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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 18

Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New TestamentMeyer's Commentary

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Matthew 18:1 . ὥρᾳ ] Lachm.: ἡμέρᾳ , which Fritzsche has adopted, against decisive evidence; although ancient, since both readings are found as early as the time of Origen, ἡμέρᾳ is a gloss instead of ὥρᾳ , as there appeared to be nothing in the context to which the latter might be supposed to refer.

Matthew 18:4 . ταπεινώσῃ ] The future ταπεινώσει is, with Lachm. and Tisch., to be adopted on decisive evidence.

Matthew 18:6 . εἰς τὸν τρ .] for εἰς Elz. has ἐπί , while Lachm. and Tisch. 8 read περί . Only εἰς and περί have anything like important testimony in their favour. But περί is taken from Mark 9:42 ; Luke 17:2 .

Matthew 18:7 . On weighty evidence we should follow Lachm. in deleting ἐστιν after γάρ , and ἐχείνῳ in the next clause, as words that might naturally have been inserted; Tisch. 8 has deleted ἐστιν only.

Matthew 18:8 . αὐτά ] B D L א , min. vss. and Fathers: αὐτόν . So Lachm. and Tisch. correctly; αὐτά is an emendation to include both.

Further on Lachm. and Tisch. 8 have κυλλὸν ἢ χωλόν , following B א , Vulg. It.; a transposition to suit χείρ and ποῦς .

Matthew 18:10 . The evidence is too weak to warrant us in substituting ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ (so Lachm. in brackets) for the first ἐν οὐρανοῖς ; still weaker is the evidence in favour of omitting the words, although they are omitted at an early period (as early as the time of Clem. Or. Syr.?).

Matthew 18:11 . This verse does not occur in B L* א , 1*, 13, 33, Copt. Sahid. Syr jer . Aeth. (cod. 1), Eus. Or. Hil. Jer. Juv. Deleted by Lachm. and Tisch.; condemned also by Rinck. Already suspected by Griesb. to have been an interpolation from Luke 19:10 , which in fact it is, considering how much evidence there is against it, and considering, on the other hand, that, if it had been genuine, there was no obvious motive on exegetical grounds for the omission.

Matthew 18:12 . ἀφεὶς … πορευθείς ] Lachm.: ἀφήσει … καὶ πορευθείς , following B D L, min. Vulg. It. (of which, however, D, Vulg. have ἀφίησιν , and D, πορευόμενος ). Exegetical analysis, in order to remove ambiguity as to the connection.

Matthew 18:14 . εἷς ] Lachm. and Tisch.: ἕν , following B D L M* א , min. Altered to εἷς in accordance with Matthew 18:10 ; while πατρός μου , which Lachm. substitutes for πατρ . ὑμῶν (following B F H J, min. vss. Or.), is to be regarded in the same light.

Matthew 18:15 . εἰς σέ ] deleted by Lachm. and Tisch. 8, after B א , I, 22, 234*, Sahid. Or. Cyr. Bas. This evidence is too weak, especially as the omission of ΕΙΣΣΕ might easily enough have happened from its following ΗΣΗ ( ἁμαρτήσῃ ), while it is further to be borne in mind that, in what goes before, it was sin in general, not merely an offence, that was in question. The εἰς σέ , which is here genuine, was inserted from our passage into Luke 17:3 , Elz.

ἔλεγξον ] Elz., Scholz: καὶ ἔλ ., against B C א and many min. vss. and Fathers. The καί was inserted as a connective particle.

Matthew 18:19 . πάλιν ἀμήν ] Elz. (so also Griesb. Scholz, Fritzsche, Rinck, Tisch. 8) has merely πάλιν , and Lachm., following min. only (B being erroneously quoted), has merely ἀμήν . But the attestation for πάλιν ἀμήν (Tisch. 7) is about equal in weight (incl. B) to that in favour of the simple πάλιν (incl. א ), and one of the words might easily enough have been omitted from the combination not occurring anywhere else.

συμφωνήσωσιν ] Seeing that the future συμφωνήσουσιν is supported by the preponderating evidence of B D E H I L V Δ א , min., and seeing, on the other hand, that it might very readily have been supplanted by the subjunctive as being the mood most in accordance with the usual construction, it is, with Tisch., to be adopted as the correct reading.

Matthew 18:24 . προσηνέχθη ] Lachm. and Tisch. 7 : προσήχθη , following B D Or. Correctly; this and Luke 9:41 are the only instances in which προσάγειν occurs in the Gospels, προσφέρειν being the form most familiar to the copyists.

Matthew 18:25 . εἶχε ] Lachm. and Tisch. 7 : ἔχει , following only B, min. Or.; but it is to be preferred, since to the mechanical transcribers the present would doubtless seem to be improper.

Matthew 18:26 .] κύριε before μαχρ . is to be regarded as interpolated, being omitted by B D, min. Vulg. codd. of It. Syr cur Or. Chrys. Lucif., and deleted by Lachm. and Tisch.

Matthew 18:27 . ἐκείνου ] omitted by Lachm., only after B, min., as is also ἐκεῖνος , Matthew 18:28 , only after B.

Matthew 18:28 . μοι ] not found in the more weighty witnesses; deleted by Lachm. and Tisch. An interpolation.

εἴ τι ] Elz.: ὅ , τι , against decisive evidence. Erroneous emendation.

Matthew 18:29 . αὐτοῦ ] Elz. Fritzsche, Schulz, Scholz, Tisch. 7, insert εἰς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ , which, however, is omitted by B C* D G L Δ א , min. Copt. Sahid. Aeth. Syr cur It. (Brix. excepted) Vulg. Or. Lucif. Gloss on the simple πεσών . In regard to εἰς , comp. John 9:32 , al.

