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The Disciples' Prayer

The Disciples' Prayer: The Prayer Jesus Taught in Its Historical Setting

Jeffrey B. Gibson
Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    The Disciples' Prayer
    Book Description:

    Christians around the world recite the “Lord’s Prayer” daily, but what exactly are they praying for—and what relationship does it have with Jesus’ own context? Jeffrey B. Gibson reviews scholarship that derives the so-called Lord’s Prayer from Jewish synagogal prayers and refutes it. The genre of the prayer, he shows, is petitionary, and understanding its intent requires understanding Jesus’ purpose in calling disciples as witnesses against “this generation.” Jesus did not mean to teach a unique understanding of God; the prayer had its roots in first-century Jewish movements of protest. In context, Gibson shows (pace Schweitzer, Lohmeyer, Davies, Allison, and a host of other scholars) that the prayer had little to do with “calling down” into the present realities of “the age to come.” Rather, it was meant to protect disciples from the temptations of their age and, thus, to strengthen their countercultural testimony. Gibson’s conclusions offer new insights into the historical Jesus and the movement he sought to establish.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-9661-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xii)

    Every day, Christians all over the world, taking the text of Matt. 6:7–13 as their cue, “dare” and “make bold” both privately and publicly to utter versions of the words that, according to the author of the Gospel of Matthew (and also the author of the Gospel of Luke) Jesus gave his disciples to pray.¹ But here’s a vital question:Do Christians actually understand the words they utter?And here’s another even more important one, one which lies at the center of this book: granting that Christians havesomeunderstanding of Jesus’ words (as surely they must, especially if...

  5. 1 What Prayer Are We Praying When We Pray the “Lord’s Prayer”?
    (pp. 1-30)

    I begin this study with a question to which the answer is seemingly as simple as it is obvious, namely, What prayer are we praying when we pray the “Lord’s Prayer”?

    I say “seemingly” because in point of fact the question is more complex than it appears at first glance. And it does not have one answer. It has four. Moreover, unless one has a wide acquaintance not only with the way the prayer is actually prayed in all of the contexts in which people presently “make bold to say” it but also with the results of scholarly investigation of...

  6. 2 What Are We Praying for When We Pray the Disciples’ Prayer?
    (pp. 31-40)

    The question I ask in this chapter should, at first glance, be greeted with a raised eyebrow and a look of extreme consternation. Isn’t it true by definition that what we are praying for when we recite the Lord’s Prayer is what we think we are praying for when we utter its words? When, for instance, I recite the first half of Matt. 6:13 (par. Luke 11:4), which I was brought up to believe meant “Please God, do not bring me anywhere near temptation,” and think that what I am praying for is either deliverance from ever being confronted by...

  7. 3 What Kind of Prayer Are We Praying When We Pray the Disciples’ Prayer?
    (pp. 41-62)

    I confess that besides looking at library catalogs, reading books, and pursuing the academic databases dedicated to matters biblical for articles in professional periodicals, one of the things I did when I began my research for this book was to Google the expression “(the) Lord’s Prayer” to see what material was available on the Internet. In doing this, I discovered two things: First, that there is a staggering number of expositions and discussions and analyses of the prayer—some old, some new, some written by scholars, many not, cast in a variety of forms (from treatises to sermon outlines)—that...

  8. 4 The Prayer’s Author and His Disciples
    (pp. 63-104)

    In previous chapters I have argued, against Michael Goulder, John Dominic Crossan, and others, that the “author” of the Disciples’ Prayer in its balanced Matthean form was indeed Jesus of Nazareth.¹ But who was Jesus?

    This simple question is often quickly answered. “He was the Messiah” or “the Son of God” or “He was humanity’s Savior.” For my purposes, these answers, and others like them, are of little help historically, being in the end essentially faith-based evaluations of Jesus’ significance, which are incapable of historical confirmation. The historical question about Jesus is more to my point, but it is not...

  9. 5 Is the Disciples’ Prayer an Eschatological Prayer?
    (pp. 105-134)

    In answering the question of whether the Disciples’ Prayer is an eschatological prayer, I will proceed by having a close look at the arguments that supporters of the eschatological orientation employ to make their case. If those arguments seem not to carry weight, then the overall case for an eschatological reading of the prayer becomes wobbly, if not disproved.¹

    So what are these arguments? In the main, there are two. The first we’ve already noted: that the Disciples’ Prayer is grounded in and derived from certain Jewish prayers—the Amidah, the Kaddish, and the Morning Prayer—which, so the argument...

  10. 6 The “Temptation” Petition
    (pp. 135-160)

    As I have noted above, the request καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν (kai mē eisenenkēs hēmas eis peirasmon) has been taken by the advocates of an eschatological interpretation as the disciples’ plea to God that they might be prevented either (1) from ever experiencing the woes of the great “end-time” tribulation that Jews in Jesus’ day expected to beset the people of God at the dawning of the long-awaited age of salvation, or (2) from showing themselves faithless should they be plunged into these woes. Does this view have any merit? Let’s look at three assumptions undergirding it.¹


  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 161-166)

    So where are we? Have we been able to establish what Jesus meant his disciples to be praying for when they prayed the prayer he gave them? I believe we have, if somewhat indirectly. But first, before I lay out more directly what this is, let’s summarize what we’ve discovered about the prayer itself.

    The Disciples’ Prayer is indeed a prayer—a heartfelt attempt at communication with someone who is believed to support, maintain, and control the existence of the ones who engage in it; an act of communication is intended to have some effect on the one to whom...

  12. Appendix: Was John the Baptist the Author of the Disciples’ Prayer?
    (pp. 167-170)
  13. Index
    (pp. 171-177)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 178-178)