Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, December 8, 2019
Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,
Many thanks to Raymond Finney for another guest RR.
Is Peter or Yeshua the Rock Upon Whom Our Faith Is Built?
In today’s RR, I (Raymond Finney) discuss a question I find interesting: Is our faith built upon the Apostle Peter or Yeshua? I offer my answer. A Catholic priest might offer a different answer.
TRANSLATION DIFFICULTY: I write about groups of people who worship God. Such places are usually called by Jews, “temples” or “synagogues;” by Christians, “churches” (and other Roman Catholic Church designations); and by Shomair Yisrael, “messianic synagogue.” I coin and use “faith assembly” in order to denote a gathering of persons who worship and serve God. Such designation is consistent with Hebrews 10:25 in which Believers are admonished not to forsake assembling (gathering) together. The Greek word for assembling together in one place for worship in this verse is episynagoge. Notice the synagoge (English, synagogue) root in this word.
CONTROVERSIAL SCRIPTURE: Our focus Scripture passage is Matthew 16:17-19: [Yeshua] answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) quotes this passage to claim:
** Yeshua directly established the RCC by commissioning the Apostle Peter as the “Rock” upon which the RCC (Yeshua’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church) is founded; and
** The RCC is Yeshua’s authentic congregation, even developing the Catholic doctrine of “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus” (translated from the Latin: “Outside the Church there is no salvation”).
I am confused by RCC explanations of this doctrine. If I become “unconfused,” I may try to explore this doctrine in a future RR.
PERTINENT SCRIPTURES: In Matthew 16:17, we learn the Apostle Peter’s name is Simon Bar Jonah (Simon, son of Jonah). In John 1:42, Yeshua gave the nickname of Cephas to Simon Bar Jonah. Cephas is of Aramaic origin. Aramaic was the “common man’s” language in Yeshua’s time. Although Yeshua likely used several languages, depending on the audience, He probably used Aramaic in ordinary conversation. Cephas, pronounced kay-FASS, is translated “Stone.”
Yeshua discussed Peter’s nickname, which even today causes confusion. This verse is printed above in full passage context, but I repeat the key verse (Matthew 16:18): [Yeshua said] “And I also say to you that you are Peter [Footnote 1], and on this rock [Footnote 2] I will build My church [Footnote 3], and the gates of Hades [Footnote 4] shall not prevail against it.”
THE ROCK CARVED OUT OF THE MOUNTAIN WITHOUT HUMAN HANDS: Is the Rock upon whom Yeshua founded His faith assemblies Simon Bar Jonah (Cephas, Peter) or Yeshua? The answer is important. To begin an understanding, let us back up to Daniel’s writing:
A most remarkable Bible prophecy is recorded by Daniel. In Daniel, chapter 2, Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s troubling dream of a metal statue destroyed by a Rock. Read this dream carefully. I briefly call your attention to a few portions, with interpretations by me and others:
** The statue represented a sample of major empires that would affect the Israelites/Jews. The head of gold was Babylon; the chest and arms of silver, the Medo-Persian Empire; the abdomen and thighs of brass, the Grecian Empire; and the two legs of iron, the divided Roman Empire (Rome and Constantinople). Those empires were in the past (presently, extinct). Now, consider the present and future: the feet of mixed clay and iron (clay = weak nations; iron = strong nations) are thought to be the present European Union (which will importantly be involved in the rise of the Antichrist); finally, the toes of mixed clay and iron will be the future Antichrist’s regime. The Revelation given by Yeshua to the Apostle John further explains Daniel’s prophecies.
** The Rock carved out of the Mountain without human hands represented the immaculately conceived birth (without human hands or influence) of Yeshua (the Rock). In prophecy, a Mountain represents a mighty force, usually God. Thus, Daniel prophesied the miraculous virgin birth (“without human hands” – that is, arranged through the Ruach HaKodesh) of Yeshua (the Rock) from God the Father (the Mountain).