πάντα ] Deleted by Matth., Scholz, Tisch., on preponderating evidence; bracketed by Lachm. It is a mechanical interpolation from Matthew 18:26 .

Matthew 18:31 . For the first γενόμενα Fritzsche and Tisch. substitute γινόμενα , following only D L א **, min. Vulg. It. Chrys. Lucif., but correctly. The transcribers failed to notice the difference of meaning.

For αὐτῶν or αὑτῶν we should, with Lachm. and Tisch., read ἑαυτῶν , upon decisive evidence; the reflexive reference of the pronoun was overlooked, as was often the case.

Matthew 18:34 . αὐτῷ ] not found in B D א **, min. vss. Lachm.; but it may easily enough have been left out in conformity with Matthew 18:30 .

Matthew 18:35 . ὑμῶν ] Elz. Fritzsche, Schulz, Scholz insert τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν , which is not found in B D L א , min. and several vss. and Fathers. Gloss from Matthew 6:14-15 ; Mark 11:25-26 .

But ἐπουράνιος , for which Fritzsche, Lachm. Tisch. 8 substitute οὐράνιος (B C** D K L Π א , min. Or. Damasc.), is to be retained, all the more that the expression ὁ πατὴρ ὁ ἐπουρ . occurs nowhere else, though we frequently find ὁ π . ὁ οὐράνιος .

Verse 1

Matthew 18:1 . Ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ ] the account of Matthew, which is throughout more original in essential matters than Mark 9:33 ff. and Luke 9:46 ff., bears this impress no less in this definite note of time: in that hour , namely, when Jesus was holding the above conversation with Peter.

τίς ἄρα ] quis igitur (see Klotz, ad Devar . p. 176). The question, according to Matthew (in Mark otherwise), is suggested by the consideration of the circumstances : Who, as things stand , is, etc.; for one of them had just been peculiarly honoured, and that for the second time, by the part he was called upon to take in a special miracle. Euthymius Zigabenus says well: ἀνθρώπινόν τι τότε πεπόνθασιν οἱ μαθηταί .

μείζων ] greater than the other disciples in rank and power.

ἐστίν ] they speak as though the approaching Messianic kingdom were already present . Comp. Matthew 20:21 .

Verse 2

Matthew 18:2 . Παιδίον ] According to Nicephorus, ii. 35, the child in question is alleged to have been St. Ignatius. Chrysostom correctly observes that it is a little child ( σφόδρα παιδίον ); τὸ γὰρ τοιοῦτον παιδίον καὶ ἀπονοίας καὶ δοξομανίας κ . βασκανίας κ . φιλονεικείας κ . πάντων τῶν τοιούτων ἀπήλλακται παθῶν , καὶ πολλὰς ἔχον τὰς ἀρετὰς , ἀφέλειαν , ταπεινοφ ροσύνην , ἀπραγμοσύνην , ἐπʼ οὐδενὶ τούτων ἐπαίρεται . Comp. Mark 9:36 ; Luke 9:47 .

Verse 3

Matthew 18:3 . Εἴ τις ἀπέχεται τῶν προαιρετικῶν παθῶν , γίνεται ὡς τὰ παιδία , κτώμενος διʼ ἀσκήσεως , ἅπερ ἔχουσι τὰ παιδία ἐξ ἀφελείας , Euthymius Zigabenus.

To turn round ( στραφῆτε , representing the μετάνοια under the idea of turning round upon a road), and to acquire a moral disposition similar to the nature of little children such is the condition, without complying with which you will assuredly not ( οὐ μή ) enter , far less be able to obtain a high position in, the Messianic kingdom about to be established. The same truth is presented under a kindred figure and in a wider sense in John 3:3 ; John 3:5 ff.; the divine agent in this moral change, in which child-like qualities assume the character of manly virtues , is the Holy Spirit; comp. Luke 11:13 ; Luke 9:55 .

Verse 4

Matthew 18:4 . Inference from the general principle of Matthew 18:3 to the special child-like quality in which the disciples were deficient, as well as to the special subject of their question. If your entering the future Messianic kingdom at all is determined by your returning again to a child-like frame of mind, then above all must you acquire, through humble self-abasement, the unassuming character of this child, in order to be greater than others in the Messiah’s kingdom.

ὅστις ] quicunque; “de individuo , de quo quaerebant, non respondet,” Bengel. In what follows ταπεινώσει is emphatic, and accordingly stands near the beginning of the sentence. Had the subjunctive been critically certain, we should not have had to borrow ἐάν from the second part of the statement (Fritzsche), but rather to observe the distinction in the manner of presenting the idea, according to which the insertion of ἄν marks the presupposition as conditioned. The future assumes the action as actually occurring in the future; while the subjunctive after the relative without ἄν keeps the future realization still within the domain of thought, without, however, conceiving of the realization as conditioned ( ἄν ). For this usage among Attic prose writers, see Kühner, ad Xen. Mem . i. 6. 13.

Moreover, the words of Matthew 18:3-4 , inasmuch as they are essentially connected with the question of the disciples, are certainly original, not an anticipation of Matthew 19:13 ff. (Holtzmann), and dispose us to prefer the account of Matthew to that of Mark or Luke.

Verse 5

Matthew 18:5 . Comp. Mark 9:37 ; Luke 9:47 . The question of the disciples has been answered. But His eye having lighted upon this child who happened to be present, Jesus now seizes the opportunity of inculcating upon them the duty of taking an affectionate interest in such little ones, an exhortation, of which the jealous and ambitious spirit evinced by their question in Matthew 18:1 must have shown they stood but too much in need.

παιδίον τοιοῦτον ] such a little child , i.e. according to the context, not a literal child (Bengel, Paulus, Neander, de Wette, Arnoldi, Bleek, Hilgenfeld), which would give a turn to the discourse utterly foreign to the connection, but a man of such a disposition as this little child represents one who with child-like simplicity is humble and unassuming. So Chrysostom ( παιδίον γὰρ ἐνταῦθα τοὺς ἀνθρώπους τοὺς οὕτως ἀφελεῖς φησὶ καὶ ταπεινοὺς καὶ ἀπεῤῥιμμένους παρὰ τοῖς πολλοῖς ), Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Grotius, Wetstein, Kuinoel, Olshausen, Kern, Baumgarten-Crusius, Ewald, Keim. Jesus well knew how much the unassuming, child-like disposition, free from everything like self-assertion, was just that which others, animated by an opposite spirit, were in the habit of overlooking, slighting, and thrusting aside.

ἕν ] a single one . So very precious are they!

δέξηται ] denotes a loving reception with a view to further care for the soul; the opposite to this is σκανδαλίζειν , Matthew 18:6 .

ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου ] on the ground of my name (Matthew 24:5 ) i.e. on account of my name, which, however, is not, with de Wette, to be taken subjectively, and referred to the faith of the one who receives (whosoever confessing my name, on account of his faith in me, etc.), but is to be understood as referring to the παιδίον τοιοῦτον that is to be received (Mark 9:41 ; Matthew 10:42 ), because my name (Jesus the Messiah) contains the sum of his belief and confession (“non ob causas naturales aut politicas,” Bengel).

ἐμέ ] comp. Matthew 10:40 , Matthew 25:40 ; John 13:20 .

Verse 6

Matthew 18:6 . Comp. Mark 9:42 ; Luke 17:2 .

σκανδαλίσῃ ] Opposite of δέξηται , meaning: will have been to him the occasion of his fall, especially of his apostasy from the faith (Matthew 5:29 , Matthew 11:6 ).

τῶν μικρῶν τούτων ] not to be understood, any more than παιδίον τοιοῦτο , Matthew 18:5 , of literal children (Holtzmann), and consequently not to be used as proof of the faith of little children (Baur, Delitzsch), but as meaning: one of those little ones , a way of designating modest, simple-minded, unassuming believers, that had just been suggested by seeing in the child then present a model of such simplicity. This is not quite the same as τῶν μικρῶν τούτων , Matthew 10:42 (Matthew 25:40 ), where the expression is not borrowed from the illustration of a child.

συμφέρει αὐτῷ , ἵνα , κ . τ . λ .] For the construction; comp. note on Matthew 5:29 . “But whoever will have offended one of those little ones,” it is of service to him, with a view to , i.e. in hunc finem ut . That, which such a person may have come to deserve, is thus expressed in the form of a divine purpose , which his evil deed must help him to bring about; comp. John 11:50 . A comparative reference of συμφέρει (Jerome: “quam aeternis servari cruciatibus;” others: than again to commit such a sin) is a pure importation.

μύλος ὀνικός ] The larger mills (in contradistinction to the χειρομύλαι , Matthew 24:41 ) were driven by an ass ; Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. p. 2252. Comp. also Anth. Pal. ix. 301; Ovid, A. A. iii. 290.

The καταποντισμός (Wesseling, ad Diod. Sic. xvi. 35; Hermann, Privatalterth. § 72, 26; Casaubon, ad Suet. Oct. 67) was not a Jewish method of putting to death, neither was it a practice in Galilee (Joseph. Antt. xiv. 15. 10), but belonged to the Greeks, Romans, Syrians, and Phoenicians. Consequently it here expresses in a manner all the more vivid and awe-inspiring that punishment of death to which the man in question has become liable, and which is intended to represent the loss of eternal life; comp. Matthew 18:7-9 .

Verse 7

Matthew 18:7 . Οὐαί ] θρηνεῖ ὡς φιλάνθρωπος τὸν κόσμον ὡς μέλλοντα βλαβῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν σκανδάλων , Theophylact.

ἀπό ] indicating the causal origin of the woe for humanity ( τῷ κόσμῳ ). The world is not conceived of as giving the offence (in answer to Jansen, Arnoldi, Bleek), but as suffering from it. With regard to ἀπό , see Buttmann, Neut. Gramm. p. 277 [E. T. 322].

ἀνάγκη γάρ ] assigns the reason for the ἀπὸ τῶν σκανδάλ . immediately before: on account of offences, I say, for they cannot but come. This necessity (necessitas consequentiae ) has its foundation in the morally abnormal condition of mankind, yet (comp. 1 Corinthians 9:19 ) is to be traced back to the divine purpose (not merely permission), which, however, does away neither with the moral freedom of him who, by word or deed, gives offence (Romans 14:13 ), nor with his liability to punishment. Hence: πλὴν ( yet ) οὐαὶ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ , κ . τ . λ .

τὰ σκάνδαλα ] temptations, as a general conception.

τὸ σκάνδ .] the temptation as conceived of in each individual case.

Verse 8

Matthew 18:8 f. Comp. Mark 9:43 ff. A passing direction, suggested by Matthew 18:7 , for avoiding certain specified offences, and substantially the same as in Matthew 5:29 . A repetition depending here, no doubt, on Mark (Weiss), yet not to be regarded as out of place, because the proverbial saying refers to one’s own temptations as coming through the senses, while here the point in question is the temptation of others (de Wette, Kuinoel, Strauss, Holtzmann, Hilgenfeld), but on the contrary as quite appropriate, inasmuch as the σκάνδαλα occasioned from without operate through the senses, and thereby seduce into evil.

