Was Peter the Rock Upon Which the Church was Built?


One of the most famous biblical passages is found in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus says to Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” For centuries, the Catholic Church has interpreted this verse as proof that Peter was the rock upon which the church was built. However, several arguments suggest otherwise.

Firstly, the Greek word used in this passage for “Peter” is “Petros,” which means a small stone or pebble. However, the word used for “rock” is “petra,” which means a large rock or boulder. This suggests that Jesus was not referring to Peter as the rock upon which the church would be built, but rather to something else.

Secondly, the context of the passage also supports this interpretation. In the preceding verses, Jesus asks his disciples who they believe he is, and Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus then blesses Peter and says that he will build his church upon the rock of Peter’s confession, not upon Peter himself. This interpretation is supported by many biblical scholars who believe that the “rock” upon which the church was built was actually the faith of the apostles, as expressed in Peter’s confession.

Additionally, there is evidence that Peter, along with James, likely never left Judea. They preached only to the Jews, and it was Paul whose ministries more likely led to the founding of the Church of Rome. Furthermore, the idea that Peter was the head of the church is not supported by the rest of the New Testament. In fact, the Bible clearly shows that the apostles had equal authority and responsibility in the early church.

For example, in Acts 15, the apostles come together to decide whether Gentile converts to Christianity need to follow Jewish customs. In this passage, James is the one who makes the final decision, not Peter. This suggests that Peter did not have ultimate authority over the other apostles.

There is also evidence that the early church did not see Peter as the sole leader. For example, in the letter to the Romans, written by Paul, he greets several individuals in the church, but does not mention Peter. If Peter was truly the head of the church, it would be odd for Paul to omit him from his greeting.

In conclusion, while the Catholic Church has traditionally viewed Peter as the rock upon which the church was built, there are strong arguments against this interpretation. The Greek words used in the passage, the context of the conversation, the lack of evidence of Peter’s supreme authority in the rest of the New Testament, and the early church’s treatment of Peter all suggest that the “rock” upon which the church was built was not Peter himself, but rather the faith of the apostles, as expressed in Peter’s confession.

Art by Che