"Peter not Large Rock" Post
Peter not Large Rock (from a messageboard)

Greetings in Christ from sunny Kansas, This is for information for non catholics so that we may better understand them and thus be able to work with them in converting them to Jesus Christ. To the Catholics who read this..I do not apologize for the material but I believe it is also in your best interest to read and reflect upon what others say about your religion. You may freely accept or reject all or parts of it--just as we who are not Catholics have the same choices.

The controversial passage in regard to Peter's place in the Church is Matthew 16:13-19, which reads as follows:

"Now Jesus, having come into the district of Caesarea Philippi, began to ask his disciples, saying, 'who do men say the Son of Man is?' But they said, 'Some say, John the Baptist; and others, Elias; and others, Jeremias,or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Then Jesus answered and said, 'Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona,for flesh and blood hath not revealed this to thee, but my Father in heaven. And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be hound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Confraternity Version).

To this passage the Confraternity Version adds the following inter- pretation:

"The rock was Peter. . . . The gates of hell: hostile, evil powers. Their aggressive force will struggle in vain against the Church. She shall never beovercome; she is indefectible. And since she has the office of teacher (cf.28, 16-20), and since she would be overcome if error prevailed, she is infallible.

"Keys: a symbol of authority. Peter has the power to admit into the Church and to exclude therefrom. Nor is he merely the porter; he has complete power within the Church. 'To bind and to loose' seems to have been used by the Jews in the sense of to forbid or to permit; but the present context requires a more comprehensive meaning. In heaven God ratifies the decisions which Peter makes on earth, in the name of Christ"(pp.36, 37).

And the late Cardinal Gibbons, a former archbishop of Baltimore and one of the most representative American Roman Catholics, in his widely read book, Faith of our Father's, set forth the position of his church in these words:

"The Catholic Church teaches that our Lord conferred on St. Peter the first place of honor and jurisdiction in the government of His whole church, and that the same spiritual supremacy has always resided in the popes, or bishops of Rome, as being the successors of St. Peter. Con- sequentiy, to be true followers of Christ all Christians, both among the clergy and laity, must be in communion with the See of Rome, where Peter rules in the person of his successor" (p.95).

The whole structure of the Roman Church is built on the assumption that in Matthew 16:13-19 Christ appointed Peter the first pope and so established the papacy. Disprove the primacy of Peter, and the founda- tion of the papacy is destroyed. Destroy the papacy, and the whole Roman hierarchy topples with it. Their system of priesthood depends absolutely upon their claim that Peter was the first pope at Rome, and that they are his successors. We propose to show that, (1) Matthew 16:13-19 does not teach that Christ appointed Peter a pope; (2) that there is no proof that Peter ever was in Rome; and (3) that the New Testament records, particularly Peter's own writings, show that he never claimed authority over the other apostles or over the church, and that that authority was never accorded to him.

The Rock

"And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18, Confraternity Version).

Romanists quote this verse with relish, and add their own interpreta- tion to establish their claim for papal authority. But in the Greek the word Peter is Petros, a person, masculine, while the word "rock," petra, is feminine and refers not to a person but to the declaration of Christ's deity that Peter had just uttered-"Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Using Peter's name and making, as it were, a play upon words, Jesus said to Peter, you are Petros, and upon this petra I will build my church.

The truth that Peter had just confessed was the foundation upon which Christ would build His church, He meant that Peter had seen the basic, essential truth concerning His person, the essential truth concerning the church would be founded, and that nothing would be able to overthrow that truth, not even all the forces of evil that might be arrayed against it.

Peter was the first among the disciples to see our the Christ of Cod. Christ commended him for that spiritual insight and said that His church would be founded upon that fact. And that, of course, was a far different thing from founding the church on Peter.

Had Christ intended to say that the Church would be founded on Peter it would have been ridiculous for Him to have shifted to the feminine form of the word in the middle of the statement, saying, if we may translate literally and somewhat whimsically, "And I say unto thee, you art Mr. Rock, and upon this, the Miss Rock, I will build my church.

Clearly it was upon the truth that Peter had expressed, the diety of Christ, and not upon weak, vacillating Peter, that the church be founded. The Greek "petros" is commonly used of a small,moveable stone, a mere pebble, as it were, But "petra" means an immovable foundation, in this instance, the basic truth that Peter had justconfessed, the deity of Christ.

