Sunday, July 10, 2016

Peter The Rock I

Taken from "The Baptist Gadfly" for Oct. 21, 2008 (See Here)

I believe the Roman Catholics, and those who believe in the papal system, and Peter's supremacy over the other apostles and over the entire church, err not in saying that the church was built upon Peter as upon a rock, but rather err in saying that this was true ONLY of Peter.

If it can be shown that Christ, though specifically addressing Peter, nevertheless, does not say to Peter anything that could not, with propriety, be said to them all, then the papal arguments from the passage are overthrown.

Just because Christ does not speak, on this occasion, with plural pronouns, as he does on most occasions, when he is addressing all in the apostolic group, and addresses Peter singly and specially, yet this does not mean that what he says to Peter was intended solely for Peter. I think the evidence for this position is more than tenable.

First, let us cite the entire passage.

"When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, 'Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?' So they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 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. 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 loosedd in heaven.' Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ." (Matt. 16:13-20 KJV)

Notice how the question that initiates this eventful occurrence is one addressed by Christ to ALL his apostles. "Who do men say that I am?" He did not ask this of Peter alone. He, therefore, intended that they all answer that question. We are told that the twelve reported what was the common public opinion.

Next followed Christ second question, "But who do you (12 apostles-plural pronoun) say that I am?" Matthew then records the words of Peter, with the implication that he spoke up first, and seemingly, rather quickly, as without deliberate thought, as though he had already deliberated the question, sometime in the past, and knew the answer.

We may ask ourselves at this point, did the others not respond to the question? If not, why not? If they did respond, why does Matthew not tell us this?

They certainly would have confessed the same thing as Peter. Perhaps they did not respond because, first, Peter beat them to the draw (as was his habit, sometimes to his detriment, sometimes to his compliment) in responding to the question; Perhaps they simply all said, "amen" at that point. Why would they not?

Secondly, Christ could have done two things, after Peter's hasty confession; first, he could have waited till they all responded and then spoke in conclusion, or, secondly, he could have responded to Peter's answer with the same hastiness as Peter, which is exactly what he seems to have done.

There is no question that, in this whole interrogation scene, there is a play on words, or pun, a volleying back and forth of mutual ironies and applied sentiments.

It is clear that after Peter and the apostles confess who Christ is, that he then begins to tell them who they are (in the person and confession of Peter and to which they all assent).

It is also clear that Jesus is quick to point out something in Peter, now being displayed, that exemplifies the prophetic significance of his name, given him previously by Christ. It is as if Christ were saying, with hastiness of spirit, and perhaps, with good humor, "Peter, you are a rock, just as your name signifies! You are firm and resolute in your faith regarding me."

But, does this mean, that the apostles were not also "rock" in this sense? Were they not ALL solid in their faith and loyalty to Jesus? Were they not ALL equally the "rock from whence we (the NT Church) are hewn"? Are we hewn ONLY from Peter, the great rock that he was? But, was he any more a rock for the testimony of Jesus than Paul or John? Any more the father of the church than they? Was Paul not also a rock upon which the church is constructed?

If James and John said "amen" to the words of Peter, perhaps they "thundered" their amen, after all, they were equally surnamed, spiritually, by the Lord, being called "Boanerges," or "sons of Thunder." Was Peter not also a "son of Thunder"? If the name "Cephas" (Peter, petros, or rock) was intended to teach us that ONLY Peter is the rock, then would the name "Boanerges" not say then that Peter and the other nine apostles were NOT spiritually "sons of Thunder"?

Now, let us look at the context to show that it is clear that Christ did not intend to say that Peter was the sole and lone rock upon which the church was to be built. I think I can do this best by asking these questions.

1) When Jesus said to Peter, "Blessed are you Simon, son of Jona," did he mean to imply that the other apostles were not blessed as he? If the papal advocates are right in their exegesis, then they would have to say that the other apostles were excluded because he only speaks to Peter and calls him blessed.

2) When Jesus said to Peter that this blessing consisted of his having been shown the gospel truth by the Father, was this true only of Peter?

Certainly the power that was to be given to Peter, signified by the "keys of the kingdom of heaven," to have bound in heaven what he bound on earth, etc., was not given to him alone; yet, it must be him alone if Peter alone is the rock on which the church is built.

Look at these passages:

"And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full." (John 16:23 KJV)

"So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21-23 KJV)

Here the power given to Peter, in Matthew 16, is here said to have been given to ALL the apostles equally. This proves my assertion that what Jesus said to Peter was not intended to be true with regard strictly to him alone.

"And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31,32)

This latter passage is parallel to that in Matthew 16. In both passages Peter is specifically addressed. But, is it not clear that what Jesus says regarding Peter is not true ONLY of Peter? Did Christ not pray for the faith of ALL the apostles not to fail? Did Satan not equally desire to sift ALL the apostles?

Again, I argue that what is sometimes addressed to one disciple was not intended to be applicable only to that disciple. So is it with the case in Matthew 16 and Peter being a rock upon which the church is built.

"And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:51)

Was what Jesus here specifically says to Nathaniel true ONLY of Nathaniel? Did not ALL the apostles see heaven opened, and see the angels coming and going? Yes.

Papists, in arguing for what they call the "supremacy" of Peter, give these reasons for doing so.

1. "Peter is the only apostle to be called "Rock" by Jesus."

2. "Simon's name was changed to Peter. This is a similar act as God changed Abram's name to Abraham, or Jacob's name to Israel. A change in name meant a change in vocation; Simon was no longer a fisher, Peter is the head disciple of Christ."

