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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 16

 

 

Introduction

CHAPTER 16

Matthew 16:3. ὑποκριταί] omitted before τὸ μέν in C* D L δ, Curss. Verss. Aug. Deleted by Lachmann (who has καί instead, only after C**) and Tisch. Correctly; borrowed from Luke 12:56.

In accordance with important testimony, Lachm. and Tisch. have correctly deleted τοῦ προφήτου, Matthew 16:4 (comp. Matthew 12:39), as also αὐτοῦ, Matthew 16:5.

Matthew 16:8. ἐλάβετε] Lachm.: ἔχετε, after B D א, Curss. Vulg. It., and other Verss. (not Or.). Correctly; ἐλάβ . was more likely to be derived mechanically from Matthew 16:7 than ἔχετε to have been adopted from Mark 8:17. Had the latter been the case, we should likewise have found ἔχομεν in Matthew 16:7.

Matthew 16:11. ἄρτου] Scholz, Lachm. Tisch.: ἄρτων, which Griesb. likewise approved, in accordance with a preponderance of testimony. The sing, would naturally come more readily to the transcribers, and that on account of the material rather than the numerical contrast.

For προσέχειν, B C* L א, Curss. Verss. Or. have: προσέχετε δέ (D, Curss. and Verss., however, omitting the δέ). Correctly adopted by Fritzsche, Lachm. Tisch. The infinitive, as well as the omission of δέ, originated in the reference of the words not having been understood.

Matthew 16:12. τοῦ ἄρτου] Tisch. 8 : τῶν φαρισαίων κ. σαδδουκ., only after א * 33, Syrcur; Lachm. has τῶν ἄρτων, which, however, is not so well supported as in Matthew 16:11 (B L א **), besides having the appearance of being simply conformed to this verse.

The reading of Tisch. 8 is somewhat of a gloss.

Matthew 16:13. με] is omitted after τίνα in B א and several Verss. and Fathers; in C it is found after λέγ. Deleted by Fritzsche and Tisch., bracketed by Lachm. Omitted because, from the circumstance of τ. υἱὸν τ. ἀνθρ. following (otherwise in Mark and Luke), it seemed superfluous and out of place.

Matthew 16:20. διεστείλατο] Orig. already found ἐπετίμησεν in Codd. So Lachm. after B* D, Arm. Taken from Mark 8:30, Luke 9:21, for διαστέλλω occurs nowhere else in Matthew.

χριστός] Elz., after numerous and important Codd. (also C א **): ἰησοῦς χριστός. But ἰησοῦς is omitted by very important authorities, and, as it is out of place in the present connection, the transcriber must have inserted it mechanically.

Matthew 16:23. μου εἶ] B C א, 13, 124: εἶ ἐμοῦ (so Lachm. Tisch. 8), or εἶ μου. D, Marcell., in Eus. Vulg. It. al.: εἶ ἐμοί (so Fritzsche). With such a want of unanimity among the authorities, the reading of the Received text cannot be said to have a preponderance of testimony, while the variations turn the scales in favour of εἶ ἐμοῦ.

Matthew 16:26. ὠφελεῖται] Lachm. Tisch.: ὠφεληθήσεται, after B L א, Curss. Verss. Or. Cyr. Chrys. Altered to be in conformity with the verbs in the future that precede and follow. Comp. also Mark 8:36-37 .

Matthew 16:28. τῶν ὧδε ἑστώτων] Elz.: τῶν ὧδε ἑστηκότων, after K M π. Fritzsche: τῶν ὧδε ἑστῶτες, after Ev. 49. Both are to be rejected, owing to the testimony being too inadequate. Scholz and Tisch. 7 : ὧδε ἑστῶτες, after E F G H V X γ δ, Curss. No doubt τῶν ὧδε ἑστώτων is supported by the preponderating testimony of B C D L S U א, Curss. Or. Ephr. Chrys. Epiph. Theodoret, Damasc., and adopted by Griesb. Lachm. Tisch. 8; still it is clearly taken from Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27 . It therefore remains that ὧδε ἑστῶτες is the correct reading.


Verse 1

Matthew 16:1 ff. Comp. Mark 8:11 ff. Not a duplicate of the incident recorded in Matthew 12:38 (Strauss, de Wette, Bruno Bauer, Schneckenburger, Volkmar, Weizsäcker, Bleek, Scholten), but a second demand for a sign, and that from heaven, in which respect it is distinguished from the first. With regard to the alliance between Pharisees and Sadducees, supposed by some to be utterly improbable (de Wette, Strauss, Weiss, Scholten), it is sufficient to say, with Theophylact: κἂν τοῖς δόγμασι διίσταντο φαρισαῖοι καὶ σαδδουκαῖοι, ἀλλά γε κατὰ χριστοῦ συμπνέουσι· σημεῖον δὲ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ζητοῦσιν, ἐδόκουν γὰρ, ὅτι τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς σημεῖα ἀπὸ δαιμονικῆς δυνάμεως καὶ ἐν βεελζεβοὺλ γίνονται. In the unbelieving hostility with which they are animated, they demand of Him the very highest sign which the Messiah would be expected to give (Matthew 24:29 f.; Joel 3:3 f.), intending thereby to have Him put to the test, but thinking, all the time, that it would be beyond His power to comply with their demand.

ἐπηρώτησαν] Their challenge was put in the form of inquiry.

The compound ἐπερωτᾶν never means: to request, to beg; see note on Matthew 15:23.

Their questions had reference to such a sign, by way of Messianic credential, as, coming from heaven, would be visible to their outward eye.

ἐπιδεῖξαι] spectandum praebere, John 2:18.


Verse 2-3

Matthew 16:2-3 f.(454) Lightfoot, p. 373: “Curiosi erant admodum Judaei in observandis tempestatibus coeli et temperamento aëris.” Babyl. Joma f. 21. 8; Hieros. Taanith f. 65. 2. For Greek and Roman testimonies relative to the weather signs in our passage, see Wetstein.

