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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 16

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-12


Matthew 15:39 to Matthew 16:12

Contents:Although the Lord landed privately on the western shore near Magdala, He was immediately met by His enemies. The combined authorities of the country now demand of Him to prove His claims to the Messianic title by showing that sign from heaven, which in their carnal expectations they connected with the appearance of the promised Deliverer. Their object evidently was to represent His probable refusal of their request as an acknowledgment of His being a false Messiah. Jesus dismisses them with a rebuke, In which He again points them to the sign of Jonah, i.e., to His death and resurrection. Thus rejected in Galilee, He immediately returns across the sea to the eastern shore, there to prepare in retirement for His last journey to Jerusalem. The warning addressed to the disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees and scribes was intended to teach them that they were now to forsake Galilee, which had practically surrendered itself to heathenism, just as Hoses and his people had left the land of Egypt.

1. The Sign from Heaven. Matthew 15:39 to Matthew 16:4

Matthew 15:39 And he sent away the multitude [multitudes, ὄχλους], and took ship [entered into the ship],15 and came into the coasts of Magdala [Magadan].16

Matthew 16:1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came,17 and tempting, desired him 2that he would shew [to show] them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be18 fair weather: for the sky is red. 3And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites,19 ye can [ye know how to]20 discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? 4A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign [and no sign shall] be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet21 Jonas [Jonah]. And he left them, and departed.


Matthew 15:39.—Into the coasts of Magdala [Magdalan, Magadan].—The circumstance that Jesus secretly lands in an obscure and unknown place, throws considerable light on the degree of hostility and persecution which He had to encounter during His last journey in Galilee. The watchfulness of the Jewish leaders appears from this, that despite the precautions used by the Lord, they are seemingly ready immediately to meet Him, this time with a categorical demand.—Magdalan lay on the western shore of the lake. Probably it is the modern small Village of el Mejdel, about an hour and a half to the north of Tiberias, and protected toward the sea by high cliffs (Robinson, ii. 897; Schubert, iii. 250). Robinson enumerates the various arguments against placing it on the eastern shore of the lake. In all likelihood the name of Mary Magdalene was derived from this place, which also gave birth to several of the Rabbins mentioned in the Talmud. According to Mark 8:10, the landing took place in the district of Dalmanutha, probably a village not far from Magdalan. We conjecture that the Lord touched the shore somewhere between these two villages, and nearer to Dalmanutha than to Magdalan—the account in Mark being the more accurate, while Matthew only speaks of Magdalan, as being the place more generally known. Winer suggests that Magdalan was the מִגְרַּל אֵל of the Old Testament; Ewald, that it was Megiddo, which, however, according to Robinson, 2:329, lay farther inland. The view of Ewald is based on the reading Μαγεδάν, in Codd. B., D., the Syriac version, etc. (which has been adopted by Lachmann and Tischendorf), and with which the reading Μαγεδάν (Vulg., Ital.) may be compared. But Codd. C., M., the Coptic translation, etc., read Μαγδαλάν. Now it is quite possible, either that this difference of reading may have originated from a desire to assimilate this name to that of a better known place, or else that Magada, the name of an obscure village on the lake, may have been converted into that of the well-known birthplace of Mary Magdalene.

Matthew 16:1. And the Pharisees and (the) Sadducees.—According to Strauss and de Wette, this is the same event as that recorded in Matthew 12:38. The remark is true, but only so far as the spirit, the tendency, and some of the external features, not so far as the peculiar characteristics, of the narrative are concerned. Evidently, it occurred at a later period of history; the place where the Saviour landed, the demand made upon Him, and His reply, are all different. Strauss and de Wette regard it as improbable that the Pharisees and Sadducees should have combined. And yet these two parties must have united in the Sanhedrin which condemned Jesus to death! Instead of such idle conjectures, it would have been well if critics had rather inquired how it came that the two parties even at this early period united in their hostility to the Saviour. That both the Pharisees and the Sadducees are introduced with the article,1 implies that in this case they represented the hierarchical authorities of the country generally. In the former contest, the Synagogue alone had been represented, while now in all probability the Sanhedrin itself, in its official capacity, deals with Jesus. Hence also the express demand of a sign from heaven, which may be considered as the logical inference from the last interview between the Pharisees and Jesus. On that occasion, the Saviour had not only discarded the authority of traditionalism, but His statements might even be interpreted as implying superiority to the law itself. This they knew was equivalent to asserting His claims as the Messiah. Accordingly, they now gave full utterance to the idea which the Pharisees of Galilee had previously urged, though in a less distinct manner ( Matthew 12:0), by demanding a sign from heaven. Withal, as Theophylact remarks, their request still implies the supposition that the miraculous cures performed by Him had been effected by the power of Beelzebul.

Tempting (πειράζοντες), or in order to tempt Him.—This does not necessarily imply the presupposition that He was really a false Messiah, and hence unable to show the sign from heaven. For, if He had acceded to their request, they would have been well satisfied with Him, and He would have been a Messiah according to their own mind, pledged to fulfil all their carnal hopes (see Matthew 4:0) Repeatedly afterward did they utter their secret desire that it might even be so; nor does this hope seem to be wholly extinct even in the derisive taunt, “If He be the Son of God let Him come down from the cross.” But these carnal hopes were already in great measure eclipsed by their unbelief and their hostility. Hence the primary object of this twofold temptation was to represent Jesus to the people as a spurious Messiah, who was unable to substantiate His claims.

A sign from heaven.—The same request had already been proffered by the Jews after He had driven from the temple those that bought and sold (John 2:18); and His reply “Destroy this temple,” etc., substantially conveyed the same meaning as the answer given on the occasion recorded in the text. A second demand to the same effect was made, according to John 6:30, immediately after the first miraculous feeding of the multitude, or about the same time as the request mentioned in Matthew 12:38; a proof that the artifice of entrapping Him by such a proposal was at the time further carried out. In the text, this demand is brought forward a third time, and now in most explicit language. This sign from heaven was popularly expected to be outwardly visible; such passages as Daniel 7:13 being interpreted in a sensuous manner, and probably referred to some visible manifestation of the Shechinah. From the answer of Christ, in which the appearance of the clouds as a sign of the weather is subordinated to the signs of the spiritual world, we infer that the Pharisees and Sadducees shared the popular notions. The sign which they expected was, therefore, something purely external, belonging to a totally different sphere from the miraculous cures performed by Jesus. That the term ἐπερωτᾷν implies not merely questioning (as Fritzsche and Meyer suppose), but a formal demand, appears from die reply of Jesus: γενεά, κ.τ.λ., σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ, and from the meaning of ἠρώτων in Matthew 15:23. The reply of Jesus is entirely adapted to the character of the deputation. If on a former occasion He had convinced the deputation from the synagogue that they were wretched teachers of the law, He now shows that these rulers were equally indifferent politicians, i.e., very superficial observers of the signs of the times. They knew how to prophesy the weather for the ensuing day, but not how to interpret the signs of the times.

Matthew 16:2-3. When it is evening.Curiosi erant admodum Judæi in observandis tempestatibus cæli et temperamento aëris. Lightfoot. We would suggest that the Lord attached a symbolical meaning to what He said about the signs of the weather. The red at even of the Old Testament betokened fair weather at hand. Similarly, the red sky at the commencement of the New Testament indicated the storm about to descend upon Israel. But they were incapable of understanding either one or other of these signs.

Matthew 16:3. The signs of the times.—The plural τὰ σημεί͂α τῶν καιρῶν is here used on account of the contrast of these two times. Beza, Kuinoel, and others, apply the expression to the miracles of Jesus; Grotius, to the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies; Meyer and de Wette, to the Messianic hopes and views entertained by the people in connection with Jesus. But undoubtedly these signs of the times depended mainly on their own relationship and conduct toward the Lord, which really constituted the contrast between this evening and morning, or the contrast of these καιρῶν. Accordingly, we might apply the redness of the sky at evening to the activity of Christ, and the red and lowering sky in the morning to His sufferings on the cross. This would strictly accord with His sign of the prophet Jonah. Besides, the reply of Jesus also involved the rebuke, that their views of the sign from heaven were entirely carnal and sensuous, applying only to the clouds and the outward sky; while the true sign from heaven consisted in the spiritual indications of the times. The circumstance that Jesus thus addressed the Pharisees and Sadducees before the people, seems to have been the reason why Luke records the event in a different connection (Luke 12:54). Compare also the μὴ μετεωρίζεσθε of Luke 12:29.

Matthew 16:4. The sign of Jonah.—This time without any further explanation; implying that their present demand was connected with the former request of the Pharisees (Luke 12:0), and hence that they were already acquainted with His explanation of the sign of Jonah. As if He would say, I refer you to My former statement on this subject as sufficient and final.

And He left them.—This abrupt termination indicates that He judicially gave them up. Bengel: Justa severitas. Comp. Matthew 15:10; Matthew 21:17; Matthew 22:46; Matthew 24:1. But the strongest evidence of this judicial surrender lies in the fact that Jesus at once passed to the eastern shore, and in His warning of the disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Manifestly Jesus now immediately returned with His disciples to the other side. (Comp. here Meyer against Fritzsche.)


1. The demand of the Pharisees for a sign from heaven was certainly in itself no absurdity. But it depended upon an entire confusion of the first and the second advent of Christ. It is quite true that the prophecies on which they founded their views contained references to vast transformations in the world which would result from the completion of Christ’s mission. But as the death and resurrection of Christ are related to the end of the world as the principle to the full development, or as the seed-corn to the ripe fruit, so also is the sign of Jonah (or Christ’s death and resurrection) most definitely connected with those signs from heaven which shall usher in the final catastrophe. Indeed, strictly speaking, it is the sign from heaven in principle which by and by will also appear in the clouds of heaven (Matthew 24:30).

2. Ye know how to discern the face of the sky, but.—Of course this statement does not imply that it was easier to interpret the signs of the spiritual world than those of the sky. But the former, and not the latter, was the calling and business of the Sanhedrin, while in reality they were better prophets of the weather than interpreters of those prophecies which it was their duty to expound. Besides, the statement also indicates that the signs of the sky are uncertain, and may deceive us; while moral signs, if properly understood, never mislead.

3. Mark relates that the Saviour sighed deeply in spirit when His enemies again met Him with this demand. He fully comprehended the decisive importance of that hour. Henceforth He could no longer tarry in Galilee—Galilee rejected Him. This holds even more true of Judea, whence these persecutions issued. The Master felt that now only a brief time of respite was left Him on the other side of Jordan, to prepare Himself and His intimate disciples for the decease at Jerusalem.
4. This was the third occasion on which Jesus was driven from Galilee, and passed over the lake into the mountains. The first time it was to avoid the court of Herod; the second time He retreated before the traditionalism of the schools; the third time before the hardened hierarchy of the whole country.


The demand of a sign from heaven; or, the old temptation under a new form. 1. The old temptation: (a) The proposal itself, to be a worldly Messiah, a Jewish conqueror, not a Saviour of nations; to overthrow the old world, not to renew the spiritual world by regeneration, and thereby to transform the external world. (b) Why a temptation? Because it was based upon elements of truth which were perverted into error. 2. The new form of this temptation, (a) It was under the guise of a sign from heaven; (b) partly an allurement and partly a threat, forming a transition from the temptations from the pleasures of the world (Matthew 4:0) to those from its sufferings (Matthew 26:0); (c) it was urged with the evident intention to represent the Lord to the people as a false Messiah, and thus to destroy His influence, even if He escaped their hands.—How the Jewish politicians, in their knowledge of the weather, overlooked the signs of the spiritual weather: (a) They lost the brightest day; (b) they encountered the severest storm.—The successors of the prophets sunk to the level of weather-prophets,—a warning example.—How even their superficial knowledge of nature would rise in testimony against their theology.—Why the Lord here calls them hypocrites? (a) Because they neglected and misunderstood those spiritual signs which it was their calling to interpret, while, on the other hand, they gave themselves to the interpretation of outward signs with which they had no business; (b) because in general they perverted their spiritual into a secular calling.—Outward calculations of things always end in this, that a man at last becomes slavishly dependent upon wind and weather.—How most men allow themselves to be so engrossed by the signs of the visible sky as to overlook what is going on in the spiritual sky.—The true signs of the time.—Signs at evening and in the morning in the kingdom of God.—Let us not be dependent on wind and weather, but look up to the Sun of righteousness.—Why no other sign than that of Jonah could be given to this evil and adulterous generation.—He left them and departed; or, the decisive hour: 1. His death was now decided upon; 2. their fall and judgment were now decided; 3. the grand course of events during the long-suffering of Christ, from His resurrection to His second advent, was now decided; 4. the future condition of the Church as sharing the fate of her banished and persecuted Lord was now decided; 5. the termination of the old things of this world by the final judgment was now decided.—And He left them; or, the silent commencement of a new era.—He departed; but they are still standing and waiting for the sign from heaven.

Starke:—The Pharisees and the Sadducees.—Hedinger: In any undertaking against Christ or His people, Pilate and Herod will always be ready to join hands, Luke 23:12.—The enemies of Christ always repeat objections which have already been thoroughly answered and refuted.—Unbelief trusts God no further than it can see with its eyes and feel with its hands; while true faith simply relies on the word of God, even though it sees neither signs nor miracles.—Canstein: Let us give heed to those times which God has marked by certain signs.—Woe to those from whom Jesus departs; who is to be their Saviour and Helper?

Gerlach:—If your vision were not at fault, you could descry miracles enough to satisfy you!

Heubner:—How fruitful is human wisdom in expedients for our earthly concerns, and how inexperienced and unskilful in divine things!—There are “signs of the times” in the kingdom of heaven.—These signs only a devout mind can read; the Spirit of God discloses the purposes of God.—A Christian and a spiritual policy.—Christ does not beg for applause.


[1][The article before Σαδδουκαῖοι is omitted by Tischendorf, Lachmann, and Alford on the best authorities, which Dr. Lange must have overlooked.—P. S.]

[15]Ch. 15, Matthew 15:39.—[Ἀνὲβη εἶς τὸ πλοῖον.]

[16] Matthew 15:39.—[The authorities are divided between Μαγδαλάν, Μαγαδά ν, and Μαγδαλά. The Vatican and the Sinaitic MSS. read Μαγαδάν, and so do Tischendorf, Lachmann, and Alford. Lange prefers Μαγδαλάν. See his Exeg. and Crit Notes in loc.—P. S.]

[17] Matthew 16:1.—[Better: And the Pharisees and (the) Sadducees came, Καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ (οί) Σαδδουκαῖοι.—P. S.]

[18] Matthew 16:2.—[The interpolation here and in Matthew 16:3 is unnecessary. Fair weather! is more lively. So Ewald, Lange: Sehön Wetter! Meyer: Heiteres Wetter! The Greek has only one word in each case, εὐδία (from εῦ̓ and Διός, gen. of Ζεύς), clear sky, fine weather, and χειμών, storm, rainy, foul weather.—P. S.]

