Apologetics Thursday – Father, Forgive Them

Luk 23:34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”…

The Geneva Institute blog writes this:

The elect are the only ones for whom Jesus could have offered this prayer.
1. The intercession of Jesus has boundaries.
His prayer in John 17 was limited to those given to him by the Father.

In this article, there is a particular focus on Calvinistic atonement philosophy (prooftexts and all) which seeks to prove this point. But the question remains, is that reading contextual? Jesus is praying that those who are already elect and chosen get to have this sin forgiven? How does that make any sense and how should any reader be able to pick that up? Is that the authorial intent of including this quote in the narrative? Why was he not more explicit? Why does Jesus take this moment to ask for forgiveness rather than later? Why is the request tied to “ignorance” if ignorance is not a factor in culpability for sins (as the Calvinist article claims)?

In the Luke narrative, the immediate context is what “they” do to Jesus. “They” appears to be corporately Israel and the Romans:

Luk 23:33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
Luk 23:34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

There is a consistent motif throughout the Bible of culpability being based on knowledge. The Jews believe they are executing a blasphemer. The Romans believe they are executing an insurrectionist. Both are acting under what would otherwise be lawful motives. Jesus wants this sin purged from their record.

True, this idea does not fit specific Calvinistic metaphysics of atonement, but maybe those theories should be in question rather than what looks like a straightforward text. Ignorance is a factor in God’s mercy, even in the most corrupt pagan city imaginable:

Jon 4:11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

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