- Matthew 16:18
- "Thou art Peter and upon this Rock I will build my church."
- The Roman Catholic interpretation of this is:
- "Christ appointed the Apostle Peter to be the first of all
the Apostles and to be the visible Head of the whole Church, by appointing him immediately
and personally to the primacy of jurisdiction. According to Christ's ordinance, Peter is
to have successors in his primacy, over the whole Church and for all time. The successors
of Peter in the Primacy are the Bishops of Rome." 1
- "If anyone says that the blessed Apostle Peter was not
constituted, by Christ our Lord, Prince of all the Apostles and visible Head of all the
Church Militant [i.e., Church on earth]; or that he [Peter] directly and immediately
received from our Lord Jesus Christ a primacy of honour only and not one of true and
proper jurisdiction, let him be anathema."2
- In summary then, the Roman Catholic position may be stated: Christ gave absolute
spiritual authority in the Church to Peter. Peter passed this spiritual authority on to
his successors - the Bishops of Rome. Therefore the Pope in any age has the right to
spiritual authority over Christendom.
- The rock on which the Church is founded is not Peter, but Peter's confession, "thou
art the Christ". (Matt. 16:16) The following is the evidence:
- Matt. 21:42; Acts 4:11; 1 Cor. 10:4; Eph. 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6-8 unambiguously states that
Christ is the Rock. Paul explicitly states, "For other foundation can no man lay than
that is laid, which is Jesus Christ". (1 Cor. 3:11). To take Peter as the foundation
flatly contradicts this passage.
- The Roman Church emphasizes John 1:42 in stating that Jesus gave the name
"Rock" (Petros) to Simon at the very start. But in Matt. 16:18 the Greek is:
"Thou art Petros, and upon this petra I will build my Church." Two
different Greek words are employed with two different connotations:
- petros (masc.), detached stone
- petra (fem.), living rock, solid rock.3
- It is clear that a difference between Peter and the foundation is
meant or the word "petros" would simply have been repeated. "Petros",
therefore, shows Peter's instability, (e.g., Matt. 16:22-23) while "petra"
indicates the immovable rock-like character of Christ, or the confession of Peter,
"thou art the Christ." 4
- The power of the keys 5 given to
Peter (Matt. 16:19) gave him no unique authority - no authority which the other
apostles did not possess as well - Matt. 18:18 (cf. vs. 1); John 20:22,23.
- "Keys" - keys to knowledge of the Kingdom (Luke 11:52; cf. Matt. 23:13). The
keys were used by Peter in preaching to the Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2); to the
household of Cornelius (Acts 14:27 cf. Acts 10); and to the Gentiles (Acts 11:18).
- "binding" - e.g., Ananias and Sapphira - Acts 5. Here Peter's condemnation
uttered on earth was immediately enforced in heaven.
- "loosing" - e.g., palsied Aeneas loosed at Lydda. (Acts 9:32-35). Peter said,
"Jesus Christ maketh thee whole" verse 34; Jesus in heaven "loosed"
the paralytic. See also Acts 5:12-16.
- "gates of hell" - the grave of Isaiah 38:10,17,18. Christ's Ecclesia will
prevail against "hades" - (1 Cor. 15:53-55).
- Peter did not receive infallible authority from Jesus, even in matters ex cathedra,
for Paul wrote: "But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face,
because he was to be blamed." (Gal. 2:11). Note how Christ also reproved Peter in
- There is not a particle of historical evidence that Peter passed on any authority to
anyone; and, what is more important, there is no New Testament evidence at all that
Christ commanded Peter to pass any authority. Without such a clear command of Christ,
the "successors" of Peter must be regarded as having arrogated authority to
themselves, rather than having received it from Christ.
Some Additional Points:
- The overwhelming majority of Popes, since the 15th century, have been Italian.6 Why must the "vicar of
Christ" generally be an Italian Pope? Is it not a claim of the Roman Church to be
- The Roman Church stresses the position of Peter but note the influence of Paul:
- Paul went to Rome (Acts 28:14-31), but there is no certain Scriptural evidence of Peter
having gone there.
- Paul wrote to the ecclesia at Rome (Rom. 1:1,7), but Peter did not.
- Paul had important jurisdiction and authority. For example:
- 1 Cor. 7:17 - " . . . as the Lord hath called everyone, so let him walk. And so
ordain I in all churches." See also 1 Cor. 14:37,38.
- 2 Cor. 11:28 - " . . . that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the
- 2 Cor. 13:10 - " . . . according to the power ["my use of the authority"
- R.S.V.] which the Lord hath given me."
