Matthew 16:18
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
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(18) Thou art Peter, and upon this rock . . .—It is not easy, in dealing with a text which for many centuries has been the subject-matter of endless controversies, to clear our minds of those “afterthoughts of theology” which have gathered round it, and, in part at least, overlaid its meaning. It is clear, however, that we can only reach the true meaning by putting those controversies aside, at all events till we have endeavoured to realise what thoughts the words at the time actually conveyed to those who heard them, and that when we have grasped that meaning it will be our best preparation for determining what bearing they have upon the later controversies of ancient or modern times. And (1) it would seem clear that the connection between Peter and the rock (the words in the Greek differ in gender, πέτρος and πέτρα, but were identical in the Aramaic, which our Lord probably used) was meant to be brought into special prominence. Now, at last, by this confession of his faith, Peter had risen to the height of his new calling, and was worthy of his new name. (2) Whether he is to be identified with the rock of the next clause is, however, a question on which men may legitimately differ. On the one side there is the probability that in the Aramaic, in which our Lord spoke, there would be no difference between the words in the two clauses; on the other, the possibility that He may have used the Greek words, or that the Evangelist may have intended to mark the distinction which he felt by the use of the two words, which undoubtedly differ in their meaning, πέτρος being a “stone” or fragment of rock, while πέτρα is the rock itself. The Aramaic Cepha, it may be noted, has the former rather than the latter meaning. (3) On the assumption of a distinction there follows the question, What is the rock? Peter’s faith (subjective)? or the truth (objective) which he confessed? or Christ Himself? Taking all the facts of the case, the balance seems to incline in favour of the last view. (1.) Christ and not Peter is the Rock in 1Corinthians 10:4, the Foundation in 1Corinthians 3:11. (2.) The poetry of the Old Testament associated the idea of the Rock with the greatness and steadfastness of God, not with that of a man [Deuteronomy 32:4; Deuteronomy 32:18; 2Samuel 22:3; 2Samuel 23:3; Psalm 18:2; Psalm 18:31; Psalm 18:46; Isaiah 17:10; Habakkuk 1:12 (Hebrew)]. (3.) As with the words, which in their form present a parallel to these, “Destroy this temple” (John 2:19), so here, we may believe the meaning to have been indicated by significant look or gesture. The Rock on which the Church was to be built was Himself, in the mystery of that union of the Divine and the Human which had been the subject of St. Peter’s confession. Had Peter himself been meant, we may. add, the simpler form, “Thou art Peter, and on thee will I build My Church,” would have been clearer and more natural. As it is, the collocation suggests an implied contrast: “Thou art the Rock-Apostle; and yet not the Rock on which the Church is to be built. It is enough for thee to have found the Rock, and to have built on the one Foundation.” (Comp. Matthew 7:24.)

I will build my church.—It is significant that this is the first occurrence of the word Church (Ecclesia) in the New Testament, the only passage but one (Matthew 18:17) in which it is found in the whole cycle of our Lord’s recorded teaching. Its use was every way significant. Partly, doubtless, it came with the associations which it had in the Greek of the Old Testament, as used for the “assembly” or “congregation” of the Lord (Deuteronomy 18:16; Deuteronomy 23:1; Psalm 26:12); but partly also, as soon at least as the word came in its Greek form before Greek readers, it would bring with it the associations of Greek politics. The Ecclesia was the assembly of free citizens, to which belonged judicial and legislative power, and from which aliens and slaves were alike excluded. The mere use of the term was accordingly a momentous step in the education of the disciples. They had been looking for a kingdom with the King, as its visible Head, sitting on an earthly throne. They were told that it was to be realised in a society, an assembly, like those which in earthly polities we call popular or democratic. He, the King, claimed that society as His own. He was its real Head and Founder; but, outwardly, it was to be what the word which He now chose described. And this Church He was about to build. It need hardly be said that the word ecclesia did not lend itself so readily as the English equivalent does to the idea of building. The society and the fabric in which the members of the society meet were not then, as they are now, described by the same term. The similitude was bolder than it seems to us. Like the “city set on a hill” of Matthew 5:14, like the “vine” of John 15:1, it may well have been suggested by the scenery in the midst of which the words were uttered. For there upon one rock rose the ruins of the old Canaanite city of Hazor; and on another the stately palace built by the Herodian princes, and still, as the Castle of Shubeibeh, covering an extent of ground equal to that occupied by the Castle of Heidelberg (Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine, c. 11). Once started on its way, the similitude became the fruitful source of new thoughts and phrases. The ecclesia was the “house of God” (1Timothy 3:15); it was a “holy temple” (Ephesians 2:21). All gifts were bestowed for the work of “edifying” or building it up (1Corinthians 14:3-4; Ephesians 4:12). Those who laboured in that work were as “wise architects or master builders” (1Corinthians 3:10). But Christ, we must remember, claims the work of building as His own. Whatever others may do, He is the supreme Master-builder. As in His sacerdotal character, He is at once Priest and Victim, so under the aspect now presented (consistency of metaphors giving way to the necessities of spiritual truth) He is at once the Founder and the Foundation of the new society.

The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.—The gates of Hades (see Note on Matthew 11:23), not of Gehenna, the place of torment. Hades as the shadow-world of the dead, the unseen counterpart of the visible grave, all-absorbing, all-destructive, into whose jaws or gates all things human pass, and from which issue all forces that destroy, is half-idealised, half-personified, as a power, or polity of death. The very phrase, “gates of the grave, or of Hades,” meets us in Hezekiah’s elegy (Isaiah 38:10), and Wisdom Of Solomon 16:13. In Revelation 6:8 the personification is carried still further, and Death rides upon a pale horse, and Hades follows after him, and both are in the end overthrown and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). And as the gates of the Eastern city were the scene at once of kingly judgment (2Samuel 15:2) and of the council of the elders (Proverbs 31:23), they became the natural symbol of the polity which ruled there. And so the promise declared that all the powers of Hades, all the forces of destruction that attack and in the long run overpower other societies, should attack, but not overpower, the ecclesia of which Christ was the Founder. Nothing in our Lord’s teaching is, as measured by man’s judgment, more wonderful than the utterance of such a prophecy at such a time. It was, as has been said, a time of seeming failure. He was about to announce, with a clearness unknown before, His coming death as a malefactor, and yet it was at this moment that He proclaimed the perpetuity and triumph of the society which as yet, it may be said, existed only in the germs of a half-realised conception. The history of the world offers hardly any serious parallel to such a prediction, and still less to that fulfilment of it which has been witnessed through eighteen centuries of Christendom, and which does not as yet seem drawing to its close.

16:13-20 Peter, for himself and his brethren, said that they were assured of our Lord's being the promised Messiah, the Son of the living God. This showed that they believed Jesus to be more than man. Our Lord declared Peter to be blessed, as the teaching of God made him differ from his unbelieving countrymen. Christ added that he had named him Peter, in allusion to his stability or firmness in professing the truth. The word translated rock, is not the same word as Peter, but is of a similar meaning. Nothing can be more wrong than to suppose that Christ meant the person of Peter was the rock. Without doubt Christ himself is the Rock, the tried foundation of the church; and woe to him that attempts to lay any other! Peter's confession is this rock as to doctrine. If Jesus be not the Christ, those that own him are not of the church, but deceivers and deceived. Our Lord next declared the authority with which Peter would be invested. He spoke in the name of his brethren, and this related to them as well as to him. They had no certain knowledge of the characters of men, and were liable to mistakes and sins in their own conduct; but they were kept from error in stating the way of acceptance and salvation, the rule of obedience, the believer's character and experience, and the final doom of unbelievers and hypocrites. In such matters their decision was right, and it was confirmed in heaven. But all pretensions of any man, either to absolve or retain men's sins, are blasphemous and absurd. None can forgive sins but God only. And this binding and loosing, in the common language of the Jews, signified to forbid and to allow, or to teach what is lawful or unlawful.And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter - The word "Peter," in Greek, means "a rock." It was given to Simon by Christ when he called him to be a disciple, John 1:42

Cephas is a Syriac word, meaning the same as Peter - a rock, or stone. The meaning of this phrase may be thus expressed: "Thou, in saying that I am the Son of God, hast called me by a name expressive of my true character. I, also, have given to thee a name expressive of your character. I have called you Peter, a rock, denoting firmness, solidity, stability, and your confession has shown that the name is appropriate. I see that you are worthy of the name, and will be a distinguished support of my religion."