** Destruction of the statue prophesies the final battle against evil (Armageddon), when the Rock (Yeshua) will smash the toes of the statue (the Antichrist and his armies). The statue’s collapse is God’s assurance that no other kingdom of man will ever arise.
** The Rock becoming a Mountain which will cover the earth indicates that the Rock (Yeshua) will begin His Millennial Kingdom, reigning over the entire earth, after the Battle of Armageddon.
Daniel recorded this prophecy nearly six centuries before Yeshua and Peter had their Rock-rock (Petros-petra) conversation. Daniel clearly prophesied the Rock as the Messiah– Yeshua, to us– who would come centuries after Daniel’s life. The Rock certainly was not intended as the Messiah’s apostle, Peter. To argue otherwise is to re-write the Bible for personal (ecclesiastical) reasons. We are clearly instructed not to rewrite the Scriptures (for example: Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Psalm 119:160; Proverbs 30:6; 1 Corinthians 4:6; and Revelation 22:18-19).
CORNERSTONE REJECTED BY THE BUILDERS: Psalm 118 is one of several Messianic psalms. Psalm 118:21-23 reads: I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This psalm was written many centuries before Yeshua and Peter had their Rock-rock conversation. Yeshua clearly is the Cornerstone. The religious elite refused to build their faith on Him (rejected Him). “Salvation” in this passage (Psalm 118:21) translates the Hebrew “Yeshua.”
Yeshua is called “the Chief Cornerstone” seven times in the New Testament– Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6-7). In 1 Corinthians 10:4, the Apostle Paul refers to Yeshua as “that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was [Mashiach].” A structure will collapse without a cornerstone, architecturally more correct a keystone in an arch.
Not only is Yeshua the Chief Cornerstone, He is the active “Head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 5:23). Yeshua established five offices in His faith assemblies– apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). In his writings, did Paul forget to include the cumbersome bureaucracy (hierarchy) of major churches (pope, cardinals, bishops, etc.)? Yeshua established a simple test of salvation faith (to be understood even by a child). Man established a complicated, rule-driven faith, corrupting Yeshua’s simplicity. Yeshua’s leaders were/are instructed to remain faithful to His teachings (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Other references to Yeshua, part of the Godhead, as a Stone include: He was the Rock of Horeb from which living water sustained God’s people (compare Exodus 7:12-6 and Numbers 20:12-11 with 1 Corinthians 10:4). Yeshua is the Stone of Stumbling and Rock of Offense to unbelievers (compare Isaiah 8:13-15 with Luke 20:17-18, Romans 9:33, and 1 Peter 2:7-8). He is the Stone of Israel, the Shepherd coming from God, prophesied by Jacob (Genesis 49:24).
Peter is not mentioned in these verses as heading worship congregations. Peter himself plainly taught that Believers must follow Yeshua, not Peter himself (1 Peter 2:21): For to this you were called, because [Mashiach] also suffered for us, leaving us an example that you should follow His steps:…. Paul confirmed Yeshua as the Rock of our salvation (1 Corinthians 3:9-11; Ephesians 2:13-22).
REPRIMAND OF PETER? The Bible often does not include details we might wish were present. Conversations are recorded, but gestures and background commentaries are often omitted. The Apostle Peter was headstrong, impulsive, and at times needed to be corrected by Yeshua. We can only guess about the circumstances of this Yeshua-Peter Rock-rock conversation. Just maybe, Peter bragged about his standing above the other disciples. Just maybe, Yeshua corrected Peter by explaining that worship would be based on the massive Rock of salvation (Yeshua), not the pebbles of salvation (Peter and the others). Peter saw all Believers and the holy priesthood we represent as living stones (1 Peter 2:5): … you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through [Yeshua HaMashiach]. [“Stones,” here, translates the Greek lithos = pebbles.]
