Let Us Attend Orthodox Apologetics
St. Augustine on the "Rock"

This is the first of a few writings that I found, here and there, that made me realize that the Orthodox view of the Church, Peter, and the Papacy were correct. While a number of Fathers can be cited, Saint Augustine of Hippo is, by far, one of the most influential teachers in the Western Church.

It has been said that Augustine was, in the words of Catholic Answers, "a diehard supporter of the Papacy." This writer will not disagree. But it has been pointed out by many scholars that Augustine's view of Matthew 16:18 has been distorted over time; it has been stipulated that his views supported the idea of Papal Supremacy. But let us look, then, at one of the sermons in question from the works of Augustine and see if this is actually the case. (Note: Certain key points are italicized.)

It should be noted that this is not the only time that Augustine "misunderstands" that Matthew intended Peter to be the Rock of the Church; I am not saying this with a negative spirit, simply a truthful one. While some question Augustine's orthodoxy, overall this was not a person who could be used to justify Papal primacy.

A final note: Since I am not a fan of "scripture twisting" and "patristic twisting", I deign to put a rather nice chunk of text here. Read it all carefully, so as the interpretation is clear.

--Joe Suaiden (1998)

Sermon XXVI. [LXXVI. Ben.]

Again on Matt. Xiv. 25: Of the Lord walking on the waves of the sea, and of Peter tottering.

1. The Gospel which has just been read touching the Lord Christ, who walked on the waters of the sea; and the Apostle Peter, who as he was walking, tottered through fear, and sinking in distrust, rose again by confession, gives us to understand that the sea is the present world, and the Apostle Peter the type of the One Church. For Peter in the order of Apostles first, and in the love of Christ most forward, answers oftentimes alone for all the rest. Again, when the Lord Jesus Christ asked, whom men said that He was, and when the disciples gave the various opinions of men, and the Lord asked again and said, "But whom say ye that I am?" Peter answered, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." One for many gave the answer, Unity in many. Then said the Lord to Him, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonas: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven." Then He added, "and I say unto thee." As if He had said, "Because thou hast said unto Me, `Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God;' I also say unto thee, `Thou art Peter.'" For before he was called Simon. Now this name of Peter was given him by the Lord, and that in a figure, that he should signify the Church. For seeing that Christ is the rock (Petra), Peter is the Christian people. For the rock (Petra) is the original name. Therefore Peter is so called from the rock; not the rock from Peter; as Christ is not called Christ from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. "Therefore," he saith, "Thou art Peter; and upon this Rock" which thou hast confessed, upon this Rock which thou hast acknowledged, saying, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, will I build My Church;" that is upon Myself, the Son of the living God, "will I build My Church." I will build thee upon Myself, not Myself upon thee.

2. For men who wished to be built upon men, said "I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas," who is Peter. But others who did not wish to be built upon Peter, but upon the Rock, said, "But I am of Christ." And when the Apostle Paul ascertained that he was chosen, and Christ despised, he said, "Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" And, as not in the name of Paul, so neither in the name of Peter; but in the name of Christ: that Peter might be built upon the Rock, not the Rock upon Peter.

3. This same Peter therefore who had been by the Rock pronounced "blessed," bearing the figure of the Church, holding the chief place in the Apostleship, a very little while after that he had heard that he was "blessed," a very little while after that he had heard that he was "Peter," a very little while after that he had heard that he was to be "built upon the Rock," displeased the Lord when He had heard of His future Passion, for He had foretold His disciples that it was soon to be. He feared test he should by death, lose Him whom he had confessed as the fountain of life. He was troubled, and said, "Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be to Thee." Spare Thyself, O God, I am not willing that Thou shouldest die. Peter said to Christ, I am not willing that Thou shouldest die; but Christ far better said, I am willing to die for thee. And then He forthwith rebuked him, whom He had a little before commended; and calleth him Satan, whom he had pronounced "blessed." "Get thee behind Me, Satan," he saith, "thou art an offence unto Me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." What would He have us do in our present state, who thus findeth fault because we are men? Would you know what He would have us do? Give ear to the Psalm; "I have said, Ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the Most High." But by savouring the things of men; "ye shall die like men." The very same Peter a little while before blessed, afterwards Satan, in one moment, within a few words! Thou wonderest at the difference of the names, mark the difference of the reasons of them. Why wonderest thou that he who was a little before blessed, is afterwards Satan? Mark the reason wherefore he is blessed. "Because flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven."10 Therefore blessed, because flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee. For if flesh and blood revealed thisto thee, it were of thine own; but because flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven, it is of Mine, not of thine own. Why of Mine? "Because all things that the Father hath are Mine."11 So then thou hast heard the cause, why he is "blessed," and why he is "Peter." But why was he that which we shudder at, and are loth to repeat, why, but because it was of thine own? "For thou savourest not the things which be of God, but those that be of men."

4. Let us, looking at ourselves in this member of the Church, distinguish what is of God, and what of ourselves. For then we shall not totter, then shall we be founded on the Rock, shall be fixed and firm against the winds, and storms, and streams, the temptations, I mean, of this present world. Yet see this Peter, who was then our figure; now he trusts, and now he totters; now he confesses the Undying, and now he fears test He should die. Wherefore? because the Church of Christ hath both strong and weak ones; and cannot be without either strong or weak; whence the Apostle Paul says, "Now we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak." In that Peter said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," he represents the strong: but in that he totters, and would not that Christ should suffer, in fearing death for Him, and not acknowledging the Life, he represents the weak ones of the Church. In that one Apostle then, that is, Peter, in the order of Apostles first and chiefest, in whom the Church was figured, both sorts were to be represented, that is, both the strong and weak; because the Church doth not exist without them both.
Let Us Attend Orthodox Apologetics