An Exchange on Matthew 16: 19 and 18: 18
The following exchange involves the verb perfect tense posture of "bound" and "loose" in Matthew 16: 19 and 18: 18. The view seen in my opponent’s position is basically the same as that of the Catholic position; namely, that heaven’s decision to bind and loose; first, in the matter of legislation and salvation and then in forgiveness was determined by the authority invested in Peter and the apostles. Hence, a position that attempts to weaken the authority resident in the word and place such authority in man. This exchange also treats these verses and provides some general exegesis as to the meaning of Matthew 16: 19 and 18: 18.
Don Martin to Steve and the list:
Steve and the list, I bid you a good day. Thank you
for reading and replying to my update to our Websites post in which Matthew 16:
19 and 18: 18 are mentioned.
Greek, in this case, Greek verbs, is a very interesting science. There are certain grammar laws that are firmly established based on the re-construction of New Testament Greek usage and, then, there are interpretive applications, in some cases, of these grammar rules.
Regarding the perfect tense of Greek verbs, there are a number of nuances, if you will. Such "special" usage as what Greek grammarians call aoristic perfect, gnomic perfect, and proleptic perfect to name a few. Some consider the periphrastic future perfect as the same as proleptic perfect. Regarding the simple perfect tense in Greek verbs, Burton in his classic, Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek wrote, "...expression of completed action" (p. 42). The periphrastic future perfect, that for which you appear to be contending, involves an element of interpretation.
You wrote regarding Jesus' words to Peter in Matthew 16: 19:
"First of all, your verb form ('shall have already
been....') is a 'future perfect tense'. Wikipedia described such a tense as:
'Future perfect tense describes an action that will occur in the future before
some other action. This tense is formed by using `will have' with the past
participle of the verb.' Here the past participle is 'been' from the verb 'to
Steve, I am not sure I fully understand your grammatical explanation and your primary disagreement with what I have taught (I think I do). Since I do not want to misrepresent you, I shall use this post for a little additional explanation and end with a probative question to you. I hope these posts will be of interest to others and I shall attempt to keep them as simple as I can. I would also like for some on this list who have taken the Online Greek Course in Bible Truths to closely follow and offer some comments later. Allow me to lay a little ground work.
The Greek under review, as far as Matthew 16: 19 is concerned, is, hestai dedemenon en tois ouranois....hestai lelumenon en tois ouranois. This is the English rendering (KJV): "...shall be bound in heaven...shall be loosed in heaven." Two key words of our discussion are: "bound" (dedemenon) and "loose (lelumenon). Lelumenon has the following attached grammatical information:
Nominative, singular, neuter, participle, perfect,
passive" (The Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 250). Hence, our
reference to "perfect tense." In Matthew 18: 18, dedemena ("shall be
bound," KJV) and lelumena ("shall be loosed," KJV) are: nominative,
plural, neuter, participle, perfect, passive and nominative, plural, neuter,
participle, perfect, passive, respectively (The Analytical Greek Lexicon,
pg. 85; 250).
Steve, I shall stop for now to see if you have any comments or disagreements on my just stated.
Again, thanks for your observations. When we complete this gradation of our study, I shall advance to your good questions and attempt to provide my explanation. In addition, I also want to see what is the perceived consequence of our basic difference, for instance, do you agree with the above relative to the simple perfect tense?
For the sake of clarity, I shall insert below my original post to this Internet list, the post that precipitated this discussion (second part of update post):
Matthew 16: 19 and 18: 18, Don replies to Steve:
Steve and the list, it is my desire to have a good, friendly, and profitable discussion, one that is not simply linguistic, but supplies some practical application. I am not out to make anybody look bad or castigate. Therefore, I shall refrain from childish diatribe and focus on the study at hand and not reply in kind to any posts that engage in such as just mentioned. Steve, thank you for both your interest and time. It is my understanding that both you and I simply want the truth, in this case, regarding the binding and loosening in Matthew 16: 19 and 18: 18. It is also on record that you have challenged my teaching regarding the perfect tense of the verbs under consideration.
"If, on the other hand, use of the plain future tense is indicated, that implies that Heaven's decision follows the decision by man regarding the binding and loosening. While this says nothing about which decisions to which it is applicable nor which men are to make such decisions, it does open possibilities. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches hold that it allows them (their councils) to continue to make and change binding rules even today."
