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.”
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 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.”
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.
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.
my: Some ancient manuscripts read “your.”
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.
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.
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 “loose”) 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.
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.”
10,000 talents: Just one talent would have been the equivalent of about 19 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.
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.
canceled his debt: Or “forgave him the debt (loan).” In a figurative sense, debts can refer to sins.
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.
canceled all that debt for you: Or “forgave you all that debt.”
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.
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.
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.
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.