Who does Matthew 16:19 tell us has the keys to bind and to loosen? Does everyone have the keys to bind, to loose? Do only a select few? Also, what is this “binding and loosing”? Hebrew manuscripts of the Gospel According to Matthew make these distinctions clear. While what we find there may be disappointing to some, it is encouraging to all that Yehovah trusts His selected ones with the golden keys to His heart.
Shem Tov Matthew
To begin with, I compared Matthew 16:19 in the Cambridge Matthew Gospels1 with the Shem Tov Matthew, and both Hebrew renderings are identical. Additionally, the Shem Tov Matthew has academic support for having “survived outside of the hegemony of the Roman Church,” that is, it preserves Hebrew tradition.2 For example, one of the most important variances between Matthew from the Greek manuscripts and the Shem Tov Matthew is here:
" ...The scribes and the Pharisees sit on the seat of Moses; therefore, all THEY tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds," Matthew 23:2-3 (Greek translation, emphasis mine).
In the Shem Tov Matthew, however, the Hebrew reads “HE tells you” instead of “THEY tell you,” meaning “obey Moses,” not “obey the scribes and Pharisees”:
ועתה כל אשר יאמר לכם שמרו ועשו ובתקנתיהם ומעשיהם אל תעשו שהם אומרים והם אינם עושים
“And now everything that he tells you, keep and do, and do not do their ordinances and deeds; do not do which they say, and they do not do” (emphasis mine).
Bind=Forbid And Loose=Permit
At Matthew 16:19, a proper translation from the Greek manuscripts appears strikingly different than what we’ve been taught! Consider my updated translation, below:
"And I shall give you the keys of the reign of the heavens, and whatever you FORBID/PROHIBIT on earth shall be, having been PROHIBITED/FORBIDDEN in the heavens; and whatever you SET FREE/PERMIT on earth shall be, having been SET FREE/PERMITTED in the heavens,” corrected Greek translation of Matthew 16:19.
We understand this “binding and loosing” in terms of binding an enemy with ropes, while loosening the ropes of one who must be freed.
The Greek Reveals The Truth
When analyzing the Greek in this passage, we must consider to whom Yeshua is speaking:
'He said to them, “And you, who do you say I am?” And Simon Peter answering, said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living Elohim.” And Yeshua answering, said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father in the heavens. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I shall build My assembly, and the gates of She’ol shall not overcome it. And I shall give you the keys of the reign of the heavens, and whatever you bind on earth shall be, having been bound in the heavens, and whatever you loose on earth shall be, having been loosed in the heavens,” Matthew 16:15-19 (emphasis mine).
Notice in verse 15 through 18, Yeshua is speaking directly to Peter, proclaiming that the Father has revealed a matter to Peter. In the Greek the word σοι (soi) meaning “to you” is second person singular.1 Clearly, the other apostles aren’t being addressed in these verses. From there to verse 19, the blessing that has been bestowed upon Peter, continues.
The Hebrew Reveals The Truth
Now, consider these verses in Hebrew, from the Cambridge Gospels. This verse in the Cambridge Hebrew Gospels is also identical to the Shem Tov Matthew. But to whom is Yeshua speaking?
לך אתן מפתחות של שמים וכל מה שאתה אוסר בעולם יהיו אסורים בשמים וכל מה שיתר יהיו מותרים משמים
"I will give you the keys of heaven and everything (or whatever) you prohibit (bind, as imprison; take captive) in the world (or what is hidden, uncertain, undefined) will be prohibited in heaven and everything else will be permitted from heaven,"2 Matthew 16:19.
The Hebrew begins with לך (lecha) meaning “to you” (or “belonging to you”). The suffix is a 2nd person masculine singular pronominal suffix. Therefore, it is clear to whom Yeshua is speaking: to Peter. The suffix clearly indicates that this is one man only, not many. If Yeshua were speaking to all the Apostles or all his followers, the word would appear as לכם (lachem), 2nd person masculine plural pronominal suffix.
In conclusion, it is essential that we understand who Yeshua is speaking to in Matthew 16:19. Because if Yeshua is speaking to Peter only, then he was not speaking to all the Disciples, nor was he speaking to all his followers. In the Greek, and in the Hebrew as well, Yeshua speaks directly to Peter. Therefore, only Peter had binding and loosing authority, as stated at Matthew 16:19.
So, who has the keys to bind and to loose? According to Scripture, only a select few are gifted the keys which bind and loosen, not all believers. However, we can rest assured that whoever is chosen to wield them knows how and when to use the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven!
1 Bible Hub; Matthew 16:19. Greek Translation. Website: Matthew 16:19 Greek Text Analysis (biblehub.com)
2 Jones PhD, Miles R. The Hebrew Gospels: Do They Exist? 2020. pp 19-20
3 Cambridge Gaster 1616 and Cochin Oo.16.1 manuscripts, collectively referred to as the Cochin Manuscript, currently unpublished