Chapter

“Father, Forgive Them”

Shelly Matthews

in Perfect Martyr

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780195393323
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199866618 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195393323.003.0004
                   “Father, Forgive Them”

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This chapter analyzes the dying forgiveness prayer of Stephen and the related prayer of the Lukan Jesus. By reading these prayers aside related bodies of literature including Maccabees and the Sermon on the Mount/Plain, it argues that these prayers are for Luke a Christian proprium. They are potentially more radical than Gospel teaching on enemy love, as Tertullian would have recognized, since the plea for forgiveness of undeserving persecutors, more so than enemy love, challenged the framework of cosmic justice, as Marcion would have affirmed. The prayer was frequently read intransitively, as idealizing the one who so prays, without having any effect on the prayer’s object, thereby functioning analogously to the Roman discourse of clemency. Those who read the prayer otherwise landed upon this radical challenge, which explains the prayer’s complicated reception history, including the scribal omission of Jesus’ forgiveness prayer (Luke 23.34a) from the Gospel of Luke.

Keywords: clemency; enemy love; forgiveness; Luke 23.34a; Luke-Acts; Maccabees; Marcion; Sermon on the Mount; Tertullian

Chapter.  14053 words. 

Subjects: History of Christianity

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