New Age Translation of the Lord’s Prayer?

New Age Translation of the Lord’s Prayer? December 20, 2017

Something that the Pope said about translations of the Lord’s Prayer has made the news recently, and connects (albeit indirectly) with a subject that I was already planning to blog about. One of my older posts that continues to generate interest and discussion is a blog post about Neil Douglas-Klotz’s so-called “Original Aramaic Lord’s Prayer,” which in fact offers words that cannot be called a translation of the Lord’s Prayer as we find it in Aramaic or any other language. It scarcely qualifies as a paraphrase. It is rather a new prayer that is based very, very loosely on the Lord’s Prayer.

Although sticking slightly closer to the original, John Shore’s “New Age Translation of the Lord’s Prayer” is also a radical rewriting rather than a translation. Here is what he wrote:

Our genderless spirit guide
who art in everything,
honored be thy names.
Thy new age come,
thy will be manifested,
on this and on all cosmic planes.
Break with us our daily gluten-free unleavened bread,
and forgive us our bad karma,
as we forgive those
who project their bad karma onto us.
Lead us not into negative vibrations,
but deliver us from organized religion.
For ours is the harmonic unity, the empowerment, and the glory,
forever and ever.

Personally, this does not seem at all appealing to me even as a completely new prayer. And at moments it seems to be intended as parody rather than as something that one could take seriously, much less actually pray. But the most important point that needs to be made is that the question of whether words resonate with you or are meaningful to you personally has no bearing on the question of whether those words accurately translate words in another language. The two are separate questions.

Sorry if my comments on it lead you into “negative vibrations.”

Much preferable is Charles Allen’s offering of the prayer “as he hears it,” being honest that what he has come up with is not a translation, but the way he would put it if he crafted the prayer today, and thus what he has in mind when he prays the ancient version as part of Christian liturgy.

The Lord’s Prayer As I Hear It

All-embracing Love,

in, among and beyond us all,

defy us when we invoke your name to serve our own ends.

Open us and our world to the new life you are bringing,

and sustain us through our daily cares.

Bring peace to our conflicts with you, with others, with ourselves,

and shine through our fears of failure and death.

For our life together dwells always in the radiance of your empowering.

Let it be.

Of related interest, see Daniel Wallace on translation and interpretationmy post about a psalm misidentified as the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer, and Jeffrey Gibson’s book on the subject, The Disciples’ Prayer. Does anyone happen to know how the Lord’ Prayer is rendered in David Bentley Hart’s translation? Slightly more distantly related are a couple of open access journals that will allow you to read about Bible translation in other languages – Spanish and French. And CSTT and Gender is in English but comes from Helsinki and so includes contributions from scholars for whom English is not their native language.


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  • John MacDonald

    “defy us when we invoke your name to serve our own ends”

    This raises the question as to the foundation of ethics and whether, as Derrida raises the issue in his reading of Marcel Mauss, there is such a thing as “pure giving that doesn’t get a return,” since it would seem even in our most selfless, charitable moments, we receive the return of “feeling good” about what we’ve done. I wonder if Christians would still be as ethical if they didn’t think God was watching, or that they would be rewarded for living a pious, moral life?

    • I think a lot of Christians would, at least the ones of the radical wing of Christianity.
      #1 The key reason that we (Anabaptists, Quakers, etc.) were involved in outreach to the persecuted, the impoverished, the abused had NOTHING to do with “God was watching.” That wasn’t our view of God. Rather, the suffering of so many humans “broke the heart of God” and broke our own hearts. God through us was reaching out to help solve these injustices.

      The central reason was that we think every human has inherent worth, is unique.

      Though I don’t know that “feeling good” in an uplifting sense can be separated from that. It’s not like we cared about those suffering because we were somehow masochistically unconcerned with our own families and our own well-being.

      #2 As for “rewarded for living a pious, moral life,” I don’t think that was ever a factor when it came to helping those in need, standing up for human rights for the persecuted, etc.

      I do remember as a young person, early teens or before, being concerned not to indulge in forbidden activities such as movies, dancing, cards, etc. because I wanted to be holy for Heaven,
      our concern for the poor, the hurting was for their own sake, because each of those who suffer was a unique, precious human.

      One last admission: I do remember for a while as a young adult that I did struggle with later feeling proud that our family gave much more than others in general for the world’s impoverished.
      But even that failing on my part–later feeling proud–that we gave so much didn’t start with that wrong feeling. I didn’t give so I could feel proud, but afterwards did realize the danger of slipping into feeling proud that we gave more.

      • John MacDonald

        “One last admission: I do remember for a while as a young adult that I did struggle with later feeling proud that our family gave much more than others in general for the world’s impoverished.”

        – As I said, you were acting charitable because that’s what God wanted you to do, which you probably would have been doing to much less of a degree if you didn’t have that “influence.”

        • On the CONTRARY, please re-read my comment.

          We Quakers and Anabaptists, etc. DIDN’T GIVE to help those in need “because that’s what God wanted us to do.”

          At least no one that I know of had the motive that they gave because “God wanted them to.”

          We gave because we felt deeply the real need of other humans, unique, and precious, and of inherent value. PERIOD.

          God was the religious term of ultimate/transcendental expression of the real truths of goodness, caring, justice, compassion.

          There may be Christians, and others, who only help others because they think it’s their duty, BUT that isn’t a general fact about humans.

          Sometimes I think I don’t speak English;-) I get tired of people putting other humans into procrustean ideological beds.

          I am no longer a Christian, but during the 55 years I was a Christian, most of the Christians that I happened to know were nothing like this image of Christians that you have. My parents, our church leaders, those working with the impoverished in suffering countries (whose autographs I got as a child)
          DIDN’T help others because “God wanted them to.”

          I’m not denying that all humans have mixed motives. My central point is that our ultimate conscious motive for helping those in need was EXACTLY the same as what the Humanist Manifesto III states, “We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.”