[19] Matthew 16:3.— γποκριταί, hypocrites, is wanting in Codd., C., D., L., etc., and thrown out by Lachmann and Tischendorf [Cod. Sinait. omits all the words from ὀψίας γενομένης, to δύνασθε Matthew 16:2-3, probably by an oversight of the transcriber.—P. S.]

[20] Matthew 16:3.—[ Γινώσκετε. So also Lange: ihr versteht’s. The second discern (διακρίνελν) of the E. Vers, is an interpolation, but makes the sense clearer. The lit. rendering is: Ye know (γινώσκετε) how to discern the face of the sky; but can ye not (οὐ δύναδθε) the signs of the times? Lange gives τῶν καιρῶν an emphatic sense and translates: die Zeichen der Enttcheidungszeiten, the decisive epochs, such as the one of Christ’s ministry on earth.—P. S.]

[21] Matthew 16:4.— Τοῦ προφήτου is wanting in B., D., L., and erased by Lachmann and Tischendorf. [It is also omitted in the Codex from Mt. Sinai, and in the editions of Tregelles, and Alford. Lange retains it in his version, but in smaller type and in parenthesis.—P. S.]

Verses 5-12

2. The Leaven. Matthew 16:5-12

5And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 6Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees [and S.].2 7And they reasoned among themselves, saying, 8It is because we have taken [we took, ἐλάβομεν] no bread. Which when Jesus perceived,3 he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought [ye took, ἐλάβετε]4 no bread? 9Do ye not yet understand, neither [nor] remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets 10[travelling-baskets]5 ye took up [ἐλάβομεν]? Neither [Nor] the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets [provision-baskets] ye took up? 11How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread [spake not to you of loaves],6 that ye should [but] beware7 of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees 12[and S.]8? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees [and S.].7


Matthew 16:5. The circumstance that the disciples forgot to take bread with them forcibly illustrates their excitement, and the haste with which they had left the western shore. According to Mark (8:14), they had not more than one loaf in the ship with them. The event here recorded took place during the passage across the lake.

Matthew 16:6. The leaven.—“Ζύμην τὴν διδαχὴν ἐκάλεσεν, ὡς ὀξώδη καὶ σαπράν. Euth. Zigab. On the analogous application of שְׂאֹר by the Rabbins (to every contagious influence of and for evil), see Buxtorf, Lexic. Talm. p. 2303; Lightfoot on the passage. Differently, 13:33.” So Meyer. According to Schneckenburger and de Wette, our Lord here referred to the hypocrisy, not to the teaching of the Pharisees, which the Lord commends, comp. Matthew 13:4 But Meyer rightly insists that the expression refers not to their teaching in general (including their agreement with the law), but only to their sectarian peculiarities.9 The έντάλματα� (15:9), however, constitute only one part of the leaven. Applying to the two sects (the Sadducees as well as the Pharisees), the expression must refer to the corruptness of their teaching, arising from their secularism, which, like leaven, had infected and poisoned the whole people, and from which even the disciples were not quite free; more especially Judas, in whose heart this leaven was probably already beginning to operate. On the significance of the leaven, compare our remarks on Matthew 13:33.—With the usual superficiality of rationalism, von Ammon (ii. 285) supposes that domestic requirements or business engagements may have rendered the return to the eastern shore necessary, entirely overlooking the deep import of this event. In point of fact, it was a virtual banishment. As such the disciples also felt it. But a short time before they had traversed the length and breadth of the lake under peculiarly trying circumstances. Now they returned in the opposite direction by the same track. A second time they saw Capernaum at a distance, and they felt as if their home there were already lost. The Master read these feelings, and understood their sorrow. With brave determination, but as yet only partially renouncing the world, they followed Him; but their hearts still clung to the scene of their affections and hopes. Under these circumstances, Jesus addressed to them the solemn warning, “Take heed, and beware,” etc. “When the children of Israel went out of Egypt, they were commanded to put away the leaven, and to leave it behind them (Exodus 12:15-17). At the time, the expression referred to the spirit of Egypt as an infectious principle, most powerful for evil. They were not to take to Canaan any of the infectious corruptions of Egypt (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:0; Stier, 2:158). This journey of the Lord with his disciples resembled the passage of the children of Israel out of Egypt; like them, they now left behind the heathenism of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Saviour felt that the great Paschal feast—not symbolically, but in reality—was at hand. Withal, He was deeply affected by the thought that, unconsciously, His disciples still carried with them some of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Hence the warning (see the author’s Leben Jesu, ii. 2, 878).

And Sadducees.—Mark has instead: καὶ τῆςζύμης ̔Ηρώδον. If the Sadducees had enlisted the sympathies of Herod in demanding a sign from heaven, the situation of matters had become even more critical. But this does not necessarily follow from the text. There was a twofold kind of leaven, which might be designated as hypocritical secularism, and distinguished, as assuming in the one case the garb of exclusiveness, in the other that of liberalism. Here we have for the first time an indication of another offence than that of pharisaical exclusiveness, in the shape of the worldly policy of Herod coquetting with the Roman authorities of the land. We see, as it were, the germ of the later calumny, that Jesus claimed to be a king, and must therefore be an enemy to Cæsar.

How many baskets.—From Acts 9:25, Bengel rightly infers that a σπυρὶς was larger than a κόφινος.


1. The false exegesis of the disciples on the words of the Saviour may be regarded as the prototype of many a later miserable performance of the same kind. At first they probably tried to understand them literally, and therefore as meaning: Beware of partaking of the bread of the Pharisees and Sadducees, or have no further communion with them. But this would have implied that they would have had to make a separate provision for themselves, as the whole country was divided between the parties of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and hence any provision which they might have got from without would have been impure.—These thoughts were succeeded by the recollection that they had no bread, and by cares which drew down upon them the rebuke of the Lord about the littleness of their faith.
2. Do ye not yet understand? The expressions are the same as before in connection with the washing of the hands. Now that the separation had actually commenced, it was high time that they should have better understanding. The Gospel of Mark gives a fuller outline of this rebuke.


The threefold retirement of the Lord across the lake.—Resemblance between the passage of the Lord across the lake and that of the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.—Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees: 1. Its designation: a twofold kind of leaven, and yet in reality only one leaven (exclusive bigotry and lax universalism,—after all only secularity under the guise of piety). 2. The warning: (a) Beware; (b) so that, while avoiding one of these errors, ye fall not into the other.—To cross with Jesus to the other side implies and requires complete renunciation of the world.—It matters little that we outwardly leave Egypt, if we carry its corruption in our hearts.—The feelings of the Master and those of His disciples on leaving the realm of the Pharisees: 1. The foresight of the Master, and the negligence of the disciples; 2. the freedom from care of the Master, and the anxieties of the disciples; 3. the calmness of the Master, and the excitement and distress of the disciples.—Connection between the memory and the heart: 1. Excitement the spring of forgetfulness; 2. calmness and peace the surest means of presence of mind.—The circumstance that the disciples had so frequently misinterpreted the meaning of the Lord, recorded for our warning.—Principal causes of false interpretations of the word of God: 1. Slavish literality; 2. personal interests; 3. fear; 4. arbitrary perversions.—How the Lord had to repeat to His disciples, and to question them on, the history of the twofold feeding of the multitude.—The anxiety of the disciples after the miraculous feeding of the multitude itself a mournful wonder.—Although the Lord ever performs new miracles, yet faith in Him still continues a miracle.—Then understood they ( Matthew 16:12): when error is removed, truth finds an entrance.—The Lord emphatically reiterates: Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.—The leaven of Jewish legalism and of heathen secularism in the Church of Christ.

Starke:Quesnel: We do not lose by following Christ so closely as for a time to forget every earthly consideration, since, after all, we have the best part, Psalms 73:25.—Majus: Let us not mix up different creeds.—Beware of heretics and false teachers.—Cramer: As leaven pervades the whole mass, so will a single error on any fundamental doctrine corrupt all our other views, depriving them of their spiritual value, 2 Timothy 2:17.—Zeisius: Hearers are apt to suppose that certain sermons are aimed against them, while this may be due to the voice of their own conscience, not to the words of the preacher.—Majus: The mistakes of disciples, and their consequences.—Canstein: How often does anxiety for daily bread take the place of anxiety for the soul!—Jesus searching the heart.—Christ bearing with the weakness of our faith, and giving more grace.—Cramer: Frequent meditation on the past gracious and wonderful provisions of our God an approved remedy for unbelief.—How frequently is it thus that they who ought to have been teachers have need to be taught again the first principles of divine truth!

Gerlach:—The words of Jesus may be misinter preted or forgotten simply from weakness of faith.—Accordingly, the Lord rebukes not so much their ignorance, as their weakness of faith and their carnality, which was the source of that ignorance.

Heubner:—Pharisaism: appearance of piety hypocritical ostentation of faith. Sadducism: appearance of a spirit of inquiry, concealment of faith from fear of men.—On Matthew 16:7 : Similarly we might say, Simple-minded Christians do not understand the arts and plans by which unbelief undermines Christianity.

Matthew 16:8-10 : A clear evidence this that the Apostles were neither credulous, nor on the watch for miracles.


[2] Matthew 16:6.—[Without the article, which is wanting in the Greek before Sadducees.—P. S.]

[3] Matthew 16:8.—[Better: And when Jesus perceived it, he said, or: And Jesus knowing it said to them, γνοὺς δὲδ ̔Ι ηδοῦς εῖπεν αὐτοῖς.—P. S.]

[4] Matthew 16:8.—For ἐλάβετε, B., D., Vulgata, etc., read έ̓χετε, ye have. So Lachmann. Meyer favors it. Tischendorf [and Alford] adhere to the Recepta, which accords best with the connection. [Codex Sinaiticus reads: έ̓χετε, and omits the words οὐ μνημονεύετε in the following verse.—P. S.]

[5] Matthew 16:9.—[ Κοφίνους, as distinct from σπυρίδας in Matthew 16:10. “The κ όφινος was proverbially the Jewish travelling-basket; comp. Juv. Sat. iii. 15: ‘Judæis, quorum cophinus fænumque supellex.’ ” Robinson, Gr. and E. Lex. of the N. T. Σπυρίς (σπεῖρα) is a round plaited basket for storing grain, bread, fish, and other provisions; comp. Matthew 15:37; Mark 8:8; Mark 8:20; Acts 9:25. The Vulgate translates the one cophinos, the other sportas; Ewald uses: Körbe and Handkörbe; Lange, better: Reisekörbe and Speisekörbe (travelling-baskets and provision-baskets); Wiclif: cofyns and lepus; the Rheims Vers.: baskets and moundes; Campbell likewise: baskets and mounds; but all other Engl. Vers. which I compared, use baskets in both cases.—P. S.]

[6] Matthew 16:11.—Tischendorf, following Griesbach and the majority of witnesses, reads the plural ά̓ρτων. [So also Lachmann, and Alford, who regards the lect. rec. ά̓ρτου as an emendation to express the sense better. Codd. Sinaiticus, Vaticanus. and Ephræmi Syri, the three eldest extant, unanimously sustain the plural, but Cod. Alexandrinus (as published by B. H. Cowper) reads the singular, and so the Lat. Vulgate (pane). Lange translates Brode, loaves.—P. S.]

[7] Matthew 16:11.— ΙΙ ροσέχε τεδέ, according to B., C, L, al., Lachmann, Tischendorf. against προσέχειν. Hence a repeated admonition, not simply a narrative. See Meyer against Fritzsche. [Cod. Sinaiticus, and the English critical editors of the Greek Test, Tregelles and Alford, likewise read the imperative προσέχετε δὲ, but beware, instead of the infinitive προσέχειν, to beware, or that ye should beware.—P. S.]

[8] Matthew 16:11-12.—[Omit of the, as in Matthew 16:6; the article not being repeated in the Greek.—P. S.]

[9][The Edinb. translator, who never seems to have referred to Meyer, so often quoted in this Commentary, makes him and Lange say here the exact reverse, viz.: “Meyer insists that the expression applied not merely to their own teaching, but also to those points in which they agreed with the law itself.” In this case Christ would have warned the disciples against the law of God! But Meyer says, p. 316 (note), after opposing Schneckenburger’s and de Wette’s reference of the leaven to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees: “Aus dem Bilde des Sauerteigs erhellt von selbst, dass nicht die Lehre jener Secten überhaupt und im Ganzen (such ihre Uebereinstimmung mit dem Gesetze mit eingeschlossen) gemeint gewesen sei, sondern ihre charakteristische Secten-Lehre, ihre die Moralität verderbendem ἐνταΛματα� (15:9), daher Er such die Lenre beider zusammen als ζύμη darstellen konnte, so verchioden auch ihre beider-Mettgen Principien waren.”—P. S.]

Verses 13-20


Christ presents the future history of the Kingdom of Heaven, in opposition to the Ancient World and the Theocracy

Contents (from Matthew 16:18 to Matthew 20:16):—The period has now arrived for founding the Church of Christ, or ὲκκλησία, distinct and visible Community, in opposition to that ancient form of he Theocracy which was henceforth doomed to judgment. The open and full confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, formed, so to speak, the moment when the ἐκκλησία was born. From that hour Christ manifested and owned His Church as such, through the confession which the Church made of Him. This Church is here presented in its leading characteristics: 1. In its prophetic character as confessing Christ, from Matthew 16:13 to Matthew 17:27; Matthew 2:0. in its priestly capacity, from Matthew 18:1 to Matthew 19:26; & in Its kingly manifestation, from Matthew 19:27 to Matthew 20:16.




The Church of Christ in its prophetic character is here set before us, first, as confessing Christ, Matthew 16:13-20; then as bearing the cross of Christ, in contrast to that worldly fear of the cross by which He was assailed, Matthew 16:21-28; then, as in real fellowship with the spirits of the blessed, in opposition to the solitary tabernacles of spurious separation from the world, Matthew 17:1-8.—Next, the Church is described as wholly unknown and hidden, Matthew 16:9-13; yet as wonder-working, Matthew 16:14-21; though still in human weakness, Matthew 16:22-23; as free, but voluntarily subject and paying tribute to the old temple, Matthew 16:24-27.

