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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 16

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Again a dramatically impressive juxtaposition of events. First an ominous encounter with ill-affected men professedly in quest of a sign, then in a place of retreat a first announcement in startlingly plain terms of an approaching tragic crisis.

Verse 1

Matthew 16:1 . προσελθόντες : one of Mt.’s oft-recurring descriptive words. φαρ . καὶ Σαδδ .: a new combination, with sinister purpose, of classes of the community not accustomed to act together; wide apart, indeed, in social position and religious tendency, but made allies pro tem , by common dislike to the movement identified with Jesus. Already scribes by themselves had asked a sign (Matthew 12:38 ). Now they are joined by a party representing the priestly and governing classes among whom the “Sadducees” were to be found (Wellhausen, Die Pharisäer und die Sadducäer ). Mk. mentions only the Pharisees (Matthew 16:11 ), but he makes Jesus refer to the leaven of Herod in the subsequent conversation with the disciples, whence might legitimately be inferred the presence of representatives of that leaven. These Mt. calls “Sadducees,” probably the better-known name, and practically identical with the Herod leaven. The “Herodians” were, I imagine, people for whom Herod the Great was a hero, a kind of Messiah, all the Messiah they cared for or believed in, one who could help worldly-minded Israelites to be proud of their country ( vide Grotius on Matthew 16:6 ). It was among Sadducees that such hero-worshippers were likely to be found. ἐπηρώτησαν : here like the simple verb (Matthew 25:23 ) = requested, with infinitive, ἐπιδεῖξαι , completing the object of desire. σημεῖον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ : before (Matthew 12:38 ) only a sign . Now a sign from heaven . What might that be? Chrys. (Hom. liii.) suggests: to stop the course of the sun, to bridle the moon, to produce thunder, or to change the air, or something of that sort. These suggestions will do as well as any. Probably the interrogators had no definite idea what they wanted, beyond desiring to embarrass or nonplus Christ.

Verses 1-12

Matthew 16:1-12 . Demand for a sign (Mark 8:11-21 ).

Verses 2-3

Matthew 16:2-3 , hough not in [95] and bracketed by W. H [96] , may be regarded as part of the text. Somewhat similar is Luke 12:54-56 . On some occasion Jesus must have contrasted the shrewd observation of His contemporaries in the natural sphere with their spiritual obtuseness.

[95] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[96] Westcott and Hort.

Matthew 16:2 . εὐδία , fine weather! ( εὖ , Διός genitive of Ζεύς ). πυρράζει γὰρ ὁ ὀ .: that the sign = a ruddy sky in the evening ( πυῤῥίζειν in Leviticus 13:19 ; Leviticus 13:24 ).

Verses 2-4

Matthew 16:2-4 . Reply of Jesus .

Verse 3

Matthew 16:3 . χειμών , a storm to-day; sign the same, a ruddy sky in the morning . στυγνάζων , late but expressive = triste coelum . No special meteorological skill indicated thereby, only the average power of observation based on experience, which is common to man kind. Lightfoot credits the Jews with special interest in such observations, and Christ was willing to give them full credit for skill in that sphere. His complaint was that they showed no such skill in the ethical sphere; they could not discern the signs of the times ( τῶν καιρῶν : the reference being, of course, chiefly to their own time). Neither Pharisees nor Sadducees had any idea that the end of the Jewish state was so near. They said εὐδία when they should have said χειμών . They mistook the time of day; thought it was the eve of a good time corning when it was the morning of the judgment day. For a historical parallel, vide Carlyle’s French Revolution , book ii., chap. i., Astraea Redux .

Verse 4

Matthew 16:4 . ide chap. Matthew 12:39 .