PETER ONLY ANOTHER APOSTLE: Peter and a line of popes said to follow him are given lofty titles by the Roman Catholic Church, such as “Vicar of Christ.” [“Vicar of Christ” = the true representative of or the substitute for Yeshua; compare “vicarious.”] In his writings, Peter did not claim to be elevated above the other apostles of Yeshua. In his own words, Peter was content to be just a follower and servant of Yeshua. Peter’s two epistles display deference to Yeshua, not a substitute for Yeshua. I quote from the beginnings of Peter’s two epistles:
** (1 Peter 1:1a): Peter, an apostle of [Yeshua HaMashiach],….
** (2 Peter 1:1a:) Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of [Yeshua HaMashiach],….
THE FIRST FAITH ASSEMBLY OF BELIEVERS: Many teach the first Christian Church was established in Rome. No. Yeshua established congregational worship in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (fifty days after Yeshua’s resurrection and 10 days after His ascension). This supernatural event is recorded in Acts, chapter 2. On this day, the promised Comforter (the Ruach HaKodesh) was sent to Believers. It is true that Peter was present in a supporting role and spoke (beginning with Acts 2:14).
This congregation was a branch of Judaism, keeping most Judaic practices intact. These Yeshua worshipers believed Messiah had come, and His name was Yeshua. Most non-Catholic scholars name this congregation’s leader of Believers as Jacob (“James”) the Just, Yeshua’s half-brother– not Peter. The Bible (Jude 1:1) describes Jacob as Yeshua’s adelphos (adelphos = most commonly translated from the Greek, “brother”). The RCC claims Jacob was not Yeshua’s half brother, but a cousin or son of Joseph’s first marriage. Catholics claim the Virgin Mary was a perpetual virgin. Catholics further claim, without Biblical justification, that the Virgin Mary had no sexual intercourse, no children (other than Yeshua), and no sin. In making Mary sinless, Catholics ignore Paul (Romans 3:23) that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
PETER, APOSTLE TO THE JEWS, IN ROME? The RCC broke with its Hebraic roots and eventually ministered to Gentiles. The RCC has had periods of shameful treatment of Jews (Crusades, Inquisitions, possible Vatican Bank involvement of storing valuables stolen from Jews by Nazis [? – denied by Vatican as baseless rumor], etc.). Peter was apostle to the Jews; Paul, apostle to the Gentiles (see Galatians 2:7-8). Paul, not Peter, famously made mission trips to the Gentile world, including Rome.
Was Peter ever in Rome? In 1 Peter 5:13, Peter said that he wrote his epistle in Babylon. Since Jews referred to both Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Rome (Italy) as Babylon, Peter’s epistle is not a helpful “GPS reading.” Paul wrote several epistles to Roman Believers and from Roman prisons.
In these epistles, Paul named a number of Roman Believers, but never mentioned Peter or any religious leader resembling a pope. RCC tradition states Peter lived in Rome from AD 42 to 67. Paul wrote the Book of Romans during this time (ca AD 58). Why would Paul overlook such an important man of Yeshua– especially the Pope of Yeshua’s “true” Church? Can we reasonably question whether Peter was ever in Rome? Or, whether he led a universal congregation of Believers as Pope (Papa, Holy Father, Supreme Pontiff, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, etc.)?
More could be written on this subject, but I probably have already lost most readers of this RR. I find “evidence” for Peter as the Rock of our faith to be based on Roman Catholic tradition, not on Scriptures. In the Roman Catholic Church, however, “Sacred Scripture” and “Holy Tradition” are equally important. In the Catholic Church Catechism, Scriptures and Tradition are carefully discussed, including this sentence: “Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”
DOES IT MATTER? Horrendous injustices and wars have been committed in the name of the Prince of Peace, Yeshua HaMashiach. Many of these wars have been waged under the thought, “I’m right, you’re wrong.” In John, chapter 17, Yeshua prayed that His followers would be one with the Godhead and one with each other.
When we divide into “spiritual camps” and refuse to cooperate with other “spiritual camps” not like us, we shamefully dishonor Yeshua. Unity among Believers should be our goal (Psalm 133:1): Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Our common enemy should be Satan, not Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals, and others.