The historical succession of events was as follows:—In company with His disciples, the Lord passed along the left bank of the Jordan, toward the mountains. At Bethsaida Julias He performed the cure of a blind person (recorded in Mark 8:22), at the same time enjoining strict silence upon him. Thence they continued their journey to the immediate neighborhood of Cæsarea Philippi, touching (as it would seem from Mark 8:27) only the adjoining villages, but avoiding the town itself. It was in these coasts, or district, that the Lord evoked the confession of Peter, which was followed by the announcement of the foundation of His Church, ἐκκλησία. Immediately afterward, Jesus distinctly announced His impending sufferings, since these were connected with the foundation of His Church, as the latter was with the confession of His name. On this occasion Peter began to rebuke Him; and he who had lately been commended as confessing, was now reproved as tempting. The event just recorded led to the admonition, addressed to His disciples generally, on the subject of taking up the cross and following Him. A week later, the Lord called His three most intimate disciples to witness His transfiguration on the Mount. As they came down, Jesus explained to them the advent and mission of Elijah. At the foot of the mountain, the healing of the lunatic boy, possessed with a devil took place. From thence Jesus secretly passed through Galilee, probably for the purpose of acquainting His friends with those impending sufferings, for which He had already prepared His disciples. Refusing the solicitation of His brethren to join the caravan going up to the feast, He went secretly to Jerusalem, to the Feast of Tabernacles, which was celebrated in autumn. Thus the history advances to the month of October of the year 782 (according to Wieseler, to the 12th October), John 7:1-10. In Jerusalem the events recorded in John 7:11, etc., took place, when Jesus pointed to the fulfilment of the Old Testament symbols in His life. The healing of the man blind from his birth (John 9:0), hastened the full and final determination of the Jewish authorities to put Him to death. But in all probability Jesus did not continue in Judea during the interval between the Feast of Tabernacles in October, and the festival of the Dedication of the Temple in December (according to Wieseler, the 27th December). During that period He appears to have paid a farewell visit to Galilee, and to have passed from Samaria to Perea, where He tarried till the feast of the Dedication of the Temple (Leben Jesu, ii. 2, 1003). After His return to Galilee, Jesus again appeared in public, though probably, as in Jerusalem, only surrounded by a large number of His friends. For the last time Jesus now came to Capernaum, where He was asked for the payment of the temple tribute, Matthew 17:24-27. Thus far our section.

A. The Church as confessing Christ, the Son of God. Matthew 16:13-20

(The Gospel for the Festival of St. Peter and Paul—Parallels: Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21.)

13When Jesus came into the coasts [parts, τὰ μέρη] of Cesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom [Who] do men say that I,10 the Son of man, am? 14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias [Elijah]; and others, Jeremiah 15:0[Jeremiah], or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom [who] say ye that I am? 16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ [the Messiah], the Son of the living God. 17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona [Bar Jonah, son of Jonah]11: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which [who] is in heaven [the heavens]. 18And I say also [And I also, κἀγὼ δέ, say] unto thee. That thou art Peter [ΙΙέτρος], and upon [on] this rock [πέτρα]12 I will build my Church [ἐκκλησία];13 and the gates of hell [hades]14 shall not prevail against it.15 19And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven [the heavens]: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven [the heavens]; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven [the heavens].

20Then charged16 he his [the]17 disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ [he is the Christ].18


Matthew 16:13. Into the parts of Cæsarea Philippi.—The cure of the blind person at the eastern Beth saida (Mark 13:22) had taken place before that. Cæsarea Philippi, formerly called Paneas (Plin. H.N. V. 15), from the mountain Panius, dedicated to Pan, in the immediate neighborhood. The town is supposed to have been the ancient Leshem, Joshua 19:47; Laish, Judges 18:7; and Dan—“from Dan to Beersheba.” It lay near the sources of Jordan, at the foot of Mount Lebanon, a day’s journey from Sidon, in Gaulonitis, and was partly inhabited by heathens. The town was enlarged and beautified by Philip the Tetrarch, who called it Cœsarea (Kingston) in honor of Cæsar Tiberius. The name Philippi was intended to distinguish it from Cæsarea Palestine (Robinson, Palest. ii. 439; also, vol. iii. sect 9.). Tradition reports that the woman with the issue of blood resided here. Her name is said to have been Berenice. Agrippa II. further embellished this city, and called it Neronias in honor of Nero. The modern village of Banias, and the ruins around it, mark the site of the ancient city.

Who [not whom] do men say that I am?—How do men explain the appearance of the Son of Man? Meyer: What do they understand by the designation, Son of Man? De Wette: I who am a humble, lowly man. But this completely misses the peculiar import of the expression, Son of Man.

Matthew 16:14. Some say.—“The reply shows that, in general, He was not yet looked upon as the Messiah.” Meyer. But according to the representation of the evangelist, we must rather infer that Christ’s enemies had by their calumnies succeeded in lowering the popular estimate concerning Him.

John the Baptist,See Matthew 14:2. This, for a time, had been the opinion of the courtiers of Herod.—Elijah,—as the precursor of the Messiah. Such was the view professed by those whom fear of their superiors induced to deny His claims to the Messianic office, while, from a desire of not entirely surrendering the expectations which had been excited by His appearance, they still regarded Him as a prophet.—Jeremiah.—Of course, in the same sense as Elijah,—not in the sense of literally revisiting the earth, nor in that of implying the doctrine of the transmigration of souls [metempsychosis].19 The opinion of these persons concerning Jesus was evidently lower than that of those who regarded Him as Elijah (Mark 15:35; John 1:21). The one party referred especially to what might be designated as the reformation inaugurated by Jesus, while the other had regard to His denunciations of the corruptions of the times.—Or one of the prophets.—According to the lowest view, He was represented by discouraged friends as one of the old prophets. Three points are clearly brought out in this conversation: 1. That, to a certain extent, Jesus was still generally acknowledged by the people. 2. That the faith of the majority had been lowered and misled by the influence of their superiors, so that diverging opinions were now entertained regarding Him. 3. That this inconstancy and wavering led to a decreasing measure of homage.

Matthew 16:15. But who say ye that I am?—This was the decisive moment in which the separation of the New Testament ἐκκλησία from the Old Testament theocracy was to be made. The hour had come for the utterance of a distinct Christian confession.

Matthew 16:16. Simon Peter.—Peter answered not merely in his own name, but in that of all the disciples.20Thou art the Christ,i.e., the Messiah Himself. And this not in the sense in which carnal Jewish traditionalism held the doctrine of the Messiah, but in the true and spiritual import of the title—the Son of the living God—The latter expression must not be taken merely in a negative sense, as denoting the True God in opposition to false deities; it must also be viewed in a positive sense, as referring to Him whose manifestations in Israel were completed in and crowned by the appearance of His Son as the Messiah. This, however, implies Sonship not only in a moral or official, but also in the ontological sense. Thus the reply of Peter had all the characteristics of a genuine confession—being decided, solemn, and deep.

[The confession of Peter is the first and fundamental Christian confession of faith, and the germ of the Apostles’ Creed. It is a confession, not of mere human opinions, or views, or convictions, however firm, but of a divinely wrought faith, and not of faith only (I believe that Thou art), but of adoration and worship (Thou art). It is christological, i.e., a confession of Jesus Christ as the centre and heart of the whole Christian system, and the only and all-sufficient fountain of spiritual life. It is a confession of Jesus Christ as a true man (Thou, Jesus), as the promised Messiah (the Christ), and as the eternal Son of God (the Son—not a son—of the living God.), hence as the God-Man and Saviour of the world. It is thus a confession of the mystery of the Incarnation in the widest sense, the great central mystery of godliness, “God manifest in the flesh.”—Compare also the excellent remarks of Olshausen (in Kendrick’s Am. ed., vol. i p. 545 sq.) and Alford, who, following Olshausen, says in loc.: “The confession is not made in the terms of the other answer: it is not ‘we say,’ or “I say,’ but ‘Thou art’. It is the expression of an inward conviction wrought by God’s Spirit. The excellence of this confession is, that it brings out both the human and the divine nature of the Lord: δΧριδτός is the Messiah, the Son of David, the anointed King; δυἱὸς το ν͂Θεον͂τον ͂ζῶντος is the Eternal Son, begotten of the Eternal Father, as the last word most emphatically implies, not ‘Son of God’ in any inferior figurative sense, not one of the sons of God, of angelic nature, but the Son of the living God, having in Him the Sonship and the divine nature, in a sense in which they could be in none else. This was the view of the person of Christ quite distinct from the Jewish Messianic idea, which appears to have been (Justin Mart. Dial. p. 267) that he should be born from men, but selected by God for the office on account of his eminent virtues. This distinction accounts for the solemn blessing pronounced in the next verse. Ζῶντος must not for a moment be taken here, as it sometimes is used (e.g., Acts 14:15), as merely distinguishing the true God from dead idols: it is here emphatic, and imparts force and precision to υἱός. That Peter, when he uttered the words, understood by them in detail all that we now understand, is not of course here asserted, but that they were his testimony to the true Humanity and true Divinity of the Lord, in that sense of deep truth and reliance, out of which springs the Christian life of the Church.” Meyer, indeed, takes τοῦ ζωντος simply as the solemn epithet of the true God in opposition to the dead idols of the heathen; but there was no reason here for contrasting the true God with heathen idols, and Peter must have meant to convey the idea, however imperfectly understood by him at the time, that the Godhead itself was truly revealed in, and reflected from, the human person of Christ in a sense and to a degree compared with which all former manifestations of God appeared to him like dead shadows. He echoed the declaration from heaven at Christ’s baptism: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” and recognized in Him the essential and eternal life of the great Jehovah.—P. S.]

Matthew 16:17. Jesus answered.—Also a confession decided, solemn, and deep; being the divine confession of the Lord in favor of the Church, which had now confessed His name, and of her first witness.

Blessed art thou (comp. Romans 10:9), Simon, son of Jonah.21—Meyer denies in vain the antithesis between this address and the new title given to Peter. Different views have been taken in reference to this antithesis. 1. Paulus explains it: Simon, or obedient hearer,—son of Jonas, or son of oppression. 2. Olshausen: יוֹוה, dove, with reference to the Holy Spirit under the figure of a dove. Thou, Simon, art a child of the Spirit. 3. Lange (Leben Jesu, ii. 2, 469): Thou, Simon, son of a dove (which makes its nest in the rock, a figure of the Church), shalt be called a rock (the rocklike dwelling-place of the dove, i.e., of the Church).22 With this antithesis the other in the same verse is connected. According to the flesh, thou art a natural son of Jonah; but according to this revelation of the Spirit, a child of the Father who is in heaven (referring to his regeneration, and consequent faith and confession). [Similarly Alford: The name “Simon Bar Jonas” is doubtless used as indicating his fleshly state and extraction, and forming the greater contrast to his spiritual state, name, and blessing, which follow. The name Σίμων ̓Ιωνᾶ, Simon, son of Jonas or Jonah, is uttered when he is reminded by the thrice-repeated inquiry, “Lovest thou me?” of his frailty, in his previous denial of his Lord, John 21:15-17.—P. S.]

Flesh and blood.—Various views have been taken of this expression. 1. Calvin, Beza, Neander, de Wette, refer it to our physical nature in opposition to the πνεῦμα. To this Meyer objects, that our physical nature is termed in Scripture only σάρξ, not σὰρξ καὶ αῖμα (in 1 Corinthians 15:50, “flesh and blood” should be literally understood). 2. According to Light foot and Meyer, it must be taken (with special reference to the fact, that the Rabbins use בָּשִׂר ורִם as a kind of paraphrase for Son of man, including the accessory idea of the weakness involved in our corporeal nature), as simply denoting weak man, equivalent to nemo mortalium (as in Galatians 1:16). 3. We explain it: the natural, carnal descent, as contrasted with spiritual generation. John 1:13 : οἳοὐκ ἐξ αἰμάτων, οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκός κ. τ. λ. This appears still further from the connection between the expressions, “flesh and blood” and “son of Jonah,” and from the antithesis, “My Father who is in heaven.” Hence Galatians 1:16 must mean: When I received a commission to preach to the Gentiles, I conferred not with my Jewish nationality; and Ephesians 6:12 : In reality, we wrestle not with beings of human kind, but with the powers of darkness, whose representatives and instruments they are; and 1 Corinthians 15:50 : The kind which is of this world (of the first man, who is of the earth) shall not inherit the kingdom of God; but we must enter it by a complete transformation into a second and new life which is from heaven. Accordingly, the antithesis in the text is between knowledge resulting from natural human development, or on the basis of natural birth, and knowledge proceeding from the revelation of the Father in heaven, or on the basis of regeneration.

Hath not revealed it,—but My Father.—A difficulty has been felt, how to reconcile this declaration with the fact, that the disciples had at a much earlier period recognized Jesus as the Messiah (John 1:42; John 1:46; John 1:50). 1. Olshausen holds that this confession of Peter indicates a much more advanced state of knowledge: δ υὶὸς τον͂ Θεον͂, τοῦ ζωντος. 2. Neander thinks that all earlier revelations had more or less proceeded from flesh and blood. 3. Meyer suggests that the text refers to that first acknowledgment of Jesus as the Messiah, in consequence of which the disciples came and surrendered themselves, to Him.23 4. In our view, the new element in this confession lies, first of all, in its ethical form. It was no longer a mere knowledge (or recognition) of Christ. While the general knowledge of the Jews concerning the Messiah had retrograded, and degenerated into discordant and self contradictory opinions, the knowledge of the disciples had advanced, and was now summed up and concentrated into an act of spiritual faith in Peter’s confession, which, in view of the hostility of the Jewish rulers, may be characterized as a real martyrdom (μαρτυρία). Another new element lay in the view now expressed concerning the Messiah. On all the main points, the Jewish and traditional notions of the Messiah had evidently been thrown off, and a pure and spiritual faith attained from converse with the life of Jesus. In both these respects, it was a revelation of the Father in heaven, i.e., a heavenly and spiritual production. The new life was germinating in the hearts of the disciples.—De Wette regards this passage as incompatible with the earlier acknowledgments of the Messiah; while Fritzsche, Schneckenburger, and Strauss talk of a twofold period in Christ’s ministry: the first, when He was a disciple of John; the second, when He attained to consciousness of His Messianic dignity. But these critics have wholly misunderstood this narrative.

Matthew 16:18. But I also say unto thee.—The expression shows in a striking manner the reciprocity existing between Christ and His disciples. Their confession solicits His confession.24

Thou art Peter, --ΙΙέτρος, in Aramaic כֵּרפָא the stone, or the rock (see Meyer). The Greek masculine noun arose from the translation of the name into Greek; the name itself had been given at an earlier period, John 1:42. It was now bestowed a second time to indicate the relationship subsisting between Peter and the Ecclesia, rather than to prove that Peter really was what his name implied (Meyer). From the first this name was intended to be symbolical; although its real meaning was only attained at a later period in the history of Peter. But at the same time the words of Jesus imply the acknowledgment that his character as Peter had just appeared in this confession. [It should be observed that in John 1:42 (in the Gr. text, 16:43) we read: “Thou shalt be called (κλπθήσπ) Cephas,” but here: “Thou art (εῖ) Peter.”—P. S.]