εὐδία] clear weather! An exclamation in which it is not necessary to supply ἔσται, except, perhaps, in the way of helping the grammatical analysis, as also in the case of σήμερον χειμών (stormy weather to-day!). For the opposite of εὐδία and χει΄ών, comp. Xen. Hell. ii. 3. 10 : ἐν εὐδίᾳ χειμῶνα ποιοῦσιν.

στυγνάζων] being lowering. See note on Mark 10:22.

τὸ πρόσωπον] “Omnis rei facies externa,” Dissen, ad Pind. Pyth. vi. 14, p. 273.

τὰ δὲ σημεῖα τῶν καιρῶν] the significant phenomena connected with passing events, the phenomena which present themselves as characteristic features of the time, and point to the impending course of events, just as a red sky at evening portends fine weather, and so on. The expression is a general one, hence the plural τῶν καιρῶν; so that it was a mistake to understand the ση΄εῖα as referring to the miracles of Christ (Beza, Kuinoel, Fritzsche). Only when the reproach expressed in this general form is applied, as the Pharisees and Sadducees were intending to apply it, to the existing καιρός, do the miracles of Christ fall to be included among the signs, because they indicate the near approach of the Messiah’s kingdom. In like manner the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, such as was to be traced in the events that were then taking place (Grotius), was to be regarded as among the signs in question, as also the Messianic awakening among the people, Matthew 11:12 (de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius). According to Strauss, the saying in Matthew 16:2-3 is inconceivable. But the truth is, it was peculiarly in keeping with the thoughtful manner of Jesus, if, when a sign from heaven was demanded, He should refer those demanding it to their own practice of interpreting the appearances of the sky, so as to let them see how blinded they were to the signs that already existed. A similar saying is found in Luke 12:54 f., where, however, it is addressed to the multitude. There is no reason for thinking that it appears in its authentic form only in Matthew (de Wette), or only in Luke (Schleiermacher, Holtzmann), for there is nothing to prevent us from supposing that Jesus may have used similar and in itself very natural language on several occasions.

καὶ καταλιπ. αὐτ. ἀπῆλθε] depicting in a simple way the “justa severitas” (Bengel) shown toward those incorrigibles. Comp. Matthew 21:17.

Comp., besides, the note on Matthew 12:39.


Verse 5

Matthew 16:5. This, according to Fritzsche, is the voyage mentioned in Matthew 15:39, so that the disciples are supposed to have come shortly after “in eum ipsum locum, quem Jesus cum Pharisaeis disputans tenebat.” Unjustifiable deviation from the very definite account in Mark 8:13. After disposing of the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus crossed over again to the east side of the lake along with His disciples; but Matthew mentions only οἱ μαθηταί, because they alone happen to form the subject of ἐπελάθοντο, though Matthew 16:6 shows, beyond all doubt, that Jesus crossed along with them.

ἐπελάθοντο] is neither to be taken (Erasmus, Calvin, Paulus, Hilgenfeld) as a pluperfect (see, on the other hand, note on John 18:24), nor as equivalent to “viderunt se oblitos esse” (Beza, Kuinoel, Fritzsche), but thus: after the disciples had reached the east side, they forgot to provide themselves with bread (to serve them for a longer journey). After coming on shore they should have obtained a supply of provisions in view of having a further journey before them, but this they forgot. According to Mark 8:14 ff., which in this instance also is the more authentic version, the following conversation is not to be understood as having taken place in the boat (Keim, Weiss), but in the course of the further journey after going on shore.


Verse 6

Matthew 16:6. The craft and malice of the Pharisees and Sadducees were still fresh in His memory, Matthew 16:1-4.

ζύμην τὴν διδαχήν] ἐκάλεσεν, ὡς ὀξώδη καὶ σαπράν (Euth. Zigabenus); see Matthew 16:12. The allusion is to their peculiar sectarian views, in so far as they deviated from the law. The expression is explained differently in Luke 12:1. Comp. note on Galatians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 5:6. For the figurative use of שְׂאֹר by the Rabbis (as denoting the infecting influence of any one who is bad), see Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 2303. Lightfoot on this passage. Used differently again in Matthew 13:33.


Verse 7

Matthew 16:7 f. Owing to the notion of bread being associated in their minds with that of leaven, the words of Jesus led them to notice that their supply of the former article was exhausted, so that they supposed all the time that His object was to warn them against taking bread from the Pharisees and Sadducees.

διελογίζοντο] not disceptabant (Grotius, Kypke, Kuinoel), but: they consulted among themselves, i.e. they deliberate ( λέγοντες) over the matter within their own circle without saying anything to Jesus, who, however, from His being able to penetrate their thoughts, is quite aware of what is going on, Matthew 16:8. Comp. Xen. Mem. iii. 5. 1.

ὅτι] not: recitative, but: (He says that) because we have not provided ourselves with bread. In Matthew 16:8 it means: over the fact, that.

τί διαλογ.] why, and so on, how meaningless and absurd it is!


Verse 9

Matthew 16:9 f. After those two miracles you have so recently witnessed (Matthew 14:15, Matthew 15:32), have you still so little penetration as not to understand that the thing to which I am alluding is not literal bread, which you ought to have depended ( ὀλιγόπιστ.) on my being able to supply whenever occasion might require, but rather to something of a spiritual nature? Jesus lays no more stress here than He does elsewhere upon the physical benefit of His bread-miracle (de Wette), but simply makes use of it in the way of suggesting deeper reflection.

The difference between κόφ. and σπυρ. does not lie in σπυρίς being larger (Bengel, which does not follow from Acts 9:25), but in the fact that κόφινος is a general term, whereas σπυρίς denotes a food-basket in particular. See note on Matthew 14:20, Matthew 15:37.


Verse 11

Matthew 16:11. πῶς] how is it possible! Astonishment in which a certain amount of censure is expressed.

προσέχετε δέ] see critical notes. It is not necessary to supply εἶπον (Paulus, Fritzsche), but we are rather to understand that after the question ending with εἶπον ὑμῖν, Jesus repeats, and with a view to its being yet more deeply pondered, the warning given in Matthew 16:6, in which case δέ is simply continuative (autem): But (let me say again) beware, and so on.


