There has been a great deal of controversy around Matthew 16:13-20. This text has been abused by the Roman Catholic Church to prove the papacy. Whereas others want to argue that the rock of the church is only Jesus Christ. We should not bring any dogmatic or cultural assumptions to interpret this text rather we should let it speak for itself in its original language. Only once we have done contextual exegesis can we ask the questions of what dogmatic position this text supports, if any at all. In terms of exegesis I will be arguing that in Matthew 16:13-20 the rock on which the church is built is the confession that Jesus is the Christ and Peter by confessing this and by administering church discipline acts as a representative for all those in the church that make this confession. In order to support this thesis we first need to look at the larger purpose of Matthew and how it relates to Matthew 16:13-20.
The Use and Purpose of 16:13-20 in Matthew
One of the main purposes of the Gospel of Matthew is to show that Jesus is the Christ. The climax and the center of the purpose are found in Matthew 16:13-20 when Peter makes the confession that Jesus is the Christ and Jesus shows his approval of this by blessing Peter (16:16-17). Hence, Matthew uses 16:13-20 as a climax of one of the central themes of Matthews Gospel: that Jesus is the Christ. The first way I will demonstrate this is to clarify Matthews’s concept of the Christ. Then I will show that the beginning and ending of the Gospel of Matthew emphasizes that Jesus is the Christ. Finally, we will look at how Matthew builds up to the climax in 16:13-20.
For Matthew’s Gospel the concept of the Christ is that of the divine son of God such that one could not think of the Christ without also thinking that he is the son of God and conversely one cannot think of the son of God without also thinking that he is the Christ. This is in the climax of Matthew’s Gospel where the Gospel uses Christ and the son of the living God in apposition (16:16). Furthermore, Jesus brings this out in Matthews Gospel when he asks the Pharisees what they thought about the Christ and whose son was he (22:41-42). Jesus then uses what they thought was a messianic text (Ps. 2) to show that on their own assumptions the Christ was to be thought of in terms of a divine son (22:42-45). In addition, when the birth of Jesus is mentioned it is mentioned as both the birth of the Christ (1:18) and also God dwelling with us (1:23). Perhaps most significant is that Jesus’ Jewish enemies in Matthew’s Gospel thought that his Messiahship entailed his divine sonship. Herod who wanted to kill the infant Christ thought that the title of Christ suggested a sort of person that was worthy of worship (2:4-8). The question from Caiaphas that got Jesus crucified presupposed that the Son of God was intimately connected to the concept of Messiah in the same way that Peter’s confession did (16:16; 26:63). Hence, in Matthew’s theology to think of a separation between the son of God and the Christ would be inconceivable. Now that we established Matthews understanding of the Christ we can look to see if this is one of his central themes in this Gospel.
The beginning and ending of the Gospel of Matthew emphasizes that Jesus is Christ suggesting that this was one of the central purposes of the Gospel writer.
The opening of the Gospel of Matthew begins with a royal Jewish genealogy demonstrating that Jesus is the Christ. The central theme of this genealogy is that Jesus is the Christ because the first line of the genealogy mentions that Jesus is the Christ (1:1) and the last two lines are emphasizing that Jesus is the Christ (1:16-17). The fact that this pericope begins and ends with the term “Christ” shows that genealogy is a pericope dedicated to the idea that Jesus is the Christ. After this genealogy we see that the historical narrative begins with verse 18 and the introduction clues us in to the truth that the Birth of Christ came about in a certain way. In other words, the beginning of the narrative in Matthews Gospel opens up with the mentioning of the Christ and his birth. Hence, it is reasonable to believe that the first thing that Gospel writer was emphatic about in his introduction will be something that he will be emphatic about throughout the entire Gospel.