And on this rock.—For the various interpretations of this passage, see Wolf’s Curœ. We submit the following summary of them: 1. The term “rock” is referred to Christ Himself. Thus Jerome,25 Augustine,26 Chemnitz, Fabricius, and others.*—2. It is referred to Peter’s confession. Thus most of the Fathers, several Popes, Leo I.,27 Huss in the Tractat. de ecclesia, the Articuli Smalcald. in the Append., Luther,28 Febronius, and others,29—3. It is applied to Peter himself, (a) In the popish sense, by Baronius and Bellarmin, [Passaglia,] as implying that Peter was invested with a permanent primacy.30 (b) With reference to the special call and work of Peter as an Apostle. By thee, Peter, as the most prominent of My witnesses, shall the Church be founded and established: Acts 2:10. So, many Roman Catholics, as Launoi, Dupin,—and later Protestant expositors, as Werenfels, Pfaff, Bengel, and Crusius. Heubner thinks that the antanaclasis, or the connecting of Peter with πέτρα , is in favor of this view. But he [as also nearly all other commentators who represent this view] combines with it the application of the term to the confession. 31—4. It is applied to Peter, inclusive of all the other Apostles, and, indeed, of all believers. Thus Origen on Matthew 16:18 : “Every believer who is enlightened by the Father is also a rock.”—5. In our opinion, the Lord here generalizes, so to speak, the individual Peter into the general πέτρα, referring to what may be called the petrine characteristic of the Church—viz., faithfulness of confession,32—as first distinctly exhibited by Peter. Hence the words of Jesus only refer to Peter in so far as by this confession he identified himself with Christ, and was the first to upbuild the Church by his testimony. But in so far as the text alludes to an abiding foundation of the Church, the expression refers not to the Apostle as an individual, but to πέτρα. in the more general sense, or to faithfulness of confession. That Peter was here meant in his higher relation, and not in himself, appears from the change of terms, first πέ τ̣ ρος, then πέτρα; also from the contrast in Matthew 16:22; while the fact that his distinction conferred no official primacy is evident from this, that the same rights and privileges were bestowed upon all the Apostles: Matthew 18:18; John 20:23; Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14. That he himself claimed no preëminence appears from his First Epistle, in which he designates Christ as the corner-stone, and Christians as living stones, 1 Peter 2:5-6 (as themselves Peters, or related to Peter). Lastly, that he knew of no successors in the sense of the Papacy, is proved by his exhortation to the presbyters not to be lords over God’s heritage (the κλπ͂ροι, 1 Peter 5:3).

My Church.—Here the ὲκκλπσία of Christ appears for the first time in distinct contrast to the Jewish congregation, קָהִל. Hence the passage refers not simply to a community of believers, but to a definite organization of this community (compare what follows on the keys). Accordingly, the passage alludes to the Church as the organized and visible form of the βασιλεία των ον̓ρανων. The Church is not the kingdom of heaven itself, but a positive institution of Christ by which, on the one hand, the kingdom of heaven becomes directly manifest in the world by its worship, while, on the other hand, it spreads through the world by means of its missionary efforts. The Church bears the same relation to the kingdom of heaven as the Messianic state under the Old Testament to the theocracy, the two being certainly not identical.

The gates of hades (underworld).—De Wette: “Here, equivalent to the kingdom of Satan.” But this is not the scriptural conception of hades or sheol. Throughout the Bible hades means the kingdom of death; which is, indeed, connected with the kingdom of Satan, but has a more comprehensive meaning. Hades is described as having gates; it is figuratively represented as a castle with gates (Song of Solomon 8:6; Job 38:17; lsa. 38:10; Psalms 107:18). These gates serve a hostile purpose, since they opened, like a yawning abyss of death, to swallow up Christ, and then Peter, or the Apostles and the Church, in their martyrdom. For a long time it seemed as if the Church of Christ would become the prey of this destroying hades. But its gates shall not ultimately prevail—they shall be taken; and Christ will overcome and abolish the kingdom of death in His Church (see lsa. 25:8; Hos 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:15; Ephesians 1:19-20). Of course, the passage also implies conflict with the kingdom of evil, and victory over it; but its leading thought is the triumph of life over death, of the kingdom of the resurrection over the usurped reign of the kingdom of hades.—Erasmus, Calvin, and others, refer it to the victory over Satan; Grotius, to that over death;33 Ewald, to that over all the monsters of hell, let loose through these open gates; Glöckler, to that over the machinations of the kingdom of darkness (the gate being the place of council in the East); Meyer, to the superiority of the Church over hades, without any allusion to an attack on the part of hades. The idea, that the Old Testament ἐκκλητία would fall before the gates of hades, is here evidently implied (Leben Jesu, ii. 2, p. 887.)

Matthew 16:19.The keys of the kingdom of heaven.Luke 11:52; Revelation 1:18; Revelation 3:7; Revelation 9:1; Revelation 20:1. It is the prerogative of the Apostles, either to admit into the kingdom of heaven, or to exclude from it. Meyer: “The figure of the keys corresponds with the figurative expression οἱκοδομτ̀σω in Matthew 16:18; since in Matthew 16:18 the ὲκκλησία, which, at Christ’s second appearing, is destined to become the βασιλεία ταν οὐραναν—(as if this were not already its real, though not its open character, which at Christ’s second coming shall only become outwardly manifest!)—is represented as a building. But, in reference to Peter, the figure changes from that of a rock, or foundation, to that of an οἰκονόμος; or, in other words, from the position and character of Peter to his office and work.” But evidently the antithesis here presented is different from this view. Peter is designated the foundation-stone as being the first confessing member of the Church, though with an allusion to his calling; while in his official relation to the Church he is represented as guardian of the Holy City. Hence the expression, rock, refers to the nucleus of the Church as embodied in Peter; while the keys allude to the apostolic office and vocation in the Church.

[Alford: “Another personal promise to Peter, remarkably fulfilled in his being the first to admit both Jews and Gentiles into the Church; thus using the power of the keys to open the door of salvation?” Wordsworth applies the promise in a primary and personal sense to Peter, but in a secondary and general sense also to the Church, and especially the ministers who hold and profess the faith of Peter and are called to preach the gospel, to administer the sacraments, and to exercise discipline. Augustine: “Has claves non homo unus, sed unitas accepit ecclesiœ.”—P. S.]

And whatsoever thou shalt bind.—A somewhat difficult antithesis, especially with reference to the preceding context. Bretschneider (Lexicon): “The expression ‘binding’ means to bind with the Church; and ‘loosing,’ to loose from the Church.” But this is to confound ideas which are very different. Olshausen understands it of the ancient custom of tying the doors. But the text speaks of a key. Stier regards it as in accordance with rabbinical phraseology, taken from the Old Testament; binding and loosing being equivalent to forbidding and permitting, and more especially to remitting and retaining sins. But these two ideas are quite different. Lightfoot, Schöttgen, and, after them, von Amnion, hold that the expression implied three things: 1. Authority to declare a thing unlawful or lawful. Thus Meyer regards δεειν and λν̇ελν as equivalent to the rabbinical אסר and התיר , to forbid, and to permit. 2. To pronounce an action, accordingly, as criminal or innocent. 3. Thereupon to pronounce a ban or to revoke it. But as the Lord here speaks of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, He can only have referred directly to the last-mentioned meaning of the expression, though it involved the first and second, as the sentence of the Apostles would always be according to truth. A comparison of the parallel passage in Matthew 18:18 confirms this view. There Church discipline is enjoined on the disciples collectively, to whom precisely the same assurance is given which in the text is granted to Peter alone; while in John 20:23 the order is reversed: the expression, remitting sins, being equivalent for loosing, and retaining sins, for binding. The whole passage forms a contrast to the ecclesiastical discipline of the Pharisees, Matthew 23:0. From the evangelical character of the New Testament ministry, it seems to us impossible to interpret the expression as meaning to forbid and to permit, according to the analogy of rabbinical usage. To bind up sins, as in a bundle, implies coming judgment (Job 14:17; Hosea 13:12); while, on the other hand, sins forgiven are described as loosed (LXX. Isaiah 40:2). Both figures are based on a deeper view of the case. When a person is refused admission into the Church, or excluded from it, all the guilt of his life is, so to speak, concentrated into one judgment; while its collective effect is removed, or loosed, when he is received into the Church, or absolved. The object of this binding and loosing is stated only in general terms. No doubt it combined all the three elements of the power of the keys, as the non remission or remission of sins (Chrysostom and many others,—viz.: 1. The principle of admission or non-admission into the Church, or the announcement of grace and of judgment (the kingdom of heaven is closed to unbelievers, opened to believers). 2. Personal decision as to the admission of catechumens (Acts 8:0.). 3. The exercise of discipline, or the administration of excommunication from the Church (in the narrower sense, i.e., without curse or interdict attaching thereto). In the antithesis between earth and heaven, the former expression refers to the order and organization of the visible Church; the latter, to the kingdom of heaven itself. These two elements then—the actual and the ideal Church—were to coincide in the pure administration of the Apostles. But this promise is limited by certain conditions. It was granted to Peter in his capacity as a witness, and as confessing the revelation of the Father (Acts 5:0.), but not to Peter as wavering or declining from the truth (Matthew 16:23; Galatians 2:0.).

Matthew 16:20. That they should tell no man.—Since the people would not give up their carnal notions of a worldly millennium. The Christian acknowledgment of the Messiah was not to be mixed up with Jewish expectations. Christ’s Messianic life had to be actually completed before His disciples were to testify of Him as the Christ Nay, the Lord Himself was to be the first publicly to announce it to the people, in the hour of His martyrdom (Matthew 26:64).


1. At first sight it may seem an accident that the first announcement of the Church as distinct from, and in contrast to, the State—while the ancient theocratic community combined both Church and State—should have been made in the district of Cæsarea, which owned the sway of so mild a monarch as Philip. At any rate, the event was one of universal historical importance, and may be regarded as the preparation for the feast of Pentecost
2. In what passed between our Lord and His disciples we are led to observe,—(1) The contrast between human opinions of religion and a confession of faith prompted and evoked by the grace of God:—in the former case, fear, dejection, uncertainty, and discordance; in the latter, courage, frankness, certainty, and unity. (2) The indissoluble connection between true confession and a life of revelation and in the Spirit, or regeneration; (3) between a common confession and the formation of the visible Church; (4) between the confession of the Church to Christ and Christ’s confession to the Church; (5) between the character of the first believing confessor and his official calling.
3. In the text, Peter is presented to us in a twofold relationship: (1) As Peter; (2) as receiving the keys. The former designation applied to him as the first believing confessor, the first member of the ἐκκλησία, to which others were afterward to be joined. Hence it referred to his practical life as a Christian bearing witness to Jesus, rather than to his official position in the Church. This spiritual character formed the basis of his office in the narrower sense, the main purport of which was to arrange individual believers into a community, and, by organizing a visible Church, to separate between the world and the kingdom of heaven. As being the first witness to Jesus, Peter, so to speak, laid the foundation of the Church: (1) By his confession on this occasion; (2) by his testimony, Acts 2:0; (3) by his admission of the Gentiles into the Church, Acts 10:0; (4) by being the means of communicating to the Church the distinguishing feature of his character fidelity of confession.

4. On the fact that the Church indelibly bears not only the characteristic of Peter, but of all the Apostles; or that all the apostolic offices are unchangeably perpetuated in it, comp. Com. on Matthew 10:0. (against Irvingism), and Schaff’s History of the Apostolic Church, § 129, p. 516 sqq.

5. In its apostolic nucleus, its apostolic beginning, and its apostolic depth and completeness, the Church is so thoroughly identified with the kingdom of heaven itself, that its social determinations should in all these respects coincide with the declaration of God’s Spirit. But this applies only in so far as Peter was really Peter—and hence one with Christ, or as Christ is in the Church. That there is a difference between the Church and the kingdom of heaven, which may even amount to a partial opposition, is implied in the antithesis: “on earth”“in heaven.”

6. The present occasion must be regarded as the initial foundation, not as the regular and solemn institution, of the Church. The promises given to Peter still relate to the future. For the strong faith which prompted his confession was rather a prophetic flash of inspiration (the blossom), than a permanent state of mind (the fruit). This appears from the following section.

7. In this passage Peter is represented as the foundation-stone, and Christ as the builder; while in 1 Corinthians 3:11, Christ is designated the foundation, and the Apostles the builders. “The latter figure evidently alludes to the relation between the changing and temporary laborers in the Church, and her eternal and essential character, more especially her eternal foundation; while the figurative language of Jesus applies to the relation between the starting-point and commencement of the Church in time, her outward and temporal manifestation, and her eternal Builder.” (From the author’s Leben Jesu. ii. 2, p. 886). Richter (Erklärte Hausbibel, 1:157): “The Church opens the way into the kingdom of heaven. Christ built on Peter and the Apostles, not His kingdom, but His Church, which is one, though not the only, form in which Christianity manifests itself.” Hence Olshausen is mistaken in regarding the ἐκκλησία as simply tantamount to the βασιλεία τον͂ Θεοῦ.

[Wordsworth observes on the words: they shall not prevail: “That these words contain no promise of infallibility to St. Peter, is evident from the fact that the Holy Spirit, speaking by St. Paul in Canonical Scripture, says that he erred (Galatians 2:11-13).34 And that they do not contain any promise of infallibility to the bishop of Rome is clear, among other proofs, from the circumstance that Pope Liberius (as Athanasius relates, Historia Arian., 41, p. 291) lapsed into Arianism, and Honorius was anathematized of old by Roman pontiffs as an heretic.”—P. S.]

8. For special treatises on the supposed primacy of Peter, see Heubner, p. 236; Danz, Universal wörterbuch, article Primat; Bretschneider, Systematische Entwicklung, p. 786, etc

9. On the power of the keys, see Heubner, p. 240; The Author’s Positive Dogmatik, p. 1182,—the literature belonging to it, p. 1196; Berl. Kirchl. Vierteljahrsschrift, 2:1845, Numbers 1:0; Rothe, Ethik, 4:1066. [Compare also Wordsworth, Alford, Brown, and the American commentators, Barnes, Alexander, Owen, Jacobus, Whedon, Nast, on Matthew 16:19.—P. S.]


