Email: The Lord’s Prayer and ‘Q’ History (27.7.2020)

The Lord’s Prayer

As I work in translation, I am surprised by the latitude the Christian Church has allowed for English translations from the Hebrew and the Greek. Particularly so, as the Bible is believed to be the ‘revealed’ word of God. In other words, a ‘divine’ text. Islamic scholarship, for instance, is very precise. Once the ‘correct’ words are decided upon, the issue for Muslims is one of ‘meaning’ – and we know how problematic interpretation can be, even if the standard text is agreed upon. For Christianity, this probably indicates its diverse beginnings and growth (for five centuries) and the theological bottleneck that occurred during the process of formulating and establishing the ‘Catholic’ State religion of Rome. This was probably a difficult task involving a mixture of draconian and tolerating policies, as well as education and persuasion, etc. Christianity was already very well established before the development of Catholicism, and although different Sects were discouraged, suppressed and directly attacked by the ‘new’ religion of Rome, this process of attempting to generate an ‘official’ Christianity did not (and could not) stop the independent development of Christian movements that had taken root further afield. On the other hand, (and this is something I need to check), it could be that in Hebrew and Greek the Lord’s Prayer is actually ‘exact’ and ‘consistent’, as would be expected for a ‘divine’ text, and that the diversity only occurs in the rather haphazard English translations that are influenced by a lack of knowledge and understanding of contextual meaning, (in the earliest translations), and political influences (in later translations). In this regard, (and as part of my ongoing research), I have been reading Burton L Mack’s interesting book entitled ‘Who Wrote the New Testament?’ The four gospels originally had no author’s name ascribed to them, with the traditional demarcations of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John dating only from the second century CE. The anonymous authors often used the tactic of writing after important historical events – but then ‘setting’ their narratives at a time ‘before’ these events took place. This would allow for key characters to appear to correctly ‘predict’ the very important historical events of the time that profoundly affected the lives of the intended audience. This rhetorical device was designed to impress the illiterate and semi-literate populations that Christianity intended to penetrate and spread within. The Letters of Paul date to around 50 CE (and are the earliest known Christian literature), but Paul was honest in that he never met Jesus but probably did meet people who knew him. However, Paul’s message is uniquely his own that pre-existed the four gospels but probably not the ‘Q’ text. Paul appears to not know ‘Q’, or if he did, to deliberately ignore it. Of course, the correct historical (i.e. ‘chronological’) order of the four gospels should read Mark (70 CE), Matthew (late 80s CE), John (90s CE) and Luke [120 CE] (although there is debate about this, all agree that ‘Mark’ is the oldest of the four). The four gospels appear to be a challenge to Paul and an attempt at re-establishing the ‘Q’ narrative of the life of Jesus, albeit channelled through the views of four different but possibly related Christian schools. We must also bear in-mind that the author of ‘Luke’ (whoever he or she was) is also believed to have written the ‘Acts of the Apostles’. ‘Mark’ used the ‘Q’ text and re-wrote it’s to suit his community’s viewpoint around 70 CE (after the Roman destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem). He cherry-picked ‘Q’ and added one or two of his own views to it. He wrote what he thought the life of Jesus was like around 60 years before (which saw a conflict between God, Jesus and the Jerusalem establishment) – giving the impression that he had ‘witnessed’ it. ‘Matthew’ re-wrote ‘Mark’ with reference to ‘Q’, and presents a view of Christianity that has made its peace with the Romans and the Jewish community. The impression created by ‘Matthew’ is that Christianity is ‘stable’, ‘eternal’ and its adherents in for the ‘long haul’ (this explains ‘why’ the established Church placed this gospel ‘first’ as it was the ‘preferred’ message, even though it certainly was not the oldest). The author(s) of ‘Matthew’ also give the impression that he or she personally ‘witnessed the life of Jesus some 70 years previously.  Luke, on the other hand, appears not to know ‘Matthew’, but appears to re-write ‘Mark’ with a careful reference to ‘Q’. What Mark left-out of ‘Q’ of his gospel – Luke inserts in the correct chronological order, as if ‘Luke’ is repairing ‘Mark’ by fully integrating it with ‘Q’. Luke’s message is that God has also responded to an obedient people who are ‘good’, and that this timeless message includes the Old as well as the New Testaments. The eternal ‘holy spirit’ had always functioned within and through human society, inspiring prophet-teachers to remind the people to ‘remember’ God when the memory of God had become obscured or had faded, etc. Although writing around 120 years after the birth of Jesus, Luke also gives the impression that he personally ‘witnessed’ the entire life of Jesus. Jesus ‘died’ 90 years before this gospel was written. John represents a distinct Christian community that the Roman Church ‘tolerated’ even though its theology is definitely ‘off-message’. This may have been a practical policy as this school’s obvious ‘intellectualism’ might well have appealed to the better educated Greeks and Romans who required ‘fact’ over ‘faith’. John begins with a poem in praise of ‘logos’. The ‘logos’ – as God and his Son – pre-existed the creation of the world. The ‘logos’ spirals or ‘circles’ around (Mack says forming a series of interlocking ‘lines’), which generate ‘light’, ‘life’ and ‘humanity’. Whereas ‘Matthew’, ’Mark’ and ‘Luke’ share a common narrative (synopsis) or ‘over-view’ (hence the ‘Synoptic Gospels’), John is entirely independent in structure. Much is missing from John – no virgin birth and no resurrection, etc, (to mention just two important theological points) – that is contained in the other three gospels. The point of this diatribe is to contextualise the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ which is not in Mark or John, but recorded in Matthew and Luke. As Matthew wrote around 40 years before Luke, he obviously had no knowledge of ‘Luke’, and given that Luke wrote 40 years after ‘Matthew’ – and yet appears ‘not to have known’ Matthew’s gospel, it is interesting that BOTH quote the Lord’s Prayer which must surely be contained within the ‘Q’ text. If so, then it is very old and does probably date back to the time of Jesus. It is interesting that for whatever reason, the author(s) of Mark choose to ‘omit’ the Lord’s Prayers, and although a very different text, ‘John’ does have some similarities with ‘Mark’ (John the Baptist introduces Jesus at the beginning, there are miracles stories in the middle, there is a plot to kill Jesus and an execution at the end), but the author(s) of John also choose to ‘omit the Lord’s Prayer. Therefore, it appears only in two of the four gospels, but given that Matthew and Luke never knew one another, it is logical to assume the original Lord’s Prayer is contained in ‘Q’. Finally, it is probably incorrect to assume that the authors of the four gospels are ‘apostles’ or ‘disciples’ of Jesus as they lived too far into the future after his death to have been realistically associated. However, it is far more likely that the author(s) of ‘Q’ (a much older text), are the actual (or ‘real’) disciples or apostles of Jesus. Whatever the case, the Lord’s Prayer does appear to be an authentic Jesus text.  

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