Sunday: The Foundation of the Church
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Jesus said on this rock I will build My church (Matt. 16:18, NKJV). Who is the rock (petra in Greek) upon which the church is built? Some interpreters believe that Peter is the rock. They argue that the Lord used a play on words between Peter and rock (Petros and petra, respectively, in Greek)-a play that presumably would be clearer in the Aramaic language, which Jesus probably used. The fact is, however, that nobody knows with certitude the exact wording of Jesus’ statement in Aramaic. We have only the Greek text recorded by Matthew, which distinguishes between Petros (stone) and petra (rock), a distinction that should not be overlooked.

There are good reasons to affirm that petra refers to Christ. The immediate context of Jesus’ statement (Matt. 16:13-20) centers on Christ’s identity and mission, not Peter’s. Besides, Jesus had previously used the image of building upon a rock, clearly identifying the rock as Himself and His teachings (Matt. 7:24-25).

What is the symbolic meaning of rock in the Old Testament? Deut. 32:4; Ps. 28:1; Ps. 31:2-3; Ps. 42:9; Ps. 62:2; Isa. 17:10.

Image © John Baker from GoodSalt.com

Image © John Baker from GoodSalt.com

When Peter and the other apostles heard Jesus speaking of building His church on a rock, they would have interpreted the image in terms of what it meant in the Old Testament-namely, a symbol of God.

Peter himself affirmed that Christ is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone (Acts 4:11, NKJV), and he applied the term rock to Christ as the foundation of the church (1 Pet. 2:4-8). While he compared Christians in general to living stones, he applied the term rock (petra) to Christ alone. In the Bible no human being is called petra, except Jesus.

The apostle Paul used the term petra in reference to Christ (Rom. 9:33, 1 Cor. 10:4) and decidedly declared that no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11, NKJV). We conclude, therefore, that the apostolic church unanimously understood that Jesus Christ Himself is the underlying petra upon which the church is built, and all the prophets and apostles, including Peter, are the first layer of living stones in the church’s spiritual edifice (Eph. 2:20).

Why is it important to know that the church, feeble as it sometimes may seem, is founded upon Christ Himself?

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Sunday: The Foundation of the Church — 27 Comments

    • Dear Brother Reuben, glad to meet you!
      Actually in 1 Peter 2:4-8 there is no Greek PETRA or PETROS. Peter uses ther only the common Greek word for "stone", which is LITHOS.

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  1. It is very important to know that no matter how feeble the church sometimes seems, that as long as Jesus Christ is the cornerstone, it will never fall! We just need to stay close to Christ & immerse ourselves in Him and become more like Him each day! He is our strong foundation that can never be moved!

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    • Knowing that the Church is built on the rock Jesus Christ assures us that no matter how strong the tempests against the church, it will always gain victory. The church therefore remains the only place of refuge no matter how safe other options may appear. Our faith should not be shaken since "The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will,Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea,Or demons or men, or whatever it be No waters can swallow the ship where lies The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies."

      Master, the tempest is raging!
      The billows are tossing high!
      The sky is o'ershadow with blackness,
      No shelter or help is nigh;
      Carest Thou not that we perish?
      How canst Thou lie asleep,
      When each moment so madly is threatening
      A grave in the angry deep?

      Refrain

      The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will,
      Peace, be still!
      Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea,
      Or demons or men, or whatever it be
      No waters can swallow the ship where lies
      The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
      They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
      Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
      They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
      Peace, peace, be still!

      Master, with anguish of spirit
      I bow in my grief today;
      The depths of my sad heart are troubled
      Oh, waken and save, I pray!
      Torrents of sin and of anguish
      Sweep o’er my sinking soul;
      And I perish! I perish! dear Master
      Oh, hasten, and take control.

      Master, the terror is over,
      The elements sweetly rest;
      Earth’s sun in the calm lake is mirrored,
      And heaven’s within my breast;
      Linger, O blessèd Redeemer!
      Leave me alone no more;
      And with joy I shall make the blest harbor,
      And rest on the blissful shore.

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  2. In this lesson two possible interpretations are given for what Jesus is referring to when he talks about the rock, that is the foundation upon which he would build his church (Matthew 16:18). I would like to suggest a third possible interpretation, and this involves changing the question posed from, “Who is the rock?” to “What is the rock?”.

    I believe that it is entirely likely that the rock that Jesus is referring to here is the declaration that Peter had made, rather than Peter himself. Peter had declared that Jesus is the “...Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Using the words of the lesson, I think that this fits in well with the immediate context of Jesus' statement (Matthew 16:13-20) which centres on Christ's identity and mission. The fact that Jesus is the Son of God is, in fact, a core principal of the Christian church. I also believe that this does not detract from the focus of the lesson, as it also puts Jesus at the foundation of the church.

    I believe that the rock being the identification of Jesus as the Son of God resolves problems with current interpretations of the text. There seems to be no doubt that Jesus employs Peter's name as a tool in the verbal imagery of his statement, and it is the use of Peter's name which identifies the subject of the statement, which is the “rock”. It would seem discongruous or verbally awkward for Jesus to switch from having “Peter” as the subject of his statement to himself being the subject. This is especially so as he already includes himself within the statement when he refers to it being, “His church”, but he himself is not the subject of the statement. I think that if the subject of the statement is Peter's declaration that Jesus is the “son of the living God”, this still involves Peter as the subject of the statement, and the statement retains a sensible form (in terms of language use).

