Sep 202012
This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Why Do We Have A Pope?

In Part 2 of this series I addressed the topic of the rock in Matthew 16:18 which was the first of three aspects Dr. Hahn gives in his discussion of the Papacy and Matthew 16:15-19.  The second aspect is the keys which comes from verse 19.  Matthew 16:18-19 reads:

18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.1

Dr. Hahn’s position is that the keys of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 16:19 denote succession.  On track 6 at the 1:55 mark Dr. Hahn is discussing a paper he had written for graduate work to present to the class.  During the presentation the students were encouraged to interact with the presenter.  He states:

But when it came to presenting a 30 page paper presenting the evidence for the fact that Peter is the rock and that the keys denote succession and that the Catholic position is right, not one student spoke up for the entire two and a half hour seminar.

Dr. Hahn goes on at the 2:43 mark to state:

But protestants are often ready to admit the fact that Peter is the rock and that the keys of succession are given to him to apply an office that will be filled by successors.

As I noted in Part 2, even among those scholars that hold to the Petrine interpretation of Matthew 16:18, many do not see in the passage the Catholic doctrines of the papacy or apostolic succession.  Dr. Hahn relies heavily on this idea throughout his talk.  Certainly, utilizing the work of other scholars can be beneficial to your case but it should not have to play center stage in your argument.  Rather, it should support your argument in order to give it more weight.

I point this out because there is nothing in the passage that demonstrates Peter is to be the first pope and thus begin the Petrine succession of the papacy.  That has to be read into the text.  It would only seem logical that something of this magnitude would be demonstrated somewhere in Scripture in somewhat plain language so that we would be able to fall on it in order to validate a doctrine.  We don’t see any of that.  Not in Matthew or any other passage in the entire Bible.  As we will see, even the attempts to do so with the keys falls short.


On track 7 at the 2:50 mark, Dr. Hahn attempts to explain the keys in Matthew 16:19 as coming from Isaiah 22:22.  While discussing a quote from W.F. Albright’s comments in the Anchor Bible Commentary he states:

Albright is saying that Jesus, in giving to Peter, not only a new name ‘Rock’, but in entrusting to Simon the keys of the kingdom, is borrowing a phrase from Isaiah 22, he’s quoting a verse from the Old Testament that was extremely well known.  This, for me, was the break through.  This discovery was the most important discovery of all.  Let’s go back to Isaiah 22 and see what Jesus was doing when he entrusted to Peter the keys of the kingdom.  By the way, I do not find, hardly any Catholic defenders of the faith these days with awareness of this particular point, and this was the point above all points for me.  It was the point that the defenders of the Catholic faith in the 16th and 17th centuries were very aware of but for some reason amnesia has settled in upon many defenders and interpreters not aware of how crucial this particular passage is.

Please note that there is a lot of emphasis being placed on Isaiah 22:22 here in order to justify what he sees in the keys of Matthew 16:19.  When stating that the Isaiah passage is crucial in the manner that he does, he is, more or less, admitting that without it, the weight of the Catholic understanding of Matthew 16:15-19 is diminished.  Dr. Hahn continues:

In Isaiah 22, beginning back in verses 19 and 20 we have some very interesting background.  This is where Jesus goes for a quotation, to cite this passage.  What’s happening here?  [Quotes Isaiah 22:19-22a]  Now the house of David is like the house of [indecipherable] it’s a dynastic reference.  The house of David is the Davidic kingdom, the Davidic dynasty.  We know this because David’s been dead for hundreds of years when this is happening … [Quotes the rest of Isaiah 22:22] Look at all of the symbols of dynastic authority that are being given to this individual.  First of all, an office, second, a robe, third, a throne and fourth, keys.  The key of the house of David.  These royal keys.  Now what is going on here?

One thing should be noted before proceeding.  Jesus isn’t quoting Isaiah 22:22 in Matthew 16:19.  He doesn’t cite this passage in the manner that Dr. Hahn suggests.  While Jesus may be using some of the imagery from this passage, He is clearly not quoting the Scripture.2  Isaiah 22:19-22 reads:

19 I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your station. 20 In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21 and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your sash on him, and will commit your authority to his hand. And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

Dr. Hahn goes on to explain the passage.  Shebna, the prefect of the throne of Hezekiah, King of Judah is being deposed (Isaiah 22:15-19) and Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah,  is being promoted in his place (Isaiah 22:20-22).  In this promotion Eliakim is given the authority of the office which is the language used in Isaiah 22:22.  There are a few things going on that many commentators note are of importance.  One, that there is no record in Scripture of a divinely appointed office of this sort outside of the Davidic dynasty, and two, the wording is such that it seems to be intended as a satirical rebuke to Shebna3.  Dr. Hahn confuses these things.  He concludes that this is already a dynastic office that Eliakim is being divinely appointed to much like that of the Davidic monarchy.  In other words, the office of prefect is one of succession, like the office of the kings in which the first born son was to rule in place of the father.  He then takes this understanding and applies it to the keys that are given to Peter in Matthew 16:19 in order to demonstrate succession beginning with Peter.  In Dr. Hahn’s words, on track 8 at the 0:49 mark he states:

When he [Shebna] was expelled he left an office vacant.  Not only do you have dynastic succession for the king, but you also have a dynastic office for the prime minister.  When Shebna is expelled it leaves an empty office that needs to be filled and that’s why Eliakim is called to fill it.  Now, Eliakim is a minister in the cabinet, but now he’s being granted the prime ministers position.  How do we know?  Because he is given what the other ministers do not have, the keys to the kingdom, the key of the house of David.  That symbolizes dynastic authority entrusted to the prime minister and dynastic succession.  Why?  Because it’s the key of David, it’s the house of David! [Emphasis mine.]

When Dr. Hahn states that there is a dynastic office for the prime minister, he is reading this into the text.  And notice what Dr. Hahn does when he says the key symbolizes authority entrusted to the prime minister, he adds: and dynastic succession.  This is a massive leap that’s being taken.  Dr. Hahn is claiming that the key is succession.  But I would argue, the key of the house of David is not succession and Dr. Hahn should have stopped with authority because there is nothing in this passage or the Scriptures as a whole that defines the key of David in Isaiah 22:22 or the keys of the kingdom in Matthew 16:19 as succession.  This is another example of eisegesis, where Dr. Hahn seems to be reading what he wants to read into the text.  As noted in the Keil and Delitzsch Commentary On The Old Testament:

The “key” signifies the power of the keys; and for this reason it is not given into Eliakim’s hand, but placed upon his shoulder (Isa. 9:5). This key was properly handled by the king (Rev. 3:7), and therefore by the “house-mayor” only in his stead. The power of the keys consisted not only in the supervision of the royal chambers, but also in the decision who was and who was not to be received into the king’s service. There is a resemblance, therefore, to the giving of the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter under the New Testament. But there the “binding” and “loosing” introduce another figure, though one similar in sense; whereas here, in the “opening” and “shutting,” the figure of the key is retained.4

There is simply no reason to apply the succession of the Davidic monarchy which is given to David in 2 Samuel 7 to the key given to Eliakim and then go on to apply that to the keys given to Peter in Matthew 16:19.  As noted in the quote above, the key is given as a symbol of authority (upon his shoulder) and opens and shuts in the king’s stead.  This is even indicative by the meaning of his name as God establishes.5  As the point above all points that Dr. Hahn uses in order to apply succession to Peter in Matthew 16:19, this one comes up incredibly dull and as a result we are left with zero credibility given to the Petrine succession of the papacy.

There is one thing that should be pointed out regarding Isaiah 22:22 and that is this: the passage is clearly messianic in that it points to attributes that are specifically given to The Messiah.  Isaiah 9:6 reads:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Make special note of the line that reads: and the government shall be upon his shoulder.  This is the same imagery applied to the key on the shoulder of Eliakim in Isaiah 22:22, one that is used to help provide emphasis to the fact that the key represents authority. We then see these idioms finalized in Revelation 3:7 which reads:

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

Eliakim then becomes a type of Christ, the God-man, in that he rules with the authority of the king, just as Christ rules with the authority of the Father.

The Authority For All

One final piece to the issue of the keys in Matthew 16:19.  When Jesus gives the keys to Peter he goes on to explain that whatever he binds on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever is loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  Jesus gives this same power to the rest of the disciples in Matthew 18:18 which reads:

Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

What’s most telling about this passage isn’t that the same powers are given to the rest of the disciples.  This message is given in response to the question of the disciples, who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?  I find it incredibly interesting that this authority, given to Peter, given to the rest of the disciples and subsequently given to the Christian church as a whole are given in the midst of a message where Jesus clearly discusses how important it is that authority not be held over the people.  This is the same message in which Jesus tells us to humble ourselves as a child (Matthew 18:4), that whoever would cause the little one to stumble would be better to have a millstone tied to his neck and thrown into the sea (Matthew 18:6), to settle our differences with each other in the desire to restore fellowship (Matthew 18:15-17)  and where two or three are gathered in His name there He will be (Matthew 18:20).

Dr. Hahn notes that this authority is given to the disciples in this passage but he makes mention that the keys aren’t specified.  On track 8 at the 4:00 mark he states:

In Matthew 18, the apostles get the power to bind and loose like Peter got in Matthew 16 but with absolutely no mention of the keys.  That fits perfectly in this model because in the kings cabinet all the ministers can bind and loose, but the prime minister who holds the keys can bind what they loose or loose what they bound.  He has in a sense, the final say.  He has in himself the authority of the court of final appeal.

This idea that Dr. Hahn gives has absolutely nothing to do with the context of Matthew 18 as I just noted.  And what is the authority?  The offering of the kingdom of heaven.  The spirit of Matthew 18 is that it should be graciously extended to all – something Catholic tradition has a hard time grappling with.

And on that note I will finish with some thoughts from Jamieson, Fausset and Brown’s Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible:

and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven—Whatever this means, it was soon expressly extended to all the apostles (Mt 18:18); so that the claim of supreme authority in the Church, made for Peter by the Church of Rome, and then arrogated to themselves by the popes as the legitimate successors of St. Peter, is baseless and impudent. As first in confessing Christ, Peter got this commission before the rest; and with these “keys,” on the day of Pentecost, he first “opened the door of faith” to the Jews, and then, in the person of Cornelius, he was honored to do the same to the Gentiles. Hence, in the lists of the apostles, Peter is always first named. See on Mt 18:18. One thing is clear, that not in all the New Testament is there the vestige of any authority either claimed or exercised by Peter, or conceded to him, above the rest of the apostles—a thing conclusive against the Romish claims in behalf of that apostle.6
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—Here, what had been granted but a short time before to Peter only (see on Mt 16:19) is plainly extended to all the Twelve; so that whatever it means, it means nothing peculiar to Peter, far less to his pretended successors at Rome. It has to do with admission to and rejection from the membership of the Church.7

While Part 2 of this series noted that Peter is likely not the subject of this rock in Matthew 16:18, an even further blow to the claims made of Petrine succession is that the keys in Matthew 16:19 have absolutely nothing to do with succession but of authority, the same authority given to the rest of the disciples and ultimately the Christian church.  In the next post I will address the third aspect of the Matthew 16:15-19 passage given by Dr. Hahn, the guarantee of Jesus.

  1. All Scripture quotations use: English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. Emphasis mine.
  2. That is not to say the imagery cannot be applied in some regard when interpreting Matthew 16:19.  I would state that Jesus is making an allusion to Old Testament idioms that are found in Isaiah 22:22 that will apply authority to Peter but that subsequently gets applied to all the apostles, and all the Christian church.
  3. Young, E. (1969). The Book of Isaiah: Volume 2, Chapters 19–39 (114). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
  4. Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Is 22:20–24). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
  5. Heb. ’el-yāqîm, ‘God establishes’?; Gk. Eliakeim; Young, E. J. (1996). Eliakim. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer & D. J. Wiseman, Ed.) (3rd ed.) (310). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  6. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Mt 16:19). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  7. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Mt 18:18). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.


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