Matt 6:12: Is our forgiveness from God and our forgiveness of others reversed?

mike petersen's picture

I heard a person explain today that in Matt 6:12 the early church had reversed the subject verse and placed "our" request for forgiveness from God ahead of our forgiveness of others. It originally would have read ""as we forgive our debtors, forgive us our debts." He referenced some early documents, including some early Armenian scriptures. I can't find anything relating to his comments..........anyone got any ideas or references?

Blessings, Michael

ElderDad's picture


I don't see that the order of the two phrases in Matthew 6:12 makes a difference in the interpretation and application of the sentence, which occurs in what is often called the Lord's Prayer. (Actually, the Lord's prayer is toward the end of John, and this is the model prayer given to the disciples by Jesus, making it the Disciple's Prayer.) The Greek text has your second phrase first: "And forgive us the debt of ours, as also (in like manner) we have forgiven (the aorist tense should probably be translated in the past here) the debtor of us."

This comment from the notes of the New Living Translation Study Bible fairly well sums it up:

6:12 as we have forgiven (see also 6:14-15; 18:21-35): Forgiving others is a reflection of a repentant, regenerate heart, which makes our own forgiveness possible. Those who have experienced God's forgiveness will forgive. Jesus implies that those who are unwilling to forgive have not perceived God's mercy, and perhaps have never truly repented.
NLT Study Bible.

Here are the "see also" passages:

Matthew 6:14-15 (ASV)
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 18:21-35 (ASV)
21 Then came Peter and said to him, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times?
22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven.
23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, who would make a reckoning with his servants.
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, that owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But forasmuch as he had not wherewith to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
27 And the lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
28 But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him a hundred shillings: and he laid hold on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay what thou owest.
29 So his fellow-servant fell down and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee.
30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay that which was due.
31 So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were exceeding sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
32 Then his lord called him unto him, and saith to him, Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou besoughtest me:
33 shouldest not thou also have had mercy on thy fellow-servant, even as I had mercy on thee?
34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due.
35 So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.

Note the order of events especially in the parable. The king offered forgiveness after being begged for forgiveness. His servant later refused forgiveness to a fellow-servant. When the king found out about this, he punished his servant and required the debt be paid. Refusing to forgive caused the servant to fail to receive the previously offered forgiveness.

Note the difference in debts. The servant owed the king a huge debt. The fellow-servant owed the king a small debt.

Note how many times the forgiveness is to be given. In essence, Jesus told Peter to forgive as many times as there are occasions to do so. 70X7=490. It is extremely unlikely any individual will need that many forgivenesses from us.

Summation: If we are truly repentant of our sins, and understand the wealth of grace and mercy poured upon us when God forgives us our huge debt, we will be quick to forgive others their little debts.

As an additional note about the "Greek" comment by the previous poster, although Greek doesn't have the single word for possessive (our, my, her, his), it uses two-word equivalents. Greek brackets the noun with "the" before and "of ours" or "of mine" or whichever is appropriate for the possession following the noun. As is indicated by the translation into English in both phrases in Matt. 6:12, the literal translation is "the [noun] of ours." I'm not sure what that had to do with your question, but I thought I'd complete the lesson on translation.

Submitted as a poster,

Dave S.
Senior Moderator, Volunteers for Proofreading
2 Tim. 3:16--All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable
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