Notes from John Dominic Crossan, Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord’s Prayer

The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord’s Prayer by John Dominic Crossan

suggests—a radical manifesto and a hymn of hope for all humanity in language addressed to all the earth?  59  

it presumes and proclaims the radical vision of justice that is the core of Israel’s biblical tradition.  62  

the primary meaning of “justice” is not retributive, but distributive. To be just means to distribute everything fairly. The primary meaning of “justice” is equitable distribution of whatever you have in mind—even  68  

The biblical tradition speaks of God as a God of “justice and righteousness” (Ps. 99:4; Isa. 33:5; Jer. 9:24). Those two words express the same content. A God of “justice and righteous ness” is a God who does what is just by doing what is right and does what is right by doing what is just. The redundant phrase proclaims that God’s world must be distributed fairly and equitably among all God’s people.  71  

its vision derives from the common experience of a well-run home, household, or family farm. If you walked into one, how would you judge the householder? Are the fields well tended? Are the animals properly provisioned? Are the buildings adequately maintained? Are the children and dependents well fed, clothed, and sheltered? Are the sick given special care? Are responsibilities and returns apportioned fairly? Do all have enough? Especially that: Do all have enough? Or, to the contrary, do some have far too little while others have far too much? It is that vision of the well-run household, of the home fairly, equitably, and justly administered, that the biblical tradition applies to God. God is the Householder of the world house, and all those preceding questions must be repeated on a global and cosmic scale. Do all God’s children have enough? If not—and the biblical answer is “not”—how must things change here below so that all God’s people have a fair, equitable, and just proportion of God’s world? The Lord’s Prayer proclaims that necessary change as both revolutionary manifesto and hymn of hope.  77  

It is—if you need an -ism—Godism, Householdism or, best of all, Enoughism. We sometimes name that biblical vision of God’s World-Household as Egalitarianism but, actually, Enoughism would be a more accurate description.  86  

Poetic parallelism provokes thought, so I think a lot about that possibility and what it might mean. Furthermore, that mental dialectic between parallel lines—that question of how much redundancy there is—is even more emphasized in synonymous parallelism when one line is in the negative (“not”) and the other in the positive (“but”).  119  

Poetic lines like that are often called antithetical parallelism, but the process still pushes the ear to hear and the mind to think whether they are exactly the same or whether the second line expands the content. Poetic parallelism is not just about aesthetics, but about interpretation. Finally, the most fascinating type of parallelism in the Bible is called stepped, climactic, or crescendo parallelism. In that device, the lines are quite parallel in format, but the content increases toward a climax.  127  

find in that prayer what the historical Jesus stood for—or knelt for.  168  

simply ran each word through a computerized concordance of the Christian Bible, printed each result, and read those lists—in context—over and over again. As I read them, I thought about them until the dominant emphases of each word became more and more obvious. I then discussed each key word in the prayer within those wider biblical emphases. In other words, this book is a biblical meditation on the Lord’s Prayer.  176  

Does your own greatest prayer speak exclusively to the followers of your religion? Or does it speak to the conscience of the entire world? I propose that the greatest prayer in every religion should speak to all the world and for all the earth.  184  

In that metaphor we are all laptops, and prayer is about empowerment by participation in and collaboration with God.  200  

This God-as-Electricity is always there, whether discovered or not. Even when found, my human freedom allows me to connect or not connect. It never forces itself upon me. I need it without its needing me.  204  

equally available to all comers. You do not have to merit it by your action or deserve it by your character. You can be rich or poor, young or old, gay or straight, female or male, or anything else you can imagine. Finally, God-as-Electricity works just as well for game and movie players, cell phones, and digital assistants; it even works equally well for Apples and PCs. All we laptops have to do is find an outlet and plug ourselves in; empowerment is the free gift of God-as-Electricity.   I imagine God-as-Electricity and think of prayer as empowerment by participation in and collaboration with God. But is that what the Christian Bible understands by God and by prayer?  206  

