Full Text for Forgiveness in the LXX (Text)

Forgiveness in the LXX 249 Forgiveness in the LXX The Messianic 130th Psalm sings in its key verse: "There is forgiveness with Thee." The Hebrew salach (forgiveness, to for­give) is generally rendered in the Septuagint by LACta/LO~, tM.ax,o/LCtL. Its primary significance is to shelter, to cover. The classics trans­posed its meaning to the religious procedure of the conciliation of the gods; with them D .. uax,o/LCtL denotes obtaining the favor of the gods. Homer always uses it so. Our Latin-English verb cover is a direct lineal descendant of the Hebrew kaphar, the noun in the LXX being LACta/Lo~, and translated "propitiation," "atone," "atonement." The verb E;LAucr­XOf.tCtL does not occur in the New Testament and is rare in the papyri. We have, however, LAucrx,£a1tm Heb. 2,17: LVCt EAEl'lf.tOOV YEVrl1;CtL xed mcr1:o~ a.QX;LEQEU~ LlJ. 1tQ&~ 1:0V 1tEOV, Et~ 1:0 tAU cr X, € a j} Ct L 1:a.~ Uf.tCtln(Ct~ TOU ACtOU; "that he might become merciful and a faithful High Priest before God to propitiate [forgive] the sins of the people." Cpo Luke 18, 13, LAO: cr 1t 11 1: ( f.tOL 1:0 Uf.tCtQ1:ooA0. In the LXX particularly, the passive LAo:ax,W1tm is "to be recon­ciled," "to be gracious,;; Ps. 25, 11; 7tl, ::m; also iAUa'lt111:L, imperative aorist passive, Ps. 79, 9; Dan. 9,19. While lI,uax,€a{tm occurs only nine times in the entire Bible, it is all the more remarkable to note that the LXX much more frequently employs the more emphatic E;LAUax,wrrm, to make thoroughly propitious, to completely reconcile. In the New Testament, &Ql ¬(JL~ or UQlL11f.tL are most frequent for "forgiveness" and "forgive," common to all evangelists, Paul, James, and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. A quick count shows that UQlhlf.tL and its forms occur 135 times. In the inscriptions the word often means "remission of debt," or "remission of punish­ment." Already the classics had this for the second meaning of the verb, viz., to "release," "let go free," "acquit," "deliver" -the perfect synonym of Latin absolvo, libero. A liturgical book of the fourth or the fifth century A. D. (the Egerton P.5) has: "~ij£ aVE;Lx,ax,LCt<; fQYOV a. Ql E a L <; &.f.tCtQTLOO'V," i. e., "Thy long-suffering's work is forgiveness of sin." From kaphar comes kapporeth, in LXX LAaa1:YtQLOv, the LXX's Greek for "mercy-seat," or the lid of gold covering the ark of the covenant, Ex. 25, Lev. 16. This, it will be remembered, was sprinkled once a year by the high priest with the blood of the goat on the head of which were confessed the sins of the people. In the New Testament this type is fulfilled in the antitype Christ Jesus. The kapporeth, also sometimes explained as the place of expiation, is more properly the expiatory covering, not only of the ark as depository of the Law but of the Law itself. It serves to receive the atoning blood. Not until the blood is on the kapporeth, is this 250 Forgiveness in the LXX latter what it is meant to be, viz., the propitiation for the people's sins. The blood completely covers the Law and the multitude of the sins of the people. Thus the kapporeth becomes the central seat of the saving presence and gracious revelation of God. Accordingly, our Lord Jesus Christ is designated the true LAac:rt"ljQLOv, Rom. 3, 25, for He, as the true High Priest and one all­sufficient Sacrifice, at the same time comes EV "tCQ lbLq) ULfJ,(n:L and not as the typical high priest of the Old Testament EV arfA,a:tL dnO';QLq), which he had to discharge himself of by sprinkling it on the kapporeth. "Philo calls the kap]Joreth (jUfJ,~OAOV ';lir; LAEW 'tOU {}BOU bUVUfJ,EWr;." (Cremer.) To err is human, to forgive divine; Forgiveness may, then, yet be mine! The sinless lips have said, "Forgiven"; Pardon is, then, a gift divine And love indeed a law of heaven." There is forgiveness in the Scriptures from Moses to John the Theologian. The only theology worthy of the name is forgiveness theology, which is congruent with Bible theology and coincident "v\dth Lutheran theology; for "qli-od non est biblicU7i1", non est theologic1~m." Let us look at divine forgiveness in the LXX. Ex. 25, 22: "And there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat (';0 LAUa'Llknov)." This gracious procedure of the Lord God Almighty is further made plain in Ex. 33, 11: "And the Lord spake unto Moses as a man speaketh unto his friend." The text has EVUlJtLOr; EVWJtLq), literally, "eye to eye"; such is the close communion between God and His servant. Not servant only, but also friend, CPLAOr;:, for God has established the bond of friend­ship between Him and Abraham, the express cpLAOr; 1'tEoij, Jas. 2, 23; 2 Chron. 