EARLY CHURCH WRITINGS WHICH INDICATE THAT THE ROCK FOUNDATION IN MT 16:18 IS JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF
1) [Pope John Paul II
"Every time you wear these palliums, remember, dear brothers, that as pastors we are called to safeguard the purity of the Gospel and the unity of the Church of Christ, founded on the 'rock' of Peter's faith."
2) [Theodoret Bishop of Cyr [Cyrus] (396-466)
Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), Volume III, Theodoret, Epistle 146, To John the Economus, p. 318]:
"Let no one then foolishly suppose that the Christ is any other than the only begotten Son. Let us not imagine ourselves wiser than the gift of the Spirit. Let us hear the words of the great Peter, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Let us hear the Lord Christ confirming this confession, for 'On this rock,' He says, 'I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.' Wherefore too the wise Paul, most excellent master builder of the churches, fixed no other foundation than this. 'I,' he says, 'as a wise master builder have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.' How then can they think of any other foundation, when they are bidden not to fix a foundation, but to build on that which is laid? The divine writer recognises Christ as the foundation, and glories in this title..."
3) [Hilary of Poitiers (ca. 315-367/368)
(On The Trinity, Book VI, 36, 37). ]:
"And this is the rock of confession whereon the Church is built. But the perceptive faculties of flesh and blood cannot attain to the recognition and confession of this truth. It is a mystery, Divinely revealed, that Christ must be not only named, but believed, the Son of God. This faith it is which is the foundation of the Church; through this faith the gates of hell cannot prevail against her. This is the faith which has the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever this faith shall have loosed or bound on earth shall be loosed or bound in heaven. (...) The very reason why he is blessed is that he confessed the Son of God. This is the Father's revelation, this the foundation of the Church, this the assurance of her permanence. Hence has she the keys of the kingdom of heaven, hence judgment in heaven and judgment on earth."
[Hilary of Poitiers cont.
On The Trinity, Book II, 23). (Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), [cf. Book VI.20]:
one immovable foundation, our one blissful rock of faith, is the
confession from Peter's mouth, Thou art the Son of the living God."
4) [Augustine of Hippo (354-430) (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume VI, St. Augustin, Sermon XXVI, 1-3, pp. 340-341).]:
"But whom say ye that I am? Peter answered, 'Thou art the Christ, The Son of the living God.' One for many gave the answer, Unity in many. Then said the Lord to him, 'Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonas: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven.' Then He added, 'and I say unto thee.' As if He had said, 'Because thou hast said unto Me, "Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God;" I also say unto thee, "Thou art Peter." ' For before he was called Simon. Now this name of Peter was given him by the Lord, and in a figure, that he should signify the Church. For seeing that Christ is the rock (Petra), Peter is the Christian people. For the rock (Petra) is the original name. Therefore Peter is so called from the rock; not the rock from Peter; as Christ is not called Christ from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. 'Therefore,' he saith, 'Thou art Peter; and upon this Rock' which Thou hast confessed, upon this rock which Thou hast acknowledged, saying, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, will I build My Church;' that is upon Myself, the Son of the living God, 'will I build My Church.' I will build thee upon Myself, not Myself upon Thee. For men who wished to be built upon men, said, 'I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas,' who is Peter. But others who did not wish to built upon Peter, but upon the Rock, said, 'But I am of Christ.' And when the Apostle Paul ascertained that he was chosen, and Christ despised, he said, 'Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?' And, as not in the name of Paul, so neither in the name of Peter; but in the name of Christ: that Peter might be built upon the Rock, not the Rock upon Peter. This same Peter therefore who had been by the Rock pronounced 'blessed,' bearing the figure of the Church...."
5) [Jerome (ca. 347-419)
(Commentary on Matthew, 7.25, M.P.L., Vol. 26, Col. 51.) ]:
"The one foundation which the apostolic architect laid is our Lord Jesus Christ. Upon this stable and firm foundation, which has itself been laid on solid ground, the Church of Christ is built...For the Church was founded upon a rock...upon this rock the Lord established his Church; and the apostle Peter received his name from this rock (Mt. 16.18)."
6) [Cyril of Alexandria (died 444)
(Commentary on Isaiah, IV, 2, M.P.G., Vol. 70, Col. 940). John Damascene (ca. 645-749 )]:
"But why do we say that they are 'foundations of the earth'? For Christ is the foundation and unshakable base of all things Christ who restrains and holds together all things, that they may be very firm. Upon him also we all are built, a spiritual household, put together by the Holy Spirit into a holy temple in which he himself dwells; for by our faith he lives in our hearts. But the next foundations, those nearer to us, can be understood to be the apostles and evangelists, those eyewitnesses and ministers of the word who have arisen for the strengthening of the faith. For when we recognize that their own traditions must be followed, we serve a faith which is true and does not deviate from Christ. For when he wisely and blamelessly confessed his faith to Jesus saying, 'You are Christ, Son of the living God,' Jesus said to divine Peter: 'You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.' Now by the word 'rock', Jesus indicated, I think, the immoveable faith of the disciple. Likewise, the psalmist says: 'Its foundations are the holy mountains.' Very truly should the holy apostles and evangelists be compared to holy mountains for their understanding was laid down like a foundation for posterity, so that those who had been caught in their nets would not fall into a false faith."