And upon this rock ... - This passage has given rise to many different interpretations. Some have supposed that the word "rock" refers to Peter's confession, and that Jesus meant to say, upon this rock, this truth that thou hast confessed, that I am the Messiah and upon confessions of this from all believers, I will build my church. Confessions like this shall be the test of piety, and in such confessions shall my church stand amid the flames of persecution, the fury of the gates of hell. Others have thought that Jesus referred to himself. Christ is called a rock, Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:8. And it has been thought that he turned from Peter to himself, and said, "Upon this rock, this truth that I am the Messiah - upon myself as the Messiah, I will build my church." Both these interpretations, though plausible, seem forced upon the passage to avoid the main difficulty in it. Another interpretation is, that the word "rock" refers to Peter himself.

This is the obvious meaning of the passage; and had it not been that the Church of Rome has abused it, and applied it to what was never intended, no other interpretation would have been sought for. "Thou art a rock. Thou hast shown thyself firm, and suitable for the work of laying the foundation of the church. Upon thee will I build it. Thou shalt be highly honored; thou shalt be first in making known the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles." This was accomplished. See Acts 2:14-36, where he first preached to the Jews, and Acts 10, where he preached the gospel to Cornelius and his neighbors, who were Gentiles. Peter had thus the honor of laying the foundation of the church among the Jews and Gentiles; and this is the plain meaning of this passage. See also Galatians 2:9. But Christ did not mean, as the Roman Catholics say he did, to exalt Peter to supreme authority above all the other apostles, or to say that he was the only one upon whom he would rear his church. See Acts 15, where the advice of James, and not that of Peter, was followed. See also Galatians 2:11, where Paul withstood Peter to his face, because he was to be blamed - a thing which could not have happened if Christ (as the Roman Catholics say) meant that Peter was absolute and infallible. More than all, it is not said here, or anywhere else in the Bible, that Peter would have infallible successors who would be the vicegerents of Christ and the head of the church. The whole meaning of the passage is this: "I will make you the honored instrument of making known my gospel first to Jews and Gentiles, and I will make you a firm and distinguished preacher in building my church."

Will build my church - This refers to the custom of building in Judea upon a rock or other very firm foundation. See the notes at Matthew 7:24. The word "church" literally means "those called out," and often means an assembly or congregation. See Acts 19:32, Greek; Acts 7:38. It is applied to Christians as being "called out" from the world. It means sometimes the whole body of believers, Ephesians 1:22; 1 Corinthians 10:32. This is its meaning in this place. It means, also, a particular society of believers worshipping in one place, Acts 8:1; Acts 9:31; 1 Corinthians 1:2, etc.; sometimes, also, a society in a single house, as Romans 16:5. In common language it means the church visible - i. e., all who profess religion; or invisible, i. e., all who are real Christians, professors or not.

And the gates of hell ... - Ancient cities were surrounded by walls. In the gates by which they were entered were the principal places for holding courts, transacting business, and deliberating on public matters. See the notes at Matthew 7:13. Compare the notes at Job 29:7. See also Deuteronomy 22:4; 1 Samuel 4:18; Jeremiah 36:10; Genesis 19:1; Psalm 69:12; Psalm 9:14; Proverbs 1:21. The word "gates," therefore, is used for counsels, designs, machinations, evil purposes.

"Hell" means, here, the place of departed spirits, particularly evil spirits; and the meaning of the passage is, that all the plots, stratagems, and machinations of the enemies of the church would not be able to overcome it a promise that has been remarkably fulfilled.

18. And I say also unto thee—that is, "As thou hast borne such testimony to Me, even so in return do I to thee."

That thou art Peter—At his first calling, this new name was announced to him as an honor afterwards to be conferred on him (Joh 1:43). Now he gets it, with an explanation of what it was meant to convey.

and upon this rock—As "Peter" and "Rock" are one word in the dialect familiarly spoken by our Lord—the Aramaic or Syro-Chaldaic, which was the mother tongue of the country—this exalted play upon the word can be fully seen only in languages which have one word for both. Even in the Greek it is imperfectly represented. In French, as Webster and Wilkinson remark, it is perfect, Pierre—pierre.

I will build my Church—not on the man Simon Bar-jona; but on him as the heavenly-taught confessor of a faith. "My Church," says our Lord, calling the Church His Own; a magnificent expression regarding Himself, remarks Bengel—nowhere else occurring in the Gospels.

and the gates of hell—"of Hades," or, the unseen world; meaning, the gates of Death: in other words, "It shall never perish." Some explain it of "the assaults of the powers of darkness"; but though that expresses a glorious truth, probably the former is the sense here.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter: Christ gave him this name, John 1:42, when his brother Andrew first brought him to Christ. I did not give thee the name of Cephas, or Peter, for nothing, (for what Cephas signifieth in the Syriac Peter signifieth in the Greek), I called thee Cephas and thou art Peter, a rock. Thou shalt be a rock. This our Lord made good afterward, when he told him, that Satan had desired to winnow him like wheat, but he had prayed that his faith might not fail, Luke 22:32. Thou hast made a confession of faith which is a rock, even such a rock as was mentioned Matthew 7:25. And thou thyself art a rock, a steady, firm believer.

And upon this rock I will build my church. Here is a question amongst interpreters, what, or whom, our Saviour here meaneth by this rock.

1. Some think that he meaneth himself, as he saith, John 2:19, Destroy this temple (meaning his own body). God is often called a Rock, Deu 32:18 Psalm 18:2 Psalm 31:3, and it is certain Christ is the foundation of the church, Isaiah 28:16 1 Corinthians 3:11 1 Peter 2:6. But this sense seemeth a little hard, that our Saviour, speaking to Peter, and telling him he was a stone, or a rock, should with the same breath pass to himself, and not say, Upon myself, but upon this rock I will build my church.

2. The generality of protestant writers, not without the suffrage of divers of the ancients, say Peter’s confession, which he had made, is the rock here spoken of. And indeed the doctrine contained in his confession is the foundation of the gospel; the whole Christian church is built upon it.

3. Others think, in regard that our Saviour directeth his speech not to all the apostles, but to Peter, and doth not say, Blessed are you, but, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, that here is something promised to Peter in special; but they do not think this is any priority, much less any jurisdiction, more than the rest had, but that Christ would make a more eminent and special use of him, in the building of his church, than of the rest; and they observe, that God did make a more eminent use of Peter in raising his gospel church, both amongst the Jews, Acts 2:1-47, and the Gentiles, Acts 10:1-48. But yet this soundeth a little harshly, to interpret upon this rock, by this rock. I do therefore rather incline to interpret it in the second sense:

Upon this rock, upon this solid and unmovable foundation of truth, which thou hast publicly made, I will build my church. It is true, Christ is the foundation of the church, and other foundation can no man lay. But though Christ be the foundation in one sense, the apostles are so called in another sense, Ephesians 2:20 Revelation 21:14 not the apostles’ persons, but the doctrine which they preached. They, by their doctrine which they preached, (the sum or great point of which was what Peter here professed), laid the foundation of the Christian church, as they were the first preachers of it to the Gentiles. In which sense soever it be taken, it makes nothing for the papists’ superiority or jurisdiction of St. Peter, or his successors. It follows, I will build my church. By church is here plainly meant the whole body of believers, who all agree in this one faith. It is observable, that Christ calls it his church, not Peter’s, and saith, I will build, not, thou shalt build. The working of faith in souls is God’s work. Men are but ministers, by whom others believe. They have but a ministry towards, not a lordship over the church of God.

And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; that is, the power of the devil and all his instruments shall never prevail against it utterly to extinguish it, neither to extinguish true faith in the heart of any particular believer, nor to root the gospel out of the world.

