21. Then came Peter to him, and said, "Lord, how oft shall
my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?"
22. Jesus saith unto him, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times:
but, Until seventy times seven."
Jerome: The Lord had said above, "See that ye despise not one of these
little ones," and had added, "If thy brother sin against thee, &c."
making also a promise, "If two of you, &c." by which the Apostle Peter
was led to ask, "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive
him?" And to his question he adds an opinion, "Until seven times?"
Chrys., Hom., lxi: Peter thought that he had made a large allowance;
but what answers Christ the Lover of men? it follows, "Jesus saith unto
him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times, but, Until seventy times seven."
Aug., Serm., 83, 3: I am bold to say, that if he shall sin seventy-eight
times, thou shouldest forgive him; yea, and if a hundred; and how oft soever
he sin against thee, forgive him. For if Christ found a thousand sins,
yet forgave them all, do not you withdraw your forgiveness. For the Apostle
says, "Forgive one another, if any man hath a quarrel against any, even
as God in Christ forgave you." [Col 3:13]
Chrys.: When He says, "Until seventy times seven," He does not limit
a definite number within which forgiveness must be kept; but He signifies
thereby something endless and ever enduring.
Aug.: Yet not without reason did the Lord say, "Seventy times seven;"
for the Law is set forth in ten precepts; and the Law is signified by the
number ten, sin by eleven, because it is passing the denary line. Seven
is used to be put for a whole, because time goes round in seven days. Take
eleven seven times, and you have seventy. He would therefore have all trespasses
forgiven, for this is what He signifies by the number seventy-seven.
Origen: Or, because the number six seems to denote toil and labour,
and the number seven repose, He says that forgiveness should be given to
all brethren who live in this world, and sin in the things of this world.
But if any commit transgressions beyond these things, he shall then have
no further forgiveness.
Jerome: Or understand it of four hundred and ninety times, that He bids
us forgive our brother so oft.
Raban.: It is one thing to give pardon to a brother when he seeks it,
that he may live with us in social charity, as Joseph to his brethren;
and another to a hostile foe, that we may wish him good, and if we can
do him good, as David mourning for Saul.
23. "Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king,
which would take account of his servants.
24. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which
owed him ten thousand talents.
25. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to
be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to
26. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying,
Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
27. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and
loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
28. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants,
which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him
by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
29. And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him,
saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
30. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he
should pay the debt.
31. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very
sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
32. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him,
O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst
33. Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant,
even as I had pity on thee?
34. And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors,
till he should pay all that was due unto him. [p. 642]
35. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye
from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."
Chrys. That none should think that the Lord had enjoined something great
and burdensome in saying that we must forgive till seventy times seven,
He adds a parable.
Jerome: For it is customary with the Syrians, especially they of Palestine,
to add a parable to what they speak; that what their hearers might not
retain simply, and in itself, the instance and similitude may be the means
Origen, (vid. 1 Cor 1:30): The Son of God, as He is wisdom, righteousness,
and truth, so is He a kingdom; not indeed any of those which are beneath,
but all those which are above, reigning over those in whose senses reigns
justice and the other virtues; these are made of heaven because they bear
the image of the heavenly. This kingdom of heaven then, i.e. the Son of
God, when He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, was then like to
a king, in uniting man to himself.
Remig.: Or, by the kingdom of heaven is reasonably understood the holy
Church, in which the Lord works what He speaks of in this parable. By the
man is sometimes represented the Father, as in that, "The Kingdom of heaven
is like to a king, who made a marriage for his son;" and sometimes the
Son; but here we may take it for both, the Father and the Son, who are
one God. God is called a King, inasmuch as He created and governs all things.
Origen: The servants, in these parables, are only they who are employed
in dispensing the word, and to whom this business is committed.
Remig.: Or, by the servants of this King are signified all mankind whom
He has created for His own praise, and to whom He gave the law of nature;
He takes account with them, when He would look into each man's manners,
life, and deeds, that He may render to each according to that He has done;
as it follows, "And when He had begun to reckon, one was brought unto Him
which owed Him ten thousand talents."
Origen: The King takes account of our whole life then, when "we must
all be presented before the judgment-seat of Christ." [2 Cor 5:10] We mean
not this so as that any shouldst think that the business itself must needs
require a long [p. 643] time. For God, when He will scrutinize the minds
of all, will by some undescribable power cause every thing that every man
has done to pass speedily before the mind of each.
