The disapproval many Protestants have toward the Catholic custom of displaying religious statues and images is fueled by a suspicion that Catholics must be engaging in idolatry by worshiping those statues (forbidden in Exodus 20:3-5 and Deut. 5:6-9). Take it from me. This misconception is far more widespread than you might think.
About 25 years ago, as Karl Keating and I arrived at a suburban Chicago parish where we were to conduct an apologetics seminar that evening, I noticed a life-sized statue of Our Lady of Fatima prominently displayed on the rectory lawn.
Directly in front of her statue were three smaller statues of Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta — the children to whom Our Lady appeared. Their statues were kneeling in prayer, hands folded and heads bowed before the larger statue.
Turning to Karl, as we were getting out of our rental car, I joked, “What a great religion Catholicism is! Not only can we worship statues, but our statues can worship statues.”
We chuckled at the absurdity of the thought.
I repeated this sarcastic quip during later that evening at the seminar and, predictably, the Catholics in the audience laughed. Some folks, though, seemed puzzled by the laughter. The reason? As I discovered, when a local Baptist minister raised the issue during the Q&A session, he and several other non-Catholics in the audience that evening actually believed that Catholics do worship statues. It was the perfect opportunity, then and there, to explain the biblical teaching about religious images in the Catholic Church.
The following explanation is excerpted from my book Does the Bible Really Say That? Discovering Catholic Teaching in Scripture (Servant Books):
Admonitions against idolatry appear throughout Scripture (e.g., Numbers 33:52, Deut. 7:5, 25, 9:12, 12:3; 2 Kings 17:9-18, 23:24; 2 Chron. 23:17, 28:1-3, 22:18-25, 34:1-7). In 1 Corinthians 10:14 St. Paulwrote, “beloved, shun the worship of idols (Romans 1:18-23).
God condemns the sin of idolatry, whether in the form of worshipping statues, or stock options, or sex, or power, or a new car, any thing as an idol. But He does not prohibit religious images provided they are used properly. For example, in Exodus chapter 25 God commands Moses to carve statues of angels.
“The LORD said to Moses . . . you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. . . . There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you of all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel” (Exodus 25:1, 18-20, 22; cf. 26:1).
This shows clearly that there are circumstances in which religious images are not merely permissible but actually pleasing to God. Another example is the rather humorous incident described in 1 Samuel 6:1-18. In Exodus 28:31-34 the Lord commanded that Aaron’s priestly vestments be adorned with images of pomegranates. In Numbers 21:8-9 He commanded Moses to fashion the graven image of a snake that would miraculously cure poisonous snakebites (a mysterious foreshadowing of the cross of Christ [cf. John 3:14; 8:28]). And in 2 Kings 18:4, when the people began worshipping the bronze serpent, the King immediately destroyed it. What once was a legitimate sacred image had become an object of idolatry. (A cautionary tale for anyone tempted toward superstition or idolatry).
And notice what God told Solomon as he constructed the Temple: “’Concerning this house which you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my ordinances and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.’ So Solomon built the house, and finished it.” (1 Kings 6:12-12-14).
This statement is important because the Templecontained a vast number of statues and images including angels, trees, flowers, oxen, and lions (cf. 1 Kings 6:23-35, 7:25, 36). Solomon’s decision to include these religious images came from the gift of wisdom God had blessed him with (cf. 1 Kings 3:1-28). And far from being displeased by such images, “the LORD said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually” (1 Kings 9:3).
Obviously, God would not have blessed Solomon and “hallowed” his temple filled with statues and images if He did not approve of them — further proof that images can be good when used to order our minds toward God and heavenly realities.
Remember too that St. Paulcalled Christ “the express image” of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). The Greek word here for “image” is eikonos, from which we derive the word “icon.”
Just as we keep pictures of our family and friends to remind us of them, we also keep statues and images in our homes and churches to remind us of our Lord, Our Lady and the Saints.
Additional passages to study:
1 John 1:1-3
Related Catechism Sections:
The Crusades = Jihad? Nice try, but no dice.
Maybe you saw or heard about that notorious National Prayer Breakfast speech in which Mr. Obama attempted to equate the Catholic Crusades with violent, murderous Muslim jihad (watch video specifically at 2:00 mark). Well, nothing could be further from the truth. He said,
“And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”
Maybe you aren’t sure how to explain why there really is no moral equivalence — ZERO — between the Crusades and violent jihad. #fact
Well, this powerful 5-minute info-graphic video does it better than anything I’ve seen yet.
