What the Lord’s Prayer Really Means

What the Lord’s Prayer really means.

It’s an odd thing about the Lord’s Prayer.  Almost any religion could endorse it, or so it seems at first.

  • let heaven be the ideal for earthly governance
                      • let there be enough food for all, and let all be free of crippling debt
                      • forgive each other and God will forgive you
                      • spare us from the temptation of evil.

It was first spoken by a Jew to a Jewish audience, but it has become a Christian prayer, though there is nothing particularly Christian about it.  It became a Christian prayer because it is attributed to Jesus.

The Lord’s Prayer

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 have forgiven our debtors.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:9-13)

The good householder

The Greek word used for father is abba (αββα), and while it is sometimes seen as equivalent to “daddy,” this is misleading, for there are other Greek diminutives for daddy, such as pappas (παππας).  The term abba is best interpreted as the head of the Jewish household.  God is the head of household earth, just as the father is the head of the family in the world Jesus was addressing.

The roles enacted by God as head of the earthly household correspond to those of the head of the family household: To help create life; to protect the members of the household; and to equitably provide for the household.

What horrifies the biblical conscience in all those cases is the inequality that destroys the integrity of the household and therefore dishonors the Householder.  In what sort of household are some members exploited by others? (Crossan, p 43)

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How much do we know about the historical Jesus?


How much do we know about the historical Jesus?  Not much, but before going any further it’s worth asking why bother looking for the historical Jesus in the first place?  For almost all Christians, Jesus is a figure of faith and belief, not a subject of historical study.  But what about Paul and the gospels, the reader might ask?  Aren’t they the source of our knowledge of the historical Jesus?  No.  Paul and the authors of the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke) wrote about Jesus in order to create a man who fit the needs of first-century Christians.  They cannot be considered historical sources, even if some of the things they say are historical true.

What can we know historically? 

There is widespread (if not always total) consensus that Jesus was baptized by John, that he taught and preached in Galilee, that he drew followers to himself, that he was known as an effective miracle worker and exorcist, and that he made a final journey to Jerusalem for Passover where, in conjunction with an incident in the temple, he was arrested, convicted by Pilate and crucified.  (Eddy and Beilby, pp 47-48) 

In recent years the Jewishness of Jesus has been unquestioned.  In every facet of his life Jesus was a Jew.  He was born a Jew, educated as a Jew, and lived as a Jew.

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