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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 16

 

 

Verses 1-4

Matthew 16:1-4. The Request for a Sign Refused (Mark 8:11-13*, Luke 11:16; Luke 11:29 f.).—For the mention of Sadducees cf. Matthew 16:6*. The saying about the weather (Matthew 16:2 b, Matthew 16:3) is wanting in some good MSS., and is perhaps an interpolation from Luke 12:54-56*. The "signs of the times" are regarded here as the miracles already wrought by Jesus. The sign of Jonah is repeated from Matthew 12:38*.


Verses 5-12

Matthew 16:5-12. The Blindness of the Disciples Rebuked (Mark 8:14-21*, Luke 11:53 f., Luke 12:1).—Note how Mt avoids the idea that Jesus had forgotten the bread. The Sadducees are mentioned again in 6. The detached saying about leaven in Mark 8:15 probably refers to plots of the Pharisees and Herod, but Mt. (Matthew 12) interprets "leaven" as teaching, and so has to substitute "Sadducees" for "Herod," and carries the substitution back to Matthew 16:1. He makes Jesus read the disciples' thoughts (Matthew 16:8) instead of simply overhearing their conversation (Mk.). Then, after giving Mk.'s statement that the disciples need never worry about a shortage of food, he adds words of Jesus that the point at issue is not food at all, but erroneous teaching. Matthew 16:11 f. is an attempt to give Mark 8:15 a context and explanation.


Verses 13-28

Matthew 16:13-28. The Great Confession and the First View of the Cross (Mark 8:27-38*, Luke 9:18-27).—Omitting the cure of the blind man (but cf. Matthew 9:27-33), Mt. passes to the significant episode of Cæsarea Philippi. Matthew 16:13-16 =Mark 8:27-29, but note the substitution (Matthew 16:13) of "Son of Man" for "I," which gives the position away (especially if we read "I, the Son of Man"), and the addition of Jeremiah (Matthew 16:14), and "the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Matthew 16:17-19 is given by Mt. only. Peter is pronounced "blessed" as the recipient of a Divine revelation. (The evangelist forgets Matthew 14:33. John 1:41 equally destroys the significance of this scene.) To this unique communication Jesus Himself adds another (Matthew 16:18 f.): "Thou art Peter (Aram. Kepha, "a rock"), and on this rock I will build my ecclesia." "This rock" may be Peter (cf. Galatians 2:9, Ephesians 2:20); if so, it is Peter personally, not officially as bishop of Rome; and in any case it would have been more natural to say "upon thee." It may be, as Augustine suggests, Jesus Himself. But it is most likely the truth which Peter had expressed; the foundation of the ecclesia is the Messiahship of Jesus. "Church" (ecclesia) is only found in the Gospels here and at Matthew 18:17. In LXX it translates qahal, i.e. Israel as a congregation (cf. Acts 7:38), and sometimes ‘çdhah, a word of similar meaning used by the priestly writer (p. 129), though LXX mostly turns this by "synagogue." The Gr. meaning of the word is that of the whole body of citizens called out from their private affairs to legislate for the State (cf. Acts 19:32). Mt. is obliged to use it to denote the Christian community as separate from Jews.

Against this new community the gates of Hades shall not prevail. The two structures, as it were, the ecclesia and Hades, are ranged against each other. But the mention of the gates is significant. We may, of course, take "gates of Hades" as equivalent to Hades, and understand the expression of the powers of evil who dwell there. They and all that they imply, persecutions and temptations, shall not overcome the ecclesia. But Hades is usually regarded not as the abode of evil spirits but as the place of the dead, and the "gates of Hades (Sheol)" in the OT is synonymous with "gates of death." Hence M'Neile sees here a prediction of the resurrection: the gates of Hades shall not prevail against the Messiah's ecclesia by keeping Him imprisoned (cf. Matthew 16:21, Acts 2:24-31, Revelation 1:18). Loisy simply interprets it as "death prevails against all men, but shall have no power against the Church," without any specific reference to Jesus. Tatian's Diatessaron has Blessed art thou, Simon, and the gate of Hades shall not prevail against thee; thou art Peter"—perhaps a promise that Peter should survive till the Parousia.

In Exp., June 1916 (= Studia Sacra, ch. iv.), Dr. Bernard advances a new theory. He explains the passage in the light of Matthew 7:24-27, and cogently argues that the Gr. word for "gates" is a mistranslation of an Aramaic word for "storms" or "floods." There are two such words, and they gave trouble to the scribes and translators of OT. Thus in Daniel 8:2, where AV and RV read "the river of Ulai," the Douay Version, following Vulg., reads "the gate of Ulai." If we read here "the floods of Hades," we have an easy and familiar metaphor for an incursion of infernal powers, which cannot, however, harm the Church built on a Rock.

The gift of the keys does not mark Peter out as doorkeeper of the Church (or of heaven), but as chief steward in the Kingdom, the major-domo. Their real holder is the Lord Himself (Revelation 3:7, cf. Isaiah 22:22). The primacy of Peter here indicated makes Matthew 18:1 and Matthew 19:27 rather difficult; considering this and the unusual use of "Kingdom of Heaven" as denoting the Church, we may well doubt the genuineness of the saying in Matthew 16:19 a. The remainder of the verse gives the apostle legislative authority. He will be a scribe of the new age or order (cf. Matthew 13:52), giving his decisions for binding (i.e. prohibiting) and loosing (i.e. permitting) after the fashion of an expert Rabbi. And his decisions will be ratified in heaven, i.e. by God. There is no question of absolution from sin here, and no necessary connexion with John 20:23. In Matthew 18:18 this legislative authority is given to all the disciples, and that passage is probably the source of this one.

With Matthew 16:21 Mt. begins the second great division in his life of Jesus. The scene at Csarea Philippi is chronologically and theologically the most conspicuous milestone in the biography. As in Lk., "on the third day" replaces Mk.'s "after three days," though some early texts follow Mk. The change is scarcely due to the fact that the resurrection took place "on the third day" rather than "after three days," for the two phrases in Aramaic mean the same thing. Note the additions in Matthew 16:22 f. Lk. omits this episode. The teaching on discipleship closely follows Mk. except in Matthew 16:27, where Mark 8:38 has been in part anticipated by Matthew 10:33, while Mk.'s phrase, "adulterous and sinful generation," is used in Matthew 12:39 = Matthew 16:4 a. Matthew 10:38 f. also runs parallel with Matthew 16:24 f. Jesus announces a judgment according to deeds (cf. Ps. 62:13, Proverbs 24:12).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Matthew 16:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/matthew-16.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 25th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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