Monday, August 25, 2014

Peter's Fall; Everyone's Call

Below is a rough translation of Matthew 16:21-28 and WAY TOO MANY preliminary comments. Seriously, I’m getting on my own nerves with all of these comments, so please feel free to dismiss them or argue with me about them. At the heart of it all is that this is a key text for discipleship, yet I find many ponderable points along the way that escape easy interpretation. Your comments are truly welcomed.

21 Ἀπὸ τότε ἤρξατο ὁ Ἰησοῦς δεικνύειν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ ὅτι δεῖ αὐτὸν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἀπελθεῖν καὶ πολλὰ παθεῖν ἀπὸ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καὶ ἀρχιερέων καὶ γραμματέων καὶ ἀποκτανθῆναι καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐγερθῆναι;
From then Jesus began to show his disciples that it is necessary for him to go into Jerusalem and to suffer much from the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be killed and on the third day to be raised.
ἤρξατο: AMI 3s, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule 
δεικνύειν: PAInf, δεικνύω, to show, exhibit; expose to the eyes
δεῖ PAI 3s, δέω ,1) to bind tie, fasten 1a) to bind, fasten with chains
ἀπελθεῖν: AAInf, ἀπέρχομαι, 1) to go away, depart
παθεῖν: AAInf, πάσχω, 1) to be affected or have been affected, to feel …  1b) in a bad sense, to suffer sadly, be in a bad plight 
ἀποκτανθῆναι: APInf, ἀποκτείνω, 1) to kill in any way whatever
ἐγερθῆναι: APInf, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise  1a) to arouse from sleep, to awake  1b) to arouse from the sleep of death, to recall the dead to life 
1. I want to beat my drum again for the verb δέω. It can be shorthanded into “must” as most translations do, but I feel like we miss the richness of the term when doing so. It is the same verb as the “binding” of “binding and loosing” in v.19. It signifies a binding necessity and, in this chapter especially, has a sense that Jesus’ road to Jerusalem is one of those things that are “bound in heaven” and should, correspondingly, be bound on earth. Even my use of “it is necessary” may be too subtle. It could be “it is binding” to make the connection more obvious.
2. The verb, “it is necessary” is followed by four infinitives. These are the things to which the son of man is bound: to go, to suffer, to be killed, and to be raised.

22 καὶ προσλαβόμενος αὐτὸν ὁ Πέτρος ἤρξατο ἐπιτιμᾶν αὐτῷ λέγων, Ιλεώς σοι, κύριε: οὐ μὴ ἔσται σοι τοῦτο.
And having taken him aside Peter began to rebuke him saying, “Mercy to you, Lord: This will not be to you.”
προσλαβόμενος: AMPart nsm, προσλαμβάνω, λαμβάνω (take) with προς (towards) prefixed; to take thereto, that is in addition, take besides.
ἤρξατο: AMI 3s, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule 
ἐπιτιμᾶν: PAInf, ἐπιτιμάω, 1) to show honor to, to honor  … 4) to tax with fault, rate, chide, rebuke, reprove, censure severely  4a) to admonish or charge sharply 
λέγων: PAPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
ἔσται: FMI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. Peter offers Jesus an alternative to the road of suffering, death, and resurrection: Mercy. The parallel structure of “mercy to you” and “this will not be to you” is Peter – in my reading – using his voice as the rock upon which the church is built, loosing Jesus from suffering, death, and resurrection and binding him to mercy.
2. As long as I’m preaching … I further suggest that whenever we read v.19 as granting the church the power of binding and loosing, and suggesting that what the church binds/looses will then be bound/loosed in heaven, then we are making the same mistake as Peter. The point is not that the church binds/looses and heaven complies. It is that the church that Jesus builds binds/looses that which has been bound/loosed in heaven. This is the church’s first opportunity to exercise its privilege of discipleship and Peter fails. Jesus is bound to go, suffer, be killed, and be raised; Peter opposes it in a very strenuous way.