    It is clear that the the apostles have an important part in the redemption story, as their names will be in the twelve foundations of the wall of the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:14). However, Peter was never singled out for particular honour in this respect. I believe, however, that when Jesus talks about the rock in Matthew 16:18 he is talking about the declaration that Peter had made when he said that Jesus was the “Son of the living God”. (As a scientist please allow me to use the following equation to ensure that I am being clear: rock = “Jesus is the son of God”). Jesus confirmed Peter's words by saying it was a revelation from the Father in Heaven (Matthew 16:17). I believe that the idea that the rock is Peter's declaration is in keeping with the context of Jesus' statement, provides a viable alternative interpretation, and also sits well with other statements of Jesus e.g. John 3:16, John 15:1, John 14:16.

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    • Lowel,
      Yours is an insightful assessment. Based on the sentence construction (not necessarily the passage context) it is possible to see the Peter as the rock being referenced. The question then would be what is the significance of Peter being the rock?

      Two things could help here: Ephesians 2:20 makes it clear the apostles (rocks or stones) rest on the Chief Cornerstone, Jesus. As well Matthew 16:18 indicates Jesus is the owner of the church and He does the building. The following verse (Matthew 16:19) points out that Peter(likely representing the apostles) was given authority and responsibility to administer the affairs of the church.

      Jesus identified leaders while maintaining final control and ownership. Globally or locally the church does not belong to charter members, pastors, financial heavyweights, scholars, longstanding leaders or influential evangelists. None except Jesus, the Chief Cornerstone is indispensable. Anyone can be replaced anytime, and has no special claims based on contribution. We should get that straight and not try to put our stamp on the church, as this only mars it.

      It becomes us to exercise all authority invested in us as stewards with humility and a recognition we are privileged to be a part of something held in supreme regard by God.

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    • I think, the interpretation that the rock (petra) means the confession of Peter, overlooks the very testimony of Peter himself. Peter is pointing to Christ as a person using the words stone of stumbling and rock of offense (1 Peter 2:8). Stumbling stone is used in reference to the chief corner stone carrying the weight of the building, which is synonymous with rock (Matthew 21:42). The Hebrews often used different word pictures to emphacize the same point.

      Christ was preparing his disciples for the crisis ahead in the cross event. To enable them to go through this ordeal, Christ persented himself as the rock of ages in order for their faith to rest upon. Neither faith nor confession is our rock. Moreover, our faith and our confession is in need of a firm foundation, such as Christ the rock. David is using the word rock as synonymous with God as a person. That rock (petra) is being used by David in his prayer language addressing God as a person to be adored (Psalm 18:2). Other passages also are using the word rock in reference to God as a person (Deuteronomy 32:4.18). The term rock turns out to be a title of divinity. This would never fit a human being nor our confession or faith.

      The two terms petra (rock) and petros (rolling stone) are palced in opposition to each other in reference to Christ as person and Peter as a person. I think, we are not to focus on ourselves and our confession which may be wavering --- but on Christ the sure foundation and rock for our confession and faith to be bluilt on.

      Winfried Stolpmann

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    • Dear Winfried,

      I do see, as you state and is covered quite extensively within the lesson, that the imagery of rocks and stones is used often within the scriptures. It is an imagery from the scriptures which is still relevant today, and so does not require much explaining. It brings to my mind a quote from Stephen Donaldson: “Stone and sea...permanence at rest and permanence in motion.” (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever) - Which is just one aspect of the imagery. However, what we are trying to understand here is what Jesus meant by his particular statement in Matthew 16:18. I also think that you will find that, in contradiction to your statement, Jesus was not presenting himself as anything but was particularly careful to enquire as to how others saw him (Matthew 16:13,15; Mark 8:27, 29; Luke 9:18,20).

      You mentioned, “the confession of Peter”. I would suggest that it was much more than just the utterance of a human being. Jesus said, it was a revelation from the Father (Matthew 16:17). Peter was not relaying his own opinions, but information received from the Father in heaven, and thus he was prophesying. Therefore, Peter's words should not be considered, as a you seem to imply, as a confession of faith but as a divine revelation.

      With regard to, “The interpretation that the rock (petra) means the confession of Peter”, as you so well express it, I think it is possible that you missed an important point of what I was trying to say in my previous comment (August 17): I believe that it is the information contained within Peter's “confession” that is the foundation of the church, not the fact that Peter said it. We are told that it is important to believe that Jesus is the son of the Living God. Jesus told us that everlasting life is only given to those that believe this (John 3:16; John 6:40). Those who do not believe that Jesus is the son of God are condemned (John 3:18; John 8:24). John the Baptist gave us exactly the same message (John 3:36). When Jesus asked Lazarus' sister, Martha if she believed that he was the Resurrection and the Life, her validation of her positive reply was that she believed that Jesus was the Son of God. (John 11:25-27). Jesus was also clear that those who failed to honour him as the Son of God, dishonoured the Father (John 5:22-23). The apostle John says that his entire gospel message was written so that we, the readers, might believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and so have eternal life. (John 20:31). When Philip questioned the Ethiopian Eunuch as to his readiness for baptism he answered, “I believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God.” (Acts 8:37) In Paul's travels he proclaimed Jesus as the son of God (Acts 9:20, 2 Corinthians 1:18). We can see, therefore, that believing that Jesus is the son of God is a vital part of our Christian belief system. Without it nothing else stands; this is the very definition of a “foundation.” The word “Christ” itself from which we name ourselves “Christians” means “The anointed one” which is another name for the Son of God (Matthew 16:16; Matthew 26:63; Mark 1:1; Luke 4:40; John 6:69; John 11:27; John 20:31).