καλόν σοι ἐστὶν … ἤ ] a mixture, by attraction, of two constructions: It is good to enter into the life (of the Messiah’s kingdom at the second coming) maimed (and better) than , etc. See Fritzsche’s note on this passage, and Dissert. II. ad 2 Cor. p. 85; Winer, p. 226 [E. T. 302]; Buttmann, p. 309 [E. T. 360]. For examples from classical writers, see Kypke, Obss. I. p. 89; Bos, Ellips. , ed. Schaefer, p. 769 ff. See besides, the note on Matthew 5:29-30 . But in the present passage the material representation of mortification as the condition of eternal life is somewhat more circumstantial and graphic.

χωλόν ] refers to the feet , one of which, indeed, is supposed to be awanting (comp. Hom. Il. ii. 217: χωλὸς δʼ ἕτερον πόδα ); while, according to the context, κυλλόν here (more general in Matthew 25:30 ) refers to mutilation of the arm , from which the hand is supposed to be cut off. Hence: limping ( χωλόν ) or maimed ( κυλλόν ). But the circumstance of χωλόν being put first is due to the fact that the cutting off of the foot ( αὐτόν , see critical notes) had been specified, although at the same time an identical proceeding in regard to the hand is, of course, to be understood.

μονόφθαλμ .] Herod. III. 116, IV. 27; Strabo, II. p. 70. According to the grammarians, we should have had ἑτερόφθαλμ . in contradistinction to μονόφθαλμ ., which denotes the condition of one born with one eye. See Lobeck, ad Phryn . p. 136 f.; Becker, Anecd. I. p. 280.

Verse 10

Matthew 18:10 . Jesus now proceeds with His cautions, which had been interrupted by the parenthetical exhortation in Matthew 18:7-9 . The belief that every individual has a guardian angel (see Tobit 5.; comp. in general, Schmidt in Ilgen’s Denkschr. I. p. 24ff.) which is a post-Babylonian development of the Old Testament view, that God exercised His care over His people through angelic instrumentality is here confirmed by Jesus (Acts 12:15 ), a point which is to be simply admitted, but not to be explained symbolically, neither by an “ as it were ” (Bleek), as though it were intended merely to represent the great value of the little ones in the sight of God (de Wette), nor as referring to human guardians, who are supposed to occupy a position of pre-eminent bliss in heaven (Paulus).

ἐν οὐρ . διὰ παντὸς βλέπουσι , κ . τ . λ .] inasmuch as they are ever in immediate proximity to God’s glory in heaven, and therefore belong to the highest order of angels. This is not merely a way of expressing the great importance of the μικροί , but a proof which, from λέγω ὑμῖν and τοῦ πατρός μου , receives all the weight of an emphatic testimony ; while the mode of representation (comp. מלאבי פנים of the Rabbinical writers, Schoettgen’s note on this passage) is borrowed from the court arrangements of Oriental kings, whose most confidential servants are called הָרֹאֵי פְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ , 2Ki 25:19 ; 1 Kings 10:8 ; Tob 12:15 ; Luke 1:19 .

Verse 11

Matthew 18:11 f. Omitting Matthew 18:11 , which is not genuine (see critical notes), we come to the parable Matthew 18:12-14 , which is intended to show that it would be in direct opposition to God’s desire for human salvation to lead astray one of those μικροί , and to cause him to be lost, like a strayed sheep. Luke 15:4 ff. records the same beautiful parable, though in a different connection, and with much tenderer, truer, and more original features. But the time-hallowed parable of the shepherd came so naturally to Jesus, that there is no reason why He should not have employed it more than once, in a shorter or more detailed form, according as it happened to be appropriate to the occasion.

τί ὑμῖν δοκεῖ ] “suavis communicatio,” Bengel.

ἐὰν γένηται , κ . τ . λ .] if a hundred sheep have fallen to a man’s lot , if he has come into the possession of them (Kühner, II. 1, p. 364). The contrast to ἕν requires that we should conceive of ἑκατόν as a large number (not as a small flock, Luke 12:32 ). Comp. Lightfoot.

It is preferable to connect ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη with ἀφείς (Vulgate, Luther), because the connecting of it with πορευθείς (Stephanus, Beza, Casaubon, Er. Schmid, Bengel) would impart an unmeaning emphasis to ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη . The man is pasturing his sheep upon the hills, observes that one of them is amissing, therefore meanwhile leaves the flock alone upon the hills (for the one that has strayed demands immediate attention), and, going away, searches for the one sheep that is lost. The reading of Lachmann represents the right connection.

ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη ] ἐπί is not merely upon (as answering the question: where?), but expresses the idea of being scattered over the surface of anything , which corresponds exactly with what is seen in the case of a flock when it is grazing, and which is likewise in keeping with ἀφείς , which conveys the idea of being let out, let loose . Comp. notes on Matthew 13:2 , Matthew 14:19 , Matthew 15:35 .

ἐὰν γένηται εὑρεῖν αὐτό ] if it should happen that he finds it . Comp. Hesiod, Theog. 639; in classical Greek, found mostly with, though also without, a dative. Xen. Mem. i. 9. 13; Cyr. vi. 3. 11; Plato, Rep. p. 397 B; Kühner, II. 2, p. 582. This expression is unfavourable to the notion of irresistible grace.

χαίρει , κ . τ . λ .] This picture, so psychologically true, of the first impression is not applied to God in Matthew 18:14 (otherwise in Luke 15:7 ), although, from the popular anthropopathic point of view, it might have been so. Luke’s version of the parable is characterized by greater freshness.

Verse 14

Matthew 18:14 . Accordingly, as it is not the will of that man that one of his sheep should be lost, so it is not the will of God that one of those μικροί should be lost (should fall into eternal perdition). The point of the comparison therefore lies in the unwillingness to let perish; in the parable this is represented by the case of a strayed sheep, for the purpose of teaching the disciples that if a μικρός happens to err from the faith and the Christian life, they should not abandon him, but try to induce him to amend.

What is said in regard to the μικροί is therefore put in the form of a climax: (1) Do not despise them, inasmuch as you would cause them to go astray, and be the occasion of their ruin (Matthew 18:6-10 ); (2) On the contrary, if one does go wrong, rescue him, just as the shepherd rescues his wandering sheep, in order that it may not be lost (Matthew 18:12-14 ).

ἔμπροσθεν ] coram (Matthew 11:26 ; Luke 15:10 ). There is not before God (before the face of God) any determination having as its object that , etc.; consequently, no predestination to condemnation in the divine will. On the idea involved in θέλημα , comp. note on Matthew 1:19 . For the telic sense of ἵνα , comp. Matthew 7:12 ; Mark 6:25 ; Mark 10:35 , al. , and the ἐθέλειν ὄφρα of Homer; Nägelsbach’s note on Iliad , i. 133.

ἕν ] See critical notes. The idea of the sheep still lingers in the mind.

Verse 15

Matthew 18:15 . The connection with what precedes is as follows: “ Despise not one of the μικροί (Matthew 18:10-14 ); if, however, one offends against thee, then proceed thus.” The subject changes from that of doing injury to the μικροί , against which Jesus has been warning (Matthew 18:10-14 ), to that of suffering injury, in view of which he prescribes the proper method of brotherly visitation. However, in developing this contrast, the point of view becomes so generalized that, instead of the μικροί , who were contemplated in the previous warning, we now have the Christian brother generally , ὁ ἀδελφός σου therefore, the genus to which the μικρός as species belongs.

ἁμαρτήσῃ εἰς σέ ] The emphasis is not on εἰς σέ , but on ἁμαρτήση : but if thy brother shall have sinned against thee, which he is supposed to do not merely “ scandalo dato” (Bengel), but by sinful treatment in general, by any unbrotherly wrong whatsoever. Comp. Matthew 18:21 . Ch. W. Müller in the Stud. u. Krit. 1857, p. 339 ff., Julius Müller, Dogmat. Abh. p. 513 ff., reject the reading εἰς σέ , Matthew 18:15 , though on internal grounds that are not conclusive, and which might be met by stronger counter-arguments against the use of ἁμαρτήσῃ without modification of any sort. How can it be supposed that the procedure here inculcated was intended to apply to every sin without any limitation whatever? Would we not have in that case a supervision omnium contra omnes ? The reference can only be to private charges, to offences in which the one sins against the other ( εἰς σέ ), and which, as such, ought to be dealt with within the Christian church. Comp. 1 Corinthians 6:1 ff.

ὕπαγε ] do not wait, then, till he himself come to thee.

μεταξὺ σοῦ κ . αὐτοῦ μόνου ] so that except him no one else is to be present along with thee, so that the interview be strictly confined to the two of you . We must not therefore supply a μόνου after σοῦ as well. But the rebuking agency (Ephesians 5:11 ) is regarded as intervening between the two parties. The person who reproves mediates between the two parties, of which he himself forms one.

ἐάν σου ἀκούσῃ ] if he will have listened to thy admonition, will have complied with it. But Fritzsche and Olshausen connect the preceding μόνου with this clause: “ Si tibi soli aures praebuerit .” This would imply an arrangement that is both harsh and foreign to New Testament usage.

ἐκέρδησας ] usually explained: as thy friend; πρῶτον γὰρ ἐζημιοῦ τοῦτον , διὰ τοῦ σκανδάλου ῥηγνύμενον ἀπὸ τῆς ἀδελφικῆς σου συναφείας , Euthymius Zigabenus. But what a truism would such a result imply! Therefore it should much rather be explained thus: thou hast gained him for the eternal blessedness of my kingdom , to which, from not being brought to a state of repentance, he would otherwise have been lost (Matthew 18:17 ). But the subject who gains is the party that has been aggrieved by the offence of the brother, because the successful result is understood to be brought about by his affectionate endeavours after an adjustment. Comp. 1Co 9:19 ; 1 Peter 3:1 .

Verse 16

Matthew 18:16 . Second gradus admonitionis . The one or the two who accompany him are likewise intended to take part in the ἐλέγχειν (see αὐτῶν , Matthew 18:17 ).

ἵνα ἐπὶ στόματος , κ . τ . λ .] in order that, in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be duly attested; i.e. in order that every declaration which he makes in answer to your united ἐλέγχειν may be heard by two or three persons (according as one or two may happen to be present besides thyself), and, on the strength of their testimony ( ἐπὶ στόματος , על פי ), may be duly authenticated, so that in the event of his submitting to the ἐλέγχειν the possibility of evading or denying anything afterwards will be precluded; or else, should he prove so refractory that the matter must be brought before the church, then, in the interests of this further disciplinary process, it will be of consequence to have the declaration made by him in the previous attempt to deal with him in an authentic and unquestionable shape.

In order to convey His idea, Jesus has used, though somewhat freely (otherwise in 2 Corinthians 13:1 ), the words of the law, Deuteronomy 19:15 , and made them His own. Comp. 1 Timothy 5:19 .

