Matthew 16:14
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
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(14) And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist.—The passage is of the greatest possible interest as one of the very few that indicate the impressions shaped into beliefs that were floating among the people as to our Lord’s character and mission. They were based, it will be seen in each case, upon a popular doctrine of transmigration, to which the Pharisees had given a place in their system of teaching. The great actors of the past were still in existence. They might, at any great national crisis, reappear to continue and complete their work. Each of the answers has a further special interest of its own. (1.) The identification of our Lord with the Baptist has already met us as coming from the lips of the tetrarch Antipas, adopted, but not originated, by him as explaining our Lord’s mighty works (Matthew 14:2; Luke 9:7). (2.) The belief that Elijah had reappeared was of the same nature. He was expected as the forerunner of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5). The imagination of the people had at first seen in the Baptist the reappearance of the Tishbite, but he, though working in the spirit and power of Elijah, had disclaimed the character which was thus ascribed to him, and it was natural that the imagination of the people should now turn to One who appeared to them as simply continuing his work. The character of our Lord’s recent miracles, corresponding as it did to that which was recorded as wrought by Elijah for the widow of Sarepta (1Kings 17:14), had probably strengthened that impression. (3.) The name of Jeremiah introduces a new train of legendary thought. The impression made by that prophet on the minds of men had led to something like a mythical after-growth. It was said that the spirit of Jeremiah had passed into Zechariah (see Note on Matthew 27:9), and on that assumption another reappearance might well seem probable. He, it was believed, had hidden the ark, and the tabernacle, and the altar of incense in a cave in “the mountain where Moses climbed up and saw the heritage of God”—i.e., in Nebo, or Pisgah (2 Maccabees 2:1-7)—and was expected to come and guide the people in the time “when God should gather His people together” to the place of concealment. He had appeared to Judas Maccabeus in a vision as “a man with grey hairs, and exceeding glorious,” and as the guardian prophet of the people, praying for them and for the Holy City, had given him a golden sword as the gift of God (2 Maccabees 15:13-16). As the prophet who had foretold the new covenant and the coming of the Lord our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6; Jeremiah 31:31) he was identified, as thoroughly as Isaiah, with the Messianic expectations of the people. Something, we may add, there may have been in our Lord’s human aspect, as a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, which may have helped to suggest this identification with the prophet who was, above all others of the goodly company, a prophet of lamentations and tears and woe. (4.) The last conjecture was more vague and undefined, and was probably the resource of those who were impressed with wonder at our Lord’s words and works, and yet could not bring themselves to acknowledge Him as what He claimed to be. All the four conjectures, it will be seen, fell far short of the recognition of the Christ.

Interpreted in connection with the vision of Daniel 7:13, the words of the question, “Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” did, in fact, assume His claim to be the Christ. But it remained to be seen whether the disciples had risen to their Lord’s meaning in thus speaking of Himself, and would, on their part, adopt that interpretation. The report which they made of the belief of others shows how little, at this time (whatever may have been the case earlier or later), He was regarded as the Messiah by the mass of the people.

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 they said ... - See the notes at Matthew 11:14. They supposed that he might be John the Baptist, as Herod did, risen from the dead. See Matthew 14:2. He performed many miracles, and strongly resembled John in his manner of life, and in the doctrines which he taught.14. And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist—risen from the dead. So that Herod Antipas was not singular in his surmise (Mt 14:1, 2).

some, Elias—(Compare Mr 6:15).

and others, Jeremias—Was this theory suggested by a supposed resemblance between the "Man of Sorrows" and "the weeping prophet?"

or one of the prophets—or, as Luke (Lu 9:8) expresses it, "that one of the old prophets is risen again." In another report of the popular opinions which Mark (Mr 6:15) gives us, it is thus expressed, "That it is a prophet [or], as one of the prophets": in other words, That He was a prophetical person, resembling those of old.

Ver. 13,14. This, and the following part of this discourse, is related both by Mark and Luke. Mark hath it, Mark 8:27, And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. Luke saith, Luke 9:18,19, And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. Matthew and Mark name the place whither our Saviour was going, viz. Caesarea Philippi: it is so called partly to distinguish it from another Caesarea, and partly because it was built to the honour of Tiberius Caesar, by Philip the tetrarch. It was a city at the bottom of Lebanon, and upon the river of Jordan. Mark saith this discourse was in the way. Luke saith, as he was alone praying; but as must there signify after, for we cannot think that our Saviour would interrupt himself in prayer by this discourse, nor could he be alone praying if his disciples were with him, both which Luke saith; so that en tw einai autan proseucomenon katamonav were certainly translated better, after he had been praying alone, his disciples were with him: so that this discourse might be (as Mark saith) in the way, before they came to Caesarea Philippi, whither he was going.

He asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men (or the people, as Luke hath it)

say that I am? Not that our Saviour, who knew the hearts of all, did not know, but to draw out Peter’s following confession.

And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: we heard before that Herod said so.

Some, Elias: this respected the prophecy, Malachi 4:5. The Jews had a tradition, that before the coming of the Messias Elias should come, John 1:21.

Others, Jeremias, ( this is only in Matthew),

or one of the prophets. The Jews seeing Christ do such wonderful works, could not resolve themselves who he was. Herod and his court party said that he was John the Baptist risen from the dead. They had, it seems, an opinion of some extraordinary virtues, or powers, in such as were risen from the dead. Many interpreters agree that the Jews had an opinion, that good men’s souls, when they died, went into other bodies; this made them guess that our Saviour was one of the old prophets.

And they said, some say that thou art John the Baptist,.... It was the opinion of some of the Jews, that he was John the Baptist risen from the dead. This notion was spread, and prevailed in Herod's court, and he himself, at last, gave into it.

Some Elias; the Tishbite, because an extraordinary person was prophesied of by Malachi, under the name of Elias; and who was to come in his power and spirit before the great day of the Lord; and it being a prevailing notion with the Jews, that Elias was to come before the Messiah; See Gill on Matthew 11:14 they concluded that he was now come:

and others Jeremias; this is omitted both by Mark and Luke; the reason why he is mentioned, is not because of what is said of him, in Jeremiah 1:5 but because the Jews thought he was that prophet spoken of, in Deuteronomy 18:15 that should be raised up from among them, like unto Moses: and this is the sense of some of their writers (g): and in their very ancient writings a parallel is run between Moses and Jeremy (h).

"R. Judah, the son of R. Simon, opened Deuteronomy 18:18 thus: "as thee", this is Jeremiah, who was, as he, in reproofs; you will find all that is written of the one, is written of the other; one prophesied forty years, and the other prophesied forty years; the one prophesied concerning Judah and Israel, and the other prophesied concerning Judah and Israel; against the one those of his own tribe stood up, and against the other those of his own tribe stood up; the one was cast into a river, and the other into a dungeon; the one was delivered by means of an handmaid, and the other by the means of a servant; the one came with words of reproof, and the other came with words of reproof.''

Now they fancied, either that the soul of Jeremy was transmigrated into another body, or that he was risen from the dead.

Or one of the prophets; one of the ancient ones, as Hosea, or Isaiah, or some other: they could not fix upon the particular person who they thought was risen from the dead, and did these wondrous works among them. From the whole it appears, that these persons, whose different sentiments of Christ are here delivered, were not his sworn enemies, as the Scribes and Pharisees, who could never speak respectfully of him; saying, that he was a gluttonous man, a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners, a very wicked man, and far from being one, or like one of the prophets: they sometimes represent him as beside himself, and mad, yea, as being a Samaritan, and having a devil, as familiar with the devil, and doing his miracles by his assistance; but these were the common people, the multitude that followed Christ from place to place, and had a great opinion of him on account of his ministry, and miracles: wherefore, though they could not agree in their notions concerning him, yet each of them fix upon some person of note and worth, whom they took him for; they all looked upon him as a great and good man, and as a prophet, as John the Baptist was accounted by all the people, and as one of the chief of the prophets, as Elias and Jeremiah; and they that could not fix on any particular person, yet put him into the class of the prophets: but still they came short of the true knowledge of him; they did not know him to be a divine person, which his works and miracles proved him to be: nor to be that prophet Moses had spoken of, who was alone to be hearkened unto, though his ministry was a demonstration of it: nor that he was the Messiah, so much spoken of in prophecy, and so long expected by the Jewish nation, though he had all the characters of the Messiah meeting in him. The chief reason why they could not entertain such a thought of him, seems to be the mean figure he made in the world, being of a low extract, in strait circumstances of life, regarded only by the poorer sort; and there appearing nothing in him promising, that he should deliver them from the Roman yoke, and set up a temporal kingdom, which should be prosperous and flourishing, which was the notion of the Messiah that then generally obtained: and since they could not, by any means, allow of this character as belonging to Jesus, though otherwise they had an high opinion of him; hence they could not agree about him, but formed different sentiments of him; which is usually the case in everything, where the truth is not hit upon and received.

(g) Baal Hatturim in Deuteronomy 18.15. R. Abraham Seba; Tzeror Hammor, fol. 127. 4. & 143. 4. (h) Pesikta Rabbati apud R. Abarbinel, Praefat. ad Jer. fol. 96. 2.

And they said, Some say that thou art {i} John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

(i) As Herod thought.