      In conclusion, I believe that Peter's confession was a divine revelation. I also think that believing that Jesus is the son of God is a fundamental foundation of Jesus' church: The Father loves us because we love Jesus, and believe that he is His son (John 16:27), and Jesus' church is based on love (John 13:35).

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    • Our traditional exegesis on Mat 16:18 is doctrinally correct, since it avoids the Catholic conclusion that Papacy is the Rock on which the Church is built. Actually it is an old Protestant exegesis, we just inherit it. However, methodologically it is not correct. No matter how hard tries one to avoid the obvious referent Peter being the Rock, in the next verse Jesus gives him [Peter] also the keys of His Kingdom. So this is a matter of authority. The Bible's statements that Jesus is the Rock are true. But it is obvious from this text (and also Mat 10:40; 1Tim 3:15; Rev 21:14) that Jesus founded His Church on His apostles. Peter in this case is answered not as an individual, but as an apostle, even as a representative of the twelve, since he answered Jesus' question to the twelve. Thus adressing Peter, Jesus' statement involves the twelve and the seventy and even the many future apostoles, since we all base our belief on the apostles' message as it reached to us through various men of God.
      Peter is called the rock in Matthew 16 as sure as he is called Satan in verse 23. Both metaphors apply to him (and to whoever are his followers), but surely not in an absolute sense.
      Peter (Gr. Petros) is the Greek translation of the Jewish-Aramaic nickname which Jesus gave Simon (John 1:42): Keypha'. According to every Aramaic authority (lexicon), Keypha' כֵּיפָא means "rock". The Old Aramaic New Testament (Peshitto') has in this text: "You are Keypha' and on this Keypha' I shall build my Assembly."
      Yes, Jesus is the Rock in many other verses, but not in Matthew 16. Compare: "I am the light of the world" and "You are the light of the world". Both statements are true.
      PETROS (Peter) and PETRA (rock, in Greek) are surely a wordplay, but they are not in contrast. Peter is called PETROS (not PETRA), just because PETROS is masculine and PETRA is feminine. But surely Jesus called him Keypha' (rock), as we have shown.
      It is not true that we cannot know what terms Jesus may have used in this famous statement, since we know from the John 1 that Jesus called Simon Keypha'. And Keypha' is the common Aramaic word for "rock".

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      • Florin, many have come to the same conclusions that you have come to. To me the question boils down to who was the leader in the early church? If we look at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) we can only conclude that while Peter was outspoken, as he always was, it seems to be James that had the final decision as spokesperson for the church (Acts 15:19-21). Furthermore, according to Paul’s own testimony Peter was still weak in faith when at Antioch where Paul had to sharply rebuke him for hypocrisy (Gal 2:11-14). I think that is the reason why Jesus called him a little stone as compared to the rock to whom He also said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish” (Jn 21:18 NKJV). Obviously Peter was not the one in control!

        Besides, when Paul went to Jerusalem with the gifts to that church, “On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present” (Acts 21:18 NKJV). Peter isn’t even mentioned. In fact, while the early chapters of Acts shows Peter as having center stage the focus quickly shifts to Paul who takes the spotlight and Peter through the rest of the book (from Acts 13 on) recedes into the shadows and never is mentioned again with the exception of Acts 15:7,14.

        While we could interpret Mat 16:18-19 as giving Peter ultimate authority we could also rightly ask does God put sinful man in ultimate charge of sinful man so that he becomes the judge of the universe? I mean that is like putting a fox in charge of the chicken coop. Wasn’t the job of judging conferred on Jesus alone? (Jn 5:22). The book of Revelation also holds up God as the victor, not man who is consistently pictured in scripture as servant to one of two masters.

        Therefore I think it would be wise to recognize that God is still in charge of His church and has not relinquished that responsibility to sinners. While the church has as its foundation the apostles and prophets who testify to Christ; Jesus is still the “chief cornerstone” (Eph 2:20). “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 3:11 NKJV).

