Friday, November 16, 2007

Criticizing the Lord's Prayer

Fr. Raymond E. BrownSince I finished my paper yesterday (praise God!!), I decided to go through my inbox and catch up on some old emails. About a month ago I received this question:

How would you apply the historical critical method to The Lord's Prayer (both Mt 6:9-13 and Lk 11:2-4)? Can you point me in the direction you think would be most helpful?
If I were you, I'd look at some Scripture commentaries that rely heavily on the historical-critical method and see what they say. Such commentaries would include the Jerome Biblical Commentary (and the New JBC), the New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, and really anything by Raymond Brown, Roland Murphy, or Joseph Fitzmyer. Once you've read what these works say about the Lord's Prayer, then you'll have a better idea of what it means to do a historical-critical study of Scripture.

Basically, a historical-critical Scripture scholar has certain questions in mind when he approaches the Bible:
  1. What is the author of this passage intending to assert with the words he has written here?
  2. What is the genre of this passage and how does that affect the meaning?
  3. What did this passage mean to the original community for whom it was written?
  4. How does the form in which we have this passage today compare to the form of the passage as found in the various manuscripts of the NT that are available to us today?
  5. How does this passage compare to parallel passages in the other Gospels?
Of course, this isn't a definitive list, just some questions off the top of my head that I know are important to historical-critical bible scholars. These are difficult questions to answer, and even the experts are undecided on various points. If you just synthesize what these works and authors say about the Lord's Prayer and use the information they provide to answer some of the popular questions that they ask, then you should be ok.

I also have a collection of articles on the historical-critical method and on how to intepret Scripture that you may wish to peruse. I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

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