Oct 22, 2008

Peter The Rock III

A writer wrote:

"Further, the Scriptures affirm that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone” (Eph. 2:20). Two things are clear from this: First, all the apostles, not just Peter, are the foundation of the church; second, the only one who was given a place of unique prominence was Christ, the capstone. Indeed, Peter himself referred to Christ as “the cornerstone” of the church (1 Peter 2:7) and the rest of believers as “living stones” (v. 5) in the superstructure of the church. There is no indication that Peter was given a special place of prominence in the foundation of the church above the rest of the apostles and below Christ. He is just one “stone” along with the other eleven apostles (Eph. 2:20).

Peter’s role in the New Testament falls far short of the Catholic claim that he was given unique authority among the apostles. While Peter did preach the initial sermon on Pentecost, his role in the rest of Acts is scarcely that of the chief apostle but as one of the “most eminent apostles” (plural, 2 Cor. 21:11 nkjv). By inspiration of God the apostle Paul revealed that no apostle was superior to him when he affirmed, “I was in no way inferior to these [so-called] ‘superapostles’ ” (2 Cor. 12:11).

No one reading Galatians carefully can come away with the impression that any apostle is superior to the apostle Paul. For Paul claimed to get his revelation independently of the other apostles (Gal. 1:12; 2:2), to be on the same level as Peter (Gal. 2:8), and he even used his revelation to rebuke Peter (Gal. 2:11–14).

Likewise, the fact that both Peter and John were sent by the apostles on a mission to Samaria reveals that Peter was not the superior apostle (Acts 8:4–13). Indeed, if Peter was the God-ordained superior apostle, it is strange that more attention is given to the ministry of the apostle Paul than to that of Peter in the Book of Acts. Peter is the focus through parts of chapters 1–12, but Paul is the dominant figure in chapters 13–28.

Though Peter addressed the first council (in Acts 15), he exercised no primacy over the others. The decision came from “the apostles and the elders [in agreement] with the whole church” (Acts 15:22; see v. 23). Many scholars feel that James, not Peter, presided over the council, since he was the one who gave the final words to the council (cf. vv. 13–21; see, for example, Bruce, 86f.).

In any event, by Peter’s own admission he was not the pastor of the church but only a “fellow presbyter [elder]” (1 Peter 5:1–2). And while he did claim to be “an apostle” (1 Peter 1:1) he nowhere claimed to be “the apostle” or the chief of apostles. He certainly was a leading apostle, but even then he was only one of the “pillars” (plural) of the church, along with James and John, not the pillar (see Gal. 2:9)."


"...in this verse, Peter functions as the foundation rock as the apostles and prophets do in Eph 2:20-21. If all the apostles and prophets are seen as rocks, does that diminish the unique blessing to Peter? Not at all. Although the apostles may be “rocks” in one sense, Peter is “the rock” in special sense."

All four of the gospel writers, then, seem to attribute a unique position to Peter. (By: Brittany C. Burnette from bible.org)

"What is seldom ever mentioned is the fact that Ephesians 2:20 uses precisely the same language as that found in Matthew 16 when it says the Church is built upon the apostles and prophets with Christ as the cornerstone. The same greek word for build upon in Matthew 16 is employed in Ephesians 2:20. This demonstrates that from a biblical perspective, even if we were to interpret the rock of Matthew 16 to be the person of Peter, the New Testament does not view the apostle Peter to be unique in this role. Christ is the foundation and the Church is built upon all the apostles and prophets in the sense of being built upon their teaching.

"Tertullian was born in Carthage in North Africa and practiced law before his conversion to Christianity ca. A.D. 193. As a Christian he was a prolific writer and has been called the ‘Father of Latin Christianity’. He was most likely a layman and his writings were widely read. He had a great influence upon the Church fathers of subsequent generations, especially Cyprian. He is the first of the Western fathers to comment on Matthew 16. In one of his writings Tertullian identifies the rock with the person of Peter on which the Church would be built..."

"Peter is the rock because he is the one given the privilege of being the first to open the kingdom of God to men.

