John Chysostom and the Rock of Matthew 16:18
A Quick Introduction
Joe Suaiden (1998)
St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople
is considered the Eastern Father par excellence. His work is
in the East and in the West. He died in exile fighting imperial
maintaing close ties with the bishop of Rome, a fact that is mentioned
by Roman apologists and used as a proof of Papal jurisdiction in the
However, two facts remain clear:
-Whatever the Pope's wishes, they were obviously
meant that any claim to "Petrine authority" was obviously pretty
in the eyes of the rest of the Church (Chrysostom died of exhaustion
being exiled further)
-The belief that would support a universal Papal
belief in the See of Rome as "rock" of the Church because of Petrine
was obviously not held by Chrysostom himself--as we can clearly see
his exegesis of Matthew 16:18 below. Italics mine.
Homily LIV. Matthew Chapter
"Now when Jesus
had gone forth
into the coasts 1 of
Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do
men say that I the
Wherefore hath he mentioned the founder of
Because there was another besides, Caesarea Stratonis. But not in that,
but in this doth He ask them, leading them far
from the Jews, so that being freed from all alarm, they might speak with
boldness all that was in their mind.
And wherefore did He not ask them at once
opinion, but that of the people? In order that when they had told the
people's opinion, and then were asked, "But
say ye that I am?" by the manner of His inquiry they might be led up to
sublimer notion, and not fall into the same
as the multitude. Accordingly He asks them not at all in the beginning
preaching, but when He had done many miracles,
had discoursed with them of many and high doctrines, and had afforded
so many clear proofs of His Godhead, and of
with the Father, then He puts this question to them.
And He said not, "Whom say the Scribes and
that I am?" often as these had come unto Him, and discoursed with
Him; but, "Whom do men say that I am?"
the judgment of the people, as unbiassed. For though it was far meaner
than it should be, yet was it free from
the other was teeming with much wickedness,
And signifying how earnestly He desires His
4 to be confessed,
"The Son of Man;" thereby denoting His
Godhead, which He doth also in many other
For He saith, "No man hath ascended up to Heaven, but the Son of Man,
which is in Heaven."5
And again, "But when ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up, where He
Then, since they said, "Some John the
Elias, some Jeremias, or one of the prophets,"7
and set forth their mistaken
opinion, He next added, "But whom say ye that
calling them on by His second inquiry to entertain some higher
imagination concerning Him, and indicating
former judgment falls exceedingly short of His dignity. Wherefore He
seeks for another judgment from themselves,
a second question, that they might not fall in with the multitude, who,
because they saw His miracles greater than
accounted Him a man indeed, but one that had appeared after a
resurrection, as Herod also said.9
But He, to lead them away from this notion, saith, "But whom say ye
I am?" that is, "ye
that are with me always, and see me working
and have yourselves done many mighty works by me."
5. What then saith the mouth of the
the ever fervent, the leader of the apostolic choir?10
When all are asked, he
answers. And whereas when He asked the opinion
the people, all replied to the question; when He asked their own, Peter
springs forward, and anticipates them, and
"Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."11
What then saith Christ? "Blessed art thou,
for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee."12
Yet surely unless he had rightly confessed
begotten of the very Father Himself, this were no work of revelation;
accounted our Lord to be one of the many, his
was not worthy of a blessing. Since before this also they said, "Truly
is Son of God,"13
those, I mean, who were in the vessel after the tempest, which they
and were not blessed, although of
course they spake truly. For they confessed
a Sonship as Peter, but accounted Him to be truly Son as one of the
many, and though peculiarly so beyond the
not of the same substance.
And Nathanael too said, "Rabbi, Thou art
the Son of
God, Thou art the King of Israel;" s and so far from being blessed, he
even reproved by Him, as having said what was
short of the truth. He replied at least, "Because I said unto thee, I
under the fig-tree, believest thou? thou shalt
greater things than these."14
Why then is this man blessed? Because he
Him very Son. Wherefore you see, that while in those former
instances He had said no such thing, in this
He also signifies who had revealed it. That is, lest his words might
many (because he was an earnest lover of
be words of friendship and flattery, and of a disposition to show favor
Him, he brings forward the person who had made
ring15 in his soul; to
thee that Peter indeed spake, but the Father
suggested, and that thou mightest believe the
to be no longer a human opinion, but a divine doctrine.
