"And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it." Matthew 16:18
What is this "rock" upon which Jesus would build His church? The Roman Catholic Church claims that Peter is the rock upon which the church would be built. Their argument is that if you take this verse literally, you can come to no alternative interpretation. Is this what the text teaches us? Are they correct in their beliefs and teachings? I submit to you that they are not correct. Here is the verse in Greek:
κἀγὼ δέ σοι λέγω, ὅτι σὺ εἶ Πέτρος, καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, καὶ πύλαι ᾅδου οὐ κατισχύσουσιν αὐτῆς.
Anyone who knows anything of the Greek language, or of languages such as Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish, knows that if the object is masculine, everything pertaining to that object will be masculine also. If the object is plural, everything pertaining to that object will be plural also. In English, the singular "the red car" would simply become "the red cars" in the plural. But in Spanish, for example, the singular "el coche rojo" becomes "los coches rojos" in the plural.
In the verse in question, the Greek word Πέτρος for "Peter" is masculine. However, the Greek word ταύτῃ for "this" is feminine, as is the Greek word πέτρᾳ for "rock." If this was a reference to Peter, it would have been masculine. However, it has nothing to do with Peter whatsoever. Jesus asked Peter, "Who do you say that I am?" (Matt. 16:15). Peter responded, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). According to 1 Corinthians 3:11, Christ Jesus is the "Rock" upon which the church is built: "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
Peter believed that Jesus was the Christ. All true believers throughout the centuries have also believed that Jesus is the Christ. This is the "rock" in question. It refers back to Peter's testimony concerning Jesus. It is upon this testimony—"You are the Christ"—that the church would be built. The testimony points to Jesus. Jesus is the Rock, the foundation upon which the church is built. All those built upon this foundation will have this testimony: "[Jesus] is the Christ."
Jesus starts out by saying, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona" (Matt. 16:17), and ends by saying, "I also say to you that you are Peter" (Matt. 16:18). Just as with Abraham and Sarah before him, and Paul after him, Jesus was giving him a new name. His receiving a new name has nothing to do with the actual conversation. After Peter's confession, Jesus tells him that "flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17), to which He could have left out the renaming and immediately followed with, "upon this rock [upon this confession, upon your confession] I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it" (Matt. 16:18).
Contrary to the erroneous teachings and beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church, Peter was not the rock upon which the church would be built. If one looks at the Old Testament, one will see that Jesus is the Rock in question in several passages. Jesus is the foundation of the entire church—not Peter.