Shuck and Jive

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Aramaic Lord's Prayer

Last night at the church about twenty of us participated in dancing the Aramaic Prayer of Jesus. It was a powerful experience. If you ever get a chance to participate in that, I recommend it. It made me think about a number of things. One is that my seminary education was very "Greek oriented." We needed to take courses in Greek and Hebrew, the original languages of the Bible. And yet scholars know that the language of Jesus was Aramaic. Aramaic is closer to Hebrew than Greek, yet different from both, especially Greek.

Neil Douglas Klotz is one of the premier scholars on the Aramaic language of Jesus. You can read an interview with Neil here and browse his books here.

The prayer can be translated in many ways. Here is one possible translation by Neil. You can learn to say the Aramaic Lord's prayer here.

O, Birther of the Cosmos, focus your light within us -- make it useful
Create your reign of unity now
Your one desire then acts with ours,
As in all light,
So in all forms,
Grant us what we need each day in bread and insight:
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
As we release the strands we hold of other's guilt.
Don't let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will,
The power and the life to do,
The song that beautifies all,
From age to age it renews.
I affirm this with my whole being.


  1. Dancing the Lord's prayer sounds wonderful!

    By the way, have you seen the version of the Lord's prayer from the New Zealand book of common prayer? I really think it is magnificent. The Taize services I attend sometimes on Wednesday nights use that version of the prayer. It goes:

    Eternal Spirit
    Earth-Maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
    source of all that is and that shall be,
    Father and Mother of us all.
    Loving God, in whom is heaven.
    The hallowing of your name echoes through
    the universe!

    The way of your justice be followed by the peoples
    of the earth!
    Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
    Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
    sustain our hope and come on earth.

    With the bread we need for today, feed us.
    In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
    In times of temptation and test, spare us.
    From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

    For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
    now and forever.

  2. How can Neil Douglas-Klotz be a "premiere (sic) scholar" of Aramaic when he hasn't published a single peer-reviewed article on Aramaic language? The two articles he has published in peer-reviewed articles concern spirituality - a subject in which he earned a legitimate PhD from the Union Institute. But to pass him off as a scholar of the langauge is mistaken at best, and the work of a charlatan at worst.

    Jay C. Rochelle, an academic Lutheran who publishes on spirituality and interfaith theology - as well as sharing Douglas-Klotz's commitment to "creation spirituality" - aptly reviewed Klotz's first work as amatuerish and suited to fool the gullible patrons of New Age book stores. But as a credible reconstruction of 1st c. Aramaic, it fails basically every test that could be grammatically or linguistically applied.

    Further, the whole premise of a corrupted Greek text from a pure Aramaic one is flawed by all examinations from source-critical perspectives. Even liberal scholarship assigns it to Q logia and Thomas material dating to the 50s and written in Greek. It's particularly embaressing when you see Abwon posting a webpage claiming Matthew made the prayer up in the end of the 2nd c. while we have Origen commenting on it at the turn of the 3rd c. and Cyprian of Carthage arguing for a return to ancient uses of the prayer for the Eucharist at the same time! Even more, the Didache (written no later than 160) mentions it as an established Christian practice.

    The simple truth is that we have the prayer Jesus taught his disciples and it's well translated into Greek and into English. The poetic paraphrase provided by Klotz is a fanciful re-imagining of the Prayer, infused with his own syncretistic spiritual leanings. But it can't be credibly confused with anything Jesus did pray.

  3. Thanks Chris,

    I stand corrected. Maybe I should say that Klotz is a popular writer and student of Aramaic.

    This is an area I have not explored well and am just learning about.


  4. Glad to help. There are some great guys publishing in Syriac / Aramaic textual analysis of the Gospels. One of my favorites is Dr. Pete Williams. He has impressive academic qualifications, is well published (especially for his young age), and puts a lot of his stuff online for free!

  5. Yes, Klotz is rather well-known amongst academics as a better mystic than scholar.

    I've recently done a spread on various "translations" of the Lord's Prayer along with a word-for-word analysis of the prayer taken from the Syriac Peshitta with lingustic commentary.


    O Father-Mother Birther of the Cosmos?!


  6. Steve,

    Thank you for posting! I appreciate that very much. I have subscribed to your blog via bloglines and will continue to check it out!