9. In love and forgiveness, 17:24-18:35

ii] The greatest in the kingdom of heaven


Matthew has introduced his 4th Discourse on life lived in Christian community with a quirky story which illustrates acting with consideration for the convictions of others. Now, in the Discourse proper, Matthew gathers together Jesus' teachings on the practical application of love in community, that quality of other-person- centredness which is the fruit of faith. First, Matthew draws together Jesus' sayings on humility and greatness, v1-4, and then examines the seriousness of causing "little ones" to sin, v5-10.


Greatness in the Christian community is found in humility, namely, a dependent faith in God's grace for salvation. It is better not be born than to undermine the faith of a child of grace.


i] Context: See 17:24-27. The argument developed for Christian community in chapter 18 presents as follows:

• The little ones who believe in Christ, the children of grace, are the ones who stand great in the kingdom of heaven, v1-4;

• Established little ones must take care not to undermine the faith of another little one by placing a stumbling-block before them. To this end it is essential to remove all causes of offense / all stumbling-blocks, v5-10;

• If one such little one should drift in their faith, possibly due to some stumbling-block that has tripped them up, then every effort must be made to restore their faith, explaining again the gospel and confirming God's forgiveness. It is God's desire that none of his little ones be lost, v12-20.

• At all times a fallen brother or sister must be accepted / received / forgiven; we are to forgive in the same way God has forgiven us, v21-35.


As regard the division of chapter eighteen, there is little agreement. Gundry proposes three possible arrangements:

• A division of two parts - the worth of little people in the church, v1-14, and brotherliness in the church, v15-35;

• A division of four parts - true greatness, v1-4, the care of the little people, v5-14, restoration and discipline of a brother, v15-20, forgiving a brother, v21-35;

• A division of five parts - as for the four part division except that v5-14 is divided into two parts - the evil of causing a little one to sin, v5-9, and the restoration and discipline of a brother, v10-14.


ii] Structure: The greatest in the kingdom of heaven:

Setting, v1-2:

"who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

Sayings, v1-10:

True greatness, v1-4:

"unless you turn and become like a little child ....", v3;

"whoever humbles himself ...... is the greatest ....", v4;

Receiving and offending / causing to sin, v5-7:

"whoever receives one such child ... receives me.", v5;

"whoever causes one of these little ones ... to sin ......", v6;

"woe to the world for temptations to sin! ........v7;

Removing the cause of sin, v8-9:

"if your hand causes you to sin .....v8;

"if your eye causes you to sin .... v9;

Conclusion - On not despising little ones, v10:

"their angels always see the the face of my Father ....."


There is disagreement on the paragraph / unit divisions related to v5 and v10. Mark and Luke link v5 with v1-4, but Matthew, at least topically, links it with v6-7. As for v10, the saying (unique to Matthew), "their (little ones) angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven", nicely introduces the following illustrative saying, v12-14, but it seems likely that it draws v1-9 to a conclusion, with v12-14 stitched topically to v15-20.


iii] Interpretation

The intended sense of the sayings and parables in chapter 18 is by no means clear such that arriving at concrete conclusions is fraught with difficulty. Who/what does the "child" / "little ones" represent? What is the skandalizei "the cause of offense / stumbling block"? What does it mean to katafronhshte "look down upon" the little ones? etc., etc.

In this 4th Discourse, with its pastoral purpose of enhancing Christian community, we are first reminded that membership of the kingdom of God belongs to those who are dependent on God's grace for their salvation, v1-5, so, it is essential to welcome / accept and not to lead such a person away from God's grace, v6-10, nor allow them to stray from it, v12-20, and to constantly forgive as God forgives, although with a recognition that perfection is only found in Jesus, v21-35.

The identity of the "little ones" is obviously crucial to the meaning of the passage and so it is interesting how v11, "for the Son of Man came to save that which is lost" (obviously an addition from Luke 11:10) was used by a copyist to identify the "little ones" with the lost/seekers. The addition of this verse gives v1-14 an evangelistic slant, whereas without v11 the whole chapter takes on a pastoral slant.


