Peter is the rock, but Jesus is also the rock?

Both Peter and Jesus are referred to as “the rock” in the Bible. Peter in Matt 16:18. Jesus in Psalm 62:7, Psalm 94:22, 1 cor 10:4 and so on…

How can they both be the rock? Are there any difference in the meaning when it addresses Peter and Jesus?

My guess would be (and it is just that… a guess) that Jesus was the rock until He ascended to Heaven, then Peter, as our first Pope, resumed the role of the rock, in place of Jesus.

Because Jesus said so? :wink:

Jesus is THE ROCK AND FOUNDATION. Abiding in Christ, the apostles share in His foundation, and Peter is central amongs them because it was through his leadership that built up Christ Body (the Church) since the day of Pentecost.

This can be seen in Eph 2: 19-22 (in particular verse 20).

Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners: but you are fellow citizens with the saints and the domestics of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone: In whom all the building, being framed together, grows up into an holy temple in the Lord. In whom you also are built together into an habitation of God in the Spirit

I think it could be likened to the situation of ‘Father’. We have ‘but one Father who is in Heaven’ but we also have priests who share in that Fatherhood.

Plus, to repeat… Jesus* said *Peter is the rock! :slight_smile:

“…you are rock and upon this rock I will build MY church…” Peter is the rock for the Church which JESUS organinzed, the Catholic Church - the Universal Church.

JESUS is the rock of faith upon which all souls hope and believe for their salvation.

Peter [Petras] =small stone
Jesus[Petra] = Bedrock

Matt 16:18 “I tell you that you are Petras(small stone), and on this Bedrock I will build my church.” The ROCK is the statement Peter makes in Matt 16:16.

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Only those who know their Bible well enough know that Peter’s confession of Jesus being the Christ is the Rock the CHurch is built on, is the only interpretation that’s perfectly consistent with the rest of Scripture and the only way to read this verse. No one who’s been reading much before and after this verse would think Jesus is delegating Peter to be the Rock and foundation of the Church. The rest will be decieved by its play on words.
Proof of this is found from Peter himself. He writes in (1 Peter 2:4-7) "As you come to him, the living Stone–rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him–you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering siritual sacrifices acceptable to GOd through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion(Christ), a chosen and precious cornerstone(Christ), and the one who trusts in him(Christ) will never be put to shame.”
"Now to you who believe, this stone(Christ) is precious. But to those who do not believe,
"The stone(Christ) the builders rejected has become the capstone(Christ),
“A stone(Christ) that causes men to stumble and a rock(Christ) that makes them fall.”

Peter understood fully what Jesus meant. Jesus is the only Rock. Peter never claimed to be “the Rock” of Matt 16:18 or Sovereign Leader of the universal church. Peter knew he was another “living stone” being built into THE STONE, the cornerstone, which is Christ. Peter was a humble man, a servant of Christ. A servant like every believer who serves in the kingdom of God. He understood this perfectly, why don’t all of us? Just because he spoke up first a few times in the Bible does not imply a sovereign leadership role to Peter. In fact we are told that James, the brother of Jesus was the Leader of the Church in Jeruselem.

You know, when we have a verse like Matt 16:18 that seems to be of 2 different possible interpretations. We have to look to the rest of Scripture and see which one is in HARMONY with the Bible. Jesus is the Rock of Scripture, unquestionably, in every case. Matt 16:18 is the only verse that has a sort of play on words that leaves room for some who don’t base their interpretation in this case on the consistency of Scripture. To say that Peter is the Rock the CHurch is built on is extremely inconsistant with Scripture.

Wow…then you must think the rest of scripture just means absolutely nothing then. If you really believe that Peter is the Rock that the Church of Christ is built upon. Every other verse in scripture announces otherwise very clearly and consistantly that Jesus Christ is the only Rock on which the foundation of the Church is built.

**1 COR 3
**5"What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. 10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds."

**11"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." **

18"Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”[a]; 20and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”

** 21"So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas(That means Peter by the way)[c] or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God."

1 Cor 10:4 "They all ate the same spiritual food and they drank from the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ." --and this even in the O.T. Jesus was the Rock even in the time of Moses!**

Abraham was also called rock in Is 51:1-2. Obviously they are just rocks in a different sense. Peter is a rock in the sense that he is the one who “strengthens the bretheren” and, as Catholics believe, was the holder of a sort of prime ministerial office which would be the visible source of unity and doctrinal security.

