Treat the Marriage Vow with the Solemnity It Deserves ANTHONY ESOLEN

Treat the Marriage Vow with the Solemnity It Deserves


“If only I had been there with my Franks!” said the warlord Clovis when he heard the story of how Jesus, innocent of all wrong, had been condemned to death and crucified.

It’s easy to be the hero in your own imagination. Eleven men eager to get out of the jury room and get on with their business vote to convict, but you, more attentive than they are, hold out and demand that they examine the evidence again. You do what you have sworn to do. Most of the men in town want you, the marshal, to leave while you can before the bad men arrive by train at high noon the next day. A few men promise to stand by you, but one by one they fall away, and they beg you to get out. But you stay, and you do what you have sworn to do. You are the president of a nickel-and-dime lending company, left to you by your father. You don’t like the work, and you’ve had to set aside your dreams of world travel. Your father’s inveterate enemy, seeking to swallow you up, offers you a lucrative job; no more worries about how to pay the bills, no more worries about your old home in constant disrepair. You are sorely tempted, but you refuse. You do what you have sworn to do.

“If only I had been there with my Franks!” But we are there, with every temptation to be a trimmer: temptations to indifference, negligence, self-serving compromise, breach of promise, the shut of the door against a friend down on his luck, the “human respect” that causes us to fear ridicule from men more than we fear to be judged by the Lord. “He will understand,” we say. “He will forgive.” Yes, he will forgive. But how can he forgive, when you are not sorry? If you were sorry, you would not do now what you presume he will forgive later. You are playing with a Jesus-puppet.

Most people will not be Henry Fonda in a steaming back room, with a boy’s life on the line. Or Gary Cooper standing alone in the street, when even Grace Kelly, your new bride, believes you are doing the wrong thing. Or Jimmy Stewart, rising in anger against the temptation to worldly contentment and venality. What would we do?

Consider the one sacred vow that the great majority of people will make: the marriage vow. Apologists for annulments sometimes suggest that we are now so selfish and puerile that it is difficult for men and women to contract sacramental marriages. I might be more likely to take these same people seriously if they then said, “Therefore we cannot abide any pretension to new wisdom that our slack and silly generation may have about sexual morality.” But they don’t say so. We are to believe simultaneously in stupidity and perspicacity unprecedented in Christian history, and stupidity and perspicacity from the same people, concerning the very same thing.

No, I take a common-sense approach to the vow. A young soldier swears to defend the flag of the United States. He does so while knowing nothing of barbed wire and trenches. We hold him to that vow, and do not accept ignorance or immaturity as excuses. In time of war we subject deserters to a court-martial, with the firing squad ready at hand. A young man in business signs a contract. We hold him to it, and do not accept ignorance or bad fortune as excuses. If he reneges, he may be hauled into civil court for damages.

Neither the military oath nor the business contract is as solemn as the marriage vow. Neither the soldier nor the businessman swears for life. Neither the soldier nor the businessman enters a union that is the foundation for all human society, and that reflects the inner life of the Trinity. Neither the soldier nor the businessman commits to love, which implies the gift of one’s entire self. And yet, if we are to judge by divorces everywhere, and those many additional dissolutions of sexual liaisons that have assumed the appearance of marriage and that have resulted in children, we are a nation of runaways, deserters, turncoats, promise-breakers, liars, and bankrupts.

If we had been there with our Franks, we would have found perfectly reasonable ways to shift our loyalty to the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and their Roman overlords, and we would have dutifully gone like lackeys to the nearest blacksmith to order the spikes for our Lord’s hands and feet. We would then have written self-stroking accounts of the experience; of how we came to see that “extremism” and “rigidity” in religious commitment were vices; of how the Lord wanted us to be happy, and we could never have been happy and zealous at the same time. Lukewarm water is best for washing.

I hear the objections. Chief among them is that I am subjecting women to physical danger by opposing divorce. Far be that from me. I am no feminist. I am a realist when it comes to the sexes, and that is why I believe it is absurd and unmanly to expose women to enemy fire on the battlefield. But most people running away from marriages are not in such danger. They are unhappy, true enough. The spouse is difficult to live with. Sometimes there are shouting matches. The spouse spends too much. Or the spouse gets angry when the complainer spends too much. The spouse is too harsh with the children. The spouse is too easy with the children. The spouse works too many hours. The spouse works too few hours. The house is messy. The yard is overgrown. The car is a bucket of bolts and nuts. The meals are lousy. He doesn’t go to church. He goes to the wrong church. He goes to the right church, but he takes it too seriously. Anything, everything.

I have lived long enough to know that troubled marriages are almost always the fault of two ordinary human beings, beset with ordinary human vices. Allowing them to divorce, besides doing considerable harm to the children and to the society roundabout, frees them up to be miserable and misery-making at large. The cure is a conversion of heart. But I am still not talking about the vow. We do not need a cure for that. We do not need to make the soldier brave. We need to keep him from running away.

And yet it might do us well to help our weaker brethren to imagine fidelity in an unhappy marriage. To this end I highly recommend the novels of the liberal Catholic, Heinrich Boell, writing in the decades after the Second World War. In And Never Said a Single Word, the narrators of each chapter in turn are husband and wife, Fred and Kaete, Catholics both, whom any “sensible” person would send straightaway to the divorce court.

They are separated. Fred served in the war and it left his spirit in ruins. He tries to scramble up a pitiful living, working as an ill-paid telephone operator for the diocese, teaching Latin on the side, and begging for money from old friends and priests. His wife and their three surviving children live in a single room, partitioned from their landlady’s by little more than a curtain and a screen. They cannot live as man and wife there, though the landlord and landlady make their share of amatory noises, which the older children are beginning to notice and to understand. The squalor and the pressure of it all caused Fred one day to snap, and he beat the older children, a boy and a girl, though he had never raised a hand against them before.

From that time he has been sleeping elsewhere, homeless. The children long for him to come home, but he is afraid that he will snap again. He gets drunk once or twice a month, he smokes cigarettes, he eats very little, and he saves up a little money for a rendezvous every week with his wife, on a Saturday night, in places that the better class of whores would not endure. Kaete is now pregnant. Every worldly interest instructs them to divorce. They are resigned to it. But they do not do it.

We led Jesus off to be crucified, but he never said a single word. God does not promise us happiness in this life. He promises us what is better: peace and joy and eternal life. Let us heed the words of Saint Paul, rebuking the complaisant in the church at Corinth:

Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure (2 Cor. 11:24-27).

“If only I had been there!” We are there. Will we run away?

Editor’s note: Pictured above is “The Wedding Register” painted by Edmund

By Anthony Esolen

Anthony Esolen is Professor and Writer in Residence at Northeast Catholic College in Warner, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life(Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan Books, 2016); Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017); and Nostalgia(Regnery, 2018)

Bishop Barron offers free online course on evangelization

Bishop Barron offers free online course on evangelization

Bishop Robert Barron 

John Burger | Jun 27, 2019

Word on Fire offers course to help combat rise of “nones” in American society.

Bishop Robert Barron is offering a free online course on evangelization as part of an effort to respond to what he calls “the greatest challenge of our time,” the increasing number of people who have no religious affiliation.

