I am impressed by the work of the Jesus Seminar in the US. They have gone through all 22 gospels (yes, there are now 22, not just 4!) and gospel fragments with a fine tooth comb. Their academic scholarship is second to none, and they have succeeded in creating a data base on the historical Jesus which will influence Christian thought and practice for generations to come. Their 2 principal publications are “The 5 gospels. What did Jesus really say?” and “The acts of Jesus. What did Jesus really do?” They’re big and heavy and sometimes take several pages to cover one chapter of the bible because they comment in detail on everything. But dull they are not. An intelligent teenager could follow their line of argument with ease, and would certainly benefit from doing so. Not only do they throw a new light on JC, but they show how historical criticism of texts takes place. They are a bright searchlight pushing back at the vampires of fundamentalism. If you’re short of time and money (I got mine second hand from Amazon in the US), go on line and see the detail in Wikipedia about the Jesus Seminar and their opponents. For $12.95 you can get the 122 page paperback that prints out the residual gospel. That’s the 18% of authentic material left when you treat the Greek Scriptures as any other historical text would be treated. I.e. honestly. No axes to grind. No foregone conclusions. In a way few Christians have got the guts to analyse it. I’m referring to “The gospel of Jesus according to the Jesus Seminar“,  published by the Polebridge Press in 1999. It summarizes the data of the 2 earlier volumes mentioned above. From it I am extracting the 5236 authenticated words of Jesus of Nazareth and putting them in ten rough categories. This Post covers my category no. 9, the few words Jesus devoted to prayer. The translation is appropriately that of the Jesus Seminar themselves, the ‘Scholars’ Version’.

(i) “When you pray, go into a room by yourself and shut the door behind you.” (Mt 6:6)

(ii) “When you pray, say, ‘Our father, your name be revered’.” (Lk 11:2; Mt 6:9)

(iii) “Impose your imperial rule.” (Mt 6:10)

(iv) “Our Father, Give us the bread we need for the day.” (Mt 6:9, 11; Lk 11:3)

(v) “Father, forgive our debts to the extent we have forgiven those in debt to us.” (Mt 6:12; Lk 11:4)

Zingcreed Christian-Atheist Comments:

  • The rest of the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ was made up by Jesus’s early followers, or by church leaders or manuscript copiers much later.
  • The hovel Jesus grew up in in Nazareth didn’t have separate rooms with doors!
  • When speaking about himself, Jesus declared he had nowhere to lay his head – he was just a homeless itinerant Jewish sage or teacher. So, once again no private room for him to pray in.
  • We see from Mark 1:35-39 that “Rising early, while it was still very dark, he went outside and stole away to an isolated place, where he started praying. The Simon and those with him hunted him down. When they had found him they say to him, “Everybody’s looking for you”.”
  • The prayer Jesus himself used twice daily was undoubtedly the Shema, which he would have recited on getting up and on going to bed: at about the same time he brushed his teeth. Well, did he or didn’t he?? With a twig perhaps, chewed at the end until it became frayed like a little brush. As seen in those reaches of the developing world today where Oral B. and Colgate have not yet extended their plastic toothbrush tentacles.
  • As for whether prayer works; the jury is no longer out – it doesn’t. Repeated research has shown it is totally ineffective. Now, meditation and contemplation – they’re something different.
  • Notice the down-to-earth practicality of lines (iii) and (iv): bread and debt; food supply and money flow. The ethics of  ‘us’ (not ‘me’) eating and forgiveness, reciprocity, mutual aid. For me this is what Christianity should be all about.
  • The Seminar point out about the wording: ‘Eventually,”sins” or “trespasses” was to take the place of real monetary debts. yet for Jesus this petition undoubtedly had to do with the plight of the oppressed poor, whose debts were probably overwhelming.’ ((i) p.149)
  • Note Jesus’s use of the word ‘Father’ (Abba), rather than ‘God’ (Jehovah). It’s more associated with the family and paternal love, less with a judgmental old man up in the clouds.

Related Zingcreed Posts:
Atheist prayers
Prayer and Meditation (See, Judge, Act and Review)
Prayer vs Crime – a total waste of time?
The Shema
Nazareth aka Nowheresville
Jesus’s 20 authentic words about himself
Jesus’s 5200 authentic words
(1) the 14 authentic parables
the 15 authentic kingdom statements
(3) preaching
19 authentic instructions to followers
the 17 authentic pearls of wisdom (aphorisms)
(6) healing words
(7) Talks to the disciples
the 3 biblical quotations
(9) authentic words of prayer
20 words about himself
T he doubts of Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar

(i) Funk, R.W., Hoover, R.W. and the Jesus Seminar “The 5 gospels. What did Jesus really say?” HarperSanFrancisco (1993)
(ii) Funk, R.W. and the Jesus Seminar “The Acts of Jesus. What did Jesus really do?” HarperSanFrancisco (1998)
(iii) Funk, R.W. and the Jesus Seminar “The gospel of Jesus according to the Jesus Seminar” (1999)

[278 linked & indexed, t&c]


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