I've asked Gerry
Matatics and others this question, and never gotten
an answer: can you name anyone in the first 1000 years of
church history who presented the argument you do from Isaiah 22?
Sure. What about St.
John Cassian (c. 362-435), who writes:
"O Peter, Prince of
Apostles, it is just that you should teach us, since you were
yourself taught by the Lord; and also that you should open to
us the gate of which you have received the Key
(singular). Keep out all those who are undermining the
heavenly House; turn away those who are trying to enter
through false caverns and unlawful gates since it is certain
that no one can enter in at the gate of the Kingdom except
the one unto whom the Key (singular), placed by you in the
churches, shall open it." (John Cassian, Book III,
Chap 12, Against the Nestorians on the Incarnation)
Compare this to Isaiah 22, which
"On that day I shall
summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah. ...I will
place the Key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he
opens, no one shall shut, and when he shuts, no one shall
Cassian is clearly drawing from
Isaiah 22, and applying it to Matthew 16.
I believe the reason we don't see
Isaiah 22 used more extensively is that it's rooted in a sense of
Jewish national identity. And, since most of the
fathers were Gentiles, it's not surprising that they see the Keys
of Matthew 16 referring to authority in a more generic sense (which
is equally valid). However, we do see the Kingly,
Davidic aspect of the Keys alluded to more often in the
Semetic-speaking branches of the Church. For example,
Aphraates the Sage (c. 330 A.D.), one of the oldest fathers of
the Syrian Church, says ... "David handed over the Kingdom
to Solomon and was gathered to his people; and Jesus handed over
the Keys to Simon and ascended and returned to Him Who sent
Him." (Aphraates, xxi, 13).
Also, St. Ephraem the Syrian (c.
350) writes ...
"Then Peter deservedly
received the Vicariate of Christ over His people." (Ephraem,
Sermon de Martyrio. SS. App. Petri et Pauli).
Can you explain
why Jesus says "keys" while Isaiah says
Firstly, it is well known that
Matthew (unlike Mark or Luke) has a preference for the plural
(e.g. Matthew 4:3; 8:26; 12:46; 15:36). Also, in Matt
16, we are dealing with a Heaven-earth relationship, rather than
a mere earthly kingdom (as in Isaiah 22). Thus, Peter
holds two keys: one Heavenly and one earthly, since his
Master is a two-fold King: both the earthly successor to
David and the eternal King of Heaven. Another possibility
is that the "keys" (plural) in Matthew 16 refer to
Christ's juxtaposition of the "Kingdom of Heaven"
vs. the "gates of hell". We also see this
in St. Ephraem the Syrian, who writes:
"Thee, O Simon Peter,
will I proclaim the blessed, who holds the Keys which the
Spirit made. A great and ineffable word that he binds
and loosens those in Heaven and those under the earth
..." (Ephraem, Asseman. Bibl. Orient. t. i. p. 95)
in Colin Lindsay, Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans,
There is also a possibility that
the "keys" (plural) in Matthew 16 imply that Peter would
succeed to the office of prime minister for the **united**
Kingdom of Israel under Jesus. As any student of
Scripture knows, the Kingdom of David and Solomon split into two
during the reign of Solomon's son Rehoboam. At this
point, there existed two Israelite Kingdoms (north and south),
each with its own king; and each king had a prime minister or
"major domo" (see: 1 Kings 16:9, 18:3 vs. 2 Kings 15:5
which refer to the prime minister of northern Israel vs. the
prime minister of Judah in the south). However, in
the reign of Jesus, the northern Israelites (the Samaritans) are
called back into the unity of the Messanic Kingdom (e.g. John
4:21-42, Acts 8:4-17, etc.). And so, if the "key"
(singular) was the symbol of authority for both the prime
minister of Judah in the south and the prime minister of Israel /
Samaria in the north (i.e., each official possessed one key),
then it may very well be that Peter is given the keys (plural)
for both these kingdoms, north and south, to show that the true
Israel (the Church) is now one, united Kingdom under Jesus the
Can you cite any
biblical evidence that the key of the house of David is, in fact,
identical with the keys of the kingdom of heaven? Can you
cite any patristic interpretation in support of your position?
With pleasure, James. :-)
I recall that, in your Boston College debate against
Sungenis and Butler, you claimed that Matthew 16 is merely about the
identity of Jesus. You said that any references to
the Church or to a Pope, etc. were distractions from the intended
purpose of the passage. Well, that's a pretty
two-dimensional exegesis, if you ask me. Matthew 16 is
not merely about the identity of Jesus. Rather, it is
about who the people say that Jesus is.
In Matthew 16:13, Jesus asks
"Who do the people say that I am?" These
are the people of Israel, who do not know that He is their King.
