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IOU: Heinemann on Matt. 6:10//Lk. 11:2

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  • Jeffrey B. Gibson
    Apologies for cross posting, but I d like to take advantage of the widest possible audience: I ve just finished reading Joseph Heinemann s The Background of
    Message 1 of 3 , Jan 4, 2008
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      Apologies for cross posting, but I'd like to take advantage of the
      widest possible audience:

      I've just finished reading Joseph Heinemann's "The Background of Jesus'
      Prayer in the Jewish Liturgical Tradition" (pp. 81-89 in _The Lord's
      Prayer and Jewish Liturgy_, J. Petuchowski and M. Brocke, eds.) and I
      came across this statement on p. 86:


      Similarly, K. G. Kuhn (_Achtzehngebet und Vaterunser und dem
      Reim_ [Tubingen, 1950, pp. 21-22] emphasizes the contrast
      between the NT passages quoted [i.e., Matt. 26:39, 42; Mark
      14:36 and Matt. 6:9 ff] and the Jewish conception, in which
      men "perform Thy will". This conception is found, for example,
      in the Palestinian version of the Eighteen Benedictions. In
      Rabbinic Judaism, the role of mankind in general, and of the
      Jewish people in particular, is to perform the will of God,
      whereas in the passive form used by Jesus ("May Thy will be
      done"), no room is left for man as an active agent performing
      God's will (p. 87).

      This is preceded by:

      There is reason to inquire whether the formula, "May it be Thy
      will" [of 1st century Jewish private prayers], expressed the
      same kind of abject deference and surrender to the will of God
      which is found in the prayer of Jesus: "Not as I will, but as
      Thou wilt" (Matt. 26:39, 42; Mark 14:36), as well as in the
      verse: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt.
      6:9 ff.). Heiler considers those verses to be "the highest
      moment in the history of prayer", and regards the passing over
      of the petitioner's prayer "into the complete surrender in
      which the wish is suppressed" as the great innovation of
      Jesus.'

      Strack and Billerbeck also hold that there is no Jewish
      prototype for such utter surrender by the worshipper (except
      the words of Judah, in I Maccabees 3:60, "As may be the will
      in heaven, so shall He do"-but this is not a prayer). They
      regard the short prayer of Rabbi Eliezer, "May Thy will be
      done in heaven above, and grant relief to those who revere
      Thee; and do that which is good in Thy sight" (Tosephta
      Berakhoth 111, 7), as merely a faint echo of Jesus' prayer;
      while the other parallels from talmudic literature which are
      usually cited are not at all relevant according to their view.
      They do not mention the formula, "May it be Thy will", in this
      context.

      It would appear that Strack and Billerbeck are right and that,
      notwithstanding the affinity of Rabbi Eliezer's prayer to that
      of Jesus, there is a fundamental novelty in the conception of
      the latter. When the Jewish petitioner surrenders his wish to
      the will of God, he nevertheless does not abandon it
      altogether. His request still stands, and, if it remains
      conditional upon God's will, this is only because he trusts
      that it shall, indeed, be God's will to grant the request. We
      do not have here the same categorical surrender in which the
      petitioner's request is completely given up. If Jesus'
      conception represents the "highest moment in the history of
      prayers", then it also seriously undermines the value of
      prayer. For if, from the very outset, the petitioner has
      already abandoned all hope of his request's being granted if
      it does not conform to the will of God, why is he praying at
      all? For Rabbinic Judaism, prayer only exists to be heard and
      answered. There is simply no point to a prayer which is not
      nourished by a sense of assurance that it is not being offered
      in vain. There is unquestionably an element of paradox in all
      prayer, and this element is certainly not lacking in the
      Jewish view of prayer. But the outlook which is expressed in
      the prayers of Jesus reduces the very possibility of prayer to
      absurdity, and it is not shared by Rabbinic Judaism (pp.
      86-87).


      The statement that "in the passive form used by Jesus ("May Thy will be
      done"), no room is left for man as an active agent performing God's
      will" strikes me as very strange, especially in the light of Matthew's
      "on earth as it is in heaven" which seems to have in view someone other
      than God doing God's will as faithfully as it is done "in heaven".

      But is it true the passive form of the expression "May it be your will"
      obliterates any idea of human beings having a part in fulfilling the
      petition at Matt. 6:10//Lk 2? Can anyone point me to a discussion of
      the passive voice that would validate Heinemann's claim?

      Jeffrey

      --
      Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
      1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
      Chicago, Illinois
      e-mail jgibson000@...



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    • Chuck Jones
      Jeffrey, I m not sure we should read the sentence quite so devotionally as the authors are suggesting. I apologize that I have no single source to cite, but I
      Message 2 of 3 , Jan 7, 2008
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        Jeffrey,

        I'm not sure we should read the sentence quite so devotionally as the authors are suggesting.

        I apologize that I have no single source to cite, but I believe it is culturally and historically quite possible to read "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" as a call for the arrival of the Blessed Age of the Messiah. The apocalyptic age would be ushered in by the direct intervention of Yahweh in history. It would purge all evil from earth, making it possible for God's will to be done on earth (as perfectly) as it is in heaven.

        Rev. Chuck Jones
        Atlanta, Georgia

        "Jeffrey B. Gibson" wrote:

        The statement that "in the passive form used by Jesus ("May Thy will be
        done"), no room is left for man as an active agent performing God's
        will" strikes me as very strange, especially in the light of Matthew's
        "on earth as it is in heaven" which seems to have in view someone other
        than God doing God's will as faithfully as it is done "in heaven".

        But is it true the passive form of the expression "May it be your will"
        obliterates any idea of human beings having a part in fulfilling the
        petition at Matt. 6:10//Lk 2? Can anyone point me to a discussion of
        the passive voice that would validate Heinemann's claim?

        .




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        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Jeffrey B. Gibson
        ... I understand that it is quite possible to read the petition as doing such a call. Indeed, Jeremias and many others have read it this way. The question I m
        Message 3 of 3 , Jan 7, 2008
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          Chuck Jones wrote:

          > Jeffrey,
          >
          > I'm not sure we should read the sentence quite so devotionally as the authors are suggesting.
          >
          > I apologize that I have no single source to cite, but I believe it is culturally and historically quite possible to read "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" as a call for the arrival of the Blessed Age of the Messiah. The apocalyptic age would be ushered in by the direct intervention of Yahweh in history. It would purge all evil from earth, making it possible for God's will to be done on earth (as perfectly) as it is in heaven.

          I understand that it is quite possible to read the petition as doing such a call. Indeed, Jeremias and many others have read it this way. The question I'm raising is whether it is impossible to read it otherwise, and if so, why.

          Jeffrey
          --
          Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
          1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
          Chicago, Illinois
          e-mail jgibson000@...
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