Oct 22, 2008

Peter The Rock II

John Broadus was one of the ablest of Baptist theologians. He wrote:

"Many insist on the distinction between the two Greek words, thou art Petros and on this petra, holding that if the rock had meant Peter, either petros or petra would have been used both times, and that petros signifies a separate stone or fragment broken off, while petra is the massive rock. But this distinction is almost entirely confined to poetry, the common prose word instead of petros being lithos; nor is the distinction uniformly observed.

But the main answer here is that our Lord undoubtedly spoke Aramaic, which has no known means of making such a distinction [between feminine petra and masculine petros in Greek]. The Peshitta (Western Aramaic) renders, “Thou are kipho, and on this kipho.” The Eastern Aramaic, spoken in Palestine in the time of Christ, must necessarily have said in like manner, “Thou are kepha, and on this kepha.” . . . Beza called attention to the fact that it is so likewise in French: “Thou art Pierre, and on this pierre”; and Nicholson suggests that we could say, “Thou art Piers (old English for Peter), and on this pier.”
(Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1886), 355-356.)"

And, the able theologian, Hendriksen, wrote this:

"The meaning is, “You are Peter, that is Rock, and upon this rock, that is, on you, Peter I will build my church.” Our Lord, speaking Aramaic, probably said, “And I say to you, you are Kepha, and on this kepha I will build my church.” (New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1973), 647.)"

From http://www.katoliko.com/

D.A. Carson (Protestant Evangelical) --

"Although it is true that petros and petra can mean 'stone' and 'rock' respectively in earlier Greek, the distinction is largely confined to poetry. Moreover, the underlying Aramaic is in this case unquestionable; and most probably kepha was used in both clauses ('you are kepha' and 'on this kepha'), since the word was used both for a name and for a 'rock.' The Peshitta (written in Syriac, a language cognate with Aramaic) makes no distinction between the words in the two clauses. The Greek makes the distinction between petros and petra simply because it is trying to preserve the pun, and in Greek the feminine petra could not very well serve as a masculine name."

(Carson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary [Zondervan, 1984],

"The word Peter petros, meaning 'rock,' (Gk 4377) is masculine, and in Jesus' follow-up statement he uses the feminine word petra (Gk 4376). On the basis of this change, many have attempted to avoid identifying Peter as the rock on which Jesus builds his church yet if it were not for Protestant reactions against extremes of Roman Catholic interpretations, it is doubtful whether many would have taken 'rock' to be anything or anyone other than Peter."

(Carson, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary [Zondervan, 1994], volume 2, page 78, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 18)

"The change in Greek is due to the fact that petra, the normal word for rock, is feminine in gender, and therefore not suitable as a name for Simon! The echo of Peter's name remains obvious, even in Greek; he is the rock, in the sense outlined above."

(France, New Bible Commentary with consulting editors Carson, France, Motyer, Wenham [Intervarsity Press, 1994], page 925, 926)

Herman Ridderbos (Protestant Evangelical) --

"It is well known that the Greek word (petra) translated 'rock' here is different from the proper name Peter. The slight difference between them has no special importance, however. The most likely explanation for the change from petros ('Peter') to petra is that petra was the normal word for 'rock.' Because the feminine ending of this noun made it unsuitable as a man's name, however, Simon was not called petra but petros. The word petros was not an exact synonym of petra; it literally meant 'stone.' Jesus therefore had to switch to the word petra when He turned from Peter's name to what it meant for the Church. There is no good reason to think that Jesus switched from petros to petra to show that He was not speaking of the man Peter but of his confession as the foundation of the Church. The words 'on this rock [petra]' indeed refer to Peter. Because of the revelation that he had received and the confession that it motivated in him, Peter was appointed by Jesus to lay the foundation of the future church."

(Ridderbos, Bible Student's Commentary: Matthew [Zondervan, 1987], page 303 as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 35-36)

Craig Blomberg (Protestant Evangelical) --

"Acknowledging Jesus as The Christ illustrates the appropriateness of Simon's nickname 'Peter' (Petros=rock). This is not the first time Simon has been called Peter (cf. John 1:42 [wherein he is called Cephas]), but it is certainly the most famous. Jesus' declaration, 'You are Peter,' parallels Peter's confession, 'You are the Christ,' as if to say, 'Since you can tell me who I am, I will tell you who you are.' The expression 'this rock' almost certainly refers to Peter, following immediately after his name, just as the words following 'the Christ' in v. 16 applied to Jesus. The play on words in the Greek between Peter's name (Petros) and the word 'rock' (petra) makes sense only if Peter is the rock and if Jesus is about to explain the significance of this identification."

(Blomberg, The New American Commentary: Matthew [Broadman, 1992], page 251-252, as cited in Butler/Dahlgren/Hess, page 31-32)

Francis Wright Beare (Presbyterian/Reformed) --

"The play on words -- 'Peter', this 'rock' -- requires a change in Greek from petros (properly, 'stone') to petra. In Aramaic, the two words would be identical -- Kepha the name given to Peter, transliterated into Greek as Kephas (Gal. 2:9), and kepha, 'rock'. The symbol itself is Hebraic: Abraham is the 'rock' from which Israel was hewn, and in a rabbinic midrash, God finds in him a rock on which he can base and build the world..."

(Beare, The Gospel According to Matthew [Harper and Row, 1981], page 355)

Eduard Schweizer (Presbyterian/Reformed) --

"The 'rock' is Peter himself, not his confession. Only on this interpretation does the pun make sense."

