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Christ the Rock which Moses Struck,

the Rooster's Crow, and the Cross

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Question #1: 

First of all, I just wanted to say that I'm very blessed by your website. I find it to be highly informative and edifying. As I'm growing in the faith, I'm hungering for God's Word more each day and with that comes many questions. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this website and for answering our questions.  So, this is really more of a verification/confirmation than a question. When Moses struck the rock the first time at Rephidim, Desert of Sin (Exodus 17), was the elevation lower than it was when he struck it again at Meribah (Numbers 20)? If so, then the analogy applies with Christ's first and second coming, right? As in, Christ lowered himself for us with his first coming and will be elevated when he comes again?

Response #1: 

I completely agree with your understanding of these two passages about the two "Meribah's", Exodus 17 (cf. Ex.17:7) and Numbers 20 (cf. Num.20:13). The first instance occurred at "Horeb" (i.e., Mt. Sinai) near the beginning of Israel's wandering in the wilderness, while the second occurred at Kadesh, near the beginning of Israel's entrance into the Land of Promise (forty years apart).

One finds the identification of our Lord Jesus Christ as the "Rock" throughout scripture (e.g., Deut.32:4; Ps.118:22; Is.8:13-15; 28:16; Dan.2:34-45; Matt.16:18; 1Pet.2:4-8), and Paul tells us explicitly that the Rock from which Israel drank was most definitely a "type of Christ", that is, the Rock is meant to represent the Messiah and the eternal life through faith in the truth about Him which flows from Him like life-giving water (1Cor.10:4).

And all of them drank the same spiritual drink (i.e., divinely provided water). For all of them drank from the spiritual[ly significant] Rock which followed them – for that Rock was Christ.
1st Corinthians 10:4

Moses was commanded to strike the first rock, and but told to speak to the second one. Striking the Rock is a picture of Christ stricken for us during the first advent (Is.53; with Sinai and the Law representing our sins for which He was judged: cf. Gal.4:24-31; Heb.12:18-27), with the result that we drink the waters of salvation through believing the truth of the gospel about Him which the Holy Spirit pours forth for us (Rev.22:17; cf. Is.55:1; Jn.4:13-14).

In contrast, speaking to the Rock is a picture of the access believers now enjoy to all the wonders of the grace of God in this life (the water in this instance representing the entire truth of the Bible whereby we are refreshed and nourished after salvation: Ps.42:1; 63:1; Eph.5:26; Rev.21:6; cf. Is.11:19; Jn.3:3; 4:14), even as we stand on the threshold of the eternal Land of Promise wherein we shall enjoy sweet fellowship with our dear Lord Jesus forevermore (cf. Rev.22:1-2).

However, in the second instance instead of speaking to the Rock as he was directed to do, Moses struck it – twice. The Lord found fault with him for doing so because "You did not trust Me" (Num.20:12). This is certainly analogous to the hardness one finds in many people, hardness which is particularly prominent in many descended from Israel at the present time (Rom.11:25), wherein the Rock of salvation becomes instead a "stumbling block" and "a rock of offense" because the person or persons in question cannot seem to accept the efficacy of Christ's once and for all sacrifice for us on the cross (Heb.6:4-12; cf. Heb.11:26-28). Now that the cross is a reality, now that Christ has died for our sins, all we need do is "speak to Him"; that is true for unbelievers in appropriating salvation, and doubly true for believers in accessing the abundant grace and mercy that are ours "in Christ". This symbol of confidence in the security we have through Jesus' sacrifice (i.e, merely needing to address God rather than wait for Him to provide another substitute for our sin) was so critically important that God had to make an example of Moses' failure to carry through in the proper way with the result that this offense cost him entrance into Canaan. Given the greatness of Moses in all other respects, this is something all believers should remember anytime we start to doubt the mercy, grace, provision, or forgiveness of God and become despondent or try to repair our relationship with Him by works (equivalent to striking the Rock a second time) rather than through faith (we just need to ask Him for forgiveness in faith; good works are, of course, a result of faith, not a substitute for it).