[Cyril of Alexandria, cont.
(Homily on the Transfiguration, M.P.G., Vol. 96, Col. 554-555).]:
"This is that firm and immovable faith upon which, as upon the rock whose surname you bear, the Church is founded. Against this the gates of hell, the mouths of heretics, the machines of demons for they will attack will not prevail. They will take up arms but they will not conquer."
More quotations on this issue:
[Dave Hunt states, "A Woman Rides the Beast", Harvest House, Eugene, Oregon, 1994, p. 146-148]:
'''The Testimony of the Church Fathers
How did the so-called Church Fathers (the leaders up to the time of Pope Gregory the Great, who died in 604) intepret this passage? [Matthew 16:18; John 21:17] It so happens that in this regard they are unanimously in agreement with the Protestant position. Not one of them interprets this passage as Catholics are taught to understand it today.
To be in agreement with the unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers, a Catholic would have to reject the dogma that Peter was the first pope, that he was infallible, and that he passed his authority on to successors. Devout Catholic historian von Dollinger reminds us of the undeniable facts:
"Of all the Fathers who interpret these passages in the Gospels (Matthew 16:18; John 21:17), not a single one applies them to the Roman bishops as Peter's succesors. How many Fathers have busied themselves with these texts, yet not one of them whose commentaries we possess - Origen, Chrysostom, Hilary, Augustine, Cyril, Theodoret, and those whose interpretations are collected in catenas - has dropped the faintest hint that the primacy of Rome is the consequence of the commission and promise to Peter!
Not one of them has explained the rock or foundation on which Christ would build His Church as the office given to Peter to be transmitted to his successors, but they understood by it either Christ Himself, or Peter's confession of faith in Christ; often both together."
In other words, contrary to what the average Catholic has been told, the so-called Fathers of the Roman Catholic Church stood unanimously against the current Catholic interpretation. And it is a devout Roman Catholic authority on Church history, one who loves his Church, who points out these facts.
Other Catholic historians agree with von Dollinger. Peter de Rosa, also a devout Catholic, just as ably punctures the balloon of papal supremacy and an unbroken line of succession back to Peter:
"It may jolt them [Catholics] to hear that the great Fathers of the church saw no connection between it [Matthew 16:18] and the pope. Not one of them applies 'Thou art Peter' to anyone but Peter. One after another they analyse it: Cyprian, Origen, Cyril, Hilary, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine. They are not exactly Protestants.
Not one of them calls the bishop of Rome a Rock or applies to him specifically the promise of the Keys. This is as staggering to Catholics as if they were to find no mention in the Fathers of the Holy Spirit or the resurrection of the dead....
For the Fathers, it is Peter's faith - or the Lord in Whom Peter has faith - which is called the Rock, not Peter. All the Councils of the church from Nicaea in the fourth century to Constance in the fifteenth agree that Christ Himself is the only foundation of the church, that is, the Rock on which the church rests.
...not one of the Fathers speaks of a transference of power from Peter to those who succeed him... There is no hint of an abiding Petrine office.
So the early church did not look on Peter as Bishop of Rome, nor, therefore, did it think that each Bishop of Rome succeeded Peter... The gospels did not create the papacy; the papacy, once in being, leaned for support on the gospels [though it wasn't there].'
That the popes for centuries relied upon fraudulent documents (The Donation of Constantine and the False Decretals) to justify their pomp and power even after their exposure as deliberate counterfeits betrays how little these 'vicars of Christ' cared for truth. It also tells us that in those days the popes didn't rely for justification of their papal authority upon Matthew 16:18 and alleged apostolic succession from Peter, or they would not have needed false documents to authenticate their position. Such an application of 'thou art Peter' was invented much later.
Who Is the Rock
The truth of the matter does not depend upon a disputable interpretatin of a few verses but upon the totality of Scripture. God Himself is clearly described as the unvailing "Rock" of our salvation throughout the entire Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:3, 4; Psalm 62:1,2; etc.). In fact, the Bible declares that God is the only Rock: 'For Who is God saved [except] our God?' (Psalm 18:3).
The New Testament makes it equally clear that Jesus Christ is the Rock upon which the church is built and that He, being God and one with the Father, is therefore the only Rock. The rock upon which the 'wise man built his house' was not Peter but Christ and His teachings (Matthew 7:24-29). Peter himself points out that Christ is the'chief cornerstone' upon which the church is built (1 Peter 2:6-8) and quotes an Old Testament passage to that effect.
Paul likewise calls Christ 'the chief cornerstone' of the church and declares that the church is also 'built upon the foundation of [all] the apostles and prophets' (Ephesians 2:20). That statement clearly denies to Peter any special position in the Church's foundation."