19 comments on “Matthew 16:18-19; a closer look, part 1

  1. “Thus, what we have here is a paradigm shift, from God dwelling with His people in the Temple, to God dwelling with His people in the Church; we do not have God establishing an institution on Peter’s shoulders.” Amen. I think this is where we need to land on this issue.

    I would also agree that both takes have some validity, although I think Peter’s unique importance was taken to an extreme afterward. Peter never refers to himself as the foundational “rock,” and James seems to have been the leader (or spokesperson) in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13; 21:18). Furthermore, Paul saw Peter as just one of the “pillars” of the church, along with James and John (Gal.2:9).

    As you said, we can acknowledge that the short term meaning was indeed Peter’s immediate leadership after Jesus’ ascension. He was a “little rock.” The bigger picture, however, is that it is upon the revelation of Jesus Christ, our Chief Cornerstone, the Rock of our salvation, that the foundation of the church is laid. The whole New Testament affirms this view (i.e., Rom.9:33; 1 Pet.2:8; 1 Cor.3:11; 10:4). And Peter himself said that we are “living stones” with which we are being built together as His Temple, His body on the earth.
    Blessings.

  2. I think it is good to just look at the text without worrying about all of the superfluous stuff. What did God say and how should I respond? Thank you for writing about what God has said. Very encouraging. This is very important when we consider that Paul said the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. Their testimony to the truth about Jesus Christ is the foundation for our testimony of faith in Jesus Christ. I really like what you did. Praise God for His grace to us in Christ Jesus and the faithful Word of God which bears witness to the Son of God.
    Thank you for reading my latest post on holdingforthhisword. May we exalt in our God and Savior. Amen!

  3. Hi. interesting post, but I find myself unconvinced by the Aramaic argument. It was used of old by Roman Catholic theologians when confronted with the Greek text, but it is the NT autographs that are authoritative, not any imagined Aramaic word use. Furthermore, Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:11 says that “no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”, and even Peter speaks of Jesus as the stone which the builders rejected which has become the chief corner stone. Just a little more; I do not see the gates of Hades as attacking the church, but the church taking out the strongholds of Satan. Sorry to be contrary, but this passage is an important one. What is really interesting to me is the fact that Peter was probably not converted at this time. He flatly rejects the gospel message in a few versus time. Even in Matt 18, where the disciples argue over who will be the greatest, Jesus tells them that unless they are changed, and become like little children, there is no way these disciples will enter the Kingdom. Their converstion is chapters away yet. All the best,

  4. Interesting points, Don. We always have to consider the exact words Jesus used and compare them to later translations to understand His intent. I’m always edified by your explanations of NT text and often, you move my thinking forward. Thank you.

  5. Here’s a non-academic explanation for what the “rock” of Matthew 16 is:

    If the rest of the scriptures can be understood by looking at the Greek then Matthew 16 should be no different.

    Many times in the scriptures (especially Matthew’s gospel – 63 times), when Jesus would talk to people he would directly say, “I say to you…” and then follow up with the point.

    Now in Matthew 16:18 this is exactly what happened, and you even pointed this out.

    Jesus says something to Peter (…And I say to you that you are Peter...) but then the thought gets changed from a person to a principle (…and on this rock will my church be based…). The translation there is the Bible in Basic English btw.

    If Jesus were talking about Peter when he talked about the rock that his church would be built upon, he would have said, as the rest of Matthew’s letter shows, “And I say to you that you are Peter, and on [you] will my church be based”, but that’s not even close to what Jesus said.

    Again, whether you’re talking Greek or Aramaic, Jesus didn’t say,”I will build my church on you“…he said, “…on this rock….”

    I agree with your understanding that the gates of Hades is death. And that’s why I say that the rock that Jesus’ church is built on is the sonship of Jesus which was proven to be true by his resurrection from the dead. Hence, Paul would say, “But [Jesus] was marked out as Son of God in power by the Holy Spirit through the coming to life again of the dead; Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Romans 1:4 – BBE)

    I think it’s really that simple. Jesus is always the foundation (think footer) of the church (because of him being the authoritative son of God – Matthew 17:5) while the apostles and prophets became the building rocks/blocks that the rest of the church joined (1 Peter 2:5-8).

    For there is no other base for the building but that which has been put down, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11) (And this just so happens to be a verse set in a context of Paul correcting Christians for saying that their faith was built upon Paul, Apollo, Peter and Jesus – 1 Corinthians 1:12).

  6. A good work, Don.

    The concept of “building” God’s church upon a foundation of rock comes from the idea that the people of God are a temple or a “house”; in the New Testament that “house” is called the “church”. Thus, what we have here is a paradigm shift, from God dwelling with His people in the Temple, to God dwelling with His people in the Church; we do not have God establishing an institution on Peter’s shoulders.

    This fits very well with Jesus’ comments to the Samaritan woman, where He tells her that soon worship will be neither on their mountain or in the Temple at Jerusalem, but from the Spirit. Consider that this is a move backwards to before the tent in which he dwelt during the Exodus, when God was worshiped wherever believers gathered. That we will no longer worship (as necessity) in a building, as an institution, but as followers, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

  7. Thanks for sharing out of your conviction. Perhaps you will find this a path to further explore and grasp: Throughout the Scriptures, the “Rock” is Jesus himself (the way, the truth, the life, the resurrection); and the “new foundation” is operation by the Holy Spirit (the Comforter, the Spirit of Prophecy, the Spirit of Truth). Thus, many mature Christian believers understand, “upon this truth–flesh and blood will not reveal, the Holy Ghost must endow. Be encouraged!

  8. Hi – I’d love to know what some of your favorite books are that talk about the history of the church and the Greek vs. Aramaic. I appreciate your post, too!

    • Here are a few leads for you:

      1. “A History of the Exegesis of Matthew 16:17-19 from 1781 to 1965” by J. A. Burgess

      2. If you can get it, J.A. Fitzmeyer wrote an interesting study: Aramaic Kepha and Peter’s Name in the New Testament” in To Advance the Gospel: New Testament Studies(New York, Crossroad, 1981)

      …and it also helps if you can read those languages 🙂

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