While the Bible doesn't say anything specific about the elevation of the two sites in question, I would generally agree with your take. The words used for "Rock" in each case are significantly different. Exodus 17 uses tsur, while Numbers 20 uses sela'. The BDB lexicon suggests that the two words are synonyms, but that notwithstanding there is a critical difference in meaning. The first word, tsur, indicates quite simply a rock or boulder, while the second, sela', has more the idea of an exalted rock, that is, a huge cliff face (think of El Capitan in Yosemite). This explains Psalm 78:15-16, a passage which recalls both instances together:

(15) He split the rocks (tsur = Ex.17) in the desert and gave them drink abundantly like the great deeps. (16) He brought forth flowing streams from the [exalted] rock (sela' = Num.20), and He brought [from on high] water like rivers.
Psalm 78:15-16

In this passage we do have definite evidence that the sela' of Numbers 20 towers above Moses and the people (a clear picture of Christ exalted in resurrection and glory), for the waters stream out (indicating a dropping down from on high) and are "brought down from above" (as the Hebrew verb yaradh must mean here). In contrast, the splitting of the tsur upon which the Lord stands in the first instance (Ex.20) and out of whose "wound" (fissure) the water flows is a clear picture of Christ being judged in our place for the provision of the water of eternal life.

Please also see the link: "Moses striking the Rock"

Thanks so much for your encouraging comments!

In our dear Savior, the Rock of Ages, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #2: 

In Matthew 18, where Jesus tells Peter, "You are Peter and upon this rock, I will build My church." Now, you know how Catholics love to use this verse to prove that Jesus made Peter the head of the church. I am well aware though, that Jesus used "petros" of Peter, which means a stone of detached boulder, but when Jesus said, "upon this Rock" He used "petra," which is a rocky cliff or massif. I also know that the word for both is the same in Aramaic, kepha, I think it is anyway. I know that Jesus was referring to the "rock" of what Peter confessed--that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God--and it is upon this revelation that Jesus will build His church.  Now, some Catholic where I hang out has found some Protestant commentator who wrote this: 

"Here is a commentary from a Protestant, James B. Shelton, Associate Professor in the School of Theology and Missions of Oral Roberts University (Tulsa, OK):  "Our Lord's reference to Simon as Peter (Petros) in Matthew 16:18 has suffered partisan interpretation. Some interpreters with reformational and revisionist agendas have made much of the difference in Greek between the words Peter (Petros, masculine) and "this rock" (tautei tei petra, demonstrative + definitive article + feminine form, which is the usual gender of petra). They see petra as referring to the confession of the messiahship of Jesus, or the corporate faith of Jesus' followers, rather than to the person of Peter. When using both the masculine and feminine forms of the words, however, Matthew is not trying to distance Peter, Petros, from 'this rock,' petra. Rather, the evangelist changes the genders simply because Simon, a male, is given a masculine form of the feminine noun for his new name. "Furthermore, the whole passage contains Semitic structures. In Aramaic the word for both Peter's name and the rock would be identical, Kepha'...kepha'. Finally, the force of the context calls for a direct identification between Peter (Petros) and the rock (petra). The case for Petrine hegemony among the apostles must be seriously considered and not summarily dismissed by sectarian eisegesis." Letter to the authors of Jesus, Peter & the Keys, A Scriptural Handbook on the Papacy, 21 October, 1994

Is what he said about the demonstrative true? And it seems like a silly argument to me, that Matthew changed the gender to refer to Peter, since Peter is male. And that Jesus was giving him a "masculine" form of Petra, since Peter is male. I find that absurd. I mean, Jesus is referred to as the Rock, the "spiritual Rock from whom they drank and that Rock was Christ." Petra is used there, and Jesus is male, so why wasn't the word changed here to reflect on Jesus' male gender? R. C. H. Lenski, a late Lutheran commentator, wrote this:

