Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
So perhaps Jesus did not mean to identify Peter with the “Rock” the Church is built upon in Matthew 16. In fact, as we have seen, some will argue that since Jesus is identified elsewhere in Matthew as the “cornerstone” (cf. e.g., Matt 21:42), it is impossible to see Peter as the Rock the Church is built upon.Is that a plausible view?
I think not.
First, let’s be careful about conflating and confusing the imagery—a “cornerstone” is not necessarily a “foundation stone.”
Second, note that elsewhere the apostles are clearly described as the “foundation” of the community. For example, in Ephesians 2:19–20 we read:
“So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. . .”Likewise, in Revelation 21 we read that the city of the New Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ, i.e., the Church, is said to have twelve foundations—these are clearly linked with the Apostles.
Rev 21:14: And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.In addition, in Galatians Paul identifies Peter as one of the “pillars” of the community—an image strikingly similar to that found in Matthew 16:18.
Third, we might note that Jesus’ identification of Peter as both the leader of the community
(e.g., he holds the “keys”) and the foundation stone fits well within a first-century Jewish setting. A strikingly similar image is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. 4QIsaiah Pesher interprets the community as the temple of Isaiah 54:11–12, specifically identifying the priestly leadership as its "foundation".
Fourth, that Peter is described as the rock the church is built on is confirmed by what follows in Matthew 16:23, where Jesus describes Peter as a “stumbling stone”―a clear play on his role as the “rock”.
(Finish this series: Part 5)