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The Lord's Prayer

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(1a) 1Q: Luke 11:(1)2-4 =(!) Matt 6:9-13;
(1b) Gos. Naz. 5;
(1c) Pol. Phil. 7:2a;
(2) Did. 8:2b.



(1a) Sayings Gospel Q: Luke 11:2-4 = Matt 6:9-13

Luke 11:2-4

He said to them, "When you pray, say:

hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial."

= Matt 6:9-13

Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.


(1b) Gos. Naz.

Ch. 3a reported by Jerome, Commentary on Matthew 1
(commenting on Matt 6:11)

In the so-called Gospel of the Hebrews <in the Lord's prayer>, instead of "the bread we need for the day" I found "mahar," which means "for tomorrow," so that the sense is "Provide us today with the bread we need for tomorrow"---that is, for the future.


(1c) Pol. Phil.

And let the presbyters be compassionate and merciful to all, bringing back those that wander, visiting all the sick, and not neglecting the widow, the orphan, or the poor, but always "providing for that which is becoming in the sight of God and man ; " abstaining from all wrath, respect of persons, and unjust judgment; keeping far off from . all covetousness, not quickly crediting [an evil re port] against any one, not severe in judgment, as knowing that we are all under a debt of sin. If then we entreat the Lord to forgive us, we ought also ourselves to forgive; for we are before the eyes of our Lord and God, and "we must all appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, and must every one give an account of himself." Let us then serve Him in fear, and with all reverence, even as He Himself has commanded us, and as the apostles who preached the Gospel unto us, and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Lord [have alike taught us]. Let us be zealous in the pursuit of that which is good, keeping ourselves from causes of offence, from false brethren, and from those who in hypocrisy bear the name of the Lord, and draw away vain men into error.

" For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist;" and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from the beginning; "watching unto prayer," and persevering in fasting; beseeching in our supplications the all-seeing God "not to lead us into temptation," as the Lord has said: "The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak."


(2) Did. 8:2b

And do not pray as the wicked [do];
pray instead this way, as the Lord directed in his gospel:

Our Father who are in heaven.
May your name be acclaimed as holy,
May your kingdom come.
May your will come to pass on earth as it does in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread,
And cancel for us our debt,
As we cancel [debts] for those who are indebted to us.
And do not bring us into temptation,
But preserve us from evil [or, from the evil one].
For power and glory are yours forever.

Pray this way thrice daily.

[Niederwimmer, Hermeneia, 134]


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Versions and Paraphrases

Aramaic Version

Galilean transliteration of the Lord's Prayer [with Aramaic sound file]

Avvon d-bish-maiya, nith-qaddash shim-mukh.
Tih-teh mal-chootukh. Nih-weh çiw-yanukh:
ei-chana d'bish-maiya: ap b'ar-ah.
Haw lan lakh-ma d'soonqa-nan yoo-mana.
O'shwooq lan kho-bein:
ei-chana d'ap kh'nan shwiq-qan l'khaya-ween.
Oo'la te-ellan l'niss-yoona:
il-la paç-çan min beesha.
Mid-til de-di-lukh hai mal-choota
oo khai-la oo tush-bookh-ta
l'alam al-mein. Aa-meen


Traditional English Version

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our tresspasses
as we forgive those who tresspass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory
for ever and ever. Amen.

Contemporary Ecumenical Text

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

[English Language Liturgical Consultation, 1988]


The International Q Project reconstructs the original Q version as follows:

Father -- may your name be kept holy!
-- let your reign come:

Our day's bread give us today;

and cancel our debts for us,
as we too have cancelled for those in debt to us;

and do not put us to the test!


The Jesus Seminar version of the Lord's Prayer in the Sayings Gospel Q, as presented by Hal Tausing in Jesus before God (Polebridge Press, 1999: 52), reads as follows:

Your name be revered.
Let your basileia/kigdom/reign come.

Give us the bread we need for today
And forgive us our debts
to the extent that we forgive those who are in debt to us.
And please don't subject us to test after test.

In The Five Gospels the Seminar's translation of Luke 11:2b-4 reads as follows:

Your name be revered.
Impose your imperial rule.
Provide us with the bread we need day by day

And forgive us our sins
since we too forgive everyone in debt to us.
And please don't subject us to test after test.


Abba our God

Abba our God,
whom the heavens disclose,
may your name be held holy,
your authority come.
May your longing be fulfilled
as in heaven, so on earth.
Give us today
the bread of tomorrow,
and cancel our debts
as we have already
forgiven our debtors.
Do not draw us in
to sinful enticement
but set us free
from the grip of evil;
for authority and power and glory
are yours alone, for ever.

"Christians are formed by the way in which they pray."
(Preface, The Alternative Service Book, 1980).


New Zealand Anglican Prayer Book [p. 181]

Eternal Spirit
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all, Loving God, in whom is heaven.
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory and power that is love,
now and forever. Amen.


Sherri Weinberg
See also the Heartbeat of Life Great Thanksgiving Prayer.

God - heart of the world:
revealed through every aspect of creation:
understood through our awareness.

May we honour the holiness of creation and act accordingly
so that your love is reflected in the way we live.

May we always be thankful for the food we eat
and the friends we have.

May we forgive those who transgress against us
and be forgiven for our own.

In the freedom of love may we live as your heartbeat
and not be compromised by hesitation.

Through our freedom, may your justice
be seen and heard and experienced forever and ever. Amen.


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John Dominic Crossan

Item: 120
Stratum: I (30-60 CE)
Attestation: Double
Historicity: -


SATOR-ROTAS word square

The following acrostic is attested from 1C Roman sites in Italy and Britain, and has attracted some discussion because of its possible relevance to early use of the Lord’s Prayer:


The acrostic is usually translated as:

Arepo the sower holds the wheels at work.

However, it has also been interpreted as a secret Christian sign because it can be rearranged into the form of a cross, with the opening words of the Lord's Prayer in Latin, Pater Noster, going both vertically and horizontally; intersecting at the letter N and with the redundant pairs of AO serving as anagrams for Jesus (Alpha and Omega):


A - P A T E R N O S T E R -- O


See a summary for comments on this acrostic from the CLASSICS-L list.

Its occurence at Herculaneum (destroyed in the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 CE) would be an early attestation of the Lord's Prayer (as well as Christian activity in Italy) if the Christian interpretation of the acrostic was accepted. However, it also been interpreted as a pagan acrostic (possibly Mithraic) that was only later adopted by Latin-speaking Christians who saw within it the Paternoster pattern.


Joachim Jeremias

Religion Online: A translation of Das Vater-Unser im Lichte der Neueren Forschung, No. 50 in the "Calwer Hefte" series, published in Stuttgart in 1962. This translation was published in 1964 by Fortress Press.

Introduction by John Reumann
Precisely because this prayer seems twenty centuries thus removed from our thought world, we need a guide to lead us through its ancient landmarks, so that we may pray as Jesus first taught and encouraged his disciples to pray.

Versions of the Lord’s Prayer
The Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and in Luke 11:2-4 both in The King James Version and in The Revised Standard Version.

Chapter 1: The Lord’s Prayer in the Ancient Church
The Lord’s prayer was used in conjunction with baptism in the early church, even into the latter part of the first century. Its use was limited to full church members and kept secret from nonmembers.

Chapter 2: The Earliest Text of the Lord’s Prayer
Viewed as a whole, our results may be summarized thus: the Lucan version has preserved the oldest form with respect to length, but the Matthean text is more original with regard to wording.

Chapter 3: The Meaning of The Lord’s Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer is the clearest and, in spite of its terseness, the most comprehensive summary of Jesus’ proclamation which we possess.


Jesus Seminar

The commentary in The Five Gospels reports on the judgments of the Seminar concerning each of the petitions:

Abba/Father - Luke preserves the earlier form while Matt expands it

Your name be revered - both Matt and Luke preserve the Q form

Impose your imperial rule - Matt expanded the Q petition into a couplet

Today's bread - Matt is closer to the Q form as the horizon is the same day

Sins/Debts - Luke has substituted "sins" for the original "debts"

Test after test - Matt again converts the petition into a couplet


The final judgment of the Seminar on this prayer is as follows:

It is unlikely, in the judgment of the Fellows, that Jesus taught his disciples the prayer as a whole, even in its reconstructed form. They think it is more likely, given the conditions under which oral discourse is transmitted, that he employed the four petitions from time to time but as individual prayers. He, of course, frequently used "Abba" to address God. Someone in the Q community probably assembled the prayer for the first time; Matthew and Luke then copied the Q version, while editing and revising it at the same time. [p. 327]


Samuel T. Lachs

Lachs [Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament, 117-24] lists three (not two) NT texts as sources for the Lord’s Prayer:

Matt 6:9-15
Luke 11:2-4
Mark 11:25

The passage from Mark comprises just the saying on forgiveness, but notice the several points at which this brief saying provides a Marcan parallel to the Q Prayer (as Taussig describes the more developed Paternoster):

And whenever you stand praying,
forgive, if you have anything against anyone,
so that you Father also who is in heaven
may forgive you your trespasses.

On the question of influences from Jewish liturgical prayers (such as the Shemoneh Esreh, the Eighteen Benedictions, or the Kaddish) Lachs observes as follows:

Neither of these theories is satisfactory and both are highly tenuous. It is appealing at first blush to see the Lord’s Prayer as a miniature Shemoneh Esreh. Both were to be recited three times by the faithful. Furthermore, the structure of the Shemoneh Esreh is tripartite, consisting of three benedictions of praise, twelve (thirteen) benedictions of petition, and three concluding benedictions of thanksgiving. One can easily discern the same tripartite division in the Matthean version of the Paternoster. Most New Testament scholars recognize that the Paternoster in its original form goes back to earlier times and is not the invention of the evangelists. The Shemoneh Esreh, however, emerges as the prayer par excellence only at the end of the first Christian century during the patriarchate of Rabban Gamaliel II. Furthermore, the Lord’s Prayer is so scant that to see in it a mini-Shemoneh Esreh is imaginative. Finally, the observation of a tripartite division fails, since the best MSS of the NT the last line, i.e., a liturgical endings of the Lord’s Prayer, is lacking. The Kaddish, too, fails as a model for the Lord’s Prayer, for the similarity of a few phrases is hardly enough to warrant this hypothesis.

Instead, Lachs proposes to find the explanation of the Paternoster in informal Jewish prayers:

The key to the understanding of the Lord’s Prayer is its simplicity and its brevity, as evidenced by the warning against verbosity and repetitions in prayer which precedes it in Matt. 6.7-8 (not also the substance of v. 8 in 5.32). It belongs to a genre of prayer called in Hebrew tephillah qezarah, “short prayer,” which, in tannaitic sources, designated a prayer to be recited in a place of danger. Unlike the Shemoneh Esreh, which is a set liturgical form, the “short prayer” has individuality and variety. The following are several examples of the genre.

Rabbi Joshua says: “He who is traveling in a place of danger should pray a short prayer, saying, ‘Save, O Lord, the remnant of Your people at every crossroad [others: whenever they transgress], let their needs be before You. Blessed are You who hears prayer.’” [M.Ber. 4.4]

If one is traveling in a place of danger or of robbers, he should pray a short prayer. What is a short prayer? Rabbi Eleazar says: “Perform Your will in heaven and bestow satisfaction on earth upon those who revere You, and do that which is good in Your sight. Blessed are You who hears prayer.” [T. Ber. 3.2]

Rabbi Eleazar bar Zadok says: “hear the sound of the cry of Your people Israel and speedily grant their petition. Blessed are You who hears prayer.” [T.Ber. 3.2]

These ancient Jewish “arrow prayers” seem rather akin to the kind of things Hal Taussig suggests in his book. If the Paternoster is a compilation of classic short prayers attributed to Jesus, we may indeed be getting close to his own practice (whether as the author of the prayer fragments or simply an appreciative user of traditional phrases) as a Spirit person or prophetic sage whose way of praying was not constrained to formal opportunities and may even have been intentionally in opposition to the organized religion of his own society. (Of course, that latter description may be too much like seeing our own reflections in the bottom of the well ...)


Hal Taussig

In Jesus Before God. The Prayer Life of the Historical Jesus. (Polebridge, 1999), Taussig develops his thesis that the Lord's Prayer is a collection of several prayer lines that were significant to the early Q community. His discussion of "Forgive us our debts" occurs on pages 89-92 and represents a good example of his argument. He concludes:

Situating this sentence prayer within its social context makes clear that it arose from certain specific situations in which Jesus found himself. It did not, within the lifetime of Jesus, belong to the Lord's Prayer, which was the product of the generations after Jesus. ... after Jesus was gone his followers in Galilee formulated a general prayer in his name, combining fragments from Jesus' own prayers with other material to create an institutionalized prayer in Jesus' name. As the various versions of this Lord's Prayer from the second half of the first century were passed on, the meanings of the individual prayer sentences were generalized and taken out of context. The sentence prayer about forgiveness made a gradual transition from forgiving one another's debts to forgiveness of sins.


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The Petitions


On Abba/Father, Lachs (Rabbinic Commentary) remarks:

God as father appears in the OT and in the apocryphal sources; and in rabbinic literature, often in dicta and prayers:

Isa 63:16; Mal. 1:6; 2:10
Tobit 13:4; 3Macc 5:7; Jub 1:25; Sir 23:1,4; WisSol 2:16
Mek. to Exod 15:2; M.Sot. 9:5; M.Yom. 8:9; M.Avot 5:22

In Jesus Before God p 59f, Taussig lists some of the basic data for the Abba (single word) prayer fragment as a distinctive element of Jesus' own practice:

Interestingly enough, the word "Abba" occurs strikingly early and in a wide range of first-century "Christian" texts, all of which were written in Greek. It appears twice in Paul (Rom 8:15 and Gal 4:6) and once in Mark (14:36). Both Mark and Paul took pains in their text to translate "Abba" as "father." Finding the Aramaic word that Jesus would have spoken in preserved Greek texts most likely indicates that followers of Jesus from a wide variety of settings remembered that he spoke to God in that way. ... "Father" was not a very common way of addressing God in first century Aramaic-speaking Judaism. ... The early Christian use of "Abba" in Jesus' maternal Aramaic was so infrequently recorded that it most probably reflects Jesus' actual usage. ... "Abba," then, is the first prayer fragment that all major scholars agree can be traced with reasonable certainty back to this historical Jesus. I find no treason to doubt this conclusion.