Verse 13

Matthew 16:13 ff. Comp. Mark 8:27 ff.; Luke 9:18 ff. (which latter evangelist rejoins, at this point, the synoptic narrative, having left it immediately after recording the first miraculous feeding of the multitude, a circumstance which is sometimes alleged as a reason for doubting the authenticity of the second miracle of this kind).

Caesarea Philippi, a town in Gaulonitis, at the foot of Mount Lebanon, which was formerly known by the name of Paneas, Plin. N. H. v. 15. Philip the tetrarch enlarged and embellished it (Joseph. Antt. xviii. 2, Bell. ii. 9. 1), and called it Caesarea in honour of Caesar (Tiberius). It received the name of Philippi in order to distinguish it from Caesarea Palestinae. Robinson, Pal. III. pp. 612, 626 ff., and neuere Forsch. p. 531 ff.; Ritter, Erdk. XV. 1, p. 194 ff.

τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου] See, in general, note on Matthew 8:20. The words are in characteristic apposition with με. That is to say, Matthew does not represent Jesus as asking in a general way (as in Mark and Luke) who it was that the people supposed Him to be, but as putting the question in this more special and definite form: whom do the people suppose me, as the Son of man, to be? He had very frequently used this title in speaking of Himself; and what He wanted to know was, the nature of the construction which the people put upon the designation in Daniel, which He had ascribed to Himself, whether or not they admitted it to be applicable to Him in its Messianic sense. Comp. Holtzmann in Hilgenfeld’s Zeitschr. 1865, p. 228. From the answer it appears that, as a rule, He was not being taken for the Messiah as yet (that consequently the more general appellation: υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρ., was not as yet being applied to Him in the special sense in which Daniel uses it), He was only regarded as a forerunner; but the disciples themselves had understood Him to be the Son of man in Daniel’s sense of the words, and, as being such, they looked upon Him as the Messiah, the Son of God. Accordingly it is not necessary to regard τ. υἱὸν τ. ἀνθρ. as interpolated by Matthew (Holtzmann, Weizsäcker), thereby destroying the suggestive correlation in which it stands to the expression, Son of God, in Peter’s reply. It is not surprising that Strauss should have been scandalized at the question, seeing that he understood it in the anticipatory sense of: “whom do the people suppose me to be, who am the Messiah?” Beza inserts a mark of interrogation after εἶναι, and then takes the following words by themselves thus: an Messiam? But this would involve an anticipation on the part of the questioner which would be quite out of place. De Wette (see note on Matthew 8:20) imports a foreign sense into the passage when he thus explains: “whom do the people say that I am, I, the obscure, humble man who have before me the lofty destiny of being the Messiah, and who am under the necessity of first of all putting forth such efforts in order to secure the recognition of my claims?” Keim’s view is correct, though he rejects the με (see critical notes).

Observe, moreover, how it was, after He had performed such mighty deeds in His character of Messiah, and had prepared His disciples by His previous training of them, and when feeling now that the crisis was every day drawing nearer, that Jesus leads those disciples to avow in the most decided way possible such a conviction of the truth of the Christian confession as the experience of their own hearts might by this time be expected to justify. Comp. note on Matthew 16:17. As for themselves, they needed a religious confession thus deeply rooted in their convictions to enable them to confront the trying future on which they were about to enter. And to Jesus also it was a source of comfort to find Himself the object of such sincere devotion; comp. John 6:67 ff. But to say that it was not till now that He Himself became convinced of His Messiahship (Strauss, before 1864, Schenkel), is to contradict the whole previous narrative in every one of the evangelists. Comp. Weizsäcker, Keim, Weissenborn, p. 41 ff.


Verse 14

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.

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.


Verse 16

Matthew 16:16. As was to be expected from his impetuous character, his personal superiority, as well as from the future standing already assigned him in John 1:43, Peter ( τὸ στόμα τῶν ἀποστόλων, Chrysostom) assumes the part of spokesman, and in a decided and solemn manner (hence: υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ξῶντος, the higher, and not, as in Matthew 14:33, the merely theocratic meaning of which the apostle could as yet but dimly apprehend, it being impossible for him to understand it in all its clearness till after the resurrection, comp. note on Romans 1:4) declares Jesus to be the Messiah ( χριστός), the Son of the living God ( τοῦ ζῶντος, in contrast to the dead idols of the heathen). Both elements combined, the work and the person constituted then, as they do always, the sum of the Christian confession. Comp. Matthew 26:63; John 11:27; John 20:31; Philippians 2:11; 1 John 2:22 f. Observe the climax at the same time; “nam cognitio de Jesu, ut est filius Dei, sublimior est quam de eodem, ut est Christus,” Bengel.


Verse 17

Matthew 16:17. Simon, son ( בַּר ) of Jona, a solemnly circumstantial style of address, yet not intended as a contrast to the designation of him as Peter which is about to follow (de Wette), in connection with which view many expositors have allegorized the βαριωνᾶ in an arbitrary and nugatory fashion, but merely on account of the importance of the subsequent statement, in which case βαριωνᾶ is to be ascribed to the practice of adding the patronymic designation, and blending the βάρ. with the proper name (Matthew 10:3; Acts 13:6; Mark 10:46).

ὅτι] because thou art favoured far above my other followers in having had such a revelation as this.

σὰρξ κ. αἷμα] בָּשָׂר וְדָם (among the Rabbis), paraphrastic expression for man, involving the idea of weakness as peculiar to his bodily nature, Sirach 14:18; Lightfoot on this passage; Bleek’s note on Hebrews 2:14. Comp. the note on Galatians 1:16; Ephesians 6:12. Therefore to be interpreted thus: no weak mortal (mortalium ullus) has communicated this revelation to thee; but, and so on. Inasmuch as ἀποκαλύπτειν, generally, is a thing to which no human being can pretend, the negative half of the statement only serves to render the positive half all the more emphatic. Others refer σὰρξ κ. αἷμα to ordinary knowledge and ideas furnished by the senses, in contradistinction to πνεῦμα (de Wette, following Beza, Calvin, Calovius, Neander, Olshausen, Glöckler, Baumgarten-Crusius, Keim). Incorrectly, partly because the lower part of man’s nature is denoted simply by σάρξ, not by σὰρξ κ. αἷμα (in 1 Corinthians 15:50 the expression flesh and blood is employed in quite a peculiar, a physical sense), partly because ἀπεκάλυψε (Matthew 11:25) compels us to think exclusively of a knowledge which is obtained in some other way than through the exercise of one’s human faculties. For a similar reason, the blending of both views (Bleek) is no less objectionable.

