Tough argument on Papal Infallibility


I have heard it reasoned that the Keys to the Kingdom verse is not intelligent, because Jesus has build his Church on Peter’s profession of faith, and the “keys to the kingdom” is refernenced to the ability of the Church to discipine people.

What do you all think?


It’s not tough at all. First, there’s no textual justification for claiming that the rock upon which Christ promised to build His Church is anything or anyone but Peter. All the actual evidence points toward Peter: any other interpretation is just eisegesis invented to justify an ahistorical stance.

Secondly, Jesus says to Peter that He would give him the keys of the kingdom of heaven. He doesn’t say that He’ll give it to the Church, but to Peter himself.



Saint Augustine, as he grew mature in his faith and theological writings, personally rejected the idea that Peter is the rock.

Saint Augustine:

“Peter, who a short time before had confessed that Christ was the Son of God, and who in return for that confession, had been called the rock upon which the Church should be built, etc.;” but he explains his meaning in several other works. Let us give a few specimens: “Peter received this name from the Lord to signify the Church; for it is Christ who is THE rock, and Peter is the CHRISTIAN PEOPLE. THE ROCK is the principal word; this is why Peter is derived from the Rock, and not the rock from Peter; precisely as the word Christ is not from Christian, but Christian from Christ. ‘Thou art therefore Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church. I will build thee on myself-I will not be built on thee.’”

“The Church,” he says again, “is built on the rock after which Peter was named. That rock was Christ, and it is on this foundation that Peter himself was to be raised.”

In his book of Retractations (where he corrects the errors of his younger writing days) Saint Augustine says:

"In that book, I said in one place, in speaking of St. Peter, that the Church had been built on him as on the rock. This thought is sung by many in the verses of the blessed Ambrose, who says of the cock, that "when it crew the Rock of the Church deplored his fault.’ But I know that subsequently I very frequently adopted this sense, that when the Lord said, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,’ he meant by this rock, the one which Peter had confessed in saying, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son, of the living God;’ so that Peter, called by the name of this rock, represented the person of the Church which is built upon that rock, and which has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

“In fact, it was not said to him, Thou art the rock; but thou art Peter. The rock was Christ. Peter having confessed him as all the Church confesses him, he was called Peter. Between these two sentiments, let the reader choose the most probable.”


Augustine has got it wrong here. “Peter” is “Rocky” in English, presumably because Simon was a big and powerful man. Jesus is punning on the name. Unfortunately it has been through at least one round of translation into Greek, and then another if like me you only speak English, so a reader with an agenda canread unsympathetically. For instance it is often asserted that “Petrus” means “pebble”, and so there is a contrast between Peter the pebble and the rock which is the foundation of the church. That’s simply not plausible
St Peter’s in Rome is literally built over the body of St Peter, so Jesus’ words came to pass.


i liked Jimmy Akin’s commentary of these passages. the three passages follow a pattern. the first part of each passage is a blessing to Peter. the second part explains the blessing. :thumbsup:

17 And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona,
(Jesus tells him he is blessed)
because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
(Jesus tells him why he is blessed)

18 "I also say to you that you are Peter,
(he has been blessed with the name Peter)
and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
(this is the reason he was blessed with the name Peter)

19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven;
(another blessing)
and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (the reason he was given this blessing)

also, if Peter meant small rock or pebble the passage would have an affect like this:

17 And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona,
because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

18 "I also say to you that you are (an insignificant little pebble), :shrug:
and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.


it shouldn’t be too hard for Fr. Ambrose to accept that Augustine got something wrong. after all, don’t the Orthodox believe Augustine got Original Sin wrong? :wink:

(sorry, alittle off topic)


But Jesus did not built His Church on Peter’s profession of Faith, although the Key do also reflect the ability of the Church to bind and loose discipline.



For the sake of all new and non-Catholic members of the forum, it must be pointed out that

FATHER Ambrose

is not a Catholic priest in communion with Rome.

He is an Orthodox priest-monk, and of course, he rejects the Papacy based upon his own church’s theology, etc.

Hope this helps. :tiphat:


Wow, was I not able to type this morning or what?

But Jesus did not build His Church on Peter’s profession of Faith, although the Keys do also reflect the ability of the Church to bind and loose discipline.


There is a lot of hype about Papal Infallibility. There has only ever been two infallible statements. Both apertain to the BVM

So what is all the fuss about? :stuck_out_tongue:


The reference to the ability of the Church to discipline is in Matthew 18:15-18. The power to “bind and loose” in that context is given to all the apostles. There is no mention at all of the keys to the kingdom even being involved in the bestowal of that power.

The passage in Matthew 16 is quite different. Only Peter is addressed when Jesus gives the keys of the kingdom. And, in connection with them, the assurance that “WHATEVER you (singular in Greek) bind …”

As to the “rock” being Peter’s profession of faith, Jesus never identified that as “rock”, but he very difinitely says to Peter “You (again singular) are Rock, and on THIS rock…” - just a couple words after the only other mention of “rock” in the whole passage.

One has to really do mental gymnastics to try and deny that “this” rock did not mean the rock He had just so named!



Well, the Fathers of the Catholic Church were good at these gymnastics. :slight_smile:

Let us look at a quick summary of the way that the Church Fathers interpreted that verse -
**“Thou are Peter and upon this rock…” **

Archbishop Kenrick of Saint Louis, who was one of
America’s extraordinary bishops was at the the
First Vatican Council in 1869 and he went to the
trouble of lining up the Church fatrhers and how
they interpreted “Thou art Peter and upon this rock…”

In his speech prepared for, but not delivered in, the
Vatican Council, and published at Naples in 1870,
he declares that Catholics cannot establish
the Petrine privilege from Scripture, because of the
clause in the Creed of Pius IV, binding them to
interpret Scripture only according to the unanimous
consent of the Fathers.

And he adds that there are five different patristic
interpretations of St. Matt. 16:18

Let’s look at how the Church Fathers line up over this verse:

1…“That St. Peter is the Rock” is taught
by seventeen (17) Fathers

2…That the whole Apostolic College is the Rock,
represented by Peter as its chief,
is taught by eight (8) Church Fathers

3…That St. Peter’s faith is the Rock,
is taught by forty-four (44) Church **Fathers **

4…That Christ is the Rock,
is taught by **sixteen (16) Fathers **

5…That the rock is the whole body of the faithful.
Archbp. Kendrick gives no figure.

Archbishop Kendrick summarises

“If we are bound to follow the greater number
of Fathers in this matter, then we must hold
for certain that the word “Petra” means not Peter
professing the Faith, but the faith professed by Peter.”

You can look this up and check that I have
it accurately in Friedrich, *Docum ad illust. *
*Conc. Vat. 1, pp. 185-246 *

As to who Archbishop Kenrick of Saint Louis was,
please see the Catholic Encyclopedia

Now in light of the fact that the large majority
of the Church Fathers do NOT teach that the Rock
is Saint Peter, I say that it is not fair if we think that
people who also do not accept it guilty of mental
gymnastics. Are the Church Fathers guilty? :blush:


St.Peter was met by Christ before he was an Apostle.
Christ foretold to Peter then that He would change his name later to Peter.
Later on then, when Christ chose Peter as an Apostle He asked him who did he, Peter, say that Christ was.
Peter replied.
Christ changed Peters name to Peter.
Peter is now the man Peter, and also Peter the believer in Christ the Son of God.
Christ now tells Peter that He will build His Church on him and give him the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.

Protestantism, following its own agenda tries to remove Peter from Peters belief. Christ asked Peter for His belief. And Peters response is an intrinsic and inseperable part of Peter the unique Person. So Christ pulls Peter aside from the others and speaks those words to him personally, - instead of calling the group around Him and telling them all that a general abstract nebulus idea of faith in Him was to be the rock on which He would build His Church. Instead He chose to involve a definite human personality other than His own in His expression of how He would build His Church.
Peter you are rock … and I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven…


so is the Creed of Pius IV infallible? i thought you rejected the Petrine Papal office all together Father?? if there is no Petrine office as you claim how can you use a portion of a Papal Creed to deny the very office of the Petrine Papacy?? this argument makes no sense.

good thing the Holy Spirit cleared it all up at the Vatican I council. where it was proclaimed that Peter indeed was the rock. :thumbsup:


Instead of going to other people’s writing years later, let’s look to Peter’s writings directly. Who did Peter call the rock?

1 Peter

4Coming to Him as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious,

5ye also as living stones are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

6Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious; and he that believeth in Him shall not be confounded.”

7Unto you therefore who believe, He is precious; but unto those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,”

8and, “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,” even to those who stumble at the Word, being disobedient, unto which also they were appointed.

Peter understood that the rock is Christ.

Paul did as well.

1 Corinthians 10

4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

Jesus clearly illustrates He is the rock

Luke 6

46 “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? 47 Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. 49 But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell.And the ruin of that house was great.”

