Matthew xvi.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. The Pharisees and Sadducees. These were widely opposite in their religious sentiments to each other, but closely united in their design of persecuting Jesus Christ, and they come and ask of him a sign or prodigy from heaven, to convince them that he was the Christ, the Messias. (Bible de Vence) — The Sadducees deny the immortality of the soul, and affirm that our only obligation is the observance of the law; insomuch, that they prided themselves on their right of disputing the most important points with their teachers. This sect is not numerous, and chiefly composed of men of condition, who, when properly qualified for offices of state, are compelled to conform, at least in appearance, to the principles of the Pharisees; otherwise, they would incur the resentment of the Pharisees. (Josephus, Book xviii. chap. ii.) See also note on ver. 7, chap. iii, above. — St. Chrysostom is of opinion he would have granted them any sign they wished, had they been willing to believe; but as their object was curiosity and censure, he refused to comply. They mistrusted, it would seem, his other miracles as the effect of some occult quality inherent in him, and wished to see a miracle performed upon distant objects in the heavens or clouds, which would be to them less suspicious and objectionable. (Haydock)

Ver. 4. You know then how to discern the face of the sky, &c. Jesus Christ does not condemn every observation made upon the weather, from external appearances in the heavens. He only upbraids the Jews for so closely examining these signs, and neglecting at the same time to notice the many signs and predictions which so plainly manifested him to be the promised Messias. (Denis the Carthusian) — The reasoning of Jesus Christ is this: you know how to judge of the weather from observation, and cannot you then know the certain signs so often promised, and now completed in my coming? The signs of this event were, the taking away the sceptre from the tribe of Juda. (Genesis xxxix.[xlix.?] 10.) The completion of the 70 weeks of years of Daniel ix. 25, amounting to 490 years, which were now on the eve of being completed. The miracles of Jesus Christ, as the curing of the blind, the lame, the deaf and dumb, foretold by Isaias xxxv. 5. and lxi. 1. To which may be added the apparition of angels to the shepherds at Bethlehem, the miraculous star which appeared to the magi, the testimony of his heavenly Father, the descent of the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove. Besides, the testimony of the Baptist, and so many miracles of every kind wrought to establish this truth, most certainly, clearly, and infallibly demonstrate, that the long expected Messias had already come, and that this Jesus was the Messias. (Tirinus)

Ver. 5. Forgotten to take bread. The disciples had just filled seven baskets with fragments, but had forgotten to take any with them into the ship; or, according to others, had distributed all among the poor. (Barrardius) — They were so taken with the company of Christ, that they even forgot the necessities of life. (St. Anselm) — The disciples, ever constant attendants on our Redeemer, were retained so strongly by the love of his company, that they would not be absent from him for one moment. We may also remark how far they were from an eager search after delicacies, when they even forgot the daily pittance requisite for their support. (St. Remigius) — It was the custom of those times, and that country, for persons on a journey to carry their own bread. (Bible de Vence)

Ver. 6-7. Beware of the leaven, &c. The disciples, not understanding the meaning of Christ’s words, supposed he was instructing them not to touch the bread of the Scribes and Pharisees. (Bible de Vence)

Ver. 8. Why do you think? That we might know what effect this discourse of our Saviour had upon his disciples, the evangelist immediately subjoins, then they understood, &c. This exposition of Christ freed them from the accusation of the Jews; it made them who were negligent and inattentive, both diligent and attentive, and confirmed them in their faith. (St. Chrysostom)

Ver. 13. Cæarea Philippi, was first called Paneades, and was afterwards embellished and greatly enlarged by Philip the tetrarch, son of Herod the great, and dedicated in honour of Augustus, hence its name. There was moreover another Cæsarea, called Straton, situated on the Mediterranean: and not in this, but in the former, did Christ interrogate his disciples. He first withdrew them from the Jews, that they might with more boldness and freedom deliver their sentiments. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lv.) — The Cæsarea here mentioned continued to be called by heathen writers Panea, from the adjoining spring Paneum, or Panium, which is usually taken for the source of the Jordan.