Jesus then asks His disciples (His
"royal entourage," if you will): "Who do you
say that I am?" And, in reply, Peter
speaks up and confesses that Jesus is the Messiah: the promised
successor to David – the King of Israel !
Thus, Jesus makes Peter the prime
minister of that remnant of Israel which will believe in Him: the
Church. Here, we must note that the Greek word
for "Church" ("Ekklesia") means "those
who are called out." Thus, "the
Church" will comprise those members of Israel who will
accept Jesus as their Messiah/King. This will be Jesus'
House of David. And, within that House, Peter
holds the prime minister's Keys (e.g. Isaiah 22).
As for patristic support, look
again to Cassian & Aphraates above. Yet, can you
provide any patristic evidence saying that Matthew 16:19 does not
refer to Isaiah 22?
Interestingly enough, the
Messianic Jew, David H. Stern – who actually attended classes at
Fuller Theological Seminary (as opposed to taking their
correspondance course, like some others we know ;-) provides
abundant evidence that King Hezekiah (the King of Isaiah 22) was
seen as a prefigurement of the Messiah by 1st Century Jews [David
Stern, The Jewish New Testament Commentary,
See what you miss when you skip
"Now, while it is true that, in Matthew 18:18, Jesus bestows a
similar authority to "bind and loosen" upon all of the
Apostles collectively, it is to Peter alone that Christ entrusts
"the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven." So, what are these
Keys? What are they suppose to
signify?" When, specifically,
did Christ bestow the keys ALONE to Peter? The Greek verb
in Matthew 16 is future in tense. Hence, if this does not
take place in Matthew 18:18, when does it? And, can you
cite patristic foundation for saying the keys differ in authority
and meaning from the power of binding and loosing?
:-) First of all, the
way you pose the question is shamefully deceptive, and based on
an incorrect understanding of the Greek. In comparing
Matthew 16:19 and 18:18, the "bind/loose" statements are
each arranged in two couplets. The first verb in the
couplet is an active aorist and the second is a perfect passive
participle which is best translated into English as a passive
future perfect. Thus, the verses literally say
"Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in
Heaven." The obvious meaning of the Matthew 16:19
& 18:18 statements is that whatever the Apostles (and their
successors) bind upon the faithful (i.e., faith or morals) will
not be their own teaching but what has already been bound upon
the Church by God in eternity. So, I am overwhelmed
by your misuse of the Greek.
Yet, to entertain your challenge,
... Peter officially received the
"Keys" of the Kingdom upon Jesus' Ascension into
Heaven. For example, in Acts 1:15-23,
immediately after Jesus' Ascension, yet before the coming of the
Holy Spirit, Peter takes charge of the infant Church and
initiates the election for Judas' successor. Here,
one cannot deny that Peter is acting as an organizer and unifier
for the Church; and that he gives "spiritual
nourishment" to the assembly by authoritatively interpreting
the Psalms (Acts 1:20) – Psalms which say nothing about Judas or
about their Apostolic mission. Thus, Peter is
exhibiting a teaching authority which is independent of the OT
Scriptures; and he does this before the Holy Spirit has supplied
the Church with the charism to teach (Acts 1:8; 1 Corinth
So, Peter's primal authority
(symbolized by the Keys) is manifested from the time of Jesus'
Ascension onward. Just like the OT prime minister of
the Kingdom, Peter can only act with the King's authority in the
King's physical absence.
...And the same is true for Matt
18:18, which is about the Church's authority to
excommunicate. Do you think that Jesus intended
the Church to use this authority while He was still on
earth? If so, please produce an example of the
Apostles excommunicating someone while Jesus was still among
them. Would that not, rather, be Jesus' decision?
As for your problem with Peter
alone receiving the Keys, in relation to Matthew 18:18, .... I
pointed out the following in my debate with Mr. Engwer:
"Mr. Engwer attacks the
idea that Peter alone was given the Keys of the Kingdom by
asserting that the Apostles' collective authority to
"bind and loosen" (Matthew 18:18) is part of the same
imagery as "the Keys." Indeed, Engwer
asks, 'How can they bind and loosen unless they hold the
keys'? He then goes on to speak of the collective
authority to "bind and loosen" exercised by
the "key-holding" Jewish authorities in Luke 11:52
& Matthew 23:1-3; and claims that Peter's possession of the
Keys does not make him the Pope. Well, here
Engwer is blinded by his anti-Papal prejudices, which lead
him to see the Pope as some dictatorial force set over the
Church, rather than being an organic part of the Church
itself. Yes. Like the Jewish authorities,
the Church collectively holds the Keys, in that Peter is part
of this Church and acts along with it. Yet, the
Church does not possess the Keys independently of
Peter. It cannot "bind and loosen" to
the exclusion of him – just as the Jewish authorities could
not "bind and loosen" to the exclusion of the High
Priest, who was the final arbiter of their authority (John
11:49-51 & Acts 23:3-5)."