The gates is here put for the persons that sit in the gates. It was their custom to have the rulers to sit in the gates, Ruth 4:1,11 2 Samuel 19:8. Neither doth hell signify here the place of the damned; adhv no where (except in one place, and as to that it is questionable, Luke 16:23) signifies so, but either death, or the graves, or the state of the dead: yet the devil is also understood here, as he that hath the power of death, Hebrews 2:14. The plain sense is, that our Lord would build the Christian church upon this proposition of truth, that he was the Christ, the Son of God; that Peter should be an eminent instrument in converting men to this faith; and where this faith obtained in the world, he would so far protect it, that though the devil and his instruments should by all means imaginable attempt the extinguishing of it by the total extirpation of it, the professors of it, and might as to particular places prevail; yet they should never so prevail, but to the end of the world he would have a church, a number of people called out by his apostles, and those who should succeed in their ministry, who should uphold this great truth. So as this is a plain promise for the continuance of the gospel church to the end of the world.

And I say also unto thee,.... Either besides what he had already said concerning his happiness; or, as the father had revealed something great and valuable, so likewise would he; or inasmuch as he had freely said and declared who, and what he was, in like manner he also would say what Peter was, thou art Peter: intimating, that he was rightly called Peter, or Cephas, by him, when he first became a follower of him, Matthew 4:18, which words signify the same thing, a rock, or stone; because of his firmness and solidity, and because he was laid upon the sure foundation, and built on the rock Christ, and was a very fit stone to be laid in the spiritual building. The aptness of this name to him is easy to be seen in his full assurance of faith, as to the person of Christ, and his free, open, and undaunted confession of him.

And upon this rock will I build my church: by the church, is meant, not an edifice of wood, stones, &c. but an assembly, and congregation of men; and that not of any sort; not a disorderly, tumultuous assembly, in which sense this word is sometimes taken; nor does it design the faithful of a family, which is sometimes the import of it; nor a particular congregated church, but the elect of God, the general assembly and church of the first born, whose names are written in heaven; and especially such of them as were to be gathered in, and built on Christ, from among the Jews and Gentiles. The materials of this building are such, as are by nature no better, or more fit for it, than others: these stones originally lie in the same quarry with others; they are singled out, and separated from the rest, according to the sovereign will of God, by powerful and efficacious grace; and are broken and hewn by the Spirit of God, generally speaking, under the ministry of the word, and are, by him, made living stones; and being holy and spiritual persons, are built up a spiritual house: and these are the only persons which make up the true and invisible church of Christ in the issue, and are only fit to be members of the visible church; and all such ought to be in a Gospel church state, and partake of the privileges of it: these materials are of different sorts, and have a different place, and have a different usefulness in this building; some are only as common stones, and timber; others are as pillars, beams, and rafters; and all are useful and serviceable; and being put, and knit together, grow up as an holy temple to the Lord: and are called, by Christ, "my" church, because given him by the Father; and he has purchased them with his own blood; are built by him, and on him; inhabited by him, and of whom he is the head, king, and governor; though not to the exclusion of the Father, whose house they also are; nor of the Spirit, who dwells in them, as in his temple. This church Christ promises to "build". Though his ministers are builders, they are but under builders; they are qualified, employed, directed, encouraged, and succeeded by him; he is the wise, able, and chief master builder. This act of building seems to have a special regard to the conversion of God's elect, both among Jews and Gentiles, particularly the latter; and to the daily conversions of them in all ages; and to the building up of saints in faith and holiness; each of which will more manifestly appear in the latter day; and are both generally effected through the word, and ordinances, as means, the Spirit of Christ blessing them. By the rock on which Christ builds his church, is meant, not the person of Peter; for Christ does not say, upon thee Peter, but upon this rock, referring to something distinct from him: for though his name signifies a rock, or stone, and there may be some allusion to it; and he is so called because of his trust and confidence in the Lord, on whom he was built; but not because he was the foundation on which any others, and especially the whole church, were built: it is true, he may be called the foundation, as the rest of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are, Ephesians 2:20 without any distinction from them, and preference to them; they and he agreeing in laying doctrinally and ministerially Christ Jesus as the foundation of faith and hope, but not in such sense as he is; neither he, nor they, are the foundation on which the church is built, which is Christ, and him only. Moreover, what is said to Peter in these, and the following words, is not said to him personally and separately from the rest of the apostles, but is designed for them, as well as him, as appears by comparing them with Matthew 18:18. As he spoke in the name of them all, to Christ; so Christ spake to him, including them all. Peter had no preeminence over the rest of the apostles, which he neither assumed, nor was it granted; nor would it ever have been connived at by Christ, who often showed his resentment at such a spirit and conduct, whenever there was any appearance of it in any of them; see Matthew 18:1 and though Peter, with James, and John, had some particular favours bestowed on him by Christ; as to be at the raising of Jairus's daughter, and at the transfiguration of Christ on the mount, and with him in the garden; and he appeared to him alone after his resurrection, and before he was seen by the rest of the disciples; yet in some things he was inferior to them, being left to deny his Lord and master, they did not; and upon another account is called Satan by Christ, which they never were; not to mention other infirmities of his, which show he is not the rock: and, after all, what is this to the pope of Rome, who is no successor of Peter's? Peter, as an apostle, had no successor in his office; nor was he bishop of Rome; nor has the pope of Rome either his office, or his doctrine: but here, by the rock, is meant, either the confession of faith made by Peter; not the act, nor form, but the matter of it, it containing the prime articles of Christianity, and which are as immoveable as a rock; or rather Christ himself, who points, as it were, with his finger to himself, and whom Peter had made such a glorious confession of; and who was prefigured by the rock the Israelites drank water out of in the wilderness; and is comparable to any rock for height, shelter, strength, firmness, and duration; and is the one and only foundation of his church and people, and on whom their security, salvation, and happiness entirely depend. Christ is a rock that is higher than they, where they find safety in times of distress, and the shadow of which is refreshing to them; and therefore betake themselves to him for shelter, and where they are secure from the wrath of God, and rage of men: he is the rock of ages, in whom is everlasting strength; and is the sure, firm, and everlasting foundation on which the church, and all true believers, are laid: he is the foundation of their faith, and hope, and everlasting happiness, and will ever continue; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The Jews speak of the gates of hell: sometimes of the gate of hell, in the singular number (p); and sometimes of the gates of hell, in the plural number. They say (q), that

"Mnhygl vy Myxtp hvlv, "hell has three gates", one in the wilderness, one in the sea, and one in Jerusalem.''

They talk (r) of

"an angel that is appointed , "over the gates of hell", whose name is Samriel; who has three keys in his hands, and opens three doors.''

And elsewhere (s) they say, that

"he that is appointed over hell his name is Dumah, and many myriads of destroying angels are with him, and he stands , "at the gate of hell"; and all those that keep the holy covenant in this world, he has no power to bring them in.''

Our Lord may allude to these notions of the Jews, and his sense be, that all the infernal principalities and powers, with all their united cunning and strength, will never be able to extirpate his Gospel, to destroy his interest, to demolish his church in general, or ruin anyone particular soul that is built upon him. Again, the gates of "Hades", or hell, sometimes seem to design no other than the gates of death, and the grave, and persons going into the state of death; see Job 38:17 where the Septuagint use the same phrase as here; and then the sense is, that neither death, nor the grave, shall finally, and totally prevail over the people of God, and members of Christ; but they shall be raised out of such a state, and live gloriously with him for ever. By it here is not meant Peter himself; though it is true of him, that Satan, and his posse of devils that beset him, did not prevail against him, so as to destroy his grace, hurt his estate, and hinder his salvation: nor could death, in all its frightful appearances, deter him from holding, and preaching, and maintaining the doctrine of Christ; and though death, and the grave, have now power over him, yet they shall not always detain him: but rather, it designs the doctrine Peter made a confession of; which, though it may be opposed by hell and earth, by Satan, and his emissaries, by the open force of persecutors, and the secret fraud of heretics, it may be brought into contempt by the scandalous lives of professors; and though the true professors of it may die off, yet truth itself always lives, and defies the power of death, and the grave: or else the church in general is meant, and every true believer. These words do not ascertain the continuance of anyone particular congregated church, but secures the church universal, which will continue as long as the sun and moon endure, and the perseverance of everyone of God's elect; and assure that death, and the grave, shall not always have the dominion over the saints, but that they shall be rescued from them. Once more, this "it" may refer to Christ the rock, who, though he was brought to the dust of death, by the means of Satan, and the powers of darkness, yet to the ruin of him that had the power of death; and though death, and the grave, had power over him for a while, yet could not hold him; he rose victorious over them, and ever lives, having the keys of hell and death, to open the gates thereof, and let his people out when he thinks fit.

(p) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 39. 1. Succa, fol. 32. 2. Bava Bathra, fol. 84. 1.((q) T. Bab. Erubin, fol. 19. 1. Menasseh ben Israel, Nishmat Chayim, fol, 33. 1, 2.((r) Zohar in Gen. fol. 47. 4. (s) Ib. fol. 7. 1.

{5} And I say also unto thee, That thou art {l} Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the {m} gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

(5) That is true faith, which confesses Christ, the virtue of which is invincible.

(l) Christ spoke in the Syrian tongue, and therefore did not use this discourse to distinguish between Petros, which signifies Peter, and Petra, which signifies a rock, but in both places used the word Cephas: but his meaning is what is written in Greek, in which the different word endings distinguish between Peter, who is a piece of the building, and Christ the Petra, that is, the rock and foundation: or else he named him Peter because of the confession of his faith, which is the Church's as well as his, as the old fathers witness, for so says Theophylact. That confession which you have made, shall be the foundation of the believers.

(m) The enemies of the Church are compared to a strong kingdom, and therefore by gates are meant cities which are made strong with wise preparation and fortifications, and this is the meaning: whatever Satan can do by cunning or strength. So does Paul, calling them strongholds; 2Co 10:4.

Matthew 16:18. But I again say to thee. The point of the comparison in κἀγώ is, that Peter having made a certain declaration in reference to Jesus, Jesus also, in His turn, now does the same in reference to Peter.

πέτρος] as an appellative: thou art a rock, Aram. כֵּיפָא. The form ὁ πέτρος[455] is likewise common among classical writers, and that not merely in the sense of a stone, as everywhere in Homer in contradistinction to πέτρα (see Duncan, p. 937, ed. Rost, and Buttmann, Lexil. II. p. 179), but also as meaning a rock (Plat. Ax. p. 371 E: Σισύφου πέτρος; Soph. Phil. 272, O. C. 19, 1591; Pind. Nem. iv. 46, x. 126). Jesus declares Peter to be a rock on account of that strong and stedfast faith in himself to which, under the influence of a special revelation from God, he had just given expression. According to John 1:43, however, Jesus conferred the name Cephas upon him at their very first interview (according to Mark 3:16, somewhat later); but our passage is not to be understood as simply recording the giving of the name, or the giving of it for the second time. It is rather intended to be taken as a record of the declaration made by Jesus, to the effect that Simon was in reality all that the name conferred upon him implied. Consequently our passage is in no way inconsistent with that of John just referred to, which could only have been the case if the words used had been σὺ κληθήσῃ Πέτρος.

καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ] The emphasis is on ΤΑΎΤῌ, which points to Peter (not to Jesus, as Augustine would have us suppose), and to be understood thus: on no other than on this rock,—hence the feminine form in this instance, because it is not so much a question of the name as of the thing which it indicates, i.e. of that rocky element in the apostle’s character which furnished so solid a foundation for the superstructure of the church that was to be built upon it.

οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν] will I build for myself (μου, as in Matthew 8:3, and frequently; see note on John 11:32) the church. The ἐκκλησία—in the Old Testament קָהָל, Deuteronomy 18:16; Deuteronomy 23:1, Jdg 21:8, the whole assembly of the Jewish people (Acts 7:38), the theocratic national assembly (comp. Sir 24:1, and Grimm’s note)—is used in the New Testament to denote the community of believers, the Christian church, which, according to a common figure (1 Corinthians 3:10 f.; Ephesians 2:19 ff.; Galatians 2:9; 1 Peter 2:4 f.), is represented as a building, of which Christ here speaks of Himself as the architect, and of Peter as the foundation on which a building is to be raised (Matthew 7:24 f.) that will defy every effort to destroy it. But the term ἘΚΚΛ. was in such current use in its theocratic sense, that it is not necessary to suppose, especially in the case of a saying so prophetic as this, that it has been borrowed from a later order of things and put into Jesus’ mouth (Weisse, Bleek, Holtzmann). Besides, there can be no doubt whatever that the primacy among the apostles is here assigned to Peter, inasmuch as Christ singles him out as that one in particular whose apostolic labours will, in virtue of the stedfast faith for which he is peculiarly distinguished, be the means of securing, so far as human effort can do so (comp. Revelation 21:4; Galatians 2:9), the permanence and stability of the church which Jesus is about to found, and to extend more and more in the world. As in accordance with this, we may also mention the precedence given to this disciple in the catalogues of the apostles, and likewise the fact that the New Testament uniformly represents him as being, in point of fact, superior to all the others (Acts 15:7; Acts 2:14; Galatians 1:18; Galatians 2:7-8). This primacy must be impartially conceded, though without involving those inferences which Romanists have founded upon it; for Peter’s successors are not for a moment thought of by Jesus, neither can the popes claim to be his successors, nor was Peter himself ever bishop of Rome, nor had he any more to do with the founding the church at Rome than the Apostle Paul (for the false reasoning on this subject, see Döllinger, Christenth. u. Kirche, p. 315 ff.). The explanation frequently had recourse to in anti-popish controversies, to the effect that the rock does not mean Peter himself, but his stedfast faith and the confession he made of it[456] (Calovius, Ewald, Lange, Wieseler), is incorrect, because the demonstrative expression: ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ, coming immediately after the ΣῪ ΕἾ ΠΈΤΡΟς, can only point to the apostle himself, as does also the καὶ δώσω, etc., which follows, it being understood, of course, that it was in consideration of Peter’s faith that the Lord declared him to be a foundation of rock. It is this circumstance also that underlies the reference to the apostle’s faith on the part of the Fathers (Ambrose: “non de carne Petri, sed de fide;” comp. Origen, Cyril, Chrysostom, Augustine).

The expression: πύλαι ᾅδου (which does not require the article, Winer, p. 118 f. [E. T. 147 ff.]), is to be explained by the circumstance that because Hades is a place from which there is no possibility of getting out again (Eustathius, ad Od. xi. 276; Blomfield, Gloss. in Aesch. Pers. p. 164), it is represented under the figure of a palace with strong gates (Song of Solomon 8:6 f.; Job 38:17; Isaiah 38:10; Psalm 9:14; Psalm 107:18; Wis 16:13; 3Ma 5:51; Ev. Nicod. xxi., and Thilo’s note, p. 718; more frequently also in Homer, as Il. viii. 15; Aesch. Agam. 1291; Eur. Hipp. 56).

οὐ κατισχύσουσιν αὐτῆς] So securely will I build my church upon this rock, that the gates of Hades will not he able to resist it, will not prove stronger than it; indicating, by means of a comparison, the great strength and stability of the edifice of the church, even when confronted with so powerful a structure as that of Hades, the gates of which, strong as they are, will yet not prove to be stronger than the building of the church; for when the latter becomes perfected in the Messianic kingdom at the second coming, then those gates will be burst open, in order that the souls of the dead may come forth from the subterranean world to participate in the resurrection and the glory of the kingdom (comp. note on 1 Corinthians 15:54 f.), when death (who takes away the souls of men to imprison them in Hades), the last enemy, has been destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26). So far the victory of the church over Hades is, of course, affirmed, yet not in such a way as to imply that there had been an attack made by the one upon the other, but so as to convey the idea that when the church reaches her perfected condition, then, as a matter of course, the power of the nether world, which snatches away the dead and retains them in its grasp, will also be subdued. This victory presupposes faith on the part of the καταχθονίοι (Php 2:10), and consequently the previous descensus Christi ad inferos. Moreover, had He chosen, Christ might have expressed Himself thus: καὶ πυλῶν ᾅδου κατισχύσει; but, keeping in view the comparative idea which underlies the statement, He prefers to give prominence to “the gates of Hades” by making them the subject, which circumstance, combined with the use of the negative form of expression (Revelation 12:8), tends to produce a somewhat solemn effect. κατισχύειν τινος: praevalere adversus aliquem (Jeremiah 15:18; Ael. N. A. v. 19; comp. ἀντισχύειν τινος, Wis 7:30, and ἸΣΧΎΕΙΝ ΚΑΤΆ ΤΙΝΟς, Acts 19:16). If we adopt the no less grammatical interpretation of: to overpower, to subdue (Luther and the majority of commentators), a most incongruous idea emerges in reference to the gates, and that whether we understand the victory as one over the devil (Erasmus, Luther, Beza, Calvin, Calovius, Maldonatus, Michaelis, Keim) or over death (Grotius); for the gates of Hades would thus be represented as the attacking side, which would hardly be appropriate, and we would have to suppose what, on the other hand, would be foreign to the sense, that all the monsters of hell would rush out through the opened gates (Ewald, comp. also Weizsäcker, p. 494). The point of the comparison lies simply in the strength that distinguishes such solid gates as those of Hades, and not also in the Oriental use of the gates as a place of meeting for deliberation (Glöckler, Arnoldi), as though the hostile designs of hell were what was meant. Notwithstanding the progressive nature of the discourse and the immediate subject, Wetstein and Clericus refer αὐτῆς to Peter (ταύτῃ τ. πέτρᾳ), and suppose the meaning to be: “eum in discrimen vitae venturum, nec tamen eo absterritum iri,” etc.

Notice, besides, the grandeur of the expression: “grandes res etiam grandia verba postulant,” Dissen, ad Pind. p. 715.

[455] Among the later poets ἡ πέτρος is likewise to be met with. See Jacobs, ad Anthol. XIII. p. 22.—The name Πέτρος is also to be found in Greek writers of a, later age (Leont. Schol. 18); more frequently in the form Πετραῖος (Lobeck, Paral. p. 342).

[456] Comp. Luther’s gloss: “All Christians are Peters on account of the confession here made by Peter, which confession is the rock on which he and all Peters are built.” Melanchthon, generalizing the πέτρα, understands it in the sense of the verum ministerium. Comp. Art. Smalc. p. 345.

Matthew 16:18. κἀγὼ: emphatic, something very important about to be said to Peter and about him.—πέτρος, τέτρᾳ, a happy play of words. Both are appellatives to be translated “thou art a rock and on this rock,” the two being represented by the same word in Aramaean (כֵיפָא). Elsewhere in the Gospels Πέτρος is a proper name, and πέτρα only is used in the sense of rock (Matthew 7:24). What follows is in form a promise to Peter as reward of his faith. It is as personal as the most zealous advocates of Papal supremacy could desire. Yet it is as remote as the poles from what they mean. It is a case of extremes meeting. Christ did not fight to death against one form of spiritual despotism to put another, if possible worse, in its room. Personal in form, the sense of this famous logion can be expressed in abstract terms without reference to Peter’s personality. And that sense, if Christ really spoke the word, must be simple, elementary, suitable to the initial stage; withal religious and ethical rather than ecclesiastical. The more ecclesiastical we make it, the more we play into the hands of those who maintain that the passage is an interpolation. I find in it three ideas: (1) The ἐκκλησύα is to consist of men confessing Jesus to be the Christ. This is the import of ἐπὶ τ. τ. π. οἰκοδομήσω μου τ. ἐκ. Peter, believing that truth, is the foundation, and the building is to be of a piece with the foundation. Observe the emphatic position of μου. The ἐκκλησία is Christ’s; confessing Him as Christ in Peter’s sense and spirit = being Christian. (2) The new society is to be = the kingdom realised on earth. This is the import of Matthew 16:19, clause 1. The keys are the symbol of this identity. They are the keys of the gate without, not of the doors within. Peter is the gate-keeper, not the οἰκονόμος with a bunch of keys that open all doors in his hands (against Weiss)—κλειδούχου ἔργον τὸ εἰσάγειν, Euthy. Observe it is not the keys of the church but of the kingdom. The meaning is: Peter-like faith in Jesus as the Christ admits into the Kingdom of Heaven. A society of men so believing = the kingdom realised. (3) In the new society the righteousness of the kingdom will find approximate embodiment. This is the import of Matthew 16:19, second clause. Binding and loosing, in Rabbinical dialect, meant forbidding and permitting to be done. The judgment of the Rabbis was mostly wrong: the reverse of the righteousness of the kingdom. The judgment of the new society as to conduct would be in accordance with the truth of things, therefore valid in heaven. That is what Jesus meant to say. Note the perfect participles δεδεμένον, λελυμένον = shall be a thing bound or loosed once for all. The truth of all three statements is conditional on the Christ spirit continuing to rule in the new society. Only on that condition is the statement about the πύλαι ᾅδου, Matthew 16:18, clause 2, valid. What precisely the verbal meaning of the statement is—whether that the gates of Hades shall not prevail in conflict against it, as ordinarily understood; or merely that the gates, etc., shall not be stronger than it, without thought of a conflict (Weiss), is of minor moment; the point is that it is not an absolute promise. The ἐκκλησία will be strong, enduring, only so long as the faith in the Father and in Christ the Son, and the spirit of the Father and the Son, reign in it. When the Christ spirit is weak the Church will be weak, and neither creeds nor governments, nor keys, nor ecclesiastical dignities will be of much help to her.

18. Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church] Cp. Isaiah 28:16, from which passage probably the expression is drawn. There is a play on the words “Peter” and “rock” which is lost in the E. V. It may be seen in a French rendering, “Tu es Pierre et sur cette pierre je bâtirai mon Eglise.”

On these words mainly rest the enormous pretensions of the Roman pontiff. It is therefore important (1) To remember that it is to Peter with the great confession on his lips that the words are spoken. The Godhead of Christ is the keystone of the Church, and Peter is for the moment the representative of the belief in that truth among men. (2) To take the words in reference: (a) to other passages of Scripture. The Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Ephesians 2:20, on Christ Himself, 2 Corinthians 3:11. (b) To history; Peter is not an infallible repository of truth. He is rebuked by Paul for Judaizing. Nor does he hold a chief place among the Apostles afterwards. It is James, not Peter, who presides at the Council at Jerusalem. (c) To reason: for even if Peter had precedence over the other Apostles, and if he was Bishop of Rome, which is not historically certain, there is no proof that he had a right of conferring such precedence on his successors.

my church] The word ecclesia (Church) occurs twice in Matthew and not elsewhere in the Gospels. See note ch. Matthew 18:17 where the Jewish ecclesia is meant. From the analogy of the corresponding Hebrew word, ecclesia in a Christian sense may be defined as the congregation of the faithful throughout the world, united under Christ as their Head. The use of the word by Christ implied at least two things: (1) that He was founding an organized society, not merely preaching a doctrine: (2) That the Jewish ecclesia was the point of departure for the Christian ecclesia and in part its prototype. It is one among many links in this gospel between Jewish and Christian thought. The Greek word (ἐκκλησία) has passed into the language of the Latin nations; église (French), chiesa (Italian), iglesia (Spanish). The derivation of the Teutonic Church is very doubtful. That usually given—Kuriakon (the Lord’s house)—is abandoned by many scholars. The word is probably from a Teutonic root and may have been connected with heathen usages. See Bib. Dict. Art. Church.

the gates of hell] Lit. “the gates of Hades.” The Greek Hades is the same as the Hebrew Sheol, the abode of departed spirits, in which were two divisions Gehenna and Paradise. “The gates of Hades” are generally interpreted to mean the power of the unseen world, especially the power of death: cp. Revelation 1:18, “the keys of hell (Hades) and of death.”

shall not prevail against it] The gates of Hades prevail over all things human, but the Church shall never die.

