A Brief History of the Lord's Prayer

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 -
1559 CE
Early English Bibles and
Prayer Books
1843 CELiddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon
1611 CE -
2001 CE
Modern bibles,
Episcopal Book of Common Prayer

[ Sources ]

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

© 2013 Jim 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.

Jewish-Roman wars
The Jewish Diaspora

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

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 is written
Luke's gospel is written

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.

Medieval Bibles are published

Wycliff's 1382 bible was hand printed, whereas Tindale's New Testament was the first Bible to be mass produced via the printing press. Tyndale's work also appears to have first introduced the word "trespasses" as a substitute for "debts," establishing a now widely followed tradition. Tyndale's is the first translation to draw on Greek and Hebrew texts.

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

The most popular variant of the Lord's prayer in the United States is found in the 1979 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. The English Standard Edition is noted for its attention to accuracy; it includes multiple variants of some phrases.

Standard English Edition




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