Christ’s reply was hebdomekontakis hepta, which is literally translated “seventy times seven.” The difficulty arises with the suffix kis added to the word for seventy, hebdomekonta. In Greek this suffix is used in two ways. It can be used as a multiple meaning ‘times.’ So ‘seven times seven’ (7 x 7) would be heptakis hepta. But kis can also be added as a suffix to indicate ‘times’ in the sense of occurrences or instances. For example, ‘How many times did the boy fall?’ ‘He fell seven times (heptakis).’ Hence, the problem is whether Jesus’ answer, “seventy times seven,” should be understood as ‘seventy times (multiplied by) seven’ or ‘seventy and seven times (occurrences).’
One reason for preferring the latter, and rendering it as in the New World Translation, is the form of Peter’s question. He did not use posas, meaning ‘how many?’ Rather, he asked posakis—‘how many times?’ Then he continued, ‘Up to heptakis?’ that is, ‘Up to seven times?’ Logically Jesus would respond in accord with Peter’s phraseology. He would answer, ‘Up to seventy-seven times.’
Lending additional weight to the rendering “seventy-seven times” is the account in Genesis 4:24. Jehovah had stated that he would avenge seven times any who harmed Cain. (Gen. 4:15) Later Cain’s descendant Lamech boastfully said: “If seven times Cain is to be avenged, then Lamech seventy times and seven.” (Gen. 4:24) The Hebrew text is exact in showing this as 70 times and 7, or 77 times. But what is an equivalent in Greek? The Greek Septuagint uses hebdomekontakis hepta. Since this is the precise expression found in Matthew 18:22, it suggests that “seventy-seven times” is the way Jesus’ reply to Peter should be rendered.
It might be added that it is quite possible that Christ had Lamech’s threat in mind. What a fine contrast Jesus’ words would be! Instead of being a braggart threatening vengeance seventy-seven times, a Christian should be the opposite, forgiving seventy-seven times. Jesus emphasized that we should not be hesitant to forgive, but liberal and ready to forgive. He said earlier: “Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy.”—Matt. 5:7.
Farmers know that to get a bumper crop of good grain it is necessary to sow good seed. This is true in everything we do, is it not? We reap what we sow. The Bible says: “He who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh.” The converse is also true: “He who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.” (Gal. 6:8) To know how to sow with a view to the spirit and to reap spiritually, it is necessary to know what God’s Word says and to apply its principles. Jehovah’s witnesses are interested in providing people with a Bible, as well as an understanding of it. Hence in their house-to-house ministry in June, they will be offering a copy of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, for $1; or they may combine the Bible and a copy of the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, for $1.25.
INTERESTING, BUT IS IT PRACTICAL?
Many persons today question the practical value of the Bible. Do you? Do you know someone who does? Now you have proof that the Bible is beneficial. It is in the book “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial.” Here you will learn of the Bible’s thirty-nine known writers, their backgrounds and qualifications and the value of their writings to their own generations and to us. You will find a capsule account of each of the Bible’s sixty-six books and proof of its authenticity and inspiration. It is a fascinating look at the Bible as a book to heighten your appreciation of this ageless masterpiece as the most practical guide to modern living available. Only $1. Send today.
“WATCHTOWER” STUDIES FOR THE WEEKS
June 29: Joyful Endurer or Unhappy Dropout—Which? Page 361. Songs to Be Used: 39, 23.
July 6: Can You Imitate Jeremiah’s Endurance? ¶1-23. Page 367. Songs to Be Used: 29, 58.
July 13: Can You Imitate Jeremiah’s Endurance? ¶24-46. Page 373. Songs to Be Used: 14, 44.