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Matthew 16:23 (ESV):

23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Was Jesus addressing Peter or Satan, who was influencing Peter? Was Peter under the influence of Satan when he tried to dissuade Jesus from going to the cross?

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  • He's likening Peter to Satan, because his mind was "on the things of man" rather than "of God," which isn't so out of character for Peter.
    – carsonfel
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 16:06

7 Answers 7

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The Greek grammar is unambiguous that:

  • Jesus was speaking "to Peter" Πέτρῳ = noun dative
  • Jesus addresses "Satan" Σατανᾶ - noun vocative

That is, Jesus said to Peter, "Get behind me, O Satan." That is, it appears that Satan had inspired the words of Peter and was at that moment dominating his thoughts - Satan was using Peter as a mouthpiece for himself! [An eerie reflection of Gen 3:1-8 with the serpent??]

There are only three times that the vocative case is used for someone (always Jesus!) is speaking directly to Satan: Matt 4:10, 16:23, Mark 8:33. Thus, Matt 16:23 is significant.

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Matthew 4:

8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Jesus commanded Satan and he left.

Matthew 16:

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

The situation with Peter here is similar to Matthew 4 in that Jesus commanded Satan to leave. Satan obeyed and left as Jesus resumed his teaching the disciples. Peter did not get behind Jesus. Peter also obeyed. He put away his human concerns. He resumed listening to Jesus, now without the interference from Satan.

Did Jesus address Peter or Satan influencing Peter when he said “Get behind me, Satan!" in Matthew 16:23?

Jesus addressed Satan when he said, “Get behind me, Satan!". Jesus addressed Peter when he said, "you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Both of them obeyed immediately.

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  • Had I not seen your answer, I would have answered similarly. Satan kept bringing up his temptations to be a different Messiah through traditional human ideas.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 20:25
  • Right. Thanks for the encouragement :)
    – user35953
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 20:31
  • Although I disagree, I’m curious as to what we’d find if a study was conducted on Satans interaction with mankind in OT and a study on the role of Peter in the Matthean narrative. Thoughts?
    – John
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 23:17
  • 1
    Sorry, I do not know.
    – user35953
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 13:17
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Jesus was speaking to Peter when he said “Get behind me, Satan!” It is true that Peter’s attempt to dissuade Jesus from going to the cross held the same temptation Satan gave at the outset of Jesus’ ministry (Matthew 4:8-10), but that does not necessarily mean that Jesus was speaking to Satan, although it is possible. Was Peter “under the influence of Satan” when he dared to reprimand Jesus? I found an article on this question, part of which says this:

Jesus had just revealed to His disciples for the first time the plan: He was to go to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and be raised to life (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31). Contrary to their expectations of Him, Jesus explained that He had not come to establish an earthly Messianic kingdom at that time. The disciples were not prepared for this new revelation of the Messiah’s purpose. Though Peter understood His words, he simply could not reconcile his view of the conquering Messiah with the suffering and death Jesus spoke of. So Peter “began to rebuke Him” for having such a fatalistic mindset.

Unwittingly, Peter was speaking for Satan. Like Jesus’ adversary, Peter was not setting his mind on the things of God—His ways, His plans, and His purposes (Colossians 3:2; Isaiah 55:8-9). Instead, his mind was set on the things of man, the things of the world and its earthly values. Jesus was saying that the way of the cross was God’s will, the plan of redemption for all mankind. Peter’s reaction was most likely shared by the other disciples although, as always, it was Peter who spoke first. Peter was inadvertently being used of Satan in thinking he was protecting Jesus. Satan had purposely tempted Jesus in the wilderness to divert Him from the cross, from fulfilling the grand design of the Father and the Son (Mark 1:12-13). Innocently, Peter was doing the same thing. He had not yet grasped Jesus’ true Messianic purpose.

Although Peter had just moments before declared Jesus as the Christ, he turned from God’s perspective and viewed the situation from man’s perspective, which brought about the stern rebuke: “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus went on to explain: “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:33). Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/get-behind-me-Satan.html

Jesus did not accuse Peter of speaking for Satan, although he was unwittingly doing that, but for thinking like a man. It is possible that Jesus sensed the presence or influence of Satan at this pivotal point in time, but the Bible does not say so. It would therefore be speculative to draw that conclusion.

Peter was a flawed human, and impetuous. He was a very good example of “a work in progress” but in spite of his failings, Jesus saw fit to forgive and restore him even after he denied Jesus three times.

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  • I have to wonder if this was a moment where Peter, like Judas, was overwhelmed by Satan, something analogous to Luke 22: "And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve" (Luke 22:3). Perhaps, similarly, the Devil really did enter Peter for a moment, although it is not explicitly stated. Your point seems correct regarding Peter the man, as Christ finishes his rebuke with "[You] are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s." What is also striking is the many times Christ told the disciples of his impending arrest and Sacrifice.
    – Xeno
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 17:06
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Jesus couldn't have blessed Peter giving him(Peter) a New Name (Simon to Peter) just before this discussion and later on calling him Satan. The sympathy Peter was showing was not revealed of the Father just like the revelation of who Jesus is, hence the rebuke. Matthew 4:8-10.

