Forsaken at the Cross? Print

by Aaron Gauthier May 26th 2009

 

“My God, my God, for this I was spared!”

(Mat 27:46 KJV+) And G1161 about G4012 the G3588 ninth G1766 hour G5610

Jesus G2424 cried G310 with a loud G3173 voice, G5456 saying, G3004 Eli, G2241

Eli, G2241 lama G2982 sabachthani? G4518 that is to say, G5123 My G3450

God, G2316 my G3450 God, G2316 why G2444 hast thou forsaken G1459

me? G3165

(Mark 15:34 KJV+) And G2532 at the G3588 ninth G1766 hour G5610

Jesus G2424 cried G994 with a loud G3173 voice,G5456 saying,G3004

Eloi,G1682 Eloi, G1682 lama G2982 sabachthani? G4518 which is,G3603 being

interpreted,G3177 My G3450 God,G2316 my G3450 God,G2316 why G5101 hast

thou forsaken G1459 me? G3165

These verses are used by many to say that God actually forsook Jesus

while Jesus was on the cross, because God was disgusted with the sin

that Jesus took upon Himself. Such a notion is contrary to numerous

other scriptures, showing that Jesus went to the cross for the joy set

before Him, and that in doing so, He was doing the Father’s will and

pleasing the Father. God the Father had no reason to forsake Jesus while

He was on the cross, and He did NOT forsake Jesus.

The purpose of this paper is not to examine all those other scriptures, but

to take a close look at the language used to support the “forsaken” idea.

We’ll look at the Hebrew and Greek root word meanings, and examine

whether the King James translation into English is an accurate reflection

of what Jesus said on the cross.

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First, let’s examine the phrase “lama sabachthani”

“lama”—Aramaic word transliterated into Greek as “why,” but the

Hebrew root meaning includes exclamations, and could encompass “for

this” (“for this I was spared/preserved”). In other words, instead of

“Why?” it can mean “This is why!”

G2982 λαμά, λαμμᾶlama lamma lam-ah', lam-mah'

Of Hebrew origin ([H4100] with preposition prefixed); lama (that is, why): -

lama.

H4100 מה מ־ מ־ מה מה

mâh mah mâ ma meh maw, mah, maw,mah, meh

A primitive particle; properly interrogitive what? (including how?,why? and

when?); but also exclamations likewhat! (including how!), or indefinitelywhat

(including whatever, and even relatively that which); often used with prefixes in

various adverbial or conjugational sneses: - how (long, oft, [-soever]), [no-] thing,

what (end, good, purpose, thing), whereby (-fore, -in, -to, -with), (for) why.

“sabachthani”—Aramaic word transliterated into Greek, root meaning

includes “allow to remain”

G4518 σαβαχθανί sabachthani sab-akh-than-ee'

Of Chaldee origin [H7662] with pronominal suffix; thou hast left me;

sabachthani (that is, shebakthani), a cry of distress: - sabachthani.

H7662 שׁבק

shebaq sheb-ak'

(Chaldee); corresponding to the root of H7733; to quit, that is, allow to remain:

- leave, let alone.

So we see that “lama sabachthani” can mean “This is why I was allowed

to remain!”

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Now, let’s look at the Greek transliteration, rendered in the King James

“why have you forsaken me?”

“forsaken”—Greek word whose meaning can be good or bad, either to

abandon or forsake (in a bad sense), or to leave behind among or to

leave surviving (in a good sense)

Strong’s G1459 ἐγκαταλείπω egkataleipō eng-kat-al-i'-po

From G1722 and G2641; to leave behind in some place, that is, (in a good

sense) let remain over, or (in a bad one) to desert: - forsake, leave.

Thayer Definition:

1) abandon, desert

1a) leave in straits, leave helpless

1b) totally abandoned, utterly forsaken

2) to leave behind among, to leave surviving

“why”—Greek conjunction, generally means “why,” but meaning also

includes “wherefore” (for which reason). Can mean “for this reason.”

G2444 ἱνατίhinati hin-at-ee'

From G2443 and G5101; for what reason?, that is, why?: - wherefore, why.

Thayer Definition:

1) for what purpose, wherefore, why

Part of Speech: conjunction

G2443 ἵνα hina

Thayer Definition:

1) that, in order that, so that

Part of Speech: conjunction

G5101 τίςtis

Probably emphatic of G5100; an interrogitive pronoun, who,which or what (in

direct or indirect questions): - every man, how (much), + no (-ne, thing), what

(manner, thing), where ([-by, -fore, -of, -unto, -with, -withal]), whether, which,

who (-m, -se), why.

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So again we see, that the Greek transliteration of the Aramaic

could be translated into English as follows: “My God, my God, for

this reason I was allowed to survive!”

This reading is also supported by the Peshitta, which is the Syriac

translation of Aramaic manuscripts of the Bible. The Peshitta is

the standard Bible used by Christians in the Middle East. The

Lamsa translation (Dr. George Lamsa) of the Peshitta into English

renders these two verses as follows:

(Mat 27:46 LBP) And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a

loud voice and said, Eli, Eli, lmana shabachthani! which means,

My God, my God, for this I was kept! [or, spared]

(Mar 15:34 LBP) And at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a

loud voice, and said, Eli, Eli, Lmana, shabachthani! which means,

My God, my God, for this I was kept! [or, spared]

Many people believe that Jesus’ statement was a quotation of David,

from Psalm 22. This is not necessarily the case. The Old Testament

was written in Hebrew, and if Jesus wanted to quote it directly, He

would have spoken it in Hebrew instead of Aramaic. It seems equally

likely that the translators (King James translators and others) adjusted

their interpretation of Jesus’ Aramaic saying in light of their assumption

that He was quoting the Hebrew from Psalm 22:1. In any event, let’s

examine Psalm 22:1

(Psa 22:1 KJV+) To the chief Musician H5329 upon H5921

AijelethH365 Shahar, H7837 A Psalm H4210 of David. H1732 My

God,H410 my God,H410 why H4100 hast thou forsaken H5800 me? why

art thou so far H7350 from helping H4480 H3444 me, and fromthe

words H1697 of my roaring?H7581

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“why” is the same Hebrew word as the root for the Aramaic “lama,”

(H4100), which can mean either “why” or “this is why.” In the context

of this psalm, it appears to be a question.

“forsaken”—the Hebrew word used here can mean to leave or forsake

(in a bad sense), or to let loose or set free (in a good sense).

H5800 עזב

‛âzab aw-zab'

A primitive root; to loosen, that is, relinquish, permit, etc.: - commit self, fail,

forsake, fortify, help, leave (destitute, off), refuse, X surely.

BDB Definition:

1) to leave, loose, forsake

1a) (Qal) to leave

1a1) to depart from, leave behind, leave, let alone

1a2) to leave, abandon, forsake, neglect, apostatise

1a3) to let loose, set free, let go, free

1b) (Niphal)

1b1) to be left to

1b2) to be forsaken

1c) (Pual) to be deserted

2) to restore, repair

2a) (Qal) to repair

So, David’s statement could mean “why have you forsaken me,” or it

could mean, as the Peshitta renders it, “why have you allowed me to

live?”

(Psa 22:1 LBP) My God, my God, why hast thou let me to live?

and yet thou hast delayed my salvation from me, because of the

words of my folly.

The overall tone of David’s statement in Psalm 22:1 is one of despair, no

doubt. Therefore, it seems unlikely that Jesus was directly quoting this

psalm when He said on the cross, “My God, my God, for this I was

spared!” But even if Jesus was making such an allusion, it seems that

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He was simply drawing a parallel—David states a question: “why have

you allowed me to live?” Whereas Jesus makes a statement: “For this

you have allowed me to live.” The “for this” was the sacrificial death on

the cross.

I believe that this examination of text of Jesus’ statement on the cross

reveals that either of two possible translations could be correct: Either

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” or “My God, my God,

for this I was spared!” Therefore, the context must determine what

translation choice is faithful and accurate. Both the immediate context

of the passage and the context of God’s Word as a whole are important

considerations.

We should consider Jesus’ other statements that He made while on the

cross. They include “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”

(Lk 23:43); “It is finished” (Jn 19:30); “Father, into thy hands I

commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46).

So consider:

"my God, why have you forsaken me?" - "It is finished!"

vs.

"for this I was spared!" - "It is finished!".

"my God, why have you forsaken me?" - "into thy hands I commend my spirit!"

vs.

"for this I was spared!" - "into thy hands I commend my spirit!"

Thus, from the context of Jesus’ other statements on the cross, it is

unlikely that He would cry out in despair that the Father had forsaken

Him. When Jesus knew that His death on the cross was approaching, He

told His disciples that the Father would remain with Him even when

everyone else was scattered: “Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now

come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave

me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”

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Jn 16:32. Another time, Jesus said “And he that sent me is with me: the

Father hath not left me alone, for I do always those things that please

him.” Jn 8:29. The idea that the Father would forsake Jesus on the cross

is impossible to reconcile with these Scriptures.

Moreover, Jesus was preserved or spared by the Father for the cross.

There were several attempts on Jesus’ life before He went to the cross

(see, e.g., Luke 4:28-30), but His death had to be open and public in

order to be a substitutional sacrifice for the sin of mankind.

When Jesus was in the garden on the night He was betrayed, His sweat

was as great drops of blood, and He was suffering agony “unto death.”

He prayed for the Father to remove this cup (i.e., premature, secret death

in the garden), and God answered Jesus’ prayer and delivered Him.

(See, Matt 26:38-44; Mk 14:34-39; Lk 22:41-45; Heb 5:7). [Despite

what some wrongly teach, Jesus wasn’t asking to be spared from the

cross:

In John 12:27, Jesus said, “Now is my soul troubled; and what

shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I

unto this hour.” Jesus knew His mission, and did NOT ask to be spared

from it]. So God spared Jesus from a secret death in the garden, to

preserve and spare Him for a public sacrificial death on the cross.

CONCLUSION: Jesus went to the cross for the joy set before Him (Heb

12:2), and cried out while on the cross, “My God, my God for this—for

an open and public sacrificial death as a voluntary substitute for sinful

mankind—I was spared!”

Please fell free to email me with questions at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Aaron Gauthier