Questions About the Greatest
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a child, had him stand among them, 3 and said, “I tell you the truth,#tn Grk “Truly (ἀμήν, amhn), I say to you.” unless you turn around and become like little children,#sn The point of the comparison become like little children has more to do with a child’s trusting spirit, as well as willingness to be dependent and receive from others, than any inherent humility the child might possess. you will never#tn The negation in Greek (οὐ μή, ou mh) is very strong here. enter the kingdom of heaven! 4 Whoever then humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes#tn This verb, δέχομαι (decomai), is a term of hospitality (L&N 34.53). a child like this in my name welcomes me.
6 “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,#tn The Greek term σκανδαλίζω (skandalizw), translated here “causes to sin” can also be translated “offends” or “causes to stumble.” it would be better for him to have a huge millstone#tn Grk “the millstone of a donkey.” This refers to a large flat stone turned by a donkey in the process of grinding grain (BDAG 661 s.v. μύλος 2; L&N 7.68-69). The same term is used in the parallel account in Mark 9:42.sn The punishment of drowning with a heavy weight attached is extremely gruesome and reflects Jesus’ views concerning those who cause others who believe in him to sin. hung around his neck and to be drowned in the open sea.#tn The term translated “open” here (πελάγει, pelagei) refers to the open sea as opposed to a stretch of water near a coastline (BDAG 794 s.v. πέλαγος). A similar English expression would be “the high seas.” 7 Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! It#tn Grk “For it.” Here γάρ (gar) has not been translated. is necessary that stumbling blocks come, but woe to the person through whom they come. 8 If#tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated. your hand or your foot causes you to sin,#sn In Greek there is a wordplay that is difficult to reproduce in English here. The verb translated “causes…to sin” (σκανδαλίζω, skandalizw) comes from the same root as the word translated “stumbling blocks” (σκάνδαλον, skandalon) in the previous verse. cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than to have#tn Grk “than having.” two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than to have#tn Grk “than having.” two eyes and be thrown into fiery hell.#tn Grk “the Gehenna of fire.”sn See the note on the word hell in 5:22.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
10 “See that you do not disdain one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.#tc The most important mss (א B L* Θ* Ë1,13 33 892* pc e ff1 sys sa) do not include 18:11 “For the Son of Man came to save the lost.” The verse is included in D Lmg W Θc 078vid Ï lat syc,p,h, but is almost certainly not original, being borrowed, as it were, from the parallel in Luke 19:10. The present translation follows NA27 in omitting the verse number as well, a procedure also followed by a number of other modern translations. 12 What do you think? If someone#tn Grk “a certain man.” The Greek word ἄνθρωπος (anqrwpo") is used here in a somewhat generic sense. owns a hundred#sn This individual with a hundred sheep is a shepherd of modest means, as flocks often had up to two hundred head of sheep. sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go look for the one that went astray?#sn Look for the one that went astray. The parable pictures God’s pursuit of the sinner. On the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, see John 10:1-18. 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth,#tn Grk “Truly (ἀμήν, amhn), I say to you.” he will rejoice more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14 In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that one of these little ones be lost.
Restoring Christian Relationships
15 “If#tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated. All the “if” clauses in this paragraph are third class conditions in Greek. your brother#tn The Greek term “brother” can mean “fellow believer” or “fellow Christian” (cf. BDAG 18 s.v. ἀδελφός 2.a) whether male or female. It can also refer to siblings, though here it is used in a broader sense to connote familial relationships within the family of God. Therefore, because of the familial connotations, “brother” has been retained in the translation here in preference to the more generic “fellow believer” (“fellow Christian” would be anachronistic in this context). sins,#tc ‡ The earliest and best witnesses lack “against you” after “if your brother sins.” It is quite possible that the shorter reading in these witnesses (א B, as well as 0281 Ë1 579 pc sa) occurred when scribes either intentionally changed the text (to make it more universal in application) or unintentionally changed the text (owing to the similar sound of the end of the verb ἁμαρτήσῃ [Jamarthsh] and the prepositional phrase εἰς σέ [eis se]). However, if the mss were normally copied by sight rather than by sound, especially in the early centuries of Christianity, such an unintentional change is not as likely for these mss. And since scribes normally added material rather than deleted it for intentional changes, on balance, the shorter reading appears to be original. NA27 includes the words in brackets, indicating doubts as to their authenticity. go and show him his fault#tn Grk “go reprove him.” when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established.#sn A quotation from Deut 19:15. 17 If#tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated. he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If#tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated. he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like#tn Grk “let him be to you as.” a Gentile#tn Or “a pagan.” or a tax collector.#sn To treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector means not to associate with such a person. See the note on tax collectors in 5:46.