The Bible tells us plainly, not that the church is built upon Peter, but is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (Eph. 2:20). And again, "For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ(I Cor. 3:11). Without that foundation the true Christian church could not exist.

Matthew 16:18 had been intended to teach that the church is based on Peter, it would have read something like this: "Thou art Peter, and upon you I will build my church"; or, "Thou art Peter, and upon you the rock I will build my church." But that is not what Christ said. He made two complete, distinct statements. He said, "Thou art Peter and, Upon this rock (change of gender, indicating change of subject) I will build my church." The gatesof hell were not to prevail against the church. But the gates of hell did prevail aganst Peter shortly afterward, as recorded In this same chapter, when he attempted to deny that Christ would be crucified, and almost immediately afterward, in the presence of the other disciples, received the stinging rebuke, "Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art a stumbling block unto me, for thou mindest not the things of God but the things of men" (vs. 23)-surely strong words to use against one who had just been appointed pope!

Later we read that Peter slept in Gethsemane, during Christ's agony. His rash act in cutting off the servant's ear drew Christ's rebuke. He boasted that he was ready to die for his Master, but shortly afterward shamefully denied with oaths and curses that he even knew Him. And even after Pentecost Peter still was subject to such serious error that his hypocrisy had to be rebuked by Paul, who says: "But when Cephas came to Antioch (at which time he was in full possession of his papal powers, according to Romanist doctrine), I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned" (Gal. 2:11). And yet Romanists allege that their pope, as Peter's successor, is infallible in matters of faith and morals!

The Gospel written by Mark, who is described in early Christian literature as Peter's close companion and understudy, does not even record the remark about the "rock" in reporting Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27-30). No, Christ did not build His church upon a weak, sinful man. Rather the essential deity of Christ, which was so forcefully set forth in Peter's confession, was the foundation stone, the starting point, on which the church would be built.

That no superior standing was conferred upon Peter is clear from the later disputes among the disciples concerning who should be greatest among them. Had such rank akeady been given, Christ would simply have referred to His grant of power to Peter. Instead we read:

"And they came to Capernaum: and when he was in the house he asked them, what were ye reasoning on the way? But they held their peace: for they had disputed one with another on the way, who was the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve; and he saith unto them, If any man would be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all" (Mark 9:33-35).

And again: "And there came near unto him James and John, the sons of Zebedee, saying unto him, Teacher, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall ask of thee. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? And they said unto him, Grant unto us that we may Sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand, In thy glory.

And when the ten heard it, they began to be moved with indignation concernrng James and John. And Jesus called them unto him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you: but whosoever would become great among you, shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you, shall he servant of all" (Mark 10:3444).

It is interesting to notice that some of the church fathers, Augustine and Jerome among them, gave the Protestant explanation of this verse, understanding the "rock" to mean not Peter but Christ. Others, of course, gave the papal interpretation. But this shows that there was no "unammous consent of the fathers," as the Roman Church claims, on this subject

Dr. Harris says concerning the reference to the "rock": "Mark's Gospel is connected with Peter by all early Christian tradition and it does not even include this word of Jesus to Peter. Likewise in the Epistles of Peter there is no such claim. In I Peter 2:6-8 Christ is called a rock and a chief cornerstone. But Peter here claims nothing for himself. Indeed he is explicit in calling all believers living stones built up a spiritual house with Christ as the head of the corner. "Christ is repeatedly called a Rock. The background for this is that around thirty four times in the Old Testament God is called a Rock or the Rock of Israel. It was a designation of God. In the Messianic passages, Is. 8:14; 28:16; and Ps. 118:22, Christ is called a Rock or Stone upon which we should believe. These passages are quoted in the New Testament and for that reason Christ is called a Rock several times. It designates Him as divine. For that reason, every Jew, knowing the Old Testament, would refuse the designation to Peter or to anyone except insofar as we are children of Christ. He is the Rock. We are living stones built upon Him. Ephesians 2:20 says this plain]y. We are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. Paul says of the Rock from which the Israelites drank that it typified Christ (I Cor. 10:4). In the New Testament there are twelve foundations and on them are the names of the twelve apostles--none of them are made preminent" (The Bible Presbyterian Reporter,Jan.1959.)

