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Image of a stained-glass window depicting Saint Peter the Apostle kneeling before Jesus and acknowledging him as the Christ

The Confession of Peter is a statement made by Saint Peter the Apostle in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew 16:13–20, Mark 8:27–30, and Luke 9:18–20, in which he emphatically acknowledged Jesus as the "Messiah" or "Christ" (meaning the Anointed One).

The Confession of Peter is also the name of a liturgical feastday celebrated by some Christian churches.

According to the Gospels

Traditional painting by Pietro Perugino depicting "The Giving of the Keys to Saint Peter" (1492)

The Gospel of Matthew gives the most complete narrative of the events upon the arrival of Jesus on the coast of Caesarea Philippi. More truncated versions of the story are told in the Gospels of Mark and Luke.

Jesus asked his disciples: Whom do men say that I (the Son of man) am? The disciples varied in their answers, claiming that Christ was John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.[1]

Then Jesus asked them: But whom say ye that I am? Only Simon Peter answered Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.[2]

Matthew alone recounts that Jesus blessed Peter, stating:

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.[3]

All three of the Synoptics end the account with Jesus telling the disciples not to reveal that he was the Messiah to anyone.[4]

Theological interpretation and context

Interpretations and meanings

This passage can be seen in several contexts. For one, it could be argued that the disciples did not yet know who Jesus really was. Even though they walked with him and believed in his teachings they did not understand at this time that Jesus was the Christ. This theory is supported by other biblical verses. Matthew 8:23-27 is such a passage. When Jesus rebuked the sea and waves, it is written that the disciples were amazed and said, What manner of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey him? (verse 27). At this point, they did not know that the living God himself was present among them. Mark 8:18-21 further supports this; coming directly after the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus asks them, Do you still not understand?

Saint Peter displays tremendous insight given by the Holy Spirit, and Jesus tells him that this insight was given to him by God, not from man. Immediately following these passages, Jesus explains what sufferings and travails the Messiah has to go through. Peter objects to this, and Jesus admonishes him, saying that Peter can only keep his mind on earthly things.

"Upon this rock I will build my church"


Mt 16: 18-19

In the Catholic Church, Jesus' words, "upon this rock I will build my church" are interpreted as the foundation of the doctrine of the papacy, whereby the Church of Christ is founded upon Peter and his successors, the Bishops of Rome. Jesus' next statement, "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." are interpreted as the foundation of the doctrine of papal infallibility. Christ's charge to the Apostle Peter to "feed my sheep" and "tend my lambs", as well as Peter's authoritative position in the early Church are seen as emphasising St. Peter's, and thus his successors', the Popes, unique role as vicarious head of the Christ's Catholic Church on Earth.

Protestants believe that although the verse states that Peter was the foundation stone of the Church, it does not imply the continuous succession of popes nor that the pope, if the modern office of pope can correlate at all with Peter's position in the first century, should be the only authority over the Church. In other words, they believe that Christian communities existing outside the Catholic Church are just as legitimate, if not more so. The statement "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." is usually taken to mean that the Church will never become extinct, not that the Church itself cannot fall into official doctrinal error. The Eastern Orthodox churches interpret the verse differently and disagree with the Roman Catholics with regard to the language He was speaking and therefore affecting the meaning. Catholics believe he was speaking Aramiac, where there would be no distinction in gender. The Eastern Orthodox believe that the "rock" Christ refers to is not the person of Peter, but the faith of Peter (the Greek construction, παύτη τη πέτρα, uses the feminine demonstrative pronoun and article; Jesus would have used the masculine if he were referring to Peter's person)[5]. They see Jesus' words, "whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" as simply bestowing first upon Peter what was later bestowed upon all of the Apostles collectively (John 21:23, cf. Matthew 28:18). Orthodox see Peter's immediate fall into error, when he opposes the suffering Messiah and is rebuked by Jesus (Matthew 16:21-23), as proof of Peter's fallibility, while the Catholic Church sees Peter's personal failures as having no bearing on his gift of infallibility in his teaching capacity. The Orthodox believe in the infallibility of the Church as a whole, but that any individual, regardless of their position can be subject to error or even heresy in their teaching. While Catholics see the Catholic Church as the one true Church, the Eastern Orthodox see their churches collectively as constituting the sole true Church.

Annual commemorations

Liturgical commemorations

The Catholic Church prior to the Second Vatican Council liturgical reforms celebrated the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter on January 18. Since the liturgical reforms the feast is celebrated on February 22. The Catholic Church never celebrated a feast under the title of the "Confession of Peter."

In the Anglican, and Lutheran churches the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter is celebrated as the Feast of the Confession of Peter on 18 January. The name of the feast was changed from the Chair of St. Peter as that title emphasises the role of St. Peter as the first pope and his universal authority over the Christian Church by virtue of the Keys.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The Confession of Peter is the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, is actually an octave rather than a week and was originally known as the Octave of Christian Unity. It is an international Christian ecumenical observance that began in 1908. It spans from 18 January to 25 January (the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul).

This date is observed in remembrance of how Saint Peter the Apostle was impelled by Divine grace to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, and is a date when current Christians acknowledge Jesus as Lord, God and Saviour.

See also


Some or all of this article is forked from Wikipedia. The original article was at Confession of Peter. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

  1. Matthew 16:14; Mark 8:28; Luke 9:19 (KJV).
  2. Matthew 16:15-16; Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20 (KJV).
  3. Matthew 16:18-19 (KJV)
  4. Matthew 16:20, Mark 8:30 (KJV).
  5. The Orthodox New Testament, Vol. I: The Holy Gospels. Buena Vista, CO: Holy Apostles Convent. 1999. p. 105. ISBN 0-944359-13-2. 

External links

Confession of Peter
Preceded by
Blind Man of Bethsaida
Miracles of Jesus
New Testament
Succeeded by
The Transfiguration
Miracles of Jesus