Sunday Morning Greek Blog

November 1, 2011

“Father, Forgive Them…” (Luke 23:34)

Filed under: Biblical Studies,Christology,Greek,Luke Gospel of,New Testament — Scott Stocking @ 5:32 pm

A friend of mine asked me the following question on Facebook and gave me permission to post the question and my response (edited a bit) here.

Here’s a question for you, Scott. Was just reading Luke 23:34 where Jesus says, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Really? They didn’t know what they were doing? Then can’t we all be absolved on the same basis, that we don’t know what we are doing? Also, didn’t they know in some sense what they were doing? Didn’t they at least know they were murdering an innocent man? They knew they were having to “plot” against him . . . Just wondered.

Some observations:

  1. You are not alone in questioning this statement. It is in double brackets in the Greek text, which means it is of questionable authenticity but was retained given its prominent place in church history and liturgy. (In the UBS 3rd edition of the Greek New Testament, the statement has a C rating on a scale of A to D, with A representing the highest certainty that the original text is restored.) I could not find the statement in any of the other Gospels, so it appears to be unique to Luke.
  2. Who are the “them” he forgives? The immediate context seems to suggest they’re the soldiers, who were only following orders and didn’t have a clue about Jesus being the Son of God and Savior.
  3. John 11:49–52 seems to imply that the leaders really didn’t understand the full implication of what they were doing. Yes, they knew they were plotting, but John’s statement about Caiaphas’s unwitting prophecy seems to imply the Jewish leaders more or less in the dark about who Jesus really was and is.
  4. We can offer forgiveness to anyone regardless of intent, motivation, etc. Jesus is not declaring that they are forgiven, but rather asking the Father to forgive them. “Ignorant” people sin all the time: ignorance is no excuse for sin (or civic lawbreaking for that matter), but it is not unforgivable. Great question!

[For those of you wondering when something from Thessalonians or Timothy is coming along, please be patient. I’m working on an update of my treatment of women in leadership from 1 Timothy 3 and surrounding contexts. It’s taken on a life of its own, it seems, and I keep learning new truths about the passage.]


Scott Stocking

1 Comment »

  1. […] “Father, Forgive Them…” (Luke 23:34) […]

    Pingback by The Passion Week of Christ « Sunday Morning Greek Blog — March 11, 2012 @ 2:18 pm | Reply

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