One of this week’s lectionary passages includes Matthew 18:18-20, which David Bentley Hart renders:
Amen, I tell you, whatever things you bind on the earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever things you unbind on the earth will have been unbound in heaven. Again, [amen,] I tell you that if two among you agree on earth concerning everything they request, whatever it is, it shall come to pass for them, coming from my Father in the heavens. For where there are two or three who have gathered in my name, I am there in their midst.”
I nearly did a cartoon-style spit take while reading those verses. I’m very familiar with the version of this same saying in Matthew 16:16, where this power is granted to Peter in particular. It’s a favorite Latter-day Saint prooftext for talking about the sealing power that is held by the prophet-president of the church and delegated to others. Only through prophetic authority, according Latter-day Saint doctrine, is it possible to bind or unbind in heaven.
Yet, in Matthew 18, Jesus is clearly speaking to the disciples. As the Oxford Annotated NRSV (which I had to check to make sure I wasn’t misreading Hart) notes, “This authority is extended to the church as a whole.” I have not always been a studious reader of the New Testament, and I’m sure that the Matthew 18 version of the statement doesn’t come up in LDS settings so that it doesn’t raise confusion; yet, it boggles my mind that I’ve never noticed this before. The same statement that Latter-day Saints use to emphasize prophetic authority is repeated by Jesus to give that same authority to seemingly any two members of the church.
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