request is the dominant type of biblical prayer. It is important to notice that, as in the final example, even a personal request does not mean self-centered individualism, but a plea for union with God, for “understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart” (119:34) and for “life according to your justice” (119:156). Psalms of Gratitude. In the magnificent biblical book of Psalms the second largest category is psalms of gratitude. Sometimes the key word is “praise,” but at other times it is “give thanks.” Very often, however, those two terms appear in poetic parallelism; “praise” in one half verse is balanced by “thanksgiving” in the corresponding half verse: Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. (30:4) We…will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise. (79:13) I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples, and I will sing praises to you among the nations. (108:3) The rhythm of prayer in the biblical book of Psalms is that double chant of request followed by gratitude, petition by thanksgiving, and complaint by praise. Whether we look at general types through the entire book of Psalms or themes within individual psalms, that is the dyad that appears again and again. It is also, of course, a sequence we know full well from the ordinary and everyday human experience of appealing for something and then acknowledging its donor. “Please” and “Thanks” are likewise the systolic and diastolic beats of the Psalter’s biblical heart. But that very dynamism of request and gratitude raises some very fundamental questions about the purpose of prayer. Is prayer primarily or even exclusively about our wants and needs—even our most altruistic and other-focused ones? Is the combination of request and gratitude primarily or even exclusively about keeping an open contact with divine assistance that both thanks God for past positive responses and ensures future ones? Is Christian prayer a careful cost accounting that thanks God for what has already come our way and praises God for what is yet to follow it? Bluntly, succinctly, is prayer all about me, you, us, and a God who must be regularly praised and complimented for favors past, present, and yet to come? Based on those biblical psalms, our Christian prayer is full of request of God through complaint and petition. It is likewise full of gratitude to God through praise and thanksgiving. But does Christian prayer also involve empowerment by God through participation and collaboration? I turn next, as a first step toward answering that question, from the biblical psalms to the biblical prophets. I move from those who spoke to God to those who spoke for God.   Something surprising happens, however, when you turn from the biblical psalms to the biblical prophets. Something strange happens when you compare those who speak to God in prayer with those who speak for God in prophecy. It is almost as if prophecy and prayer are at war with each other. But how can that be true? Firmly grounded in the divine dream of Israel’s Torah, the Bible’s prophetic vision insists that God demands the fair and equitable sharing of God’s world among all of God’s people. In Israel’s Torah, God says, “The land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants” (Lev. 25:23). We are all tenant farmers and resident aliens in a land and on an earth not our own. The prophets speak in continuity with that radical vision of the earth’s divine ownership. They repeatedly proclaim it with two words in poetic parallelism. “The Lord is exalted,” proclaims Isaiah. “He dwells on high; he filled Zion with justice and righteous ness” (33:5). “I am the Lord,” announces Jeremiah in the name of God. “I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight” (9:24). And those qualities must flow from God to us, from heaven to earth. “Thus says the Lord,” continues Jeremiah. “Act with justice and…  239  

emphasize those dates for Israel’s prophets because they were turbulent and even terrible years both at home and abroad. On the international level, in the period 911 to 539 BCE, the Assyrian Empire came to power and then fell before the Babylonian Empire, which rose and then in turn succumbed to the Persian Empire. On the local level, during those imperial transitions, first, the northern half of the Jewish homeland, known as the Kingdom of Israel, was destroyed by the Assyrians. Next, the southern half, known as the Kingdom of Judah, was destroyed by the Babylonians and its entire leadership taken into exile in Babylon; later, under Persian control, the exiles were allowed to return. Throughout those seismic disturbances, that prophetic challenge of distributive justice rather than ritual prayer remained constant and consistent. In what follows, therefore, watch how the negative usually precedes and even overshadows the positive. And wonder to yourself why they speak that way. Why is justice set against prayer rather than joined together with it? The 700s BCE. I begin with the prophet Amos, from the first half of that eighth century BCE. He was shocked to the soles of his peasant sandals by the ever growing inequality between rich and poor during the long rule of Jeroboam II over the Kingdom of Israel in the northern half of the Jewish homeland. His metaphors are brutal and shocking and must have seared at least the ears if not the hearts of his aristocratic hearers. But I focus here, in this first statement, on the striking dichotomy between prayer and justice. God is speaking through the prophet: Negative: I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. Positive: But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (5:21–24) Once again, by the way, we find that parallelism between “justice” and “righteousness.” It reminds us that both terms mean distributive justice in the biblical tradition. Next, I turn to the prophet Hosea, in the second half of that same eighth century BCE, and we are still in that northern Kingdom of Israel. Assyrian incursions are gathering force, and the small kingdoms of Israel and Syria are seeking alliances with others against Assyria’s military might. But once again, God is speaking through the prophet with the same disjunction between worship and justice: For I desire steadfast love [positive] and not sacrifice [negative], the knowledge of God [positive] rather than burnt offerings [negative]. (6:6) It is the same message that Amos gave us, but now reduced to two terse sentences in an even poetic parallelism of positive and negative: love and knowledge of God over and against sacrifice and offerings to God. Then, still in the second half of that eighth century, but now in the southern Kingdom of Judah, that same indictment appears at the very start of First Isaiah: Negative: What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Positive: Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the…  298  

