My long essay title question is, “Did the historical Jesus oppose the prosbul by enjoining deb-forgiveness in Mt 6.12//Lk 11.4?”
The prosbul, ascribed to R. Hillel, permitted Jewish creditors to escape the obligation of Sabbatical debt-forgiveness (Deut 15.1-2). Goodman (1982) argues that widespread indebtedness was the trigger for the Jewish revolt. In that historical context, Jesus enjoined debt-forgiveness (Mt 6.12// Lk 11.4) using a distinctively Jewish metaphor for sin (so Anderson 2009), in what commentators regard as an authentic saying. I will argue that Jesus required his followers to forgive both ethical transgressions, and the economic transgressions of unpaid debts (Ps 37.21), and that in doing so he was opposing the prosbul.
I propose to proceed according to the following method: I will first establish the contemporary significance of the prosbul by explaining the importance of the release laws within the Deutero- nomic law code, the origin of the prosbul before the time of Jesus, and the high level of indebtedness among Jesus’ contemporaries. Secondly, I will examine the origins of the metaphor of debt for sin. Finally, I will propose exegetical and redaction-critical reasons for understanding this Jesus-saying as expressing opposition to the prosbul.