“This problem is especially acute among the young,” says Bishop Barron in an introductory video for the course. “Upwards of 40% of those under 30 in our country now claim No Religion, and in fact the number’s worse among young Catholics, where it’s upwards of 50%,” for those under 20.

Instructors in the course are Word on Fire Fellows, including Leah Libresco, author of Arriving at Amen and Building the Benedict Option; Christopher Kaczor, author of The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church and Life Issues, Medical Choices, and Holly Ordway, author of Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith. The course includes lessons on reaching out to “the indifferent,” how the “nones” can misread the Bible, imaginative apologetics, and science for evangelists.

The course is part of a movement that Word on Fire is trying to get off the ground, centered on a Word on Fire Institute. That came about in response to a  request from some of the younger staffers at Word on Fire for some kind of religious community affiliated with the work.

“Young people were so committed to [the work of Word on Fire] that they really wanted it to be a whole style of life,” Bishop Barron said on the Word on Fire Show.

The first step of the process, Bishop Barron explained, is to form a community of evangelists who share the same mission and desire to proclaim Christ using beauty, goodness, and truth. “The critical task of training modern evangelists to effectively proclaim Christ to the culture is the primary motive behind the establishment of the new Word on Fire Institute,” said Bishop Barron, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“We need a vast, well-formed army of evangelists,” says the director of the Institute, Jared Zimmerer, “who encourage one another, strive after a radical relationship with Christ through the sacraments, and leave their doorstep every single day ready to proclaim Christ in the culture.”

Those who join the Institute, for $27 a month, also will have free access to Word on Fire Digital, which includes all of Bishop Barron’s films, including his Catholicism series; public talks; recordings, and study materials.End Quotes



Discover the animating principles of the Word on Fire movement and the guiding lights of the Word on Fire Institute.

These 8 principles stem from the years of Bishop Robert Barron’s evangelical work and have been recognized as the foundational pillars of our spirituality of evangelization.


Jared Zimmerer holds a Master’s Degree in Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary where he wrote his thesis entitled Thomas Merton’s Perspective of Asceticism as an Evangelical Strategy. He is an author, speaker, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, with a passion for the sports and fitness culture.


He spent four years as the Director of Adult Catechesis and Family Life at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Parish in Grapevine, Texas before joining the team at Word on Fire. He has written two books, The Ten Commandments of Lifting Weights and Man Up! Becoming the New Catholic Renaissance Man. Jared has appeared on EWTN and has been interviewed on numerous radio shows and podcasts.


Gospel Mt 7:21-29

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
Then I will declare to them solemnly,
‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.

The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

When Jesus finished these words,
the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority,
and not as their scribes.



Ridding ourselves of “Self”

Another I Am a Catholic shared-Lesson

by Patrick Miron


Having just passed “All saints Day”, which is followed by “All souls Day”; I find it a difficult task not to at least briefly reflect upon the “Four Last things” …. Death, Judgment, hell or Heaven; although this is not the primary subject of this reflection.

I’ve had the topic heading on my desk now for a month or so; not knowing just how to proceed. Today a series of Mass readings and other such reflections have given be some insight on how to continue. What I am going to share are a number of those reflection’s, so the “by Patrick Miron” will be more along the line of a facilitator; than an original author.

It is my prayerful hope that you will find one of more of them to be of spiritual benefit to you.

Objectively speaking, America {and many other countries as well} have succumbed to a self-inflicted plague, that I shall term “MEISM.” It’s ALL about Me! A natural consequence of which is a malaise a sickness that has no evident vaccine on the horizon.  This was caused by both of sins of omission as well as sins of commission. Driven by pride {Satan’s most utilized tool}, it’s easy to actually convince oneself that we Do know more, that we Do know better than God and His Catholic Church on those issues that we tend [un] “naturally” to disagree with. …contraception, voting for religious rights rather than political parties, and you pick this next one.,

One of the most disturbing, and destressing facts of recent years elections, is the large numbers of self- identified Catholics, {historically 50+%} who freely choose to support legislated abortions, same sex “marriages” and even transgender mandated bathrooms and locker- rooms by a the National Democratic Party; placing Party “loyalty” over religious Moral absolutes.

Have we forgotten Sodom & Gomora; can the present legislated-immorality of today’s America; encouraged, supported, or merely accepted in silence be any greater than the moral depravity of those LOST cities?  … That more than HALF of the USA’S Catholic population; can somehow justify to themselves that ANY factor, or personal or political agenda issues, can supersede the Legalized and Tax-payer funded MURDER of the Holy Innocents; is itself, a hell-worthy condemnation. And WE who simply “look the other way”; who make little or no efforts to change and challenge the culture; are WE any better than those who vote into high office these A-moral [without ANY mortal foundation} candidates?

We choose for ourselves where we will spend Eternity. God’s Mercy is Great but NOT infinite!

Anyway, here are a number of reflections that I feel compelled to share with you.

1PHIL 3:17—4:1

Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters,
and observe those who thus conduct themselves
according to the model you have in us.
For many, as I have often told you
and now tell you even in tears,
conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Their end is destruction.
Their God is their stomach;
their glory is in their “shame.”
Their minds are occupied with earthly things.

But our citizenship is in heaven,
and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He will change our lowly body
to conform with his glorified Body
by the power that enables him also
to bring all things into subjection to himself


Heb.6: 10 “For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.”

Rev.2: 23 “and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches shall know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.”

1 Peter 1: 17 “Now if you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one’s works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, “

Matt.19: 17 “And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 


Philippians: 2: 3 to 4 “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others”

FROM Saint John Paul II

“Freedom consist not in doing what we like, but in having the RIGHT to do as we OUGHT/” Emphasis mine

FROM Pope Benedict XVI

“Help each other to live and to grow in Christian Faith so as to be a valiant witness for the Lord. Be UNITED, but not closed. Be HUMBLE, but not fear, be SIMPLE, but not naive. Be THOUGHTFUL, but not complicated; enter into dialog with others but be YOURSELVES.” 

FROM the “Bread of Life Booklet for November 4th, 2016

“Many people desire to get their bodies in shape. They want to feel good and look good. Having a healthy body is a good thing; but it’s not the only thing.  The reality is that our bodies will die. {Genesis 3:19} Whether your body is healthy, sickly or infirm you can join your body to the body of Jesus hanging on the Cross. Now your suffering is united to His. …………… How should WE live to make our bodies and souls live with Jesus forever? WE make our bodies {& our minds and hearts} enemies of THIS world.”

 FROM an unknown author

“In every lie; there is an element of truth” …..  {“A partial truth is still a lie!”}

 FROM the book: “33Day’s to Morning Glory”… a self -retreat

Quoting saint {Mother} Theresa of Calcutta {day 16-17}

[Our Lady] was the first person to hear Jesus cry “I THIRST” {John 19:28} with St. John and I am sure Mary Magdalen. Because Our Lady was there on Calvary, she knows how deep, how real is His longing for you …………. Her role is to bring you face to face with the love in the heart of Jesus crucified……….  I {Jesus} have asked you, they {John and Madelyn} have asked you, and My Mother [Mary] has asked you. Will you refuse to do this for Me?  …….. To take care of them [the poor, the homeless, the needy] and bring them to Me?

 FROM me

Most of us “Die” to Live; when we out to live in order to Die united to Christ.

