Every so often I get in this conversation about Peter being the first Pope and being given the keys to the kingdom. I’m not Catholic. But I’m not anti Catholic. I think they have some, interesting, takes on things, but I can defend many of their theological positions as well. Considering I grew up SBC, I think I can make a claim that I’ve reached out to make efforts at understanding their faith better.
When I reached out on this Keys to the Kingdom topic, I found some interesting arguments in scripture to give me what I think to this point, to be a better conclusion. I know the Church of Rome’s positions and arguments well enough. I don’t need to have them repeated back at me especially since all that will do is speak in contradiction to my arguments. I am interested in my positions being attacked directly. Being shown how I’m wrong, is how I can learn. Whether I learn one more objection to answer, of I am shown the argument that makes me change my views again, I can’t lose.
I’ll start with a few questions I get from the script itself then present some analysis, finally corroborating with Peter’s comments on the topic from other books.
Mat 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
1) Who is Jesus addressing?
2) The Son of Man identifies what, exactly?
Mat 16:14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”
1) WHO responded?
2) Can we agree that’s verifying it wasn’t Peter alone?
Mat 16:15 He [!] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Mat 16:16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
1) Still speaking to them all.
2) Peter answered for them.
Mat 16:17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
Mat 16:18 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
1) Jesus addressed peter, you are (little rock)
2) upoin this BIGGER ROCK the church will be built.
3) My question for you, is what/who is the bigger rock here?
Mat 16:19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven
1) Who is Jesus addressing here, Peter? Or did he go back to the disciples after Peter’s little interruption/answer?
2) It would be reasonable, would it not, to assume Jesus was addressing the disciples? Peter spoke for the group; (peter was always wanting Christ’s attention…see after the rich young ruler conversation) Jesus acknowledged the answer; then Jesus went back to addressing the group as THAT WAS WHO THE MESSAGE WAS FOR.
3) The visual would be that of a teacher panning his eyes across the lecture hall, asking a question. One person gives an answer, so the teacher addresses the one giving the answer, then goes back to panning the whole of the lecture hall with the rest of the lesson.
The conversation seems to flow like this—
Jesus addresses the Disciples.
“Who do the people say I am?” (I would assume several gave answers and they are summarized here.
His answer was, “John, Jeremiah, Elijah, some other prophet.”
Jesus asked the group, “but who do you think I am.”
Remember the old sit-com Welcome Back Mr. Kotter? Peter, like Horshack, speaks first for the group, “the Christ, Son of the Living God!”
I can easily see a teacher identifying what Peter did, and being amused and proud at the same time, and gives Peter a little ribbing.
“Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, because God gave you that awareness, not yourself. I will name you Little Rock, and upon this Bigger Rock I will build my church. Peter’s name here, means a stone, pebble, rock smaller than a boulder. The rock Jesus is going to build His church on is a larger rock, boulder size. This is my understanding of Petros and Petra, the words used for Peter/Rock here. Where we in America see Peter as an ordinary name, it would be easier for us if we thought of Peter being addressed not by the transliteration of his name, but by what his name meant. Like Rocky Balboa, or Rock Hudson, Jesus called Simon, “ROCK”. The bigger rock, would be like a cornerstone, the main support stone of a house or castle.
The focus of the conversation is on Who Jesus was. Jesus acknowledged Himself as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Now, I have to ask, if you choose a cornerstone for the Church to be built upon, which is more important for its success, Peter, or that Christ is the Christ, Son of the Living God? Which one could we best do without?
I see Jesus as saying the answer Peter gave Him is the bigger rock, and Peter, a granted large player in the church’s development, being ribbed as the little rock, as Peter is the lesser need here. Without Peter, we have James, John, Barnabas, any number of people that could fill that role. Without Christ, you have a bunch of rebellious teen-age boys getting in trouble.
Jesus is giving the keys to the Church, which at this point is the disciples, not just Peter. Between vs 18 and 19, Jesus gaze would have moved from Peter who answered Him, back to the whole of the Church, His disciples. THEY were charged with delivering the Great Commission.
Now, for our RCC friends, their view is of course uniform across their whole faith as the Church interprets the Bible’s meaning.
I would ask a member of the Church of Rome, if you believe Peter was THE ONE, when it comes to the disciples, and that as a result he prone to lots of wisdom, then please accept his view on the topic. In Acts, early, we see Paul describing Jesus as the STONE. Now the stone described here is a different word in Greek than the word for Rock. However the context of bigger rock and cornerstone are still congruent.
Act 4:10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health.
Act 4:11 “He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone.
Act 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
It certainly seems to me that PETER acknowledges Christ as the cornerstone the Church was built upon. Peter certainly seems to make the bigger rock of the church CHRIST, and not himself.
I think when you ask what the stone is the church was built upon the answer is obvious.
Another place attributed to Peter says…..
1Pe 2:4 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God,
1Pe 2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1Pe 2:6 For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”
1Pe 2:7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,”
1Pe 2:8 and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.
1Pe 2:9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
1Pe 2:10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
The concept of Christ is the BIG rock and Peter is one of the little rocks ABSOLUTELY fits into this commentary. This passage represents Christ as the larger part.
Now, one of the arguments is, Christ spoke to His disciples in Aramaic, and in Aramaic the word would be Kepha meaning stone or rock in both places where in Greek you see the two different terms, Petros, and Petra/little rock-big rock.
16:18 κἀγὼ δέ σοι λέγω ὅτι σὺ εἶ Πέτρος καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν καὶ πύλαι ᾅδου οὐ κατισχύσουσιν αὐτῆς
Mat 16:18 “I also say to you that you are (little rock) Peter, and upon this (bigger rock) rock (Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God)I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
I would ask, how do we presume to know what language the Christ addressed his people in? The business language for the area would have been Greek or Roman. The Septuagint was written in Greek, and was most likely the Bible they read from. I am not aware of an older text in Aramaic than there is in Greek.
And if there was, or it is, would be inconclusive. The people reading the Peshitta way back when, may full well have caught onto the pun without the different words. All this KEPHA argument does is allow a reason to find acceptance in Aramaic stone, over Greek little rock and big rock.
I think the more compelling evidence comes from the mouth of Peter himself, where repeatedly he refers to Christ as the big rock, contextually.
Therefore my conclusion is, Peter is not the rock the Church is built upon. Christ is the Son of the Living God, is the stone the church is built upon. Peter is but a sub part, a smaller stone of that cornerstone.
The keys went to the church, which at this time consisted of the disciples only. That was who Christ addressed during the conversation, with the side bar interruption from Peter. And I think that would make sense as shortly after this meeting, Disciples scattered in different directions establishing churches. Turkey, Ethiopia, Edessa, etc… etc… etc… Each of them was a smaller stone, and part of the cornerstone. And each of them established the Church outside of Peter’s influence. Which speaks poorly for Peter being the leader from the get go.
Another compelling argument that Peter wasn’t the leader from early/time of that conversation with Christ, would be his role in the Council of Jerusalem. The disciples came back and argued about how the Gentiles were with the Spirit and were accepted by God, and what should they do. Barnabas and Paul made their comments, Peter spoke up and gave a big statement, Paul and Barnabas continued with examples of what they witnessed and then JAMES the Bishop of Jerusalem ruled over the matter. Jerusalem was the center of the church at this time, and is the root of where all the other parts of the church branched off from.
I find any claims that Peter led the Church from the conversation with Christ regarding the keys, to be a reach, as well as him holding the keys. Those keys were shared with all the church plant’s leaders, in all directions from Jerusalem.