Okay, Peter is the rock... so?


I am a catholic with a problem.

The Peshitta Bible (300s) clearly establishes that Peter is the “Kepha”, the Rock, on which the Church is built. One problem, however, is answering the questions: “Okay, so Peter was the foundation; therefore, what? Why should all his successors also be the foundation? Doesn’t a building just have one foundation for all time?” In other words, why does Peter’s “rockiness” extend after his death? What reason is there to believe that? I mean, if apostolic succession is that literal, shouldn’t St. Matthias have been a traitor to the Church just like his predecessor, Judas Iscariot?

These questions have tortured me to the point of making me stay away from Rome, just in case the Papacy isn’t correct or true. I would appreciate any thoughts.

Jesus’ statement about giving Peter the keys to the kingdom would have been understood by Jews and others in the ancient world who lived under monarchies as a political appointment to the position of prime minister or “One over the house.”

The “One over the house” was appointed to an office. He could be removed from office and another appointed. Jesus removed the temple authorities from “The chair of Moses” and appointed Peter to the “Chair of Peter.”

The keys to the temple were literally kept on a chain in the temple and the temple was locked up every night. Reference brantpitre.com/documents/printable_outlines/papacy_outline.pdf


Matthias filled the OFFICE vacated by Judas, but there isn’t any reason to think that the office was that of a traitor…all we know is that Judas, personally, was a traitor and unworthy of the office.

The office of the Bishop of Rome is also one that extends after the death of Peter, and I would like to explain that as follows:

Peter – The Rock, Keeper of the Keys and Royal Steward

"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 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. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-19)

Peter’s understanding that Jesus was the Son of God did not come from working it out on his own; God the Father infused this revelation into Peter’s mind thus imprinting His seal of approval upon the humble fisherman. In turn, Jesus recognized that Simon had already been anointed by His Father in this way, and He declared, “Blessed are you” because the Father had already blessed Simon with knowledge of the Son. Speaking in His native tongue, Aramaic, Jesus gave Simon a new name, “Kepha”, the Aramaic word that means “rock”. Jesus declared, “You are kepha, and on this kepha I will build my church.”

Although Jesus spoke Aramaic, the New Testament was written in Greek, and “Kepha” would have been translated into the Greek words for “rock” which are “petra” or “petros”. “Petra” is the feminine form of the masculine word, “petros”, and obviously, “petros” is the more suitable form for a man’s name. From “petros” we derive the English name, “Peter”. For us modern readers then, Jesus’ pronouncement reads, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church”, but we must never lose sight of the fact that in the original language used by Jesus, Simon is clearly identified as the rock upon which the Church would be built by Jesus. Jesus announced His intention to establish His Church (singular – not “churches” plural) and His choice of Peter as its leader.

What is it about Peter’s character that caused Jesus to compare him to something as solid as rock? Isn’t this the same Peter who Jesus called “Satan” just a few verses later? (cf. Mt 16:23) Isn’t this the same Peter who would deny the Lord three times after his arrest? (cf. Lk 22:34) Surely this unstable character is anything but solid rock upon which a Church could be built; yet, Jesus sees something deeper in Peter’s character, and His choice would be vindicated when Peter ultimately received a martyr’s crown via crucifixion.

Matthew also tells us that Jesus gave Peter the “keys of the kingdom of heaven”. In ancient times, a king might choose a second in command (known as the royal steward) who literally wore a large key as a symbol of his office and who spoke with the authority of the king. The prophet Isaiah confirms this:

"In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Isaiah 22:22)

In the passage above, God is speaking, and He confirms the existence of the office, the key, and the continuation of the office despite the change of office holder. In other words, the office of the royal steward continued even when the man who held the office died or was replaced by someone else.

How does this relate to what we have learned from Matthew? In the New Testament, we learn that Jesus inherits the throne of his father, David.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:31–33)

Thus, we know that Jesus is a king who will reign forever. Matthew tells us that that King Jesus named Peter as His royal steward and gave him the “keys to the kingdom of heaven" as the symbol of his authority to speak in His name. Since Jesus is an eternal king, the office of royal steward in His kingdom will never end. Although Peter died as a martyr (as Jesus foretold), the successors of Peter have taken his place in the eternal office of royal steward that Jesus established in His royal court.