(Schweizer, The Good News According to Matthew [John Knox Press, 1975], page 341)

Thomas G. Long (Presbyterian/Reformed) --

"Since, in the original Greek, Petros and petra both mean 'rock,' it is easy to spot this statement as a pun, a play on words: 'Your name is "Rock," and on this "rock" I will build my church.' Jesus' meaning is plain: Peter is the rock, the foundation, upon which he is going to erect his church...Jesus spoke Aramaic, however, not Greek. In Aramaic, the words for 'Peter' and 'rock' are the same (Kepha)...the most plausible interpretation of the passage is that Jesus is, indeed, pointing to Peter as the foundation stone, the principal leader, of this new people of God...there is much evidence that he also played a primary leadership role in the early Christian church....For the church, the new people of God, Peter was, indeed, the 'rock,' corresponding to Abraham of old, who was 'the rock from which you were hewn' (Isa. 51:1)."

(Long, Matthew [Westminster John Knox Press, 1997], page 185, 186)

Richard B. Gardner (Brethren/Mennonite) -- McCarthy, when he sadly left the Catholic Church became part of a Protestant "Brethren" sect --

"The key question here is whether the rock foundation of the church is Peter himself, or something to be distinguished from Peter. If the latter, Jesus could be speaking of Peter's faith, or of the revelation Peter received. It is more likely, however, that the rock on which Jesus promises to build the church is in fact Peter himself, Peter the first disciple (cf. 4:18; 10:2), who represents the whole group of disciples from which the church will be formed. At least four considerations support this view...."

(Gardner, Believers Church Bible Commentary: Matthew [Herald Press, 1991], 247)


I agree with this statement:

"The question about the papacy is broader than the interpretation of petros and petra in Matthew 16:18. Do not be fooled by Catholic apologists who make a big deal about ‘this rock’ as if the papacy is vindicated if it could be proved that ‘this rock’ refers to Peter. This passage says nothing about universal jurisdiction, successors or Roman bishops."

And of this affirmation:

"In fact there is a sense in which the apostle Peter, together with the other apostles and the prophets, form the foundation of the church because the Gospel was first given through them. This has nothing to do with the claimed universal jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome as the Roman apologist would have us believe."


The early church fathers differed on the precise interpretation of the passage. None of them gave it the significance that the Church of Rome does today, however.

"...the Church Fathers are not unanimous in understanding that Peter, as opposed to his confession of faith, is the "rock" referred to."

The Demonstrative Pronoun

"This (demonstrative pronoun) rock..."

"...the basic rule of grammar is that a demonstrative generally refers to its nearest antecedent."

From what I have gleaned, this a true statement and would therefore favor the view that Peter was the rock referred to and upon which the church would, in part, be constructed.

"You are Rock and on this [very] rock I will build my Church" does seem to indicate and emphasize a direct connection between the demonstrative and its immediate antecedent."

And to this I would once again give my hearty approval as the proper understanding of the syntax of the passage.

"Would it not be strange for the Lord, immediately after calling Simon the "Rock," to expect His hearers to understand his next reference to "rock" to refer to a completely different antecedent?"
Again, I think this reasoning is correct and has not been adequately dealt with by those opposed to Peter being the rock.

"...why not use alla instead of kai to join these clauses and say, "You are Peter but on your confession I will build my Church?"

This is an excellent argument against the idea that Jesus is contrasting Peter, a supposed "pebble" with himself, a bolder.

"A prime minister might say when eulogizing a famous humanitarian, "You are a Beacon of Hope, and to this beacon all Europe will look as a source of comfort in these dark days." Or a king says to his champion, "You are The Hammer, and under this hammer all the enemies of England will be crushed."

These are solemn, even stylized pronouncements. But we all understand immediately what is being said. Far from inclining us to hunt for some separate referent to which the demonstrative refers, we see immediately that the same person is addressed. To introduce (indeed, to insist on) a separate referent is not only foreign to the rhetorical device, but destroys it. These examples illustrate the almost jarring disjunction that the confessional interpretation introduces into the text."


Again, all this is but added weight to the argument that "petra" refers back to "petros."

"The KJV translators had no problem translating the Greek tautee tee as "this same" or "the same" because they recognized the demonstrative force this adjective could carry (cf., 2 Cor. 9:4-5; 8:6; 1 Cor. 7:20; Acts 13:33), as did other translations such as the NIV, NEB, and NASB in other verses of Scripture."

Again, this is but additional proof of the rock referring back to Peter.

"...there is no English grammar rule that says that because an indirect address follows or is in the vicinity of a direct address then the indirect address cannot be identified with the direct address."


The above was written by Catholic apologist, Robert Sungenis, and though I do not agree with what he and Catholics attempt to superimpose upon the passage, I do agree with their position that the rock is Peter. I disagree too that it was Peter alone and that such a view necessarily leads to the papists views on the primacy of Peter.

Again, though Geisler would not agree that Peter is the rock, he nevertheless expresses the view of other Protestant apologists who believe Peter, and all the apostles, were rocks upon which the Church was built. He and his co-author wrote:

"Even if Peter is the rock referred to by Christ, as even some non-Catholic scholars believe, he was not the only rock in the foundation of the church. As noted above, Jesus gave all the apostles the same power (“keys) to “bind” and “loose” that he gave to Peter (cf. Matt. 18:18). These were common rabbinic phrases used of “forbidding” and “allowing.” Thesekeys were not some mysterious power given to Peter alone but the power granted by Christ to his church by which, when they proclaim the Gospel, they can proclaim God’s forgiveness of sin to all who believe. As John Calvin noted,

“Since heaven is opened to us by the doctrine of the gospel, the word keys affords an appropriate metaphor. Now men are bound and loosed in no other way than when faith reconciles some to God, while their own unbelief constrains others the more” (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 4:6.4).

These are, to me, irrefutable arguments for Peter being the "Rock" that Christ referred to in the passage. But, as I said, granting this does not give one inch of ground to the Papists in support of their views of the episcopacy.

No comments: