Was Peter the Rock?
In recent years some Evangelicals have suggested that the Greek word that means “rock” did not refer to Peter but only to his “faith”. I got an email that said:
However Jesus stated “upon this rock I will build my church” in reference to Peter’s declaration that He (Jesus) was the Christ (Matthew 16:16).
Dave Armstong responds that he believes that Jesus builds his Church on people, not a declaration.
Catholics believe that Jesus was saying that Peter was the rock. Following through on the passage we see that Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom to St. Peter, not to his declaration.
This theory that Jesus was talking about the “declaration” and not the person Peter, is very recent in Evangelical thought. Nearly every Protestant commentary written in the last 50 years, including Carson’s "Expositors Bible Commentary", says that Peter is the rock upon which Christ promised He would build his Church. These Evangelicals have closely looked at the Greek word for rock “Petra” and have determined that it is referring to Peter. Reformer, Martin Luther, said this:
Why are you searching heavenward in search of my keys? Do you not understand, Jesus said, 'I gave them to Peter. They are indeed the keys of heaven, but they are not found in heaven for I left them on earth. Peter’s mouth is my mouth, his tongue is my key case, his keys are my keys. They are an office. They are a power, a command given by God through Christ to all of Christendom for the retaining and remitting of the sins of men. (Martin Luther 1530 - after he left the Church)(1)
W. F. Albright, one of the best known Protestant theologians of this century, in his Anchor Bible Commentary, says “Peter as the Rock will be the foundation of the future community, the church…To deny the pre-eminent position of Peter among the disciples or in the early Christian community is a denial of the evidence.”
Catholics believe that Jesus had a very specific purpose in saying that Peter was the Rock upon which he would build his Church. Jesus was evoking Isaiah 22:22.