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.
[17:2] 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.
[17:2] 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.
[17:3] 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.
[17:3] 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).
[17:6] 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.
[17:6] 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).