Reflections On A Difficult Gospel Passage Upon This RockReflections On A Difficult Gospel Passage Upon This Rock

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18.

I understand ?rock? in this passage to mean Christ. Jesus alluding to the name of Peter calls Himself that ?rock? upon which He was to build His church. In confessing Christ as the Son of the living God, Peter acknowledged the true rock and foundation. Supporting Scripture includes 1 Corinthians 10:3-4 and 1 Corinthians 3:11:

They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

The text, in my view, could very well be translated: The Church being built upon Christ the solid Rock will stand and neither the power of hell nor Satan's rage will be able to subvert and destroy it.

After considering both the Protestant and Catholic traditional interpretations of this teaching of Jesus and taking into account the Greek translation and play on words ?Peter? and ?rock? Stein (Robert) concludes that ?rock? most likely refers to Peter. He qualifies his interpretation by pointing out that Peter performed in a leadership capacity in the early church and that it is in this role and in his witness of the gospel that Peter is the foundation upon which the church is built. Whereas Stein makes it clear that Peter is the rock ?in the sense that without the apostles (and Peter was the leader in the beginning) there would be no church,? I regard Christ as the rock in the sense that without Christ there would be no church.

John McKenzie argues that the ?rock? refers to Peter's confession that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. He notes that the confession had already been anticipated by Matthew in 14:33 and that this passage clearly indicates the special position of Peter among the disciples, which he contends, is sufficiently supported by texts in other Biblical books. He suggests further that in return for his confession of faith, Peter is awarded this special position.

Van Elderen, like Stein, observes the Greek play on words which he feels is common in Semitic languages and that Jesus actually meant that Peter is the rock, in the sense of solidity, strength and steadfastness and upon which other rocks (apostles) are joined to constitute a secondary foundation, upon which Christ would build His Church.

All of us must draw some conclusions of understanding that we can live with. We want the truth, we seek the truth. With this in mind, please beware of approaching Scripture with preconceived notions.

by Saundra L Washington
References and Bibliography

Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D.D., is an ordained clergywoman, veteran social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach which can be reviewed on her site. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, though delayed in publication, is expected to be available early 2006.

You have an open invitation to visit us at AMEN Ministries: Your Soul's Service Station for reviewing spiritual services being offered, obtain spiritual refreshing and soul edification, get your daily dose of humor, browse our newly expanded Stop & Shop Store and to visit our prayer sanctum for quiet time with God.

Blessings to all!

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