23 ὁ δὲ στραφεὶς εἶπεν τῷ Πέτρῳ, Υπαγε ὀπίσω μου, Σατανᾶ: σκάνδαλον εἶ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι οὐ φρονεῖς τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀλλὰ τὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων.
But having turned, he said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you are not opining the things of God but the things of humans.”
στραφεὶς: APPart nsm, στρέφω, 1) to turn, turn around  2) to turn one's self 
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
Υπαγε: PAImpv 2s, ὑπάγω, 1) to lead under, bring under  2) to withdraw one's self, to go away, depart
εἶ: PAI 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
φρονεῖς: PAI 2s, φρονέω, 1) to have understanding, be wise   2) to feel, to think   2a) to have an opinion of one's self, think of one's self, to be  
1. There are three parts to this devastating critique:
a. Jesus uses the phrase “Get behind me, Satan!” which is very similar to his words to the devil in Mt. 4:10, Υπαγε, Σατανᾶ. What that usage suggests is that Peter’s rebuke functions as a temptation to Jesus, much as the devil’s words did. It suggests that when Jesus discloses his forthcoming suffering and death, he is quite aware of the tempting alternate path of remaining in Galilee, where it seems evident that he had the wherewithal to feed the hungry, heal the sick, gather thousands of followers, including non-Jews, and possibly raise a rebellion to carve out independence and establish a new God-loving community there.
b. Jesus calls Peter “Satan” but also a “stumbling block” (literally “scandal”). A “stumbling block” would be a destructive use of a “petra” as opposed to the foundation on which a church can be built.
c. Peter’s wisdom (φρονέω) is a familiar term in philosophy, often signifying practical reason. His wisdom here is based on earthly and not heavenly things, the exact opposite of his charge in v.19.  
24 Τότε ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, Εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἐλθεῖν, ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to come behind me, one must deny oneself, take up one’s cross, and follow me.”
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
θέλει: PAI 3s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend 
ἐλθεῖν: AAInf, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons
ἀπαρνησάσθω: AMImpv 3s, ἀπαρνέομαι, 1) to deny  1a) to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone 
ἀράτω: AAImov 3s, αἴρω, 1) to raise up, elevate, lift up  1a) to raise from the ground,
ἀκολουθείτω: PAImpv 3s, 1) to follow one who precedes, join him as his attendant,  accompany him  2) to join one as a disciple, become or be his disciple  2a) side with his party 
This is, of course, one of the most powerful statements in all of the Christian Scriptures. With that in mind, there are some features of it that are worth exploring, even if I run the risk of sounding as if I am messing with a sacred cow. 1. The phrase “behind me” (ὀπίσω μου) is the exact phrase Jesus used when ordering Peter to get “behind me” in v.23. The verb “come” (ἔρχομαι) is different from the verb “get” (ὑπάγω) in v.23. We read “get behind me” as a disputative command in v.23, echoing the verb “get” in Matthew 4:10. Then, we read the verb “come” in v.24 as an invitation, however costly, and so completely differently than we read Jesus’ words to Peter. Both verbs, ὑπάγω and ἔρχομαι can have a ‘coming’ and ‘going’ movement to them. Both can mean “go” as in “go away” or “come” as in “come hither.” What determines the translation is context, and in this case our interpretation of Jesus words to Peter as a rebuke (the fact that Jesus calls Peter “Satan” is pretty hard to ignore) and the call to discipleship as an invitation.
2. That said, the repetition of ὀπίσω μου, however, is worth a life of meditation. Both the rebuke and the invitation end up “behind me.” I wonder if we ought to interpret this action of following behind Jesus as an act of ‘binding’.
3. The language of this invitation has some echoes of Matthew 4:19-20, when Jesus first called the disciples: καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Δεῦτε ὀπίσω μου, καὶ ποιήσω ὑμᾶς ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων. οἱ δὲ εὐθέως ἀφέντες τὰ δίκτυα ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ. (NRSV: And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.)
4. One last comment about Peter. He is the only one for whom the verb “deny” (ἀπαρνέομαι) is used in subsequent chapters of Matthew, when he is predicted to and actually does deny Jesus 3x. Peter’s abysmal failure grows.
5. Is it worth noting that when Jesus discloses his journey to Jerusalem, suffering, death, and resurrection that he does not mention the cross? It is only in his call to discipleship and in the crucifixion story itself that “cross” is mentioned in Mt.
6. Jesus has already mentioned the cross once in Matthew 10:38, in an earlier similar call, “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

