Which is the meaning of Matthew 18 6?


Which is the meaning of Matthew 18 6?


Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary:

Ver. 6. But he that shall scandalize, shall by their evil doctrine or example draw others into sinful ways. The words scandalize, and scandal, being sufficiently understood, and authorized by use, both in English and French, might I thought be retained. The words offend and offences, in Protestant translation, do not express sufficiently the sense. (Witham) — That is, shall put a stumbling-block in their way, and cause them to fall into sin. (Challoner) — By these strong expressions of our Lord, we may judge of the enormity and malice of scandal. Rather than be the cause of scandal to any of the faithful, and occasion the loss of his soul, we must be ready to undergo every torment, yes, and suffer death itself. (Denis the Carthusian) — The ancient punishment among the Greeks for sacrilege was drowning, with a mill-stone fastened about the neck, according to Diodorus Siculus.

To cause another to sin by scandal. Simple enough, yes? :slight_smile:


From the commentary of the 1941 Confraternity New Testament:

18, 5-9: Avoiding Scandal. Parallel in Mark 9, 36.41-47. Luke 17, 1 f has a similar saying of Christ but in a different context. 5. These little ones who believe in me should not be understood solely of children; it refer rather to the true disciples of Christ who are children in spirit, cf. also 11, 25; 1 Cor. 14, 20. Receives me: see Commentary on 10, 40. 6. Causes one . . . to sin: in Greek, “scandalizes one,” i.e., causes one to trip up: according to the context the particular sin that is meant is to cause a humble disciple of Christ to lose this spirit of humility or to cause him to lose faith in Christ. A great millstone: literally, “a (donkey)-millstone,” i.e., the large millstone turned by an (donkey), as distinct from the small stone turned by hand. Death by drowning was not a common penalty among the Jews but it was inflicted by several of the surrounding nations for the most heinous crimes. The terror of this punishment was due to the great importance attached by all ancient peoples to a decent burial. But such a punishment is less an evil than scandalizing the innocent. 7. Woe to the world: some take this to mean, “Alas, poor world which suffers so much because of scandals!” But in keeping with the following sentence it means more probably, “Woe to the world, the cause of so much scandal!” It must needs be, morally speaking, because of the wickedness of men, that scandals come. 7-9. See Commentary on 5, 29 f.

As is seen in John 21:5, our Lord called to the Apostles using a word which is variously translated in English as “Children” or “Young men.”


It’s better to die (assuming the state of grace) than to commit a serious sin like that.


Is this verse supporting a death penalty?


It’s not unsupporting it. Jesus wasn’t a pacifist. He nowhere made any claims about the state’s right to execute criminals–which is what the death penalty is. Nor did he disclaim the state’s right use the death penalty or to wage war, or other situations in which people might be killed that the state may legitimately need to employ.

Indeed, we have the right and duty to defend others from criminal assault, within our capabilities–usually by just calling the police, but if necessary, by stopping a criminal from hurting others and ourselves–using reasonable force.

The death penalty is not inherently evil, but the Church teaches that if other measures can assure the safety of the state and its citizens, then those measured ought to be used in lieu of the death penalty.


Some atheists are critical of this verse, they say that it is supporting a real literal death penalty of a person that scandalizes these children. Is it true?


No, of course not. The passage is clearly a warning about the woes of leading children away from God. It says that it would be better for that person to be killed than to commit such an evil act. It’s better to die without that sin on your soul, than to live having committed it. (This, of course, assumes that the sinner does not repent and seek absolution.)


Absolutely not. I would call verses 6-9 hyperbole. Catholics don’t gouge out our eyes or cut off our limbs.

Also, the Luke verse says “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” Luke is saying something like ‘rather than’ which indicates that it’s not a punishment for scandal.


Hi, Samuel!

…atheists and others are always looking for ways to pretend that they do not Believe in God or that God’s Way is so unsound and merciless that He cannot Be a God of Love and Mercy as He Portrays Himself…

…let’s see what Scriptures actually state:

[FONT=“Garamond”][size=]2 So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. 3 Then he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 ‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith in me would be better drowned in the depths of the sea with a great millstone round his neck. 7 Alas for the world that there should be such obstacles! Obstacles indeed there must be, but alas for the man who provides them! 8 ‘If your hand or your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away: it is better for you to enter into life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away: it is better for you to enter into life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into the hell of fire. 10 ‘See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.

(St. Matthew 18:2-10)
…the breakdown:

  • 1st Jesus Calls attention to a child (we must understand this in the innocence and trust of children way back when… before the culture pollutes their minds and psyche)
  • Jesus then makes it clear that it is in such a state (purity) that Heaven can be gained
  • Then Jesus interchanges that child’s state (purity/holiness) to that of His Disciples (Followers)
  • Then Jesus states that it would be better for anyone who serves as a hindrance to such a person (child or Follower) for him/her to suffer death or the loss of eye/foot/hand… rather than to cause others to Fall from Christ’s Fellowship
  • Jesus then ends with the warning that persons such as He has presented to them must not be assaulted/offended.

…where did Jesus say kill/use the death penalty?

However, we do have clear mandates from on the issue of law and lawlessness:

13 For the sake of the Lord, accept the authority of every social institution: the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 and the governors as commissioned by him to punish criminals and praise good citizenship. 15 God wants you to be good citizens, so as to silence what fools are saying in their ignorance.

(1 St. Peter 2:13-15)

1 You must all obey the governing authorities. Since all government comes from God, the civil authorities were appointed by God, 2 and so anyone who resists authority is rebelling against God’s decision, and such an act is bound to be punished. 3 Good behaviour is not afraid of magistrates; only criminals have anything to fear. If you want to live without being afraid of authority, you must live honestly and authority may even honour you. 4 The state is there to serve God for your benefit. If you break the law, however, you may well have fear: the bearing of the sword has its significance. The authorities are there to serve God: they carry out God’s revenge by punishing wrongdoers. 5 You must obey, therefore, not only because you are afraid of being punished, but also for conscience’ sake. (Romans 13:1-5)
Maran atha!




Thank you to everybody for your answers.


Romans 13: 1-5
How do we reconcile that with governments such as North Korea, Syria, etc?
Even our own governments when they tell us the first amendment doesn’t apply to Christians.
We are called to be civically disobedient sometimes. No?


Good question and it makes it difficult to interpret St. Paul.
Even at the time when he wrote that, Christians everywhere were resisting the Roman government.
St. Peter was told by the government never to mention the name of Jesus. But he was released from prison by an angel (did the angel break the law? ;)) and immediately went out and started preaching, which violated what he was told by the government.
The whole history of the Church has canonized and glorified saints who resisted and even broke unjust laws to preach the Gospel and serve others.
So - that’s why we can’t just take scriptural verses out of context. We have to interpret Scripture “inside the life of the Church”.
When we look at the life of the Church, see what Jesus, the apostles and saints did – then we have to realize that St. Paul needs to be interpreted within a just government and what he was trying to say. It can’t be an absolute teaching, otherwise he is in conflict with the Gospel.
The tricky part is where he says:
Since all government comes from God, the civil authorities were appointed by God, 2 and so anyone who resists authority is rebelling against God’s decision, and such an act is bound to be punished.

We can’t just take that literally and absolutely. We have magisterial teachings that tell us that some forms of government are evil. Additionally, would we say that Hitler was appointed by God and therefore nobody should have resisted the Nazis?
Obviously not.
We could interpret St. Paul as saying “all goverment is permitted by God” and authorities have power from God (as Pontius Pilate did, he “would have no authority unless given from above”).
But we actually have an obligation to fight against unjust rulers. The question of a violent revolution is a lot more complicated (was the Revolutionary War in America a sinful action?). How about the War in the Vendee?
But here’s where we have to turn to moral theologians who are continually learning more.
Ultimately, social teachings about how governments and people interact, usually are not covered by absolute norms. The Church gives guidelines, and Jesus’ teachings have general concepts, but there is quite a lot that is not strictly defined.


Hi, Scott!

…there once was a law that stated that Christianity was illegal… the Church was persecuted and ran out from the Temple’s and synagogues’ walls… from the streets… from hidden places… then there were periods of abatement… followed by periods of extreme persecution… to the “reformation” and the persecutions that followed… then there were the modern persecutions of the 18th through 20th centuries… now we she is facing extreme persecutions and inhalation on several fronts and legalized persecution in states as those you’ve mentioned…

What was Jesus’ Command when facing such attacks?:

[FONT=“Garamond”][size=]1 ‘I have told you all this that your faith may not be shaken. 2 They will expel you from the synagogues, and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy duty for God. 3 They will do these things because they have never known either the Father or myself.

(St. John 16:1-3)

10 Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 ‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you. 13 ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men. 14 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house. 16 In the same way your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven. (St. Matthew 5:10-16)
While we are not Called to submit to unrighteous commands by the state, we are not Called for war or uprising… we are Called to support and defend righteousness.

Many Christians throughout the world are in peril; many before them have been put to death or imprisoned–our quest is the same: uphold righteousness.

While it seems romantic and right civil disobedience does not always translates to righteousness or a righteous act. So Christians must be careful in what and who they follow and support.

Maran atha!




We have to be careful about applying our own personal interpretations of Scriptural passages in a sweeping way.
Jesus gave us the Magisterium to guide.
The Holy See certainly supported violent rebellions against evil governments.
The Reconquista, the Crusades, fight against Nazi’s. There are many examples.
St. Joan of Arc fought against occupying forces.


My :twocents: … Having a great millstone fastened about your neck and being thrown into the sea and drowned is nothing compared to the severe divine punishment that awaits those who corrupt the innocent.


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