Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Is "The Rock" of Matthew 16:18 St. Peter? Or His Confession of Faith?

One of the most hotly-contested passages in Catholic-Protestant dialogues is the “Upon This Rock” passage in Matthew 16:18. After the Apostle Simon confesses faith in Jesus as the Messiah (the Christ), Jesus says to him “And I tell you, you are Peter, [Petros] and on this rock [petra] I will build my church, and the powers of death [Hades] shall not prevail against it.” So is Jesus founding His Church upon Peter, the first pope, as Catholics say? Or is He just saying that the Church will be built off of those who confess faith in Jesus as the Christ, as many Protestants claim?

The Protestant website GotQuestions? does a good job of presenting the basic argument on both sides:
Peter Paul Rubens, Delivery of the Keys (1616)
The debate rages over whether “the rock” on which Christ will build His church is Peter, or Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). In all honesty, there is no way for us to be 100% sure which view is correct. The grammatical construction allows for either view. The first view is that Jesus was declaring that Peter would be the “rock” on which He would build His church. Jesus appears to be using a play on words. “You are Peter (petros) and on this rock (petra) I will build my church.” Since Peter’s name means rock, and Jesus is going to build His church on a rock – it appears that Christ is linking the two together. God used Peter greatly in the foundation of the church. It was Peter who first proclaimed the Gospel on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-47). Peter was also the first to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-48). In a sense, Peter was the rock “foundation” of the church. 
The other popular interpretation of the rock is that Jesus was referring not to Peter, but to Peter’s confession of faith in verse 16: “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Jesus had never explicitly taught Peter and the other disciples the fullness of His identity, and He recognized that God had sovereignly opened Peter’s eyes and revealed to him who Jesus really was. His confession of Christ as Messiah poured forth from him, a heart-felt declaration of Peter’s personal faith in Jesus. It is this personal faith in Christ which is the hallmark of the true Christian. Those who have placed their faith in Christ, as Peter did, are the church.
I’ve previously presented the case for the Catholic interpretation before, but that’s not what I’m going to do today. In this post, I want to show why the popular Protestant interpretation doesn't work.

First, let's examine the Scriptural passage in context (Matthew 16:13-19):
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesare′a Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli′jah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 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.”
In the span of just three of those verses, Jesus addresses Peter personally ten times. Yet under the Protestant interpretation, we’re supposed to believe that this passage wasn’t meant to apply to Peter personally. It’s allegedly addressed to any Christian making such a profession like the one that Peter makes: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 

There are a couple glaring problems with this theory. First, we hear Martha making this exact declaration in John 11:27, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.” And you know what Christ doesn’t do? Change her name to Petra, and promise to build the Church upon her. Nor do we see any of the other Christians in the New Testament renamed Peter. The only person in Scripture ever referred to as “Peter” is the Apostle Simon. This looks a lot like Jesus meant to build the Church upon Peter, and not just anyone willing to declare Him the Messiah.

But okay, we don’t know whether Martha or Peter’s confession of faith came first. So maybe Jesus addresses Matthew 16:18 to Peter because Peter got there first?

Well, this raises the other, even more-glaring problem: Peter didn’t get there first. John 1:32-49 eliminates any room for the Protestant interpretation of the “Upon This Rock” passage. Here it is:
Mathis Gothart Grünewald, Isenheim Altarpiece (1516)
(detail - John the Baptist)
And John bore witness, “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Beth-sa′ida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathan′a-el, and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathan′a-el said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathan′a-el coming to him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Nathan′a-el said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathan′a-el answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
This passage is fantastic. We hear a series of proclamations of the faith:
  1. John the Baptist proclaims Jesus as the Son of God (John 1:34) and the Lamb of God (John 1:36). 
  2. The Apostle Andrew, Simon’s brother, proclaims Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ (John 1:41). 
  3. The Apostle Philip proclaims Jesus as “him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote,” which is to say, the Messiah (John 1:45). 
  4. The Apostle Nathaniel proclaims Jesus as “the Son of God” and “the King of Israel” (John 1:49).
In fact, the only person named in this passage who doesn’t profess faith in Christ is Simon Peter. He’s not recorded as saying anything. And yet right in the midst of this flurry of Messianic proclamations, Jesus does something astounding. He turns to Simon, and as if He has been waiting for him, says “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas.” It’s remarkable that Jesus should do this: He calls Simon by name, including his family name (so to speak). He does the exact same thing in Matthew 16:18. This is as personal as it gets. And as St. John notes, Cephas is the Aramaic word for rock, and is translated into Greek as Petros, and into English as “Peter.”

So John 1 basically shows us that: (1) everyone but Simon proclaimed that Jesus is the Messiah; (2) Jesus then announced that Simon, Son of John, was the one He would choose as the Rock; and (3) Protestants are left spending five hundred years trying to explain why this passage doesn't mean that Simon is really the Rock, or is personally the Rock, etc.

Bear in mind, this event happens at the very start of Jesus’ public ministry, long before the events of Matthew 16. This eliminates any chance that Simon is named Peter because he’s the first to declare Jesus the Christ. Jesus was being declared as Messiah before Peter had even met Him. Instead, Jesus has made it abundantly clear that He, the Sovereign God, specifically chose Peter as the Rock.