Anterior to the foregoing, you stated:
"Its clear implication is that Heaven pays attention, at least in part, to the 'binding and loosening' made by men on earth and makes Heaven's decisions with man's input. To try to claim that Christ was saying 'you are going to be mere mouthpieces of Heaven's decisions on sin as conveyed through the Holy Spirit' is not what Christ was saying and gets the sequence of decision-making wrong. Christ told his listeners they would be binding and loosening sins and then heaven would add its imprimatur."
On another occasion, you wrote concerning what I had taught:
"By your interpretation, if Peter or the other disciples bind or loose any sins on earth, those sins ‘shall already have been’ bound or loosed in heaven. The heavenly action, according to you, occurs first. That is akin (at least a second cousin) to Calvinism's predestination to me."
By way of brief reminder, I stated:
"Regarding the perfect tense of Greek verbs, there
are a number of nuances, if you will. Such ‘special’ usage as what Greek
grammarians call aoristic perfect, gnomic perfect, and proleptic perfect to name
a few. Some consider the periphrastic future perfect as the same as
proleptic perfect. Regarding the simple perfect tense in Greek verbs,
Burton in his classic, Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek wrote,
‘...expression of completed action’ (p. 42). The periphrastic future
perfect, that for which you appear to be contending, involves an element of
I also wrote:
"The Greek under review, as far as Matthew 16: 19 is concerned, is, hestai dedemenon en tois ouranois....hestai lelumenon en tois ouranois. This is the English rendering (KJV): '...shall be bound in heaven...shall be loosed in heaven.' Two key words of our discussion are: 'bound' (dedemenon) and 'loose' (lelumenon). Lelumenon has the following attached grammatical information: 'Nominative, singular, neuter, participle, perfect, passive' (The Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 250). Hence, our reference to 'perfect tense.' In Matthew 18: 18, dedemena ('shall be bound,' KJV) and lelumena ('shall be loosed,' KJV) are: nominative, plural, neuter, participle, perfect, passive and nominative, plural, neuter, participle, perfect, passive, respectively (The Analytical Greek Lexicon, pg. 85; 250).
I kindly remind us all that "...regarding the simple perfect tense in Greek verbs, Burton in his classic, Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek wrote, '...expression of completed action' (p. 42)." Regarding other "special cases," which could include the aoristic perfect, gnomic perfect, proleptic perfect, and the periphrastic future perfect, interpretation is often required. This interpretation can be (should be) based on the syntax of the sentence in which the verb occurs and a comparison with analogous usage found elsewhere. Bias and already formed opinions must not be allowed to be the criteria.
Please see my next post.
Don Martin to Steve and the list:
Steve, I am still not sure I understand what exactly
you are saying, if anything, as to the grammar difference between what the
apostles would do and then the consequence (...thou shalt bind). It is
regarding the consequence that I have made my points ("shalt be bound in
heaven"). The Greek verb tense in the first instance is, "second person,
plural, aor. 1, subjunctive mood, and active voice (The Analytical Greek
Lexicon, pg. 90, Matt. 16: 19). The same verb tense and particulars
are seen regarding the first part of Matthew 18: 18 (Ibid., pg. 90, 254).
The first part of both verses is rather simple and nondescript. It is the
second part that is more grammatically emphatic, the part that involves the
perfect tense. Allow me again, please, to focus on the second part.
The Greek, again, is, hestai dedemenon en tois ouranois....hestai lelumenon en tois ouranois. Common English rendering, "...shall be bound in heaven" and, "...shall be loosed in heaven."
All Greek scholars know that there can be idiom challenges in translating Greek into English. The restored Greek of the New Testament is such a rich and precise grammar compared to most languages. Many English translations do not even attempt to translate some of the Greek verb nuances. Steve, I think you have witnessed some of this in your translation research.
Nestles/Marshall's Interlinear Greek-English New Testament has stood the test of time and remains one of the best Greek interlinear productions. Remember that involved in the verb tense being considered is the participle form and perfect tense. Notice the translation from the Greek in Matthew 16: 19 in this just mentioned work: "...shall be having been bound...." and, "shall be having been loosed...."