Verses 5-12

Matthew 16:5-12 . The one important thing in this section is the reflection of Jesus on what had just taken place. The historical setting is not clear. Jesus left the sign seekers after giving them their answer. The disciples cross the lake; in which direction? With or without their Master? They forget to take bread. When? On setting out or after arrival at the other side? ἐλθόντες εἰς τ . π ., Matthew 16:5 , naturally suggests the latter, but, as Grotius remarks, the verb ἔρχεσθαι in the Gospels sometimes means ire not venire ( vide , e.g. , Luke 15:20 ). Suffice it to say that either in the boat or after arrival at the opposite side Jesus uttered a memorable word.

Verse 6

Matthew 16:6 . ὁρᾶτε καὶ προσέχετε : an abrupt, urgent admonition to look out for, in order to take heed of, a phenomenon of very sinister import; in Scottish idiom “see and beware of”. More impressive still in Mk.: ὁρᾶτε , βλέπετε , a duality giving emphasis to the command ( ἀναδίπλωσις , ἐμφαίνουσα ἐπίτασιν τῆς παραγγελίας , Euthy.). ζύμης , leaven, here conceived as an evil influence, working, however, after the same manner as the leaven in the parable (Matthew 13:33 ). It Is a spirit, a zeitgeist , insinuating itself everywhere, and spreading more and more in society, which Jesus instinctively shrank from in horror, and from which He wished to guard His disciples. τῶν φαρ . καὶ Σαδ : one leaven, of two parties viewed as one, hence no article before Σαδ . Two leavens separately named in Mk., but even there juxtaposition in the warning implies affinity. The leaven of Pharisaism is made thoroughly known to us in the Gospels by detailed characterisation. Sadducaism very seldom appears on the stage, and few words of Jesus concerning it are recorded; yet enough to indicate its character as secular or “worldly”. The two classes, antagonistic at many points of belief and practice, would be at one in dislike of single-hearted devotion to truth and righteousness, whether in the Baptist (Matthew 3:7 ) or in Jesus. This common action in reference to either might not be a matter of arrangement, and each might come with its own characteristic mood: the Pharisee with bitter animosity, the Sadducee with good-natured scepticism and in quest of amusement, as when they propounded the riddle about the woman married to seven brothers. Both moods revealed utter lack of appreciation, no friendship to be looked for in either quarter, both to be dreaded.

Verse 7

Matthew 16:7 . ἐν ἑαυτοῖς : either each man in his own mind (Weiss), or among themselves, apart from the Master (Meyer). ὅτι may be recitative or = “because”. He gives this warning because, etc.; sense the same. They take the Master to mean: do not buy bread from persons belonging to the obnoxious sects! or rather perhaps: do not take your directions as to the leaven to be used in baking from that quarter. Vide Lightfoot ad loc. Stupid mistake, yet pardonable when we remember the abruptness of the warning and the wide gulf between Master and disciples: He a prophet with prescient eye, seeing the forces of evil at work and what they were leading to; they very commonplace persons lacking insight and foresight. Note the solitariness of Christ.

Verse 8

Matthew 16:8 . ὀλιγόπιστοι : always thinking about bread, bread , instead of the kingdom and its fortunes, with which alone the Master was occupied.

Verses 9-10

Matthew 16:9-10 . nd with so little excuse in view of quite recent experiences, of which the vivid details are given as if to heighten the reproach.

Verse 11

Matthew 16:11 . προσέχετε , etc.: warning repeated without further explanation, as the meaning would now be self-evident.

Verse 12

Matthew 16:12 . συνῆκαν , they now understood, at least to the extent of seeing that it was a question not of loaves but of something spiritual. One could wish that they had understood that from the first, and that they had asked their Master to explain more precisely the nature of the evil influences for their and our benefit. Thereby we might have had in a sentence a photograph of Sadducaism, e.g. διδαχῆς , “doctrine”; that was in a general way the import of the ζύμη . But if Jesus had explained Himself He would have had more to say. The dogmas and opinions of the two parties in question were not the worst of them, but the spirit of their life: their dislike of real godliness.

Verse 13

Matthew 16:13 . Ἐλθὼν : here again this verb may mean not arriving at, but setting out for, or on the way: unterwegs , Schanz. So Grotius: cum proficisceretur, non cum venissct . Fritzsche dissents and renders: postquam venerat . Mk. has ἐν τῂ ὁδῷ to indicate where the conversation began. On the whole both expressions are elastic, and leave us free to locate the ensuing scene at any point on the road to Caesarea Philippi, say at the spot where the city and its surroundings came into view. Καισαρείας τ . φ .: a notable city, romantically situated at the foot of the Lebanon range, near the main sources of the Jordan, in a limestone cave, in the province of Gaulonitis, ruled over by the Tetrarch Philip, enlarged and beautified by him with the Herodian passion for building, and furnished with a new name (Paneas before, changed into Caesarea of Philip to distinguish from Caesarea on the sea). “A place of exceedingly beautiful, picturesque surroundings, with which few spots in the holy land can be compared. What a rush of many waters; what a wealth and variety of vegetation!” Furrer, Wanderungen , 414. Vide also the description in Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine , and in Professor G. A. Smith’s Historical Geography of the Holy Land . τίνα λέγουσιν , etc.: with this grand natural scene possibly or even probably (why else name it?) in view, Jesus asked His disciples a significant question meant to lead on to important disclosures. The question is variously reported by the synoptists, and it is not easy to decide between the forms. It would seem simpler and more natural to ask, “whom do, etc., that I am?” ( με εἶναι , Mk. and Lk.). But, on the other hand, at a solemn moment Jesus might prefer to speak impersonally, and ask: “whom … that the Son of Man is?” (Mt.). That title, as hitherto employed by Him, would not prejudge the question. It had served rather to keep the question who He was, how His vocation was to be defined, in suspense till men had learned to attach new senses to old words. It is intrinsically unlikely that He would combine the two forms of the question, and ask: “whom, etc., that I , the Son of Man , am?” as in the T. R. That consideration does not settle what Mt. wrote, but it is satisfactory that the best MSS. leave out the με . The question shows that Jesus had been thinking of His past ministry and its results, and it may be taken for granted that He had formed His own estimate, and did not need to learn from the Twelve how He stood. He had come to the conclusion that He was practically without reliable following outside the disciple circle , and that conviction is the key to all that follows in this memorable scene. How the influential classes, the Pharisees, and the priests and political men = Sadducees, were affected was apparent. Nothing but hostility was to be looked for there. With the common people on the other hand He had to the last been popular. They liked His preaching, and they took eager advantage of His healing ministry. But had they got a definite faith about Him, as well as a kindly feeling towards Him; an idea well-rooted, likely to be lasting, epoch-making, the starting-point of a new religious movement? He did not believe they had, and He expected to have that impression confirmed by the answer of the Twelve, as indeed it was.

Verses 13-28

Matthew 16:13-28 . At Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27 to Mark 9:1 ; Luke 9:18-27 ). The crossing of the lake (Matthew 16:5 ) proved to be the prelude to a second long excursion northwards, similar to that mentioned in Matthew 15:21 ; like it following close on an encounter with ill-affected persons, and originating in a kindred mood and motive. For those who regard the two feedings as duplicate accounts of the same event these two excursions are of course one. “The idea of two journeys on which Jesus oversteps the boundaries of Galilee is only the result of the assumption of a twofold feeding. The two journeys are, in truth, only parts of one great journey, on which Jesus, coming out of heathen territory, first touches again the soil of the holy land, in the neighbourhood of Caesarea Philippi.” Weiss, Leben Jesu , ii. 256. Be this as it may, this visit to that region was an eventful one, marking a crisis or turning-point in the career of Jesus. We are at the beginning of the fifth act in the tragic drama: the shadow of the cross now falls across the path. Practically the ministry in Galilee is ended, and Jesus is here to collect His thoughts and to devote Himself to the disciplining of His disciples. Place and time invite to reflection and forecast, and afford leisure for a calm survey of the whole situation. Note that at this point Lk. again joins his fellow-evangelists in his narrative. We have missed him from Matthew 14:23 onwards ( vide notes on Lk.).

