Historical Contexts of the Lord's Prayers

The following table provides an outline of the events that shaped the evolution of the various Bibles that have been written. Mouse over any date in the left column for a brief description of what was going then.

4 BCE - 30 CE Life of the Historical Jesus
30 - 66 CE Era of the 'Early Church'
The Pauline letters
67 - 72 CE Jewish-Roman wars, ending with
the Jewish Diaspora
70's CE Mark's gospel, Q gospel
80's CE Matthew's gospel, Luke's gospel
90's CE John's gospel
300's CECodex Sinaiticus
1382 CE John Wycliffe's Bible
1526 CE William Tyndale's New Testament
1534 CE Martin Luther's Bible
1611 CE -
1789 CE
King James Version, 1611
Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, 1789 - 1979
1843 CELiddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon
1978 CE
and later
Modern Bible translations
What did Jesus mean?
2012 CE
and later
The Cotton Patch Gospels
What would Jesus say today?


The Lord's Prayer sprang from the Roman persecution of Jews and Christians. Ancient texts gradually mutated as they were copied from scribe to scribe. The doctrine of inerrancy took hold, forcing consistency between doctrines and Bibles. Heretics in England and Germany got hold of the ancient documents, igniting the Protestant Reformation. Today, modern Bibles are again inserting translators' beliefs amid claims of high accuracy and "dynamic equivalence." How will the Bible evolve from here?

[ Sources ]












N.T. Wright
John Dominic Crossan
Marcus Borg
Robin Griffith Jones
Destiny Keeton-Williams

Life of the Historical Jesus

The Lord's Prayer is thought to be rooted in the actual prayers and experiences with Jesus and his disciples.

Execution of Jesus
Era of the 'Early Church'
The Pauline letters

The Lord's Prayer is not found in surviving writings from the early years following the execution of Jesus. However, the precedent for intertwining liturgy and sacred text is set by Paul. Philippians 2:6-11 is thought to be an early church hymn, preserved in his letter. Given that similar sacred writings from this time have been preserved, it appears that the Lord's prayer may have been written later. ***

Jesus didn't do it

See Dart J. Bible Scholars Say Jesus Didn’t Create or Teach Lord’s Prayer. Los Angeles Times, 1988 October 18. Jesus Seminar [full text].

Jewish-Roman wars
The Jewish Diaspora

The scattering of Jews over the known world at that time, apart from their homeland.

St. Paul was beheaded by Nero in 68 CE, and two of Jesus' companions were crucified. Jerusalem was sacked and destroyed in 70 CE. ***

Out of this historical context, the preservation of sacred teachings, hymns, liturgy, and prayers began. This was the first stage in the canonization of sacred Christian writings.

This persecution targeted both Jews and ChristiansConsidered a Jewish sect by the Romans and continued through the reign of the emperor DomitianRuled 81 - 96 CE, threatening the extinction of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Canonization began as the preservation of sacred teachings, only later supporting goals of imperial control and doctrines of inerrancy.That the Canonical Bible is the Word of God, infallible and without error in every detail.

Mark's gospel, Q manuscripts

Additional manuscripts written around the time of Mark's gospel have been lost, but are mentioned at the beginning of Luke's gospel. They are thought to include the Q gospel and what may be the earliest version of the Lord's prayer.

Q is defined as the common source material, other than Mark's gospel, that was available to both Matthew and Luke.

The International Q project first inferred the editorial policies of Luke and Matthew from how their gospels incorporated material from Mark's. They then recovered elements of Q by applying these editorial policies in reverse to ideas found in Luke's and Matthew's gospels but not Mark's.

Matthew's gospel , Luke's gospel

Matthew and Luke build on Mark and Q. Matthew adds theological links to the Old Testment, while Luke adds theological interpretations for the Gentile-Christian community.

The Lord's prayer is found in both gospels, with the version in Luke being a little shorter. ***

Portions of the prayer that appear in both gospels (and by inference, in Q) may be of earlier origin than those which appear only in Matthew.

By this time, the prayer is probably already a product of the community, though not necessarily in departure from the actual prayers of Jesus and his disciples.

John's gospel is written

In contrast to previous gospels that provide a history with theological links and themes, John's is a theology with historical links and themes. No mention of the Lord's prayer.

Codex Sinaiticus is penned

The Codex Sinaiticus is regarded as a generally accurate copy of original Greek texts dating back to the dawn of the Christian church. It includes the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament.

Wycliffe Bible

Wycliffe and his staff translated  the Latin Vulgate Bible into the everyday speech of lay people. The Catholic Church banned any further printings of his Bible in 1409, and  all later printings carried the false publication date of 1409.

Tyndale New Testament

Tyndale's New Testament was the first to draw on Greek and Hebrew texts. The Catholic Church strangled him, and two years later, King Henry VIII decreed that every church in England make a copy of his Bible available. ***

Tyndale and King Henry VIII were secular enemies. Tyndale wrote a scathing article about the King Henry's divorce and went into hiding. The King tracked him down and threw him into a Belgium prison. Eighteen months later, the Catholics brought him back for a large show trial where they hung him, tied his body to a stake, and threw gun powder on the kindling wood. Tyndale went out with a bang.

Luther Bible

Martin Luther also drew on Greek and Hebrew texts and ensured that his Bible was readable by lay people. The Catholic Church excommunicated him, and he launched the Protestant Reformation.

Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon

Commonly referred to as the LSJ, A Greek-English Lexicon, edited by Liddell, Scott and Jones, has served as the basis of all later lexicographical work on Classical Greek. Its first edition was published in 1843; its ninth, the most recent edition, was released online by the Perseus Project in 2007. ***

The LSJ attempts to rediscover Classical Greek by comparing each word across multiple ancient documents. This objective contrasts with that of the more recent ten-volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by Kittle and Friedrich, whose initial goal was to lexicographically encapsulate their theology of the New Testament.

Book Of Common Prayer

Roughly 84% of the KJV is taken from Tyndale's Bible.

The most popular variant of the Lord's prayer in the United States is found in the 1979 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. It's use of trespasses in place of debts is from Tyndale's Bible.

Modern Bibles

Some goals of the newer Bibles have been:

  • Accessibility to those with limited knowledge of English

  • Accuracy and readability – the English Standard Edition.

  • Palatability to particular denominations – Catholics, Lutherans, Jewish Christians, Seventh-day Adventists

  • Expressing what the Bible's authors must have meant as opposed to what they said – billed as "dynamic equivalences" or paraphrases.

Today, the King James Bible remains more popular than all others combined.

What Would Jesus Say?

In the Cotton Patch Gospels, Clarence Jordan replaced Jews, Gentiles, and the Crucifixion with whites, blacks, and lynching's. ***

But the question remains: What would Jesus now say to we who have eight times as many words to hear Him with? We who have cable TV and the Internet? We who see the horrors of war daily?

Jordan Reference

See Jordan C. Cotton Patch Gospel: The Complete Collection. Smyth & Helwys 2012 March 16. Civil Rights Gospel [hardcopy].



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