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"And I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church . . ." (Matthew 16:18).

"And in order that the episcopate might be one and undivided, He placed Blessed Peter over the apostles, and instituted him a permanent and visible source and foundation of faith and unity." Lumen Gentium, Second Vatican Council.

Old Testament Foundations

The Significance of a Name Change in Scripture

The Scriptures record that God changed the names of men on a few occasions.  The name change was meant to highlight the new role the person would accomplish in God's plan of salvation.

The first name change came when God promised to Abram that He would bless him exceedingly, especially that Abram would be a father of many nations.  To highlight Abram's new role in God's plan of salvation, God changed Abram's name to Abraham, which means that he would be a father of a host of nations (Genesis 17:5).

A second name change is when Jacob wrestled all night with an angel.  At daybreak the angel changed Jacob's name to Israel, meaning, "you contended with divine beings" (Genesis 32:29).  The name "Israel" became the name God called upon to speak to His people throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

The Kingdom and the Keys

King David, recognizing that it was wrong for him to live in a beautiful dwelling while the ark of God was in a tent, desired to build a house for God to reside.  For this good desire God blessed King David and promised to raise an heir from him, and this heir would build a firm house for God.  This heir of David would be a son to God.

And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm.  It is he who shall build a house for my name. And I will make his royal throne firm forever.  I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. (II Samuel 7:1-16)

In the Kingdom of David, there were men who held positions of authority, the most important being the prime minister of the kingdom.  The book of Isaiah records when God removed King Hezekiah from his important position in the Kingdom of David.  He removed Shebna and put Eliakim in his place:

I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station.  On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority.  He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.  I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.  I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family; On him shall hang all the glory of his family: descendants and offspring, all the little dishes, from bowls to jugs. (Isaiah 22:19-23).

Summary

God changed the names of men for a specific reason.  The name change is meant to highlight and signify the new role the person will accomplish in God's plan of salvation.  After King David desired to build God a house to dwell in, God blessed him by promising to raise an heir from him, who would be a son to God and would build a firm and secure house for God.  The establishment of Eliakim as prime minister of the Davidic kingdom clearly shows that the prime minister held a position of great authority and held the keys to the kingdom.  The keys signify having full authority over the house of God.  Eliakim taking Shebna's office shows that there is succession.

New Testament Foundations

Jesus is Heir of David and Son of God

The Gospel of Luke teaches that Jesus is the heir of David and the Son of God, fulfilling the promise God made to King David in II Samuel 7:

He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:32-33)

Jesus is the heir of David and the Son of God.  Jesus came to inaugurate the Kingdom of God on earth.  Within the Kingdom of God people are brought into union with God and His holy will, cleansed of sin, adopted as children of God, and saved from death.  Jesus commissioned men, the Apostles, to continue His work on earth in order that all the nations will be given the opportunity to enter into the Kingdom of God.

Simon's Name Changed to Kepha

A man named Andrew, excited to have found the Messiah, found his brother Simon and took him to Jesus.  When Jesus saw Simon He looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Kephas" (which is translated Peter), (John 1:42).  The first thing Jesus did when he saw Simon was change his name to Kepha, which is Aramaic for "rock." 

It is a strange thing for one man to change the name of another man, the name given by his parents from birth.  Only someone with great authority can presume to have such power over another man.  Knowing the significance of name changes in the Old Testament, it is logical to conclude that Jesus changed Simon's name to highlight and signify his new role in God's plan of salvation.

Jesus Establishes Peter as Earthly Head of His Kingdom

God promised to King David that his heir would build a kingdom that would be firm and without end.  Jesus, in establishing the Kingdom of God appointed the twelve Apostles as His royal servants, just as within the Kingdom of David there were men who held positions of authority - the most important position being the prime minister who held the keys to the kingdom.

The Gospel of Matthew records the establishment of Simon Peter as the head of Jesus' kingdom:

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"  They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"  Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.  And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:13-19)

Simon, by a divine revelation from the Father, confessed that Jesus was the Son of God.  For this, Jesus promised to build His Church upon him.  He gave Kepha the keys to the kingdom of heaven, thereby establishing him as the prime minister of His kingdom.  Much of the same language spoken by God to Eliakim in Isaiah 22 is spoken by Jesus to Kepha (Peter) in Matthew 16.

Peter and the Bishop of Rome

The successor of Peter is the Bishop of Rome.  He is the supreme Pastor of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  He is a father to the inhabitants of this heavenly kingdom.  When he opens no one shall shut and when he shuts no one shall open.  By the authority of Jesus, the Bishop of Rome deserves every Christians' affection, unwavering allegiance, and support.  Where the Bishop of Rome is there is Jesus - the heir of David, the Messiah, the Son of the living God - whose kingdom will have no end.

 

References:

Raymond E. Brown, Introduction to the New Testament (New York: Doubleday, 1996), pg. 189.

Scott Hahn, Answering Common Objections, The Pope: Holy Father (St. Joseph Communications, 1997).

 

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