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Sunday, June 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 18

International Critical Commentary NTInternational Critical

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Verses 1-99

(M) 18:1. In that hour came the disciples to Jesus, saying, Who then is greater in the kingdom of the heavens?] The editor here returns to Mk 33, but omits the dispute and Christ’s question (see above), for which he substitutes the statement that the disciples came with a question. The ἄρα is probably intended as a link with the preceding incident. “Why is Peter regarded as chief among us? Who is to be chief in the coming kingdom?” In order to form a connecting link, the editor inserts ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ; cf. the insertion of ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ, 12:1. For προσῆλθον, see on 4:3,

(M) 2. And He called a child, and placed him in the midst of them, and said.] Mk. has: “And sitting down, He called (ἐφώνησε) the Twelve, and saith to them, If any one wishes to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all. And He took a child, and placed him in the midst of them; and having taken him into His arms, He said to them.” For the omission of ἐναρκαλισάμενος, cf. 19:15. In Mk. there now follows a series of sayings, 9:37-50, broken by a short paragraph of incident, 38-40. The connection of these sayings is sometimes very obscure, and frequently artificial. The transition, e.g., from 42 to 43 is difficult, and unless πυρί in v. 49 has the same reference as in 48, the connection of thought seems to be broken there also. It is probable that Mk. has strung together detached sayings or paragraphs. ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου of v. 37 would remind the Evangelist of 38-40 and 41, both of which have a similar phrase vv. 39, 41. τῶν τοιούτων παιδίων (= children) of v. 37 would bring to his remembrance v. 42 with its μικρῶν τούτων τῶν πιστευόντων (= recent converts). And the σκανδαλίσῃ of 42 would suggest the section 43-48, although this paragraph has no immediate bearing on the subject with which the discourse started. Lastly, πυρί of v. 48 would suggest the (probably) quite different πῦρ of v. 49 (see Swete), and ἁλισθήσεται of this verse recalls to the Evangelist’s mind the saying about salt, v. 50.

The editor of Mt., however, has treated the whole series of sayings as though it formed a unity, only omitting some of the least harmonious verses. But just as he has made Mark 6:8-12 and 4 the basis round which to group a number of other sayings so as to form a discourse of some length, so he has done here. The relation of Mt. to Mk. may be shown as follows. Passages in brackets are added by Mt.:


for 3; cf.

Mark 10:15.




















Matthew 19:1a is a closing formula like that which closes the three previous great discourses in Matthew 7:28, Matthew 11:1, Matthew 13:53.

Of the verses omitted, 37b has already found a place in 10:40; 38-40 are omitted because they break the tenor of the speech; 41 has already been recorded in 10:42; 48-50 are probably omitted on account of their difficulty. A saying parallel to v. 50 has already been recorded in 5:13. Of the verses inserted, 12-14 find a parallel in a different context in Luke 15:3-7; Luk_6 finds a parallel in a different context in Luke 17:2; Luk_7 in Luke 17:1; Luk_15 in Luke 17:3; and 21 in Luke 17:4.

(L) 3. Verily I say to you, Except ye turn and become as children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens.] That is to say, “in asking who shall be the greater, you have entered upon a path which will not lead you to this end. The very question shows that you do not understand what greatness is. You must turn back and recover the childlike temper which is untempted to self-advancement. You must become again as children, i.e. unassuming. Otherwise, so far from being great in the kingdom, you will never even enter it.” This verse anticipates Mark 10:15.

(L) 4. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this child, he shall be the great one in the kingdom of the heavens.] That is to say, “greatness involves humility. To be great one must be unassuming.”

(M) 5. And whosoever shall receive ore such child in My name receives Me.] Mk. has: “Whosoever shall receive one of such children in My name receives Me.” By “receive in My name” here is apparently meant to recognise in the humble, unassuming disposition of children a feature of the Christlike character; cf. 11:29.They who recognise and welcome this characteristic of childhood receive Christ, i.e. are in communion with Him.

The editor here omits Mk 37b-41. But it is noticeable that in 10:40, 42 he has parallels to the first and last of these sayings.