The Church of Christ founded under the sentence of expulsion pronounced on Christ and His Apostles both by the Jewish Church and the State: 1. Its preparatory announcement, Matthew 16:2. its complete and real foundation (Golgotha); 3. its solemn institution and manifestation, Acts 2:0; comp. Matthew 3:4 and Hebrews 13:13.—The decisive question, “Who do men say that the Son of Man” is?—Difference between opinions about Christ and the confession of Christ.—The first New Testament confession of Christ, viewed both as the fruit and as the seed of the kingdom of heaven: 1. The fruit of the painful labor and sowing of Christ; 2. the germ and seed of every future confession of Christ.—The confession of Peter an evidence of his spiritual life: 1. In its freedom and cheerful self-surrender; 2. in its decidedness; 3. in its infinite fulness; 4. in its general suitableness for all disciples.—Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God: 1. In His nature; 2. in His mission; 3. in His work.—The joy of the Lord at the first fruits of His mission.—The confession of the Lord to His Congregation: 1. How it will continue to become more abundant even to the day of judgment. (“Whosoever shall confess Me,” etc.) 2. What it imports. (The blessedness of Simon in his character as Peter.)—The Son of the living God acknowledging those who are begotten of the Father as His own relatives and brethren.—The life of faith of Christians ever a revelation of the Father in heaven.—Genuine confession a fruit of regeneration.—The rock on which Christ has founded His Church, or Peter in a spiritual sense, is faithfulness of confession (Bekenntniss treue).—Fidelity of confession the first characteristic mark of the Church.—Relation between Christ, the Rock of the kingdom of heaven, the corner-stone of the everlasting Church, and the rock-foundation on which His visible Church on earth is reared: 1. In the one case, the Apostles are the builders, and Christ the rock and corner-stone; 2. in the other case, the Apostles are the foundation, and Christ the builder.—Only when resting on that rock which is Christ will His people become partakers of the same nature.—How the Church of Christ will endure forever, in spite of the gates of Hades.—The old, legal, and typical Church, and the new Church of the living Saviour, in their relation to the kingdom of death 1. The former is overcome by the kingdom of death; 2. the latter overcomes the kingdom of death.—Complete victory of Christ’s kingdom of life over the kingdom of death.—First Peter, then the keys; c., first the Christian, then the office.—The power of the keys as a spiritual office: 1. Its infinite importance: announcement of the statutes of the kingdom of heaven; decision respecting the admission and continuance [of members]; or, in its threefold bearing—(a) on the hearers of the word generally, (b) on catechumens, and (c) on communicants. 2. The conditions of its exercise: a living confession, of which Christ is the essence; readiness to bind as well as to loose, and vice versâ, the ratification of the kingdom of heaven.—The keys of the prisons of the Inquisition, and of the coffers of Indulgences,35 as compared with the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, the difference between the golden and the iron keys.—The confession of faith kept as a secret from the enemies of Christ.—The preparatory festival of the New Covenant.

Starke:—It is useful, and even necessary, for preachers to be aware of the erroneous fancies which are in vogue among their hearers on the subject of religion.—Cramer: Every man should be able to give an account of his faith, John 17:8.—The discordant thoughts respecting the person of Christ.—Majus: The just must live by his own faith.—Osiander: Be not vacillating, but assured in your own minds.—Jerome: Quemadmodum os loquitor pro toto corpore, sic Petrus lingua erat Apostolorum et pro omnibus ipse respondit.—The other two confessions of Peter, Matthew 14:33; John 6:68.—If we acknowledge Christ aright in our heart, we shall also freely confess Him with our mouth, Romans 10:10.—The divine and human natures combined in the person of Christ.—Blessedness of faith.—To know Christ is to be saved, John 17:3.—Quesnel: True blessedness: 1. It consists not in the advantages of birth, nor in natural gifts, nor in riches, nor in reputation and dignity; but, 2. in the possession of the gifts of grace through Christ.—Hedinger: All true faith is the gift of God.—Osiander: If the truth of God is mixed up with human fancies, it does more harm than good.—Let no one hastily talk of the good which he has received, but let him first make experiment of its reality, Ecclesiastes 5:1.

Gerlach:—The Christian Church possesses this power of the keys, not in its outward capacity or organization, but in so far as the Spirit rules in it. Hence, whenever it is exercised as a merely outward law, without the Spirit, the Lord in His providence disowns these false pretensions of the visible Church.

Heubner:—In order to be decided, and to become our own faith, we must publicly profess it.—How little value attaches to the opinions of the age on great men!36—The independence of Christians of prevalent opinions.—Peter’s confession not his faith only, but that of all disciples, John 6:68.—Peter’s confession the collective confession of the Apostles.—See what value Christ sets on this faith.—It is impossible for any man, even though he were an apostle, to impart faith to another. This is God’s prerogative.


[10] Matthew 16:13.—The pers. pron. μέ in Cod. C. after λέγουτι, fin the text. rec. before the verb], Is wanting in Cod. B. [and in Cod. Sinaiticus] and in several versions, and is omitted by Tischendorf [and Tregelles and Alford]; Lachmann retains it, but in brackets. The insertion is more easily explained than the omission.—[If we omit μέ, we must translate, with Campbell and Conant: Who do men say that the Son of Man is ? Or with Alford, who retains the grammatical anomaly, if not blunder, of the Author. Vera.: Whom (τινα) do men say that the Son of Man is? Τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ� is equivalent to I in the corresponding sentence below, Matthew 16:15. Some who retain μέ in the text (Beza, Clerious, etc.) translate: Who do men say that I am? the Son of Man? i.e., Do they believe me to be the Messiah? But this does not suit the form of the answer, and would require either an affirmative Yea, or a negative No. In the received text τὸνυί ὸντοῦ θεοῦ must be regarded as in apposition to μέ, and is so rendered in the E. V.—P. S.

[11] Matthew 16:17.—[Bur (־=) is the Aramaic or Chaldaic word used by Daniel in the prophetic passage, 7:13 (“ I saw... and one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven,” etc.), for the Hebrew ben (בֵּן), son. In the Authorized E. V. it is retained as the patronymic of Peter, as Matthew retained it in Greek: Βὰρ ̓Ι ωνᾶ; Jerome In Latin: Bar-Jona; Bengel, de Wette, and Ewald in their German Versions: Bar-jona; while Tyndale. Cranmer’s, and the Geneva Bibles, also Luther and Lange translate it into the corresponding vernacular. Compare similar compound names: (Bar-Abbas, Bar-Jesus, Bar-Nabas, Bar-Sabas, Bar-Timœus, Bar-Tholomæus. The translation depends on whether the name is here simply the patronymic, or whether it has an allegorical meaning, as Olshausen and Lange contend. In the latter case it must be translated: son of Jonah, or Jonas. See Lange’s Exeg. Note, and my protesting footnote, on Matthew 16:17. —P. S.

[12] Matthew 16:18.—[Σὺεἰ ΙΙ έτρος, καἰ ἐπὶ ταύτη τῆ πέτρᾳ—one of the profoundest and most far-reaching prophetical, but, at the same time, one of the most controverted sayings of the Saviour, the exegetical rock on which the Papacy rests its gigantic claims (but not by direct proof, but by inference and with the help of undemonstrable intervening assumptions, as the transferability of Peter’s primacy, his presence in Rome, and his actual transfer of the primacy upon the bishop of Rome), under the united protest of the whole Greek Catholic and Protestant Evangelical Churches, who con tend that Christ says not a word about successors. Leaving the fuller exposition to the Exegetical Notes, we have to do here simply with the verbal rendering. In our Engl. Vers., as also in the German, the emphasis is lost, since rock and Fels are never used as proper names. We might literally translate: “Thou art Peter and upon this petress;” or: “Thos art Stone, Rockman, Man of rock (Felsenmann), and upon this rock;” but neither of them would sound idiomatic and natural. It is perhaps remarkable that the languages of the two most Protestant nations cannot render the sentence in any way favorable to the popish identification of the rock of the church with the person of Peter; while the Latin Vulgate simply retained the Greek Petrus and petra, and the French translation: “Tu es Pierre, et sur cette pierre,” even obliterates the distinction of the gender. The Saviour, no doubt, used in both clauses the Aramaic word בֵיפָא(hence the Greek Κηφᾶς applied to Simon. John 1:42; comp. 1Co 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:22; 1 Corinthians 9:5; 1 Corinthians 15:6; Galatians 2:9), which means rock and is used both as a proper and a common noun. Hence the old Syriac translation of the N. T. renders the passage in question thus: “Anath-her kipha, v’ all hode kipha.” The Arabic translation has alsachra in both cases. The proper translation then would be: “Thou art Rock, and upon this rock,” etc. Yet it should not be overlooked that Matthew in rendering the word into Greek, no doubt under the influence of the Holy Spirit, deliberately changed the gender, using the masculine in the one case and the feminine in the other. He had, of course, to use Πετρος in addressing a man (as Maldonatus in loc. correctly remarks: Petrus, quia vir erat, non petra fœmineo, sed Petrus masculino nomine vocandus erat); but he might with perfect propriety have continued: ἐπὶ τον́ τψτψ͂ ΙΙ έτρψ, instead of ἐπὶταύ τῆ τῆ πέτρᾳ (which change Maldonatus less satisfactorily accounts for simply on the philological reason that the masculine πέτρας et Atticum et rarum est). The masculine πέτρος in Greek (in Homer and elsewhere) means generally only a piece of rock, or a stone (like the corresponding prose word λιθος), and very rarely a rock. (Meyer, howover, quotes for the latter signification a passage from Plato: Σισύφου πετρος, one from Sophocles, and one from Pindar); but the feminine πέτρα always signifies rock, whether it be used literally or metaphorically (as a symbol of firmness, but also of hardheartedness). I would not press this distinction, in view of the Syriac כֵיפָא, and in opposition to such eminent commentators as Bengel and Meyer, who, like the Rom. Cath. commentators, admit no difference of the terms in this case. (Bengel: hæc duo, πέτρα et πέτρος stant pro uno nomine, sicut unum utrinque nomen Kepha legitur in Syriaco.”) But it is certainly possible, and to my mind almost certain, that Matthew expressed by the slight change of word in Greek, what the Saviour intended in using, necessarily, the same word in Syriac, viz., that the petra on which the Church is built by Christ, the Divine architect and Lord of this spiritual temple, is not the person of Peter as such, but something more deep and comprehensive; in other words, that it is Peter and his confession of the central mystery of Christianity, or Peter as the conjessor of Christ, Peter in Christ, and Peter, moreover, as representing all the other apostles in like relation to Christ (comp. Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14). Nor should we explain Matthew 16:18 independently of Matthew 16:23. It is very significant that, while the believing and confessing Peter here is called rock, the disobedient and dissuading Peter immediately afterward ( Matthew 16:23), with surprising severity, is called for the time being Satan, the enemy of Christ. If the papacy has any claim to the rocklike nature of Peter, it has certainly also fallen at times under the condemnation of the satanic anti-christian, and denying Peter. Let us hope that it may imitate Peter also in his sincere repentance after the denial. Bengel: Videat Petra romana, ne cadat sub censuram versus 23.—Comp. the Exeg. Notes below, and my History of the Apostolic Church, § 89, p. 351 sqq. —P. S.]

[13] Matthew 16:18.—[All the English versions before Queen Elizabeth, except that of Wiclif (which reads chirche), translate ἐκκλησία by the corresponding English word congregation; but the Bishops’ Bible substituted for it church, and this, by express direction of King James, was retained not only here, but in all other passages of the N. T. in the revised and authorized version of 1611. Among German translators and commentators, the Roman Catholics (van Ess, Arnoldi, Allioli) render ἐκκλησία by the term Kirche (church); while the Protestant translators and commentators (Luther. John Friedr. von Meyer, Stier, de Wette, Ewald, H. A. W. Meyer, and Lange) render: Gemeinde (congregation). The Greek ἐκκλησία, from ἐκκαλέω, to call out, to summon, occurs 114 times in the N. T. (twice in the Gospel of Matthew, but in no other Gospel, 24 times in the Acts, 68 times in the Epistles, 20 times in Revelation), and corresponds to the Hebrewקָחָל . It is not to be confounded with the more spiritual and comprehensive term kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven. so often used by our Saviour. It means generally any popular convocation, congregation, assembly, and in a Christian sense the congregation of believers called out of the world and consecrated to the service of Christ. It is used in the N. T. (1) in a general sense, of the whole body of Christian believers, or the church universal, Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Galatians 1:13; Ephesians 1:22 (and in all the passages where the church is called the body of Christ); 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 12:23, etc.; (2) more frequently in a particular sense, of a local congregation, as in Jerusalem, in Antioch, in Ephesus, in Corinth, in Rome, in Galatia, in Asia Minor, etc.; hence, also, it is often used in the plural, e.g., αἱ ἐκκλησἰαι τῆς ’Ασίας, 1 Corinthians 16:19; αἱ ἐκκλησίαι των ἐθνῶν, Romans 16:4; the seven churches, Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:11; Revelation 1:20, etc. The Saviour Himself makes use of the word only twice, viz.: in our passage, where it evidently means the church universal, which alone is indestructible, and in Matthew 18:17, where it can be understood only of a local church or congregation (tell it to the church). John never uses the term except in his third epistle. The word church is properly no translation of ἐκκλητία at all, but has etymologically a different meaning, being derived from the Greek κυριακόν, i.e., belonging to the Lord, through the medium of the Gothic, whence also the cognate terms in the Tentonic and Slavonic languages, the German Kirche, the Scotch kirk, the Swedish kyrka, the Danish kyrke, the Russian serkow, the Polish cerkiew, the Bohemian zyrkew. (Leo, Ferienschriften, Halle, 1847, derives the word from the Celtic cyrch or cylch, i.e., centre, meeting place; but this would not explain the introduction of the word into the Slavonic nations, who received Christianity from the Greek church.) The word church is now used both in the general and in the particular sense, like ἐκκλησία, and in addition to this also in a third sense, viz., of a building, or house of worship (Eusebius, Hist. Ecclesiastes 9:10, calls the meeting houses of the Christians κυριακὰ οἰκεῖα). As regards the English translation of ἐκκλησία, a number of modern commentators advocate a return to the term congregation throughout the whole N. T. But it is neither possible nor desirable to expel the term church from the English Bible, which has long since become the full equivalent of the Greek ἐκκλησία. We might use church, where the word signifies the whole body of believers, and congregation, where a particular or local assembly of Christians is intended. But even this is unnecessary. The Geneva Bible also employed the term church in a few passages, though not in ours, where It seems to me to be more appropriate than congregation.—P. S.]

[14] Matthew 16:18.—[ΙΙ ύ̓λαι ᾴ̓δου, in Hebrew שׁעֲרֵי שְׁאוֹל, shaäre sheol, an alliteration, Isaiah 38:10. On hades, as distinct from hell, compare the Exeg. Notes below, and also the Crit. Notes on 11. 23, p. 210.—P. S.]

[15] Matthew 16:18.—[Οὐ μὴ κατισχύ σουσιναν̓ τῆς, from κατισχύειν τινος, prævalere adversus aliquem, comp. Jeremiah 15:20, Sept. Tyndale, the Bishops’. King James’, and the Douay Bibles agree in translating: shall not prevai against it; the Lat. Vulgate: non prœvalebunt adversus sam; Luther, de Wette, Ewald, Lange: überwaltigen. Meyer: die Obermachi haben (behalten). I prefer the prevail of the Authorized Vers. to overcome (Geneva Bible), at expressing better the idea of long-continued resistance on the part of hades. The term must be explained in conformity to the architectural figure which runs through this whole passage:—gates, build, keys. Hades is represented as a hostile fortress which stands over against the apparently defenceless, yet immovable temple of the Christian Church, to which our Lord here promises indestructible life. (Ecclesia non potest deficere.) The gates of hades, or the realm of death, by virtue of the universal dominion of sin, admit and confine all men, and (like the gates in Dante’s Inferno with tie famous terrific inscription) were barred against all return until the Saviour overcame death and “him that hath the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14), and came forth unharmed and triumphant from the empire of death as conqueror and Prince of life. Hades could not retain Him (Acts 2:27; Acts 2:31). The same power of life He imparts to His people, who often, especially during the ages of persecution and martyrdom, seemed to he doomed to destruction, but always rose to new life and vigor, and shall reign with Christ forever. Comp. Revelation 1:18 : “I am alive forevermore, and have the keys of death and hides;” and 1 Corinthians 15:26 : “The last enemy that shall be destroyed, is death.” This interpretation of the figure appears to me much more appropriate than the usual one, which takes hades here in the sense of hill, and assumes an active assault of the infernal armies, ru hing, as it were, through these gates and storming the fortress of Christ’s Church. To this interpretation I object: (1) That gates are not an active and aggressive, but a passive and confining power; (2) that hades, although closely related to gehenna or hell and including it, is yet a wider conception, and means here, as elsewhere, the realm of death (das Reich der Todten), which swallows up all mortals and confines forever those who have no part in the victory of Christ over death, hell, and damnation.—P. S.]