You will notice, however, that the Greek is “the Father” and not just “Father.” I would suggest, therefore, that, however we translate it, we should hear it as “Abba, THE Father.” We must, I think, take that cry of “Abba, the Father!” very, very seriously. I return to it from Mark 14:36 in Chapter 5, but focus here on Paul’s almost identical usage in two different letters. How does Paul help us on the interactive relationship of prayer and justice? Does he agree or disagree that prayer to the God of justice above empowers one to divine justice here below?  421  

He actually gives us his own positive answer on “how to pray” twice, a shorter version in Galatians 4:6–7 and a longer version in Romans 8:14–17. Here is the short one: God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but…an heir, through God. (4:6–7) I proposed earlier that the best way to hold the prayer of the biblical psalms and the justice of the biblical prophets together was this: we pray to the God of justice to be empowered by that God for justice. But instead of saying that we pray to God for empowerment, Paul says we are empowered by God to pray. It is the gift of God’s own Spirit that cries out in us, with us, from us, through us: “Abba, Father!” So, for Paul, God’s own Spirit is the necessary missing element. We cannot pray by ourselves, but only through and by the power of the Holy Spirit. And that ecstatic prayer is the acclamation “Abba, the Father,” in which all else is already contained. Furthermore, says Paul, God’s Spirit of justice liberates slaves from the bondage of injustice and makes them not only free, but heirs of God. That mention of slavery recalls the liberating God of the Exodus from Egypt in the second book of the Bible. But now it is not just a question of slaves becoming free by the action of God, but of slaves becoming heirs of God. Is that just a moment of rhapsodic vision that would have to be drastically toned down if and when Paul thought it over? I do not think so, because he says it all again and even more fully in his later letter to the Romans: When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ…. The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (8:15–17, 26–27) All the same language appears here once again: the Spirit of God prays in us and for us; the cry of that Spirit in us is “Abba, Father!” and the result is that we are not just freed slaves of God or even beloved children of God, but “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” Paul’s claim is clear, and it is, as I said, quite stunning. We cannot pray the Abba Prayer to God the Father by ourselves or from ourselves. We can only pray it by, with, and through the Holy Spirit. Better: only the Holy Spirit can pray it in us, for us, and through us. Better still: it is a collaborative prayer between—in this order—God’s divine Spirit and our human spirit. We translate that combination of divinity and humanity—as above—with God’s “Spirit bearing witness with our spirit” (8:15). But Paul held the two in a much tighter combination with a single Greek word. He wrote of “with-witnessing” (summarturei) to emphasize the extraordinarily profound collaboration between divine Spirit and human spirit in the Abba Prayer of Jesus. One final and all-important question. What does it mean for Christians to become “an heir, through God” (Gal. 4:7) or “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17)? We have already seen one aspect of it. God liberates us from injustice and, as heirs, we inherit that same obligation for others. There is, however, another aspect as well, and this goes back to Genesis, the first book of the Bible. You can see that second aspect if you glance back at the two parts from Romans 8 (vv. 15–17, 26–27) that I cited together above. There is a section of text left out in between—and notice that it is between—those two assertions about the Spirit of God praying within Christians. Here is that magnificent in-between section: The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in…  445  

there is a path forward, because this is how our prayer growth develops:   REQUEST GRATITUDE EMPOWERMENT complaint and petition thanksgiving and praise participation and collaboration  513  

maturity in prayer—and in theology—means working more and more from prayers of request (complaint or petition), through prayers of gratitude (thanksgiving or praise), and on to prayers of empowerment (participation or collaboration)—with a God who is absolutely transcendent and immanent at the same time. That God is like the air all around us. God, like air, is everywhere, for everyone, always, and both totally free as well as absolutely necessary.  523  

Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed. (Exod. 23:12) Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. (Deut. 5:13–14)  689  

We saw in the prophets that God demands a fair share of God’s world for all God’s people. We saw in Paul that the gift of God’s Spirit makes us heirs of that cosmic responsibility. But where did they get such a radical idea? Where did they get that idea about a fair share for all the people of Israel—let alone for all the people of the world? The biblical tradition—and maybe the whole human race—knows what a well-run home is like. It knows, therefore, how to recognize a good householder.  732  

That basic, domestic model of the good householder, of the just and righteous, fair and equitable householder of the human home, is extended by the biblical tradition to God as Householder of the world house. That is where the biblical writers got it, that is why they are so sure about it, and that is why they believe in it. The well-run house-hold is a microcosm, a miniature of the macrocosm, a well-run world. To call God “Father in Heaven” is to call God “Householder of Earth.” And that is why Jesus addressed God as Abba in the Lord’s Prayer.  739  

From the human to the divine, then, what aspects of householder are emphasized in the biblical tradition? There are four main ones. Householder as Creator. Luke’s genealogy of Jesus works backward all the way to creation, and everyone is simply a named “son of” a named father. (Were no females involved as mothers?) And so, in the beginning, Adam was “son of God” (3:38). The father as (pro)creator of the household becomes model and metaphor for God the Creator as divine Father of humanity.  745  

O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isa. 64:8)  754  

The prophet Malachi also asks, “Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us?” (2:10).  759  

Corinthians: For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (8:6) In other words, for Paul, “a new creation is everything” (Gal. 6:15); and, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).  761  

(Gal. 1:3; Phil. 1:2; Philem. 3; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 1:7). God the Father as the Creator is also God our Father as our New Creator. Householder as Protector. Protector is also Savior, Redeemer, and Liberator.  771  

God says of King David, “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me” (2 Sam. 7:14), and of his successor, King Solomon, “He shall be a son to me, and I will be a father to him” (1 Chron. 22:10). Finally, however, as the Davidic line increasingly failed to fulfill the promises made by God, the prophet Isaiah made this extraordinary correlation of “son” as “father”: For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (9:6) The ultimate protector, savior, redeemer, liberator is the Davidic Messiah, who is both Son and Father. And his Household will not be simply a world house. It will be a world house of peace. Householder as Provider.  782  

Father of orphans and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. (68:5) But why is God as Father especially concerned with “orphans” and “widows”? Why not all people? Why those ones in particular?  796  

in that world it meant one without a father. In the book of Lamentations, for example, the prophet Jeremiah mourns the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in the early 500s saying, “We have become orphans, fatherless; our mothers are like widows” (5:3). In a justly run household all will have enough, but there will also be special care and concern for the more vulnerable ones—for the very young or the very weak, for the mentally or physically disabled, and for the temporarily or permanently ill. In the biblical world house of God three major groups are especially defenseless and therefore offered special fatherly care and concern by God as Householder: The poor and needy—in a rich society Widows and orphans—in a patriarchal society Resident aliens—in a tribal society Those categories come up together again and again like a mantra in warnings from God as Householder: You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns…. You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge. (Deut. 24:14, 17) Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey! (Isa. 10:1–2) Be a father to orphans, and be like a husband to their mother; you will then be like a son of the Most High, and he will love you more than does your mother. (Sir. 4:10) Those groups are not cases of personal incompetence or individual incapacity. Once again, remember Babatha. She was certainly very, very competent. But, living in a male-dominated society, she was vulnerable to male judges and male trustees and, despite her greater business ability, she could not prevail against them in court. It is the tribal structure and patriarchal system of a society that make it easy to oppress certain groups, and, therefore, like the weaker members of the family, they are under the very special care of the divine Householder. Those same groups reappear in the New Testament: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27) What horrifies the biblical conscience in all those cases is the inequality that destroys the integrity of the household and therefore dishonors the Householder. In what sort of household are some members exploited by others? In what sort of household do some members have far less than they want and others far more than they need? What sort of Householder is in charge of such a house? Householder as Model. In the extended family of the biblical world, daughters and sons learned how to become future householders by implicit and explicit apprenticeship to their parents as householders.  800  