Matthew 16:18. Σὺ εἶ Πέτρος, thou art Peter) This corresponds with great beauty to the words, Thou art the Christ.[740]—ΠΈΤΡΟς, ΠΈΤΡΑ, Peter—rock) πέτρος elsewhere signifies a stone; but in the case of Simon, a rock. It was not fitting that such a man should be called Πέτρα, with a feminine termination; on the other hand, St Matthew would gladly have written ἘΠῚ ΤΟΎΤῼ Τῷ ΠΈΤΡῼ, if the idiom would have allowed it; wherefore these two, ΠΈΤΡΑ and ΠΈΤΡΟς, stand for one name and thing, as both words are expressed in Syriac by the one noun, Kepha. Peter is here used as a proper name; for it is not said, Thou shalt be, but, Thou art; and yet the appellative is at the same time openly declared to denote a rock. The Church of Christ is certainly[741] (Revelation 21:14) built on the apostles, inasmuch as they were the first believers, and the rest have been added through their labours; in which matter a certain especial prerogative was conspicuous in the case of Peter, without damage to the equality of apostolic authority; for he first converted many Jews (Acts 2), he first admitted the Gentiles to the Gospel (Acts 10.[742]) He moreover was especially commanded to strengthen his brethren, and to feed the sheep and lambs of the Lord. Nor can we imagine that this illustrious surname, elsewhere commonly attributed to Christ Himself, who is also called the Rock, could without the most important meaning have been bestowed on Peter, who in the list of the apostles is called first, and always put in the first place; see Matthew 10:2; see also 1 Peter 2:4-7. All these things are said with safety, for what have they to do with Rome?[743] Let the Roman rock beware, lest it fall under the censure of Matthew 16:23.—ΚΑῚ, Κ.Τ.Λ., and, etc.) A most magnificent promise, including, in different ways, the gates of hell, the kingdom of heaven, and the earth.—οἰκοδομήσω, I will build) He does not say, on this rock I WILL FOUND; for Peter, nevertheless, is not the foundation. The wise build on a rock; see ch. Matthew 7:24.—Μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, My Church) A magnificent expression concerning Jesus, not occurring elsewhere in the Gospels.—πύλαι ᾅδου, the gates of hell) The word πύλαι (gates) occurs here without the article. Heaven is in the next verse put in opposition to τῷ ᾅδη, hell, which occurs here, as in ch. Matthew 11:23. Hell has no power against faith; faith has power with reference to heaven.[744] The gates of hell (as elsewhere, the gates of death) are named also in Isaiah 38:10; Wis 16:13. Hell, ᾅδης, is exceedingly strong (see Song of Solomon 8:6); how much more its gates? The metaphor in “gates” is of an architectural kind, as in the expressions, “I will build” and “the keys” The Christian Church is like a city without walls, and yet the gates of hell, which assail it, shall never prevail. The defences of hell, and the fortifications of the world, corresponding to them, are here intended; as, for instance, the Otto man Porte, and Rome, where Erasmus Schmidt[745] thinks that the mouth of hell is; that it was opened in the time of Marcus Curtius, and will be opened again hereafter, when the prophecy in Revelation 19:20 is fulfilled. “Rome,” he says, “is situated very near those parts of Italy where, before the foundation of Rome, Homer makes his Ulysses descend to hell, and where, after the foundation of Rome, without the intervention of any great distance, Virgil makes his Æneas do the same. But lest I should appear to wish to plead on poetical credit (although these poetical assertions may be regarded like the prediction of Caiaphas), attend to historical testimony:—In the middle of the Roman Forum, once upon a time, if we are to credit Livy and other Roman writers, the hell, which you (Papists) place in the bowels of the earth, opened its mouth, and that chasm could not be filled up with any amount of earth thrown in, until Marcus Curtius, armed, and on horseback, leapt in—in order, forsooth, that as the heaven received Enoch and Elijah alive, so hell might receive this Curtius alive, as the first fruits, by these gates of hell then opened in the middle of the Roman Forum, which will, without doubt, again be opened by Divine power, when the beast and the false prophet shall be cast alive into the lake of fire burning with sulphur, as is foretold in Revelation 19:20.”

[740] Christ addresses His own, and Christ’s own address Him most becomingly throughout the whole of Scripture.—V. g.

[741] Ephesians 2:20.—E. B.

[742] And the same apostle, in this very passage, was superior to the rest of the disciples in the fact of his knowledge and his confession, seeing that it is probable that none of them would have answered at that time with so great alacrity as did Peter.—V. g.

[743] Whether Peter was for any time at Rome, and that too not in imprisonment, is a matter full of doubt. Grant even that he was: he was so certainly in no other way save as an Apostle; and the Church planted there was blessed with its own ordinary ministers. It was, therefore, to the place of these latter, not to his place, that the Bishops of subsequent ages succeeded, who afterwards degenerated into Lords and Popes.—V. g.

[744] In the original, “Contra fidem nil potest infernus: fides potest in cœlum:” where the preposition “in” implies also motion, or progress towards heaven.—(I. B.)

[745] ERASMUS SCHMIDT was a learned Philologist, born in Misnia in 1560. He became eminent for his skill in Greek and in Mathematics, of both of which he was Professor at Wittenberg, where he died in 1637.—(I. B.)

“Even to heaven.”—ED.

Verse 18. - And I say also (I also say) unto thee. As thou hast said unto me, "Thou art the Christ," so I say unto thee, etc. Thou art Peter (Πέτρος, Petrus), and upon this rock (πέτρα, petra) I will build my Church. In classical Greek, the distinction between πέτρα and πέτρος is well known - the former meaning "a rock," the latter "a piece of rock," or "a stone." But probably no such distinction is intended here, as there would be none in Aramaic. There is plainly a paronomasia here in the Greek; and, if our Lord spoke in Aramaic, the same play of words was exhibited in Kephas or kepha. When Jesus first called Peter to be a disciple, he imposed upon him the name Cephas, which the evangelist explains to be Peter (John 1:42). The name was bestowed in anticipation of Peter's great confession: "Thou shalt be called." This preannouncement was here fulfilled and confirmed. Upon this passage chiefly the claims of the Roman Church, which for fifteen centuries have been the subject of acrimonious controversy, are founded. It is hence assumed that the Christian Church is founded upon Peter and his successors, and that these successors are the Bishops of Rome. The latter assertion may be left to the decision of history, which fails to prove that Peter was ever at Rome, or that he transmitted his supposed supremacy to the episcopate of that city. We have in this place to deal with the former assertion. Who or what is the rock on which Christ says that he will hereafter build his Church? French Romanists consider it a providential coincidence that they can translate the passage, "Je te disque, Tu es Pierre; et sur cette pierre je batirai," etc.; but persons outside the papal communion are not satisfied to hang their faith on a play of words. The early Fathers are by no means at one in their explanations of the paragraph. Living before Rome had laid claim to the tremendous privileges which it afterwards affected, they did not regard the statement in the light of later controversies; and even those who held Peter to be the rock would have indignantly repelled the assumptions which have been built on that interpretation. The apostolic Fathers seem to have mentioned the passage in none of their writings; and they could scarcely have failed to refer to it had they been aware of the tremendous issues dependent thereon. It was embodied in no Catholic Creed, and never made an article of the Christian faith. We may remark also that of the evangelists St. Matthew alone records the promise to Peter; Mark and Luke give his confession, which was the one point which Christ desired to elicit, and omit that which is considered to concern his privileges. This looks as though, in their view, the chief aim of the passage was not Peter, but Christ; not Peter's pre-eminence, but Christ's nature and office. At the same time, to deny all allusion to Peter in the "rock" is quite contrary to the genius of the language and to New Testament usage, and would not have been so pressed in modern times except for polemical purposes. Three views have been held on the interpretation of this passage.

(1) That Christ himself is the Rock on which the Church should be built.

(2) That Peter's confession of Jesus Christ as Son of God, or God incarnate, is the Rock.

(3) That St. Peter is the rock.