Peter is hand-picked from among the crowd, even when he is surrounded by men who seem like they would be better candidates. It is another reminder that “the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). And Peter alone is renamed. We may all be rocks (Peter calls us “living stones” in 1 Peter 2:5) but Jesus (the “Living Stone” in the fullest sense, 1 Peter 2:4) chose one from among of us, the Apostle Peter, to be the Rock upon which He built the Church.

Update: Two additional points, worth mentioning, were raised in the comments:

  1. Many Protestants base their rejection of the Catholic view off of the supposed difference in meaning between Petros and Petra. That difference in meaning doesn’t really exist in the Greek spoken at the time of Christ. But in any case, as John 1:43 shows, Jesus named Peter “Cephas” in Aramaic, which is the exact same word as “Rock.” In Aramaic it’s Cephas and cephas; literally translating that to Greek would give you Petra and petra, which is a problem, since Petra is feminine, and can’t be used as a man’s name. So St. Matthew renders it as the male Petros instead.
  2. Even if Protestants were right about the proper interpretation of “the Rock” in Matthew 16, the broader passage still supports the papacy, since it shows the foundation of an institutional Church, and the giving of specific powers (the Keys, and the powers of binding/loosening) to Peter individually. For this reason, you can have Fathers like St. Augustine, who aren’t sure on the proper interpretation of “the Rock,” but are steadfast in their belief in the papacy, based upon Petrine authority.

    In fact, even if Matthew 16 didn’t exist, there would still be abundant support for the papacy throughout the rest of Scripture and in the testimony of the early Christians.


  1. I'm made uncomfortable by tacitly agreeing with the Protestant assumption that the Catholic Church stands or falls on who has the correct interpretation of Mt. 16:18, an idea I find just silly. Why can't we just concede the point for the sake of argument and still emphasize that it was PETER'S confession that the Church is founded upon? The pope isn't the Church's foundation, her faith is, just like Peter's confession, which was an authoritative teaching coming from him.

    1. It's not just the identification of the rock, it's the person to whom Jesus gave the authority, the keys of the Kingdom held by the Prime Minister.

  2. This article also doesn't address the fact that "petra" is feminine whereas "petros" is masculine. That is the major sticking point for Protestants who argue that "rock" doesn't refer to Peter specifically.

    1. ....because it had to be masculine - Peter is a guy! You can't go around calling him Rockette! All the other fishermen would laugh at him....

    2. Micah - Jesus spoke Aramaic which doesn't have the same structure as Greek. Matthew was written in Greek so Matthew had to render the spoken words (of Aramaic) into Greek, Christ would have used the word Kephas - "you are Kephas and on this kephas I will build My church."

      This removes any thought of sticking from the point and oh that it were well known so Protestants could not hide behind silly objections.

    3. Micah,

      I’ve addressed both of these points before. I’m trying to make a different point today (one that I don’t see you addressing in your comments).

      Obviously, there’s more than one argument to be made on this point, and I’m not pretending to make all of them. So, sure: I could have conceded the Protestant interpretation of Matthew 16:18 for the sake of argument, and tried to show why it’s not dispositive. But I’d rather focus today on why the Protestant interpretation of Matthew 16:18 is unsustainable.



      P.S. I do hint at part of the answer in today's post: the name Christ gives to Simon is Cephas (the Aramiac word for Rock), which St. Matthew then translates at Petros. So much of the Petros/Petra debate is built upon a false premise.

      But these points have been addressed ad nauseum on this blog and elsewhere - I hoped to take the debate in a different direction.

    4. It's about what you believe to be true, whether Peter the Rock or jesus the Rock, the truth will ever stand, my confusion is that in the old Testament the Lord is the Rock in New Peter is the Rock. Someone must be lying because they can not be two separate truth. But the question stand, Who is not speaking thru the Spiritual Interpretation?! But I'm convinced that the truth stand and God is not divided.

    5. > my confusion is that in the old Testament the Lord is the Rock in New Peter is the Rock. Someone must be lying because they can not be two separate truth.

      You don't believe that two different people can share the same metaphor? Christ said that he was "The Good Shepherd"...but then commissioned his Apostles (and Peter in particular) to look after His flock. Christ is the shepherd, the teacher etc. but asks His Apostles to share in that ministry.

      Also, you're comment about the Old Testament isn't quite right. For example, in Isaiah 51:1-3 Abraham is identified as "the rock from which you were hewn"

  3. CCC 424 Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess: 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built his Church.

    Prots don't get it wrong in what the affirm, but only in what they deny.

    Also, on the Aramaic issue, (which is conclusive IMHO) one needs to explain why Matthew chose petra for rock instead of petros. We argue it too often from the other side (why Peter is Petros not Petra) but never argue why the rock itself is petra and not petros.

    I have argued in the past that it is evidence that there are two different aramaic words in the underlying text with the same referent. http://fallibility.blogspot.com/2012/10/peter-and-this-rock-part-3-aramaic.html?showComment=1369935017647#c5404488585722149790

    1. Daniel,

      True, up to a point. Elsewhere, the Catechism is clearer that the Rock is Peter (or Peter because of his faith), not just Peter’s faith. But in any case, Protestants tend to conflate “Peter’s faith” with “faith like Peter’s.”

      As a result, they frequently make the logical leap that if the Church is built upon Peter because of his faith, it must therefore be equally built upon all faithful Christians. Spelled out, this is an obvious logical fallacy, the fallacy of the undistributed middle.

