"On This Rock I Will Build My Church"

Yeshua the Messiah said to Peter, "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19, NKJV). Peter had the privilege at Pentecost in 31 A.D. of opening the way for 3,000 Jews as Jewish Christians. In the year 34 A.D. Peter was used in a special way, being sent to the home of the Gentile Cornelius. His family, subsequently, were baptized to become the first Gentile Christians.

So Peter had the privilege of unlocking the door of opportunity for Jew and Gentile alike.

But was Peter the rock and cornerstone of the Church? Was Peter the first pope and linchpin for the structure of the New Testament Christian Congregation?

At Matthew 16:18, Yeshua said to the apostle Peter: "And I also say to you that you are Peter (Greek Pe'tros), and on this rock (Greek Pe'tra) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Based on this, the Catholic Church claims that Yeshua the Messiah built his Church on Peter, who they say, was the first of an unbroken line of bishops of Rome; in effect all those who followed Peter were referred to as the Petrine Primacy.

"This passage, on which the claims of the Popes are especially based, has raised much controversy. Its authenticity is now very widely acknowledged by N.T. critics, though it is much disputed whether the rock refers to Peter himself or to his faith. The main argument against its Papal interpretation, however, is that Christ's words envisage only Peter, not his successors" (The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church -- Cross, p.1049).

Who was the rock referred to at Matthew 16:18 -- Peter or the Messiah?

The context shows the point of discussion was the identification of Yeshua as "the Christ the son of the living God," as Peter himself confessed (Matthew 16:16 RS). Logically, therefore, Yeshua himself would be that solid rock foundation of the church, not Peter, who would later deny the Messiah three times -- see Matthew 26:33-35, 69-75.

How do we know that the Messiah is the foundation stone? By Peter's own testimony, when he wrote: "coming to him as a living stone, rejected, it is true, by men, but chosen precious with God ....For it is contained in scripture: 'Look! I am laying in Zion a stone, chosen, a foundation cornerstone, precious: and no one exercising faith in it will by any means come to disappointment.'" Paul also stated: "and you have been built up upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone" (1 Peter 2:4-8; Ephesians 2:20).

There is no evidence in scripture or history that Peter was regarded as having primacy among his peers. He makes no mention of it in his own letters, and the other three Gospels do not even mention Yeshua's statement to Peter. Luke 22:24-26; Acts 15:6-22; Galatians 2:11-14.

When Paul visited Jerusalem, "James and Cephas (Peter) and John, the ones who seemed the pillars" gave him support. So at that time Peter was one of at least three pillars in the congregation. He was not a "pope" nor was he known as such -- nor even as a primate "bishop" in Jerusalem.

Archbishop Kenrick in the book An Inside View of the Vatican Council, shows that, of at least eighty-six early church "fathers" only seventeen (one in five) understood Yeshua's reference to the "rock" as applying to Peter.

For obvious reasons this information is not made known to Catholics. Consider also the view of Augustine (354-430 A.D.) -- usually referred to as "Saint Augustine" -- who at one time viewed Peter as the "rock." In his later life Augustine restated his position, saying in his Retractions: "I have since frequently explained the words of our Lord: 'Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church,' to the effect that they should be understood referring to him who Peter confessed when he said: 'Thou art Christ, the son of the living God' ... For what was said to Peter was not 'Thou art the rock,' but 'Thou art Peter.' But the rock was Christ" (Post-Nicene Fathers (The Retractions) Book I, p.90 by M. Bogen).

Jerome (d. 420), translator of' the Latin Vulgate Bible and contemporary of Augustine, agreed with his exegesis of Matthew 16:18. Jerome stated that the Messiah alone is the foundation of the New Testament Christian congregation.

"Stephen of Rome, in 256, is the first pope to make claim to the lineage of Peter mentioned at Matthew 16:18" (Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 4, p. 537). His twenty-one predecessors failed to mention any reference to such a claim.

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