According to Matthew 18:1-35

18  In that hour the disciples came near to Jesus and said: “Who really is greatest in the Kingdom of the heavens?”+  So calling a young child to him, he stood him in their midst  and said: “Truly I say to you, unless you turn around* and become as young children,+ you will by no means enter into the Kingdom of the heavens.+  Therefore, whoever will humble himself like this young child is the one who is the greatest in the Kingdom of the heavens;+  and whoever receives one such young child on the basis of my name receives me also.+  But whoever stumbles one of these little ones who have faith in me, it would be better for him to have hung around his neck a millstone that is turned by a donkey and to be sunk in the open sea.+  “Woe to the world because of the stumbling blocks! Of course, it is inevitable that stumbling blocks will come, but woe to the man through whom the stumbling block comes!  If, then, your hand or your foot makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it away from you.+ It is better for you to enter into life maimed or lame than to be thrown with two hands or two feet into the everlasting fire.+  Also, if your eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you. It is better for you to enter one-eyed into life than to be thrown with two eyes into the fiery Ge·henʹna.+ 10  See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my Father who is in heaven.+ 11  —— 12  “What do you think? If a man has 100 sheep and one of them strays,+ will he not leave the 99 on the mountains and set out on a search for the one that is straying?+ 13  And if he finds it, I certainly tell you, he rejoices more over it than over the 99 that have not strayed. 14  Likewise, it is not a desirable thing to my Father who is in heaven for even one of these little ones to perish.+ 15  “Moreover, if your brother commits a sin, go and reveal his fault* between you and him alone.+ If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.+ 16  But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two more, so that on the testimony* of two or three witnesses every matter* may be established.*+ 17  If he does not listen* to them, speak to the congregation. If he does not listen* even to the congregation, let him be to you just as a man of the nations+ and as a tax collector.+ 18  “Truly I say to you, whatever things you may bind on earth will be things already bound in heaven, and whatever things you may loosen on earth will be things already loosened in heaven.+ 19  Again I tell you truly, if two of you on earth agree concerning anything of importance that they should request, it will take place for them on account of my Father in heaven.+ 20  For where there are two or three gathered together in my name,+ there I am in their midst.” 21  Then Peter came and said to him: “Lord, how many times is my brother to sin against me and am I to forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22  Jesus said to him: “I say to you, not up to seven times, but up to 77 times.+ 23  “That is why the Kingdom of the heavens may be likened to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. 24  When he started to settle them, a man was brought in who owed him 10,000 talents. 25  But because he did not have the means to pay it back, his master ordered him and his wife and his children and all the things he owned to be sold and payment to be made.+ 26  So the slave fell down and did obeisance to him, saying, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay back everything to you.’ 27  Moved with pity at this, the master of that slave let him off and canceled his debt.+ 28  But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves, who owed him 100 de·narʹi·i, and grabbed him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back whatever you owe.’ 29  So his fellow slave fell down and began to beg him, saying, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30  However, he was not willing, but he went and had him thrown into prison until he could pay back what he owed. 31  When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they became greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all the things that had happened. 32  Then his master summoned him and said to him: ‘Wicked slave, I canceled all that debt for you when you pleaded with me. 33  Should you not also have shown mercy to your fellow slave as I showed mercy to you?’+ 34  With that his master, provoked to wrath, handed him over to the jailers until he repaid all that he owed. 35  My heavenly Father will also deal with you in the same way+ if each of you does not forgive your brother from your heart.”+


Or “change.”
Lit., “go reprove him.”
Lit., “might stand.”
Or “everything said.”
Lit., “mouth.”
Or “he refuses to listen; he does not pay attention.”
Or “he refuses to listen; he does not pay attention.”

Study Notes

Truly: Greek, a·menʹ, a transliteration of the Hebrew ʼa·menʹ, meaning “so be it,” or “surely.” Jesus frequently uses this expression to preface a statement, a promise, or a prophecy, thereby emphasizing its absolute truthfulness and reliability. Jesus’ use of “truly,” or amen, in this way is said to be unique in sacred literature. When repeated in succession (a·menʹ a·menʹ), as is the case throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus’ expression is translated “most truly.”​—See study note on Joh 1:51.

a millstone that is turned by a donkey: Or “a huge millstone.” Lit., “a millstone of a donkey.” Such a millstone, likely 1.2-1.5 m (4-5 ft) in diameter, was so heavy that it had to be turned by a donkey.

