The 19th video lecture in the series Introduction to NT Textual Criticism is accessible at YouTube and at Bitchute. This lecture is almost 34 minutes long. Here's an extract:
Hilary of Poitiers, known as the “Athanasius of the West,” around the year 360, wrote his Twelve Books on the Trinity, and in that work he quoted Luke 24:34a three times. It might be worthwhile to show some of the context of his statements:
In Book 1, As Hilary takes his theological opponents to task for perverting the meaning of the words of Christ, he emphasizes the importance of interpreting each passage in light of its context. In Part 32, he says that his opponents commit blasphemy when they misinterpret the words of Christ, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit,” and, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Hilary writes, “Their narrow minds plunge into blasphemy in the attempt at explanation.”
In Book 10, Part 48, as Hilar illustrates the fearlessness and power of Christ shown in the Gospels, he mentions that “He prayed for His persecutors while the nails were driven through Him.”
And near the end of Book 10, in Part 71, Hilary writes, “Christ prayed for His persecutors, because they knew not what they did.”
Ambrose also explicitly quotes Luke 23:34a in The Prayer of Job and David.
● A composition known as the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions, from the mid-300s, uses Luke 23:34a near the beginning of the fifth part of its sixth book, preserved in Latin by Jerome’s contemporary Rufinus:
“The Master Himself, when He was being led to the cross by those who knew Him not, petitioned the Father for His murderers, and said, ‘Father, forgive their sin, for they know not what they do.’” The author’s memory does not seem to have been having its best day, considering that this statement was given while Jesus was on the cross, not while He was being led to the cross.
● The heresy-hunter Epiphanius of Salamis, in the late 300s, also quoted Luke 23:34a, in Panarion, also called The Medicine-Chest; in Part 77, which is about the errors of the Antidicomanians. Epiphanius slightly tweaked the text, replacing the reference to “forgive” with a different word that means “bear with.” The same word was used by Gregory of Nyssa.
also reports that James, the Lord’s brother, was martyred in
Epiphanius’ main source for this material was probably Eusebius’ work Ecclesiastical History, Book Two, Part 23. Eusebius acknowledged his own sources for the story: first, Eusebius says that Clement was his source for the report that James was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple and then beaten to death with a club. Then he mentions the fifth book of the Ánecdotes of “Hegesippus, whom lived immediately after the apostles,” as his source for a more detailed account.
According to Eusebius, Hegesippus specified that it was the scribes and Pharisees who opposed James the Just, and that after he survived the fall from the temple, they began to stone him, at which point he said, “I entreat You, Lord God our Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
● John Chrysostom, who became archbishop of Constantinople in 397 after serving at Antioch for about 20 years, quoted Luke 23:34a several times. In Against Marcionists and Manichaeans, Chrysostom wrote, “He commanded men to pray for their enemies; and He teaches this through His actions, for when He had ascended the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
7 on the Epistle to the Ephesians, as Chrysostom describes the grace
Chrysostom also says in Homily 14 on the Epistle to the Ephesians that the Son of God prayed for those who crucified Him, and shed His blood for those who hated Him.
In Homily 79 on Matthew, Chrysostom mention that among the ways in which displayed His meekness, “on the very cross, He was crying aloud, “Father, forgive them their sin.”
In the sixth chapter of The Cross and the Thief, Chrysostom states that during the time when Christ was being nailed to the cross, and His garments were being divided, He did not get angry or have guile in His heart against them; instead, “Hear Him declaring, ‘My Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.’”
Or does he? The author of The Thief on the Cross is
probably not Chrysostom, but Theophilus, who served as the
favor of the idea that the author was in a locale where a Coptic form of the
text was in use is the observation that in its ninth chapter, the text says that
the lost will be swallowed up in the abyss, and go down to the place of their
The odds that the author is Theodoret of Cyrrhus are increased when we compare this to Theodoret’s Commentary on the Letters of Paul, and see that when he comments on First Corinthians 2:8, he interprets it through the filter of Luke 23:34a, stating that Pilate, Herod, Annas, Caiaphas, and the other rulers of the Jews were unaware of the divine mystery, and that is why they crucified the Lord. Theodoret writes, “Surely, this is why the Lord, on the cross, also said, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” Theodoret goes on to say that after the resurrection, and the ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the apostles’ miracles, they persisted in unbelief, and so He delivered them to be besieged.