As mentioned, most of our 75 in vogue English translations ignore some of the finer Greek verb tenses and posture. One work that sought to do justice to Greek verb tense is The Amplified New Testament. Notice the expanded rendering in Matthew 16: 19, second part: "...must be already bound in heaven...." and, "...must be what is already loosed in heaven." I always recommend The Amplified New Testament to my Greek students when it comes to verb consideration.
You mentioned the New American Standard. I still prefer the American Standard of 1901 in general, but the New American Standard did offer some improvement relative to Greek verb consideration, in some cases (you sited this work). They do not treat the participle presence in our verbs under review, but do bring out the perfect tense: "...shall have been bound in heaven..." and, "...shall have been loosed in heaven." (Same basic grammatical action seen in Matthew 18: 18).
Hence, there is action ascribed to the apostles and also an action that will have preceded their action that takes place in heaven (the point that precipitated your disagreement with me).
I might briefly inject that while the two verses (Matt. 16: 19 and Matt. 18: 18) involve the same verb action and actors, the apostles, the particular appears different. From the two contexts, we gather that the contemplated action of Matthew 16: 19 that Peter was to perform that was already done in heaven, simply stated, involved the matter of pronouncing "lawful" and "unlawful." Such emphasizes the authority of the scriptures and heaven's approval, not any alleged intrinsic authority residing in Peter as a man.
In the second case, Matt. 18: 18, the action involves forgiveness and considers the action of the apostles, an action that had already occurred in heaven. Such again stresses that forgiveness is not the product of any inherent virtue or efficacy of man, not even the apostles.
Please see my next post.
Don Martin to Steve and the list:
I once again thank you, Steve, and all of you
following this friendly discussion for your interest.
In view of our treatment of the Greek pertinent grammar in Matthew 16: 19 and 18: 18, one might ask, "Why is there not more common clarity regarding the perfect tense translation in these verses?" I think one reason is the influence of Catholicism. After all, the Pope is believed to, "...have the efficacy to legislate and forgive sins."
Another source of influence is the movement that seeks to draw away man from what they call the "legalistic" notion of authority residing in the scriptures and in heaven. The only way the apostles could legislate would be by virtue of heaven already authorizing such legislation and the only way the apostles could forgive sins would be by the efficacy of heaven.
Steve, I intend to comment on your good questions, but I shall once again wait to see if you have any thing to say pertaining to these last three posts.
Don Martin to Robert and Frank:
I personally think we have had a good discussion
regarding the verb tense and consequent meaning of Matthew 16: 19 and 18: 18.
I want to especially thank Steve for his good contributions. I plan on
making this post to address Robert and Frank and then two final posts that
should include anything left hanging, at least, this is my present plan.
"Just a question to add further fuel to this issue of verb tense. How can verb tense have any meaning in relation to God's actions. As I understand it time only exists for humans (or perhaps more technically correct things in the universe), If God exists outside of time then all references to him doing things in a time-ordered way must be in someway 'metaphorical' for our benefit in understanding. This is for me a real question and lies in the area of me with my finite (time based and time constained) nature NEVER being able to comprehend the mind of God which is infinite and beyond human understanding."
Thanks, Robert, for your interest and input. You are correct in that God is not limited by earth's time. This is precisely what the apostle Peter means in 2 Peter 3: 8, 9. On the other hand, God does take into account time (Gal. 4: 4, Heb. 5: 11-14). The perfect tense of Greek verbs can and I believe does serve as a language instrument for God to express time matters. In the case of Matthew 16: 19 and 18: 18, the matter of legislation and forgiveness, respectively, have already been settled in heaven and the apostles simply conveyed God's will in the matter.
"Suffice it to say that I would have disagreed with Don's answer anyway, but I could not do so based on the verb tenses in the English translations. My issue was and is with what Don infers from the words used in this passage. Simply reaching a good translation does not end the work of finding the meaning of a passage. It may help, but it is only one step in the process we call hermeneutics."
Frank, thank you for the couple good posts you have made relative to this discussion. My goal as a teacher is to try to cause people to think and consider. You are right in that grammar rules and laws are one thing and application is another. I sincerely believe, though, that my offered exegesis of the perfect tense in Matthew 16: 19 and 18: 18 is sound and correct. Nonetheless, it is up to each Bible student to consider these matters and make up their own mind.
I invite all to consider my next two posts.
Don Martin to Steve and the list:
I appreciate the comments and interest on Jesus'
teaching in Matthew 16: 19 and 18: 18, regarding the meaning and attendant
"...and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16: 19).
