|The authority of the pope comes directly
from the Gospel of Matthew:
"Jesus said to him in reply, 'Blessed are
you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not
revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so
I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I
will build my church, and the gates of the
netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give
you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you
bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever
you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Lets take a closer look at this passage in the
original Greek language of the New Testament:
"And so I say to you, you are [Petros]
and upon this [petra] I will build my
Church...." (Matt 16:18).
Without understanding the reason behind
this difference in words (Petros = "little
stone" versus petra = "big
boulder"), many Protestant Christians claim that
Jesus was referring to Himself as the rock, not the
However, there are problems with this
argument. Petros is simply the masculine form of
the feminine Greek noun petra. Like French or
Spanish, Greek nouns have gender. When the feminine noun petra,
large rock, was used as Simon's name, it was rendered in
the masculine form as petros. Suppose that the
Greek word for "rock" was
"Georgette." If someone wanted to call a man a
"rock" in Greek, he would not use the word
"Georgette" but would masculine-ize the word to
Even Protestant Greek scholars like D.A.
Carson and Joseph Thayer admit that there is no
distinction in meaning between petros and petra
in the Koine Greek of the New Testament. The word "petra"
means "rock," usually a "large rock."
And that is exactly what petros means too --
"large rock." It does not mean
"pebble" or "small stone" as many
Protestants have been told. The Greek word for
"pebble" or "small stone" is lithos,
Here are a few examples of lithos
used in the New Testament:
In Matthew 4:3, the devil cajoles
Jesus to perform a miracle and transform some
stones, lithoi, the Greek plural for lithos,
In John 10:31, certain Jews pick
up stones, lithoi, to stone Jesus with.
In 1 Peter 2:5, St. Peter
describes Christians as "living
stones," lithoi, which form a
If St. Matthew had wanted to draw a
distinction between a big rock and a little rock in
Matthew 16:17-19, he would have used lithos, but
he didn't. Jesus addresses Peter directly seven times in
this short passage. It doesn't make much sense that he
would then say "By the way, I'm building the Church
on Me." The context is very clear that Jesus gave
authority to St. Peter, naming him the rock.
Notice that Matthew used the
demonstrative pronoun taute, which means
"this very," when he referred to the rock on
which the Church would be built: "You are Peter, and
on taute petra [this very rock], "I will
build My Church." When a demonstrative pronoun is
used with the Greek word for "and" (which is kai),
the pronoun refers back to the preceding noun. In other
words, when Jesus says "You are rock, and on this
rock I will build My Church," the second rock He
refers to has to be the same rock as the first one. Peter
is the rock in both cases.
Jesus could have gotten around this if he
wanted to. Instead of "And (kai)
on this rock I will build My Church.", He could have
said "But (alla) on this
rock I will build My Church," meaning another rock.
He would then have to explain who or what this other rock
was. But he didn't do that.
Many places throughout the Bible refer to
God and Christ as "Rock." However, God himself
calls Abraham the rock from which Israel was hewn (Isiah
51:1-2). Is this a contradiction? No!
Jesus is the one foundation of
the Church in 1 Cor 3:11, but in Rev 21:14 and
Eph 2:20, we're told the Apostles are the
foundation of the Church.
Jesus said that He is the light
of the world in John 9:5, but the Bible also says
in Matthew 5:14 that Christians are the light of
Are these contradictions? Of
course not. The Apostles can be the foundation of
the Church because they are in Christ, the one
Foundation. The Church can be the light of the
world because she is in the true Light of the
world (Jesus). In the same way, St. Peter is
indeed the rock of Matthew 16, and that doesn't
detract from Christ being the rock of 1 Cor 10:4.
After all, Peter's "rockness" is
derived from Christ.
Aside from all the talk
about Greek, an even stronger case can me made for Christ
meaning Peter as the rock in Matthew 16:17-19. When Jesus
gave Simon the name "Rock," we know it was
originally given in Aramaic. Jesus did not speak Greek.