          • John MacDonald

            A 2012 article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy suggested that the most religious states were also the most charitable. God demands it, so you do it. Had you not been a religious Quaker or Anabaptist, you probably would have been one of those, in your words, “others in general” who weren’t as charitable as your family historically was. I don’t think there is anything wrong with theists being charitable because God wills it (in your words, “God through us was reaching out to help solve these injustices”), but I find it much more noble to see someone being as charitable as Dr. Bart Ehrman is in the absence of divine “proddings.”

          • Well, we very clearly disagree. I am familiar with Ehrman, have some of his books here on my shelf, have read others, too, and read his blog.

            My educated judgment is that Erhman’s reason for helping those in need is NO different from many Christians’ reason.

            Nor is it any different from the Human Manifesto III’s reason, or Doctors Without Borders or Oxfam’s or Amnesty International’s. Two of those were founded by Christians. Now they have become non-religious, but their reason for helping those in need back at their founding, and their reason for helping people now, is exactly the same.

            I’m not sure what in my original post led you to think that we did it because “God demands it…”

            That smacks of Calvinist Divine Command Theory. We strongly opposed such horrific theology.

            Thanks for the dialog.

          • John MacDonald

            As I said above, I have rethought my position and now feel you are right. I have been trying to defend Derrida’s position, but now find it untenable. There is a long tradition of economists and evolutionary biologists who have argued humans are inherently selfish, but these views are definitely changing. Consider these two recent quote from the Huffington Post:

            “Psychological research suggests the opposite: that self-interest is far from people’s primary motivation. In fact, humans are prone to act for the good of the group, many studies have found.”

            “In the past 20 years, we have discovered that people — all around the world — are a lot more moral and a lot less selfish than economists and evolutionary biologists had previously assumed, and that our moral commitments are surprisingly similar: to reciprocity, fairness and helping people in need, even if acting on these motives can be personally costly for a person,” Samuel Bowles, an economist at the Santa Fe Institute and author of “The Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives Are No Substitute for Good Citizens” (Yale University Press, 2016), wrote in an email to Live Science. [No ‘I’ in Team: 5 Key Cooperation Findings]

          • Thanks for the references. I’ll have to check them out.

          • BertB

            How was “charitable” defined in the 2012 artlcle? How much of religious people’s “charitable” giving is to their own church? Churches typically spend a very small percentage of their income on charitable works…in one case that I read about it was less than 5%. That is anecdotal information, because churches are not required to disclose anything about how they spend their money.

          • John MacDonald

            Yes, church donations were included in the assessment. When church and religious group donations were factored out, the map changed dramatically, giving an edge to the least religious states in the country!

          • BertB

            I suspect that, contrary to popular opinion, religious belief has little to do with whether a person gives to charities. Your latest observation seems to support that.

          • james warren

            Believe it or not, according to research, it is the Muslims who give the most to charity. Giving to others is an important part of their faith.

          • BertB

            When you say “give to charity” do you mean to secular charities, faith-based charities, or just giving to their church?
            There is a lot of difference, because giving to the church, whether Christian, Muslim or any other, is not like giving to charity.
            Church donations can be used for non-charitable purposes…missions, bible schools, summer bible camps, or salaries for staff and other operating expenses, like any other business. That is NOT giving to charity in the sense that it helps the needy in the community. But it is the basis for false claims that religious people give more to charity than non-believers. Giving to a church is like giving to a private club…except that it gets a tax exemption…which is outrageous and arguably unconstitutional, even though it is allowed by our religion-dominated government. Someday, I hope a more secular society fixes that.

          • james warren

            Muslims started two websites to solicit funds for Jews in Philadelphia and St. Louis [as I remember] to help with the repair of two Jewish cemeteries that were vandalized by anti-Semitic criminals. For one cemetery, donors surpassed the initial goal of $20,000 within just three hours. The other effort for the other city netted around $100,000.
            One of the tenets of Islam is to help support the poor, just as Jesus taught. And the examples I am referring to show the openheartedness and generosity of the Islamic faith.

            Thousands of citizens of Tehran spontaneously took to the streets after 9/11 in a show of support for America. They carried lighted candles.

          • John MacDonald

            I just wanted to go a little beyond recanting this position, and apologize for saying it is somehow more noble for a secular person than a religious person to be charitable because the religious person has the external reinforcement of God motivating them to be charitable. Sorry about that. I don’t believe that at all. I tend to get moody around the holidays because this time of year is when I lost my mother.

          • John MacDonald

            I’ve re-read your comments and feel your response to my ideas were completely on point. I now feel you are right!

    • arcseconds

      I really think this view of human motivation — that it is always, inherently selfish — is completely wrong, and I wonder why anyone takes it seriously, apart from maybe cynical disaffected teenagers and sociopaths. I wonder whether it seems ‘scientific’, somehow, a kind of Newtonian/Hobbesian soul-mechanics with the simplest possible repetoir of forces, although we shouldn’t overlook that it allows the selfish to claim they’re just the same as saints.

      Good people don’t do good things to feel good. That’s entirely backwards: their aim is to do good, and they feel good because they’ve achieved their aim. Or maybe they don’t feel good, I don’t think that’s a given. Most dramatically an atheist sacrificing their life for someone else (which does happen) certainly can’t be doing it to feel good about it afterwards.

      On a much more humdrum note, I frequently feel more annoyed than anything else when I do good things.

      • John MacDonald

        I completely agree. I’ve been trying to do justice to Derrida’s argument here, but I think the counterpoints you and Daniel Wilcox have made here to what I wrote are completely on point.

        • arcseconds

          I wonder why we’re even inclined to ask Derrida’s question about selflessness? He’s hardly the only one to do so, of course, “people only do good to feel good” is the mantra of every disaffected 13-year-old, isn’t it?

          Perhaps it’s a purely Christian hang-up. I wonder whether this would even be a question that could be understood by the lights of Greek philosophy. It might strike them as trying to ask whether people could be motivated by something that doesn’t motivate them.