"18: Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 18: 18).
We have seen that different action is being considered by Jesus regarding the apostles in the two verses. To "bind" in Matthew 16: 19 appears to mean forbid or to pronounce unlawful and "to loose" seems to mean to allow or declare lawful. Peter exercised the "keys of the kingdom" in Acts 2 for the first official time and fully declared the gospel, the seed of the kingdom (Luke 8: 11). To "bind" and "loose" were so used among the Jews. In the matter of the forgiveness of Matthew 18: 18, to "bind" seems to refer to the retention of sins while "to loose" the pardon and forgiveness (see context).
Based on the perfect, participle posture of the used key Greek verbs in the case of the consequential action of "binding" and "loosing" in heaven, the action is presented as already having been done. We saw Marshall's treatment of these perfect tense verbs as follows:
"...shall be having been bound...." and, "shall be having been loosed...." (Matt. 16: 19, Nestles/Marshall's Interlinear Greek-English New Testament).
Hence, the apostles in the matter of legislation and forgiveness did not intrinsically possess authority, they simply implemented what heaven had already declared.
Steve in his objection to what I have taught has raised two good questions. I shall now address them.
"1. If the things to be 'bound and loosed' were delivered through the all-words-inspired preaching and gospel writings, why do the verses say the 'binding and loosening' occurred in heaven after the similar action on earth? Under a scenario where only heaven makes the decisions, the heavenly action has to occur first, but this is not what the language says...."
I think we have already clarified this matter in the treatment of the key Greek perfect verbs. The action was not, (1) the apostles legislated and forgave and (2) heaven responded by accepting the actions of the apostles. The action was (1) heaven decreed and (2) the apostles merely with heaven's authority declared the disposition of God in such matters as legislation and forgiveness (the grammatical information of Matthew 16: 19 and 18: 18).
Steve asked and stated:
"2. Moreover, under your interpretation, Peter and the other disciples had no power to 'bind and loose' sins, but merely to deliver to listeners the prior decision of heaven concerning 'binding and loosening' sins. Once again, this flies in the face of the language of Christ."
This is correct. The apostles were thus acting as "...ambassadors for Christ" (cp. 2 Cor. 5: 20). Jesus had and has "all authority" (Matt. 28: 19). Jesus' teaching is that medium in and through which Jesus articulates his will and authority (Matt. 7: 21-29).
Steve has stated that what I have taught is Calvinism. While I do not accept the teachings of Augustine and then the view later popularized by John Calvin, I most certainly do embrace biblical predestination (Rom. 8: 29, 30). God said of Himself thus:
"9: Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10: Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Isa. 46).
Before there were "much people" in Corinth, God encouraged Paul with the words: "...for I have much people in this city" (Acts 18: 10). God knew a forehand the hearts of the Corinthians and how that when they heard the gospel, they would accept it.
Please see my next post.
Don Martin to Steve and the list:
We have noted that some consider the periphrastic
future perfect as the same as proleptic perfect. Prolepsis is the figure
that considers a matter as a reality before it actually becomes a reality. Under
prolepsis, Eve was called, "...the mother of all living" (Gen. 3: 20). It was so
certain that Eve would bring into this world many and thus stand as the
"progenitor" of man-kind that she is called the mother of all living before the
fact. God has decreed many things in His sovereign will and the Greek
perfect tense is often indicative of such, I humbly submit. Hence, the
apostles as God's ambassadors were carrying out what heaven had already decreed.
The matter of legislation and forgiveness belong to God and man has no say in
the matter, other than to present God's resolved will.
Steve and the list, I have enjoyed this friendly discussion and I thank the list owners for this opportunity. I apologize for not being able to more clearly discuss the involved matters and freely confess that there is so much that I do not know. It is funny how one studies for many years only to learn that there is so much one does not know!
I mentioned earlier that a number on this list have taken the Online Greek Course in Bible Truths. Perhaps you would have some additional comments that might well contribute and augment my feeble efforts. I personally would welcome such.
Don Martin to Steve and the list:
It appears your last post is your concluding post
and I did want to provide some answers and comments. I trust any with
additional questions will revisit my previous posts.
"I wanted to make a short response to a couple of points you raised: a. The phrase ".....shall be bound (or loosed) in heaven..." is not a proleptic phrase. As you note, a prolepsis considers a future matter to be reality now. A Western movie (grade B) example would be "If I walk through that door, pilgrim, you are a dead man." Here, "you are a dead man" is a proleptic. It considers you to be dead now although that is in the future.
Thank you, Steve, for bringing attention to the above matter. As I have said, there are facts and laws relative to Greek grammar and then there are areas of interpretations. In all candor, while there is no doubt about the perfect tense posture of the verbs that we have studied in Matthew 16: 19 and 18: 18, thus containing a past reference, simply stated, the matter of possible prolepsis involves interpretation. I mentioned prolepsis regarding the perfect tense of the verbs we have discussed: dedemenon (bind) lelumenon (loose) in Matthew 16: 19 and dedemena (bound) and lelumena loosed) in Matthew 18: 18. The point I was trying to make regarding the perfect tense in this case was that a matter had already been settled, a matter that was so sure to find its complete happening later with the apostles in the circumstances of Matthew 16: 19 and 18: 18 that the whole thing was considered already accomplished (sort of a reversal circumstance perspective). I am afraid that I am not doing a very good job explaining this and I apologize. Perhaps I should not have even injected the idea of prolepsis. Still, the perfect tense is present.
Allow me now to place the focus on the verb estai ("shall be"). It seems I have assumed too much and may have failed to address this verb. Here is once again Matthew 16: 19 as it appears first in the King James:
"19: And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be (estai, dm) bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be (estai, dm) loosed in heaven."
Here is the verse in the Amplified New Testament:
"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind - that is, declare to be improper and unlawful - on earth must be already bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth – declare lawful - must be what is already loosed in heaven."
Notice that this rendering does not contain "shall be." There is a foot note for "must" and it reads: "Williams: 'Perfect passive participle, so things in a state of having been already forbidden [or permitted]."
These points being discussed involve some of the higher considerations of tense application, being influenced by syntax and context. However, the Amplified New Testament certainly does offer a substantive answer and consideration to our points. Again, I think the point is not that the apostles possessed any innate authority, but the authority resided in heaven and had already been decided. I apologize for not making this point earlier regarding the verb estai part of the syntax of our main focus.
Steve finished by saying:
Let me express my appreciation to you for your responses and the obvious work and thought you put into them. Also, like you, as I grow older, I am more and more struck by the vast areas of possible learning into which I have never ventured.
Steve, I concur and again thank you for your thoughts and comments. I think you points and my observations have resulted in a good study and have presented material for others to consider.
Don Martin to Frank and the list:
I want to provide a few comments and replies to
Frank's post to Allen
concerning my points on Matthew 16: 19 and 18: 18.
"I haven't taken Don's course, nor have I read it.
The way he has phrased his ‘application’ (his word choice) of the text and what
each of the words ‘seems’ to say makes his desire to read into the text a
law-making or ‘legislating’ both obvious and prominent. And Allen, you
were indeed correct in seeing that this is where I found disagreement with Don's
view. There simply is no legislating going on here - there was a revealing
and unfolding of how the life of a follower is lived out, but no legal code by
which to make judgments of one another (which is not our role to do anyway!),
nor even of ourselves.
We were not called to perfect performance. We were called to redeemed relationship with our Father."
Frank, I do not know why you have a problem with my statement that there are two actions under consideration involving the apostles in Matthew 16: 19 and 18: 18. The matter of using the keys of the kingdom of heaven which certainly involved the matter of legislation that had already been settled in heaven and then the matter of forgiveness, respectively. This legislation involved salvation, as seen when the gospel was first preached (keys of the kingdom) in Acts 2 (vs. 37-46).
You see, Frank, I do not isolate and separate love, salvation, blessings and obedience, truth, and submission. John wrote:
"2: By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3: For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" (I John 5).
Having said the above, let me immediately say to hopefully avert accusation that I believe man "...saves himself by his perfect works": Such is not possible (cp. Tit. 3: 5). However, we are to humbly strive to do the will of God and then we must look to His grace with a reference to our shortcomings (Eph. 2: 8-10, Luke 17: 10). Salvation by God alone, grace alone is wrong and, conversely, salvation by man alone (works) is wrong. May God help us to harmoniously learn to blend and merge the two as God intends (Phili. 2: 11, 12).