Please watch this video, have your children watch it, and share it far and wide on your social media sites. It’s that important. We need to set the record straight for the sake of truth.
Also, I explained in greater detail what the Crusades actually were (and what they weren’t) on my radio show this morning (February 6, 2015).
I must begin by telling you that I do not like to preach on Reformation Sunday. Actually I have to put it more strongly than that. I do not like Reformation Sunday, period. I do not understand why it is part of the church year.Reformation Sunday does not name a happy event for the Church Catholic; on the contrary, it names failure. Of course, the church rightly names failure, or at least horror, as part of our church year. We do, after all, go through crucifixion as part of Holy Week. Certainly if the Reformation is to be narrated rightly, it is to be narrated as part of those dark days.Reformation names the disunity in which we currently stand. We who remain in the Protestant tradition want to say that Reformation was a success. But when we make Reformation a success, it only ends up killing us. After all, the very name ‘Protestantism’ is meant to denote a reform movement of protest within the Church Catholic.When Protestantism becomes an end in itself, which it certainly has through the mainstream denominations in America, it becomes anathema.If we no longer have broken hearts at the church’s division, then we cannot help but unfaithfully celebrate Reformation Sunday.For example, note what the Reformation has done for our reading texts like that which we hear from Luke this morning. We Protestants automatically assume that the Pharisees are the Catholics. They are the self-righteous people who have made Christianity a form of legalistic religion, thereby destroying the free grace of the Gospel. We Protestants are the tax collectors, knowing that we are sinners and that our lives depend upon God’s free grace. And therefore we are better than the Catholics because we know they are sinners. What an odd irony that the Reformation made such
readings possible.As Protestants we now take pride in the acknowledgment of our sinfulness in order to distinguish ourselves from Catholics who allegedly believe in works-righteousness.Unfortunately, the Catholics are right. Christian salvation consists in works. To be saved is to be made holy. To be saved requires our being made part of a people separated from the world so that we can be united in spite of — or perhaps better, because of — the world’s fragmentation and divisions. Unity, after all, is what God has given us through Christ’s death and resurrection. For in that death and resurrection we have been made part of God’s salvation for the world so that the world may know it has been freed from the powers that would compel us to kill one another in the name of false loyalties. All that is about the works necessary to save us.For example, I often point out that at least Catholics have the magisterial office of the Bishop of Rome to remind them that disunity is a sin. You should not overlook the significance that in several important documents of late, John Paul II has confessed the Catholic sin for the Reformation. Where are the Protestants capable of doing likewise? We Protestants feel no sin for the disunity of the Reformation. We would not know how to confess our sin for the continuing disunity of the Reformation. We would not know how to do that because we have no experience of unity.The magisterial office — we Protestants often forget — is not a matter of constraining or limiting diversity in the name of unity. The office of the Bishop of Rome is to ensure that when Christians move . . . (continue reading)
Behind the scenes at the Envoy Institute’s Apologetics Summer Camp
I always look forward to some rest & relaxation during the summer months, and the past several summers have proven to be among the best opportunities I’ve had to do that in a long time. That’s because each summer I have the privilege of hosting a large group of eager Catholic teens, young men and women ages 15-18, at the Envoy Institute’s annual Apologetics Summer Camp, held at Camp Kahdalea in Brevard, North Carolina (www.CatholicApologeticsCamp.com).
These camps are a blast, and I’d like to take a minute to tell you all about them.
The whole week is fun and rewarding for me personally, what with daily Mass, the breathtakingly beautiful scenery of the camp (which is nestled in the foothills of the Pisgah National Forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina), and enjoying the company of my colleagues, Envoy Institute team members, and the camp staff, especially the warm and wonderful Catholic couple who own and operate the camp facility, David and Anne Trufant.
But best of all is that I get to spend time with the young Catholics who attended the camp, helping them learn the basics of their Catholic Faith, teaching them the art of apologetics, and mentoring them on how to successfully explain and defend their Catholic beliefs when they get to college and move on into adulthood.
That in particular is a truly inspirational and energizing experience, for which I am grateful to the Lord. I should also mention that I also have a huge time white-water rafting each year with the kids. But that’s another story for another time . . .