(M) 6. And whosoever shall cause to stumble one of these little ones who believe in Me, it is expedient for him that an ass’s millstone be hanged about his neck, and (that) he be sunk into the deep sea.] Mk. has “And whosoever shall cause to stumble one of these little ones who believe in Me, it is good for him rather if an ass’s millstone is placed about his neck, and he is cast into the sea.”—ὃς δέ] for Mk.’s καὶ ὅς, as often.—τῶν πιστευόντων] In Mk. the thought of the discourse has been turned by the insertion of vv. 38-40 from the consideration and treatment of children to that of children in faith and belief.1 In Mt., who has omitted 38-40, the thought is still of children. The editor retains Mk.’s τῶν πιστευόντων εἰς ἐμέ in spite of its incongruity. Mk. has καλόν—μᾶλλον for συμφέρει. Mt. assimilates to 5:29, 30. Lk. in 17:1 has λυσιτελεῖ̀.—ἵνα κρεμασθῇ] Mk. has εἰ περίκειται. So Lk. The ἵνα is an assimilation to 5:29-30.—καταποντισθῇ] Mk. has βέβληται, Lk. ἔρριπται—πέλαγος τῆς θαλάσσης] Mk. has τὴς θάλασσαν, simply. πιστεύειν εἰς occurs only here in Mt. In Mk. It is wrongly omitted by א D Δ a b ff i k. The πιστευόντων εἰς ἐμέ there, immediately after vv. 38-41, can only refer to such as had confidence in the power of Christ, like the man who cast out demons in His name even though he was not an immediate follower of Christ. The construction does not occur again in Mk. nor in Lk. It is common in Jn. The τῶν πιστευόντων εἰς ἐμέ in Mt. is incongruous, and is only explicable as borrowed, i.e. not omitted, from Mk.

(L) 7. Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks! for there is necessity that stumbling-blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling-block comes!] Luke 17:1 has:�

(M) 8. And if thy hand or thy foot is causing thee to stumble, cut it off, and cast (it) from thee. It is good for thee to enter into life maimed or halt, than having two hands or two feet to be cast into the eternal fire.] Mk. has two separate sayings for the hand and the foot: “And if thy hand should cause thee to stumble, cut it off. It is good for thee maimed to enter into life, than having the two hands to go away into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if thy foot should be causing thee to stumble, cut it off. It is good for thee to enter into life halt, than having the two feet to be cast into Gehenna.” Mt. has the saying about the hand in 5:30. He combines here, selecting βληθῆναι (Mk 45) rather than�Jüd. Eschat. p. 287. Cf. Ps.-Sol. 2:35�Enoch. 91:9 “eternal judgement”; 27:3 “judgement—continually, for ever”;22:11 “punishment and torture for ever”; 67:13 “fire which burns for ever”; Josephus, Wars, ii. 164, “everlasting punishment” �Ant. xviii. 14, “an everlasting prison” (εἱργμὸν�Secrets of Enoch 10:6 hell is “an everlasting inheritance”; Jubilees 24:32 “eternal malediction”; Berakhoth 28b (Jochanan ben Zaccai) “All the more should I weep now that they are about to lead me before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, who lives and abides for ever, and for ever and ever; whose wrath, if He be wrathful, is an eternal wrath; and if He bind me, His binding is an eternal binding; and if He kill me, His killing is an eternal killing; whom I cannot placate with words, nor bribe with wealth”; Baruch 85:12 “there will be no opportunity of returning, nor a limit to the times.” In view of this general drift of contemporaneous thought upon this subject, there is no justification for the attempt to weaken the meaning of αἰώνιος in this Gospel. For the questions raised as to the duration of punishment in the Rabbinical schools, see Volz.

(M) 9. And if thy eye is causing thee to stumble, pluck it out, and cast (it) from thee. It is good for thee with one eye to enter into life, than having two eyes to be cast into the Gehenna of fire.] Mk. has: “And if thy eye should be causing thee to stumble, cast it out. It is good for thee with one eye to enter into the kingdom of God, than having two eyes to be cast into Gehenna, where ‘their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.’” Mt. assimilates to 5:29 by substituting εἰ—σκανδαλύζει for ἐὰν—σκανδαλίζῃ, σοί for σέ, ἔξελε for ἔκβαλε, and by adding καὶ βάλε�

(L) 10. Take heed, do not despise one of these little ones; for I say to you, That their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.] The editor adds a saying which clearly has reference to children, not to adult Christians of childlike faith, and is an additional proof that in v. 6 he still had literal children in mind. The τῶν μικρῶν τούτων of v. 6 and of this verse probably suggested the insertion of this saying here. See note on v. 7.—βλεπουσι τὸ πρόσωπον] Cf. 1 K 10:8, 2 K 25:19, To 12:15. The “seeing the face” means that they stand in the immediate presence of God. The verse gives an additional reason for reverencing the Christlike qualities of children; cf. v. 6.

(L) 12. What think ye? if any man have a hundred sheep, and one of them stray, doth he not leave the ninety-nine, and go to the mountains and seek that which has strayed?]

(M) 13. And if it happen that he find it, verily I say to you, that he rejoices more over it, than over the ninety-nine which did not stray.] Luke 15:3-7 has a similar saying. The parable there illustrates the divine love which seeks to reclaim sinners. In Mt. after v. 10 and before v. 14 it apparently illustrates from another point of view the value of children in God’s sight. Their angels stand in His presence, and He cares for them as a shepherd does for his lost sheep. But this can hardly be an original connection.

(L) 14. So it is not the will of (before) your Father who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.] Vv. 12-14 have probably been added here by the editor as a third saying about τῶν μικρῶν τούτων; cf. vv. 6, 10. Even if vv. 10-14 be interpreted of children in faith, i.e. recent converts, vv. 12-14 can hardly be in an original connection. They presuppose a context such as that in Lk. where they would illustrate the divine love, not for children or for childlike believers, but for sinners who had strayed away from His love. For θἐλημα ἔμπροσθεν cf. 11:26 εὐδοκία ἔμπροσθεν.

10. τῶν μικρῶν τούτων] D b c ff 1 2 g1 2 S2, add τῶν πιστευόντων εἰς ἐμέ, to assimilate to v. 6. The words are very unsuitable here.

11. ῃλθε γὰρ ὁ υἰὸς τοῦ�al S2 latt. Omit א B. L * 1 13 33 e ff1 S1. The verse is interpolated from Luke 19:10, apparently in order to make some sort of connection between v. 10 and 12-14.

15. The thought with which the discourse started was the necessity of an unassuming and unpretentious disposition in those who hope to enter the kingdom. Children and behaviour towards them were the test of this quality, vv. 1-5. A change was then made to the consideration of conduct towards children, and the sin of putting stumbling-blocks in their path, v. 6. Another abrupt change due to Mk. introduced the subject of a man who puts stumbling-blocks in his own spiritual life, vv. 7-9. Lastly, in some verses added by Mt. to Mk.’s discourse the thought returned to the consideration of right conduct towards children (or childlike believers?), vv. 10-14. In these last three verses the thought of God’s forgiveness of sinners is not prominent. Rather the thought emphasised here is that of His love for children (or childlike believers?). But the love of God is most strikingly expressed in His forgiveness of sin, and the Evangelist is aware that the parable could more appropriately be employed to illustrate His forgiving love. This suggests to him the sayings which follow about forgiveness as a necessary qualification of the Christian character. It seems clear that the juxtaposition of the ideas of giving no offence to little ones, v. 6, and of forgiving sin, v. 15, is purely artificial and literary, and that it is due to the editor of the Gospel. Now it is noticeable that vv. 6, 7, 15, 21 are paralleled in Luke 17:2, Luke 17:1, Luke 17:3, Luke 17:4. That is to say, that both Evangelists connect the ideas of giving offence to little ones and of forgiving sin. Since a motive for this connection can be discovered in Mt., whilst in Lk. it seems purely arbitrary, it seems probable that Luke 17:1-4 is due to reminiscence of Mat_18.

(L) 15. And if thy brother sin against thee, go convince him between thee and him alone. if he hear thee, then hast gained thy brother.] Lk (17:3, 4) has: “If thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if seven times a day he sin against thee, and seven times turn to thee, saying, I repent, thou shalt forgive him.” Cf. Test. Gad 6:3-7 “If he admit his offence and repent, forgive him.”—ἔλεγξον] cf. Leviticus 19:17 ἐλεγμῷ ἐλέγξεις τὸν πλησίον σου—μεταξὺ σοῦ καὶ αὐτοῦ] is an Aramaism. The thought is of personal offences. The Christian disciple is to be reconciled to his offended fellow-Christian before he can bring offerings to God, 5:23, 24. He must also do everything in his power to bring one who has wronged him to penitence and to forgiveness.