(1) The first explanation is supported by passages where in Christ speaks of himself in the third person, e.g. "Destroy this temple;" "If any man eat of this bread; Whoso falleth on this stone," etc. In the same sense are cited the words of Isaiah (Isaiah 28:16), "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation." Almighty God is continually called "a Rock" in the Old Testament (see 2 Samuel 22:32; Psalm 18:31; Psalm 62:2, 6, 7, etc.), so that it might be deemed natural and intelligible for Christ to call himself "this Rock," in accordance, with the words of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 3:11), "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid (κεῖται), which is Jesus Christ." But then the reference to Peter becomes unmeaning: "Thou art Peter, and upon myself I will build my Church." It is true that some few eminent authorities have taken this view. Thus St. Augustine writes, "It was not said to him, 'Thou art a rock (petra),' but, 'Thou art Peter,' and the Rock was Christ" ('Retract.,' 1:21). And commentators have imagined that Christ pointed to himself as he spoke. In such surmises there is an inherent improbability, and they do not explain the commencement of the address. In saying, "Thou art Peter," Christ, if he made any gesture at all, would have touched or turned to that apostle. Immediately after this to have directed attention to himself would have been most unnatural and contradictory. We may safely surrender the interpretation which regards Christ himself as the Rock.

(2) The explanation which finds the rock in Peter's great confession has been widely adopted by commentators ancient and modern. Thus St. Chrysostom, "Upon this rock, that is, on the faith of his confession. Hereby he signifies that many were now on the point of believing, and raises his spirit, and makes him a shepherd." To the same purport might be quoted Hilary, Ambrose, Jerome, Gregory Nyss., Cyril, and others. It is remarkable that in the Collect from the Gregorian Sacramentary and in the Roman Missal on the Vigil of St. Peter and St. Paul are found the words, "Grant that thou wouldst not suffer us, whom thou hast established on the rock of the apostolic confession (quos in apostolicae confessionis petra solidasti) to be shaken by any commotions." Bishop Wordsworth, as many exegetes virtually do, combines the two interpretations, and we cite his exposition as a specimen of the view thus held: "What he says is this, 'I myself, now confessed by thee to be both God and Man, am the Rock of the Church. This is the foundation on which it is built.' And because St. Peter had confessed him as such, he says to St. Peter, 'Thou hast confessed me, and I will now confess thee; thou hast owned me, I will now own thee. Thou art Peter,' i.e. thou art a lively stone, hewn out of and built upon me, the living Rock. Thou art a genuine Petros of me, the Divine Petra. And whosoever would be a lively stone, a Peter, must imitate thee in this thy true confession of me, the living Rock; for upon this Rock, that is, on myself, believed and confessed to be both God and Man, I will build my Church." As the opinion that Christ means himself by "this rock" is untenable, so we consider that Peter's confession is equally debarred from being the foundation intended. Who does not see that the Church is to be built, not on confessions or dogmas, but on men - men inspired by God to teach the great truth? A confession implies a confessor; it was the person who made the confession that is meant, not the mere statement itself, however momentous and true. Thus elsewhere the Church is said to have been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20), "Ye," says St. Peter (1 Peter 2:5), "as living stones are built up a spiritual house." "James and Cephas who were reputed to be pillars" (Galatians 2:9). In Revelation (Revelation 21:14) the foundationstones of the heavenly temple are "the twelve apostles of the Lamb." Hence we gather that the rock is a person.

(3) So we come to the explanation of the difficulty which naturally is deduced from the language if considered without regard to prejudice or the pernicious use to which it has been put. Looking at the matter in a straightforward way, we come to the conclusion that Christ is wishing to reward Peter for his outspoken profession of faith; and his commendation is couched in a form which was usual in Oriental addresses, and intelligible to his hearers. "Thou hast said to me, 'Thou art the Son of God;' I say to thee, 'Thou art Peter,' a rock man, 'and on thee,' as a rock, 'I will build my Church.' "As he was the first to acknowledge Christ's nature and office, so he was rewarded by being appointed as the apostle who should inaugurate the Christian Church and lay its first foundation. His name and his work were to coincide. This promise was fulfilled in Peter's acts. He it was who took the lead on the Day of Pentecost, when at his preaching, to the hundred and twenty disciples there were added three thousand souls (Acts 2:41); he it was who admitted the Gentiles to the Christian community (Acts 10.); he it was who in these early days stood forth prominently as a master builder, and was the first to open the kingdom of heaven to Jews and Gentiles. It is objected that, if Peter was a builder, he could not be the rock on which the building was raised. The expression, of course, is metaphorical. Christ builds the Church by employing Peter as the foundation of the spiritual house; Peter's zeal and activity and stable faith are indeed the living rock which forms the material element, so to speak, of this erection; he, as labouring in the holy cause beyond all others, at any rate in the early days of the gospel, is regarded as that solid basis on which the Church was raised. Christ, in one sense, builds on Peter; Peter builds on Christ. The Church, in so far as it was visible, had Peter for its rocky foundation; in so far as it was spiritual, it was founded on Christ. The distinction thus accorded in the future to Peter was personal, and carried with it none of the consequences which human ambition or mistaken pursuit of unity have elicited therefrom. There was no promise of present supremacy; there was no promise of the privilege being handed down to successors. The other apostles had no conception of any superiority being now conferred on Peter. It was not long after this that there was a strife among them who should be the greatest; James and John claimed the highest places in the heavenly kingdom; Paul resisted Peter to the face "because he stood condemned" (Galatians 2:11); the president of the first council was James, the Bishop of Jerusalem. It is plain that neither Peter himself nor his fellow apostles understood or acknowledged his supremacy; and that he transmitted, or was intended to transmit, such authority to successors, is a figment unknown to primitive Christianity, and which was gradually erected, to serve ambitious designs, on forged decretals and spurious writings. This is not the place for polemics, and these few apologetic hints are introduced merely with the view of showing that no one need be afraid of the obvious and straightforward interpretation of Christ's words, or suppose that papal claims are necessarily supported thereby. I will build my Church (μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν). My Church, not thine. Plainly, therefore, the Church was not yet builded. Christ speaks of it as a house, temple, or palace, perhaps at the moment gazing on some castle founded securely on a rock, safe from flood and storm and hostile attack. We know how commonly he took his illustrations from objects and scenes around him; and the rocky base of the great castle of Caesarea Philippi may well have supplied the material for the metaphor here introduced. The word translated "church" (ἐκκλησία), is found here for the first time in the New Testament. It is derived from a verb meaning "to call out," and in classical Greek denotes the regular legislative assembly of a people. In the Septuagint it represents the Hebrew kahal, the congregation united into one society and forming one polity (see Trench, 'Synonyms'). The name kehila in modern times is applied to every Jewish community which has its own synagogue and ministers. From the use of the metaphor of a house, and the word employed to designate the Church, we see that it was not to be a mere loose collection of items, but an organized whole, united, officered, and permanent. Hence the word Ecclesia has been that which designated the Christian society, and has been handed down and recognized in all ages and in all countries. It may be regarded as the personal part of that kingdom of heaven which was to embrace the whole world, when "the kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ" (Revelation 11:15; see Introduction, § 10.). The gates of hell (ᾅδου) shall not prevail against it. Hades, which our version calls "hell," is the region of the dead, a gloomy and desolate place, according to Jewish tradition, situated in the centre of the earth, a citadel with walls and gates, which admitted the souls of men, but opened not for their egress. There are two ways of explaining these words, though they both come to much the same idea. The gates of Hades represent the entrance thereto; and the Lord affirms that death shall have no power over the members of the Church; they shall be able to rise superior to its attacks, even if for a time they seem to succumb; their triumphant cry shall he, "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55). Through the grave and gate of death they shall pass to a joyful resurrection. The other interpretation is derived from the fact that in Oriental cities the gate is the scene of deliberation and counsel. Hence "the gates" here may represent the evil designs planned by the powers of hell to overthrow the Church, the wiles and machinations of the devil and his angels, Hades being taken, not as the abode of the dead, but as the realm of Satan. Neither malignant spirits nor their allies, such as sin, persecution, heresy, shall be able to wreck the eternal building which Christ was founding. Combining the two expositions, we may say that Christ herein promises that neither the power of death nor the power of the devil shall prevail against it (κατισχύσουσιν αὐτῆς), shall overpower it, keep it in subjection. The pronoun refers doubtless to Church, not rock, the verb being more applicable to the former than the latter, and the pronoun being nearer in position to ἐκκλησίαν. To see here an assurance of the infallibility of the pope, as Romanists do, is to force the words of Scripture most unwarrantably in order to support a modern figment which has done infinite harm to the cause of Christ. As Erasmus says, "Proinde miror esse, qui locum hunc detorqueant ad Romanum Pontificem." Matthew 16:18Thou art Peter (οὺ εἶ Πέτρος)

Christ responds to Peter's emphatic thou with another, equally emphatic. Peter says, "Thou art the Christ." Christ replies, "Thou art Peter." Πέτρος (Peter) is used as a proper name, but without losing its meaning as a common noun. The name was bestowed on Simon at his first interview with Jesus (John 1:42) under the form of its Aramaic equivalent, Cephas. In this passage attention is called, not to the giving of the name, but to its meaning. In classical Greek the word means a piece of rock, as in Homer, of Ajax throwing a stone at Hector ("Iliad," vii., 270), or of Patroclus grasping and hiding in his hand a jagged stone ("Iliad," xvi., 784).

