"I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)

This is the main verse that Papal Supremacy (the final authority of the Pope to bind or loose) rests upon. The Roman Church's interpretation of the contextual significance of this verse obviously differs from that of Orthodoxy.

The footnote of the New American Bible says the following about this verse:

The keys to the kingdom of heaven: the image of the keys is probably drawn from Is 22:15–25 where Eliakim, who succeeds Shebnah as master of the palace, is given “the key of the house of David,” which he authoritatively “opens” and “shuts” (Mt 22:22). Whatever you bind…loosed in heaven: there are many instances in rabbinic literature of the binding-loosing imagery. Of the several meanings given there to the metaphor, two are of special importance here: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication. It is disputed whether the image of the keys and that of binding and loosing are different metaphors meaning the same thing. In any case, the promise of the keys is given to Peter alone. In Mt 18:18 all the disciples are given the power of binding and loosing, but the context of that verse suggests that there the power of excommunication alone is intended. That the keys are those to the kingdom of heaven and that Peter’s exercise of authority in the church on earth will be confirmed in heaven show an intimate connection between, but not an identification of, the church and the kingdom of heaven.

This is one of the most (if not the most) divisive doctrines concerning the relationship between East and West.

It seems pretty clear to me, as the Catholic interpretive footnote denotes above, that Jesus was speaking directly to Peter, which implies that Peter is specifically given the "Keys to the Kingdom" (a.k.a. the final authority to bind and loose, a.k.a. Papal Supremacy).

To my knowledge, Eastern Orthodoxy differs from Catholicism concerning Peter's authority by teaching that:

A. Peter and his successors hold the highly dignified position of "first among equals" and not "Supreme Pontiff."

B. Infallibility rests not in the Chair of Peter, but in the decrees and canons of ecumenical councils only.

C. The doctrine of papal supremacy derives from the gradual usurpation of jurisdictional authority - emerging definitively around the 8th and 9th cent. and reaching its full implementation with the 1054AD schism which was immediately followed by the Crusades.

Who do the Eastern Orthodox Church's believe the "Keys to the Kingdom" where given to by Jesus?

I am specifically interested in answers from strictly an Orthodox standpoint.


The issue here is not Peter. Peter received the keys to the kingdom. Peter was the first leader of the entire church. The issue is with his successors. The Roman Catholic church decided that Peter's successor was not only head of the church in Rome but of the entire church. Eastern bishops took issue with this because they believed that the keys weren't ONLY given to Peter. (I'm deliberately glossing over the secular politics involved here.) Therefore, Linus had no authority over the entire church. And sadly, the absolute refusal of anyone on either side to give any ground on the issue means that there may never be any reconciliation.

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  • If Peter received the keys, and was the first leader of the entire church...if he chose to pass this leadership onto linus by the laying on of hands...binding that this supreme bishopirc would be successive...wouldn't that be binding upon the church? This is what the Catholic church maintains at least... – user5286 Sep 19 '13 at 15:09
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    This answer isn't right. Have a look at this question and answers — the Council of Ephesus in AD431 agreed that “Peter, head of the apostles, even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors.” – Andrew Leach Sep 19 '13 at 15:16
  • @AndrewLeach I answered the question as asked. Whether or not the Eastern Orthodox Church is correct in it's assertions is a matter for a different topic. – crownjewel82 Sep 19 '13 at 15:30
  • Yes, @AndrewLeach, the Council may have stated that, however there is debate as to who Peter's successors are... – Byzantine Sep 19 '13 at 16:59
  • This doesn't seem to be an answer from the Eastern Orthodox perspective, as the OP requested. – user22553 Aug 16 '16 at 19:33

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