Jesus is the rock in that He is God and is the foundation in the lives of all Christians. He’s also a source of nourishment for us as the rock in the desert was for the Israelites. He’s our leader and spiritual head. That’s the general overview.

It’s not unusual for scripture to use the same imagery to describe different things. Jesus is the light of the world, but so are we. Jesus’ body is a temple, but so is ours. There are more examples, but those are what come to mind.

In classical Greek, that distinction holds, but in Koine Greek, which the passage was written in, there was no distinction between Petros and Petra.

The verse is very clearly about Peter. Many Protestants even acknowledge this. If Peter is called the rock which the Church is built on in this verse, and Jesus is the rock on which the Church is built upon in other verses, than I’m going to go with scripture and believe that they are both the rock on which the Church is built in some sense.

There’s no need for one of those scriptural truths to override or obscure the other.

Since I know there will be others better equipped and knowledgeable to answer the rest of your post, I just want to ask a question I’ve been stumped on for a while… I’ve heard this distinction (pebble vs. boulder) many times, but, as I don’t know Greek, I don’t see how it works. How does an ending change the meaning of the root of the word? I assume that ‘petra’ is feminine, and of course Jesus wouldn’t refer to Peter as feminine, thus ‘petros’. Why do the endings change the meaning?

please explain this further:

what do you mean by Peter (or the Pope ) “assumed the role of the rock, in place of Jesus”

In what way is Peter (or the Pope) “in place of Jesus”?

I am not aware of any Scripture proclaiming Peter is “in place of Jesus”; is that what the official reaching of the CC is ?

Has a Pope ever declared that he himself is/was " in place of Jesus"?

Might as well make it three rocks. Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is a debate that will never go away. It’s been hashed and re-hashed!

Question then: Why did Jesus change Simon’s name? Doesn’t a name change (by God) in the Bible mean that that person has a new, bigger role to play? If the ‘pebble vs. boulder’ interpretation is correct, then wouldn’t that mean that Jesus is sort of degrading Peter (giving him a rather demeaning name… Pebble.) How is that interpretation consistent with all the other name changes (say, in the OT) ?

Some Protestants disagree with your interpretation:

Baptist scholar D. A. Carson writes:

The underlying Aramaic is in this case unquestionable; at most probably kepha was used in both clauses (“you are kepha” and “on this kepha”), since the word was used both for a name and for a “rock.” The Peshitta (written in Syriac, a language cognate with a dialect of Aramaic) makes no distinction between the words in the two clauses. (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8, Zondervan, 368)

Oscar Cullman:

The obvious pun which has made its way into the Greek text . . . suggests a material identity between petra and Petros . . . as it is impossible to differentiate strictly between the two words. . . . Petros himself is this petra, not just his faith or his confession. . . . The idea of the Reformers that he is referring to the faith of Peter is quite inconceivable. . . . For there is no reference here to the faith of Peter. Rather, the parallelism of “thou art Rock” and “on this rock I will build” shows that the second rock can only be the same as the first. It is thus evident that Jesus is referring to Peter, to whom he has given the name Rock. . . . To this extent Roman Catholic exegesis is right and all Protestant attempts to evade this interpretation are to be rejected. (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 6, Eerdmans, 98–99, 108)

A few more Protestant scholars on the topic:

“The meaning is, ‘You are Peter, that is Rock, and upon this rock, that is, on you, Peter, I will build my church.’ Our Lord, speaking Aramaic, probably said, ‘And I say to you, your are Kepha and on this Kepha I will build my church.’ Jesus, then, is promising Peter that he is going to build his church on him! I accept this view.” William Hendriksen, Reformed Protestant theologian, Professor of New Testament Literature at Calvin Seminary and member of the Christian Reformed Church, writing in the New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1973), 647.

Gerhard Maier, conservative evangelical Lutheran theologian:“Nowadays a broad consensus has emerged which - in accordance with the words of the text - applies the promise to Peter as a person. On this point liberal and conservative theologians agree, as well as representatives of Roman Catholic exegesis.” The Church in the Gospel of Matthew; Hermeneutical Analysis of the Current Debate, Peternoster Press, 1984), 58.

"In Aramaic, ‘Peter’ and Rock are the same word; in Greek (here) they are cognate terms that were used interchangeably by this period. For the idea of a person as the foundation on which something is built, cf. Isaiah 51:1-2; Ephesians 2:20 (the promise is made to Peter because Peter was the one who confessed Jesus, v. 16). Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament, (Downer’s Grove, IL; Intravarsity Press, 1993), 90.

