Review of Hiers, Richard H. “‘Binding’ and ‘Loosing’: The Matthean Authorizations.”

Hiers, Richard H.  “‘Binding’ and ‘Loosing’: The Matthean Authorizations.” Journal of Biblical Literature 104 (June 1983): 233-50. [Priesthood/Sealing]

The terms “binding” and “loosing” used by Matthew are not easily understood by Bible interpreters.  Hiers reviews both the Catholic and Protestant views on both Mt. 16:19 and 18:18.  The Catholics see it as authority establishing the primacy of Peter in Church governance and the apostolic power of excommunication.  The Protestants either deny the authenticity of the passage or that it refers to something other than sacerdotal authority.  A group Hiers calls “critics” have postulated a number of ideas about the meaning of the passage.  It is the authority: 1) to absolve or release someone from vows.  2) to determine what actions are forbidden or permitted.  3) to make judgments about doctrine and discipline.  4) to exclude someone from the Church.  5) in terms of John 20:23 to forgive or withhold forgiveness of sin.  6) to condemn impenitent offenders.   7) in connections with Mt. 10:23; 11:20-24; 19:28 to bring judgment upon cities in Israel.

Hiers then suggests that the use and meaning of the term in the Intertestamental Jewish literature has not been adequately explored.  When he does so, he concludes that the vast majority of references refer to the power to bind Satan and demons and at the same time loose those in Satan’s power.  For Hiers this was how Matthew understood the words too, but he broadened its meaning to include power given to determine who would be permitted to eternal life, and even more broadly to authority for Peter and the Apostles to deal with whatever arises in the Church.

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