The ending of the Gospel of Matthew as well emphasizes that Jesus is the Christ. After Jesus had been crucified and has died the people around him make this Messianic pronouncement “Truly, this was the Son of God” (27:54). The reason why this statement is Messianic is because of what I have previously demonstrated, namely, that the Son of God and Messiah cannot be separated because in Matthews’s theology they are one and the same person. When the people around the crucified Jesus think of him as the Son of God they also think of him as the Christ. This shows that the beginning of Jesus’ life began with messianic pronouncement (1:18) and his death ends with a messianic pronouncement (27:54). When the Christ is resurrected he is vindicated and he now has all authority on heaven and on earth as the kingly Messiah (28:18). Furthermore, Jesus’ Messianic identity as the “son” is to be the name by which disciples of all nations are to be baptized with, in addition to the heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit (28:19). Hence, the beginning and the end of the Gospel and the beginning and end of the life of Jesus end with Messianic statements. This strongly suggests that this is the central theme of Matthews’s Gospel.
Matthew uses the pericope 16:13-20 as climax to clarify explicitly the identity of Jesus in the midst of uncertainty and controversy surrounding the identity of Jesus. The characters in the narrative are not confirmed explicitly by Jesus himself as to what his true identity is until Matthew 16:13-20. The point is that Jesus has no used of himself the title “Christ” before the crowds and disciples. All they have to go off are implicit hints that are stronger and stronger as the Gospel carries on to the final climax in the perciope 16:13-20. In the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus is teaching the people notice his unique authority that surpassed the authority of the scribes (7:28-29). This continues when Jesus heals and forgives sins in the midst of the crowds causing the crowds to be afraid and glorify God and his enemies to think of him as a blasphemer (9:1-8). As Jesus’ works and miracles continue the crowds begin to speculate more about the identity of Jesus. Interestingly John the Baptist has some confusion about whether or not Jesus is the Christ, but Jesus only gives him an implicit affirmation by pointing to his mighty deeds (11:2-5). In Chapter 12 Jesus heals a demon oppressed man who is deaf and mute and the crowds begin asking “Can this be the Son of David?” (12:23). Jesus does hint implicitly to his identity in the midst of all this by emphasizing that his greatness surpasses that of Solomon and Jonah (12:41-42). Following this Matthew leads us up to Herod the tetrarch’s speculation that Jesus might be John the Baptist back from the dead because of his miracles (14:1-2). As the tension builds the disciples indicate after Jesus calms the storm and walks on water that Jesus is the “Son of God”, but here Jesus does not yet explicitly confirm that this identification is correct (14:33). All of this builds up to Matthew use of the pericope 16:13-20 as the climax of that Jesus is the Christ.
There are many elements in the text of Matthew 16:13-20 that suggests that this Gospel builds up to this specific pericope as a climatic point. Jesus begins the section by asking a leading question to elicit a response from the disciples "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" (16:13). This question coheres with all that Matthew has been doing in his Gospel by showing all the various opinions that the crowds and others have been drawing from teachings and miracles of Jesus. This is magnified more so when the disciples make a list of all professed identifications of Jesus. When the disciples mention that some say Jesus is John the Baptist or one of the prophets this corresponds to what Matthew has been building up to in the preceding context. Herod is the one who mentioned that Jesus is John the Baptist raised from the dead (14:1-2). And Jesus himself has told people explicitly that he is a prophet (13:57). Therefore, half of the identifications mentioned come from the preceding context that has been building up to this point in the text. After this Jesus elicits even more of an answer from the disciples when he asks what they say his identity is (16:15). Peter answers and identifies Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God (16:16) and this confession is an echo of what the disciples have said of Jesus as the Son of God previously (14:33). The difference between the saying in 16:16 and 14:33 is that now Jesus explicitly confirms his identity as the Christ by Blessing Peter and telling him that what he has received is revelation from the Father. If Matthew was not clear enough that Jesus explicitly confirms that he is the Christ to his disciples he then proceeds to close the literary section in verse 20 by mentioning that Jesus told his disciples not to tell anyone that he is the Christ. In this pericope Matthew has Jesus bringing his disciples to the confession that he is the Christ and then in ending the pericope Matthew closes the topic of keeping his messianic identity concealed. This suggests that from beginning to end Matthew uses this pericope to emphasize that Jesus is the Christ. Hence, inherent within 16:13-20 we see the full climax of what Matthew was previously building up to in the in the preceding elements of the narrative.