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        • Dear Tyler,
          I apologize for my English, which I never know if it is good enough. (I have learned it just by reading).
          My first concern in exegesis is linguistics and contextual literary logic. Anything else is secondary, in determining the sense of biblical statements.
          Regardind who was the leader in the early church, you are partly right. But we often forget Peter’s role before James the Righteous was the first representative of the Church. Peter was the natural and accepted leader (representative) of The Twelve in the Gospels and in the first chapters of Acts. And this is the actual reason for which he always answers to Jesus’ general questions or appeals (e. g. Mt 14: 27-28; 15:14-15; 16:21-22; 18:21; Jn 6:67-68; 13:36). He was acknowledged as leader of the disciples’ group even by Jesus’ adversaries (Mat 17:24). He is always listed first on the apostles’ list (Mat 10:2; Lk 6:14; AA 1:13), and he is always the first of the three apostles which Jesus Himself selected (Mat 17:1; Mk 5:37; 9:2; 13:3; 14:33; Lk 8:51; 9:28).
          Some argue that if Peter was the leader of the twelve, then the disciples would not have been quarreling about who was the greatest. But this could be understood as a contestation of Peter by some disciples (possible an instigation of Judas), and / or a competition for the best offices in the future Messianic (political) kingdom, which was naturally thought to be at hand (Mat 18:1; 20:21).
          Since Jesus rehabilitated Peter, after resurrection, Peter remained the first and the most famous leader of the Church after the Pentecost (AA 1:15; 2:14, 37-38; 3:11-12; 4:7-8; 5:2-3, 15, 29; 8:20; 9:32, 34, 38-40, 43; ch. 10-11), until James the brother of Jesus appears instead of Peter, after Peter’s imprisoning (AA 12:17; 15:13). After this moment, Peter took the second place, as we would say today, a vice president (Gal 2:9). And he probably kept this function to his death in Rome c. 66 AD, certainly not as a first bishop of Rome (which is a lesser office than apostleship). Thus it is normal that James had the last word at the Apostles’ Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15), though Peter was the first one to speak, which is not unimportant (AA 15:7).
          We cannot call Peter weak in faith just because his attitude in Gal 2:11-14. Yes, it looked like a dishonest masquerading, but it was not he alone in this error. Barnabas also took his example and all the Jews meeting there. Years later, Paul himself was to do a similar thing (hypocrisy), also motivated by love for Jews or simply of religious tradition (AA 21:20-26; see also 18:18). Wrong is wrong, but while such actions show sometimes human weaknesses (so common, when it comes to cultural and religious educated conscience!), Peter’s office (apostleship) still remained the rock on which the Church is built, since it is built on “the foundation of apostles and [Christian] prophets” (Eph 2:20; 3:5; 1Co 12:28), and the name of Peter is engraved together with the other eleven names, on the New Jerusalem’s foundation (Rev 21:14).
          Now it is true that Paul is more prominent in Acts. This is simply because of his unusual mission to the Gentiles, which the author of Acts, Luke (the only Gentile NT writer) was inspired to report. Paul was not among the twelve, neither among the seventy, but he belonged to a new wave of apostles (like Silas, Barnabas, James the Righteous etc.). The apostleship represented first by Peter, next by James etc., and embodied in all twelve, in all seventy etc., including Paul, and even to this time, is the rock of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 16. This conclusion does not away with the metaphor “Jesus the Rock”, but it is included, since the true apostle is hidden in Jesus. The apostleship is rock, as long as it is Spirit controlled in Jesus. But it can be a Satan’s tool, if the apostle does not follow Jesus (Mat 16:23).
          Jesus never called Peter “a little stone”. This is only linguistic speculation on the Greek name Petros, that means rather “stone”,”rock”,”ledge” or “cliff” (cf. Thayer’s Lexicon). The Greek Dictionary of Feyerabend renders Petros as synonymous to PETRA. You may find similar data on the web http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/petros.html
          Jesus called Simon “Keypha’” (Jn 1:42), meaning that Jesus will make him strong in God, as sure as God called Abram to be Abraham. It was a program name. Whenever the New Testament uses the name Peter (Petros) it is because in the Greek speaking world, Jews used Greek or Roman names, either translations or sounding similar names (Sila’ is Silvanus, Saul is Paulus, “Keypha’” is Petros). Jesus did not speak Greek with His apostles. Gallileeans and even Jews spoke a Jewish-Aramaic dialect.
          Keypha means ROCK, you can check for yourself : http://cal1.cn.huc.edu/browseheaders.php : kêphā’ = rock, stone (of every dimension, form and value), while a small stone was kêphōnî (m.) or kêphōnīṯā’ (f.). Kêphā’ is used in the Aramaic texts (Targums) like Num 20:8 etc. (the rock in the desert turned in spring of water); Jdg 20:45 (the Rimmon cliff/rock); 1Sam 24:2 (the rocks of the mountain goats); Jer 48:28 (living in the cliffs); Ps 40:2/3 (He placed my feet on a rock). It is true, kêphā’ is sometimes (not so often) used for the material itself (stone) of various dimensions (sling stone, precious stone, seashore, riverbed etc.). And kêphā’ is the usual correspondent of the Greek term PETRA. Aramaic language used also the term ’aḇnā’ denoting a stone of moderate or small dimensions, building stone, precious stone or as material (Gen 28:18; Ex 31:18; Jos 4:5; Jdg 20:16; Hab 2:11; see also Dan 2:35 for the prophetic Kingdom’s stone).
          While the Church is a divine project (as Jesus Himself is divine and human), it is certainly a human building, in the sense that VISIBLY it is built of human beings and on human beings. Peter’s mistakes (and Paul’s etc., by the way) are exposed in the Scriptures, so that their sins and imperfections do not prevent us to base our faith on their testimony. For example, we base our faith on our pioneers’ testimony, while we measure it (including their mistakes) with the Bible only.
          “Therefore I think it would be wise to recognize that God is still in charge of His church and has not relinquished that responsibility to sinners.” Definitely so, but if the Church was not perfect ever, at its top level at least, it means that modern apostles are also imperfect, to say nothing about sinners. The rock is a simple metaphore and it is used not in a single manner. In passages where the apostles are called the Church’s foundation, Christ is called the “chief cornerstone” (Eph 2:20), since He is above all Church authority.
          “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 3:11 NKJV). Even here Paul says that he placed this foundation through his Gospel (v. 10), so that we cannot avoid the human authority. Moreover, Biblical metaphors should be always understood first in their immediate context and practical purpose, and not as if they were perfectly interconnected as universal symbols throughout the Bible. Who is the light of the world: Jesus or His disciples? (Mat 5:14; Jn 8:12; 9:5). Which Biblical symbol represents the Israel of Christ: a betrothed virgin (2Co 11:2), a bride (Jn 3:29), a wife (Ier 3:20; Ez 16:20), a mother (Rev 12:2, 5, 17). Certainly we should not expect symbolic or metaphoric uniformity in the Bible. The truth is more comprehensive than any metaphor or symbol. They are just human, imperfect means to describe one or another of its faces.