Matthew 16:18 – Peter the Rock
Understanding the Use of Metaphor in the New Testament

Matthew 16:18-20 (NIV)
18And I tell you that you are Peter,a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19I 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." 20Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

a] Peter means rock.

Many non-Catholics object to the idea that Peter was the rock upon which Jesus promised to build the Church, and they offer various alternative interpretations of the rock as being Jesus himself, Peter’s confession of faith, and the curious hybrid Peter and his confession. To support their denial of Jesus’ establishment of Peter as the head of the Church, non-Catholics frequently cite other scripture passages in which Jesus is called the “chief cornerstone” and the apostles collectively being described as foundation stones. These arguments are based upon a misunderstanding of the use of metaphors within the pages of scripture. Author Stephen Ray, himself a former Evangelical and convert to Catholicism, addressed this problem in his book, Upon This Rock:

“In this metaphorical description, Jesus himself could not be the foundation, because in this illustration he presents himself as the builder. The following is very important. In Scripture Jesus is variously depicted as the foundation (1 Cor. 3:11), the builder (Mt. 16:18), the cornerstone (Acts 4:11), and the temple itself (Rev. 21:22). We also see the apostles and/or believers as the foundation (Eph. 2:20, Rev. 21:14), the builders (1 Cor. 3:10), the stones, lithos, not petra (1 Pet. 2:5), the building (1 Cor. 3:9), and the temple (Eph. 2:21). Many illustrations are used to explain various aspects of the Church. One cannot simply substitute one descriptive figure of speech for another in any one illustration thereby mixing metaphors. It does great violence to the textual illustration itself and is a good example of roughshod “proof-texting”, wrongly “dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). The Bible does not set up a dichotomy—either Jesus or Peter; rather, it presents us with both Jesus and Peter as foundation stones. Jesus is establishing the man who will be the focal point of unity within the Church, the foundation. He who builds upon sand has a structure that crumbles (Mt. 7:24-27). Jesus builds his Church upon the rock of his choice, and, by his protection, the Church has stood the test of time. The powers of hell have failed to destroy or corrupt her” (Stephen Ray, Upon this Rock, [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999], 36.)

In this same book, Ray also cites Protestant George Salmon, author of The Infallibility of the Church which he wrote to undermine the teachings of the Catholic Church. On the matter of metaphorical usage, Salmon wrote at length:

“It is undoubtedly the doctrine of Scripture that Christ is the only foundation [of the Church]: “other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). Yet we must remember that the same metaphor may be used to illustrate different truths, and so, according to circumstances, may have different significations. The same Paul who has called Christ the only foundation, tells his Ephesian converts (2:20):—“Ye are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.” And in like manner we read (Rev. 21:14):—“The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.” How is it that there can be no other foundation but Christ, and yet that the Apostles are spoken of as foundations? Plainly, because the metaphor is used with different applications. Christ alone is that foundation, from being joined to which the whole building of the Church derives its unity and stability, and gains strength to defy all the assaults of hell. But, in the same manner as any human institution is said to be founded by those men to whom it owes its origin, so we may call those men the foundation of the Church whom God honoured by using them as His instruments in the establishment of it; who were themselves laid as the first living stones in that holy temple, and on whom the other stones of that temple were laid; for it was on their testimony that others received the truth, so that our faith rests on theirs; and (humanly speaking) it is because they believed that we believe. So, again, in like manner, we are forbidden to call anyone on earth our Father, “for one is our Father which is in heaven.” And yet, in another sense, Paul did not scruple to call himself the spiritual father of those whom he had begotten in the Gospel. You see, then, that the fact that Christ is called the rock, and that on Him the Church is built, is no hindrance to Peter’s also being, in a different sense, called rock, and being said to be the foundation of the Church; so that I consider there is no ground for the fear entertained by some, in ancient and in modern times, that, by applying the words personally to Peter, we should infringe on the honour due to Christ alone.” (George Salmon, The Infallibility of the Church [London: John Murray, 1914], 338-339).

God freely chooses to communicate his authority in varying degrees to members of the people of God in order to accomplish his governance and authority on the earth. God’s ministers participate in the prophetic, priestly, and kingly ministry of Christ. Jesus Christ, the rock foundation of our faith, is certainly capable of making Peter the rock and the foundation of our faith in him.

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