In June, 2010, when I announced that the Envoy Institute had launched its new Apologetics Summer Camp, the reaction from Catholics who heard about it fell into two general categories.
The first was, “Wow! That sounds like fun. How do we sign up for that?”
The second was, “Wow! What a great idea. How come no one ever thought of that sooner? How do we sign up for that?”
Judging from the rave reviews we received from the young people who’ve attended our first three summer camps, as well as the reactions we received from many grateful parents, the Envoy Institute Catholic Apologetics Summer Camp sure does live up to everyone’s expectations that it be both fun, educational, and spiritually life-changing. And that’s great, because that was our goal.
We promise the young people a beautiful, peaceful, fun place where they can enjoy plenty of exciting summertime activities (you know, things like archery, hiking, rock climbing, high-ropes, swimming, campfires, whitewater rafting, and more), as well as deepen their love for Jesus Christ and their knowledge of the Catholic Faith. Please check out our camp picture gallery to see what I mean!
In addition to all the outdoor activities the Envoy Institute Apologetics Summer Camp offers, our campers all take part in the week-long series of apologetics seminars presented by some of America’s leading Catholic apologists and authors, including teachers such as Mr. Jim Burnham, Mr. Ken Hensley, Dr. Paul Thigpen, Msgr. Stuart Swetland, Dr. Benjamin Wiker, Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Mr. Steve Wood, Mr. Ken Davison, Mrs. Melanie Pritchard, and Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. I also teach several courses each summer.
Our faculty of fascinating and erudite presenters teaches the young people each year the basics of hands-on, real-world Catholic apologetics on subjects including:
- “Apologetics 101: A Crash-Course in Explaining and Defending Your Faith”
- “Keeping Your Faith While Earning Your Degree”
- “The Godless Delusion: How to Prove Atheism Is False”
- “Have You Been Saved? And Other Questions About Salvation You Will Be Asked in College”
- “How to Answer Society’s Misconceptions About God and Religion”
- “Faith, Science, Evolution, and the Catholic Church — What You Need to Know!”
- “How I Almost Lost My Catholic Faith in College, and How YOU Can Avoid That”
- “10 Bible Passages Every Catholic Should Know When Talking to Protestants”
- “The Catholic Church and the End Times: What the Bible Really Says About the Rapture, the Anti-Christ, and a Bunch of Stuff Like That”
- “Evangelization by the Ounce: 10 Small But Very Effective Ways to Share Your Catholic Faith”
The lineup of topics offered each summer changes, depending on our roster of speakers, but the above list will give you a good idea of the kind of teaching the young people receive.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the students who have attended our first 3 annual Apologetics Summer Camps were spell-bound by the presentations and by the lively, free-wheeling question-&-answer sessions the presenters had with them after each talk.
But rather than my telling you how the young people react to the Envoy Institute Apologetics Summer Camps, I’d rather let them tell you about it in their own words.
Here are just a few of the many comments we’ve received:
“This camp has been one of the most influential experiences of my life, for sure. I confess that my mom had to push me to come to this camp, and I wasn’t completely willing to come. But I am so glad I did. The speakers were amazing and spread their zeal and love for Christ and the Church to me and the other campers. This camp has inspired me and reawakened my love for God. . . . The memories will stay with me forever. Meeting peers who share my Catholic Faith has been such a blessing and I have forged so many genuine friendships. THANK YOU for this incredibly enriching experience!” — Anja
“It was wonderful to learn how to better defend my Faith and meet other committed Catholics. Everyone at the camp had a really fun time!” — Virginia
“There is no way for me to thank you enough for what you have given me and the rest of my new friends. This camp and the speakers have given me something that has and will strengthen my Faith and my love for God. The trips we took helped me to learn about myself and the love God has for me. I can guarantee that I will be back!” — Jonah
“This has been an awesome experience I will never forget. I have become strong in defending my Faith. Thank you again.” — Danitza
“Thanks for making this possible. The talks were profound and made a big impact. We had so much fun.” — John
“Thank you so much for giving us this amazing opportunity to grow in our Faith in the Church and in our love for Jesus. It has been an educational, mind-opening, experience — but most of all, FUN!” — Jesse
“I learned so much on how to explain my Faith this week! I’m actually excited to go home and share my Faith with all those who need to hear. Thank you again. I made so many friends.” — Emily
“I had a terrific and holy week! I can’t wait to start reading the books I received, written by the inspiring speakers I’ve been listening to.” — Reid
“I learned so much more about my Catholic Faith than I had ever known before. Thank you!” — Katie
“Thank you so much! It was such a blessing to be able to spend time with God and other like-minded Catholics in the North Carolina mountains. The talks were amazing and were filled with so much good information. I’m looking forward to going home and reading & studying my new apologetics books.” — Matthew
“This camp has truly been one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. It has helped me grow spiritually and allowed me to do so many new things.” — Bethany
“Thank you! The camp strengthened my faith as never before!” — Monica
“I have grown deeply in my love for Jesus Christ and the Church, His bride. Much thanks.” — Heather
Now, just imagine your teenager (15-18) learning how to explain the Catholic Faith more intelligently, defend it more charitably, and share it more effectively.
