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Duff Heitzman wrote:

Hi, guys —

In Mathew 16:18, it seems that "this rock" refers to a third person noun. "Jesus" is the first person noun of the verse, "Peter" is the second person noun, and since "this rock" is not capitalized, it does not refer to Jesus or Peter. "Who" does not appear to be on option here, so it must be "What".

  • Could the answer be "Peter's confession of faith" in verse 16?

The Roman Catholic Church has always interpreted this verse to mean "Peter is this rock".
This is the "foundation" of the doctrine of Apostolic succession, which is part of the "fullness" of the Faith.

  • Would Jesus have "built His Church" on a human being or on the confession of faith of the human being?

If the latter is true, all Christian "churches" would then have Apostolic succession based on
Peter's faith, not Peter, the first "pope"!


  { In Matthew 16:13-20: "who" does not appear to be on option here, so it must be "what". }

John replied:

Hi, Duff —

Thanks for the question.

The text is clear, no where in text, be it in the English or the Greek, does Jesus seem to be talking in the third person. He specifically gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom. He gives them to no other person in the Scriptures. Compare the text in Matthew 16 with Isaiah 22:15-25 and you will see that Jesus is practically quoting the passage.

Just as in Isaiah, where Eliakim is given specific authority to act as viceroy or prime minister, so too, Jesus is doing the same with Peter. Moreover, there are several other texts and the weight of Tradition that make this issue clear. Peter was chief among the Apostles and his successors share in his ministry.

Please search our data base of answers for further explanations.


Duff replied:

John —

I agree, Jesus never speaks in the third person, but you have completely missed my point.

Jesus is referring to a third person noun, an impersonal noun (fifth grade English class) when He says "this rock" (uncapitalized). This rock (small "r") is not a person; it is a "thing". Plus He gives the command to bind or loose to all the apostles in Mathew 18:18. Finally, Peter never refers to himself as "head of the apostles" or any other title other then:

  • "servant and apostle" in 2 Peter 1:1, and
  • "an apostle" in 1 Peter 1:1.

Peter never considered himself:

  • Pope
  • Pontiff
  • Vicar of Christ
  • Holy Father, or
  • Head of the whole Christian Church


John replied:


I took three semesters of ancient Greek. The entire New Testament was written in upper case Greek and without punctuation.

Yes, Christ gives all the Apostles the authority to bind and loose. Today that ministry continues in the bishops of the Church which are the successors of the Apostles, but keys were only given to Peter. Further, when Christ is speaking to Peter, the form for the word "you" He uses (I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven) is singular. So Peter, was given the authority to bind and loose with the keys. Hence we have this particular Teaching Authority given to him by Christ,
Our Lord.  Later, in Matthew 18, Jesus uses the plural for of "you" when giving some of that authority to the Apostles. (Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth ...)

Of course, Peter called himself the Servant. The primary title for the Pope, which simply means father, is Servant of the Servants of God.

Now if you are here to lecture us, save yourself the trouble; we are not here to debate. If you want a genuine dialogue and want to understand what the Church teaches, then we'd be happy to continue a dialogue. Again, we are here to answer questions not get into debates.

God Bless,


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