The Context of Matthew 16:13-20
Now that I have established Matthews’s use of the pericope of 16:13-20 we now need to take a look at the context surrounding 16:13-20 so that I can properly exegete it.
The immediate preceding and proceeding context of 16:13-20 uses literary contrasts. In the opening of the 16th chapter of Matthew Jesus is having a confrontation with the antagonist of Matthews Gospel the Pharisees and Sadducees (16:1). In this section they ask Jesus for a sign to demonstrate the truthfulness of his teaching as they have done before (12:38-39; 16:1). Jesus responds the same way he does in 12:38-39, namely, that he will not give any other sign but the sign of Jonah and that they are an evil and adulterous generation (16:4). In contrasts to the evil and adulterous Pharisees and Sadducees are the disciples in the next section (16:6-12). The disciples are given a saying of Jesus that is also symbolic like the saying to the Pharisees and Sadducees but in their case instead of being called by Jesus an evil and adulterous generation they are called those of little faith (16:8). And unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees the disciples finally understand the saying of Jesus at the end of the section (16:12). We see that in chapter 16 verses 1-4 and 5-12 there is a definite contrasting of content. This is very much like section 13-20 and 21-23. In 13-20 Peter is blessed by Jesus for understanding revelation, whereas in 21-23 Peter is associated with Satan for misunderstanding his revelation. Hence, the inherent structure of the context surrounding Matthew 16:13-20 is contrastive and antithetical.
The Literary Structure of Matthew 16:13-20
The literary structure of Matthew 16:13-20 is composed of an introduction (13), two questions that are answered (13-16), the rest of structure has antithetical parallelisms (17-19) and the section ends with a closing remark (20). The introduction in verse 13 opens up with placing Jesus in the district of Caesarea Philippi. Then in verse 13 Jesus begins asking the disciples about what men say about his identity. The disciples answer in verse 14 with listing all of the identifications made by men concerning the identity of Jesus. In verse 15 Jesus asks his second question to his disciples as to what they say about his identity. In verse 16 we get our second answer from Peter that Jesus is the Messiah and this leads into Jesus’ response in verse 17. In verse 17 we see that Jesus’ response to Peter is in the form of antithetical parallelisms. I am in agreement with Robert Gundry’s characterization of the antithetical parallelisms of verses 17-19 which is as follows:
(17b) maka,rioj ei=( Si,mwn Bariwna/(
(17c) o[ti sa.rx kai. ai-ma ouvk avpeka,luye,n soi
(17d) avllV o` path,r mou o` evn toi/j ouvranoi/jÅ
(18a) kavgw. de, soi le,gw o[ti su. ei= Pe,troj(
(18b) kai. evpi. tau,th| th/| pe,tra| oivkodomh,sw mou th.n evkklhsi,an
(18c) kai. pu,lai a[|dou ouv katiscu,sousin auvth/jÅ
(19a) dw,sw soi ta.j klei/daj th/j basilei,aj tw/n ouvranw/n(
(19b) kai. o] eva.n dh,sh|j evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai dedeme,non evn toi/j ouvranoi/j(
(19c) kai. o] eva.n lu,sh|j evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai lelume,non evn toi/j ouvranoi/jÅ
In the structure 17b, 18a, and 19a are the three phrases that introduce each antithetical parallelism. 17c and b are primarily contrasting sa.rx kai. ai-ma with o` path,r mou o` evn toi/j ouvranoi/j. 18b and c is contrasting th.n evkklhsi,an with pu,lai a[|dou. 19b and c is the clearest antithetical parallelism is contrasting dh,sh|j with lu,sh|j and dedeme,non with lelume,non. After the parallelisms Matthew closes the pericope in verse 20 with Jesus’ instructions to his disciples to conceal his identity. Matthew 16:13-20 is composed of an introduction, two questions, two answers, antithetical parallelisms, and conclusion.