3. Peter's name appears first in every Scriptural listing of the names of the apostles (although he was not the first called).
4. Peter is mentioned by name more than any other apostle in the New Testament (182 times). Second is John (34 times).
5. Peter is the only apostle prayed for by Christ that his "own faith may not fail." (Luke 22:31-32) Christ then says "you must strengthen your brothers."
6. Luke 24:34 and 1 Cor 15:5 show that the first apostle Christ appeared to after His Resurrection was Peter.
"These are just a few of many examples of the primacy of Peter" was the conclusion of the Catholic apologist.

The above quotations are from
It is a great error, however, for the papists to argue that the above verses prove the supremacy of Peter over the other apostles, and consequently, of the whole church.

If Peter had some kind of primacy, in age or gifts, does this prove all that the papists claim? Absolutely not. The quotations following, from a Protestant source, show that, by the same reasoning, Paul is superior over Peter.

"Simon" means "wavering." There is an internal transition in Peter from someone who would "waver" to someone who would proclaim the truth boldly. This transition is itself borne out by Matthew’s account. Peter is shown to be a clumsy, awkward (Matt 17:4-5), sometimes-in (Matt 26:35), sometimes-out (Matt 14:28-31; 26:69-75), sometimes-on-target (Matt 17:24-26), sometimes-off-target (Matt 18:21-22) disciple of Jesus. He is vocal and boisterous, is sometimes praised (Matt 16:16-17), and sometimes rebuked (Matt 15:15-16; 16:22-23), is sometimes "with" Jesus (Matt 19:27-28) and other times "against" him (Matt 16:22-23). So then, Jesus’ words are prophetic: "You are Simon/you are now Peter." Later, after the resurrection, we see that Peter boldly proclaims the gospel and eventually dies a martyr’s death (John 21:18-19). However, simply referring to Peter as "rock" does not establish primacy or authority—it refers only to Peter’s changed personality."

"While we may concede that Peter was a prominent and outspoken member of the early church, when one considers this evidence compared to the evidence supporting the primacy of Paul, an entirely different picture emerges. Paul wrote half of the books included in the New Testament canon—Peter wrote only two. Paul’s life and mission are the focal point in Acts, comprising sixteen of its twenty-eight chapters—Peter’s ministry comprises approximately eight chapters. Paul was appointed the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15, 15:7, Rom 11:13, 15:16, Gal 2:7-9, Eph 3:1, 8, 1 Tim 2:7, 2 Tim 1:11)—Peter is said to be the apostle to the Jews only (Gal 2:7-9). Since the church is made up primarily of Gentiles (not Jews), it is odd that Paul should not have primacy afforded to him by the Catholic church. Moreover, Paul writes that whatever "pillar" Peter may have been in the church made no difference to him: he did not see Peter as having the slightest primacy over him (Gal 2:6). Paul lumps Peter in with James and John when he speaks of the so-called "pillars" of the church (Gal 2:9), not giving any higher status to Peter than to the others. Indeed, in this passage Paul names James before Peter (perhaps then James should have primacy instead of Peter!). Paul rebuked Peter to his face for his hypocrisy (Gal 2:11-14). Paul did not submissively address Peter as "Holy Father," "Supreme Pastor," or "Vicar of Christ" and gently point out his mistake. Instead, he publicly censured him! Paul seems to go out of his way ("I said to Peter in front of them all"—v. 14) to show potential followers of Peter that Peter had no more authority than he himself did. Paul denies that any apostle has pre-eminence over him when he says, "I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostle" (2 Cor 11:5; 12:11). Paul seems to claim ecclesial preeminence over all of Christendom when he writes, "This is the rule I lay down in all the churches" (1 Cor 7:17), and claims responsibility for the spiritual welfare of all Christians in his statement to the Corinthians, "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches" (2 Cor 11:28).

Obviously, in light of these points, Paul is at least as qualified as Peter (if not more so) to hold ecclesial primacy. Of course, it would be nonsense to conclude from all this that Paul was a pope. But that is just the point; the Catholic apologist engages in special pleading when he points to all the passages that seem to single out Peter in an attempt to demonstrate Petrine primacy, but concludes something completely different about those passages that single out Paul in a very similar way."

The above good quotation was taken from

But, the truth is, as one writer affirmed, - "All of the apostles are the rock - (8 Church Fathers taught this interpretation). Since all of the apostles are the Rock, the church is built upon them (Eph 2:20)."

The following enumeration of the views on who or what is the "rock" in Matt. 16:18 is typical, yet it leaves out a 4th view, one held to also by some of the church fathers, and many since, that the "rock" represents the entire apostolic college.

"Historically, scholars have offered the following interpretations:

(1) "This Rock" refers to Jesus Himself;

(2) "This rock" is Peter’s confession of Jesus; and

(3) "This rock" refers to Peter’s person. Church history reveals that these three understandings of the "rock" passage were held by a number of early church fathers both in the East and the West. Indeed, some can be quoted as holding more than one view (e.g., Augustine)."

A fellow author, with Norman L. Geisler, wrote sentiments that I can endorse. They say, "even if Peter is the rock referred to by Christ, as some Protestant scholars believe, he was not the only rock in the foundation of the church, as many early church fathers point out."


In the next chapter, I will look at the Greek text to help us to identify Peter with being specifically named "Rock" or "Rocky," and with the church being built upon him. In this chapter I have demonstrated how Peter's "rockiness" was shared by the other apostles, yea, by every Christian, in one degree or another.

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