Forgiving sins (Jn 20:23-20:23)

“If you forgive

The sins

Of anyone,

They are forgiven.

If you retain

The sins

Of anyone,

They are retained.”

ἄν τινων ἀφῆτε τὰς ἁμαρτίας, ἀφέωνται αὐτοῖς· ἄν τινων κρατῆτε, κεκράτηνται.

John then uniquely indicated that if they forgave the sins of anyone (ἄν τινων ἀφῆτε τὰς ἁμαρτίας), those sins would be forgiven (ἀφέωνται αὐτοῖς).  However, if they retained the sins of anyone (ἄν τινων κρατῆτε), they would be retained (κεκράτηνται).  The Greek word ἀφῆτε meant to send away, leave alone, permit, let go, release, permit to depart, remit, forgive, or permit.  This has been translated as to forgive.  The Greek word κρατῆτε meant to be strong, rule, mighty, prevail, obtain, take hold of, or hold fast.  This has been translated as retain.  The Gospel of Matthew had Jesus give this power to Peter and his apostles before the crucifixion rather than after his resurrection as here in John.  Matthew, chapter 16:19-20 said that Peter would receive the keys to the kingdom of heaven (δώσω σοι τὰς κλεῖδας τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν), as the gatekeeper of heaven.  Whatever he did on earth would be bound (καὶ ὃ ἐὰν δήσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται δεδεμένον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς) or loosed in heaven (καὶ ὃ ἐὰν λύσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται λελυμένον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς).  Peter was no longer a mere informal leader, but the true man in charge here on earth with heavenly consequences, much like the Israelite high priests.  This of course has led to the so-called Petrine privilege, the power of Peter as handed down via the bishop of Rome.  As the first bishop of Rome, the power of Peter passed on to the bishop successors of Peter in Rome.  Thus, the bishop of Rome became known as the Pope or papa of the Christian Church in later centuries.  Peter had the power to bind and loosen on earth with consequences in heaven.  This power of binding and loosening also had been the authority that rabbis had used to forbid or permit things to happen.  In Matthew, chapter 18:18, with a solemn pronouncement “Truly, I say to you!” (Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν), Jesus granted this authority to bind and loosen to the whole community and not just Peter.  Whatever they bound on earth (ὅσα ἐὰν δήσητε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς), would be bound in heaven (ἔσται δεδεμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ).  Whatever they loosened on earth (καὶ ὅσα ἐὰν λύσητε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς) would be loosened in heaven (ἔσται λελυμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ).  Thus, this saying has been the basis for the sacramental concept of Reconciliation, Penance, or Confession.  Here in John, it seems to be given to all the apostles.  What do you think about the power to forgive sins?

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