Jesus spoke Aramaic (and probably Hebrew), which is
evident from his proclamation "Eli, Eli, lema
sabachthani" in his native language of Aramaic
from the cross (Matt 27:46).
The Aramaic word for "rock" is kepha.
This was transliterated ("to represent or spell in
the characters of another alphabet") in Greek as Cephas
or Kephas, and translated as Petros. In
Aramaic, nouns do not have gender as they do in
Greek, so Jesus actually said (and St. Matthew first
recorded): "You are Kephas and on this kephas
I will build My Church."
Just as Greek has the word lithos
for "small stone," so does Aramaic. That word
is evna. But Jesus did not change Simon's name
to Evna, He named him Kephas which
translates as Petros and means a large rock.
Refer to John 1:42 where Jesus says "... 'So you are
Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas'
(which means Peter)." St. John obviously knew that
the original form of the name was Kephas, large
rock, and he translated it into Greek as Petros,
In his book Unabridged Christianity, Mario
Romero tells us:
"...When the New Testament writers went to
translate Jesus' Aramaic word "kepha"
(meaning "rock") into Greek, they
encountered a grammatical problem with masculine and
feminine word forms. The Greek translators had no
problem referring to an inanimate rock (kepha
in Aramaic) with the Greek feminine noun petra.
The problem arose when the Greek translators had to
use the Greek feminine word "petra"
to refer to a man named "Kepha."
(Suppose that the Greek word for "rock"
was "Georgette." If one wanted to call a
man a "rock" in Greek, he would not use the
word "Georgette" but would masculine-ize
the word to "George.")
To solve the problem the translators used the
masculine name Petros, which is derived from
the feminine Greek noun petra. As one can
clearly see, the discrepancy in Greek words found in
Matt 16:18 was the result of a grammatical difficulty
encountered in translation. Once one understands the
reason for the variation in Greek words found in Matt
16:18, it becomes clear that the Apostle 'Peter' and
the 'rock' on which Jesus would build his Church are
one and the same.
(St. Paul writes to the Ephesians: "...you
are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of
the household of God, built upon the foundation
of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus
himself as the capstone" (Eph 2:19-20). One can
see here the scriptural truth that the Church is
built upon the foundation of the apostles.
Jesus designates St. Peter to be the "rock"
foundation on which His Church was to be built while
He Himself serves as the "capstone" of the
structure. (See Eph 1:22-23 where St. Paul calls
Jesus the "head" of the "body" of
Now let's look at a few passages from the
New Testament and see how St. Peter had a special
relationship with Jesus that was not shared by any other
In Matt 16:19, Peter is the only
disciple in Scripture to receive the "keys
to the kingdom of heaven" from Jesus. Keys
are an ancient symbol of power and authority
alluded to in Isiah 22:22, Rev 1:18, and Rev
20:1. Peter received the "keys" and his
"binding" and "loosing"
authority separately from and before the rest of
the Apostles (Matt 16:18, Matt 18:18). If Peter
was not the "rock," why did Jesus
entrust him with the "keys to the kingdom of
heaven" to him?
In Matt 16:18, Peter is the only
disciple in Scripture to be referred to as
"rock" by Jesus (Notice that the word
"rock" is used many times to refer to
God - Deut 32:31, Psalm 89:27). When his name was
changed to Kepha (meaning
"rock"), Peter did not become
Divine, but was promised Divine assistance at
every moment as he pastored the Christian
community in Jesus' physical absence.
In John 1:42, Peter's name is
changed by Jesus. A change of name in the Bible
meant a change of vocation. God changed Abram's
name to "Abraham" in Gen 17:5 and he
became the father of the Jewish faith (God also
changed Jacob's name to "Israel" in Gen
35:10). If Peter was not the "rock,"
why did Jesus change his name and thus signify a
new calling for him?
