Re: b-greek-digest V1 #1238

From: Jeffrey Gibson (
Date: Mon Feb 16 1998 - 22:30:45 EST

On Mon, 16 Feb 1998, David L. Moore wrote:
> A key consideration that could affect how we understand especially
> the clause about our daily bread is the question of whether the Lord's
> Prayer, as we find it in Matthew, may be Semitic poetry. (This would not be
> an option in the case of Luke's rendition of the Prayer, since it doesn't
> lend itself be read as a poem. And if Luke's version is primary, or if the
> two versions do not proceed from different instances of Jesus' teaching on
> prayer; considerations of its being a poem in Matthew would be essentially
> immaterial. Nevertheless, I'll proceed since I don't consider either of
> these possibilities definitively decided.)
> The structure of the poem may be seen in the coupling of the
> thoughts into pairs. The mention of God's exaltation with the reference to
> his dwelling in heaven is echoed in the wish expressed for sanctification of
> His name. "Your kingdom come" corresponds in thought to the prayer that His
> will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. "Lead us not into temptation" is
> echoed and amplified in "but deliver us from what (or whoever) is evil."
> But the most significant effect of this way of reading the Lord's
> Prayer is its influence on our understanding of "Give us this day our daily
> bread, And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." For if these
> are two expressions are poetically parallel, Jesus is not only (or even
> primarily) speaking about our provision of daily physical sustenance but
> about our need for a personal daily protion of the grace of God and the
> forgiveness it brings. Allusion of this sort which compares the matters
> about which we are physically concerned to spiritual realities is
> characteristic of Jesus teaching. So it would not be surprising from that
> standpoint to understand the passage in this way.
> Similarities between Jesus' life and teaching on the one hand and
> the history of Israel on the other is certainly a common theme in the
> Gospels, and it would not be surprising to find it present in the Lord's
> Prayer as Jeffrey has suggested. But if the Lord's Prayer is Semitic
> poetry, reading it as such becomes a necessary prerequisite to its correct
> interpretation.
Interesting comments. Unfortunately I don't have time right now for
a full reply. So some quick comments:

1. It is the general consensus of scholars who accept that the Matthean
and Lukan versions of the LP go back to a common original (including
scholars like Fitzmyer, Lohmeyer, Jeremias, T.W. Manson, Dalmann, and
Torrey who are quite conversant with Palestinian/Galilean Aramaic as well
as the forms of Semitic poetry) that in length and form it is the Lukan
and not the Matthean version of the prayer that best reflects the form and
length of the LP's original Greek version.

2. It is also the consensus of these scholars that all that is peculiar to
the Matthean version of the prayer *stems from Matthew himself*, and does
not represent anything that was to be found in the original Greek, let
alone the original Aramaic version of the prayer. Not only does this
material reflect specifically Matthean terminology and theological
interest, but it would be difficult to explain why these this material is
not reproduced by Luke if it had been part of the original Greek form that
Matthew, along with Luke, took up. (and, by the way, even more difficult
to explain if Luke *used* Matthew). Nothing in them is uncongenial to
Luke's concerns.

3. According to Lohmeyer and Jeremias, *both* the Matthean and Lukan forms
of the LP - when retrojected back into Aramaic (and therefore indirectly
in the Greek) - are poems set out in Semitic idiom! (See Lohmeyer _The
Lord's Prayer_ pp. 26-28), Jeremias, _The Prayers of Jesus_).

4. C.F. Burney (The Poetry of Our Lord) DENIED that in the Aramaic
retrojection of Matthew which he produced - and which he believed stood
behind Matthew's version - the bread petition was linked thematically or
formally with the forgiveness petition.

5. I find that the idea that Jesus message was concerned with "spiritual"
as opposed to material things is an anachronism characteristic of the
liberal theology of the late 19th century which culminated in Harnack's
_The Essence of Christianity_.

6. Finally, your claim that it is only through a knowledge of Semitic
poetry and idiom that the LP can be understood would seem to make it an
impossibility that Matthew's, let alone Luke's, audience, who presumably
knew little Aramaic or the niceties of Aramaic poetry, since they are
addressed in Greek and have the LP in Greek) would ever have understood
what Matthew and Luke were portraying Jesus as saying in the LP.

In any case, the questions you have raised do not really deal with my
question of whether anything in the Greek syntax and grammar of Matt. 6:11
precludes what I take to be the meaning of Lk. 11:3. I am *still* waiting
for that question to be addressed.


Jeffrey Gibson

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