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      • Thank you for your comment Florin here and below to which I agree wholeheartedly and have little to add. You seem to have done a great deal of excellent research on this and generally.

        The wordplay is indeed evident. And wordplay is usually an indication of a person’s character or special mission I think. Examples are Ishmael and Jacob:

        “Because God heard, [Heb. ki-shama,] Hagar’s afflictions, she was given a son named Yishma’el.” (Gen. 16.11); compare ki-shama with Yishma’el.

        “Jacob grasped his first-born twin brother Esau by the heel, [Heb. ba’akev] so he was called Ya’akov.” (Gen. 25.16); compare ba’akev with Ya’akov.

        “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel [Heb. Yisra’el] for you have striven [Heb. sa’rah] with God [Heb. ‘El] and with men, and have prevailed.” (Gen. 32.28); compare sa’rah and ‘El, with Yisra’el.

        The same formula of linking a person’s name with character or special purpose is also found in Mt. 16.18-19:

        “And I tell you, you are Peter [Petros],” – obviously Jesus is mentioning Peter’s name for a reason, clearly indicating Peter by the personal pronoun “you” as well as by name.
        “And on this rock [petra] I will build my Congregation/Assembly,” – the reason for mentioning Peter is given here, playing on Petros’ name and linking it with the demonstrative pronoun “this” (indicating something immediately mentioned) and the noun ‘petra,’ revealing his purpose.

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        • You are so right, Tomas. I did not mention other Biblical wordplays for comparison, because the syntax and the logic of that sentence in Mat 16 is obvious in itself. If it not were for some traditional interpretation, nobody would have any problem to understand its language.

          All this concern with the plain reading of the text that seems to be faith-threatening for some believers, is based on good proof-texts but not necessarily relevant for this case. So many do not use to check the immediate context. If we force Christ's statement to avoid Peter as logical subject in v. 18, then how can we be consistent to this non-Peter emphasis in the next verse?
          "And I will give YOU [Peter] the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever YOU [Peter] bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever YOU [Peter] loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
          Certainly, we may object that only Jesus owns such powerful keys (Lk 5:21; Rev 1:18; 3:7); but He gave also His apostles and His Church an important authority (Mat 18:18; Jn 20:22-23).
          Thus it is no solution to say that in 18 is not about the apostle Peter, but of Jesus or of Peter's testimony, since in the next sentence we cannot avoid the observation that
          Jesus keeps on addressing Peter, and emphasizing a great apostolic authority given to him -- certainly, not as an individual, or as a monarchic bishopric on which the Church was built (!), but to him as apostle, and only a conditional and representative authority. I say conditional, because after some minutes, Jesus tells him as plainly as in the previous dialogue: "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block [= stone] to me!"

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        • Florin, I would like to ask you a few things if you don’t mind.

          1. If Matthew who wrote his Gospel intended to say that Peter was the rock then why did he not use two masculine words rather than one masculine and the other feminine? What does the word “this” refer to since my Bible program says that it is the dative case of the feminine singular? Do you also know that apparently classical Greek also made a distinction between Petra and Petros and that it wasn’t over whether one was feminine and the other masculine? We also have a similar problem with Dan 8:9 where there is a confusion of gender yet we go with history that says that the little horn was Rome not Antiochus Epiphanes who was not the great power that scripture portrays.

          2. Exactly what are the keys of the kingdom since apparently someone else was to inherit a key as God said, “the key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; So he shall open, and no one shall shut; And he shall shut, and no one shall open” (Isa 22:22 NKJV); sounds like Rev 3:7 except that it is referring to a human rather than to the Messiah? Similarly, what key was Jesus referring to when He said, “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered" (Lk 11:52 NKJV)? Is there a connection considering Jn 17:3.

          3. Concerning Mat 16:19 what kind of authority was Jesus speaking of in that text? Does the following scripture give clarity on the matter?

          Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that`by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Mat 18:15-20 NKJV).