The Confession as the Rock
Before I can argue what the pe,tra on which Christ will build his church on is, we first need to see if there is any difference between pe,tra and Pe,troj. Although Pe,troj is Peter’s nick name (4:18), so far as we know it does not appear as a name before the writing of the New Testament. So it is vital that we understand the meaning and relationship pe,tra and Pe,troj so that we can develop a theory that accounts for all of the data about the rock of church in this pericope.
In terms of meaning there does not seem too much of a difference between pe,tra and petroj but rather these two words can be interchangeable. It would seem that sources like BDAG would disagree with my above assertion because it says that petroj means a loose stone, whereas pe,tra means bedrock, piece of rock or massive rock. On the other hand, Thayer would seem to indicate that both petroj and pe,tra have general overlap because these two words both could mean stone or a cliff. The fact that there is overlap in meaning between these two words has been recognized by defenders of various and conflicting interpretations of Matthew 16:18. The usage of the word petroj in the Septuagint is used a majority of the time with reference to caves and holes of rocks (Job 30:6; Oba.1:3; Isa. 57:5; 7:19; 2:21; 2:19; Jer.28:25; 16:16; Jer. 30:10). The reason why the reference to caves and holes of rocks shows that petroj is not necessarily a loose stone is that usually when we see the rocks in caves or holes not all the rocks are loose stones, but rather there are many larger stable rocks that are a part of the cave or a hole. However, every instance of petroj in the apocrypha is in reference to a loose stone and this seems to show that petroj can take on either meaning (2Ma 1:16; 4:41;
The overlap in meaning between petroj and pe,tra is that they both can be referring to larger stable stones or rocks. Hence, there does seem to be interchangeability between petroj and pe,tra.
Although there does seem to be interchangeability between the meanings of petroj and pe,tra, there is a difference between these two words and this difference has some exegetical significance. The difference between petroj and pe,tra is that they are different genders. Usually when words have different genders and the words are not determined to be a specific gender then there is exegetical significance to this. In the case of petroj this word would be masculine form whereas pe,tra would be the feminine form. When a word has gender and this word is referring to another word, typically these words will have the same gender. There has to be some sort of reason for why the genders are different in Matthew 16:18. Hence, any interpretation that is given about the relation between petroj and pe,tra in Matthew 16:18 needs to give a adequate explanation of the gender difference.
In order to analyze what pe,tra is referring to in Matthew 16:18 lets us look at the explanations and arguments offered in favor of the traditional and prominent interpretation of this passage. The tradition position is that pe,tra is referring to Pe,troj. We will first look at the explanations offered by the tradition position as to why there is a gender distinction between Peter and the rock in Matthew 16:18. After we have looked at the explanations offered by the traditional view, we will then look at the positive arguments in favor of the rock referring to Peter.
There are various ways the traditional position offers an explanation of the gender distinctions between Pe,troj and pe,tra. One explanation of the gender distinction that is used by defenders of the traditional view is that Jesus spoke to his disciples in Aramaic and in this language there would be no distinction in gender observed. In Aramaic there is only one way to say rock apyK and so Jesus’ original saying would not have made a distinction between Peter and the rock because they would both be called apyK. From this line of reasoning the traditional defender says that we ought not to make a distinction between Pe,troj and pe,tra because the original saying of Jesus would not have done so. Another way the tradition position explains the gender distinction between Pe,troj and pe,tra is that Peter was a man so his name is determined to be masculine and the reason why pe,tra is feminine is because Matthew did not want be repetitious. Furthermore, another explanation given by the traditional position is the reason why Matthew used different genders was to distinguish conceptually between Peter the name and the foundational rock which Peter metaphorically represents. These are the explanations offered by the traditional position; let us now look at the positive reasons offered in support of the traditional positions interpretation of the rock referring to Peter in 16:18.
There are various arguments in favor of the traditional view. The main argument is that Pe,troj is the nearest possible antecedent to which pe,tra could refer to. That is simply to say that Pe,troj is nearest to pe,tra than anything else in the preceding context. Another argument in favor of the traditional view is that this seems to be the most natural reading of the text. These are the primary reasons for holding to the traditional view.