It seems to Me, that we can either choose to play now and suffer later; OR to PRAY now, suffer in “silence” [without complains] and greatly increase our chances of Eternal Life in heaven.

There are no “free-rides;” Heaven demands that the price of admission be paid.

 FROM Father John A. Hardon’s Prayer book

From the Stations of the Cross: the 1st Station: Jesus is Condemned to Death

“Jesus, hearing His sentence, has only one resolve at heart: to compete His mission in spite of all of the repugnance’s of nature.

Should I, His companion, abandon my resolutions in order to follow my whims? I desire to be perfect, a saint and an apostle according to my vocation. For love of God alone, I will become indifferent to everything {this is the cure to America’s self- inflicted MEISM plague}. A man of eternity, yet doomed to die, I am impatient to fulfill my mission: to glorify God and to save my soul. Since I am on the road to heaven, I MUST {emphasis mine} ascend by Calvary, which is the only way there.” {Amen!}

Matt.10:38 “and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Matt.16:24 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

The Four {unavoidable} LAST Things ………………



Hell or


Pray very much and make Heaven your lives’ goal!

God Bless you,


St Joseph Dispenser of the Treasures of the Sacred Heart: by LEONORA BUTAU

St Joseph Dispenser of the Treasures of the Sacred Heart


Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus; a feast that helps us to reflect more deeply on the magnitude of Christ’s love for souls. It is a feast that comes with an invitation to experience the “abundance of healing waters, that is, heavenly gifts of divine love, issuing from the Sacred Heart of our Redeemer,” as Pope Pius XII so wonderfully expressed in the encyclical, Haurietis Aquas, written in 1956, on occasion of the centenary anniversary of its institution. Pope Pius XII refers to this feast as an “inestimable gift” to the Church; for it is from the Sacred Heart of Jesus that we receive the fountain of living water that heals, purifies, and strengthens us, and that enables us to recognize that we are each infinitely loved by God. This healing and life-giving water, pouring out from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is what the world, and each one of us, is thirsting for.

What is interesting about this great feast is St. Joseph’s connection to it. Curiously, St. Joseph is addressed in many prayers as the “dispenser of the treasures of the Sacred Heart.” But what does this mean? Firstly, let us recall that the Heart of Jesus, the Incarnate Word, was nourished in Nazareth, in the loving daily life that Jesus shared with the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. With Mary, Joseph offered the Sacred Heart of Jesus—the source of mercy and love—all the love, honor, and adoration of his own heart. St. Peter Julian Eymard wrote that:

Aside from the Blessed Virgin, Saint Joseph was the first and most perfect adorer of our Lord… Saint Joseph joined with Mary in adoration and united himself to Christ, whose heart surged with sentiments of adoration, love and praise for the Father and of charity for men. Saint Joseph’s adoration kept pace with every stage of our Lord’s life, drawing upon the grace, the spirit, and the virtue of each mystery.

St. Peter Julian Eymard sees in St. Joseph, the person who, apart from Mary, most perfectly loved, adored, contemplated, served, and reflected the furnace of love in the Heart of his Son, Jesus. By drawing closer to St. Joseph, we draw close to the one who, after Mary, best penetrated the depths of the treasures found in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and who, after Mary, can best help us drink from the life-giving fountain of Christ’s love.

God the Father entrusted St. Joseph, as Head and Guardian of Holy Family, with his greatest treasures. In the Patriarch Joseph, who was made steward of all of Pharaoh’s possessions and was tasked with feeding the people during a time of great famine, we see the foreshadowing of St. Joseph. As patron of the Universal Church, St. Joseph has the vital role of protecting the Body of Christ, and leading parched and hungry souls, purchased at so great a price, to his Son, the true Bread of Life. Just as Mary, the Mother of Christ, is also Mother of the Body of Christ, the Church, we, the members of the same Body of Christ, are given St. Joseph as our Spiritual Father and protector. He has the powerful mission of distributing the wealth of graces found in the Heart of his Son to each of his spiritual children, and of sheltering us in his Son’s Merciful Heart. St. André Bessette, the great devotee of St. Joseph, explained:

If Jesus remains the sole sanctifier, the never failing source of all graces; if the Blessed Virgin, who came nearest to this supernatural source, being the Mediatrix of all grace, turns the course of that stream towards the earth, then St. Joseph as the protector of the Church, is the steward who distributes the divine favors to men.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus became popularized by St. Margaret Mary Alocoque (1647 – 1690), a Visitation nun. She experienced visions of Christ who revealed his immense love for mankind, and who also pointed out that, for most part, his love is rejected, especially in its great manifestation in the Blessed Sacrament. The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is therefore intricately linked to the great gift of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, with the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus taking place within the Octave of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. In the Eucharist, we, the faithful, truly meet the Risen Lord on fire for love of us and we taste the goodness of his Love. We, as individuals, families, and communities, have the opportunity to adore Jesus in the spirit of St. Joseph, who, no doubt, pondered the excess of God’s love and adored Jesus’s Heart with great gratitude. In St. Margaret Mary’s fourth revelation, which took place on June 16, 1675, Jesus appeared with his Heart exposed and said the following:

Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love; and in return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in the Eucharist. But what I feel most keenly is that it is hearts which are consecrated to me that treat me thus. Therefore, I ask of you that the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a special feast to honor my Heart, by communicating on that day, and making to it a solemn act in order to make amends for the indignities which it has endured during the time it has been exposed on the altars. I promise you that my Heart will expand itself to shed in abundance the influence of its Divine Love upon those who shall thus honor it, and cause it to be honored.

Finally, it is providential and deeply significant that St. Joseph should appear in Fatima during the great miracle of the sun, on October 13, 1917, and bless the world with the Child Jesus. At a time when we are witnessing a great crisis of identity, a loss of the knowledge of God and his love, and the crisis of family life and fatherhood, St. Joseph is given to us as a great gift. We are called to turn to him with great confidence, veneration, and love, and place ourselves under his care and protection. On this marvelous feast, may St. Joseph pray for each one of us, that we may experience the ocean of love flowing from the Heart of his Son, Jesus, especially in his Eucharistic presence, and in turn, lead others more deeply into the school of the love of God!

By Leonora Butau

Leonora Butau, Ph.D., is Program Director at the St. John Paul II Foundation (Houston), a national Catholic apostolate proclaiming the Good News about life and family through education and formation. She previously taught Catholic Ethics and Spirituality at St. Mary’s University, London, England. She earned her doctorate in bioethics from the University of Surrey.

Actually dear friend; HUMANITY Does have a “spiritual body::. I have come to term it “our OTHER  self” by Patrick

Actually dear friend; HUMANITY Does have a “spiritual body::. I have come to term it “our OTHER  self”


“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”  **So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.**

 John.4: 23 – 24 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. **God is spirit**, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”


So HOW then do we reconcile these seemingly contradictory [mortal & immortal] differences? Or is Johns metaphorical?

In the entire Universe OF BILLIONS of things, only one thing can be proven to support life forms: PLANET EARTH.

PLANET EARTH has many MILLIONS of loving things; but only thing is RATIONAL: Humanity.

**In order to be Rational requires a mind, a intellect & a freewill.**

Each of these attributes, Like GOD, are spiritual realities. Should one doubt this; quantify for us your FREEWILL…. What is its size, shape, color and weight? This cannot be done, yet only a foolish person would attempt to deny their existence.

The NEXT question is WHY did God gift every human soul with these God like gifts?

Isa. 43: 7,21 “[7] everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.” …  the people whom I formed for myself
that **THEY MIGHT** declare my praise”

“They Might” is the reason our “spiritual other self” exist. Good or evil is OUR choice and it is We who choose our Eternal abode; Jesus “only” affirms our life choices.

PRAY very much,


A Reflection on Matthew 16:18-20 by a Non-Catholic GREEK Bible Scholar

A Reflection on Matthew 16:18-20 by a Non-Catholic GREEK Bible Scholar

  1. The Exegetical Examination of Matthew 16:18

This chapter will focus solely upon the exegesis of the verse.37 Of course, the primary exegetical problem of the verse is the identity of the πέτρα. Is Jesus referring to himself as the rock, or is he referring to Peter? Could the rock be Peter’s confession of faith? And what are the implications of each interpretation?

“You are Peter”: A Linguistic Study of Πέτρος (16:18a)

κἀγὼ δέ σοι λέγω. “And I” (κἀγώ) follows the revelation that the Father made to Peter. According to Walter Bauer, the pronoun κἀγώ should be understood as “but I, for my part.”38In other words, Jesus is saying: “My Father has just revealed something to you, but I, for my part, will also reveal a truth to you.” Therefore, the και … δε combination essentially serves as an adversative conjunction.39 Jesus uses the emphatic pronoun, which in light of Peter’s confession, means “I, the Messiah”; it marks the following words as important.40 Peter has made an important statement about Jesus; Jesus, in turn will make an important statement to Peter.41

ὅτι σὺ ει Πέτρος. The ὅτι is a substantival conjunction of content.42 It introduces the direct object clause of λέγω. The σοι should then be taken as the indirect object of λέγω. The σύ here is being used emphatically. Jesus is therefore singling out Peter. He is essentially saying: “You, the man who has just made this important statement; you, to whom my Father has revealed this great truth.”43 This parallels the emphatic σύ in Peter’s confession in v. 16. Here, Πέτροςfunctions as the predicate nominative to σύ.

The word Πέτρος means “stone”44 and occurs 156 times in the New Testament.45 Except at John 1:42, where it is used to clarify the Aramaic Κηφᾶς, Πέτρος) is only used in the NT as the nickname of Simon, one of the original twelve apostles of Jesus.46 It occurs 29 times with Σίμων; of those 29 times, three occur in the Gospel of Matthew (4:18; 10:2; 16:16).47 The original name of the apostle is either Symeon or Simon.48 Symeon is a Hebrew name that was used quite commonly among Jews, but this Semitic form is only used of Peter in Acts 15:14 and 2 Peter 1:1.49 In the New Testament, nine people, apart from Peter are called Simon, and two people, apart from Peter, the patriarch Simeon (Rev. 7:7), and an ancestor of Jesus (Luke 3:30) are called Simeon (Luke 2:25, 34Acts 13:1).50 It appears to have been the most prevalent Jewish name between the period of 100 B.C.-A.D. 200, no doubt because it was a patriarchal name that was readily assimilated into Greek.51 It should be noted that the use of the name “Simeon” in 2 Peter 1:1 has been met with some controversy.52 The Gospels, though, consistently use the Greek name of Simon.53 Since there is a similarity of sound between the Greek and Hebrew names, the former probably replaced the latter.54 It is possible that Peter bore both names from the very beginning, especially if he came from Bethsaida, which was under heavy Greek influence.55

Moreover, Simon also bears another name, Κηφᾶς. This name is a Greek transcription of the Aramaic wordֵֹכיפָא .56 The word ֵֹכיפָא means “rock”.57 The Hebrew noun kēph is found in Jer 4:29, Job 30:6, and Sir 40:1458; the common noun kephā appears twice in the Targum of Job from Qumran Cave 11 and several times in the texts of Aramaic Enoch from Qumran Cave 4.59 In the Qumran passages, the word has the sense of “rock” or “crag,” a part of a mountainous or hilly area.60 For years it was thought that Κηφᾶς was not used as a proper name. However, Fitzmeyer has shown that kp  does occur as a proper name in a Aramaic text from Elephantine that dates to the eighth year of the reign of Darius II, hence to 416 B.C.61Thus Peter was not the first person to have had the name, and the existence of Κηφᾶς as a proper name at least makes more plausible the suggestion that a wordplay in Aramaic was involved.62 Κηφᾶς is used to reference Simon most often in the writings of Paul.63 It seems highly unlikely that Paul would simply choose to give Peter an Aramaic name, so it can be safely assumed that Paul knew that Peter was also called Κηφᾶς when he wrote his epistles.64This would indicate a very early use of Κηφᾶς as a proper name, certainly prior to the composition of Matthew.65 This too would lend credence to the arguments that Jesus probably spoke to his disciples in both Aramaic and Greek.66

As previously stated, Πέτρος is used to clarify Κηφᾶς in John 1:42. As a rule, Semitic names of the New Testament period were far more subject to Hellenization than those of the OT.67Often the same name, if it belongs to a NT person, is Grecized68; grammatically, this Hellenization could take place through a variety of ways, but Κηφᾶς-Πέτρος serves as a great example of Hellenization taking place through translation.69 While some have argued that the Κηφᾶς of Galatians is not the apostle Peter70, this is probably not the case.71

“Upon this Rock”: A Linguistic Study of πέτρα (16:18b)

 καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃͅ τῇ πέτρᾳ. The καί merely serves as a connective conjunction, so it should simply be translated as “and.” When used with the dative, ἐπί can be understood in a spatial, temporal, or causal sense.72 Here, a spatial understanding works best, and the word may be understood as “on, upon”.73 The object of ἐπί should be understood as πέτρα.

The ταύτη (“this”) also refers to πέτρα. The use of the article τῇ with the demonstrative pronoun ταύτη, which is in the predicate position, indicates attributive function.74 So, the phrase may be translated as such: “and upon this rock.” The word πέτρα means “rock, stone”; literally, it refers to the rock out of which a tomb is hewn.75 According to Cullman, in the LXX, πέτρα can be used to signify the following: a. “rock or cliff” (Exod 17:6; Ps 80:16); b. place-name or geographical note, (1 Βar 23:28); c. fig. (Isa 8:14), of an unbending character (Isa 50:7) or the hardened mind (Jer 5:3); d. occasionally a name for God (2 Βar 22:2).76 The word occurs fifteen times in the New Testament77; nine of those fifteen occurrences are in the Gospels78; five of the fifteen are in Matthew.79 Only in Matt 16:18 are πέτρα and Πέτρος used in the same verse.