          So is Peter the only one who has authority like that? And does God ultimately give sinful man authority over God Himself and those in Heaven including the angels? If God is among His saints working through the Holy Spirit who inspires and guides His people then ultimately who is really making the decisions? Perhaps the inspiration of scripture gives us some help in the matter which was a combined effort involving both God and the human agent.

          From what I see of the discussion your line of reasoning can support the idea that human priests have authority to forgive sins and are the Vicar of Christ on Earth. For as scripture says of the little horn that, “He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down” (Dan 8:11 NKJV). It is when the church exalted man above God and turned everyone’s focus on the Pope, the cardinal, and local priest and away from our Lord that the daily was taken away from Christ and His sanctuary was cast down. It seems to me that this kind of reasoning confers on a human being what has always been God’s prerogative.

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  3. We as Christians have to remember that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. He is our rock and our salvation. We his people make the body of the church, it is not He that is feeble it's us.We have to continue to strengthen our faith and study His words and pray without season and to recommit ourselves everyday.And continue to build upon this Rock He has blessed us with.

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  4. The author of this lesson included a long list of passages from the Old Testament identifying the Lord as the Rock. This means that, for the disciples, the Rock was the Lord and not a human being. This excludes Peter as the Rock upon which the church was built. Peter's statement-no problem; but Peter? No way!

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  5. The foundation on which something is built determines how it will withstand turbulance. Christ is the ultimate "Solid Rock" that will neither falter nor fail. If I place my faith and trust in Him, and allow Him to be the Center and Director of my life, " I shall not be greatly moved" Ps 62:2

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  6. What did Jesus mean by "church"?
    This is the translation we have in English, but what word did He use? It seems to me that it would not have been "church" as we understand it to be in English. No such concept existed until after Jesus died according to my understanding.

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    • Andrew, I think you are very perceptive and inquisitive. Its nice to see such questions and points of view. I believe the same. The actual word in the Greek is 'ekklesia' which means "to call out from." It is a known fact that William Tyndale, along with other Protestant reformers, used the word "congregation." (http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=congregation). The word "church" actually descends from the Greek word 'kyriakon,' meaning "the Lord's" which originally denoted the actual house of worship from about the 4th century (http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=church).

      Why is this even important? This is a question that will open an entire other kettle of fish, which is too long to get into here. The clue is found in other places where the word 'ekklesia' was used. Forunately, we have an entire Greek translation of the Old Testament by Jews which reveal how Jews in general used 'ekklesia,' which in turn has implications of how Jesus and the Apostles would have used it. Ekklesia was used for the word "Congregation" which in context is the "Congregation of Israel." In fact, the word 'ekklesia' means "to call out from" which is reminiscent of the people of Israel who were born when they were 'called out of Egypt' which is mentioned over 180 times in the Old Testament. The affinity and parallel between Jesus the Son of God coming out of Egypt and Israel God's metaphorical son coming out of Egypt is made in Mt. 2.15 and Hosea 11.1.

      For more, see Jewish Adventist scholar Jacques B. Doukhan's superb book 'The Mystery of Israel' (Review & Herald Publishing Association).

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    • You are right, Andrew. Jesus did not use the term Church (which is indirectly derived in English from the Greek KYRIAKE [oikia]= Lordly [house], not used in this sense in NT.
      Jesus spoke a Jewish-Aramaic dialect, though occasionally He may have spoken also a late Demotic (Mishnaic) Hebrew, that was still usual in Judea, at least around Jerusalem and Jericho. If we consider the discussion of Matthew 16 as occurring in Galilee, where people was speaking Jewish-Aramaic (as various terms have been preserved by evangelists: talitha cumi, lema shabactani etc.) we should check the corresponding Aramaic terms for the Greek EKKLESIA (that is used in Matthew 16).

      The Jews of the time of Jesus used in Aramaic, basically the same terms as in Hebrew to denote EKKLESIA.
      1. קהל qāhāl / qehalā' (qaw-HAWL) = assembly (in the wilderness), gathering, congregation, cultic community, crowd, contingent.
      2. כנשׁה kenishah / kenishtā' (related to the Hebrew "Kneseth") = gathering, assembly, synonymous to qahal and equivalent to the Greek SYNAGOGĒ/EKKLESÍA (both terms meaning congregation, assembly).
      3. ˁēḏā /ˁēḏtā (assembly, community, throng) is the term used in some versions of the old Christian Aramaic NT at Matthew 16 -- which is at the same time an old Hebrew term, used in OT as synonym to qāhāl. Other Christian Aramaic NT versions use the term kenishtā' in Matthew 16.

      Thus whatever term Jesus has used, He meant His ASSEMBLY / COMMUNITY. "Church" has a long political history and it is not the best term. Therefore Luther wanted to use GEMEINDE (community) instead of KIRCHE (Churche).

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  7. I believe Peter was used as an example of an underlying rock, not the cornerstone which is Jesus,to show that when we are called by Jesus we become Christ-like. Peter gave is all and stood for Jesus, therefore, he was able to preach, teach, cast out demons and do numerous miracles. The church is in our heart, therefore, we are the church. Peter displayed the true meaning of a rock, by emulating Jesus to his and our generation. He also proclaimed to the world God's redeeming power, unconditional love and His victory over sin,to show us that we too, though flawed can be a stone in building God's kingdom. Jesus, please help us to be underlying stones, for your kingdom, by daily seeking you and imparting our knowledge to this sinful world.

