Thursday, January 18, 2018

The noun πετρα (petra) means rock but Peter means pebble

The feminine noun πετρα (petra) means rock or rather: mountain of a rock. A petra is used to build houses in and on (Matthew 7:24, Luke 6:48) or hew sepulchers in (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:46). It's also used to metaphorize someone's firmness or strength; the Septuagint uses it in 2 Samuel 22:2 in the familiar phrase "The Lord is my petra and my fortress." Paul refers to the Meribah event in 1 Corinthians 10:4, and compares Christ to the petra from which the waters flowed (Exodus 17:6).

Petra denotes a firm foundation and as such it serves as a metaphor for faith in Jesus Christ (see our article on the word πιστις, pistis, meaning faith, for more on this).

The masculine counterpart of petra is πετρος (petros), which denotes a wobbly flint that won't supply any footing and can be tossed away at will.

Not on some innately strong rock but on these small pebbles will I build my church  ...

All this indicates that the Peter (petros) upon which Jesus would build his church was not one of strength but of ostentatious weakness and collectivity.

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