The Future Perfect of Matthew 16:19, 18:18

In Matthew 16:19, Jesus stated to Peter, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” A similar statement is made in Matthew 18:18 concerning all of the apostles. Catholics have long used this verse to justify the authority of church tradition. They state that it was always Jesus’ intention for the apostles to determine doctrinal matters and that heaven would then “ratify” the apostles’ decisions in that regard. Such could not be further from the truth, but upon initial inspection this appears to be what is being taught in these verses. Did Jesus really intend for the apostles and eventually the church to make doctrine? If not, then why is this worded this way?
This words under consideration in this passage, namely, “shall be bound” and “shall be loosed” are from a Greek participle that is in the Future Perfect tense. Rienecker and Rogers (pg. 49) state, “This construction is the fut. perf. pass. periphrastic trans. ‘will have been bound,’ ‘will have been loosed.’ It is the church on earth carrying out heaven’s decisions, not heaven ratifying the church’s decision.” It is also interesting to note that such a use of the Future Perfect has been consistent in the Greek language since classical times.
Hence, this passage should not read as it does in the common translation, but rather should read, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” The same is true for Matthew 18:18 as well. With this understanding of the verse, the Catholic dogmatist has no ground upon which to stand in claiming that “church tradition” is as equally authoritative as heaven’s pronouncements themselves.

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Kevin Cauley

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