We Believers have been commanded to meet in corporate worship for encouragement and shared service (Hebrews 10:24-25): And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
We need to remember that the Temple veil was torn in two at Yeshua’s crucifixion, as an object lesson for us (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45). God does not live, hidden, behind a thick veil in a building in Jerusalem. God is not separated from His children. He now lives in each Believer’s body (1 Corinthians 3:16 and other verses): Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
Yeshua’s Church/Messianic Synagogue is composed of Yeshua’s body with many parts– read “parts” as denominations and individual people (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, and following): For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is [Mashiach]. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body– whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free– and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.
Yeshua’s body has Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Messianic Believer, and other parts. His body can work properly only if we love and serve Him and each other in the right spirit– as one of many members, not just a single member.
IN CONCLUSION: This RR is not intended to malign the Roman Catholic Church or the Apostle Peter. All Believers in all denominations– including Shomair Yisrael– probably harbor doctrinal errors. God surely loves us, errors and all, if we do the best we can with our limited knowledge.
God is our Heavenly Father. I am the father of four children. When my children were young, I overlooked their errors with patience (usually), understanding, love, and even amusement. My wife and I still laugh at some of the childish things our children did and said, when they were very young. Recall Paul’s contrast of childish and adult behavior (1 Corinthians 13:11).
However, we non-Catholic Believers need not feel inferior because we are not members of the Roman Catholic Church. We can worship and serve God– and we can enter Heaven, I believe– even if not Catholic. Our acceptance of Yeshua as Lord and Savior is critical. See John 14:6: [Yeshua] said to [Thomas], “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Yeshua did not say, “No one comes to the Father except through ‘the one, universal, catholic, and apostolic church.’” In fact, it is possible to enter Heaven without ever setting foot in a place of worship. An example is the criminal crucified by Yeshua’s side, who asked to be remembered when Yeshua entered His kingdom (Luke 23:40-43). The criminal was assured of salvation (entering Paradise), even though he had been a Believer only for minutes before death and had done nothing “religious” in his life. He had not been baptized, gone to confession, or taken Communion. He had not repeated a carefully crafted “sinner’s prayer” or apostolic creed. Some might say, “This criminal surely cannot go to Heaven with the rest of us religious folk!” Or, can he? If this criminal is now in Paradise, as Yeshua promised, Yeshua did not get the memo that only religious people or members of a certain church can go to Heaven. (How patient God must be, with untold millions of us telling Him how to do things. Just relax, and let God be God.)
A person enters Heaven by having his/her name inscribed– through faith and confession of faith– in the Lamb’s Book of Life, not just by having his/her name inscribed in a Catholic Church membership registry. (For importance of the Book of Life, see: Exodus 32:31-33; Psalm 69:8; Daniel 12:1; Malachi 3:16; Luke 10:20; Revelation 3:1-6, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 20:11-15, 21:27; and other verses.)
Serve with joy and sincerity, whether you worship in Catholic mass, Pentecostal camp meeting, or Shomair Yisrael service. God surely looks at and judges hearts, rather than the particular rituals followed or the rote words voiced. God may see in us what others may fail to see (1 Samuel 16:7): But the LORD said to Samuel, “… the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.
Our best is yet to come. Isaiah told us of our imperfections, regardless of how much we try (Isaiah 64:6a): But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;…. When we meet Yeshua face to face at judgment, His precious blood will wash away all unclean things. We no longer will be “filthy rags,” but perfect new creations. Yeshua’s title of Redeemer promises this manifestation of God’s grace. (“Redeemer” = One who buys back, One who restores || More importantly, Yeshua, our Divine Kinsman-Redeemer, who purchased us from sin by His blood sacrifice.) Shalom and Maranatha.
Father: Thank You for Your love and grace. Thank you for being so patient with us. Thank You for our Chief Cornerstone, Yeshua, the Finisher and Author of our faith. Thank You, Yeshua, for Your supreme sacrifice for our sins. Thank You, Ruach HaKodesh, for Your guidance and comfort. We worship You, God is three in One, Father, Spirit and Son. Finally, we thank you Lord for all You have done for us. We are truly blessed! Please give us opportunities to share our divine blessing with others. Amen.