The Lord’s Prayer, widely considered to undergird the very foundation of Christianity, “is utterly, totally, fully Jewish, there’s nothing in it that is particularly Christian,” according to one of the foremost theological interpreters of the historical Jesus.
John Dominic Crossan, a former Catholic priest and now professor at DePaul University, puts forward this startling thesis in the latest of his 26 books, “The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord’s Prayer” (HarperOne 2010).
The opening words of the Lord’s Prayer are “Our Father, who art in Heaven…” 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 interviews with CathNews, a Catholic Internet news service, and the Los Angeles Times.
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, Crossan argues.
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.
That concept “reflects the radical vision of justice that is the core of Israel’s biblical tradition,” Crossan writes. “The Lord’s Prayer come 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 observed in an interview.
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.