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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 16

The Fourfold GospelFourfold Gospel

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Verses 1-12

Subdivision A.
(Magadan and Bethsaida. Probably Summer, A. D. 29.)
aMATT. XV. 39-XVI. 12; bMARK VIII. 10-26.

b10 And straightway he entered into the boat with his disciples, aand came into the borders of Magadan. binto the parts of Dalmanutha. [It appears from the context that he crossed the lake to the west shore. Commentators, therefore, pretty generally think that Magadan is another form of the name Magdala, and that Dalmanutha was either another name for Magdala, or else a village near it.] a1 And the Pharisees and Sadducees bcame forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign aand trying him [testing the strength of his miraculous power] asked him to show them a sign from heaven. [They rejected his miracles as signs of his Messiahship, the Pharisees holding that such signs could be wrought by Beelzebub. They therefore asked a sign from heaven such as only God could give, and such as he had accorded to Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and Elijah, or such as Joel foretold ( Joel 2:31). It is generally thought that the [406] Herodians were Sadducees of Galilee. If so, we note the beginning of their hostility recorded at Mark iii. 6, 1 Corinthians 1:22.] 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and bverily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation. [i. e., none such as was demanded] bbut the sign of Jonah. [For comment on similar language, see pages 305-306. The resurrection or Jonah sign was a sign from heaven in the sense in which they used the words; that is, it was wrought directly by God, and not through man.] 13 And he left them, bAnd again entering into the boat departed to the other side. [I. e., from Magdala back again to the east shore, or rather, toward Bethsaida Julias, on the northeast shore.] a5 And the disciples came to the other side and forgot to take bread. band they had not in the boat with them more than one loaf. [This loaf was probably left over from the previous supply.] a6 Then Jesus said unto them, b15 And he charged them, saying, aTake heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. band the leaven of Herod. [Leaven, which answered to our modern yeast, was a symbol of a secret, penetrating, pervasive influence, usually of a corrupting nature. The [407] influence of the Pharisees was that of formalism, hypocritical ostentation, and traditionalism; that of the Sadducees was sneering rationalistic unbelief, free thought and cunning worldliness, manifesting itself among the Herodians in political corruption. 16 And they reasoned one with another, aamong themselves, saying, We took {bhave} no bread. They thought that Jesus reproved them for their carelessness in forgetting to take bread, since that carelessness might lead them to be without bread on their journey. So his rebuke below indicates.] a8 And Jesus perceiving it said, {bsaith,} unto them, aO ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? 9 Do ye not yet perceive, bneither understand? aneither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets [cophini, probably traveling baskets] ye took up? 10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets [spurides, probably grain baskets or hampers] ye took up? 11 How is it that ye do not perceive that I spake not to you concerning bread? bhave ye your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? 19 When I brake the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets [cophini] full of broken pieces took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. 20 And when the seven among the four thousand, how many basketfuls [spurides] of broken pieces took ye up? And they say unto him, Seven. 21 And he said unto them, Do ye not yet understand? aBut beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees? 12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. [Jesus had resorted to metaphor because the word leaven better expressed his idea than did the word teaching. The formulated dogmas of the Pharisees were not so bad, but the subtle influence of their spirit and example corrupted [408] without warning, like a concealed grave. There are those to-day who are too skillful to be openly convicted of heterodox statements, but whose teaching, nevertheless, in its very essence and spirit, tends to infidelity.] b22 And they cometh unto Bethsaida. [Not the suburb of Capernaum, but Bethsaida Julias, a town on the east side of the Jordan, near where it flows into the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was proceeding northward toward Cæsarea Philippi.] And they bring to him a blind man, and beseech him to touch him. 23 And he took hold of the blind man by the hand, and brought him out of the village [Jesus increased the sympathy between himself and the man by separating him from the crowd. Our greatest blessing can only come to us after we have been alone with God]; and when he had spit on his eyes, and laid his hands upon him, he asked him, Seest thou aught? 24 And he looked up, and said, I see men; for I behold them as trees, walking. 25 Then again he laid his hands again upon his eyes; and he looked steadfastly, and was restored, and saw all things clearly. [The man’s eyes were probably sore, and Jesus made use of saliva to soften and soothe them. But it was our Lord’s custom to give variety to the manifestation of his power, sometimes using one apparent auxiliary means, and sometimes another; and also healing instantly or progressively, as he chose, that the people might see that the healing was altogether a matter of his will. The man had evidently not been born blind, else he would not have been able to recognize men or trees by sight, for those not used to employ sight can not by it tell a circle from a square.] 26 And he sent him away to his home, saying, Do not even enter into the village. [The man, of course, lived in the village, and to send him home was to send him thither, but he was to go directly home and not spread the news through the town, for if he did the population would be at once drawn to Jesus, thus breaking up the privacy which he sought to maintain.] [409]

[FFG 406-409]

Verses 13-20

Subdivision B.
(Near Cæsarea Philippi, Summer, A. D. 29.)
aMATT. XVI. 13-20; bMARK VIII. 27-30; cLUKE IX. 18-21.

b27 And Jesus went forth, and his disciples, into the villages of Cæsarea Philippi [The city of Paneas was enlarged by Herod Philip I., and named in honor of Tiberias Cæsar. It also bore the name Philippi because of the name of its builder, and to distinguish it from Cæsarea Palestinæ or Cæsarea Strotonis, a city on the Mediterranean coast. Paneas, the original name, still pertains to the village, though now corrupted to Banias. It is situated under the shadow of Mt. Hermon at the eastern of the two principal sources of the Jordan, and is the most northern city of the Holy Land visited by Jesus, and save Sidon, the most northern point of his travels]: a13 Now when Jesus came into the parts of Cæsarea Philippi, cit came to pass, bon the way cas he was praying apart, the disciples were with him: and he asked bhis disciples, saying, unto them, aWho do men say that the Son of man is? aWho do men {cthe multitude} say that I am? [Jesus asks them to state the popular opinion concerning himself as contrasted with the opinion of the rulers, Pharisees, etc.] 19 And they answering btold him, saying, {csaid,} aSome say John the Baptist; cbut {band} asome, bothers, Elijah; but {cand} others, aJeremiah, or cthat one of the old prophets is risen again. [For comment on similar language, see Galatians 1:16] hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven. [Peter was blessed by having a revelation from God by which facts were made known that could not be discovered by the unaided human reason. God had revealed the truth to him in the words and works of Jesus, and this revealed truth was to him a source of happiness both temporal and eternal. Like confessions as to this truth had been made before ( Matthew 14:33, John 1:49), but they had been made under the pressure of miraculous display and strong emotion. Hence they were rather exclamatory guesses at the truth, and differed from this now made by Peter which was the calm expression of a settled conviction produced both by the character and by the miracles of Jesus.] 18 And I say also unto [411] thee, That thou art Peter [petros, a noun masculine] and upon this rock [Petra, a noun feminine] I will build my church [The tense here is future. Christ had followers, but they were not yet organized, and hence had no such structural form as to suggest a similitude to a building]; and the gates of Hades [Hades was the name of the abode of the dead. Its gate symbolized its power because the military forces of an ancient city always sallied forth from its gates] shall not prevail against it. [Death shall neither destroy the organic church which is in the world, nor the members thereof which go down into the grave ( 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 15:54-56). No passage in the word of God has called forth more discussion than this and the succeeding verse, the first point in dispute being as to what is meant by the rock; i. e., whether Christ or Peter or Peter’s confession is the foundation of the church; the second point being as to the extent of the power and authority bestowed on Peter by the symbol of the keys. To aid us in reaching a correct conclusion we must note that Jesus speaks in metaphorical language. He represents: 1. His kingdom as a city about to be built upon a rock. 2. Himself as a builder of the city. 3. Simon Peter as the one who holds the keys to the gates by which egress and regress is had to the city. 4. The gates or powers of the opposing city of Hades are not able to prevail against this kingdom city. Now, since Jesus himself occupies the position of builder in the metaphor, and Simon Peter the position of key-bearer, neither of them can properly be regarded as the foundation. The foundation must therefore be the confession which Peter has just spoken, since it is all that remains that is liable to such application. The case could present no difficulty at all were it not for the unmistakable allusion to Peter (petros, a loose stone) as in some way associated with petra, the bedrock or foundation. But in the light of other Scriptures this allusion presents no difficulty; for all the apostles were such stones, and were closely allied to the foundation ( Ephesians 2:19-22, Galatians 2:9). Compare also 1 Peter 2:3-8. The Christian religion in all its redemptive completeness rests and can rest on no other [412] foundation than Christ ( 1 Corinthians 3:11). But the church or kingdom of Christ among men rests organically and constitutionally upon a foundation of apostolic authority, for the apostles were the mouthpieces of the Holy Spirit; but in this apostolic foundation the other apostles had equal rights, each one of them becoming a living foundation stone as soon as his faith led him to make a like confession with Simon Peter. Hence we find the apostle Paul asserting the superior authority of the apostles to all other Christian teachers and workers ( 1 Corinthians 12:28), and times without number asserting his apostolic office and authority-- 1 Corinthians 9:1, 1 Corinthians 9:2, 2 Corinthians 12:12, 2 Corinthians 13:1-4, Galatians 1:1, Galatians 1:8, Ephesians 3:1-6, Philemon 1:8, Philemon 1:9.] 19 I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. [Continuing his metaphorical language, Jesus promised to Peter the keys; i. e., the authority to lay down the rules or laws (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, however) for admission to or exclusion from the kingdom or church. This office was, of course, given to Peter in a secondary sense, since it must ever belong to Christ in a primary sense ( Revelation 3:7). The figure of key-bearer is taken from Isaiah 22:22. Peter used the keys on the day of Pentecost to open the church to the Jews, and about seven years afterward, at Cæsarea Palestinæ, he used them again to admit the Gentiles. In fixing the terms of admission, he also fixed the terms of exclusion, for all who are not admitted are excluded. The keys as used by Peter have never been changed; that is to say, the terms of admission abide forever. Plurality of keys is merely part of the parabolic drapery, since cities were accustomed to have several gates, thus requiring a plurality of keys. The kingdom was not opened to Jews and Gentiles by different keys, since both were admitted on the same terms. The words "bind" and "loose" were commonly used among the Jews in the sense of forbid and allow. Abundant instances of this usage have been collected by Lightfoot. They relate to the binding and annulling of laws and rules. [413] In this sense the word for loose, is used very many times in the New Testament, but it is translated by the word break or broken ( Matthew 5:19, John 7:23, John 10:35). The power here given to Peter was soon after extended to the rest of the apostles ( Matthew 18:18). The apostles were to lay down, as they afterward did, the organic law of the new kingdom, defining what things were prohibited and what permitted. Their actions in this behalf would of course be ratified in heaven, because they were none other than the acts of the Holy Spirit expressed through the apostles.] b30 And a20 Then {c21 But} acharged he the disciples cand commanded them to tell this to no man; bthat they should tell no man of him. athat he was the Christ. [The people were not ready to receive this truth, nor were the apostles sufficiently instructed to rightly proclaim it. Their heads were full of wrong ideas with regard to Christ’s work and office, and had they been permitted to teach about him, they would have said that which it would have been necessary for them to subsequently correct, thus producing confusion.]

