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14.  In What Sense the “Keys” Are Given to Peter, and Every Peter.  Limitations of This Power.

And after this let us see in what sense it is said to Peter, and to every Peter, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” 5653   And, in the first place, I think that the saying, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” is spoken in consistency with the words, “The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” 5654   For he is worthy to receive from the same Word the keys of the kingdom of heaven, who is fortified against the gates of Hades so that they do not prevail against him, receiving, as it were, for a prize, the keys of the kingdom of heaven, because the gates of Hades had no power against him, that he might open for himself the gates that were closed to those who had been conquered by the gates of Hades.  And he enters in, as a temperate man, through an opened gate—the gate of temperance—by the key which opens temperance; and, as a righteous man, by another gate—the gate of righteousness—which is opened by the key of righteousness; and so with the rest of the virtues.  For I think that for every virtue of knowledge certain mysteries of wisdom corresponding to the species of the virtue are opened up to him who has lived according to virtue; the Saviour giving to those who are not mastered by the gates of Hades as many keys as there are virtues, which open gates equal in number, which correspond to each virtue according to the revelation of the mysteries.  And perhaps, also, each virtue is a kingdom of heaven, and all together are a kingdom of the heavens; so that according to this he is already in the kingdom of the heavens who lives according to the virtues, so that according to this the saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” 5655 is to be referred, not to the time, but to deeds and dispositions; for Christ, who is all virtue, has come, and speaks, and on account of this the kingdom of God is within His disciples, and not here or there. 5656   But consider how great power the rock has upon which the church is built by Christ, and how great power every one has who says, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” so that the judgments of this man abide sure, as if God were judging in him, that in the very act of judging the gates of Hades shall not prevail against him.  But when one judges unrighteously, and does not bind upon earth according to the Word of God, nor loose upon earth according to His will, the gates of Hades prevail against him; but, in the case of any one against whom the gates of Hades do not prevail, this man judges righteously.  Wherefore he has the keys of the kingdom of heaven, opening to those who have been loosed on earth that they may be also loosed in p. 459 heaven, and free; and shutting to those who by his just judgment have been bound on earth that they also may be bound in heaven, and condemned.  But when those who maintain the function of the episcopate make use of this word as Peter, and, having received the keys of the kingdom of heaven from the Saviour, teach that things bound by them, that is to say, condemned, are also bound in heaven, and that those which have obtained remission by them are also loosed in heaven, we must say that they speak wholesomely if they have the way of life on account of which it was said to that Peter, “Thou art Peter;” 5657 and if they are such that upon them the church is built by Christ, and to them with good reason this could be referred; and the gates of Hades ought not to prevail against him when he wishes to bind and loose.  But if he is tightly bound with the cords of his sins, 5658 to no purpose does he bind and loose.  And perhaps you can say that in the heavens which are in the wise man—that, is the virtues,—the bad man is bound; and again in these the virtuous man is loosed, and has received an indemnity for the sins which he committed before his virtue.  But, as the man, who has not the cords of sins nor iniquities compared to a “long rope or to the strap of the yoke of a heifer,” 5659 not even God could bind, in like manner, no Peter, whoever he may be; and if any one who is not a Peter, and does not possess the things here spoken of, imagines as a Peter that he will so bind on earth that the things bound are bound in heaven, and will so loose on earth that the things loosed are loosed in heaven, he is puffed up, not understanding the meaning of the Scriptures, and, being puffed up, has fallen into the ruin of the devil. 5660



Matt. xvi. 19.


Matt. xvi. 18.


Matt. 3:2, Matt. 4:17.


Luke xvii. 21.


Matt. xvi. 18.


Prov. v. 22.


Isa. v. 18.


1 Tim. iii. 10.

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