Was Jesus Forsaken by God?
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Most New Testament versions report in Matthew 27: 46 that, at the moment just prior to the death of Jesus on the cross, He called out to God, asking why God had forsaken Him. Is that what Jesus really meant when He called to God? The verse in question as recorded in the King James Version is written below. Following this is how thirteen other versions record what Jesus said. There is very little difference except for the use of a verb other than "forsake."


Versions Compared

 

AB Amplified Bible
CEV Contemporary English Version
CJB Complete Jewish Bible
CNT Cassirer New Testament
EBR The Emphasized Bible
GW God's Word
KJV King James Version
NAB New American Bible
NCV New Century Version
NLV New Life Version
SV The Scholars' Version
TEV Today's English Version
TM The Message
WET Wuest Expanded Translation

 

Other Versions Used

 

LBP Lamsa Bible
LXX The Septuagint
NJPS New JPS Version
NWT New World Translation
SNB Restoration of Original Sacred Name Bible


Matthew 27: 46

 

KJV And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani! My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
AB ...? that is, My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me -- leaving Me helpless, forsaking and failing Me in My need?
CEV ... which means, "My God, my God, why have you deserted me?"
CJB "... (My God! My God! Why have you deserted me?)"
CNT ... which means, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"
EBR ... that is
      My God! my God! to what end hast thou forsaken me?
GW ... which means, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"
NAB ... which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Footnote: Eli, Eli, lema sabachtani?: Jesus cries out in the words of Psalm 22:2a, a lament that is the Old Testament passage most frequently drawn upon in this narrative. In Mark the verse is cited entirely in Aramaic, which Matthew partially retains but changes the invocation of God to the Hebrew Eli, possibly because that is more easily related to the statement of the following verse about Jesus' calling for Elijah.
NCV This means, "My God, my God, why have you rejected me?"
NLV My God, my God, why have You left me alone? Why are You so far from helping me, and from the words I cry inside myself?
SV ... (which means, "My God, my God, why did you abandon me?")
Footnote: In verse 46, the words Jesus is reported to have uttered as he died are borrowed from Mark but are derived ultimately from Psalm 22:1 ("My God, my God, why did you abandon me?"). Luke and John report different dying exclamations. The scriptures provided the words in this case, just as the same Psalm (22:18) provided the suggestion that Jesus' clothes were divided at his death (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24). Both are the fabrication of Christian storytellers.
TEV "My God, my God, why did you abandon me?"
TM ... which means "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"
WET ..., that is, O my God, O my God, why did you let me down?

Mark reports much the same as Matthew, thus suggesting that the information in these two gospels came from the same source. Luke and John do not record this final statement, but different ones. Below are what the King James Version records in these three gospels.

Mark 15: 34
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Luke 23: 46
And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

John 19: 30
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.


The Old Testament Reference

It is generally accepted that in Matthew 27: 46 Jesus was quoting Psalm 22: 1. This verse is written below as the King James Version and seven other versions record it.

Psalm 22: 1
KJV My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
CEV My God, my God, why have you deserted me?
      Why are you so far away?
      Won't you listen to my groans
      and come to my rescue?
GW My God, my God,
      why have you abandoned me?
      Why are you so far away from helping me,
      so far away from the words of my groaning?
NCV My God, my God, why have you rejected me?
      You seem far from saving me,
      far from the words of my groaning.
NLV My God, my God, why have you left me alone? Why are You so far from helping me, and from the words I cry inside myself?
NWT My God, my God, why have you left me?
      [Why are you] far from saving me,
      [From] the words of my roaring?
SNB My El, my El, why hast Thou forsaken me? Far from saving me, the words of my loud lamentation.
Footnote: A prophetic reference to Yashua, Son of the MOST HIGH Yahvah.
TEV My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
      I have cried desperately for help,
      but still it does not come.


The First Answer

I have heard it stated in Christian circles that when Jesus took on the sin of the world, God turned away because He cannot look upon sin. This means that Jesus was left by Himself to suffer. The three scriptural references quoted below show that God does not forsake the righteous. Four versions having very different backgrounds are used.

Deuteronomy 4: 31
KJV ...; (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.
LBP ... (For the LORD your God is a merciful God), he will not destroy you, neither forsake you, nor forget the covenant which he swore to your fathers.
LXX Because the Lord thy God is a God of pity; he will not forsake thee; he will not forget the covenant of thy fathers, which the Lord sware to them.
NJPS For the LORD your God is a compassionate God: He will not fail you nor will He let you perish; He will not forget the covenant which He made an oath with your fathers.

 

2 Chronicles 15: 2
KJV ...; the LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.
LBP ...: The LORD is with you forever and ever; and if you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.
LXX ... . The Lord is with you, while ye are with him; and if you seek him out, he will be found of you; but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.
NJPS ...; the LORD is with you as you are with Him. If you turn to Him, He will respond to you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.

 

Psalm 37: 25, 28
KJV I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaken not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.
LBP I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. For the LORD loves justice, and he forsakes not his righteous ones; he keeps them forever; but the seed of the wicked, he destroys.
LXX I was once young, indeed I am now old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed seeking bread. For the Lord loves judgment, and will not forsake his saints; they shall be preserved for ever; the blameless shall be avenged, but the seed of the ungodly shall be utterly destroyed.
NJPS I have been young and am now old, but I have never seen a righteous man abandoned, or his children asking bread. For the LORD loves what is right, He does not abandon His faithful ones, They are preserved forever, while the children of the wicked will be cut off.


The Second Answer

This answer was presented in a Messianic Jewish class. When Jesus made the call, He wanted the people to recognize that He was referring to all of Psalm 22, not just the first verse. The people would recognize the quote and later would read all the psalm. Then, they would know that what had just happened had been prophesied long before. A few key verses (16-19, 24) are quoted here from the King James Version.

Psalm 22: 16-19, 24
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.


The Third Answer

In the introduction to his translation of the Bible, George Lamsa criticizes the various versions in their rendering of Matthew 27: 46. He points out that what they say is in contradiction to the King James Version of John 16: 32 and several instances of the Old Testament (which he does not state). Included here are several verses from the Lamsa Bible.

Psalm 22: 1
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.

Matthew 27: 46
And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said, Eli, Eli, lemana shabakthani! My God, my God, for this was I spared!
Footnote: This was my destiny.

Mark 15: 34
And at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lemana shabakthani! which means, My God, my God, for this was I spared.
Footnote: "which means" used by Mark to explain translation from one Aramaic dialect to another.

Luke 23: 46
Then Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, O my Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit. He said this and it was finished.

John 19: 30
When Jesus drank the vinegar, he said, It is fulfilled; and he bowed his head and gave up the spirit.


Commentary

 

The first answer to the question presents untenable conclusions when the three passages are considered. Using Deuteronomy 4: 31, God would have broken His promise. Using 2 Chronicles 15: 2, Jesus would have forsaken God in order for God to forsake Jesus. Using Psalm 37: 25, 28, Jesus would not have been considered righteous, but wicked.

The second answer is in keeping with the actions of Jesus. He constantly told His listeners to read the Scriptures for they told of Him. He knew that the people did not understand what was happening. However, He knew that they had been taught the sayings of the prophets from childhood. According to this answer, He was not implying that God had forsaken Him, but He was pointing out to the people the psalmist's prophecy. Thus, He would not be in contradiction to Deuteronomy 4: 31, 2 Chronicles 15: 2, Psalm 37: 25, 28, or John 16: 32.

The third answer suggests a misinterpretation in all the other versions. Can this be the only correct one? George Lamsa notes that the discrepancies among the versions cause much contention and division among sincere people who read the Bible. Whether or not his interpretation is correct, his renderings of Psalm 22: 1 and Matthew 27: 46 are consistent with the other passages quoted from the King James Version here.

I personally feel that answers 2 and 3 have more merit than answer 1. There may be other explanations of which I am not aware. Each Christian must make his own decision as to what he believes is right. At the same time, in recognizing the problems of translating, he must not lose sight of the message of the Bible. The book itself is merely the carrier of that message. The book show the weakness of man, but its message shows the strength of God.