And Dr. Henry M. Woods says: "If Christ had meant that Peter was to be the foundation, the natural form of statement would have been, 'Thou art Peter, and on thee I build my church'; but He does not say this, because Peter was not to be the rock on which the church was built. Note also that in the expession on this rock,' our Lord purposely uses a different Greek word,Petra from that used for Peter, Petros. He did this to show that, not Peter, but the great truth which had just been revealed to him, viz., that our Lord was 'the Christ, the Son of the living God,' was to be the church's foundation. Built on the Christ, the everlasting Saviour, the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church. But built on the well-meaning but sinful Peter, the gates of hell would surely prevail; for a little later our Lord had to severely rebuke Peter, calling him 'Satan'" (Our Priceless Heritage, p. 40).

Now, this information comes to us from a book and from a person who has done some research here and I have shared some of that with you.

There are many many many books written by folks who have for one reason or another a need to expose the fallacy of the Catholic church to the rest of the World.

One "rumor" that I am trying to trace down--because I have either read it or heard it recently--is that those outside the Priesthood and the Nuns are not really the Catholic church..Has anyone else heard that? Perhaps it was in a clergy-laity discussion--

Perhaps our Catholic friends could tell us if the masses of Catholics who attend the Catholic church are considered "Catholics" by the rest of the Priests and Nuns..

Oh well given time--it will probably come back to me..

Richard Seeking finding Victory in Christ and in His Eternal Words


Hi Richard,

I thought you said you had something new? Didn't we just spend a few days discussing Peter and the "rock"?

At any rate, this was an interesting post. I believe you lifted it verbatim from Dr. James White, probably from his book "The Roman Catholic Controversy," (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1996). Well, I'm not about to spend two days refuting something it took you thirty seconds to cut and paste. So, if you can copy, I can copy.

The following is from Dave Palm and can be found at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/djpalm/jw_mt16.htm.

James White and Robert Sungenis on Matthew 16:18

by David Palm, Copyright © 11 June, 1997

Protestant apologist James White recently placed on his Web site a reply to some observations made by Robert Sungenis in the latest major book on the papacy, Jesus, Peter, and the Keys (henceforth JP&K; see White's article "Robert Sungenis and epi taute"). There Sungenis argued that the demonstrative pronoun ("this") in Matt 16:18 may be emphatic, thus the translation might run: "You are Rock, and on this very rock I will build my Church" (JP&K, 25). It is a minor, albeit interesting, exegetical observation. But the response it elicited from Mr. White raised so many of the fundamental questions that surface as we debate the meaning of Matt 16:18-20 that I was moved to respond myself. Mr. Sungenis has his own set of replies to Mr. White’s arguments available on this Web page (see A Response to James White on JP&K); the thoughts presented here are my own.

[It is not easy to label concisely the different interpretations of Matt 16:18 without prejudice. For this paper, I will speak of the interpretation in which "this rock" is taken as Peter’s confession as the "confessional interpretation" and that in which "this rock" refers to the person of Peter as the "personal interpretation."]

Mr. White acknowledges on strictly grammatical grounds the validity of Sungenis’s observation that the demonstrative ("this") may be emphatic ("this very"). But he continues to question the validity of the identification between Peter and the Rock. He says, "the translation ‘and upon this very rock I will build My church’ does not shed any light whatsoever upon the identity of the ‘rock’" (emphasis his throughout, unless otherwise noted). Indeed, he attempts to turn this argument against the Catholic view: "The more ["this"] is emphasized, the less likely the antecedent is Peter. That is, the stronger ["this"] is translated, the stronger the disjunction between Peter and this rock."

I would note first that the basic rule of grammar is that a demonstrative generally refers to its nearest antecedent. So Mr. White should acknowledge candidly that he is arguing against this rule from the start. And strangely, he seems to be relying rather heavily on the English distinction between the proper name Peter and the noun rock. The distinction he draws seems fairly plausible when one prints the verse as, "You are Peter and on this rock..." but I think that virtually anybody will see that to say (as we have in the Greek), "You are Rock and on this [very] rock I will build my Church" does seem to indicate and emphasize a direct connection between the demonstrative and its immediate antecedent.

