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Peter, The Rock, and The Confession (part 3)

Below contains more quotations from scholars and commentators concerning Matthew 16:17-18. I will have one more post of research notes after this post and then write up some of my conclusions.

Craig L. Blomberg (New American Commentary: Matthew)
Baptist and Professor of New Testament; Denver Seminary

Acknowledging Jesus as The Christ illustrates the appropriateness of Simon’s nickname “Peter” (Petros = rock). This is not the first time Simon has been called Peter (cf. John 1:42), but it is certainly the most famous. Jesus’ declaration, “You are Peter”, parallels Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ”, as if to say, “Since you can tell me who I am, I will tell you who you are.” The expression “this rock” almost certainly refers to Peter, following immediately after his name, just as the words following “the Christ” in v. 16 applied to Jesus. The play on words in the Greek between Peter’s name (Petros) and the word “rock” (petra) makes sense only if Peter is the rock and if Jesus is about to explain the significance of this identification.


David Hill (New Century Bible Commentary: Matthew)
Presbyterian minister and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Biblical Studies

On this rock I will build my church: the word-play goes back to Aramaic tradition. It is on Peter himself, the confessor of his Messiahship, that Jesus will build the Church. The disciple becomes, as it were, the foundation stone of the community. Attempts to interpret the “rock” as something other than Peter in person (e.g., his faith, the truth revealed to him) are due to Protestant bias, and introduce to the statement a degree of subtlety which is highly unlikely.

Donald A. Hagner (Word Biblical Commentary: Matthew 14-28)
Fuller Theological Seminary

The natural reading of the passage, despite the necessary shift from Petros to petra required by the word play in the Greek (but not the Aramaic, where the same word kepha occurs in both places), is that it is Peter who is the rock upon which the church is to be built…. The frequent attempts that have been made, largely in the past, to deny this in favor of the view that the confession itself is the rock… seem to be largely motivated by Protestant prejudice against a passage that is used by the Roman Catholics to justify the papacy.

J. Knox Chamblin (Evangelical Commentary on the Bible: Matthew)
Presbyterian and New Testament Professor; Reformed Theological Seminary

By the words “this rock” Jesus means not himself, nor his teaching, nor God the Father, nor Peter’s confession, but Peter himself. The phrase is immediately preceded by a direct and emphatic reference to Peter. As Jesus identifies himself as the Builder, the rock on which he builds is most naturally understood as someone (or something) other than Jesus himself. The demonstrative this, whether denoting what is physically close to Jesus or what is literally close in Matthew, more naturally refers to Peter (v. 18) than to the more remote confession (v. 16). The link between the clauses of verse 18 is made yet stronger by the play on words, “You are Peter (Gk. Petros), and on this rock (Gk. petra) I will build my church”. As an apostle, Peter utters the confession of verse 16; as a confessor he receives the designation this rock from Jesus.

more to come…