Furthermore, .... Look
again at Isaiah 22's reference to the prime minister's authority:
...I will place the Key of the House of David on his shoulder;
when he opens, no one shall shut, and when he shuts, no one shall
This assumes that there are others
who can "open and shut" (i.e., other royal ministers
with authority). Yet, when the prime minister
"opens and shuts," that's it. None of the
other ministers can oppose his decision. Why? Because
the prime minister holds the Key of the King's
And so it is with the
Apostles. In Matthew 18:18, the Apostles (i.e., Christ's
"royal ministers") are each given the authority to bind
and loosen. Yet, Peter alone (the prime minister)
holds the Key. Thus, he is the final authority among
the ministers; and they cannot "bind & loosen" to
the exclusion of him.
Why is there no
citation of the only place in the NT where Isaiah 22 is actually
cited (Revelation 3:7) in your presentation? I have found
this a regular omission by RC apologists in presenting this
Oh? :-) Well, as
I also pointed out in my debate with Engwer, ...
"Mr. Engwer also says that
Jesus Himself holds the Key of David in Revelation 3:7.
Well, of course! Just as Jesus remains the true
Shepherd (in Heaven) while Peter is merely the vicarious shepherd
(on earth), Jesus never relinquishes total authority.
Rather, He merely delegates it to Peter, His servant.
This is exactly the situation in Isaiah 22, where Eliachim
holds the key for King Hezekiah. Yet, Hezekiah still
ultimately holds the key. Thus, we're not
dealing with an "either-or" situation, but a
"both-and" situation. And, if you interpret
Revelation 3:7 any other way, then you are demoting Jesus from King to
So, do you subscribe to an
"either-or" interpretation, James?
:-) Well, if so, then how do you reconcile Revelation 3:7's
unmistakable use of Isaiah 22 with the Kingship of Christ?
The person who possesses the Key in Isaiah 22 is not the
King, but the prime minister. Thus, is St. John
saying that Jesus is merely the prime minister???? :-)
Furthermore, you do realize that
we're not taking about physical keys here, right?
Rather, this "Key" is
merely a metaphor for "authority." Thus,
when Jesus gives the Key (or Keys) to Peter, it does not mean
that Christ Himself no longer possess them. For
example, if I hold the title of ownership to my car, yet allow
you to drive it as my chauffeur, it's still my car. I still
possess it. You are just driving it for
me. Thus, Jesus' possession of the Key in Revelation 3:7
does not mean that He is without a prime minister on
earth. Such an interpretation would assume that, in
giving the Keys to Peter, Jesus no longer possessed them Himself
for a time; yet now somehow has them back in Revelation 3:7.
Well, if that's what you think,
please show me where the Scriptures depict Peter relinquishing
the Keys of Matthew 16 or returning them to Jesus.
And, indeed, James, I'm a bit
puzzled about your own position on this issue, since you attack
our interpretation without seeming to have an established
interpretation of your own. For example, ...
You imply that ....A) The
"Key" of Isaiah 22 is not the same thing as the
"Keys" of Matthew 16, whereas Jesus Himself possesses the
Key of Isaiah 22 in Revelation 3:7.
Well, if that's the case, then
Jesus is merely a prime minister, or His own prime minister,
since Revelation 3:7 is a direct reference to Isaiah 22, which speaks
about the prime minister, and not the King. But, in
any event, you are clearly saying that Jesus alone holds
authority and does not delegate it to anyone else.
Yet, you also imply ...
B) The power to "bind &
loosen" in Matthew 18:18 is the same thing as the Keys in Matthew
16, and thus the Keys are shared equally by all the Apostles.
Yet, if "A" is correct,
then neither Peter nor the Apostles (nor the Church) hold
authoritative Keys or the power to bind and loosen, since 1)
these Keys do not refer to the delegation of Christ's authority
(per Isaiah 22) and 2) Jesus Himself holds the exclusive
authority to "bind and loosen" represented by the Key
of Revelation 3:7 (which is the Key of Isaiah 22). And so,
if Jesus alone holds this authority, He doesn't have any earthly
representative(s); and thus Matthew 16 & Matthew 18 are empty,
ephemeral promises which have no significance for us today.
So, which is it?
:-) You can only hold to one or the other.
Either we Catholics are confusing the Apostles' collective
authority and foolishly applying it to Peter alone, or there is
no bestowed authority, since Christ Himself possesses it
exclusively (i.e., Revelation 3:7). So, which is our error,
James? It cannot be both.