Forgiveness (Lk 17:4-17:4)

“If the same person

Sins against you

Seven times

A day,

Yet turns back

To you

Seven times,

And says.

‘I repent!’

You must forgive!”

 

καὶ ἐὰν ἑπτάκις τῆς ἡμέρας ἁμαρτήσῃ εἰς σὲ καὶ ἑπτάκις ἐπιστρέψῃ πρὸς σὲ λέγων Μετανοῶ, ἀφήσεις αὐτῷ.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said that if the same person sinned against you (ἁμαρτήσῃ εἰς σὲ) 7 times a day (καὶ ἐὰν ἑπτάκις τῆς ἡμέρας), yet turned back to you 7 times (καὶ ἑπτάκις ἐπιστρέψῃ πρὸς σὲ), and said that he repented (Μετανοῶ, ἀφήσεις αὐτῷ), you must still forgive him (ἀφήσεις αὐτῷ).  There is something like this saying in Matthew, chapter 18:21-22, although there was no mention of Peter here in LukeMatthew indicated that Peter took on a specific leadership role.  He wanted to know how many times he should forgive his brother’s sins?  Peter 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 were out.  Peter seemed overly generous in his attempts at forgiveness.  Jesus surprised Peter with a solemn declaration (λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦ) by telling him to forgive his brother’s sins not just 7 times (Οὐ λέγω σοι ἕως ἑπτάκις) but 490 times, 7*70 (ἀλλὰ ἕως ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά).  However, this saying about 7*70 was unique to Matthew, who was the only one who ever used this number ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά in the New Testament literature.  This number, nevertheless, 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.  However, here in Luke, it might be even more since forgiveness was expected 7 times each day.  How many times do you forgive people?

 

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The ancient pre-historic patriarchs (Lk 3:37-3:37)

“The son of Methuselah,

The son of Enoch,

The son of Jared,

The son of Mahalaleel,

The son of Cainan.”

 

τοῦ Μαθουσαλὰ τοῦ Ἐνὼχ τοῦ Ἰάρετ τοῦ Μαλελεὴλ τοῦ Καϊνὰμ

 

These names are listed in 1 Chronicles 1:2-1:3, and Genesis, chapter 5.  This group from Adam to Noah is sometimes referred to as the patriarchs before the flood, or what some might call pre-historic times, since there is very little evidence of their actual existence.  Luke said Lamech was the son of Methuselah (τοῦ Μαθουσαλὰ), the son of Enoch (τοῦ Ἐνὼχ), the son of Jared (τοῦ Ἰάρετ), the son of Mahalaleel (τοῦ Μαλελεὴλ), the son of Cainan (τοῦ Καϊνὰμ).  Methuselah was the father of Lamech.  He supposedly lived to the age of 969, longer than Adam.  Thus, it became a saying that an old man was as “old as Methuselah.”  His father was Enoch, who lived to be only 365 years old, a big drop off in age here.  However, Enoch walked with God, so that there was this strange remark that God took him, not that he died.  He was considered the seventh generation, the lucky number.  In fact, there is a Book of Enoch, from around 200 BCE, that some considered canonical.  Jared was the father of Enoch.  Mahalalel was the father of Jared.  Kenan or Cainan was the father of Mahalalel.

Noah (Lk 3:36-3:36)

“The son of Cainan,

The son of Arphaxad,

The son of Shem,

The son of Noah,

The son of Lamech.”

 

τοῦ Καϊνὰμ τοῦ Ἀρφαξὰδ τοῦ Σὴμ τοῦ Νῶε τοῦ Λάμεχ

 

Thus, we have about 10 generations from Noah to Abram, about 400 years if you go by the first born.  Once again, this is based on Genesis, chapters 5-10, and 1 Chronicles, chapter 1:3-27.  Luke said that Shelah was the son of Cainan (τοῦ Καϊνὰμ), the son of Arphaxad (τοῦ Ἀρφαξὰδ), the son of Shem (τοῦ Σὴμ), the son of Noah (τοῦ Νῶε), the son of Lamech (τοῦ Λάμεχ).  Lamech was the father of Noah.  Genesis, chapters 6-8, details Noah’s ship building and the famous Noah’s ark.  Shem was the oldest of the 3 sons of Noah, the favorite of the biblical authors.  The descendants of Shem will become the Semites.  Some believe that the word Semite comes from his name Shem.  Shem had five sons in Genesis, chapter 10.  Shem became the father of Arphaxad or Arpachshad two years after the flood, so that this Arphaxad lineage became the most important.  When Arphaxad had lived thirty-five years, he became the father of Shelah.  However, in this list in Genesis, there is no mention of Cainan as the son of Arpachshad, except in the Greek Septuagint.  Instead, Canaan was the son of Ham, the brother of Shem.

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?

Enoch (Sir 44:16-44:16)

“Enoch pleased the Lord.

He was taken up.

He is an example

Of repentance

To all generations.”

It is interesting that the first famous holy man mentioned is Enoch. He first appeared in chapter 5 of Genesis. He was among the 12 patriarchs before the flood. In fact, he was the lucky 7th one. Enoch was the son of Jared and the great grandfather of Noah, via Methuselah and Lamech. Although he was a descendant via Seth, son of Adam and Eve, he has the same name as Cain’s son in chapter 4 of Genesis. However, what made Enoch unique among these early patriarchs was that he does not seem to die. Instead God “took him up” when he was merely 365 years old. Perhaps there is some symbolism here. There were 3 apocryphal Books of Enoch written from the 3rd century BCE to after the time of Jesus Christ. In fact, there are a few mentions of Enoch in the New Testament writings. Thus Sirach would not have been out of place talking about him as he was one of the first people not to die, but go to heaven or “be taken up.” Thus there was a certain fascination about Enoch. He certainly pleased the Lord. Somehow, he was an example of repentance. He had some kind of special relationship with God. Interesting enough, Enoch has had a role in the Dead Sea Qumran community, Rabbinic Judaism, early Christianity, and Islamic thought, as well as the Latter Day Saints, or Mormons.

The direct descendents of Adam (1 Chr 1:1-1:3)

“Adam, Seth, Enosh. Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared. Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech.”

This biblical author wants to put a historical spin on the various stories in the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomy history in Samuel and Kings. The first grouping is from Adam to Noah. This group of people is sometimes referred to as the patriarchs before the flood, or what some might call pre-historic times since there is very little evidence of their actual existence. This list is taken from Genesis, chapter 5. Perhaps this document might have been a contemporary document in the 5th century BCE with the priestly edition of the Pentateuch. The first grouping is the so-called first man Adam, who lived to be 937 years old, his son, and grandson. His son, besides Cain and Abel who are not even mentioned here, was Seth who lived to be 912 years old. Seth’s son was Enosh who lived to be 905 years old. Obviously there were other brothers and sisters but they are not mentioned. The next 3 were the direct descendents of Enosh. Kenan lived to be 910 year old. Kenan’s son Mahalalel lived to be 895 years old. Jared, his son, lived to be 712 years old. Notice that they are not living as long. The next 3 names pose some problems. Obviously these 3 are in chapter 5 of Genesis. However, the same names appear earlier in chapter 4 of Genesis. Enoch is a curious character as the son of Jared since he only lived to be 365 years old and apparently God took him instead of having him die. Also a man named Enoch was Cain’s first son as well as the name of a territory. Methuselah lived the longest to 965 years old, but Methushael was the name of the grandson of Enoch and the father of Lamech, the same name as in chapter 4. Lamech in chapter 4 is said to have been very vengeful as the son of Cain. In chapter 5, he lives to be 777 years old, being very lucky. He will be the father of Noah. Thus this first list of genealogies poses many questions.

The corruption of humanity before the flood (Gen 6:5-6:12)

“Yahweh saw that the wickedness of mankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination or imagination of the thoughts of their hearts was only continually evil.  Yahweh was sorry that he had made mankind on the earth.  It grieved him to his heart.  So Yahweh said, ‘I will blot out from the earth the human beings that I have created.  This includes people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air.  I am sorry that I have made them.’”

The humans were evil and Yahweh was sorry that he had made them.  So he decided to get rid of them all, including the animals and birds, as if they were somehow related to the humans and their evil ways.  The earth was corrupt and filled with violence, a theme heard among some Christians today.

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of Yahweh.  These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.  His three sons were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God saw that the earth was corrupt.  All flesh had corrupted their ways upon the earth.”

Noah, the son of Lamech, with his three sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, were the exception, because he was a just man in the sight of Yahweh. It is not clear why Noah is so good, but apparently, his brothers and sisters were not that very nice either.