Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Lord's Prayer

For this week, I will analyze the Greek in Matthew and Luke's version of the Lord's Prayer. I am comparing then Matthew 6:9-15 and Luke 11:2-4

Intro: The two prayers have different set-ups. In Matthew, the Lord's Prayer is folded into a longer section about Christian discipleship during the Sermon on the Mount. In Luke, the Lord's Prayer teaching occurs in the middle of the narrative. Obviously how Luke and Matthew set up the prayer is not a Greek issue, however interesting it may be. So, let's start playing in the Greek.

Luke sets his up with a subjunctive phrase: "Whenever you pray"; Matthew says (building on what Jesus says earlier), "Thus you shall pray." It is an indicative, a command. Jesus is not commanding his disciples to pray in Luke, he is simply saying, when you pray...
However, Luke also adds another verb: lego. Based on its form, it is unclear whether it is a command (imperative) or description of action (indicative). Ie, it could read:
a) Whenever you pray, you shall say OR
b) Whenever you pray, are continually saying.
It probably is a command. Assuming this we can summarize the Greek difference in the intro as:
In Matthew, Jesus commands them to pray; in Luke, Jesus commands them how to pray.

Regardless, both use a present tense of the verb for pray, indicating this is a continual and repeated action.

Invocation: Big difference here. In Luke, you just call God, "Father" (Pater); in Matthew Jesus calls God "Our Father in the heavens" NOT "in heaven." However, this is fairly common in Matthew to refer to heaven as "the heavens." Sounds a bit more grand!

Hallowed be your name: Same in both. Worth noting is that the word "hallowed" (αγιαζω, hagiazoo) is a passive aorist imperative in the third person here. Yuck! The first tricky thing is the verb itself. It does not mean holy, but to make holy, to set aside. If Jesus had prayed, "Let your name be holy" we would have a real theological problem. But Jesus does not do this. The reality is that God's name is always holy, but it is not always hallowed, in that it is not always set aside for holy purposes. The NET tries to get at this by translating it "Let your name be honored." The problem here is that the verb "hagiazo" does not refer to cleaning things for shelves, but for using them in worship. In other words, Luther's explanation of this petition gets at the fact that Jesus (in Luke's words) uses a verb (make holy) and not an adjective (is holy).

Now, on to the conjugation. An aorist imperative implies that we are to do an action, but not necessarily do over and over again. Furthermore, any passive imperative is tricky. "Get hit!" is an example of an aorist passive infinitive. In the third person this would be "Let him get hit." So if we apply this to the Lord's Prayer, specifically this case of the verb "make holy" we get "let your name get made holy." Again, yuck. Let's make this a bit prettier English: "Let your name be set aside for holy purposes." That is beginning to sound a bit better.

The tough issue however is that the verb doesn't have the sense of an on-going action. This is not "Continue to let you name be set aside..." but refers to a one time event. So we can go to ways here. The first is to completely emphasize the moment of prayer: God's name be used right now at this very moment for the holy purpose of prayer. The other is to completely emphasize the future moment of prayer: Your name will one day be completely set aside for holiness. Let that day come. The reality is that this petition is eschatological in nature: There is a day when God's kingdom will come; in this prayer we catch a glimpse of that, here and now and only in this moment.

Your kingdom come. Same in both. I guess the most interesting thing for a sermon is what the word Kingdom actually means! Royal monarchy might make sense. This term, from what I can tell, does not have a specific culturally connotation more than the word kingdom or government would today. It was a catch all phrase common in society. Worth noting is the aorist imperative nature of the verb 'come.' This again puts us back in the eschatological moment. God's kingdom comes for a moment and will fully come later (also in a moment).

It is worth noting that whatever intimacy and presence one wishes to ascribe to the idea of "hallowed is your name" one must ascribe to "your kingdom come." The Greek is the same; God's name is hallowed in the same time-dimension as the kingdom coming.

Your will be done: In Matthew, not in Luke

Daily bread: Matthew and Luke differ here. Luke makes the verb in the present: Continue to give us our daily bread day after day. Matthew leaves it in the aorist: Give us our bread for today.

Forgive us: In Luke, the verb "forgive" (αφιημι, aphieemi) when we pray is again in an aorist tense, indicating we are asking for forgiveness right now. However, the verb "forgive" is in the present tense when it comes to our own action, suggesting an on-going action!  Matthew keeps both verbs the same. Perhaps Matthew encourages the one praying to forgive in that moment of prayer; Luke perhaps realizes the need of humans to forgive again and again, not simply once.

Furthermore, Luke uses the word "sin"; Matthew keeps the word "debt." I am going to walk away slowly from commentary here...

Lead us not into temptation: Same in both.

But deliver us from evil: Only in Matthew

For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory. Amen. This is in the Didache, around 100-110 AD...not in the oldest copies we have of Matthew's Gospel.

3 comments:

Emmy Kegler said...

The tension created by the aorist imperatives is so neat. Thank you for pointing that out!

garrett soucy said...

very helpful.
thank you

Martha Low said...

(About the Lord's Prayer) Blue letter bible shows the Greek word for "our" is "ego" which Strong's (in blue letter bible) defines as a word meaning "I, me, or my." Could you explain if "My Father" is a legitimate translation or not? Thank you!