Verse 14

Matthew 16:14 . Reply of disciples : the general effect being: opinions of the people, favourable but crude, without religious definiteness and depth, with no promise of future outcome. Ἰωάν ., Ἠλίαν ., Ἱερεμ . Historic characters, recent or more ancient, redivivi that the utmost possible: unable to rise to the idea of a wholly new departure, or a greater than any character in past history; conservatism natural to the common mind. All three personages whose return might be expected; the Baptist to continue his work cut short by Herod, Elijah to prepare the way and day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5 ), Jeremiah to bring back the ark, etc., which (2 Maccab. Matthew 2:1-12 ) he had hid in a cave. Jeremiah is classed with the other well-known prophets ( ἢ ἕνα τ . π .), and the supporters of that hypothesis are called ἕτεροι , as if to distinguish them not merely numerically ( ἄλλοι ) but generically: a lower type who did not connect Jesus with Messiah in any way, even as forerunner, but simply thought of Him as one in whom the old prophetic charism had been revived.

Verse 15

Matthew 16:15 . ὑμεῖς δὲ , and you? might have stood alone, perhaps did originally. Jesus invites the Twelve to give Him their own view. The first question was really only introductory to this. Jesus desires to make sure that He, otherwise without reliable following, has in His disciples at least the nucleus of a community with a definite religious conviction as to the meaning of His ministry and mission.

Verses 15-16

Matthew 16:15-16 . New question and answer .

Verse 16

Matthew 16:16 . Σίμων Πέτρος : now as always spokesman for the Twelve. There may be deeper natures among them (John?), but he is the most energetic and outspoken, though withal emotional rather than intellectual; strong, as passionate character is, rather than with the strength of thought, or of a will steadily controlled by a firm grasp of great principles: not a rock in the sense in which St. Paul was one. σὺ εἶ … τοῦ ζῶντος : “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” in Mk. simply “Thou art the Christ,” in Lk. “the Christ of God”. One’s first thought is that Mk. gives the original form of the reply; and yet in view of Peter’s vehement temperament one cannot be perfectly sure of that. The form in Mt. certainly answers best to the reply of Jesus, vide on Matthew 16:17 . In any case the emphasis lies on that which is common to the three reports: the affirmation of the Christhood of Jesus. That was what differentiated the disciples from the favourably disposed multitude. The latter said in effect: at most a forerunner of Messiah, probably not even that, only a prophet worthy to be named alongside of the well-known prophets of Israel. The Twelve through Peter said: not merely a prophet or a forerunner of the Messiah, but the Messiah Himself. The remainder of the reply in Mt., whether spoken by Peter, or added by the evangelist (to correspond, as it were, to Son of Man in Matthew 16:13 ), is simply expansion or epexegesis. If spoken by Peter it serves to show that he spoke with emotion, and with a sense of the gravity of the declaration. The precise theological value of the added clause cannot be determined.

Verse 17

Matthew 16:17 . μακάριος : weighty word chosen to express a rare and high condition, virtue, or experience (“hoc vocabulo non solum beata, sed etiam rara simul conditio significatur,” Beng.). It implies satisfaction with the quality of Peter’s faith. Jesus was not easily satisfied as to that. He wanted no man to call Him Christ under a misapprehension; hence the prohibition in Matthew 16:20 . He congratulated Peter not merely on believing Him to be the Messiah, but on having an essentially right conception of what the title meant. Σ . Βαριωνᾶ : full designation, name, and patronymic, suiting the emotional state of the speaker and the solemn character of the utterance, echo of an Aramaic source, or of the Aramaic dialect used then, if not always, by Jesus. σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα : synonym in current Jewish speech for “man”. “Infinitâ frequentiâ hanc formulam loquendi adhibent Scriptores Judaici, eaque homines Deo opponunt.” Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. Vide Matthew 16:23 . There is a tacit contrast between Peter’s faith and the opinions of the people just recited, as to source. Flesh and blood was the source of these opinions, and the fact is a clue to the meaning of the phrase. The contrast between the two sources of inspiration is not the very general abstract one between creaturely weakness and Divine power (Wendt, Die Begriffe Fleisch und Geist , p. 60). “Flesh and blood” covers all that can contribute to the formation of religious opinion of little intrinsic value tradition, custom, fashion, education, authority, regard to outward appearance. Hilary, and after him Lutteroth, takes the reference to be to Christ’s flesh and blood, and finds in the words the idea: if you had looked to my flesh you would have called me Christ, the Son of David , but higher guidance has taught you to call me Son of God . ὁ πατήρ μου : this is to be taken not in a merely ontological sense, but ethically, so as to account for the quality of Peter’s faith. The true conception of Christhood was inseparable from the true conception of God. Jesus had been steadily working for the transformation of both ideas, and He counted on the two finding entrance into the mind together. No one could truly conceive the Christ who had not learned to think of God as the Father and as His Father. There were thus two revelations in one: of God as Father, and of Christ by the Father. Peter had become a Christian .