He says, "And when he began to take account," because the beginning
of the judgment is that it begin from the house of God. [margin note: 1
Pet 4:17] At His beginning to take account there is brought unto Him one
who owes Him many talents; one, that is, who had wrought great evils; one
on whom much had been enjoined, and had yet brought no gain; who perhaps
had destroyed as many men as he owed talents; one who was therefore become
a debtor of many talents, because he had followed the woman sitting upon
a talent of lead, whose name is Iniquity. [Zech 5:7]
Jerome: I know that some interpret the man who owed the ten thousand
talents to be the devil, and by his wife and children who were to be sold
when he persevered in his wickedness, understand foolishness, and hurtful
thoughts. For as wisdom is called the wife of the righteous man, so the
wife of the unrighteous and the sinner is called foolishness. But how the
Lord remits to the devil ten thousand talents, and how he would not remit
ten denarii to us his fellow servants, of this there is no ecclesiastical
interpretation, nor is it to be admitted by thoughtful men.
Aug., Serm., 83, 6: Therefore let us say, that because the Law is set
forth in ten precepts, the ten thousand talents which he owed denote all
sins which can be done under the Law.
Remig.: Man who sinned of his own will and choice, has no power to rise
again by his own endeavour, and has not wherewith to pay, because he finds
nothing in himself by which he may loose himself frown his sins; whence
it follows, "And when he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold,
and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made."
The fool's wife is folly, and the pleasure or lust of the flesh.
Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 25: This signifies that the transgressor of the
decalogue deserves punishment for his lusts and evil deeds; and that is
his price; for the price for which they sell is the punishment of him that
Chrys.: This command issued not of cruelty, but of unspeakable tenderness.
For he seeks by these terrors to bring him to plead that he be not sold,
which fell out, as he shews when he adds, "The servant therefore fell down
and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all."
Remig.: That he says, "falling down," shews how the sinner humbled himself,
and offered amends. "Have patience with me," expresses the sinner's prayer,
begging respite, and space to correct his error. Abundant is the bounty
of God, and His clemency to sinners converted, seeing He is ever ready
to forgive sins by baptism or penitence, as it follows, "But the lord of
that servant had mercy upon him, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt."
Chrys.: See the exuberance of heavenly love! The servant asked only
a brief respite, but he gives him more than he had asked, a full remittance
and cancelling of the whole debt. He was minded to have forgiven him from
the very first, but he would not have it to be of his own mere motion,
but also of the other's suit, that he might not depart without a gift.
But he did not remit the debt till he had taken account, because he would
have him know how great debts he set him free of, that by this he should
at the least be made more merciful to his fellow servants.
And indeed as far as what has gone he was worthy to be accepted; for
he made confession, and promised that he would pay the debt, and fell down
and begged, and confessed the greatness of his debt. But his after deeds
were unworthy of the former, for it follows, "But the same servant went
out, and found one of his fellow servants which owed him a hundred denarii."
Aug., Serm., 83, 6: That He says he "owed him a hundred denarii" is
taken from the same number, ten, the number of the Law. For a hundred times
a hundred are ten thousand, and ten times ten are a hundred; and those
ten thousand talents and these hundred denarii are still keeping to the
number of the Law; in both of them you find sins. Both are debtors, both
are suitors for remission; so every man is himself a debtor to God, and
has his brother his debtor.
Chrys.: But there is as great difference between sins committed against
men, and sins committed against God, as between ten thousand talents and
a hundred denarii; yea rather there is still greater difference. This appears
from the difference of the persons, and from the fewness of the offenders.
For when we are seen of man we withhold and are loath to sin, but we cease
not daily though God see us, but act and speak all things fearlessly. Not
by this only are our sins against God shewn to be more heinous, but also
by [p. 645] reason of the benefits which we have received from Him; He
gave us being, and has done all things in our behalf, has breathed into
us a rational soul, has sent His Son, has opened heaven to us, and made
us His sons. If then we should every day die for Him, could we make Him
any worthy return? By no means; it should rather redound again to our advantage.
But, on the contrary, we offend against His laws.
Remig.: So by him who owed ten thousand talents are represented those
that commit the greater crimes; by the debtor of a hundred denarii those
who commit the lesser.
Jerome: That this may be made plainer, let us speak it in instances.
If any one of you shall have committed an adultery, a homicide, or a sacrilege,
these greater sins of ten thousand talents shall be remitted when you beg
for it, if you also shall remit lesser offences to those that trespass
Aug.: But this unworthy, unjust servant would not render that which
had been rendered to him, for it follows, "And he laid hands on him, and
held him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest."
Remig.: That is, he pressed him hardly, that he might exact vengeance
Origen: He therefore, as I suppose, took him by the throat, because
he had come forth from the king; for he would not have so handled his fellow
servant, if he had not gone forth from the king.
Chrys.: By saying, "as he went out," He shews that it was not after
long time, but immediately; while the favour he had received still sounded
in his ears, he abused to wickedness the liberty his lord had accorded
him. What the other did is added; "And his fellow servant fell down, and
besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all."
Origen: Observe the exactness of Scripture; the servant who owed many
talents fell down, and worshipped the king; he who owed the hundred denarii
falling down, did not worship, but besought his fellow servant, saying,
"Have patience." But the ungrateful servant did not even respect the very
words which had saved himself, for it follows, "but he would not."
Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 21: That is, he nourished such thoughts towards
him that he sought his punishment. "But he went his way."
Remig.: That is, his wrath was the rather inflamed, to exact vengeance
of him; "And he cast him into prison, until he should pay the debt;" that
is, he seized [p. 646] his brother, and exacted vengeance of him.
Chrys.: Observe the Lord's tenderness, and the servant's cruelty; the
one for ten thousand talents, the other for ten denarii; the one a suitor
to his fellow, the other to his lord; the one obtained entire remission,
the other sought only respite, but he got it not. They who owed nought
grieved with him; "his fellow servants, seeing what was done, were very
Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 25: By the fellow servants is understood the Church,
which binds one and looses another.
Remig.: Or perhaps they represent the Angels, or the preachers of the
holy Church, or any of the faithful, who when they see a brother whose
sins are forgiven refusing to forgive his fellow servant, they are sorrowful
over his perdition. "And they came, and told their lord what was done."
They came not in body, but in spirit. To tell their Lord, is to shew the
woe and sorrow of the heart in their carriage.
It follows, "Then his lord called him." He called him by the sentence
of death, and bade him pass out of this world, and said. unto him, "Thou
wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou prayedst me."
Chrys.: When he owed him ten thousand talents, he did not call him wicked,
nor did he at all chide him, but had mercy on him; but now when he had
been ungenerous to his fellow servant, then he says to him, "Thou wicked
servant;" and this is what is said, "Oughtest thou not to have had mercy
upon thy fellow servant."
Remig.: And it is to be known, that we read no answer made by that servant
to his lord; by which it is shewn us, that in the day of judgment, and
altogether after this life, all excusing of ourselves shall be cut off.
Chrys.: Because kindness had not mended him, it remains that he be corrected
by punishment; whence it follows, "And the lord of that servant was angry,
and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay the whole debt.:
He said not merely, "Delivered him," but "was angry," this he had not said
before; when his Lord commanded that he should be sold; for that was not
in wrath, but in love, for his correction; now this is a sentence of penalty
Remig.: For God is said then to be wroth, when he takes vengeance on
sinners. Torturers are intended for the daemons, who are always ready to
take up lost souls, and torture them in the pangs of eternal punishment.
Will any who is once sunk into everlasting [p. 647] condemnation ever come
to find season of repentance, and a way to escape?
Never; that "until" is put for infinity; and the meaning is, He shall
be ever paying, and shall never quit the debt, but shall be ever under
Chrys.: By this is shewn that his punishment shall be increasing and
eternal, and that he shall never pay. And however irrevocable are the graces
and callings of God, yet wickedness has that force, that it seems to break
even this law.
Aug., Serm., 83, 7: For God says, "Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven;"
[Luke 6:37] I have first forgiven, forgive you then after Me; for if you
forgive not, I will call you back, and will require again all that I had
remitted to you. For Christ neither deceives nor is deceived; and He adds
here, "Thus will my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye from your hearts
forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." It is better that
you should cry out with your mouth, and forgive in your heart, than that
you should speak smoothly, and be unrelenting in your heart. For the Lord
adds, "From your hearts," to the end that though, out of affection you
put him to discipline, yet gentleness should not depart out of your heart.
What is more beneficial than the knife of the surgeon? He is rough with
the sore that the man may be healed; should he be tender with the sore,
the man were lost.
Jerome: Also this, "from your hearts," is added to take away all feigned
reconciliations. Therefore the Lord's command to Peter under this similitude
of the king and his servant who owed him ten thousand talents, and was
forgiven by his lord upon his entreaty, is, that he also should forgive
his fellow servants their lesser trespasses.
Origen: He seeks to instruct us, that we should be ready to shew clemency
to those who have done us harm, especially if they offer amends, and plead
to have forgiveness.
Raban.: Allegorically; The servant here who owed the ten thousand talents,
is the Jewish people bound to the Ten Commandments in the Law. These the
Lord oft forgave their trespasses, when being in difficulties they besought
His mercy; but when they were set free, they exacted the utmost with great
severity from all their debtors; and of the gentile people which they hated,
they required circumcision and the ceremonies of the Law; yea, the [p.
648] Prophets and Apostles they barbarously put to death. For all this
the Lord gave them over into the hands of the Romans as to evil spirits,
who should punish them with eternal tortures.