stumbling blocks: The original meaning of the Greek word skanʹda·lon, rendered “stumbling block,” is thought to have referred to a trap; some suggest that it was the stick in a trap to which the bait was attached. By extension, it came to refer to any impediment that would cause one to stumble or fall. In a figurative sense, it refers to an action or a circumstance that leads a person to follow an improper course, to stumble or fall morally, or to fall into sin. At Mt 18:8, 9, the related verb skan·da·liʹzo, translated “make stumble,” could also be rendered “become a snare; cause to sin.”

cut it off: Jesus was using hyperbole. He was saying that a person should be willing to give up something as precious as a hand, a foot, or an eye rather than allow it to cause him to stumble into unfaithfulness and sin. (Mt 18:9) He was obviously not encouraging self-mutilation or implying that a person was somehow subservient to the will of his limbs or eyes. He meant that a person should deaden a body member, or treat it as if it were severed from the body, rather than use it to commit a sin. (Compare Col 3:5.) A person should allow nothing to hinder him from gaining life.

Gehenna: See study note on Mt 5:22 and Glossary.

Gehenna: This term comes from the Hebrew words geh hin·nomʹ, meaning “valley of Hinnom,” which lay to the S and SW of ancient Jerusalem. (See App. B12, map “Jerusalem and Surrounding Area.”) By Jesus’ day, the valley had become a place for burning refuse, so the word “Gehenna” was a fitting symbol of complete destruction.​—See Glossary.

angels: Or “messengers.” The Greek word agʹge·los and the corresponding Hebrew word mal·ʼakhʹ occur nearly 400 times in the Bible. Both words have the basic meaning of “messenger.” When spirit messengers are meant, the words are translated “angels,” but if the reference is definitely to humans, the rendering is “messengers.” The context usually makes clear whether human or angelic messengers are meant, but where both meanings are possible, footnotes often show the alternative rendering. (Ge 16:7; 32:3; Job 4:18, ftn.; 33:23, ftn.; Ec 5:6, ftn.; Isa 63:9, ftn.; Mt 1:20; Jas 2:25; Re 22:8; see Glossary.) In the highly symbolic book of Revelation, certain references to angels may apply to human creatures.​—Re 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14.

It is his angel: Both the Hebrew and the Greek terms rendered “angel” mean “messenger.” (See study note on Joh 1:51.) Those who referred to “his [Peter’s] angel” may have assumed that an angelic messenger representing the apostle was at the gate. It appears that some Jews believed that each servant of God had his own angel​—in effect, a guardian angel, a view that is not directly taught in God’s Word. Jesus’ disciples knew, though, that throughout history, angels rendered personal assistance to God’s people. For example, Jacob spoke of “the angel who has been recovering me from all calamity.” (Ge 48:16) Also, Jesus said of his disciples that “their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my Father,” showing that angels take an active interest in each of Jesus’ disciples. (See study note on Mt 18:10.) Those gathered at Mary’s house would not have imagined that Peter himself was appearing in some angelic form, as if he had died and was now a spirit; they knew what the Hebrew Scriptures said about the condition of the dead.​—Ec 9:5, 10.

their angels: In both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures, God’s servants are assured of the protection of Jehovah’s ever-present, invisible army of angels. (2Ki 6:15-17; Ps 34:7; 91:11; Ac 5:19; Heb 1:14) The original-language terms rendered “angel” have the basic meaning of “messenger.” (See study note on Joh 1:51.) Jesus’ statement about these little ones (namely, his disciples) and “their angels” does not necessarily mean that each devoted Christian has a special guardian angel assigned to him. But angels are looking out for the spiritual welfare of true Christians as a whole and take an active interest in each of Christ’s disciples.​—See study note on Ac 12:15.

look upon the face of my Father: Or “have access to my Father.” Because they have access to the very presence of God, only spirit creatures can see God’s face.​—Ex 33:20.

Some manuscripts here include the words: “For the Son of man came to save what was lost,” but these words do not appear in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts. A similar statement is part of the inspired text at Lu 19:10. Some are of the opinion that an early copyist borrowed the expression from Luke’s account.​—See App. A3.

my: Some ancient manuscripts read “your.”

your brother: See study note on Mt 5:23.

your brother: In some contexts, the Greek word a·del·phosʹ (brother) may refer to a family relationship. Here, though, it refers to a spiritual relationship and denotes a fellow worshipper of God, since the context refers to worship at Jehovah’s temple in Jesus’ day. In still other contexts, the term could refer more generally to one’s fellow man.

