Seventy times seven (Mt 18:22-18:22)

“Jesus said to him,

I do not say to you

Seven times,

But seventy times seven.”

 

λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς Οὐ λέγω σοι ἕως ἑπτάκις, ἀλλὰ ἕως ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά.

 

This saying about 7*70 is unique to Matthew.  Jesus surprised Peter with a solemn declaration (λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦ) by telling him to forgive his brother’s sins not 7 times (Οὐ λέγω σοι ἕως ἑπτάκις) but 490 times, 7*70 (ἀλλὰ ἕως ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά).  Matthew is the only one who ever used this number “ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά” in the New Testament literature, but that number could be found in Genesis, chapter 4:24 when Cain and Lamech were talking about violent revenge.  Lamech wanted his vengeance 7*70.  Was this number an attempt to indicate infinity before we had that term?  490 seems overly generous in any circumstances, but was this to mean all the time?

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