      After all, if we say that Mr. X is CEO of the company because of his business acumen, does this mean that everyone with business acumen is also CEO of the company? Of course not. So in affirming a logical fallacy, Protestants are mistaken.



    2. Fair enough. I think my shock with this verse came when I discovered that "you" was singular. That and the parallelism of "You...Son of God" with "You...Son of Jonah [bar Jonah]" in their back and forth.

    3. "True to a point."

      This seems to be the case in most Protestant errors. Faith alone is true to a point. Faith is very important to our salvation. Scripture alone is true to a point. Scripture is authoritative. But in every case, there's more.

      It seems to come back to the old, "both/and" argument. It is both Peter and faith like Peter's. That is why, Peter is the Rock, but we are also "little stones" upon which the Church is being built (1 Pet 2:5).


      De Maria

  4. In case anyone is interested: I've heard that the Greek word "petra" means "small stone", it doesn't. If Matthew had wanted to call St. Peter "a little stone" he would have used the word "lithos" which Matthew uses when Jesus is tempted by the Devil to transform "stones" into "bread".

    Think of it this way: "lithos" is something small you can fit in your hand and throw through someone's window, and "petros" is something BIG that you don't want to fall on your car.

    A few interesting bits of useless New Testament information for those who wish to know: The word for "bread" "artos" in Matthew 4, can also be translated as "cake", which is something nice and sweet to eat instead of just some loaf of bread, emphasizing the high degree of temptation Jesus was facing.

    My Paster once joked that Jesus changed Simon's name because He knew that he would "Sink like a Rock..." (Matthew 14)

    Also, the first pope was named "Simon Johnson"

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  5. The early Church believed that it was Peter who was the rock. The view that it was on Peter's faith - and not on the person - that the Church was established had much to do with the break away groups who were no longer associated with the Church headed by Peter's successors. There had to be another explanation - and this was it.

  6. Joe,

    1. The so-called "Catholic position" is really a jumble of positions all over the map.

    2. Peter was never "pope" - Jesus command that we should call no man father upon the earth (Matthew 23:9 KJV).

    3. Christ holds the keys to hell in Revelation 1:18 KJV, showing he opened those gates and is the rock of Matthew 16:18 KJV. Peter never went to hell, and was so keyless others opened his gates in Acts 10:17 KJV and Acts 12:13-14 KJV. Peter's promised keys pertain to the literal kingdom of heaven the Lord will establish after his return.

    4. Every important doctrine in the Bible must be established in at least 2 or 3 places - one isolated and ambiguous verse does not a doctrine make. Whatever Matthew 18:16 KJV means better have ample support elsewhere. Yet every other instance of Peter's exchange has NO MENTION of a rock. (Mark 8:29-30 KJV; Luke 9:20-21 KJV; John 6:69-70 KJV)

    5. Matthew was written in Greek which is why verses like Matthew 27:46 KJV exist where Aramaic expressions are translated, so forget the wild speculation. John 1:42 KJV says the correct interpretation - it is stone (pebble) not rock (cliff). If Peter's name meant rock then John 1:42 is where it would have said so - and it doesn't.

    6. The bedrock of Christianity is Christ - and Paul it's only candidate for "pope" - ("According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation" 1 Corinthians 3:10 KJV) and his successor was Timothy. Yet neither one shows up in Roman "pope" list. Yet Paul told the Romans he goes there to do so, "Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation:" Romans 15:20 KJV. You've got the wrong "pope"!

    7. You ignore the fact that Jesus calls Peter "Satan" in the passage! Matthew 16:23 KJV. Rather stupid of Catholics to accuse Jesus Christ of building his church on Satan.

    8. Binding and loosing is future when the kingdom of heaven arrives ("My kingdom is not of this world... but now is my kingdom not from hence." John 18:36 KJV) but nowhere does Peter give his "keys" to anybody else. It's a personal responsibility of all 12: "...in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Matthew 19:28 KJV. The only apostle cursed to have a "successor" was Judas Iscariot because he lost his office and went to hell: "Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take." Acts 1:20 KJV (cf Psalm 109:8 KJV). Notice when James was killed in Acts 12:2 KJV, nobody did anything as insulting and blasphemous as to appoint somebody else to succeed him.

    9. Peter was never once in Rome and his grave was located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Nor would a good Jew like Peter do something as unholy and pagan as call Christianity "Roman Catholic" - nor would he ever call himself "prince" and assume lordly titles over the other 11 apostles, or any other elder: "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, ... Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." 1 Peter 5:1-3 KJV.

    And so on and so forth. The Roman Catholic muddle - it can't be called a "position" - is so lacking in support and so contradicted by the scriptures that it is not even a questionable or debatable proposition - it's pure bunk.

    - Mack.

    1. Mack,

      So basically, your position is that there’s no pope, and that Paul was the pope, nobody but Christ has the Keys, and all Twelve Apostles have the Keys, etc… and you’re calling the Catholic position muddled?In your effort to refute Catholicism, you’re readily affirming contradictory propositions.

      That gets to the heart of this post. Protestants are so fixated on disproving the Catholic position that they don’t seem to realize that they’re not advancing a coherent position on their own. Your response was to fixate on the Catholic position, and argue against it incoherently. I rest my case.



