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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

Matthew 18

Verses 1-99

Ch. 18: 1 4 . A Lesson in Humility. The Kingdom of Heaven and Little Children

Mark 9:33-41.9.37 ; Luke 9:46-42.9.48 .

1 . At the same time ] “in that hour.” The preceding incident and our Lord’s words had again excited hopes of a glorious kingdom on earth.

greatest ] Literally, greater (than others).

2 . set him in the midst of them ] St Mark adds, “when He had taken him in His arms.”

3 . be converted ] Literally, be turned . The Greek word is used in a literal sense, except here and Acts 7:39 and 42.

shall not enter ] much less be great therein.

4 . Whosoever therefore shall humble himself ] He who shall be most Christ-like in humility (see Philippians 2:7-50.2.9 ) shall be most like Christ in glory.

5, 6 . Christ’s Little Ones. Mark 9:37

The thought of Jesus passes from the dispute among His disciples to the care of His little ones, the young in faith, who, if they have the weakness, have also the humility of little children.

whoso shall receive ] It is a sacrament of lovingkindness when Christ Himself is received in the visible form of His little ones. To receive is to welcome, shew kindness to.

a millstone ] Literally, a millstone turned by an ass , and so larger than the ordinary millstone. Cp. Ovid ( Fasti vi. 318): “Et quæ pumiceas versat asella molas.”

The manner of death alluded to appears to have been unknown to the Jews. But Plutarch mentions this punishment as being common to Greece and Rome. Cp. Juv. Sat. xiv. 16, 17, where, as in other places, it is named rather than the cross as a swift and terrible penalty for crime.

7 9 . Of Offences. Mark 9:43-41.9.48

From offences hindrances to the faith of Christ’s little ones the discourse proceeds to offences in general every thing that hinders the spiritual life.

8, 9 . Cp. note ch. 5:29, 30.

10 14 . Christ’s care for His Little Ones illustrated by a Parable. Luke 15:3-42.15.7

After a brief digression ( vv. 7 9), Christ’s love for His young disciples again breaks out in words. Let no one despise them. They have unseen friends in the court of heaven, who are ever in the presence of the King himself. There, at any rate, they are not despised. It was for them especially that the Son of Man came to earth.

11 . This verse is omitted in the Sinaitic and the Vatican MSS., and is consequently rejected by Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles. However, it falls in precisely with the train of thought, and is almost required to connect vv. 10 and 12.

The expression and the imagery of the parable recall Ezekiel 34:0 ; comp. also ch. 15:24. In Luke the parable is spoken with direct reference to publicans and sinners, whom the Pharisees despised, and who are the “little ones” of these verses. Such differences of context in the Gospels are very instructive; they are, indeed, comments by the Evangelists themselves on the drift and bearing of particular sayings of Christ.

12 . This parable is followed in Luke by the parable of the Lost Drachma and that of the Prodigal Son which illustrate and amplify the same thought.

doth he not leave the ninety and nine ] St Luke adds “in the wilderness.”

13 . of that sheep ] Rather, over that sheep.

15 35 . Forgiveness of Sins. Luke 17:3 , Luke 17:4

God’s forgiveness of sinners suggests the duty of forgiveness among men.

15 . go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone ] See Leviticus 19:17 , where the words “not suffer sin upon him,” mean “thou shalt not incur sin through him,” i. e. by letting him go on unrebuked in his sin. Tell him his fault , rather, convict him ; the same Greek word is translated rebuke , Levit. loc. cit. St Luke has a different Greek word with a similar meaning.

gained ] i. e. won over to a better mind, to Christ. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:19-46.9.22 , and 1 Peter 3:1 .

17 . tell it unto the church ] The word “church” (Grk. ekklesia ) is found only here and ch. 16:18 in the Gospels. In the former passage the reference to the Christian Church is undoubted. Here either (1) the assembly or congregation of the Jewish synagogue, or rather, (2) the ruling body of the synagogue (collegium presbyterorum, Schleusner ) is meant. This must have been the sense of the word to those who were listening to Christ. But what was spoken of the Jewish Church was naturally soon applied to the Christian Church.

a heathen man and a publican ] Jesus, the friend of publicans and sinners, uses the phrase of His contemporaries. What Jesus says, Matthew the publican records.

18 . Taking up the word “Church,” Jesus passes from its present meaning the ruling body in the synagogue to its meaning in the future. The ruling body is the Christian Church.

Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven ] What was spoken to Peter alone is now spoken to all the disciples, representing the Church. “Whatsoever you as a Church declare binding or declare not binding, that decision shall be ratified in heaven.”

19 . The slight digression is continued. Christ thinks of His Church. Not only shall your decisions be ratified, but your requests shall be granted, provided ye agree.

20 . two or three ] In the smallest gathering of His followers Christ will be present. A derivative ( synaxis ) of the Greek word in the text came to be used among the early Christians for their assemblies, especially in reference to assembling for the Lord’s Supper. Synaxarium , derived from the same verb, meant a Service-book.

21 . till seven times? ] The Rabbinical rule was that no one should ask forgiveness of his neighbour more than thrice. Peter, who asks as a scribe a scribe’s question, thought he was making a great advance in liberality and shewing himself worthy of the Kingdom of heaven. But the question itself indicates complete misunderstanding of the Christian spirit.

22 . Until seventy times seven ] i. e. an infinite number of times. There is no limit to forgiveness.

23 . a certain king, which would take account of his servants ] The picture is drawn from an Oriental Court. The provincial governors, farmers of taxes, and other high officials are summoned before a despotic sovereign to give an account of their administration.

would ] “chose,” “resolved:” all is subject to his sole will.

servants ] i. e. subjects, for all subjects of an Eastern monarch are “slaves.” The scholar will remember how often Demosthenes makes a point of this.

24 . ten thousand talents ] Even if silver talents are meant, the sum is enormous at least two million pounds of our money. It was probably more than the whole annual revenue of Palestine at this time; see Joseph. Ant. xii. 4, 4. The modern kingdoms of Norway or Greece or Denmark hardly produce a larger national income.

The vast sum implies the hopeless character of the debt of sin.

25 . he had not to pay ] He had wasted in extravagance the provincial revenues, or the proceeds of taxation.

26 . worshipped him ] The imperfect tense in the original denotes persistence.

27 . forgave him the debt ] With the almost reckless generosity of an Eastern Court that delights to exalt or debase with swift strokes. The pardon is free and unconditional.

28 . found ] perhaps, even sought him out.

one of his fellowservants ] By this is meant the debt of man to man, offences which men are bound to forgive one another.

an hundred pence ] i. e. denarii . The Denarius was a day’s wages (ch. 20:2). The sum therefore is about three months’ wages for an ordinary labourer, by no means a hopeless debt as the other was; see note ch. 26:7.

29 . besought ] Not the same word as “worshipped,” v. 26. The word in the text would be used by an equal addressing an equal.

31 . when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry ] This seems to point to the common conscience of mankind approving or anticipating the divine sentence.

32 . desiredst ] The same Greek word is translated “besought,” v. 29.

33 . Cp. the Lord’s Prayer, where forgiveness of others is put forward as the claim for divine pardon.

34 . The acquittal is revoked a point not to be pressed in the interpretation. The truth taught is the impossibility of the unforgiving being forgiven, but the chief lesson is the example of the divine spirit of forgiveness in the act of the king. This example the pardoned slave should have followed.

35 . from your hearts ] A different principle from the Pharisee’s arithmetical rules of forgiveness.

their trespasses ] The MS. authority is against these words.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 18". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.