The traditional positions explanations and arguments are insufficient because it does not adequately explain the gender distinctions between Pe,troj and pe,tra. After demonstrating the insufficiencies of the traditional position I will give an alternative interpretation that takes into account all of data surrounding Peter and the rock in Matthew 16:18.
The explanation that we should not make a distinction between Pe,troj and pe,tra because when Jesus would have uttered this saying in Aramaic he would have used apyK for both words relies on unsupported presumption and on a faulty view of how the Gospel authors wrote the sayings of Jesus. The faulty assumption of this argument is that when the Gospel authors wrote down Jesus’ teachings they wrote down his teachings word for word rather than his overall message. There are three good reasons for thinking that the Gospel writers wrote the general message of Jesus rather than exactly what Jesus said word for word. The first reason is that when we see the parallel phrases in the synoptic Gospels we see that they all agree in terms of the general teaching message, but there is not a word for word correlation. This can be clearly seen in how the synoptic Gospel records the confession of Peter:
Matthew 16:16: su. ei= o` cristo.j o` ui`o.j tou/ qeou/ tou/ zw/ntojÅ
Luke9:20: to.n cristo.n tou/ qeou/Å
Mark 8:29: su. ei= o` cristo,jÅ
Another reason that strengthens this position is that Jesus’ longest speech in the Gospels (the Sermon on the mount) only takes a few minutes to read, yet we know that Jesus would teach for hours (Mark 6:34-36). Hence, there is good reason to believe that Gospel writers where merely summarizing the general teaching of Jesus and not word for word recount of what he said. However, even if we were to grant for the sake of argument that Matthew translated this saying of Jesus from an Aramaic substratum for Matthew 16:18 the assertion that Jesus would have said apyK-apyK for what we have in the Greek as Pe,troj-pe,tra is still unfounded and speculative. The reason I say this is because we do not know enough about Aramaic to make such conclusions. But even as defenders of the traditional understanding of Matthew 16:18 recognize Jesus could have used another word for pe,tra like arnj rather than apyK. Either way we really do not know, but it cannot be argued that there would not have been no difference in the Aramaic because there are different words for rock in the Aramaic and this might account for the gender distinction in Pe,troj-pe,tra if we suppose that Matthew wrote this saying of Jesus word for word. Hence, this Aramaic explanation of the gender distinctions in Matthew 16:18 is speculative and inadequate.
The other explanations of the gender distinctions from the traditional exegesis of Matthew 16:18 are all insufficient. The one explanation that says that Pe,troj has to be masculine because Peter is a man and the reason why the feminine pe,tra is used is so that text would not be repetitious is insufficient. This is because the writer of the Gospel could have used phrases like evpi. sou or “on you” to make it clear that he was referring to Peter. Another problem with this explanation is it assumes that Matthew did not want to be repetitious for the sake of a word play. The last explanation that was given by the traditional interpretation was that the reason why different genders are used in Matthew 16:18 is to distinguish between the nick name Peter and the between stable rock which Peter represents. But the problem with this explanation is that Pe,troj could be both used as a nickname and as a stable rock so there would be no reason why Matthew could not use Pe,troj twice in 16:18 one time in reference to name and then another reference to stable rock which Peter metaphorically represents. If Matthew were to do this then it would be clear that he is referring to Peter, but obviously he does not do this and there has to be a sufficient reason for this gender distinction. Given the above considerations, the traditional interpretation has not yet provided any sort of explanation or reason why there is a gender distinction between Pe,troj and pe,tra.
Now that it is tentatively established that the traditional view does not sufficiently explain why there is the a gender distinction between Pe,troj and pe,tra in Matthew 16:18 the result is the that the arguments in it’s favor are no longer effective. The two arguments in favor of reading pe,tra as in reference to Pe,troj because it was the closes antecedent and because it was a naturally reading. But because the traditional view lacks an explanation as to why there is a gender difference. Therefore, in terms of the Greek language it is not necessarily the most natural reading and then Pe,troj probably is not the preferred antecedent of pe,tra because of the gender difference. Matthew clear makes a distinction between these two words to show specifically that pe,tra was not referring to Pe,troj so it really fails to be the most natural reading. Hence, the traditional view lacks an explanation of the gender difference and this weakens all of the arguments in its favor.