Petros, the person of Peter, and petra are NOT identical; the latter does not signify the Apostle Peter. The linguistic fact is supported by other considerations. If by "this rock" Jesus had Peter himself in mind, he could easily have said, "on thee" will I build my church; or "on thee, Peter" adding his name. ...Eph. 2:20 makes all the apostles the "foundation" of the church, (not, indeed, their persons or their faith, but their inspired preaching and writing) and knows nothing of a prerogative in the case of Peter. In Matt. 18:1, 4, and in Luke 22:24, the 12 debate as to who is the greatest among them and evidently do not think that Jesus has assigned this position to Peter...The feminine term Petra indicates what made Peter a rock.....We decline to make "this rock" signify the rock nature of Peter. The church does not rest on a quality found in Peter and in others like him. The foundation of the church is not subjective but objective, namely, God's revelation....She rests on the reality which Peter confessed, namely, Jesus "the Christ, the Son of the Living. We also challenge the reference to the Aramaic in order to wipe out the distinction between petros and petra. We know too little about the Aramaic to assert that when Jesus spoke these words He used the same Aramaic term in both statements. We should like to know more about the Aramaic as it was spoken at the time of Jesus. Therefore, this appeal to the Aramaic substitutes something unknown and hypothetical for what is fully known and insured as true on the basis of the inspired Greek of the holy writers themselves. (pp. 625-627). It is essential to note that the masculine petros denotes a detached rock or boulder, and that the feminine petra signifies a rocky cliff. Liddell and Scott define the latter: "a ledge or shelf of rock, a rocky peak or ridge," and add the statement: "there is no example in good authors of petra being used in the sense of petros, a stone, for even in Homer petrai are not loose stones but masses of living rock torn up and hurled."

I don't know if what he wrote about Aramaic is true, but it seems to me, we have a far larger database of Koine Greek, outside the bible, than we do of Biblical Aramaic.

Thanks and God bless.

Response #2: 

What Lenski writes is fine. The Shelton material is indeed mostly silliness from a grammatical and scholarly linguistic point of view, and you have analyzed it very well indeed. It really doesn't matter what the vernacular Aramaic of Jesus' day may have been since this gospel is written in Greek. What we don't know about New Testament era Aramaic is a lot (there are about four different major dialects of Aramaic, all of the ancient ones differ from one another, and all are fragmentary in the extreme). But, as I say, this is not Aramaic so that to assume what Jesus might have been saying were He speaking in Aramaic (which in my view He wasn't anyway) misses the point entirely. As to what He did say, Jesus could certainly have used the word petros twice or the word petra twice – there is simply no grammatical reason or rule to prevent that, so it is certain that His choice of words was deliberate and is significant. He could have said "you are a petros and on this petros I will build my Church" or He could have said "you are a petra and on this petra I will build my Church". Either construction would make it hard to disprove Shelton's argument – but our Lord instead quite deliberately distinguishes between petros and a separate petra. A petros is usually a stone (i.e., usually not large), while a petra is, as your sources confirm, always a large cliff face (something like the cliff face of the Grand Canyon), so that the difference is quite striking and the similarity of root only chosen for instructional purposes: Peter is a pebble, a part of the edifice, but it is on the larger Rock of Christ that the Church will be founded and built. This is exactly what Peter himself says in 1Pet.2:5-7 when he uses the same analogy of believers being the living stones of the Church who are built up into a spiritual house on the foundation Rock of Christ.

The demonstrative pronoun "this [Rock]" is feminine here at Matthew 16:18 because of course all modifiers have to follow the lead of the noun they modify and petra is feminine. But notice that the word petros comes first so that the argument that feminine has to change to masculine in exactly backward! In the text it's the other way around (so this idea is pure nonsense and a non-starter even for those who don't properly understand Greek). But it is the demonstrative pronoun that is really all important here. By saying "this Rock" Jesus was deliberately calling attention to Himself as if He were pointing to Himself. Here is what I write about this in a footnote of part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion series:

The Pauline epistles are sufficient evidence to prove that the use of Matthew 16:18 to support a claim of Peter as "the first pope" is an erroneous one. For the Pauline epistles by both their content and quantity clearly refute any notion of Petrine superiority. This alleged superiority Peter himself never claimed, deferring to Paul under the inspiration of the Spirit (2Pet.3:14-16). Our Lord Himself appointed Paul, not Peter, His apostle to the gentiles (Acts 9:15; cf. Gal.1:15 and 2:7), a role fulfilled admirably by the greatest of the apostles. As to the text of Matthew 16:18, by the phrase "upon this Rock", Christ is clearly referring to Himself, not Peter, a fact which can be discerned by His use of the demonstrative pronoun houtos as a self-reference, a usage paralleled in John 2:19, where the "this" in "destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" clearly refers to Himself (specifically His body: Jn.2:21), and not to Herod's temple. For more on this point, see the Peter series, lesson #2.

Hope this helps. As always, you can write me back if you want to discuss any of the details.

In Jesus our Rock,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

In your answer to the reader's e-mail entitled "Simeon and Simon, and the Two Crows of the Rooster," you seem to be treating the sound as that of a live animal. I am sure you must have considered the idea that the "cockcrow" may actually have been a trumpet blast signaling the end of a specific night watch.

In early first century Judea, the night was divided into four, three hour sections. These were the Night Watches. At the end of each watch, a TRUMPET would sound. The four watches were called LATE, MIDNIGHT, COCKCROWING, and EARLY. Jesus actually quotes this exact system in Mark 13:35-- "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back-- whether in the EVENING, or at MIDNIGHT, or when the ROOSTER CROWS, or at DAWN."

The use of night watches is a common way to tell time in the New Testament. In Matthew 14:25 we see that "during the forth watch of the night, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake." Similarly, it says, " if the owner of the house knew in which watch the thief was coming, he would have kept watch, and not allowed his house to be broken into. Matthew 24:43.

Thus, Peter's denial would take place after Midnight, but before 3am-- the Cockcrow.

Keep in mind that most of the time, the Roman system of four, three hour watches was used. The Jews also had a system of three, four hour watches.

Any thoughts on this? I apologize if this explanation is already on your site, and I have so far over-looked it.

Thank God for your faithful ministry. To Him be the glory.

Response #3:

As to your question, you are certainly correct about the system of Roman and (apparently) Jewish night watches. But, that said, I do indeed think we are dealing here with a genuine animal sound. Based upon the very clear Greek of all of the gospel passages in question, it would be hard to read these verses in any other way than as the "crow" of a live animal. The same Greek word for "rooster" is used in all four books (alektor), whereas we would expect something along the lines of what we see at Mark 13:35, "cock-crow" (i.e., a concept noun: alektophonia), if a time rather than a literal animal making a literal sound was meant.

The Mark 13:35 passage shows clearly that there was a general time called "cock-crow", but like similar English phrases such as "pre-dawn", we can't necessarily say anything about the specificity of this phrase. It does seem from Jesus' words in Mark 13:35 that He is using "cock-crow" to refer to the third watch according to the Jewish system, but the one main witness we have to this system qua system, Flavius Josephus, doesn't use the same term when he makes reference to three watches at Jerusalem (B.J. 5.510). The main point here is that while "cock-crow" may possibly be a technical rather than a general term, the words "and the cock crowed" constitute an entirely straightforward clause that doesn't suggest anything but the straightforward translation given here. And one could easily have said in Greek "and the trumpet sounded" (or other similar things).

From my reading of the Greek, I would be extremely surprised if these passages could even admit of the possibility of the rooster in question being not a rooster but really a trumpet. But the truly decisive thing for me on this issue is that the rooster crows three times (cf. Mk.14:72). Jerusalem was a fairly compact city, and the walls were garrisoned by Roman troops using a very precise system of watch-keeping. The same was true of the temple. Only one trumpet blast would have been used – were a trumpet blast in view here – not three. A system of multiple and imprecisely timed trumpet calls would have been extremely confusing with some men thus going on watch before others had left, or, worse to tell, some taking off before their relief arrived. Since Peter could hear all three, we have to conclude that anyone else would have as well, and so I have to stick with the interpretation already put forward, namely, that this is the crow of a real, live rooster.