[16] Matthew 16:20.—Lect. rec.: διεστείλατο [prœcepit, imperavit]. Codd. B., D.: ἐπετίμησεν [comminatus est], probably from Mark 8:30; Luke 9:21.

[17] Matthew 16:20.—[The oldest MSS., including Cod. Sinait, read simply: τοῖς μαθηταῖς without αὐτοῦ. Meyer and Lange overlook this difference of reading. See Tregelles and Alford.—P. S.]

[18] Matthew 16:20.—̓Ι ησοῦς is wanting in important MSS. [The correct reading of all critical editions, sustained by the oldest MSS., including Cod. Sinait., the ancient versions, and patristic quotations, is simply: δτιαὐτός ἐστιν δΧριστός, that he is the Christ (the promised Messiah). The insertion of Jesus in later MSS. was a blunder of some mechanical copyist, who paid no attention to the connection, and added the personal to the official appellation, according to the usual designation of our Lord. Everybody knew and admitted the personal name of our Saviour, and it would have been useless to deny or to affirm that He was Jesus.—P. S.]

[19][Some, however, no doubt believed in a bodily resurrection of Elijah or Jeremiah. The latter was accounted by the Jews as the first in the prophetic canon. See Lightfoot on Matthew 27:9.—P. S.]

[20][This is the correct view, already maintained by the fathers, e.g., Chrysostom, who, in Hom. 54, calls Peter in this connection the mouth of the apostles, τὸ στόμα των�́λων, by Jerome: Petrus ex persona omnium apostolorum profitetur, and by Thomas Aquinas; Ipse respondes et pro se et pro aliis. Some Rom. Cath. commentators, as Passaglia and Arnoldi, for obvious reasons, maintain that Peter spoke only in his own name. But the Saviour addressed His question to all the disciples, and they certainly must have assented to Peter’s confession of faith, which they had from the time of their calling, and without which they could not have been apostles. Comp. John 1:42; John 1:46; John 1:50, also the remarks of Dr. Schegg, a Rom. Cath. Coal., in loc. (vol. ii p. 349).—P. S.]

[21][According to Lange’s version. Comp. my critical note above.—P. S.]

[22][I confess that this allegorical exposition of the term appears to me as far-fetched and as improbable as that of Olshausen. Bar-Jona has nothing to do with a dove, but is a contraction for Bar-Joanna (Chaldaic), i.e., Son of John, as is evident from John 21:15-17, where Christ addresses Peter: Σίμων Ἰωαννον. But there may be in this use of the patronymic an allusion to the title Son of man is Matthew 16:13, which would give additional emphasis to the counter confession, in this sense: That I, the Son of Man, am at the same time the Messiah and the eternal Son of God, is a true as that thou, Simon, art the son of Jona; and as thou hast thus confessed Me as the Messiah, I will now confess thee as Peter. etc. If the Saviour spoke in Aramaic or Chaldaic, as He undoubtedly did on ordinary occasions and with His disciples. He used the term Bar in Matthew 16:17, with reference to Daniel 7:13, the prophetic passage from which the Messianic appellation Son of Man was derived, so that Bar-enahsh (Son of Man) and Bar-Jona would correspond,—P. S.]

[23][Not exactly. In the fourth edition of his Com. on Matt., p. 320. Meyer assumes that Peter, although long since convinced, with the rest of the disciples, of the Messiahship of Jesus, was on this occasion favored with a special divine revelation on the subject, and spoke from a state of inspiration. “Daher,” he says, “ιετ απεκάλψε nicht aufsine schon beim ersten Anschliessen an Jesum erhaltene Offenbarung, welche den Jüngern geworden. zu beziehen, sondern auf Petrus und eine ihn auszeichnende besondere απυκάλυψις zu beschrünken.” But Peter confessed in the name of all the other apostles, see p. 294.—P. S.]

[24][Maldonatus: “Et ego. Elegans antithesis, Græce etiam efficat[illegible]ior: κᾳλὼ δέ, sed et ego dico tibi; quasi dicat: tu qui homo es, Filium Dei vivi me esse dixisti, (ego vero, qui Filius Dei vivi sum, dico te esse Petrum, id est vicarium meum [?], quem Filium Dei esse confessus es. Nam. Ecclesiam meam, quœ super te œdificata est, super te etiam, tanquam super secundarium quoddam fundamentum œdificabo."—P. S.]

[25][This needs modification. Jerome, in his Comment. on Matthew 16:18 (Opera, ed. Vallars., tom. 7. p. 124). explains the passage thus: “Sicut ipse lumen Apostolis donavit, ut lumen mundi appellarentur, cœteroque ex Domino so: titi sunt vocabula: ita et Simoni, qui credebat in petram Christum, Petri largitus est nomen. Ac secundum metaphoram petrœ, recte dicitur ei: Ædificabo fcclesiam meam super te.” The last words (super te) show that he referred the petra not only to Christ, but in a derivative sense also to Peter as the confessor. So in another passage (Ep. ad Damas. papam, Ep. 15, ed. Vall., i. 37 sq.) he says of Peter: “super illam petram œdificatam ecclesiam [illegible]io.” Jerome also regards the bishop of Rome as the successor of Peter, but advocated elsewhere the equal rights of bishops, so that he can be quoted only in favor of a Roman primacy of honor, not of a supremacy of jurisdiction. Comp. on Jerome’s views concerning the papacy the second vol. of my General Church History, now preparing for the press, § 61, p. 304 sq.—P. S.]

[26]i.e. Augustine in his later years; for at first he referred the petra to the person of Peter. He says in his Retractations, i. cap. 21, at the close of his life: “I have somewhere said of St Peter that the church is built upon him as rock. .. . But I have since frequently said that the word of the Lord: ‘Thou art Petrus. and on this petra I will build my church,’ must be understood of Him, whom Peter confessed as Son of the living God; and Peter, so named after this rock, represents the person of the church, which is founded on this rock and has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven. For it was not said to him: ‘Thou art a rock’ (petra) but, ‘Thou art Peter’ (Petrus); and the rock was Christ, through confession of whom Simon received the name of Peter. Yet the reader may decide which of the two interpretations is the more probable.” In the same strain he says, in another place: “Peter, in virtue of the primacy of his apostolate, stands, by a figuratlve generalization, for the church. ... When it was said to him, ‘I will give un to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’ &c., he represented the whole church, which in this world is assailed by various temptations, as if by floods and storms, yet does not fall, because it is founded upon a rock from which Peter received his name. For the rock is not so named from Peter, but Peter from the rock (non enim a petro petra, sed Petrus a petra). even as Christ is not so called after the Christian, but the Christian after Christ. For the reason why the Lord says, ‘On this rock I will build my church.’ is that Peter had said: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’ On this rock, which thou hast confessed, says he. I will build my church. For Christ was the rock (petra enim erat Christus), upon which also Peter himself was built; for other foundation can no man lay, than that is ‘aid, which is Jesus Christ. Thus the church, which [illegible]s ouilt upon Christ, has received from Him, in the person of Peter, the keys of heaven: that is, the power of binding and loosing sins.” (Aug. Tract. in Evang. Joannis, 124. §5.) Ambrose, too, at one time refers the petra to Christ, as when he says in Luke 9:20 : “Petra est Christus,” etc, but at other times to the person of Peter, as in the famous morning hymn quoted by Augustin. (Hoc ipsa petra ecclesiœ Canente, culpam diluit), and again to his confession, or father to Peter and his confession. Comp. my Church History, vol ii. p. 304. A similar apparent lnconsiste cy we find in other fathers. The reference of the rock to Christ was also advocated by Theodoret, ad 1 Corinthians 3:11, the venerable Bede in Marc, 3 “Petra erat Christus (1 Corinthians 10:4). Nam Simoni qui credebat in Petram Christum, Petri largitus est nomen:” and even by pope Gregory VII. in the inscription to the crown he sent to the German rival emperor Rudolph: Petra (i.e., Christ) dedit Petro (Peter), Petrus (the pope) diadema Rudolpho.”—P. S.]

[27][This reference to the fathers is too indefinite, and hardly correct as far as Leo and the popes are concerned. The majority of the fathers. Hilary, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine Leo I., Gregory of Nazianzen, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Theodoret, etc., vary in their interpretation, referring the petra sometimes to the person of Peter, sometimes to his faith or confession, and sometimes (as Jerome and Augustine) to Christ Himself. (Comp. Maldonatus, Comment in quatuor Evangelistas, ed. Martin tom. 1. p. 219 sq.. and my History of the Christian Church, vol. ii. §§ 61 and 63, pp. 302 sqq. and 314 sqq., where the principle passages are quoted.) But this inconsistency is more apparent than real, since Peter and his faith in Christ cannot be separated in this passage. Peter (representing the other apostles) as believing and confessing Christ (but in no other capacity) is the petra ecclesiæ. This is the true interpretation, noticed by Lange sub number 3. b). Comp. my Critical Note, 3, p. 293. But the confession or faith alone cannot be meant. for two reasons: first, because this construction assumes an abrupt transition from the person to a thing and destroys the significance of the demonstrative and emphatic τέτρα which evidently refers to the nearest antecedent Petros; and secondly, because the church is not built upon abstract doctrines and confessions, but upon living persons believing and confessing the truth (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:4-6; Galatians 2:9; Revelation 21:14). Dr. Jos. A. Alexander, however, is too severe on this Interpretation in calling it as forced and unnatural as the Roman Catholic. It undoubtedly implies an element of truth, since Peter in this passage is addressed as the bold and fearless confessor of Christ.—P. S.]

[28][In Luther’s Randglosse, but so as to combine this explanation with the fourth mentioned above (of Origen): “Alle Christen sind Petri um der Bekenntniss willen, die hier Petrus thut, welche ist der Fels, darauf Petrus und alle Petri gebauet sind.”—P. S.]

[29][Among modern commentators Ewald, Die drei ersten Evangelien, p. 272, who understands, however, by πέτρα not so much the confession, as the faith itself which precedes it—P. S.]

[30][The Romish interpretation is liable to the following objections: (1) It obliterates the distinction between petros and petra; (1) it is inconsistent with the true nature of the architectural figure: the foundation of a building is one and abiding, and not constantly renewed and changed; (3) it confounds priority of time with permanent superiority of rank; (4) it confounds the apostolate, which, strictly speaking, is not transferable but confined to the original personal disciples of Christ and inspired organs of the Holy Spirit, with the post-apostolic episcopate; (5) it involves an injustice to the other apostles, who, as a body, are expressly called the foundation, or foundation stones of the church; (6) it contradicts the whole spirit of Peter’s epistles, which is strongly antihierarchical, and disclaims any superiority over his “fellow-presbyters,” (7) finally, it rests on gratuitous assumptions which can never be proven either exegetically or historically, viz.. the transferability of Peter’s primacy, and its actual transfer upon the bishop, not of Jerusalem nor of Antioch (where Peter certainly was). but of Rome exclusively. Comp. also the long note to §94 in my History of the Apostolic Church, p. 374 sqq.—P. S.]

[31][So also Olshausen: “Peter, in his new spiritual character, appears as the supporter of Christ’s great work; Jesus Himself is the creator of the whole, Peter, the first stone of the building;” De Wette: “ἐπὶ ταύτη τν͂ πετπα, on thee as this firm confessor;” Meyer: “on no other but this (ταὺτπ) rock, i.e., Peter, so called for his firm and strong faith in Christ;” Alford: “Peter was the first of these foundation-stones (Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14) on which the living temple of God was built: this building itself beginning on the day of Pentecost by the laying of three thousand living stones on this very foundation;” D. Brown: “not on the man Bar-jona; but on him as the heaven taught Confessor of such a faith;” and more or less clearly, Grotius (“petrus a me nominatus es, quia eris quasi petra”), Le Clerc, Whitby, Doddridge. Clarke, Bloomfield. Barnes, Eadie, Owen, Crosby (who. however, wrongly omits the reference to the confession, Whedon, Nast. I can see no material difference between this interpretation and Lange’s own sub No. 5, which is only a modification or expansion of it. I have already remarked In a former note that this is the true exposition which the majority of the fathers intended, though with some Inclination to the subsequent Romish application of the promise to a supposed successor.—P. S.]

[32][Die petrinische Bekenntnisstreue.—P. S.]

[33][Grotius has a long and learned note on the passage, and says: “Nusquam reperis αδου vocem neque apud Hellenistas neque apud novi fœderis scriptores in alia significatione quam aut mortis, aut sepulchri, aut status post mortem, quæ om nia sunt inter se affinix,” etc—P. S.]

[34][But this was only an error of conduct, not of doctrine; and hence proves nothing against the inspiration of the apostles nor the pretended infallibility of their successors.—P. S.]

[35][In German: Die Inquisitionskerkerschlüssel und Ablasskaster schlüssel. The Edinb. transl. mixes these two distinct ideas into one by rendering: “The keys of the prison and indulgences of the Inquisition.” The coffers of the indulgences, according to the scholastic doctrine, are filled with the treasures of the so called supererogatory works and merits of canonized saints from which the popes can dispense extraordinary indulgences or remissions or sins. It was this trade in papal indulgences carried on by a monkish quack or humbug, Tetzel, which gave rise (as the external occasion, but not as the cause which lay far deeper) to the Lutheran Reformation.—P. S.]

[36][Not: How much great men are influenced by the opinions of the age, as the Edb. trsl., misled by the German wie viel (which must be understood ironically), reverses the meaning of the original, thus making Heubner contradict himself in the next sentence. Heubner alludes to the confused and contradictory opinions of the Jews concerning Christ, Matthew 16:15, and then contrasts with them the firm conviction of faith in Peter, Matthew 16:16. Great men, during their lifetime, meet with the very opposite judgments at the bar of ever-changing popular opinion, and they are not truly great unless they can rise above it and quietly pursue the path of duty, leaving the Small matter of their own fame in the hands of a just God and of an appreciating posterity which will judge them by the fruits of their labor.—P. S.]

