Early Church Fathers Agree: Peter is the Rock
“[T]he Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven [and] whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. . . . Upon you, he says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys, not to the Church; and whatever you shall have bound or you shall have loosed, not what they shall have bound or they shall have loosed” (Modesty 21:9–10 [A.D. 220]).
“Was anything hidden from Peter, who was called the Rock whereon the Church was to be built; who obtained the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the power of loosing and of binding in heaven and on earth?” (De Praescript Haeret, n.22, p. 209, in Colin Lindsay, The Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans, 1870), 19, c.A.D. 200-220,)
Cyprian of Carthage
“The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever things you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed also in heaven.’ And again He says to him after His resurrection: ‘Feed my sheep.’ On him He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the Apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4 [A.D. 251]).
Jacob of Nisibis (d. AD 338, attendee of the Council of Nicaea)
“Simon, the head of the Apostles, he who denied Christ…Our Lord received him, and made him the foundation, and called him the Rock of the edifice of the Church.”
“Simon, who was called a Rock, was deservedly called a Rock because of his faith.”
Ephraim the Syrian
“Simon, My follower, I have made you the foundation of the Holy Church. I betimes called you Peter [Kefa, or Rock, in the original text], because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for Me. If they would wish to build upon what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which My teaching flows, you are the chief of My disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness which I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the first-born in My institution, and so that, as the heir, you may be executor of my treasures. I have given you the keys of the kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all my treasures.”
“Peter, that head of the Apostles, the first in the Church, the friend of Christ, who received the revelation not from man but from the Father…this Peter, and when I say Peter, I mean the unbroken Rock, the unshaken foundation, the great Apostle, the first of the disciples…” (De Eleemos, iii).
Chrysostom recognized that the Church was built “on the faith of his confession” but that was inseparable from his person as the future Rock of the Church:
“Is it not because he was immovable in his faith that Peter received this name?” (Homily, “I Resisted Him to His Face”)