In addition to the reference to a key or keys, note the following parallels:

"What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Is. 22:22)

"Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt. 16:19)

Jesus was thoroughly familiar with the Old Testament scriptures, and He intentionally referenced the passage from Isaiah when He appointed Peter as His royal steward.


Peter received authority from Jesus to speak in His name, and to do so faithfully, Peter must not teach error. Therefore, Peter (and his successors who are the leaders of Jesus’ Church) are protected by God from ever teaching error in matters of faith and morals. This is called “infallibility”.

Jesus reveals the infallible nature of the Church when he declares, “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." What does this curious passage mean? There are two possible interpretations.

First, if God reciprocates the binding and loosing of Church on earth with an identical binding or loosing in heaven, then the binding and loosing done on earth must of necessity be free from all error. If this were not so, God would have put Himself in the impossible situation of having to affirm that which is not true whenever the Church taught error.

A second interpretation would be that the authority of the church is to carry out the will and decisions of God upon earth as they have been established in heaven. This is in perfect accord with the way Jesus instructed us to pray: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Thus, the Church must either be prevented from teaching error in order that God may ratify its decisions in heaven or the Church must be proclaiming here below those things that are already true in heaven. Either way, the decisions and actions of the Church can be seen to be infallible with regard to matters of faith and morals. Anything less would make Jesus a liar for He also declared, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13) and “I am with you always till the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20)

In conclusion, we have seen that Matthew has packed an incredible amount of information into one brief passage. We know that Jesus promised that He Himself would build a single Church with Peter as the rock upon which that Church would be built, that the office of head of the Church would be eternal, and that the Church itself must be protected from ever teaching error.

Timothy and Randy, thank you for replying.

These are interesting words, but they are merely interpretations. What about the Protestant interpretation that Peter had the keys personally, merely so that he would be the first to open the gates of salvation: first to the Jews (Pentecost), then to the Gentiles (Cornelius)? This seems to fit with the division of Acts, wherein Peter is focused upon for chapters 1-14, then Paul is focused on until the end. The focus moves from Jews to Gentiles - from Israel to the Whole World, and so the focus moves from Peter to Paul.

Could the announcement of the Gospel of forgiveness of sins not be the point of binding & loosing, rather than infallibility and immortal authority? Sometimes the latter seems like a bit of a stretch, given papal history.

If Peter used the keys to open, does he also use them to close? If so, how? By rejecting or “closing” the door on false doctrine? By excluding heretics?

Papal history has seen some REAL scoundrels; however, never - not once - has any pope formally led the Church into doctrinal error, and infallibility is the means by which the Holy Spirit has protected the flock from the shepherd.

The one time a Pope was about to change the dogma and announce a change in Doctrine in a bad way, the he died before announcing the official change.

I forget with Pope this was, but I believe it was a bad translation of the Bible of something. If I find the source, I’ll post it.

But anyway, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will not allow a Pope to stray the Church from the true teachings of Christ. Sure, there might be some bad Popes, but they have not changed the Dogma of the Church.

Randy, is it fair to say this: “just because no single pope has never formally led the church into error, does not mean that successive generations might not have changed doctrine by a process of theorizing, hypothesizing, and injecting other ideas”? One pope may teach “the same thing” as others from the past, and yet the perception of the doctrine might have changed so much that it is totally different. Compare the teachings of Francis vs. someone like Boniface VIII. Compare the modern independent Papacy from the Byzantine Papacy, which recognized the right of the Emperor to appoint and confirm all popes for 200 years. Who exactly owns the Two Swords? When did anyone infallibly define this? Even further, is there an infallible list of infallible declarations?

As you can see, I find all of this very difficult to take in. There is much that seems incredible, far-fetched, and contradictory with the early Church. The Fathers may say “Peter was the rock”, but they don’t all say “Peter is Rome”, or “Rome alone is Peter”, but there seem to have been various interpretations. The Papacy is so complex and massive, and the Orthodox claim all the authority of the Papacy, simply spread out across many bishops. How am I supposed to discern which is “the True Church”? They both say they wrote the Bible, and then they both claim to prove this from within the Bible. It seems that every proof for every Church’s authority comes ultimately from the Church itself, without any outside corroborative evidence.

Sorry… that was a bit of an outburst. I desperately wish to believe in Catholicism.

