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The Seventy Faces of Peter's Confession: Matt. 16:16-17 in the History of Interpretation

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In Matthew's version of Peter's confession, the disciple says to Jesus, “You are the Christ the Son of the living God,” and Jesus responds, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood have not revealed this to you but my Father in Heaven” (16:16-17). In the history of interpretation these two verses have been used in debates about the Trinity, Christology, revelation, and personal salvation. This intriguing history has not been properly documented by scholars, since reception histories have focused on the re-naming of Peter as “the rock” (vv. 18-19) and the feud between Protestants and Catholics over the papacy during the Reformation. This paper explores the forgotten exegesis of vv. 16-17 from the patristic to the modern period, organizing readers synchronically in terms of what they believe Peter meant by his confession (v. 16) as well as their explanation of why Jesus blessed Peter (v. 17). While primarily descriptive, the article shows how exegesis of Matt. 16:16-17 highlights theological debates unique to the time of each thinker, exposes the creativity of interpretive methods, and replicates the logic of larger theological systems in miniature.

Affiliations: 1: University of Pittsburgh;, Email:


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