Lesson Two: “Cephas”, the Rock
Last week we began studying Simon of Jonah. We learned a great deal about his biographical background, personality, and even his father. Today we are going to finish up the introductory section on Peter. We are going to evaluate his name. Not Simon, but the name Jesus gives him, Peter. First we are going to pick up where we left off last week, in Matthew 16. Simon Peter had made the good confession that Jesus is Christ, the Messiah. Jesus said “upon this rock I will build My church.” I left you with some questions and encouraged you to study this on your own. Has anyone come to a conclusion about what Jesus is talking about here? Is Jesus going to build the church on Peter? He is a key foundation to history?
[Discuss answers to this question and the questions from last night:
By what means was Peter able to make such confession? – divine testimony flowing from divinely given knowledge, it was faith and certainty. Peter knew Jesus was the Messiah!
Why do you think that Peter rebuked the Lord the way he did? – Peter did not understand the cross. He loved Jesus so much. He didn’t want him to die. He didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. Finally, it is good to point out, Jesus is using future tense here. He is not building; he has not already done this, but he WILL8. Is Peter the foundation to our church today? – No!
What is the significance of Jesus’ statement, what is the foundation of the church? – right. Jesus is saying all along that He is the Rock. He will die. He is the foundation to the church. ] Okay, good job. I am proud that many of you did your homework and have put a lot of thought into this foundation of the church, which is Jesus. We will come back to this passage as we further study Simon’s name, Peter.
[Open you Bible to Mark 3: 14-18]
“And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons. And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder”); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot; “
(Mar 3:14-18 NASB)
Remember in John 1:42 [Andrew] brought [Simon] to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter)9 for “Cephas10,” also means ‘hollow rock or stone’ the Greek is Κηφᾶς or Kēphas or Petros, which means “rock.” Peter was the rock not because of his strengths, but “in spite of his weaknesses11.”
Now let’s look at this in context to the rest of the verse. “”I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church;” We have “Petros” for Peter, and for “this rock” there is actually a different Greek word, “petra.” “Petros” denotes a piece of a rock, a detached stone or boulder, in contrast to “petra”, a mass of rock12. Jesus is playing on words here. Simon was to be given a name that meant “rock,” because he was to be a rock in a figurative sense, the foundation on which Jesus’ church would be built13.
John Gill says that “rock, is meant, either the confession of faith made by Peter; not the act, nor form, but the matter of it, it containing the prime articles of Christianity14, and which are as immoveable as a rock…he goes on to say that “Christ is the rock.”
Julius Mantey confirms that Christ was the rock. Christ was (and still is the cornerstone.) Mantey shows us that in 1 Cor 10:4 and Eph 2:20, that Paul recognizes the connection. Mantey also points out that the Webster dictionary points defines ‘cornerstone’ literary as “the most basic element15.” Christ is the most basic element to the Christian faith for the apostles and for us even now. Peter is not the foundation, Jesus is.
Jesus himself quotes Psalm 118:22 in Mark 12:10 “Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone;” Jesus had just told the parable of the tenants. His earthly message of this parable was himself. He is the cornerstone that the priests, scribes were rejecting. Jesus himself taught that he was the foundation to faith.
“Peter was only one of the builders in this sacred edifice. Jesus Christ did not say, on thee, Peter, will I build my Church… expression says, “upon that very rock”, επι ταυτη τη πετρα, to show that he neither addressed Peter, nor any other of the apostles16. In other words we need to examine the full phrase carefully, Jesus did not say I build the church on Peter, but rather Peter is a rock on the foundation, which is me.
Liberal scholars always have interesting feedback. They remind us to think critically and use reason in our faith. It is good to study their theories so we can challenge our faith and grow even deeper when we realize that in the end God got it right. The truth is we can stand firm in faith and reason and studying these types of things makes us better apologists. Of course we must be careful studying liberal theories and not get too caught up in the issues and totally lose track of our faith.
One liberal theory out there about the name Cephas, is from Bart Ehraman. Ehraman suggests that the Apostle Peter and Cephas are two separate people17. The evidence is sketchy, in my opinion but someone as intelligent as Ehraman pulls it off. Although the theory is not new and novel, Clement, Riddle and Goguel all have previously made this argument. Most modern New Testament scholars reject this theory.
Dale C. Allison Jr makes a strong case against Bart Ehrman’s suggestion that Cephas and Peter are not the same people by looking at Paul’s writings, especially Galatians 2 and the original Greek18 Gospel words for Peter, Cephas19. It is pretty safe to safe that we can have confidence in the fact that Peter and Cephas are one and the same. Let’s look at one more bible passage to get one last glimpse of Peter and his love and loyalty for the Lord. Turn in your Bible to John 21:15-19.
So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He *said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He *said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep. “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He *said to him, “Follow Me!” (John 21:15-19 NASB)
Here we see that Peter is called by Jesus to be the leader of the disciples to “Shepherd My Sheep.” But more importantly, Jesus is restoring Peter’s heart20. This is the end of the book of John. Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to many. In this story, after the disciples and Jesus eat some breakfast, the fish they just caught, Jesus talks to Peter one-on-one. When he says, “more than these?” scholars are still debating as to if Jesus is referring to the other disciples, the occupation of fishing, or something else. This story shows us a picture of God’s grace and restoration to Peter, even after he denies Jesus three times, he has a chance to tell Jesus three times that he loves him!
To finish up today’s lesson, let’s look at what works in the Bible that Peter is responsible for briefly. We will analyze these things in greater detail in our last lesson.
For sure Peter was involved in writing the letters, 1st Peter and 2nd Peter. There is some debate as to if Peter wrote them with his own hand or if he had the help of a writer we will examine this in a later lesson21. Interestingly enough, scholars have more confidence that Peter wrote 1st peter than any other book in the New Testament22.
Many scholars believe that Peter is the main source to Mark, when he wrote the Gospel of Mark. This makes sense because there are some stories in Mark that Mark personally could not have been a first-hand witness to where as Peter is mentioned in these stories. As we will see in another lesson, Peter has a good influence to Christianity in his writings. It is thought that John Mark, the author of the Gospel Mark was a spiritual disciple/son of Peter. (1 Peter 5:13) Thus Mark learned a lot from Peter and wrote the things down as Peter shared them. Something interesting to consider is that some Catholics believe that Peter was the first Pope, thereby lending legitimacy to the modern day papacy23.
Let’s reflect a bit about God in closing today’s lesson:
God chose to use an average fisherman, God is a God of Grace, God wants great fisher of men, God enabled Peter to speak boldly to thousands, preaching that worked great.
We should allow God and the Holy Spirit to use us to speak boldly the name of Jesus
God restored and forgave Peter. Jesus is the cornerstone, not Peter.
How does one “catch men?” Compare fishing for fish with “fishing for men”… Is it possible for every disciple to fish for men? What would that look like?
Imagine what it must have felt like to have been restored by a resurrected Jesus, after sinning in denial three times. Take a few minuets to reflect on how God has forgiven all of your sins and restored you even after you knew you messed up big time.
Is Jesus the cornerstone in your faith right now? Do you need to get right with him?
What else can we learn about God through Peter’s life?