Petros/Petra vs. Rocky/Rockelle



Q. Isn’t the problem, with the Catholic argument that Peter is the Rock of Matthew 16, that the Greek word used by Jesus for the Rock foundation of His Church is petra but the name He uses for Peter is Petros? Doesn’t Petra, meaning a BIG rock refer to Peter’s confession whereas, petros, Jesus’ name for Simon, means small stone.

A. This is a valiant attempt by non-Catholics to explain away Biblical evidence that Jesus founded His Church on Peter. However, it simply is not convincing when one looks at the facts.

First, most scholars believe that Jesus spoke Aramaic. In Aramaic there is only ONE word for rock. Kepha. So what Jesus actually said would have been:

You are Kepha, and on this kepha I will build my Church.

Jesus was not making any distinctions, after all, between Peter and the petra that Christ would build His Church upon. But obviously Peter comes from the Greek word petros. So, of course, one would tend to wonder about the strength of this argument since we now call Simon–Peter and not Kepha. The explanation is simple. There actually are several places in the New Testament where the Aramaic IS used for Simon.

John 1:42
And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas, which, when translated, is Peter.”

1 Corinthians 1:12
What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas “; still another, “I follow Christ.”

1 Corinthians 3:22
whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours,

  • 1 Corinthians 9:5
    Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?
  • Simon’s new name has come down to us as Peter because the Greek translation of the New Testament is the stronger traditional translation used by the Church when translating into Latin and English, and other vernacular languages.
    Second-When the translation of the original Aramaic was made into Greek the word petra which denoted Peter was simply changed by the translator to petros because petra has a feminine ending and petros has the masculine ending. It would not be fitting to call the Prince of the Apostles by a girl’s name like Rockelle. In English we use the name Peter which is a Greek name but if we were to make a strict translation into English it would be Rock or Rocky. A man’s name.

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    6 Responses

    1. The Roman Catholic Church sees Peter as the first pope upon whom God had chosen to build His church (Matthew 16:18). It holds that he had authority (primacy) over the other apostles. The Roman Catholic Church maintains that sometime after the recorded events of the Book of Acts, the Apostle Peter became the first bishop of Rome, and that the Roman bishop was accepted by the early church as the central authority among all of the churches. It teaches that God passed Peter’s apostolic authority to those who later filled his seat as bishop of Rome. This teaching that God passed on Peter’s apostolic authority to the subsequent bishops is referred to as “apostolic succession.”

      The Roman Catholic Church also holds that Peter and the subsequent popes, were and are infallible when addressing issues “ex cathedra,” from their position and authority as pope. It teaches that this infallibility gives the pope the ability to guide the church without error. The Roman Catholic Church claims that it can trace an unbroken line of popes back to St. Peter, citing this as evidence that it is the true church, since according to their interpretation of Matthew 16:18, Christ built His church upon Peter.

      But while Peter was central in the early spread of the gospel (part of the meaning behind Matthew 16:18-19), the teaching of Scripture, taken in context, nowhere declares that he was in authority over the other apostles, or over the Church (having primacy). See Acts 15:1-23; Galatians 2:1-14; and 1 Peter 5:1-5. Nor is it ever taught in Scripture that the bishop of Rome, or any other bishop, was to have primacy over the Church. Scripture does not even explicitly record Peter even being in Rome. Rather there is only one reference in Scripture of Peter writing from “Babylon,” a name sometimes applied to Rome (1 Peter 5:13). Primarily upon this, and the historical rise of the influence of the Bishop of Rome, comes the Roman Catholic Church teaching of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. However, Scripture shows that Peter’s authority was shared by the other apostles (Ephesians 2:19-20), and the “loosing and binding” authority attributed to him was likewise shared by the local churches, not just their church leaders (see Matthew 18:15-19; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Corinthians 13:10; Titus 2:15; 3:10-11).

      Also, nowhere does Scripture state that in order to keep the church from error, the authority of the apostles was passed on to those they ordained (apostolic succession). Apostolic succession is “read into” those verses that the Roman Catholic Church uses to support this doctrine (2 Timothy 2:2; 4:2-5; Titus 1:5; 2:1; 2:15; 1 Timothy 5:19-22). Paul does NOT call on believers in various churches to receive Titus, Timothy, and other church leaders based on their authority as bishops, or their having apostolic authority, but rather based upon their being fellow laborers with him (1 Corinthians 16:10; 16:16; 2 Corinthians 8:23).

      What Scripture DOES teach is that false teachings would arise even from among church leaders, and that Christians were to compare the teachings of these later church leaders with Scripture, which alone is infallible (Matthew 5:18; Psalm 19:7-8; 119:160; Proverbs 30:5; John 17:17; 2 Peter 1:19-21). The Bible does not teach that the apostles were infallible, apart from what was written by them and incorporated into Scripture. Paul, in talking to the church leaders in the large city of Ephesus, makes note of coming false teachers, and to fight against such error does NOT commend them to “the apostles and those who would carry on their authority,” but rather he commends them to “God and to the word of His grace…” (Acts 20:28-32). It is Scripture that was to be the infallible measuring stick for teaching and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17), not apostolic successors. It is by examining the Scriptures that teachings are shown to be true or false (Acts 17:10-12).

