“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Matthew 16:18
That verse is used to justify a recreation of the Levitical priesthood without the blood line by the Catholic church. But who is Yeshua really referring to when He says He will build His church on the rock?
The English language lacks two things that are present in the Greek that helps to obfuscate this verse. The first is gender and the second is a plural “you”. OK, some places in the south of the United States have a plural “you” rendered y’all, but you get my drift.
Gender is a function in many languages. In Spanish, a door is a puerta. It is a feminine word because the word ends in an “a”. A book is a libro, which is masculine because it ends in “o”. Jesus renames Simon to “Peter” in Matthew 16:18 and that word is “Petros”, a masculine word. When He refers to “this rock”, it uses “petra”, a feminine word. The importance here is that Matthew does not use the exact same word twice, so the bible is not indicating that Peter is the rock He would build His church upon.
Yeshua says He will build His church upon this rock. The word for “church” is the Greek “ekklesia” which is not what we in the 21st century would consider a church. An “ekklesia” is an assembly or congregation. It is not a building or an organization, but an assembly of believers. The first place we see “the assembly” is at Mt. Sinai where the entire assembly of Israel plus a large number from the nations are gathered together to receive instructions from the Almighty. At the end of the 10 commandments, it is the assembly that cries out for a mediator. Yahweh was going to speak all the commandments directly to the congregation. In Matthew 16:18, Yeshua is telling us He will build His congregation on a rock. Peter is part of the congregation, not the rock! The only person present in that dialogue who could be considered apart from the congregation, or rather above it, would be the Son of Yahweh, Yeshua the Messiah! Just like on Mt. Sinai, where God was above the congregation, the Messiah is above the congregation today, building it by sending the Spirit to help us! Peter is never considered above the congregation in the scriptures.
With respect to the plural “you”, we need to look at Matthew 16:18-19 in context.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:14-15
Jesus starts speaking to the entire group. Then Peter answers and gets rewarded with his new name. Then comes the question: Who does Yeshua give the keys to? In context, it’s to the whole group, the congregation! Remember, He is talking about building his congregation here, an assembly! So, in verse 19, when it is written, “I will give you the keys…”, it is more appropriate to say, in southern USA parlance, “I will give y’all the keys…”. We can take even more confidence in this because verse 20 and subsequent verses talk about Jesus talking to the lot of them, not just Peter in the singular.
Another thing to note is that the giving of the keys (supposedly to Peter) is absent the other three gospel accounts. If Peter was named a Super Apostle in Matthew 16:18, the head of the new religion no less, then why isn’t it all over the gospels? It’s even absent the letters of Paul, Acts, and the rest of the NT. It’s important to remember that the 66 book bible we use today did not come to fruition for three hundred years after the ascension of the Messiah. Different regions used different gospel accounts and had different resources in addition to the Tanakh or the Septuagint. If Peter was named the Super Apostle in Matthew 16:18, then millions of believers in the decades after the ascension were completely ignorant of that fact if, history is our guide.
More compelling is how we see the makeup of the NT congregation after the ascension. Do we see anyone asserting control over the assembly? Do we see a singular head of the congregation making all the big decisions? Do we see the supposed lower-level Apostles looking at one individual man for their leadership? The answer is a resounding “no”.
When Paul discovers a controversy over circumcising the gentile converts, what does he do? Does he write a letter to Peter asking for his imminence to clear it up? Nope. In Acts 15, we see a council of the spirit-led believers tackle a very important issue of the NT assembly: circumcision. In this banter, Peter is clearly not the figure in charge. The one who ultimately “makes the call” is James, but even he can’t be considered as having authority because it goes on to show the entire congregation accepting the solution and then sending out the messengers to spread the word. In other words, the entire assembly of believers had the keys, not Peter, just like in Matthew 16.
Since Pentecost is on Sunday, there is yet another place to look to see if Peter was really the Super Apostle. That’s Acts 2. In Numbers 11:25, Yahweh took some of the Spirit that was given to Moses and divided it among the 70 elders. In this case, one man, Moses, really was in charge. So, when the Spirit descended upon the Apostles, did it descend on Peter and then from Peter to the rest? Let’s look:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Acts 2:1-4
All the believers received and equal share, all at once. Take heed, brothers and sisters, and do not be deceived. The keys were given to the congregation. Today, we are that congregation, if we follow the Spirit who leads into all truth.