Epistles of Thomas

September 21, 2008

Matthew 16-18

Filed under: New Testament — Thomas @ 21:51

Chapter 16 begins with the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to Jesus and asking for a sign. When John the Baptist asked who Jesus was he replied by listing the signs he had performed but when these religious leaders asked for a sign he replied, “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” In 12:39-41, he also proclaimed that the sign of Jonah would be given to them which was that “the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Is it significant that the TNIV (and most) translates the name Jonah in 16:17: “Simon son of Jonah”? Several English Bibles transliterate the Greek as “bar-Jonah” instead of translating it (ASV, ESV, KJV, NKJV, RSV, NASU), whereas a couple have “son of John” (ISV, NLT, fn in HCSB). It is a most significant statement that Simon makes, regardless of whose earthly son he is. Jesus declares that this was revealed to him by “my Father in heaven.” It is also true that Peter is spiritually the son of “Jonah and the fish” because of the content of his message and what will follow. This needs more investigation.

In 16:21, Jesus begins explaining that he must die and rise again on the third day; something that a careful reader would be aware of based on the Jonah passage in chapter 12. However, the first to oppose this plan is Peter to whom it was revealed that Jesus was the Messiah! Apparently Peter still has the idea that Jesus should be a Messiah more in keeping with Jewish expectations. 16:28 is a verse that has troubled many who misunderstand the coming of the Kingdom: “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

The transfiguration (ch 17) is an important event in Jesus’ life but those who witnessed it were not allowed to talk of it until after Jesus rose from the dead. What is the significance of Moses and Elijah being the two OT characters to meet him there? Which mountain was he referring to when he talked about faith causing the mountain to move? Significance? Is 18:8ff is an example of hyperbole? Should we really cut off our hand or foot?

I find it interesting that 18:15-20 is titled “Dealing with Sin in the Church” in the TNIV. When Jesus made these statements there was no church! The TNIV is justified in saying this because the Greek word used here is ekklesia which is the word “Church.” What do you think about that? This chapter ends with the parable of the ungrateful servant who was forgiven a large debt by the ruler but refused to forgive someone else a much smaller debt. I think that in light of the subprime mortgage meltdown this parable has a lot to say to the banking industry. I’ll let you make the application.



  1. I thought that ekklesia was greek for “fellowship”, not church, but I could be wrong. In context of a fellowship of believers, I don’t think this is talking about mortgages and loans, but rather forgiving sins of one another, both great sins and small ones.
    The grace of Christ is sufficent for all levels of sin, regardless of size.

    Comment by Rob — February 10, 2009 @ 8:18 | Reply

    • Hi Rob,
      ekklesia is the Greek word that we translate as “church.” It originally meant an assembly gathered together for an official purpose but is used exclusively in the NT for church. For this verse I compared all versions in Logos and all translate it as “church” with the exception of a couple which use “congregation” or “assembly (of believers),” which is after all what the church is.
      As to the context not refering to the banking crisis you are right but there is no reason to think that it can’t be taken literally as well as figuratively. I think there is a good parallel between the banking executives who have been given much (by the govt.) and have given themselves fat bonuses again this year but still demand hefty interest payments from desperate people and the servant who was forgiven much and then threw the other debtor into jail (but maybe it’s just me).

      Comment by Thomas — February 10, 2009 @ 13:40 | Reply

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