Re: b-greek-digest V1 #1238

From: David L. Moore (
Date: Tue Feb 17 1998 - 01:51:56 EST

At 09:30 PM 2/16/98 -0600, Jeffrey Gibson wrote:

>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.

        It is good to keep in mind that consensus only settles finally the
matter of what the consensus is. In a short post one isn't always able to
give every point the treatment one might like to if we had the luxury of
more time and space than is presently available. It looks as though Jeffrey
didn't take as sufficient my mention of the views that Luke's version of the
Prayer is primary and my reference to opinions against (if it is legitimate
to characterize scholarly consesus in such a way) Matthew's and Luke's
versions of the Prayer being from different occasions of teaching on the
same subject. The truth is that I don't find the consensus compelling in
this case; Jeffrey and many others apparently do.

>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_).
        Sure, I suppose Luke's presentation of the Lord's Prayer could be
called poetry as it is made up of a short series of stacatto sentences, and
so lends itself to versification. But in Semitic poetry the fundamental
form is dependent on thought-rhyme, also called parallelism, in which one
thought is echoed by another that repeats the first in different words or
emphasizes and develops the thought expressed in the first in a repetitive
way. These couplets or parallelisms may be of two- three- or even four-line
groups. In comparison, what may be found in semitic poetry of word-rhyme or
meter--if present at all--is only secondary. The Lord's Prayer, as we find
it in Luke, can't really be qualified as poetry in this Semitic sense, and
that is what I was referring to in my recent post.

>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.

        If the Lord's Prayer in Matthew is an example of Semitic poetry,
then the bread petition would be expected, according to the rules of the
genre to be linked thematically with the forgiveness petition. Since the
Semitic poetic forms have the advantage of being the sort of poetry that
translates from one language to another perhaps better than any other type
of poetry (Kidner, _Plalms_, Vol. a, p. 4), such an exercise as producing
Aramaic retrojections of Semitic poetic texts is really beside the point.

>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_.

        This misconstrues my meaning; maybe I did not make my thought clear.
Concern for a lost sheep, for a lost coin, for a lost son are all made by
Jesus into illustrations of God's concern to seek and save lost humanity.
Parables were not always even given public interpretations. People who were
concerned about their agricultural responsibilities and activities were
simply told about a sower who sowed on different types of soil and what the
results were. Then the crowds--as opposed to the disciples--were left to
ponder the meaning of what He had said. Apparently their only clue to His
meaning was an understanding of the type of person Jesus was. If the Lord's
Prayer in Matthew is Semitic poetry, then a thematic link between the bread
petition and the forgiveness petition is strongly suggested which, in turn,
logically leads to a spiritual understanding of the bread petition just as
surely as Jesus stories about mundane life in 1st-century Palestine
suggested that He was talking about the spiritual matters that concerned Him
and His audience and not just about mundane matters of no transcendent

>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.

        Jeffrey, of course, is discounting the external evidence for an
original Aramaic edition of Matthew. Eusebius, at least, gives information
to this effect (perhaps from Papius?). At any rate, most commentators take
HEBRAIDI DIALEKTWi as meaning Aramaic. I can think of at least one passage
in the text of Matthew that requires a postulated written Aramaic or Hebrew
original for any adequate explanation (vid. 2:23). So I would say it is not
too wild a conjecture to suggest that the original edition of Matthew may
have been in Hebrew or Aramaic. If it was, one would expect his readers to
be able to understand Semitic poetic forms.

>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.

        About the only difference I notice between the two is that Luke
expresses the giving as "day by day" with the imperative DIDOU in the
durative, present tense. Matthew's Gospel puts the imperative of DIDWMI in
the aorist tense which, with the punctiliar idea behind SHMERON, places
emphasis on requesting for the *present* need. I'll allow you to figure out
what that means to your theories of interpretation for this passage.


David L. Moore
Miami, Florida, USA
Southeastern Spanish District of the A/G Dept. of Education
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