Binding and Loosing

by Jimmy Akin

in Apologetics, History

chainsJust a quick note to keep track of something of apologetic interest.

I’m currently continuing my project of summarizing Josephus’s Jewish War, and there is a passage in it in which he refers to “binding and loosing” (a phrase also found in the teachings of Jesus; cf. Matt 16:19, 18:18; and in other Jewish writings).

Josephus records:

(110) And now the Pharisees joined themselves to her [Queen Salome Alexandra of Jerusalem], 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.

(111) Now, 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 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.

(112) She was a sagacious woman in the management of great affairs, and intent always upon gathering soldiers together; so that she increased the army the one half, and procured a great body of foreign troops, till her own nation became not only very powerful at home, but terrible also to foreign potentates, while she governed other people, and the Pharisees governed her [Jewish War 1:5:2].

Here “binding and loosing” appears to refer to the exercise of government, or of the making of authoritative rules of conduct for the community. William Whiston inserts “[men]” after “they bound and loosed,” suggesting an individual application of this authority (i.e., forgiving and absolving individuals), though this is not suggested by the text itself. It is also not excluded by the text.

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Pam Lynn January 7, 2015 at 2:28 pm

I was listening to you on Catholic Answers last night while I was completing reading: Catholicism for Protestants, by Shane Schaetzel. In Shane’s book he mentioned that Mary was assumed into heaven and you stated that it is Catholic theology that Mary had actually died and went to heaven. Although this issue has nothing to do with salvation or Christian growth, I’d just like to know which is true? I believe I mentioned before that I am an Evangelical Christian who has been diligently looking into the Catholic church. After a year and a half, I still haven’t made a decision. I am listening to EWTN on a regular basis now, and rarely watch my old favorite non-Catholic Christan programs. Anyway, I am just wanting to find the truth, pure and simple. And it is not an easy task. Blessings to you and your staff. I love EWTN and Catholic Answers.

Pam Lynn

Edward B. Connolly January 10, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Pam: That Mary was assumed body and soul into Heaven is solemnly defined Catholic doctrine (dogma). As to whether Mary died before being assumed into Heaven or was assumed into Heaven without ever having died is a legitimate matter for theological speculation. It is highly unlikely that the Church will ever make any official declaration on this. It seems to me that the great majority of theologians believe that Mary died, then was resurrected and assumed.
Those who favor the “assumed without having died” scenario point out that Mary was free from sin or even the slightest trace of sin and would, therefore, have been free from the internal necessity of dying. (The wages of sin is death.)
Those who favor the “assumed after having died” scenario point out that Mary, in her desire for total conformity with Jesus, would not have wanted to be exempt from dying, but would have voluntarily surrendered herself in death to the Father in union with Jesus.
Mary’s resurrection (if she died) and her assumption (regardless of whether or not she died) were actions of God upon her. Unlike Jesus, she did not rise by her own power and also unlike Jesus, she was assumed (which is passive) whereas Jesus ascended (which is active).

Suburbanbanshee January 7, 2015 at 3:58 pm

That is interesting! Also, gotta love that classical Josephus snark.

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