St. Thomas Aquinas,
Catena Aurea (Golden Chain),
Gospel of Matthew, Chapter
(John Henry Parker, v. I, J.G.F. and J. Rivington:London, 1842)
13. When Jesus came into the
coasts of Cesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say
that I the Son of man am?
14. And they said, Some say that you are John the Baptist, some, Elias; and
others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.
15. He said to them, But whom say you that I am?
16. And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the
17. And Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jona: for
flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father which is in
18. And I say also to you, That you are Peter and upon this rock I will
build my Church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19. And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever
you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall
loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
GLOSS; As soon as the Lord had taken His disciples out of the teaching
of the Pharisees, He then suitably proceeds to lay deep the foundations of
the Gospel doctrine; and to give this the greater solemnity, it is
introduced by the name of the place, When Jesus came into the coasts of
CHRYS; He adds 'of Philip,' to distinguish it from the other Cesarea, of
Strato. And He asks this question in the former place, leading His disciples
far out of the way of the Jews, that being set free from all fear, they
might say freely what was in their mind.
JEROME; This Philip was the brother of Herod, the tetrarch of Ituraea, and
the region of Trachonitis, who gave to the city, which is now called Paneas
the name of Cesarea in honor of Tiberius Cesar.
GLOSS; When about to confirm the disciples in the faith, He would first take
away from their minds the errors and opinions of others, whence it follows,
And he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?
ORIGEN; Christ puts this question to His disciples, that from their answer
we may learn that there were at that time among the Jews various opinions
concerning Christ; and to the end that we should always investigate what
opinion men may form of us; that if any ill be said of us, we may cut off
the occasions of it; or if any good, we may multiply the occasions of it.
GLOSS; So by this instance of the Apostles, the followers of the Bishops are
instructed, that whatever opinions they may hear out of doors concerning
their Bishops, they should tell them to them.
JEROME; Beautifully is the question put, Whom do men say that the Son of Man
is? For they who speak of the Son of Man, are men: but they who understood
His divine nature are called not men but Gods.
CHRYS; He says not, Whom do the Scribes and Pharisees say that I am? but,
Whom do men say that I am? searching into the minds of the common people,
which were not perverted to evil. For though their opinion concerning Christ
was much below what it ought to have been, yet it was free from willful
wickedness; but the opinion of the Pharisees concerning Christ was as full
of much malice.
HILARY; By asking, Whom do men say that the Son of Man is? He implied that
something ought to be thought respecting Him beyond what appeared, for He
was the Son of Man. And in thus inquiring after men's opinion respecting
Himself, we e are not to think that He made confession of Himself; for that
which He asked for was something concealed, to which the faith of believers
ought to extend itself. We must hold that form of confession, that we so
mention the Son of God as not to forget the Son of Man, for the one without
the other offers us no hope of salvation; and therefore He said
emphatically, Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?
JEROME; He says not, Whom do men say that I am? but, Whom do men say that
the Son of Man is? that He should not seem to ask ostentatiously concerning
Himself. Observe, that wherever the Old Testament has 'Son of Man,' the
phrase in the Hebrew is 'Son of Adam.'
ORIGEN; Then the disciples recount the divers opinions of the Jews relating
to Christ; And they said, Some say John the Baptist, following Herod's
opinion; others Elias, supposing either that Elias had gone through a second
birth, or that having continued alive in the body, He had at this time
appeared; others Jeremiah, whom the Lord had ordained to be Prophet among
the Gentiles, not understanding that Jeremiah was a type of Christ; or one
of the Prophets, in a like way, because of those things which God spoke to
them through the Prophets, yet they were not fulfilled in them, but in
JEROME; It was as easy for the multitudes to be wrong in supposing Him to be
Elias and Jeremiah, as Herod in supposing Him to be John the Baptist; whence
I wonder that some interpreters should have sought for the causes of these
CHRYS; The disciples having recounted the opinion of the common people, He
then by a second question invites them to higher thoughts concerning Him;
and therefore it follows, Jesus said to them, Whom say you that I am? You
who are with Me always, and have seen greater miracles than the multitudes,
ought not to agree in the opinion of the multitudes. For this reason He did
not put this question to them at the commencement of His preaching, but
after He had done many signs; then also He spoke many things to them
concerning His Deity.
JEROME; Observe how by this connection of the discourse the Apostles are not
styled men but God's. For when He had said, Whom say you that the Son of Man
is? He adds, Whom say you that I am, as much as to say, They being men think
of Me as man, you who are God's, whom do you think Me?
RABAN; He inquires the opinions of His disciples and of those without, not
because He was ignorant of them; His disciples He asks, that He may reward
with due reward their confession of a right faith; and the opinions of those
without He inquires, that having the wrong opinions first set forth, it
might be proved that the disciples had received the truth of their
confession not from common opinion, but out of the hidden treasure of the
CHRYS; When the Lord inquires concerning the opinion of the multitudes, all
the disciples answer; but when all the disciples are asked, Peter as the
mouth and head of the Apostles answers for all, as it follows, Simon Peter
answered and said, you are Christ, the Son of the living God.
ORIGEN; Peter denied that Jesus was any of those things which the Jews
supposed, by his confession, You are the Christ, which the Jews were
ignorant of; but he added what was more, the Son of the living God, who had
said by his Prophets, I live, said the Lord. And therefore was He called the
living Lord, but in a more especial manner as being eminent above all that
had life; for He alone has immortality, and is the fount of life, wherefore
He is rightly called God the Father; for He is life as it were flowing out
of a fountain, who said, I am the life.
JEROME; He calls Him the living God, in comparison of those gods who are
esteemed gods, but are dead; such, I mean, as Saturn, Jupiter, Venus,
Hercules, and the other monsters of idols.
HILARY; This is the true and unalterable faith, that from God came forth God
the Son, who has eternity out of the eternity of the Father. That this God
took to Him a body and was made man is a perfect confession. Thus He
embraced all in that He here expresses both His nature and His name, in
which is the sum of virtues.
RABAN; And by a remarkable distinction it was that the Lord Himself puts
forward the lowliness of the humanity which He had taken upon Him, while His
disciple shows us the excellence of His divine eternity.
HILARY; This confession of Peter met a worthy reward, for that he had seen
the Son of God in the man. Whence it follows, Jesus answered and said to
him, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jonas, and blood has not revealed this to
you, but my Father who is in heaven.
JEROME; This return Christ makes to the Apostle for the testimony which
Peter had spoken concerning Him, You are Christ, the Son of the living God.
The Lord said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jonas. Why? Because flesh
and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father. That which flesh and
blood could not reveal, was revealed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. By his
confession then he obtains a title, which should signify that he had
received a revelation from the Holy Spirit, whose son he shall also be
called; for Bar-Jonas in our tongue signifies the son of a dove. Others take
it in the simple sense, that Peter is the son of John, according to that
question in another place, Simon, son of John, do you love me? affirming
that it is an error of the copyists in writing here Bar-Jonas for Bar-joannas,
dropping one syllable. Now Joanna is interpreted 'The grace of God.' But
either name has its mystical interpretation; the dove signifies the Holy
Spirit; and the grace of God signifies the spiritual gift.
CHRYS; It would be without meaning to say, you are the son of Jonas, unless
he intended to show that Christ is as naturally the Son of God, as Peter is
the son of Jonas, that is, of the same substance as him that begot him.
JEROME; Compare what is here said, flesh and blood 'has not revealed' it to
you, with the Apostolic declaration, Immediately I was not content with
flesh and blood, meaning there by this expression the Jews; so that here
also the same thing is shown in different words, that not by the teaching of
the Pharisees, but by the grace of God, Christ was revealed to him the Son
HILARY; Otherwise; He is blessed, because to have looked and to have seen
beyond human sight is matter of praise, not beholding that which is of flesh
and blood, but seeing the Son of God by the revelation of the heavenly
Father; and he was held worthy to be the first to acknowledge the divinity
which was in Christ.
ORIGEN; It must be inquired in this place whether, when they were first sent
out, the disciples knew that He was the Christ. For this speech shows that
Peter then first confessed Him to be the Son of the living God. And look
whether you can solve a question of this sort, by saying that to believe
Jesus to be the Christ is less than to know Him; and so suppose that when
they were sent to preach they believed that Jesus was the Christ and
afterwards as they made progress they knew Him to be so. Or must we answer
thus; That then the Apostles had the beginnings of a knowledge of Christ,
and knew some little concerning Him; and that they made progress afterwards
in the knowledge of Him, so that they were able to receive the knowledge of
Christ revealed by the Father, as Peter, who is here blessed, not only for
that he says, You are the Christ, but much more for that he adds, the Son of
the living God.