25 ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι ἀπολέσει αὐτήν: ὃς δ' ἂν ἀπολέσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εὑρήσει αὐτήν.
For whoever may wish to save one’s soul will destroy/lose it, and whoever may lose/destroy one’s soul for my sake will find it.
θέλῃ: PASubj 3s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend  1a) to be resolved or determined, to purpose  1b) to desire, to wish
σῶσαι: AAInf, σῴζω, 1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction 
ἀπολέσει: FAI 3s, ἀπόλλυμι, 1) to destroy  1a) to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin
ἀπολέσῃ: AASubj, ἀπόλλυμι, 1) to destroy  1a) to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin
εὑρήσει: FAI 3s, εὑρίσκω, 1) to come upon, hit upon, to meet with  1a) after searching, to find a thing sought 
1. This statement feels like it is a chiastic parallel, with A1 saving / A2 losing equivalent to B1 losing / B2 saving as the four beams of the X-chiasm.
                                    May Save A1                                      May Lose B1
                                    Will Save B2                                      Will Lose A2

A friend of mine once said, “Some people have been known to fake chiasms,” and that seems to be the case here. In fact, A1 is not “may save” but “may wish” with the same syntax as B1 “may lose.” The phrase “to save” is the infinitive voice with no parallel. Likewise, A2 “will lose” is not the same syntax as B2 “will save” but “will find,” which has no chiastic parallel. Another friend once pointed out to me that after all the work of diagraming a chiasm is done, there still remains the question “So what?” which very few commentators go on to answer.
2. I’ll fashion an answer. The apparent but disrupted chiastic parallel may not a result of bad writing, but a way of showing that what one wills is the key here. To fit this matter within the framework of vv.21-28 as well as last week’s reading of vv.13-20, I suggest that what one wills is indicative of being in accord with whatever is bound/loosed in heaven or whatever is bound/loose on earth. It is likewise indicative of having one’s thinking on human things or heavenly things.
2. Even more importantly, this statement stands in complete contrast to the abjectly Pelagian manner in which people customarily read the next verse. It is often assumed that “to save one’s soul” is the only absolute value in the reign of God. One might lose one’s mortal coil, one’s reputation, one’s family, all that one has, etc., for the sake of the one true thing – to save one’s soul. And yet, here is the paradoxical statement that the wish to save one’s soul will in fact lead to its destruction. What can this verse mean, when juxtaposed with the next? Likewise, what can the next verse mean when juxtaposed to this one?

26 τί γὰρ ὠφεληθήσεται ἄνθρωπος ἐὰν τὸν κόσμον ὅλον κερδήσῃ τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ζημιωθῇ; ἢ τί δώσει ἄνθρωπος ἀντάλλαγμα τῆς ψυχῆς αὐτοῦ;
For what will it profit a person if one should gain the whole world but one’s soul be damaged? Or what will one give in return for one’s soul?
ὠφεληθήσεται: FPI 3s, ὠφελέω, 1) to assist, to be useful or advantageous, to profit 
κερδήσῃ: AASubj 3s, κερδαίνω, 1) to gain, acquire, to get gain  2) metaph. 
ζημιωθῇ: APSubj 3s, ζημιόω, 1) to affect with damage, do damage to  2) to sustain damage, to receive injury, suffer loss 
δώσει: FAI 3s, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone
1. Mayhaps I am overthinking it. It just seems to me that there is an inherent tension between v.25 and v.26. One seems to indicate that the attempt to save one’s soul is a sure way to lose it; the other seems to indicate that saving one’s soul is the only true value there is. (I like the word “mayhaps” even if I did first read it in the mouth of Smeagol via Tolkien. It drives my kids crazy.)

