Yeshua Transfers Authority from Rabbis to Apostles

One of the responses I received, from my warning concerning the new Sanhedrin and the building of the third temple, was that we have to obey the rabbis as they have God-given authority over the Jewish people. This is not the first time I have heard this. It is based on Matthew 23. Yeshua tells the people:

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matt. 23:2-3)

Moses’ Seat

The idea is that, even in unbelief, they “sit in Moses’ seat” and therefore should be obeyed. The term “Moses’ seat” seems to indicate the place of authority that Moses held in the community. As you will recall, Moses was judge over the people. He would “sit” (hence, Moses’ seat) all day and judge disputes:

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. (Ex. 18:13)

The word (kathizó) that refers to these Jewish leaders “seating themselves in Moses’s seat” in Matthew 23:2 is also used 1 Corinthians 6:4 and means “appointing judges.” In many cases, the idea of sitting on a seat or throne was allegorical to having authority (1 Kings 1:35462 Kings 15:12Psalms 132:12).

The job became too much for Moses and he, in response to the advice from his father-in-law Jethro, appointed other men to assist. This group in Yeshua’s day was known as the Sanhedrin. The very word, Sanhedrin, means “sitting together,” as in a judging council. In every synagogue, there was a seat called “Moses’ seat” where one of these authoritative teachers would function.  

So, yes, Yeshua recognized their authority to sit in judgment. Of course, he also called them out during the rest of the chapter, using the harshest rhetoric in all the gospels. It was time for a change!

Changing of the Guard

It appears, however, the New Testament lays out a new system of authority. He takes it from the Sanhedrin and gives it to His apostles. It is no wonder that the first few chapters of Acts reveal a power struggle between the Pharisees and the Jewish apostles. To be clear, the apostles were merely fulfilling the words of Yeshua in preaching His kingdom. The Sanhedrin responded with violence against them. There was a war in the spirit

There are at least four places where Yeshua affirms this authority transfer. 

Binding and Losing

In Matthew 16, He gives His disciples the keys of the kingdom and begins to reveal what Paul calls the mystery of the ecclesia, the One New Man. 

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my ecclesia, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will beloosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:18-19)

He speaks of this new thing he will build—the congregation of Yeshua followers—starting with Peter and his disciples. Unbeknownst to them, it will expand to include the nations. 

Many have attributed “binding and loosing” to casting out demons, when in fact, He was referring to the authority of the upper and lower houses of the Sanhedrin. These were legal terms referring to interpreting Jewish law. Yeshua uses the word “keys”—which clearly symbolizes authority. 

We see this authority first exercised in a ‘binding way’ in Acts 1, when they add Matthias to their number. Then again, many years later in Acts 15, when the apostles decide that Gentiles can enter the Kingdom without becoming Jewish. 

When Yeshua spoke of binding and loosing, He wasn’t talking about spiritual warfare. The people to whom He spoke understood that He was talking about what was consistent with Torah and what wasn’t. This matter of binding and loosing wasn’t unique to Yeshua. It was entirely familiar to them all because it was how the rabbis would sanction something or ban it according to the teachings in Torah. —Lonnie Lane

Only Two are Needed

Then, in Matthew 18, he mentions it again and adds something:

“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt. 18:18-20)

Under Jewish law, you needed ten men of Bar Mitzvah age to have a religious meeting. This is called a minyan. I can remember during my years of religious training, that the men would often recruit a couple of us for the afternoon prayers because they did not have the required ten men. We were thrilled to get out of class! 

But here Yeshua says, “No, if just a couple of you gather in my name, I am there.”

Taken and Given

In Matthew 21, Yeshua explained how the Sanhedrin had abused their authority and rejected the prophets. Their final act would be to reject the Son.