20, 7; Is. 41, 8, also upon Moses. In the New Dispensation we may well sing: "0 Friend of souls, how blest am I!" The only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father authentically and truly declares the latter, John 15, 15, when He says: "Hence­forth I call you not servants . . .; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you" ~ CPLAOL, not aOUAOL, what undeserved mercy! The Lord deigns to treat us not as inferiors outside the heavenly counsels, but as those who have a very definite share in His affection. We are again eye to eye with the nosse cum affect'LL et effecttt. There is a double force in the fact that the LXX, speaking, as it does, in a Ptolemaic Greek, employs cpLAOr;, a force fully felt only since a more voluminous deciphering of our papyrus treasures. It is now clear that qJLAOr;: was a specific title of honor given at the court of the Ptolemies to the highest royal officials. This ennobled Forgiveness in the LXX 251 understanding of the simple word is supported by the fact that in Esther 2, 18 it was used by the LXX to render the Hebrew sar, "prince" in the King James Version. This, then, is the difference between the two words, not slaves but members of His royal court, His friends, having audience with Him and interested in the con­cerns of His kingdom. Forgiveness makes this friendship possible. Again, from the Mount of the Law comes a mention of mercy, Ex. 34, 5-7: "And the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there." The cloud, EV VEIPEf.TI, is used in the LXX for shechinah, the cloud of glory (cp. Ex. 16, 7. 10 et al.). The Lord stood with him there, .n:o.QEcr"tl1 mhij} sXEi; second aorist indicative of .n:o.QLcr"tllflL, a verb bringing to mind the "sure mercies of David" as we com­pare its use in the LXX and the New Testament, e. g., 2 Tim. 4, 17: o flE XUQLO'; flOL .n:o.QEO"tl1 XUL EvElluvG.flOlOEV flE, "the Lord stood by me and strengthened me." In legal parlance of the fourth century A. D. the verb is frequently employed by attorneys assuring the court that their witn~ss will be present and certainly "stand by" with their testimony so that justice can be satisfied, a usage that has come down from the LXX and the New Testament. (Cp. the numerous legal papyri in the Cairo Museum, especially Nos.10,4H4, 10,493, 10,688, and 10,689.) Obviously, then, .n:U(lLcr"tTlflL has the force of "standing by," ready to "support and uphold." To make such assurance doubly sure, the Lord stood by Moses, with a message of mercy unmistakably following: "And the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed the Lord" (and now divine Forgiveness in­spired a divine characterization), "The Lord, a God full of com­passion, and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and trans­gression and sin." A linguistic study of this inspired sentence brings some interesting and at the same time consolatory facts to mind: Literally, the Lord proclaims Himself a "God of compassions and mercies," OLX"tLQflOlV xuL Ef.E11flOlV -oLx"tdQOl, or Attic, OtX"tLQOl, I pity, a verb exactly synonymous with Sf.EEOl, I have pity on. This is also exactly the way in which Ef.EEiv is used in the many petitionary papyri of the Greco-Roman period. So, for instance, the Fayum Papyrus No. 106, from 140 A. D., contains a petition by Dr. M. Valerius Gemellus to the praefectus of his circuit requesting to be relieved, partly on the ground of his busy profession, partly on account of his health, from his duties of superintendent to estates confiscated by the government. The sbdeenth line of this petition is of special interest to us, where we read: KUQLE, 01}EV Ut;LW oa.t ,QV O"Ol"t'YiQo. Ef.EijcrC(L [tE, "Lord, I entreat you, my redeemer, that you may have pity on me." This heaping of synonyms (to return to our text) again proclaL.'TIs the sureness of God's mercy. The