27 μέλλει γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἔρχεσθαι ἐν τῇ δόξῃ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ μετὰ τῶν ἀγγέλων αὐτοῦ, καὶ τότε ἀποδώσει ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὴν πρᾶξιν αὐτοῦ.
For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of his father with his angels, and then he will give to each for one’s actions.
μέλλει: PAI 3s, μέλλω, 1) to be about  1a) to be on the point of doing or suffering something  1b) to intend, have in mind, think to
ἔρχεσθαι: PMInf, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons
ἀποδώσει: FAI 3s, ἀποδίδωμι, 1) to deliver, to give away for one's own profit what is one's own, to sell
1. It seems like the most appropriate definition for μέλλω at is their 8th option: “to delay; with an infinitive following, to be about to do anything (immediate or remote).” Of course, the “definitions” found in many lexicons are partly interpretations of what a word means initially by its use in the Scriptures and secondarily by its use in contemporary literature. What is intriguing about this word is that it can means something that is ‘on the verge’ or ‘delayed.’ That tension just about sums up the NT understanding of Christ’s return, IMHO.

28 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι εἰσίν τινες τῶν ὧδε ἑστώτων οἵτινες οὐ μὴ γεύσωνται θανάτου ἕως ἂν ἴδωσιν τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐρχόμενον ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ αὐτοῦ.
Truly I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
λέγω: PAI 1s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
εἰσίν: PAI 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἑστώτων: PerfAPart gpm, ἵστημι, 1) to cause or make to stand, to place, put, set
γεύσωνται: AMS 3p, γεύομαι, 1) to taste, to try the flavor of 
ἴδωσιν: AAS 3p, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know 
ἐρχόμενον: PMPart asm, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come 
1. The plain meaning of this verse is that Jesus (via Matthew) expected his return to occur some time before some of the persons standing there died. That plainly did not happen. In order to square that plain meaning with the obvious fact that all of the persons standing there are dead and buried, Christian interpreters have tried to interpret this verse in other ways. I see three options, each of which is fraught with a different kind of challenge.
a. The plain meaning of the text is what it is and Jesus/Matthew were simply wrong. The obvious downside to this option is the fact that we do not think of Jesus as being wrong without incredible difficulty. And, if Matthew’s gospel was written as late as the mid-80’s as popular scholarship often suggests, then it was quite likely that the company around Jesus had all met their demise already, so why would Matthew interpret this in the plain sense?
b. Perhaps what it means to “see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” is something other than imminent return of Christ with whatever the Reign of God may look like in its fullness after that. It could certainly mean something like ‘witnessing Jesus after the resurrection’ or ‘those who witnessed the transfiguration’ or something like that. In the literary context, the transfiguration is actually the most likely option, since it is the very next story. However, the challenge of this option is one of consistency. If this phrase does not mean what it seems to mean, but is suggestive of something less grandiose and final as how we popularly conceive of the Second Coming, then are we willing to read every other reference to the Second Coming in a similar fashion?
c. Another option could be that Matthew (following Mark) inherited this phrase from the oral tradition, yet by the time they write their gospels it is evident that many of the disciples have already tasted death and the Second Coming has not occured. Their literary choice, then, to pair this saying with the story of the Transfiguration may be a way of re-calculating, or reconfiguring the meaning of the story. The plainness of its meaning may be true for what M&M inherited from the oral tradition, but the literary act of connecting this story to the Transfiguration may be M&M’s theological interpretation. If that is true, it may suggest that every time we see a reference to the imminent return of Christ, we need to give close attention to context because are peeking behind the story to the ongoing issue of the delay of the parousia and the church’s need to come to terms with that.
2. We should not lose sight that this mention of the imminent return of Christ is likewise situated in a chapter that is about the construction of the church and its obedient authority of binding/loosing. Such an institution would be unnecessary in a situation when the return of Christ is imminent.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Peter 'Fesses Up

Below is a rough exegesis and some initial comments regarding Matthew 16:13-20, the Revised Common Lectionary reading for Sunday, August 24, 2014. I really want to challenge the notion that, when Jesus asks, “And who do you say that I am?” that he is issuing a pop quiz for the disciples to answer on the spot. My feeling is that he is asking them to give an account for what they have been saying about him, not to cough up what they think. I’d be quite interested in knowing if others see it that way or not.

