The Meaning of Matthew 16:14 Explained

Matthew 16:14

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

YLT: and they said, 'Some, John the Baptist, and others, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.'

Darby: And they said, Some, John the baptist; and others, Elias; and others again, Jeremias or one of the prophets.

ASV: And they said, Some'say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.

What does Matthew 16:14 Mean?

Verse Meaning

There were many different opinions about who Jesus was. Some, including Herod Antipas, believed He was the resurrected John the Baptist ( Matthew 14:2). Others believed He was the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy, namely, the forerunner of the Messiah ( Malachi 4:5-6; cf. Matthew 3:1-3; Matthew 11:9-10; Matthew 17:10-13). Some concluded that Jesus was the resurrected Jeremiah probably because of similarities between the men and their ministries. For example, both men were quite critical of Israel generally, and both combined authority and suffering in their ministries. Still other Jews thought Jesus was some other resurrected prophet. It is interesting that the disciples did not say that some said Jesus was the Messiah. That opinion was not a popular one, reflecting the widespread unbelief in Israel.
"What we must recognize is that christological confession was not cut and dried, black or white. It was possible to address Jesus with some messianic title without complete conviction, or while still holding some major misconceptions about the nature of his messiahship, and therefore stopping short of unqualified allegiance or outright confession." [1]

Context Summary

Matthew 16:13-20 - "the Son Of The Living God"
The shadows of Calvary were beginning to gather and the Lord desired to prepare His friends for all that it stood for. His questions elicited Peter's magnificent confession.
Notice the date of the Church. It was still future when He spoke. I will build. The materials may have been prepared beforehand, but the actual building began at our Lord's resurrection. He is the Architect. Through the centuries He has been building, and if we are in His Church today, we are there because He excavated us out of the first Adam, and placed us in the very position we now occupy. The foundations of that Church were not in the Apostle (Petros) but in his confession (petra)of the divine sonship of Jesus. See John 5:18. Its impregnability is attested, for the Lord Himself defends it. See Revelation 2:1. The gates of Hades, that is, the unseen world, include all the principalities and powers that are allied against God's people. They cannot prevail, Ephesians 6:12. [source]

Chapter Summary: Matthew 16

1  The Pharisees require a sign
5  Jesus warns his disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees
13  The people's opinion of Jesus,
16  and Peter's confession of him
21  Jesus foretells his death;
23  reproves Peter for dissuading him from it;
24  and admonishes those who will follow him, to bear the cross

Greek Commentary for Matthew 16:14

And they said [οι δε ειπαν]
They were ready to respond for they knew that popular opinion was divided on that point (Matthew 14:1.). They give four different opinions. It is always a risky thing for a pastor to ask for people‘s opinions of him. But Jesus was not much concerned by their answers to this question. He knew by now that the Pharisees and Sadducees were bitterly hostile to him. The masses were only superficially following him and they looked for a political Messiah and had vague ideas about him. How much did the disciples understand and how far have they come in their development of faith? Are they still loyal? [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Matthew 16:14

Mark 8:28 And they told him [οι δε ειπαν]
They knew only too well. See note on Matthew 16:14, Matthew 16:28 for discussion. [source]
John 1:21 And they asked him [και ηρωτησαν αυτον]
Here the paratactic και — kai is like the transitional ουν — oun (then). What then? Argumentative ουν — oun like Paul‘s τι ουν — ti oun in Romans 6:15. Quid ergo? Art thou Elijah? The next inevitable question since Elijah had been understood to be the forerunner of the Messiah from Malachi 4:5. In Mark 9:11. Jesus will identify John with the Elijah of Malachi‘s prophecy. Why then does John here flatly deny it? Because the expectation was that Elijah would return in person. This John denies. Jesus only asserts that John was Elijah in spirit. Elijah in person they had just seen on the Mount of Transfiguration. He saith Vivid dramatic present. I am not Short and blunt denial. Art thou the prophet? “The prophet art thou?” This question followed naturally the previous denials. Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15) had spoken of a prophet like unto himself. Christians interpreted this prophet to be the Messiah (Acts 3:22; Acts 7:37), but the Jews thought him another forerunner of the Messiah (John 7:40). It is not clear in John 6:15 whether the people identified the expected prophet with the Messiah, though apparently so. Even the Baptist later became puzzled in prison whether Jesus himself was the true Messiah or just one of the forerunners (Luke 7:19). People wondered about Jesus himself whether he was the Messiah or just one of the looked for prophets (Mark 8:28; Matthew 16:14). And he answered First aorist passive (deponent passive, sense of voice gone) indicative of αποκρινομαι — apokrinomai to give a decision from myself, to reply. No Shortest possible denial. [source]

What do the individual words in Matthew 16:14 mean?

- And they said Some indeed John the Baptist others now Elijah others Jeremiah or one of the prophets
Οἱ δὲ εἶπαν Οἱ μὲν Ἰωάννην τὸν Βαπτιστήν ἄλλοι δὲ Ἠλίαν ἕτεροι Ἰερεμίαν ἕνα τῶν προφητῶν

Οἱ  - 
Parse: Article, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
εἶπαν  they  said 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Indicative Active, 3rd Person Plural
Root: λέγω  
Sense: to speak, say.
Οἱ  Some 
Parse: Article, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
μὲν  indeed 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: μέν  
Sense: truly, certainly, surely, indeed.
Ἰωάννην  John 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: Ἰωάννης 
Sense: John the Baptist was the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, the forerunner of Christ.
Βαπτιστήν  Baptist 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: βαπτιστής  
Sense: a baptiser.
ἄλλοι  others 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root: ἄλλος  
Sense: another, other.
δὲ  now 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: δέ  
Sense: but, moreover, and, etc.
Ἠλίαν  Elijah 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: Ἠλίας  
Sense: a prophet born at Thisbe, the unflinching champion of the theocracy in the reigns of the idolatrous kings Ahab and Ahaziah.
ἕτεροι  others 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root: ἀλλοιόω 
Sense: the other, another, other.
Ἰερεμίαν  Jeremiah 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: Ἰερεμίας  
Sense: the son of Hilkiah of the priests that were in Anathoth.
ἕνα  one 
Parse: Adjective, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: εἷς  
Sense: one.
τῶν  of  the 
Parse: Article, Genitive Masculine Plural
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
προφητῶν  prophets 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Masculine Plural
Root: προφήτης  
Sense: in Greek writings, an interpreter of oracles or of other hidden things.