027 Forgiveness for Forgiveness

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

Crossan Inventory | 027 Literature | 027 Parallels | 027 Commentary | 027 Poetry | 027 Images | 027 Synopsis


(1) 1Q: Luke 11:4a = Matt 6:12
(2) Mark 11:25(26) = Matt 6:14-15
(3) Luke 6:37c
(4a)1 Clem. 13:2b
(4b) Pol. Phil. 2:3b

Crossan analysis:

Item: 27
Stratum: I (30-60 CE)
Attestation: Multiple
Historicity: +
Common Sayings Tradition: No


(1) Lord's Prayer

(1a) Sayings Gospel Q

Luke 11:4a

And forgive us our sins,

for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.

καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν, καὶ γὰρ αὐτοὶ ἀφίομεν παντὶ ὀφείλοντι ἡμῖν· (Luke 11:4 GNT-T)

=Matt 6:12

And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν, ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν· (Matthew 6:12 GNT-T)

(1b) Didache 8:2

And cancel for us our debts,

As we cancel [debts] for those who are

καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὴν ὀφειλὴν ἡμῶν, ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφίεμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν, (Didache 8:2 AF-T)

(2) Mark 11:25[26]

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. [26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgiver your trespasses.]

Καὶ ὅταν στήκετε προσευχόμενοι, ἀφίετε εἴ τι ἔχετε κατά τινος, ἵνα καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἀφῇ ὑμῖν τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν. (Mark 11:25 GNT-T)

=Matt 6:14-15

For if you forgive others their trespasses., your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Ἐὰν γὰρ ἀφῆτε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν, ἀφήσει καὶ ὑμῖν ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος· ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀφῆτε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν. (Matthew 6:14–15 GNT-T)

(3) Luke 6:37c

Do not judge, and you will not be judged;

do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.

Καὶ μὴ κρίνετε, καὶ οὐ μὴ κριθῆτε· καὶ μὴ καταδικάζετε, καὶ οὐ μὴ καταδικασθῆτε. ἀπολύετε, καὶ ἀπολυθήσεσθε· (Luke 6:37 GNT-T)

(4) 1 Clement 13:2b

Let us therefore, brethren, be of humble mind, laying aside all haughtiness, and pride, and foolishness, and angry feelings; and let us act according to that which is written (for the Holy Spirit saith, "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, neither let the rich man Story in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in the Lord, in diligently seeking Him, and doing judgment and righteousness"), being especially mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus which He spake, teaching us meekness and long-suffering. For thus He spoke: "Be ye merciful, that ye may obtain mercy; forgive, that it may be forgiven to you; as ye do, so shall it be done unto you; as ye judge, so shall ye be judged; as ye are kind, so shall kindness be shown to you; with what measure ye mete, with the same it shall be measured to you." By this precept and by these rules let us establish ourselves, that we walk with all humility in obedience to His holy words. For the holy word saith, "On whom shall I look, but on him that is meek and peaceable, and that trembleth at My words?" [ANF]

Ἐλεᾶτε ἵνα ἐλεηθῆτε, ἀφίετε ἵνα ἀφεθῇ ὑμῖν· ὡς ποιεῖτε, οὕτω ποιηθήσεται ὑμῖν· ὡς δίδοτε, οὕτως δοθήσεται ὑμῖν· ὡς κρίνετε, οὕτως κριθήσεσθε· ὡς χρηστεύεσθε, οὕτως χρηστευθήσεται ὑμῖν· ᾧ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτε, ἐν αὐτῷ μετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν. (1Clement 13:2 AF-T)

(5) Polycarp, To the Philippians

(5a) PolPhil 2:3c

"Wherefore, girding up your loins," "serve the Lord in fear" and truth, as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error of the multitude, and "believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory," and a throne at His right hand. To Him all things" in heaven and on earth are subject. Him every spirit serves. He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead. His blood will God require of those who do not believe in Him. But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, falsewitness; "not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing," or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing, but being mindful of what the Lord said in His teaching: "Judge not, that ye be not judged; forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you; be merciful, that ye may obtain mercy; with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again; and once more, "Blessed are the poor, and those that are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God." [ANF]