Lord is "slow to anger," flUXQO-&uflO';, patient with people, long-suffering; 252 Forgiveness in the LXX cpo rtUXQOiTUrtEW, I defer my anger, I am long-suffering, I am not quick-tempered. He is also "plenteous in mercy and truth," JtOAU­SAWS xut UAl1iTLVos (an emphatic parallel), full of mercy and (liter­ally) made of truth; "keeping mercy for thousands," IhxCLloauvllv BLU1:11Qiiiv xut £).,EO~ Et~ XLALUBus, keeping righteousness and mercy for thousands, accusative plural of XLALU~ (in Deut. 7, 9 "for a thousand generations," Et~ XLALU~ YEVEUS). il.LU1:11QsW bears closer notice here; it denotes to hold fast, hold in safe keeping, to keep continually. Just as Mary continually kept Jesus' words in her heart, BLE"tltQEL, so God will not be forgetful of His mercies. Such is the divine economy that, as the Law is given, grace is promised in the same divine breath (BLXUWGUVl1V ..• xaL 2AEO~). "F01'giving iniquity and transgressions and sin," ucpcuQiiiv, present participle of UCPCLLQEW, I take away. The term connotes complete removal; cpo Is. 27, 9; Jer. 31, 33. 34 as quoted in Rom.n, 27, (l1:UV UcpEAWrtUi. Lac; UrtCi.QLLUC; u1J1;iiiv. This connotation is corroborated by a Christian papyrus prayer found in Heracleopolis Magna (the erstwhile capital of Dynasties 7-10 of the First Disintegration), where the same verb occurs in the line: "Take away from me all manner of disease and all manner of sick .. '·18SS that I may be in health." Here, assuredly, the petitioner prayed for a complete removal of his ailments. (Wilcken, Archiv juer Papyruskunde, I, p. 431 ff.) Finally what is it that God takes away and out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy forgives? The answer is: O:VOrtLU, lawlessness, in particular as disobedience to the divine Law: sin; aBLxLu, unrighteousness (cp. UBLXEW, I act unjustly) and UrtUQ1:LU, error, sin. Here, then, it is again: Sin and grace; the divine doctrine of forgiveness. King Solomon utters prayer at the Temple dedication, and five times in succession his prayer pleads forgiveness, 1 Kings 8: "Hear Thou in heaven, Thy dwelling-place (otxl11:ltQWV, LatLll habitacu­lum), and forgive." The LXX here has the adjective tAEW~ for "forgive," the Attic form of tAUO~, literally, Thou shalt be merciful, propitious, forgiving. The KOLvlt of both LXX and New Testament employs the prayerful interjection Lr.EW~ aOL, i. e., LAEW~ Ern 0 iTE6~. Luke 18, 13, which uses the aorist imperative of tAuaXOrtCLL, is pertinent here for comparison (see above). In their sixth volume of Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Drs. Grenfell and Hunt list a "Letter to Flavianus" of the fourth century A. D. which plainly shows the New Testament sense of tAEW~. The papyrus is an affectionately worded Christian letter, according to all appearances from a ser­vant to his master concerning the illness of his mistress. The style shows a decided influence of the New Testament, with a polish that reminds one of St. Luke: Kut ctn BLa JtUV1:0;; TJrta~ XUQL1:U~ OrtoAoyoiiV1:a~ BUl1:EAELV (l1:L TJrtLV t A E W ~ EYEVE1:0 xd 1:aL~ EuxaL~ TJrtiiiv EJtEvEuaEv BLa­rrwa('f.~ TJrtLV 1:-I]v 11rtiiiv XUQLUV: "And may it be granted us to continue Forgiveness in the LXX 253 forever to acknowledge our thanks to Him because He was gra­cious to us and inclined His ear to our prayers by preserving for us our mistress." (P.Oxyr. 939, 6-9.) According to Hesychius tt..cw<; was of the same meaning as tt..O'.Qo<; and also attributed to the gods the same quality as tt..aQo<; does to men, only with the transitive notion that this graciousness and cheerfulness is the source of good will towards men. In the Bible it is the divine attribute which exists L1'l God, that gracious sentiment that opposes the imputation of sin. Cf. Num. 14, 19: "ACPE<; .ljv u!taQ.Luv .iP t..aiP .ou.q) %a.u .1> !tEya Ift..co<; crou, xaitMEQ t t.. E W <; alnoIr;; EyEVOU. In the New Testament see Reb. 8, 12: tAEWr;; Ecro!tm .aIr;; u(\L%Lmr;; mhwv, from J er. 31, 34. In this connection should be noted the very profundity of Solomon's prayer in the same chapter, vv. 38. 