(L) 16. But if he will not hear (thee), take with thee one or two more, that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may stand.]—ἐὰν δὲ μὴ�i.e. if he will not admit his wrong-doing and be reconciled to you.—παράλαβε μετὰ σοῦ ἔτι ἕνα ἢ δύο] i.e. take with you one or two that they may admonish him, and be witnesses to the fact that you have made efforts to re-establish amity.—ἕνα ἢ δύο] in order that the Mosaic “two or three” may be satisfied. The two or three are the offended Christian and the one or two whom he takes with him. The matter is not treated from a strictly legal point of view, because the offended person would not be regarded as a witness in a law court. Moreover, the one or two are to witness not to the offence, but to the unwillingness of the offender to be reconciled, and to the efforts made by the offended party to bring about reconciliation. It is probable that the quotation is an addition to the original saying made by the Evangelist, or by the compiler of his Jewish Christian source. The words quoted are from Deuteronomy 19:15 ἐπὶ στόματος δύο μαρτύρων καὶ ἐπὶ στόματος τριῶν μαρτύρων στήσεται πᾶν ῥῆμα. Luc has δύο μαρτύρων ἢ τριῶν.

(L) 17. But if he refuse to hear them, tell it to the Church: and if he refuse to hear the Church also, let him be to thee as the Gentile and the toll-gatherer.] παρακούειν in the later Greek is to refuse to hear, cf. Esther 3:3, Esther 3:8, To 3:4, Polyb. xxvi. 2. 1, xxx. 18. 2, and Mark 5:36 with Swete’s note.—ἐκκλησία] see on 16:18. The Church is the society of disciples of Christ who dwell in any place. For ἐθνικός and τελώνης, see on 5:46, 47. The Christian disciple who refuses to be reconciled to his fellow-Christian is to be regarded as no true member of the Society.

(L) 18. Verily I say to you, Whatsoever things you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever things you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.] The saying with the verbs in the singular has already been recorded in 16:19. Here it means that the decisions of the community regarding what is or is not justifiable in its members must be regarded as final.

(L) 19. Again I say to you, That if two of you agree upon earth concerning anything which they shall ask, it shall be done for them from My Father who is in the heavens.] This gives the reason for the assurance made in v. 18. The decisions of the community will be final, because God will hear the petitions of even two Christians who agree together. But the verse cannot be in an original connection. In v. 18 the agreement presupposed is agreement in coming to decisions upon questions which concern the Church’s welfare. V. 19 is clearly an encouragement to prayer on the ground that the agreement of the smallest number in their petitions will insure an answer. The “on earth” and “in heaven” in both verses suggested the insertion of 19 here. Cf. note on v. 7.

(L) 20. For where two ar three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them.] That is to say, the prayer of two who are agreed will receive an answer, because Christ is with His disciples in their prayer; cf. Sayings of Our Lord, Log. v.: “Wherever there are (two) they are not without God, and wherever there is one alone I say I am with him”; Malachi 3:16 “They that feared the Lord spake often the one to the other, and the Lord hearkened and heard”; Aboth 3:8 “Two that sit together and are occupied in the words of the Law have the Shechinah (i.e. the Divine Presence) among them.” Cf. 3:9 and B. Berakhoth 6a quoted by Taylor, The Oxyrhynchus Logia, p. 34 f.

15. εἰς σέ] So D al latt. S1 S2. The words are wrongly omitted by א B 1 22 234*, and if not expressed would have to be understood. They are not found in Luke 17:3, but occur in the next verse. ὔπαγε is omitted by S1 S2.

20. D S1 have this verse in a negative form: “For there are not two or three gathered together in My name that I am not in the midst of them.”

(L) 21. Then came Peter, and said to Him, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I shall forgive him? unto seven times?] Luke 17:4 has: “And if seven times in the day he sin against thee, and seven times turn to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” For the introduction of Peter, cf. 14:28, 15:15; and see note on 16:19, p. 180.

(L) 22. Jesus saith to him, Not, I say to thee, until seven times; but, until seventy times seven.] The latter number is meant as an indefinitely great one. There is the same literary contrast between seven and seventy times seven in Genesis 4:24 LXX. Cf. Moulton, p. 98: “A definite allusion to the Genesis story is highly probable. Jesus pointedly sets against the natural man’s craving for seventy-sevenfold revenge, the spiritual man’s ambition to exercise the privilege of seventy-sevenfold forgiveness.” Dr. Moulton had previously said that the meaning “seventy seven times” is unmistakable in Genesis. It is very probable that Mt.’s ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά is modelled on the similar phrase in Genesis, but it seems doubtful whether in both passages we should not translate seventy times seven, rather than seventy-seven times. In Mt., D has ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτάκις, an obvious emendation. Blass renders seventy times seven, p. 145. So Wellhausen and Zahn, in loc. Contrast the teaching in the Babylonian Talmud, Joma 86b “Rabbi Jose ben Jehuda said, If a man commits an offence once they forgive him, a second time they forgive him, a third time they forgive him, the fourth time they do not forgive him: for it is said (here follow Job 33:29 and Amos 2:6)”; 87a “Rabbi Isaac said, Every one who vexes his neighbour, if only in words, must appease him.” “Rabbi Jose ben Hanina said, He who begs forgiveness from his neighbour must not do so more than three times, for it is said” (here follows Genesis 2:17, in which are here three particles of entreaty).