Verses 21-28

B. The Church as bearing the Cross of Christ, in contrast to that worldly fear of the Cross by which the Lord is assailed.

Matthew 16:21-28

(Mark 8:31 to Mark 9:1; Luke 9:21-28)

21From that time forth37 began Jesus to show unto [to] his disciples, how38 that he must go unto [to] Jerusalem, and suffer many things of [from] the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed [put to death], and be raised again [rise]39 the third day. 22Then Peter took him,40 and began41 to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23But he turned,42 and said unto [to] Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan;43 thou art an offence unto me [my offence]:44 for thou savourest 24[mindest] not the things that be [are] of God, but those that be [are] of men.45 Then said Jesus unto [to] his disciples, If any man [one] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will [may] lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26For what is a man profited [will a man be profited],46 if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own47 soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his father, with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. 28Verily I say unto you, There be [are] some standing here48 which [who] shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.


Matthew 16:21. From that time.—From the first Jesus had given obscure intimations of the sorrows which were before Him: John 2:4, etc. Now, however, He made a distinct announcement of the precise form of His sufferings; 1. because the disciples were strong enough in faith to bear this intelligence; 2. because their faith in the Messiah would thereby be effectually guarded from the admixture of carnal Jewish notions; 3. because the Lord could not conceal from His disciples what awaited them, and would have none but voluntary followers on His path of suffering. But Christ not only announced His impending sufferings; He also explained and showed their necessity—it was a δει κνύειν ὅτι δεῖ, although interrupted by the remonstrance of the disciples.

Of the elders.—The detailed enumeration of these parties proves that there was a general conspiracy on the part of all the Jewish authorities, and hence indicates the rupture of the whole outward theocracy with Christianity.

And rise again the third day.—Even Meyer considers it impossible to reconcile so clear and distinct a prediction of the resurrection with the circumstance that the disciples were so much disheartened by the Lord’s death, as not to expect His restoration to life, and that they did not know what to think of the empty sepulchre, etc. Accordingly, this critic assumes, with Hasert, Neander, de Wette, and others, that Christ had on this occasion indicated His resurrection in a much more indefinite manner than in the text, and that this intimation had assumed the shape of a distinct prediction only ex eventu, and from tradition. Süsskind, Heydenreich, Kuinoel, Ebrard, and others, regard, on the other hand, the narrative in the text as an accurate account of what took place at the time. (See also Leben Jesu, ii. 2, p. 894.) Nor can we see any difficulty in regard to the later conduct of the disciples. As they evidently did not receive Christ’s announcement of His impending death, we cannot wonder at their failing to apprehend and remember what He had said of His resurrection. Besides, until the day of Pentecost, they were very doubtful expositors of the words of Jesus; the figurative and symbolical language employed often leaving them uncertain what to take in a literal and what in a symbolical sense. Hence they frequently explained figurative expressions literally, Matthew 16:7; John 4:33; John 11:12; while, on the other hand, they understood literal expressions figuratively, John 6:70; Matthew 15:16-17. Accordingly, in this instance also the disciples seem to have remained in doubt in what sense the Lord uttered this solemn and mysterious saying, and that even after He had repeated it a second time, Mark 9:10. Their uncertainty was all the greater from the state of their minds, which assumed an attitude of opposition whenever the Lord made such disclosures. Hence, we conceive that the ἤρξατο of the Lord (“He began to show them,” etc.) was interrupted by the vehement remonstrance of Peter, just as Peter’s attempted rebuke was interrupted by the Lord’s reproof. In all these instances, we must not picture to ourselves the Lord as delivering lectures ex cathedrâ to His disciples, but as making disclosures and revelations which caused intense commotion. Besides, the statement that the disciples gave way to despair after the death of Jesus, is quite contrary to the account of the Evangelists. The honorable interment, the anointing of the corpse (which must not be regarded as identical with the Egyptian practice of embalming), their meetings, and their going to the grave, sufficiently show that there were gleams of light in their darkest hours. On the other hand, their doubts in regard to the resurrection—even after they had been informed of it—are explained by the prodigious greatness both of the anticipation and of the reality. (The idea, that the language of Jesus was symbolical, and referred to a fresh impulse to be given to His cause, scarcely requires refutation.)

Matthew 16:22. Then Peter took Him;—προσλαβόμενο ς.—He laid his hand upon Him, or seized Him from behind, as if he would have moved Him by main force to alter His purpose. He stopped the Master in this manner for the purpose of remonstrating with Him. Grotius explains it: he embraced Him; Euthymius Zigabenus and Meyer: he took Him aside, κατ̓ ἰδίαν. The account says nothing of either. When Jesus turned round, He addressed Himself not only to Peter, but also to the other disciples; for, as in his confession, so at this time, Peter represented the general feeling. Meyer rightly infers from the expression ή̓ρξατο, that Jesus did not allow Peter to finish his address. But we see no reason to conclude that He turned His back upon Peter; the expression, ὁδὲστραφείς, or ἐπιστραφείς (as in Mark), being rather against this supposition. Jesus turned round to Peter and the other disciples; and the command, ὕπαγε ὀπίσω μου, referred to the fact, that in a spiritual sense Peter was attempting to obstruct His path.

Be it far from Thee.This shall not happen to thee, ἵλεώςσ οι, a proverbial expression, εί̓η δΘεός being understood: Propitius sit tibi Deus, God be merciful to thee, God preserve thee!—equivalent to the Hebrew הָלִילָה (2 Samuel 20:20; 2 Samuel 23:17; lxx). [The sudden change in Peter from a bold confessor of Christ and rock of His Church, to an adversary and stumbling-block of His Master, although unaccountable on the mythical or legendary fiction-theory of Strauss or Renan, is nevertheless true to life, and easily explained and understood in view of the sanguine, impulsive, and ardent temper of Peter, and in view of the high praise and lofty promise just bestowed upon him, which was a strong temptation to his natural vanity and ambition. The experience of believers confirms the frequent occurrence of the same sudden transition, As there is but one step from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the tragical to the comical, so also in spiritual life opposite extremes often meet, and Satan is most busy to seduce us, when we are most highly exalted and favored by Christ.—P. S.]

Matthew 16:23. Get thee [lit.: go, begone] behind Me [out of My sight, away from Me], Satan.—Ὕπαγε ὀπίσωμο υ. See Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8, where Christ uses the same words to Satan in the wilderness. The expression Satan is here used in a more general sense, denoting an Adversary, or Tempter, with an allusion to the satanic element which was unconsciously at work in Peter, and tempted the Saviour away from His true calling and path of duty. The meaning therefore is: “What, is Satan come again to tempt Me, as he did of old? Get thee hence, thou Tempter!” It is scarcely necessary to say that it was not meant as a term of reproach or as a mere expression of abhorrence or contempt. Most Roman Catholic critics adopt the suggestion of Hilary, and maintain that only the first words (Go out of My sight) were addressed to Peter, and the rest (from Satan) to the personal Devil.49 Maldonatus takes the term “Satan” in the general sense of adversarius, which may he admitted, provided we keep in mind that there was an allusion to Satan himself. As Judas afterward became permanently and consciously, so Peter now became momentarily and unconsciously, a representative of the cause of Satan, who would fain have banished the cross and the kingdom of Christ. In opposition to this, Christ chose the cross as conformable to the divine purpose, as the manifestation of His righteousness, and as the basis of His redemption.

Thou art an offence unto Me.—According to the better reading: My offence, or My stumbling block,50 σκάν δαλόνμου, which is stronger than ἐμοί (a stumbling-block to Me). The word σκάνδαλον a later form of σκανδάληθρον, a trap-stick; hence a snare, or generally, an obstruction in the way, especially in a metaphorical sense.

Thou mindest (carest for) the things of God, τὰτοῦ Θεο ῦ.—The things of God as represented by the will of Christ The antithesis to this: the things of men, τὰ τῶ νἀν θρώπω ν. It deserves notice that human depravity is always expressed by the plural, and not the singular. If the singular is used, the epithet παλαιός is added to ά̓νθρωπος. The reason is obvious. Human nature is not represented as in itself opposed to God, but only in its present state. The general meaning of the passage is: On this occasion thou thinkest not of what is conformable to the holy counsel of God, but to the sinful inclination of men. Its special application is: Thou rejectest the counsel of Him who has determined to make the cross and its sufferings the ground of salvation, and payest homage to the carnal views and expectations of the Jews concerning a secular kingdom of the Messiah.

Matthew 16:24. If any man will come after Me.—This declaration throws light both upon the statement of Christ and the counter-statement of Peter. The impending sufferings of Christ would certainly involve the disciples in similar persecutions and trials, though perhaps not immediately or outwardly. Hence they were unfit to follow Him; nor could He employ them, unless they were ready and willing wholly to surrender themselves to Him, and to suffer for His sake. To follow Jesus requires both inward self-renunciation and an outward manifestation of it, in willing submission to whatever sufferings may befall us as disciples. This renunciation must amount to self-denial, that is, it must become complete abnegation and surrender of our selfish nature and of our self-will. The expression deny himself forms a solemn prophetic contrast to Peter’s later denial of his Lord. Taking up the cross was a proverbial expression; but in this connection referred to readiness to endure even the most painful and ignominious death in following Christ. At the same time, it also alluded to the Lord’s crucifixion, and may be taken as a typical expression for the later death on the cross of Peter himself. See Matthew 10:38; John 21:0.

Here, as at an earlier period of His history, when the first signs of persecution and of popular defection appeared, the Lord left it to the free choice of His disciples whether or not they would continue to follow Him.

Matthew 16:25. For whosoever will save his life.—Comp. Matthew 10:39 (p. 198). Words these of the deepest import, embodying the fundamental principle both of the hidden and mystical, as well as of the outward and temporal life of a Christian. The fear of death subjects to the bondage of death, Hebrews 2:15; while readiness to suffer a holy death for Christ’s sake opens up before us true life. This is our watchword in baptism, Romans 4:0; and, indeed, in all our Christianity.

Matthew 16:26. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose (forfeit, ζημιωθῇ) his own soul?—If his soul be forfeited by this bargain. The explanation, “and damage,” or “injure, his own soul,”51 falls entirely short of the meaning of the expression. The following four propositions are implied in the statement of the text, which is intended to show that a man will lose his life except he follows Christ: 1. Whoever seeks to save his life by ungodly means, wishes for a portion of worldly Galatians 2:0. But to gain the world (as such) in a selfish and sinful manner, implies the loss of the soul. 3. This loss is infinitely greater than even the gain of the whole world, assuming that such were possible. 4. In truth, whoever has lost his own soul for the world has gained even the world only in appearance, but lost it in reality.

Or what shall a man give In exchange [lit.: as an exchange] for his soul (ἀντάλλαγμα ψυχῆς).—A proof that the loss of the soul is perpetual and irreparable. If a man loses his soul, he can find no equivalent for it within the whole range of the apparent possessions of this world, by which to ransom it from its bondage unto death. Ἀντάλλαγμ α, properly counter-price. The price which a man gives is the ά̓ λλαγμα; the counter-price which a man receives is the ἀντ άλλαγμα. Hence the expression, giving an ἀντάλλαγμα (not taking it), must imply the idea: “if the bargain should be broken off.” This is, indeed, possible in secular transactions, but not when a man has bartered his soul for the world; since, in point of fact, he has gained only an illusory demoniacal image or likeness of the world, not the world itself (see Leben Jesu, ii. 2, p. 899).52—The Lord here shows that the desire and endeavor of gaining the world really lay at the root of the carnal Messianic hopes of the Jews, as, indeed, had already appeared in the third temptation by which He was assailed at the commencement of His course, Matthew 4:0. A caricature this of the real κληρονομία.

The next verse shows that the Lord referred not merely to a negative damage, but also to a positive punishment.

Matthew 16:27. For it shall come to pass that the Son of Man shall come.—Μέλλειγάρ. [Emphatically placed at the beginning of the sentence.] Not a simple future, but meaning: the event is impending that He shall come, He is about to come. On this second advent, see Matthew 24:25; 2 Thessalonians 2:0; Revelation 19:20, etc.—In the glory of His Father.—Not merely as the representative of the Father in the judgment which is to be executed, but as the Founder of a new world, the Centre and Author of the new creation (παλιγγενεσία). He will reward every man according to his work,—πρᾶξι ν, or the total outward manifestation of his inner life as a believer or unbeliever. This reference to the second advent is specially intended to prove the former statement: “Whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.

Matthew 16:28. There are some of those standing hare.—[The twelve then present, and immediately addressed, and the crowd referred to, Mark 8:34.] Various explanations of this difficult passage have been offered. 1. Chrysostom and many others hold that the limit, until they see the Son of Man coming, etc., refers to the history of the Transfiguration, immediately following. 2. Grotius, Capellus, Wetstein, Ebrard, [Alford, Owen], etc., apply it to the destruction of Jerusalem and the founding of the Church. 3. Dorner interprets it of the conquests and progress of the gospel 4. Meyer and others apply the expression to the proximity of the second advent itself, and assume that the disciples understood in a literal sense, and hence misunderstood, Christ’s figurative statements about His ideal advent. 5. De Wette seems in the main to agree with the opinions of Grotius, Wetstein, sub (2): “According to Mark and Luke, Christ merely predicted the advent of His kingdom.” But we question whether Mark 9:1 can be separated from Mark 8:38, or Luke 9:27 from Luke 16:26. Luke 16:6. In our opinion, it is necessary to distinguish between the advent of Christ in the glory of His kingdom within the circle of His disciples, and that same advent as applying to the world generally and for judgment. The latter is what is generally understood by the second advent; the former took place when the Saviour rose from the dead and revealed Himself in the midst of His disciples. Hence the meaning of the words of Jesus is: The moment is close at hand when your hearts shall be set at rest by the manifestation of My glory; nor will it be the lot of all who stand here to die during the interval. The Lord might have said that only two of that circle would die till then, viz., Himself and Judas. But in His wisdom He chose the expression, “some standing here shall not taste of death,” to give them exactly that measure of hope and earnest expectation which they needed.53

Taste of death.—Γεν́εσθαι θανάτο υ, a rabbinical, Syriac, and Arabic mode of expression; death being represented under the figure of a bitter cup or goblet.


1. See the preceding Exegetical Notes.

2. The prediction of Christ’s death.—Two points here require to be kept in view: 1. The difference of the times when, and 2. the difference of the persons to whom, Jesus spoke. The more obscure intimations took place at an earlier period, and were made to a wider circle of Christ’s hearers. Hence also they are more frequently recorded under these circumstances in the Gospel of John. But, after the last decisive events, Jesus made the most full and clear disclosures on this subject within the circle of His disciples. Nor could He have concealed His impending death from the disciples, when the Pharisees had so manifestly laid snares for Him over the whole land.