Sounds pretty good, huh?
Well, that’s not a “pie in the sky” idea, because the Envoy Institute’s Apologetics Summer Camp is here for you. Your kids will have a blast in the great outdoors, in a setting that’s close to heaven.
If you’d like to send them to our 4th-annual camp (August 8-14, 2013), please go to www.CatholicApologeticsCamp.com and check out pictures, informative video and other helpful info on the gorgeous camp Kahdalea.
Then, contact the Envoy Institute’s reservation department by calling 855-305-8982 (9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. EST, M-F) and reserve a spot for your son or daughter (or sons and daughters!).
Our booking representatives will be happy to provide you with all the information.
The Envoy Institute Apologetics Summer Camp is open to Catholic students ages 15-18. I lead the apologetics training, along with our superb team of experienced, qualified Catholic teachers. Apologetics books, informational handouts, and other reading materials are supplied to the students during the camp at no extra charge to the campers, as part of their camp tuition.
In between sessions, they’ll have ample opportunities to enjoy fun activities like whitewater rafting, rope climbing, hiking, archery, Ping-Pong, swimming, or just relaxing with a good book in the shade of a tree.
As you can imagine, now that the word is out about how great the Envoy Institute Apologetics Summer Camps are, you’ll want to act quickly and register your child(ren) as soon as possible, because we can only accommodate a maximum of 135 campers, and registrations for our 4th-annual (2013) Camp are filling up quickly. So, don’t delay!
God bless you!
Patrick Madrid, President and Founder
The Envoy Institute
Catholic Apologetics Camp
P.S. If you’d like to register your son or daughter (or sons and daughters) for this year’s camp, please act quickly! Call 855-305-8982 today (9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. EST, M-F) or make the reservations at www.CatholicApologeticsCamp.com. Thank you.
Over the last 25 years that I have traveled around the country speaking at Catholic parishes I have had the occasion to listen to countless sermons from countless Catholic priests. Some of those sermons were limp and lackluster, a great many were quite good — rich in scriptural and practical wisdom and insights — and a few were so compelling that they remained in my mind. This sermon is one of those. Perhaps some of you will agree with me.
This sermon contains no flashy rhetoric. In fact, quite the opposite — the delivery is calm and sedate. But its content was electrifying. I know, I was present in the church, sitting in the back pew, and I saw how it caused everyone in the church to catch his breath (“can he really be saying these things?!”) and listen.
The uneasiness of the parishioners was palpable. I was actually surprised that no one got up and stormed out or stood and shouted defiantly at the priest. After Mass I told him, “I’ve been Catholic for 52 years now, and that was one of the most courageous sermons I have ever heard. Thank you for being willing to stand up and say what you said.” I was told that day by a parish staffer that there were many Catholic Democrats in the congregation. I wonder if this message will affect the way they vote in two weeks.
The priest is Father John Fitch. The church is Epiphany Cathedral in the Diocese of Venice. And the subject of his sermon is, of all things, politics. Politics and moral issues and how so many Catholics today have become more Democrat than Catholic and more Republican than Catholic. It’s a powerful message. I hope you’ll not only listen to it and think about it but also share it.
A bedrock Protestant argument against the Papacy gets reduced to rubble.
You participate in an employee Bible study every day on your lunch hour. This particular Monday, Fred, a new employee, is introduced to the group. He announces he’s a former Catholic and is also a part-time minister at a nondenominational “Bible church” in a nearby town.
As you begin, Fred opens his Bible and begins to “explain” why the papacy is “unbiblical.” The other Catholics in the room look to you expectantly. They know you’ve been attending a Catholic apologetics training course at your parish, and as you look around, you realize you’re the only one in the room who is ready to respond.
You take a deep breath and interrupt. “Fred, what exactly is your main objection to the Catholic teaching on the papacy?”
Fred’s response is as blunt as it is sincere. “It’s unbiblical.”
You grin to hide your nervousness. “Actually, it is biblical, and if you turn to…”
“No, it’s not.”
“Yes, it is.”
Man, oh man, this is getting off to a great start, you think to yourself in exasperation as you open your Bible to Matthew 16:17-19 and read aloud: “And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ “
“That passage does not refer to Peter as the rock!” Fred emphatically declares. “Contrary to the erroneous Catholic interpretation, it refers to Christ as the rock. For 30 years, I believed that Peter was the rock, but then I found the original Greek proves he wasn’t. There’s a distinction between the two “rocks” in Greek. The text actually reads, ‘You are petros,’ which means small pebble, ‘and on this petra,’ which means massive boulder, ‘I will build My Church.’ The first rock is Peter, the second rock is Christ. See? Christ didn’t build the Church on Peter, but on Himself.”
“I understand your argument, but there are problems with it. Petros is simply the masculine form of the feminine Greek noun petra. Like Spanish and French, Greek nouns have gender. So when the female noun petra, large rock, was used as Simon’s name, it was rendered in the masculine form as petros. Otherwise, calling him Petra would have been like calling him Michelle instead of Michael, or Louise instead of Louis.”
“Wrong.” Fred shakes his head. “Petros means a little rock, a pebble. Christ didn’t build the Church on a pebble. He is the Rock, the petra, the big boulder the Church is built on.”
You take a deep breath, calm your nerves a little, and continue. “Well, what would you say if I told you that even Protestant Greek scholars like D.A. Carson and Joseph Thayer admit there is no distinction in meaning between petros and petra in the Koine Greek of the New Testament? [Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), 507; D.A. Carson, “Matthew,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), vol. 8, 368.] As you pointed out, petra means a ‘rock.’ It even usually means a ‘large rock.’ And that’s exactly what petros means, too — large rock. It does not mean ‘pebble’ or ‘small stone,’ as you’ve been told. The Greek word for ‘pebble’ or ‘small stone’ is lithos, not petros.
“In Matthew 4:3,” you continue, “the devil cajoles Jesus to perform a miracle and transform some stones, lithoi, the Greek plural for lithos, into bread. In John 10:31, certain Jews pick up stones, lithoi, to stone Jesus with. In 1 Peter 2:5, St. Peter describes Christians as ‘living stones,’ lithoi, which form a spiritual house. If St. Matthew had wanted to draw a distinction between a big rock and a little rock in Matthew 16:17-19, he could have by using lithos, but he didn’t. The rock is St. Peter!”
Wilma, the VP of finance and a member of your parish has a thought, “Fred, how do you explain the fact that Jesus addresses St. Peter directly seven times in this short passage? It doesn’t make sense that He would address everything to St. Peter and then say, ‘By the way, I’m building the Church on Me.’ The context seems pretty clear that Jesus gave authority to St. Peter, naming him the rock.”
Fred shakes his head. “I don’t think so. And even if petros and petra mean the same thing, Jesus surely made the distinction with His hand gestures or tone of voice when He said, ‘You are rock, and on this rock I will build My Church.’ “
Betty, another young Catholic in the group, chimes in. “I don’t think it’s much use to conjecture about what Jesus’ hand gestures or voice intonations might have been, since we can’t know what they were. And doesn’t that kind of speculation contradict your belief in the ‘Bible alone’ theory? Anyway, speculation aside, we do know that Jesus definitely said, ‘You are rock, and on this rock I will build My Church.’ Going from the text alone, His meaning seems crystal-clear to me.”
You notice several heads nodding in agreement. Fred’s isn’t one of them. “But getting back to the Greek, Fred,” you say, “notice Matthew used the demonstrative pronoun taute, which means ‘this very,’ when he referred to the rock on which the Church would be built: ‘You are Peter, and on taute petra,’ this very rock, ‘I will build My Church.’
