The Polyvalence of ἀφίημι and the Two Cognitive Frames of Forgiveness in the Synoptic Gospels

in Novum Testamentum
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Depending on whether God or a human is the forgiving agent in the Synoptic Gospels (and beyond), the verb valence of ἀφίημι, “forgive,” differs in several ways. The present article argues that the differences are reflections in linguistic conventions of the cognition that only God can remove the substance of sin, while both God and humans can remit the moral debt of sin. Construction grammar, a linguistic theory which assumes that syntax and semantics are inseparable, is used in the analysis. Theological implications are discussed.

The Polyvalence of ἀφίημι and the Two Cognitive Frames of Forgiveness in the Synoptic Gospels

in Novum Testamentum




DanoveLinguistics and Exegesis49-52 160; Danove Verbs of Transference 13-17.


E.g. G. Helbig and W. SchenkelWörterbuch zur Valenz und Distribution deutscher Verben (8th ed.; Tübingen: Niemeyer1991) 31-39 use the term “fakultative Valenz.”


DanoveLinguistics and Exegesis160.


DanoveVerbs of Transference13-17.


G. Lakoff and M. JohnsonMetaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press1980); G. Lakoff and M. Johnson Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought (New York: Basic Books 1999).


Cf. T. KazenIssues of Impurity in Early Judaism (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns2010) esp. 13-40; J. Klawans Impurity and Sin in Ancient Judaism (New York: Oxford up 2000).


W. BauerGriechisch-deutsches Wörterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der frühchristlichen Literatur (ed. K. Aland and B. Aland; 6th ed.; Berlin: de Gruyter1988) s.v. ἀφίηµι.


K.H. Jobes and M. SilvaInvitation to the Septuagint (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic2000) 108-109; cf. M. Silva Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics (rev. and expanded ed.; Grand Rapids Mich.: Zondervan 1994) 53-100.




R.H. GundryMatthew: A Commentary on His Handbook for a Mixed Church under Persecution (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans1994) 165.


J.L. Bybee“Usage-based Theory and Exemplar Representations of Constructions,” in The Oxford Handbook of Construction Grammar (Oxford: Oxford University Press2013) 49-69.


A.C. Harris and L. CampbellHistorical Syntax in Cross-Linguistic Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1995) 117-118.


T. HägerlandJesus and the Forgiveness of Sins: An Aspect of his Prophetic Mission (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2011).


  • View in gallery
    Construction: “A sender sends/lets an object on a trajectory”
  • View in gallery
    Construction: “A benefactor remits a bond/debt/obligation for a person”
  • View in gallery
    Construction: “A divine agent sends away/forgives the substance of sin”
  • View in gallery
    Construction: “A benefactor remits/forgives the debt of sin to a sinner”

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