13  Ἐλθὼν δὲ  Ἰησοῦς εἰς τὰ μέρη Καισαρείας τῆς Φιλίππου ἠρώτα τοὺς 
μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ λέγων, Τίνα λέγουσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι εἶναι τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ 
Then Jesus having come into the region of Caesarea of the Philippi was questioning his disciples saying, “Who are the people saying the son of man to be?”
Ἐλθὼν: AAPart nsm, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come 
ἠρώτα: IAI 3s, ἐρωτάω, 1) to question 
λέγων: PAPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
λέγουσιν: PAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
εἶναι: PAInf, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. The verb “was questioning” is in the imperfect tense, not the aorist or simple past tense. That implies that it was an ongoing questioning, not a simple one time question.
2. The verb λέγουσιν is present tense. In a question, it could be “who do people say” or “who are people saying.” Either way, it has an ongoing and not an over-and-done aspect.
3. The verb structure of Jesus’ question is present active indicative followed by the infinitive. That will show up again in v.15.

14 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Οἱ μὲν Ἰωάννην τὸν βαπτιστήν, ἄλλοι δὲ Ἠλίαν, ἕτεροι δὲ Ἰερεμίαν  ἕνα τῶν προφητῶν. 
Then they said, “These John the Baptist, yet some Elias, yet others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
εἶπαν: AAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
1. The words “these, some, and others” are not necessarily the best choices for “Οἱ , ἄλλοι, and ἕτεροι” in every case, but I am trying to reflect the varying groups responses to Jesus’ question.  There are no verbs in the responses, to they read more like cataloguing than prose.
2. I see some obvious Elijah overtones to both Jesus’ and John the Baptist’s stories, but the Jeremiah reference is curious. I wonder what brings that possibility into play. Jesus – being critiqued occasionally for eating and drinking – certainly does not fit the bill of a ‘’weeping prophet” or harbinger of gloom and doom, as some call Jeremiah. Perhaps they saw in him the promise of the New Covenant from Jer. 31. That certainly has been a connection that the church has made over the years.

15 λέγει αὐτοῖς, Ὑμεῖς δὲ τίνα με λέγετε εἶναι; 
He says to them, “But who are you saying me to be?”
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
λέγετε: PAI 2p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
εἶναι: PAInf, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. We typically read this question as a pop quiz, where the disciples are being put on the spot and having to think up their answer right then and there. But, the question to the disciples has the same form and tense of the question about the people from v.13:  A present active indicative form of “to say” (λέγω) and the infinitive form of “to be” (εἰμί). The present tense of λέγω – as a question – could be “who do you say?” (when in a question) or “who are you saying?” By phrasing it my way, and by honoring that v.13 uses the imperfect to say that Jesus “was asking them” not the simple past tense aorist (one time “asked”), I am suggesting that this is not a pop quiz. It is Jesus asking the disciples what they are saying, what they are contributing to the buzz about him. If they are aware of what others are saying, they are obviously in the mix of the conversation. So, “who are they saying him to be” in that conversation? In that sense, Jesus is asking for an account of what they’ve said, not an instant answer to a pop quiz.

16 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ Σίμων Πέτρος εἶπεν, Σὺ εἶ  Χριστὸς  υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ 
Then answering, Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”
ἀποκριθεὶς: APPart nsm, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
εἶ: PAI 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. This verse is often described as Peter’s great confession. It is followed by Jesus speaking very powerful words over Peter and his place in the church that Jesus is building. It is also followed by Peter’s great embarrassment, when Jesus castigates him (See v.18 note 1 below). If Peter is giving an account of what he has been contributing to the ongoing conversation about Jesus, I think this is even a better answer than if Peter is answering extemporaneously. It would represent what Peter has been saying about Jesus behind his back, not just what Peter says to his face.
2. The question was to all of the disciples (the “you” in v.15 is plural). In v.20 below Jesus will order all of them not to tell anyone that he is the Christ. Because of that, Simon Peter may be answering on behalf of the whole group. Yet, the comments that follow in vv.17-19 suggest that “the Christ” is Simon Peter’s answer specifically (e.g. the “you”s in vv.17-19 are singular).