True greatness, v1-4: This chapter clearly addresses pastoral issues and so it is reasonable to assume that changing and becoming like a child has to do with humility, that Jesus is laying out a basic demand for life as a believer that involves a completely new standard of behavior. "The greatness to which one is to aspire is measured not in such things as power, influence and money; one is rather to submit to lowliness, scorn, poverty, humility and service", Luz. "The disciple is called to be like his or her Master, whose demeanor even as the Christ was one of humility", Hagner. Yet, these opening verses are really not about ethics / discipleship.

In this discourse, Matthew deals with the subject of Christian community, and thanks to the disciple's stupid question, we learn something of its membership. They are little children, the humbled before God. To enter the kingdom and share in community we must humble ourselves before the living God in Christ. A person's standing in the sight of God is dependent, not on their own righteousness, but on Jesus' righteousness. We are set right before God / justified by the faithfulness of Jesus appropriated through faith and not by works of the law, Gal.2:15-16. So, to share in the consummation of the kingdom and realize true greatness, "you've gotta be a baby" - you have to rest wholly on God's free grace in Christ, Mk.10:15. By this means we gain membership in Christ's new community and find ourselves the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.


Receiving and offending / causing to sin, v5-7: Nolland, Hagner and Carson include v5 in the passage on offense, v6-9/10, but the majority of commentators link it with v1-4. Note the similar Gk. introduction used in the couplet saying, v5-6. Luz rightly notes that it is not easy identifying the recipient of these words. Is Jesus encouraging the little ones / the humble, or warning established believers, particularly self-righteous churchmen? The latter seems best. Sometimes the verse is interpreted with a missionary slant, of "welcoming" Christ's missioners, v5, so Carson. Gundry identifies the source of the damage as the "sinful influences from antinomian leaders [who] apostatize .... little people in the church. Ironically, those leaders despise the victims of their teaching, cf. 2Cor.11:20." As for the little ones themselves, he suggests that they are "average Christians and especially youth."

It seems likely that these instructions are all about acceptance and care toward our brothers and sisters in Christ / the children of grace - we are to fully embrace them and do nothing to undermine their faith. The warning particularly applies to self-righteous churchmen, nomist believers who happily judge a repentant sinner from the standard of law-obedience, encouraging them to rest on law, rather than grace, and this for holiness in the Christian life. Of course, there are other ways to undermine a believer's faith, eg., the misuse of our freedom in Christ in relation to a "weak" law-bound brother, cf., Romans 14:10-13, Col.2:16-23.


Removing the cause of sin, v8-9: This is a condensed version of the saying in Mk.9:43-48 and was used earlier by Matthew in 5:27-30. The intended meaning of this saying rests on the answer proposed to two questions:

To whom is this warning addressed? Is it to those who face the stumbling blocks, (so Nolland, Luz, France, McNeile, Carson, Morris, Blomberg, Keener, Beare), or is it to those who promote / create the stumbling blocks (probably in the sense "in order to avoid offending ones' brother, one must first take care of oneself", D&A, so also Hagner, Hendriksen)? From v5, Jesus' sayings have addressed those in a position to either welcome, or trip-up, the little ones who believe in him. So, the o}V "whoever", of v5 are surely established believers / churchmen rather than people in general, and they remain the subject in this verse.

What is the skandalizei, that which "causes you to trip/fall"? It seems likely that the stumbling block is not our flirtation with one of the seven deadly sins, eg., "pride", Carson, but rather the adoption of behavior and/or doctrine which undermines the faith of the little ones. By repeating the saying in this context from that of the context of the righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, 5:27-29, Matthew identifies the stumbling block as self-righteousness / law obedience for blessing / nomism - the idea that by an application of the law (eg., living a perfect sex life) a believer progresses their Christian life for the appropriation of divine blessings. Jesus' exposition of the law in 5:27 serves to expose the stupidity of self-righteousness. The hyperbolic illustration in 5:28-29 goes on to make the point that this haze of self-righteousness must be radically expunged if we are to escape the inevitable judgment of the coming kingdom. Of all that threatens our faith, nomism is at the top of Paul's list, a heresy exposed by Paul in Romans and Galatians. Promoting the Christian life in terms of doing, of faithful obedience, rather than in the terms of receiving, of grace through faith, is greater than any other stumbling block in that it undermines a person's standing in Jesus.

