There is ample evidence in the New Testament that Peter was first in authority among the apostles. Whenever they were named, Peter headed the list (Matt. 10:1-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13); sometimes the apostles were referred to as "Peter and those who were with him" (Luke 9:32). Peter was the one who generally spoke for the apostles (Matt. 18:21, Mark 8:29, Luke 12:41, John 6:68-69), and he figured in many of the most dramatic scenes (Matt. 14:28-32, Matt. 17:24-27, Mark 10:23-28). On Pentecost it was Peter who first preached to the crowds (Acts 2:14-40), and he worked the first healing in the Church age (Acts 3:6-7). It is Peters faith that will strengthen his brethren (Luke 22:32) and Peter is given Christs flock to shepherd (John 21:17). An angel was sent to announce the resurrection to Peter (Mark 16:7), and the risen Christ first appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34). He headed the meeting that elected Matthias to replace Judas (Acts 1:13-26), and he received the first converts (Acts 2:41). He inflicted the first punishment (Acts 5:1-11), and excommunicated the first heretic (Acts 8:18-23). He led the first council in Jerusalem (Acts 15), and announced the first dogmatic decision (Acts 15:7-11). It was to Peter that the revelation came that Gentiles were to be baptized and accepted as Christians (Acts 10:46-48).
Peter the Rock
Peters preeminent position among the apostles was symbolized at the very beginning of his relationship with Christ. At their first meeting, Christ told Simon that his name would thereafter be Peter, which translates as "Rock" (John 1:42). The startling thing was thataside from the single time that Abraham is called a "rock" (Hebrew: Tsur; Aramaic: Kepha) in Isaiah 51:1-2in the Old Testament only God was called a rock. The word rock was not used as a proper name in the ancient world. If you were to turn to a companion and say, "From now on your name is Asparagus," people would wonder: Why Asparagus? What is the meaning of it? What does it signify? Indeed, why call Simon the fisherman "Rock"? Christ was not given to meaningless gestures, and neither were the Jews as a whole when it came to names. Giving a new name meant that the status of the person was changed, as when Abrams name was changed to Abraham (Gen.17:5), Jacobs to Israel (Gen. 32:28), Eliakims to Joakim (2 Kgs. 23:34), or the names of the four Hebrew youthsDaniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan. 1:6-7). But no Jew had ever been called "Rock." The Jews would give other names taken from nature, such as Deborah ("bee," Gen. 35:8), and Rachel ("ewe," Gen. 29:16), but never "Rock." In the New Testament James and John were nicknamed Boanerges, meaning "Sons of Thunder," by Christ, but that was never regularly used in place of their original names, and it certainly was not given as a new name. But in the case of Simon-bar-Jonah, his new name Kephas (Greek: Petros) definitely replaced the old.
Look at the scene
Not only was there significance in Simon being given a new and unusual name, but the place where Jesus solemnly conferred it upon Peter was also important. It happened when "Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi" (Matt. 16:13), a city that Philip the Tetrarch built and named in honor of Caesar Augustus, who had died in A.D. 14. The city lay near cascades in the Jordan River and near a gigantic wall of rock, a wall about 200 feet high and 500 feet long, which is part of the southern foothills of Mount Hermon. The city no longer exists, but its ruins are near the small Arab town of Banias; and at the base of the rock wall may be found what is left of one of the springs that fed the Jordan. It was here that Jesus pointed to Simon and said, "You are Peter" (Matt. 16:18).
The significance of the event must have been clear to the other apostles. As devout Jews they knew at once that the location was meant to emphasize the importance of what was being done. None complained of Simon being singled out for this honor; and in the rest of the New Testament he is called by his new name, while James and John remain just James and John, not Boanerges.
Promises to Peter
When he first saw Simon, "Jesus looked at him, and said, So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter)" (John 1:42). The word Cephas is merely the transliteration of the Aramaic Kepha into Greek. Later, after Peter and the other disciples had been with Christ for some time, they went to Caesarea Philippi, where Peter made his profession of faith: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). Jesus told him that this truth was specially revealed to him, and then he solemnly reiterated: "And I tell you, you are Peter" (Matt. 16:18). To this was added the promise that the Church would be founded, in some way, on Peter (Matt. 16:18).