It must not be supposed that, in describing this confession as the result of a divine revelation, there is anything inconsistent with the fact that, for a long time before, Jesus had, in word and deed, pointed to Himself as the Messiah (comp. above all the Sermon on the Mount, and such passages as Matthew 11:5 f., 27), and had also been so designated by others (John the Baptist, and such passages as Matthew 8:29, Matthew 14:33), nay, more, that from the very first the disciples themselves had recognised Him as the Messiah, and on the strength of His being so had been induced to devote themselves to His person and service (Matthew 4:19; John 1:42; John 1:46; John 1:50); nor are we to regard the point of the revelation as consisting in the υἱὸς τ. θεοῦ τ. ζῶντος, sometimes supposed (Olshausen) to indicate advanced, more perfect knowledge, a view which it would be difficult to reconcile with the parallel passages in Mark and Luke; but observe: (1) That Jesus is quite aware that, in spite of the vacillating opinions of the multitude, His disciples continue to regard Him as the Messiah, but, in order to strengthen and elevate both them and Himself before beginning (Matthew 16:21) the painful and trying announcement of His future sufferings, and as furnishing a basis on which to take His stand in doing so, He seeks first of all to elicit from them an express and decided confession of their faith. (2) That Peter acts as the mouthpiece of all the others, and with the utmost decision and heartiness makes such a declaration of his belief as, at this turning-point in His ministry, and at a juncture of such grave import as regards the gloomy future opening up before Him, Jesus must have been longing to hear, and such as He could not fail to be in need of. (3) That He, the heart-searching one, immediately perceives and knows that Peter (as τοῦ χοροῦ τῶν ἀποστόλων κορυφαῖος, Chrysostom) was enabled to make such a declaration from his having been favoured with a special revelation from God (Matthew 11:27), that He speaks of the distinction thus conferred, and connects with it the promise of the high position which the apostle is destined to hold in the church. Consequently ἀπεκάλυψε is not to be understood as referring to some revelation which had been communicated to the disciples at the outset of their career as followers of Jesus, but it is to be restricted to Peter, and to a special revelation from God with which he had been favoured. This confession, founded as it was upon such a revelation, must naturally have been far more deliberate, far more deeply rooted in conviction, and for the Lord and His work of far greater consequence, than that contained in the exclamation of the people in the boat (Matthew 14:33) when under the influence of a momentary feeling of amazement, which latter incident, however, our present passage does not require us to treat as unhistorical (Keim and others); comp. note on Matthew 14:33.

Observe, further, how decidedly the joyful answer of Jesus, with the great promise that accompanies it, forbids the supposition that He consented to accept the title and dignity of a Messiah only from “not being able to avoid a certain amount of accommodation” to the ideas of the people (Schenkel; see, on the other hand, Weissenborn, p. 43 ff.).


Verse 18

Matthew 16:18. But I again say to thee. The point of the comparison in κἀγώ is, that Peter having made a certain declaration in reference to Jesus, Jesus also, in His turn, now does the same in reference to Peter.

πέτρος] as an appellative: thou art a rock, Aram. כֵּיפָא . The form πέτρος(455) is likewise common among classical writers, and that not merely in the sense of a stone, as everywhere in Homer in contradistinction to πέτρα (see Duncan, p. 937, ed. Rost, and Buttmann, Lexil. II. p. 179), but also as meaning a rock (Plat. Ax. p. 371 E: σισύφου πέτρος; Soph. Phil. 272, O. C. 19, 1591; Pind. Nem. iv. 46, x. 126). Jesus declares Peter to be a rock on account of that strong and stedfast faith in himself to which, under the influence of a special revelation from God, he had just given expression. According to John 1:43, however, Jesus conferred the name Cephas upon him at their very first interview (according to Mark 3:16, somewhat later); but our passage is not to be understood as simply recording the giving of the name, or the giving of it for the second time. It is rather intended to be taken as a record of the declaration made by Jesus, to the effect that Simon was in reality all that the name conferred upon him implied. Consequently our passage is in no way inconsistent with that of John just referred to, which could only have been the case if the words used had been σὺ κληθήσῃ πέτρος.

καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ] The emphasis is on ταύτῃ, which points to Peter (not to Jesus, as Augustine would have us suppose), and to be understood thus: on no other than on this rock,—hence the feminine form in this instance, because it is not so much a question of the name as of the thing which it indicates, i.e. of that rocky element in the apostle’s character which furnished so solid a foundation for the superstructure of the church that was to be built upon it.

οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν] will I build for myself ( μου, as in Matthew 8:3, and frequently; see note on John 11:32) the church. The ἐκκλησία—in the Old Testament קָהָל, Deuteronomy 18:16 ; Deuteronomy 23:1, Judges 21:8, the whole assembly of the Jewish people (Acts 7:38), the theocratic national assembly (comp. Sirach 24:1, and Grimm’s note)—is used in the New Testament to denote the community of believers, the Christian church, which, according to a common figure (1 Corinthians 3:10 f.; Ephesians 2:19 ff.; Galatians 2:9; 1 Peter 2:4 f.), is represented as a building, of which Christ here speaks of Himself as the architect, and of Peter as the foundation on which a building is to be raised (Matthew 7:24 f.) that will defy every effort to destroy it. But the term ἐκκλ. was in such current use in its theocratic sense, that it is not necessary to suppose, especially in the case of a saying so prophetic as this, that it has been borrowed from a later order of things and put into Jesus’ mouth (Weisse, Bleek, Holtzmann). Besides, there can be no doubt whatever that the primacy among the apostles is here assigned to Peter, inasmuch as Christ singles him out as that one in particular whose apostolic labours will, in virtue of the stedfast faith for which he is peculiarly distinguished, be the means of securing, so far as human effort can do so (comp. Revelation 21:4; Galatians 2:9), the permanence and stability of the church which Jesus is about to found, and to extend more and more in the world. As in accordance with this, we may also mention the precedence given to this disciple in the catalogues of the apostles, and likewise the fact that the New Testament uniformly represents him as being, in point of fact, superior to all the others (Acts 15:7; Acts 2:14; Galatians 1:18; Galatians 2:7-8). This primacy must be impartially conceded, though without involving those inferences which Romanists have founded upon it; for Peter’s successors are not for a moment thought of by Jesus, neither can the popes claim to be his successors, nor was Peter himself ever bishop of Rome, nor had he any more to do with the founding the church at Rome than the Apostle Paul (for the false reasoning on this subject, see Döllinger, Christenth. u. Kirche, p. 315 ff.). The explanation frequently had recourse to in anti-popish controversies, to the effect that the rock does not mean Peter himself, but his stedfast faith and the confession he made of it(456) (Calovius, Ewald, Lange, Wieseler), is incorrect, because the demonstrative expression: ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ, coming immediately after the σὺ εἶ πέτρος, can only point to the apostle himself, as does also the καὶ δώσω, etc., which follows, it being understood, of course, that it was in consideration of Peter’s faith that the Lord declared him to be a foundation of rock. It is this circumstance also that underlies the reference to the apostle’s faith on the part of the Fathers (Ambrose: “non de carne Petri, sed de fide;” comp. Origen, Cyril, Chrysostom, Augustine).

The expression: πύλαι ᾅδου (which does not require the article, Winer, p. 118 f. [E. T. 147 ff.]), is to be explained by the circumstance that because Hades is a place from which there is no possibility of getting out again (Eustathius, ad Od. xi. 276; Blomfield, Gloss. in Aesch. Pers. p. 164), it is represented under the figure of a palace with strong gates (Song of Solomon 8:6 f.; Job 38:17; Isaiah 38:10; Psalms 9:14; Psalms 107:18; Wisdom of Solomon 16:13; 3 Maccabees 5:51; Ev. Nicod. xxi., and Thilo’s note, p. 718; more frequently also in Homer, as Il. viii. 15; Aesch. Agam. 1291; Eur. Hipp. 56).

οὐ κατισχύσουσιν αὐτῆς] So securely will I build my church upon this rock, that the gates of Hades will not he able to resist it, will not prove stronger than it; indicating, by means of a comparison, the great strength and stability of the edifice of the church, even when confronted with so powerful a structure as that of Hades, the gates of which, strong as they are, will yet not prove to be stronger than the building of the church; for when the latter becomes perfected in the Messianic kingdom at the second coming, then those gates will be burst open, in order that the souls of the dead may come forth from the subterranean world to participate in the resurrection and the glory of the kingdom (comp. note on 1 Corinthians 15:54 f.), when death (who takes away the souls of men to imprison them in Hades), the last enemy, has been destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26). So far the victory of the church over Hades is, of course, affirmed, yet not in such a way as to imply that there had been an attack made by the one upon the other, but so as to convey the idea that when the church reaches her perfected condition, then, as a matter of course, the power of the nether world, which snatches away the dead and retains them in its grasp, will also be subdued. This victory presupposes faith on the part of the καταχθονίοι (Philippians 2:10), and consequently the previous descensus Christi ad inferos. Moreover, had He chosen, Christ might have expressed Himself thus: καὶ πυλῶν ᾅδου κατισχύσει; but, keeping in view the comparative idea which underlies the statement, He prefers to give prominence to “the gates of Hades” by making them the subject, which circumstance, combined with the use of the negative form of expression (Revelation 12:8), tends to produce a somewhat solemn effect. κατισχύειν τινος: praevalere adversus aliquem (Jeremiah 15:18; Ael. N. A. v. 19; comp. ἀντισχύειν τινος, Wisdom of Solomon 7:30, and ἰσχύειν κατά τινος, Acts 19:16). If we adopt the no less grammatical interpretation of: to overpower, to subdue (Luther and the majority of commentators), a most incongruous idea emerges in reference to the gates, and that whether we understand the victory as one over the devil (Erasmus, Luther, Beza, Calvin, Calovius, Maldonatus, Michaelis, Keim) or over death (Grotius); for the gates of Hades would thus be represented as the attacking side, which would hardly be appropriate, and we would have to suppose what, on the other hand, would be foreign to the sense, that all the monsters of hell would rush out through the opened gates (Ewald, comp. also Weizsäcker, p. 494). The point of the comparison lies simply in the strength that distinguishes such solid gates as those of Hades, and not also in the Oriental use of the gates as a place of meeting for deliberation (Glöckler, Arnoldi), as though the hostile designs of hell were what was meant. Notwithstanding the progressive nature of the discourse and the immediate subject, Wetstein and Clericus refer αὐτῆς to Peter ( ταύτῃ τ. πέτρᾳ), and suppose the meaning to be: “eum in discrimen vitae venturum, nec tamen eo absterritum iri,” etc.

Notice, besides, the grandeur of the expression: “grandes res etiam grandia verba postulant,” Dissen, ad Pind. p. 715.


Verse 19

Matthew 16:19. And I will give to thee the keys of the Messianic kingdom,(457) i.e. the power of deciding as to who are to be admitted into or excluded from the future kingdom of the Messiah. For the figurative expression, comp. Luke 11:52; Revelation 1:18; Revelation 3:7; Revelation 9:1; Revelation 10:1; Isaiah 22:22; Ascens. Isaiah 6:6.

δώσω] The future expresses the idea of a promise (the gift not being, as yet, actually conferred), as in the case of οἰκοδομήσω, pointing forward to the time when Christ will no longer administer the affairs of the church in a direct and personal manner. This future already shows that what was meant cannot have been the office of preaching the gospel, which preaching is supposed to lead to admission into the kingdom of heaven, wherever God has prepared men’s hearts for its reception (Düsterdieck, Julius Müller). The similitude of the keys corresponds to the figurative οἰκοδομ., Matthew 16:18, in so far as the ἐκκλησία, Matthew 16:18 (which is to be transformed into the βασιλεία τ. οὐρ. at the second coming), is conceived of as a house, the doors of which are opened and locked by means of keys (generally, not exactly by two of them). In regard to Peter, however, the figure undergoes some modification, inasmuch as it passes from that of the foundation of rock, not certainly into the lower one of a gate-keeper, but (comp. Luke 12:4; 1 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Corinthians 9:17; Titus 1:7) into that of an οἰκονόμος ( τα΄ίας, Isaiah 22:15 ff.), from the ordinary relation of a disciple to the church to the place of authority hereafter to be assigned him in virtue of that relation. The authority in question is that of a house-steward, who is empowered to determine who are to belong and who are not to belong to the household over which his master has commissioned him to preside.(458) All this is expressed by means of an old and sacred symbol, according to which the keys of the house are promised to Peter, “that he may open and no man shut, that he may shut and no man open” (Isaiah as above).

For the forms κλεῖς and (as Tischendorf 8, on inadequate testimony) κλεῖδας, see Kühner, I. p. 357.

καὶ ἐὰν δήσῃς κ. τ. λ.] a necessary adjunct of this power: and whatsoever thou wilt have forbidden upon earth will he forbidden in heaven (by God), so that it will, in consequence, prevent admission into the Messianic kingdom; and whatsoever thou wilt have permitted upon earth (as not proving a hindrance in the way of admission to the future kingdom) will be permitted in heaven. It will depend on thy decision—which God will ratify—what things, as being forbidden, are to disqualify for the kingdom of the Messiah, and what things, as being allowed, are to be regarded as giving a claim to admission. δέειν and λύειν are to be traced to the use, so current among the Jews, of אסר and התיר, in the sense of to forbid and to allow. Lightfoot, p. 378 ff.; Schoettgen, II. p. 894 f., and Wetstein on this passage; Lengerke’s note on Daniel 6:8; Rosenmüller, Morgenl. V. 67; Steitz, p. 438 f. Following Lightfoot, Vitringa, Schoettgen, and others, Fritzsche, Ahrens, Steitz, Weizsäcker, Keim, Gess (I. p. 68), Gottschick in the Stud. u. Krit. 1873, also adopt this interpretation of those figurative expressions. In the face of this common usage, it would be arbitrary and absurd to think of any other explanation. The same may be said not only of the reference to the supreme administrative power in general (Arnoldi and the older Catholics), or to the treasures of grace in the church, which Peter is supposed to be able to withhold or bestow as he may deem proper (Schegg), but likewise of the view which represents the words as intended to indicate the power of admitting into and excluding from the church (Thaddaeus a S. Adamo, Commentat. 1789, Rosenmüller, Lange), and in support of which an appeal is made, notwithstanding the , to the ancient practice of tying or untying doors; as well as of that other view which has been so currently adopted, after Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Erasmus, Luther, Beza, Calvin, Maldonatus, to the effect that what Jesus means is the remission and non-remission of sins.(459) So Grotius, Olshausen, de Wette, Bleek, Neander, Glöckler, Baumgarten-Crusius, Döllinger, Julius Müller, Düsterdieck. But to quote in connection with this the different and much later saying of Jesus, after His resurrection, John 20:23, is quite unwarranted; the idea of sin is a pure importation, and although λύειν ἁμαρτ. may properly enough be understood as meaning: to forgive sins (Isaiah 40:2; Isaiah 3 Esdr. Matthew 9:13; Sirach 28:8; and see Kypke on Matthew 18:18), yet the use of δέειν ἁ΄αρτ., in the sense of retaining them, is altogether without example. Exception has been taken to the idea involved in our interpretation; but considering that high degree of faith to which Peter, as their representative, here shows them to have attained, the apostles must be supposed to possess “the moral power of legislation” (objected to by de Wette) as well, if they are to determine the right of admission to the Messiah’s kingdom; see Steitz also, p. 458. This legislative authority, conferred upon Peter, can only wear an offensive aspect when it is conceived of as possessing an arbitrary character, and as being in no way determined by the ethical influences of the Holy Spirit, and when it is regarded as being of an absolute nature, as independent of any connection with the rest of the apostles (but see note on Matthew 18:18). Comp. Wieseler, Chronol. d. Ap. p. 587 f. Ahrens, likewise, correctly interprets the words in the sense of to forbid and to allow, but supposes the words themselves to be derived from the practice of fastening with a knot vessels containing anything of a valuable nature (Hom. Od. viii. 447). Artificial and far-fetched, but resulting from the reference of the keys to the ταμεῖον.

ἔσται δεδεμ.] Observe how that is spoken of as already done, which is to take place and be realized immediately on the back of the ἐὰν δήσῃς. Comp. Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 267 [E. T. 311]; Kühner, II. 1, p. 35. To such a degree will the two things really harmonize with one another.


Verse 20

Matthew 16:20. διεστείλατο] He appointed, strictly enjoined. Comp. Plat. Rep. p. 535 B Aristot. Polit. ii. 5; Judith 11:12; 2 Maccabees 14:28; Mark 5:43; Acts 15:24; Hebrews 12:20.

ὅτι αὐτός ἐστιν χ.] that He Himself is the Messiah. This αὐτός points back to Matthew 16:14, according to which some one else was looked for as the Messiah, while Jesus was only regarded as His forerunner. The reason of this prohibition is not that He wanted to anticipate any offence that might afterwards arise in consequence of His sufferings (Chrysostom, Euth. Zigabenus), for Jesus quite foresaw His resurrection and δόξα, and the effect which these would have upon His followers (John 12:32); but (see note on Matthew 8:4) its explanation is to be found in His uniform desire to avoid awakening and fostering sanguine Messianic hopes among the people.


