
brought destruction on the world; but when He beheld that Abraham would arise in the future, He said: Behold I have found a Rock (Petra, xo) to build on it, and to found the world,' whence also Abraham is called a Rock (Zur, 718) as it is said : « • Look unto the Rock whence ye are hewn.'bi The parallel between Abraham Yalkut on and Peter might be carried even further. If, from a misunderstanding xxiii. 9, of the Lord's promise to Peter, later Christian legend represented the b, last 6 lines, Apostle as sitting at the gate of heaven, Jewish legend represents 3 lines Abraham as sitting at the gate of Gehenna, so as to prevent all who had the seal of circumcision from falling into its abyss.c? To Erub. 19a ; complete this sketch-in the curious Jewish legend about the Apostle Peter, which is outlined in the Appendix to this chapter, Peter is always designated as Simon Kephas (spelt xo'p), there being, however, some reminiscence of the meaning attached to his name in the statement made, that, after his death, they built a church and tower, and called it Peter (790) which is the name for stone, because he sat there upon a stone till his death' (1287 by ow yw'r).*
But to return. Believing, that Jesus spoke to Peter in the Aramaic, we can now understand how the words Petros and Petra would be purposely used by Christ to mark the difference, which their choice would suggest. Perhaps it might be expressed in this somewhat clumsy paraphrase: “Thou art Peter (Petros)—a Rockand upon this Petra—the Petrine—will I found My Church. If, therefore, we would not entirely limit the reference to the words of Peter's confession, we would certainly apply them to that which was the Petrine in Peter: the heaven-given faith which manifested itself in his confession. And we can further understand how, just as Christ's contemporaries may have regarded the world as reared on the rock of faithful Abraham, so Christ promised, that He would build His Church on the Petrine in Peter—on his faith and confession. Nor would the term • Church'sound strange in Jewish ears.
The same Greek word (ékkinola), as the equivalent of the Hebrew Kahal,
· The same occurs in Shem. R. 15, only that there it is not only Abraham but the fathers' who are the Rocks' (the word used there is not Petra but Zur) on whom the world is founded.
? There was a strange idea about Jewish children who had died uncircumcised and the sinners in Israel exchanging their position in regard to circumcision, Could this, only spiritually understood and applied, have been present to the mind of St. Paul when he wrote
Romans ii. 25, 26, last clauses ?
* See Appendix XVIII,
· The reader will bave no difficulty in recognising a reference to the See of Rome, perhaps the Chair of St. Peter,' mixed up with the meaning of the name of Peter.
5 The other views of the words are (a) that Christ pointed to Himself as the Rock, (b) or to Peter as a person, (c) or to Peter's confession.
convocation, the called,'' occurs in the LXX. rendering of the Old Testament, and in the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach,'a and it was apparently in familiar use at the time. In Hebrew use it referred to Israel, not in their national but in their religious unity. As here employed, it would convey the prophecy, that His disciples would in the future be joined together in a religious unity; that this religious unity or Church' would be a building of which Christ was the Builder ; that it would be founded on the Petrine' of heaventaught faith and confession ; and that this religious unity, this Church, was not only intended for a time, like a school of thought, but would last beyond death and the disembodied state: that, alike as regarded Christ and His Church—“the gates of Hades? shall not prevail against it.'
Viewing the Church ’as a building founded upon “the Petrine,'3 it was not to vary, but to carry on the same metaphor, when Christ promised to give to him who had spoken as representative of the Apostles—the stewards of the mysteries of God'—the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.' For, as the religious unity of His disciples, or the Church, represented the royal rule of heaven,' so, figuratively, entrance into the gates of this building, submission to the rule of Godto that Kingdom of which Christ was the King. And we remember how, in a special sense, this promise was fulfilled to Peter.
Even as he had been the first to utter the confession of the Church, so was he also privileged to be the first to open its hitherto closed gates to the Gentiles, when God made choice of him, that, through his mouth, the
Gentiles should first hear the words of the Gospel, and at his • Acts x. 48 bidding first be baptized.
If hitherto it has appeared that what Christ said to Peter, though infinitely transcending Jewish ideas, was yet, in its expression and even cast of thought, such as to be quite intelligible to Jewish minds, nay, so familiar to them, that, as by well marked steps, they might ascend to the higher Sanctuary, the difficult words with which our Lord closed must be read in the same light. For, assuredly, in interpreting such a saying of Christ to Peter, our first inquiry must be, what it would convey to the person to whom the promise was addressed. And here we recall, that no other terms were in more
| The other word is Edak. Comp. Bible shadow only failure. Hist. vol. ii. p. 177, note.
Those who apply the words ‘upon . It is important to notice that the this Rock, &c.'to Peter or to Christ must word is Hades, and
Gehenna. feel, that they introduce an abrupt and Dean Plumptre calls attention to the inelegant transition from one figure to wonderful character of such a prophecy at a time when all around seemed to fore
• Acts xv. 7