http://catholicoutlook.com/images/cleardot.gif Protestant Scholars Agree: Peter Is the Rock
Quotations from Protestant scholars who agree that Matthew 16:18 refers to Peter personally
by Gary Hoge One day, when Jesus was in the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matt. 16:13). The disciples gave a variety of answers before Peter finally said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:16). What happened next is the subject of some controversy:
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” (Matt. 16:17-19).To whom or to what was Jesus referring when He said, “On this rock I will build my Church”? What rock was He talking about? Catholics, noting that the name “Peter” (Greek: Petros) is really just the masculine form of the Greek word for “rock” (petra), say He was referring to Simon son of Jonah. If they’re right, if the Church was to be built in some sense on Peter himself, as head of the apostles, then this supports the Catholic doctrine of the papacy. Naturally, Protestants aren’t comfortable with that at all, and so historically, they have claimed that the “rock” to which Jesus referred was Peter’s faith, or perhaps, Christ Himself.
But as the passions of the Reformation era have cooled, and Protestant scholars have taken a more dispassionate look at this text, they have come to agree more and more that Jesus was referring to Peter himself as the rock. Of course, they disagree with the Catholic interpretation of what this means, but many now agree that the Catholic explanation of the grammar of the text is correct.
The following quotations, all of which are from Protestant Bible scholars, are taken from the book Jesus, Peter & the Keys: a Scriptural Handbook on the Papacy (Scott Butler et al., (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing), 1996).
Leading 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 (H. J. Holtzmann, E. Schweiger) and conservative (Cullmann, Flew) theologians agree, as well as representatives of Roman Catholic exegesis. (“The Church in the Gospel of Matthew: Hermeneutical Analysis of the Current Debate,” Biblical Interpretation and Church Text and Context, (Flemington Markets, NSW: Paternoster Press, 1984), 58.)Donald A. Carson III
Baptist and Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Seminary
Although it is true that petros and petra can mean “stone” and “rock” respectively in earlier Greek, the distinction is largely confined to poetry. Moreover the underlying Aramaic is in this case unquestionable; and 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 Aramaic) makes no distinction between the words in the two clauses. The Greek makes the distinction between petros and petra simply because it is trying to preserve the pun, and in Greek the feminine petra could not very well serve as a masculine name. (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 8 (Matthew, Mark, Luke), (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 368.) The word Peter petros, meaning “rock” (Gk 4377), is masculine, and in Jesus’ follow-up statement he uses the feminine word petra (Gk 4376). On the basis of this change, many have attempted to avoid identifying Peter as the rock on which Jesus builds his church. Yet if it were not for Protestant reactions against extremes of Roman Catholic interpretations, it is doubtful whether many would have taken “rock” to be anything or anyone other than Peter. (Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary – New Testament, vol. 2, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 78.)
John Peter Lange
German Protestant scholar
The Saviour, no doubt, used in both clauses the Aramaic word kepha (hence the Greek Kephas applied to Simon, John i.42; comp. 1 Cor. i.12; iii.22; ix.5; Gal. ii.9), which means rock and is used both as a proper and a common noun. . . . The proper translation then would be: “Thou art Rock, and upon this rock,” etc. (Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: The Gospel According to Matthew, vol. 8, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976), 293.)