Q. I greatly appreciate your responses to the question asked of you. I was raised Catholic, and know that the Catholic church claims Jesus made Peter the first pope. I know the passage they refer to as their proof of this, but can find no basis for believing that to be the correct interpretation of this passage. How would you respond to this claim?
A. The Passage you’re referring to is Matt 16:13-19:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
The key to understanding this passage lies in the Greek language. The Greek word for Peter is petros, a word of masculine gender that means rock. But when the Lord said “upon this rock I will build my Church” he used the feminine form petra which means He wasn’t referring to Peter but something else. And in fact it’s Peter’s confession “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” that is the foundation of the church. This is the rock to which the Lord referred.
Having the keys to something means you can open it for others. After the resurrection the disciples, of whom Peter was chief, would have the authority to allow people into the Kingdom, to bind the forces of evil, and loose the prisoners of sin.