Thanks for all the comments on my pages. They provide a treasure trove of ideas to write about. This idea comes from the comments to the “What Scripture does not say” article.
The objection raised is this, “Peter can’t be the foundation of the Church because Scripture says that Jesus is our foundation and Scripture does not contradict itself.”
So? What do we say to that?
Its not literal
How many of you think that Jesus Christ’s body is lying under a Church holding up the structure? Raise your hands.
I hope no one raised their hands because as you should know, Jesus Christ rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father.
How many of you think that St. Peter is lying under a Church holding up the structure? Well, actually, his bones are under a Church, St. Peter’s in Rome. But they aren’t holding up the structure. So, he’s not the foundation even of that Church.
So, what can we glean from these two facts? Answer: That when Scripture says that one or the other is a foundation, it is a metaphor. A metaphor is a figure of speech which uses a concrete idea to explain something which is true but unseen.
There are many metaphors. For example, Scripture says that Jesus Christ is the doorway to heaven. That’s a metaphor. Jesus Christ is not a slab of wood being held by two hinges. But Scripture does use this metaphor.
John 10:7Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
Does that mean that Jesus is not also the Foundation in another metaphor?
In that very same verse, there is another metaphor. We are called sheep. Does that mean that we are not men? And Jesus is the Shepherd of the sheep. Does that mean that He is neither the door nor the foundation?
What do we do?
So, what should we do when we see a metaphor in Scripture? Let’s look at John 10:7, above. What does the idea that Jesus is the door, convey? For that, we’ll have to look at a bit more context.
John 10:1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
Notice that the door is closed to robbers and thieves. Therefore, the door is a form of protection for the sheep. So, when Christ calls Himself our door, He calls Himself our Protector. Those of us who remain within His doorway are protected from outside influences.
So, when we see a metaphor in Scripture, we need to ask ourselves, what does this image intend to convey?
With me so far?
So, when Scripture uses one metaphor to explain some truth in one part of Scripture and then uses another metaphor to explain something else, the two metaphors complement each other. They do not contradict.
So, is Jesus, metaphorically, the Foundation of the Church? Yes.
Is Jesus, metaphorically, the door to the Church? Yes.
Is Jesus, metaphorically, the Rock? Yes.
Is Simon, metaphorically, the Rock? Yes.
But what do those metaphors mean?
I hardly know where to begin to answer this question. So, let’s go to Matt 16:18. It says:
Matthew 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Let’s also include this little detail:
13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
We know from verse 13 that when Jesus made this comment, He was in the area of Caesarea Philipi. This is a very important detail.
Now, let’s get some background:
In the time of Jesus, Caesarea Philipi had a very famous feature. A large natural rock, from which water poured out into the desert. On top of this gigantic rock, the Romans had constructed a “church”, a temple to one of their mythical gods, Pan. The water that poured out of this rock went straight into a hole which was known by the Romans as the “gates of hell”. This was the opening to an underground river, the Styx, which they considered the river which took the souls of the dead to “hades”, the place of the dead.
Question: Do you think Jesus came to this place by accident?
I don’t think so. But we still need some more detail to get the full impact of that which Jesus meant when He named Simon, the Rock.
1 Corinthians 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
The Rock was Christ. And what came out of that Rock?
Spiritual drink. That’s another term for “grace”. What else came from that Rock?
Numbers 20:8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.
Water. In the desert.
Ok. So, let’s set it up.
Jesus asked, who do men say that I am. Simon said, you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. And Jesus, with the Rock in the background and the temple on top of that Rock and the fountain of water pouring out into the desert and the gaping hole which is the gates of hell, said to Simon.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Peter means Rock. So, we can say it this way.
And I say also unto thee, Simon, thou art Rock, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
So, what does the imagery, the metaphor, mean to express.
1st. Jesus is giving Simon, His own name. He is saying, you are like me. Therefore, I am giving you my name and my authority. Rock, is my name. My name and the keys, together, are symbols of this authority.
2nd. Jesus built His Church upon Peter. He is saying, your faith is very great. Your faith will never fail. Thus it will always support and uphold my Church.
3rd. The Rock in the background is pouring out water. Jesus thus is showing that from Peter, grace will pour out to sustain the people of God.
4th. The Rock in the background sustains a temple. Jesus is thus showing that the office of Peter will sustain His Church.
Knowing these things, can anyone deny that Jesus Christ depicted Peter as the Foundation of His Church? I can’t.
But does that mean that Jesus is not, in another metaphor, the Foundation of the Church? Of course not. Jesus can also be described as the Foundation of the Church. After all, in whom does Peter show His faith? In Jesus. The reason why we have our faith in Peter is because we have our faith in Jesus. Without faith in Jesus, faith in Peter is nothing.
I think I’ve said enough on this topic. If you want me to elaborate more, let me know in the comments. Suffice to say that the metaphors in Scripture do not contradict each other. They complement each other, bringing forth greater meaning with imagery that is hard to express in words alone.