Later (in ch 5), Taussig makes some of the following points:

Although it was not completely unheard of, it was fairly rare. Saying "Father" to God would likely have produced something between a slight wrinkle of the brow and a bright twinkle in the eye ...

Jesus' use of the colloquial Aramaic "Abba" for God was at least mildly provocative.

... it is very unlikely that Jesus said any version of this particular prayer. Rather, The Lord's Prayer was most likely composed a generation after Jesus

Furthermore, it is highly doubtful that Jesus ever taught anyone how to pray, much less to memorize and repeat The Lord's Prayer! When the core sayings of the historical Jesus are examined as a whole ... the Jesus who emerges does not seem interested in teaching others to pray. Of the ninety sayings that the Jesus Seminar attributed to the historical Jesus, no others--beside five of the eight phrases in what eventually came to be the Lord's Prayer--even mention prayer. There is no teaching of Jesus in these ninety sayings that recommends prayer or even alludes to it.

So Jesus' prayer of "Abba/Father" is most likely just a fragment from prayers that he prayed. While we cannot reconstruct what the rest of his "Abba" prayers said, the fact that this Aramaic word resurfaces in so many New Testament passages about prayer is powerful evidence for locating this key word in Jesus' personal prayer life.

What then could "Abba/Father" have meant in the prayers of the historical Jesus? In the context of the other ninety authentic sayings of Jesus, "Abba" points toward a spirituality that calls traditional dependencies into question and casts oneself on the care of God.

God ... was the source of strength and nurture in Jesus' core teachings, but this was not a God who was enmeshed in and allied to systems of wealth, family, and religion. This was an "Abba/Father," a God invoked over against the conventions of economy, nation, temple, and clan.

Since Jesus did not mandate that the title of "Abba/Father" be used all the time, it most likely emerged as a clever dimension to his challenge of family privileges and convention.

In first century Galilee family was the primary form of "social security." That is, it was bonds of kinship that provided the safety net for the needy and the aged or [those who] suffered health of business disasters. But for Jesus, reliance on traditional family ties was an impediment to a lifestyle that trusts in the God beyond family conventions. Seeing God as "Abba/Father" was a clever combination of challenge to family tradition and an evocation of a new trust in the divine fabric of life itself. ... Those listening to his "Abba" prayers were no doubt aware that he was replacing tangible family security with a much more intangible "reign of God."

Taussig then poses the question, Did Jesus grow up without a father? He suggest an affirmative answer to this question ("many biblical scholars now think ...") and entertains the possibility that this may have influenced the way that "Abba" functioned as an intimate affiliation with God by Jesus.

If this were the case, Jesus -- both as a child and as an adult -- would likely have suffered the taunts of being an "illegitimate" child, and come to an understanding of himself that transcended the social slur of "bastard." For a person, whose lack of a father had been thrown in his face for so long, praying to God as "Abba/Father" might signal a new self-understanding beyond the oppressive conventions of society. It may also have been a way of cleverly tossing the "bastard" insult back in the faces of those with traditional family values.

He then offers two imaginative "sketches" that portray Jesus using the Abba prayer in circumstances from 1C Palestine, after which he continues:

Placing the prayer fragment "Abba/Father" -- now detached from any form of the Lord's Prayer -- in the context of Jesus' life as a Galilean sage not only shows how much it belonged to Jesus, but also tells a great deal about the character of Jesus' prayer life. We begin to understand not just a particular word Jesus used in prayer, but a whole strategy of prayer tat challenged the one praying and those listening to re-think and re-situate themselves. This kind of prayer fit into Jesus' larger calling as sage. It integrates his spirituality with his quest for wisdom, his social status, and his particular personal background.

On the basis of this reading of Jesus' "Abba" prayer, Taussig offers a critique of two popular ways of interpreting this practice of Jesus:

... We need to challenge the conclusion of much of traditional Christianity that Jesus' use of Abba validates an exclusively male picture [of God]. Although one cannot debate that the great majority of references to God in Jesus' Galilee were male-gendered, it is much less clear that Jesus' use of the term Abba/Father was meant to endorse the maleness of God or exclusive male reference to God. ... "Abba" seems to have been a much more unconventional than an endorsement of God as male would have been ... it is difficult to see "Abba" as upholding the traditional male grip on power

Influenced mostly by ... Joachim Jeremias, many commentators interpret "Abba" as an intimate expression of little children for their "Daddy." Such a line of interpretation has promoted the notion that Jesus' image of God was that of an approachable, loving "Daddy." not a distant, angry authority. Occasionally such a "loving Daddy" is unfairly contrasted with allegedly less kindly images of God in the Hebrew scriptures. This reading of a "loving Daddy" into Jesus' usage of "Abba" cannot be justified by textual evidence within the New Testament. The three occurrences of the word all picture adults in very adult situations crying out to God. In both Rom 8:15 and Gal 4:6 gentile followers of Jesus Christ cry out to "Abba" to claim their "sonship" before God. This is much more reminiscent of adult sons claiming their inheritance than little children being embraced by a loving DaddyHal's final comment on the Abba fragment is as follows:Jesus' "Abba" prayers then had to do with neither his endorsement of a male image of God nor his picture of God as a loving Daddy. Rather, ... This Abba prayer is our first example of the clever, image-breaking, and intensely social sage at work.


