Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

From NIV, Luke 17:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves."

One common interpretation here is that the "little ones" refers to children, however, this is not obvious in the context, and there are many other possibilities, including sinners, doubters, everyone, etc. Indeed, this may also hinge on what "to stumble" means here: whether it is to doubt their faith versus tempt to sin, or something else.

Is there a common agreement on who the "little ones" are here?

share|improve this question
4  
If you want to really dig into what the words could mean iI would suggest migrating this to Biblical Hermeneutics but if you are looking for an overview of how different sects treat this, here is good but II would suggest editing aa little to highlight that focus... –  Caleb Aug 28 '12 at 21:03
2  
@Caleb frankly, I'm always surprised that these's such a gulf between "what the words could mean" and "how different sects treat this"... –  Marc Gravell Aug 29 '12 at 5:58
add comment

3 Answers 3

Haydock's commentary quotes venerable (is he not a saint yet?) Bede as pointing out the similarity in words used in the parable of the lost sheep

In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. > Matthew 18:14 NIV

Here, little ones means sheep, which usually means whoever follows the shepherd. The shepherd being Jesus. The key component of sheep-hood is obedience and humility (at least the humility of knowing you're a sheep)


But, more to your question, there's nothing wrong with having lots and lots of explanations of the Bible. I think that Jesus is talking about real children here because He taught with examples all the time ("see that poor woman over there, she gave more than you bums"). So, the literal interpretation is little ones = little people and that should do a little to give any pedophile priest a bit of pause while reading that Gospel.

The metaphorical sense is that little one means freshly minted or potential Christ follower (which would include children) since hindering these folks on their spiritual journey could have gave consequences grave punishement is afforded the purpotrators.

The moral sense of "little ones" might be that little ones are those that it is incumbent on all the teachers of the faith to pass on to their students authentic teaching that will not confuse them or encumber their spiritual growth.

The eternal sense tells us of the punishement due to those who were given much but stink at passing it on. Which is why I approach each year of Catechism Class with fear and trembling.

share|improve this answer
add comment

If you look at Wesley's Explanatory Notes,

Wesley's Notes

17:2 Little ones - Weak believers.

However I would be interested in seeing what Hermeneutics says about this one too. I suspect that the original words can be translated a little differently - but similarly / same meaning.

share|improve this answer
    
(+1) Of course he refers to weak believers the children are just symbols of his teaching as is almost everything in the gospels. The whole context of the narratives show his concern for the weak who like bruised reeds he would not break, or smoldering wicks he would not snuff. Those who keep the faith from baby Christians from growing are greatly warned. These are false prophets, etc. –  Mike Aug 29 '12 at 5:37
add comment

Matthew 18 also cites Jesus' words regarding little ones, and does so more frequently:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:1-5

In this context, Jesus specifically identifies a child and speaks of children, then refers to children as "these little ones". So, interpreting Scripture in light of Scripture, it is pretty conclusive that "little ones" refers to children.

share|improve this answer
1  
It sounds to me like "one such child" means "whomever humbles himself like this child" –  kurosch Aug 28 '12 at 21:15
1  
Jesus starts to speak about the children after the proud disciples start to debate about who will be the greatest, and also forbid others from casting out demons in Christ's name just because they were not approved by the Apostles. The literal little children represents little disciples that were not considered great. –  Mike Aug 29 '12 at 5:43
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.