Sunday, July 08, 2012

Binding and Loosing:  Josephus and the Bible

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 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. Again I say to you, if two of you." - Matthew 18:15-19.

This expression of binding and loosing is also used in Josephus regarding the time when Alexandra (141-67BC) was ruling Israel:

"And now the Pharisees joined themselves to her, to assist her in the government. These are a certain sect of the Jews that appear more religious than others, and seem to interpret the laws more accurately. low Alexandra hearkened to them to an extraordinary degree, as being herself a woman of great piety towards God. But these Pharisees artfully insinuated themselves into her favor by little and little, and became themselves the real administrators of the public affairs: they banished and reduced whom they pleased; they bound and loosed [men] at their pleasure; and, to say all at once, they had the enjoyment of the royal authority, whilst the expenses and the difficulties of it belonged to Alexandra." - Wars of the Jews, Book 1, chapter 5.

The bound and loosed used by Josephus was that of assigning guilt or innocence to men, which is the primary act of judging.  This just provides a little more perspective on the usage of the phrase as Jesus gave it to us in the book of Matthew.  Those of us who are in the church have a similar authority, not only to bind and loose here on earth, but also in heaven?  To me it is something scary, and a great warning to be extremely cautious in our judgments, especially when we have no idea how things are playing out in God's eternal plan.

4 comments:

Delirious said...

In our religion, that "binding" is actually extended to an actual ordinance. When couples are married in the temple, they are "sealed" or "bound" together as a couple through the authority of the Priesthood. That marriage then is still in force after death. Most marriages are until "death do you part", but temple marriages are eternal. The couple also makes a covenant with each other, and with God in conjunction with that marriage ordinance. Children born within that covenant are also "sealed" to their parents, and are part of that eternal family unit.

Looney said...

Does the 'binding' notion include what I listed? Or is it something completely different?

Delirious said...

There are two separate scriptures that sound a little similar, but are different in meaning. One says that whatever is bound on earth is bound in heaven. We believe that this binding (or sealing as we call it) is a Priesthood ordinance that is performed in the temple.

The other scripture talks about things being written in the book of life. The "book of life" that is mentioned in Revelations has to do with our standing in the church. If someone is excommunicated, their name is removed from the records of the church until they can fully repent of whatever caused the excommunication.

I think it would be easy to get these two teachings confused, because they are both similar ideas about something that is done on earth, that is still in force in heaven after death. In fact, I think that the term "binding" could be used in both instances. A person could be "bound" to their spouse, or they could be "bound" to the church and God.

We believe the scripture to which you referred, "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." Matt. 18:18 refers specifically to the temple "sealing". The idea of sin and transgression, and action being taken against someone, for us, has more to do with "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. Rev. 20:12
Have I made that as clear as mud? lol

Looney said...

The vast majority of theological expositions are muddier than what you described! So thanks for the explanation.