As to the timing of Peter's denial, I have no problem with your analysis that it would have most likely been in the very early pre-dawn. Roosters do crow often and early – in my limited experience sometimes well before dawn.

In addition to the link you mention, "Simeon and Simon, and the two crows of the rooster", please see also the following link:

Christian Crowns, Pagan Names, and the Time of the Cock-Crow.

In our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hi Ichthys

If Jesus really died on a stake, not a cross, why do so many people support a lie? Any religion that teaches Jesus died on a cross is fake and supports Satan.

Response #4: 

It is true that the Greek words for cross and crucifixion, stauros and stauroo, can mean respectively "stake" and "put on a stake" - but they can also mean "cross" and "put on a cross". There is simply no way to discern from the vocabulary used in the New Testament alone whether "stake" or "cross" is meant. The Romans used both practices extensively (i.e., impaling and crucifixion), and I am aware of no compelling archaeological evidence to suggest that the use of plain stakes instead of stakes with cross-pieces was the more prevalent method employed in first century Palestine, let alone the dominant one. So I suppose my first response would be to point out that while there may be some question about whether or not actual crosses were used at Golgotha that day, there is simply no evidence whatsoever to suggest that stakes were used instead. In fact, there are several reasons why I believe "cross" and "crucify" in the traditional understanding of these words to be correct:

1) As far as I know, Christian historical tradition is unanimous in assuming a cross. The epistle of Barnabas, not a part of scripture but dating to the first century A.D., compares the cross to the letter "T". This is somewhat controversial and opposed to the more commonly held view among the Fathers wherein the shape is that of our traditional cross. And there are of course other suppositions (the St. Andrews "X" cross, for example). But all of these traditions have in common that the cross is of two pieces, not one (i.e., not a stake). Now I firmly hold to the hermeneutic of putting the Bible before any tradition, but in absence of any tradition for a "stake", one would have to give the unanimous tradition of a two-piece cross at least some weight here.

2) The cross is also compared to a tree in scripture by Peter who saw it (Acts 5:30; 1Pet.2:24), and by Paul who would have known all about it (Acts 13:39; cf. Gal.3:13). It would seem that this metaphor would make much more sense if we imagine it having a cross-piece (representing the branches et al.) than if it were only a stake (representing merely the "trunk" and not an entire tree).

3) Pilate is said to have himself written the placard that was affixed to the cross (the one which read, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews") and to have "set it in place" (John 19:19). The placard was written in three languages, Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, and must have been easily legible from the ground. This we know because the chief priests made a point of trying to get Pilate to change what he had written (John.19:20-22). Now if Jesus' hands were stretched directly above His head, it would seem that the placard, probably no larger than the width of the beam be it of the stake or the cross (if it were going to survive the trip to Golgotha and the process of crucifixion without being accidentally ripped away), would be approximately a further four to five feet higher up if a stake had been used (since Jesus' hands would then have to have been stretched in full extension above His head) than would be the case if we are dealing with a genuine cross (depending upon our Lord's height). Since the crucified were generally at least four feet off the ground (and possibly more), this theoretical extra four or five feet would probably have made the placard very difficult to read (and thus no issue), whereas we know that it's legibility was an issue.

4) Finally, Jesus Himself told us that at the time of His second advent, "the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky" (Matthew 24:30). We know clearly from other scriptures that this "sign" has to do with the crucifixion (i.e., of the One "pierced": Rev.1:7; cf. Zech.12:10ff.). I don't see how a single stroke, an "I", could ever serve the purpose of such a sign per se. On the other hand, a cross is a very distinctive sign, and one indeed which the entire world, unbelievers as well as believers, have come to associate with Jesus Christ. A cross appearing in the sky for all the world to see would surely communicate all that the unbelieving world of that time would wish (and fear) to know. I doubt that the same could be said for an "I".

For these reasons, I at least am convinced that the cross is the cross.

In the Name of the One who died on Calvary's tree that we might have eternal life, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

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