Peter the Rock

Rome claimed its apostolic primacy from Peter to whom Jesus had given the keys to the kingdom of heaven and whom he had identified as the

"rock" or foundation of the apostolic succession of popes. In Mt 16.18-19, Jesus called Peter a "rock" and announced that he was to become the very foundation of the church: Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam, "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church." In the text, there is an intentional play on the Latin words Petrus, "Peter," and petra, "rock." Though the forms are similar in the Latin, which is an accurate translation of the Greek, they would have been identical in the Aramaic original and would have allowed for the alternative translation, "You are the 'Rock' and upon this 'rock' I will build my church." By this simple sentence Jesus identified Peter as his successor and revealed that his successors would be popes, who, alone of the pastors of his church, would possess the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Because Jesus had declared Peter his successor, and because Peter was martyred in Rome, Damasus claimed Rome as the apostolic seat or primate see of the church. Yet, the last mention of Peter (Acts 15.7-11) in the New Testament finds him not at Rome but among the apostles at the Council of Jerusalem.

It is only in the Greek apocryphal Acts of Peter, written about 200 C.E. in Asia Minor, that we find an account of Peter in Rome leading a congregation of Christians when Paul arrives there. According to the Acts, Peter immediately set out to meet Paul when he learned that he had arrived, and as soon as they saw each other they wept with joy and embraced. This image, called the concordia apostolorum, "perfect apostolic harmony," was widely applied to numerous fourth-century iconographic images of the apostles whenever they appeared together.

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