Now that we have understood the distinction of Pe,troj and pe,tra and that the traditional view fails to explain this distinction we can now look for alternative explanations. Hence, this next section will be focused on providing an explanation of the gender distinction and demonstrating what pe,tra is referring to by contextual exegesis.
pe,tra is referring to Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God. There is no particular word in Matthew 16:13-18 that is a good candidate and is feminine to which pe,tra could refer to and it is clearly distinguished from Pe,troj. So what could pe,tra be referring to? As I have demonstrated one of the major themes in the Gospel of Matthew is that Jesus is the Christ and this pericope is being used as a climatic point of that theme by Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God. With this consideration in mind: it is plausible to assume that Matthew is making distinction between Peter and the rock in order to bring us back to the theme of the pericope which is the confession that Jesus is the Christ. The interesting thing is that the word confession in Greek is o`mologi,a and this word can only be feminine. Perhaps Matthew would have had o`mologi,a in mind when he made pe,tra feminine. The confession by Peter that Jesus is the Christ is one of the major climatic points in Matthews Gospel and it is the climatic of the entire pericope. Hence, it is reasonable to believe that Matthew is using the Greek word pe,tra to refer to Peter’s o`mologi,a that Jesus is the Christ.
The view I have presented can give a possible explanation for why there is a gender distinction in Matthew 16:18. The reason why Matthew used pe,tra rather than any other word to refer to the confession is to indicate a connection to Pe,troj making the confession. The explanation for Matthew using Pe,troj was to indicate that Peter the man is the one who made the confession. The reason for Matthew changing genders to pe,tra was to indicate that he was referring to the concept and clause of the o`mologi,a that Jesus is o` cristo.j o` ui`o.j tou/ qeou/ tou/ zw/ntoj. Here we have a completely adequate explanation that does have any of the pitfalls that the traditional position had.
A possible objection to my thesis is that it is contrived and a desperate attempt to avoid the obvious fact that pe,tra is referring to Pe,troj as the closest antecedent. The reason why someone might think that it is contrived is because the word o`mologi,a does not actually appear in the pericope of Matthew 16:13-20. Hence to try to say that Matthew is thinking of this concept of the confession in the Greek is a artificial and desperate attempt to try avoid that pe,tra is referring to Pe,troj as the closest antecedent.
The problem with this objection is that it overlooks the clarity of the theme of the confession in Matthew and it assumes that Pe,troj is still plausible antecedent for pe,tra. My contention in this paper has been that the theme that Jesus is the Christ and the confession of this in Matthew 16:16 are so clear that to say that the original writer and hearers would not of thought of the term o`mologi,a when Peter makes the o`mologi,a that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God seems highly skeptical without reason. The fact that o`mologi,a is not in the pericope does not effect my thesis because the concept of o`mologi,a is in the pericope and it seems to be a plausible antecedent for pe,tra. Furthermore, to assume that Pe,troj as a plausible antecedent does not explain why Matthew is purposely makes a gender distinction as I have demonstrated above. There is an additional reason for thinking that Matthew would not have thought of Peter as the Rock of the church in the proceeding context. In Matthew 16:21-23 Peter tries to tell Jesus not carry out his messianic mission of his death, Peter is then associated with Satan who is hindrance to Jesus’ mission. Why would Matthew have Peter be the rock that could be overcome by the forces of darkness be the rock on which the church is build that will not be overcome by the forces of darkness (16:18)? There seems to be no explanation for why Matthew would have included this if he wanted to emphasize that Peter was the rock of the church rather than the rock of the church being the o`mologi,a that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God. Hence, my understanding of Matthew 16:18 explains everything in the passage and it is not implausible like the traditional position.