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  • Hi Steve welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. Please be sure to take the site tour and read up on how this site is a little different than other sites around the web. Thanks! Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 13:02
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With already 4 responses worth consideration, bit reluctant to provide yet another view. And, as well, each ‘view’ of this situation will depend on your foundation, that is, there is a lot ‘behind’ any responses that simply for logistical reasons can’t be written as part of that response.

Nevertheless I feel there is more to consider. First context! In both Matthew’s and Marks account, the preceding incident needs to come into consideration. Peter had answered a question from Jesus, and Jesus responded ...

MAT 16:17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven

Note the source for the response! Whereas with the ‘get behind me Satan’ response, Jesus said ..

MARK 8:33 [snip] * Get behind Me, Satan! For* you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Who do you think the ‘you’ refers to? Satan? And if so, since when is Satan mindful of the ‘things of men’? I argue that ‘you’ is Peter.

It’s all about the ‘source’. What is the ‘source’ of what you ‘say’. Your own reasoning? Or? Unlike the previous incident, It’s clear Peter was ‘thinking’ based on his own thinking. The result of the ‘fall’ was man became self righteous. Man [intuitively] depended on ‘self’. Peter on other occasions reflected this. And why not — ‘man’ could not yet be ‘reborn’, so at this time, Peter still had a ‘separated’ spirit. So he could only rely on his own reasoning - why? - because of the ‘fall’, and who was responsible for that? Satan.

So Peters response was such that it was not inspired by the Holy Ghost (as previously) - but a result of what Satan had done (4000 yrs earlier.) Hence the words of Jesus.

So to answer the query, who was Jesus addressing? He was ‘addressing the ‘source’ of the reasoning that lead to the outburst.

But the issue with this ‘section’ of the gospels is that it has fuelled much speculation. And [some really ridiculous] questions - [such as] - how could Peter be possessed, or, used by Satan. The questions may be valid, but they too easily lead towards erroneous conclusions. So my response above may well provoke reaction! Nevertheless it needed to be presented as an alternative.

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As Ishmael represents the flesh, Isaac represents the Lord, the Spirit. So, does this comment suggest that Jesus will not go on the cross? This is the flesh at work, and Satan is usually in it. We must live by the Spirit; anything not done in love and faith is a sin. Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, asking to sift us like wheat. Therefore, we must be filled with the Spirit and be led by the Spirit 24/7.

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    – agarza
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 16:19
  • This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review
    – agarza
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 16:19
  • @Apostle Adrienne Stensland---The Answer given is is a good exhortation concerning the constant battle we have in the Christian life. But an Answer must address the point of the Question posted. "Who was Jesus talking to?" Peter physically? Peter metaphorically? Or really Satan using Peter? This would take some deep research and exploring of other scriptures. Make sure you give biblical references when you do. Keep studying the Bible, it's great for the soul!
    – ray grant
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 23:39
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To ponder upon an answer to a remark made to Peter and Satan that involves Jesus. Satan is enjoying this minor confusion. Accept that answer that God gives you the individual. A relationship with God is intimate. God loves you too! To debate for clarity on such things will not reveal anything to anyone that God himself authorizes. I used to ask my grandmother this question and admittedly childish one as I've learned. Doing the same thing that Peter was thinking about the Bible from a carnal mindset. He that has an ear let him hear. Why would he say that to people who obviously hear him saying this?? My grandmother taught Bible study who better to ask. However, she never would answer my question. Instead she always said that God would answer that question. I was upset and to be honest I felt slighted. As I studied the Bible and kept asking God to give me the answer it came to me and I laughed at myself. Just that one question made me study the Bible relentlessly. Also my grandmother said that you can use a complete concordance and other resources to help you study. The best part was she said when have a relationship with God he will reveal to you exactly what he wants you to know. She would never tell me the answer and when I would tell her what I believed the answer to be she would say either I believe that way too or that she doesn't. She never told me if I was right or wrong about the answer. The Bible is God's book so who better to give you the answer besides him. If my grandmother or anyone else gives me the answer then I can have doubt. When God gives the answer then all is well in my soul. I know at times we are believing that the devil will answer instead of God making one foolish or crazy. The devil is powerless and once God himself gets you nothing can interfere with your relationship with him. Nothing is more powerful than our father. Many people give Satan too much power and influence. Meanwhile act as if Satan can actually be God's opponent. Nothing can interfere with our father and us period. Great discussion at least it involves God. Please remember that God is almighty and has no real competition at all!!!

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