Monday, August 1, 2011

Why The "Rock" of Matthew 16 Cannot Be Peter

 Anyone familiar with the doctrinal position of the Roman Catholic Church knows her pretended appeal to the superiority of Peter over the other Apostles, which goes so far as the claim that he was the first pope!

The foundation of this supposition is their belief that Christ specifically appointed Peter as the head of the Church in His absence. This was supposedly done in Matthew 16:18. This text reads: “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.” The Greek text reads thus: “καγω δε σοι λεγω οτι συ ει πετρος και επι ταυτη τη πετρα οικοδομησω μου την εκκλησιαν και πυλαι αδου ου κατισχυσουσιν αυτης.
It is alleged that when Christ says these words He is claiming that Peter is the rock upon which the Church is to be built. Any fair assessment of the text will not hold such an interpretation. In fact, had Jesus wished to say this, He could simply had said, “You are Peter and upon you I will build My church.” But this isn’t what He said. There is also some interesting word play in the Greek. Peter’s name (πετρος) means “stone.” The word rendered rock (πετρα) refers to something massive, from which the smaller πετρος is broken or chipped. In other words the larger gives meaning to the smaller, not the other way around. Interestingly enough, when Peter himself speaks of the Church’s foundation, he too uses the word (πετρα – 1 Pet. 2:8); however, he specifically and explicitly uses this word to refer to none other than Christ. Paul uses this word too (1 Cor. 10:4), and again, he explicitly says this πετρα is Christ.

As fun as the exegesis of this word may be, there is something more substantial to be found elsewhere in Scripture. The book of Hebrews goes to great lengths to show the insufficiency of the Aaronic priesthood. The reason it could not bring the church into a perfect state is because the high priests were mortals who died one after another (Heb. 7:8, 23-24). The church could never be led into a state of maturity or perfection unless its high priest lived forever. Here’s the point: If the Holy Spirit deemed the Old Testament church to be weak and imperfect because it rested upon high priests who died one after another, are we really to believe that after Christ came to consummate the church He would turn around and re-establish it upon a dying order of priests? Yet this is exactly what the Papacy pretends to be. Even if we were to accept this impossible theory, history tells us of the interruptions of this priesthood that have occurred, not to mention the monstrous villains who have filled the office over the centuries. Are we to believe that Christ came to fulfill the Old Testament priesthood, to be our ultimate High Priest, only to turn the Church back over to the care of mortal priests of weaker caliber and character than the Jewish high priests of old?

Anyone interested in Patristic exegesis of Matthew 16:18 may find a massive collection of excerpts compiled by William Webster here


  1. This is great. I preached this passage a few months ago. I just added this post to my notes in case I ever use them again.
    And the patristic commentary is a fantastic web find! Thank you for sharing that! I will NOT lose that link!

  2. Oh, and your translation of the Greek was good. I verified with Google Translate. LOL

  3. Thanks, allthyngs.

    Webster has done a prodigious amount of research on this subject. He has two papers to this effect, but the one I linked has all the Patristic citations. Being a Patristics student myself, it was a real find.

    Does Google Translate do Koine? lol


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