Your Name be revered

This line may be understood as a typical Jewish way of expressing devotion, but that has implications both for our understanding of Jesus (his spirituality was authentically Jewish even if radical in some sense) and for our own response to the sacred dimension of life (how do we name and revere the Holy?).

The third of the Eighteen Benedictions reads as follows:

Thou art holy and Thy name is holy,
and the holy ones praise Thee every day. Selah.
Blessed be Thou, O Lord, the holy God.The opening line of the Kaddish reads:
Thy great name be magnified and hallowed.

This all speaks to a common background in Jewish piety for the first petition of the Lord's Prayer.

As Hal Taussig observes at the start of his chapter on this line in Jesus Before God:

It would have been nearly impossible for Jesus not to have that God's name be revered and honored as holy. This sentence belongs to a number of traditional prayers that almost every Jew in Galilee said regularly. (p. 75)

Later on the same page, he continues:

There are no other references to the holiness of God's name in the core teachings of Jesus, so we have no indication that this was a key idea in Jesus' teachings. It is more likely that this was a part of Jesus' consciousness simply because he belonged to Galilean Jewish culture and prayed together with other Jews.

Taussig then uses the idea of a joke, to tease out the possible way that this traditional prayer functioned in the practice of Jesus:

This phrase, "Your name be revered," eventually was put together with Jesus' "Abba/Father" prayer in a clever and provocative manner, It is unclear whether Jesus himself prayed "Abba/Father, your name be revered" or whether the generation after Jesus put these two prayers of his together, Whoever did that was in a humorous mood, and produced one of the better jokes of early Christianity. It is, unfortunately, a joke that modern readers do not get.

The joke goes something like this. When first-century Jews generally gave reverence to God's name, they were referring to a particular, special and sacred word that was God's name. That name was then and still is thought so special and live with the divine that it was and is rarely said by Jews. ...

When Jesus or his followers first prayed "Abba/Father, your name be revered," they were giving God another name. This other name was a common Aramaic word, one thrown around in every household. That is, it was not in the sacred language of Hebrew, and it was not treated as any kind of special name. Associating "Abba" with the very special holy name of God (everyone knew "Yahweh," not "Abba" was the holy name of God) was almost a contradiction in terms. Here is the point where a first-century person would get the joke and laugh, or get the point and feel offended.

This ironic association of the common word for father with the revered name for God was certainly jarring in the way many of the early Christian wisdom sayings were. Just as Jesus' association of blessedness or happiness with the poor and hungry was shocking, so was the prayer "Abba/Father, your name be revered." The unexpected combination surprised people into rethinking what was and was not holy. As a prayer, it called upon people to put God and reverence into a much broader perspective. Such a prayer fit well with Jesus' teachings which, in a religious climate where such comparisons were rare, consistently cited the poor and children as images of God's reign. This two-sentence prayer -- like Jesus' parables and aphorisms -- expanded people's vision of what was important and holy.So we might well conclude that Jesus drew deeply but creatively on his own spiritual tradition of 1C Galilean Judaism.

Impose your imperial rule

Several sets of materials from the JESUSDATABASE seem relevant to this petition, which picks up one of the central themes of Jesus' activity:

001. Mission and Message
020. Kingdom and Children
055. Emperor and God
168. Kingdom and Violence
199. Kingdom and Riches
214. Kingdom and Repentance

In addition, of course, there are all the parables and aphorisms that teach about God's "Kingdom/Empire."

Hal Taussig has a brief discussion of Jesus' teaching on the basileia/kingdom in Jesus Before God  pp. 20-24. For example:

One of the main ways Jesus identified what emerged when the pretenses of conventional family, wealth, and religion were dropped was what he called the "domain of God." Interestingly enough, the "domain of God" -- like real wisdom -- was present for Jesus in the daily pursuits of life, like the household, the marketplace, and the countryside. In the very same places where family, wealth, and religion claimed privilege, underneath the pretense one could find "God's domain." (p. 20)

Hal notes that between 20% and 25% of the sayings voted red or pink by the Jesus Seminar refer to the kingdom. The core expression, basileia tou theou, is usually translated "kingdom of God." Since the word "basileia" was also the usual Greek term for the Roman empire, it might be better rendered as "empire" or "imperial rule" as the JS translations typically prefer.

