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The "Gates of Hell" in the Gospel of Matthew


Joseph Antley

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This is based on a blog post I wrote today, which is a rehash of an observation by Nibley in Mormonism and Early Christianity. I thought this was a really cool bit and wanted to see what others thought.

I still find it amazing how consistent the portrayal of the early Christian Church in the New Testament is with the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. An example is something that Hugh Nibley notes, which is the interpretation of the phrase

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Here's a reply to the same issue I wrote many years ago. It may be helpful.

You have brought up a good passage [Matthew 16:13~19], but I am afraid that you misunderstand it. Before we start, please look at the entire passage, because it is important to know the context before we discuss the portion you refer to:

(AV) Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Greek (with word-for-word translation): 13. Elthoo'n de' ho Ieesou's eis ta' me'ree Kaisarei'as tee's Fili'ppou eeroo'ta tou's matheeta's autou' le'goon,

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At a Wilford Griggs "Know Your Religion" lecture in the 80's, he translated the text (the gates of hell shall not prevail against it) this way: "The doors of the spirit world will not be closed to it." Very clear meaning is that the sealing powers of the priesthood - and everything that flows therefrom - have efficacy in this world and the next.

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Here's a reply to the same issue I wrote many years ago. It may be helpful.

You have brought up a good passage [Matthew 16:13~19], but I am afraid that you misunderstand it. Before we start, please look at the entire passage, because it is important to know the context before we discuss the portion you refer to:

(AV) Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Greek (with word-for-word translation): 13. Elthoo'n de' ho Ieesou's eis ta' me'ree Kaisarei'as tee's Fili'ppou eeroo'ta tou's matheeta's autou' le'goon,

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Here's a reply to the same issue I wrote many years ago. It may be helpful.

You have brought up a good passage [Matthew 16:13~19], but I am afraid that you misunderstand it. Before we start, please look at the entire passage, because it is important to know the context before we discuss the portion you refer to:

(AV) Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Greek (with word-for-word translation): 13. Elthoo'n de' ho Ieesou's eis ta' me'ree Kaisarei'as tee's Fili'ppou eeroo'ta tou's matheeta's autou' le'goon,

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My response:

When Christ was crucified and buried, did the Gates of Hell overcome Him? To some it appeared so, but He arose after three days.

This scripture contains a promise that Christ made to Peter, and it was fulfilled when he restored His church here on the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Gates of Hell did not overcome Christ, and they did not overcome the church.

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Thank you Lehi, for that careful and thorough treatment.

To me, it seems obvious that the usefulness of Matthew 16 as an anti-Mormon prooftext is at an end.

One more point, apart from the translation issues you have brought up: why can't the gates of hell prevail against the Church? Because the Lord gave Peter the keys. The keys of the kingdom of Heaven are the keys that unlock the gates of hell. Thus, the Church, having the keys in its possession, can unlock the gates of hell at will in order to extend the blessings and ordinances of the Gospel to the dead.

Regards,

Pahoran

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Thank you Lehi, for that careful and thorough treatment.

You are more than welcome.

Alas, in spite of the observations that this (coupled with other, related investigations) will stop the use of Matt 16:13~19 as an argument against The Church of Jesus Christ, it will stop nothing. Antis will continue to use it just as they continue to use the three (or eight) thousand changes in the Book of Mormon as a club against the truth of the Gospel.

One more point, apart from the translation issues you have brought up: why can't the gates of hell prevail against the Church? Because the Lord gave Peter the keys. The keys of the kingdom of Heaven are the keys that unlock the gates of hell. Thus, the Church, having the keys in its possession, can unlock the gates of hell at will in order to extend the blessings and ordinances of the Gospel to the dead.

Exactly.

People outside the Church do not have the concept of "keys", aside from Catholics who have the concept, but not the keys. That they do not is evident from the fact that they do nothing with the supposed keys they claim

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