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Patristic Evidence for Luke 23:34

Sam Shamoun

The following is a list of citations from various church fathers which confirm that Jesus’ prayer to the Father to forgive those who were crucifying him is part of the original, inspired text. Their testimony shows that this reading was found in the Greek and Latin manuscripts of the New Testament which were in existence during that time, starting from the second century AD.


The Passage

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” Luke 23:34 Authorized King James Version (AV)

The Evidence

Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians (Longer Version)

“… And let us imitate the Lord, ‘who, when He was reviled, reviled not again;’564564 1 Pet. 11. 23. When He was crucified, He answered not; ‘when He suffered, He threatened not;’565 but prayed for His enemies, ‘Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.’566566 . If any one, the more he is injured, displays the more patience, blessed is he. If any one is defrauded, if any one is despised, for the name of the Lord, he truly is the servant of Christ. Take heed that no plant of the devil be found among you, for such a plant is bitter and salt. ‘Watch ye, and be ye sober,’567 in Christ Jesus.” (Chapter X.—Exhortations to prayer, humility, etc.; bold and italic emphasis ours)


Irenaeus, Against Heresies Book III

5… And from this fact, that He exclaimed upon the cross, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, Luke 23:34 the long-suffering, patience, compassion, and goodness of Christ are exhibited, since He both suffered, and did Himself exculpate those who had maltreated Him. For the Word of God, who said to us, Love your enemies, and pray for those that hate you, Matthew 5:44 Himself did this very thing upon the cross; loving the human race to such a degree, that He even prayed for those putting Him to death. If, however, any one, going upon the supposition that there are two [Christs], forms a judgment in regard to them, that [Christ] shall be found much the better one, and more patient, and the truly good one, who, in the midst of His own wounds and stripes, and the other [cruelties] inflicted upon Him, was beneficent, and unmindful of the wrongs perpetrated upon Him, than he who flew away, and sustained neither injury nor insult. (Chapter 18; bold and italic emphasis ours)


Archelaus, Acts of the Disputation with the Heresiarch Manes

“… There, Moses prayed that Pharaoh and his people might be spared the plagues; and here, our Lord Jesus prayed that the Pharisees might be pardoned, when He said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…” (Bold and italic emphasis ours)


St. Aurelius Augustine, Exposition on the Psalms

24. Let them be turned backward and put to shame that wish me evil. Turned backwards. Let us not take this in a bad sense. He wishes them well; and it is His voice, who said from the Cross, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34  (Psalm 40; bold and italic emphasis ours)


John Chrysostom, Homily on Matthew

“…. and great miracles did He show forth, when lifted up, turning aside the sunbeams, bursting the rocks, raising the dead, frightening by dreams the wife of him that was judging Him, at the very judgment showing forth all meekness (which was of power not less than miracles to gain them over), forewarning them of countless things in the judgment hall; on the very cross crying aloud, Father, forgive them their sin…” (Homily 79; bold and italic emphasis ours)


Hippolytus of Rome, Expository Treatise against the Jews

3. Then, in what next follows, Christ speaks, as it were, in His own person: Then I restored that, says He, which I took not away; that is, on account of the sin of Adam I endured the death which was not mine by sinning. For, O God, You know my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from You, that is, for I did not sin, as He means it; and for this reason (it is added), Let not them be ashamed who want to see my resurrection on the third day, to wit, the apostles. Because for Your sake, that is, for the sake of obeying You, I have borne reproach, namely the cross, when they covered my face with shame, that is to say, the Jews; when I became a stranger unto my brethren after the flesh, and an alien unto my mother's children, meaning (by the mother) the synagogue. For the zeal of Your house, Father, has eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached You are fallen on me, and of them that sacrificed to idols. Wherefore they that sit in the gate spoke against me, for they crucified me without the gate. And they that drink sang against me, that is, (they who drink wine) at the feast of the passover. But as for me, in my prayer unto You, O Lord, I said, Father, forgive them, namely the Gentiles, because it is the time for favour with Gentiles. Let not then the hurricane (of temptations) overwhelm me, neither let the deep (that is, Hades) swallow me up: for You will not leave my soul in hell (Hades); neither let the pit shut her mouth upon me, that is, the sepulchre. By reason of mine enemies, deliver me, that the Jews may not boast, saying, Let us consume him. (Bold and italic emphasis ours)


Jerome, Letter 50: To Domnio

“… When He was reviled He reviled not again. 1 Peter 2:23 After the buffeting, the cross, the scourge, the blasphemies, at the very last He prayed for His crucifiers, saying, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’” Luke 23:34 I, too, pardon the error of a brother…” (Bold and italic emphasis ours)


Constitutions of the Holy Apostles

“…For our Saviour Himself entreated His Father for those who had sinned, as it is written in the Gospel: Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34…” (Book II, XVI. Of Repentance, the Manner of It, and Rules About It; bold and italic emphasis ours)

“… But the executioners took the Lord of glory and nailed Him to the cross, crucifying Him indeed at the sixth hour, but having received the sentence of His condemnation at the third hour. After this they gave to Him vinegar to drink, mingled with gall. Then they divided His garments by lot. Then they crucified two malefactors with Him, on each side one, that it might be fulfilled which was written: They gave me gall to eat, and when I was thirsty they gave me vinegar to drink. And again: They divided my garment among themselves, and upon my vesture have they cast lots. And in another place: And I was reckoned with the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 Then there was darkness for three hours, from the sixth to the ninth, and again light in the evening; as it is written: It shall not be day nor night, and at the evening there shall be light. All which things, when those malefactors saw that were crucified with Him, the one of them reproached Him as though He was weak and unable to deliver Himself; but the other rebuked the ignorance of his fellow and turning to the Lord, as being enlightened by Him, and acknowledging who He was that suffered, he prayed that He would remember him in His kingdom hereafter. He then presently granted him the forgiveness of his former sins, and brought him into paradise to enjoy the mystical good things; who also cried out about the ninth hour, and said to His Father: My God! My God! Why have You forsaken me? And a little afterward, when He had cried with a loud voice, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, and had added, Into Your hands I commit my spirit, He gave up the ghost, and was buried before sunset in a new sepulchre. But when the first day of the week dawned He arose from the dead, and fulfilled those things which before His passion He foretold to us, saying: The Son of man must continue in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. And when He was risen from the dead, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, then to Cleopas in the way, and after that to us His disciples, who had fled away for fear of the Jews, but privately were very inquisitive about Him. But these things are also written in the Gospel.” (Book V, XIV. Concerning the Passion of Our Lord, and What Was Done on Each Day of His Sufferings; And Concerning Judas, and that Judas Was Not Present When the Lord Delivered the Mysteries to His Disciples; bold and italic emphasis ours)


Recognitions of Clement

“… Wherefore, in short, the Master Himself, when He was being led to the cross by those who knew Him not, prayed the Father for His murderers, and said, 'Father, forgive their sin, for they know not what they do!' Luke 23:34 The disciples also, in imitation of the Master, even when themselves were suffering, in like manner prayed for their murderers. Acts 7:60…” (VI, Chapter 5. How the Fight Begins; bold and italic emphasis ours)


The Clementine Homilies

“… For the Teacher Himself, being nailed to the cross, prayed to the Father that the sin of those who slew Him might be forgiven, saying, 'Father, forgive them their sins, for they know not what they do.' They also therefore, being imitators of the Teacher in their sufferings, pray for those who contrive them, as they have been taught. Therefore they are not separated as hating their parents, since they make constant prayers even for those who are neither parents nor relatives, but enemies, and strive to love them, as they have been commanded.” (Homily 11, Chapter XX. What If It Be Already Kindled?; bold and italic emphasis ours)


Gospel of Nicodemus I The Acts of Pilate

And Jesus went forth out of the prætorium, and the two malefactors with Him. And when they came to the place, they stripped Him of his clothes, and girded Him with a towel, and put a crown of thorns on Him round His head. And they crucified Him; and at the same time also they hung up the two malefactors along with Him. And Jesus said: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And the soldiers parted His clothes among them; and the people stood looking at Him. And the chief priests, and the rulers with them, mocked Him, saying: He saved others; let him save himself. If he be the Son of God, let him come down from the cross. And the soldiers made sport of Him, coming near and offering Him vinegar mixed with gall, and said: You are the king of the Jews; save yourself. (Part I, First Greek Form, Chapter 10; bold and italic emphasis ours)

Then Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying: Father, let not this sin stand against them; for they know not what they do. Then He says: I thirst. And immediately there ran one of the soldiers, and took a sponge, and filled it with gall and vinegar mixed, and put it on a reed, and gave Jesus to drink. And having tasted it, He would not drink it. And the Jews standing and looking on laughed at Him, and said: If you truly say that you are the Son of God, come down from the cross, and immediately, that we may believe in you. Others said mocking: Others he saved, others he cured, and he healed the sick, the paralytic, the lepers, the demoniacs, the blind, the lame, the dead; and himself he cannot cure. Matthew 27:40-42 (Part I, Second Greek Form, Chapter 10; bold and italic emphasis ours)

And when Jesus was scourged, he delivered Him to the Jews to be crucified, and two robbers with Him; one by name Dismas, and the other by name Gestas. And when they came to the place, they stripped Him of His garments, and girt Him about with a linen cloth, and put a crown of thorns upon His head. Likewise also they hanged the two robbers with Him, Dismas on the right and Gestas on the left. And Jesus said: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And the soldiers parted His garments among them. And the people stood waiting; and their chief priests and judges mocked Him, saying among themselves: He saved others, now let him save himself; if he is the Son of God, let him come down from the cross. And the soldiers mocked Him, falling prostrate before Him, and offering vinegar with gall, and saying: If you are the King of the Jews, set yourself free. (Part I, Latin Form, Chapter 10; bold and italic emphasis ours)


Of the Journeyings of Philip the Apostle (Acts of Philip)

“And John and Bartholomew and Mariamme restrained him, saying: Our Master was beaten, was scourged, was extended on the cross, was made to drink gall and vinegar, and said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34…” (Bold and italic emphasis ours)