From: Paul & Ramona Aldridge
Subject: binding and loosing
Shalom to all,
I am trying to find out information on the phrase "binding and
loosing". There is much confusion where I live on this matter. Can
anyone help me out with this?
"Binding and Loosing"
In Messianic Perspective
By Dr. Joseph B. Fuiten
"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind
on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will
be loosed in heaven."
"I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in
heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you
ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where
two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
These two passages have caused considerable discussion in every era of
the church. However, in recent years some have applied a new way of
thinking about theses passages that had not previously existed in the
church Which way of thinking is correct? It seems to me that
applying a Hebraic way of understanding these terms would bring the
maximum amount of light to the subject.
The Torah which G-d gave on Mt. Sinai formed the basis of relationship
with Israel. It was both a simple and complex relationship. On the
one hand the Torah was simple. Yet in daily life it often became
complex. In the earliest days, Moshe himself both instructed the
people in the Torah and decided complicated matters of law for them.
Moshe said, "Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I
decide between the parties and inform them of G-d's decrees and laws."
In time this became too much for Moshe alone and he appointed
assistants. His father-in-law, Jethro, gave this advice:
But select capable men from all the people-- men who fear G-d,
trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain-- and appoint them as
officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve
as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every
difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves.
That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.
In time, this group of assistants in the Torah became an institution
in their own right. Authority soon rested among the rabbi's to
interpret the meaning of the Torah. They would consider the
principles of the Torah, and decide issues. The decisions which they
made had the force of the original Torah itself. Over the centuries,
Rabbinical expansion of the principles of the Torah took place in all
areas of community life.
The Rabbis were constantly called upon by their community to interpret
scriptural commands. Was such-and-such an action permitted? Was
such-and such a thing or person ritually clean? The Bible, for
example, forbids working on Saturday., but it does not define "work."
As a result, the Rabbis were called upon to declare what an
individual was and was not permitted to do on the Sabbath. They
"bound" (prohibited) certain activities, and "loosened" (allowed)
In the Hebrew way of thinking, binding and Loosing is the
interpretation of the Torah. Anyone who acted in this capacity was
sitting in the seat of Moshe. It is easy to see why they used that
term. Since Moshe had acted in this way when he was alive,
interpreting the Torah, and since they were carrying on that
tradition, they were sitting in his seat.
Yeshua himself acknowledged the authority that resided in the teachers
of the Torah and among the Pharisees.
Then Yeshua said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The teachers of
the Torah and the Pharisees sit in Moshe's seat. So you must obey
them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for
they do not practice what they preach.
The early church recognized this authority and what it meant. Cyril
of Jerusalem, writing in the mid-fourth century said, "The Scribes and
Pharisees sit in Moses' seat; for it signifies not his wooden seat,
but the authority of his teaching."
This authority found its highest expression in the Sanhedrin. Yet it
existed down to the local town and synagogue level. Outside the gates
of the excavated ruins of ancient Dan, I have had the opportunity to
sit in a seat where once such decisions were made. There, the city
elders gathered to "sit in Moshe's seat." Proverbs 31:23 gives us a
sense for this: "Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he
takes his seat among the elders of the land."
I believe it is in this context, and with this meaning, that Yeshua
spoke the words which Matthew records. "I will give you the keys of
the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in
heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
This is an important moment in the history of Judaism and the Church.
Here is Yeshua, the Son of G-d, investing the power of Moshe into the
hands of his disciples. They now become the ones responsible for
interpreting the Torah. This is decisive for it represents the
imposition of spiritual authority. It places within the context of the
church the authority held by those who sit in the seat of Moshe.
Once the Church was established by Yeshua, we find that this authority
continued on. In the beginning of the Church, it was the Apostles
themselves who sat in the Seat of Moshe for the Church. The Church
which took shape had a foundation.
He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those
who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by
one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens,
but fellow citizens with G-d's people and members of G-d's household,
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ
Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a
holy temple in the Lord.
G-d gave the Levites as a gift to the Tabernacle.
I myself have selected your fellow Levites from among the Israelites
as a gift to you, dedicated to the LORD to do the work at the Tent of
Meeting. But only you and your sons may serve as priests in connection
with everything at the altar and inside the curtain. I am giving you
the service of the priesthood as a gift. Anyone else who comes near
the sanctuary must be put to death.
When Paul wrote Ephesians, he drew upon this concept for the various
roles in the Church. He described these workers in the Church as
gifts. To them, a primary role was assigned.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to
be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare G-d's
people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built
up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the
Son of G-d and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the
fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back
and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of
teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful
scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things
grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole
body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and
builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
The Apostles stepped into their role and took charge of the Church.
