Sunday, October 28, 2018
DID PETER KNOW THAT HE WAS THE ROCK?
“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
The Catholic Church officially teaches that Peter is the rock of which Jesus was speaking in the verse above. Furthermore, according to the Catholic Catechism, it is Peter alone whom Jesus made the rock and foundation of His church:
“The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the ‘rock’ of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock…” [directly referring here to Matthew 16:18] (CCC #881).
But did Peter know this? Did he believe all the things that the Catholic Church is saying about him? If he did, how could we find out? Except for Jesus Christ, who is it that would have surely known, better than anyone else, the truth about this special role that was assigned to Peter? Wouldn’t it be Peter, himself? No doubt.
But did Peter believe that he was the rock? One sure way to find out is to look at his statements in Holy Scripture. In the book of Acts, we see this same apostle Peter making a defense before the elders and rulers of Israel concerning his healing of the lame man at the gate of the temple. Peter boldly tells these leaders:
“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby you must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12)
Here, Peter is referring to a very important foundational rock, or stone. It is unmistakable that the stone of which Peter is speaking here is Jesus Christ, Himself. No Catholic would disagree with us there. But Peter didn’t equate this rock with himself, and he didn’t tell the elders that he (the apostle) was the stone upon which the church was built, nor did he ever mention this special role that the Catholic Church gives him. It certainly would have been a great time to do so. Peter could have said, “Hey, why are you guys harassing me? Don’t you know that I’m the rock upon which the church is built?” But apparently, Peter wasn’t even aware that he was the rock. He points only to Jesus.
Furthermore, in his own epistle, Peter again mentions this same “stone of stumbling,” this “rock of offense” (1 Peter 2:8). But again, it is the Lord Jesus Christ that he is speaking of here:
“Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner.” (1 Peter 2:6-7)
Ok, so nothing here about Peter being the rock or stone upon which the church is built. Strange, if Peter really is that foundational rock, isn’t it? A Catholic may object at this point and say that they don’t claim that Peter is the cornerstone, only Jesus is. But again, here, in light of this “rock” and “stone” language above, in which Peter quotes Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 28:16 (who refers to Jesus as a sure foundation stone), he (Peter) had a perfect opportunity to mention his special role as the foundation of the church, but neglected to do so.
Furthermore, his epistle (the book of 1 Peter) was written to the “strangers” (i.e., the church) “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1), and it was written largely to instruct and comfort persecuted Christians. But would a responsible apostle withhold such important information (i.e., how he is the foundational rock) from many who were facing martyrdom? Isn’t this information much too critical to overlook?
Why would Peter deny the members of the churches in these areas this special information about who he is, and how important this role is. Why withhold the critical news that he (Peter) alone, was the very foundation of the church? Isn’t that really important? The Catholic Church certainly thinks it is. So why did Peter never say to these people, “You must follow my church” or “Remember, I am the rock upon which the church is founded”?
Maybe… just maybe… it’s because that isn’t the case. Maybe this “important” information was omitted because Peter is NOT the rock that the Catholic Church says he is. Maybe the church was NOT founded upon Peter alone as claimed in the Catechism. Maybe his role is greatly exaggerated by the Catholic Church, deceiving its members. We believe that this is indeed the case.
In conclusion, the apostle Peter mentions Jesus Christ as the Cornerstone and Foundation of the church (as noted above) and he mentions all Christians as being “lively [living] stones” (1 Peter 2:5), but he never mentions himself as any special stone / rock, much less the lone foundation of the church. Although the apostle Paul speaks of the prophets and apostles (plural) as the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20), Peter simply calls himself a “fellow elder” (1 Peter 5:1). Obviously, Peter did not know that he, alone, was the rock because that’s NOT what Jesus was telling him in Matthew 16.
We have dealt with the concept of Peter as “the rock” in much more detail in a previous article that can be found here: