Monday, November 24, 2014

DJ Jesus teaches prayer

We forget that Jesus' words were actually spoken to illiterate people for whom the message had to be put in memorable terms. In this sense, Jesus was almost a modern rapper, speaking to a beat and a rhyme.

Possibly the best known words attributed to Jesus are those in the prayer known among Christians as either "the Lord's Prayer" or "the Our Father."(1) The gospels of Matthew and Luke offer slightly different texts, but scholars argue persuasively that the Jesus probably said:

hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come.
Our daily bread give us today.
And forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us to the test.

One hypothetical version in Aramaic, the Hebraic dialect Jesus spoke, would yield the following in transliteration:

yitqaddas semak
te'teh malkutak
labmana di misteya hab
lemah yoma demah
usebuq lamah hobaynah
kedi sebaqna lehayyahayna
we'al elinnana lenisyon

Note the two- and four-beat rhythm and several simple and internal rhymes. You can almost imagine the disciples repeating it to hands clapping, swaying to the singsong of these words.

1. I borrow rather heavily in this post from John Meier's A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume II, pp. 291-293.