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by Catherine Frakas 04 Jul 2002

Scripture - Peter the rock QUESTION from Valerie O'Doherty November 30, 1998 I recently heard a priest in Toronto give a lecture on St. John's gospel and when touching on the area where Jesus says to Peter, Thou art Simon, son of Jona. Thou will be called Cephas (Peter)... He said Jesus liked to give people nick-names. But he just glossed over it and never gave it the special emphasis that someone like Scott Hahn or Gerry Matatics give it and they bring in the Matthew 16 gospel where it goes into a little more detail about Peter being referred to as the rock. My problem is that good friends of mine (ex-Catholics) have become born again and severely deny that Peter was the first pope (they are being fed the anti-Catholic propoganda). So it really does not help my case when a priest says something like this, small though it might be. Could you please comment on it? Thank you.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on November 30, 1998 Dear Valerie:
Thanks for your question. This is a question that is dear to my heart. This issue – whether Peter was the first Pope or not – was one of two or three questions that I had to have answered before I converted.
I was a Baptist preacher and certainly did not believe Peter to be the Vicar of Christ. But I was wrong and it was the BIBLE that convinced me.
Proving that Peter was the Pope can be done SOLELY from Scripture. That is not the only proof available, however. We can look at any number of early Church writers – like St. Ignatius of Antioch and many others to find that a papacy did indeed exist back then.
In fact, we still have letters from Pope Clement I from around 90 AD or so admonishing the Church at Corinth in his capacity as the universal pastor of the Church. He even evokes his papal authority to tell the Corinthians that if they disobey him they will be in sin.
But we don't have to go to sources outside of the Bible to deal with this issue.
Matthew 16:13-19:
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give to you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Simon's name meant reed. Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter (rock) and says upon this rock I will build my church.
Protestants argue that Jesus is not building His Church on Peter by pointing out that, in the Greek, the word used for Peter is Petros, a masculine noun, while the word used for rock is petra, a feminine noun. Petros means small stone, while petra means massive rock.
Protestant claim therefore that the massive rock (petra) that Jesus will build his Church must not refer to Peter the small stone (Petros but rather to Peter's profession of faith or perhaps to Jesus Himself.
I don't know where this contorted logic comes from, but it doesn't matter and besides, even if we were to stay with this distinction in the Greek, so what? That makes Jesus the massive stone and Peter a chip off the 'ol block.
However, such a distinction does not exist in fact. Jesus spoke in Aramaic, not Greek, and Aramaic makes no room for this Greek Petros/petra distinction.
In Aramaic, the word for rock is kepha. So the passage actually reads:
and I say unto you, you are kepha, and upon this kepha I will build my Church.
When these words were written down in what became Scripture, they were translated into Greek. Since Simon could not be called by a girl's name, the writer had to use the masculine form of rock in Greek, which was Petros.
This translation loses some of the word play that was found in the Aramaic, but this confused no early Church Fathers, even by those whose native tongue was Greek. It was a unanimous teaching of the early Church Fathers that Peter was the rock on which Christ built His Church.
By the way, Cephas, is a form of Kepha. Most Protestants know the name Cephas, but apparently know nothing about what it means.
But let's go on to something more remarkable and even conclusive on this issue.
Jesus quoted many Scriptures when he taught his disciples. Never once did Jesus quote Scripture flippantly. If He made reference to something in the Old Testament, it was for a reason. That reason was well known by the disciples for they knew the ancient Scriptures well.
Jesus' words in Matthew are a QUOTATION of the Old Testament.
Matthew 16 says:
I will give to you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
This is a quote of Isaiah 22:22
Isaiah 22:19-22 reads:
I will thrust you from your office (speaking of Shebna who is the Prime Minister of the kingdom) and pull you down from your station. On that day I will summon my servant Eliakin, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.
We learn from this passage several things (which, by the way, all Protestant scholars that I know of admit these points on the Isaiah passage) ….
1) The keys are a symbol of the authority given to the chief official – the Prime Minister.
2) The Prime Minister is a father-figure (note: Pope is father (papa) in Italian)
3) The office implies dynastic succession
The office of Prime Minister continued as long as the Kingdom of David continued. The king is still the king, but the King has his Prime Minister to help administer the Kingdom for him.
Well, Christ is the King and the Prime Minister, as this passage clearly shows the meaning of Jesus' words, is Peter and his successors. Peter was the first Prime Minister of what is commonly called the new covenant.
In addition, there was a Prime Minister in the Old Testament days too. It was the Chair of Moses. Those who sat in the Chair of Moses were the Magisterium of the Old Testament. Jesus even mentions this in Matthew 23:2 and tells his disciples to obey those sitting in the Chair of Moses when they proclaim officially from that authority.
The bottom line is that any literal interpretation of Scripture comes to the obvious conclusion that Peter was the first Pope.
ANYONE who says otherwise is not interpreting Scripture literally and is asserting their own personal opinions and agenda into Scripture – something that Protestants consider a sin.
When I saw this truth laid out before me in Scripture, I stopped being a Baptist Preacher and became a Catholic, for I discovered that it was the Catholic Church, not the Protestants who were faithful to a properly literal interpretation of Scripture.
The BIBLE leads us to Rome.
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