39: "What prayer and supplication soever be made (JtuCJuv JtQOcrEUX1]V, all prayer that pos­sibly should ever be made, yEV'l1.m, futuristic subjunctive, second aorist) by any man or by all Thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, . . . forgive and do and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart Thou knowest, for Thou, even Thou only, knowest (!tovC:my;w<; ol(\ar;;­superlative of t.t6-vc;, alone; 'as Gud alone knows: the hearts of all the children of men." Forgiveness is also the burden of Solomon's night vision in 2 Chron. 7, 12.14. "The Lord appeared to Solomon by night and said U!,to him, I have heard thy prayer. . .. If thy people shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive (Ll..cWr;; EcrOJ,tIlL) their sin." Here are noteworthy the four subjunc­tives with Mv: 1. 'Ev.QO'.Jtu, from EV.QEJtW, turn to shame and confusion; cpo 1 Cor. 4, 14, where St. Paul tells the Corinthians that he is not writing thus to shame, or humiliate, them: 0&% B'V.QEJt(t)'V uJ,tii<; YQacpw 'taiha. Also Tit. 2,8: EV'tQUltU. The celebrated and somewhat amusing letter of Apollonius (Paris Papyrus No.4 7, 153 B. C.) , whose faith in the gods of his father, Ptolemaeus, foundered badly when he was lost in a great forest, has: "But for the fact that I am a little ashamed (EV.QEltOJ,tUL), you would never yet have seen my face; all things are false, and your gods with the rest." This late metaphorical use of the verb is found in the LXX and the New Testament as we have seen. For further comparison of its usage there see 2 Thess. 3, 14 and Luke 7, 6. 2. II QOcrEu;WVW.L, from ltQ6r;; and ElJxo!taL, pray. 3. Zl1.1]crWcrLv, from ~'l1.EW, Latin quaero, I search for. The verb occurs in the sense of to "strive" in an imperial edict concerning the Aurum Coronarium, in the late third century A. D. (P. Fayum 254 Forgiveness in the LXX 20,14.) The emperor, most likely Alexander Severus, writes: "Ever since I became Caesar, I have earnestly striven (~rrt'llO£oLv) to restore vigor to what was in decline." 4. 'A3tOo'teE'ljJooOL'V, from WtOo'teEUQOEL, EYSLQUL, cpWVEr OE! Then saith the Christ as silent stands The crowd, "What wilt thou at My hands?" And he replies, "Oh, give me light! Rabbi, restore the blind man's sight!" And Jesus answers, uYJW.YE· 'H JtLO'W; oou oeow%e OE! Ye that have eyes that cannot see In darkness and in misery, Recall those mighty voices three, 'IYjoo1i, £1.e1']oov f.tE! E>aQoEL, EYELQUL! "YJtfJ.YE· 'H JtLon<; oou OeOWy.E oe! 255 Our authority %U1;' B£O%l1V on forgiveness is the Father's only~ begotten Son, ~.vho, being "in the bosom" of the Father and there­fore knowing His innermost thoughts and will of grace, can well "declare" Him unto us. Even in Jesus' darkest hour of woe He still so "declares" Him amidst the shuddering populace when He calls on the Father's mercy for the sake of others, including His hitter enemies, Luke 23, 34: "Father forgive them": IIu"tEQ, a.CPE~ mhoI<; (second aorist imperative). It is for this same purpose that the Father's will to forgive be made known at home and abroad that Jesus turns Saul, the per­secutor, and says to him, Acts 26, 15-18: "1 am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise and stand upon thy feet; for 1 have appeared unto thee for this purpose to make thee a minister and a witness, ... delivering thee from the people and from the Gentiles unto whom now I send thee to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God that they may receive forgiveness of sins," a.cpeoLv uf.tCl.Q"tLiiiv. How blessed for us indeed that Paul was "not disobedient to the heavenly vision, "tn OUQCl.VLqJ OmCl.crLq.," to offer and proclaim forgiveness of sins to his hearers. The last sacred writer of our Canon shall conclude our ex­CU1'SUS into the heavenly field of forgiveness as we read once more 1 John 2, 1. 2: KCl.t M:v 'tL<; uJl.aQ"tll, mXQu%A1']'tov E%OJl.EV nQo<; 'tov ml"tEQ(.(, 'I1']oouv XQLO"tOV OL%Cl.LOV· XCl.t mho<; i A CI. a Jl. 6 <; BO"tLV JtEQ1 "tiiiv u/-LCl.Q'tLiiiv ll/-LWV, ou JtEQ1 "tWV llf.tE"tEQOlv os Jl.OVOV, un&. %Cl.1 JtEQt OAOU "tOU XOuJl.ou. Again, chap. 4, 10: 'Ev "tou"tqJ Bo"tiv i1 UYM'Y], OUX; O"tL l]f.tEI<; f}yamlxCl.f1Ev TOV {}EOV, un' O"tL Cl.u"tor; T!yaJt'l']osv TJ!-tii<; XCl.t Wteo'tELAEV "tOV uiov Cl.U"tOU 256 Outlines on Gospels Adopted by Synodical Conference t A CJ, cr /.I. 0 v itEQL ,OOV U/.I.UQ,LOOV TI/.I.OOV. Here the Scripture has our last 11c(!.O'/-t6~, the ver