Peter as a Representative of All Believers
Now that we have shown that the rock is referring to the confession, we can now look at the second part of the thesis, namely, that Peter is representative for all believers that make this confession and administer discipline in the church. I will argue for this by first looking at how Jesus’ two questions and the confession show that Peter is acting as a representative. Then lastly I will demonstrate how Peter is a representative of all believers by binding and loosing in the kingdom for church discipline. Let us look at the two questions and the confession that Peter makes and how this implies my thesis.
The questions that Jesus asked in Matthew 16:13-20 are not just to Peter, but to his disciples and this gives us some reason to believer that if one disciple answers Jesus’ question then he would be speaking for all of the disciples. When Jesus asked his first question Matthews give us some preface narration by stating this in 16:13: hvrw,ta tou.j maqhta.j auvtou/ le,gwn. The word maqhta.j is plural for “disciples” which shows that for the first question Jesus intended it to be directed to all the disciples. The second question in 16:15 uses other plural words in the Greek when Jesus addresses the disciples such as auvtoi/j, u`mei/j, and le,gete. This suggests that when Peter answers that he answering Jesus’ question about what the disciples including Peter thought about Jesus’ identity. Hence, this gives us some indication that Peter seems to be representing what he and the other disciples thought by answering Jesus’ question.
When we look at Peter’s confession we see that Peter is being portrayed by Matthew as a representative because of what the disciples have previously professed. Peter answers Jesus’ question that he is the Christ the Son of the living God. But Peter is merely confessing what the disciples as a whole already previously professed in Matthew 14:33 which points to the fact that Peter is acting as a representative. Peter was speaking for all the disciples.
The phrase sa.rx kai. ai-ma in Peter’s confession is synonymous with the term avnqrw,poj in Matthew’s Gospel. The phrase sa.rx kai. ai-ma is a Semitic phrase that means an human nature or human agency (1 Cor.15:5; Gal. 1:16 Eph. 6:12; Heb. 2:14). This understanding is reinforced when one looks a few verses over in Matthew 16:23 when Jesus rebukes Peter by telling him that Peter’s flawed understanding of his mission as the Christ was not from fixing his mind on God, but rather by fixing his mind on avnqrw,pwn. This phrase about not fixing his mind on God but on avnqrw,pwn seems to antithetically parallel Jesus’ comments about Peter’s confession not coming from sa.rx kai. ai-ma, but the Father in heaven. There is good reason to affirm these antithetical parallels because there such parallels throughout Matthew 16. Since verses 17 and 23 seem to antithetically parallel each other in these two pericopes then the phrase sa.rx kai. ai-ma is being paralleled with avnqrw,pwn like the phrase ta. tou/ qeou/ is being paralleled to o` path,r mou o` evn toi/j ouvranoi/jÅ Hence, because the phrase sa.rx kai. ai-ma with avnqrw,pwn is parallel antithetically and this suggests that they mean the same thing and then we have good reason for affirming that they are synonymous.
Matthew’s contrast in the confession between sa.rx kai. ai-ma ouvk avpeka,luye,n soi and o` path,r mou o` evn toi/j ouvranoi/j is anticipated by the preceding context because there is an antithesis between the two questions that Jesus’ asks his disciples in Matthew 16:13-15. The first question that Jesus’ asks in verse 13 is what do a;nqrwpoi say about the identity of Jesus. What Jesus is saying is in effect is what do sa.rx kai. ai-ma say about me? This is the case because Matthew uses these terms synonymously as demonstrated in the above paragraph. Following this Jesus then asks his in verse 15 disciples what they say about his identity. In this verses Jesus does not use the term a;nqrwpoi to described his disciples but rather u`mei/j. There is a contrast here between a;nqrwpoi and the disciples just like there is a contrast between sa.rx kai. ai-ma ouvk avpeka,luye,n soi and o` path,r mou o` evn toi/j ouvranoi/j.
This contrastive parallel between the questions and the confession suggests that the disciples have made this confession like Peter that is revealed from God and not from the opinions of men. The reason why this shows that disciples have made this confession is because they are distinguished from what the a;nqrwpoi say in verses 13-14. They are different than the a;nqrwpoi so they are in the category with Peter of those who have received the revelation from the Father that Jesus is the Christ.
