While many people think that Jesus worked only with wood because he is referred to as a carpenter in Mark 6:3, the Greek word translated there as carpenter is tekton, which has a much broader meaning. It can mean any craftsman, workman, or builder in addition to a carpenter. A builder at that time worked not only with wood but also with stone. Tekton is the word from which we get the word tectonic as in tectonic plates, which are the massive slabs of solid rock that make up the earth's crust.
That Jesus had familiarity with working with rocks is evident from his sayings in the gospels, including his statement in Matthew 7:24-27 about how a wise man builds his house upon a rock, which is the Greek word petra.
Some churches claim that the apostle Peter was the rock on which Jesus Christ is building the church. What is the truth? On what rock is Jesus Christ building his church?
The purpose of this article is to prove that Jesus Christ himself, not Peter, is the rock on which Jesus Christ is building his church.
The Large Rock at Caesarea Philippi
It was in the region of Caesarea Philippi where Jesus Christ told Peter that he [Jesus Christ] would build the church upon a rock. That such a conversation took place in the region of Caesarea Philippi is interesting. Jesus Christ often taught using metaphors and parables related to the physical context in which he taught. The city of Caesarea Philippi was built on top of an enormous rock. It was a massive wall of rock that went straight up over 100 feet and it was about 500 feet wide. The city was formerly called Panias, after the Greek god Pan which people worshipped there after the city's conquest by Alexander the Great. King Philip enlarged it and rededicated it to honor Caesar and himself. That is why it was called Caesarea Philippi.
The scripture on which some churches rely for their teaching that Peter was the rock on which Jesus built the church is Matthew 16:13-20:
13When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
20Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. (KJV)
Jesus worked as a tekton or builder. He used his experience to explain that he would build his church and he would build it upon the rock of himself
Peter was not the only disciple to whom Jesus Christ gave the power to make binding decisions. In Matthew 18:18, he gave all the disciples the power to make binding decisions, but he gave none of them permission to change the law of God.
Petros v. Petra
One explanation for this scripture is simply the difference in meanings for the Greek words petra and petros. Petra means a large rock, cliff, or ledge, while petros means a rock or stone.
However, some people might argue that Jesus Christ likely spoke the words recorded in Matthew 16 in Aramaic rather than in Greek. In Aramaic, there is only one word for rock and that is kepha. The word kepha has no gender distinction just as the word rock has no gender distinction in English. In Greek, petros is of the masculine gender and petra is of the feminine gender.
Is there additional evidence that Jesus Christ, not Peter, is the rock on which Jesus Christ is building the church? Yes, there is.
No Mention of an Exalted Role for Peter
After Matthew records the statement of Jesus telling Peter that the church would be built upon a rock, Matthew never mentions anything about an exalted role for Peter. Peter greatly influenced the writing of the gospel according to Mark. And Mark never mentions anything about an exalted role for Peter either. Notice, that Jesus said that he would build his church. It was not to be the church of Peter. Peter was a bold and courageous man, but he never exalted himself. He never sought to have men bow down before him. When Cornelius saw Peter he fell down before him to worship him, but Peter lifted him up and said that he too was a man (Acts 10:25-26).
Peter Was a Leading Apostle
Peter was a leading apostle (Matthew 10:2, Acts 2:37, and Galatians 1:18-19), but the Bible nowhere states that he was the chief apostle. The apostle Paul said that Peter was to be blamed for not eating with gentiles (Galatians 2:11), which shows clearly that Peter was not infallible and was subject to correction. Paul also said that he was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles (II Corinthians 11:5). Paul indicates that Peter, James, and John (Galatians 2:9), were pillars who were also witnesses to the transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-9). Paul did not say that any apostle served as the chief apostle. Paul also said that he was not less than the leading apostles.
What Did Peter Write About Rocks or Stones?
Peter wrote more about about stones in I Peter 2:4-8:
4To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
5Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
6Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
7Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
8And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. (KJV)
Peter also clearly indicates states Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone in his message recorded by Luke in Acts 4:8-12:
8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
9If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;
10Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
11This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
12Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (KJV)
The Foundation of the Church of God
On what rock did the apostle Paul say the Church of God was being built? He tells us in Ephesians 2:19-21
19Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
21In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: (KJV)
Paul again states clearly that Jesus Christ is the foundation of the church in I Corinthians 3:11.
After Jesus Christ had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, Satan tempted him to make stones into bread (Matthew 2:2-4). However, Jesus Christ did not yield to Satan's temptation. Instead, Jesus Christ as the bread of life (John 6:35), became a stone--the chief cornerstone of the Church of God (Ephesians 2:20).
Jesus Christ is the rock on which he is building the Church of God. Peter, the other apostles, and the prophets make up the rest of the foundation. Christians are also a part of the Church of God in that they are living stones (I Peter 2:5). Just as Jesus wrote the 10 commandments with his own finger on tables of stone, he is writing his law on the hearts of his disciples (Hebrews 8:10) as the living stones added to the foundation of the Church of God. Jesus Christ is the rock that is the cornerstone of the Church of God; he is the builder of the church; and he will complete it as a temple that is fitly framed together.
Alan D. Campbell lives in Brandon, Florida. For more good news, please request your free subscription to the Good News Magazine at http://www.gnmagazine.org Also, see his blog The Good News of the Kingdom of God at http://goodnewsofthekingdomofgod.blogspot.com