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Question and Answer

One of my Bible versions translates the Matthew 18:21–35 teaching on forgiveness to say we should forgive 77 times, the other says 490 times. Which is correct?

The number in Matthew 18:22 is difficult to translate. It appears to be a direct reference to Genesis 4:24. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the very same words of Matthew 18:22 are found in Genesis 4:24. In the Genesis verse, the Hebrew words translated into Greek mean 77. That’s why, in contrast to the older translations, more recent translations now render the number as 77.

Regardless of the exact number, we should heed the point made by Jesus: Our forgiving of another for a personal offense must be limitless. This is the true measure of forgiveness. God the King reminds us that we who are in debt beyond our ability to pay must be ready and willing to forgive others.

BY Eric C. Redmond

Eric C. Redmond serves as an assistant professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and as associate pastor of adult ministries at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Ill. He is married to Pam and they have five children. He is the author of Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Men's’ Questions about the Church (Crossway), a commentary on Jonah in the Christ-Centered Exposition Series (B&H Publishers), and a study guide on Ephesians in the Knowing the Bible series (Crossway).

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