Did Jesus Really Build the Church Upon Simon Peter?

Window sign for Chef Petro's Restaurant

Matthew 16:13-19
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

There seems to be a misconception about who Jesus is talking to here in Matthew 16:13-19, and the foundation of Christ’s Church. The Jews often took things literally, even when spoken in parables. This has been noted as one of the reasons why many Jews don’t accept Jesus as the Messiah, even today. In the same way, the Catholic Church believes Jesus was speaking only to Simon when He called him a rock, said He was going to build His church upon him, and gave him the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and authority to bind/loose. But I have trouble believing that Christ’s Church was built upon one man (other than Jesus), and that all this authority was given to just him, that one man, (other than Jesus). Especially since in Matthew 18:18, Jesus repeats this gift of authority to His remaining Apostles, each as the subjects of such authority, and even Paul said Christ is the cornerstone on which the Church’s foundation is laid: “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be (or will have been) bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be(or will have been)loosed in heaven.”

So the Church must be built upon Jesus, not Simon, right? For:

  • Did Simon Peter die for our sins?                                              NO
  • Was Simon Peter resurrected from the Dead?                              NO
  • Was Simon Peter the Messiah?                                                 NO
  • Do we worship and pray to Simon Peter as Lord?        NO
  • Was Simon Peter a Son (or seed) of David?                           NO
    (Jesus called him son of Jonah)
  • Did Simon Peter build the house that God said David’s son would build?        NO
  • Does Simon Peter sit on the throne of David?                                            NO

Who do all these answer “YES” about?     JESUS!!!

Now let’s look at the Greek:
“You are Peter” (Πέτρος)
Upon this πέτρα I will build my Church.

Notice that Jesus did not say, “Upon Πέτρος (Petros) I will build my Church”. Jesus said, “Upon this πέτρα (petra) I will build my Church,” and πέτρα is feminine (granted in the Aramaic the words for “Rock” are the same word, but in the Greek, the language in which the Apostles taught, they are different). Plus, even after this moment, Jesus continues to address him as “Simon”, not “Peter”. Only the narrator calls him “Peter” (or Simon Peter). So if Jesus changed his name to Peter, then why does He continue to address him as “Simon”?

Also, the Greek word used for “build” means “upbuilding, strengthening, encouragement, building, structure”. And the Greek word for “Church” is feminine (as Christ’s bride, the Church is also feminine).

And in the Greek, in 1 Peter 2, when Simon mentions the Living Stone that the church will be built upon, he doesn’t say himself, but calls the stone, Jesus Christ. And, he says that the people of the Church (Christians) are being built into a spiritual house. But when Peter mentions the stone upon which the Lord will build His church, Simon uses “Lithos“, not “Petros“, even when he quotes from the Septuagint (Old Testament written in Greek). Everywhere, not forms of the word “Petros”, but of  “Lithos”! Even Peter recognized that he wasn’t the one upon whom Jesus would build His Church!

So here’s what I’m thinking: what if Jesus’ calling Simon “Peter” or “rock” was not an actual changing of Simon’s name, (as with the Patriarchs: Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel), but a title for his position in the building of Christ’s Church?  I’ll say it again: What if Jesus was not giving Simon a new name, but a new Title, and the rock on which Jesus will build His Church is in fact the Truth that the Father in Heaven revealed to Simon about Jesus being the Messiah and Son of the Living God?

  • Jesus Christ = Jesus the Christ/Messiah;
  • Simon Peter…Simon the Rock

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Some also look at the Greek and claim that ‘when Jesus said, “I will give to you…” the word for “you” (σοι) is singular. So He must have been talking to Simon.’ Yes, Jesus could have been talking to Simon, for it was Simon who answered the question correctly, but at the same time, there are no genders in Ancient (Koine) Greek pronouns. So “you” could have been addressed to Petros (Peter), petra (petra), or ekklessia (the Church)…and theologically-speaking, I suppose that petra and the Church could be the same.

The Church is built upon the Truth, acknowledgment, proclamation, belief, acceptance, and Lordship of Jesus as Lord and Savior, Messiah and Son of God, revealed to us by the Father in Heaven.

So here’s another thought: What if to each person who acknowledges the Truth and enters into a relationship with Jesus as Savior and Lord, Jesus calls a rock? ‘You are a rock, and “On this rock (which was the Truth that was revealed to you by my Father, and which acknowledged and accepted as Truth), I’ll build my Church…and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it…to you (the Church), I give the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven…”

Please understand, this is NOT a means of attacking or disproving Catholics and/or their beliefs. Many Catholics are in fact our brothers and sisters in Christ. But in the same way that some are not, it must also be remembered that not everybody who goes to church, claims to be born-again, says they believe in God, or claims to be a Christian, is our brother or sister in Christ either. What this IS, is a means to promote the importance of the Church, and us, as rocks, and the Truth by which Christ’s Church is founded upon.

Remember that Jesus came not only to reconcile all creation back to Himself, but also to establish His Church (His temple that will stand forever):

1 Kings 5:5: “I will set your son upon the throne in your place. He shall build the house for my name.”
1 Kings 8:19: (to David) ‘You shall not build the house for my name, but your son who shall be born to you.

Both of these were accomplished through Jesus (remember Jesus’ title, “Son of David”?)

The problem though is that there are SO many people who just don’t get it, and in response to their confusion, they convert Christ’s Truth to opinions for their own approval and acceptance, remove God’s Truth to accommodate thoughts of fairness in their own eyes and how they want to perceive God, and actually REMOVE Jesus as the Messiah and place him as a mere Prophet, as did the people mentioned in Matthew 16:14 “Some say (you are) John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” So instead, they judge God’s Son and change His message and mission as according to their own standards and understandings. But this is not the Truth on which Christ said He will build His Church.

Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I Am?”
Simon: “The Messiah & Son of God.”
Jesus: “Blessed are you, for such the world didn’t tell you, but God…The world is blind, and looks to the Pharisees & Sadducees for guidance.  But they’re blind, too (blind leading blind, both fall into a pit).  Heck, they can’t even agree on a prediction of the weather!  But your eyes were opened.”

This Truth, God the Father revealed to Simon. This Truth, Christ said He’ll build His Church upon. This Truth, was only revealed to Simon by the Father in Heaven. Instead of sending somebody else, as God had always done in the past, God came Himself! Salvation is given to all who acknowledge and accept the Truth (even the Gentiles, which was new!) “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19)

Jesus wasn’t saying He’ll build His Church upon Simon. Jesus was saying He’ll build His Church upon this Truth which was revealed to Simon by His Father in Heaven, that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God.

If you’ve acknowledged and accepted this Truth, then as I’m understanding it, you too are a rock. Therefore, as rocks that make up Christ’s Church, it’s OUR responsibility to (and continue to):

  1. Believe this Truth
  2. Acknowledge this Truth as Truth
  3. Accept this Truth
  4. Uphold this Truth
  5. Live by this Truth
  6. Share/proclaim this Truth with others
  7. Defend this Truth

If the Church is not about THIS Truth, then it’s simply not Christ’s Church.  And if it’s not what you stand on, then neither are you a Petros.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply