Petros/petra according to this site, petros and petra are 2 different terms. What should a Catholic say about this?

Tim Staples has some great stuff on this. I listened to his CD on the Papacy in the Sword of the Spirit set and it was very good. I loaned it out to a friend for the time being so I can’t dig up the details. You might check his website out to see if you can find some commentary on the subject.


I can’t believe people are still using this old argument that has been repeatedly refuted. Serious well known Protestant apologist stop using this argument.

I bet Joe Mizzi said that petro means small rock. If you look through the greek translation, “petros” was never used for “small rock” in koine greek. The greek word for small rock is lithos. If petros was used for small rock, St. Peter would have used it in 1 Pt 2: 5.

The reason why petros was used for Peter because petras is a feminine word, and you don’t give a man a feminine name in koine greek.

He should really take that off his website.

Joe Mizzi used such a weak argument about petros just meaning rock. Just because it means a rock does not mean it is not a big size rock. At the same time, it doesn’t mean it is a small rock (small rock is lithos). In addition, where in the Bible it shows petros not being a good size rock that Jesus can’t build His Church.

Then he said why didn’t Jesus used petros for the second time. It clearly shows that petros was never used in koine greek. It may have been used in atic greek, but never in koine greek.

He used St. Augustine to show that Jesus did not build His Church on Peter. What about Letter 53

“If the very order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them [the bishops of Rome] from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer it.’ Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement. … In this order of succession a Donatist bishop is not to be found” (Letters 53:1:2 [A.D. 412]).

He mention in his last sentence that Peter confession is the rock that Jesus built His Church. Catholics agree on this. However, what Catholics don’t do is seperate somebody confession of faith from the confessor. In other words, if Peter confession is the rock, then Peter himself is the rock because he is the one that is making this confession. Joe Mizzi just refuted himself in his last sentence

great apologetic work :thumbsup:

Thank you :o

Here’s some links to excellent articles right here at CAF that refute this errant argument.
Peter the Rock
Simon the Petros (This Rock: February 1993)
You Can’t Get Past this Rock (This Rock: November 2006)
Hello? Is There Anybody Home? (This Rock: September 2002)
Peter and the Papacy
PETER THE ROCK (This Rock: October 1999)

A whole bunch more…

As a Protestant, I think the article mostly gets it right with respect tot he Petros/petra = kepha/kepha argument and how Catholic use this argument to defend the papacy.

I stopped reading at the point in which they attempted to argue that petros and petra are “distinct” terms.

That’s simply not the case. Think of them as mostly overlapping circles that can occasionally have distinct meanings. It is true that petros more often means free-standing rock in classical Greek and that petra more often means cliff or bedrock. But the fact of the matter is that the reverse meanings can be found in the very same authors, and so there is no way to prove a clear-cut distinction between them in every case. Context, more than semantic range, is the only way to be sure how the terms are being used.

Here is my source to back this up: Chrys C. Caragounis, Peter and the Rock, (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1990), p. 12.

Emphasis mine.

Classical Greek died in the 4th century BC, making way for Koine Greek. Koine Greek was the language that existed in Christ’s time, and it did not use petra/petros in such a way.

One of the things that always helps on this particular passage is the setting in which it took place. In Matthew 16:13 it says:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?"

The location, where Jesus asks his questions and Peter makes his profession of faith, is significant. There is a large rock formation at Paneas(think of the god Pan) in Caesarea Philippi that stood as the back drop for what is said in Matthew 16:18. That particular rock formation was an important pagan site which included a pagan temple, a cave with a pool of water so deep that its depths were unknown, and all kinds of niches for pagan symbols and statues. Human sacrifices were made there and the victims would be thrown into the deep pool in the cave. The cave was known as the gate to Hades.

So we see the pagan rock, which is a large rock formation, and we see Jesus changing Peter’s name to “rock”. Moreover, Peter is the rock upon which Jesus the cornerstone will build his church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. There is nothing that would suggest a “small” rock in the account by way of language, context or setting. If anything, the evidence points the other way.

In what way? I don’t follow you. If you’re saying that petros/petra are used differently in koine than in classical Greek, I’m going to need a source. For everything I’ve read–and I’ve read very extensively on the issue–is that both in classical Greek, the Septuagint and in Koine, both petros and petra have overlapping meanings.

In other words, “I’m on your side” on this particular point. We agree that no clear-cut distinction can be made between the terms at the time Matthew wrote, precisely because long before Matthew wrote, no clear-cut distinction could always be made.

Sorry for the ambiguity. What I was trying to say was that Koine Greek, the language that the Gospels were written in, used petra and petros interchangeably to mean “rock.” Petra doesn’t mean pebble, as it would in Classical Greek and petros wouldn’t mean just mean rock. Attic Greek (which is Classical Greek) used the two words to mean either pebble or rock.

This comes from Shakefoot, Gustav. Christianity: Success Or Failure? Martinsburg, WV: Holy Fire Publishing, 2006.

Page 17:

“The New Testament was written in Koine Greek, in which both Petros (masculine) and Petra (feminine) mean rock, not pebble. The Greek word for pebble is lithos. In Attic Greek, centuries before Jesus Christ, Greek poets used Petros and Petra interchangeably as synonyms for either pebble or rock.”

Also, to answer the question as to why the Gospel didn’t read “You are Petros and upon this Petros…”:

In Greek, the sentence is rendered: "εἶ Πέτρος, καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ **πέτρᾳ **οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν.”

I underlined and bolded petros and petra. Now, why doesn’t petros occur in the second underlined?

This is because that the word petra is in the dative case. The dative case refers to an indirect object, and we usually translate it as “to ___/for ____.” Also, the article “τῇ” (meaning “the”) corresponds to the dative case.

