WORD STUDY: BIND, LOOSE
Matthew 16:19: “And I will give to you the keys to the kingdom of heaven and whatsoever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
In Matthew 16:19 Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom to Peter and told him that whatever he binds on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever he loosens on earth will be loosed in heaven. The words binding in Greek is dein and loose in luein. The Syriac version (Aramaic in which the Book of Matthew was originally written) uses the words “asar” and “hitir” which are legal terms found throughout the Mishnah and represents forbidding and permitting. The council of sages and rabbis of the Sanhedrin were granted the authority (by man) to asar (bind) and hitir (loosen) Jews to aspects of the law. It was believed that whatever the rabbis bound on earth was bound in heaven and whatever they loosened on earth was loosened in heaven. The word “heaven” was just another term used to represent God and used so one would not speak the sacred name of God. Thus, it was believed that what the Sanhedrin ruled whether to bind or loosen, was automatically ratified by God. It would seem that Jesus used this same popular expression to grant similar authority to Peter to resolve future disputes in the establishment of the church.
We find one such example of this binding and loosening to take place in Acts 15 where the apostles and elders convened in a sort of “Church Sanhedrin” in Jerusalem to address the issue as to whether Gentiles were bound to the law. In Acts 15:10 we find Peter exercising his “rabbinic” authority of binding and loosening to declare that the commandments were too heavy for the Gentiles and that they should be loosened from the obligations of the law. In verse 20 James chimed in and said that he agreed but that the Gentiles should still be bound by laws that the Jews considered universal prohibitions such as murder, adultery and idolatry etc. In verse 22 it appears everyone gave a hearty “amen” and then sent Paul and Barnabas out to spread the Word.
From this I believe the issue of the law and our obligation to the law was resolved and later confirmed by the Apostle Paul in the first century and under the authority of binding and loosening granted to Peter by Jesus. We as, Gentiles, are not bound to the Judaic laws that are indigenous to Judaism such as the dietary laws, laws of festivals, etc. But we are bound to those laws that are considered universal laws such as murder, adultery, idolatry, etc. It helps to look through Jewish literature to find out what the universal laws are, but the Holy Spirit does a better job at that within our own hearts.
If you look at Matthew 16:19 from a Jewish historical and cultural context it would help us understand the significance of Acts 15 and maybe cause us to rethink our interpretation of Matthew 16:19. Also, it may help us gain some insight into our obligation of the law. Many a rabbi have told me that as a Gentile I am not asar (bound) to the 513 commandments and hitil (loosened) from all but the 10 commandments. Some have even said I am only bound to 3 of the 10 commandments. But I prefer to take my cues direct from the Spirit of God.
WORD STUDY: BIND, LOOSE