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The meaning and origin of the expression: Forgive them for they know not what they do

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Forgive them for they know not what they do


Jesus' words from the cross, asking forgiveness for those who put him to death. More widely, of course, the plea was for all humanity.


From the Bible, Miles Coverdale's Version, Luke 23:34, 1535:

But Iesus sayde: Father, forgeue them, for they wote not what they do.

This phrase, which is supposed to be the first of the sayings Jesus uttered on the cross, forms part of a meditation that is used by Christians during the major festivals of the Christian year:

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)
Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)
Woman, behold your son: behold your mother. (John 19:26.)
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34)
I thirst. (John 19:28)
It is finished. (John 19:30)
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. (Luke 23:46)