What are your thoughts on the interpretation of Matthew 16:13-20, which suggests that the "rock" Jesus was referring to when Peter confessed that Jesus as Christ was a mountain where pagan worship of the god of Pan took place in Caesarea Philippi? -- Felipe

Yes, I heard this interpretation the first time I visited Caesarea Philippi, which was a site of ancient pagan worship. While one cannot rule it out, it is far from obvious, and will make little sense to those who have not visited the site of the Pan sanctuary and heard the same story!

One explanation is that the rock is the insight contained in Peter's confession: that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is surely comparing Peter (whose name means rock) with the bedrock confession and insight to which Peter has (if only momentarily) arrived.

But even if we allow Jesus to be saying that Peter is the foundation stone of the church, as in "the prince of the apostles," it does not follow that the papacy is biblically sanctioned. That is a jump. 

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