Matthew 18:21-35 (NASB):

21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven [v]may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him [w]ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 But since he [x]did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the [y]debt. 28 But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred [z]denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 But he was unwilling [aa]and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from [ab]your heart.”

Clearly, 10,000 talents was supposed to represent an infinitely vast amount of money. The idea of him ever being able to repay that was laughable. How about the 100 denarii, though? It occurred to me recently: a lot of sermons treat this like it was a trivial amount of money, but this was close to 4 months of wages for a day laborer, so it seems like this would have seemed like a substantial amount of money to the apostles, who were not exactly wealthy men (although clearly vastly less than the first amount).

Was this why Jesus selected that particular amount? Was the second amount still supposed to sound like a lot of money (given that the reason he told the parable in the first place was the fact that Peter asked how many times he was supposed to forgive)?

2 Answers 2



a talent was worth about 20 years of a day laborer’s wages.
a denarius was the usual daily wage of a day laborer

The contrast between 10,000 talents and 100 denarii was extreme. Jesus was talking about the contrast between thousands of lives time against weeks of work. To the average person working at that time, 10,000 talents was infinity; 100 denarii, however, is concrete and workable.

Even if the first servant did not forgive the second servant, he could have made a schedule for a repayment plan over a period of months or years. It was a workable loan. Instead, he showed no mercy while he received mercy from the king. The 100 denarii amount was a practical amount, not too small and not too large. It was a nice round number that the common people could identify with.

  • True - the first one was supposed to be astronomically large. Realistically, though, how quickly could a day laborer really pay back 100 denarii? Wouldn't it take years rather than months? Sep 28, 2020 at 17:47
  • Good point. I've made modification.
    – user35953
    Sep 28, 2020 at 18:10
  • @EJoshuaS-ReinstateMonica In your original question you make mention that 100 denarii "was close to 4 months of wages for a day laborer". So the payment plan idea that Tony suggests would be reasonable.
    – agarza
    Sep 28, 2020 at 18:20
  • @agarza Yeah, but even paying it off in a year would require them to spend a third of their pay just on the debt payments, which I can't imagine would be all that easy for them to do. I can't imagine people had all that much discretionary income then. Sep 28, 2020 at 20:04
  • I would suggest, 100 denarii was enough money that he couldn't quite let it go. He's not so cartoonishly evil as to imprison someone for a few dolllars. How gracious would any of us be if we lost three months' salary?
    – adam.baker
    Aug 23, 2022 at 12:43

When the NASB was translated in the 1960s, a denarius was worth approximately $0.20. Therefore, 100 denarii was about $20, which doesn't seem that big in the 20th/21st century.

Since Scripture doesn't clearly state the type of talents the unmerciful servant owed, the NASB assumed it was the lesser of the precious metals (silver vs. gold). A talent (75 lb/34kg) of silver was $1,000 in the 1960s. Thus, 10,000 talents of silver was $10,000,000.

So, $10,000,000 vs. $20 makes the point of how unmerciful that one servant was.

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    Jul 4, 2023 at 17:45
  • The price of silver in the 1960s has no relevance in this discussion, period.
    – Ruminator
    Jul 5, 2023 at 2:52
  • Sure it does. The question is was asked if 100 denarii considered a substantial amount of money. That implies that some people think it wasn't. And the reason for that is translations of Scripture in which ancient currency was given modern value. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia cites a denarius as being worth about $0.20. "A Harmony of The Gospels for Students of the Life of Christ" by A.T. Robertson on page 111 says a denarius was worth $0.17. I simply used the higher number. $20 doesn't seem like a lot of money, especially compared to $10 million (10,000 talents in silver).
    – MCWAY
    Jul 8, 2023 at 18:15

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