And wherefore doth He not Himself declare
it, nor say,
"I am the Christ," but by His question establish this, bringing them in
confess it? Because so to do was both more
to Him, yea necessary at that time, and it drew them on the more to the
belief of the things that were said.
Seest thou how the Father reveals the Son,
Son the Father? For "neither knoweth any man the Father," saith He,
the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will
Him."16 It cannot
that one should learn the Son of any other
than of the Father; neither that one should
the Father of any other than of the Son. So that even hereby, their
honor and of substance is manifest.
3. What then saith Christ? "Thou art
son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas."17
"Thus since thou hast proclaimed
my Father, I too name him that begat thee;"
but saying, "As thou art son of Jonas, even so am I of my Father." Else
superfluous to say, "Thou art Son of
since he had said, "Son of God," to point out that He is so Son of God,
other son of Jonas, of the same substance
Him that begat Him, therefore He added this, "And I say unto thee, Thou
Peter, and upon this rock will I build my
that is, on the faith of his confession. Hereby He signifies that many
now on the point of believing, and raises
and makes him a shepherd. "And the gates of hell" shall not prevail
it." "And if not against it, much more not
me. So be not troubled because thou art shortly to hear that I shall be
Then He mentions also another honor. "And I
will give thee the keys of the heavens."20
But what is this, "And I also will
give thee?" "As the Father hath given thee to
me, so will I also give thee."
And He said not, "I will entreat the
the manifestation of His authority was great, and the largeness of the
unspeakable), but, "I will give thee." What
give? tell me. "The keys of the heavens, that whatsoever thou shalt bind
on earth, shall be bound in Heaven,21
and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in Heaven."
then is it not
"His to give to sit on His right hand, and on
left,"22 when He saith,
Seest thou how He, His own self, leads
to high thoughts of Him, and reveals Himself, and implies that He is
God by these two promises? For those things
are peculiar to God alone, (both to absolve sins, and to make the church
incapable of overthrow in such assailing
and to exhibit a man that is a fisher more solid than any rock, while
is at war with him), these He promises
to give; as the Father, speaking to Jeremiah, said, He would make him
brazen pillar, and as a wall;"23
but him to one nation only, this man in every part of the world.
I would fain inquire then of those who
desire to lessen
the dignity of the Son, which manner of gifts were greater, those which
the Father gave to Peter, or those which the
him? For the Father gave to Peter the revelation of the Son; but the Son
gave him to sow that of the Father and that of
in every part of the world; and to a mortal man He entrusted the
authority over all things in Heaven, giving
keys; who extended the church to every part of the world, and declared
be stronger than heaven. "For heaven and earth
pass away, but my word shall not pass away."24
How then is He less,
who hath given such gifts, hath effected such
And these things I say, not dividing the
works of Father
and Son ("for all things are made by Him, and without Him was nothing
made which was made"):25
but bridling the shameless tongue of them that dare so to speak.
But see, throughout all, His authority: "I
thee, Thou art Peter; I will build the Church; I will give thee the
1 [R. V. "came into the parts," etc.]
2 [R. V. text, "who do men say that the Son
is?" But Chrysostom. with the rec. text, reads me. So R. V. margin,
the Son of Man am," as in the p arallel
3 [The A. V. is ungrammatical; "whom" is
simply a transfer
of the Greek accusative (with the infinitive in the passage) into the
English finite clause.-R.]
4 i. e. His Incarnation.
5 John iii. 13.
6 John vi. 62.7.
7 Matt. xvi. 14.
8 Matt xvi. 15.
9 Matt. xiv. 2.
10 o9 kiru/ai=oj.
11 Matt. xvi. 16.
12 Matt. xvi. 17.
13 Matt. xiv. 33.
14 John i. 49.
15 John l. 50.
17 Matt. xi. 27; Luke x. 22.
18 Matt. xvi. 17, 18 see John 1. 42.
19 Matt. xvi. 18.
20 [R. V., "Hades." ]
21 [Chrysostom reads kai0 egw\ de/,
probably from verse
18, as none of our authorities have this fuller form.-R.]
22 Matt. xvi. 19. [The text is peculiar in
th=j basilei/aj;. The translator has here rendered th=n ou0ranw=n, "the
heavens;" but not in all similar instances.
versions generally disregard the plural form.-R.]
23 [toi=j ou0ranoi=j]
24 Matt. xx. 23.
25 Jer. i. 18.