Verse 21

Matthew 16:21. ἀπὸ τότε ἤρξατο] Comp. Matthew 4:17; a note of time marking an important epoch. “Antea non ostenderat,” Bengel. To announce His future sufferings(460) to His disciples, and that immediately after their decided confession, Matthew 16:16, was highly opportune, both as regards their capability and their need—their capability to stand so trying an intimation, and their need of beginning to relinquish their false hopes, and of attaining to a true and exalted conception of what constitutes the work of the Messiah. Mark 8:31 likewise introduces the beginning of the announcement of the future sufferings somewhat prominently after Peter’s confession, whereas Luke 9:21 f. omits it altogether.

δεῖ] Necessity in accordance with a divine purpose, Matthew 26:54; Luke 24:26; John 3:14.

ἀπελθεῖν εἰς ἱερος.] because connected with καὶ πολλὰ παθεῖν κ. τ. λ., does not forbid the idea of previous visits to Jerusalem mentioned by John (in answer to Hilgenfeld, Evang. p. 89); comp. Matthew 23:37.

ἀπό] at the hands of; comp. note on Matthew 11:19.

τῶν πρεσβ. κ. ἀρχ. κ. γραμμ.] This circumstantial way of designating the Sanhedrim (comp. note on Matthew 2:4) has here something of a solemn character.

ἀποκτανθ.] further detail (though with Matthew 16:24 already in view) reserved for Matthew 20:19. What Jesus contemplates is not being stoned to death by the people (Hausrath), but judicial murder through the decision of a court of justice.

καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ ἡ΄. ἐγερθῆναι] With so clear and distinct a prediction of the resurrection, it is impossible to reconcile the fact that, utterly disheartened by the death of their Lord, the disciples should have had no expectation whatever that He would come to life again, that they consequently embalmed the body, and that even on the Sunday morning the women wanted to anoint it; that they should have placed a heavy stone at the mouth of the grave, and afterwards are utterly at a loss to account for the empty sepulchre, and treat the statement that He has risen and appeared again as simply incredible, some of them even doubting His identity when they do see Him; and further, that the risen Jesus appeals, indeed, to an Old Testament prediction (Luke 24:25), but not to His own; just as John, in like manner, accounts for Peter and himself not believing in the resurrection till they had actually seen the empty grave, merely from their having hitherto failed to understand the scripture (John 20:9). All this is not to be disposed of by simply saying that the disciples had not understood the prediction of Jesus (Mark 9:22); for had it been so plainly and directly uttered, they could not have failed to understand it, especially as, in the course of His own ministry, cases had occurred of the dead being restored to life, and as the Messianic hopes of the disciples must have disposed them to give a ready reception to tidings of a resurrection. Then, again, the fulfilment would necessarily have had the effect of awakening both their memory and their understanding, and that all the more that precisely then light was being shed upon the mysterious saying regarding the temple of the body (John 2:21 f.). We must therefore suppose that Jesus had made certain dark, indefinite allusions to His resurrection, which as yet had not been apprehended in their true meaning, and that it was only ex eventu that they assumed, in the course of tradition, the clear and definite form of a prediction such as is now before us. It is only such faint, obscure hints that are as yet to be met with in John 2:19; John 10:17 f., and see observation on Matthew 12:40. Comp. besides, Hasert, üb. d. Vorhersag. Jesu von s. Tode u. s. Auferst. 1839, Neander, de Wette, Ammon. Other expositors (Paulus, Hase, Scholten, Schenkel, Volkmar), arbitrarily ignoring those traces of a dim prophetic hint of the resurrection, have contended that, originally, nothing more was meant than a symbolical allusion,—an allusion, that is, to the new impetus that would be given to the cause of Jesus, while some of them have denied that any announcement of the death ever took place at all (Strauss; see, on the other hand, Ebrard). But the arguments of Süskind (in Flatt’s Magaz. VII. p. 181 ff.), Heydenreich (in Hüffel’s Zeitschr. II. p. 7 ff.), Kuinoel, Ebrard, and others in favour of the perfect authenticity of the definite and literal predictions of the resurrection, are not conclusive, and, to some extent, move in a circle.


Verse 22

Matthew 16:22. προσλαβόμ.] after he had taken Him to himself, comp. Matthew 17:1, i.e. had taken Him aside to speak to Him privately. The very common interpretation: he took Him by the hand, imports what does not belong to the passage.

ἤρξατο] for Jesus did not allow him to proceed further with his remonstrances, which had commenced with the words immediately following; see Matthew 16:23.

ἵλεώς σοι] sc. εἰη θεός, a wish that God might graciously avert what he had just stated, a rendering of the Hebrew חָלִילָה, 2 Samuel 20:20 ; 2 Samuel 23:17; 1 Chronicles 11:19, LXX. 1 Maccabees 2:21, and see Wetstein. Comp. our: God forbid!

ἔσται purely future; expressive of full confidence. μὲν ἀπεκαλύφθη, πέτρος ὀρθῶς ὡμολόγησεν· δὲ οὐκ ἀπεκαλύφθη, ὠσφάλη, Theophylact. Peter was startled; nothing, in fact, could have formed a more decided contrast to the Messianic conception on which his confession seemed to have been based, than the idea of a Messiah suffering and dying like a malefactor.


Verse 23

Matthew 16:23. στραφείς] He turned away, by way of indicating His horror.

ὕπαγε ὀπίσω μου] See note on Matthew 4:10.

σατανᾶ] Satan! A term of reproach, springing out of the intense displeasure with which He now saw Peter striving, like Satan, against that purpose of God of which he was so profoundly conscious. Not “moral vexation” (Keim), but moral displeasure. Comp. John 6:70. Seeing that Peter’s feelings have changed, it was proper that the testimony of Jesus regarding him should undergo a corresponding change (Augustine), although without prejudice to the high position just promised to him by Jesus; for this distinction neither excludes the idea of there being still a strong carnal element in Peter’s character, nor does it imply that he was beyond the need of correction; consequently, the evasive interpretation of Catholic expositors who, in this instance, take σατανᾶ as an appellative (adversarius; so Maldonatus, Jansen, Arnoldi), is utterly groundless.

σκάνδ. μου εἶ] ἐμπόδιόν μου νῦν ὑπάρχεις, ἀντικείμενος τῷ ἐμῷ θελήματι, Euth. Zigabenus.