So then, v5-7 calls on established believers, particularly self-righteous churchmen, to eliminate the heresy of nomism before it becomes a stumbling block and undermines the salvation of a child of grace, let alone their own salvation. To this end the illustration in v8-9 encourages "the desirability of drastic action", Hagner. Smith argues that "it is possible in this context the words are intended to suggest that members who lead others into sin should be cut off from the body of the Church", but this is probably a step too far.


On being accepting - "do not despise", v10: This verse is often taken to introduce the parable of the sheep, but since it is still addressing those who should welcome little ones rather than place a stumbling block in front of them, it is more likely intended to round off v5ff. Its message to established believers, particularly the self-righteous, is that they should be accepting of forgiven sinners / the children of grace (particularly when they lack many of the accepted social graces!!) rather than be disparaging, judgmental, busying themselves pulling specks out of their eyes, while oblivious to the log in their own.


Paul, the exegete of Jesus: As already stated, these notes proceed on the proposition that the apostle Paul is the inspired exegete of Jesus and that to properly understand the teachings of Jesus it is necessary to interpret them in line with Paul's doctrine of justification by grace through faith apart from works of the law. It is also proposed that the authors of the synoptic gospels, although faithful to the received tradition, edit and arrange that tradition in line with a Pauline perspective. Such is evident in Matthew, and certainly in the passage before us.


iii] Synoptics:

Chapter 18: Much of the material aligns, in part, with Mark's gospel, some sayings with Luke and the rest is particular to Matthew:

• v1-5, cf. Mk.9:33-37 and Lk.9:46-48;

• v6-9, cf. Mk.9:42-48, Lk.17:1-2;

• v10-14, cf. Lk.15:3-7;

• v15-20, cf. Lk.17:3;

• v21-22, 35, cf. Lk.17:4; The parable of the unmerciful servant is peculiar to Matthew.


As already indicated in these notes, by the time the gospels were written, the sayings and acts of Jesus would have existed as set oral tradition. Although it is normally accepted that Matthew used Mark + Q + M / + Luke (??) to construct his gospel, there is some evidence that Matthew was first, but it is also possible that all three synoptic gospels were constructed independently of each other, each using a local form of what was a common oral tradition. It is hard to deny some interaction between the gospel writers, given the large slabs of tradition with a common order, although this may be explained by the existence of a proto Mark / Matthew, possibly composed in Aramaic, and either written or oral. The issue remains a matter of debate.


iv] Exposition: A simple verse-by-verse exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 18:1

The greatest in the kingdom of heaven, v1-10: i] True greatness, v1-4. The tone of this passage is set immediately by the disciples who ask, "who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Obviously it was a issue of discussion. So, Jesus tells his disciples about true greatness. True greatness is found when a person becomes as a little child, for such a person will participate in the consummation of the kingdom. The little child is a repentant sinner, a child of grace, someone who is "poor in spirit", "humble", someone who rests on God's eternal mercy in Christ rather than their own self-worth.

en + dat. "at [that hour]" - Temporal use of the preposition.

tw/ Ihsou (oV) dat. "[came to] Jesus" - [the disciples approached] jesus. Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "came to."

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "and asked" - saying. The participle can be classified as attendant circumstance, expressing action accompanying the verb "approached", or adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the approach; "came to Jesus and said / came to Jesus saying."

tiV pro. "who" - Interrogative pronoun.

ara "then" - then, therefore. Inferential - drawing a conclusion. In 17:24-27 Jesus makes the point that as a king does not tax his children, so it is not proper for him and his disciples to pay the temple tax, but Jesus pays for himself and his disciples so as not "to give offense." This may well prompt the disciples' question; "So then, who is ......?"

meizwn (mega) comp. "[is] the greatest" - [is] greater. Predicate nominative with the comparative standing in for a superlative. The disciples' question concerns status / standing in the kingdom, possibly rank. If they want to know who was #1 next to Jesus, then this would indicate "that they [have] no idea at all what the kingdom of heaven [is]", Barclay. None-the-less, Matthew's context is not the same as Mark's where the disciples are involved in a dispute over greatness, Mk.9:33-37. In Matthew the question is an innocent one, "even a knowing question", Gundry. Jesus answers the question in terms of status/state, not rank - the greatest is the dependent-one, and unless you are that dependent one i] you don't even get in, let alone stay in, OR, ii] you will not experience the consummation of the kingdom in the last day, see v3.

en + dat. "in" - Local, expressing space / sphere.

twn ouranwn (oV) gen. "[the kingdom] of heaven" - [the kingdom] of the heavens. The genitive is adjectival, possibly just attributive, limiting "kingdom", a "heavenly kingdom" as opposed to an earthly or Satanic kingdom. As usual, Matthew shows deference to God with "the kingdom of heaven" rather than "the kingdom of God", with the genitive "of God" being possessive, or verbal, subjective, where "kingdom" = "rule". Both terms encapsulate the eternal reign of God in and through Christ. See 3:2.


proskalesamenoV (proskaleomai) aor. part. "he called" - having called, summoned. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he set/placed"; "he called and set a child ...."

paidion (on) "a little child" - a child. Obviously "little" to make the point, although the word can include a teenager. Given v3 the child could represent the seeker, but more likely represents a believer, particularly if child represents "one of these little ones who believe in me", v6. A person's ongoing standing in the kingdom depends on being a child, in the sense of being dependent on God's grace - "insignificant and without power", Luz, as far as salvation is concerned.

en + dat. "[among]" - [he set him] in [middle]. Locative, expressing space / sphere.

autwn gen. pro. "them" - of them. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. "The child must have looked insignificant, which of course is Jesus' point", Morris.


uJmin dat. pro. "[I tell] you [the truth] / [truly I tell] you" - [and he said truly i say] to you. Dative of indirect object. Indicating that what follows is important.

ean mh + subj. "unless" - if not. Introducing a negated conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "unless, as may be the case, ...... then ....."

strafhte (strefw) aor. pas. subj. "you change" - you have been turned about, around. The passive is interesting, so "be converted, changed, turned", as of a total change in direction. Divine / theological passive - God does the turning???

genhsqe (ginomai) aor. subj. "become" - [and] you become. Taking an ethical / discipleship line, Carson states "a disciple must change from their present conduct and adopt this new norm or be excluded from the kingdom." The 2nd. person "you" here becomes oJstiV, "whoever", in v4. This is about a person becoming a believer, not a believer becoming humble.

wJV "like [little children]" - as, like [a child]. Comparative. The comparison surely images dependence. This dependence is explained in v4 as humility, a word used to describe dependence on God for salvation.

ou mh + subj. "[you will] never [enter]" - [you will] not never [enter into the kingdom of the heavens]. Subjunctive of emphatic negation. Jesus may be saying that a believer's status/state in the kingdom is dependent on the same quality required of entry, namely humility. Yet, it is more likely that Jesus is making the point that entry into the kingdom now / not yet is only for those who rest on God's divine favor, realized in Christ and appropriated through faith.


oun "therefore" - Inferential; drawing a logical conclusion. Matthew alone provides this definition of what is intended by "become like little children", becoming dependent / insignificant ie., "humble."

o{stiV + fut. "whoever" - As with v5, one might have expected o{stiV an + subj. forming an indefinite relative conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition is a possibility; "whoever, as the case may be, ..... then ......."

tapeinwsei (tapeinow) fut. "humbles" - will humble [himself]. Jesus says of himself that he is "humble and gentle of heart", meaning that he is modest, not self assertive and dominating. This is obviously not the sense here. For the lost people of God, the beatitudes remind us that the humble are those who inherit the earth, 5:5, indeed they are the ones who recognize their poverty before God, mourn for their loss of divine standing, thirst for righteousness, and in this yearning are blessed with divine grace. Thus they bear the fruit of faith: mercy, purity of heart, peacemakers, but persecuted. On the other hand there are those who "exalt themselves", 23:12. The churchmen of Jesus' day rested in their own righteousness, binding the people with the curse of the law; "woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites", cf., chapter 23. So, in this context, humility is not modesty in self-estimation, but reliance on God for salvation.

wJV "of [this child]" - as, like [this child]. Comparative. "It is the person who thinks as little of their importance (in the sight of God!!) as this little child (thinks of itself in the presence of adults) who stands highest in the kingdom of heaven", Barclay.

oJ meizwn comp. adj. "the greatest" - [this one is] the greater. Predicate nominative, comparative uses as a superlative.

en + dat. "in [the kingdom of heaven]" - Local, expressing space / sphere.


ii] Receiving and offending, v5-7. Matthew goes on to present sayings which deal with welcoming the little ones who believe in Jesus, v5, and not causing them "to sin", v6 and 7. As Carson notes, the original context for v5 may well be the receiving / welcoming of Christ's missioners, but that's not Matthew's context. For Matthew, we are in the Christian fellowship and Jesus' words best apply to one believer receiving / accepting another believer. Technically, all believers are rightly children / "little ones", but a particular "child" (the humble one who is wholly dependent of God' grace for salvation) is marked out for special attention - this one must be received / accepted, v5. The humble are particularly vulnerable to those believers with a self-righteous bent who no long think it is necessary to be a baby, ie., live by grace through faith apart from the law. These worldly believers are warned that they face eternal danger if they undermine the faith of a fellow believer / child of faith with their nomist teaching, v6-7.

kai "and" - and. Probably serving here as a connective, so left untranslated.

o}V ean + subj. "whoever" - Introducing an indefinite relative conditional clause where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "whoever, as the case may be, ..... then ....."

dexhtai (decomai) aor. subj. "welcomes" - receives. Of "accepting", D&A, the humble "as Christ's own", Gundry, better than in a missionary situation of "welcoming", Hagner. As indicated above, context dictates that this warning is for disciples rather than for the world to show hospitality to Christ's missioners, so Carson. The warning concerns accepting a brother, warts and all.

epi + dat. "in [my name]" - [one such child] in [the name of me receives me]. Causal; "on the basis of / on the ground of." Note the use of eiV, "in [my name]", v20. The name represents the person and thus their authority, so the sense is "with (on the basis of / because of) my authority."


d (de) "but / -" - but/and. Possibly adversative, as NIV, although more transitional, even as a stitching device.

oJV ... an + subj. "if anyone" - whoever. Introducing an indefinite relative conditional clause, as v5.

skandalish/ (skandalizw) aor. subj. "causes .......... to sin" - causes to fall, stumble. Obviously not the lighter sense of cause someone to be offended, to offend, possibly leaning toward the idea of setting a trap, although there is some debate as to whether this meaning is found in the NT, but certainly with the meaning of causing someone to no longer believe*, cf. Jn.6:61. "Here, in view of the consequent punishment, it must signify causing others to lose their faith and fall away from God", D&A. Paul in 1Cor.8:9 uses the word of those believers who use their freedom to undermine the faith of "the weak." "Cause to lose their faith", TEV.

twn mikrwn gen. adj. "[one] of [these] little ones" - The adjective serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, partitive.

twn pisteuontwn (pisteuw) gen. pres. part. "who believe" - believing. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "these little ones", as NIV. In its original setting these "little ones who believe in me" may well be "one of the least of these my brothers and sisters", meaning the struggling, weak, new, .... believer. Yet surely Matthew intends us to equate these little ones with the "child" / humble believer, the dependent believer, the person who rests on Christ's righteousness rather than their own. This is even linguistically acceptable since in both Heb. and Gk. "little ones" can mean a child, so Luz.

eiV "in [me]" - into [me]. Here expressing goal / end-view.

sumferei (sumferw) pres. "it would be better" - it is better.

autw/ dat. pro. "for him / them" - Dative of interest, advantage.