We see their authority in the instructions to Titus especially, and
also to Timothy. Paul told Titus to "straighten out what was left
unfinished". Then he proceeded to instruct Titus on what to say to
the older men, the older women, the younger women and the young men.
He told Titus to "remind the people" of certain truths, which of
course sets that truth on a higher priority level than some other
We also see Apostolic authority being exercised in the Acts 15
Council. On that occasion, they met to discuss the requirements for
Gentiles. The question was, how was the Torah to be applied to them.
What was necessary for their salvation? After hearing various sides
of the question, James said, "It is my judgment, therefore, that we
should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to G-d.
What gave James the right to have a "judgment" in the first place? He
was exercising the authority of the seat of Moshe. Indeed, this was
clearly more than just their opinions, for when they sent the letter
out it was under the authority of what "seemed good to the Holy Spirit
and to us.." They were laying claim to divine authority as well as
their own. Tertullian summarized the events of Acts 15:
When first the Gospel thundered and shook the old system to its base,
when dispute was being held on the question of retaining or not the
Law; this is the first rule which the apostles, on the authority of
the Holy Spirit, sent out to those who were already beginning to be
gathered to their side out of the nations: "It has seemed (good),"
say they, "to the Holy Spirit and to us to cast upon you no ampler
weight than (that) of those (things) from which it is necessary that
abstinence be observed; from sacrifices, and from fornications, and
from blood: by abstaining from which ye act rightly, the Holy Spirit
In making the Acts 15 decision, the Apostles and elders were sitting
in the seat of Moshe, using the power of binding and loosing. If they
did not have this power, then what different would their opinions
make. However the Church has always recognized this authority. Once
again, we turn to Tertullian, the Father of Latin Christianity, for
his commentary on the authority of the Apostles and elders to make
Moreover, in that dispute about the observance or non-observance of
the Law, Peter was the first of all to be endued with the Spirit, and,
after making preface touching the calling of the nations, to say, "
And now why are ye tempting the Lord, concerning the imposition upon
the brethren of a yoke which neither we nor our fathers were able to
support? But however, through the grace of Yeshua we believe that we
shall be saved in the same way as the.:" This sentence both "loosed"
those parts of the law which were "abandoned, and "bound" those which
were reserved. hence the power of loosing and of binding committed to
Peter had nothing to do with the capital sins of believers; and if
the Lord had given him a precept that he must grant pardon to a
brother sinning against him even "seventy time sevenfold," of course
He would have commanded him to "bind" -- that is, to "retain" --
nothing subsequently, unless perchance such (sins) committed against
the Lord, not against a brother. For the forgiveness of (sins)
committed in the case of a man is a prejudgment against the remission
of sins against G-d.
For Tertullian, this is evidence of binding and loosing. Again and
again, we find the Apostles and elders acting in the authority of
Moshe. In effect, the New Testament is the Apostolic application of
the principles found in the Torah. The Church has always accepted the
right of the Twelve Apostles to do this and gave to their writings the
same force as what we call the Old Testament Scripture. In the same
sense that Torah formed the basis of the Covenant with G-d, so the New
Testament now forms the basis of our Covenant with G-d and we are
thereby formed into the People of G-d.
Has this authority ceased in the Church. We say that the Church today
has the right to apply the Scripture to issues that are not mentioned
directly in Scripture, following the practices of "binding and
loosing", and sitting in the seat of Moshe. That this power can be
abused is evident in twenty centuries of church history. We have seen
what happens when this authority is assumed by ever narrower aspects
of the church. The term "ex cathedra" means "from the chair." Using
this expression is an attempt by Roman Catholics to claim that the
Church is infallible when it speaks "ex cathedra" because it is
speaking from the "Seat of Moshe." But the "Seat of Moshe" was not
for purposes of adding to the Scripture, but to give an official
interpretation on areas that were not clearly spelled out.
In modern evangelical understanding, binding and loosing has nothing
to do with the authority of the Church except as it might relate to
spiritual warfare. This error in thinking springs from a fundamental
error in understanding about the Gospel of Matthew. What many today
do not understand is that the Gospel of Matthew was written in Hebrew.
That Matthew was originally written in Hebrew is the unanimous view of
the Church Fathers. Papias said, "Matthew put together the oracles of
the Lord in the Hebrew language." Irenaeus said Matthew was written
to the Jews: "The Gospel according to Matthew was written to the
Jews. For they laid particular stress upon the fact that Christ
(should be) of the seed of David." Cyril of Jerusalem also noted:
"Matthew, who wrote the gospel, wrote it in the Hebrew tongue." These
are not obscure figures. Rather, they form the mainstream of the
At present, no original copy of Matthew has ever been found in the
Hebrew. However, if theses early fathers are correct, what exists in
Greek is a translation of the Hebrew. As such, it is subject to
certain weaknesses. Translations of this period often did not
translate the sense of a passage, rather they tended to follow the
actual or literal words.
