The Greek word used in that passage (Matthew 16:18) is ekklÃªsia, which means simply "congregation," a term Jews often applied to their own faith communities (e.g. the word appears in reference to Jewish congregations all throughout the Greek translation of Deuteronomy, for example). That statement from Jesus, however, does only make sense if indeed Jesus intended to found a new faith community of Jews. More likely the statement was invented after the fact and only attributed to Jesus to justify the church hierarchy then arising.
Jesus is reported to have said of Peter something like you are the rock upon whom I will build my church. How does 'church' make sense to 1st century Jews? If Jesus the Jew never intended to establish a new religion, why church and not temple?
The Atheist Perspective
Brian Dunning from skeptoid.com claims that there is no record of a mass Exodus of Jewish slaves out of Egypt. Is this true?
What is your response to the "Cosmological Argument" for the existence of God?
How is marriage between faiths viewed in Islam? Can a Muslim marry an Atheist, for example?
What would you say to members of Islamic State and al-Qaeda?
I'm not a Christian. Why doesn't God directly confront me about the error of my ways?
Atheist The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason Sam Harris Atheist Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus Richard Carrier Atheist God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything Christopher Hitchens Atheist Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith Richard Carrier Atheist Atheism: A Philosophical Justification Michael Martin Atheist Humanism: A Very Short Introduction Stephen Law Atheist The God Delusion Richard Dawkins Atheist Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism Richard Carrier