Conversation: Peter or His Confession?


Q. So what is the support for the contention that the Catholic Church is the prescribed “organization of believers” despite their unchristian behavior over many centuries.

A. Well, we have 1500 more years of history as an organization than the Lutherans and Presbyterians. And there are more Catholics worldwide than all of the Protestant denominations put together. So, I do not doubt that we have logged a lot more unchristian behavior in the past 2000 years. But just wait until the Lutherans have been around for 2000 years and have as many members as we do, then we can compare fairly our records of sanctity and sinfulness?

Q. The origin of the belief in the papacy, appears to be the passage in Matthew 16:18 where Jesus says, “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.”

A. Actually the origin of the papacy is not rooted/derived/ or founded upon the passage of Matthew 16. It is rooted in Christian history. But because Protestants have no regard for history and will only listen to evidence in Scripture, we do our best to give you the best Biblical evidence to support and explain our beliefs. Remember we do not derive our religion out of scripture alone like the Protestant sects do.

Q. There are two different viewpoints on what this scripture is saying. The Catholic Church, of course, says that Jesus is putting Peter in charge and he was therefore the first Pope. The other viewpoint is that Jesus was saying that the church was to be built upon Peter’s answer to Jesus’ question posed to Peter just preceding the passage in question. Peter’s response was that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

I cannot find any additional support that Jesus meant that Peter would be the foundation of the church (the rock Jesus would build his church on),

Q. In Matthew 16, is Jesus going to build His Church on Peter’s confession or on Peter?

A. Both, in one way, because certainly the Church is built on “Christ the Son of the living God”. However, the plain sense of Mt. 16 has to be speaking about Peter. Peter is the Rock on which the Church will be built. After all, Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter and what does the name Peter mean? Rock.

In addition to this, in v. 18 “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church”, the pronoun “this” must have a noun that it is referring to, an antecedent. Antecedents are usually 0ne of the closest nouns that came before the pronoun. In this case that noun would be Peter. Often, when trying to refute the Catholic use of this scripture to show that Peter is the rock on which Jesus will build His church some have said,

“No, the rock is not Peter it is Peter’s confession, that is the rock on which Christ will build His Church.”

That seems reasonable until you think about the rules of grammar. The pronoun “this” is in verse 18. Peter’s confession is in verse 16. That is two verses, three sentences and seven nouns away.

16: Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.“
17: And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
18: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on THIS rock I will build my church.

If pronouns in English or any other language could have seven nouns in between the pronoun and the antecedent it would be incomprehensible. For example:

I have a car and I love to drive. I also have a truck. My house has a two-car garage with a pool. IT is beautiful.

What does IT refer to? What is beautiful? The pool or maybe the whole house. Who would contend that the writer meant that the car was beautiful? And yet, that is the sort of grammatical gymnastics required to assert that Peter’s confession was the rock upon which Jesus would build His Church.

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