This suggests that Peter then is acting as a representative for all the disciples when he confesses that Jesus is the Christ. But next we will see that he was a representative of all believers who receive the revelation from the Father.
The reason why this extends to all believers is because what Jesus said of Peter in Matthew 16:17 is similarly said of all believers in Matthew 11:25-30. In Matthew 11:25 Jesus begins referring to his disciples as those who have been given the avpokalu,ptw from the Father like little children. But in verses 27-28 this is applied more generally. Verse 27 states the general truth that when one knows the Father they know the Son and when one knows the Son they know the Father. This seems like a very general statement that applies to believers as whole. This passage has a connection to Matthew 16:17 in that the same Greek word avpokalu,ptw is used in both passages for the avpokalu,ptw given the believer is suggestive that Matthew is using Peter as representative. The fact Jesus states that he has given this avpokalu,ptw to the disciples in verse 25 and in verse 27 is applied to all believers shows the strong connection that believers have the disciples including Peter. Verse 28 gives a general call for all to rest on light burden of Christ. Clearly this verse is intended for all those who have rested on Christ and those for whom the son has chosen to reveal the Father. Therefore, since what occurs with Peter is not unique, but true of all believers that receive this avpokalu,ptw then there is reason to think that Peter is acting as a representative role as confessing the Christ.
The conclusion we can draw from the two questions and the confession was that Matthew intended to show that Peter was a representative of the disciples by showing that Peter spoke for them and that the disciples and believers have the same revelation given to them by the Father like Peter. Let us now see how remaining passages (18-19) show that Peter is a representative to all believers by administering church discipline.
The reason for believing that Matthew 16:19 is on church discipline is because there is exact parallel phrase in Matthew 18:18 that teach church discipline. It is clear that this phrase in Matthew 16:19 almost exactly parallels Matthew 18:18 as shown below:
Matthew 16:19 o] eva.n dh,sh|j evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai dedeme,non evn toi/j ouvranoi/j( kai. o] eva.n lu,sh|j evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai lelume,non evn toi/j ouvranoi/jÅ
Matthew 18:18 eva.n dh,shte evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai dedeme,na evn ouvranw/|( kai. o[sa eva.n lu,shte evpi. th/j gh/j e;stai lelume,na evn ouvranw/|Å
It is abundantly clear that the preceding context of Matthew 18:19 is referring to church discipline because in verse 15 it speaks of how to deal with a brother who has sinned against and then verse 17 describes how to discipline him with reference to the church and this discipline consists of no longer treating that brother as a part of the church but rather as a tax collector and gentile. After this verse comes the passage that parallels with Matthew 16:19. All of this strongly suggests that Matthew 18:18 is related to Matthew 16:19 and since there two are related then there is good reason for thinking that 16:19 should be viewed of in terms of church discipline.
The fact that Matthew 16:19 is related to Matthew 18:18 shows that Peter was a representative of those who practice church discipline not only to the rest of the Apostles but to all believers. Matthew 18:19 applies the authority of binding and loosing to the Apostles when Jesus is speaking to them he tells them that when two of them agree on anything then it will be done by God in heaven. But Jesus goes on to apply this not only to the Apostles but all believers in general by stating it in a way that suggests a general timeless truth that when two or three are gathered in his name so also God will be among them (18:20). Therefore, the authority to bind and loose is not unique of Peter, but to all believers who share in his confession that Jesus is the Christ. The reason why Matthew singles him out is to use Peter as a representative not only for all the disciples, but to all those who name the name of Jesus Christ.
In this paper I have argued that the rock of the church is the confession and that Peter is representative for all believers. I have shown the former by arguing that the traditional view cannot account for the gender distinctions and that my position can account for them. I have also argued that my view fits in better with the larger purposes of Matthew and how he uses the pericope 16:13-20. I have shown the latter by arguing how Jesus’ question was intended for all of his disciples and that there are features of the pericope that indicate that the disciples were viewed in the same way as Peter. Finally, I have argued that there are parallel passages in Matthew that support the position that Peter is a representative of believers through his confession and by administering church discipline.
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