While the argument from Aramaic would work well in proving that the πέτρα in question is Peter, it is by no means certain that Jesus spoke Aramaic here.80 Given the distinct possibility that Jesus may have spoken Greek here, and given the fact that Matthew’s verses are in the Greek, one might do well to stick to a Greek understanding of the πέτρα-Πέτρος word-play. If this is done, a wide variety of interpretations may be obtained. Gundry, for example, argues that the πέτρα is the teachings of Jesus. He argues that Matthew essentially quotes 7:24, so the πέτρα consists of Jesus’ teaching (i.e., the law of Christ).81 But other interpretations are offered as well. Caragounis argues that πέτρα refers to Peter’s confession of faith. He states the following:

It is obvious that if the reference were intended to [be] Peter there were only two alternatives available – which would have put the matter beyond reasonable doubt. The first alternative would be: Σὺ εἷ Πέτροςκαὶ ἐπὶ σὲ οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν. There would still be a word-play here, in as much as Πέτρος would have been understood to refer to the well-known disciple, while at the same time the thought of building would have reflected on the meaning of Peter’s name, i.e., the idea of a bedrock on which to erect the ἐκκλησία. The other alternative, which is still better, would be: Σὺ εἷ ὁ Πέτρος ἐφ= ᾧ οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν. Ηere, the word Πέτρος would have been understood doubly as the personal name of Jesus’ interlocutor and as the rock-foundation of the Church. In this case, there would have been no doubt that the rock was Peter. That Matthew chose to use Πέτρος and πέτρα, two different words, whose very collocation marks a conscious juxtaposition, indicates clearly his intention to contradistinguish the two terms… . It is this confession of Jesus as God’s anointed Messiah, a confession that sets Peter and the other disciples apart from unbelieving Jews, a confession which in Matthew’s context exercises a constraining influence on Jesus to come to terms with his hard calling, to direct his steps to the place of duty, seeing behind Peter’s words his Father’s affirmation of his mission and office, that lies at the basis of Jesus’ words to Peter. Peter’s words are not merely an honorific title; they are a challenge, the challenge of Messianic calling, of Messianic suffering, of Messianic community, of God’s kingdom, of reward and glory… . The πέτρα is the content of Peter’s insight, i.e., that Jesus is the Messiah.82

First, Caragounis places a great deal of emphasis on the fact that Matthew chose to use both Πέτρος and πέτρα in v. 18; for him, this proves that Matthew was not equating the “rock” with the apostle. Second, Caragounis argues that Matthew 16 centers largely upon the fact that Jesus is the Messiah. The “unbelieving Jews” (e.g., the Pharisees and the Sadducees) could not see that truth, and though they previously proclaimed him as the Son of God previously (14:33), even his disciples did not openly affirm Jesus as the Messiah at Caesarea Philippi. While Peter accurately identifies Jesus as the divine Son-Christ (and receives a blessing for doing so), the apostle does not stand at the center of Matt 16:18; what is important is Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ. Other commentators, such McNeile, Allen, and Ryle also support a πέτρα = faith reading of the text. Theologian John Ryle, for example, states the following about the identity of the πέτρα: “To speak of an erring, fallible child of Adam as the foundation of the spiritual temple is very unlike the ordinary language of Scripture… . The true meaning of the “rock” appears to be the truth of the Lord’s messiahship and divinity.”83It should be noted that this view also had the support of some notable Reformers, including John Calvin.84

However, other theologians assert that rock is Jesus himself. This trend started with Augustine, and this was the dominant view dominant throughout the Middle Ages. During the Reformation, both Zwingli and Luther held a Christological interpretation of the verse. In his treatise On True and False Religion, Ulrich Zwingli states the following:

[It] is as though Christ were saying, ‘I was right to give thee the name Peter; for thou art Peter. For staunchly and clearly and unwaveringly [Peter] confesseth that which has saving power for all. I, too, will build my church upon this rock, not upon thee; for thou art not a rock (petra). God alone is the rock on which every building shall be built… . So, thou, Peter, art not a rock.’ For how would the Church have collapsed when he, trembling at the feeble voice of her who kept the door [John 18:17] began to make denial! … That the divine Apostle so understood the words of Christ he himself bears witness, 1 Pet 2:4-5: ‘Unto whom’ – Christ, that is – ‘coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of man, but with God elect and precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house.’ ‘Behold as Christ is a rock,’ you say, ‘so are we rocks,’ But see in what sense Christ is a rock, and in what sense we are rocks. Christ is the rock upon which the building rises, we are the common stones in the building which has its foundations in Christ. Christ alone, therefore, not Peter nor any creature is the rock, built upon which the Church stands fast against all the vicious fury of all the storms.85

Here, Zwingli argues that even in spite of his profession of faith, the apostle Peter cannot be the sturdy “rock” of the Church because he later denies his Lord. If the Church is built upon Peter the man, then it would have surely collapsed when he betrayed Jesus. Zwingli also argues that Peter’s own writings prove that he saw Jesus, not himself, as the “rock” of the Church. For the apostle, Christians are living stones that are used to build up the body of Christ, but Jesus is the living stone upon which the Church rests.

Interestingly, theologian George A. F. Knight holds a similar understanding of the verse. With Zwingli, he argues that Peter never would have understood himself to be the “rock” in question. As a first-century Jew, he would have automatically connected the “rock” with God.86 Throughout the Old Testament, the God of Israel is often called “rock” (Deut 32: 4, 15, 18, 30; 1 Sam 2:2, 22:32, 47; Ps 18:31, 19:14, 28:1, 42:9, 89:26; Isa 30:29). In the whole story of God’s self-revelation through His relationship with Israel, He proved that He was their provider and caretaker – the rock of their faith.87 Like Zwingli, Knight maintains that the rock cannot be either the apostle or his faith because “[in] a matter of only weeks Peter’s faith failed him wholly, and his so-called rock-like qualities became in the High Priest’s courtyard nought but sinking sand.”88 For Knight, then, it is not Peter’s faith that becomes the rock upon which the Church rests; instead, the Church rests on the faithfulness, the reliability, and the rocklike trustworthiness of God.89 Thus, according to Knight, “the rock is none other than God-in-Christ.”90

However, other scholars (such as Keener, Carson, and Ridderbos) argue that the πέτρα is Peter. Against Caragounis, Ridderbos argues that the difference between πέτρα and Πέτρος is rather insignificant. He asserts:

The most likely explanation for the change from petros (“Peter”) to petra is that petra was the normal word for “rock.” Because the feminine ending of this noun made it unsuitable as a man’s name, however, Simon was not called petra but Petros. The word Petros was not an exact synonym of petra, as it literally meant “stone.” Jesus therefore had to switch to the word petra when He turned from Peter’s name to what it meant for the church. There is no good reason to think that Jesus switched from petros to petra to show that he was not speaking of the man Peter but of his confession as the foundation of the church. The words “on this rock [petra]” indeed refer to Peter. Because of the revelation that he had received and the confession that it motivated in him, Peter was appointed by Jesus to lay the foundation of the future church. Only Peter is mentioned in this verse, and the pun on his name of course applied to him alone.91

Cullman agrees with Ridderbos’ assessment. He also maintains that since the word πέτρα is feminine in the Greek and has a feminine ending (-α), the New Testament chose a less usual Greek word which had the masculine ending (-ος) for the apostle: Πέτρος.92 Cullman goes on to state that there is no essential difference between πέτρα and Πέτρος, for even though πέτραdenoted a “live rock” and Πέτρος meant a “detached stone,” the distinction was not strictly observed.93 In several instances, πέτρα is used with the meaning “piece of rock” or “stone.”94

Exegetically, it seems least probable that Jesus is referring to himself as theπέτρα. Carson maintains that if Matthew wanted to say no more than that Peter was the stone while Jesus was the rock, then the more common word to use would have been lithos (which denotes a “stone” of almost any size) and no pun would have existed.95 It is true that there are numerous instances of God the Father being described as “rock” in the OT (see above) and Jesus being described as “rock” or “foundation” in the NT (1 Cor 3:11, 10:4); however, that does not necessarily mean that Jesus is referring to himself (or the Father) as the “rock” of Matt 16:18.96 As a chapter, Matthew 16 does concentrate heavily on the theme of Jesus’ identity, but vv. 17-19 seem to focus particularly on Peter and his statements regarding Jesus’ identity. Therefore, it would seem likely that the πέτρα of v. 18 either refers to the man or to his confession of faith.