18 “I tell you the truth,#tn Grk “Truly (ἀμήν, amhn), I say to you.” whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven. 19 Again, I tell you the truth,#tn Grk “Truly (ἀμήν, amhn), I say to you.” if two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.#tn Grk “if two of you…agree about whatever they ask, it will be done for them by my Father who is in heaven.” The passive construction has been translated as an active one in keeping with contemporary English style, and the pronouns, which change from second person plural to third person plural in the Greek text, have been consistently translated as second person plural. 20 For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them.”
21 Then Peter came to him and said, “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother#tn Here the term “brother” means “fellow believer” or “fellow Christian” (cf. BDAG 18 s.v. ἀδελφός 2.a), whether male or female. Concerning the familial connotations, see also the note on the first occurrence of this term in v. 15. who sins against me? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy-seven times!#tn Or “seventy times seven,” i.e., an unlimited number of times. See L&N 60.74 and 60.77 for the two possible translations of the phrase.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Slave
23 “For this reason, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves.#tn See the note on the word “slave” in 8:9. 24 As#tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated. he began settling his accounts, a man who owed ten thousand talents#sn A talent was a huge sum of money, equal to 6,000 denarii. One denarius was the usual day’s wage for a worker. L&N 6.82 states, “a Greek monetary unit (also a unit of weight) with a value which fluctuated, depending upon the particular monetary system which prevailed at a particular period of time (a silver talent was worth approximately six thousand denarii with gold talents worth at least thirty times that much).” was brought to him. 25 Because#tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated. he was not able to repay it,#tn The word “it” is not in the Greek text, but is implied. Direct objects were often omitted in Greek when clear from the context. the lord ordered him to be sold, along with#tn Grk “and his wife.” his wife, children, and whatever he possessed, and repayment to be made. 26 Then the slave threw himself to the ground#tn Grk “falling therefore the slave bowed down to the ground.” The redundancy of this expression signals the desperation of the slave in begging for mercy. before him, saying,#tc The majority of mss (א L W 058 0281 Ë1,13 33 Ï it syp,h co) begin the slave’s plea with “Lord” (κύριε, kurie), though a few important witnesses lack this vocative (B D Θ 700 pc lat sys,c Or Chr). Understanding the parable to refer to the Lord, scribes would be naturally prone to add the vocative here, especially as the slave’s plea is a plea for mercy. Thus, the shorter reading is more likely to be authentic. ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you everything.’ 27 The lord had compassion on that slave and released him, and forgave him the debt. 28 After#tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated. he went out, that same slave found one of his fellow slaves who owed him one hundred silver coins.#tn Grk “one hundred denarii.” The denarius was a silver coin worth about a day’s wage for a laborer; this would be about three month’s pay. So#tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so.” A new sentence was started at this point in the translation in keeping with the tendency of contemporary English style to use shorter sentences. he grabbed him by the throat and started to choke him,#tn Grk “and he grabbed him and started choking him.” saying, ‘Pay back what you owe me!’#tn The word “me” is not in the Greek text, but is implied. Direct objects were often omitted in Greek when clear from the context. 29 Then his fellow slave threw himself down and begged him,#tn Grk “begged him, saying.” The participle λέγων (legwn) is redundant here in contemporary English and has not been translated. ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you.’ 30 But he refused. Instead, he went out and threw him in prison until he repaid the debt. 31 When#tn Grk “Therefore when.” Here οὖν (oun) has not been translated. his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were very upset and went and told their lord everything that had taken place. 32 Then his lord called the first slave#tn Grk “him”; the referent (the first slave mentioned in v. 24) has been specified in the translation for clarity. and said to him, ‘Evil slave! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me! 33 Should you not have shown mercy to your fellow slave, just as I showed it to you?’ 34 And in anger his lord turned him over to the prison guards to torture him#tn Grk “handed him over to the torturers,” referring specifically to guards whose job was to torture prisoners who were being questioned. According to L&N 37.126, it is difficult to know for certain in this instance whether the term actually envisions torture as a part of the punishment or is simply a hyperbole. However, in light of the following verse and Jesus’ other warning statements in Matthew about “fiery hell,” “the outer darkness,” etc., it is best not to dismiss this as mere imagery. until he repaid all he owed. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if each of you does not forgive your#tn Grk “his.” The pronoun has been translated to follow English idiom (the last pronoun of the verse [“from your heart”] is second person plural in the original). brother#tn Here the term “brother” means “fellow believer” or “fellow Christian” (cf. BDAG 18 s.v. ἀδελφός 2.a), whether male or female. Concerning the familial connotations, see also the note on the first occurrence of this term in v. 15. from your heart.”