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Friday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time. Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles . The reading is from Gospel of Matthew 16:13-20.

Saint Peter by Anton Raphael Mengs

Peter’s Confession about Jesus – Matthew 16:13-20

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples,

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus said to him in reply,

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.

For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.

This instance is also narrated by both Luke and Mark.

Peter’s Confession about Jesus – Luke 9:18-21

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them,

“Who do the crowds say that I am?”

They said in reply,

“John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”

Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter said in reply, “The Messiah of God.”

He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.

Peter’s Confession about Jesus – Mark 8:27-29

Now Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples,

“Who do people say that I am?”

They said in reply,

“John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.”

And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter said to him in reply,“You are the Messiah.”

Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Caesarea Philippi is ituated about twenty miles north of the Sea of Galilee in the territory ruled by Philip, a son of Herod the Great, tetrarch from 4 B.C. until his death in A.D. 34 .

  • At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus (Matthew 14:1)

Philip rebuilt the town of Paneas, naming it Caesarea in honor of the emperor, and Philippi (“of Philip”) to distinguish it from the seaport in Samaria that was also called Caesarea.

  • When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13)

Although the question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” differs from the Marcan parallel

  • Now Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.h Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27)

the meaning is the same, for Jesus here refers to himself as the Son of Man

  • He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

Here, the Marcan confession of Jesus as Messiah, made by Peter as spokesman for the other disciples is modified significantly. The confession is about Jesus, both as Messiah and as Son of the living God.

  • Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

The phrase “the Son of the living God” in the above verse has similarities elsewhere in Matthew.

  • He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophetd might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:15)
  • And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son,* with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

The addition of this exalted title “the Son of the living God” by Matthew to the Marcan confession

  • And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Messiah.” (Mark 8:29)

eliminates whatever ambiguity was attached to the title Messiah. This, among other things, supports the view proposed by many scholars that Matthew has here combined his source’s confession with a post-resurrectional confession of faith in Jesus as Son of the living God that belonged to the appearance of the risen Jesus to Peter.

The phrase “flesh and blood” in

  • Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” (Matthew 16:17)

is a Semitic expression for human beings, especially in their weakness.

The phrase “has not revealed this…but my heavenly Father” means that Peter’s faith is spoken of as coming not through human means but through a revelation from God. This is similar to Paul’s description of his recognition of who Jesus was in

  • But when [God], who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood,” (Galatians 1:15–16)

The Rock

The response of Jesus in Matthew 16:17, drawn principally from material peculiar to Matthew, attributes the confession to a divine revelation granted to Peter alone and makes him the rock on which Jesus will build his church

  • “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

The Aramaic word kēpā’ meaning rock and transliterated into Greek as CĒphas is the name by which Peter is called in the Pauline letters.

  • For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:11-12)
  • Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God. (1 Corinthians 3:22-23)
  • Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? (1 Corinthians 9:5)
  • that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:4-5)
  • Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas and remained with him for fifteen days. (Galatians 1:18)
  • and when they recognized the grace bestowed upon me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas their right hands in partnership, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. (Galatians 2:9)
  • And when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong. (Galatians 2:11)
  • But when I saw that they were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of all, “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2: 14)

except in

  • On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter to the circumcised, for the one who worked in Peter for an apostolate to the circumcised worked also in me for the Gentiles, (Galatians 2:7-8)

where he is named as Peter.

The presumed original Aramaic of Jesus’ statement would have been, in English, “You are the Rock (Kēpā’) and upon this rock (kēpā’) I will build my church.” The
Greek text probably means the same, for the difference in gender between the masculine noun petros, the disciple’s new name, and the feminine noun petra (rock) may be due simply to the unsuitability of using a feminine noun as the proper name of a male. Although the two words were generally used with slightly different nuances,
they were also used interchangeably with the same meaning, “rock.”

Church

The word “church” (Greek ekklēsia) occurs in the gospels only here

  • And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

and in twice in

  • If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. (Matthew 18:17)

There are several possibilities for an Aramaic original. Jesus’ church means the community that he will gather and that, like a building, will have Peter as its solid foundation.

That function of Peter consists in his being witness to Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it: the
netherworld (Greek Hadēs, the abode of the dead) is conceived of as a walled city whose gates will not close in upon the church of Jesus, i.e., it will not be overcome
by the power of death.

The keys to the kingdom of heaven

The image of the keys in

  • “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18)

is probably drawn from Isaiah 22:15–25 where Eliakim, who succeeds Shebnah as master of the palace, is given “the key of the house of David,” which he authoritatively “opens” and “shuts.”

The second sentence in this verse, namely, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” draws our attention to the many instances in rabbinic literature of the binding-loosing imagery. Of the several meanings given there to the metaphor, two are of special importance here: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication. It is disputed whether the image of the keys and that of binding and loosing are different metaphors meaning the same thing. In any case, the promise of the keys is given to Peter alone.

All the disciples are given the power of binding and loosing.

  • Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18)

But the context of this verse suggests that there the power of excommunication alone is intended. That the keys are those to the kingdom of heaven and that Peter’s exercise of authority in the church on earth will be confirmed in heaven show an intimate connection between, but not an identification of, the church and the kingdom of heaven.

Popular opinions concur in regarding Jesus as a prophet. The disciples by contrast believe him to be the Messiah. Jesus acknowledges this identification but prohibits them from making his messianic office known to avoid confusing it with ambiguous contemporary ideas on the nature of that office.

  • Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him. (Mark 8:30)

Matthew makes explicit that the prohibition has to do with speaking of Jesus as the Messiah.

  • Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah. (Matthew 16:20)
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