As we discussed in last Sunday’s bulletin, Protestants have suggested that the Christian belief of the Church being founded on Peter is not biblical. However, this foundation of the Church is explicit in the Gospel of Matthew when Christ says: “I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.” Therefore, Protestants attempt to undermine the meaning of this particular passage.
They attempt to undermine this passage by pointing out that, when Christ did this, he used one Greek word to name Peter (petros) and another Greek word to refer to the rock upon which he would build his Church (petra). Therefore, they maintain that Christ was speaking about two different people or things.
However, as pointed out last week, the context of the scripture clearly does not support this forced interpretation of the text. Further, we recalled that Greek grammar, like many other languages, requires that masculine words and names be paired together and that feminine words and names be paired together. Because, unlike the Greek language, most words in English are genderless, there are fewer examples of this. Yet, there are still instances of this in English. Consider the statement, “Susan is a waitress.” Here we see a feminine name (Susan as opposed to Joseph) being paired with a feminine noun (waitress as opposed to waiter).
Since Christ is using the word ’rock’ as a title for Simon, the Greek language required a masculine form, which is ‘petros.’ It would have been bad grammar to use the feminine form, ‘petra.’
However, even without considering the context of the passage or Greek grammar, we can clearly see that Christ is referring to Peter throughout the text. How? We only need remember that the Greek text is a translation of the words that Jesus spoke. Jesus, though, did not speak Greek, but Aramaic. In Aramaic, the word for rock is ‘kephas’ which is also written as ‘cephas.’
We also know that this is the word that was applied to Peter, because it is the Aramaic title that the other apostles used in referring to him in future years. For example, St. Paul writing to the Corinthians states: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.”
Therefore, what Christ actually said was not: “And so I say to you, you are ‘petros,’ (pebble) and upon this ‘petra’ (rock) I will build my church,” but, rather, ‘And so I say to you, you are kephas (rock), and upon his kephas (rock), I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
And, praised be Jesus Christ! They have not!