Matthew 16:14 f. Ἰωάννην τὸν βαπτ.] Their opinion is similar to that of Antipas, Matthew 14:2.

Ἠλίαν] These ἄλλοι cannot, therefore, have realized in the person of the Baptist that coming of Elias which was to precede the advent of the Messiah.

ἕτεροι δέ] a distinct class of opinion which, whatever may have been the subsequent view, was not at that time understood to be in any way connected with the expected coming of Elias. For ἕτερος, comp. note on 1 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Corinthians 15:40; 2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6. As forerunner of the Messiah they expected Jeremiah, who at that time was held in very high repute (Ewald, ad Apoc. XI. 3), or some other ancient prophet (risen from the dead). Bertholdt, Christol. p. 58 f.

ἢ ἕνα τῶν προφ.] where we are not to suppose ἄλλον to be understood (Fritzsche), but should rather regard the persons in question as intending to say (in a general way): it is εἷς τῶν προφ.! without mentioning any one in particular. For εἷς, see note on Matthew 8:19.

ὑμεῖς δέ] from them He expected a very different kind of confession, and He was not disappointed.

Matthew 16:14. Reply of disciples: the general effect being: opinions of the people, favourable but crude, without religious definiteness and depth, with no promise of future outcome.—Ἰωάν., Ἠλίαν., Ἱερεμ. Historic characters, recent or more ancient, redivivi—that the utmost possible: unable to rise to the idea of a wholly new departure, or a greater than any character in past history; conservatism natural to the common mind. All three personages whose return might be expected; the Baptist to continue his work cut short by Herod, Elijah to prepare the way and day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5), Jeremiah to bring back the ark, etc., which (2 Maccab. Matthew 2:1-12) he had hid in a cave. Jeremiah is classed with the other well-known prophets (ἢ ἕνα τ. π.), and the supporters of that hypothesis are called ἕτεροι, as if to distinguish them not merely numerically (ἄλλοι) but generically: a lower type who did not connect Jesus with Messiah in any way, even as forerunner, but simply thought of Him as one in whom the old prophetic charism had been revived.

14. Jeremias] Named by St Matthew only. He is mentioned as a representative of the Prophets, because in the Jewish Canon the book of Jeremiah came first of the Prophets, following the books of Kings. See Lightfoot, on ch. Matthew 27:9.

Matthew 16:14. Οἱ μὲνἄλλοι δὲἕτεροι δὲ, some—some—and others) It is not sufficient that we should know the various opinions of others, we ought ourselves to have a fixed faith, which then may make progress, even by the opinions of others, though vain in themselves.—Ἰωάννηνἢ ἓνα τῶν προφητῶν, John—or one of the prophets) There is no need to refer this to the notion of a metempsychosis believed by the Pharisees; for they expected the return of Elias himself in person, who was not dead, or the resurrection of the others from the dead;[735] see ch. Matthew 14:2 : Luke 9:8; Luke 9:19.—ἸΕΡΕΜΊΑΝ, Jeremiah) who was at that time expected by the Jews.—ἕνα, one) i.e. some one indefinitely. They did not think that anything greater could come than they had already had. They did not compare Jesus with Moses.

[735] The suspicion they formed was not that the soul of Elijah or others had passed into the body of Jesus, according to the Pythagorean doctrine of metempsychosis, but an actual return of Elijah in person, or a resurrection of the others named.—ED.

Verse 14. - John the Baptist. This was the opinion of Herod Antipas (Matthew 14:1, 2), who fancied that Christ was animated by the spirit of John the Baptist, or was actually that personage' revived; though it was noticed by others that John did no miracle (John 10:41), and lived a life in contrast to that of Christ (Matthew 11:18, 19). Elias; Elijah, who was taken up to heaven without dying, and was announced by Malachi (Malachi 4:5) as destined to return before the appearance of Messiah. Jeremias. Some opined that he was Jeremiah, who was expected to come as a precursor of Messiah (2 Esdras 2:18), and reveal the tabernacle, ark, and the altar of incense, which, according to the legend of 2 Macc. 2:4-7, he had hidden in Mount Nebo, "until the time that God gather his people again together, and receive them unto mercy." One of the prophets. One of the celebrated prophets of antiquity revived, restored to life again to prepare the way for the great consummation. The well known prediction of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15) may have given rise to this idea. The four popular opinions here mentioned showed two facts - that Jesus had a high reputation among his contemporaries, and that he was by none at this time regarded as the Messiah. Even those who, after certain of his marvellous works, had been ready to honour him with that title, soon cooled in their ardour, and, checked by his reserve and the slanders of the Pharisees, learned to see in him only a wonder-worker or a precursor of the expected Prince and Liberator. Matthew 16:14
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