CHRYS; And truly if Peter had not confessed that Christ was in a peculiar
sense born of the Father, there had been no need of revelation; nor would he
have been worthy of this blessing for confessing Christ to be one of many
adopted sons; for before this they who were with Him in the ship had said,
Truly you are the Son of God. Nathanael also said, Rabbi, you are the Son of
God. Yet were not these blessed because they did not confess such sonship as
does Peter here, but thought Him one among many, not in the true sense a
son; or, if chief above all, yet not the substance of the Father. But see
how the Father reveals the Son, and the Son the Father; from none other
comes it to confess the Son than of the Father, and from none other to
confess the Father than of the Son; so that from this place even it is
manifest that the Son is of the same substance, and to be worshipped
together with the Father. Christ then proceeds to show that many would
hereafter believe what Peter had now confessed, whence He adds, And I say to
you, that you are Peter.
JEROME; As much as to say, You have said to me, You are Christ the Son of
the living God, therefore I say to you, not in a mere speech, and that goes
not on into operation; but I say to you, and for Me to speak is to make it
so, that you are Peter. For as from Christ proceeded that light to the
Apostles, whereby they were called the light of the world, and those other
names which were imposed upon them by the Lord, so upon Simon who believed
in Christ the Rock, He bestowed the name of Peter (Rock.)
AUG; But let none suppose that Peter received that name here; he received it
at no other time than where John relates that it was said to him, you shall
be called Cephas, which is interpreted, Peter.
JEROME; And pursuing the metaphor of the rock, it is rightly said to him as
follows: And upon this rock I will build my Church.
CHRYS; That is, On this faith and confession I will build my Church. Herein
showing that many should believe what Peter had confessed, and raising his
understanding, and making him His shepherd.
AUG; I have said in a certain place of the Apostle Peter, that it was on
him, as on a rock, that the Church was built. But I know that since that I
have often explained these words of the Lord, you are Peter, and on this
rock will I build my Church, as meaning upon Him whom Peter had confessed in
the words, You are Christ, the Son of the living God; and so that Peter,
taking his name from this rock, would represent the Church, which is built
upon this rock. For it is not said to him, you art the rock, but, you are
Peter. But the rock was Christ, whom because Simon thus confessed, as the
whole Church confesses Him, he was named Peter. Let the reader choose
whether of these two opinions seems to him the more probable.
HILARY; But in this bestowing of a new name is a happy foundation of the
Church, and a rock worthy of that building, which should break up the laws
of hell, burst the gates of Tartarus, and all the shackles of death. And to
show the firmness of this Church thus built upon a rock, He adds, And the
gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
GLOSS; That is, shall not separate it from the love and faith of Me.
JEROME; I suppose the gates of hell to mean vice and sin, or at least the
doctrines of heretics by which men are ensnared and drawn into hell.
ORIGEN; But in heavenly things every spiritual sin is a gate of hell, to
which are opposed the gates of righteousness.
RABAN; The gates of hell are the torments and promises of the persecutors.
Also, the evil works of the unbelievers, and vain conversation, are gates of
hell, because they show the path of destruction.
ORIGEN; He does not express what it is which they shall not prevail against,
whether the rock on which He builds the Church, or the Church which He
builds on the rock; but it is clear that neither against the rock nor
against the Church will the gates of hell prevail.
CYRIL; According to this promise of the Lord, the Apostolic Church of Peter
remains pure and spotless from all leading into error, or heretical fraud,
above all Heads and Bishops, and Primates of Churches and people, with its
own Pontiffs, with most abundant faith, and the authority of Peter. And
while other Churches have to blush for the error of some of their members,
this reigns alone immovably established, enforcing silence, and stopping the
mouths of all heretics; and we, not drunken with the wine of pride, confess
together with it the type of truth, and of the holy apostolic tradition.
JEROME; Let none think that this is said of death, implying that the
Apostles should not be subject to the condition of death, when we see their
martyrdoms so illustrious.