congregation: This is the first occurrence of the Greek term ek·kle·siʹa. It comes from two Greek words, ek, meaning “out,” and ka·leʹo, meaning “to call.” It refers to a group of people summoned or called together for a particular purpose or activity. (See Glossary.) In this context, Jesus foretells the formation of the Christian congregation, made up of anointed Christians, who as “living stones” are being “built up into a spiritual house.” (1Pe 2:4, 5) This Greek term is frequently used in the Septuagint as an equivalent of the Hebrew term rendered “congregation,” which often refers to the entire nation of God’s people. (De 23:3; 31:30) At Ac 7:38, the Israelites who were called out of Egypt are referred to as a “congregation.” Similarly, Christians who are “called . . . out of darkness” and “chosen . . . out of the world” make up “the congregation of God.”​—1Pe 2:9; Joh 15:19; 1Co 1:2.

the congregation: Under the Mosaic Law, judges and officers represented the congregation of Israel in dealing with judicial matters. (De 16:18) In Jesus’ day, offenders answered to local courts made up of elders of the Jews. (Mt 5:22) Later, responsible men would be appointed by the holy spirit to act as judges in each Christian congregation. (Ac 20:28; 1Co 5:1-5, 12, 13)​—For the meaning of the term “congregation,” see study note on Mt 16:18 and Glossary, “Congregation.”

as a man of the nations and as a tax collector: That is, those with whom Jews had no unnecessary dealings.​—Compare Ac 10:28.

bind . . . loosen: Or “lock . . . unlock.” Evidently referring to decisions forbidding or allowing certain actions or developments.​—Compare study note on Mt 18:18.

will already be bound . . . will already be loosened: The unusual construction of Greek verbs here (future form of “to be” combined with perfect passive participle of “bind” and “loosen”) indicates that whatever decision Peter made (“whatever you may bind”; “whatever you may loosen”) would be made after the corresponding decision was made in heaven; it would not precede it.​—Compare study note on Mt 18:18.

whatever things you may bind . . . you may loosen: In this context, to “bind” evidently means to “view as guilty; find guilty,” and to “loosen” means to “acquit; find innocent.” The pronoun “you” is plural, indicating that not only Peter but also others would be involved in carrying out such decisions.​—Compare study note on Mt 16:19.

will be things already bound . . . will be things already loosened: The unusual construction of the Greek verbs here (future form of “to be” combined with the perfect passive participle of “bind” and “loosen”) indicates that whatever decision was made by the disciples (“whatever things you may bind”; “whatever things you may loosen”) would be made after the corresponding decision was made in heaven. Any decision made by the disciples would follow heaven’s decision, not precede it, and the disciples would make decisions based on principles already laid down in heaven. It does not refer to heavenly support or validation of a decision made on earth. Instead, it means that the disciples would receive direction from heaven, highlighting the need for such guidance to ensure that the decisions made on earth harmonize with the decision that has already been made in heaven.​—Compare study note on Mt 16:19.

you . . . you . . . they . . . them: Although the Greek text uses the pronouns “you” in the first part of the verse and then changes to “they” and “them,” these pronouns evidently refer to the same individuals. For this reason, some Bibles render the last part of the verse: “. . . that you should request, my heavenly Father will do it for you.”

77 times: Lit., “seventy times seven.” This Greek expression can be understood to mean either “70 and 7” (77 times) or “70 multiplied by 7” (490 times). The same wording found in the Septuagint at Ge 4:24 renders the Hebrew expression “77 times,” which supports the rendering “77 times.” Regardless of how it is understood, the repetition of the number seven was equivalent to “indefinitely” or “without limit.” By turning Peter’s 7 times into 77, Jesus was telling his followers not to set an arbitrary limit on forgiveness. In contrast, the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 86b) says: “If a man commits a transgression the first, second and third time he is forgiven, the fourth time he is not forgiven.”

100 denarii: Although 100 denarii was little compared to 10,000 talents (60,000,000 denarii), it was not insignificant; it represented the wages of 100 days of work for a laborer.​—See App. B14.