On this rock (ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέρᾳ)

The word is feminine, and means a rock, as distinguished from a stone or a fragment of rock (πέτρος, above). Used of a ledge of rocks or a rocky peak. In Homer ("Odyssey," ix., 243), the rock (πέτρην) which Polyphemus places at the door of his cavern, is a mass which two-and-twenty wagons could not remove; and the rock which he hurled at the retreating ships of Ulysses, created by its fall a wave in the sea which drove the ships back toward the land ("Odyssey," ix., 484). The word refers neither to Christ as a rock, distinguished from Simon, a stone, nor to Peter's confession, but to Peter himself, in a sense defined by his previous confession, and as enlightened by the "Father in Heaven."

The reference of πέτρα to Christ is forced and unnatural. The obvious reference of the word is to Peter. The emphatic this naturally refers to the nearest antecedent; and besides, the metaphor is thus weakened, since Christ appears here, not as the foundation, but as the architect: "On this rock will I build." Again, Christ is the great foundation, the "chief corner-stone," but the New Testament writers recognize no impropriety in applying to the members of Christ's church certain terms which are applied to him. For instance, Peter himself (1 Peter 2:4), calls Christ a living stone, and, in 1 Peter 2:5, addresses the church as living stones. In Revelation 21:14, the names of the twelve apostles appear in the twelve foundation-stones of the heavenly city; and in Ephesians 2:20, it is said, "Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (i.e., laid by the apostles and prophets), Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone."

Equally untenable is the explanation which refers πέτρα to Simon's confession. Both the play upon the words and the natural reading of the passage are against it, and besides, it does not conform to the fact, since the church is built, not on confessions, but on confessors - living men.

"The word πέτρα," says Edersheim, "was used in the same sense in Rabbinic language. According to the Rabbins, when God was about to build his world, he could not rear it on the generation of Enos, nor on that of the flood, who brought destruction upon the world; but when he beheld that Abraham would arise in the future, he said' 'Behold, I have found a rock to build on it, and to found the world,' whence, also, Abraham is called a rock, as it is said' 'Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn.' The parallel between Abraham and Peter might be carried even further. If, from a misunderstanding of the Lord's promise to Peter, later Christian legend represented the apostle as sitting at the gate of heaven, Jewish legend represents Abraham as sitting at the gate of Gehenna, so as to prevent all who had the seal of circumcision from falling into its abyss" ("Life and Times of Jesus").

The reference to Simon himself is confirmed by the actual relation of Peter to the early church, to the Jewish portion of which he was a foundation-stone. See Acts, Acts 1:15; Acts 2:14, Acts 2:37; Acts 3:12; Acts 4:8; Acts 5:15, Acts 5:29; Acts 9:34, Acts 9:40; Acts 10:25, Acts 10:26; Galatians 1:15.

Church (ἐκκλησίαν)

ἐκ out, καλέω, to call or summon. This is the first occurrence of this word in the New Testament. Originally an assembly of citizens, regularly summoned. So in New Testament, Acts 19:39. The Septuagint uses the word for the congregation of Israel, either as summoned for a definite purpose (1 Kings 8:65), or for the community of Israel collectively, regarded as a congregation (Genesis 28:3), where assembly is given for multitude in margin. In New Testament, of the congregation of Israel (Acts 7:38); but for this there is more commonly employed συναγωγή, of which synagogue is a transcription; σύν, together, ἄγω, to bring (Acts 13:43). In Christ's words to Peter the word ἐκκλησία acquires special emphasis from the opposition implied in it to the synagogue. The Christian community in the midst of Israel would be designated as ἐκκλησία, without being confounded with the συναγωγή, the Jewish community. See Acts 5:11; Acts 8:1; Acts 12:1; Acts 14:23, Acts 14:27, etc. Nevertheless συναγωγή is applied to a Christian assembly in James 2:2, while ἐπισυναγωγή (gathering or assembling together) is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:1; Hebrews 10:25. Both in Hebrew and in New Testament usage ἐκκλησία implies more than a collective or national unity; rather a community based on a special religious idea and established in a special way. In the New Testament the term is used also in the narrower sense of a single church, or a church confined to a particular place. So of the church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla (Romans 16:5); the church at Corinth, the churches in Judea, the church at Jerusalem, etc.

Gates of hell (πύλαι ᾅδου)

Rev., Hades. Hades was originally the name of the god who presided over the realm of the dead - Pluto or Dis. Hence the phrase, house of Hades. It is derived from ἀ, not, and ; ἰδεῖν, to see; and signifies, therefore, the invisible land, the realm of shadow. It is the place to which all who depart this life descend, without reference to their moral character.

By this word the Septuagint translated the Hebrew Sheol, which has a similar general meaning. The classical Hades embraced both good and bad men, though divided into Elysium, the abode of the virtuous, and Tartarus, the abode of the wicked. In these particulars it corresponds substantially with Sheol; both the godly and the wicked being represented as gathered into the latter. See Genesis 42:38; Psalm 9:17; Psalm 139:8; Isaiah 14:9; Isaiah 57:2; Ezekiel 32:27; Hosea 13:14. Hades and Sheol were alike conceived as a definite place, lower than the world. The passage of both good and bad into it was regarded as a descent. The Hebrew conception is that of a place of darkness; a cheerless home of a dull, joyless, shadowy life. See Psalm 6:5; Psalm 94:17; Psalm 115:17; Psalm 88:5, Psalm 88:6, Psalm 88:10; Job 10:21; Job 3:17-19; Job 14:10, Job 14:11; Ecclesiastes 9:5. Vagueness is its characteristic. In this the Hebrew's faith appears bare in contrast with that of the Greek and Roman. The pagan poets gave the popular mind definite pictures of Tartarus and Elysium; of Styx and Acheron; of happy plains where dead heroes held high discourse, and of black abysses where offenders underwent strange and ingenious tortures.

There was, indeed, this difference between the Hebrew and the Pagan conceptions; that to the Pagan, Hades was the final home of its tenants, while Sheol was a temporary condition. Hence the patriarchs are described (Hebrews 11:16) as looking for a better, heavenly country; and the martyrs as enduring in hope of "a better resurrection." Prophecy declared that the dead should arise and sing, when Sheol itself should be destroyed and its inmates brought forth, some to everlasting life, and others to shame and contempt (Isaiah 26:19; Hosea 13:14; Daniel 12:2). Paul represents this promise as made to the fathers by God, and as the hope of his countrymen (Acts 26:7). God was the God of the dead as well as of the living; present in the dark chambers of Sheol as well as in heaven (Psalm 139:8; Psalm 16:10). This is the underlying thought of that most touching and pathetic utterance of Job (Job 14:13-15), in which he breathes the wish that God would hide him with loving care in Hades, as a place of temporary concealment, where he will wait patiently, standing like a sentinel at his post, awaiting the divine voice calling him to a new and happier life. This, too, is the thought of the familiar and much-disputed passage, Job 19:23-27. His Redeemer, vindicator, avenger, shall arise after he shall have passed through the shadowy realm of Sheol. "A judgment in Hades, in which the judge will show himself his friend, in which all the tangled skein of his life will be unravelled by wise and kindly hands, and the insoluble problem of his strange and self-contradicting experience will at last be solved - this is what Job still looks for on that happy day when he shall see God for himself, and find his Goel (vindicator) in that Almighty Deliverer" (Cox, "Commentary on the Book of Job").


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