Nor can any great mileage—either lexical or grammatical—be derived from the difference between the Greek words petros and petra. As Greek scholar D. A. Carson says,

Although it is true that petros and petra can mean "stone" and "rock" respectively in earlier Greek, the distinction is largely confined to poetry. . . . The Greek makes the distinction between petros and petra simply because it is trying to preserve the pun, and in Greek the feminine petra could not very well serve as a masculine name. . . . Had Matthew wanted to say no more than that Peter was a stone in contrast with Jesus the Rock, the more common word would have been lithos ("stone" of almost any size). Then there would have been no pun—and that is just the point! ("Matthew," in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 8:368).

But before I rest my case, let’s look a little more closely at White’s argument. White asserts that, "one is struck with how strange it is that Jesus takes the ‘long way around’ to get to the equation ‘Peter=rock’ if in fact that is His intention. It would have been much simpler to say, ‘You are Peter, and on you I will build My church.’ But He didn’t say that."

Actually, it does not strike me as strange at all that Jesus would take the "long way around." The Lord so frequently speaks in parables, metaphors, and aphorisms, all delivered with that typically Semitic delight in robust and colorful language, that to me this argument falls quite flat. There is simply no inherent reason to expect the Lord to express Himself in the most pedestrian prose. Indeed, we may turn this argument around. Would it not be strange for the Lord, immediately after calling Simon the "Rock," to expect His hearers to understand his next reference to "rock" to refer to a completely different antecedent? Is this not the "long way around"? If He meant to express what Mr. White insists that He does, then why not take the shortest route and simply say, "You are Peter and on your confession I will build my Church"? Or better yet, as Mr. Sungenis has suggested elsewhere, why not use alla instead of kai to join these clauses and say, "You are Peter but on your confession I will build my Church"? This is exactly what Mr. White wants the Lord to say, phrased in the most direct possible way. There would be no possibility of ambiguity if this was our text. But, to quote White, "He didn’t say that."

White also asserts that, "A natural reading of the passage . . . makes it plain what must function as the antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun." To him, the "natural" antecedent is the confession made by St. Peter that Jesus is the Christ. But Mr. Sungenis has, in private correspondence with me, noted that there is no explicit word or phrase in the preceding verses that can function as this "confessional" antecedent for the demonstrative. Mr. White must supply some words such as "Peter’s confession" or "Peter’s faith" to act as the antecedent, since no such words actually appear in the text. This is hardly a natural reading. But there is an explicit antecedent sitting right next to the demonstrative pronoun, namely, "Rock," to which "this rock" quite naturally refers. For this reason Protestant scholars have almost universally abandoned attempts to link "this rock" to some remote and unspoken antecedent and have rightly labeled post-Reformation attempts to do so as the product of Protestant bias, not of grammatico-historical exegesis. [This shift in Protestant scholarship is well documented in JP&K. See my essay James White vs. Jesus, Peter, and the Keys for further details on patristic exegesis of this passage.]

But White develops his argument a bit further and here we get to the heart of a challenge that he and some other Protestant apologists have floated for a while. He seeks to derive considerable mileage out of the fact that the Lord "begins with direct personal address to Peter" but then "switches from direct address to the demonstrative ‘this’." White asserts that this change in address proves that "‘This rock’ is referring to something other than the person who was being addressed in the preceding phrase. . ."

At most one may concede that such a switch might indicate the change that White avers, although it is far from the conclusive (or even compelling) argument that he supposes. I think, rather, that White is simply being insensitive to common use of a rhetorical device. A prime minister might say when eulogizing a famous humanitarian, "You are a Beacon of Hope, and to this beacon all Europe will look as a source of comfort in these dark days." Or a king says to his champion, "You are The Hammer, and under this hammer all the enemies of England will be crushed." These are solemn, even stylized pronouncements. But we all understand immediately what is being said. Far from inclining us to hunt for some separate referent to which the demonstrative refers, we see immediately that the same person is addressed. To introduce (indeed, to insist on) a separate referent is not only foreign to the rhetorical device, but destroys it. These examples illustrate the almost jarring disjunction that the confessional interpretation introduces into the text.

