Peter in the Syrian Theological Tradition

The Fathers of the Syrian Church tried to give a theological interpretation to the person of Peter. They were fully convinced of the unique office of Peter in the primitive Christian community. Ephrem, Afrahat and Marutha who were supposed to be the best exponents of the early Syrian tradition unequivocally acknowledge the office of Peter. They understood that Peter participated in the person as well as the office of Christ in a special way. The Syrian Fathers following the rabbinic tradition call Jesus “Kepha” for they see “rock” in the Old Testament as a messianic Symbol. When Christ gave his own name “Kepha” to Simon he was giving him participation in the person and office of Christ. Christ who is the Kepha and shepherd made Simon the chief shepherd in his place and gave him the very name Kepha and said that on Kepha he would build the Church. Afrahat shared the common Syriac tradition. For him Kepha is infact another name of Jesus, and Simon was given the right to share the name. The person who receives somebody else’s name also obtains the rights of the person who bestows the name. Afrahat makes the stone taken from Jordan a type of Peter. He says Jesus son of Nun set up the stones for a witness in Israel; Jesus our Saviour called Simon Kepha Sarirto and set him as the faithful witness among nations.

Again he says in his commentary on Deutronomy that Moses brought forth water from “rock” (Kepha) for the people and Jesus sent Simon Kepha to carry his teachings among nations. Our Lord accepted him and made him the foundation of the Church and called him Kepha. When he speaks about transfiguration of Christ he calls him Simon Peter, the foundation of the Church.

Ephrem also shared the same view. In a Hymn on Peter he writes:
“Blessed are you Simon Kepha
Who holds the keys which the Spirit forges
Great is the word and ineffable
That could stand bind and loose above and below
Blessed are thou who wert as the head
And as the tounge of the body of brotheren
Through Simon was heard the Revelation from the Father
Through the Rock unshakable”
(De Virginitate15.6,7)
In Armenian version of De Virginitate records Peter the Rock shunned honour Who was the head of the Apostles,

In a MEMRA of Efrem found in Holy Week Liturgy points to the importance of Peter:
“The Simon, my disciple, have I set as foundation of the Holy Church,
I called thee Kepha that thou mightest bear all buildings
Thou art the overseer (baharo) of those who build for me the Church on earth

If they build anything hateful the foundation restrains them
Thou art the foundation-head of my disciples
By thee I will give drink to all nations thou hast the sweetness of life which I will give
I have given thee keys of my kingdom
Behold. Thou rulest over all my possession.”
 Both Afrahat and Ephrem represent the authentic tradition of the Syrian Church. The different orders of liturgies used for sanctification of Church building, marriage, ordination etc. reveal that the primacy of Peter is a part of living faith of the Church...
It has been conclusively made clear that the modern Biblical scholarship supports the authentic Syriac tradition concerning the role of Peter.

(Originally posted here.)

 

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