[FFG 410-414]

Verses 21-28

Subdivision C.
aMATT. XVI. 21-28; bMARK VIII. 31-38; IX. 1; cLUKE IX. 22-27.

a21 From that time [i. e., from the time of Peter’s confession, and about three-quarters of a year before the crucifixion] began Jesus to show unto his disciples, b31 And to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things [Since the apostles, by the mouth of Peter, had just confessed Jesus as Christ, it was necessary that their crude Messianic conceptions should be corrected and that the true Christhood--the Christhood of the atonement and the resurrection--should be revealed to them. In discourse and parable Jesus had explained the principles and the nature of the kingdom, and now, from this time forth, he taught the [414] apostles about himself, the priestly King], athat he must go up to Jerusalem, band be rejected by aand suffer many things of the elders, and bthe chief priests, and the scribes [The Jewish Sanhedrin was generally designated by thus naming the three constituent parts. See John 2:19-22, John 3:14, Matthew 12:38-40), but these had not been understood by either friend or foe. Now that he thus spoke plainly, we may see by Peter’s conduct that they comprehended and were deeply moved by the dark and more sorrowful portion of his revelation, and failed to grasp the accompanying promise of a resurrection.] a22 And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall never be unto thee. [Evidently Peter regarded Jesus as overcome by a fit of despondency, and felt that such talk would utterly dishearten the disciples if it were persisted in. His love, therefore, prompted him to lead Jesus to one side and deal plainly with him. In so doing, Peter overstepped the laws of discipleship and assumed that he knew better than the Master what course to pursue. In his feelings he was the forerunner of those modern wiseacres who confess themselves constrained to reject the doctrine of a suffering Messiah.] b33 But he turning about, and seeing his disciples. aturned, brebuked Peter, and saith, {asaid} unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art a stumbling-block unto me: for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things that be of men. [Jesus withdrew from Peter and turned back to his disciples. By the confession of the truth Simon had just won his promised name of Peter, which allied him to Christ, the [415] foundation. But when he now turned aside to speak the language of the tempter, Peter receives the name Satan, as if he were the very devil himself. Peter presented the same temptation with which the devil once called forth a similar rebuke from Christ ( Matthew 4:10). He was unconsciously trying to dissuade Jesus from the death on which the salvation of the world depended, and this was working into Satan’s hand. Peter did not mind or think about the Messiah’s kingdom as divinely conceived and revealed in the Scriptures.] b34 And he called unto him the multitude with his disciples, a24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, c23 And he said unto all [despite the efforts of Jesus to seek privacy, the people were still near enough at hand to be called and addressed], If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily [comp. Romans 8:36, 1 Corinthians 15:31] and follow me [For comment, see Luke 12:9, 2 Timothy 1:8, 2 Timothy 1:12, 2 Timothy 2:12] in this adulterous and sinful generation [see pp. 305, 306], the Son of man also shall be ashamed of him cwhen he cometh in his own glory, and the glory of the {bhis} cFather, and of {bwith} the holy angels. [Peter had just been ashamed of the words in which Christ pictured himself as undergoing his humiliation. Jesus warns him and all others of the dangers of such shame.] a27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels; and then he shall render unto every man according to his deed. [The Father’s glory, the angels, and the rendering of universal judgment form a threefold indication that Jesus here speaks of his final coming to judge the world.] b1 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, c27 But I tell you of a truth, aThere are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. ctill they see the kingdom of God. bcome with power. [The mention of his final coming suggested one nearer at hand which was to be accomplished during the life of most of those present, since none but Jesus himself and Judas were to die previous to that time. The kingdom was to come and likewise the King. The former coming was literal, the latter spiritual. Those who refer this expression to the transfiguration certainly err, for no visible kingdom was established at that time. The expression refers to the kingdom which was organized and set in motion on the Pentecost which followed the resurrection of Jesus. It was set up with power, because three thousand souls were converted the first day, and many other gospel triumphs speedily followed.] [417]

[FFG 414-417]

Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Matthew 16". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tfg/matthew-16.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.
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