Matthew 18:18 ...Whatsoever you shall bind on earth

KJV Verse: 

Mat 18:18 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.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Truly, I am telling you, when you might lack on earth as much as [this] , it is going to have been tied closed in heaven, and when you might deliver as much as [this] on earth, it is going to have been opened in heaven.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This verse is a clever play on words that is lost in translation. There are also some untranslated words that are problematic. We also need to understand that Christ referred to the ways that doors were held closed as being "tied." This is made clear in a similar verse in Mat 16:19, where the reference to doors is explicit instead of implicit. This verse (and the earlier one) may or may not make the theological point that many see here. In this case, this statement could be a reference to the ostracism described in the previous verse (Mat 18:16). In the context of Christ's ideas, this verse is even more surprising that it first appear because Christ usually describes "heaven" and "earth" as opposites and here he describes them as the same. Or does he?

The beginning phrase is a common "Christism" that we discuss it in detail in this article.

Untranslated here is the Greek word meaning "if might" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. It is like we use the word "when."

The word translated as "whatsoever" means "as great as", ""as much as," and similar ideas of comparison. Since this is an adjective used without a noun, in Greek a pronoun is assumed. Adding "this" is required in Englsh. This is intentional. Note that the Greek word for "whatsoever" is used in the similar verse at Mat 16:19 but not here.

"You shall bind" is from a word that is a play on words. Its form here can be one of two homonyms. The first means "to lack", "to want or need," but the second means "to tie", "to bind", "to fetter," and "to keep in bonds," Because of the context, his listeners would have likely heard the first meaning. While the first meaning could be in the future tense, both could also be in a tense indicating something that happens at some point in time past, present, or future. This form is strongly indicated by the untranslated "if" or "when" with which this phrase begins.

The word translated as "earth" means the physical planet, not society, which Christ describes as "the world." See this article for more how Christ uses the words for "earth", "heaven," and "world." Christ uses this word to refer to our lives on this planet.

The verb "shall be" here is the future tense form of "to be" in Greek. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It does not indicate a "change" in state (which is the sense of the future tense in English) but a future tense that continues.

The word translated as "bound" can only be from the first meaning "to tie" or "to keep in bonds" above, but since the Christ uses this term to refer to the closing and opening of doors, it completing the play on words. It is in the form of an adjective in a tense which indicates something that was completed in the past. This form fits with the "to be" verb which indicates a continued state, not a change. This is where the listener is surprised by being redirected from one meaning of the word to the other when the first meaning is easy to understand by the second is difficult.

The conjunction "and" connects the two phrases here. The second half of this verse repeats all the words above, except it changes the "want/tied" words to "loosen."

"You shall loose" is from a Greek verb which has many meanings spanning "loosen", "deliver", "destroy," and "pay." It is the word that gets translated as "break" in the phrase "breaking commandments." The "deliver" meaning is a counterpoint to the "lack" meaning of the word used in the first phrase while the "loosen" in the sense of "unlock" meaning works.

Greek Vocabulary: 

Ἀμὴν "Verily" is from amen, which is from the Hebrew, meaning "truly", "of a truth," and "so be it." It has no history in Greek before the NT.

λέγω (1st sg pres ind act) "I tell" is from llego means "pick up", "choose for oneself", "pick out," and "count," "recount", "tell over", "say", "speak", "teach", "mean", "boast of", "tell of", "recite," "nominate," and "command."

ὑμῖν, (pron 2nd pl dat) "You" is from humon, which is a plural form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

ὅσα (adj pl neut acc) "Whatsoever" is from hosos, which means "as many", "as much as", "as great as", "as far as," and "only so far as."

ἐὰν Untranslated is ean, which is a conditional particle (derived from ei (if)and an (might) which makes reference to a time and experience in the future that introduces but does not determine an event.

δήσητε (verb 2nd pl aor subj act or verb 2nd pl fut ind act) "Ye shall bind" is deo which means "to bind", "to keep in bonds", "to tie", "to hinder from," and "to fetter. "
or
(verb 2nd pl aor subj act) "Ye shall bind" is from deo, which means to "lack", "miss", "stand in need of", "to be in want or need", "require," and "beg."

ἐπὶ "On" is from epi. which means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," and "against."

τῆς γῆς (noun sg fem gen) "The earth" is from ge, which means "the element of earth", "land (country)", "arable land", "the ground," and "the world" as the opposite of the sky. Like our English word "earth," it means both dirt and the planet.

ἔσται (verb 3rd sg fut ind mid) "Shall be" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." (The future form is esomai. The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.") -- When the verb "to be" appears early in the sentence before the subject, the sense is more like "it is" or, in the plural, "there are." -

δεδεμένα (part pl perf mp neut nom) "Bound" is deo which means "to bind", "to keep in bonds", "to tie", "to hinder from," and "to fetter. "

ἐν "In" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with".

οὐρανῷ (noun sg masc dat) "Heaven" is from the Greek ouranos, which means "heaven as in the vault of the sky", "heaven as the seat of the gods", "the sky", "the universe," and "the climate."

καὶ "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

ὅσα (adj pl neut acc) "Whatsoever" is from hosos, which means "as many", "as much as", "as great as", "as far as," and "only so far as." -

ἐὰν Untranslated is ean, which is a conditional particle (derived from ei (if)and an (might)) which makes reference to a time and experience in the future that introduces but does not determine an event.

λύσητε (verb 2nd pl fut ind act or verb 2nd pl aor subj act) "Ye shall loose" is from lyo, which means "loosen", "unbind", "unfasten", "unyoke", "unharness", "release", "deliver", "give up", "dissolve", "break up", "undo", "destroy", "repeal", "annul", "break", "solve", "fulfill", "atone for", "fulfill," and "pay."

ἐπὶ "Against" is from epi. which means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," and "against." -- The word translated as "unto" means "against", "before", "by" or "on."

τῆς γῆς (noun sg fem gen) "The earth" is from ge, which means "the element of earth", "land (country)", "arable land", "the ground," and "the world" as the opposite of the sky. Like our English word "earth," it means both dirt and the planet. -- The word translated as "earth" means the physical planet, not society, which Christ describes as the world. See this articlefor more on these words.

ἔσται (verb 3rd sg fut ind mid) "Shall be" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." (The future form is esomai. The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.") -- When the verb "to be" appears early in the sentence before the subject, the sense is more like "it is" or, in the plural, "there are." -

λελυμένα "Loosed" is from lyo, which means "loosen", "unbind", "unfasten", "unyoke", "unharness", "release", "deliver", "give up", "dissolve", "break up", "undo", "destroy", "repeal", "annul", "break", "solve", "fulfill", "atone for", "fulfill," and "pay."

ἐν "In" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with". -- The word translated as "in" also means "within", "with," or "among."

οὐρανῷ. (noun sg masc dat) "Heaven" is from the Greek ouranos, which means "heaven as in the vault of the sky", "heaven as the seat of the gods", "the sky", "the universe," and "the climate." -- The word translated as "heaven" means sky, the climate, and the universe. It also meant the home of the gods in a physical sense: the sun, moon, and planets were named for the gods.

Wordplay: 

The two key words hear have double meanings. The most surprising one is the "you shall bind" word which listenrs could hear initially as "lack" or "want." The second key word has a range of meaning that complement this double meaning from "loosen" to "deliver." 

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