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Keys, Power of


The glorified Christ's possession of "the key of David" (Rv 3.7) symbolizes His royal authority in the messianic kingdom. So, in Isaiah 22.22, the giving of the "key of the House of David" expresses the idea of the authority to be conferred on Eliakim, chosen to be master of the royal palace. In rabbinic literature the "giving of keys" consistently means the granting of authority, as to a steward placed over his master's household (H. L. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament 1:736). Jesus denounces the Scribes and Pharisees, because having the "key of knowledge" (Lk 11.52) they have "shut the kingdom of heaven against men" (Mt 23.13).

In the light of canonical and extracanonical parallels, it seems certain that Mt 16.19a means not that St. peter is to be the "gate-keeper of heaven," but that Christ will confer on him vicarious authority over His household on earth, that is, over the Church that He promises to build on him as on a rock. For it is "on earth" that Peter will exercise his power of binding and loosing (Mt 16.19bc). The keys that Christ will give to Peter are the keys of the kingdom of heaven, in the sense that Peter's authoritative decisions will bind men in conscience; on

their acceptance of his teaching of the gospel and his direction in the way of salvation will depend their entrance into the kingdom of god for all eternity.

See Also: authority, ecclesiastical; office, ecclesiastical; pope; primacy of the pope

Bibliography: j. jeremias, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Stuttgart 1935) 3:74953. h. von campenhausen, "Die Schlüsselgewalt der Kirche," Evangelische Theologie 4 (1937) 14369.

[f. a. sullivan]

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