The church is built on Christ. The context of the conversation is the revelation to Peter and the apostles that Jesus is the Christ.

Mat 16

16And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

17And Jesus answered and said unto him, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father who is in Heaven.

18And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven."

20Then He charged His disciples that they should tell no man that He was Jesus the Christ.

21From that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples that He must go unto Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

22Then Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not happen unto Thee.”

23But He turned and said unto Peter, “Get thee behind Me, Satan! Thou art an offense unto Me; for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”

24Then Jesus said unto His disciples, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.


Shame on all of you Latins!:smiley:

The Rock is INDEED Christ. And Peter IS the Rock BECAUSE Christ is the Rock. And Peter’s confession is ALSO the Rock because by it Peter was pronounced the Rock by Jesus Himself.

This is the Sacramental/Incarnational theology of the undivided Church of the first millenium at work.

I often criticize Orthodox Christians that denying Peter is the Rock is a denial of their own Sacramental/Incarnational theology. But here we have Catholic Christians denying Jesus is the Rock. I find I must also criticize my Latin brethren of denying your own Sacramental/Incarnational theology.



Fr Ambrose,

That (bolded portion) is a perfect example of God acting to insure the inerrancy of papal infallibility. Who do you think saw to it that the speech was not given? :slight_smile:

You seem to think it can be only Peter OR his confession. It is Peter, but there is also a connection to his statement of faith. The statement did not come from him. You might say the statement was the first demonstration of papal infallibility. “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Papal infallibility, the rock, is the pope revealing God’s truth - God in control of what he declares infallibly.

Of course, Christ is rock - He’s God. Many Scripture passages long before Peter’s time apply that name to God. Amazing that God (Jesus) should choose to give Peter the same name!!:slight_smile: if there were not some special significance. I don’t recall that He did that for anyone else in Scripture. Just “Rock” with no modififying adjectives.

Regarding the Church fathers who identify it with Peter’s confession of faith. (As I said, the two go together.) How many of those fathers say it is Peter’s faith - as a way of refuting the interpretation that it is Peter himself. In other words, do they say that the interpretation of it being Peter is a false interpretation and the correct one is that it refers to Peter’s faith only. (Naturally, only statements made by those within the Church would have merit here. Those who had broken away, or were in the process of breaking away, would be trying to deny the office of Peter.)



rbarcia, the problem with your argument is that it’s not either-or. Just because Jesus is rock doesn’t mean that Peter can’t be rock as well. Peter, being the rock on which Jesus build his church doesn’t deny the existance of Jesus as rock. In order for your argument to make sense you will have to take it a step further and prove that there can be only one rock.


of course Jesus is the rock. i would assume that most Latins here don’t mention Jesus as also the rock because it is a given. the whole faith is based on Jesus!
but the topic of this thread deals with Peter as the visible rock of the earthly Church while Christ reigns from Heaven.
please don’t insult your Latin brothers by assuming they don’t believe Jesus is the rock of our faith! :frowning:


I’m glad you got to it before I did :stuck_out_tongue:

We have to remember the good old Catholic “both/and” here. Christ is the rock, AND Peter is the Rock, AND Peter’s confession is the rock, AND the Christian people (the Church) is the rock. We are one Body, after all, so we can safely affirm every one of these things without at all jeopardizing the Truth.

That a peculiar ministry is given to an individual member of this Body shouldn’t be suprising, and there’s plenty of Scripture and history aside from this passage (which I actually think is the least powerful “Petrine” passage for a number of reasons) to back up the special role of Peter and his successors. We don’t need to go so far in defending Peter that we distort his position as a member of Christ’s Body, making it seem like the Church is him as opposed to being fundamentally supported by him (still as a member) at its base. That he is here, in this passage, personally and individually connected by identity with the Faith, by virtue of his name being changed to reflect his confession, is enough to demonstrate from this passage that Peter is someone unique, and that he has a special place in the Church.

The keystone of an arch is the most critical, despite being cut from the same rock and even being in the same shape as the other stones. It’s proper function isn’t helped at all by trying to make it out to be the whole arch, or the stone from which the other arch-stones were cut; it’s absolutely critical function is in its keeping precisely the proper place in the arch, so that the arch stands as a unified body. The arch makes the keystone, and the keystone makes the arch, and together the arch carries the building, and all of the stones are cut from one rock and laid on a single foundation :thumbsup:

Peace and God bless!

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