Question on Peter as stone or rock

by Rev. Jack Barr

Subject: Re: Latest Claim by Catholic Apologists
Date: Wed, 09 Jan 2002 21:53:11 -0600
From: Jack Barr
To: XXXXX@xxxxxx

Hello XXXX,

Thank you for your question, I will do my best to answer.

Recently I read an article by a Catholic apologist attempting substantiate a Petrine primacy that the Greek word, Petra, was derived from Petros to alter the view of Christians from Catholic dogma.

I would like to know the history of these two words and whether there is any validation to such a claim.

I assume, that you would be referring to the controversy over Matthew 16:18 where the Catholic Church claims that Jesus made Peter the rock on which the Church would be built. Based on this belief, let me show you what I see when I studied the Scriptures.

First: I understand from your question, that the apologist was attempting to say that the word "Peter", and the word "rock", in Matthew 16:18 should be the same word, "Petros", and not two different words, "Petros" and "Petra". We will see below that the Greek word (in Strong's dictionary) "Petros" means a "little rock or a piece of rock", while the word "Petra" means a "massive rock."

I can not give you the history of these words, but my understanding is that they were both in use before the time of Jesus.

My KJV 1611 bible reads: Red text added by me.

Matthew 16:18 "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, (small rock or stone) and upon this rock (massive rock) I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall shall not prevail against it."

My Catholic bible (New Testament in the Confraternity Text) from the Catholic Press, Inc. Copyright 1952, reads;

Matthew 16:18 "And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Note: The Catholic Bible reads exactly the same as the KJV in respect to the words "Peter" and "rock", showing that their own translators were using two different words in this translation.

My Green's Greek to English word for word interlinear translation reads:

Matthew 16:18 "I also And to you say, You are Peter, and on this rock I will build of Me the church, and [the] gates of Hades not will prevail against her."

Young's Literal translation reads:

Matthew 16:18 "And I also say to thee, that thou art a rock, and upon this rock I will build my assembly, and gates of Hades shall not prevail against it;"

Note: My copy of Young's literal translation does not give a reference to the Strong's Greek/English dictionary, nor does it show me the actual Greek letters, as does the Green's translation, therefore I am unable to determine by my examination which Greek word they are using for each "rock". This translation would tend to support the claim that both words should be the same. But let us look at it. According to the English Definition for the Greek Word translated as "rock", this would then say, "you are a massive rock, and upon your massive rock I will build my church." And even if they had Jesus saying "you are a little rock, and upon your little rock I will build my church." This has been and still is the contention of the Catholic church that this is exactly what Jesus said and did. That Jesus built His church not on Jesus Himself, but built it on Peter.

But then, the question states that the Catholic apologist prefers the word "Petros" which we will see below, and which was stated above, means "a piece of rock" or a small rock, and not the massive rock, which Jesus would be. Young's translation would make Peter a massive rock, while the apologist would make Peter a small rock. The apologist would have you believe that Jesus said "you are Peter, and upon Peter I will build my Church." All of these would make the church to be built on a man, Peter, instead of on Jesus Christ who is God.

Peter = Strong's #4074
Petros appar. a prim. word; a (piece of) rock (larger than 3037); as a name, Petrus, an apostle: -- Peter, rock, Comp. 2786.

rock = Strong's #4073
Petra fem. of the same as 4074; a (mass of) rock (lit. of fig.): -- rock

Strong's #3037
lithos ; appar. a prim. Word; a stone (lit or Fig): -- (mill-, stumbling-) stone.

Strong's #2786
Kephas, of Chald. origin [comp. 3710]; the Rock; Cephas (i.e. Kepha), a surname of Peter: -- Cephas.

Strong's #3710
orgizo, from 3709; to provoke or enrage, i.e. (pass.) become exasperated: -- be angry (wroth).

This line continues to reference back to other numbers.

From Webster's New World College Dictionary

combining form 1. rock or stone [petrography]

The Catholic Church, in it's Catechism (copyright 1994), page 233, says

#881 "The lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the 'rock' of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. 'the office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head.' This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope." (underline is mine, not the catechism)

Note: By this view, Peter and his successors became dictators who could, and did, control the building of the Church. But Jesus said that He, Jesus, was the corner stone. And it is upon the corner stone that the entire building must be built. Jesus told His Apostles and Us that every leader in His Church must be servants, and not masters. But what I see is that the Catholic Church leadership has set themselves up as masters.

I believe that there are just too many Greek manuscripts out there for everyone in the world to be fooled by this claim of this apologist that they all conspired to change every Greek manuscript just to spite the Catholic Church. What I can believe is that the Catholic Church is trying to make their flocks believe their version. For as their own writings in their Catechism states, that their entire organization stands on their interpretation. To admit that the Church was built on Jesus Christ as the massive rock, and that Peter was only a small stone in the Church building, would cause their entire Church to collapse.

So what I see is that Jesus pointed to Peter and said " You are Peter (meaning little stone)" and then pointing to Himself and saying "On This Rock (meaning massive stone), I will build my Church." If the Church is not built on Jesus Christ then it is nothing. If there is any conspiracy, I believe that it is on the side of the Catholic Church. If you think not, then I suggest that you look at how the leaders of the Catholic Church live, and then look at the poor of the world whom they will not help. Look at how Jesus and the Apostles lived and compare with the way that the leaders of the Catholic church live today, in rich splendor. They certainly are not living as Jesus did. Jesus washed the feet of His deciples, I think that you would play hell trying to get the Pope, or the Cardinals to wash your feet. They do not serve, they rule. You bow down to them and kiss their hands. And if you do not, they call you a heretic.

I hope that this will answer your question.

I was raised as a Catholic, but when I gave my heart to Jesus Christ, Jesus took me away from that Church and showed me what was wrong with it. God forbid me from going back to the Catholic Church. Yes, there are people in the pews who will make it to heaven because they keep their eyes on Jesus, and stay out of the idolatry. But I have serious doubt that any of the leadership will make it to heaven unless they change.

These are my views which I learned when reading the Bible with the help and leading of the Holy Spirit.

Rev. Jack Barr

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