[Mt 16:13-16]:


(v. 13) "When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples. 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?'

(v. 14) They replied, 'Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.'

(v. 15) 'But what about you?' He asked. 'Who do you say I am?'

(v. 16) Simon Peter answered 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'



[Mt 16:16-18]:

(v. 16) Simon Peter answered 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'

(v. 17) Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of John, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven.

(v. 18) And I tell you that you are Peter...

[= "petros", (masc.) = pebble, throwing size rock]

...and on this rock [= "petra", (fem.) = huge size rock, material of which a cliffside is made up of, foundation stone] ...I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."

[Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, W. E. Vine, Fleming H. Revell Co., Old Tappan, N.J., 1971, p. 302]:

"Petra... denotes a mass of rock, as distinct from petros a detached stone or boulder, or a stone that might be thrown or easily moved. For the nature of petra, see Matt. 7:24, 25; 27:51, 60; Mark 15:46; Luke 6:48 (twice), a type of sure foundation.... Rev. 6:15, 16 cp. Is. 2:19, ff.; Hos 10:8); Luke 8:6, 13, used illustratively; 1 Cor 10:4 (twice), figuratively of Christ; in Rom 9:33 and 1 Pet 2:8, metaphorically, of Christ; in Matt. 16:18, metaphorically, of Christ and the testimony concerning Him; here the distinctin between petra concerning the Lord Himself, and Petros, the Apostle, is clear."


4073 petra {pet'-ra} from the same as 4074; TDNT - 6:95,834; n f AV - rock 16; 16 1) a rock, cliff or ledge 1a) a projecting rock, crag, rocky ground 1b) a rock, a large stone 1c) metaph. a man like a rock, by reason of his firmness and strength of soul

4074 Petros {pet'-ros} apparently a primary word; TDNT - 6:100,835; n pr m AV - Peter 161, stone 1; 162 Peter = "a rock or a stone" 1) one of the twelve disciples of Jesus]

[Mt 16:18]:

(v. 18) And I tell you that you are Peter, [= "petros"] and on this rock [= "petra"] I will build My church"

Peter is referred to by our Lord as his namesake as rendered in the original Greek, 'petros', (masc.), as a pebble, or a throwing sized rock. On the other hand, our Lord refers to that upon which He will build His church as rendered in the original Greek, 'petra', (fem.), as a huge foundation stone, i.e., the kind of material of which cliffsides are made of.

The distinction between these two words, "petros" and "petra" signifying the distinction between Peter and that foundation upon which our Lord will build His church, i.e., the statement that Jesus is "the Christ the Son of the living God" is further drawn by the following:

A proper name or symbolism for a man would not usually be a word in the feminine gender "petra".

The fact that this was "not revealed to [Peter] by man, but by My Father in heaven." indicates that the foundation of the church is beyond Peter, i.e., supernatural knowledge that Christ is the Messiah.

Other passages indicate that the apostles were indeed a foundational part of the church, Peter being a part of that group but not the whole foundation to the exclusion of Paul and the other Apostles. Furthermore, the Lord is depicted as the Chief Cornerstone - Himself the basis upon which all else is built: the True Foundation of His Church:

[Compare Eph 2:19-22]:

(v. 20) "Consequently, you [Gentile believers, (vv. 11, 13)] are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household,

(v. 20) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the Chief Cornerstone.

(v. 21) In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.

(v. 22) And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit."

Finally, if our Lord were referring to the Apostles as the foundation of His church then He would have used the plural form of rock rather than the singular, referring to all of the Apostles.

David Buffaloe states, (Didaskalos Ministries)

"Peter’s revelation came not from Peter Himself but from the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit of God. Peter was not therefore "special", did not use his own genius to determine that Jesus was the "Christ" (Christos, Messiah), the Son of the Living God. It was a Gift that God gave Him, revelation of the truth. It was the supernatural knowledge that Christ is the Messiah that the Church was founded on. This is the PETRA, or huge Rock. Peter himself (PETROS) was only a little stone, a small part of the foundation of the Church. Jesus is the PETRA.

Boyce W. Blackwelder in the book "Light from the Greek New Testament" (1976 reprint, may be out of print) explains it this way: Stone and Rock In Koine Greek a distinction was made between petros and petra, the former being used to designate a stone and the latter to signify a large rock, a boulder, mass of rock, steep cliffs, and the like. There are illustrations of this distinction in the Septuagint. In II Maccabees 4:41, petros in its plural form is used of stones small enough to be picked up and thrown by hand, while in 14:45, petra is used of a steep rock upon which a man stands.

Professor Mantey says, (JULIUS R. MANTEY, "WAS PETER A POPE?", P. 25):

"Petra has the meaning of a mass or cliff of rocks, or simply of the substance which we call rock, at least fifty-two times in the Septuagint." Dr. Mantey also has pointed out: "The fact that the city, Petra, southeast of Palestine, with its houses hewn out of solid rock, is so named also implies that the word was used to mean a cliff or a mass of rocks." We find similar illustrations in the literary Koine writings. Polybius uses petra in the sense of precipice and to signify a ridge of rock. (POLYBIUS: THE HISTORIES, VOL IV, BK X.48.5F; IX.27.4)

Diodorus of Sicily writes of cutting tunnels through petra, of numerous streams which drop from cliffs (petra) into the sea, of ships striking against rocks (petra), and of a mountain range at whose summit are rocks (petra) of a terrifying height. (DIODORUS SICULUS, VOL II, BK III.12.5; 39.1; 40.5; 44.4)

Plutarch (PLUTARCH'S LIVES, VOL II) uses petra of a cliff which is described as "huge and jagged" (Camillus, XXV.2), and of a rock upon which a heifer stood (Lucullus, XXIV.7). He speaks of a large petros which, however, was small enough to be picked up and thrown by a man (Aristides XVII.3).

Josephus (JOESEPHUS: JEWISH ANTIQUITIES, VOL IV, BK III.36) says, "a river was to flow for them out of the rock" (petra)." In the New Testament petra signifies a great rock or mass of rock (e.g., Matt. 7:24 f.- Mark 15:46; Luke 6:48; 8:6, 13). An awareness of the distinction between petros and petra clears away difficulties of interpretation in Matthew 16:18. Some expositors, faced with a problem in verses 17-19 have questioned the genuineness of the passage. But such an approach does not come to grips with the main issue. There is no textual evidence that the verses in question are an interpolation, hence no reason for doubting their authenticity. An understanding of the distinction generally observed in Koine Greek between petra, a massive rock, and petros, a detached rock or stone, makes the words of Jesus clear. If it be argued that Jesus probably spoke Aramaic in the conversation with Peter, and that Aramaic makes no such distinction between the terms, it can be stated that the writer of the New Testament account understood a distinction and expressed it by the two different words. There are several strong arguments which show that Peter (petros) and the rock (petra) upon which the church is built are not identical. All the pronouns in Matthew 16:18 are emphatic, contrasting the person of Peter with the mighty rock which is the foundation of the church. The different genders (petros, masculine; and petra, feminine) emphasize a distinction in the references. Since petra is used metaphorically several times to indicate Christ (Rom. 9: 33; I Cor. 10: 4; I Pet. 2: 8), it is in harmony with the Scriptures to take it thus in Matthew 16:18. In this light Jesus means that he is the foundation of the church. He speaks of himself as the builder, and uses the expression "my church." So the New Testament ekklesia is built upon Christ's deity and Saviorhood, upon the efficacy of his blood, and upon the immutability and objectivity of truth. It is obvious that no human being could be the support of such a structure. Paul speaks of Jesus Christ as the foundation (1 Cor. 3: 11). The church is the creative work of God. Actually Peter's confession was impossible apart from the divine revelation upon which his proclamation was based. Jesus makes this point clear in Matthew 16:17. This revelation was not disclosed to Peter only. It was also the experience of the other disciples, and it is the impetus which makes possible the confession of any and all believers now as then. The church is based upon the truth which Peter confessed, that is, upon the reality that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. In verse 18 our Lord is also in effect saying to Simon, "The power of the gospel which has transformed you into a man of dependable character [implied in petros] will likewise change other persons, and as a result of this redemption the church is built." Thus we see that the church never produces salvation; salvation produces the church. There is a sense in which the inspired writings and work of all the apostles and prophets have their place in the divine plan of the church of which Jesus Christ is the cornerstone (Eph. 2: 20). In fact, all believers are living stones (lithoi) in God's temple (I Pet. 2: 5). But Peter has no special position or prerogative above the other apostles. Nowhere in the New Testament is any supremacy assigned to him."