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  8. Peter in Greek is 'petros' which means'a piece of rock or stone while the word which Jesus used ON THIS 'ROCK'according to Matthew 16:18 in Greek is 'petra' which means ' Rock'. The words Jesus really might have used or spoken might have been in Aramaic but the above difference should not be overlooked as the lesson says. So here Christ is referring himself as the rock ( the petra) as most texts in bible says i.e deuteronmoy 32:4, Ps 28:1 etc.
    Christ himself is the petra,Rock and the Cornerstone and not Peter. The foundation of Gods true church stands on Christ as it's Foundation then none other. The early Christian leaders and apostles are the 'living stones' in the church's spiritual system as the lesson comments according to Ephesians 2:20

    Therefore, Jesus is the foundation of our faith, the rock, and if we build our houses on the rock as that wise man did we will not be shaken by the storms of life coz we have our roots on Christ alone and no other things of this earth!

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  9. I have always found the interpretation that reads Jesus into petra in Mt. 16.18 to be constrained given that he is actually addressing Peter, the immediate antecedent being “you… Peter.” Furthermore, whilst the test for Jesus’ disciples is regarding Jesus’ identity, the immediate sentence, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah” is commending Peter’s response. Also, it would be pointless to say “you are Peter,” if the next phrase had nothing to do with Peter. He may as well have said “I also say to you that on this rock I will build My church.” It would be meaningless to mention Peter’s name if he were not talking about him since Peter of course knows his own name (introduced to us back in Mt. 4.18) and it would be pointless to be reminded of it (not to mention sound a bit odd). Therefore, I think it is quite plain that contrary to what the Sabbath school states about the context, the immediate context is concerning Peter’s special appointment.

    Second, what scholars believe to be wordplay between Petros and petra was sadly unaddressed by the Sabbath school and was very superficially dismissed. There is clear evidence to show that wordplay goes on, especially with regards to names of persons and their special appointments given by the Lord. The Lord Jesus Himself is named using wordplay to indicate such a special appointment: “You shall call his name Yeshua (Jesus) for he will save ‘yoshia’ his people from their sins.” (Mt. 1.21) – the play on words being yoshia and yeshua. Therefore, it is quite sensible to see the same thing going on with with Petros and petra. There are other indications from Jewish Midrashic literature that reveal that the idea of God choosing a person (Abraham in this case) and calling him petra on which God would build the earth, show how congruous within the Jewish Middle Eastern milieu a concept of Peter being the petra.would be.

    Lastly, whilst it is agreed that Jesus is The Rock ultimately, there is no contradiction to saying there are other rocks, just as in 1 Peter 2.4-8 Peter states that Jesus is a “living stone” (v. 4) just as we are now “living stones” (v. 5) both related to the word lithos. Peter being the next ‘rock’ if you like makes sense since Jesus is appointing Peter as the next leader of the Messianic Community (as opposed to ‘church,’ since the word ‘church’ is descended from kyriakon meaning ‘of the Lord’s,’ and not ekklesia which simply means ‘congregation’), which he later seems to reinstate (Jn 21.15-18), and of whom Jesus appeared to when opening the Gospel to the Gentiles (Act 10.9-16).

    Whilst more can be said, I think enough has been shown to reveal the traditional interpretation to be out-of-date with the most current research. For more see David Bivin, scholar from the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research (www.jerusalemperspective.com/2718/; http://classic.studylight.org/col/ds/archives.cgi?date=20060316&sn=41&pn=7").

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    • Thank you for your comment, Tomas. I'm not a biblical language scholar, but I have a little trouble accepting your interpretation that in Matt. 16:18 Jesus would build His church on Peter, just as He chose Abraham's offspring as His chosen people on other grounds:

      1) Shortly after this incident, Peter tries to admonish Christ, telling Him that surely He must not suffer as He predicted, and Christ calls Peter "Satan." (Matt. 16:21-23) That doesn't make Peter sound like the kind of Rock on which Christ could build His church.

      2) When danger came along, Peter denied that he even knew Christ. (Matt 26:69-75) Now which shall we believe - that Peter is the foundation rock of the church or that Peter is Satan? Or maybe Christ meant neither literally?

      3) If Christ, indeed, intended Peter to be the founder of His church, just as Abraham was the founder of literal Israel, the early disciples seemed to have missed his intention, because James appears to be the presiding elder of the church council in Jerusalem, not Peter. See Acts 15:13.

      Also, previously, when Peter was freed from prison by an angel he thought it important that James be notified. (Acts 12:17) Other references that imply that James, not Peter, was the leader of the early apostolic church: Acts 21:18, 1 Cor 15:7, Gal 1:19, Gal 2:12.

      I have also done a little checking in how the word "petros" was used in the Bible. It was translated as "Peter" 161 times, and as "stone" once. It looks to me that "petros" did mean pretty much the same as "stone" means to us now.

