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Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Matthew: Chapter 18)

18:1 {Who then is greatest} (\tis ara meizōn estin\). The \ara\
seems to point back to the tax-collection incident when Jesus had
claimed exemption for them all as "sons" of the Father. But it
was not a new dispute, for jealousy had been growing in their
hearts. The wonderful words of Jesus to Peter on Mount Hermon
(Mt 16:17-19) had evidently made Peter feel a fresh sense of
leadership on the basis of which he had dared even to rebuke
Jesus for speaking of his death (16:22). And then Peter was one
of the three (James and John also) taken with the Master up on
the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter on that occasion had spoken
up promptly. And just now the tax-collectors had singled out
Peter as the one who seemed to represent the group. Mark (Mr
represents Jesus as asking them about their dispute on the
way into the house, perhaps just after their question in Mt
18:1. Jesus had noticed the wrangling. It will break out again
and again (Mt 20:20-28; Lu 22:24). Plainly the primacy of Peter
was not yet admitted by the others. The use of the comparative
\meizōn\ (so \ho meizōn\ in verse 4) rather than the
superlative \megistos\ is quite in accord with the _Koinē_ idiom
where the comparative is displacing the superlative (Robertson,
_Grammar_, pp. 667ff.)
. But it is a sad discovery to find the
disciples chiefly concerned about their own places (offices) in
the political kingdom which they were expecting.

18:2 {Called to him} (\proskalesamenos\). Indirect middle voice
aorist participle. It may even be Peter's "little child"
(\paidion\) as it was probably in Peter's house (Mr 9:33). {Set
(\estēsen\). Transitive first aorist active indicative, not
intransitive second aorist, \estē\. {In the midst of them} (\en
mesōi autōn\)
. Luke adds (Lu 9:47) "by his side" (\par'
. Both are true.

18:3 {Except ye turn and become} (\ean mē straphēte kai
. Third-class condition, undetermined but with prospect
of determination. \Straphēte\ is second aorist passive
subjunctive and \genēsthe\ second aorist middle subjunctive. They
were headed in the wrong direction with their selfish ambition.
"His tone at this time is markedly severe, as much as when He
denounces the Pharisaism in the bud He had to deal with" (Bruce).
The strong double negative \ou mē eiselthēte\ means that they
will otherwise not get into the kingdom of heaven at all, let
alone have big places in it.

18:4 {This little child} (\to paidion touto\). This saying about
humbling oneself Jesus repeated a number of times as for instance
in Mt 23:12. Probably Jesus pointed to the child by his side.
The ninth-century story that the child was Ignatius is worthless.
It is not that the child humbled himself, but that the child is
humble from the nature of the case in relation to older persons.
That is true, however "bumptious" the child himself may be. Bruce
observes that to humble oneself is "the most difficult thing in
the world for saint as for sinner."

18:5 {In my name} (\epi tōi onomati mou\). For "one such little
child" (\any believer in Christ\) Luke (Lu 9:48) has "this
little child" as a representative or symbol. "On the basis or
ground of my name," "for my sake." Very much like \eis onoma\ in
10:41 which does not differ greatly from \en onomati\ (Ac

18:6 {These little ones} (\tōn mikrōn toutōn\). In the same sense
as "one such little one" above. The child is the type of
believers. {A great millstone} (\mulos onikos\), literally, "a
millstone turned by an ass." The upper millstone was turned by an
ass (\onos\). There were no examples of the adjective \onikos\
(turned by an ass) outside the N.T. until the papyri revealed
several for loads requiring an ass to carry them, stones
requiring an ass to move them, etc. Deissmann (_Light from the
Ancient East_, p. 81)
notes it also in papyri examples about the
sale of an ass and tax for an ass's burden of goods. {The depth
of the sea}
(\tōi pelagei tēs thalassēs\). "The sea of the sea."
\Pelagos\ probably from \plēsso\, to beat, and so the beating,
splashing waves of the sea. "Far out into the open sea, a vivid
substitute for \eis tēn thalassan\" (McNeile).

18:7 {Through whom} (\di' ou\). Jesus recognizes the
inevitableness of stumbling-blocks, traps, hindrances, the world
being as it is, but he does not absolve the man who sets the trap
(cf. Lu 17:1).

18:8 In verses 8 and 9 we have one of the dualities or
doublets in Matthew (5:29-30). Jesus repeated his pungent
sayings many times. Instead of \eis geennan\ (5:29) we have
\eis to pur to aiōnion\ and at the end of verse 9 \tou puros\
is added to \tēn geennan\. This is the first use in Matthew of
\aiōnios\. We have it again in 19:16,29 with \zoē\, in 25:41
with \pur\, in 25:46 with \kolasin\ and \zoēn\. The word means
ageless, without beginning or end as of God (Ro 16:26), without
beginning as in Ro 16:25, without end as here and often. The
effort to make it mean "\aeonian\" fire will make it mean
"\aeonian\" life also. If the punishment is limited, _ipso facto_
the life is shortened. In verse 9 also \monophthalmon\ occurs.
It is an Ionic compound in Herodotus that is condemned by the
Atticists, but it is revived in the vernacular _Koinē_. Literally
one-eyed. Here only and Mr 9:47 in the New Testament.