In his subsequent discussion, Taussig makes the following observation that seems relevant to the modern significance of this text:

Asking for God's reign as a sage was way of keeping one's learning quest open-ended and on-going. Such a prayer would have been spoken in the delightful and risk-taking self-consciousness that it is through one's own openness to learn that one becomes a part of God's reign. (p. 79)


Bread for today

This petition fits well with the harsh realities of life for the desperately poor and those crushed by debt, and they were common even in 1C Galilee as also in our own world. However, it is possible that the prayer fragment arises out of the daily experience of Jesus as an itinerant holy person.

Without the benefit of either land or business, Jesus lived at the edge of hunger and relied on the charity of others.

While the humorous description of Jesus "eating and drinking his way across Galilee" captures the memory of Jesus sharing table fellowship with poor and rich without distinction, it obscures the aching hunger and the haunting uncertainty with which many days must have begun and ended.

Or do we imagine that God always provided Jesus and his followers with sufficient bread for each day? What if Jesus often went to sleep hungry and awoke with no immediate prospect of food to break his fast? What kind of Word-made-flesh is this?

Hal Taussig, Jesus Before God, 87f comments:

Since Jesus seems to be dependent on others for food — at least while he was on the road teaching — such a prayer would have asked simply that he receive enough food for that day. In this regard, it is important to note that the prayer sentence in Matthew is closer to the historical Jesus than Luke. Luke has generalized this sentence into a request for food day after day.

This simple sentence prayer is striking in the way it casts Jesus on the care of God, and freed him from dependence on the conventions of family or accumulated wealth. Jesus' prayer for only the current day's bread fits very well with his teachings. In Thom 36:1 we read:

Don't fret from morning to evening and evening to morning about your food.

And in Luke 12:24, Jesus said:

Think about the crows: they don’t plant or harvest, they don't have storehouses or barns.
Yet God feeds them.

So praying for bread just for today corresponds on two levels to Jesus' life as a sage:

1. It reflects the fact that Jesus was in need of food each day ...

2. It corresponds to the wisdom Jesus was teaching: that one should not worry about the accumulation of food and drink, but simply let each day take care of itself.


Forgiveness for forgiveness

See 27. Forgiveness for Forgiveness

Gerhard Ebert does not indicate any awareness of the connection with harsh everyday realities in ancient Palestine, but he does pick up a similar theme to Crossan so far as "simultaneity and mutuality" is concerned:

Only here is the concise formula expanded by the addition of a further clause: 'as we also have forgiven our debtors.' That, especially in this literal translation in the past tense, might appear to be a condition on which the divine forgiveness depends -- or to put it in still sharper terms, an anterior achievement on man's part which obliges God to act in some way. But that would not accord with the facts with which we have here to do. Forgiveness is essentially pure grace, and there can be no question of its cause lying in some achievement which earns it. And even forgiveness between man and man would not be understood at all if it were placed in the category of an achievement. The man who really forgives from the heart has manifestly been liberated from the vicious cycle of action and reaction in which we normally find ourselves; he has made room for a totally different kind of action, which he himself has experienced as a gift. Hence it is not satisfactory to put the two in the opposite order either; as if our forgiving were merely something supplementary that is demanded of us as a result of our receiving forgiveness, For strictly speaking it is not a second step. The man who gratefully rejoices in forgiveness received cannot do anything else but let others also have part in it. (The Lord's Prayer in Today's World, 101f)

Joachim Jeremias [The Lord's Prayer, ch 3] interprets this petition as follows:

The second half-line, about forgiving our debtors, makes a quite striking reference to human activity. Such a reference occurs only at this point in the Lord's Prayer, so that one can see from this fact how important this second clause was to Jesus. The word "as" (in "as we forgive") does not imply a comparison; how could Jesus' disciples compare their poor forgiving with God's mercy? Rather, the "as" implies a causal effect, for, as we have already seen (p. 14), the correct translation from the Aramaic must be, "as we also herewith forgive our debtors." With these words he who prays reminds himself of his own need to forgive. Jesus again and again declared this very point, that you cannot ask God for forgiveness if you are not prepared to forgive. God can forgive only if we are ready to forgive. "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses" (Mark 11:25). At Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus even goes so far as to say that the disciple is to interrupt his presentation of the offering with which he is entreating God's forgiveness, if it occurs to him that his brother holds something against him; he is to be reconciled with his brother before he completes the offering of his sacrifice. In these verses Jesus means to say that the request for God's forgiveness is false and cannot be heard by God if the disciple has not on his part previously cleared up his relationship with the brother. This willingness to forgive is, so to speak, the hand which Jesus' disciples reach out toward God's forgiveness. They say, "O Lord, we indeed belong to the age of the Messiah, to the age of forgiveness, and we are ready to pass on to others the forgiveness which we receive. Now grant us, dear Father, the gift of the age of salvation, thy forgiveness. We stretch out our hands, forgive us our debts -- even now, even here, already today."

