027 Commentary

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This page forms part of the resources for 027 Forgiveness for Forgiveness in the Jesus Database project of FaithFutures Foundation

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Commentary

John Dominic Crossan

Crossan views this cluster as closely related to the radical debt-related poverty that was endemic in Galilee in Jesus' time. He notes:

"Bread and debt were, quite simply," in the words of John Kloppenborg, "the two most immediate problems facing the Galilean peasant, day-labourer and non-elite urbanite. Alleviation of these two anxieties were the most obvious benefits of God's reign" (1990:192). The debt petition is especially significant, since 27 Forgiveness for Forgiveness [1/4], 60 Measure for Measure [1/3], and 118 Judgment for Judgment [1/2] all bespeak a close interaction between the way humans treat each other and the way God treats them. This is an even more radical suggestion than 33 The Golden Rule [1/3]. Those three aphorisms suggest that we do unto others as God does unto us and that God does unto us as we do unto others. The point, however, is not sequentiality or causality, "we do in order that God does," but rather simultaneity and mutuality, "we do and God does." God forgives us our debts, that is offerings or punishments due for our sins, and we forgive our neighbors their debts, that is, the returns or penalties due for their loans. [Historical Jesus], (294)

While he gives this saying a positive historical evaluation in his inventory, Crossan (contrary to Taussig, below) sees International Q Project'

The International Q Project [Hermeneia], (74-75) excludes Luke 6:37c from the text of Q, but retains 11:4 -- "and cancel our debts for us, as we too have cancelled for those in debt to us."


Jesus Seminar

The Seminar voting on this item was as follows:

  • Mark 11:25
  • Matt 6:14-15
  • Luke 11:4a-b
  • Matt 6:12
  • Luke 6:37c
  • 1Clem 13:2b
  • PolPhil 2:3c
  • PolPhil 6:2a

According to the commentary in [The Five Gospels] (p. 99), the form of the saying found in Luke 6:37c is considered closest to Jesus' original words. The version in Mark 11:25 achieved a 0.50 weighting but was discounted because of its link to the theme of prayer in vv. 22-25, while its parallel in Matt 6:14-15 seems to be a commentary on the petition within the Lord's Prayer.


Gerd Luedemann

While acknowledging its secure attestation in the manuscripts, Luedemann ['Jesus'], (79) rejects Mark 11:25 as a gloss derived from Matthew and sees v 26 as a secondary addition. In Matthew 6, Luedemann (p. 145) identifies three rules of piety (alms, vv. 2-4; prayer, vv. 5-6; fasting, vv. 16-18)into which Matthew has inserted the Lord's Prayer as a model prayer (7-13) and then provided an interpretation (vv. 14-15). While accepting that the Lord's Prayer, apart from v. 10b, most likely is derived from Jesus, Luedemann sees vv. 14-15 as a Matthean creation. Luedemann does not discuss the Lukan text separately from Matthew.


John P. Meier

Meier considers Mark 11:25 ['Marginal Jew'] (II,889f) to be a stray Jesus saying used independently by both Mark and Matthew, but does not directly address the question of its historicity as a saying of Jesus. In his discussion of the petition in the Lord's Prayer [Marginal Jew, 356 n. 12], Meier notes that the idea of our forgiveness being conditional upon forgiving others is attested in Mark, Q and M. He dismisses as a "red herring" concerns that such a teaching conflicts with later Christian theology about divine forgiveness being closely related to the death of Jesus, noting that "Jesus of Nazareth was not formulating Christian theology, and no-one told him that he had to conform to it." Similarly, on p. 301, Meier observes:

It is most significant that Jesus makes the disciples' forgiveness of others in the present the condition of God's definitive forgiveness of them at the last day; again, an element of realized eschatology peeks through the predominantly future perspective. Making God's final forgiveness of individual believers depend on their forgiveness of others in the present moment may create problems for Christian theology. But, since Jesus was not a Christian theologian, he seems sublimely unconcerned about the problem.


Hal Taussig

Taussig ['Jesus Before God'] develops his thesis that the Lord's Prayer is a collection of several prayer lines that were significant to the early Q community. His discussion of "Forgive us our debts" occurs on pages 89-92. He concludes:

Situating this sentence prayer within its social context makes clear that it arose from certain specific situations in which Jesus found himself. It did not, within the lifetime of Jesus, belong to the Lord's Prayer, which was the product of the generations after Jesus. ... after Jesus was gone his followers in Galilee formulated a general prayer in his name, combining fragments from Jesus' own prayers with other material to create an institutionalized prayer in Jesus' name. As the various versions of this Lord's Prayer from the second half of the first century were passed on, the meanings of the individual prayer sentences were generalized and taken out of context. The sentence prayer about forgiveness made a gradual transition from forgiving one another's debts to forgiveness of sins.