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Monday, August 18, 2008

Pentecost Fifteen


August 24, 2008 (Lectionary 21)

Complementary Series

Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm 138 (8)
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

Semicontinuous Series

Exodus 1:8-2:10
Psalm 124 (7)
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20


August 25, 2008 (transferred from August 24)
Exodus 19:1-6
Psalm 12 (6)
1 Corinthians 12:27-31a
John 1:43-51

lA. CONTEXT: Matthew 16:13-20

While this report of Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi and the
response of Jesus to it shares much with the parallel accounts in Mark and
Luke, the three verses (17-19) which are unique to the Matthew pericope
have occasioned considerable discussion and controversy. The essential
outline of the event is not a subject of dispute. Jesus sought a verdict
from his disciples, "Who do men say that I am?" They answer: some say
John the Baptist, other Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets--each one
of the answers fitting into the expectations of the Jewish people. But
Jesus wants to know whether his immediate followers have even an idea
of who he is or what he must do. Peter answers that he is the Messiah,
the son of the Living God. Jesus responds that Peter did not reason this
out for himself, but this knowledge is itself a gift from God. Then in
Matthew's rendition are added the words "You are Peter and upon this rock
I will build my Church." Here the interpretive battle begins. What is the
place and role of Peter in the New Testament and what are the
implications of the words of Jesus for the government of the Church
through the ages.

The Roman Catholic assertion is that Jesus built the Church upon the
primacy of Peter and it was the undisputable intention of the Lord that
Peter would hand on this letter of appointment to his successors.
Protestant object to this Roman Catholic position, saying that it does not
fit in with the total New Testament understanding of the nature and
government of the Church. Protestants and Roman Catholics alike, far too
frequently have been guided in their exegesis by the determination not to
yield anything to the other side.

Apart from the problem they have created in the relations between
Protestant and Catholic, the Matthean insertion also elicits at least one
other question. The use of the term "church," the exressions "flesh and
blood" and "the Son of the Living God," suggest that the incident actually
came later in the history of Jesus' relationship to his disciplesl. Oscar
Cullman sees the words of Jesus fitting naturally into the passion story.
Few have bought into this thesis. The scholars who produced the
interconfessional study PETER IN THE NEW TESTAMENT join others in
suggesting that the words actually blets into a post-resurrection context.

1B. TEXT: Matthew 16:13-20

ESV: Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock [1] I will build my church, and the gates of hell [2] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed [3] in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

[1] 16:18 The Greek words for Peter and rock sound similar

[2] 16:18 Greek the gates of Hades

[3] 16:19 Or shall have been bound . . . shall have been loosed

13ελθων δε ο ιησους εις τα μερη καισαρειας της φιλιππου ηρωτα τους μαθητας αυτου λεγων, τινα λεγουσιν οι ανθρωποι ειναι τον υιον του ανθρωπου; 14οι δε ειπαν, οι μεν ιωαννην τον βαπτιστην, αλλοι δε ηλιαν, ετεροι δε ιερεμιαν η ενα των προφητων. 15λεγει αυτοις, υμεις δε τινα με λεγετε ειναι; 16αποκριθεις δε σιμων πετρος ειπεν, συ ει ο χριστος ο υιος του θεου του ζωντος. 17αποκριθεις δε ο ιησους ειπεν αυτω, μακαριος ει, σιμων βαριωνα, οτι σαρξ και αιμα ουκ απεκαλυψεν σοι αλλ ο πατηρ μου ο εν τοις ουρανοις. 18καγω δε σοι λεγω οτι συ ει πετρος, και επι ταυτη τη πετρα οικοδομησω μου την εκκλησιαν, και πυλαι αδου ου κατισχυσουσιν αυτης. 19δωσω σοι τας κλειδας της βασιλειας των ουρανων, και ο εαν δησης επι της γης εσται δεδεμενον εν τοις ουρανοις, και ο εαν λυσης επι της γης εσται λελυμενον εν τοις ουρανοις. 20τοτε διεστειλατο τοις μαθηταις ινα μηδενι ειπωσιν οτι αυτος εστιν ο χριστος. Online Text Copyright Info

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS: 16:13-20

Matthew 16:13 - eis ta merei Kaisareias tes philippou - Mark and Matthew
agree that this pivotal encounter in the ministry and mission of Jesus took
place in the district of Caesarea Philippi about twenty miles north of the
Sea of Galilee. The population here was mainly non-Jewish and the area
was crowded with altars, set up for other Gods. The location offers a
strange setting for this sort of exchange between Jesus and his disciples.
Perhaps it can be said that coming in such a place the confession of Peter
is global in consequence.

16:16 - Su ei ho Christos ho huios tou theou tou zontos - The identification
of Jesus as the man or the man-who-is-to-some is made complete. The
authors of the Anchor Bible commentary are absolutely correct when they
write, "In its original context the question posed by Jesus and answered by
Peter as spokesman demands commitment to Jesus as Messiahl." Peter's
declaration is a way of acknowledging that human categories, even the
most sublime and lofty, can neither obtain nor adequately describe Jesus;l.

Matthew's rendition of this confession adds the expression, "the son of the
Living God." Most obviously this addition assigns to the concept of a
Messiah, a dynamic far greater that what the Jews had intended when they
began to speak of Messiah.

16:17 - Makarios ei, Simon Barjona, hoti sarx kai aima ouk apechalupsen

soi all' ho pater mou ho en tois ouranois. kago de soi lego hoti su ei
Petros, kai epi tautei tei petra oikodomeso mou ten ekklesian - This is the
declaration upon which Roman Catholics and Protestants have traditionally
parted company. Roman Catholics have contended that the intent is clear
and Jesus fully desired to build his Church in hierarchical fashion with
primacy being placed upon Peter. Protestants have sometimes sought to
respond that the only rock upon which the Church could be built is upon
Christ himself (1 Cor. 3:11), and Jesus' intention was to build the Church
upon the kind of faith that Peter demonstrated. This assertion is
counterproductive. The early Church, which received the Gospel according
to Matthew, apparently saw Jesus assigning a key position to Peter.
Intriguing is the contention of William Barclay that Peter is the rock, but
in a special sense. The rock is actually God but Peter is the first person to
make the leap of faith and hence to become the foundation stone u;pon
which the church, made up of many other stones, is built.

hoti su ei Petros, kai epi tautei ei petra oikodomeso mou ten ekklesian - In
the Aramaic original the sentence runs "you are kepha and upon this kepha"
I will build my Church. The fact that rock and Peter are identical in
Aramaic makes Jesus' statement into a delightful play on words.

While there is no doubt that Jesus gave this name to Peter, there is some
disagreement as to whether the name was given at Caesarea Philippi or on
some early occasion as the Gospel of John implies (John 1:42). The
designation rock would not have sounded strange to Jewish ears. The
rabbis had referred to Abraham as a rock.

ekklesian - Ekklesia means assembly and is rendered in English as
Churchll. In the four gospels it is used only here and in Matthew 18:17.
Some have questioned whether those who heard Jesus at this point in his
mission would have understood what he meant. Others have argued that to

his contemporaries a rabbi, or, for that matter, a Messiah without an
assembly of followers, would be unthinkable. The use of the word may
argue for post-resurrection context for these three verses.

16:18 - pulai hadou ou katischusousin auteis - The power of death is more
a correct translation of the Greek than "the gates of hell" used in the KJV.

The word is not "gehenna" but hades, which is a Greek word somewhat
equivalent to the Hebrew SHEOL.

16:19 - tas kleidas teis basileias ton ouranon - The keys of the kingdom
would be committed to the Chief Steward of the royal household and with
this goes full power. There is some confusion here since in other N.T.
passages the keys are quite clearly in the hands of Jesus (Rev. 1:18, 3:7).
In rabbinic literature to bind to to loose is often to declare certain actions
to be forbidden or permitted. It appears clear that Peter is being given
authority. Post-apostolic Christianity does ascribe to the apostles the
prerogatives of Jesus.


Far too much energy and time has been spent in attempting to prove the
primacy of Peter and successors on the basis of this text, or in the
struggle to discount the claim. Lost in this fruitless activity is the
recognition that Jesus also made a statement that is of even greater
consequence, and that is: "I will build my Church and the powers of death
shall not prevail against it."

The Church is not finally a product of human ingenuity, strength or even
faithfulness to the teaching of Jesus. Jesus is the builder of the Church
and it is his power alone that will prevail against even death. That can
only be because the life of the Church is the life of the one who has
already put death behind him.

It does not, however, follow that the Church shall have an easy time of it,
or that its progress should inevitably be onward and upward.
Denominations and individual congregations are well able to forget who
they are and fail. Individual Christians can grow cold and uncaring. The
Church, however, persists. It has a power that will abide through change
and even momentary defeat. The Church lives eternally because the Lord
who builds the Church and is a presence within it lives forever.

Many years ago the respected conservative preacher Clarence E.
MacCartaney reported that a great London newpaper offered a prize for the
best essay on the subject, "What is wrong with the Church?" The prize
was won by a Welsh minister. And what do you think was his answer?
Was it the lack of doctrine, of which indeed there was a great lack? Was
it the lack of education? Was it the loss of touch with the masses, the
poor, the working people that was doing the Church in? Was it a lack of
friendlinesss and warmth? Was it bad preaching or poor music?

No, it was none of these, contended the Welsh minister. His answer was:

"What is wrong with the Church is our failure to realize and wonder at the
beauty, the mystery, the glory, the greatness of the Church." What is
wrong with the Church is that we get so involved and overextended that we
who are the Church forget that it is the resurrected Lord who will build
the Church.

In somewhat similar vein, Colin Morris of Great Britain has pointed out
that a prime difference between the Christian community of our day and
the early Church is that the early Church was preoccupied with a different
question than ours. They not ask, "How are we doing?" but "What is He
doing?" "I will build my Church," says the Lord, and the powers of death
shall not prevail against it. What might happen if we all took this promise
with a new seriousness?


Albright,W.F. and C.S. Mann. MATTHEW. The Anchor Bible. Garden City, NY:

Doubleday, 1971.

Barclay, William. THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW. Daily Bible Study Series, vol.

2. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975.

Bornkamm, G.; Barth,G.; and H.J. Held. TRADITION AND INTERPRETATION OF
MATTHEW. New Testament Library. Philadelphia: Westminster Press,

Brown, Raymond E., Karl P. Donfried and John Reumann. PETER IN THE NEW
TESTAMENT. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1973.

THEOLOGICAL ESSAY, 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962.


THE CHURCH'S ONE FOUNDATION (LBW 369, HB 525) is particularly
appropriate to this day. Give careful attention to stanza 3 in light of the
suggested strategy.

Also appropriate but not quite as pointed in support of the suggested
strategy is Nicolai F.S. Grundtvig's great hymn BUILT ON A ROCK THE



BY ALL YOUR SAINTS STILL STRIVING (HB 23l,231; cf. Confession of Peter)



Exegete: John Stadtlander, Ph.D.†


Lexegete™ © 2008

Tischrede Software

Dartmouth, MA



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