In Luke 6-7, What is the Difference Between the Three Greek Words for "Forgive"? How should these differences impact the interpretation of the text?
- Is it simply that different terms are used simply for poetic effect, (meter, diversity, consonance, etc), and these terms can be used interchangeably?
- Or perhaps, do the word choices suggest that only the "lower form" of forgiveness is expected from man, (carrying a financial sense), and Jesus was simply stating that God would reciprocate with "divine forgiveness" in return?
- Or ...
Right or wrong, it seems the people at the table held the latter view:
Luke 7:49, NASB - Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?”
But neither view really answers the question:
What is the actual semantic differences between these words? And how would these differences impact the interpretation of the text?
Luke 6:37, NASB - “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, (ἀπολύετε), and you will be pardoned, (ἀπολυθήσεσθε).
Luke 7:40, NASB - And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.” (41) “A moneylender had two debtors, (χρεοφειλέται, (also in Luke 11, below)): one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. (42) When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave, (ἐχαρίσατο) them both. So which of them will love him more?” (43) Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave, (ἐχαρίσατο) more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” (44) Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. (45) You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. (46) You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. (47) For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, (ἀφέωνται), for she loved much; but he who is forgiven, (ἀφίεται), little, loves little.” (48) Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven, (Ἀφέωνταί).” (49) Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives, (ἀφίησιν), sins?” (50) And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
The Odd Part
The Lord's Prayer also seems to suggest a distinction in roles reciprocating "divine forgiveness, (ἄφες)" for "earthly forgiveness" to release indebtedness, (χρεοφειλέται, which carries a financial sense).
Luke 11:4, NASB - ‘And forgive, (ἄφες) us our sins, (ἁμαρτίας), For we ourselves also forgive, (ἀφίομεν) everyone who is indebted, (ὀφείλοντι), to us. And lead us not into temptation.’”
But then, later, this distinction between roles is completely erased:
Luke 17:3, NASB - 3 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, (ἁμάρτῃ), rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive, (ἄφες), him.
another notable passage: Is there any significance behind Jesus' use of the word “love” in “John 21:15-17” | I think it’s an interesting question, but not sure it’s
exactly the same context- χαρίζομαι here is about canceling monetary debt; ἀφίημι is about pardoning sin (although Paul, at least, certainly uses the former in the latter sense). (Incidentally, χρεοφειλέτης - partially bolded above - appears to be unrelated to either word.)