Verses 17-19

Matthew 16:17-19 . Solemn address of Jesus to Peter , peculiar to Mt., and of doubtful authenticity in the view of many modern critics, including Wendt ( Die Lehre Jesu , i., p. 181), either an addendum by the evangelist or introduced at a later date by a reviser. This question cannot be fully discussed here. It must suffice to say that psychological reasons are in favour of something of the kind having been said by Jesus. It was a great critical moment in His career, at which His spirit was doubtless in a state of high tension. The firm tone of conviction in Peter’s reply would give Him a thrill of satisfaction demanding expression. One feels that there is a hiatus in the narratives of Mk. and Lk.: no comment, on the part of Jesus, as if Peter had delivered himself of a mere trite commonplace. We may be sure the fact was not so. The terms in which Jesus speaks of Peter are characteristic warm, generous, unstinted. The style is not that of an ecclesiastical editor laying the foundation for Church power and prelatic pretensions, but of a noble-minded Master eulogising in impassioned terms a loyal disciple. Even the reference to the “Church” is not unseasonable. What more natural than that Jesus, conscious that His labours, outside the disciple circle, have been fruitless, so far as permanent result is concerned, should fix His hopes on that circle, and look on it as the nucleus of a new regenerate Israel, having for its raison d’être that it accepts Him as the Christ? And the name for the new Israel, ἐκκλησία , in His mouth is not an anachronism. It is an old familiar name for the congregation of Israel, found in Deut. (Matthew 18:16 ; Matthew 23:2 ) and Psalms (Matthew 22:26 ), both books well known to Jesus.