Ver. 14. Some say, &c. Herod thought that Christ was the Baptist, on account of his prodigies. (Matthew xiv. 2.) Others that he was Elias: 1st. because they expected he was about to return to them, according to the prophecy of Malachias; behold I will send you Elias; 2nd. on account of the greatness of his miracles; 3rd. on account of his invincible zeal and courage in the cause of truth and justice. Others again said he was Jeremias, either on account of his great sanctity, for he was sanctified in his mother’s womb; or, on account of his great charity and love for his brethren, as it was written of Jeremias: he is a lover of his brethren. Or, again, one of the prophets, viz. Isaias, or some other noted for eloquence; for it was the opinion of many of the Jews, as we read in St. Luke, that one of the ancient prophets had arisen again. (Denis the Carthusian)

Ver. 15. Whom do you say that I am? You, who have been continually with me; you, who have seen me perform so many more miracles; you, who have yourselves worked miracles in my name? From this pointed interrogation, Jesus Christ intimates, that the opinion men had formed of him was very inadequate to the exalted dignity of his person, and that he expects they will have a juster conception of him. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lv.)

Ver. 16. Simon Peter answering. As Simon Peter had been constituted the first in the college of apostles, (Matthew x. 2.) and therefore surpasseth the others in dignity as much as in zeal, without hesitation, and in the name of all, he answers: thou art the Christ, the Redeemer promised to the world, not a mere man, not a mere prophet like other prophets, but the true and natural Son of the living God. Thus Sts. Chrysostom, Cyril, Ambrose, Augustine, and Tirinus. When our Saviour inquired the opinion of the vulgar, all the apostles answered; but when he asks their opinion of him, Peter, as the mouth of the rest, and head of the whole college, steps forth, and prevents the others. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lv.) — Tu es Christus, filius Dei vivi; or, as it is in the Greek, o christos, o uios; The Christ, the Son, the Christ formerly promised by the law and the prophets, expected and desired by all the saints, the anointed and consecrated to God: o uios, the Son, not by grace only, or an adoptive filiation like prophets, to whom Christ is here opposed, but by natural filiation, and in a manner that distinguishes him from all created beings. — Thou art[1] Christ, the Son of the living God, not by grace only, or by adoption, as saints are the sons of God, but by nature, and from all eternity, the true Son of the living God. (Witham)

Ver. 17. Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona. Simon is undoubtedly Sumeon, as written 2 Peter i. 1. Bariona is son of Jona, or John, an abridgment for Barioanna. Bar, in Chaldaic, is son; hence St. Peter is called, in John xxi, 16. and 17, Simon, son of John. It was customary with the Jews to add to a rather common name, for the sake of discrimination, a patronumikonor patronymic, as appears from Matthew x. 3. and xxiii. 35; Mark ii. 14; John vi. 42. (Pastorini)

