Who's "the Rock" of the Church?
The second question I would like to ask is this one: I was always told in Catholic schools and by my mother that Peter was “the rock”. “Upon this rock I will build my church” from Matthew 16. (Mt. 16:18)
I was told that in English and, when I was a little boy, I was taught to read Latin. The Bible was the Vulgate, the only one read ritually; it was not studied. However, having learned to read the original Greek and Hebrew languages, I looked at the original meaning in the original languages. I would not call myself a Protestant, but remember Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Cranmer and every one of the reformers, every one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation was from the intelligentsia of the Roman Catholic priesthood. Everyone had been a Roman Catholic priest who went back and read the Scriptures in the original languages. I’m not defending Protestantism, I don't identify with it; I’m a Christian, but I’m just asking the question, “Is Peter the rock?”
I lived in Israel for many years and at the base of Mt. Herman there’s a place called “Banyas”. In the Bible it was called “Caesarea Philippi” and it is there where Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build My church”. And I was told that He gave the keys and power to Peter. “Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”. (Mt. 16:19)
I'd like to read directly from the Greek language what it says in the New Testament. Jesus spoke Aramaic, but when Matthew wrote it down on the testimony of the apostles who’d been eyewitnesses he wrote it in Greek. Or if it was written in another language it was quickly translated into Greek. We have one historical reference that Matthew might have been in Hebrew or the Hebrew dialect of Aramaic according to Haggis Sippus, but there’s no manuscript ever found. We have the Greek. And it is the translation of the Greek which the Roman Catholic church bases its doctrine that Peter is “the rock”. Is that what it says?
Verse 18, and I’ll translate it word by word:
“Kago de” – “Also I” or “And also I”…
…”soi lego” – “to thee” or “to you say”…
…”hoti sy ei Petros” – “thou art Peter” or “you are Peter”…
…”kai” – “and”…
…”epi” – “around” or “on, but in the context it would mean “on”, with that I agree…
…”taute te petra” – “on this rock”…
…”oikodomeso… (from where we get the word “oikos” – “house”) …mou” – “I will build of Me”…
…”ten ekklesian” – “the church”.
It would be built on Christ, not of Peter.
At Banyas – Caesarea Philippi, there’s a cascade with millions and millions of flat chips of stone washed out of the cascade. The Greek word “petros” – “Peter”, “little Peters”. There is a big boulder on which the temple of the Greek god Pan that had been there at one time had been built and the temple to Caesar Augustus, the deified emperor, had been built that Jesus was referring to where the house would be built. That is called a “petra”. “You are one of these little chips of stone; upon this boulder I will build my church of Me.”
When asked to explain this, Roman Catholic scholars say, “But Jesus was speaking Aramaic, or a language related to Hebrew. and because Peter was a male He had the use the masculine form 'petros', which is the word for 'a little rock' instead of 'petra' which is the word for 'a boulder’”. I went to a pretty good university and a pretty good bible college and I'm told by people who are from Greece that my Greek is not bad so far as my understanding of its meaning. But I know people who are really, really fluent in Greek, they grew up speaking it and they’re experts in reading the Old Testament, the church fathers, and so forth, they are from Greece. I know people like this in Australia particularly, and they confirm what I say is right. And so if there’s any academic or a person with a degree in Greek saying what I say is right, what I say is what I was taught. Gender in Greek does not have to do with sex in any primary sense; it has to do with the way a word is used in the context of the sentence. It is not male and female as in sex, it’s male and female as in the way the word is used in the context.
Let us look 1 Corinthians 10:4…
and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.
In Greek it says, “de he petra en ho Christos”. “Petra”. Christ Himself who was a male is referred to in the feminine. The idea that they changed the gender because Peter was a male is ridiculous. That is not how Greek grammar works. I don't believe St. Paul made a mistake, nor did the Holy Spirit when He inspired St. Paul to write Corinthians. “The rock” is Christ and it’s called “petra”. What does it say in Matthew 16? “You are ‘petros’ and upon the ‘petra’ I will build My church.” You cannot use a little chip of stone the size of your thumb as the foundation for a building; you cannot use a “petros” as the foundation for a building; you can only use a “petra”. If you’ve been to Caesarea Philippi you would see it makes no logical sense. If you know Greek you would see it makes no logical sense.
But there's more. In 1 Corinthians 3:11 we read something else.
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
If anyone – if anyone – builds on the foundation of something else – gold, silver, precious stones, etc., it’ll be manifested on the day of the Lord; it will be revealed with fire; it won't stand. The only foundation we can build on is Christ, not Peter. Was St. Paul wrong? For that matter, were the early Roman Catholic popes and councils wrong? Or were the later ones wrong who said that Peter is “the rock” instead of Christ even though the New Testament says the opposite, and even though their early popes said the opposite?
