Simon Becomes Peter
Having attended Calvary Chapel for several years, I heard several times from the pulpit that when Jesus said “…I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church… [Matthew 16:18],” that Jesus was not saying he would build his church on Peter. This is not just a Calvary Chapel teaching, it is taught throughout Evangelical Christianity.
And remember, Jesus had already gone so far as to rename Peter to fit this prophecy. Peter’s name used to be Simon, but Jesus changed it to Peter, which means “rock.”
My Suspicion Grows
I believed the pastors who told me Jesus was not saying he would build his church on Peter. After all, they’re pastors. They must have done their research. They must be telling me historical fact. But suspiciously, just as with the issue of why the Protestant Bible is seven books lighter than the Catholic Bible, I never heard one piece of historical evidence offered for why I should believe that Jesus was not actually saying what I believe he clearly did say. It is simply taught as fact, and then the pastor moves on.
The Early Church Fathers
Recently, I have been reading the works of the early church fathers, people I had heard of but never researched– Justin Martyr, Ambrose of Milan, Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, Tertullian, and many others. These are men who lived in the early centuries of Christianity. Some of them learned at the feet of the Apostles and passed on this teaching. Stop right there.
If we have writings from men who learned from the Apostles, or from those to whom that teaching was passed on in the infancy of Christianity, is that not stunning?
- Jesus -> Apostles -> early church fathers
- Jesus -> Apostles -> 2,000 years -> modern-day Evangelical pastors
Why in the world would I reach for option 2 when option 1 is available? Why do the Evangelical pastors of option 2 ignore the early church fathers of option 1 instead of encouraging their investigation? That may be the bigger question.
Thanks And Credit
Let me say that I was not smart enough to seek these sources on my own. A dear friend of mine who I have mentioned on this website before, and who is a voracious reader, and devours books at a rate I can only envy, had begun digging into the works of the fathers at least two years ago. Then I saw the fathers mentioned by Walid Shoebat on his website. Then I learned of former Protestants (including pastors) who are no longer Protestant, and no longer pastors, but who have converted to Catholicism, and each of them were citing the early church fathers as major reasons for their conversion. None of these folks may agree with me on everything, but I need to give them thanks and credit for finding these writings.
Upon This Rock
Let’s go back to Peter. After hearing for years from Evangelical pastors that Jesus was not telling Peter that Jesus was building his church upon Peter, I find these words from early church fathers.
“Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon, who, for the sake of the true faith, and the most sure foundation of his doctrine, was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was by Jesus himself, with his truthful mouth, named Peter…” ~ by Clement, written in 221 A.D.
“[T]he Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my Church, …Upon you, he says, I will build my Church… ~ by Tertullian, 220 A.D.
[Christ] made answer: “You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church . . .” Could he not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on his own authority, he gave the kingdom, whom he called the rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church? ~ by Ambrose of Milan, 379 A.D.
The Lord says to Peter: “I say to you,” he says, “that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church” . . . On him he builds the Church… a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church [the Catholic Church] and one chair [the bishop of Rome, that is, the Pope]… If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church? ~ by Cyprian of Carthage, 251 A.D.
Imagine my shock. Imagine my suspicion at having never been told that these writings existed. Imagine my concern at the fact that today’s Evangelical Christianity so flippantly dismisses the Church founded upon Peter, the Catholic Church, while Cyprian of Carthage wonders whether those who do such a thing are even Christians.
The Bible is always proven true.