- Gal. 2:11 - "But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face,
because he was to be blamed."
- If the Roman Church is the custodian and preserver of absolute truth, why did it take
nearly 1900 years, until this was officially declared in 1870?
- Matt. 18:1; Mark 9:34; Luke 22:24 all record a dispute among the disciples as to who
should be the greatest. This dispute is important for two reasons:
- It is apparent that if Peter had been given the kind of authority asserted by Roman
Catholics then it is very unlikely that a dispute as to who was to be accounted the
greatest would have arisen.
- Jesus' reply, in Luke 22:25-30, does not mention the primacy of Peter, and further
suggests that there would be no distinction among the apostles, when they would "sit
on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel". (vs. 30).
- A similar argument can be advanced, on the request of the mother of James and John, for
the two highest positions in the kingdom. (Matt. 20:20-23). Would they be ignorant of
Peter's appointment to the supreme place if this was in fact the case?
- Peter never indicates any personal superiority in his epistles. He refers to himself as
"an apostle", (1 Pet. 5:1) "an elder", ("a fellow elder") (1
Pet. 5:1 R.S.V.), and instructs the elders not to be "lords over God's
heritage," but to be "ensamples to the flock." (1 Pet. 5:3).
- In the creed of Pope Pius IV, (which is obligatory on all ecclesiastics and on all
"who promise and swear that they will continue in obedience to Rome") it is
professed, concerning Holy Scripture, "nor will I ever understand or interpret it,
except according to the unanimous consent of the holy Fathers." Archbishop Kenrick,
in his speech prepared for, but not delivered in the Vatican Council, but published at
Naples in 1870, counts the following five different patristic interpretations of Matthew
- "That St. Peter is the Rock, taught by seventeen Fathers;
- That the whole Apostolic College is the Rock, represented by Peter as its chief, taught
- That St. Peter's faith is the Rock, taught by forty-four;
- That Christ is the Rock, taught by sixteen;
- That the rock is the whole body of the faithful."
- Several who teach a) and b), also teach c) and d), and so the Archbishop sums up thus:
"If we are bound to follow the greater number of Fathers in this matter, then we must
hold for certain that the word Petra means not Peter professing the Faith, but the faith
professed by Peter." 7
- DeFide, quoted in Ludwig Ott. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, ed. in English by James
Canon Bastible, and tr. from the German by Patrick Lynch, (St. Louis, Mo.: Herder, 1954); Nihil
Obstat and Imprimatur, (Oct. 7, 1954), pp. 279-282. Return
- Vatican Council of 1870: Denzinger, par. 1823. Return
- Liddell, (authoritative lexicographer of classical Greek), Intermediate Lexicon,
founded upon the 7th ed. of Liddell and Scott. Also, G. Abbott-Smith, (Professor
Hellenistic Greek, McGill University), Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament,
3rd ed., and Bullinger, Figures of Speech. Return
- Some Roman Catholics may argue that the difference in Greek words is only for stylistic
variation. But the burden of proof does not rest on the interpreter who says that two
different words have at least connotative distinctions of meaning; it rests on the one who
argues that the difference is of no consequence and that style explains all. Some argue
that the use of two words in the Greek is of no consequence, for the original dialogue
between Jesus and Peter took place in Aramaic, and undoubtedly but a single word (Kepha,
"Cephas" ) was used in the Aramaic conversation. The fallacy in this argument
(as in virtually all arguments based on proto-Aramaic New Testament conversations) is that
it involves a reasoning from the unknown to the known rather than from the known to the
unknown. The only means we have of knowing what in fact Jesus said to Peter on the given
occasion is via the Greek record. Thus, if a valid distinction is made in the Greek, we
must assume that a like distinction was made in the original conversation. Return
- Roman Pontiffs claim the custody of "Peter's Keys" i.e., the supernatural
capability of opening the doors of life and death. It is inherent in the power claimed by
the Bishop of Rome that he has "jus vertendi cardinus" - the power of
"turning the hinge" of the doors of heaven and hades. The Pope is assisted by
the Grand Council of State, or College of Cardinals. The name "Cardinal" is
derived from "cardo", a hinge. Papal Cardinals are therefore, "priests of
the hinge". Return
- William Shaw Kerr, A Handbook of the Papacy, (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott,
1962), p. 8. Return
- Friedrich, Docum ad illust. Conc. Vat. 1, pp. 185-246. For a fuller elaboration of this
point, see John Carter, Parables of the Messiah, (Birmingham: The Christadelphian,
1954), pp. 118-123, and William Shaw Kerr, A Handbook of the Papacy, (London:
Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1962), pp. 44-49. Return