Verse 18

Matthew 16:18 . κἀγὼ : emphatic, something very important about to be said to Peter and about him. πέτρος , τέτρᾳ , a happy play of words. Both are appellatives to be translated “thou art a rock and on this rock,” the two being represented by the same word in Aramaean ( כֵיפָא ). Elsewhere in the Gospels Πέτρος is a proper name, and πέτρα only is used in the sense of rock (Matthew 7:24 ). What follows is in form a promise to Peter as reward of his faith. It is as personal as the most zealous advocates of Papal supremacy could desire. Yet it is as remote as the poles from what they mean. It is a case of extremes meeting. Christ did not fight to death against one form of spiritual despotism to put another, if possible worse, in its room. Personal in form, the sense of this famous logion can be expressed in abstract terms without reference to Peter’s personality. And that sense, if Christ really spoke the word, must be simple, elementary, suitable to the initial stage; withal religious and ethical rather than ecclesiastical. The more ecclesiastical we make it, the more we play into the hands of those who maintain that the passage is an interpolation. I find in it three ideas: (1) The ἐκκλησύα is to consist of men confessing Jesus to be the Christ. This is the import of ἐπὶ τ . τ . π . οἰκοδομήσω μου τ . ἐκ . Peter, believing that truth, is the foundation, and the building is to be of a piece with the foundation. Observe the emphatic position of μου . The ἐκκλησία is Christ’s; confessing Him as Christ in Peter’s sense and spirit = being Christian. (2) The new society is to be = the kingdom realised on earth. This is the import of Matthew 16:19 , clause 1. The keys are the symbol of this identity. They are the keys of the gate without, not of the doors within. Peter is the gate-keeper, not the οἰκονόμος with a bunch of keys that open all doors in his hands (against Weiss) κλειδούχου ἔργον τὸ εἰσάγειν , Euthy. Observe it is not the keys of the church but of the kingdom . The meaning is: Peter-like faith in Jesus as the Christ admits into the Kingdom of Heaven. A society of men so believing = the kingdom realised. (3) In the new society the righteousness of the kingdom will find approximate embodiment. This is the import of Matthew 16:19 , second clause. Binding and loosing, in Rabbinical dialect, meant forbidding and permitting to be done. The judgment of the Rabbis was mostly wrong: the reverse of the righteousness of the kingdom. The judgment of the new society as to conduct would be in accordance with the truth of things, therefore valid in heaven. That is what Jesus meant to say. Note the perfect participles δεδεμένον , λελυμένον = shall be a thing bound or loosed once for all. The truth of all three statements is conditional on the Christ spirit continuing to rule in the new society. Only on that condition is the statement about the πύλαι ᾅδου , Matthew 16:18 , clause 2, valid. What precisely the verbal meaning of the statement is whether that the gates of Hades shall not prevail in conflict against it, as ordinarily understood; or merely that the gates, etc., shall not be stronger than it, without thought of a conflict (Weiss), is of minor moment; the point is that it is not an absolute promise. The ἐκκλησία will be strong, enduring, only so long as the faith in the Father and in Christ the Son, and the spirit of the Father and the Son, reign in it. When the Christ spirit is weak the Church will be weak, and neither creeds nor governments, nor keys, nor ecclesiastical dignities will be of much help to her.

Verse 20

Matthew 16:20 . διεστείλατο (T. R.), “charged” (A. V [97] ) not necessarily with any special emphasis = graviter interdicere , but = monuit (Loesner and Fritzsche). Cf. Hebrews 12:20 , where a stronger sense seems required. For ἐπετίμησε in [98] [99] here and in Mk. Euthy. gives κατησφαλίσατο = to make sure by injunction. τοῖς μαθηταῖς : all the disciples are supposed to say amen to Peter’s confession, thinking of God and of Jesus as he thought, though possibly not with equal emphasis of conviction. ἵνα … ὁ Χριστός : no desire to multiply hastily recruits for the new community, supreme regard to quality. Jesus wanted no man to call Him Christ till he knew what he was saying: no hearsay or echoed confession of any value in His eyes. αὐτός , the same concerning whom current opinions have just been reported (Matthew 16:14 ). It was hardly necessary to take pains to prevent the faith in His Messiahship from spreading prematurely in a crude form. Few would call such an one as Jesus Christ, save by the Holy Ghost. The one temptation thereto lay in the generous beneficence of Jesus.

[97] Authorised Version.

[98] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[99] Codex Bezae

Verse 21

Matthew 16:21 . ἀπὸ τότε ἤρξατο ( vide Matthew 4:17 ) marks pointedly a new departure in the form of explicit intimation of an approaching final and fatal crisis. Time suitable. Disciples could now bear it, it could not be much longer delayed. Jesus could now face the crisis with composure, having been satisfied by Peter’s confession that His labour was not going to be in vain. He then began to show, etc., for this was only the first of several communications of the same kind. Χριστὸς after Ιησοῦς in [100] [101] is an intrinsically probable reading, as suiting the solemnity of the occasion and greatly enhancing the impressiveness of the announcement. Jesus, the Christ , to be crucified! But one would have expected the article before Χρ . πολλὰ παθεῖν , the general fact. ἀπὸ … γραμματέων , the three constituent parts of the Sanhedrim elders, priests, scribes. ἀποκτανθῆναι : one hard special fact, be killed . ἐγερθῆναι : this added to make the other fact not altogether intolerable.

