Forgiving as Forgiven

A further mark of the love for which Jesus called is the readiness to forgive. Characteristic of the discipleship to which Jesus called was the two-sided theme of forgiven as forgiving, forgiven therefore forgiving. The importance of this two-sidedness of forgiveness is alreadv clear in the Lord's Praver: 'Forgive (aphes) us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors' (Matt. 6.12); 'Forgive (aphes) us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone indebted to us' (Luke And Matthew underlines the point bv adding and elaborating an emphasis also found in Mark:206

T. Naph. 1.6; and the famous response ofHillel, b. Sabb. 31a. A more positive form is not unique to the Christian tradition (cf. Sir. 31.15; 2En. 61.1-2; Sextus, Serci. 89); see particularly the survey by A. Dihle, Die goldene Regel. Eine Einführung in die Geschichte der antiken und frühchristlichen Vulgärethik (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1962) 80-108; also P. S. Alexander, 'Jesus and the Golden Rule', in Charlesworth and Johns, eds., Hillel and Jesus 363-88.

203. Bultmann, History 102-103; Funk, Five Gospels 156, 296; Lüdemann, Jesus 152; but also Davies and Allison, Matthew 1,688. On the other hand, Vermes's point should be given weight: 'the very fact that the distinctive positive wording is used rather than the common negative formulation, must . . . count as a definite argument in favour of Jesus having actually framed it' (Religion 41).

204. Tob. 4.15: 'What you hate, do not do to anyone'; P.Oxy. 654 6.2 = GTh6.2: 'Do not do what you hate'. Note also that in Christian tradition {Did. 1.2; Acts 15.20, 29a D) it is the negative form of the rule which is quoted.

205. Such differences of wording and tense are a further reminder that the concern in reteaching the Jesus tradition was for substance and present relevance, not for a more pedantic verbatim memorization. The different words used for 'forgive' in the following material make the same point.

206. Cf. also Matt. 5.23-24 — reconciliation as both forgiving and being forgiven; and

Matt. 6.14-15

Mark 11.25

14 For if you forgive people their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive people, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.

When you stand praying, if you have anything against someone, forgive, in order that your heavenly Father may forgive you your transgressions.

Luke makes a similar point in another saying: 'Forgive and you shall be forgiven (apolythesesthe)' (Luke 631).201 The same point is implicit in the saying which urges generous and repeated forgiveness, which Matthew shares with Luke (Matt. 18.15, 21-22/Luke 17.3-4)208 and to which he has appended the parable of the unforgiving servant in order to drive home the point (Matt. 18.23-35).209 And it is presumably this model of 'forgive as forgiven' which is followed in the subsequent Christian exhortation to be 'forgiving (charizomenoi) of each other, if anyone has a cause for complaint against another; as the Lord also forgave (echarisato) you, so must you' (Col. Matthew has also made 18.15, 21-22 the frame for his 'community rule' on dealing with sins within the ekklesia (18.15-20), where a procedure to reclaim the errant brother is regularized and the authority of the community on the matter of forgiveness (cf. John 20.23) is stressed, by virtue of Jesus' presence in the midst. This tradition certainly reflects later situations in the life of the churches known to Matthew. The point here is simply to note that forgiveness continued to be a major concern in relationships within the churches and that its importance was rooted in Jesus'

the counsel to 'be at peace with one another' (only in Mark 9.50, but probably known to Paul: Rom. 12.18; cf. Matt. 5.9; Matt. 10.13/Luke 10.6).

207. Note the clear echoes in 1 Clem. 13.2 and Pol., Phil 2.3 and 6.2. Perrin is particularly enthusiastic over Matt. 6.14-15: 'No saying in the tradition has a higher claim to authenticity than this petition, nor is any saying more important to an understanding of the teaching of Jesus (Rediscovering 150-52). The Jesus Seminar conclude that Jesus said something like Luke 6.37, although they are less confident regarding Mark 11.25 (Funk, Five Gospels 99-100, 297). Despite complete lack of support from the textual tradition, Ludemann argues that the Markan text is dependent on Matthew (only here in Mark do we find reference to 'your heavenly Father') and is therefore probably a gloss (Jesus 79).