Here is a quote from Origen:

"And if we too have said like Peter, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ not as if flesh and blood had revealed it unto us, but by the light from the Father in heaven having shone in our heart, we become a Peter, and to us there might be said by the Word, ‘Thou art Peter,’ etc. For a rock is every disciple of Christ of whom those drank who drank of the spiritual rock which followed them, and upon every such rock is built every word of the Church, and the polity in accordance with it; for in each of the perfect, who have the combination of words and deeds and thoughts which fill up the blessedness, is the church built by God.

But if you suppose that upon the one Peter only the whole church is built by God, what would you say about John the son of thunder or each one of the Apostles? Shall we otherwise dare to say, that against Peter in particular the gates of Hades shall not prevail, but that they shall prevail against the other Apostles and the perfect? Does not the saying previously made, ‘The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it,’ hold in regard to all and in the case of each of them? And also the saying, ‘Upon this rock I will build My Church?’ Are the keys of the kingdom of heaven given by the Lord to Peter only, and will no other of the blessed receive them? But if this promise, ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’ be common to others, how shall not all things previously spoken of, and the things which are subjoined as having been addressed to Peter, be common to them?

‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ If any one says this to Him...he will obtain the things that were spoken according to the letter of the Gospel to that Peter, but, as the spirit of the Gospel teaches to every one who becomes such as that Peter was. For all bear the surname ‘rock’ who are the imitators of Christ, that is, of the spiritual rock which followed those who are being saved, that they may drink from it the spiritual draught. But these bear the surname of rock just as Christ does. But also as members of Christ deriving their surname from Him they are called Christians, and from the rock, Peters."

"Origen and Tertullian are the first fathers, from the East and West respectively, to give an exposition on the meaning of the rock of Matthew 16 and the role and position of Peter. Their views are foundational for the interpretation of this important passage for the centuries following. Strands of their teaching will appear in the views of the fathers throughout the East and West. It is important to point out that the first Eastern and Western fathers to give an exegesis of Matthew 16 do not interpret the passage in a pro–Roman sense."


More on the views of the church fathers in Part Two.

CYPRIAN (A.D. 200–210—ca. 258)

"On the Unity of the Church Cyprian gives the following interpretation of the rock of Matthew 16:

The Lord saith unto Peter, I say unto thee, (saith He,) that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven (Matt. 16:18–19). To him again, after His resurrection, He says, Feed My sheep. Upon him being one He builds His Church; and although He gives to all the Apostles an equal power, and says, As My Father sent Me, even so I send you; receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosoever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted to him, and whosoever sins ye shall retain, they shall be retained (John 20:21);—yet in order to manifest unity, He has by His own authority so placed the source of the same unity, as to begin from one."

(A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1844), Cyprian, On The Unity of the Church 3-4, pp. 133-135)

"Cyprian clearly says that Peter is the rock."

He states that Peter is the rock he does not mean this in a pro–Roman sense. His view is that Peter is a symbol of unity, a figurative representative of the bishops of the Church. Cyprian viewed all the apostles as being equal with one another. He believed the words to Peter in Matthew 16 to be representative of the ordination of all Bishops so that the Church is founded, not upon one Bishop in one see, but upon all equally in collegiality. Peter, then, is a representative figure of the episcopate as a whole. His view is clearly stated in these words:

Certainly the other Apostles also were what Peter was, endued with an equal fellowship both of honour and power; but a commencement is made from unity, that the Church may be set before as one; which one Church, in the Song of Songs, doth the Holy Spirit design and name in the Person of our Lord: My dove, My spotless one, is but one; she is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her." (Cant. 9:6)

(A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1844), Cyprian, On The Unity of the Church 3, p. 133)

"Cyprian, like Tertullian, states that Peter is the rock. But such a statement must be qualified. He definitely does not mean this in the same way the Church of Rome does. In his treatise, On the Unity of the Church, Cyprian teaches that Peter alone is not the rock or foundation on which the Church is built, but rather, he is an example of the principle of unity. He is representative of the Church as a whole. The entire episcopate, according to Cyprian, is the foundation, though Christ is himself the true Rock."

"The theology of the controverted passage sees in Peter the symbol of unity, not from his being given greater authority by Christ for, as he says in both versions, ‘...a like power is given to all the Apostles’ and ‘...No doubt the others were all that Peter was.’" (Ibid)

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