          In more everyday contexts, we don’t normally worry about people having mixed motivations, and in fact we often consider it to be a good thing on the whole. You work (hopefully) at something you enjoy doing, that you consider useful to society, and that earns you money and respect. People who only care about the money often do slip-shod jobs, on the other hand we want to be able to motivate people with pay-rises and bonuses. Someone who cared nothing for money or the acclamation of their peers might be impossible to manage or work with!

          • John MacDonald

            Excellent points. I encountered this article from the Huffington Post about whether people are inherently selfish or not, which was originally published in “Live Science.” : . I’d love to here your thoughts on it …

          • arcseconds

            That is pretty much consistent with other things I’ve read about this area.

            There’s a particularly famous game in which one person gets to divide money, and the other person gets to accept or veto the division. If it is vetoed, no-one gets any money. The ‘fair’ thing to do is to divide it 50/50 (after all, no-one did anything to earn it, except turn up for a psychology experiment), but the homo economicus thing to do is to give the other player the smallest possible increment ($1, say) and keep the rest for yourself. This is assuming they are also homo economicus and therefore will take any gain they can. $1 is better than $0, so why wouldn’t they accept this deal?

            It turns out no-one actually behaves like homo economicus, except if they’ve studied economics or game theory. This is true across societies and when the amounts are large relative to people’s income: people are quite prepared to ‘punish’ a selfish person at significant cost (in terms of lost income they could otherwise have had) to themselves.

            However, this is rational behaviour if seen from another angle: if you’re likely to come across the selfish person again, then it’s better to incentivize better behaviour from them than allowing them to get away with unfair divisions. This is particularly true if you not only want fairer treatment for yourself, but also for others.

            (An economist friend of mine wonders why classically in economics ‘risk adverse’ behaviour is accepted as ‘rational’, but other-regarding behaviour is not…)

            Anyway, one thing to note is that it’s really hard to tell whether people are ‘inherently’ anything, as opposed to acting according to society’s norms, and we can even ask what sense the question has, given that it’s natural (and ‘inherent’, if anything is) for humans to develop and exist within a society.

            And in fact in the experiment I described above, there are considerable cultural variances, as to what division is seen to be ‘fair’. And in fact apparently there’s one society that will veto every division, because it’s not socially appropriate to accept gifts from strangers in that society. It’s pretty counter-intuitive for people who are ‘inherently selfish’ in any way to forgo all gain coming from a particular quarter, so I assume you can in principle set up social norms to achieve pretty much anything you like (there’s plenty of other self-destructive behaviour that societies promote — sometimes that’s a good thing! we probably want people to be able to lay down their lives for noble causes).

            So perhaps the question is less “what are people like?” but “what do you want people to be like, and how can we achieve that?”

            As far as the assumption of selfishness by evolutionary biology and economics that you mentioned earlier, I wonder why that assumption was made. Evolutionary biology entails competion, but this doesn’t mean that every individual of a species is in all-out war with every other member. Abstractly it’s an open question whether a species (and therefore, a cluster of genes) does better by each individual competing ruthlessly with every other, or by each individual cooperating extensively. And in fact we do see examples of highly social animals, the extreme example being the ‘eusocial’ ones like bees, termites and naked mole rats. One would expect from this that humans would be pretty cooperative, although maybe a little short of ‘die for the hive’ eusociality (although humans do this, too…).

            Both modern economics and modern evolutionary biology had their origins within a hundred years of one another in Britain, in a time where it was a highly mercentile society. Selfishness was in the air, so to speak – it wasn’t just Smith and Darwin, but also Malthus, ‘Survival of the fittest’ Spencer, etc. I think this assumption says more about our culture than it ever did about any insight into the science of the matter.

          • Chari McCauley

            (apart from maybe cynical disaffected teenagers and sociopaths. “people only do good to feel good” is the mantra of every disaffected 13-year-old, isn’t it?)

            Where do children (teenagers) learn what they know? How do they become disaffected, did they figure out what double standards were all by themselves?

            Is what they are taught in school the same as they learn at home?

          • arcseconds

            I don’t really know. Not every teenager becomes disaffected.

            There’s a lot going on for teenagers, so maybe there isn’t even one cause. Some realise that people are hypocritical and aren’t as good as they’ve been told, but for others my guess is that it’s a plausible causal theory (teenagers are trying to work out how the world works) that (for some, at least) justifies their selfish behaviour (teenagers are trying to carve out a space for themselves with their own friends and their own activities — it’s a short step to being a bit selfish).

      • hisxmark

        It’s a hungry panhandler asking for a meal. I give money. Maybe I do it so that I will “feel good”. Maybe I do it so I won’t “feel bad”. Maybe I do it so that God will reward me. Maybe I do it so God won’t punish me. Maybe I do it for all those reasons. Maybe I don’t know why I do it.
        Bottom line: The hungry person eats. I did good. My motives are irrelevant. But maybe he uses the money to by the bottle that kills his last living liver cells. I did bad. My motives are irrelevant. Should I preen in my virtue or wallow in guilt?
        Should I search my soul before giving, until the panhandler starves, or dies of delirium tremens?

        “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” — Matthew 5:42 NIV

        Just don’t expect either reward nor good result.

        • arcseconds

          We certainly tend to fixate on motivation rather a lot, probably in ways and to an extent that is not worthwhile, and often when it’s perhaps inappropriate. If real harm is befalling people, it’s probably more important to try to stop the harm, or at least offer sympathy and support to the harmed, but we often get distracted by thinking about the instigators’ motivations. Did they ‘mean to’?

          However, it’s not entirely irrelevant. There definitely is a difference between people who do good because they feel good about it, and people whose primary aim is not to feel good but to do good. Good feelings can be traded off with other good feelings, and maybe at the moment it feels better to drink cider in the sun. Or maybe you’re just feeling grumpy and misanthropic today, so you don’t feel like doing anything for other people.

          I’m sure most people have met people like this at some point in their life. People who do generous things, but this is entirely conditional on either their mood or not finding some other distraction.