Then two important things were told the apostle. "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:19). Here Peter was singled out for the authority that provides for the forgiveness of sins and the making of disciplinary rules. Later the apostles as a whole would be given similar power [Matt.18:18], but here Peter received it in a special sense.
Peter alone was promised something else also: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 16:19). In ancient times, keys were the hallmark of authority. A walled city might have one great gate; and that gate had one great lock, worked by one great key. To be given the key to the cityan honor that exists even today, though its import is lostmeant to be given free access to and authority over the city. The city to which Peter was given the keys was the heavenly city itself. This symbolism for authority is used elsewhere in the Bible (Is. 22:22, Rev. 1:18).
Finally, after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and asked Peter three times, "Do you love me?" (John 21:15-17). In repentance for his threefold denial, Peter gave a threefold affirmation of love. Then Christ, the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14), gave Peter the authority he earlier had promised: "Feed my sheep" (John 21:17). This specifically included the other apostles, since Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me more than these?" (John 21:15), the word "these" referring to the other apostles who were present (John 21:2). Thus was completed the prediction made just before Jesus and his followers went for the last time to the Mount of Olives.
Immediately before his denials were predicted, Peter was told, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again [after the denials], strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:31-32). It was Peter who Christ prayed would have faith that would not fail and that would be a guide for the others; and his prayer, being perfectly efficacious, was sure to be fulfilled.
Who is the rock?
Now take a closer look at the key verse: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church" (Matt. 16:18). Disputes about this passage have always been related to the meaning of the term "rock." To whom, or to what, does it refer? Since Simons new name of Peter itself means rock, the sentence could be rewritten as: "You are Rock and upon this rock I will build my Church." The play on words seems obvious, but commentators wishing to avoid what follows from thisnamely the establishment of the papacyhave suggested that the word rock could not refer to Peter but must refer to his profession of faith or to Christ.
From the grammatical point of view, the phrase "this rock" must relate back to the closest noun. Peters profession of faith ("You are the Christ, the Son of the living God") is two verses earlier, while his name, a proper noun, is in the immediately preceding clause.
As an analogy, consider this artificial sentence: "I have a car and a truck, and it is blue." Which is blue? The truck, because that is the noun closest to the pronoun "it." This is all the more clear if the reference to the car is two sentences earlier, as the reference to Peters profession is two sentences earlier than the term rock.
The previous argument also settles the question of whether the word refers to Christ himself, since he is mentioned within the profession of faith. The fact that he is elsewhere, by a different metaphor, called the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20, 1 Pet. 2:4-8) does not disprove that here Peter is the foundation. Christ is naturally the principal and, since he will be returning to heaven, the invisible foundation of the Church that he will establish; but Peter is named by him as the secondary and, because he and his successors will remain on earth, the visible foundation. Peter can be a foundation only because Christ is the cornerstone.
In fact, the New Testament contains five different metaphors for the foundation of the Church (Matt. 16:18, 1 Cor. 3:11, Eph. 2:20, 1 Pet. 2:5-6, Rev. 21:14). One cannot take a single metaphor from a single passage and use it to twist the plain meaning of other passages. Rather, one must respect and harmonize the different passages, for the Church can be described as having different foundations since the word foundation can be used in different senses.
Look at the Aramaic
Opponents of the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16:18 sometimes argue that in the Greek text the name of the apostle is Petros, while "rock" is rendered as petra. They claim that the former refers to a small stone, while the latter refers to a massive rock; so, if Peter was meant to be the massive rock, why isnt his name Petra?
Note that Christ did not speak to the disciples in Greek. He spoke Aramaic, the common language of Palestine at that time. In that language the word for rock is kepha, which is what Jesus called him in everyday speech (note that in John 1:42 he was told, "You will be called Cephas"). What Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 was: "You are Kepha, and upon this kepha I will build my Church."
When Matthews Gospel was translated from the original Aramaic to Greek, there arose a problem which did not confront the evangelist when he first composed his account of Christs life. In Aramaic the word kepha has the same ending whether it refers to a rock or is used as a mans name. In Greek, though, the word for rock, petra, is feminine in gender. The translator could use it for the second appearance of kepha in the sentence, but not for the first because it would be inappropriate to give a man a feminine name. So he put a masculine ending on it, and hence Peter became Petros.
Furthermore, the premise of the argument against Peter being the rock is simply false. In first century Greek the words petros and petra were synonyms. They had previously possessed the meanings of "small stone" and "large rock" in some early Greek poetry, but by the first century this distinction was gone, as Protestant Bible scholars admit (see D. A. Carsons remarks on this passage in the Expositors Bible Commentary, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Books]).
Some of the effect of Christs play on words was lost when his statement was translated from the Aramaic into Greek, but that was the best that could be done in Greek. In English, like Aramaic, there is no problem with endings; so an English rendition could read: "You are Rock, and upon this rock I will build my church."
Consider another point: If the rock really did refer to Christ (as some claim, based on 1 Cor. 10:4, "and the Rock was Christ" though the rock there was a literal, physical rock), why did Matthew leave the passage as it was? In the original Aramaic, and in the English which is a closer parallel to it than is the Greek, the passage is clear enough. Matthew must have realized that his readers would conclude the obvious from "Rock . . . rock."
If he meant Christ to be understood as the rock, why didnt he say so? Why did he take a chance and leave it up to Paul to write a clarifying text? This presumes, of course, that 1 Corinthians was written after Matthews Gospel; if it came first, it could not have been written to clarify it.
The reason, of course, is that Matthew knew full well that what the sentence seemed to say was just what it really was saying. It was Simon, weak as he was, who was chosen to become the rock and thus the first link in the chain of the papacy.
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permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004
Matt. to Rev. - Peter is mentioned 155 times and the rest of apostles combined are only mentioned 130 times. Peter is also always listed first except in 1 Cor. 3:22 and Gal. 2:9 (which are obvious exceptions to the rule).
Matt. 10:2; Mark 1:36; 3:16; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:3; 2:37; 5:29 - these are some of many examples where Peter is mentioned first among the apostles.
Matt. 14:28-29 - only Peter has the faith to walk on water. No other man in Scripture is said to have the faith to walk on water. This faith ultimately did not fail.
Matt. 16:16, Mark 8:29; John 6:69 - Peter is first among the apostles to confess the divinity of Christ.
Matt. 16:17 - Peter alone is told he has received divine knowledge by a special revelation from God the Father.
Matt. 16:18 - Jesus builds the Church only on Peter, the rock, with the other apostles as the foundation and Jesus as the Head.
Matt. 16:19 - only Peter receives the keys, which represent authority over the Church and facilitate dynastic succession to his authority.
Matt. 17:24-25 - the tax collector approaches Peter for Jesus' tax. Peter is the spokesman for Jesus. He is the Vicar of Christ.
Matt. 17:26-27 - Jesus pays the half-shekel tax with one shekel, for both Jesus and Peter. Peter is Christ's representative on earth.
Matt. 18:21 - in the presence of the disciples, Peter asks Jesus about the rule of forgiveness. One of many examples where Peter takes a leadership role among the apostles in understanding Jesus' teachings.
Matt. 19:27 - Peter speaks on behalf of the apostles by telling Jesus that they have left everything to follow Him.
Mark 10:28 - here also, Peter speaks on behalf of the disciples by declaring that they have left everything to follow Him.
Mark 11:21 - Peter speaks on behalf of the disciples in remembering Jesus' curse on the fig tree.
Mark 14:37 - at Gethsemane, Jesus asks Peter, and no one else, why he was asleep. Peter is accountable to Jesus for his actions on behalf of the apostles because he has been appointed by Jesus as their leader.
Mark 16:7 - Peter is specified by an angel as the leader of the apostles as the angel confirms the resurrection of Christ.
Luke 5:3 Jesus teaches from Peters boat which is metaphor for the Church. Jesus guides Peter and the Church into all truth.
Luke 5:4,10 - Jesus instructs Peter to let down the nets for a catch, and the miraculous catch follows. Peter, the Pope, is the "fisher of men."
