Matthew 16:18 And The Aramaic Argument

It is written:

“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.” (Matthew 16:18)

In this passage, Jesus makes a clear distinction between “Peter” and “the rock” upon which the church is built. The rock upon which the church is built is the identity of Jesus as the Son of God, which Peter had just confessed (Matthew 16:16). This is demonstrated by both Jesus’ change from the second to the third person (“YOU” are Peter, and upon “THIS” rock), but in the original Greek of the New Testament (which uses “petros” to describe Peter, and “Petra” to describe the rock upon which the church is built)…

Our Catholic friends, however, claim that Matthew was written in Aramaic, and there would not have been a distinction between these two words in that language.

What shall we say to this?

Gary Henson is a former Roman Catholic who spent a great deal of time examining his religion. At one point in his fascinating book, The Ivory Domino, he writes:

“The two words did not mean the same thing. “Rock” was a large mass of rock, something like the Rock of Gibraltar, but “Peter” was a petros, a stone small enough to be thrown or easily moved! And that Greek dictionary said the two words are “distinct from” each other. No, Jesus was not saying that Peter, a small stone, was the large mass of rock upon which He would build His church. Quite the opposite. By the use of those two words, Jesus was explaining that Peter was not the massive foundation of His church! Mr. Babbitt continued. “If you tell a Catholic priest what you just saw about these two different words, this is what he would say: ‘But, the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic, not Greek. And, in the Aramaic, these two words are identical, not different. So, Jesus really identified Peter as the rock.’ Gary, that is the Catholic’s ‘knot at the end of the rope’–a desperate attempt to hang onto Matthew 16: 18 before it slips away from their hands and from their ability to use it to keep people believing that Jesus made Peter a pope.” “But, how are we to know whether it was written in Greek or Aramaic?” I asked. He explained. “God tucked inside the Bible an easy rebuttal to this false assumption….He reached for another book from those on his desk. “See those strange words, ‘Golgotha ‘and ‘sabachthani’? Find those words in this Bible dictionary to see of what language they are.” Locating each word, I read: Golgotha. This name represents in Greek the Aramaic word Gulgaltha. 4 Sabachthani. One of the Aramaic words uttered by our Lord on the cross. 5 “They are Aramaic words,” I reported my findings. “Gary, what do those two Aramaic words, which are translated within the verse, tell you?” “My mother didn’t raise a dummy,” I said. “It tells me, if Matthew was written in Aramaic, he wouldn’t translate an Aramaic word into Aramaic! It’s just like that English sentence, ‘Jim is a man.’ It would not translate the English word ‘man,’ into English because it was already written in English. God left no doubt about it. Since those words were Aramaic words that were translated into Greek, then Matthew was not written in Aramaic, but in Greek.” “Which means?” he prodded me on. “Which means that Matthew 16: 18 was written in Greek, and that ‘Peter’ and ‘rock’ are indeed different words,” I answered.” (Gary Henson, The Ivory Domino, 1912-1943 (Kindle Edition); Charleston, AR; Cobb Publishing)

The church was not built on the Apostle Peter, but upon the identity of Jesus Christ.

Are you a member of the church of Christ (Acts 2:37-47)?

2 thoughts on “Matthew 16:18 And The Aramaic Argument

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  1. Papias records that Matthew was originally written in Aramaic. The Catholic church has simply used this as an excuse to justify the papacy and Peter’s alleged ascension to leadership. Also it is likely that in conversation with His disciples, Jesus would have spoken in Aramaic. But Aramaic Matthew must of necessity been translated into Greek by the original disciple as quotes of it appear word for word in Mark and Luke. Although the original meaning can be preserved, no two translators would come up with word for word translations in all cases. This can be seen by simply comparing the New International and New American Standard versions. Both are translated by scholars from similar evangelical backgrounds (Gleason Archer and Howard Ervin worked on both) and yet the language is not identical.

    1. Thanks for the good insights!!

      I personally believe that there was an Aramaic copy of Matthew’s Gospel (even though one has never been recovered). Yet I also believe (based on the reasoning presented above) the Greek copy would logically have been the original. And the Greek makes a definite distinction between Peter (petros) and the rock (Petra).

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