If Peter’s confession of faith is the “rock,” then why did Jesus not say “upon this faith” or “upon your words” I will build my Church? According to R. T. France, it is overreaction against the papal claims of the Roman Catholic Church that has inspired some Protestants to view the “rock” as Peter’s faith rather than the man.97 It seems that the word-play and the whole structure of the logion demands that v. 18 is every bit as much Jesus’ declaration about Peter as v. 16 was Peter’s declaration about Jesus.98

It should also be noted that in v. 17, Jesus refers to the apostle as “Simon”. In v. 18, though, Jesus specifically refers to Simon as Peter, the nickname that he had previously given the apostle. If Peter is not in view, why would Jesus deliberately use a word that almost mirrored the apostle’s name? Considering that this is the only place in the entire New Testament corpus in which πέτρα and Πέτρος are used in the same verse, it is difficult to imagine that Jesus was not in some way referring to Peter. This could very well be a case of paronomasia, which is common in the Bible and should not be belittled.99 The only logical explanation is that there is some relationship between the two, and Jesus wanted to make that connection known.

Furthermore, Keener asserts that Jesus does not say, “You are Peter, but on this rock I will build my church”; the adversative δε sometimes means “and” but the copulative και almost always means “and” (with a few exceptions).100 It is true that 16:18 is quite reminiscent of 7:24-27 and ultimately, Jesus’ teaching is the foundation for disciples (1 Cor 3:11), but in this verse, Peter functions as the foundation rock as the apostles and prophets do in Eph 2:20-21.101 If all the apostles and prophets are seen as rocks, does that diminish the unique blessing to Peter? Not at all. Although the apostles may be “rocks” in one sense, Peter is “the rock” in special sense.

In v. 15, Jesus specifically asked his disciples who were present: “But who do you say that I am?” (The term μαθητάς in v. 13 and the plural forms ὑμεις and λέγετε make it clear that he was speaking to more than one disciple.) Only one person responded, namely Peter, and he answered by correctly confessing that Jesus is the Christ. Just as Peter singled out Jesus and unveiled his identity, Jesus now singles out Peter and uncovers his true identity.102 However, Jesus does not assign the role of “rock” to Peter in an arbitrary manner: Peter is the rock because he is the one who confessed Jesus as the Christ here.103 Furthermore, Peter is not given the title because he is inherently worthy to receive it; he is not more righteous than any of the other disciples. Certainly Peter had his failings and shortcomings, as indicated in 16:22-23. But his failures and vacillations do not detract from his preeminence; in fact, his inadequacies probably highlight it.104 Had Peter been a lesser figure, his behavior probably would have been of far less consequence.105 In any case, Peter was able to rise above his shortcomings here and make a profession about the true identity of Jesus; on that basis is his preeminence established.

It has been argued that there may be a Jewish tradition behind the title given to Peter. There is a personal tradition that is connected to Isa 51:1-2, in which Abraham is said to be the rock out of which Israel was broken.106 Davies-Allison notes that there are parallels between Gen 17and Matt 16: in both cases, the reader sees the birth of the people of God (the Jews in one case; the church in the other); in both instances, the birth is associated with one particular individual (Abraham, then Peter); in both texts, the individual has a name change that symbolizes his crucial function (Abraham is the “father of a multitude” while Peter is the “rock” upon which the Church is built).107 While this idea is interesting, it faces the very different metaphor of being hewn from a rock and being built upon a rock.108 Most likely, then, Peter, is probably not meant to be seen as the new Abraham.109 It should also be noted that the Qumran sect was founded upon a “rock”.110 Tractate 1QH 6.25-28 reads: “For Thou wilt set the foundation on rock and the framework by the measuring-cord of justice; and the tried stones [Thou wilt lay] by the plumb-line [of truth], to [build] a mighty [wall] which shall not sway; and no man entering there shall stagger.”111 So, the idea of a community being founded upon a “rock” is present in the Jewish milieu of Jesus’ day.

Certainly, though, questions have been raised regarding this interpretation. After all, if Peter is the “rock” in question, and if he is given a position of preeminence, the question of the disciples as to who would have that place (18:1) seems inexplicable.112 Moreover, in 16:19, Peter is given “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” and the authority to loose and bind things on earth; this would seem to imply preeminence, but in 18:18, this authority is given to all the apostles. Surely, Jesus has not forgotten his own words! If such an authority is given to all of the apostles, then it would seem unlikely that Jesus is referring to Peter as the πέτρᾳ. In light of these factors, does the argument hold that the πέτρᾳ is pointing to Peter?

These questions do bring up valid points. It is true that the other disciples were also given the “keys,” and it is true that the disciples later inquire about “who is the greatest.” Despite the fact that Peter was probably voicing the belief of all of the disciples, it was still he who so emphatically declared their conviction.113 However, some theologians, such as Leon Morris114, point to the fact that it was James, not Peter, who became the head of the Jerusalem Church. If anyone were to be assigned a place of preeminence, then, it would seem to be James and not Peter. Even if it is conceded that James was the leader of the Church in Jerusalem, that still does not necessarily diminish the primacy of Peter among the apostolic band; this is made evident within the Gospels themselves. In all of the Synoptic Gospels, Peter is named first in the lists of the apostles (Matt 10:2-4Mark 3:16-19Luke 6:14-16); the same is true for the book of Acts (see 1:13). Peter, along with James and John, is included among the innermost circle of Jesus’ apostles; even among this band, though, Peter is listed first (Matt 17: 1-8; 26:37; Mark 5: 37; 9:2-8; Luke 9: 28-26; 13:3). Peter asks questions for the disciples (15:15: 18:21), and on one occasion, outsiders addressed him instead of Jesus (17:24).115 It is Peter who is the leading character in the story of the miraculous catch (Luke 5: 1-11).116 It is Peter who tries to imitate Jesus by walking on water (Matt 14:28).117 It is Peter who is called “blessed” for confessing that Jesus is the Christ (Matt 16:17), and it is Peter who is reprimanded for rebuking Jesus when the latter spoke of his impending death (Matt 16:23). It is Peter who cuts off Malchus’ ear in order to defend Jesus (John 18:10); it is Peter who is rebuked for doing so (John 18:11). It is Peter who denies Jesus three times (Matt 26:69-75Mark 14:66-72Luke 22:55-62John 18:16-18, 25-27); it is Peter who receives a special commission from the post-resurrected Jesus (John 21:15-18).

