Chawnghilh's Blog

CHURCH —built upon a man, small rock Peter or Rock of Ages Jesus

Posted in Qualitus : Habitus by chawnghilh on December 5, 2009

Does Matthew 16:18 teach that Christ would build the church upon Peter, as a large segment of Christianity teaches?

This verse records Jesus’ words “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” The key word here is ROCK. What, or who, does Christ mean when He speaks that word?

The word in question is the Greek petra. It denotes a mass of rock, such as could be used for the sure foundation of a house (Luke 6:48) or out of which a tomb could be cut (Matthew 27:60). In other texts, petra refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, the spiritual rock of both testaments and the foundation on which the church is built (1 Corinthians 10:4; Romans 9:33).

Catholic Christians believe that the rock in Matthew 16:18 refers to Peter, the apostle who first served as church bishop in Rome and who became for them the first among all bishops of the universal church. This theory depends on the fact that the Greek form of Peter (petros) is closely related to the word petra.


καγὼ δέ σοι λέγω ὅτι σὺ εἶ Πέτρος (Petros, name of Peter, small rock)) καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ (petra-house size rock) οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν καὶ πύλαι ᾅδου οὐ κατισχύσουσιν αὐτῆς.

The difference between petra πέτρᾳ and petros Πέτρος is in the magnitude and stability of the rock. The former signifies a large, building-sized rock, whereas the latter refers mostly to smaller pieces (stones and pebbles) of the main rock. Thus Jesus is the rock, and Peter is a stone.

If Jesus had intended to identify Peter as the stone upon which He would build His church, it seems He would have said, “You are petros [Peter], and upon this petros [upon you, Peter] I will build My church.” Instead —Jesus used a different word than Peter to describe the foundation of the church He would build. He used petra instead of petros.

The fact that Jesus used a different designation for the foundation than for the man strongly suggests that He did not regard the man to be the foundation. It is true that Peter, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, has a place of honor alongside the other apostles in the church’s foundation, all of it anchored to the chief cornerstone, Christ (Ephesians 2:20). It is even more true that Jesus himself is the only foundation that can ever be laid for His church (1 Corinthians 3:11) and that all the rest of us, including Peter, are smaller stones and pebbles built upward upon the one Foundation.

Peter himself knew and wrote this truth (1 Peter 2:4, 5ff). Peter—a human—is not the head of the Church. Christ is the head of the Apostolic Church, even till now and for ever!

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One Response

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  1. mzvision said, on December 7, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Ka fiah ta kuarh mai. Kei ve hi chu lungte pawh ka ni ve pha lo e, lung-den-sawm balu-ah pawh a phaiphin hi ka angin ka hria.


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