A little later in his sermon, Ebert explores the idea that we are creditors to others, who we have in our debt:

There is no such thing as a debt towards our fellow men in any serious sense of the word which would not also be a debt towards God. And there is no debt towards God which would not involve also our fellow men ... yet the fact is that we are here cited not as the debtors of our fellow men, but as their creditors. Why? ... Is it not a fact that from our painful experience of being deceived creditors we deduce the right to behave as little gods — breathing wrath and threats, as high and mighty judges? ... We are the image of God, according to Jesus’ testimony, not in being in the right and judging, but in suffering wrong and forgiving. That is what it means to be truly as God; not to imitate God in his majesty ... But to follow God in his humility, in his suffering, the incarnate, crucified God, to whom we appeal when we pray, 'Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.' .. How precisely do we become so free from the power of debt that — precisely when we are in the right — we are not the minions of debt but actually free the debtor from his debts? Wherever it comes about that one man forgives another ... there a miracle happens. (pp. 103-06)

Hal Taussig (Jesus Before God, 89f) observes:

The core teachings of Jesus were very conscious of the realities of debt. A good number of sayings referred to persons at one stage or other of indebtedness (for example, Matt 18:23-24 and Luke 16;1-8). The parable of the shrewd manager who discounts debts owed to his master, Jesus' instructions about lending money, and the parable of the unforgiving slave all referred directly to the dilemmas of small merchants and peasant farmers who didn’t have enough money.
Interestingly enough these sayings do not reveal a consistent attitude of Jesus towards the variety of problems related to indebtedness. They do show a strong awareness that the problem exists, but they seem to resist consistently condemning either the debtor or the lender.
The sentence prayer "forgive our debts to the extent that we have forgiven those is debt to us" in Matt 6:12 addressed this critical socio-economic problem in Israel. Later versions of the prayer (beginning with Luke's version of the Lord's Prayer) have made it into a prayer about the forgiveness of sins in general. But Matthew clearly referred to debts, not sins, and thus appears to preserve the version closest to the historical Jesus.
This sentence prayer asked God for relief from debt, not to be forgiven for sins,. What an interesting double-take this occasions for pious Christians in our day to imagine that Jesus was in debt, and that he prayed to God to be somehow released from this indebtedness!
But, as with many of the core sayings of Jesus, this prayer had a twist to it. It not only sought forgiveness of debts, but committed Jesus and his friends to write off whatever anyone owed them. In effect, the prayer asked God to cooperate in doing away with the entire system of indebtedness.

Samuel Lachs (Rabbinic Commentary on the NT) suggests that behind Jesus' saying on forgiveness of debts lay the ancient Jewish tradition of the release of all debts in the year of Jubilee. This would fit with the way Luke portrays Jesus’ inaugural address in the Nazareth synagogue:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour." (Luke 4:18-19)


Save us from the time of trial

See also: 203. Prayer against Temptation

Taussig does not include this petition in the prayer fragments that he traces back to Jesus, but he does note that the wisdom tradition in Israel gives many examples of sages praying for protection from trials and ordeals. He cites the following examples:

Lord father and master of my life,
Do not abandon me to their whims,
Do not let me fall because of them.
[Ben Sira 23:1]

God, examine me and know my heart.
Test me and know my concerns.
Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin.
[Psalm 139:23]

God of our ancestors, Lord of mercy ...
grant me Wisdom, consort of your throne
and do not reject me from the number of your children.
Send her forth from your throne of glory to help me
and to toil with me.
[WisSol 9:1a,4,10a]

My lord father,
Do not desert me in the days of ordeal.
[Ben Sira 51:10]

The questions that occur as we begin to reflect on this passage include: Is this a prayer for protection, or for wisdom to live wisely? Is it a prayer for strength to cope, or a request to be rescued from pressure? How do we pray such a prayer from positions of relative comfort and security? How does a “hunger and thirst for justice” connect with such a petition?




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This poem originated as a contribution to the HODOS online community by Gene Stecher. It is published with Gene's consent but he explicitly retains full rights as the creative author. You welcome to use it for personal study and worship, but it should not be published in any other form without the author's prior consent. Index to Gene Stecher's poems


Abba on the lips of Jesus
    Abba revered in human hearts
        Abba ruling over his personal space
           [Abba, a deaf ear for cup removing]
        Abba, a distributor of bread
    Abba, a manager of debt.

Abba on the lips of followers
    Abba, the inheritance grantor.
       Abba, adopting from slave ranks
            Abba, granting glory on condition
               [Abba, retesting his children]
            Abba, faithful to the sufferer.

Revered Abba,
    Create a freedom condition
       [by our suffering, if it must be]
            where principles for bread and debt
               provide feasting for the hungry
            and release for the debtor
as the daily norm.


Today's Bread

Mt 6:11

ton arton emon ton epiousion dos emin semeron
the bread of us the necessary give us today
the loaf   daily   this very day
    for following day    
    for future    


Give to starvers today the loaf which they need
    Give it to them everyday, don't miss out on any.
Give to them tomorrow's loaf this very day.
    Do you recall that your hired hands eat daily?