The occurrence of phrases such as “Peter and those who were with him” (see Mark 1:36 and Luke 9:32) is worth noting.118 On the morning of the resurrection, even the angel singled out Peter by saying: “Go and tell the disciples and Peter” that Jesus had risen from the dead. All four of the gospel writers, then, seem to attribute a unique position to Peter.119

Peter is also featured prominently in the first half of Acts. He guides the process of choosing Matthias as a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15-26); he functions as a preacher within the Jerusalem Church and as a missionary to those who are outside (Acts 2:14-36; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43); he is a miracle worker and (as in the case of Paul) some of his miracles resemble that of Jesus (Acts 3:1-10; 5:1-11, 15; 9:32-42); he is the object of divine care and receives visionary or heavenly guidance (Acts 5:17-21; 10:9-48; 12:6-11); and he is a spokesperson for the Jerusalem community (Acts 8:14-25; 11:1-18; 15:7-11).120 Despite the fact that it is James who becomes the leader of the Jerusalem Church, he is not consistently singled out like Simon Peter. Even with James’ eminent position in Jerusalem, it appears that Peter was the leader of the “apostolic band” that is, of the Twelve. It should also be noted that James’ rise in the Jerusalem Church did not occur until after Peter began his missionary work.121Whether the interactions were positive or negative, it appears that Peter became a central apostolic figure because of his close and unique relationship to Jesus.122 Even though the position has its weaknesses, the interpretation of πέτρα as Peter the apostle still seems most likely.

However, the fact that this exegesis points to Peter as the πέτρα in no way endorses a Roman Catholic understanding of Peter’s successors. In fact, the text states nothing about Peter’s successor, papal infallibility, or exclusive authority over the Church.123 Peter’s privilege of being the “rock” is historically unrepeatable.124 Understood in its original sense, Jesus assigns the apostle a unique and unrepeatable position in the spiritual edifice of God.125 On the one hand, the verse speaks of the ἐκκλησία, a fellowship that is to be built in the future, without any time limit being given; on the other hand, the verse speaks about Peter, a human person, whose earthly activity will necessarily be limited by his death.126 Just as Peter’s feeding of the lambs in John 21:16ff is limited by his martyrdom, so is Peter’s status as “rock” of the Church limited by his earthly demise.127 According to Luz, “the rock, the foundation, is fundamentally different from what is built on it, that is, the house.”128 The rock remains, but the house built on it gets higher and higher.129 Even though Peter and the other apostles died, their ministry certainly continued, but in the post-apostolic age it was the apostolic traditions and the writings of the New Testament that “assumed” this ministry.130 Certainly, the apostles appointed elders, deacons, and bishops in the local churches that they founded; this is clear from the New Testament writings themselves (1 Tim 1:1-5, 3:1-13, 5: 17-21, 2 Tim 4:1-5Titus 1:5-9). However, there is no evidence for the succession of the apostles in their apostolic office that is valid for the whole church.131 For instance, the Pastoral Epistles in no way indicate that Timothy or Titus, students of Paul, assumed his role as apostle and giver of tradition. What this seems to mean is that Matthew knows nothing of a perpetual office of Peter; instead, he knows Peter the disciple of Jesus, whose image he preserves for his community.132

“I will Build My Church”: The Role of ἐκκλησία (16:18b cont.)

 οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν. Οἰκοδομέω occurs 40 times in the New Testament, and 8 times in the Gospel of Matthew.133 Οἰκοδομήσω is in the future tense, so Jesus is looking forward to building a community on the rock of Peter. 134 The theme of “building” a people springs from the Old Testament (Ruth 4:112 Sam 7:13-141 Chr 17: 12-13: Jer 1:10, 24:6, 31:4, 33:7; Amos 9:11).135 The metaphorical use of “build” here is appropriate for a community conceived of as a spiritual “house” or “temple” (note the description of the church as God’s building in 1 Cor 3:9; Eph 2:19-21).136

The word ἐκκλησία is used 114 times in the New Testament but only twice in the gospels. Both occurrences are in Matthew (16:18; 18:17). According to Walter Bauer, the term can be use to mean the following: 1) “assembly” such as a regularly summoned political body (cf. Josephus, Ant., 12, 164; Acts 19:39); 2) “assemblage, gathering, meeting” (1 Macc 3:13; Acts 19:32); 3) the congregation of the Israelites, especially when gathered for religious purposes (Deut 31:30; Judg 20:2; Josephus, Ant., 4, 309); 4) of the Christian church or community.137 With regard to definition #4, the term ἐκκλησία may be categorized even further; Bauer asserts that in this verse, ἐκκλησία is best understood as “the universal church to which all believers belong.”138The word ἐκκλησία often appears in the LXX, usually as the translation of קָהָל.139 The possessive pronoun μου essentially functions as an adjective and identifies the owner of the church, namely Jesus himself. Peter may be the “rock,” but the church does not belong to Peter, his successors, or to any other church leader; she belongs to Jesus, exclusively and entirely.140

“The Gates of Hell”: The Strength of the Church in the Face of πύλαι ᾅδου(16:18c)

 καὶ πύλαι ᾅδου οὐ κατισχύσουσιν αὐτῆς. Πύλη means “gate or door”141and occurs 10 times in the New Testament, with four of those occurrences in Matthew (7:13, 7:14, and 16:18).142 Here, ᾅδης refers to the “nether world, the place of the dead”143; the word appears 10 times in the New Testament, with two occurrences in Matthew (11:23 and 16:18).144 The phrase πύλαι ᾅδουoccurs only here in the New Testament, withᾅδου functioning as an attributive genitive to<ι> <ͅι>πύλαι .145 The phrase “gates of Hades” is a common Semitic expression for the threshold of the realm of death (11:23; Rev 1:18).146 The phrase can be found in the both the Old Testament and apocryphal writings (Job 38:17Isa 38:10; Wis 16:13; 3 Macc 5:51), and in later Jewish literature (1QH 6.24).147 Here, though, the interpretation is a bit more dubious. Gundry argues that given the prominence of persecution in the gospel, Matthew is probably using the phrase to represent death by martyrdom.148 Even in the face of the apostles’ bloody deaths, then, the church will still remain victorious. Other commentators, such as Jeremias, lean towards the πύλαι ᾅδου serving as the forces of the underworld.149 Given the usual understanding of the phrase, it is probably best taken as meaning “the power of death” or simply “death.”150

The word κατισχύσουσιν occurs only three times in the New Testament (Matt 16:18Luke 21:36, 23:23),151 and it is derived from κατισχύω, which means “to win a victory over.”152 In other words, the power of death will not win a victory over the church. It makes sense that the antecedent for αὐτῆς refers to ἐκκλησία rather than πέτρα since “church” is closer in proximity.153 Therefore, the church, as an eschatological community, will never die or come to an end.154 As Keener states: “The church will endure until Jesus’ return, and no opposition, even the widespread martyrdom of Christians … can prevent the ultimate triumph of God’s purposes in history.155


 While some exegetes and theologians assert that the πέτρα of this verse points to Jesus or the confession of Peter, the deliberate use of the πέτρα-Πέτρος pun in 16:18, the only verse in the entire NT that contains both words, seems to indicate the Jesus specifically singled out the apostle Simon Peter as the “rock” in question. Peter is not given this position because he is inherently worthy; instead, he receives this title because he confessed his faith in the Messiah. Under the leadership of Peter, Jesus will build his own community (as seen in Acts), and nothing, not even death itself, will overcome the establishment of this body throughout history. Despite the fact that this exegesis points to Peter as the πέτρα, the verse states nothing about Peter’s apostleship being passed down to future successors. It is the historical Peter who remains the “rock” of the Church156, and the exegesis of Matt 16:18 gives no indication that Jesus was establishing a permanent apostolic see for future Bishops of Rome. END QUOTES



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Posted onNovember 26, 2018Authorworking4christtwoCategoriesUncategorized Edit

Abortion, Contraception and the Church Fathers  By FATHER MITCH PACWA SJ

Abortion, Contraception and the Church Fathers

 By FATHER MITCH PACWA SJ      02/16/2012  

Despite what some commentators and politicins think, Church teaching on abortion and contraception has remained unchanged.

