A friend of mine justified the office of the papacy by referring to the office of the "keybearer "in Isaiah 22:22ff.  The keybearer was a successive office which had authority under the king. Now if we allow God to take the equivalent place of the OT king under the NT then a physical head of the church would correspond to the keybearer. Jesus' words to Peter in Matthew 16 use similar wording to the Isaiah passage, only that the "kingdom" reference changes from the kingdom of David to the kingdom of God. I was taken aback by his argument and was not able to properly refute it. How should I tackle the issue? -- Rob Jackson (Sydney)

Very clever argument, though it doesn't prove anything. In the Old Testament, God is the real king and the reigning monarch is the physical head; so if there is a New Testament analog, since God is still the real king, the human office of the papacy would correspond to the king himself, not the keybearer, who was only an underling of the true (human) king. In other words, the interpretation above is completely tendentious. Simple logic suffices in this case. Yet I am not sure your friend will find this satisfying since he is probably relying on the authority of his church for the "true" interpretation. On the papacy, I would use Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 1:22-23, Matthew 23:9 and other passages to challenge the notion. If you want to see how the current pope handles this, read his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994), p.6! His Holiness John Paul II is aware of the contradiction with Jesus' command to call no one "father," yet his solution is to affirm that we must not be afraid of this practice (even though Jesus said not to do it) because it is deeply rooted in Roman Catholic tradition!

Interestingly, Eliakim and Shebna, the royal stewards are well known to history not just from Isaiah 22 but from archaeology. The tomb referred to by Isaiah has been located and the inscription stone is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem -- just to keep your faith on the cutting edge!

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