[100] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[101] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

Verses 21-28

Matthew 16:21-28 . Announcement of the Passion with relative conversation (Mark 8:31 to Mark 9:1 ; Luke 9:22-27 ).

Verse 22

Matthew 16:22 . Peter here appears in a new character; a minute ago speaking under inspiration from heaven, now under inspiration from the opposite quarter. ἤρξατο , began to chide or admonish. He did not get far. As soon as his meaning became apparent he encountered prompt, abrupt, peremptory contradiction. ἶλεώς σοι : Elsner renders sis bono placidoque animo , but most (Erasmus, Grotius, Kypke, Fritzsche, etc.) take it = absit! God avert it! Vehement utterance of a man confounded and horrified. Perfectly honest and in one sense thoroughly creditable, but suggesting the question: Did Peter after all call Jesus Christ in the true sense? The answer must be: Yes, ethically . He understood what kind of man was fit to be a Christ. But he did not yet understand what kind of treatment such a man might expect from the world. A noble, benignant, really righteous man Messiah must be, said Peter; but why a man of sorrow he had yet to learn. οὐ μὴ ἔσται , future of perfect assurance: it will not, cannot be.

Verse 23

Matthew 16:23 . ὕπαγε ὀ . μ . Σ .: tremendous crushing reply of the Master, showing how much He felt the temptation; calm on the surface, deep down in the soul a very real struggle. Some of the Fathers (Origen, Jerome) strive to soften the severity of the utterance by taking Satanas as an appellative = ἀντικείμενος , adversarius, contrarius , and pointing out that in the Temptation in the wilderness Jesus says to Satan simply ὔπαγε = depart, but to Peter ὔπ . ὀπίσω μου = take thy place behind me and be follower, not leader. But these refinements only weaken the effect of a word which shows that Jesus recognises here His old enemy in a new and even more dangerous form. For none are more formidable instruments of temptation than well-meaning friends, who care more for our comfort than for our character. σκάνδαλον : not “offensive to me,” but “a temptation to me to offend,” to do wrong; a virtual apology for using the strong word Σατανᾶ . οὐ φρονεῖς τὰ , etc., indicates the point of temptation = non stas a Dei partibus (Wolf), or φρονεῖν , etc. = studere rebus , etc. (Kypke), to be on God’s side, or to study the Divine interest instead of the human. The important question is: What precisely are the two interests? They must be so conceived as not entirely to cancel the eulogium on Peter’s faith, which was declared to be not of man but of God. Meyer’s comment on τὰ τ . ἀ . concerned about having for Messiah a mere earthly hero and prince (so Weiss also) is too wide. We must restrict the phrase to the instinct of self-preservation = save your life at all hazards. From Christ’s point of view that was the import of Peter’s suggestion; preference of natural life to duty = God’s interest. Peter himself did not see that these were the alternatives; he thought the two opposite interests compatible, and both attainable.

Verse 24

Matthew 16:24 . εἶπε τοῖς μαθ .: in calm, self-collected, didactic tone Jesus proceeds to give the disciples, in a body, a lesson arising out of the situation. εἴ τις θέλει : wishes , no compulsion; οὐ βιάζομαι , Chrys., who remarks on the wisdom of Jesus in leaving every man free, and trusting to the attraction of the life: αὐτὴ τοῦ πράγματος ἡ φύσις ἱκανὴ ἐφελκύσασθαι . ἀπαργησάσθω ἑαυτὸν : here only, intimates that discipleship will call for self-denial, or self-subordination. Chrys. illustrates the meaning by considering what it is to deny another = not to assist him, bewail him or suffer on his account when he is in distress. τὸν σταυρὸν looks like a trait introduced after Christ’s passion. It need not be, however. Punishment by crucifixion was known to the Jews through the Romans, and it might be used by Jesus as the symbol of extreme torment and disgrace, even though He did not then know certainly that He Himself should meet death in that particular form. It became a common expression, but the phrase ἀράτω τ . σ . would sound harsh and startling when first used. Vide on Matthew 10:38 .

