It was the first prayer I ever learned. I suspect my Mother taught it to me, but I have no memory of ever learning it. It is part of who I am. I suspect that the origins of this prayer are as murky as my own memory of learning it. Many New Testament scholars have disputed the historicity of Jesus’ authorship of this prayer. While I agree that the prayer’s antecedents can be found in the Jewish tradition, I’ll leave those arguments to another post and turn my attention to the various interpretations of the prayer. All translations are in and of themselves translations. The festival of Pentecost with it’s images of speaking in tongues provides an excellent opportunity to explore some of the many interpretations of the prayer.
In the language of Aramaic, Jesus is said to have taught his followers the prayer we know as “The Lord’s Prayer.” It was then translated into Greek and recorded in the Gospels (Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4). Since then this prayer attributed to Jesus has been translated into hundred’s of languages. Most familiar to many of us are the English translations based on adaptations of the King James and NRSV versions of the Bible. The fact that language continues to change over time, means that the work of translation is never complete. Jesus’ prayer is alive and well in all the world and many translations embody the breath of life that this rich Word of God inspires.
For several years our Pentecost liturgy has included a cacophony of voices as our worshipping tongues pray this prayer using an interpretation of their choice. A selection of interpretations is printed in a folder and while the presider prays the prayer in Aramaic the congregation prays an interpretation. Follow this link for a copy of the interpretations (designed to be printed double-sided and folded together in a booklet) and enjoy the video which will give you an idea of how the Aramaic may have sounded.
This Pentecost practice moved our community beyond the “contemporary versus traditional” arguments over which translation of the “Lord’s Prayer” ought to be used in worship. We know have a plethora of choices!