17 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ  Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Μακάριος εἶ, Σίμων Βαριωνᾶ, ὅτι σὰρξ 
καὶ αἷμα οὐκ ἀπεκάλυψέν σοι ἀλλ'  πατήρ μου  ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. 
Then answering, Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jona, because flesh and blood did not reveal to you but my father in the heaven.”
ἀποκριθεὶς: APPart nsm, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
εἶ: PAI 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἀπεκάλυψέν: AAI 3s, ἀποκαλύπτω, 1) to uncover, lay open what has been veiled or covered up
1. Perhaps it is just a familiar 1st century way of writing dialogue, but the repetition of the first 3 verbs from this verse and the 3 verbs from verse 16 seems significant. Peter answers, saying this is what I have been saying you to be – the Christ. Jesus answers, saying this is what I say you are - blessed.
2. The revelatory contrast here between ‘flesh and blood’ and the ‘father in heaven’ seems to parallel the contrast in v.23 of ‘the things of God’ and ‘the things of humans.’ More on that below.

18 κἀγὼ δέ σοι λέγω ὅτι σὺ εἶ Πέτρος, καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, καὶ πύλαι ἅ|δου οὐ κατισχύσουσιν αὐτῆς. 
Yet likewise I say to you that you are Peter [or, ‘a rock’], and upon this petra [‘rock’] I will construct my church, and gates of hades will not prevail against her.
λέγω: PAI 1s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
εἶ: PAI 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
οἰκοδομήσω: FAI 1s, οἰκοδομέω, 1) to build a house, erect a building  1a) to build (up from the foundation) 
κατισχύσουσιν: FAI 3p, κατισχύω, 1) to be strong to another's detriment, to prevail against 
1. The parallels between vv.17-18 and v.23 (not in the lection, but certainly a part of this pericope for Matthew) are stark. Simon, son of Jonas, is renamed as “Peter” (v.18); then “Satan” (v.23). Simon professes Jesus as the Christ (v.16); then rebukes Jesus for speaking of his forthcoming death (v.22). Simon’s profession of the Christ is not revealed by flesh and blood but by Jesus’ father in heaven (v.17); then Peter’s mind is not set on things of God but on things of humans (v.23). Peter is “blessed” (v.17); then told to “get behind me” (v.23), an echo of Matthew 4:10, the words spoken to Satan in the temptation story. Simon is the “rock” on which the church will be built (v.18); then a “stumbling block” (literally “scandal”) in v.23. Within a short span Simon rises and falls. I do not know how we can invest in vv.17-18 without accompanying it with v.23 as a complete description of the rock/stumbling block on which the church is built.
2. This is the first mention of the term “church” in Matthew and the only mention of it – along with the parallel statement in Matthew 18:17 – in the gospels at all.  