Verses 24-28

Matthew 16:24-28 . General instruction on the subject of the two interests .

Verse 25

Matthew 16:25 . ide Matthew 10:39 . The Caesarea crisis was the most appropriate occasion for the first promulgation of this great ethical principle. It was Christ’s first contribution towards unfolding the significance of His suffering, setting it forth as the result of a fidelity to righteousness incumbent on all.

Verse 26

Matthew 16:26 . This and the following verses suggest aids to practice of the philosophy of “dying to live”. The statement in this verse is self-evident in the sphere of the lower life. It profits not to gain the whole world if you lose your life, for you cannot enjoy your possession; a life lost cannot be recovered at any price. Jesus wishes His disciples to understand that the same law obtains in the higher life: that the soul, the spiritual life, is incommensurable with any outward possession however great, and if forfeited the loss is irrevocable. This is one of the chief texts containing Christ’s doctrine of the absolute worth of man as a moral subject. For the man who grasps it, it is easy to be a hero and face any experience. To Jesus Christ it was a self-evident truth. ζημιωθῇ , not suffer injury to, but forfeit. Grotius says that the verb in classics has only the dative after it = mulctare morte , but Kypke and Elsner cite instances from Herod., Dion., Hal., Themis., etc., of its use with accusative. ἀντάλλαγμα : something given in exchange. Cf. 1 Kings 21:2 , Job 28:15 (Sept [102] ), a price to buy back the life lower or higher; both impossible.

[102] Septuagint.

Verse 27

Matthew 16:27 . his belongs to a third group of texts to be taken into account in an attempt to fix the import of the title those which refer to apocalyptic glory in terms drawn from Daniel 7:13 . τότε ἀποδώσει : the Son of Man comes to make final awards. The reference to judgment comes in to brace up disciples to a heroic part. It is an aid to spirits not equal to this part in virtue of its intrinsic nobleness; yet not much of an aid to those to whom the heroic life is not in itself an attraction. The absolute worth of the true life is Christ’s first and chief line of argument; this is merely subsidiary.

Verse 28

Matthew 16:28 . crux interpretum , supposed by some to refer to the Transfiguration (Hilary, Chrys., Euthy., Theophy., etc.); by others to the destruction of Jerusalem (Wetstein, etc.); by others again to the origins of the Church (Calvin, Grotius, etc.). The general meaning can be inferred with certainty from the purpose to furnish an additional incentive to fidelity. It is: Be of good courage, there will be ample compensation for trial soon ; for some of you even before you die. This sense excludes the Transfiguration, which came too soon to be compensatory. The uncertainty comes in in connection with the form in which the general truth is stated. As to that, Christ’s speech was controlled not merely by His own thoughts but by the hopes of the future entertained by His disciples. He had to promise the advent of the Son of Man in His Kingdom or of the Kingdom of God in power (Mk.) within a generation, whatever His own forecast as to the future might be. That might postulate a wider range of time than some of His words indicate, just as some of His utterances and His general spirit postulate a wide range in space for the Gospel (universalism) though He conceived of His own mission as limited to Israel. If the logion concerning the Church (Matthew 16:18 ) be genuine, Jesus must have conceived a Christian era to be at least a possibility, for why trouble about founding a Church if the wind-up was to come in a few years? The words of Jesus about the future provide for two possible alternatives: for a near advent and for an indefinitely postponed advent. His promises naturally contemplate the former; much of His teaching about the kingdom easily fits into the latter. γεύσωνται θ .: a Hebrew idiom, but not exclusively so. For examples of the figure of tasting applied to experiences, vide Elsner in Mk. For Rabbinical use, vide Schöttgen and Wetstein. ἕως ἄν ἴδωσι , subjunctive after ἐν ἄν as usual in classics and N. T. in a clause referring to a future contingency depending on a verb referring to future time.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 16". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/matthew-16.html. 1897-1910.
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