        • John MacDonald

          It’s one of the hallmarks of postmodern philosophy that our decisions, as Kierkegaard pointed out, are leaps of faith. When it comes to decisions, there is never enough time, or information, and the consequences can’t be predicted. Derrida teaches the allegory of the hedgehog trying to cross the road, and, sensing the danger of a car speeding down on him, does what has best served him in the past and rolls into a protective ball.

          • james warren

            A great case for humility.

    • Iain Lovejoy

      Ultimately we do what we do because we like the results. If doing good indeed makes you feel good (or ignoring suffering makes you feel bad) it’s precisely because you are moral, I would say.

  • John Thomas

    I think lot of people were bit hard on Pope for suggesting it. In Pope’s defense, I believe that he was trying to reconcile the James’ view about temptation (James 1:13-14) to the understanding of the phrase about temptation in Lord’s prayer.

  • Craig Pesti-Strobel

    Of course, there is the point that Jesus says, “Pray like this,” or “in this manner,” or “this way,” (Οὕτως οὖν προσεύχεσθε ὑμεῖς·) etc., and not “Pray this particular prayer.” Perhaps it is more appropriate for Douglas-Klotz snd others to say their prayers are inspired by the Lord’s Prayer, or are meditations based upon it, made in the spirit of “Pray like this.”

    • james warren

      But Jesus clearly taught to “Pray to the Father IN SECRET.”

      • hisxmark

        He also pointed out that God already knows what you need. You don’t have to spam God with your requests. Just get on with your life as if God wasn’t there, and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

        • BertB

          I have always liked Ambrose Bierce’s definition of prayer from his Devil’s Dictionary.
          “Pray: To ask the laws of the universe to be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.”

          • John Purssey

            There may be prayers like that, but that is not how the Lord’s Prayer is to be understand. I can understand that sort of thing in something called a Devil’s Dictionary, because that may call out hypocrisy with a bit of humour, but it is hardly an all encompassing definition.

          • BertB

            You are right…it does call out hypocrisy. Before you reject Bierce’s definition, go read the Devil’s Dictionary. You might gains some insights about organized religion, and its hypocrisy. But read his definition again. Where do we mere humans get the “right” to ask the Almighty to make something happen that would not happen if it were left to “nature?”
            What egotism! What self-righteousness!

          • John Purssey

            Caricatures aren’t definitions.

            The prayer that is the subject of this discussion is for the person praying to effect change within themselves, and that requires intention on the part of the praying person.

            There is an amusing tweaked prayer derived from Reinhold Niebuhr’s:

            Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
            the courage to change the things I can,
            and the wisdom to know its me.

      • John Purssey

        This is Matthew’s version to Jewish Christian who had the rich Jewish heritage of praying and were likely to overdo it. The disciples in Matthew were accomplished prayers, but in Luke they are portrayed as people who do not know how to pray and have to ask how. This is in keeping with a theme in Luke that frequently encourages his audience to continue praying and not lose heart. Matthew’s Christian church have the opposite problem in having to learn how to keep praying short and sweet.

        • james warren

          You could be right. I would like to know the scriptural proof for your claims.

          • John Purssey

            Which in particular:
            1) That Matthew wrote for a Jewish Christian church, (this is a common understanding from scholarship)?

            2) That the disciples are presented differently in Matthew and Luke (you just have to read the accounts preceding the Our Father prayers in each to see that.)?
            3) That there is a theme in Luke that his audience needs to be encouraged to pray and not give up (I will have to collect up the references for that, but I can do it if you ask)?

          • james warren

            Still, in the Bible it says Jesus asserted to his followers to “Pray to the Father in secret.”

          • John Purssey

            That is in Matthew. The Gospel of Matthew was written to Jewish Christians with a rich heritage of prayer. In that milieu it was common to see Jews praying ostentatiously to show off their piety. This is one thing the gospel writer was warning his church about.
            It was also common in that milieu for gentiles to make up many prayers and pray to all the gods they knew. This also was not an example to follow. So The Lords Prayer here is presented as an example of KISS (Keep It Short and Sweet)

            Note that this instruction is within Chapters 5-7, one of the five Moses like discourses presented in Matthew.

            By contrast, In the Gospel of Luke, the disciples are presented very differently. In Luke, they do not know how to pray, and ask Jesus to tell them how to pray. There is a theme in Luke of Jesus telling the disciples not to lose heart and not to stop praying. It seems that Luke’s Christians were in danger of losing faith and needing encouragement to continue praying.

            The circumstances of the two gospel audiences were very different. A present day reader of the gospels needs to decide how these narratives might apply to them. The general thrust of the NT is against legalism (and literalism). IMHO we should look to see what principles are behind these narratives and use wisdom to see how they might apply to our (or really our church community’s) circumstances.

          • james warren

            It’s about hypocrisy–something that Jesus talked about again and again.

          • John Purssey

            I grant that Jesus talked about hypocrisy, but that is not the point that Matthew is making here.

          • james warren

            Everyone who listened to Jesus and those who read the New Testament today take away a different point from the verses. This fact is as inevitable as it is true.

            And trying to read the mind of an evangelist 2,000 years ago has its share of problems.

            What we read in the fixed and frozen texts probably took an hour or more to perform.

      • Nelson

        The Lord’s Prayer was composed and used as a communal prayer, as can be deduced from its use of the 3rd plural personal pronoun and it’s generic petitions. Even when you pray it by yourself, you pray it as part of the community. But I believe it was meant more as a cultic prayer than a personal prayer. Therefore, when you pray in the assembly, keep it short but meaningful. When you pray in your secret place, take as long as you need.

        • John Purssey

          Though I would use the word “communal” rather than “cultic”.

          • Nelson

            By cultic I mean in the context of worship, like a liturgical prayer.

          • John Purssey

            Ok. I wasn’t sure if you had intended a negative connotation. The Oxford Dictionaries have predominantly negative connotations and that is how I understand it from my British heritage. I did check with Miriam-Webster and it includes a definition that includes the meaning you gave.

