In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus said to his disciple Peter, “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt 16:19). A couple of chapters later he said very similar words to his other disciples (Matt 18:18).

The most common explanation about these “binding and loosing” verses that people hear today is that they have something to do with spiritual warfare and binding the devil. Indeed, the surrounding context is about the disciple’s authority, only the devil is not involved here, not even remotely related to the context of these verses. Many modern Bible readers are not aware that these terms have a very specific meaning in the context of human behavior.

In the first-century Jewish context, “binding and loosing” are known technical legal expressions. The “binding and loosing” is simply older English for “tying up something” and “untying something.” In Greek, “to bind” is δέω (deo) and the Hebrew equivalent is אָסַר (asar) which means “to tie up,” “to bind,” “to confine,” “to imprison,” and idiomatically “to forbid” something. In Greek, “to loose” is λύω (luo) and the corresponding Hebrew term is הִתִּיר (hitir) means “to untie,” “to unbind,” “to free,” “to release,” and idiomatically “to permit” something. So it's simple, " to bind and to loose" really means "to forbid and to permit" something.

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