Let Us Attend Orthodox Apologetics
John Chysostom and the Rock of Matthew 16:18
FROM THE POST-NICENE FATHERS SERIES

A Quick Introduction
Joe Suaiden (1998)
St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople (398-404),  is considered the Eastern Father par excellence.  His work is lauded in the East and in the West. He died in exile fighting imperial corruption, 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 East.  However, two facts remain clear:

-Whatever the Pope's wishes, they were obviously ignored, which meant that any claim to "Petrine authority" was obviously pretty worthless in the eyes of the rest of the Church (Chrysostom died of exhaustion after being exiled further)

-The belief that would support a universal Papal authority (the belief in the See of Rome as "rock" of the Church because of Petrine lineage) was obviously not held by Chrysostom himself--as we can clearly see from his exegesis of Matthew 16:18 below. Italics mine.



Homily LIV.    Matthew Chapter 14, Verse 13

     "Now when Jesus had gone forth into the coasts 1 of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do
     men say that I the Son of Man am?"2

Wherefore hath he mentioned the founder of the city? Because there was another besides, Caesarea Stratonis. But not in that,
but in this doth He ask them, leading them far away 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 their own opinion, but that of the people? In order that when they had told the
people's opinion, and then were asked, "But whom 3 say ye that I am?" by the manner of His inquiry they might be led up to a
sublimer notion, and not fall into the same low view as the multitude. Accordingly He asks them not at all in the beginning of His
preaching, but when He had done many miracles, and had discoursed with them of many and high doctrines, and had afforded
so many clear proofs of His Godhead, and of His unanimity with the Father, then He puts this question to them.

And He said not, "Whom say the Scribes and Pharisees that I am?" often as these had come unto Him, and discoursed with
Him; but, "Whom do men say that I am?" inquiring after the judgment of the people, as unbiassed. For though it was far meaner
than it should be, yet was it free from malice, but the other was teeming with much wickedness,

And signifying how earnestly He desires His Economy 4 to be confessed, He saith, "The Son of Man;" thereby denoting His
Godhead, which He doth also in many other places. 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 was before."6

Then, since they said, "Some John the Baptist, some Elias, some Jeremias, or one of the prophets,"7 and set forth their mistaken
opinion, He next added, "But whom say ye that I am?"8 calling them on by His second inquiry to entertain some higher
imagination concerning Him, and indicating that their former judgment falls exceedingly short of His dignity. Wherefore He
seeks for another judgment from themselves, and puts a second question, that they might not fall in with the multitude, who,
because they saw His miracles greater than human, 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 that I am?" that is, "ye
that are with me always, and see me working miracles, and have yourselves done many mighty works by me."

5. What then saith the mouth of the apostles, Peter, the ever fervent, the leader of the apostolic choir?10 When all are asked, he
answers. And whereas when He asked the opinion of the people, all replied to the question; when He asked their own, Peter
springs forward, and anticipates them, and saith, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."11

What then saith Christ? "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee."12

Yet surely unless he had rightly confessed Him, as begotten of the very Father Himself, this were no work of revelation; had he
accounted our Lord to be one of the many, his saying was not worthy of a blessing. Since before this also they said, "Truly He
is Son of God,"13 those, I mean, who were in the vessel after the tempest, which they saw, and were not blessed, although of
course they spake truly. For they confessed not such a Sonship as Peter, but accounted Him to be truly Son as one of the
many, and though peculiarly so beyond the many, yet 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 is
even reproved by Him, as having said what was far short of the truth. He replied at least, "Because I said unto thee, I saw thee
under the fig-tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these."14

Why then is this man blessed? Because he acknowledged Him very Son. Wherefore you see, that while in those former
instances He had said no such thing, in this case He also signifies who had revealed it. That is, lest his words might seem to the
many (because he was an earnest lover of Christ) to be words of friendship and flattery, and of a disposition to show favor to
Him, he brings forward the person who had made them ring15 in his soul; to inform thee that Peter indeed spake, but the Father
suggested, and that thou mightest believe the saying 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 to
confess it? Because so to do was both more suitable 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, how the Son the Father? For "neither knoweth any man the Father," saith He, "save
the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him."16 It cannot therefore be that one should learn the Son of any other
than of the Father; neither that one should learn the Father of any other than of the Son. So that even hereby, their sameness of
honor and of substance is manifest.

3. What then saith Christ? "Thou art Simon, the son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas."17 "Thus since thou hast proclaimed
my Father, I too name him that begat thee;" all but saying, "As thou art son of Jonas, even so am I of my Father." Else it were
superfluous to say, "Thou art Son of Jonas;" but since he had said, "Son of God," to point out that He is so Son of God, as the
other son of Jonas, of the same substance with Him that begat Him, therefore He added this, "And I say unto thee, Thou art
Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church;"18 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. "And the gates of hell" shall not prevail against
it." "And if not against it, much more not against me. So be not troubled because thou art shortly to hear that I shall be betrayed
and crucified."

Then He mentions also another honor. "And I also 19 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 know me, so will I also give thee."

And He said not, "I will entreat the Father" (although the manifestation of His authority was great, and the largeness of the gift
unspeakable), but, "I will give thee." What dost Thou 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." How then is it not
"His to give to sit on His right hand, and on His left,"22 when He saith, "I will give thee"?

Seest thou how He, His own self, leads Peter on to high thoughts of Him, and reveals Himself, and implies that He is Son of
God by these two promises? For those things which are peculiar to God alone, (both to absolve sins, and to make the church
incapable of overthrow in such assailing waves, and to exhibit a man that is a fisher more solid than any rock, while all the world
is at war with him), these He promises Himself to give; as the Father, speaking to Jeremiah, said, He would make him as "a
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 Son gave 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 Himself in every part of the world; and to a mortal man He entrusted the
authority over all things in Heaven, giving him the keys; who extended the church to every part of the world, and declared it to
be stronger than heaven. "For heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away."24 How then is He less,
who hath given such gifts, hath effected such things?

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 say unto thee, Thou art Peter; I will build the Church; I will give thee the keys of
Heaven."

Footnotes

1 [R. V. "came into the parts," etc.]

2 [R. V. text, "who do men say that the Son of Man is?" But Chrysostom. with the rec. text, reads me. So R. V. margin, "that I
the Son of Man am," as in the p arallel passages.-R.]

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.

16 e0nhxh/santa.

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 omitting th=j basilei/aj;. The translator has here rendered th=n ou0ranw=n, "the
heavens;" but not in all similar instances. The English versions generally disregard the plural form.-R.]

23 [toi=j ou0ranoi=j]

24 Matt. xx. 23.

25 Jer. i. 18.

BACK HOME
Let Us Attend Orthodox Apologetics