Religion Past and Present

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Power of the Keys
(1,129 words)

[German Version]

The phrase power of the keys(potestas clavium) denotes the church’s authority to exclude individual members from communion (Communion of churches) and receive them back into communion, thus implicitly to determine their access to eternal salvation. The authority to act in this manner, to “bind and loose” on earth in a way that binds or looses “in heaven,” is based on Jesus’ words to his disciples in Matt 18:18 and John 20:23. The use of the expression power of the keys for this authority derives from another context, Matt 16:19, where Jesus confers the autho…

Cite this page
Pirson, Dietrich, “Power of the Keys”, in: Religion Past and Present. Consulted online on 02 July 2020 <>
First published online: 2011
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004146662, 2006-2013

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