19 δώσω σοι τὰς κλεῖδας τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν, καὶ  ἐὰν δήσῃς ἐπὶ 
τῆς γῆς ἔσται δεδεμένον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, καὶ  ἐὰν λύσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται λελυμένον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. 
I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and whatever you may bind on the earth, will be [what] has been bound in the heaven, and whatever you may loose on the earth will be [what] has been loosed in the heaven.”
δώσω:  FAI 1s, δίδωμι,  1) to give, present, with implied notion of giving freely unforced
δήσῃς: AASubj 2s, δέω, 1) to bind tie, fasten  1a) to bind, fasten with chains, to throw into chains
ἔσται: FMI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
δεδεμένον: PerfPPart nsn, δέω, 1) to bind tie, fasten  1a) to bind, fasten with chains, to throw into chains 
λύσῃς: AASubj 2s, λύω, 1) to loose any person (or thing) tied or fastened  1a) bandages of the feet, the shoes,
λελυμένον: PerfPPart nsn, λύω, 1) to loose any person (or thing) tied or fastened  1a) bandages of the feet, the shoes
1. I am adding the word “what” twice here, to keep intact the side-by-side of the future form of ‘to be’ (ἔσται) and the perfect participial forms of ‘has been bound’ (δεδεμένον) and ‘has been loosed’ (λελυμένον).
2. I don’t know what conclusion to draw yet from the use of the future/perfect tense of heavenly things in conjunction with the use of the aorist subjunctive (where the aorist is more about aspect than temporal tense, according to one informed collaborator) for earthly things. It may be – and I am surely going out on a thin limb here – that heaven takes the first action and one whose mind is informed by Jesus’ father in heaven acts correspondingly. What Peter binds and looses will be what has been bound and loosed in heaven. That interpretation flies contrary to the customary interpretation of this pronouncement, but it is at least allowable – if not suggested – by the text itself.
2. This verse parallels Matthew 18:18
Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ὅσα ἐὰν δήσητε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται δεδεμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ὅσα ἐὰν λύσητεἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται λελυμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ. 
Truly I say to you, whatever things you may bind upon the earth will be [what] has been bound in the heavens, and whatever things you may loose on the earth will be [what] has been loosed in the heavens.”
3. In a brief article entitled “Binding and Loosing” (Journal of Biblical Literature 102 no. 1 Mar 1983, p 112-117), J. Derrett and M. Duncan say this construction is a periphrastic future perfect: “Periphrastic future perfects were common in the koinè but it is open to question whether what is meant is ‘shall be (already) bound, etc.,’ or simply ‘shall be bound, etc.’”
4. There is an etymological connection between δέω (binding) and the word δει that Jesus uses when disclosing his future death. He will use it in v.21, immediately following our text: “From that time began Jesus to show to his disciples that it is necessary for him to go away to Jerusalem …” Many modern translations simply make δει into “must,” but I think that is a woeful choice. There is binding necessity to Jesus road to the cross. The word δει had some resonance in Greek philosophy as an impersonalized “fate,” but for Jesus it seems to me that it signifies exactly the kind of thing is “bound in heaven.” And, significantly, after Peter is given the charge of v.19, the first thing he does is opposes that which Jesus is bound to do. The gigantic turn of events in Peter going from being a ‘rock’ to being a ‘stumbling block’ is not simply an impetuous person who speaks up too quickly – it is a failure of his charge as the one who holds the keys for binding and loosing.

20τότε διεστείλατο τοῖς μαθηταῖς ἵνα μηδενὶ εἴπωσιν ὅτι αὐτός ἐστιν  
Then he admonished the disciples in order that they would tell no one that he is the Christ.
διεστείλατο: AMI 3s, διαστέλλομαι, 1) to draw asunder, divide, distinguish, dispose, order  2) to open one's self i.e. one's mind, to set forth distinctly  3) to admonish, order, charge
εἴπωσιν: AASubj 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
1. This is a curious turn of events. If we read Peter’s confession as Peter’s own on-the-spot answer to a pop quiz, then this verse dangles like another mysterious “messianic secret” admonition that Jesus suddenly puts on all of the disciples. (The messianic secret motif is more characteristic of Mark and I think it largely misunderstood – but that’s an axe to grind on another day.)
2. If, however, we read Peter’s answer as accounting for what the disciples (plural) have been saying in the conversations about Jesus, then this is a command to all of them to stop adding to that conversation that Jesus is the Christ. The reason why Jesus wants them not to say that he is the Christ remains a mystery. The profession is not wrong, since God had revealed it to Peter. But, since Jesus’ disclosure of his impending death follows, we might assume that Jesus command here has to do with the fact that the disciples do not yet realize the full extent of what they are saying. Peter’s emphatic refusal to accept Jesus’ impending death in v.22 demonstrates that his thinking – however heavenly revealed – is humanly bound.
3. Unlike some of the commands for silence (such as 17:9), Jesus does not put a time stamp on the silence.

What do we make of a divinely revealed profession of faith which is, in the end, silenced? 
What do we make of a church built on a rock, which quickly becomes a stumbling block?
What do we make of a church built on revelation which quickly becomes human invention?

Blog Archive