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    4. Brother Mack, let us take them one by one:
      1. My comment below shows one position: the Church's. If you get different positions, it is because there are many Catholics who do not know the position of the Church, yet, they speak out boldly, sometime. Just remember that for salvation purposes, we are not talking about Catholic or what they say. We are talking about the Catholic Church, which, for 2,000 years has been guarding the Bible and the Sacred Oral Word from which the Bible was EXTRACTED!
      2. Peter was Pope, even if the name was used later. Jesus instituted authority and the proof is that He did not treat all Apostles the same. Peter, James and John were chosen by the Lord to accompany Him where others were not invited: The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1); the Raising of Talitha from the Dead (Mark 5:37), where He said in Aramaic: Talitha koum (verse 41); and then, at the Agony in the Garden (Mark 14:32-33). No entity can survive without a head and Jesus, though He could sustain all, chose a visible head on earth for his Church. Organization, administration and administrators are common sense requirements for the smooth running of any concern, enterprise or operation. The Church is no exception, and we now say to the dismay of all non-Catholic Christians: Yes, the words ‘administration’ and ‘administrator’ are in the Bible! Look up 1 Corinthians 12:28, and Galatians 4:2. The Keys of the Kingdom were given to Peter and to no other. A successor for Peter would always be required until the end of time. God demonstrated this in deposing Shebna and installing Eliakim as Prime Minister of the house of David and gave him the key, where if he opens a door, no one will shut, and if he closes a door, no one shall open it! (Isaiah 22:15-24) Jesus set Peter apart as head of the Church in Matthew 16:18. He told him that he will fall, but, Jesus had already prayed for Him and when Peter is to recover, he is to take care of his brothers (Luke 22:31-32, where you have to go to the Greek to discern the plural and the singular in Jesus’ statement).
      Call no one your father: Jesus was addressing the Apostles, not to call the Jewish leaders ‘father.’ There is nobody higher than the Apostles (who were Bishops appointing bishops – Cardinals by today’s standards), except God. Paul, whom you wished was the Pope, despite him not having the Keys, said: “Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15). There is plenty more for you, but, am I writing a book?

    5. 3. And who are you to say that the “keys pertain to the literal kingdom of heaven the Lord will establish after his return?” Does the Bible say anything about that? Are you fishing in brackish waters? You think you can explain the Bible by yourself or through your theologians? Who is your and their guide, the Holy Spirit? Does the Holy Spirit speak to you? Yes! The Holy Spirit is in us, the baptized, as a first installment, if we were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But, did you not know that there are three main prompts affecting us? There are the prompts of the Holy Spirit, who has been given us as a first installment (Romans 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14; CCC 851); those of the flesh; our selfish desires (Matthew 26:41); and, those of the Devil (John 13:2; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9). Have you been trained to discern between these three prompts, to discard the other two and follow the prompts of the Holy Spirit? The whole Christian life and experience is such a discernment. Have you not come across Peter’s word: “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). The definition of prophecy will not help you it encompasses past, present and future: It can mean the foreknowledge of future events, or, it can mean past events of which there is no memory, or, it can mean present hidden things which cannot be known by the natural light of reason.
      4. I have ten places that speak of Peter’s choice as the visible Vicar of Christ. If you are a Protestant, then why do you say that Baptism is not necessary for salvation, using the example of the ‘good’ thief on the cross, when Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16)? There are numerous other corroborations, whereas the case of the thief is the exception, which, incidentally, the Church recognizes.
      5. Concerning Aramaic, see my exhortation below and ponder the opponents’ speculations.

    6. 6. I already mentioned Paul as not having the Keys. If Paul chose to go where others in Asia Minor and Greece have not been, it was his choice. James did the same and Thomas did the same. There is one thing that escapes you. The Bible is good for training. God picked on Paul as a good example of the evangelizer, but, the other Apostles were doing the same. The Bible is not a story about expeditions. If it were, you would be seeing in the Bible the adventures of James in Spain, Thomas in Persia and India, etc. Paul was picked by Jesus for certain missions and not to take care of the Church as such. God has apportioned each with a gift and a mission. The Bible clearly shows what Peter’s was and what Paul’s was.
      You mentioned Timothy, but, in parallel, there was Titus also as the work of the Holy Spirit through Paul, and the was Silvanus for Peter, and there was Ignatius of Antioch, who was not mentioned in the Bible, yet, he was the disciple of John, the Apostle, and was ordained Bishop of Antioch by the Laying on of Hands (Numbers 27:18-23; Deuteronomy 34:9; Hebrews 6:1-2; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). Where is the Laying on of Hands in your establishment?! Ignatius lived more than 30 years concurrently with John, and he became the model for the Apostolic Men. He was the first to call the Church, catholic. Since it was the only Church for a thousand years, it merits a Capital C: Catholic. Ignatius wrote 7 letters. They are with us and he said that the Eucharist is the Flesh of the Lord!
      7. Is Jesus God or not? He gives Peter the Keys and five minutes later He makes him to be Satan? Jesus was addressing Satan and He reprimanded Peter for following the prompts of the Devil. Jesus then said to Peter, “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” This last sentence is the true essence of what Jesus was trying to impart. Peter was a sinner. So was Paul and all of us. Peter denied Jesus three times, but, he repented and Jesus gave him three exonerations telling him to feed His lambs (John 21:15-20).

