The Lord’s Prayer – An Alternate Illustration of Structure

Some time ago I posted a self-guided PowerPoint intended to demonstrate how the Lord’s Prayer is careful Greek poetry as well as profound theology in the form of a prayer: seen here. Here’s a screenshot of the main screen when complete:

Lord's Prayer S'shot

I was pleasantly surprised to read an article recently and find out that a scholar in the U.S. had attempted the same thing. Her focus is more on syntax (sentence structure), whereas I was focusing on sound, i.e. rhyming, and semantics (meaning). And she illustrates differently, e.g. using indentation. But the basic idea is similar. So here is her effort, from an appendix at the end of her article,

Pfeiffer, Cara. ‘The Contour Methodology: Teaching the Bible in the Digital Age’, Conversations with the Biblical World 31 (2011), 204–216. (This is available in the ATLAS database, held by many Bible colleges.)
Lord's Prayer Contour Rendering - Cara Pfeiffer
She has been constrained by the limits of what’s possible within the strict confines of a journal article, but notice her use of colour coding and her sensitivity to poetic structure. Encore!

What language did Jesus speak?

A good explanation of something many Christians may have wondered about.

With Meagre Powers

Today witnessed a very minor verbal exchange between Pope Francis and Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, over the language Jesus spoke. Reuters reports the incident on the final day of the Pope’s visit to the Middle East:

During his comments about a strong connection between Judaism and Christianity and tolerance towards Christians in Israel, Netanyahu told the [sic!] Francis: “Jesus was here, in this land. He spoke Hebrew.

“Aramaic,” the pontiff interjected.

“He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew,” Netanyahu shot back.

The difference of opinion reignites a historic debate about the language Jesus spoke two millennia ago.

“Jesus was a native Aramaic speaker,” Israeli linguistics professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann told Reuters. “But he would have also known Hebrew because there were extant religious writings in Hebrew.”

Zuckermann added that during Jesus’ time, Hebrew was spoken by the lower classes – “the kind of people he ministered to.”

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Romans 12 as Poetry, and a Draft Translation

Here’s a simple draft translation of this chapter of Romans, prepared for a small group study.  It gives limited allowance to text-critical issues and could be improved upon, but is meant to show that Paul was writing poetry when he wrote this chapter, or else his amanuensis (penman) was quite a literary scholar himself.  Paul may have decided to abandon his eloquence when he met the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 2:1-4), but he called upon every rhetorical skill he had available as he urged the Roman Christians to live a Christ-inspired life in Romans 12.  Just for example, spend some time finding all of the rhyme and assonance, not to mention matching line lengths at times, in the Greek column.

Romans 12 Greek and Translation Web Version

My take-away from this chapter?  Clearly the Roman Christians were already taking some heat for their Christian confession, and much of Paul’s urging is that they “let go of hate”, as yoda might say.  I’m reminded again, as so often, of the way of Jesus – the warning, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”  It is so tempting when facing hostility to take up the sword ourselves, to fight fire with fire.  But it is not the way of Christ, and never has been.

A Last Christmas Question?

I hope to resist temptation after this and return to the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible.

But my last nativity story question is, do we know that they had ‘inns’ as such in Jesus’ time in Bethlehem?  The Greek word traditionally translated ‘inn’ in Luke 2:7 is ‘katalyma‘, and only occurs otherwise in reference to the room Jesus expected to be prepared for the last supper (Mark 14:14; Luke 22:11).  I can find 11 uses in the Septuagint (LXX), where the term can be used of places of residence that are impermanent, and might refer to God’s dwelling, i.e. the tabernacle as a non-permanent residence (2 Sam 7:6), a human lodging (Exod 4:24; Jer 40:12) or an animal lair (Jer 25:28 (Eng.)/32:38 (LXX)).  This doesn’t really help decide between ‘inn’ and ‘guest/spare room’ in Luke 2:7, but I am still wondering whether it is the guest accommodation in someone’s house in Bethlehem that was full, forcing Joseph and Mary into the final overflow accommodation, i.e. the animals’ area at the lower end of the house (see previous post on this).

Theological dictionaries have very limited information: Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich 4th ed. (1952) has a few lines, listing ‘inn’ for this reference alone.  Kittel’s Theological Dictionary 4:338 seems to settle rather meekly for this meaning too.  Brown, Dictionary of N.T. Theology, 3:189, says the word…

means generally lodging, but more particularly a guest room or dining room (Mk. 15:14; Lk. 2:7; 22:11).

Is this another case of the ‘traditional translation’, like ‘hallowed’ in the Lord’s Prayer, that has become too enshrined to touch or update?

Your comments are welcome.