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Jim Simon wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Did the majority of Christ's followers, including the Apostles, believe that the Apostle, Peter, was the rock that Jesus would build His Church on?
  • In other words, was Matthew 16:18 interpreted in the same way, in the first and second centuries, as we Catholics believe today?

Jim

  { Was Matthew 16:18 interpreted in the same way in the early Church as Catholics believe today? }

Mike replied:

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the question.

You said:

  • Did the majority of Christ's followers, including the Apostles, believe that the Apostle, Peter, was the rock that Jesus would build His Church on?
  • In other words, was Matthew 16:18 interpreted in the same way, in the first and second centuries, as we Catholics believe today?

Yes, it was! They were called the Early Church Fathers and they were the very first Christians who lived from 100 A.D. to 787 A.D. You can read about what they:

  • thought
  • taught, and
  • died for
on my web site:BibleBeltCatholics.com. I broke the site down into three patristic eras:
  • Pre-Christian through the Second Century
  • Third and Fourth Centuries, and
  • Fifth through the Eighth Centuries

After reading the quotes on these pages, you can compare what they said to what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says and decide for yourself how similar they are.

Use the time traveler slider [ >> ] at the top of each page to move to the next era. Here are the web pages that correspond to your question:

You can also investigate what they said relative to the Scriptures:

The Early Church Fathers on the Holy Scriptures.

I hope this helps,

Mike

Note to my colleagues and readers: If there are any quotes that I have missed on any of these pages, you are more than welcome to send me:

  • the quote
  • the Church Father, and
  • which topic page you think each quote should be placed on.

Eric replied:

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the question.

You said:

  • Did the majority of Christ's followers, including the Apostles, believe that the Apostle, Peter, was the rock that Jesus would build His Church on?
  • In other words, was Matthew 16:18 interpreted in the same way, in the first and second centuries, as we Catholics believe today?

Unfortunately, for the most part, there is no way to answer that question, either way, since we simply don't have evidence that early that discusses how the early Church interpreted the rock.

We can exegete the passage, of course, for example noting that both Peter's names (Peter and Kepha or Cephas) mean rock; we can remark that when God changes someone's name it signifies a new destiny or role for them (e.g. Abram vs. Abraham); and many other things.

We have lots of evidence from the later centuries, though:

Nor does the kingdom of heaven belong to the sleeping and the lazy; rather, the violent take it by force . . . [4] On hearing these words, the blessed Peter, the chosen, the pre-eminent, the first among the disciples, for whom alone with Himself the Savior paid the tribute [Matthew 17:27], quickly grasped and understood their meaning.

St. Clement of Alexandria, Who Is the Rich Man That Is Saved, A.D. 190-210, 21,3

I now inquire into your opinion, to see whence you usurp this right for the Church.

  • Do you presume, because the Lord said to Peter, "On this rock I will build my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven", or "whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven," that the power of binding and loosing has thereby been handed on to you, that is, to every Church akin to Peter?

  • What kind of man are you, subverting and changing what was the manifest intent of the Lord when He conferred this personally upon Peter?

On you He says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys, not to the Church; and whatever you shall have bound or you shall have loosed, not what they shall have bound or they shall have loosed."

Tertullian, Modesty, 21,9

Peter alone [among the Apostles] do I find married, and through mention of his mother-in-law. I presume he was a monogamist; for the Church, built upon him, would for the future appoint to every degree of orders none but monogamists.

Tertullian, Monogamy, post A.D. 213, 8,4

It is on one man that He builds the Church; and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles after His resurrection, when He says, "As the Father has sent me, so also do I send you; receive the Holy Spirit: if you forgive any man his sins, they shall be forgiven; and if you retain any man's sins, they shall be retained [John 20:21], nevertheless, in order that unity might be clearly shown, He established by His own authority a source for that unity, which takes its beginning from one man alone. Indeed, the other Apostles were that also which Peter was, being endowed with an equal portion of dignity and power; but the origin is grounded in unity, so that it may be made clear that there is but one Church of Christ.

St. Cyprian of Carthage, The Unity of the Catholic Church, A.D. 251-256, ch 4:

I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but Your Blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails.

Letter of Jerome to Pope Damasus, A.D. 374-379, 15,2

Simon, My follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for Me. If they should wish to build that is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which My teaching flows, you are the chief of My disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness which I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the first-born in My institution, and so that, as the heir, you may be executor of my treasures. I have given you the keys of my kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all my treasures!

St. Ephraim (d. 373), Homilies, 4,1


Mike replied:

Hi Jim,

I'll defer to Eric's answer over mine.

Mike

Jim replied:

Thanks!

I will defer to Mike's answer but Eric's answer was indeed helpful too.

Thank you for your time and effort and I hope we will speak again.

God bless,

Jim Simon

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