          • Nelson

            I understand. I’m a native Spanish speaker. And in Spanish, “culto” primarily means worship service; but it can also refer to a “deviant sect”. But when I read English scholarly literature in NT studies (as an amateur – I’m not a professional) that talked about “cultic reverence to Jesus”, the term “cultic” stuck because of its affinity to the Spanish term “culto”.

        • james warren

          Where does Jesus say that praying in public is to be “short and meaningful”?

          He says pray to the Father in secret. He was talking about hypocrisy, in my view. And Jesus said a lot about hypocrisy.

          • Nelson

            Jesus said to pray as he illustrated with the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is short and meaningful. The Lord’s Prayer is a communal prayer, said in public (and historically done in a cultic context). When Jesus teaches to pray in secret, He says you (singular) pray in secret. When he teaches the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says you (plural) pray like this, and proceeds to pray in public.

          • james warren

            Jesus was talking about human hypocrisy. And he said a lot about hypocrisy…

          • BertB

            Indeed he did (allegedly, if the Bible is to be believed.). Why don’t Christians listen to his words?

          • james warren

            Jesus is no longer needed by the church.

            Things came to a cultural head when the Holy Roman Empire got in bed with the early Christian movement in the 4th century.

            Jesus became a figure whose importance was only his birth and death.

            His radical teachings were ignored and what was left over was the majesty of the church. The tone and the tenor became obsessed in documenting the rules and the norms of a community instead. Questions and answers about how to live in a larger community and how to exist in a Roman-Greek society soon left behind the profound societal dislocations that Jesus of Nazareth revealed.

            This is why today’s church has been more centered on the “religion ABOUT Jesus” instead of the “religion OF Jesus.”
            Putting Christ up on a safe pedestal to worship means that Jesus of Nazareth’s authentic teachings can be safely ignored.

            Jesus was disturbing then and he is disturbing now. It is perfectly understandable that most people like to keep comfortable in their own cocoons.

          • BertB

            You may be right, but I think most Christians would disagree with you, especially the evangelicals.

          • james warren

            “The Lord’s Prayer is short and meaningful…”
            That is your opinion. What one thinks is short and meaningful is always different than what another person considers short & meaningful.

        • james warren

          “When you pray in your secret place, take as long as you need.”

          But there is no textual evidence that Jesus said that.

    • Elizabeth-Jane Clarke

      I can’t remember the author , it was over twenty years ago, but I read a book which changed the way I understand the Lord’s prayer. It described it as an approach to prayer, an answer to the apostles’ request to teach them how to pray. So not an actual prayer in itself, but a traditional teacher’s method, 6 rabbinical guidelines for praying which could make the prayer last 60 minutes if we so desired.
      1.Our father in heaven, Hallowed be your name
      2.Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
      3.Give us this day our daily bread
      4.Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
      5.Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
      6.For thine is the kingdom , the power and the glory forever. Amen

    • John Purssey

      ISTM that this guide to pray and construct prayers is not used that way but has been turned into a mantra, where it is is more important to parrot the words than for your particular community to instantiate its intent into their own circumstances. Of course, this is a generalisation and there are exceptions.

  • james warren

    In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus clearly says that forgiveness is reciprocal and has nothing to do with a pagan human sacrifice for sin.

    Forgiveness is reciprocal. We are forgiven to the same extent we forgive others,

    • hisxmark

      I have taken it upon myself the task of learning to understand. What I have come to understand is this: We do not forgive the plague, the hurricane or the earthquake. We can try to prevent, prepare, and repair. Just so, it does no good to forgive those who trespass against us. The “sinner” is almost always convinced of his own righteousness and justification.
      “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” — Walt Kelly

    • John Purssey

      But it is not really a statement of theology about the mechanics of forgiveness. It is more a meditation on what our attitude should be. ISTM it is wanting us to have a forgiving mind/character by reflecting that our desire for forgiveness should spur us to forgive others.

      And don’t forget that Matthew is presenting his version of the Gospel (even if he does not call it such) and has Jesus presenting a whole discourse on forgiveness and the caring community in Matthew 18.

      • james warren

        Jesus taught his disciples how to pray and that prayer includes the line: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

        The God of Jesus clearly indicates that we can only be forgiven if we forgive others.

      • james warren

        In contrast to Jesus, the prayer was offered by him to make sure it was taken as a meditation on what SHOUD BE instead of what is.

        I like reading the verse [which tells you exactly what is IN the text], and then doing some focused research about that the original author[s] MEANT by what they wrote.

        And finally, using the surrounding matrix to find the text meaningful to our modern, global culture.

        • Chari McCauley

          It is global. One Father, many children. The idea is not for us to be identical, but on the same page. Within ten rules Father said don’t steal from each other, don’t lie to each other. We are to imagine ourselves as the victim of all the things Father listed.
          (A little parable: a thief comes into your home, with guns and an army; they take some of your family prisoner (you never see them, again) they make you watch them kill another member, and there you are waiting to see if they will kill you or just steal your freedom? As a woman, let me assure you, there are worse things than death, so if the family members who were taken prisoner happen to be your wife, daughter, sister. Oh, and those kinds of things aren’t really just for little girls, anymore, are they?)

          Father’s Son upheld, and corrected errors made to those ten rules. An eye for an eye was not His Father’s rule, Father’s Son removed it, replacing it with empathy, (putting yourself in the victim’s shoes. And, large empires have been known to tumble, having to be rebuilt. It is global, the money, and power won’t change the outcome if we keep abusing everything.

          When The Lord says forgive us, as we forgive, we will be shown the same mercy for our sins, as we show others for theirs. Hubris cannot enter Heaven, cruel pride will not enter Heaven, that is one of the many promises. They cannot FORCE us to love, it HAS to be voluntary. it is global.

      • james warren

        The Lord’s Prayer embodies the way Jesus regarded forgiveness. It ism reciprocal. We are forgiven to the same extent we forgive others. No pagan blood sacrifice is required.

        The theology of the atonement (the theological notion of a blood sacrifice for sin) was actually not completely formulated until some 900 years after the crucifixion by the Christian theologian Anselm of Canterbury.

        • John Purssey

          Then we differ in our interpretations of that sentence in the prayer.

          • james warren

            “Forgive us OUR trespasses as WE forgive those who trespass against US.”
            The standard applies to me is the same standard that applies to you.

            Jesus kept an open table. Jesus ate promiscuously with sinners, toll collectors and prostitutes. Should we reconceive the scope of eating together?
            Jesus made forgiveness reciprocal. One is forgiven to the extent that one forgives. Human beings can only have what they freely give away.

            Jesus condemned the public practice of piety. He regards religious posturing as hypocritical.

            Jesus advocated an unbrokered relationship with God. He insisted that everyone has immediate and particular access to God. This is what is meant by the powerful metaphor of the temple curtain torn in two the moment Jesus died. No longer is God mediated by the priestly class [the church] but his spirit is freely available

            Jesus robs his followers of Christian ‘privilege.’ He robs humankind of all privileges, entitlements and ethnicities that segregate human beings into categories.

            Jesus makes it clear that all rewards and punishments are intrinsic. A version of Christianity that takes its cues from Jesus cannot be preoccupied with rewards and punishments.

            “The Father makes his sun to shine on both the evil AND the good and sends the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous ALIKE.”
            — MATTHEW 5:45

          • John Purssey

            As I said, we interpret it differently. I interpret it as a prayer. You interpret it as a piece of propositional theology. I think that is a mistake. It reminds me of the saying “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

          • james warren

            I never said it was propositional theology. It originated from Jesus, after all. Not from the church.

            Clairvoyance and guessing at my motives is a puzzling way to answer my post.

            The Lord’s Prayer envisions God as the Householder of the world house” that we all inhabit where all God’s people have a fair, equitable, and just proportion of God’s world.

            Wherever this vision is not realized, The Lord’s Prayer instructs us to make it so.

            Praying words about redistributive justice, the sharing of resources and the empowerment of each neighbor for the good of the whole neighborhood [Thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven]” reminds us of what is necessary to fully help those affected by loss [for example, those affected by hurricanes, fires and avalanches].
            Perseverance in prayer enables perseverance in actions.

            “Give us our daily bread.” Father, as head of this household, will we get enough to eat and drink for the day?

            “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Only by forgiving ourselves can we forgive others. No pagan sacrifice is needed.

          • John Purssey

            I was not trying to be clairvoyant or guessing your motives. I was responding to what you wrote, which was treating the prayer as propositional theology. I think that is a mistake.

          • james warren

            Propositional theology is not the way Jesus actually spoke. He used parables and arresting short sayings. Anything Jesus says that’s theological [especially in the Gospel of John] means his speech was placed into his mouth after he was dead.

            The theology of a blood atonement for human sin was not worked out until some 900 years after the crucifixion by the Christian theologian Anselm of Canterbury. It was a religious MEANING used to overlay what probably actually happened.

          • John MacDonald

            James Warren said: “Propositional theology is not the way Jesus actually spoke. He used parables and arresting short sayings.”

            – Parables and pithy one-liners certainly make Jesus an interesting character to read about, so there would be reason for the Gospel writers to portray Jesus in this way, but do you have evidence that the historical Jesus actually spoke in this way?

          • John MacDonald

            Some suggest the parables in the Gospel of Mark don’t go back to the historical Jesus. It is popular now, following Hedrick and Scott, to point out the blunders in the Markan parables describing incorrect practices of agriculture, herding, and unlikely human behavior, and take these blunders as clues that Jesus meant for the parables to get people to overturn traditional assumptions about life and religion. Of course, the response to this may simply be that the writer of the parables was not familiar with Palestinian practices.

          • Gary

            The best clue, they were written in Greek. Not implying that there wasn’t a thread of truth, or multiple threads of truth to them. But implying that the author was much removed from the Palestinian, agricultural lifestyle. Both in space and time, most likely.

          • John MacDonald

            I wonder whether the historical Jesus actually taught in intriguing parables or pithy one liners? It’s interesting Paul doesn’t seem to be aware of any intriguing parables or pithy one-liners by Jesus. Maybe the parables and one liners were just legendary material about Jesus (that he was brilliant) that accumulated around Jesus after he died (like the miracles). Judaism of antiquity was a storytelling culture, so it would make sense that a hero like Jesus would be portrayed as a master of parables and pithy one-liners.

            Jewish culture had their education centered on the stories of the Torah, from creation through the Exodus. When the prophet Nathan needed to challenge and condemn King David’s actions, he did it with a story (2 Sam 12). And when Jewish people gathered in their annual rituals to confess their faith in God, they did not formulate abstract creeds and doctrines. They told stories:

            A wandering Aramean was my ancestor, who went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand … and brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. (Deut 26.5–9)

            Rather than abstract ideas about God, we find a story, or at least a summary of a story, about what God has done.

            Given the pervasiveness of storytelling in Greco-Roman culture generally and in Jewish culture specifically, it is not surprising that Jesus is portrayed as a storyteller and that our understanding of him rests largely on stories told about him. These stories about Jesus circulated in various forms and activities, but most especially in early proclamations about Jesus, generally called sermons.

            We should not think of these sermons as short lectures, however, but as lengthy story-telling events. The earliest reference we have to the shape and content of a sermon about Jesus comes from Acts. And the first sermon in Acts is what Peter is reported to have said on the day of Pentecost:

            You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know—this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up… (Acts 2.22–24)

            Again we have the synopsis of a story or, more accurately, of a series of stories.

            So, given that the Jewish culture of that time prized storytelling, it would not be odd that legendary storytelling material (such as the brilliant parables and the one liners) could have accumulated around Jesus even though he didn’t teach that way in real life.

          • On the one hand, I think that we most certainly do see the influence of Jesus’ ethical teaching on Paul. On the other hand, I’m not sure why anyone should expect Paul, in his letters, to retell stories and parables.

          • John MacDonald

            James said: “On the one hand, I think that we most certainly do see the influence of Jesus’ ethical teaching on Paul.”

