How often should I forgive? (Mt 18:21-18:21)

“Then Peter came.

He said to Jesus.

‘Lord!

How often

Should I forgive

My brother

Who sins against me?

As many as seven times?’”

 

Τότε προσελθὼν ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν αὐτῷ Κύριε, ποσάκις ἁμαρτήσει εἰς ἐμὲ ὁ ἀδελφός μου καὶ ἀφήσω αὐτῷ; ἕως ἑπτάκις;

 

There is something like this saying in Luke, chapter 17:4, but there is no mention of Peter in Luke.  Once again, it is Peter who takes on a specific leadership role.  He wanted to know how many times he should forgive his brother’s sins, as he came to Jesus (Τότε προσελθὼν ὁ Πέτρος).  He addressed him as “Lord” (εἶπεν αὐτῷ Κύριε)!  He wanted to know how often he should forgive his brother who had sinned against him (ποσάκις ἁμαρτήσει εἰς ἐμὲ ὁ ἀδελφός μου καὶ ἀφήσω αὐτῷ).  Peter thought that 7 would be a good number.  Was 7 times enough (ἕως ἑπτάκις)?  Most Jewish people had forgiven offenses 3 times.  3 strikes and you are out.  Peter seemed overly generous in his attempts at forgiveness.

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Let your brother become a gentile (Mt 18:16-18:17)

“But if you are not listened to,

Take one

Or two others

Along with you.

Thus,

Every word may be confirmed

By the evidence

Of two

Or three witnesses.

If he refuses to listen

To them,

Tell it to the church.

If he refuses

To listen even to the church,

Let him be to you

As a gentile

And a tax collector.”

 

ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀκούσῃ, παράλαβε μετὰ σοῦ ἔτι ἕνα ἢ δύο, ἵνα ἐπὶ στόματος δύο μαρτύρων ἢ τριῶν σταθῇ πᾶν ῥῆμα·

ἐὰν δὲ παρακούσῃ αὐτῶν, εἰπὸν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ· ἐὰν δὲ καὶ τῆς ἐκκλησίας παρακούσῃ, ἔστω σοι ὥσπερ ὁ ἐθνικὸς καὶ ὁ τελώνης.

 

This saying about the brother who would not listen to reprimands is unique to Matthew.  This exchange seems to imply a solid structure with specific rules and regulations, not a band of itinerant healing preachers.  If you were not successful with reprimanding your brother, because he would not listen to you (ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀκούσῃ), you were to take one or two others with you (παράλαβε μετὰ σοῦ ἔτι ἕνα ἢ δύο).  This is almost like a Jewish religious court case based on Deuteronomy, chapter 19:15, where a single witness would not be enough to convict a person of any crime or wrong-doing.  They needed the evidence of two or three witnesses, since one person was not sufficient enough to convict anyone of any crime.  There had to be at least 2 or 3 witnesses to sustain a charge.  Thus, the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses might strengthen or confirm every word (ἵνα ἐπὶ στόματος δύο μαρτύρων ἢ τριῶν σταθῇ πᾶν ῥῆμα).  If your brother still refused to listen to them (ἐὰν δὲ παρακούσῃ αὐτῶν), then you should bring him to the church or the congregation (εἰπὸν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ).  Along with chapter 16:18, where Peter was the rock of the new church, this indicates a church structure at the time that Matthew was writing this gospel.  If your brother still refused to listen to the church congregation (ἐὰν δὲ καὶ τῆς ἐκκλησίας παρακούσῃ), he should become like a gentile or a tax collector (ἔστω σοι ὥσπερ ὁ ἐθνικὸς καὶ ὁ τελώνης), an outcast from the community.  This indicates that the disciples of Jesus still thought like Jewish people with no room for gentiles and foreign Roman tax collectors.

The seventh beatitude on peacemakers (Mt 5:9-5:9)

“Blessed are

The peacemakers!

They shall be called

Children of God.”

 

μακάριοι οἱ εἰρηνοποιοί, ὅτι αὐτοὶ υἱοὶ Θεοῦ κληθήσονται.

 

The happy, blessed, and fortunate ones (μακάριοι) would be those who made peace (οἱ εἰρηνοποιοί).  The reward for these peacemakers would be that they would be called children or sons of God (ὅτι αὐτοὶ υἱοὶ Θεοῦ κληθήσονται).  It was not enough to be a peaceful person, you had to make or be an artisan of peace, not just let it happen.  These peacemakers would be like the sons or children of God.  This comment about peacemakers was unique to Matthew since there is no equivalent in Luke.  In fact, this is the only place in the Bible where there is any mention of peacemakers at all.

Justice and sacrificial offerings (Mic 6:6-6:8)

“‘With what shall I come

Before Yahweh?

Shall I bow myself

Before God on high?

Shall I come before him

With burnt offerings?

Shall I come before him

With calves a year old?

Will Yahweh be pleased

With thousands of rams?

Will Yahweh be pleased

With ten thousand rivers of oil?

Shall I give

My first-born

For my transgression?

Shall I give

The fruit of my body

For the sin of my soul?’

O mortal!

He has showed you

What is good!

What does Yahweh

Require of you?

But you are

To do justice,

To love kindness,

To walk humbly

With your God!”

Yahweh, via Micah, once again showed the relationship between worship and justice.  Much like the written prophets, Amos, chapter 5, Hosea, chapter 2, and Isaiah, chapters 7 and 30, the emphasis was on justice over sacrificial gifts.  Micah asked what kind of gifts he should bring to Yahweh, the high God.  Would Yahweh be happy with burnt offerings of one-year old calves?  Would 1,000 rams please him?  Would 10,000 rivers of oil be enough for Yahweh?  Should he offer up his firstborn son to save his soul?  Micah pointed out what Yahweh required.  Yahweh wanted them to do justice and love kindness.  Very simply, they were to walk humbly with their God, Yahweh.

The princes will exercise justice (Ezek 45:9-45:9)

“Thus says Yahweh God!

‘Enough!

O princes of Israel!

Put away violence!

Put away oppression!

Do what is just!

Do what is right!

Cease your evictions

Of my people.’

Says Yahweh God.”

Yahweh was going to tell the princes that he had enough of their violence and oppression. Now they were to do what was right and just. They should no longer evict the people of Yahweh, their God.

Prostitution with the Chaldeans (Ezek 16:29-16:29)

“You multiplied

Your prostitute ways

With Chaldea,

The land or merchants.

Even with this

You were not satisfied.”

Yahweh said that they multiplied their prostituting ways with the Chaldeans, the Babylonians, who would later take them over. However, they were originally attracted to them by their merchandise, since the Chaldeans were good merchants. Even this mercantile arrangement was not enough. Jerusalem was never satisfied.

The warnings against these abominations (Ezek 8:17-8:18)

“Then Yahweh said to me.

‘Have you seen this?

O son of man!

Is it not bad enough

That the house of Judah

Commits the abominations

Done here?

Must they fill the land

With violence?

Must they provoke

My anger further?

See!

They put the branch

To their nose.

Therefore I will act

In wrath!

My eye will not spare!

I will not have pity!

Although they cry

In my hearing

With a loud voice,

I will not listen to them.’”

Then Yahweh warned Ezekiel again. Had he seen enough? The house of Judah committed all these abominations. On top of that, they filled the land with violence. They had provoked the anger of Yahweh. They even put branches in their noses as some kind of worship activity. Yahweh was going to act against them in his anger. He was not going to spare them or show any pity. Even if they cried very loudly, Yahweh was not going to listen to them. Their actions spoke louder than their words.