There is another reference to the ‘rock’ found in Psalm 62: 1 and following "Truly my soul silently waits for God; From Him comes my salvation. vs 2 "He only is the rock and my salvation; He is mys defense; I shall not be greatly moved, and vs 5 and all those following verses. "He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, and my refuge is in God.
Vs 8 “Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him, God is a refuge for us.”

Also 2 Samuel 22:2 "Then David spoke to the Lord the words of this song, on the day when the Lord had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. vs 2 “And he said, The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation.”

Good points 'Randy Carson"

Pope Benedict XVI





First of all, as Catholics, we really shouldn’t be relying on the Peshitta Bible for our information, number one. Although, our Bible does also interpret as “rock”. However, we first need to go to a Catholic Bible so we can, literally, all be on the same page.

Secondly, Christ recognized the need for what would later become a global church to have a leader. Some don’t realize the need, but all kinds of organizations, institutions, and companies need a leader to guide them.

We have presidents, prime ministers, CEOs. What would their organizations be without leadership? I think the Catholic Church is actually, among other things, an institution. In fact, I’ve heard said it’s the oldest in the world.

Christ established it. Before he ascended, he transferred authority to Peter so that the Church wouldn’t be without leadership into the future when the global Church was established.

We need a leader. There are some faiths which don’t really have one. So, when questions of faith arise, who can one turn to for answers, since they will just tell you just to turn to God? They do not have any authority to so much as convene a council, in some cases.

Sometimes, in some circumstances, we need a person, like a president, to pull it all together, or else we would be left with chaos. Christ foresaw this need and provided for it.

Christ said that all authority in heaven and earth was given to him. Then, before he ascended, he said specifically to Peter, and Peter alone, that he would be given the keys to the kingdom, that what he said would go! When the apostles argued, in the absence of Christ, what Peter said, was final!

Further, Christ asked Peter, specificially, to shepherd his flock. He said it 3 times! This was just to Peter. We call this “exclusivity”.

The others were also given certain authority, as well, but not like Peter. Christ said he would be the “rock” on which Christ would establish the Church. A rock is something hard, enduring…Peter was to be part of the foundation on which the Church would be built.

Now, if you interpret this as a protestant, you can look at the last things Christ said on earth and say things like, “So what?” If Christ said it before he ascended, repeated it 3 times, it means it’s significant! It means…listen to this.

Peter established the hierarchy, passed on knowledge, traditions he had received directly from Christ!

Christ established the Papacy. Some have gone off the path, starting by rejecting the Pope’s authority. By rejecting the Church’s representatives, we are rejecting Christ!
So, we need to be very careful with this.

Some faiths have decided to reject the Pope’s authority and, instead, establish their own leaders, their own “popes”. We believe at least with the Pope that his leadership was established by divine authority. By whose authority are all these others acting?

Caladrius, I think a bit of offline reading will do you a world of good. I recommend:






I desperately wish to believe in Catholicism.

Be at peace. God hears you. :slight_smile:


Thank you for the book recommendations, Randy.

ClearWater, your whole post is very good, but this part gets to the heart of the matter:

How do we know the Pope and his leadership are established by divine authority? The Bible is good evidence.
How do we know the Bible is true? The Church wrote it.
How do we know the Church is true? The Papacy guides it.
How do we know the Papacy is able to infallibly guide the Church? Well, Matthew 16:18…

It all comes down to “God says so”, or “we say so”. Isn’t that circular and self-referential?

Maybe Protestants have no reason to believe the Bible because they don’t believe in The Church, but Catholics have no reason to believe the Church apart from the claims the Church makes. Asserting Church Authority just moves the burden of proof back by one step, does it not?

Well, I believe in the Bible, say, because of the martyrs, in part. Well, Peter, and others, were willing to be tortured and die. That, to me, is one thing.

Now, you might say, “Well, that means nothing, because other faiths have been willing to be tortured and die for their respective faiths, as well.”

However, with Christ, it was different. With Christ, the witnesses were willing to be persecuted, be tortured, and die.

Now, with some other faiths, take Islam, you had Mohammad, but it was private revelation, no witnesses. So, to me, that’s a different case. People died over that, but none who died actually witnessed to any of the events, from my understanding of it.

In the Catholic faith, the WITNESSES were all willing to be persecuted. Even Judas witnessed in his own fashion.