    7. 8. And, you shoved the binding and loosing aside again. It is tied to the Keys (Isaiah 22:22).
      9. The verses of 1 Peter 5:1-3 show humility, of the kind Pope Francis is emulating today. Then again, didn’t Peter say he was in Babylon? Is that not the name for Rome, in the Book of Revelation? Was not the city of Babylon destroyed 250 years before Peter?!

      What you have been accusing blindly can be used against your instructor/s. Now, you have been warned through more knowledge of God and of His will for us. If you persist without impartially checking out the Holy Catholic Church (composed of sinners), you will be heading in the direction of the UNPARDONABLE SIN of attributing to Satan, what is the work of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32 + Footnote #22, in the NAB), the Teacher of the Apostles and our Teacher, as per Jesus’ promise: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth” (John 16:12-13). And, the Spirit of Truth came at Pentecost and the Church was born – ONE CHURCH! God bless.

      Good People: Please, copy this and use it to strengthen and inform. God bless.

    8. Najib,

      No, you are completely wrong and need to repent.

      You provided ZERO scripture to prove your long and rambling allegations that would seek to enshrine an ordinary sinner like Peter as if he was the Foundation, Lord, Master, High Priest, and King of Christianity, and establish the unholy train of pot-bellied, wine-swilling, yarmulke-wearing blood-stained bachelors who have lived in a Roman compounds after him as the alleged "successors" to those titles.

      Your admission that you wilfully commit the mortal sin of putting tradition above the Bible must be repented of - but doubtless won't be: "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition." Matthew 15:6 KJV.

      Jesus said to call no man father, which you completely disregard - and to justify that you cite a passage where saint Paul called himself the father of those in Corinth that he personally led to salvation through his direct evangelism (1 Corinthians 4:15 KJV; Acts 18:1 KJV). So you try to prove Peter is "pope" by quoting a passage that shows Paul is "pope" ? Doesn't that make you rather silly, confused, and irrational ?

      And note: Only on rare occasion Christ spoke Aramaic because everything else he ever said is recorded in GREEK.

      And how did you become so confused and illiterate that you call the key to hell, the key to heaven? And the key to death, the key to David's house? Is David's house in hell? Is heaven in hell? Where the deuces are you getting these wild, blasphemous, and irrational ideas ?!? Different things have different keys - or have you been living in a cave for 50 years and never learned that?

      And Peter stood at a gate in Acts 12:13 KJV and knocked and knocked and knocked and knocked and he couldn't open it himself to save his life! Fine set of keys he had.

      Once more (not because you're feeble minded, but because you are a blind raving fanatic who is not paying any attention in the least to what I've already written): Jesus went to hell and back (Matthew 12:40 KJV) and he has the keys to hell and death (Revelation 1:18 KJV) and therefore (are you following the logic?) the gates of hell mentioned in Matthew 16:18 KJV were defeated by Christ - he is the rock called "this rock" in that verse exactly how he is the temple called "this temple" in John 2:19 KJV. And the other set of keys that are mentioned in the next verse (Matthew 16:19 KJV) having nothing to do with hell - they are for the kingdom of heaven (still confused? re-read all those passages 900 times a day for the next 20 years and maybe it will begin to make a dent in the wall of Catholic tradition that has sealed your mind off from all common sense and logic.)

      Your long and jumbled screed of patently absurd statements - cheer-leading for the cult of Romanism with the naive wishful thinking of a fanatic - all have nothing to do with the Bible and deserve no response except a sigh of pity that you are so deluded. It's truly not worth my time to correct your many errors with scripture since you have already confessed the soul-damning sin of putting tradition above the Bible.

      - Mack.

    9. Brother Mack, I will not haggle with you. It seems you cannot accept that you are wrong, or, that it is possible for 150 million in this country are wrong in many an assumption. You are putting words in my mouth, so to speak. You ought to investigate and test everything (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Go to your theologians and ask them when the first letters of the New Testament were written and when the Gospels were written, and then subtract 33 years from them, and you will find how many years the Church survived on the supernatural Sacred Oral Word given by the Holy Spirit to the Apostles.
      Do not bother to respond to me. I have all the Gospel Truth kept intact for me (Galatians 2:5) for 2,000 year by the Catholic Church, "the pillar and foundation of truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Just worry about investigating impartially. For when you meet Jesus (after a long life, I hope) at your personal Judgment (Hebrews 9:27), He is going to ask you if you have investigated His Church, the Catholic Church which He instituted. You have to be ready for that.
      I am Home. The hot potato is in your lap. I am ready for any investigative question on your part. You can easily make contact with me through my Facebook page. Look for the Najib Nasr whose profile picture is in the cockpit of the Airbus 310. I will pray for you. God bless.

    10. > ...You provided ZERO scripture to prove....Peter as ....High Priest, and King of Christianity"

      Where was this asserted? Catholicism holds that Christ is our "High Priest" and, following the typology of Isaiah, Jesus is also the "King"...with Peter as His Prime Minister, the bearer of the keys.

      > ...and establish the unholy train of pot-bellied, wine-swilling, yarmulke-wearing blood-stained bachelors who have lived in a Roman compounds after him as the alleged "successors" to those titles

      So you also wish the sully the names of Linus, Cletus, Clement etc, the martyrs who died for the name of Christ?

      > Your admission that you wilfully commit the mortal sin of putting tradition above the Bible

      Where was that exactly?