In other words, to have petros in the second instance would be ungrammatical, as petra must be in the dative case to denote the indirect object in the sentence. To have it any other way would be bad grammar.

While we have you here The_Scott, and since you seem to have some expertise, what do you think of the Protestant attempts to discredit the Catholic interpretation of the passage? Do they work? And what role do the Church Fathers play?

Well, to answer your first two questions: I have a bias. The Protestant attempts to change the meaning of the passage would indeed work, to an untrained eye. However, if one looks into the details of the argument, and looks at the grammar and gender of the Koine Greek (what case petra is in, what gender it is, etc), these rebuttals crumble.

Besides, even if petra meant “great stone” and Petros meant “little stone,” so what? The very next passage has Christ giving only Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, giving only him the power to loose and bind.

As to your third question: the Church Fathers, of course, didn’t have one single interpretation for everything. This is understandable. However, there are many instances where the Fathers give the Church of Rome and the Bishop of Rome primacy over all the other churches, even in the first four centuries.

I agree with your parsing of the Greek, but I disagree with the conclusion you draw from it. That petra is in the dative is not in dispute. The case of petra, however, doesn’t tell us why petra was chosen when Matthew could have used petros in the dative as well. In other words, “You are Petros [nominative, masculine, singular] and upon this petroi [dative, masculine, singular]” could just as easily been chosen, especially if petros and petra were “interchangeable” at the time Matthew wrote his gospel. Notice too that the entire gender disagreement issue would have disappeared had Mattthew chosen Petros/petroi. And to put a cherry on top, Petros/petroi would have been an even better preservation of the supposed wordplay based on kepha/kepha in the hypothetical underlying Aramaic.

Why, then, did Matthew choose petra at all when he clearly didn’t have to? Two possibilities come to mind: 1. The underlying Aramaic used two words for rock, not one. Here I would suggest Kepha/minra given the fact that minra, not kepha, always translates the Hebrew tswur in the Aramaic Targumim, while petra always translates tswur in the Septuagint. 2. Matthew chose two words for “rock”–not because the words were distinct in meaning–but simply because the words were distinct. And this he did most likely because he has two rocks is mind.


You should not have gone to the Aramaic. We have extraordinarily old renderings in Aramaic. Consider the ancient Aramaic Peshitta. It uses kepha and kepha in Matthew 16:18.

God bless.

The Peshitta is in Syriac and it is a translation of the Greek. It does not use Aramaic kepha (which is masculine) but rather Syriac kapha (which is feminine). Further, the Peshitta is only one of our Syriac sources. Other, later sources actually correct the Peshitta and the Curetonian revision of the Peshitta by choosing to transliterate Greek Petros into “Petrus” (Syriac) while translating Greek petra as “kapha” (Syriac) thereby showing that they understood that a distinction was being made in the Greek. This suggests that the Peshitta probably chose “kapha/kapha” – not because the hypothetical Aramaic had “kepha/kepha” --but because they detected the clear wordplay between Petros and petra in the Greek and were trying to preserve it in the Syriac. The problem, however, is that “kapha/kapha” could be confused for having the same referent and produces that gender disagreement issue insofar as it would be inappropriate to give Peter a feminine name–as Syriac “kapha” is feminine, not masculine. For this reason, the Palestinian Lectionary (Evangeleiarium Hierosolymitanum) revises the earlier translation of “kapha” for Petros by simply transliterating the name directly into Syriac–hence “petrus.”

In any event, I think you’re making a very common mistake in assuming that the Syriac can tell us what the supposed Aramaic original may have been. It can’t. The Syriac can only tell us how the Greek was understood, and what it shows is that Petros and petra were understood to refer to two different entities.


You are making claims that are, at best, highly speculative. The Syriac is a dialiect of Aramaic and it can and does indicate what was used by Jesus in Matthew 16:18. Many scholars believe that Matthew’s gospel was originally written in Aramaic and that it was translated early on into Greek. Moreover, there are scholars that have devoted a great deal of time studying that issue and there is good evidence to support that view. If you like to consider translations and transliterations on the topic of Peter, I would suggest sticking with the NT scriptures which give us the references to Peter as Cephas. Cephas is used in the Greek and is carried over into our English translations deliberately. Please note that Cephas is used in the Greek, but it is not a Greek word or name. It is instead a transliteration of the Aramaic “Kepha.” Scripture itself pretty much ends the discussion by including “Cephas” in reference to Peter.

I hope that helps and God bless.

Could you be specific?

The Syriac is a dialiect of Aramaic and it can and does indicate what was used by Jesus in Matthew 16:18.

How do you know? The Syriac versions that we have are translations from the Greek, not the Aramaic. How do you know that those translations can tell us what the spoken Aramaic or written original may have been? (If you can answer that, publish it! For as of yet, no one has an answer for that.)

Many scholars believe that Matthew’s gospel was originally written in Aramaic and that it was translated early on into Greek.

Name them. And I’ll name you many who claim that it was originally written in Greek.

Moreover, there are scholars that have devoted a great deal of time studying that issue and there is good evidence to support that view.

Such as?

If you like to consider translations and transliterations on the topic of Peter, I would suggest sticking with the NT scriptures which give us the references to Peter as Cephas.

Again, this is not in dispute. I fully recognize that Simon-Bar-Jonah is “Cephas,” and the Aramaic “Kepha” stands behind his name. That’s never been in dispute. What is in dispute is that “this rock,” and specifically the Greek word “petra,” is also “kepha” in the supposed underlying Aramaic. The evidence simply does not justify that assumption, as I’ve already demonstrated.

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