Verse 17

Matthew 18:17 . Τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ ] is not to be understood of the Jewish synagogue (Beza, Calvin, Fritzsche), which is never called by this name, and any reference to which would be contrary to the meaning of Jesus; but it is to be taken as referring to the community of believers on Jesus (comp. note on Matthew 16:18 ), which is, as yet, regarded as one body with the apostles included (Matthew 18:18 ). There is here no allusion to individual congregations in different localities, since these could come into existence only at a later period; neither, for this reason, can there be any allusion to presbyters and bishops (Chrysostom), or to those whom they may have invested, as their representatives, with spiritual jurisdiction (Catholic writers, comp. besides, Döllinger). There is, further, nothing to warrant the assumption of an historical prolepsis (de Wette, Julius Müller), for the truth is, the קהל of believers was actually existing; while, in the terms of this passage, there is no direct reference to individual congregations. But as Jesus had already spoken elsewhere of His קהל (Matthew 16:18 ), it was impossible for the disciples to misunderstand the allusion. The warrant for regarding the judgment of the church as final in regard to the ἔλεγξις lies in the moral power which belongs to the unity of the Holy Spirit, and, consequently, to true understanding, faith, earnest effort, prayer, etc., the existence of all which in the church is presupposed. It is not inconsistent with this passage to suppose that, under the more developed circumstances of a later period, when local congregations sprung up as offshoots from the קהל , there may have been some representative body, composed of individuals chosen for the purpose of maintaining discipline, but the choice would necessarily be founded on such conditions and qualifications as were in keeping, so far as it was possible for man to judge, with the original principle of entrusting such matters only to those who were actual believers and had been truly regenerated.

ἐὰν δὲ καὶ τ . ἐκκλ . παρακ .] but if he refuses to listen even to the church; if he will not have submitted to its advice, exhortation, injunction.

ἔστω σοι ὥσπερ , κ . τ . λ .] let him be for thee (ethical dative); let him be in thy estimation as, etc.; λοιπὸν ἀνίατα ὁ τοιοῦτος νοσεῖ , Chrysostom. What is here indicated is the breaking off of all further Christian, brotherly fellowship with one who is hopelessly obdurate, “as not being a sheep, nor caring to be sought, but willing to go right to perdition,” Luther. In this passage Christ says nothing, as yet, about formal excommunication on the part of the church (1 Corinthians 5:0 ); but the latter was such a fair and necessary deduction from what he did say, as the apostolic church, in the course of its development, considered itself warranted in making. “Ad earn ex hoc etiam loco non absurde argumentum duci posse non negaverim,” Grotius. In answer to the latter, Calovius, in common with the majority of the older expositors, asserts that the institution of excommunication is, in the present passage, already expressly declared.

ὁ ἐθνικός ] generic.

Verse 18

Matthew 18:18 f. By way of giving greater confidence in the exercise of this last stage of discipline at which the matter is finally disposed of by the church, let me assure you of two things: (1) Whatever you (in the church) declare to be unlawful on the one hand, or permissible on the other (see note on Matthew 16:19 ), will be held to be so in the sight of God; your judgment in regard to complaints brought before the church is accordingly ratified by divine warrant. (2) If two of you agree as to anything that is to be asked in prayer, it will be given you by God; when, therefore, your hearts are thus united in prayer, you are assured of the divine help and illumination, in order that, in every case, you may arrive at and, in the church, give effect to decisions in accordance with the mind of God.

Those addressed in the second person ( δήσητε , κ . τ . λ .) are the apostles (Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 266 f.), but not the disciples in the more comprehensive sense of the word (Weiss, Bibl. Theol. p. 103), nor the church (Bleek, Schenkel, Keim, Ahrens), nor its leaders (Euthymius Zigabenus, de Wette), nor the parties who have been injured (Origen, Augustine, Theophylact, Grotius). In order to a clear understanding of the whole discourse from Matthew 18:3 onwards, it should be observed generally, that wherever the address is in the second person plural (therefore in Matthew 18:3 ; Matthew 18:10 ; Matthew 18:12 ; Matthew 18:14 ; Matthew 18:18-19 ), it is the Twelve who came to Jesus, Matthew 18:1 , that are intended; but that where Jesus uses the second person singular (as in Matthew 18:8-9 ; Matthew 18:15-17 ), He addresses every believer individually (including also the μικροί ). But as far as the ἐκκλησία is concerned, it is to be understood as meaning the congregation of believers, including the apostles . It is the possessor and guardian of the apostolic moral legislation, and consequently it is to it that the offender is in duty bound to yield obedience . Finally, since the power of binding and loosing, which in Matthew 16:19 was adjudged to Peter , is here ascribed to the apostles generally , the power conferred upon the former is set in its proper light, and shown to be of necessity a power of a collegiate nature, so that Peter is not to be regarded as exclusively endowed with it either in whole or in part, but is simply to be looked upon as primus inter pares .

πάλιν ἀμὴν λ . ὑμ .] Once more a solemn assurance! and that to the effect that, etc. Comp. Matthew 19:24 . For ἐάν with the indicative ( συμφωνήσουσιν , see critical notes), see note on Luke 19:40 , and Buttmann, Neut. Gramm. p. 192 [E. T. 222]; Bremi, ad Lys. Alc. 13. The construction is a case of attraction; πᾶν should have been the subject of the principal clause of the sentence, but was attracted to the subordinate clause and joined to πράγματος , so that without the attraction the passage would run thus: ἐὰν δύο ὑμ . συμφωνήσουσιν ἐπὶ τ . γῆς περὶ πράγματος , πᾶν ὃ ἐὰν αἰτήσωνται , γινήσεται αὐτοῖς . Comp. Kühner, II. 2, p. 925. For the contrast implied in ἐπὶ τ . γῆς , comp. Matthew 9:6 .