Διὸ ἀναζωσάμενοι τὰς ˹ ὀσφύας δουλεύσατε τῷ θεῷ ἐν φόβῳ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ, ἀπολιπόντες τὴν κενὴν ματαιολογίαν καὶ τὴν τῶν πολλῶν πλάνην, πιστεύσαντες εἰς τὸν ἐγείραντα τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν καὶ δόντα αὐτῷ δόξαν καὶ θρόνον ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ· ᾧ ὑπετάγη τὰ πάντα ἐπουράνια καὶ ἐπίγεια, ᾧ πᾶσα πνοὴ ˹ λατρεύει, ὃς ἔρχεται κριτὴς ζώντων καὶ νεκρῶν, οὗ τὸ αἷμα ἐκζητήσει ὁ θεὸς ἀπὸ τῶν ἀπειθούντων αὐτῷ. ὁ δὲ ἐγείρας αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν καὶ ἡμᾶς ἐγερεῖ, ἐὰν ποιῶμεν αὐτοῦ τὸ θέλημα καὶ πορευώμεθα ἐν ταῖς ἐντολαῖς αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀγαπῶμεν ἃ ἠγάπησεν, ἀπεχόμενοι πάσης ἀδικίας, πλεονεξίας, φιλαργυρίας, καταλαλιάς, ψευδομαρτυρίας· μὴ ἀποδιδόντες κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ ἢ λοιδορίαν ἀντὶ λοιδορίας ἢ γρόνθον ἀντὶ γρόνθου ἢ κατάραν ἀντὶ κατάρας, μνημονεύοντες δὲ ὧν εἶπεν ὁ κύριος διδάσκων· Μὴ κρίνετε, ἵνα μὴ κριθῆτε· ἀφίετε, καὶ ἀφεθήσεται ὑμῖν· ἐλεᾶτε, ἵνα ἐλεηθῆτε· ᾧ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτε, ἀντιμετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν· καὶ ὅτι μακάριοι οἱ ˹ πτωχοὶ καὶ οἱ διωκόμενοι ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία ⸂ τοῦ θεοῦ ⸃. (Philippians 2:1–3 AF-T)

(5b) PolPhil 6:2a

And let the presbyters be compassionate and merciful to all, bringing back those that wander, visiting all the sick, and not neglecting the widow, the orphan, or the poor, but always "providing for that which is becoming in the sight of God and man; " abstaining from all wrath, respect of persons, and unjust judgment; keeping far off from. all covetousness, not quickly crediting [an evil report] against any one, not severe in judgment, as knowing that we are all under a debt of sin. If then we entreat the Lord to forgive us, we ought also ourselves to forgive; for we are before the eyes of our Lord and God, and "we must all appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, and must every one give an account of himself." Let us then serve Him in fear, and with all reverence, even as He Himself has commanded us, and as the apostles who preached the Gospel unto us, and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Lord [have alike taught us]. Let us be zealous in the pursuit of that which is good, keeping ourselves from causes of offence, from false brethren, and from those who in hypocrisy bear the name of the Lord, and draw away vain men into error. [ANF]

Καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι δὲ εὔσπλαγχνοι, εἰς πάντας ἐλεήμονες, ἐπιστρέφοντες τὰ ἀποπεπλανημένα, ἐπισκεπτόμενοι πάντας ἀσθενεῖς, μὴ ἀμελοῦντες χήρας ἢ ὀρφανοῦ ἢ πένητος, ἀλλὰ προνοοῦντες ἀεὶ τοῦ καλοῦ ἐνώπιον θεοῦ καὶ ἀνθρώπων, ἀπεχόμενοι πάσης ὀργῆς, προσωποληψίας, κρίσεως ἀδίκου, μακρὰν ὄντες πάσης φιλαργυρίας, μὴ ταχέως πιστεύοντες κατά τινος, μὴ ἀπότομοι ἐν κρίσει, εἰδότες ὅτι πάντες ὀφειλέται ἐσμὲν ἁμαρτίας. εἰ οὖν δεόμεθα τοῦ κυρίου ἵνα ἡμῖν ἀφῇ, ὀφείλομεν καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφιέναι· ἀπέναντι γὰρ τῶν τοῦ κυρίου καὶ θεοῦ ἐσμὲν ὀφθαλμῶν, καὶ πάντας δεῖ παραστῆναι τῷ βήματι τοῦ Χριστοῦ, καὶ ἕκαστον ὑπὲρ ˹ ἑαυτοῦ λόγον δοῦναι. οὕτως οὖν δουλεύσωμεν αὐτῷ μετὰ φόβου καὶ πάσης εὐλαβείας, καθὼς αὐτὸς ἐνετείλατο καὶ οἱ εὐαγγελισάμενοι ˹ ἡμᾶς ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ προφῆται οἱ προκηρύξαντες τὴν ἔλευσιν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν, ζηλωταὶ περὶ τὸ καλόν, ἀπεχόμενοι τῶν σκανδάλων καὶ τῶν ψευδαδέλφων καὶ τῶν ἐν ὑποκρίσει φερόντων τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου, οἵτινες ἀποπλανῶσι κενοὺς ἀνθρώπους. (Philippians 6:1–3 AF-T)




Martin Palmer [The Jesus Sutras] provides the following example of this saying from Christian Chinese sources in the Tang Dynasty:

5Do not hesitate when you pray. 6 Ask first for forgiveness for your sins and at the same time forgive those who have sinned against you. 7 The Heavenly Ruler above will forgive you as you forgive others. [I.1.5-7]


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.


Gene Stecher

In the Kingdom of Commandments
Creditor and debtor are equalized by the
divine scorched earth policy,
as they face down God's forgiving readiness,
mired together in law breaking
along with the people/priest,

[Isa 24:2-3, Neh 9:17: NRSV]

In the Kingdom where God's finger rules,
look for grazing the edge of law breaking
to be admired for forgiving debt.
The disease that condemns to the jail pit
is not passing along the torch.

[Lk 11:20, 16:8a; Mt 18:33]

Tax Collectors, "Charge official rates,"
but seeking Jesus' favor,
old Zach blurted out that
the poor could have half of his profits
and extortion returns
would be quadrupled.

[Lk 3:13, 19:8]

Debt forgiveness requires community trust,
"Whomever you forgive,
I forgive."
Try your patience with up to seventy-seven
bestowals of freedom
to sin no more.

[2 Cor 2:10, Mt 18:22, Jn 8:11]

Sin? I thought that we were talking about debt.
Now how is it that we've gone from debt to sin?

What's the easier thing to say to this paralytic,
"Your sins are forgiven," or,
"Here's the deed. I've just redeemed your land." **
And Zach spit through the needle's eye.

[Mk 2:1-12, 10:25]

  • Many thanks to Keith for sharing this definition of redemption with the HODOS group.

Forgiveness for Forgiveness:

Forgive the neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray (Sirach 28:2).

Forgive our debts to the extent that we have forgiven those in debt to us (Mt 6:12).

And cancel for us our debts, as we cancel (debts) for those who are indebted to us (Lk 6:37c).

Forgive our sins, since we too forgive everyone in debt to us (Lk 11:4a)

What was that again?

Forgive and you'll be forgiven (Did 8:2).

Come again?

If you are holding anything against anyone, forgive them, so your father in heaven may forgive your misdeeds (Mk 11:25-26).

Sorry, can't quite hear you!

If you forgive others their failures and offenses, your heavenly father will also forgive yours (Mt 6:14-15).

I can only hear out of one ear.

Forgive that it may be forgiven to you (1 Clem 13:2b).

Still can't hear you.

Forgive and it shall be forgiven unto you (PolPhil 2:3b). If then we entreat the Lord to forgive us, we ought also ourselves to forgive (PolPhil 6:2a).

What'd you say?

He who has two ears had better use one for sin and the other for debt.


Gene Stecher
Chambersburg, Pa.


Work to be Done