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On the cross Jesus asked a question:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
(Matthew 27:46 ESV; also Mark 15:34)

Forsaken here is ἐγκατέλιπες, which is often understood as abandon, desert, leave behind.

Since the Father sent Jesus, the one who went forth was Jesus. That is, Jesus left the Father. However, the Holy Spirit would later descend and remain upon Jesus:

32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1)

John does not identify he who sent him, but it seems reasonable this was the Father. So the Father sent John to baptize and told him the person upon whom the Holy Spirit descended and remained would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

We are never told when the Holy Spirit departed from Jesus, but it seems reasonable this occurred during His crucifixion perhaps while He was on the cross. This would coincide with, or go a long way to explain Jesus asking, My God, My God, why have you ἐγκατέλιπες Me?

  1. Is ἐγκατέλιπες better understood to mean "forsaken" as in abandon, desert, or leave behind?
  2. Is it unreasonable to understand the Holy Spirit which had remained on Jesus as departing during the crucifixion or while Jesus was on the cross?
  3. Is My God, My God crying out to the Holy Spirit and the Father?
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  • Ideally, these tree questions should be asked separately.
    – Dottard
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 20:49
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    What if Jesus quoted psalm 22 to mainly show the people watching the crucifixion yet again that He was the Messiah? After this, He called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 21:49
  • @ארקדיוס Obviously Jesus quoted Psalm 22, but might He or the Holy Spirit have inspired David to write what He foreknew He would need to speak? Is אֵלִי אֵלִי unique in Scripture? If so, why the repetition in this one place? Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 4:47
  • 1
    Are we analyzing the text here or trying to jam theology into it? There are so many wild assumptions made in the question rendering it more suitable to SE-C where opinion/theology abounds freely.
    – Steve
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 10:20
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    Leave behind is a completely diff context than this one which is abandoning. (Thayer)2. to leave behind among, to leave surviving: ἡμῖν σπέρμα, Rom 9:29 from Isa 1:9. (Hesiod, Works, 376; Thucydides, and following.)*
    – Michael16
    Commented May 14, 2023 at 9:34

4 Answers 4

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My God My God - אֵלִי אֵלִי

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
(Matthew 27:46 ESV)

Jesus says something found only in the Hebrew text of Psalm 22, which Matthew reports first by transliteration of the Hebrew; then by providing the interpretation in Greek.1When compared to the Psalm, it is apparent Matthew is giving the report based on the Hebrew text:

ηλι ηλι λεμα σαβαχθανι... (Jesus, Matthew 27:46a)
Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani
θεέ μου θεέ μου ἱνατί με ἐγκατέλιπες (Interpretation, Matthew 27:46b)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me...

אֵלִי אֵלִי לָמָה עֲזַבְתָּנִי
My God my God why have you forsaken me... (Hebrew Psalm 22:1a)

LXX: ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός μου πρόσχες μοι ἵνατί ἐγκατέλιπές με (LXX, Psalm 22:1a)
God my God, attend to me, why did you forsake me?

First, Matthew reports Jesus as repeating ηλι which is the transliteration of אֵלִי. Then he correctly provides the interpretation as θεέ μου, the vocative, not ὁ θεός μου which is found in the LXX. Finally, Matthew makes no mention of πρόσχες μοι, attend to me which the LXX added.

In the Hebrew text of the Psalm, the transliterated ηλι contrasts with אֱֽלֹהַי of the next verse:

O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer... (Psalm 22:2)
אֱֽלֹהַי אֶקְרָא יוֹמָם וְלֹא תַעֲנֶה
O my God, I will cry by day, and you will not listen... (LXX-Psalm 21:3[22:2])
ὁ θεός μου κεκράξομαι ἡμέρας καὶ οὐκ εἰσακούσῃ...

Since the LXX renders both אֵלִ and אֱלֹהִים as ὁ θεός, the distinction between God, El and God Elohim in the Hebrew is eliminated in the Greek, as it is in English translations. Matthew's treatment of reporting both the transliterated Hebrew and the proper Greek interpretation, demonstrates Jesus means My God, אֵלִי, not אֱֽלֹהַי.

If Jesus understood Himself as God in a Trinitarian sense where each of the three are equal, then the only correct way for Him to cry out to God would be by repeating My God My God where it is clear He means אֵלִ not אֱלֹהִים. If Jesus understood Himself as one of the three in the tripleness of God, He would have to say ηλι ηλι λεμα σαβαχθανι, My God [Father] My God [Spirit] why have you forsaken me (or ...left me). This is the only way the Son could correctly cry out to God as Father and God as Spirit, and is is accurate for Jesus to say God the Father had forsaken Him and God the Spirit had left Him.

Psalm 22
Punctuation was lacking in the original text and Greek translation. Similarly, parsing with numbers is a later feature. Most English translations consider the first verse to include the subscription:

Subscription: 1 To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David...

Words of David: 1...My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

A few translations like the NJPS, consider the first verse to be only the subscription and My God My God... begins verse 2. If the words of Jesus are taken into account when separating subscription and Psalm, they could be considered as part of the subscription:

Subscription: 1 To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Words of David: 2 Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

When the phrase My God My God why have you forsaken me is included in the subscription, they become the title to this Psalm. David not only gave a melody to which the Psalm is played, he gave it a name, My God My God why have you forsaken me?

David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, named this particular composition2and then continued with the song itself:

Name of Psalm - My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
אֵלִי אֵלִי לָמָה עֲזַבְתָּנִי
Psalm Begins - Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
רָחוֹק מִֽישׁוּעָתִי דִּבְרֵי שַׁאֲגָתִֽי

What follows the title are four words:

  • רָח֥וֹק so far
  • מִֽ֝ישׁוּעָתִ֗י saving me
  • דִּבְרֵ֥י the word
  • שַׁאֲגָתִֽי my groaning

The Psalm begins רָחוֹק מִֽישׁוּעָתִי so far from saving me. The second word מִֽ֝ישׁוּעָתִ֗י can be broken down into three parts, the preposition מִֽ, the word ישועת, and the pronominal suffix, י. So, of-saving-me.

Salvation is how ישועת, yᵊšûʿâ is most frequently translated, and Yᵊšûʿâ is Jesus' name in Hebrew.

After naming the Psalm David begins to sing:

So far from my Yᵊšûʿâ from the words of my groaning. O my God, Elohim, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

Conclusion
Jesus cried out to God in the only accurate manner as one who understands God as the equality of Father, Son, Spirit. His words point to the title of Psalm 22, a song from David which begins by using Jesus' Hebrew name, and continues by giving a detailed description of His crucifixion before ending with thanksgiving and the description of His future exaltation.


1. Mark's account is similar, in particular with what Jesus says ελωι ελωι λαμμᾶ σαβαχθανι. However, Mark's translation of "ελωι ελωι" My God My God, is closer to the LXX, "ὁ θεός μου ὁ θεός μου" [the] God of Me [the] God of Me. Matthew gives a literal rendering using the vocative θεέ μου where Mark gives an explanative rendering using ὁ θεός μου.
2. Considering the phrase which begins אֵלִי אֵלִי as a title may be justified on two grounds: 1) אֵלִי אֵלִי is unique and considering it a title demonstrates the unique nature; 2) Jesus recited these only words and they should be set apart from what follows.

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Question 1: ἐγκαταλείπω

This word occurs 10 times in the NT: Matt 27:46, Mark 15:34, Acts 2:27, 31, Rom 9:292 Cor 4:9, 2 Tim 4:10, 16, Heb 10:25, 13:5. BDAG provide two meanings:

  1. to cause something to remain or to exist after a point in time, leave, eg, Rom 9:29
  2. to separate connection with someone or something, forsake, abandon, desert, eg, 2 Tim 4:10, 16, Matt 27:46, Mark 15:34, Heb 13:5, etc.

The latter meaning is confirmed by the underlying Aramaic word in Matt 27:46 and Mark 15:34, σαβαχθανί = (BDAG) "you have forsaken me".

Question 2: Holy Spirit (??)/Father Departure

During the crucifixion, "darkness came over the land from the sixth hour to the ninth hour", Matt 27:45, Mark 15:33. It was as a direct result of the darkness, that appears to have symbolized Jesus' abandonment, that He cried out about being abandoned. Based on this, it appears Jesus' abandoned lasted between the sixth and ninth hours during the crucifixion.

Jesus specifically identifies that the Father was the one who sent Him in numerous places such as John 5:36, 37, 6:44, 57, 8:18, 10:36, 12:49, 14:24, 17:25, 20:21, etc.

Jesus also claimed that the father was present with Him in places like: John 8:16, 29, 16:32, 20:21 (see also John 14:10, 11, 17:21, etc) and that He was returning to the Father, John 20:17.

Question 3: "My God"

In the NT we only ever have an explicit record of Jesus calling the Father "My God" in John 20:17, Rev 3:12. However, in Rom 15:6, Eph 1:3, 2 Cor 11:31, Heb 1:9, 1 Peter 1:3, Rev 1:6, the Father is named as Jesus' God.

On the other hand, the Father also addresses Jesus as "God" in Heb 1:8, 9 as does Thomas in John 20:28.

Therefore, the only explicit warrant for identifying Jesus' intention in Matt 27:46 and Mark 15:34 is The Father. This does not preclude that He might have also been addressing the Holy Spirit but such cannot be deduced from this text or any other.

APPENDIX - Holy Spirit

A number of NT texts imply that the Holy Spirit is God such as Acts 5:3, 4, 10:38, etc. However, this is another question.

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The etymology of the word ἐγκατέλιπες itself is very clear, it can be literally be translated as to "let down (in there)" εν-εγ- in, κατa - down, λείπω - let/leave (links to LSJ). Let me show you though that this is not as straightforward but has a clear meaning nevertheless.

This Greek word ἐγκατέλιπες is given explicitly as a translation of the "σαβαχθανι" in the same sentence, so why the original Hebrew/Aramaic was also preserved and what is it significance?

περὶ δὲ τὴν ἐνάτην ὥραν ἀνεβόησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς φωνῇ μεγάλῃ λέγων· ἡλεὶ ἡλεὶ λεμὰ σαβαχθανεί; τοῦτ’ ἔστιν· θεέ μου θεέ μου, ἱνατί με ἐγκατέλιπες; Greek NT: Tischendorf 8th Edition Mat 27:46

I think it is crucial for understanding and the context. Namely this word/root appears in the Greek LXX exactly one more time as σαβὲκ without translation in the story of the Israel's father Isaak:

καὶ ἀναβλέψας Ἀβραὰμ τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς αὐτοῦ ἴδεν, καὶ ἰδοὺ κριὸς εἷς κατεχόμενος ἐν φυτῷ σαβὲκ τῶν κεράτων. καὶ ἐπορεύθη Ἀβραὰμ καὶ ἔλαβεν τὸν κριόν, καὶ ἀνήνεγκεν αὐτὸν εἰς ὁλοκάρπωσιν ἀντὶ Ἰσαὰκ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ. LXX-Swete-1930 Gen 22:13

Abraham was supposed to kill Isaak, but instead had found a ram entangled in the bush of savek σαβὲκ by his horns. So the ram was sacrificed and Isaak lived giving birth to Israel later. This is an obvious parallel to what happened to the lamb (son of a ram) ἀμνός/ἀρνίον Jesus, who was (again) sacrificed so Israel lived.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 NIV

51He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. John 11:51-52 NIV

Jesus was legally a descendant of Isaak ("adopted" by Joseph) and king of Jews as a first born descendant of David (on Mary's side). So killing/sacrificing him has brought a closure to the story of promised inheritance of land, nation and Kingdom opened with Isaak/David as the bearers. This is to note here to explain the logic of this connection of Mark 15:34 to Gen 22:13.

So even though there is a rather straight translation of the Greek ἐγκατέλιπες to "let down" given the context it is better understood as to be entangled in the material nature as a ram in the thorny bush σαβὲκ and left for sacrifice.

Another confirmation of this symbolism is the "ἀκάνθινος στέφανος" a woven crown of thorns that Jesus was made to wear:

and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. Mat 27:29 NIV

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The word ἐγκατέλιπε is related to the concept of preservation, the ability to leave something in a place without abandoning it... Jesus was asking why he was preserved during the dark period of three hours by God... Why was I preserved? That is the understanding.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. Matthew 27:50

Verse 50 takes on a whole new plot if we follow this logic. Jesus cries out once again because he was preserved from darkness and surrenders or yields his spirit.

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