ORIGEN; Wherefore if we, by the revelation of our Father who is in heaven,
shall confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, having also our
conversation in heaven, to us also shall be said, you are Peter; for every
one is a Rock who is an imitator of Christ. But against whomsoever the gates
of hell prevail, he is neither to be called a rock upon which Christ builds
His Church; neither a Church, or part of the Church, which Christ builds
upon a rock.
CHRYS; Then He speaks of another honor of Peter, when He adds, And I will
give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; as much as to say, As the Father
has given you to know Me, I also will give something to you, namely, the
keys of the kingdom of heaven.
RABAN; For as with a zeal beyond the others he had confessed the King of
heaven, he is deservedly entrusted more than the others with the keys of the
heavenly kingdom, that it might be clear to all, that without that
confession and faith none ought to enter the kingdom of heaven. By the keys
of the kingdom He means discernment and power; power, by which he binds and
looses; discernment, by which he separates the worthy from the unworthy.
GLOSS; It follows, And whatsoever you shall bind; that is, whomsoever you
shall judge unworthy of forgiveness while he lives, shall be judged unworthy
with God; and whatsoever you shall loose, that is, whomsoever you shall
judge worthy to be forgiven while he lives, shall obtain forgiveness of his
sins from God.
ORIGEN; See how great power has that rock upon which the Church is built,
that its sentences are to continue film as though God gave sentence by it.
CHRYS; See how Christ leads Peter to a high understanding concerning
himself. These things that He here promises to give him, belong to God
alone, namely to forgive sins, and to make the Church immovable amidst the
storms of so many persecutions and trials.
RABAN; But this power of binding and loosing, though it seems given by the
Lord to Peter alone, is indeed given also to the other Apostles, and is even
now in the Bishops and Presbyters in every Church. But Peter received in a
special manner the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and a supremacy of
judicial power, that all the faithful throughout the world might understand
that all who in any manner separate themselves from the unity of the faith,
or from communion with him, such should neither be able to be loosed from
the bonds of sin, nor to enter the gate of the heavenly kingdom.
GLOSS; This power was committed specially to Peter, that we might thereby be
invited to unity. For He therefore appointed him the head of the Apostles,
that the Church might have one principal Vicar of Christ, to whom the
different members of the Church should have recourse, if ever they should
have dissensions among them. But if there were many heads in the Church, the
bond of unity would be broken. Some say that the words upon earth denote
that power was not given to men to bind and loose the dead, but the living;
for he who should loose the dead would do this not upon earth, but after the
SECOND COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE; How is it that some do presume to say that
these things are said only of the living? Know they not that the sentence of
anathema is nothing else but separation? They are to be avoided who are held
of grievous faults, whether they are among the living, or not. For it is
always necessary to fly from the wicked. Moreover there are diverse letters
read of Augustine of religious memory, who was of great renown among the
African bishops, which affirmed that heretics ought to be anathematized even
after death. Such an ecclesiastical tradition other African Bishops also
have preserved. And the Holy Roman Church also has anathematized some
Bishops after death, although no accusation had been brought against their
faith in their lifetimes.
JEROME; Bishops and Presbyters, not understanding this passage, assume to
themselves something of the lofty pretensions of the Pharisees, and suppose
that they may either condemn the innocent, or absolve the guilty; whereas
what will be inquired into before the Lord will be not the sentence of the
Priests, but the life of him that is being judged. We read in Leviticus of
the lepers, how they are commanded to show themselves to the Priests; and if
they have the leprosy, then they are made unclean by the Priest; not that
the Priest makes them leprous and unclean, but that the Priest has knowledge
of what is leprosy and what is not leprosy, and can discern who is clean,
and who is unclean. In the same way then as there the Priest makes the leper
unclean, here the Bishop or Presbyter binds or looses not those who are
without sin, or guilt, but in discharge of his function when he has heard
the varieties of their sins, he knows who is to be bound, and who loosed.
ORIGEN; Let him then be without blame who binds or looses another, that he
may be found worthy to bind or loose in heaven. Moreover, to him who shall
be able by his virtues to shut the gates of hell, are given in reward the
keys of the kingdom of heaven. For every kind of virtue when any has begun
to practice it; as it were opens itself before Him, the Lord, namely,
opening it through His grace, so that the same virtue is found to be both
the gate, and the key of the gate. But it may be that each virtue is itself
the kingdom of heaven.
[With gratitude to the
Christian Classics Ethereal Library for this text.]