I don't know very much Greek at all, but I'm very curious about the translation of the word "you" in Matthews gospel. In Matthew 16:19 he seems to be speaking directly to Peter when using the word "you."

19 "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."

The context of Matthew 18:18 Jesus seems to be addressing all of the apostles as a collective group.

18 "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."

I'm wanting to know how the original Greek texts indicate exactly who Jesus is either singularly or plurally granted the authority to bind and loose. Can someone please break down the Greek grammar for me?


2 Answers 2


Greek text is Nestle-Aland 27; English text is World English Bible:

16:19 δώσω σοι τὰς κλεῖδας τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν,
16:19 I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,

"(to) you" [soi] here is singular

καὶ ὃ ἐὰν δήσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται δεδεμένον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς,
and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven;

"you bind" [dēsē(i)s] is 2nd person singular

καὶ ὃ ἐὰν λύσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται λελυμένον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.
and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.”

"you release" [lusē(i)s] is 2nd person singular

Here, Jesus is speaking directly and specifically to Peter.

18:18 Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν· ὅσα ἐὰν δήσητε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς
18:18 Most certainly I tell you, whatever things you bind on earth

"you" [humin] and "you bind" [dēsēte] here are both 2nd person plural

ἔσται δεδεμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ,
will have been bound in heaven,

καὶ ὅσα ἐὰν λύσητε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς
and whatever things you release on earth

"you release" [lusēte] is 2nd person plural

ἔσται λελυμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ.
will have been released in heaven.

Here, Jesus is speaking to "the disciples" (18:1) more broadly.

There remains the question about what this means for designation of "authority" in these two passages. In Matthew 18, the context is clearly that of discipline within the community, and the nature of forgiveness and exclusion. It is important to note that this is not directed even towards the Twelve, but (so far as we can determine from context) to Jesus' "disciples" more generally, which can extend well beyond the Twelve, and here would be designation for all who follow Jesus.

In Matthew 16, things are different and there is a lot at stake in these verses for the development of the the Christian church(es) in the centuries to come. Consequently, there is also a lot written on this passage that a brief Q&A on BH.SE will not satisfy! It is difficult to know how v. 18 relates to v. 19, for example: is the "rock" upon which the church1 is to be built Peter himself? on the "revelation" which preceded? on the "binding/loosing" which follows? (Perhaps others will provide some comment/resources on this point.)

More broadly still, there is the nature of the "binding/loosing". Given the context of Matthew 18 in particular, my own sense is that this language should be taken in conjunction with the Lord's Prayer and its commentary in Matthew 6:

12 Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. ...
... 14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you don’t forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.


  1. It should be noted out that ἐκκλησία "church" occurs in the four canonical gospels only in Matt 16:18 and 18:17.
  • Thank you. That makes the grammar clear. I also hope for more in depth commentary about "authority" within the contexts of these passages. Is there anything in the original Greek that eludes to whether or not Peter's authority specifically binds and looses (overrules) the others' authority? Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 12:22
  • 1
    @CharlesAlsobrook - glad that helped. The Greek seems not to offer any particular help on that question (does Peter's binding/loosing overrule others' authority?). There is no explicit "hierarchy" between these Matthew texts; Peter could be (e.g.) an "exemplar" rather than a "trump" card. It appears, too, that "binding/loosing" itself has not to do with authority structures, but with relationships within the community, although Matthew 16 doesn't address this specifically. It does proceed to invert a "natural" ordering for "success" in 16:21-27, which might bear on this question, though.
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 18:58
  • 1
    Tertullian's (circa 210 AD) interpretation is that Peter alone possessed the keys, and turned them in Acts 2:38 "repent and be baptized for the remission of sins" and thereby or all time bound the sins of those who reject baptism and loosed the sins of those who submit to it. Tertullian, On Modesty, Chapter 21. Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 5:48

Brazilian version, named Almeida Corrigida Fiel, uses the "you" in plural:

Em verdade vos digo que tudo o que ligardes na terra será ligado no céu, e tudo o que desligardes na terra será desligado no céu.

Mateus 18:18

If it was in singular, would be: Em verdade te digo...


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.