18:10 {Despise} (\kataphronēsēte\). Literally, "think down on,"
with the assumption of superiority. {Their angels} (\hoi aggeloi
. The Jews believed that each nation had a guardian angel
(Da 10:13,20f.; 12:1). The seven churches in Revelation (Re
have angels, each of them, whatsoever the meaning is. Does
Jesus mean to teach here that each little child or child of faith
had a special angel who appears in God's presence, "see the face
of my Father" (\blepousin to prosōpon tou patros mou\) in special
intimacy? Or does he simply mean that the angels do take an
interest in the welfare of God's people (Heb 1:14)? There is
comfort to us in that thought. Certainly Jesus means that the
Father takes special care of his "little ones" who believe in
Him. There are angels in God's presence (Lu 1:19).

18:12 {Leave the ninety and nine} (\aphēsei ta enenēkonta ennea
epi ta orē kai poreutheis zētei to planōmenon?\)
. This is the
text of Westcott and Hort after BL, etc. This text means: "Will
he not leave the ninety and nine upon the mountains and going
does he not seek (change to present tense) the wandering one?" On
the high pastures where the sheep graze at will one has wandered
afield. See this parable later in Lu 15:4-7. Our word "planet"
is from \planaomai\, wandering (moving) stars they were called as
opposed to fixed stars. But now we know that no stars are fixed.
They are all moving and rapidly.

18:14 {The will of your Father} (\thelēma emprosthen\). Observe
that Westcott and Hort read \mou\ here rather than \h–mōn\ after
B Sahidic Coptic. Either makes good sense, though "your" carries
on the picture of God's care for "each one of these little ones"
(\hen tōn mikrōn toutōn\) among God's children. The use of
\emprosthen\ with \thelēma\ is a Hebraism like \emprosthen sou\
in 11:25 with \eudokia\, "before the face" of God.

18:15 {If thy brother sin against thee} (\ean hamartēsēi adelphos
. Literally, commit a sin (ingressive aorist subjunctive of
. Aleph B Sahidic do not have "against thee" (\eis
. {Shew him his fault} (\elegxon\). Such private reproof is
hard to do, but it is the way of Christ. {Thou hast gained}
(\ekerdēsas\). Aorist active indicative of \kerdainō\ in
conclusion of a third-class condition, a sort of timeless aorist,
a blessed achievement already made.

18:16 {Take with thee} (\paralabe meta sou\). Take alone (\para\)
with (\meta\) thee.

18:17 {Refuse to hear} (\parakousēi\). Like Isa 65:12. Many
papyri examples for ignoring, disregarding, hearing without
heeding, hearing aside (\para-\), hearing amiss, overhearing (Mr
. {The church} (\tēi ekklēsiāi\). The local body, not the
general as in Mt 16:18 which see for discussion. The problem
here is whether Jesus has in mind an actual body of believers
already in existence or is speaking prophetically of the local
churches that would be organized later (as in Acts). There are
some who think that the Twelve Apostles constituted a local
\ekklēsia\, a sort of moving church of preachers. That could only
be true in essence as they were a band of ministers and not
located in any one place. Bruce holds that they were "the
nucleus" of a local church at any rate.

18:18 {Shall be bound in heaven} (\estai dedemena en ouranōi\).
Future passive periphrastic perfect indicative as in "shall be
loosed" (\estai lelumena\). In 16:19 this same unusual form
occurs. The binding and the loosing is there addressed to Peter,
but it is here repeated for the church or for the disciples as
the case may be.

18:19 {Shall agree} (\sumphōnēsōsin\). Our word "symphony" is
this very root. It is no longer looked at as a concord of voices,
a chorus in harmony, though that would be very appropriate in a
church meeting rather than the rasping discord sometimes heard
even between two brethren or sisters. {Of my Father} (\para tou
patros mou\)
. From the side of, "by my Father."

18:20 {There am I} (\ekei eimi\). This blessed promise implies
that those gathered together are really disciples with the spirit
of Christ as well as "in his name" (\eis to emon onoma\). One of
the Oxyrhynchus _Sayings of Our Lord_ is: "Wherever there are
(two) they are not without God, and wherever there is one alone I
say I am with him." Also this: "Raise the stone and there thou
shalt find me, cleave the wood and there am I." See Mal 3:16.

18:21 {Until seven times?} (\heōs heptakis?\) Peter thought that
he was generous as the Jewish rule was three times (Am 1:6).
His question goes back to verse 15. "Against me" is genuine
here. "The man who asks such a question does not really know what
forgiveness means" (Plummer).