Luke 7:40-50- Jesus addresses Peter regarding the rule of forgiveness and Peter answers on behalf of the disciples. Jesus also singles Peter out and judges his conduct vis-à-vis the conduct of the woman who anointed Him.
Luke 8:45 - when Jesus asked who touched His garment, it is Peter who answers on behalf of the disciples.
Luke 8:51; 9:28; 22:8; Acts 1:13; 3:1,3,11; 4:13,19; 8:14 - Peter is always mentioned before John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.
Luke 9:28;33 - Peter is mentioned first as going to mountain of transfiguration and the only one to speak at the transfiguration.
Luke 12:41 - Peter seeks clarification of a parable on behalf on the disciples. This is part of Peter's formation as the chief shepherd of the flock after Jesus ascended into heaven.
Luke 22:31-32 - Jesus prays for Peter alone, that his faith may not fail, and charges him to strengthen the rest of the apostles.
Luke 24:12, John 20:4-6 - John arrived at the tomb first but stopped and waited for Peter. Peter then arrived and entered the tomb first.
Luke 24:34 - the two disciples distinguish Peter even though they both had seen the risen Jesus the previous hour. See Luke 24:33.
John 6:68 - after the disciples leave, Peter is the first to speak and confess his belief in Christ after the Eucharistic discourse.
John 13:6-9 - Peter speaks out to the Lord in front of the apostles concerning the washing of feet.
John 13:36; 21:18 - Jesus predicts Peter's death. Peter was martyred at Rome in 67 A.D. Several hundred years of papal successors were also martyred.
John 21:2-3,11 - Peter leads the fishing and his net does not break. The boat (the "barque of Peter") is a metaphor for the Church.
John 21:7 - only Peter got out of the boat and ran to the shore to meet Jesus. Peter is the earthly shepherd leading us to God.
John 21:15 - in front of the apostles, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus "more than these," which refers to the other apostles. Peter is the head of the apostolic see.
John 21:15-17 - Jesus charges Peter to "feed my lambs," "tend my sheep," "feed my sheep." Sheep means all people, even the apostles.
Acts 1:13 - Peter is first when entering upper room after our Lord's ascension. The first Eucharist and Pentecost were given in this room.
Acts 1:15 - Peter initiates the selection of a successor to Judas right after Jesus ascended into heaven, and no one questions him. Further, if the Church needed a successor to Judas, wouldn't it need one to Peter? Of course.
Acts 2:14 - Peter is first to speak for the apostles after the Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost. Peter is the first to preach the Gospel.
Acts 2:38 - Peter gives first preaching in the early Church on repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.
Acts 3:1,3,4 - Peter is mentioned first as going to the Temple to pray.
Acts 3:6-7 - Peter works the first healing of the apostles.
Acts 3:12-26, 4:8-12 - Peter teaches the early Church the healing through Jesus and that there is no salvation other than Christ.
Acts 5:3 - Peter declares the first anathema of Ananias and Sapphira which is ratified by God, and brings about their death. Peter exercises his binding authority.
Acts 5:15 - Peter's shadow has healing power. No other apostle is said to have this power.
Acts 8:14 - Peter is mentioned first in conferring the sacrament of confirmation.
Acts 8:20-23 - Peter casts judgment on Simon's quest for gaining authority through the laying on of hands. Peter exercises his binding and loosing authority.
Acts 9:32-34 - Peter is mentioned first among the apostles and works the healing of Aeneas.
Acts 9:38-40 - Peter is mentioned first among the apostles and raises Tabitha from the dead.
Acts 10:5 - Cornelius is told by an angel to call upon Peter. Angels are messengers of God. Peter was granted this divine vision.
Acts 10:34-48, 11:1-18 - Peter is first to teach about salvation for all (Jews and Gentiles).
Acts 12:5 - this verse implies that the "whole Church" offered "earnest prayers" for Peter, their leader, during his imprisonment.
Acts 12:6-11 - Peter is freed from jail by an angel. He is the first object of divine intervention in the early Church.
Acts 15:7-12 - Peter resolves the first doctrinal issue on circumcision at the Church's first council at Jerusalem, and no one questions him. After Peter the Papa spoke, all were kept silent.
