I continue reviewing the attempted defense of the modern usage of Isaiah 22:20-22 by Roman Catholic apologists, responding to Mark Bonocore. In our previous installments we have examined Bonocore’s use of patristic sources in reference to Irenaeus and John Cassian. We continue with his presentation:

I believe the reason we don’t see Isaiah 22 used more extensively is that it’s rooted in a sense of Jewish national identity. And, since most of the fathers were Gentiles, it’s not surprising that they see the Keys of Matt 16 referring to authority in a more generic sense (which is equally valid). However, we do see the Kingly, Davidic aspect of the Keys alluded to more often in the Semetic-speaking branches of the Church. For example, Aphraates the Sage (c. 330 A.D.), one of the oldest fathers of the Syrian Church, says:

“David handed over the Kingdom to Solomon and was gathered to his people; and Jesus handed over the Keys to Simon and ascended and returned to Him Who sent Him.” (Aphraates, xxi, 13).
Also, St. Ephraem the Syrian (c. 350) writes:

“Then Peter deservedly received the Vicariate of Christ over His people.” (Ephraem, Sermon de Martyrio. SS. App. Petri et Pauli).

While this is quite interesting, it hardly addresses the issue at hand. It seems we have here another example of “sola ecclesia” at work, this time in determining what will and what will not be accepted as relevant in the writings of the early church. Specifically, it seems that any reference, if it is contrary to Roman teaching, is dismissed as the private opinion of the writer; but, any reference, even if it is almost alone in the patristic testimony, should one be able to read into it a modern Roman dogma, it now becomes a clear and valid “container of tradition.” Find the singular of “key” and that must be Isaiah 22, even if the surrounding context does not support your idea, and in fact shows that the writer did not hold to modern Roman presuppositions regarding the topic at hand. One would truly think that if Rome’s claims are robust enough to sustain the claim of infallibility that one would not be reduced to this kind of argumentation.

Be that as it may, there is truly nothing in any of these citations so far offered that is relevant to the original challenge. The fact is, the early church did not use the text the way modern Roman Catholic apologists do, whether they were “Semetic-speaking” (that’s probably supposed to be “Semitic”) or not.

JW> 4) Can you explain why Jesus says “keys” while Isaiah says “key”? >>

Sure. 🙂 Firstly, it is well known that Matthew (unlike Mark or Luke) has a preference for the plural (e.g. Matt 4:3; 8:26; 12:46; 15:36).

In the referenced passages Matthew, in comparison to Mark and Luke, uses a plural form over against their singulars. That is all well and good: what does it have to do with Matthew 16:18? Saying Christ “rebuked the wind” or “rebuked the winds” is quite different than saying “the keys” vs. “the key,” especially in such a context as this, where the meaning of the keys has been the subject of Roman magisterial interpretation.

Also, in Matt 16, we are dealing with a Heaven-earth relationship, rather than a mere earthly kingdom (as in Isaiah 22). Thus, Peter holds two keys: one Heavenly and one earthly, since his Master is a two-fold King: both the earthly successor to David and the eternal King of Heaven.

Once again, this is a very interesting speculation, but one that finds no basis whatsoever in the text. Where does Matthew 16:18-20 say this? Where does Peter receive “two keys” while the apostles do not? Simply assuming the relevance of the Isaiah 22 passage does not, in fact, prove the assertion.

Another possibility is that the “keys” (plural) in Matt 16 refer to Christ’s juxtaposition of the “Kingdom of Heaven” vs. the “gates of hell.” We also see this in St. Ephraem the Syrian, who writes:

“Thee, O Simon Peter, will I proclaim the blessed, who holds the Keys which the Spirit made. A great and ineffable word that he binds and loosens those in Heaven and those under the earth…” (Ephraem, Asseman. Bibl. Orient. t. i. p. 95) in Colin Lindsay, Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans, 1870), 31.

A “possibility”? The consistent usage is of the plural, not the singular. The simple fact is that despite a number of citations, Bonocore has failed to provide us with a patristic defense of the use of Isaiah 22:20-22 in reference to finding succession in the Papacy in Matthew 16:16-20. Given the fact that the Papacy is central to Roman claims of authority, should not the apologist of the infallible Magisterium be able to provide something more substantive than this?

JW> Can you cite any biblical evidence that the key of the house of David is, in fact, identical with the keys of the kingdom of heaven? Can you cite any patristic interpretation in support of your position? >>

With pleasure, James. 🙂 I recall that, in your Boston College debate against Sungenis and Butler, you claimed that Matt 16 is merely about the identity of Jesus. You said that any references to the Church or to a Pope, etc. were distractions from the intended purpose of the passage. Well, that’s a pretty two-dimensional exegesis, if you ask me. Matt 16 is not merely about the identity of Jesus. Rather, it is about who the people say that Jesus is.

