Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Keys In Matthew 18:18

See this Twitter thread from The Other Paul for some good points about Cameron Bertuzzi's recent video on alleged evidence for a papacy in Isaiah 22. We've said a lot about Isaiah 22 and the papacy over the years, and anybody who's interested can search our archives. In the remainder of this post, I want to add some points to the ones made by The Other Paul.

There are multiple reasons for thinking the disciples have the keys of Matthew 16:19 in 18:18. There's significant conceptual overlap between keys and the actions of opening and shutting and binding and loosing. You use a key to open or shut a door, you use a key to bind or loose (lock or unlock) a padlock, etc. Cameron's video was too narrowly focused. You need to look at the overall Biblical (and extrabiblical) pattern of how the relevant terminology is used: Judges 3:25, Matthew 23:13, Luke 11:52, Acts 14:27, Revelation 9:1-2, 20:1-7, etc. Sometimes both a key and its function will be mentioned. Other times, only the key or only the function will be mentioned. The key is involved, even if its involvement isn't spelled out. For example, Revelation 20:1-2 mentions binding just after mentioning a key, whereas verse 7 mentions releasing without mentioning the key, but the use of the key in verse 7 is implied. Matthew 23 criticizes the Jewish authorities for the abuse of opening and shutting without mentioning a key, whereas Luke 11 criticizes them for the abuse of a key without mentioning opening and shutting. It would be unreasonable to argue that the conceptual overlap between keys and opening/shutting and binding/loosing and the lengthy pattern of those activities' being mentioned in close proximity with the mentioning of keys are merely coincidental. Separating the binding and loosing of Matthew 18:18 from the keys of 16:19 is a less likely interpretation.

Isaiah 22 is relevant to how we interpret Matthew 16. But it's also relevant to how we interpret Judges 3, Matthew 23, Revelation 9, and so on. The concepts and terminology in question are broad and are applied in a large number and variety of ways.

Cameron and his guest suggested that there isn't much significance to the differences between Isaiah 22 and Matthew 16 and that there isn't much significance to the larger degree of similarity between Isaiah 22 and Revelation 3. But Revelation 3 illustrates how much more closely Matthew 16 could have been paralleled to Isaiah 22 if Jesus had wanted us to think in terms of a closer rather than a more distant relationship. During the course of Cameron's program, he and his guest paralleled Jesus to three different figures in Isaiah 22: God, the king, and Eliakim. If Jesus can be paralleled to all three of those figures, multiple individuals are being paralleled to Eliakim (Peter in Matthew 16, Jesus in Revelation 3, and all of the disciples in Matthew 18), one key in Isaiah 22 is being paralleled to multiple keys in Matthew 16, a peg in Isaiah 22 is being paralleled to a rock in Matthew 16 (as explained by Cameron and his guest), the falling away of Isaiah 22:25 isn't being applied to the papacy, and so forth, how do we supposedly know that whatever would need to be paralleled in order to justify a papacy should be paralleled?

Near the end of the video, they took some audience questions and comments. Geoff Robinson asked, "How would we falsify any new proposed typology? Could we use history to notice the lack of an early papacy?" To illustrate the sort of evidence that could be cited, here are several of the relevant points:

- The earliest Christians developed titles for other offices, such as apostle, elder, and deacon. There's no early title for a papal office.

- The qualifications for holding other offices are addressed, such as the qualifications for apostleship in Acts 1 and for eldership in 1 Timothy 3, but there's no such discussion of the qualifications for a papal office.

- When the structure of the church is discussed, such as in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, no papal office is mentioned. To the contrary, the reference to the plural "apostles" in 1 Corinthians 12:28 makes the most sense as a contradiction of the concept of a papacy.

- The imagery used to refer to the church doesn't include any reference to a papacy. When the church is likened to a body in 1 Corinthians 12, for example, there's no reference to Jesus being the head in heaven while Peter is the head on earth, the bishops of Rome being the head while Jesus is the mind, the bishops of Rome being the mouth while Jesus is the remainder of the head, or any other such thing. Similarly, Ephesians 2:20 makes an effort to distinguish between Jesus and the apostles, but makes no effort to distinguish between Peter and the other apostles. And so on.

- Likewise, the imagery used to refer to the apostles makes no reference to a papacy, but instead suggests equality (e.g., Matthew 19:28, Revelation 21:14). Galatians 2:9 not only puts Peter in the same category as the other apostles involved, but even names him second, after James. That makes more sense if Peter wasn't viewed as a Pope at the time than if he was viewed as a Pope.

- There's some material in the New Testament that we might refer to as departure passages: Paul departing from the Ephesian church in Acts 20, his anticipation of his death in 2 Timothy, and Peter's anticipation of his death in 2 Peter. In all of those departure contexts, there's no reference to a papal office, looking to the bishop of Rome as the foundation of the church, looking to the bishop of Rome as the center of Christian unity, or anything like that. There are references to remembering what Paul and Peter taught, the authority of scripture, and so forth, but no references to a papacy.

- The earliest sources to comment on the Roman church and its importance (Paul in Romans, Luke at the end of Acts, Ignatius, Dionysius of Corinth, Irenaeus, etc.) give a variety of non-papal reasons for the Roman church's significance. They mention virtues like faith, love, and generosity and other non-papal factors, like the Roman church's faithfulness to apostolic teaching, its location in the capital of the empire, and the presence and martyrdom of Peter and Paul in Rome. A papacy isn't mentioned (and can't be assumed to be present in references to Peter that don't specify papal authority, since Peter's relationship with the Roman church wouldn't have to be papal in order to be significant).

- As I've discussed elsewhere, the early opponents of Christianity, including ones who addressed the religion at as much length as Trypho and Celsus did, showed no awareness of a papacy.

For discussions of other lines of evidence against the early existence of a papacy, see here.


  1. Excellent points. I am friends with Cam's guest. He is a great guy personally. But we had an extended correspondence on this. The earliest reference to Eliakim being tied to Peter was an Egyptian Monk's poem as I recall. I was stunned at how my friend had no idea on the context of Isaiah and Kings in regards to Eliakim and Shebna. He thought he found the Rosetta stone to decode the papacy. He really did not understand how to read in context the passages (including) Matthew nor did he consider alternative intepretations. For the RCC their ecclesiology is their hermenuetic. But if this is what they have to use to prop up the Papacy then it truly is a house of cards.

  2. "The earliest Christians developed titles for other offices, such as apostle, elder, and deacon. There's no early title for a papal office."

    This is a good point. I sometimes hear catholics say, "well we wouldn't expect a specific reference to the papacy that early," to which I reply, "why not?" As mentioned, if early titles like deacon, elder and overseer were present, then why not pope?