iJna + subj. "[to have ...... hung]" - that [may be hung]. The construction here introduces an object clause / dependent statement of cause expressing what would be better. More properly formed with the use of an infinitive, although note how Mark in 9:42 uses an ei, "if", clause.

muloV onikoV "a large millstone" - a millstone of a donkey. The nominative subject of the verb "to hang." "The upper stone of the large mill turned by an ass", Zerwick.

peri + acc. "around" - around [the neck of him]. Spacial; "around".

en + dat. "[be drowned] in" - [sink] in. Local, expressing space.

thV qalasshV (a) gen. "[the depths] of the sea" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive, or attributed, "the deep / open sea."


It is difficult to know whether to attach this independent saying to v5-6 or to v8-9, but v5-6 seems best. It probably interacts with both, being linked technically to both by the word skandalon, "cause of stumbling / entrapment." In this saying "three points are made: first, causes of stumbling do a lot of damage; second, they are, however, a necessary aspect of the present conditions of life; and, third, the outcome for those who are the causes of the stumbling is dire", Nolland.

ouai "woe" - Interjection. The word can be used to express sympathy / sorrow, eg., used of nursing mothers in the day of tribulation, cf., ch.24, so Morris, McNeile, .... Probably used this way here such that Jesus is expressing sadness for the world of humanity given that we constantly face the consequence of the fall, namely, stumbling blocks to our faith. Although possibly here "a proclamation of judgment", Carson. So either, "the tragedy of the world is the existence of things which .....", Barclay, or "Doom to the world", Peterson.

tw/ kosmw/ (oV) dat. "to the world" - Dative of reference / interest, disadvantage. Here probably the neutral setting for the eternal struggle between good and evil, between belief and unbelief, rather than the world of humanity in rebellion to God under the influence of Satan. "It is not itself evil, but it contains evil which the Son of Man will someday remove and destroy", Luz.

apo + gen. "because of" - from, by, since. Obviously causal here, as NIV, cf. BDF#176.1.

twn skandalwn "the things that cause people to sin" - the stumbling blocks. The addition of "people" by the NIV clouds the sense of Jesus' words. "Because of stumbling blocks, enticements to sin and apostasy", Mounce.

gar "-" - for. More explanatory than causal, so left untranslated, as NIV.

anagkh (h) "[such things] must [come]" - [the cause of stumbling to come] it is a necessity. We would expect dei "it is necessary", or at least the use of the verb to-be estin with anagkh, "it is necessary." The neuter accusative noun ta skandala, "the offences", serves as the subject of the infinitive elqein, which infinitival phrase serves as the subject of the missing verb to-be; lit. "the cause of stumbling to come is necessary." Causes of stumbling are "the nature of things in a fallen world", France. "Before the good triumphs, evil must flourish. Thus skandala are inescapable", D&A. Again, referring to that which undermines a person's faith / salvation. "That occasions should arise for sinning is wholly inevitable", Cassirer, although "that undermine our faith" is better than "for sinning."

plhn "but" - but, nevertheless. Here as an adversative conjunction.

ouai "woe" - Probably as above.

di (dia) + gen. "through [whom they come]" - through, by means of [whom the stumbling block comes]. Instrumental, expressing agency; "by whom." In a fallen world stumbling blocks are inevitable, but this does not mean that a person has to promote / create them; woe to the culpable person who does. "Woe to the person on whose account the tripping-up occurs", Berkeley.


iii] Removing the cause of sin, v8-9. This exhortation is taken in many ways, sometimes literally, but it is simply a warning to take drastic action with respect to behavior that will "cause you to stumble", and so prompt eternal loss. The shift to the second person se, "you", reflects the independence of the saying, but given the context, we cause ourselves to stumble when we place a stumbling-block in the way of a brother or sister, ie., we undermine our salvation when we undermine the salvation of another.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional; serving here as a stitching device for a new saying.

ei + ind. "if" - if, as is the case, [the hand of you or the foot of you to fall then cut it off and]. Introducing a conditional clause, 1st. class, where the condition is assumed to be true (for argument sake??), Note how Mark has a 3rd. class condition.

apo + gen. "[throw it] away" - [throw, cast] from, away from [you]. Expressing separation.

soi dat. pro. "[it is better] for you" - Dative of interest, advantage.

eiselqein (eisercomai) aor. inf. "to enter" - to enter [into life crippled or lame]. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what is better, namely, "that you may enter life maimed or crippled rather than ....." "Better to be maimed and crippled and get into life", Moffatt.

zwhn (h) "life" - [into] life. "To enter life" = "to enter the kingdom of heaven/God", so McNeile, = to possess eternal life.

h] "than" - than [you to be thrown into the fire of the age having two hands or two feet]. The disjunctive here introduces a comparison; better this than that.

econta (ecw) pres. part. "to have" - having [two hands or two feet]. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of being thrown into the fire; "with two hands and two feet." The participle is accusative in agreement with the assumed accusative subject of the infinitive, "you".

blhqhnai (ballw) aor. pas. inf. "and be thrown" - to be thrown. The infinitive as for "to enter"; "than that you may be thrown into eternal fire ........"; "and be thrown into the everlasting fire", Moffatt.

pur to aiwnion "eternal fire" - [into] the fire of the age. "Used metaphorically in an expression that brings out the painfulness of the lost in their eternal lostness", Morris.


The syntax in this verse repeats v8.

tou puroV (ur uroV) gen. "[the fire] of hell" - [the gehenna] of fire. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "fire", "hell-fire", Barclay = "eternal fire", TNIV, v8. As for thn geennan, "Gehenna", the term comes from the Heb. ge-Hinnom, the valley of wailing, the rubbish tip outside of Jerusalem where corpses of the poor were dumped along with the rubbish. A stinking, constantly burning place. Again used metaphorically to highlight the terrible loss of those who fail to appropriate the promised blessings of the covenant.


iv] Conclusion - be accepting, v10. Jesus concludes by reminding established believers to be accepting of those with a child-like faith, rather than be disparaging. It's easy to look down the nose at those who have little in the way of Christian graces, theological knowledge, piety or churchmanship. Faith is what matters, not works. Jesus' mention of guardian angels is somewhat puzzling, but his point is simple enough: the little-ones always matter to God.

oJrate (oJraw) pres. imp. "see" - Sometimes used to establish a general principle / independent statement, "see to it that", but also it can be used as a warning, "take heed, beware", Morris. Given the context, a warning seems best.

mh katafronhshte (katafronew) aor. subj. "that you do not look down on" - you do not despise. Possibly a subjunctive of prohibition, "Look here! Don't ....", although it may be dependent on the imperative so introducing a dependent statement, as above, so NIV. "Arrogantly", Peterson.

eJnoV gen. adj. "one" - Genitive of direct object after the kata prefix verb "to despise."

twn mikrwn gen. adj. "of [these] little ones" - The adjective serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, partitive.

gar "for [I tell you]" - for [i say to you]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the "little ones" should not be treated "arrogantly".

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jesus wants to "tell you."

autwn gen. pro. "their [angels in heaven]" - [the angels] of them [in heavens]. The genitive is possessive. This interesting descriptive, "their angels in heaven", possibly refers to guardian angels / angelic representative in heaven and is even translated as such by the NEB, although dropped by the REB. The NT is light on information about the function of angels, but the point here is clear enough "any act to the detriment of the little ones [does] not go unnoticed in the highest place of all", Morris, cf., Gen.48:16, Acts 12:15.

dia pantoV "always" - Temporal use of the preposition dia, "through in time or space", + the adjective pantoV, "all / every", expresses the sense "always / continually". "The angels in heaven who have them in their charge are ever fixing their gaze upon the face of my Father in heaven", Cassirer.

blepousi (blepw) pres. "see [the face]" - see [the face of the father of me]. "See" takes the present tense which, being durative, expresses continued action. The little ones always matter to God.

tou gen. art. "[in heaven]" - the one [in the heavens]. The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase en ouranoiV, "in heaven", into an attributive adjective limiting "Father"; "my Father which is in heaven", AV.


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