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What is the Eliakim Typological Argument?

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The Eliakim Typological Argument is an apologetic defense used to support the Roman Catholic papacy—the doctrinal and administrative office of the pope. The pope holds the central organizational and leadership office of the Roman Catholic Church. His authority is believed to come from the apostle Peter, whom Catholics assert led the church before his martyrdom. Put simply, Catholics believe Jesus appointed Peter to be the first pope and that there is an unbroken line of papal succession to the present day.

The Eliakim Typological Argument originates from the Roman Catholic Church’s interpretation of Matthew 16:13–20. In this passage, Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (verse 15). In verse 16, the apostle Peter—always the outspoken one of the group—answers for all of them. He confesses that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (ESV). In a powerful and unambiguous way, Peter declares that Jesus is God’s Son and Israel’s promised Messiah. Jesus responds to Peter’s confession with these words: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, 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 be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:17–19).

The Lord’s response to Peter intentionally paralleled Peter’s confession of faith. Peter confessed, “You are the Christ.” Jesus responded, “You are Peter.” Peter’s first name was originally Simon, but the Lord renamed him Peter (Petros in Greek), meaning “rock” (John 1:42). Based on Christ’s next statement, “And on this rock I will build my church,” Roman Catholics believe Jesus endowed Peter with authority to become the first pope, along with all the various roles and duties that role entails.

The Eliakim Typological Argument asserts that, when Jesus gave “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” to Peter, He was alluding to and fulfilling Isaiah 22:20–24, which Catholics see as a typological prefigurement of Peter’s role in the church. Isaiah’s prophecy says, “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a seat of honor for the house of his father. All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots—all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.”

The Eliakim Typological Argument claims that Eliakim, who received “the key to the house of David,” is a type of Peter. Eliakim foreshadowed the eventual role that Peter would play as the founding pope. The argument also links the statements “What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open” with the Lord’s promise to Peter that “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” In drawing a correlation between Isaiah 22 and Matthew 16, the Roman Catholic Church erroneously regards the office of the pope as biblical and confers foundational and infallible authority to whoever occupies that office.

The problem with the Eliakim Typological Argument is that Eliakim prefigures Christ, not Peter. In Isaiah 22:22 Eliakim is given “the key of the house of David.” This corresponds with the description of Jesus in Revelation 3:7: “who is holy and true, who holds the key of David.”

Further, Isaiah 22:22 says concerning Eliakim, “What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” This, too, is applied to Jesus in Revelation 3:7: “What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” The blessing of Eliakim in Isaiah 22 should be read in light of Revelation 3, not Matthew 16.

Scripture demonstrates unambiguously that Jesus is the authority of the church, not Peter. The Eliakim Typological Argument postulates a dubious and highly speculative interpretation of Matthew 16 in light of Isaiah 22. There is simply no scriptural basis for the office of the pope or the doctrine of papal infallibility, and the Eliakim Typological Argument fails to overturn that fact.

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What is the Eliakim Typological Argument?
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This page last updated: March 14, 2023