            Paul says, for instance, “The entire Law is fulfilled in a single decree: “Love your neighbor as yourself (Galatians 5:14).”

            Mark said “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these (Mark 12:31).”

            Now, is this Jesus influencing Paul, or Paul influencing Mark to the extent that Mark was putting Paul’s words on Jesus’ lips?

          • I think it far more likely that Jesus’ influence is seen on those who joined the movement centered on him, than that Paul’s teachings in his letters influenced not only the Gospel of Mark, which may have favored Paul’s views, but also Q and Jewish Christianity even of sorts that did not agree with Paul.

          • John MacDonald

            That sounds reasonable, but getting back to my original point, even if the ethical teachings of Jesus (or those that emerged from the original community that followed him) influenced Mark et al, this doesn’t mean the historical Jesus taught in brilliant, intriguing parables and pithy one liners. These might have just accrued around the memory of the historical Jesus as legendary embellishment (like the miracle stories). Jesus may have just been portrayed as a brilliant story teller, like Odysseus.

          • Certainly, there is good reason to conclude that Jesus had some gifted storytellers write about him. However, it is far simpler to envisage the impact of Jesus on the way he was remembered in a wide array of groups over a large geographic spread, than that a legacy of storytelling, with a lot of commonalities of style as well as content, managed to spread quickly over a very large geographic area so as to impact not just the narrative literature that has survived, but also the other sayings that found their way into Patristic sources independently of Gospels.

          • John MacDonald

            That’s why I like bouncing ideas off you. It’s like playing chess against the computer on a setting many levels beyond my skill level! I think the scenario I presented is far more likely if people like Mark Goodacre are right and there was no Q source. Also, I think we have to distinguish between what emerged from Jesus, and what emerged from Jesus’ community about Jesus, before and after he died. Q1, for instance, the earliest stratum of Q, is simply sayings that have the same cynical tang to them, and so don’t necessarily go back to a single sage, let alone the historical Jesus. That said, maybe there is a middle ground between our two positions. Maybe Jesus was a brilliant orator, or at very least very charismatic, and so was adept in constructing parables and pithy one liners – and so writers who wrote about him also portrayed him as an effective communicator in this way, even though while some of the parables and one liners of Jesus they recorded ultimately went back to the historical Jesus, some of the parables and one liners were just invented by the writers and put on Jesus’ lips. After all, it was common practice in antiquity to invent dialogue/speeches by famous people.

          • Thanks for this engaging discussion. I think it is absolutely clear that there are invented speeches on the lips of Jesus, and that even when a story is based on one that Jesus told, that doesn’t mean that the wording of the form we encounter in the Gospels stems directly from him, or that there have not been significant additions and alterations in crafting the form that we now have. One example that comes immediately to mind is the addition of “going the extra mile” in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, as well as the tweaking of the details so that it becomes a method for non-violent protest, instead of simply advocating non-retaliation.

          • John MacDonald

            Your ideas here remind me of Aristotle. In book 7 of the Physics, Aristotle analyzes the concept of “steresis” or privation. “Steresis,” as Heidegger analyzes Aristotle in “Being and Time” and “The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Solitude, and Finitude” is a means of revealing the Being of a being. For example, when we are delineating the attributes of an object, and the object is absent for some reason, we realize that an object needs to be “present-at-hand” to determine some of the attributes or ‘Being’ of the object (whether or not it is green, hard, etc.) An object being absent (or when there is a dispute about some attribute of the object or other) co-posits the Being of this being as “present-at-hand.” The Being (the presence-at- hand) of this being is “forced out of hiding (a-letheia)” when the being is absent and/or one of its attributes is in dispute.

            Regarding Jesus in relation to “steresis,” you identify, “the addition of ‘going the extra mile’ in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, as well as the tweaking of the details so that it becomes a method for non-violent protest, instead of simply advocating non-retaliation.” While this may not lend us clairvoyant ability to see what the original sayings were that Matthew was basing his modification on (either originating from Jesus or the original community of him and his followers), it does suggest there were very early sayings that Matthew had access to (and subsequently modified) that represented Jesus as a charismatic, effective speaker. So, contra mythicism, not only do we seem to have an historical Jesus with Matthew’s modification of an earlier source, it would seem this Jesus was also well known as an effective orator. Like Socrates, while it may not be possible to determine “word for word” by reading Plato’s dialogues exactly what the historical Socrates said, we certainly get the gist of what Socrates’ personality was like.

          • My judgment about the direction of development when comparing Matthew and Luke reflects the fact that the additional element – going the extra mile – fits this theme; Matthew tends to add to Q material in ways that provide a particular slant; and the fact that Galilee was not under direct Roman rule during Jesus’ lifetime, and so the Roman conscription scenario most likely reflects a later time/different geographical setting.

          • Gary

            Obviously The Gospel of Thomas is a prime example of Jesus’ teaching using one-liners. So, is it Q based, as an historic example of Jesus’ teaching? Or a later Greek interpretation of his teachings? I tend to think the former.

            Marvin Meyer, “The Nag Hammadi Scriptures”, on the Gospel of Thomas…
            “…in the tradition of Jewish teachers of wisdom, the Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas proclaims a gospel of wisdom. The wise sayings of the Gospel of Thomas may be considered “sayings of the sages” (logoi sophon) on account of their wisdom orientation, or they may be likened to the “useful sayings” (chreiai) attributed appropriately to a specific speaker in Greco-Roman rhetorical discussions….
            In the Gospel of Thomas, the sayings of Jesus are open to interpretation, so that disciples and readers are encouraged to search for the meaning of the sayings of Jesus and complete his thoughts after him. The Gospel of Thomas is an interactive gospel, and wisdom and knowledge come when readers creatively encounter sayings of Jesus and respond to the sayings in an insightful manner.”

  • Back in the mid ’90s I asked Neil Douglas-Klotz personally if he thought “translation” was the right word to use for his work on Jesus’s Aramaic sayings. He said he thought “Midrashic” was a better characterization..