      > And note: Only on rare occasion Christ spoke Aramaic because everything else he ever said is recorded in GREEK

      Greek manuscripts are now important? But the KJV is written in English... ;-)

      Seriously though, is it your assertion that, because the Gospels are written in Greek, that Jesus spoke all the words recorded there also in Greek?

      Following your logic, was Paul really speaking in the Hebrew language in Acts 21:40-41? The text itself is in Greek...

      How do you disregard the witness of the Early Church that Matthew's Gospel was originally written in Aramaic? Was Irenaeus just making this stuff up?

      Put simply, how do you back up your assertion that "Only on rare occasion Christ spoke Aramaic"?

      > And Peter stood at a gate in Acts 12:13 KJV and knocked and knocked and knocked and knocked and he couldn't open it himself to save his life! Fine set of keys he had.

      Are you being derogatory here or do you honestly think that we Catholics believe that Jesus gave Peter a physical set of keys? :-/

  7. It's a matter of fact, not opinion, that '...sy klethese Kephas , ho hermeneuetai Petros' does not mean '...sy klethese Kephas , ho hermeneuetai Lithos;

    That Christ named Simon bar Jonah Aramaic Kephas instead of Aramaic 'Eben, and Matthew translated it as Petros and not Lithos means for a definitive fact that Christ named him Rocky not Pebbles.

  8. Mr. Heschmeyer,

    I'd like to congratulate you on a fantastic essay, in which you go a bit outside the box and use it to prove some very good points. As an editor at Catholic Lane, I'd like to request permission to reprint this article with all proper attributions of course.

    If you could, please reach me at kmtierney at gmail DOTCOM.

    Kevin Tierney
    Learn & Live the Faith Editor

  9. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said in Aramaic, the language of the commoner at that time, “You are Kepa (Rock) and on this kepa I will build my church.” Firstly, in Aramaic, there is no other word for ‘rock,’ at a time when Protestants said Petros could mean (nowadays) an insignificant pebble. But, Jesus said, ‘Kepa,’ and not Petros, and in all Protestant Bibles, Peter is referred to as Cephas or Kephas, 2 to 9 times, depending on the Bible. So, some Protestants are trying to hide Cephas from their people; Cephas being the Hellenized, masculanized Kepa!
    Does the Bible manifest Jesus speaking in Aramaic? Yes. It is an undisputed fact that Aramaic was in wide use as a common language at the time, just like English is the common language of India, due to the many languages there, and it is a fact that Jesus spoke Aramaic often during His ministry (Mark 5:41; 7:34). Even when He was on the cross, He uttered the first verse of Psalm 22 in Aramaic (Mark 15:34), rather than in Hebrew. Imagine that!
    As I said, when Jesus spoke to Peter, Jesus said in Aramaic, “You are Kepa and on this kepa I will build my church.” Does the Catholic Bible show Peter referred to through his Aramaic name? Yes: Jesus in John 1:42; and Paul, 4 times in 1 Corinthians 1, 3, 9 and 15, and 4 times in Galatians 1 and 2! Now, Kepa means ‘Rock’ in Aramaic, and in Aramaic there is no other word for rock. It is not a big rock. It is not a small rock. It is not a pebble. It is simply: rock! Don’t let anyone spin you a yarn! Now, let us translate into Greek: kepa is rock and in Greek rock is petra. This is feminine and there is no masculine for it. So, to use it on Simon, it was masculinized into Petros, Simon’s new name, to fit in with his new mission as Head Apostle (Abram became Abraham, Jacob: Israel, and later, Saul: Paul). With time, Petros came to mean rock, small rock or pebble.
    That was the short cut to Peter. The other route is that Simon became Kepa, or, transliterated into Greek, became Cepha or Kepha; masculanized, it became Cephas or Kephas. Some of the writers of the New Testament, as indicated above, alternated between the use of Cephas/Kephas, and of Peter. The irony here is that Peter’s Hellenized Aramaic name, Cephas, is used in all Protestant Bibles! This is to a varying degree. Cephas is mentioned nine times in Catholic Bibles. In some Protestant Bibles, it is also nine, while in others, six; yet in others only once! To me, that looks like some are trying to hide Cephas from their faithful. Checkout the page wirh Footnote #13.
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/__PVP.HTM. God bless.

  10. I posted your blog article to a Religion Forum where we Catholics are under constant attack by protestants from every named denomination, as well as those that were created yesterday. It is a daily battle against the Bible toters and I thought I had seen every possible argument to support the protestant position over the past ten years .. until today. One member posted the typical "petros" argument to which I responded with a repost from your updated information (which had obviously been overlooked by this individual on the first read). Apparently, frustrated with the clarity of your explanation, they commented: "One item so many forget. God wanted the scripture written the way it was for the specific purpose of showing the two different "rocks" Jesus had in mind. Therefore, folks' opinions about Aramaic and Greek do not matter. God wanted it to be written with Peter as Petros and his faith as Petra to make a point."

    Should you be interested, you can follow the running commentary here: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/3078439/posts

    1. Carolyn,

      1) Thanks! It seems like people are talking past each other. I doubt that I'll jump in over there, but if you'd like, feel free to let the other commenters know that they're free to comment here. (The comments section on this page makes it a lot easier to reply to specific comments, so you can hold separate simultaneous discussions without it turning into everyone talking over each other).