Ver. 18. Kago. And I say to thee, and tell thee why I before declared, (John i. 42.) that thou shouldst be called Peter, for thou art constituted the rock upon which, as a foundation, I will build my Church, and that so firmly, as not to suffer the gates (i.e. the powers) of hell to prevail against its foundation; because if they overturn its foundation, (i.e. thee and thy successors) they will overturn also the Church that rests upon it. Christ therefore here promises to Peter, that he and his successors should be to the end, as long as the Church should last, its supreme pastors and princes. (Tirinus) — In the Syriac tongue, which is that which Jesus Christ spoke, there is no difference of genders, as there is in Latin, between petra, a rock, and Petrus, Peter; hence, in the original language, the allusion was both more natural and more simple. (Bible de Vence) — Thou art Peter;[2] and upon this (i.e. upon thee, according to the literal and general exposition of the ancient Fathers) I will build my church. It is true St. Augustine, in one or two places, thus expounds these words, and upon this rock, (i.e. upon myself:) or upon this rock, which Peter hath confessed: yet he owns that he had also given the other interpretation, by which Peter himself was the rock. Some Fathers have also expounded it, upon the faith, which Peter confessed; but then they take not faith, as separated from the person of Peter, but on Peter, as holding the true faith. No one questions but that Christ himself is the great foundation-stone, the chief corner-stone, as St. Paul tells the Ephesians; (Chap. ii, ver. 20.) but it is also certain, that all the apostles may be called foundation-stones of the Church, as represented Apocalypse xxi. 14. In the mean time, St. Peter (called therefore Cephas, a rock) was the first and chief foundation-stone among the apostles, on whom Christ promised to build his Church. (Witham) — Thou art Peter, &c. As St. Peter, by divine revelation, here made a solemn profession of his faith of the divinity of Christ, so in recompense of this faith and profession, our Lord here declares to him the dignity to which he is pleased to raise him: viz. that he, to whom he had already given the name of Peter, signifying a rock, (John i. 42.) should be a rock indeed, of invincible strength, for the support of the building of the church; in which building he should be next to Christ himself, the chief foundation-stone, in quality of chief pastor, ruler, and governor; and should have accordingly all fulness of ecclesiastical power, signified by the keys of the kingdom of heaven. — Upon this rock, &c. The words of Christ to Peter, spoken in the vulgar language of the Jews, which our Lord made use of, were the same as if he had said in English, Thou art a rock, and upon this rock I will build my church. So that, by the plain course of the words, Peter is here declared to be the rock, upon which the church was to be built; Christ himself being both the principal foundation and founder of the same. Where also note, that Christ by building his house, that is, his Church, upon a rock, has thereby secured it against all storms and floods, like the wise builder. (Matthew vii. 24, 25.) — The gates of hell, &c. That is, the powers of darkness, and whatever Satan can do, either by himself or his agents. For as the Church is here likened to a house, or fortress, built on a rock; so the adverse powers are likened to a contrary house or fortress, the gates of which, i.e. the whole strength, and all the efforts it can make, will never be able to prevail over the city or Church of Christ. By this promise we are fully assured, that neither idolatry, heresy, nor any pernicious error whatsoever shall at any time prevail over the Church of Christ. (Challoner) — The gates, in the Oriental style, signify the powers; thus, to this day, we designate the Ottoman or Turkish empire by the Ottoman port. The princes were wont to hold their courts at the gates of the city. (Bible de Vence)

Ver. 19. And I will give to thee the keys, &c. This is another metaphor, expressing the supreme power and prerogative of the prince of the apostles. The keys of a city, or of its gates, are presented or given to the person that hath the chief power. We also own a power of the keys, given to the other apostles, but with a subordination to St. Peter and to his successor, as head of the Catholic Church. — And whatsoever thou shalt bind, &c. All the apostles, and their successors, partake also of this power of binding and loosing, but with a due subordination to one head invested with the supreme power. (Witham) — Loose on earth. The loosing the bands of temporal punishments due to sins, is called an indulgence: the power of which is here granted. (Challoner) — Although Peter and his successors are mortal, they are nevertheless endowed with heavenly power, says St. Chrysostom, nor is the sentence of life and death passed by Peter to be attempted to be reversed, but what he declares is to be considered a divine answer from heaven, and what he decrees, a decree of God himself. He that heareth you, heareth me, &c. The power of binding is exercised, 1st. by refusing to absolve; 2nd. by enjoining penance for sins forgiven; 3nd. by excommunication, suspension or interdict; 4th. by making rules and laws for the government of the Church; 5th. by determining what is of faith by the judgments and definitions of the Church. (Tirinus) — The terms binding and loosing, are equivalent to opening and shutting, because formerly the Jews opened the fastenings of their doors by untying it, and they shut or secured their doors by tying or binding it. (Bible de Vence) — Dr. Whitby, a learned Protestant divine, thus expounds this and the preceding verse: “As a suitable return to thy confession, I say also to thee, that thou art by name Peter, i.e. a rock; and upon thee, who art this rock, I will build my Church, and I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the power of making laws to govern my Church.” (Tom. i, p. 143.) Dr. Hammond, another Protestant divine, explains it in the same manner. And p. 92, he says: ” What is here meant by the keys, is best understand by Isaias xxii. 22, where they signify ruling the whole family or house of the king: and this being by Christ accommodated to the Church, denotes the power of governing it.”

Ver. 20. Tell no one that he was Jesus, the Christ. In some manuscripts both Greek and Latin, the name Jesus is not here found, and many interpreters think it superfluous in this place. The Greek expressly says the Christ adjoining the article, which the Latin tongue does not express. (Bible de Vence) — “In a preceding part of Scripture, Jesus sending his apostles, commanded them to publish his coming; but here he seems to give a contrary mandate, tell no one, &c. but in my opinion it is one thing to preach the Christ, and another to preach Christ Jesus; for Christ is a name of dignity, but Jesus is the particular name of the Redeemer.” (St. Jerome) — He did not forbid them to teach that there was a Messias a Redeemer, but to declare then that he was the person; 2nd. the disciples (Matthew x,) are not sent to preach the gospel, strictly speaking, but only to prepare the minds and hearts of the people for the coming of the Messias, as is evident from Matthew x. 23. See Mark xiv. 61. and 62; John v. 18. and viii. 58. and x. 30. and xi. 27. But why did he lay this injunction? To avoid the envy of the Scribes, and not to appear to raise his own glory. He wished the people to be induced to own him for their Messias, not from the testimony of his retainers, but from his miracles and doctrines; and lastly, because as his time was not yet come, the apostles were not yet fit to deliver, nor the people to receive, this grand tenet. (Mat. Polus.) — It might moreover have proved a hinderance to his death.

Ver. 21. From that time, &c. Now when the apostles firmly believed that Jesus was the Messias, and the true Son of God, he saw it necessary to let them know he was to die an infamous death on the cross, that they might be disposed to believe that mystery; (Witham) and that they might not be too much exalted with the power given to them, and manifestation made to them. (Haydock)

Ver. 22. Peter taking him, &c. out of a tender love, respect and zeal for his honour, began to expostulate with him, and as it were to reprehend him,[3] saying, Lord, far be it from thee, God forbid, &c. (Witham)

Ver. 23. Go after me, Satan.[4] The words may signify, begone from me; but out of respect due to the expositions of the ancient fathers, who would have these words to signify come after me, or follow me, I have put, with the Rheims translation, go after me. Satan is the same as an adversary: (Witham) and is here applied to Peter, because he opposed, out of mistaken zeal, Christ’s passion, without which the great work of man’s redemption could not be effected. Peter, however, unknowingly or innocently, raised an opposition against the will of God, against the glory of Jesus, against the redemption of mankind, and against the destruction of the devil’s kingdom. He did not understand that there was nothing more glorious than to make of one’s life a sacrifice to God. (Bible de Vence) — Thou dost not, i.e. thy judgment in this particular is not conformable with that of God. Hence our separated brethren conclude that Christ did not, in calling him the rock in the preceding verses, appoint him the solid and permanent foundation of his Church. This conclusion, however, is not true, because, as St. Augustine and theologians affirm, Peter could fall into error in points regarding morals and facts, though not in defining or deciding on points of faith. Moreover, St. Peter was not, as St. Jerome says, appointed the pillar of the Church till after Christ’s resurrection. (Tirinus) — And it was not till the night before Christ suffered that he said to Peter: Behold, Satan hath desired to have thee; but I have prayed for thee, that “thy faith fail not,” and thou being once converted confirm thy brethren. (Luke xxii. 31.) (Haydock)

Ver. 24. If any man will come. St. Chrysostom, Euthymius, and Theophylactus, shew that free will is confirmed by these words. Do not expect, O Peter, that since you have confessed me to be the Son of God, you are immediately to be crowned, as if this were sufficient for salvation, and that the rest of your days may be spent in idleness and pleasure. For, although by my power, as Son of God, I could free you from every danger and trouble, yet this I will not do for your sake, that you may yourself contribute to your glory, and become the more illustrious. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lvi.)

Ver. 25. Whosoever will save his life. Literally, his soul. In the style of the Scriptures, the word soul is sometimes put for the life of the body, sometimes for the whole man. (Witham) — Whosoever acts against duty and conscience to save the life of his body, shall lose eternal life; and whoever makes the sacrifice of his life, or the comforts and conveniences of life for conscience sake, shall be rewarded with life eternal.

Ver. 26. And lose his own soul. Christ seems in these words to pass from the life of the body to that of the soul. (Witham)

Ver. 27. Shall come in the glory. Jesus Christ wishing to shew his disciples the greatness of his glory at his future coming, reveals to them in this life as much as it was possible for them to comprehend, purposely to strengthen them against the scandal of his ignominious death. (St. Chrysostom)

Ver. 28. Till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. Some expound this, as fulfilled at his transfiguration, which follows in the next chapter. Others understand it of the glory of Christ, and of his Church, after his resurrection and ascension, when he should be owned for Redeemer of the world: and this state of the Christian Church might be called the kingdom of Christ. (Witham) — This promise of a transitory view of his glory he makes, to prove that he should one day come in all the glory of his Father, to judge each man according to his works: not according to his mercy, or their faith, but according to their works. (St. Augustine, de verb. apos. serm. 35.) — Again, asks St. Augustine, how could our Saviour reward every one according to his works, if there were no free will? (lib. ii. chap. 4. 5. 8, de act. cum Fœlic. Manich.) (Bristow)


[1] Ver. 16. Tu es Christus, Filius Dei vivi. o christos o uios tou theou. Where the Greek articles seem significant.

[2] Ver. 18. St. Augustine, serm. 13, de Verbis Domini, in the new edit. serm. 76. t. v. p. 415, expounds these words super hanc Petram, i.e. super hanc Petram, quam confessus es, super meipsum. See also tract. 24. in Joan, t. iii. p. 822. But he elsewhere gave the common interpretation, as he says, lib. i. Retrac. and in Psal. lxix. Petrus, qui paulo ante Christum confessus erat filium Dei, & in illa Confessione appellatus erat Petra, super quam fabrificatur Ecclesia, &c. See St. Jerome on this place, lib. iii. p. 97. ædificabo (inquit Christus) super te Ecclesiam meam. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lv. in Matt. &c.)

[3] Ver. 22. Increpare epitiman, by saying absit a te Domine, ileos soi, propitius sit tibi Deus, &c.

[4] Ver. 23. Vade post me, upage opiso mou.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Christ refuses to shew the Pharisees a sign from heaven. Peter’s confession is rewarded. He is rebuked for opposing Christ’s passion. All his followers must deny themselves.

1 And *there came to him the Pharisees and Sadducees, tempting: and they asked him to shew them a sign from heaven.

2 But he answered and said to them: *When it is evening, you say: It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.

3 And in the morning: To-day there will be a storm, for the sky is red and lowering.

4 You know then how to discern the face of the sky: and can you not know the signs of the times?* A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, **but the sign of Jonas the prophet. And he left them and went away.

5 And when his disciples were come over the water, they had forgotten to take bread.

6 And he said to them: *Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and Sadducees.

7 But they thought within themselves, saying: Because we have taken no bread.

8 And Jesus knowing it, said: Why do you think within yourselves, O ye of little faith, because you have no bread?

9 Do you not yet understand, neither do you remember *the five loaves among the five thousand men, and how many baskets you took up?

10 *Nor the seven loaves, among the four thousand men, and how many baskets you took up?

11 Why do you not understand that it was not concerning the bread I said to you: Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and Sadducees?

12 Then they understood that he said not that they should beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees, and Sadducees.

13 *And Jesus came into the parts of Cæsarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is?

14 But they said: *Some John the Baptist, and others Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am.

16 Simon Peter answering said: *Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father, who is in heaven.

18 *And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 *And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. **And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

20 Then he commanded his disciples, that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.

21 From that time forth Jesus began to shew to his disciples, that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the ancients and the Scribes, and chief priests, and be put to death, and the third day rise again.

22 And Peter taking him, began to rebuke him, saying: Lord, be it far from thee; this shall not be unto thee.

23 But he turning, said to Peter: *Go after me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto me: because thou dost not relish the things that are of God, but the things that are of men.

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples: *If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

25 *For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it.

26 For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels: *and then will he render to every man according to his works.

28 Amen, I say to you, *there are some of them standing here, who shall not taste death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.


1: about the year A.D. 32.; Mark viii. 11. 26.

2: Luke xii. 54.

4: Matthew xii. 39. — ** Jonas ii. 1.

6: Mark viii. 15.; Luke xii. 1.

9: Matthew xiv. 17.; John vi. 9.

10: Matthew xv. 34.

13: Mark viii. 27.

14: Mark viii. 28.; Luke xix. 9.

16: John vi. 70.

18: John xii. 42.

19: Isaias xxii. 22. — ** John xx. 23.

23: Mark viii. 33.

24: Matthew x. 38.; Luke ix. 23. and xiv. 27.

25: Luke xvii. 33.; John xii. 25.

27: Acts xvii. 31.; Romans ii. 6.

28: Mark viii. 39.; Luke ix. 28.