Is "Father, forgive them..." Added Text?



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  • Is "Father, forgive them..." Added Text?

    There was a discussion recently on a highly significant textual variant in Luke 23:34, the only place in the New Testament where Jesus prays “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” The verse is not found in the other Gospels, and interestingly, it is also not found in some of the important manuscripts. The question is, did scribes insert that passage into Luke? Or is it a verse that another scribes decided to take out?

    In August 1456 the Gutenberg press produced the world's first printed Bible, the Gutenberg Bible. It was the Latin Vulgate version, an ornate and luxurious edition. (As a note to set the record straight, the Chinese and Korean inventors had been producing printed books for centuries before Gutenberg was born.) Previous of Gutenburg's press, scribes by hand painstakingly wrote and illustrated each bible. It wasn’t just anyone who was allowed to do this; such work was usually reserved for scribes who lived and worked in monasteries, in a special room called a "scriptorium." Like any other human endeavor, the life of a scribe was rife with bias and political opinion, infightings and debates.

    There are some places in the manuscripts where scribes have inserted something in an effort to support and correspond a concept that is found elsewhere in Scripture. Like 1 John 5:7 "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one" is not found in the earliest manuscripts we possess, but it is widely used as proof text for the Trinity today. Additionally, Scribes wanted to clarify. "For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had" (John 5:2-4). While this passage does not exist in the most trusted manuscripts, the creative scribe was not challenging John’s original claim about the Pool of Bethesda, but instead seems to be trying to explain why the waters would move in the first place. While this motivation is understandable, the additional line is extraneous and does nothing to erode our confidence in John’s original statement.

    These type of Scribal variants occur many, many times throughout the accepted canon of Scripture, which does not nullify the divine source of authorship, but it does muddy the Fundamentalist traditional claim of inerrancy, a position that did not exist until the first of the 19th Century, as a possible equity response to Islam and its purported inerrancy of the Quran, which we know is fabricated upon the plagiarism from Christian scripture and demonically inspired fantastical absurdities. This is a subject all to it's own, mostly misunderstood, including among the clergy.

    The famous Codex Bezae, designated as manuscript D from around 400 CE, is one of our earliest manuscripts to omit the prayer of Jesus found in Luke 23:34. There are compelling reasons for thinking that the verse was original to Luke and that its exclusion came as a result of second-century polemic against Jews. It is found in the early third-century P75 fragment. The passage is also read this way in the earliest accounts of its exposition that we have, already at the beginning of the third century by Origen and the author of the Didascalia.

    If it is difficult to imagine the verse being invented by second-century scribes. Is there a reason for them wanting to omit it? In its Lukan context, the prayer appears to refer not to the Roman soldiers but to the Jewish leaders who in their ignorance have caused Jesus to be crucified. Many Christians in the second century were convinced, however, that God had not forgiven the Jews for what they did to Jesus. This is evident in the widespread notion that the destruction of Jerusalem some forty years after Jesus’ death was a manifestation of God’s anger against them: the Jews’ rejection of Jesus led to their own rejection by God. For scribes who shared this opinion, one can well imagine the puzzlement created by Jesus’ prayer in Luke 23:34. How could the Savior have possibly asked God to forgive the Jews? And if he had, why was he not heard? Much better to remove the verse—as Christian scribes appear to have done in some manuscripts beginning at least at the end of the second century.

    The late Bruce M. Metzger and Nestle-Aland 27th Edition Greek New Testament both posit the passage is not original. This includes the late German scholar Eberhard Nestle (1910) and Theologian Kurt Aland (1990). However, they tended to favor the external evidence, seeing which manuscripts supported one reading or another, rather than considering at great length the intrinsic and transcriptional probabilities, in detail. It’s still debated, but the sense is that the majority of scholars think it was the original text as it was spoken by Jesus.

  • #2
    Wow. This is a great read. Thank you for posting this interesting commentary!


    • #3
      That was my reaction as well, WOW! That is so interesting and amazing Steve. So here we believe , many of us that is, that "ALL scripture was given to man by inspiration of the Holy Spirit". As the years go by and the bible is being rewritten in so many newer 'understandable' versions, these companies are NOT as (special or chosen) as the sacred scribes back 'when'. So in desire of wanting pure gospel what does one read then?


      • #4
        I find the phrases "earliest manuscripts" and "trusted manuscripts" to be code for 'minority works that represent a modern academic preference'. Like Chinese whispers, the textural critic presumes the oldest copies are the least corrupt versions of the text. However, it is possible that corrupted copies, which were less often referred-to, managed to survive longer.

        The good news is that no major biblical doctrine is undone by removing a textural variant. All the truth of the bible seems to be repeated and reinforced.

        Although i have observed that the work of the Holy Spirit seems to be better articulated by the KJV than the NIV, for example.


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