The Roman Catholic Church claims that its doctrines are not only “apostolic”, but “patristic” – they come from the church fathers. I do not believe in the doctrinal authority of the church fathers. I do not believe the “apostolic” necessarily equals the “patristic”. However, even if I did, of the church fathers the Roman Catholic church looks to as a way to define what the apostles believed, most of the church fathers said that “the rock” was Christ, not Peter. A minority of them said “the rock” was the faith of Peter. Most say “the rock” was Christ, a few said “the rock” was Peter’s faith. None – not even one of their own church fathers – not only one of your church fathers has ever said that “the rock” was Peter,
Given the fact that you cannot use a chip of stone the size of your thumb – a flat chip of stone the size of your thumb – as the foundation for a building, given the fact that the original language says “You are the ‘chip of stone’ and upon ‘the boulder’ I will build My church”, given the fact as St. Paul says we can build on no foundation other than Christ Himself, and given the fact of the New Testament says that Christis “the rock” – “petra”, “the boulder”, and given the fact that none of your own church fathers of the Roman Church believed that “the rock” was Peter, why do you? Why do you believe something which is practically, historically, biblically, patristically unfounded? And in fact, having been to Caesarea Philippi so many times, I have to say asbsurd. Why, in the early centuries, did no one believe it? Popes were fired – sacked by church councils. That is the question.
My mother has the view that many people would have – Irish, Catholic, British, Protestant. I just got back from Ireland a few days ago and I‘ve studied Irish history at some length. I was astounded to discover that most of the founders of Irish Republicanism, originally called “The Home Rule Movement” – Isaac Butt, Theobold, Napper Tandy, Charles Parnell, Wolfe-Tone – every one of them was a Protestant. “The Irish patriots like Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver's Travels, was a Protestant. It was only later identified with Catholicism in the times of Daniel O'Connor and so forth. But I was more astounded to learn how the “English”, quote/unquote, first got involved in Ireland. There was a non-English king, an ethnic Norman. He was not Anglo-Saxon, he was a French Viking. Henry II was threatened with excommunication by Pope Adrian IV if he would not invade Ireland and put an end to the local Celtic church in Ireland, and force them to acquiesce to Rome and the papacy. How did the English first become involved in invading and occupying Ireland? The pope sent them.
The term is “revisionism”. I’m no admirer of Voltaire’s values, but he was a talented writer. And he was right about one thing: “History is the lie everybody agrees on”. When you read what really happened you get a different picture. But the problem I have in speaking to my very Catholic mother is her Catholic identity is part and parcel of her Irish identity and can't see beyond it. There is a historical prejudice that's emotionally charged. It would be family disloyalty. Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me”. (Mt. 10:37) Do I love my mother? Yes, but I love God first and I want them to know the truth.
When I looked for the truth I found that “the rock” was and is Christ, not Peter, not only according to the New Testament but according to Roman Catholic history itself, That's my second question: Why do you believe Peter is “the rock” when the New Testament and your own church fathers and just the practical circumstances of trying to build a house on a chip of stone all dictate he could not possibly be?
Popes have been warlords. They ordered nations to go to war with each other. They’ve been homosexuals, they’ve had illegitimate children. The banking families of Europe would vie to get their man into the papacy – the Borgia popes, the Medici family. Sometimes there would be two or three people claiming to be pope and the one that had the biggest military backing, usually from France, would declare the others to be antipopes. Well, I'll leave that to others to sort out. The only question I'm asking you is how can Peter be “the rock”?
And even if he was “the rock”, where does it say that Peter was empowered to pass that position on to others? If Peter was the first pope, why is it in the book of Acts 15 at the first council of the church that James presided, not Peter? James says, “Brethren, listen to Peter”? No, “Listen to me”. (Acts 15:13) And he does not rule by decree. He says, “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us”. (Acts 15:28) It was a collective decision by all the apostles, it was not the pope speaking autocratically ex cathedra. Why was James presiding and doing all the talking if Peter was the pope? It’s a fair question.
Why did St. Paul rebuke Peter in the presence of all in the book of Galatians? (Gal. 2:11-14) When is the last time you saw a bishop or a cardinal or a priest standing up in public and face-to-face challenging the pope and telling him off for being a hypocrite or behaving hypocritically? I've seen them kneel down and kiss his ring, but I've never seen any of them tell him off. You don't talk that way to the pope. If Peter was the pope, why did Paul talk to him that way? Fair question? Why did James preside if Peter was the pope?
Even in its earlier centuries the Roman Church didn’t believe that. Now of course I would argue that the Roman Catholic Church did not exist as such until the 4th Century, but we’ll put that aside. The question I'm asking is in light of the evidence – biblical, patristic, and historical and practical, how can you possibly believe Peter is “the rock” when the Bible says “the rock” is Christ and we can build on no other foundation?