But Mr. White argues that the context of Matt 16:18 makes this disjunction necessary:

The content of [Peter’s] confession is, in fact, divine revelation, immediately impressed upon the soul of Peter. This is the immediate context of verse 18, and to divorce verse 18 from what came before leads to the errant shift of attention from the identity of Christ to the identity of Peter that is found in Roman Catholic exegesis. Certainly we cannot accept the idea, presented in Roman theology, that immediately upon pronouncing the benediction upon Peter’s confession of faith, the focus shifts away from that confession and what it reveals to Peter himself and some office with successors based upon him! Not only does the preceding context argue against this, but the following context likewise picks up seemlessly with what came before: the identity of Jesus as Messiah.

The careful reader will notice that Mr. White has had to jump around the true immediate context, both preceding and following this phrase, in order to make this point. For immediately prior to proclaiming that "upon this rock I will build my Church," the Lord focused His attention on the person of Peter: "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 immediately following the statement concerning "this rock" our Lord declares to Peter, "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." As New Testament scholar R. T. France says, "The word-play, and the whole structure of the passage, demands that this verse is every bit as much Jesus’ declaration about Peter as v.16 was Peter’s declaration about Jesus" (Matthew, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985, 256). So Mr. White is trying to introduce a oblique and remote reference into what is rather a seemless declaration of Peter’s new role in the Kingdom. Reformed theologian J. Knox Chamblin, taking quite a contrary view to White, very neatly packages all of these observations in his own exegesis of the passage:

By the words ‘this rock’ Jesus means not himself, nor his teaching, nor God the Father, nor Peter’s confession, but Peter himself. The phrase is immediately preceded by a direct and emphatic reference to Peter. As Jesus identifies himself as the Builder, the rock on which he builds is most naturally understood as someone (or something) other than Jesus himself. The demonstrative this, whether denoting what is physically close to Jesus or what is literally close in Matthew, more naturally refers to Peter (v.18) than to the more remote confession (v.16). The link between the clauses of verse 18 is made yet stronger by the play on words, ‘You are Peter (Gk. Petros), and on this rock (Gk. Petra) I will build my church.’ As an apostle, Peter utters the confession of verse 16; as a confessor he receives the designation this rock from Jesus ("Matthew" in W. A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989, 742; cited in JP&K, 30)

White is also ignoring the broader biblical context as well. Too few Protestant apologists take sufficient notice of the name change, from Simon to Peter (Rock). Name changes in Scripture indicate a change in role, usually bound up closely with that person’s new prominence in salvation history. So, for example, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and Scripture tells us of the significance of this change:

No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you (Gen 17:5-6).

Similarly, the Angel of the Lord changes Jacob’s name to Israel and speaks of the significance of this change:

Then he said, "Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed" (Gen 32:28).

So when Jesus declares to Simon that "You are Peter," the biblically literate reader is primed by this name change to expect some explanation of the significance of this change and of Peter’s new role in salvation history. And this they get in the traditional, Catholic understanding of this verse: "I tell you, you are Peter [Rock], and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." So the view championed by Mr. White has to ignore not only the most immediate context of the pronouncement but this broader biblical precident as well.

I believe that, far from being the "significant argument" that White supposes it to be, this appeal to the demonstrative as support of a switch in subjects misfires on many fronts. Basic rules of grammar tell against it, it is forced to supply an implicit and remote antecedent when a near and explicit antecendent already exists, it is insensitive to stylistic language, it destroys the word play in the passage, the immediate context both preceding and following the phrase tells against it, and it ignores broader biblical examples. White insists that Catholic apologists cannot continue to rely so heavily on Matt 16:18-19 until they respond to his "meaningful challenge" to their exegesis. We have so responded. The challenge now goes the other way. In light of a host of exegetical observations as well as the massive testimony from the early Church Fathers, will Mr. White finally admit what even the finest conservative Protestant exegetes now readily acknowledge, that Peter is the Rock of Matt 16:18?


I'm looking for those who believe any of the following:

The Pope is the "anti-Christ"; the Catholic Church is the "Whore"; Catholics are not "saved/Christian".

Would you please ID your denomination and, if it has a web site, provide a link so I may possibly include it on my "Creeds" page listed below? A little hobby of mine.

Thanks.

Steve


See the following responses to this...

"This is for information for non catholics so that we may better understand them and thus be able to work with them in converting them to Jesus Christ."

Richard, I agree completely! That's what we Catholics are trying to do -- better understand non-Catholics so that we can work with them and convert them to Jesus Christ.

God bless, CR


See the following responses to this...

Go back to the Church Apologetics Page.