      2) For what it's worth, the arguments that the other commenters are raising the standard Protestant objections. Petros/Petra is answered above. I find it incredible that Protestants will put so much stock in an alleged distinction between the two words that exists only in Greek, even while they admit that Jesus didn’t speak these lines in Greek. Doesn’t that dismantle the whole argument?

      In other words, if Jesus really wanted to draw a distinction between Peter the Rock, on the one hand, and the Rock upon which He would build His Church, on the other, why would He choose the Aramaic name Cephas, which just means “Rock”?

      To complicate the situation further, the Protestant argument presupposes that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Greek, which the earliest Christians deny. St. Irenaeus said, back in 180 A.D: “Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome and laying the foundation of the Church.”

      So Jesus didn’t say “Petros” and “Petra” when He spoke these words to Peter, and Matthew apparently didn’t write them as “Petros” and “Petra” in his original Gospel.

      3) As for Peter going to Rome, I’ve written on that before: http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2011/01/was-peter-ever-in-rome.html

      4) My whole point with this post is that Protestants don’t seem to have an interpretation of Matthew 16:18 that can stand up to Scriptural scrutiny. Protestant alternatives are just asserted, and not defended (why would Petros/Petra mean that this was about Peter’s confession of faith? And why would that mean that it’s about all believers’ confession of faith?).

      Precisely because the Protestant view isn’t well thought-out, all discussions on this topic end up being focused on the Catholic interpretation instead, because we’re the only side bringing a coherent exegesis to the table.

      So far, this Free Republic thread doesn’t seem any different: two of the commenters just assert that the Rock upon which Christ built the Church was “Peter’s statement of faith,” without even attempting to respond to any of the exegetical problems I raised with that interpretation. Ah, well.

      In any case, God bless you, and thank you for sharing that!


  11. I just wanna add something to this thread, has anyone considered where Jesus was trying to get to with these questions? He 1st asked what do men say I am? So here we see he is comparing men to what the deciples answers were. Peter said you are Christ......... Jesus said flesh and blood did not REVEAL this to you... So here we see the heart of this whole conversation, men said he is some kind of prophet. Peter said he is the son of God because it was revealed to him by the father, by Gods interpretation not mens. I believe the rock that Jesus is speaking about is the revealed interpretation of God to men. The gates of hell will not prevail against Peter?? I think it makes way more sense that he was speaking of the revelation that comes from God, hell shall not prevail against....
    We really need to consider Gods interpretation of his word and trust the holy spirit to reveal what he came to reveal. The Holy Spirit didnt come to comfort ones argument, he came to reveal Gods interpreted word. Be blessed.. Grace abounds...

    1. Also wanted to add that Jesus is the only way, truth, and life. Everything else is erelavent. So why contest a non contest truth?

    2. Luis,

      I don't have time right now, but I want to respond to this comment soon. If you haven't yet, will you click the "Notify Me" button below, so that you see my response whenever I get to it?

      God bless,


    3. Luis, you said:
      The gates of hell will not prevail against Peter??

      1st. Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church (Matt 16:18-19).

      2nd. You must understand that the Simon/Rock comment is a metaphor. It is a figure of speech to which an image is tied to represent some truth. Simon was a faithful and faith filled person whom the Father selected in order to reveal the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. It is because the Father drew him that Jesus also appointed him the Rock and foundation of His Church.

      3rd. The name Rock (i.e. Peter) signifies much more than that. It is the name of Jesus. Therefore Jesus, in giving Simon that name, signified in no uncertain terms that Simon would be the appointed Leader of His Church.

      And yes, the Holy Spirit leads the Church into all truth. But that is not the point of this verse. This verse is about Jesus appointing a leader for His Church.


      De Maria

  12. Joe, what is the best resource for Catholics wanting to study more closely the Catholic interpretation of scripture? Is it, for example, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary by Raymond E. Brown?

    1. In my opinion, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The footnotes contain the cross references to the Sacred Scripture for almost every Doctrine.

    2. Bradley,

      I would steer clear of the New Jerome Biblical Commentary. The older Jerome Biblical Commentary is better, but still heavily reliant on the historical-critic method, and at points, is skeptical about the veracity of parts of Sacred Scripture. My criticisms of Fr. Brown here:
      and here: http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-first-and-second-century-papacy.html (although here, I'm criticizing his book Antioch and Rome).

      That said, my top two recommendations would be the Navarre Study Bible and the Ignatius Study Bible, in that order. Also, you can't go wrong with the Catena Aurea, and it's free online.



    3. P.S. The Ignatius Revised Standard Version Bible also has good footnotes, and it's the RSV:CE translation, which is my preferred translation. Compare and contrast the way that Matthew 21:1-7 is explained in the RSV:CE and the NAB. Christ is depicted as riding an ass and a colt.

      The RSV:CE explains that He took both animals (one tied, and the other free), untied them, and brought them together into Jerusalem, simultaneously depicting the relationship between Jews and Gentiles, and fulfilling Zechariah 9:9.

      The NAB suggests that since Christ couldn't have been riding both animals simultaneously, Matthew must have made this story up to make it look like Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophesies; and that, therefore, he probably wasn't an Apostle at all, but some later Gentile:

      "The ass and the colt are the same animal in the prophecy, mentioned twice in different ways, the common Hebrew literary device of poetic parallelism. That Matthew takes them as two is one of the reasons why some scholars think that he was a Gentile rather than a Jewish Christian who would presumably not make that mistake (see Introduction)."