φρονεῖς] thou, hast in thy mind; indicating the direction of his aims, the bent of the practical reason. Comp. note on Romans 8:5.

τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ] matters of divine interest; because God is to be understood as having ordained the sufferings of Jesus for the purpose of carrying out the plan of redemption.

τὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων] who are concerned about having as their Messiah a mere earthly hero and prince.


Verse 24

Matthew 16:24 f. Comp. Mark 8:34 ff.; Luke 9:23 ff. As I must suffer, so also must all my followers!

ὀπίσω μου ἐλθεῖν] as in Matthew 4:19.

ἑαυτόν] i.e. His own natural self; τὸ ἑαυτοῦ θέλημα τὸ φιλήδονον, τὸ φιλόζωον, Euth. Zigabenus. To that which this θέλημα desires, He says: No!

ἀράτω τ. στ.] let him not shrink from the pain of a violent death such as He Himself will be called upon to endure. Comp. note on Matthew 10:38.

καὶ ἀκολ. μοι] that is, after he has taken up his cross. What goes before indicates the precise kind of following which Jesus requires. John 21:19. According to the context, it is not a question of moral following generally ( καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν ἄλλην ἀρετὴν ἐπιδεικνύσθω, Theophylact, comp. Euth. Zigabenus, Chrysostom). But, by way of illustrating the idea of self-denial, Theophylact appropriately refers to the example of Paul, Galatians 2:20.

Matthew 16:25. See note on Matthew 10:30.


Verse 26

Matthew 16:26. Matthew 16:25, compared with Matthew 16:24, involved the thought that the earthly life must be sacrificed for sake of gaining the eternal. The reason of this thought is now brought forward.

ὠφελεῖται] represents as already present the man’s condition at the day of judgment, not an Attic future (Bleek).

τὴν δὲ ψυχ. αὐτοῦ ζημιωθῇ] but will have lost his soul, that is to say, by his having rendered himself unfit for eternal life, by having, therefore, lost his soul as far as the Messianic ζωή is concerned, and become liable to eternal death. ζημιωθῇ is the opposite of κερδήσῃ. It must not on this ground, and because of the ἀντάλλαγμα which follows, be explained as meaning, to sustain damage in his soul (Luther), but: animae detrimentum pati (Vulgate), comp. Herod. vii. 39: τοῦ ἑνὸς τὴν ψυχὴν ζημιώσεαι, thou wilt lose thine only one through death.

] It avails a man nothing if he, and so on, it might be that (at the judgment) he would have something to give to God with which to purchase back his lost soul ( ἀντάλλαγμα, Eur. Or. 1157, frequently met with in the LXX. and Apocrypha). There exists no such means of exchange (commutationem, Vulgate), nothing which, in the sight of God and according to His holy standard, would be of such value as to serve as an ἀντάλλαγμα for the soul. “Non sufficit mundus,” Bengel. Comp. Ritschl in the Jahrb. f. D. Th. 1863, p. 234 ff.


Verse 27

Matthew 16:27. γάρ] justifies and confirms what Jesus has just stated with respect to the loss of the ψυχή. I say that not without reason; for assuredly the time of the second coming and of a righteous retribution is drawing near ( μέλλει being put first for sake of emphasis).

ἐν τῇ δόξῃ τοῦ πατρ. αὐτ.] in the same glory as belongs to God. For in this state of glory (John 17:5) the ascended Christ occupies the place of σύνθρονος of God.

τὴν πρᾶξιν] the conduct, the sum of one’s doings, including, in particular, that self-denying adherence to their faith and their confession on which, above all, so much depended, in the case of the apostles, in the midst of those persecutions which they were called upon to endure.


Verse 28

Matthew 16:28. Having affirmed the certainty of the second coming and the divine retribution, He now proceeds to do the same with regard to their nearness.

εἰσί τινες κ. τ. λ.] which refers to those present generally, and not merely to the disciples, presupposes that the majority of them will have died previous to the event in question.

γεύσωνται θανάτου] The experiencing of death regarded as a tasting of it (of its pains). See note on John 8:52, and Wetstein.

ἕως κ. τ. λ.] not as though they were to die afterwards, but what is meant is, that they will still be living when it takes place. Comp. Matthew 24:34; Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 629 f.

ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ αὐτοῦ] not for εἰς τὴν κ. τ. λ. (Beza, Raphel, and others), but as a king in all His regal authority (Plat. Rep. p. 499 B: τῶν νῦν ἐν δυναστείαις βασιλείαις ὄντων). Luke 23:42. There is no substantial difference between the present prediction of Jesus as to His impending advent in glorious majesty (comp. Matthew 10:23, Matthew 24:34), and that in Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27. The βασιλεία cannot be supposed to come without the βασιλεύς. This, at the same time, in answer to Ebrard (comp. Baumeister in Klaiber’s Studien, II. 1, p. 19), who interprets this passage, not of the second coming to judgment, but, laying stress on the ἐν (against which the ἐν τῇ δόξῃ, Matthew 16:27, should have duly warned), understands it as referring to the founding of the church, and particularly to what took place at Pentecost, and that notwithstanding the context and the words εἰσί τινες, etc., which, if this view were adopted, would be entirely out of place (Glass, Calovius). It is likewise to explain it away in a manner no less arbitrary, to understand the passage in the sense of a figurative coming in the destruction of Jerusalem and the diffusion of Christianity (Jac. Cappellus, Wetstein, Kuinoel, Schott, Glöckler, Bleek), or of the triumphant historical development of the gospel (Erasmus, Klostermann, Schenkel), or of the powerful influences of the spirit of the glorified Messiah as extending over the world (Paulus). Others, such as Beda, Vatablus, Maldonatus, Jansen, Clarius, Corn. a Lapide, following Chrysostom, Euth. Zigabenus, Theophylact, have so strangely perverted Christ’s prediction as even to make it refer to the incident of the transfiguration immediately following.

On the impending advent in general, see the observations at the close of ch. 24.

 


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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 16:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/matthew-16.html. 1832.

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