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Luke 17:1-10

Sin, Forgiveness, Faith, and Service

17:1 Jesus 1  said to his disciples, “Stumbling blocks are sure to come, but woe 2  to the one through whom they come! 17:2 It would be better for him to have a millstone 3  tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea 4  than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. 5  17:3 Watch 6  yourselves! If 7  your brother 8  sins, rebuke him. If 9  he repents, forgive him. 17:4 Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times returns to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive 10  him.”

17:5 The 11  apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 12  17:6 So 13  the Lord replied, 14  “If 15  you had faith the size of 16  a mustard seed, you could say to this black mulberry 17  tree, ‘Be pulled out by the roots and planted in the sea,’ 18  and it would obey 19  you.

17:7 “Would any one of you say 20  to your slave 21  who comes in from the field after plowing or shepherding sheep, ‘Come at once and sit down for a meal’? 22  17:8 Won’t 23  the master 24  instead say to him, ‘Get my dinner ready, and make yourself ready 25  to serve me while 26  I eat and drink. Then 27  you may eat and drink’? 17:9 He won’t thank the slave because he did what he was told, 28  will he? 29  17:10 So you too, when you have done everything you were commanded to do, should say, ‘We are slaves undeserving of special praise; 30  we have only done what was our duty.’” 31 

1 tn Grk “He”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Here δέ (de) has not been translated.

2 sn See Luke 6:24-26.

3 tn This term refers to the heavy upper stone of a grinding mill (L&N 7.70; BDAG 660 s.v. μυλικός).

sn The punishment of drowning with a heavy weight attached is extremely gruesome and reflects Jesus’ views concerning those who cause others who believe in him to sin.

4 tn Grk “if a millstone were tied…and he were thrown.” The conditional construction in Greek has been translated by English infinitives: “to have… and be thrown.”

5 tn Or “to stumble.” This verb, σκανδαλίσῃ (skandalish), has the same root as the noun σκάνδαλον (skandalon) in 17:1, translated “stumbling blocks”; this wordplay is difficult to reproduce in English. It is possible that the primary cause of offense here would be leading disciples (“little ones”) astray in a similar fashion.

6 tn It is difficult to know if this looks back or forward or both. The warning suggests it looks back. For this verb, see Luke 8:18; 12:1, 15; 20:46; 21:8, 34. The present imperative reflects an ongoing spirit of watchfulness.

7 tn Both the “if” clause in this verse and the “if” clause in v. 4 are third class conditions in Greek.

8 tn Here the term “brother” means “fellow believer” or “fellow Christian” (cf. BDAG 18 s.v. ἀδελφός 2.a, contra BDAG 19 s.v. 2.c), but with a familial connotation. It refers equally to men, women, or children. However, because of the familial connotations, “brother” has been retained in the translation here in preference to the more generic “fellow believer” (“fellow Christian” would be anachronistic in this context).

9 tn Grk “And if.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

10 sn You must forgive him. Forgiveness is to be readily given and not withheld. In a community that is to have restored relationships, grudges are not beneficial.

11 tn Grk “And the.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

12 sn The request of the apostles, “Increase our faith,” is not a request for a gift of faith, but a request to increase the depth of their faith.

13 tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied result of previous action(s) in the narrative.

14 tn Grk “said.”

15 tn This is a mixed condition, with ἄν (an) in the apodosis.

16 tn Grk “faith as,” “faith like.”

17 sn A black mulberry tree is a deciduous fruit tree that grows about 20 ft (6 m) tall and has black juicy berries. This tree has an extensive root system, so to pull it up would be a major operation.

18 tn The passives here (ἐκριζώθητι and φυτεύθητι, ekrizwqhti and futeuqhti) are probably a circumlocution for God performing the action (the so-called divine passive, see ExSyn 437-38). The issue is not the amount of faith (which in the example is only very tiny), but its presence, which can accomplish impossible things. To cause a tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea is impossible. The expression is a rhetorical idiom. It is like saying a camel can go through the eye of a needle (Luke 18:25).

19 tn The verb is aorist, though it looks at a future event, another rhetorical touch to communicate certainty of the effect of faith.

20 tn Grk “Who among you, having a slave… would say to him.”

21 tn See the note on the word “slave” in 7:2.

22 tn Grk “and recline at table,” as 1st century middle eastern meals were not eaten while sitting at a table, but while reclining on one’s side on the floor with the head closest to the low table and the feet farthest away. See BDAG 70 s.v. ἀναπίπτω 1.

23 tn The question includes a Greek particle, οὐχί (ouci), that expects a positive reply. The slave is expected to prepare a meal before eating himself.

24 tn Grk “he”; the referent has been specified in the translation for clarity.

25 tn Grk “and gird yourself” (with an apron or towel, in preparation for service).

26 tn BDAG 423 s.v. ἕως 2.b, “to denote contemporaneousness as long as, while… w. subjunctive… Lk 17:8.”

27 tn Grk “after these things.”

28 tn Grk “did what was commanded.”

29 tn The Greek construction anticipates a negative reply which is indicated in the translation by the ‘tag’ at the end, “will he?” Thanks are not required.

30 tn Some translations describe the slaves as “worthless” (NRSV) or “unworthy” (NASB, NIV) but that is not Jesus’ point. These disciples have not done anything deserving special commendation or praise (L&N 33.361), but only what would normally be expected of a slave in such a situation (thus the translation “we have only done what was our duty”).

31 tn Or “we have only done what we were supposed to do.”

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