      By contrast, "petra" is consistently used in places where we would say "rock," as in solid rock jutting from the earth, something immovable as in "rock-solid." So it is apparent that in Christ's wordplay, He was making a clear distinction between the meaning of "petros" and the solid "rock" that was to be the foundation of His church. (See the http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4073&t=KJV">Blue Letter Bible summary. ) For instance, in the story of the wise man and the foolish man, the wise man built upon the "petra," not upon the "petros."

      As someone already mentioned, it seems to me that Christ made His meaning reasonably clear when He he said that Peter's confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" was revealed to Him by the Holy Spirit." It was this rock of faith in Christ the Son of God upon which Christ's church is founded. (Perhaps the lesson authors made things unnecessarily confusing by failing to mention the Spirit-inspired statement as the "rock" in this context.)

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      • Thank you for your observation Inge. I think it is thoroughly crucial to establish the facts to be able to read and discuss the Bible clearly. That’s why I believe that it is factually incorrect to say that 161 times in the Bible Petros is translated as 'stone.' Even on the BlueLetterBible link that was provided doesn’t state that. What it does say is ‘Petros’ occurs 161 times in the New Testament. In only one case does the KJV translate Petros into 'stone.' But let me emphasise that that is a translation, to which other translations differ by translating ‘Petros’ simply as ‘Peter,’ seeing as all other occurrences of ‘Petros’ are translated as ‘Peter’ (see Revised Version, American Standard Version, English Standard Version, Young’s Literal Translation). Therefore, in every single case in the New Testament (157 verses) the English translation for ‘Petros’ reads ‘Peter’ as a personal name and not ‘stone.’ Also we have the Aramaic equivalent of ‘Petros,’ namely ‘Kephas,’ to compare with (Jn. 1.42) and this also translates as ‘rock.’ Since both petra and petros mean ‘rock,’ there is no real reason to not understand both as referring to Peter.

        Secondly, to not understand that Peter was initially appointed as leader is to make redundant the need to mention Peter at all in Mt. 16.18 if Jesus were not indeed appointing him. It also disregards the very next statement Jesus makes, “I will give to you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” – Jesus is obviously not talking to Himself since he uses the pronoun “you.” It also does not take into account Jesus’ later re-instatement of Peter to “feed my sheep” to which he does to no other (Jn .21.15-19), making it sensible to conclude that Peter was re-instated as prime shepherd.

        We also have Peter as the initial focus in the Book of Acts: it was Peter who spoke to the Jewish international crowds at Pentecost (2.13-49); it was Peter along with John who addressed the Sanhedrin (4.1-22); it was Peter who addressed Ananias and Sapphira regarding the withholding of funds against the Holy Spirit (4.1-11); it was Peter’s name that was emphasised as being the focus of the Jerusalemites to receive healing (5.15); it was Peter’s name that was emphasised in the second address to the Sanhedrin (5.29); it was Peter who was noted as delivering miraculous healing throughout the land (9.32-43); it was to Peter and Peter alone that the Vision of the Opening of Salvation to the Gentiles was given (10.1 - 11.18); it was Peter along with James brother of John who was singled out for execution and imprisonment by Herod (12.1-3); it was to Peter whom Paul first approached after his visionary encounter with the Lord (Gal. 1.18); and it was Peter who gave the opening statement in the First Messianic Jerusalem Council (15.7). If he weren’t the initial leader, it would pretty inexplicable why he was the main Apostle singled out.

        I agree with you that James did take on the mantle of leadership. But it was only because later Peter decided to do so – along with the brothers James and John – by the authoritative leadership power divested to them (Mt. 16.19; 18.18). This is reported by the ancient Christian historian Eusebius:
        “Clement in the sixth book of his Hypotyposes writes thus: ‘For they say that Peter and James and John after the ascension of our Saviour, as if also preferred by our Lord, strove not after honor, but chose James the Just bishop of Jerusalem.’” (Eusebius, History of the Church, Book 2, Chapter I: ”The Course pursued by the Apostles after the Ascension of Christ.” http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.iii.vii.ii.html)

        Lastly, just because Peter had failings does not disprove Jesus’ decision to establish him as leader. Did David’s failings nullify God’s choice to establish him as king and through him the Messianic King’s ancestry? Did Jacob’s deceit, Moses’ disobedience, Aaron’s weakness, Solomon’s idolatry, nullify God’s choice to establish them as leaders? No, therefore, why should it for Peter’s case.

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  10. I think it would be fundamentally important that the actual meanings of Petros and petra be put on record.

    According to James Strong's Dictionary Definitions, Petros (G4074) means 'rock.'
    According to the same dictionary, petra (G4073) also means 'rock.'

    In fact, if we were in any doubt the Aramaic equivalent is 'Kephas' or in English transliteration 'Cephas' (Jn. 1.42) which according to Strong's means 'rock' (G2786).

    If small stone was meant in Mt. 16.18 to make a stark distinction between Jesus and Peter, the Greek word 'lithos' could have easily been employed. Therefore, the Petros-petra pun was actually intended to show affinity not disparity.

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  11. The church has one foundation and it is Jesus Christ our Lord. Any building has to be on a solid foundation and as human beings born in sin our foundation is Jesus because if we do not keep our eyes on him we fail. Then my belief is, if we are so weak what kind of foundation are we? Therefore I do not believe that Christ meant that Peter would be the rock on which he would build His church.

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