“Also, when a demonstrative pronoun is used with the Greek word for ‘and,’ which is ‘kai,’ the pronoun refers back to the preceding noun. In other words, when Jesus says, ‘You are rock, and on this rock I will build My Church,’ the second rock He refers to has to be the same rock as the first one. Peter is the rock in both cases.
“Jesus could have gotten around it if He’d wanted to. He didn’t have to say, ‘And,’ kai, ‘on this rock I will build My Church.’ He could’ve said, ‘But,’ alla, ‘on this rock I will build My Church,’ meaning another rock. He would have then had to explain who or what this other rock was. But He didn’t do that.”
Fred flips through his Bible. “God says in Isaiah 44:8, ‘And you are My witnesses! Is there a God besides Me? There is no Rock; I know not any.’ And 1 Corinthians 10:4 says, ‘And all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ.’ See? These passages tell us Peter could not have been the rock of Matthew 16:17-19. Only God — Christ — is a rock.”
“That’s a good point,” you say. “Yes, God is called ‘rock’ in Isaiah 44:8 and elsewhere. But notice that just seven chapters later in Isaiah 51:1-2, God Himself calls Abraham the rock from which Israel was hewn. Is this a contradiction? No. Jesus is the one foundation of the Church in 1 Corinthians 3:11, but in Revelation 21:14 and Ephesians 2:20, we’re told that the Apostles are the foundation of the Church. Jesus said He is the light of the world in John 9:5, but the Bible also says in Matthew 5:14 that Christians are the light of the world. Jesus is our ‘one teacher’ in Matthew 23:8, yet in Ephesians 4:11 and James 3:1, it says ‘there are many teachers’ in the Body of Christ.
“Are these contradictions? Of course not. The Apostles can be the foundation of the Church because they are in Christ, the one Foundation. The Church can be the light of the world because she is in the true Light of the world. A teacher can teach because he is in the one true Teacher, Christ. In the same way, St. Peter is indeed the rock of Matthew 16, and that doesn’t detract from Christ being the rock of 1 Corinthians 10:4. St. Peter’s ‘rock-ness’ is derived from Christ.
“Aside from everything we said earlier about the Greek,” you continue, “there’s an even stronger case that can be made for Christ meaning Peter was the rock on which He would build His Church. When Jesus gave Simon the name ‘Rock,’ we know it was originally given in Aramaic, a sister language of Hebrew, and the language that Jesus and the Apostles spoke. And the Aramaic word for ‘rock’ is kepha. This was transliterated in Greek as Cephas or Kephas, and translated as Petros. In Aramaic, nouns do not have gender as they do in Greek, so Jesus actually said, and St. Matthew first recorded, ‘You are Kephas and on this kephas I will build My Church.’ Clearly the same rock both times.
“And just as Greek has a word for ‘small stone,’ lithos, so does Aramaic. That word is evna. But Jesus did not change Simon’s name to Evna, He named him Kephas, which translates as Petros, and means a large rock.”
“No way,” Fred shakes his head. “There’s no evidence in Scripture that Christ spoke in Aramaic or originally gave Simon the name ‘Kephas.’ All we have to go on is the Greek, and the Greek says Simon was called Petros, a little stone.”
“Actually, Fred, you’re mistaken on both counts. The second point we’ve already discussed, and as far as your first point, well, take a look at John 1:42. ‘Jesus looked at [Simon] and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).’ See? St. John knew that the original form of the name was Kephas, large rock, and he translated it into Greek as Petros, or Peter.”
Just then, your watch beeps 1:00, signaling the end of your lunch hour. You close in a quick prayer, then grab a Catholic apologetics tract from inside your Bible and catch Fred on his way out.
“Hey, Fred,” you smile warmly. “I really appreciate your input in this group, and I’m glad you’ve joined us. You’re going to add a great new dimension to the group. Welcome!” You extend your hand to shake his.
Fred shakes politely, but you can see on his face that he’s not pleased with the way the day’s discussion went. But he’s a good sport and he promises to be back tomorrow for “round two,” as he calls it.
On the way out, you hand him the apologetics tract and smile inwardly at the odd look he gives you as he slips it into his Bible. He’s clearly not used to being on the receiving end of a tract, especially not one that’s handed to him by a Catholic.
— By Tim Staples