208. Cited above, §8.5e; 'the reply of Jesus is a reductio ad absurdum of any quantitative treatment of the question. There are no limits' (Dodd, Founder 67-68). As Becker notes, the warning 'Do not judge, and you will not be judged' (Matt. 7.1/Luke 6.37) and the warning against unjustified anger (Matt. 5.21-22) are the opposite side of the same coin (Jesus 249-52). We can add the further Q saying regarding the speck and the log (Matt. 7.3-5/Luke 6.41-42/ GTh 26), whose 'authenticity' is differently evaluated by Funk, Five Gospels 153-54, 298, 488 (all versions 'awarded pink status'), and Ludemann, Jesus 150 ('these verses have their context in the community and therefore [sic] do not go back to Jesus').

209. The parable is usually attributed to Jesus (see above, chapter 12 n. 211).

210. The use of to denote 'forgive' echoes its use in the little parable in Luke 7.42-43.

teaching on the subject.211 Here too we should recall Luke's saying on forgiveness (Luke 6.37), which follows immediately on his version of the saying which brings Jesus' teaching on love of enemy (§14.5) to an end: 'Be merciful just as your Father is merciful' (6.36). What Matthew's version heard as the Father's 'perfection ',212 Luke's version heard as the Father's mercy, no doubt with the paradigmatic theologoumenon of Exod. 34.6-7 very much in the background.213

At this point it is futile to debate as to whether Jesus envisaged divine forgiveness as conditional on human forgiveness or saw human forgiveness as the consequence of divine forgiveness.214 The teaching was no doubt heard with both emphases. Unforgiving disciples need to be warned of what it is they actually pray in the Lord's Prayer: to refuse forgiveness is to invite judgment.215 But it is equally, if not more important to realize that the motivation to forgive depends on the awareness of having needed forgiveness oneself and of having been so generously forgiven. The will to forgive springs from the experience of forgiveness, the generosity of forgiveness offered from gratitude at forgiveness re-ceived.216 The alternative is a sequence of relationships eroded from within by

211. Wright, Jesus 294-95, and McKnight, New Vision 224-27, refer specifically to the jubilee tradition (cancellation of debts, Lev. 25.10; Isa. 61.1; cf. Luke 4.16-30), connected with both the return from exile and forgiveness (Isa. 40.1-2; Jer. 33.7-8; Ezek. 36.24): 'Jesus expected his followers to live by the Jubilee principle among themselves . . . that they should forgive one another not only "sins" but also debts' (Wright 295). See more fully S. H. Ringe, Jesus, Liberation, andthe Biblical Jubilee (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985) 65-80; M. Barker, 'The Time Is Fulfilled: Jesus and Jubilee', SJT 53 (2000) 22-32.

212. But Matthew has already stressed the importance of the disciple being merciful (Matt. 5.7); (Luke 6.36) forms a hendiadys with eleemones (Matt. 5.7), as Exod. 34.6 shows (see further e.g., R. Bultmann, oiktiro, TDNT5.160). And by God's 'perfection' Matthew evidently understood God's generosity (5.45-47); NEB/REB translate, 'There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father's goodness knows no bounds'; see further particularly Betz, Sermon on Mount 321-25. On 'imitating God' see also Schnackenburg, Sittliche Botschaft85-86.

213. Did. 1.4-5, with the same sequence of teaching, shows that the concept of being 'perfect' (teleios) was being understood by the tradents of the Jesus tradition in terms of generosity. Contrast the 'perfection' of complete obedience required at Qumran (1QS 1.7-15).

214. The same unclarity is present in the conclusion to Luke 7.36-50: Jesus says of the woman that 'her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little' (7.47). Cf. NEB/REB's translation: 'I tell you, her great love proves that her many sins have been forgiven; where little has been forgiven, little love is shown';

Ethics 39; and see further C. F. D. Moule, '"... As we forgive ...": a note on the distinction between desserts and capacity in the understanding of forgiveness', Essays in New TestamentIn-terpretation278-86.

215. Note already Sir. 28.2: 'Forgive your neighbour the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray'.

216. 'Forgiveness has been truly received only when makes the heart forgiving'

the cancer of mistrust and the poison of unhealed sores. Jesus evidently saw clearly that a community can be healthy and outgoing only when forgiveness is regularly both given and received among its members. So it should be in the community of the kingdom of God.

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