There is a sad irony in the way Christians spend more time arguing over the meaning of what Jesus said about Peter, than they spend proclaiming what Peter said about Jesus. After all, the most important facts presented in Matthew 16:16-19 are: 1) Jesus is the Christ (Israel's Messianic King); 2) He is the Son of God (Deity); and 3) Peter's answer was not learned from man's teaching, but was knowledge given to him by the Father. Nevertheless, the Church has clashed for nearly two thousand years over the fact that Peter's name in the Greek is similar to the word used for the foundation upon which Jesus would build His Church. I doubt that what I have to say on the matter will have much effect upon those deeply entrenched in their dogma, but perhaps I can shed a little light on the subject for those who are still learning as I am.
In the Greek - English New Testament, Matthew 16:18 reads as follows: "And I also to thee say thou art Peter and on this rock I will build of Me the Church and gates of hades will not prevail against it." The Greek is: κἀγὼ δέ σοι λέγω ὅτι σὺ εἶ Πέτρος, καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, καὶ πύλαι ἅ|δου οὐ κατισχύσουσιν αὐτῆς.
The Greek word translated "Peter" is Πέτρος (Petros), a masculine noun meaning "a small rock or a stone." The Greek word translated "rock" is πέτρα (petra), a feminine noun which means "a large rock or boulder."
Another interesting fact found in these verses is that this is the only time Peter is called "Simon Barjona," his Hebrew name. The word "Simon" in the Hebrew, and "Peter" in the Greek are both defined as "a small rock or stone." "Barjona" means "the son of Jonah." However, if the word "Simon" is a derivative of "Simeon," as many commentaries suggest, there are clearly other considerations. The Hebrew word translated "Simeon," שמעון (Shim`own), is defined as "heard." This seems to support the connection in that Peter "heard" what God, the Father, had told him (Matt. 16:17).
Simeon was the second son born to Jacob, and is therefore listed as one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Does that mean Peter was from the Tribe of Simeon? Not necessarily. According to John 1:44, Peter lived in Bethsaida which was located on the very top shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was in the most northern area of Israel, originally allocated to the tribe of Naphtali. The Tribe of Simeon was assigned the land south of Judah, the opposite end of the nation. None of this makes much difference, because by the time of Christ, the only tribes remaining in their original locations were Judah and Benjamin. The rest were taken captive by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. and never repatriated.
Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will attempt to explain the connection between Peter, the keys, and who does and who does not have access to heaven.