Confession of Peter
The Confession of Peter is a statement made by the apostle Peter, recorded in Matthew 16, Mark 8 and Luke 9, in which Peter acknowledged Jesus to be the Christ (or Messiah - meaining the Anointed One). Jesus and the disciples had come to Caesarea Philippi, when Jesus asked them who they thought he was. The apostle Peter confessed that he was the Christ and the Son of the Living God. This statement is generally known as the Confession of Peter and is also found in Mark 8 and Luke 9.
Revelation from God
Following Peter's confession, Jesus exclaimed that this fact about the identity of Jesus had been revealed by God to Peter.
Jesus then acknowledged that on "this rock" he would build his church. There is some controversy among Christians as to the meaning of Jesus' response to Peter. Within Protestantism there is general agreement that Jesus would build his church on the foundation of faith that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God". Roman Catholicism however, teaches that Jesus was saying that he would build his church on the apostle Peter himself. Other interpretations are also possible.
The more common interpretations are discussed below:
Peter is the rock
The common Roman Catholic interpretation as noted above is that Peter himself was the rock that the church has been built on.
Arguments against this interpretation
Against this view, some have argued that this view is inconsistent with Scripture, given that it seems that the disciples did not understand Peter as having any chief place, as shortly after, in Matthew 18:1 they asked Jesus who was chief in heaven.
Furthermore, the name Peter actually means "rock" in Greek (Petros) and it is a masculine noun. When recording the words of Jesus (translated from Aramaic to Greek) Matthew wrote "On this Rock I will build my church" using the feminine form of rock (petra). Hence, it is argued that Jesus was making a distinction between Peter and the Rock ("You are Petros (masculine noun = Peter = rock) and on this petra (feminine noun = rock) I will build my church.")
The rock is faith in Jesus as the Christ
The common Protestant interpretation as noted above is that the rock of the church is faith in Jesus as the Christ. Some early church fathers who supported this view included John Chrysostom. Another supporter of this interpretation was Martin Luther, who said that "All Christians are Peters on account of the confession which Peter here makes, which is the rock on which Peter and all Peters are built."
Jesus himself is the rock
Some consider that Jesus himself is the rock. This view is similar to the view that the rock is faith in Jesus as the Christ. William Barclay wrote that Jesus "did not mean that the Church depended on Peter, as it depnded on Himself, and on God the Rock, alone."
The teachings of Jesus are the rock
Some view that the teachings of Jesus are the rock. This view links Jesus' words here, with his words in Matthew 7:24, where he talks about the wise man building his house on the rock.