RE: Matt. 6:12//Lk. 11:4a. "Forgive us our sins"

From: Peter Phillips (
Date: Thu Mar 12 1998 - 03:13:44 EST

You concluded:
Regard us not as the unfaithful in the wilderness generation, but as you did Caleb and keep us as your people, for unlike the wilderness generation, we have obeyed your word.
If this is the case, then the petition KAI AFES hHMIN TA OFEILHMATA (TAS hAMARTIAS) hHMWN is, as I have been arguing all the other petitions in the LP are as well, a plea for the community to be protected against falling into the apostasy that the wilderness generation engaged in.
I woner whether our preoccupation with guilt arises more from Latin based legal understandings of atonement than with Jesus. There is no sense in the original Lord's Prayer of guilt as such. Luke's petition is that we are forgiven/let off our "falling shortness" and Matthew's that we be forgiven/let off our obligations - what we owe to God/others. Neither necessarily refers to guilt - in a way guilt is the by product of sin. I wonder whether there are two further avenues to discuss:

1. Tom Wright in his recent book "The Lord and his Prayer" maintains that the prayer arises from Jesus understanding of his movement being a second exodus movement - a renewal of Judaism. Therefore the Pentateuchal readings you cite are the right context. However, within the setting of convenantal Judaism shouldn't we be thinking of falling short and obligations to refer to our side of the covenant rather than to keeping the Law - to a falling short in our relationship with God rather than a crime we have committed. In the end the Lord's Prayer is about relationship not legalism.

2. In the Parable of the Prodigal Father, the son returns home in repentance but the Father ignores his guilt - he simply welcomes him home. There is no legal repayment or penance asked for - there is no place for the guilt because the father sets up a celebration. Guilt is ignored within the joy of return. Is this a picture of the way God works - a picture which has been subverted by Augustine and others taking us into the law courts and setting up a straw God who demands guilt and punishment and the like. In the end the God of guilt is an ogre we can never please. Far short of the covenantal Father of Jesus.

Pete Phillips

New Testament/IT
Cliff College, Sheffield, England
Tel: 01246 582321 Fax: 01246 583739

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