Matthew 16.19 – What’s it about?

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This week’s question was in relation to Matthew 16.19 and how it should be taught:

δώσω σοι τὰς κλεῖδας τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν, καὶ ὃ ἐὰν δήσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται δεδεμένον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, καὶ ὃ ἐὰν λύσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται λελυμένον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

My answer:

I believe that the passage refers to the rabbinical idea of ratifying the decrees of Heaven. In other words, the Rabbi’s saw it as a judicial measure when they were interpreting Scripture, much in the way pastors do so now with Scripture. Scripture was from God, but to ratify it was to interpret it according to the situation at hand. How to apply the Levitical law or the like. in other words, I believe that this passage refers to Scripture as our bedrock but the Church as the magisterium of those words. By keys, I think that Christ is referring to the Apostles as the gate keepers, as the preachers and ministers to God’s household. To sum, this passage is not so much about binding or loosening anything, but about the Church’s authority to preach Scripture.

It may have been Christ’s way of initiating a new Jewish sect, with His Apostles as the Sanhedrin, giving them the authority to interpret Scripture in light of Christ. We know that ‘Matthew’ had to craft a lot of the Jewish Scriptures to fit the life of Christ and this gave him the authority to do so.

Your answer?

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Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

One thought on “Matthew 16.19 – What’s it about?

  1. Surely Christ is the key, and the stuff about authority is just his declaration of the extent of it.

    That is, “I give you the key to the Kingdom, my work and I, and along with that authority not just in this world, but the world to come..”
    Something like that anyway.

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