3. The prospect of the resurrection on the third day.—The progressive clearness with which it was announced, was closely connected with the prophecies of the Old Testament. It is a mere sophism on the part of certain critics to maintain that Jesus should at once have derived full knowledge of it either from the Old Testament or from His own supernatural consciousness. Christ was conscious of embodying in His person the fulfilment of the Old Testament. In its pages He found everywhere indications of the progressive experience of His life, or of His humiliation and exaltation. In the most general manner this principle was embodied in the history of the covenant-people itself. But the curve of humiliation and exaltation seemed always to become stronger, the more exalted the life of those who occupied prominent places in the theocracy. With these saints of old, it seemed to descend into ever lower and more awful depths, and again equally to rise into more glorious heights. This contrast, which appeared distinctly even in the history of Abraham, came out more fully in his successors—in Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and Elijah. But Christ would not only discover this fundamental principle in the history of the Jewish people and its most prominent representatives, but also trace it in numberless features of Old Testament history: in the Book of Psalms, in the types of the law, and in the utterances of the prophets. It seemed as if this curve were the distinguishing characteristic of things great and small. Thus every page of the Old Testament would convey to the Lord not only the certainty of His death, but also the assurance of His resurrection; just as the fundamental idea of the pointed arch may be traced in every part of a Gothic cathedral. But how could Jesus predict that He would rise on the third day? Hasert (on the Predictions of Christ concerning His death and resurrection) replies: “According to the regular course of nature, in the process of the separation between soul and body, the absence of all traces of life during three days, is regarded as an evidence of death.” But Christ was assured in the Spirit that He should not see corruption (Psalms 16:0; Acts 2:27; Acts 2:31). Thus He drew from the depth of His thean-thropic consciousness evidence, explanation, and assurance of the types and predictions of the Old Testament—all these being sealed, as it were, by the administration of His Father in the experiences of His life.—(On the remarks of Strauss against the predictions of Jesus, see Ebrard, p. 540.)

4. When the Lord informed His disciples about His approaching sufferings, He at the same time announced to them His return in glory. In doing this, He might well set before them His approaching advent in the resurrection in the full glory of His final advent at the end of the world, since to believers His resurrection implied His final advent, being the principle of His full glory. Comp. the concluding discourses of Jesus in the Gospel according to John; and Philippians 2:6-11. We also observe a distinct gradation in these revelations: Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:22-23; Matthew 20:18-19; Matthew 26:2.


How the Lord purifies the enthusiasm of His disciples for the approaching kingdom of the Messiah, by directing their thoughts to His path of suffering.—From the knowledge of the Divine Messiah to that of the suffering Saviour is a great step.—Connection between confession and the path of the cross.—The New Testament Church and the preaching of the cross commenced at the same moment.—Peter the first confessor of Jesus, and His first tempter on the path of suffering.—How the Spirit of Christ is reflected in His disclosures respecting His impending sufferings: 1. His divine clearness of vision, surveying the whole way. 2. His wisdom: hitherto a sparing indication; now disclosures adapted to the knowledge of His disciples. 3. His faithfulness: they are to follow Him freely and voluntarily. 4. His certainty of victory: on the third day.—Why the disciples had not rightly received the saying about the resurrection.—Only that man can believe in the resurrection who is willing to believe in the cross of Christ.—The quick relapse of Peter from divine power into human weakness.—Still, despite all his relapses, he was Peter.—The spurious imitation of Peter during the progress of the history of the Church: 1. Seizing the Lord; obstructing His path; abounding in protestations; simulating love. 2. Shunning the cross; loving the world.—Peter set by the Lord before the Church as a warning example.—How Peter anticipated his destiny.—He wished to bind the Lord Himself, but to loose the world.—How he shut himself out, while seizing in a carnal spirit the keys of the kingdom of heaven.—The leading element in Peter’s mistaken advice: 1. It was the device of men, in opposition to the good pleasure of God; 2. love to the human Messiah instead of faith in the Son of God; 3. attachment to life, in opposition to the right way of life; 4. hoping for the inheritance of the world, in opposition to the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven.—The address to the disciples with which the Lord entered on His path of suffering: 1. Its divine clearness: the whole path is traced out. 2. Its heavenly decision: whoever obstructed His path was a Satan. 3. Its holy summons: “If any man will come after Me.” 4. The foundation and ground of this call: “What shall it profit a man?” 5. The promises connected with it: “the Son of man in the glory of His Father.” 6. The gracious comfort: “There are some standing here.”—Self-denial the preliminary condition of following Jesus.—Following the Lord on the path of suffering: 1. Its commencement: confession of Jesus; denial of self. 2. Its course: looking up to the Lord, who goeth before; taking up the cross. 3. Its goal: transitory sufferings with Jesus; eternal glory with Him.—If in life we die with Christ, we shall in dying live with Him.—Whoever in life partakes of the cup of Christ’s death, will in death drink abundantly of the cup of His life.

Starke:Zeisius: Christ the pattern of Christian teachers, as gradually and carefully progressing from the easier to the more difficult lessons.—Hedinger: Christ must suffer, and thus enter into glory, Luke 24:26.—The doctrines of Christ’s sufferings and resurrection must always be conjoined.—A mere good opinion is not sufficient.—Canstein; Our best friends, so far as this world is concerned, are often our greatest enemies in spiritual and heavenly matters.—To the carnal men of the world, the crucified Saviour is still either a stumbling-block, or else foolishness, 1 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.—Hedinger: Be not lifted up by knowledge or prosperity: how easily mayest thou fall, and from an angel become a Satan!—Zeisius: All carnal wisdom which opposeth itself to the word and will of God, is only devilish, however great or plausible it may appear.—Majus: If the truth is at stake, we must not spare our dearest friends.—If we do not deny ourselves, we cannot bear the cross.—It is the duty of believers to die unto self and to five unto Christ.—Majus; What appears to us to be gain, must be regarded as loss for Christ’s sake, Philippians 3:7-8.—Quesnel: The loss of the soul can never be repaired.—If thou sufferest injustice at a human tribunal, wait with confidence for the future righteous judgment of Christ.

Lisco:—After death, the resurrection. Through death to life; through shame to glory; by the cross to the crown; through defeat to victory! Thus Christ, and thus His people.—Suffering is inseparable from following Christ.—To take up the cross denotes our readiness to suffer.—Fear of suffering is fatal.—Glorious reward of grace which will follow suffering.

Gerlach:—Confession and suffering must go together.

Heubner:—Human wisdom would dissuade us from making sacrifices for the sake of duty.—Jesus regarded and treated every one as Satan who wished to turn Him aside from His heavenly mission.—To dissuade from duty is not friendship, but seduction.—Luther: What is the Papacy at the present day, but the carnal kingdom which the Jews expect from the Messiah!—As with Christ, so with His followers, the path to exaltation is through humiliation.—Christ’s frankness in announcing the fate of His disciples.—The Christian’s mode of calculation.—The loss of what is eternal cannot be compensated by the gain of earthly possessions.—The future is no illusion.

[On the infinite value and possible loss of the soul, Matthew 16:26.—M. Henry: 1. Every man has a soul of his own; 2. it is possible for the soul to be lost, and there is danger of it; 3. if the soul is lost, it is the sinner’s own losing, and his blood is on his own head; 4. one soul is more worth than all the world; so the winning of the world is often the losing of the soul; 6. the loss of the soul cannot be made up by the gain of the whole world; 7. if the soul be once lost, it is lost forever, and the loss can never be repaired or retrieved.—P. S.]


[37] Matthew 16:21.—[Forth is unnecessary and may be omitted. The Greek is ἀπὸ τότε.—P. S.]

[38] Matthew 16:21.—[Better: that, ό̓τι, without how, which dates from Tyndale.—P. S.]

[39] Matthew 16:21.—[The Vulgate correctly translates resurgere; Luther, Ewald, and Lange: auferstehen, rise; taking ἐγερθῆναι in the middle sense, as In Matthew 8:15; Matthew 8:26 (ὴγέπθη, she arose); 9:6 (arise); 17:7 (arise); 25:7 (arose); 26:46; 27:52, 64, etc Wiclif, Tyndale, and the Genevan Bible had it correctly: to rise again; but Cranmer changed It into the passive, and this was retained In King James’s version, although the intervening Bishops’ Bible (ed. 1583) followed the older rendering.—P. S.]

[40] Matthew 16:22.—[̓ΙΙροσλαΒόμενος may be rendered: taking hold of him (English Vers, and Lange), or taking him aside, to himself, apart from others (Euthym. Zigab., Ewald, Meyer, Conant). The first is stronger. See the Exeg. Note.— P. S.]

[41] Matthew 16:22.—Ἤρξατο. The difference of readings is hero Important Cod. B. omits ή̓ρξατο and reads: λέλει αν̓τψ͂ ἐπιτιμῶν. Cod. D. and others: ή̓ρξατο αὐτ ψ͂ἐπιτιμῦν καὶ λέγειν. Similarly the text. rec. [Cod. Sinait reads, like the text, rec.: ηρ ξατο επιτιμαν αντω λεψων. So also Tischendorf and Lachmann (except that the latter places υὐτψ͂ before ἐπιτιμᾶν; while Alford here follows the reading of Cod. Vaticanus, omitting ή̓ρξατο. This verb Implies that the Lord Interrupted Peter and prevented him from finishing the rebuke.—P. S]

[42] Matthew 16:23.—[Or, turned round, ἐπιστραφείς, as Lange reads, following D., K., L., etc., instead of the lect. rec. στραφεί ς.—P. S.]

[43] Matthew 16:23.—[Satan is the proper translation of the Vulgate (satana), and nearly all the English and German versions, and is not to be weakened into the more general adversary. The word occurs 34 times in the N. T. (generally with the art, sometimes without it), and is always the Hebrew proper name for the Devil, ὁ διύΒδλος, the Prince of evil. See Exeg. Note.—P. S.]

[44] Matthew 16:23.—[So Lange: du bist mein Aergerniss, literally according to the reading of the text. rec.: σκάν δαλόνυον εῖ̓ (Tischendorf), or Εῖ̓ ἐμοῦ (Lachmann following Cod. Vaticanus, with which here, as very often, Cod. Sinaiticus agrees). Εῖ̓ ἐμοῦ and the Lat. Vulgate: scαndalum es mihi, is more mild and looks like a later modification. Lachmann’s text here (ἐμοῦ) is the same in sense with the received text (μου).—P. S.]

[45] Matthew 16:23—[Οὐφρον εῖς τὰ τον͂ Θεοῦ, ἀλλὰ τὰτῶν�, thou art not [illegible]mex ded like God but like men, or thou art not of the mind of God. but of men. or thou mindest not the things of God, but of men. Lange: du denkest nicht auf das was Gottes ist, etc.; Ewald; du sinnest nicht was Gottes, sondern was der [illegible] All English versions from Wiclif to James have savorest. This is a Latinism from sapere and the Vulgate rendering: non sapisea quœ, Dei sunt, and must nut be taken in the usual sense of the transitive verb to savor, i.e., to relish, to delight in. Campbell makes it too strong by translating: relishest.—P. S.]

[46] Matthew 16:26 —The future ὠφεληθήσεται is strongly attested by Codd. B., L., al., against ὠφελεῖται, but may be conformed to the following δὠσει. [Ὠφεληθήσεται is also sustained by Cod. Sinait., and adopted by Tischendorf Lachmann, Tregelles, and Alford.—P. S.]

[47] Matthew 16:26.—[Own is an unnecessary addition, and implies a contrast to another man’s soul.—P. S.]

[48] Matthew 16:28 —Τῶν ῶ̔δε ἑδτώτων, warranted by B., C., D., etc.

[49][Maldonatus, who dwells at great length on Matthew 16:18-19 (pp. 217–224), disposes of Matthew 16:23 very briefly. He refers the term Satan correctly to Peter, bat in a wider sense, and accounts for the severity by the importance of the subject, not by the guilt of Peter: At cur tam acriter reprehendit? non tam quod Petri culpa, si qua tamen fuit, quam quod rei. de qua agebatur, magnitudo merebatur. Schegg, one of the latest Roman Catholic commentators (Die heil. Evang., Munich, 1857, vol. ii. p. 376) admits in strong language the awful severity of the rebuke, one of the severest ever uttered, but gets over the difficulty by three considerations: (1) that the rebuke was intended for all the apostles, whom Peter presented in their aversion to Christ’s suffering, as before in his faith (which is correct): (2) that the primacy promised in Matthew 16:18 was not yet actually conferred on him (which admits the force of the rebuke); (3) that the transfer of the primacy does not create a new man (which admits the possibility of the pope’s falling under the same condemnation as Peter). Bengel, in his Gnomon, warns Rome: “Videat Petra romana, ne cadat sub censuram versus 23.” —P. S.]

[50][Or stumbling-stone, which would be in keeping with the metaphorical Petros, a foundation-stone. Compare λίθος προσκόμματος καὶ πέτρα σκανδάλου a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, as Peter himself calls Christ for those who are disobedient, while to them who believe He is the chief corner stone, elect and precious. 1 Peter 2:7.—P. S.]

[51][As Lather has it in his version: Schaden nehmen or leiden an seiner Seele, instead of seine Seele einbüssen, or ihrer verlustig werden, animæ detrimentum pati (Vulg.), to suffer the loss of his soul (or his higher life), to forfeit it, as a penalty for a fault or a crime. This is the true force of ζημιωθῇ, which should be translated forfeit, to distinguish It from the more general term ὰπολὲση, Matthew 16:25. Comp. the parallel passage, Luke 9:25 : ἑαυτὸν�̓ ζημιωθείς, having lost or forfeited himself, i.e., his whole being. ψυχή in this connection, of course, does not mean, as in Matthew 16:25, the perishing life of the body (which a man can not lose and at the same time gain the whole world), but the true eternal life of the soul, which begins in this world by faith in Christ and will be fully developed in the world to come. The word ψνχή has the double meaning life and soul, for which there is no corresponding term in English or German.—P. S.]

[52][Comp. J. A. Alexander in loc.: “The Lord pursues the awful supposition farther, to the verge of paradox and contradiction, but with terrible advantage to the force of this transcendent argument....A man may lose his present life and yet lire on and have a better life in lieu of It; but when he loses his eternal life, he is himself lost, lost forever, and the thought of compensation or recovery involves a contradiction.”—P. S.]

[53][A Barnes refers the passage to the day of Pentecost and the founding of the church. J. A. Alexander gives it a more general and indefinite application to the gradual and progressive establishment of Ch list’s kingdom, especially the effusion of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and the destruction of Jerusalem, as the two salient points, between which, as those of its inception and consummation, lies the lingering death of the Mosaic dispensation, and the gradual erection of Messiah’s kingdom. This is the last passage of Scripture on which the lamented Dr. Jos. Addison Alexander of Princeton commented in full. Of the remaining chapters of the Gospel of Matthew he left, a few days before his death in 1860, merely a meagre analysis, “as though he anticipated the approaching interruption of his earthly labors”—P. S.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 16". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/matthew-16.html. 1857-84.
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