[Lk 5:17]

Give starvers today what they need to survive.
    Please add the twenty four hour insurance rider.
You know everything about insurance riders.
    We possess quite a list from you very own lips.
The assassin tested his strength in advance.
    The manager arranged for favors to be called in.
The widow constantly filled the judge's mind.
    And woe to the pour slave burying your coins.

[Th 98, Lk 16:1, Lk 18:2, Lk 19:13]

Insurance riders and expectations are similar,
    And you are real good at creating expectations,
You who supply bread-seed to him who sows,
    Who would give chilren loaves instead of stones.

[2 Cor 9:10, Mt 7:10]

The leaven is supposed to do something,
    some future greatness from the mustard seed.
The Sower's seed yearns for the harvest,
    yet the stone of anxiety won't hurry that loaf

[Lk 13:20, Th 20:2, Mk 4:26, Lk 12:25]

This child demands the insurance policy.
    Jesus' screams from the cross demanded it.
The left over bread proves the possibility.
    Get miracle dough at Mamre, not from rocks.

[Mk 8:19, Gen 18, Mk 4:3]

Abuse us not with Patron whims and egos.
    There's still potential in a healing-for-food trade.
Give the starvers food and they will heal you.
    Reciprocity is not bound by the midnight hour.

[Mk 6:8, Lk 11:5]



An improvement upon JBap eating no bread,
    Jesus himself the fleshy bread of life
recognized at the meal table while serving
    loaves to unwashed field wanderers.

[Lk 7:33, Jn 6:35, 51; 1 Cor 10:16, Lk 24:30, 35;
Jn 21:9, 13; Mk 2:26, 7:2]

    to generous children
    to leading purity advocates
    to kissing betrayers
    to freed slaves

[Jn 6:9, Lk 14:1, Jn 13:18, Jn 6:31]

Going from house to house
    and leavening with one another is
more powerful than Pharisaic,
    Sadducean, Herodian leavening.
This time, prostitutes and poor
    are served by the toll collectors.

[Acts 2:46, Mk 8:15, Mt 16:11]

Who was this damned fool who changed the policy,
    "nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it,"

[2 Thess 3:8]


Forgiveness for Forgiveness

In the Kingdom of Commandments
    Creditor and debtor are equalized by the
divine scorched earth policy,
    as they face down God's forgiving readiness,
mired together in law breaking
    along with the people/priest,

[Isa 24:2-3, Neh 9:17: NRSV]

In the Kingdom where God's finger rules,
    look for grazing the edge of law breaking
to be admired for forgiving debt.
    The disease that condemns to the jail pit
is not passing along the torch.

[Lk 11:20, 16:8a; Mt 18:33]

Tax Collectors, "Charge official rates,"
    but seeking Jesus' favor,
        old Zach blurted out that
the poor could have half of his profits
    and extortion returns
        would be quadrupled. 

[Lk 3:13, 19:8]

Debt forgiveness requires community trust,
    "Whomever you forgive,
        I forgive."
Try your patience with up to seventy-seven
     bestowals of freedom
        to sin no more.

[2 Cor 2:10, Mt 18:22, Jn 8:11]

Sin?  I thought that we were talking about debt.
Now how is it that we've gone from debt to sin? 
What's the easier thing to say to this paralytic,
    "Your sins are forgiven," or,
" Here's the deed. I've just redeemed your land." ** 
    And Zach spit through the needle's eye.

[Mk 2:1-12, 10:25]

**Many thanks to Keith for sharing this definition of redemption with the group.


Save us from the time time of trial

Test? Temptation? Ordeal? Trial?

First you tempt me (Lk 4:1-13) with
    making a change in the stone and bread laws,
daring my ego to splat on the temple floor,
    and striving for power which enslaves nations.

Then you entice me to
    constantly associate with a very distrustful lot,
endure sign obsessed purity freaks,
    and be baited with the language of entrapment.

(Mk 4:40, 9:19; Mk 8:11; Mk 12:13)

Then you entwine me in pain and ecstasy:

    Remove the drinking of this cup of
        crucified agony and humiliation,
    Do not rescue me from the hour of
    glory to the name of the Father.

(Mk 14:36, Jn 12:27-28)

And all along you knew Wisdom's desire:

    Abandon me not to another's whim, and
        do not send me into ruin.
    Do not reject me from your children, and
        desert me not in my ordeal.

[The thoughts of HJ are interrupted.
    The footsteps of the arrest party, Teacher.
Damn! Thy will be done on earth.
    Delerious screams of a forsaken wretch.]

(Mk 15:34)

Fleeing from the tomb,
    a blend of terror and excitement,
one's pants are wet
    and soiled under either option,
a vague echo of the loss
    of control required by God's test.

(Mk 16:8)

What control must I relinquish to
    be a bread distributor
        make use of the temple
    use power productively
        embrace the untrusting
    endure apocalypticism
        avoid the fruitless debate
    accept pain with victory.


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