      The New Jerusalem Study Bible will give you commentary much more like what the NAB provides, because it's coming out of the same hyper-skeptical hermeneutic and time-period.



  13. Bradley, the Corneilus Lapide commenaries are a must. I strongly recommend https://sites.google.com/site/aquinasstudybible/

  14. Mark's Gospel is essentially the words of Peter, so "IF" Peter was the 'rock' that Jesus built His Church on, then 'why' does Mark leave out the whole passage about "you are Peter & on this rock I'll build my Church?" Why doesn't Peter refer to himself as a 'petra' in his epistles, rather than a 'litho' (stone), & why does he refer to himself as a FELLOW elder in his epistles rather than the HEAD elder? Although the Aramaic word Keph doesn't distinguish between 'stone' & 'rock,' since the NT was written in Greek not Aramaic, Matthew goes out of his way to distinguish between 'rock' & 'stone.' Also, the NT writers had no problem describing Jesus in the feminine, when describing Him as 'Rock' (petra), even though Jesus was male.

    Although Peter is clearly the 'leader' of the APOSTLES, he is clearly not 'leader' of the CHURCH, because Scripture 'states' JAMES is the leader of the Church, which was in Jerusalem at that time, according to the book of Acts, which is why Paul lists Peter SECOND behind James as 'pillars' of the Church.

    In Greek, the terms 'this rock' in Matthew 16 does not refer back to the previous NOUN (which would be Peter), but rather the previous SUBJECT in the previous passage (which would be the revelation that God gave Peter 'who' Jesus was). Both OT & NT evidence for this, is because in the OT, the term 'this rock' does NOT refer to the previous NOUN, which when translated into the Greek Septuagint is the SAME WORDS for 'this rock' in Matthew 16. This is why Jesus declares to Peter 'what you bind & loose on earth HAVE BEEN bound & loosed in Heaven.' BECAUSE God revealed to Peter 'Who' Jesus was, Peter was given the blessing to declare what had ALREADY BEEN declared in Heaven who is 'bound' & who is 'loosed,' BASED on whether or not a person declares 'Who' Jesus is. NT support for this, is because AFTER God revealed this to Peter (at 'that' time), Jesus LATER extends this 'binding & loosing' to the REST of the Church (Matthew 18:18). So, the Church is made up of 'stones' like Peter, who God REVEALS to them 'Who' Jesus is, by giving them a 'rock-like' faith, because in the NT the term 'petra' ONLY describes either Jesus, or the FOUNDATION on basing our faith on the WORDS of Jesus.

  15. > Mark's Gospel is essentially the words of Peter, so "IF" Peter was the 'rock' that Jesus built His Church on, then 'why' does Mark leave out the whole passage about "you are Peter & on this rock I'll build my Church?"

    I'd suggest it's for a very simple reason - Peter had discovered a little bit of humility and wisdom over the years. He didn't feel the need to draw attention to his greatest moments in the Gospel story. In fact, I would suggest that Peter tends to look the worst in Mark's Gospel. Other Gospel writers, such as Matthew, could draw attention to his greatness.

    >Why doesn't Peter refer to himself as a 'petra' in his epistles, rather than a 'litho' (stone)

    Because he wasn't writing his letters as an apologetic defense of his own unique position within the Church?

    >why does he refer to himself as a FELLOW elder in his epistles rather than the HEAD elder?

    Because he IS a fellow elder. It seems like these objections boil down to an expectation that, if Peter is the first Pope, he must act in a power-hungry fashion and throw his weight around a lot.

    Out of interest, have you ever read Clement's letter to the Corinthian Church from the end of the First Century?

    >Matthew goes out of his way to distinguish between 'rock' & 'stone.

    I'd hardly say he "goes out of his way"! All he does is make the genders match - you can't call a dude by a feminine noun!

    >Also, the NT writers had no problem describing Jesus in the feminine, when describing Him as 'Rock' (petra), even though Jesus was male.

    That's not a *proper* noun though (i.e. someone's name).

    >in the OT, the term 'this rock' does NOT refer to the previous NOUN, which when translated into the Greek Septuagint is the SAME WORDS for 'this rock' in Matthew 16

    What OT passage are you thinking of here?

    >Peter was given the blessing to declare what had ALREADY BEEN declared in Heaven who is 'bound' & who is 'loosed,' BASED on whether or not a person declares 'Who' Jesus is

    In the OT, what are "the keys of the kingdom"? Who has them and what function do they serve?

    >NT support for this, is because AFTER God revealed this to Peter (at 'that' time), Jesus LATER extends this 'binding & loosing' to the REST of the Church

    Likewise, I think a little bit of OT background would make sense of this. Who had the power of binding and loosing in the Davidic kingdom?

  16. For this reason, you can have Fathers like St. Augustine, who aren’t sure on the proper interpretation of “the Rock,” but are steadfast in their belief in the papacy, based upon Petrine authority.
    I would not say St Augustine is unsure about "the Rock." It is more that he accepts both interpretations. Protestants view it as either/or. If it refers to Peter's confession it does not refer to Peter's person. Many early church fathers did not think this way. They looked for deeper meaning in scripture to add to the more obvious meaning rather than to try and escape the obvious meaning.