In Matt 16:13, Jesus asks “Who do the people say that I am?” These are the people of Israel, who do not know that He is their King.

Jesus then asks His disciples (His “royal entourage,” if you will): “Who do you say that I am?” And, in reply, Peter speaks up and confesses that Jesus is the Messiah: the promised successor to David — the King of Israel !

The question the Lord asked was meant, of course, to elicit the confession of faith from Peter: what others were saying was barely incidental, in fact. The identity of Christ, and the foundation that truth, revealed from heaven, would provide to the church through ages, is the focus of the text, not any discussions of popular views of Jesus. Further, Peter confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16). He said nothing about the “promised successor to David, the King of Israel.” Would those concepts be part of Peter’s view of the Messiah? Most probably, along with a whole truckload of false ideas that would have to be purged over time, but let’s stick with what Jesus actually said, shall we? I say this for Bonocore then makes a completely unwarranted leap:

Thus, Jesus makes Peter the prime minister of that remnant of Israel which will believe in Him: the Church.

Well, so you say, but the text nowhere mentions prime ministers, of course.

Here, we must note that the Greek word for “Church” (“Ekklesia”) means “those who are called out.” Thus, “the Church” will comprise those members of Israel who will accept Jesus as their Messiah/King. This will be Jesus’ House of David. And, within that House, Peter holds the prime minister’s Keys (e.g. Isaiah 22).

This is a wonderful example of eisegesis rather than exegesis, and this kind of rapid-fire leap from one unwarranted statement to the next is the hallmark of Bonocore, Pacheco, and Sippo. First, evkklhsi,a did, at one point, mean “called out ones.” But by the time of the first century, it meant “assembly” or “congregation.” This is a very common error made by those who do not understand the history or usage of the languages of the Bible. It would make as much sense as to look at our use of the term “television” and say, “in 2005, this word meant ‘far seeing.'” No, it meant the electronic device you use to watch broadcasts. I would suggest Mr. Bonocore read Moises Silva’s fine work, Biblical Words and Their Meaning” for a very readable and enjoyable introduction to the basics of lexical studies. After this, each statement hangs in the air, begging for logical substantiation and exegetical foundation, but left with none. Yes, “the Church” includes redeemed members of the family of Abraham as well as Gentiles. So? This will be Jesus’ “House of David”? OK, not exactly New Testament language, but there is no doubt Christ rules over His people. But to leap to the final conclusion just to find a way to cite Isaiah 22:20-22 only shows how utterly vacuous this form of argumentation is.

As for patristic support, look again to Cassian & Aphraates above. Yet, can you provide any patristic evidence saying that Matt 16:19 does not refer to Isaiah 22?

We have seen that neither citation is relevant. Secondly, no, I have no patristic evidence that Matthew 16:19 does not refer to Isaiah 22. Nor do I have any that Mark 4 does not refer to Genesis 6, or Galatians 3 does not refer to Ezekiel 2, or any other such thing, since to even ask for such evidence is utterly ridiculous. Mr. Bonocore is the one making the positive statement. Since he can come up with none, his case fails. It is facile in the extreme to ask for negative evidence of an assertion you have failed to established.

Interestingly enough, the Messianic Jew, David H. Stern –who actually attended classes at Fuller Theological Seminary (as opposed to taking their correspondance course, like some others we know 😉 provides abundant evidence that King Hezekiah (the King of Isaiah 22) was seen as a prefigurement of the Messiah by 1st Century Jews [David Stern, The Jewish New Testament Commentary, 1992].

See what you miss when you skip class? 😉

Mr. Bonocore does not seem to believe that attendance at extension campuses is actual attendance at all. I did a Master’s through Fuller’s campus in Phoenix. At the moment, I teach in the Arizona campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. GGBTS has numerous campuses (www.ggbts.edu), and I have taught at three of them. Bonocore is once again ignorant of the reality of the situation, possibly because he has not bothered to actually enroll in such programs himself.

Now, as to Stern, once again I can only say, “That’s nice.” It is self-evident by this point that Mark Bonocore does not have the first clue as to what level of proof or argumentation you must offer to establish a sound exegetical or historical argument. We have demonstrated, fairly, from his own writings, his inability to handle historic information (which, in light of his own constant self-congratulation and condescension is all the more forcefully seen), and here we see how he seems to believe that the mere citation of a source that says “X” is sufficient to establish assertion “Y.” But this is part and parcel of the Catholic Legate form of argumentation: as long as it is asserted, it must be true, at long as it is asserted in service of Mother Church.

And so we have taken the time to respond to the citation of this material in the Dave Armstrong blog comments section. I hope those who cited the material will consider well whether their champion has fulfilled his own claims.

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