Acts 15:12 - only after Peter (the Pope) speaks do Paul and Barnabas (bishops) speak in support of Peter's definitive teaching.
Acts 15:13-14 - then James speaks to further acknowledge Peter's definitive teaching. "Simeon (Peter) has related how God first visited..."
Rom. 15:20 - Paul says he doesn't want to build on "another man's foundation" referring to Peter, who built the Church in Rome.
1 Cor. 9:5 Peter is distinguished from the rest of the apostles and brethren of the Lord.
1 Cor. 15:4-8 - Paul distinguishes Jesus' post-resurrection appearances to Peter from those of the other apostles. Christ appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Gal.1:18 - Paul spends fifteen days with Peter privately before beginning his ministry, even after Christ's Revelation to Paul.
1 Peter 5:1 - Peter acts as the chief bishop by "exhorting" all the other bishops and elders of the Church.
1 Peter 5:13 - Some Protestants argue against the Papacy by trying to prove Peter was never in Rome. First, this argument is irrelevant to whether Jesus instituted the Papacy. Secondly, this verse demonstrates that Peter was in fact in Rome. Peter writes from "Babylon" which was a code name for Rome during these days of persecution. See, for example, Rev. 14:8, 16:19, 17:5, 18:2,10,21, which show that "Babylon" meant Rome. Rome was the "great city" of the New Testament period. Because Rome during this age was considered the center of the world, the Lord wanted His Church to be established in Rome.
2 Peter 1:14 - Peter writes about Jesus' prediction of Peter's death, embracing the eventual martyrdom that he would suffer.
2 Peter 3:16 - Peter is making a judgment on the proper interpretation of Paul's letters. Peter is the chief shepherd of the flock.
Matt. 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:44 - yet Peter, as the first, humbled himself to be the last and servant of all servants.
The Catholics never did bother to ask Peter what he thought of Christ calling him a stone:
1Pe 2:3-10 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (4) To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, (5) Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (6) 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. (7) 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, (8) And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. (9) But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (10) Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
Act 4:10-12 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. (11) This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. (12) Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Christ is the chief cornerstone, and Christians are “lively” stones who share in that structure (the body of Christ) of which Christ is chief. Christ’s message to Peter was a faith message, in response to his affirmation that Jesus is the Christ, not a claim that Peter was now the Rock of the church with power and authority equal to Jesus Christ. Even Paul opposed Peter “to his face” over the controversy involving the segregation of gentiles from Jews, and there is no reason to think that the Apostles each operated, though in cooperation, often interdependently, and each operated with the same authority in the casting out of devils (which all Christians possess), or even the occasional punishment. As Paul, by the direction of the Holy Spirit, declared that darkness would come on to the eyes of the magician.
Interesting how even God Himself declares there is no other Rock.
1 Cor. 3:11, "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ,"
Catholics say its upon Peter that the church is built ey?
1 Cor. 10:4, "and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock (petras) which followed them; and the rock (petra) was Christ."
Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
No vicar or replacement for me. Christ is the only Rock. Only one stand in for Christ is mentioned in scripture and the end for those who follow him isnt a good one.
-- Jesus changed the name of Simon to Peter after his confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi. "Peter" means "Rock," signifying Peter's role as the foundation of the Church.
But "Catholic Answers" says:
At their first meeting, Christ told Simon that his name would thereafter be Peter, which translates as "Rock" (John 1:42).
According to Scripture, Jesus first called Simon to follow Him and told him his new name was "Cephas" or "Peter". He was referred to by this name before the "confession of faith" incident. So, I would say the author of the OP is mistaken.
As to his assertion that this issue is a "major" Protestant disagreement, he errs again. It isn't that Peter was first among the apostles that is disputed, but that this translated into Peter being the first "Pope" of Rome and his power and authority magically handed down over the last two thousand years from one man to the next and, by implicit statements, every "Pope" has the SAME authority as Christ gave to Peter and the other Apostles up to including the ability to make "infallible" statements on the doctrines of the faith that ALL Christians are obligated to obey. This was what the Reformers fought against. It was what the Eastern Orthodox Church objected to before them and is what all other non-Catholic Christians STILL reject.