Written by Mr. Kurschner on AOMIN.org, James White’s website:
Does God Forgive the Unrepentant? – The Dubious Textual Variant, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’
A few years back I posted an article explaining the weak textual evidence of Luke 23:34a, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
This week is Good Friday and many sermons will be using this verse, so I think it is appropriate to bring awareness of its textual nature.
Whether you agree with me or not, pastors and Christians should still be aware of this textual issue and its larger theological implications, especially the important question of whether forgiveness is conditional or unconditional.
About Alan E. Kurschner
Alan E. Kurschner holds an M.A. in biblical languages (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) and is currently working on his Ph.D. in Greek linguistics. He teaches Greek at the Center for Learning Biblical Greek: http://www.centerforlearningbiblicalgreek.com
Either Jesus was right or he was wrong to say these words. It can’t both be righteous of him to speak these words on the one hand and be righteous of him to refrain from speaking them on the other. It’s a XOR situation.
White seems to be attempting to bolster his textual critical position by questioning the theological validity of this saying attributed to Jesus through endorsing Kurschner’s position on this text.
If so it seems that he is going down a dangerous road in my view, for the following reasons:
If Jesus was wrong wouldn’t that make Stephen wrong as he was praying for God to forgive the people that were stoning him by not imputing this sin to them? Wasn’t he just following the example of his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Can we not reasonably assume that the words of Jesus on the cross were in his mind at some point during his martyrdom? That he was inspired by the words of Jesus on the cross?:
Acts 7:60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Are the people who are stoning Stephen repentant? Of course not, otherwise they would not be doing this act in the first place. So is Stephen wrong to ask for something that, according to him, at that moment in time should not be granted to them by God, namely forgiveness.
Why is then Stephen asking God to do something that is unjust, according to Kurschner?
If Jesus was wrong as his words are recorded in Luke then Stephen was also wrong as recorded in Acts and we must also question the validity of the text there.
Weren’t Jesus and Stephen both acting consistently with the words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount? Otherwise they would have been disobedient.
Luke 6:27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
What is the point of this if God does not forgive our enemies also in some real sense even while they are still enemies? We are either just copying him by our obedience or we are disobeying him by asking him to bestow a blanket forgiveness on the unrepentant.
Is Romans 5 v 8 not also in accordance with the principle of asking God to forgive our enemies, even while they are still enemies and unrepentant, because God did the same for us? As we were still in the state and condition of being lost and unrepentant sinners Christ died for us. This is a clear form and\or act of forgiveness on God’s part enacted toward us in our state of utter and complete unrepentance and rebellion towards him:
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10 For if, when we were enemies ( and unrepentant ), we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
Kurschner is in danger of opening up a can of worms here and introducing the idea of salvation by works, even if it is solely the work of being repentant and thus making it possible for God to forgive us.