The recent indignity by which the Obama administration wants to mandate everyone, including all Catholic institutions or their insurers, to pay for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, has raised the issue of Catholic teaching on these issues.

Some commentators have mistakenly asserted that the Catholic ban on these practices only goes back toHumanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth), by Pope Paul VI in 1968, or as far back as Casti Connubii (Of Chaste Wedlock), by Pope Pius XI in 1931.

The latter encyclical was written in response to the change of moral doctrine by the Anglican Church, which undermined centuries of Protestant condemnation of contraception by permitting it at the Aug. 15, 1930 Lambeth Conference.

Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae in response to the then newly invented birth control pill, rejecting it as a legitimate means of contraception for Catholics. However, these encyclicals, along with the 20th century’s nearly 100 other Vatican statements condemning artificial birth control, were simply restating the continuous history of moral theology on this topic.

Catholics do well to know this history of moral teaching on contraception and abortion to back up our position against the mandate, as well as to know better how to live the Catholic faith. Therefore, we will present some of the texts from the patristic (early Christian) sources to demonstrate how early was the Christian rejection of these practices, known widely in the Greco-Roman world.

The earliest reference to contraception and abortion is in the Didache, a document from the second half of the first century or early second century. Didache reads: “You shall not practice birth control, you shall not murder a child by abortion, nor kill what is begotten” (2).

Many translations read “practice sorcery” because the Greek word sometimes has that meaning (see Wisdom 12:4, Galatians 5:20, Revelation 18:23). However, it also means practice medicine or use poison, and the term may refer to contraceptive measures, as is the case in a number of the following texts.

Another early text is the Epistle of Barnabas: “You shall not slay the child by procuring abortion, nor shall you destroy it after it is born” (19). This also shows that the earliest Christians forbade abortion.

In the second century, St. Clement of Alexandria wrote in the Paedagogus (2.10.96): “Women who resort to some sort of deadly abortion drug kill not only the embryo, but along with it, all human kindness.” This passage supports our translation of the Didache by mentioning the use of drugs to induce abortion.

In 177, Athenagoras of Athens wrote in the Supplication for the Christians: “And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder?”

This is the first of many patristic texts identifying abortion with murder, thereby indicating a high value to the personhood of the fetus. Tertullian’s Apology in 197, while he was still in union with the Church, says, “In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth.”

Tertullian was himself a married man and understood the dignity of the fetus in the womb.

In the third century, Minucius Felix (226) wrote in Octavius: “There are some women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels, and thus commit a parricide before they bring forth” (30).

Around 228, St. Hippolytus wrote about unmarried women, including some reputed to be Christians, who became pregnant from illicit relationships. In his Refutation of All Heresies, he says, “Whence women, reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility and to gird themselves round, so to expel what was being conceived on account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time! And withal, after such audacious acts, they, lost to all shame, attempt to call themselves a Catholic Church” (9.7).

He considers their behavior an effectual refutation of their status as Christians. A document known as the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles reads “You shall not slay thy child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten; for ‘everything that is shaped and has received a soul from God, if it be slain, shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed’” (7.1).

This states the belief that the fetus has a soul and its life must be protected from conception forward.

In the fourth century, the Latin and Greek authors addressed these issues. St. Augustinewrote On Marriage and Concupiscence (419). Though he was already the bishop of Hippo when he wrote it, he is equally famous for having lived with a concubine for 14 years and had a son with her. Therefore, he had an experience of living in a sort of family and he learned from his mistakes. He wrote: “I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame” (1.15.17).

St. Basil the Great wrote in his First Canonical Letter, Canon 2: “The woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder. With us there is no nice enquiry as to its being formed or unformed. In this case it is not only the being about to be born who is vindicated, but the woman in her attack upon herself; because in most cases women who make such attempts die. The destruction of the embryo is an additional crime, a second murder, at all events, if we regard it as done with intent” (374).

The reason he mentioned the “nice enquiry as to its being formed or unformed” is that some theologians thought that the rational soul did not develop in the fetus until the third month or even later. St. Basil simply notes that this is not an issue because at any stage the destruction of the embryo is a “crime” and a “murder.” Pace Nancy Pelosi, who had claimed that since St. Augustine had thought that the rational soul began late in the pregnancy, therefore abortion would be acceptable in the early stages. St. Basil shows that such false reasoning was unfounded.

St. JeromeLetter 22 to Eustochium (396), said: “Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when (as often happens) they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world, laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ, but also of suicide and child murder. Yet it is these who say: ‘Unto the pure all things are pure; my conscience is sufficient guide for me.’ A pure heart is what God looks for” (13).

Here St. Jerome denies that the conscience of the abortion is a sufficient guide. As will be clarified in later centuries, the conscience must be correctly formed so that the Lord can truly find a pure heart in the individual.

Not only did many of the great theologians address abortion and contraception, but so did some councils. The Council of Elvira in Spain (305) decreed two canons forbidding the sacraments to women who committed abortion: “If a woman becomes pregnant by committing adultery, while her husband is absent, and after the act she destroys (the child), it is proper to keep her from Communion until death, because she has doubled her crime” (63). Canon 68 reads: “If a catechumen should conceive by an adulterer, and should procure the death of the child, she can be baptized only at the end of her life.”

A similar decision was reached at the Council of Ancyra (314): “Concerning women who commit fornication, and destroy that which they have conceived, or who are employed in making drugs for abortion, a former decree excluded them [from Communion] until the hour of death” (29)

None of the Fathers or councils offer contradictory opinions on contraception or abortion. Popes Pius XI, Paul VI and Blessed John Paul II were simply presenting the teaching of the Church in the same line of thought that began in the earliest generations, continued through the Middle Ages, and was taught by the Protestant reformers. (Martin Luthercalled people who use contraception “logs,” “stock” and “swine.” John Calvin said contraception was “condemned and “doubly monstrous,” while abortion was “a crime incapable of expiation.”)

The popes have called the Church to a moral and holy approach to marriage and the conception of children. We form our conscience in the light of this constant tradition, and we teach and live it by the graces God gives us.

On this basis we insist that the government allow us complete freedom to practice our religion and its precepts.

Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa is the host of EWTN Live and Threshold of Hope on EWTN. He is president of Ignatius Productions.

Re-printed with permission of the author.  Publication origin: