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Clemency As Cruelty: Forgiveness And Force In The Dying Prayers Of Jesus And Stephen

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores the conundrum of the dying forgiveness prayers of Jesus and Stephen by placing them aside related bodies of literature which serve to clarify their significance. These include biblical and extrabiblical narratives of persecuted prophets and the suffering righteous, the literature of the Maccabean martyrs, the ethical exhortations to enemy love and non-retaliation in the Sermon on the Mount/Sermon on the Plain, and Roman discourse on clemency. Through consideration of various scriptural texts that have been posited as models for the dying forgiveness prayers, the chapter shows the distinctive place that these prayers hold in the construction of Christianity as not-Judaism. The chapter attempts to temper the usual triumphalism that is associated with the observation that Lukan mercy is distinct from Maccabean vengeance by drawing attention to the violence that infuses this rhetoric of mercy. It demonstrates how the Roman discourse of clemency illuminates these dying forgiveness prayers.

Keywords: clemency; dying forgiveness prayers; Jesus; scriptural texts; Stephen



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