Verse 20

Matthew 18:20 . Confirmation of this promise, and that not on account of any special preference for them in their official capacity, but generally (hence the absence of ὑμῶν in connection with the δύο ἢ τρεῖς ) owing to the fact of His gracious presence in the midst of His people when met together: for where two or three are gathered together with reference to my name, there am I (my presence being represented by the Holy Spirit, comp. Rom 8:9 f.; 2 Corinthians 13:5 ; 1 Corinthians 5:4 ; Galatians 2:20 ; Ephesians 3:16 f.; also in general, Matthew 28:20 ) in the midst of them ; so that you need therefore have no doubt as to the γενήσεται just promised to you, which I, as associated with my Father (Matthew 18:19 ), will bring about. The statement is put in the form of an axiom ; hence, although referring to the future, its terms are present . The higher, spiritual object of the meeting together of the two or three lies not in συνηγμένοι , which expresses nothing more than the simple fact of being met (in answer to Grotius, de Wette), but in εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα , which indicates that the name of Jesus Christ ( i.e. the confession, the honouring of it, etc.) is that which in the συνηγμένον εἶναι is contemplated as its specific motive ( μὴ διʼ ἑτέραν αἰτίαν , Euthymius Zigabenus). “Simile dicunt Rabbini de duobus aut tribus considentibus in judicio, quod שכניה sit in medio eorum,” Lightfoot.

Verse 21

Matthew 18:21 . At this point Peter steps forward from amongst the disciples (Matthew 18:1 ), and going up to Jesus, νομίζων φανῆται μεγαλοψυχότατος (Euthymius Zigabenus), proposes that forgiveness should be shown more than twice the number of times which the Rabbis had declared to be requisite. Babyl. Joma , f. 86. 2, contains the following words: “Homini in alterum peccanti semel remittunt, secundo remittunt, tertio remittunt, quarto non remittunt.”

Verse 22

Matthew 18:22 . Οὐ λέγω σοι ] are to be taken together (in answer to Fritzsche), and to be rendered thus: I do not say to thee , I do not give thee the prescription; comp. John 16:26 .

ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά ] not: till seventy times seven, i.e. till the four hundred and ninetieth time (Jerome, Theophylact, Erasmus, Luther, Grotius, de Wette, Bleek); but, seeing that we have ἑπτά , and not ἑπτάκις again, the rendering should simply be: till seventy-seven times . No doubt, according to the classical usage of adverbial numerals, this would have been expressed by ἑπτὰ καὶ ἑβδομηκοντάκις or ἑβδομήκοντα ἑπτάκις ; but the expression in the text is according to the LXX. Genesis 4:24 . [1] So, and that correctly, Origen, Augustine, Bengel, Ewald, Hilgenfeld, Keim; comp. “the Gospel of the Hebrews” in Hilgenfeld’s N. T. extra can . IV. p. 24.

For the sense, comp. Theophylact: οὐχ ἵνα ἀριθμῷ περικλείσῃ τὴν συγχώρησιν , ἀλλὰ τὸ ἄπειρον ἐνταῦθα σημαίνει · ὡς ἂν εἰ ἔλεγεν · ὁσάκις ἂν πταίσας μετανοῇ συγχώρει αὐτῷ .

[1] 1 Where, indeed, שִׁבְעִים וְשִׁבְעָה cannot possibly mean anything else than seventy-seven, as is clear from the וְ , not seventy times seven; comp. Judges 8:14 . This in answer to Kamphausen in the Stud. u. Krit. 1861, p. 121 f. The (substantive) feminine form שבעה cannot be considered strange (seventy and a seven). See Ewald, Lehrb. d. Hebr. Spr. § 267 c., and his Jahrb. XI. p. 198.

Verse 23

Matthew 18:23 . Διὰ τοῦτο ] must refer to the reply to Peter’s question, for a new scene was introduced at Matthew 18:21 . Therefore to be explained thus: “because I have enjoined such unlimited forgiveness” (not merely a conciliatory disposition generally, in answer to de Wette and Bleek). The duty of unlimited forgiveness proves any shortcoming in regard to this matter to be but the more reprehensible, and to point this out is the object of the parable which follows.

ὡμοιώθη ἡ βας . τ . οὐρ . ] See note on Matthew 13:24 .

The δοῦλοι are the king’s ministers who are indebted to him through having received money on loan ( δάνειον , Matthew 18:27 ), or, relatively, as treasurers, land stewards, or the like. But it is not without reason that ἀνθρώπῳ is joined to βασιλεῖ , seeing that the kingdom of heaven is likened to a human king. Comp. the ἀνὴρ βασιλεύς of Homer.

συναίρειν λόγον ] to hold a reckoning, to settle accounts , occurs again in Matthew 25:19 , but nowhere else. Classical writers would say: διαλογίζεσθαι πρός τινα , Dem. 1236. 17.

Verse 24

Matthew 18:24 ff. According to Boeckh, Staatshaush. d. Athener , I. p. 15 ff., an (Attic) talent, or sixty minae, amounted to 1375 thalers [about £206 sterling]. Ten thousand talents, amounting to something considerably over thirteen millions of thalers, are intended to express a sum so large as to be well-nigh incalculable. So great was the debt of one ( εἷς ).

ἐκέλευσεν αὐτὸν … ἔχει ] according to the Mosaic law; Leviticus 25:39 ; Leviticus 25:47 ; 2 Kings 4:1 ; Exodus 22:2 . See Michaelis, M. R. § 148; Saalschütz, M. R. p. 706 f. The word αὐτόν is emphatic: that he should be sold, etc. On the present indicative ἔχει (see critical notes), which is derived from the idea of the narrative being direct , comp. Kühner, II. 2, p. 1058.

καὶ ἀποδοθῆναι ] and that payment be made . This was the king’s command: it must be paid , viz. the sum due. The fact of the proceeds of the sale not proving sufficient for this purpose did not in any way affect the order; hence ἀποδοθ . is not to be referred merely to the proceeds (Fritzsche). The king wants his money, and therefore does the best he can in the circumstances to get it.