St. Matthew lists the Apostles as
follows: "The names of the twelve apostles
are these: first [Greek: protos], Simon
called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the
son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and
Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax
collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and
Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot
who betrayed him" (Matt 10:2-4). The Greek
word protos means "foremost,"
"best," or "chief." Note that
"second", "third" etc.. are
not assigned to the other Apostles. This shows
that "first" is not intended as a mere
At many crucial moments, Peter
served as the spokesman for the rest of the
Apostles (Mark 8:29, John 6:68-69, Acts 2:14-41,
Peter is mentioned by name in the
New Testament more than any other Apostle or
disciple (182 times). The Apostle with the next
most mentions is John (34 times). In the Book of
Acts (the Biblical account of the beginning
accounts of the early Christian Church), Peter is
mentioned 56 times.
In John 21:15-17, Peter is the
only Apostle in Scripture that is told by Jesus
to "Feed [His] lambs... Tend [His] lambs...
Tend [His] sheep... Feed [His] sheep." Peter
is personally told to nourish and care for His
In Luke 22:31-32, Peter is the
only Apostle to be personally prayed for by
Christ so that his "own faith may not
fail." After prayer for Peter by name, Jesus
tells him that he "must strengthen [his]
brothers" (to spiritually feed and guide
In Acts 2:14-41, the Holy Spirit
descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost. Peter
immediately stands up and (without opposition
from the other Apostles) delivers the first
sermon to the Church -- which results in the
Baptism of nearly three thousand new converts.
In Acts 3:1-10, Peter is the
first Apostle to perform a miracle in Jesus' Name
In Acts 4, Peter is the one who
defends the Christian faith before the Jewish
In Acts 1:15-26, Peter personally
supervised (without opposition from the other
Apostles) the election of the Apostle Judas
Iscariot's replacement after he committed
In Acts 10:9-49, Peter receives
the revelation from God to open the Christian
Church to non-Jews (Gentiles).
In Acts 15:1-12, Peter stands up
and definitively declares to the assembled Church
leaders at the Council of Jerusalem the teaching
that Non-Jewish (Gentile) Christians need not
follow the Old Testament Mosaic Law to be saved.
In John 20:1-10, we read that,
even though the Apostle John got to the empty
tomb first on Easter morning, he waits for Peter
to arrive before going in to examine things. In
Luke 24:12, Peter was the first Apostle to enter
the empty tomb on Easter morning.
Peter was the first Apostle to
whom the risen Jesus appears after His Easter
resurrection (Luke 24:34, 1 Cor 15:5).
Peter gave the answer (on behalf
of the rest of the disciples) to Jesus' crucial
question: "Who do you say that I am?"
(Matt 16:15-16, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20)
St. Paul makes it his business to
travel to Jerusalem to consult and confer with
Peter after his conversion experience (Gal 1:18).
Peter refers to himself as
"the chosen one at Babylon" in 1 Peter
5:13. Note that "Babylon" was a
Biblical code name for the city of Rome because
many of the city's inhabitants were non-believing
pagans leading immoral lives.
|Historically (in an unbroken line), the
current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church is the
direct successor to St. Peter, the first bishop
of Rome. The Pope's authority is derived from the
authority that Christ gave to St. Peter. Here is a
list of Popes beginning with St. Peter in 32
In the King James Bible we read in Acts
1:20 about Matthias taking the place of
(succeeding) the Apostle Judas: "...and his
bishopric [Greek: episkopen] let another
take." You can clearly see here how the
Apostles felt the need to maintain Apostolic
presence among the Christian people.
Roman Catholics certainly
do not worship the Pope because worship is due
to God alone. Catholics look to the Pope for spiritual
leadership and guidance, just as the early Christians
looked to St. Peter.
Basis for the Papacy - from the Nazareth Resource
The Early Church Fathers on The
Primacy of Peter, Peter
the Rock, Peter
in Rome, and Peter's
and Speeches of John Paul II