      Was Peter the first pope? The answer, according to Scripture, is a clear and emphatic no. Peter nowhere claims supremacy over the other apostles. Nowhere is his writings (1 and 2 Peter) did the Apostle Peter claim any special role, authority, or power over the church. Nowhere in Scripture does Peter, or any other apostle, state that their apostolic authority would be passed on to successors. Yes, the Apostle Peter had a leadership role among the disciples. Yes, Peter played a crucial role in the early spread of the Gospel (Acts chapters 1-10). Yes, Peter was the “rock” that Christ predicted he would be (Matthew 16:18). However, these truths about Peter in no way give support to the concept that Peter was the first pope, or that he was the “supreme leader” over the apostles, or that his authority would be passed on to the bishops of Rome. Peter himself points us all to the true Shepherd and Overseer of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:25).

    2. Jeronie,

      All of your arguments are based on a false premise. That premise is that all Christian truth can be found in Sacred Scripture and ONLY sacred scripture. The irony is that this Protestant Doctrine of Scripture Alone or Sola Scriptura cannot be found anywhere in Scripture.

      You base your beliefs and criticism of the Catholic doctrine on Protestant interpretation of scripture which is actually Protestant Tradition.

      Click the links for more posts on Catholic TRADITION and POPE

    3. “The irony is that this Protestant Doctrine of Scripture Alone or Sola Scriptura cannot be found anywhere in Scripture.”

      bfhu,
      You state an oxymoron. Pick one. Base your beliefs on scripture alone or scripture plus man or man’s version of scripture. Scripture declares itself an end all be all unit for the purpose of salvation and disregards additions or corrections. So, a posture of scripture plus man’s tradition declares the scripture to be faulty, that it needs man to help it along.

      Or, you could just get out the black marker and cross out all the parts you don’t like.

    4. Dear Jane,

      Let me clear some things up for you.

      Jane: You state an oxymoron. Pick one. Base your beliefs on scripture alone or scripture plus man or man’s version of scripture.

      BFHU:
      The Catholic Church does not base her beliefs on any of the above except one: a Divine man, Jesus Christ. Our beliefs are based on the teachings of the Apostles, who received their teachings from Jesus. Jesus never wrote His teachings down. Jesus never instructed the apostles to write anything down let alone to instruct Christians to only base their beliefs upon what they wrote down. The whole world could not contain the books that would be needed as St. John says in Jn.21:25.

      Jane:Scripture declares itself an end all be all unit for the purpose of salvation and disregards additions or corrections.

      BFHU: Where? I noticed that you have not supplied us with a verse from scripture. You have on your own authority made a statement. But I don’t know you and cannot accept your authority. Sorry.

      Jane: So, a posture of scripture plus man’s tradition declares the scripture to be faulty, that it needs man to help it along.

      BFHU: Not at all. We do not believe in the “traditions of men” in the sense that they are condemned in Sacred Scripture. When the Catholic Church teaches from TRADITION she means by that “What has been handed down”


      Tradition:

      a.(among Jews) body of laws and doctrines, or any one of them, held to have been received from Moses and originally handed down orally from generation to generation.
      b.(among Christians) a body of teachings, or any one of them, held to have been delivered by Christ and His apostles but not originally committed to writing. (Dictionary.com)

      We simply follow St. Paul when he exhorts in his letters:

      1 Corinthians 11:2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.

      2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

      2 Thessalonians 2:15
      So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

      Jane: Or, you could just get out the black marker and cross out all the parts you don’t like.

      BFHU:
      We would never do that. All of Sacred Scripture is the infallible word of God. Jane, those who have taught you have failed to teach all of Scripture. When I was a Protestant, dealing with Eternal Security (a Protestant issue) it became clear to me that the Calvinists treated Scripture as if certain passages were highlighted and the rest could be passed over or totally ignored. I was amazed. And yet they still claimed to believe EVERYTHING in Scripture.

      As i said before:

      “The irony is that this Protestant Doctrine of Scripture Alone or Sola Scriptura cannot be found anywhere in Scripture.”

    5. “First, most scholars believe that Jesus spoke Aramaic. In Aramaic there is only ONE word for rock. Kepha. So what Jesus actually said would have been:

      ‘You are Kepha, and on this kepha I will build my Church.'”

      I believe that Jesus most likely spoke Aramaic in addition to some other languages, but the thing is…I thought most of the NT manuscripts WERE NOT written in Aramaic. Wouldn’t that mean that even if the disciples heard Jesus teaching in Aramaic…they recorded the teaching according to the understanding that Peter was petros and not petra?

    6. Helen,
      That is a good question. One could make that an interpretive foundation. However, these are the difficultines that line of thinking produces:

      1) At the time the two words (petra & petros)were synonyms and later evolved to have slightly different meanings.

      2) A better Greek word woud have been lithos to denote a small stone. And it even has a masculine ending, unlike petra.

      3) Do you really think Matthew would have given Simon a girl’s name?

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