πάντα σοι ἀποδώσω ] in his distress and anguish he promises far more than he can hope to perform. And the king in his compassion goes far beyond what was asked ( ἀφῆκεν αὐτῷ ).

For δάνειον , money lent , comp. Deuteronomy 24:11 ; found frequently in classical writers since the time of Demosth. 911. 3.

Verse 28

Matthew 18:28 . A hundred denarii , about forty Rhenish Gulden, or 23 thalers [about £3, 9s. sterling] (a denarius being not quite equal to a drachma), what a paltry debt compared with those talents of which there were a hundred times a hundred!

ἔπνιγε ] Creditors (as the Roman law allowed them to do) often dragged their debtors before the judge, holding them by the throat. Clericus and Wetstein on this passage.

ἀπόδος , εἴ τι ὠφείλεις ] εἴ τι is not to be taken, as is often done, as though it were equivalent to ὅ , τι . For where εἴ τι , like si quid , is used in the sense of quicquid (see Kühner, ad Xen. Anab . i. 10. 18), εἰ always has a conditional force, which would be out of place in the present instance; but, with Fritzsche and Olshausen, to trace the expression to Greek urbanity , would be quite incongruous here. Neither, however, are we to affirm, with Paulus and Baumgarten-Crusius, that the conditional expression is rather more severe in its tone, from representing the man as not being even certain in regard to the debt; for the certainty of the debt is implied in the terms of the passage, and, moreover, in the κρατήσας αὐτ . ἔπνιγε was necessarily to be presupposed on the part of the δοῦλος . No, the εἰ is simply the expression of a pitiless logic: PAY, if thou owest anything ( ἀπόδος being emphatic). From the latter the former follows as matter of necessity. If thou owest anything (and such is the case), then thou must also pay, and therefore I arrest thee!

Verse 29

Matthew 18:29 . Πεσών ] after that he had fallen dawn , that is, as one who προσεκύνει , which follows, as a matter of course, from Matthew 18:26 , without our requiring to insert such words as εἰς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ (see critical notes). Chrysostom appropriately observes: οὐ τὸ σχῆμα τῆς ἱκετηρίας ἀνέμνησεν αὐτὸν τῆς τοῦ δεσπότου φιλανθρωπίας .

Verse 31

Matthew 18:31 f. Ἐλυπήθησαν ] They were grieved at the hard heartedness and cruelty which they saw displayed in what was going on ( τὰ γινόμενα , see critical notes).

διεσάφ .] not simply narrarunt (Vulgate), but more precisely: declararunt (Beza); Plat. Prot . p. 348 B; Legg . v. p. 733 B; Polyb. i. 46. 4; ii. 27 3; 2Ma 1:18 ; Malachi 2:9; Malachi 2:9 .

τῷ κυρίῳ ἑαυτῶν ] The reflective pronoun (see critical notes) indicates that, as befitted their position, the σύνδουλοι addressed themselves to their own master . Their confidence in him led them to turn to him rather than to any one else.

ἐπεὶ παρεκάλ . με ] because thou entreatedst me . And he had not gone so far as to beg for entire remission of the debt, but only for forbearance!

Verse 33

Matthew 18:33 . On the well-known double καί used comparatively , see Klotz, ad Devar . p. 635. Baeumlein, Partik . p. 153.

ἔδει ] the moral oportuit .

τοῖς βασανισταῖς ] to the tormentors (Dem. 978, 11; 4Ma 6:11 ) to torture him, not merely to cast him into prison, which latter was only a part of their functions (Fritzsche). The idea involved in βασανίζειν is of essential importance, typifying as it does the future βάσανος of Gehenna. Comp. Matthew 8:29 ; Luke 16:23 ; Revelation 14:10 . Grotius well observes, though he takes the βασανιστάς as = δεσμοφύλακας (Kuinoel, de Wette), “utitur autem hic rex ille non solo creditoris jure, sed et judicis.”

ἕως οὗ ἀποδῷ ] as in Matthew 18:30 . until he shall have paid . Though not expressly asserted, it is a legitimate inference from the terms of the passage (comp. Matthew 5:26 ) to say: τουτέστι διηνεκῶς , οὔτε γὰρ ἀποδώσει ποτέ , Chrysostom.

Doctrine, of the parable : The remission which thou hast obtained from God of thy great unpayable debt of sin, must stimulate thee heartily to forgive thy brother the far more trifling debt which he has incurred as regards thee; otherwise, when the Messianic judgment comes, the righteousness of God will again rise up against thee, and thou wilt be cast into Gehenna to be punished eternally; comp. Matthew 5:25 f., Matthew 6:14 f.

That motive, drawn from the forgiving mercy of God, could only be exhibited in all its significance by the light shed upon it in the atoning death of Christ (Ephesians 4:32 , Colossians 3:12 f.), so that Jesus had to leave to the future, which was fast approaching, what, as yet, could be but inadequately understood (so far we have here a ὕστερον πρότερον ), and hence our passage is not inconsistent ( Socinian objection) with the doctrine (also expressly contained in Matthew 20:28 , Matthew 26:28 ) of satisfaction.

ἀπὸ τ . καρδ . ὑμ .) from your heart , therefore out of true, inward, heartfelt sympathy, not from a stoical indifference. Comp. Matthew 18:33 . This is the only instance in the New Testament of ἀπό being used in connection with this phrase; elsewhere it is ἐκ that is employed. But comp. the classical expressions ἀπὸ γνώμης , ἀπὸ σπουδῆς , ἀπὸ φρενός , and the like; also ἀπὸ καρδίας in Antoninus ii. 3, and ἀπὸ τῆς ψυχῆς . Dem. 580, 1.

Bibliographical Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 18". Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hmc/matthew-18.html. 1832.
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