18:22 {Until seventy times seven} (\heōs hebdomēkontakis hepta\).
It is not clear whether this idiom means seventy-seven or as the
Revised Version has it (490 times). If \heptakis\ were written it
would clearly be 490 times. The same ambiguity is seen in Ge
4:24, the LXX text by omitting \kai\. In the _Test. of the
Twelve Patriarchs, Benj._ vii. 4, it is used in the sense of
seventy times seven. But it really makes little difference
because Jesus clearly means unlimited forgiveness in either case.
"The unlimited revenge of primitive man has given place to the
unlimited forgiveness of Christians" (McNeile).

18:23 {Make a reckoning} (\sunārai logon\). Seen also in 25:19.
Perhaps a Latinism, _rationes conferre_. First aorist active
infinitive of \sunairō\, to cast up accounts, to settle, to
compare accounts with. Not in ancient Greek writers, but in two
papyri of the second century A.D. in the very sense here and the
substantive appears in an ostracon from Nubia of the early third
century (Deissmann, _Light from the Ancient East_, p. 117).

18:24 {Ten thousand talents} (\muriōn talantōn\). A talent was
6,000 denarii or about a thousand dollars or 240 pounds. Ten
thousand times this is about ten or twelve million dollars, an
enormous sum for that period. We live today in the age of
national debts of billions of dollars or even of pounds sterling.
The imperial taxes of Judea, Idumea, and Samaria for one year
were only 600 talents while Galilee and Perea paid 200 (Josephus,
_Ant_. xi. 4)
. But oriental kings were free in the use of money
and in making debts like the native kings of India today.

18:25 {Had not wherewith to pay} (\mē echontos autou apodounai\).
There is no "wherewith" in the Greek. This idiom is seen in Lu
7:42; 14:14; Heb 6:13. Genitive absolute though \auton\ in the
same clause as often in the N.T. {To be sold} (\prathēnai\).
First aorist passive infinitive of \pipraskō\. This was according
to the law (Ex 22:3; Le 25:39,47). Wife and children were
treated as property in those primitive times.

18:27 {The debt} (\to danion\). The loan. Common in the papyri
for a loan. The interest had increased the debt enormously. "This
heavy oriental usury is of the scenery of the parable" (McNeile).

18:28 {A hundred pence} (\hekaton dēnaria\). A denarius was worth
about eight and a half pence. The hundred denarii here were equal
to some "fifty shillings" (Bruce), "about 4 pounds" (McNeile),
"twenty pounds" (Moffatt), "twenty dollars" (Goodspeed), "100
shillings" (Weymouth) . These are various efforts to represent in
modern language the small amount of this debt compared with the
big one. {Took him by the throat} (\epnigen\). "Held him by the
throat" (Allen). It is imperfect, probably inchoative, "began to
choke or throttle him." The Roman law allowed this indignity.
Vincent quotes Livy (iv. 53) who tells how the necks were twisted
(_collum torsisset_) and how Cicero (_Pro Cluentio_, xxi.) says:
"Lead him to the judgment seat with twisted neck (_collo
." {What thou owest} (\ei ti opheileis\). Literally, "if
thou owest anything," however little. He did not even know how
much it was, only that he owed him something. "The 'if' is simply
the expression of a pitiless logic" (Meyer).

18:30 {And he would not} (\ho de ouk ēthelen\). Imperfect tense
of persistent refusal. {Till he should pay} (\heōs apodōi\). This
futuristic aorist subjunctive is the rule with \heōs\ for a
future goal. He was to stay in prison till he should pay. "He
acts on the instinct of a base nature, and also doubtless in
accordance with long habits of harsh tyrannical behaviour towards
men in his power" (Bruce). On imprisonment for debt among the
Greeks and Romans see Deissmann, _Light from the Ancient East_,
pp. 270,330.

18:31 {Told} (\diesaphēsan\). Made wholly clear to their own
lord. That is the usual result in the long run. There is a limit
to what people will put up with.

18:33 {Shouldst thou not?} (\ouk edei se?\) "Was it not
necessary?" The king fits the cap on this wicked slave that he
put on the poor debtor.

18:34 {The tormentors} (\tois basanistais\). Not to prison
simply, but to terrible punishment. The papyri give various
instances of the verb \basanizō\, to torture, used of slaves and
others. "Livy (ii. 23) pictures an old centurion complaining that
he was taken by his creditor, not into servitude, but to a
workhouse and torture, and showing his back scarred with fresh
wounds" (Vincent). {Till he should pay all} (\heōs [hou] apodōi
. Just as in verse 30, his very words. But this is not
purgatorial, but punitive, for he could never pay back that vast

18:35 {From your hearts} (\apo tōn kardiōn h–mōn\). No sham or
lip pardon, and as often as needed. This is Christ's full reply
to Peter's question in 18:21. This parable of the unmerciful
servant is surely needed today.

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Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Matthew: Chapter 18)