When Christ said: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (verse 18), did He mean Peter or Peter’s confession, was the rock to which He built His church?
Leo the Great(c. 400-461 A.D.), the first Roman Catholic Pope, understood that it was Peter. This passage shows, according to Leo I, the ordination of Peter before the rest of Apostles. He wrote,
For he was ordained before the rest in such a way that from his being called the Rock, from his being pronounced the Foundation, from his being constituted the Doorkeeper of the kingdom of heaven, from his being set as the Umpire to bind and to loose, whose judgments shall retain their validity in heaven, from all these mystical titles we might know the nature of his association with Christ. (Leo 1895: 117)
An eminent Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott, following Roman Catholicism perspective, contended that it was Peter whom Christ buildt His church. As proof from Scripture, Ott quoted this passage to argue that, “Christ appointed the Apostle Peter to be the first of all the Apostles and to be the visible Head of the whole Church by appointing him immediately and personally to the primacy of jurisdiction.”(Ott 1954: 279 bold removed). He contended,
The primacy was promised on the occasion of the solemn confession of the Messiahship in the house of Caesarea Philippi (Mt. 16, 17-19)[…] These words are addressed solely and immediately to Peter. In them Christ promise to confer on him a threefold supreme power in the new religious community […] which He is to found.(ibid 280)
Contrary to Rome Catholic view Origen (c.185–254 A.D.), Aurelius Augustine (c.354–430 A.D.) and John Chrysostom (c.347-407) believed that it was Peter’s confession, and not Peter to be the rock which Jesus would build his Church.
Chrysostom expounded that it was “on the faith of his [Peter’s] confession.”(Chrysostom 1888: 333) to which Christ promised to build his Church. Augustine also contended,
Peter is so called from the rock; not the rock from Peter; as Christ is not called Christ from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. “Therefore,” he saith, “Thou art Peter; and upon this Rock” which thou hast confessed, upon this Rock which thou hast acknowledged, saying, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, will I build My Church;” that is upon Myself, the Son of the living God, “will I build My Church.” I will build thee upon Myself, not Myself upon thee. (Augustine 1888: 340)
Augustine, as Chrysostom, rightly concluded: “On this rock, therefore, He said, which thou hast confessed. I will build my Church. For the Rock (Petra) was Christ; and on this foundation was Peter himself also built.”(Augustine 1888b: 450)
If any disciple of Christ, according to Origen, confesses like Peter, then he or she “ become a Peter […] For a rock is every disciple of Christ of whom those drank who drank of the spiritual rock which followed them, and upon every such rock is built every word of the church, and the polity in accordance with it; for in each of the perfect, who have the combination of words and deeds and thoughts which fill up the blessedness, is the church built by God.”(Origen 1897: 456)
Question: Which reading, the Roman Catholic or Origen-Augustine-Chrysostom, which reformers picked up, is correct? I welcome a positive comment exchange giving reasons for or against these views. I am persuaded that Origen, Augustine and Chrysostom are correct. But before I share my reasons I want to hear from both sides, mostly from my Catholic brothers and sisters.
Augustine of Hippo. (1888). Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament R. G. MacMullen, Trans.). In P. Schaff (Ed.), A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series, Volume VI: Saint Augustin: Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of the Gospels, Homilies on the Gospels (P. Schaff, Ed.). New York: Christian Literature Company.
____________________ (1888b). Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel according to St. John J. Gibb & J. Innes, Trans.). In P. Schaff (Ed.), A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series, Volume VII: St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Soliloquies (P. Schaff, Ed.) New York: Christian Literature Company.
Chrysostom, John (1888). Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople on the Gospel according to St. Matthew G. Prevost & M. B. Riddle, Trans.). In P. Schaff (Ed.), A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series, Volume X: Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew (P. Schaff, Ed.) New York: Christian Literature Company.
Leo the Great. (1895). Sermons C. L. Feltoe, Trans.). In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.)Vol. 12a: A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume XII: Leo the Great, Gregory the Great (P. Schaff & H. Wace, Ed.) New York: Christian Literature Company.
Origen. (1897). Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew J. Patrick, Trans.). In A. Menzies (Ed.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume IX: The Gospel of Peter, the Diatessaron of Tatian, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Visio Pauli, the Apocalypses of the Virgil and Sedrach, the Testament of Abraham, the Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena, the Narrative of Zosimus, the Apology of Aristides, the Epistles of Clement (Complete Text), Origen’s Commentary on John, Books I-X, and Commentary on Matthew, Books I, II, and X-XIV (A. Menzies, Ed.) New York: Christian Literature Company.
Ott, Ludwig (1954) Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Ed. James Canon Bastible, Trans. from Germany: Patrick Lynch. Roman Catholic Books. Fort Collins.