  • Kathy Collins

    Although I am no longer a Christian, I still love the original version of The Lord’s Prayer as a hymn. Those words have meaning for me. Whether one believes in a God that is made in man’s image, or something called “The All” (that would be me), the hymn still invokes a feeling impossible to ignore. I remember the transcendent feeling when the entire church sang this hymn. My idea of what my debts and temptations are may be completely different from others. Nevertheless, I do have a moral belief system and I know how is easy to fall to temptation against one’s own moral beliefs and to feel the shame afterward. This song helps me to forgive myself for what I have done in the past and move forward with my life, having learned a lesson. When I give money to people in need, or donate to a charity, I do it because I feel for them. I have have had to go to the Salvation Army for clothes. I have been dependent on the goodwill of others, and I know that without their help, I would be that person on the street begging for money. Even not having been a Christian in a long time, I still think ‘There, but for the Grace of God, go I’. My heart breaks for them as I image some of what anguish they must be feeling. It is humiliating and embarrassing to have to beg for money, even if it becomes necessary for the sake of your family. Yes, it makes me feel good after I have helped, and I feel proud of myself. I am ashamed of feeling proud, but I still hope that I have helped someone in a meaningful way, as others have done for me. I don’t believe I will be rewarded for what I do; it is just something my moral beliefs require of me (not God). I hear friends saying that same old lie, that giving money to the homeless means they will just go spend it on booze or cigarettes. They presume to know what is best for that person, and buy them dog food or whatever they think the person needs. They don’t know the person, so how can they know what he or she needs? I tell them I would rather let someone waste the money than miss the opportunity to help someone in need. I cannot say one thing and do another.

    John MacDonald, since many Christians are not ethical anyway, what difference does it make? Those that are ethical would, most likely, still be ethical if they did not think God was watching. Everyone has their own moral compass, Christian or not. Whether they decide to act according to their moral compass or against it has nothing to do with God.

    • tom

      I, too, have always thought the hymn version of The Lord’s Prayer was especially powerful. Even when it was sung by a bunch of creaky Presbyterians in the church where I grew up, there was a certain majesty to it. Several years ago, there was a musical tour called “The Colors of Christmas.” Its first run featured three of R&B and soul’s biggest voices–James Ingram, Peabo Bryson, and Patti Austin–plus Sheena Easton. I was absolutely baffled at why Sheena Easton was asked to share the stage with those other three. They took turns singing duets and solo hits, as well as Christmas songs and hymns. Then Sheena Easton sang “The Lord’s Prayer,” and I swear the roof began to crumble. Hearing her sing that song–and she definitely had the voice to be included on the bill–engraved upon my heart what those simple words mean. The words are simple, but when you put them together the right way, they’ll raise the roof. I hadn’t thought of that in a while. Thanks.

      • Kathy Collins

        I had to listen to Sheena Easton’s version of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ since you mentioned it. I agree, she was fantastic. Thanks.

  • John Purssey

    To what extent would you think that we want to provide answers or be given answers, when pondering on questions is often a better way for spiritual growth? I understand that is often the Jewish way to approach this sort of problem. Working out answers to questions means you understand the situation and its nuances more completely. Just being told the answer, or thinking you have a pat answer often leads to having just a shallow understanding.

  • Neko

    I find the Lord’s Prayer quite revealing about the early Christians and very moving. They asked for so little: not to go hungry and not to be “lead into temptation,” or, as I’ve read the lines translated, “put to the test” (martyrdom?). They believed the will of God was justice and goodness on Earth “as it is in heaven.” “Forgive us our debts”; the Galilean peasantry was being crushed by debt.

    A far cry from Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV.

    • John Purssey

      Janis Joplin was also cynical about that type of petitioning in “Oh Lord, Won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz.”

      • Neko

        Yes, I am aware of that! I should’ve just said Prosperity Gospel, etc.

  • Evermyrtle

    Revelation 22:18-19 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, GOD shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, GOD shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

    Therefore we had best be careful how we change the wording, by removing or by adding words to the the gospel which we refer to as WORD OF GOD or the BIBLE!! The reason will not make any difference, HE will not allow HIS WORD to be changed!! Changing it to the English was more than enough change, but at least we can read what we have of it!!!

    • John Purssey

      That could just apply to the Book of Revelation. Extending it to the rest of scripture could be regarded as doing just what you are condemning.

      In any case. Meaning does not not reside in the text, but in the interaction of the text with the understanding of the reader/hearer. In this lies a limitation of sola scripture, at least as commonly understood.

  • Leighton Cooper

    This is well-meaning. Except that the Herod Evangelicals and Herod baptists have been allowed to take over. Any re-resurrection to modernize this prayer needs to address the Herod Baptist and Herod Evangelicals because they are promoting natural -selection inquistional applying HATE towards the disabled, the elderly and the lower and middle classes. Niceness is totall bull-shit . As I’m writing this I’m listening to Pete Seeger and while the new-age teachings are cozy. They really need to become oppositional to the Herod Evangelicals and Herod Baptists. Their Master race doctrine with the Herod evangelicals and their biologically endowed war against everyone not their brand is a real force and they are in DENIAL of what they are doing. I write as someone who is comfortable having divorced religion and kicking its influence out of my psyche. But I think the progressive side really needs to call out as the Herod Evangelical hate and Herod Evangelical Denial of services to the disabled, the elderly and the lack of support for family planning. I am divorced completely from religion and this is one of the reasons why I refuse to attend services around where I live. Nobody wants to deal with the Herod’s heart and the nastiness of the Herod Evangelicals and the nasty Herod Baptists. Yes they worry me very much. I feel no affinity to the progressive churches, we don’t have any where I live so religion for me is not an option anyways. Speaking kindly does not get you listened to!!! I am rudely honest and those people keep their distance from me for doing so. So you are in denail if you don’t think getting rid of social securty is what these Herods have in mind. I am not nice, I am not welcome and I’ve divorced religion so I am useless as far as religionists are concerned