● Jerome is another
patristic writer whose use of Luke 24:34a should not be overlooked, even though
we have already seen that he included this text in the Vulgate. In his composition Ad Hedibiam, produced around the year 400, Jerome goes off
on a little tangent, and writes, “We should not be surprised that after the
death of the Savior,
“For before it was completely ruined, the apostles did not have a problem entering the temple, and observing the ceremonies of the law, in order not to offend those among the Jews who had embraced the faith of Jesus Christ.
“We even see that the Savior loved this city so much that the disasters with which it was threatened drew tears from His eyes, and when He was on the cross, He said to His Father, ‘Forgive them, My Father, for they do not know what they are doing.’” Jerome continues: “So his prayer was answered, since shortly after His death, the Jews believed in Him by the thousands, and God gave this unhappy city forty-two years to repent. But in the end, when its citizens had not taken advantage of the opportunity, and still persisted in their malice, Vespasian and Titus, like the two bears of which the Scriptures speak, ‘came out of the middle of the woods, and killed and mauled those children who blasphemed and insulted the true Elisha, when he went up to the house of God.’”
The same line of reasoning that is used by Jerome, specifically mentioning Vespasian and Titus, is used in the composition In Principium Actorum, which is often attributed to Chrysostom.
And from near the end:
The reason why Luke 23:34a is supported by such a vast array of evidence is that it is original. It was removed in an early transmission-line that influenced not only the text of Codex Bezae and the Sinaitic Syriac, but also Papyrus 75, and Codex Vaticanus, and the Sahidic version.
There was a strong motivation to make this excision: a desire to avoid the impression that Jesus had prayed for the Jewish nation, and His prayer had been rejected.
40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion,
Even without a pagan around to express the objection, an ordinary reader could perceive a difficulty when comparing Jesus’ prayer to the history of the Jews in the century that followed.
When we look at how the passage is approached by patristic writers, we see that addressing this misconception is a high priority. Almost all of the patristic writers who comment on the passage regarded it as a petition regarding the Jewish people.
The author of the Diascalía Apostolorum slightly modified the prayer, framing it with the words “if it be possible.” Epiphanius and Gregory of Nyssa added a slight interpretive nuance, replacing the term “forgive” with the term “bear with.”
But to a reckless early Western copyist, the statement that Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who engineered His death appeared to contradict what they saw God do to the Jewish nation historically. And to such a copyist, the easiest way to resolve the tension was to excise the sentence.
Hort’s objection to this is not a good example of his acuity; he basically argues that such a thing can’t have happened because such a thing never happened. Similarly, Metzger’s claim, that the shorter reading here “can scarcely be explained as a deliberate excision,” is more of a decree than an argument.
its name, the Western Text was known and used in the east, in
The Glazier Codex, also known as G-67, written in Coptic in the 400s, strongly supports the Western Text. The anti-Judaic sympathies of its text’s
producers occasionally manifest themselves; this does not mean that the copyist of this particular manuscript had such views, but they were held somewhere further back in the text’s ancestry.
For instance, in Acts 10:39, it is not enough for the Western Text to say simply that “they” killed Jesus. In the Glazier Codex, the text in this verse is changed, so as to specify that the Jews rejected Him and killed Him. According to Eldon Epp, this reading is supported by the Old Latin Codex Legionensis, Old Latin MS 67.
appears that very early in the history of the text of the Gospels in
This may also be the case at other points of textual variation where we see major Alexandrian witnesses agree with the text represented in the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, and disagree with both the vast majority of early patristic testimony and the vast majority of manuscripts and versions representing a variety of locales. But this is a more general point that invites separate investigation.
Although Papyrus 75 and Codex Vaticanus are widely regarded as representatives of a generally reliable transmission-line, this does not make them immune from occasional corruptions, and we should vigilantly avoid giving them an oracular status that they do not deserve.
Inasmuch as Luke’s reference to Jesus’ saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” is inspired Scripture, we should not cause Bible-readers to perpetually question its authority by introducing vague footnotes that raise more questions than they solve, pretending that concise footnotes do justice to the evidence.
We should acknowledge that Luke 23:34a is original. And as part of the original text of the New Testament, it was not given so that we could doubt it. It was given to be profitable to us, to teach us, to rebuke us, to correct us, and to instruct us.