Matthew 16:16-19. “Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 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 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.”
Peter is the rock upon which Jesus builds his church and who was given the keys to the kingdom. If this is the case then he is the leader of that Church, i.e. the first Pope.
It comes from the fact that Peter’s name in Aramaic is Kephas, which means rock. Thus the verse would read, “You are rock, and on this rock I will build my church…”. It would be astounding to argue that the repetition of those words is coincidental. The closeness of the name Peter to the word rock seems to signify a connection between the two.
Protestant Counter #1
The Aramaic is not important because the inspired Scripture is in the Greek, and in the Greek the word used for Peter’s name is petros, but the word used for rock is petra. They have different meanings, petros meaning small pebble and petra meaning large rock. Therefore ‘rock’ could not be referring to Peter.’
Catholic Counter #1
It is true that the Greek is the inspired word of God. But the difference between petros and petra is not as significant as it appears. Even if the above is a possible understanding of the difference between the two it is also a possibility in and of itself that the difference between the two exists simply because of the gender identity difference between the two. Rock in Greek is feminine, hence petra. But Peter, being a male, should not be feminine, so it was changed over to Petros to accommodate his maleness.
This is where the Aramaic comes in handy. If the original language that was spoken by Jesus and his disciples was Aramaic then that would better support the notion of gender difference in the Greek then the notion of a difference in the usage of the meaning. This is because Aramaic does not have this gender difference in their language for ‘rock’, so when Jesus would call Peter ‘rock’ it is synonymous with the rock that ‘I will build my church.’
Catholic Counter #2
Why is there necessarily a difference between the two? Perhaps if you look at Attic Greek, a different form of the Greek language, then petros and petra would have a different definition. But in the Koine Greek they are synonymous, for petros could in and of itself refer to a large boulder, for instance.
Protestant Counter #2
Differences do in fact exist between the two, nonetheless. And no proof from examples has been offered to suggest that they are in fact synonyms. For petros is only used in reference to Peter in the Bible, nothing else. So we must extend our knowledge of the use of Petros to other works, and other works such as from Homer’s Iliad show petros being used for small pebble.
Protestant Counter #3
Perhaps the Aramaic may further support your argument, but it does not outright prove that the difference in Greek between petros and petra are insignficant. As I said before, differences between petros and petra have existed in literature before, so it is perfectly reasonable to suggest from this that the difference between the two in the inspired language of the text plays more importance than the Aramaic.
Protestant Counter #4
The question of language here is only meant to strengthen the other reason why petra and petros are not meant to be linked, which is that petra is actually linked to Peter’s confession of Jesus being the Messiah, not to Peter himself. This is because the immediate context of the passage suggests that it is the confession that is of importance. The phrase ‘this rock’ seems to point to the confession and away from Peter. To use the word ‘this’ here connotes a change in focus from Peter to something else, and the next closest antecedent is the confession.
Catholic Counter #3
Yes the Koine Greek is the inspired language; that is agreed upon. Nonetheless, the Aramaic is still helpful in understanding the meaning of the Greek. If the people listening to Jesus in Aramaic could not sense the difference between Peter and the rock that Jesus was referring to then that is how it should be understood in the Greek as well.
Catholic Counter #4
It is because of the importance of the confession that God the Father instilled in Peter that Jesus is making Peter the rock. The actual immediate context is on the person of Peter, not his confession, for after Peter makes his confession Jesus begins talking about Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon…” and after the petros/petra section Jesus again focuses on the person of Peter, “I will give you the keys…”. It seems odd and grammatically awkward for Jesus to talk about Peter, then talk about his confession, only to then switch back to Peter. And it is awkward precisely because the person of Peter is the immediate context.
Catholic Counter #5
The word ‘this’ oftentimes refers to something else, but it does not necessarily mean that. Here is an example, “He is the light, and this light will guide others toward the truth.” Clearly the words ‘light’ are referring to the same thing and not being referenced to separate concepts. Also, in Greek the demonstrative (‘this’) generally, though not universally, refers to the closest antecedent, which in this case is Peter. So you are arguing against the norm here.
This made-up conversation could continue further, but hopefully this is enough to show some arguments that can be made on both sides of this issue and the strength in particular of the Catholic side.