23. The editor now inserts a parable to illustrate the necessity of forgiveness.

(L) 23. Therefore the kingdom of the heavens is like to a man, a king, who wished to take reckoning with his servants.]—ὡμοιώθη] See on 11:16.—ἀνθρώπῳ βασιλεῖ] cf. 20:1, 22:2, 13:52. Here and in 22:2 ἄνθρωπος βασιλεύς probably means “an earthly king,” a grecised form of the Jewish “king of flesh and blood” which is common in the parables of the Talmud and Midrashim.—συνᾶραι λόγον] occurs in BU 775, 2nd cent. a.d.; the middle voice in Fayûm Towns, p. 261, συνῆρμαι λόγον τῷ πατρί, 1st cent. a.d.; and in Ox. Pap. i. 113, 2nd cent. a.d.

(L) 24. And when he began to take account, there was brought to him a debtor to the amount of ten thousand talents.]—εἶς ὀφειλέτης] Cf. Blass, p. 144. And see on 9:18.—μυρίων ταλάντων] The talent was equivalent to 6000 denarii, or £240. 10,000 talents is, therefore, an enormous sum. We must either suppose that the sum is heightened in order to form a literary contrast to the 100 denarii, or suppose that the servants here referred to are the higher officers of the king, through whose hands would pass the imperial taxes.

(L) 25. And when he was unable to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.]

26. Therefore the servant fell down, and did homage to him, saying, Lord, have forbearance with me, and I will pay thee all.]

(L) 27. And the lord of that servant had compassion on him, and absolved him from the debt.]

(L) 28. And that servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him one hundred denarii.] The denarius was worth about eightpence halfpenny.

And he seized him, and held him by the throat, saying, Pay anything thou owest.]

(L) 29. Therefore his fellow-servant fell down, and besought him, saying, Have forbearance with me, and I will pay thee.]

(L) 30. And he would not; but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay what was owed.]

(L) 31. Therefore his fellow-servants, seeing what had happened, were grieved exceedingly, and came and recounted to their lord all that had happened.]—ἐλυπήθησαν σφόδρα] see on 17:23.

(L) 32. Then his lord called him, and saith to him, Thou evil servant, I forgave thee all that debt, since thou besoughtest me.]—τότε] See on 2:7.—ὀφειλή] occurs in 1 Corinthians 7:3, Romans 13:7.Romans 13:1

(L) 33. Oughtest not thou to have had pity on thy fellow-servant, as I had pity on thee?]

(L) 34. And his lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, until he should pay all that was owed.]

(L) 35. So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if ye forgive not each his brother from your hearts.]

The details of the parable do not seem altogether consistent. After v. 23 we seem to have a story of a wealthy merchant and his slaves, rather than one of a king and his ministers. The story has quite probably been adapted by the editor to suit the context. But the main point, that an unmerciful disposition will meet with the divine wrath, is quite clear. The parable begins with the formula “the kingdom of heaven is like.” This means nothing more than that a lesson may be drawn from what follows, which all who hope to enter the kingdom should lay to heart.

M the Second Gospel.

L the Matthæan Logia.

1 Men like the Exorcist, vv. 38-40, or like him who merely gave a cup of cold water, v. 41, were “little ones who believe in Me.” No stumbling-blocks were to be placed in their way.

Ps.-Sol. The Psalms of Solomon.

S Syriac version: Curetonian.

al i.e. with other uncial MSS.

latt. Manuscripts of the Old Latin Version.

B. Babylonian Talmud.

S Syriac version: Sinaitic MS.

Polyb. Polybius.

LXX. The Septuagint Version.

Ox. Pap. Oxyrhynchus Papyri.

1 For examples from the Papyri, see Deissmann, Bib. Stud. p. 221. And add Ox. Pap. ii. 286. 18 (a.d. 82), 272. 16 (a.d. 66), iv. 719. 24 (a.d. 193) 736. 75 (a.d. 1); Fayûm Towns, 247. The word is not found in literature outside the New Testament.

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Matthew 18". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/matthew-18.html. 1896-1924.
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