10,000 talents: Just one talent would have been the equivalent of about 20 years’ wages for a common laborer, so it would have taken the average worker thousands of lifetimes of work to repay such a debt. Clearly, Jesus was using hyperbole to illustrate that the debt was impossible to repay. The 10,000 talents of silver equaled 60,000,000 denarii.​—See study note on Mt 18:28; Glossary, “Talent”; and App. B14.

did obeisance to him: Or “bowed down to him; paid him homage.” When the Greek verb pro·sky·neʹo is used to refer to worship of a god or of a deity, it is rendered “to worship.” But in this context, it refers to a slave’s showing respect and submission to a person who had authority over him.​—See study notes on Mt 2:2; 8:2.

do obeisance: Or “bow down.” When the Greek verb pro·sky·neʹo is used to refer to the worship of a god or a deity, it is rendered “to worship.” In this context, however, the astrologers were asking for “the one born king of the Jews.” So it is clear that it refers to obeisance or homage to a human king, not a god. A similar usage is found at Mr 15:18, 19, where the term is used of the soldiers who mockingly “bowed down” to Jesus and called him “King of the Jews.”​—See study note on Mt 18:26.

did obeisance to him: Or “bowed down to him; honored him.” People mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures also bowed down when meeting prophets, kings, or other representatives of God. (1Sa 25:23, 24; 2Sa 14:4-7; 1Ki 1:16; 2Ki 4:36, 37) This man evidently recognized that he was talking to a representative of God who had power to heal people. It was appropriate to bow down to show respect for Jehovah’s King-Designate.​—Mt 9:18; for more information on the Greek word used here, see study note on Mt 2:2.

canceled his debt: Or “forgave him the debt (loan).” In a figurative sense, debts can refer to sins.​—See study note on Mt 6:12.

debts: Referring to sins. When sinning against someone, a person incurs a debt to that one, or has an obligation to him, and must therefore seek his forgiveness. Receiving God’s forgiveness depends on whether the person has forgiven his personal debtors, that is, those who have sinned against him.​—Mt 6:14, 15; 18:35; Lu 11:4.

100 denarii: Although 100 denarii was little compared to 10,000 talents (60,000,000 denarii), it was not insignificant; it represented the wages of 100 days of work for a laborer.​—See App. B14.

canceled all that debt for you: Or “forgave you all that debt.”​—See study note on Mt 6:12.

forgive: The Greek word literally means “to let go” but can also have the meaning “to cancel a debt,” as at Mt 18:27, 32.

torment us: A related Greek term is used of “the jailers” at Mt 18:34, so in this context, the “torment” would seem to refer to a restraining or a confining to “the abyss” mentioned in the parallel account at Lu 8:31.

jailers: The Greek term ba·sa·ni·stesʹ, rendered “jailers,” has the basic meaning of “tormentors,” likely because jailers often inflicted cruel torture on prisoners. However, the term came to be applied to jailers in a general sense, evidently because confinement with or without torture was considered a form of torment.​—See study note on Mt 8:29.


Upper and Lower Millstones
Upper and Lower Millstones

A large millstone like the one depicted here would be turned by a domestic animal, such as a donkey, and be used to grind grain or crush olives. An upper millstone might be as much as 1.5 m (5 ft) in diameter and would be turned on an even larger lower stone.


Millstones were used for grinding grain and pressing oil out of olives. Some were small enough to be turned by hand, but others were so huge that they had to be turned by an animal. It may have been a large millstone similar to this one that Samson was forced to turn for the Philistines. (Jg 16:21) The animal-powered mill was common not only in Israel but also throughout much of the Roman Empire.

The Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna)
The Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna)

The Valley of Hinnom, called Gehenna in Greek, is a ravine to the south and southwest of ancient Jerusalem. In Jesus’ day, it was a place for the burning of refuse, making it a fitting symbol of complete destruction.

The Shepherd and His Sheep
The Shepherd and His Sheep

A shepherd’s life could be difficult. He was exposed to heat and cold as well as to sleepless nights. (Ge 31:40; Lu 2:8) He protected the flock from predators, such as lions, wolves, and bears, and safeguarded them from thieves. (Ge 31:39; 1Sa 17:34-36; Isa 31:4; Am 3:12; Joh 10:10-12) The shepherd kept the flock from scattering (1Ki 22:17), looked for lost sheep (Lu 15:4), carried feeble or weary lambs in his bosom (Isa 40:11) or on his shoulders, and cared for the sick and injured (Eze 34:3, 4; Zec 11:16). The Bible often speaks of shepherds and their work in a figurative way. For example, Jehovah is likened to a Shepherd who lovingly cares for his sheep, that is, his people. (Ps 23:1-6; 80:1; Jer 31:10; Eze 34:11-16; 1Pe 2:25) Jesus is called “the great shepherd” (Heb 13:20) and “the chief shepherd,” under whose direction the overseers in the Christian congregation shepherd the flock of God willingly, unselfishly, and eagerly.—1 Pe 5:2-4.