In particular, Hebrew idioms did not always make the transition
intact. We know when someone says "his eyes fell to the floor," not
to take that literally. But consider the problem of a translator.
What is an idiom, and what should be taken literally? We see this
weakness reflected in the translation of the term "good eyes" in
Matthew. This is a Hebrew idiom for a generous person. But that is
not particularly clear in the Greek.
What about "binding and loosing" as spiritual warfare?
The idea of "binding" and "loosing" has risen to the forefront in some
current teaching on spiritual warfare. What is interesting is the
absence of these two ideas in the spiritual warfare that is mentioned
in the Bible. If it were to be such an important part of warfare, one
would expect to find it more prominently mentioned in the Scripture.
In fact, it is most noticeable for its absence. In my opinion, far
more emphasis is given to this idea than is warranted from the
Scripture. At best, it is only a minor weapon among many weapons.
More likely, it doesn't even exist as a weapon of spiritual warfare.
Why do some believe that "binding and loosing" are aspects of our
spiritual warfare? Surprisingly, this is a new concept that has
almost no history in the church.
The Belief that demons can be "bound" or that angels can be "loosed"
is based upon a new interpretation of Matthew 16:10 and Matthew 18:18.
These passages are interpreted to apply to spirit beings because of
the phrases "bound in heaven" or "loosed in heaven." As the logic
goes, since spirit beings exist in heaven, this passage must apply to
them. (It is not clear how the passage could apply to demons which
are not generally associated with heaven.)
What I call the "bind-loose theology" is heavily based upon a special
interpretation of the "strong man" passages in Matthew 12:29, Mark
3:27, and Luke 11. In these passages, Yeshua is showing that only a
superior power can drive out demons. He then uses the example of a
well armed strong man who defends his house until someone stronger
"attacks and overpowers" him, robbing him of his goods.
Luke's account emphasizes that the strong man is "attacked and
overpowered," not mentioning anything about tying him up (binding).
Matthew says the strong man must first be tied up before his house can
be robbed. Mark, like Matthew, mentions that the strong man must
first be tied up before the attacker can rob the house.
If Yeshua meant to give this story as an illustration of "binding,"
Luke missed the point entirely and is leading us astray from the
message. Luke's failure to mention "binding" is not misleading,
however, because the point of the passage is not about "binding," but
about the effect of superior power.
This is the emphasis which Tertullian gave to it. Notice that
Tertullian, following Luke, retains the concept of superior power
without getting into "binding:"
"Well, therefore, did He connect with the parable of "the strong man
armed," whom "a stronger man still overcame," the prince of the
demons, whom He had already called Beelzebub and Satan; signifying
that it was he who was overcome by the finger of G-d, and not that the
Creator had been subdued by another G-d."
Unfortunately, "binding the strongman" has become dogma in some
circles. One book in my library, whose authors I respect highly for
their service in missions, builds it's whole spiritual warfare concept
around an improper interpretation of this passage. A better
understanding is found in the historic interpretation of "binding."
I think caution regarding "binding and loosing" as spiritual warfare
is in order. There are several reasons why I take this view.
First, no group or denomination in Christianity has ever interpreted
these passages in this way before the last part of the 20th century.
Of course, being a new doctrine or understanding does not necessarily
mean the new doctrine in untrue. However, new doctrines need to be
examined very carefully to see how they fit with the whole counsel of
the Bible, and with the interpretation of that same Scripture over the
Second, over the centuries, the "binding" and "loosing" passages have
been interpreted along the lines of the authority of the disciples to
"sit in the seat of Moshe." This means interpreting Scripture and
conducting the affairs of the Church. The Catholic Encyclopedia
expresses this idea when it says, "These powers, consisting of a
"binding" and a "loosing" in the spiritual order on earth, that is,
all powers necessary to the well-being of the kingdom, were recognized
by the apostles from the rabbinical terms for "binding," that is, of
granting or forbidding, as contained in the Torah. The Catholic view,
which is shared by the other branches of the historic Christian
church, has always been that binding and loosing were part of the
authority granted to the Church, and are expressed in the idea of the
"power of the keys.
Third, only Matthew records this idea, probably because he was the
only one, according to Eusebius and the others we have cited, to write
his original text of the Gospel in Hebrew. The passage regarding
"binding" and "loosing" is a Jewish idiom translated word for word
from the Hebrew into the Greek. Unfortunately, even though the words
of the idiom were translated correctly, the meaning was clouded in
such a literal translation.
Vine's Dictionary says "the application of the Rabbinical sense of
forbidding is questionable." However, prior to expressing that
conclusion, Vine does give this passage its classical "spiritual
authority" slant when he says, "The Lord's words to the Apostle Peter
in Matthew 16:19, as to binding, and to all the disciples in 18:18,
signify, in the former case, that the Apostle, by his ministry of the
Word of Life, would keep unbelievers outside the kingdom of G-d, and
admit those who believed. So with regard to 18:18, including the
exercise of disciplinary measures in the sphere of the local church;
the application of the Rabbinical sense of forbidding is
Notwithstanding the questions raised by Vine, Dr. Roy Blizzard takes
the historic view held by Catholics and Orthodox, but for a different
reason. He cites Jewish texts to show that "binding" and "loosing"
were the terms applied to the work of the rabbi's in interpreting
Scripture, allowing some things but denying other based on their
interpretation of the meaning of the Torah. So if the rabbi said you
were not allowed to walk more than a few hundred yards on the Sabbath,
he was "binding" certain behavior. Although Yeshua criticized the
Pharisees for their hypocrisy, he did require his disciples to obey
their interpretations. We have already shown Yeshua saying, "The
teachers of the Torah and the Pharisees sit in Moshe's seat. So you
must obey them and do everything they tell you."
Fourth, of the many passages dealing with spiritual warfare, there is
a noticeable absence of any teaching regarding "binding and loosing."
In my book, Hedges, I demonstrated that there is a great deal in the
Bible about spiritual warfare, examining every passage in the Bible on
the topic of the relationship between humans and spiritual entities.
In light of the extensive Bible passages, why does Paul omit "binding
and loosing" in his classic passage in Ephesians 6? Why does James
only talk about resisting the devil, stopping far short of the idea
of "binding"? Why only resist, when you could "bind"? Indeed, why is
there no plain statement linking "binding" and "loosing" with any part
of spiritual warfare?
The answer is that "binding and loosing," the way it is being taught
in some quarters of the Church, is not adequately rooted in Biblical
teachings on spiritual warfare.
What the Bible does say is that Satan will be "bound" and "loosed."
However, the reference is to Satan being bound in the future. No one
is binding him today.
"And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the
bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the
dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound
him a thousand years. And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut
him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no
more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he
must be loosed a little season."
This future tense is the only proper application of this concept to
Fifth, if Satan is being "bound" as often as people are saying the
words, their "binding" certainly does not last very long. If the
"bind the devil" people are indeed "binding" the devil" somebody needs
to figure out how long their "binding" of the devil lasts. Then, they
could line up people all over the world on a "24-hour Bind Chain" to
keep "binding" Satan, so he never gets loose again.
Some might suggest that only demons are being bound, not Satan
himself. Is it possible, then, that we might eventually come to a
point where all the demons are bound in chains of darkness and none
are free to roam the earth? Would this leave only Satan alone to do
all the evil work?
One problem with using "binding" and "loosing," as if it were a new
aspect of spiritual warfare, is we are totally without support for
just what it means to "bind" the devil. Who knows what it means?
What can Satan do when he is "bound"? Unlike G-d, Satan is not
omni-present. There is only one of him, and he is limited to one
place at a time. According to this new interpretation of "binding,"
when one person has "bound" Satan, is he prohibited from doing
anything to anyone else?
The further one probes this new idea of "binding," the more questions
are raised. I am suggesting the reason all this becomes so imprecise
when the details are exposed, is because the whole notion is without
Biblical foundation. Yeshua had many contacts with the devil and
demons, but He is never described as "binding" the demons. No New
Testament writer ever describes anyone ever "binding" the devil.
In Luke 13, the sick woman was freed from her infirmity. It is plain
enough that Yeshua was involved in a physical healing because he laid
his hands upon her, something which is never done with someone under
the power of a demon. It is unfortunate that the old King James uses
the phrase "spirit of infirmity" because some have suggested this was
a demon of infirmity. However, would Yeshua "loose" a demon? Would
not "bind-loose" theology say the demon should have been "bound"
rather than "loosed"? The Luke 13 passage would not support the
"bind-loose" theology. Indeed, this passage would have to be
explained away because of Yeshua "loosing" the women from her
In some respects, I am reluctant to speak against the current usage of
"binding" because I hesitate to undermine anyone engaging in spiritual
warfare. However, if there is no authority in the Scripture for this
"binding," it is better to stop now than to continue building on sand.
It is better to get back to biblical warfare than to continue on in a
fools paradise. In war, firing blanks doesn't kill the enemy. We
need effective warfare with live ammunition.
On the other hand, I believe G-d is able to understand our hearts
rather than our precise words. I think G-d knows when we "bind" the
devil that we are really praying "deliver us from evil," and He takes
appropriate action, in spite of our theology or our words!
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