Struggling with the Typological Argument for Matthew 16.18-19

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys

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The question last week was to take a perspective on Scripture and examine it. I chose the Catholic on on Matthew 16.18-19. I shouldn’t have. I’ll be honest – I do see Matthew as a typological author. So, I have struggled with this one. It is by far, my least enthusiastic assignment. But, alas, it is an honest one. How would you answer?

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I am responding to Catholic interpretation on Matthew 16.18. Here, here, and here.

Matthew 16.18-19 is a substantial verse upon which to base the primacy of Rome upon for the Catholic.  It was a verse which we, in my previous fundamentalist sect, was required to memorize and if possible, during preaching, bring it up. Here, I am faced with the fact that another interpretation is offered, one in which Rome is declared, through Peter, to be the Rock. For me, it was always my previous sect. To be frank, my hesitancy about calling anyone one group the ‘it group’ is based upon, in part the experiences of the past, the reasoning against such a viewpoint, the tradition of differences which allowed various groups to co-exist and Scripture which doesn’t seem to point to one central locale for the one, true church. Hahn and others, however, believe that this portion of Scripture refers distinctly to the Roman Papacy.

Hahn’s viewpoints are biblical. He sees Matthew’s gospel as one of fulfillment and lapping over the brim with typology. I agree and have agreed for a while now, but where I might would disagree is on the fact that the Pope is not the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of God. While I believe that the connection between the two passages is evident, we have a host of other passages to consider, as well as Matthew’s setting apart of Old Testament passages. For ‘prophetic’ passages, God is seen giving to David or his son the rule of Jerusalem in the realized eschatology. But in Isaiah, we see that a Prime Minister is given the power. Yes, this may allude to the foundation on which the modern papacy sits, but was this what Christ was really speaking about, especially in light of the over passages in which the singular was used for the plural or when in John 20.21-23, the same power given to Peter in the singular was given to the Apostles in the plural?

Further, much is made of the renaming of Peter which mean pebble whereas the rock means rock mass. It wasn’t Peter himself which the rock was, but Peter’s revelation. And, if we are to take a canonical look, we find that the same authority, albeit in a much more spiritual form, is given to the Apostles as a whole in John 20.21-23.

Yet, I am finding that many of my answers here are solidly apologetic for Protestantism. I am not in favor of solidly apologetic answers. I am not sure how I will struggle with this issue, as I have told my dear Catholic friend that I disagree with the centralized hierarchy of Rome, although I admit the changes as suggested in Vatican II, if they were ever fully carried out, would be an enticement to be Catholic. Here, though, I am struggling with Hahn’s suggestion that Matthew is writing typologically. Yet, to that I question why in Acts we do not see Peter’s primacy suggested. Further, even in the early Church, we do not see the primacy of Peter suggested, not at least for a few centuries. Even then, both Cyprian and Irenaeus made their own apologies against the primacy of Peter, with one under the rule of Rome!

I am struggling with this one.

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Post By Joel L. Watts (10,153 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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8 thoughts on “Struggling with the Typological Argument for Matthew 16.18-19

  1. Here I’ve not read Hahn, but I’ll offer a few thoughts. He is not the only one to see Peter as being equated with the rock in Matthew 16. A host of Protestant commentators have agreed on this point, only they interpret differently what it means for Peter to be the rock.
    Second, no pride of place for Peter in Acts? I’m incredulous.
    Third, as I’ve said in our private conversations, from what you are saying, the way that Hahn is presenting the issue is not necessarily the way that all Catholics see it. Rather, in places like Matthew 16, some see a pride of place given to Peter. The papacy, then, is the later outworking of this pride of place. It’s not necessarily that the idea of the papacy is there in some clear cut fashion in Matthew 16, but rather it is there is seed form.
    Anyway, I know that you and I have talked about this a bit before, but I just wanted to post these thoughts here for others who might read this post.

  2. Joel – Are you familiar with the Catholic response to the difficulty of the Greek “pebble” vs “rock” as regards gender, as opposed to the Aramaic, which is likely the language in which Christ declared the name change, where such a distinction of gender would not have been necessary and therefore would not have resulted in two different words being utilized?

  3. Sorry Joel, I clicked through to your sources and saw that these do, in fact, deal with the Greek/Aramaic issue I raised in my previous comment, so obviously you are familiar with this linguistic issue.

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