This question is inspired by the question What is the Old Testament basis to the idea that only God can forgive sins? What is the Biblical basis (Old or New Testament) for the idea that men can be given the authority to forgive sins?

  • John 20:23? See also the Power of the Keys. (Note: authority was delivered by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and hopefully you don't need me to also explain that Jesus has the authority... which should only be an issue anyway for Unitarians.)
    – Matthew
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 17:05
  • @Matthew Why would that be an issue for unitarians? Commented May 27, 2021 at 17:10
  • Only God can forgive sins (or at least grant authority to do so), or at least that was your starting premise. A Trinitarian will note that Jesus is God, so "obviously" there is no problem with Jesus forgiving sins. I assume there exists a Unitarian rationale for why Jesus a) has authority to forgive, and b) has authority to give others authority. Since I don't know that explanation, "hopefully you don't need me to also explain"...
    – Matthew
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 17:51
  • @Matthew It's a bit opposite. Biblical Unitarians would have a scriptural problem if only God has authority to forgive sins - that would straightforwardly mean Jesus is God. The Biblical Unitarian view is that Jesus has been given authority by God to forgive sins (just as He says He has been given authority by God in other places, and in a similar way to how that authority is then conferred on the disciples at John 20:22-23). Commented May 27, 2021 at 18:00
  • 1
    Apart from Matthew 9:5-8 ?
    – user46876
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 23:23

1 Answer 1


What is the Biblical basis of the idea that men can be given authority to forgive sins?

St. John speaks of it in his Gospel (John 20:19-23):

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

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

St. Matthew also speaks of this in his Gospel (Matthew 18:15–18):

Dealing With Sin in the Church

15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

St. James speaks of this in his Epistle (James 5:13-15):

13 Is any of you sad? Let him pray. Is he cheerful in mind? Let him sing.

14 Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man: and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him.

St. Paul speaks as follows in 2 Corinthians 2:10:

10 And to whom you have pardoned any thing, I also. For, what I have pardoned, if I have pardoned any thing, for your sakes have I done it in the person of Christ.

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