Binding/loosing and confession


In Judaism, binding and loosing is a judicial/administrative term. For instance, the School of Hillel might say that walking two miles to synagogue is loosed (ok), and the School of Shammai may say “sorry, more than one mile is forbidden.” (bound)

It had to do with what was and wasn’t allowed in the community. With the first Christians coming from Judaism, wouldn’t they have the same teaching? :confused: How does confession play into this? The people weren’t confessing their sins to the rabbis. The rabbis were giving teachings and interpretations of the law.

However, doesn’t the RC use this idea as showing a need for confession? “Whatever sins you retain shall be retained, whatever sins you loose shall be loosed?” It doesn’t seem that it has anything to do with personal confession. :shrug:



Have you ever wondered how the Apostles knew which sins to forgive and which to be retained?!?

I don’t see anywhere that the Apostles were gifted with ESP, so someone must confess their sins in order for them to know how to handle it.

Or are you asking does the “binding and loosing” have anything to do with confession?

If so, yes, the Rabbi’s did not use it for that, for they didn’t have the authority to forigve and remit. But the Apostles did have this authority. From the earliest times, the Church used binding and loosing to justify:
a) making and relieving disciplines.
b) forgiving and retaining sins.
c) ex-communicating someone from the community and welcoming them back into the Church.


"With the first Christans coming from Judasim, wouldn’t they have the same teaching? Great question. Read the Church Fathers and you will have your answer. You can find them online.

“To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” Cardinal John Henry Newman Catholic convert



They would have understood the concept of binding and loosing, but the radical change was that now they were given the authority to bind and loose heaven, and no explicit limits on this authority were given. That’s quite astonishing, every bit as astonishing as God becoming one of his creatures. That authority pertains to “those things that belong to God”, and that would clearly include the question of sin and forgiveness.


You have Mt 16:19 and Jn 20:23 confused. Binding and loosing ARE administrative. Forgiveness and retaining sins are not.

18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. 19I 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."

21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”


I do not think I am necessarily in lock step with many of the interpretations given to the verses in question.

Many folks seem to get hung up in whether or not the keys or the power to bind and loose were given just to Peter or to all the Apostles and whether the sacrament of reconciliation is supported by Mathew 16:17-19.

I have always felt that Mathew 16:17-19 was [FONT=Times New Roman]specifically directed to Peter and the role he and his successors would play as the leaders of the universal church.[/FONT]

I do not think it is necessary to say that in this verse we see “the keys given to Peter but the binding and loosing given to all of the Apostles is the power to forgive individual sins”.

Peter and his successors had the unique role of as the final arbiter of what would constitute church teaching. As such, he binds and losses both on heaven and on earth in a unique way for the universal church.

So in this respect, I think the role of “binding and loosing” corresponds with the “allowed and “not allowed” judicial / administrative function that you describe in Judaism.

I think is the role later described in Mathew 23:1-3.

1 * Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you…”

He could have condemned the teaching authority of those that have “taken their seat on the chair of Moses” but He does not. He condemns their hypocrisy and their sinfulness but he does not condemn their right to establish what is and is not allowed.

I therefore see no reason to expect that our immutable God would decide that this was a good way to manage His old covenant but that it would be a bad way to manage the church of His new covenant.

Later, we see the binding and loosing formally extended to the rest of the disciples, the local churches and specifically with regard to individual personal sins (Mathew Chapter 18:15-19).

I think that these verses clearly support the sacrament of reconciliation and differentiate the “judicial / administrative” “binding and loosing” done by Peter and his successors from the “binding and loosing” “remission of sins” performed by the Bishops and their successors.

Though the two roles are interrelated, the Pope and Bishops influence each in distinctly different ways stemming from different levels of authority.



Can you provide a bit of evidence on this account? I’ve never seen anything really early (1st - 2nd centuy AD) that speaks of confession to a bishop or priest.


Confession was made in public back then, if I remember correctly. But that presents a problem to the early Church.

What if Brother Larry in the 2nd pew of St. Peter’s in Antioch seeks forgiveness for his affair with Sister Josie, in the 6th pew of St. Peter’s… but Sister Josie is not prepared to seek forgiveness, especially since her husband, Brother Bob is unaware of the affair in the first place?

Do you see why private confession was such a wise change in the practice?

Note: Since neither private nor public confession was mandated by Christ, the Church has the authority to determine the best method of confession and has the full power to revert back to public confession. Since this may lead to more gossip among the “faithful”, I certainly hope this never happens. :wink:


Thanks, that helps with some of my questions. Trust me, I have plenty of others. :stuck_out_tongue: I appreciate your answering without sarcasm. :thumbsup:


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit