LOS ANGELES (JTA) — The Lord’s Prayer, widely considered to undergird the foundation of Christianity, “is utterly, totally, fully Jewish — there’s nothing in it that is particularly Christian,” a theological expert said.
John Dominic Crossan, a former Catholic priest and now professor at DePaul University, articulates this thesis in the latest of his 26 books, “The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord’s Prayer,” released last week by HarperOne. Crossan is one of the foremost theological interpreters of the historical Jesus.
The opening words of the Lord’s Prayer are, “Our Father, who art in Heave,” and the first two words are key to Crossan’s reinterpretation. In traditional Christian thinking, the prayer is seen as establishing a relationship between the individual petitioner and God, but Crossan takes a different view in his book and in recent media interviews. Within the context of Judaism in the 1st century CE, the term “Father,” or “Abba” in Aramaic, would connote a householder who must provide equally for all members of his family, according to Crossan. In that sense, God is “The Big Householder in the Sky” who exercises “distributive justice” and who would be appalled by the huge discrepancy between rich and poor, Crossan argues.
That concept “reflects the radical vision of justice that is the core of Israel’s biblical tradition,” Crossan writes. “The Lord’s Prayer comes from the heart of Judaism to the lips of Christianity.”
There is “a huge discrepancy between what most people think Christianity is really about and what Jesus thinks Christianity is really about,” Crossan said in an interview with the Religion News Service.
Crossan is an old hand at questioning Christian dogma and is one of the founders of the Jesus Seminar, a liberal Christian group. The Seminar has proposed that many of the miracles attributed to Jesus did not occur, at least not as written in the New Testament, and that Jesus did not physically rise from the dead.