From: Matthew 16:13-19
Peter’s Profession of Faith and His Primacy
 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His
disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of Man is?”  And they said, “Some
say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the pro-
phets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter
replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered
him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed
this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter,
and on this rock I will build My Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail
against it.  I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever
you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth
shall be loosed in Heaven.”
13-20. In this passage St. Peter is promised primacy over the whole Church, a
primacy which Jesus will confer on him after His Resurrection, as we learn in
the Gospel of St. John (cf. John 21:15-18). This supreme authority is given to
Peter for the benefit of the Church. Because the Church has to last until the end
of time, this authority will be passed on to Peter’s successors down through his-
tory. The Bishop of Rome, the Pope, is the successor of Peter.
The solemn Magisterium of the Church, in the First Vatican Council, defined the
doctrine of the primacy of Peter and his successors in these terms: “We teach
and declare, therefore, according to the testimony of the Gospel that the prima-
cy of jurisdiction over the whole Church was immediately and directly promised
to and conferred upon the blessed Apostle Peter by Christ the Lord. For to Si-
mon, Christ had said, ‘You shall be called Cephas’ (John 1:42). Then, after Si-
mon had acknowledged Christ with the confession, ‘You are the Christ, the Son
of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16), it was to Simon alone that the solemn words
were spoken by the Lord: ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona. For flesh and
blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven. And I tell
you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the powers of
Hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,
and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and what you loose
on earth shall be loosed in Heaven’ (Matthew 16:17-19). And after His Resurrec-
tion, Jesus conferred upon Simon Peter alone the jurisdiction of supreme shep-
herd and ruler over His whole fold with the words, ‘Feed My lambs....Feed My
sheep’ (John 21: 15-17) [...]
“Now, what Christ the Lord, Supreme Shepherd and watchful guardian of the
flock, established in the person of the blessed Apostle Peter for the perpetual
safety and everlasting good of the Church must, by the will of the same, endure
without interruption in the Church which was founded on the rock and which will
remain firm until the end of the world. Indeed, ‘no one doubts, in fact it is obvious
to all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, Prince and head of the Apos-
tles, the pillar of faith, and the foundation of the Catholic Church, received the
keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and the Redeemer of
the human race; and even to this time and forever he lives,’ and governs, ‘and ex-
ercises judgment in his successors’ (cf. Council of Ephesus), the bishops of the
holy Roman See, which he established and consecrated with his blood. There-
fore, whoever succeeds Peter in this Chair holds Peter’s primacy over the whole
Church according to the plan of Christ Himself [...]. For this reason, ‘because of
its greater sovereignty,’ it was always ‘necessary for every church, that is, the
faithful who are everywhere, to be in agreement’ with the same Roman Church
“We think it extremely necessary to assert solemnly the prerogative which the
only-begotten Son of God deigned to join to the highest pastoral office. “And so,
faithfully keeping to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith,
for the glory of God our Savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion, and for
the salvation of Christian peoples, We, with the approval of the sacred council,
teach and define that it is a divinely revealed dogma: that the Roman Pontiff,
when he speaks “ex cathedra”, that is, when, acting in the office of shepherd
and teacher of all Christians, he defines, by virtue of his supreme apostolic au-
thority, doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the universal Church,
possesses through the divine assistance promised to him in the person of St.
Peter, the infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed His Church to be en-
dowed in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals; and that such definitions
of the Roman Pontiff are therefore irreformable because of their nature, but not
because of the agreement of the Church.
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.
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 living God.
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 heaven.
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 Cesarea Philippi.
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 Christ.
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 several errors.
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 Lord's revelation.
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 of God.
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 earth.
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.
Catena Aurea Matthew 16