ClearWater, these are arguments for Christianity generally - which I believe with all my heart. There must be some specificity…

We don’t always have evidence, because sometimes it was lost, destroyed, etc. However, when we do have evidence, it always supports the Bible.

So, there will be archeological evidence come forth, and it will confirm what the Bible has been trying to tell us all along, say.

Okay…look at the Bible…even the story of creation. It said that the world was created just so in a sort of storybook fashion. It’ll say first the heavens and earth were created…water…then fish, etc. It will go on like that. Finally, it will say man was created last. It says man was created, then woman. We haven’t been able to confirm that, but of the rest, what we have been able to confirm is that, yes, the Bible was right. That’s how it happened.

When scientists look at this, although the Bible was never intended to be a history book or science book, I can see in different places that it was right on many issues.

So, we’ll see, it was true. Water did come first…then fish…then land animals…man, etc., like it said it was! Scientists tell us that’s basically how it happened in that order and everything.

It’ll say in the Garden of Eden something seemingly outlandish that Christ “sweat” blood! Then, a modern-day scientist will say, "Hey, do you realize that’s actually possible? Under extreme duress, there’s a medical condition where your capillaries will break, and you can actual “sweat blood”!

So, we’ll have archeological and historical evidence which will back it up. It’ll say there was a census, and there was. It’ll say this person was king, and he was.

On the cross, it said after Christ died, he was pierced, and water and blood came out from his heart. Well yes, blood separates after death.

So, we’ll have all kinds of statements…history, medical archeological, that seem to confirm this.

I have very quick thoughts on this: a foundation stone must remain–if it is taken away, then the building falls, right? Therefore, the foundation stone must remain beyond Peter’s death. This, Peter was appointed to an *office, *that office is the foundation stone, which remains, and others must then fill the office. The office continues, but it cannot continue without people filling it.

As to Judas and St Matthew… the same applies. Judas’s *office *was not that of betrayer–he did that on his own, outside acting in his office. St Matthew was then chosen to fill Judas’s *office. *

Matthew who wrote about the Keys to the Kingdom and the Jews who read it and heard it would have understood it as political language. Jesus was using the language of politics. His granting Peter the authority to bind and loose is a granting of juridic/legislative authority. This is fact. It would have been unmistakable to a Jew at the time. This is why Jesus then strictly orders his followers not to tell anyone. The Roman authorities would have understood it the same way and would have arrested them for treason.

Jesus was not speaking just spiritually about the opening of the gates of heaven and preaching the word. Jesus was about to cast the temple authorities out of a position of power and place a new authority in their place. This is what happened in 70 AD.

Read Isaiah 22.

Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, "Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: I will thrust you from your office, and you will be cast down from your station. In that day I will call my servant Eli’akim the son of Hilki’ah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house. (Isaiah 22:15,20-23)

Jesus is using the same language. Any other interpretation than an appointment to an office is an incorrect interpretation. The office is the “One over the household”. It is something like El Beit or Ol Ebith or something like that in Hebrew. It is a title of authority.

The name of the book is not Acts but Acts of the Apostles. It is about the Church through the two Apostles, Peter and Paul. The Church is Apostolic and that is what Acts is about. Acts is divided into three sections. Luke is the author. He outlines and introduces the three sections of the document in verse 8.

*But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Sama’ria and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8) *

That is the division. Acts is about the growth of the Church in Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria, and then to the end of the earth.

*]**Acts 1:1 to 8:3 **is about the growth of the Church in Jerusalem. It covers a two year time frame and the main Apostle is Peter.
*]**Acts 8:4 to 12:25 **is about the growth of the church in Judea and Samaria. It covers a ten year time frame and the main Apostle is still Peter.
*]Acts 13:1 to 28:31 covers the growth of the Church to the ends of the earth. It covers a 17 year time frame and the main Apostle is Paul. The center of the story in this third section is Antioch in ancient Syria.

Acts of the Apostles is about the growth of the Church and the Church is Apostolic. It focuses on the Apostles, the new authority in God’s new Church, with Peter at the head and the center of authority in Jerusalem until it was destroyed in 70 AD.


The book Jesus, Peter, and the Keys, helped me sort out these questions. The book has a lot of quotes from the Orthodox as well as Protestants, so it was good for me to feel assured it was not just a Catholic point of view.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.