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gives the Lord’s Prayer in the Sermon on the Mount in 6:9–13, that is, almost immediately after his negative admonition about violence and positive one about love in 5:38–48. First, that section begins with this negative command: “I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer” (5:39). That sounds—in English—like total nonresistance or even indifference to evil. But not so in Matthew’s Greek. There the verb “resist” is composed of two parts: anti and histmi. The major Greek lexicon, Liddell and Scott, explains that verb as meaning: “to stand against, especially in battle, to withstand, oppose.” It is accurate, I think, to translate Jesus’s use in Matthew 5:39 as: “Do not withstand evil violently.” Next, comes the corresponding positive command. Jesus presumes that, as in Leviticus, we must “love our neighbor as ourselves” (19:18) and even “love the resident alien as ourselves” (19:34). But this is his striking extension of those passages: “I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). Finally, what is even more striking is why we are supposed to act without violence and with love: So that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous…. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (5:45–46, 48) God the Father is our model for how to respond to evil against us. That English word “perfect” may also tend to mislead us. Who, we ask, could be “perfect” as God “is perfect”? The Greek word there is teleios, which can certainly be translated “perfect.” For example, Jesus tells the rich young man to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow him, if he “wishes to be perfect” (Matt. 19:21). But there are several different translations of teleios elsewhere in the New Testament. It appears as “complete” (1 Cor. 13:10) or “adult” (1 Cor. 14:20) and especially as “mature” (Phil. 3:15; Col. 1:28; 4:12; Eph. 4:13). The letter of James advises: “Let endurance have its full (teleion) effect, so that you may be mature (teleioi) and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:4). To be perfect is to be full, complete, mature—qualities the parent models for the child, the householder for the household, and God for all of us. That is a magnificent vision of loving even one’s “enemies,” loving even those who hate or persecute, curse or abuse us. It is based on the very character of God as Father or Householder who loves all those in the world house and therefore supplies sunshine for the good and the bad and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike.   Granted that vision of God as Father/Householder who creates, protects, provides for, and models for all in God’s household, how does the opening invocation, “Our Father in heaven,” relate to the rest of the Lord’s Prayer? I answer, for here and now, only in a preliminary way by seeing how the prayer’s balanced structure flows from its initial address. Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer is a well-crafted, carefully organized, and poetically structured hymn. That means we must pay attention to both form and content. I begin here with a diagram of its skeletal structure, but before looking at it, here are some aspects to focus our understanding. First, the prayer begins with “Our Father,” that is, with a communal “our” rather than just an individual “my.” The prayer is certainly “personal,” but personal-in-community rather than personal-in-privacy. You may certainly pray it alone, but you are never alone when you pray it. Second, in the Greek of Matthew, “Our Father” is literally “Father of us.” There is no difference in meaning, but “Father / of us” helps us to see immediately the formal division of the prayer into two halves. The former half focuses on the divinity of God; the latter half focuses on our humanity. When you look at the diagram, you will…  837  

The power of biblical parallelism is that it forces the mind to slow down, to ponder, and to meditate on these questions. Does that second verse add anything to the first one? Do both verses together say something that is not said by either alone?  892  

I take very seriously the greatest commentary, from Paul, on this greatest prayer, from Jesus. Paul’s claim in Romans 8:14–17 is that, when the divine Spirit cries out “Abba, the Father” in and with our human spirit, we become heirs of God. And, as heirs, we assume the powers and responsibilities of householding our world so that all alike have enough.  910  

“heirs of God” for the care of creation. But is this prayer for Christianity only, or does it speak to all humanity? I suggest that it is a single powerful beat from the heart of biblical tradition and that it is addressed to all the world. I read it, therefore, against this context from Genesis 1:26–28: “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them…. “Have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” That mandate of responsibility is repeated twice to frame and interpret what it means for humans to be made in God’s image. Humans (“male and female”) are created to run God’s world. We are, as human beings, co-responsible with the Householder for the household of the world. Christians are “heirs of God” from Paul, but all humans are “images of God” from Genesis. I turn next to the rhapsody on that magnificent human destiny in Psalm 8 and, as you read, notice its rampant poetic parallelism: When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. (8:3–8)  914  

Once again, our human glory is to be “a little lower than God” and thereby responsible for all God’s creatures of land, sky, and sea. Paul interprets the Lord’s Prayer to mean that Christians are “heirs of God” with responsibility for the “groaning” of creation. My proposal is that the Abba Prayer involves that and much more. It recalls the challenge of Genesis 1:26–28 and Psalm 8, which calls all human beings to that responsibility.  938  

Why this emphasis on the name of God in that context of divine and human responsibility for creation? The word “name” can mean identity or reputation.  945  

Your good name is the favorable view that others have of you. Name is your reputation or, in other cultures, your face, your countenance, your honor.  954  

The name of God means both God’s identity and God’s reputation as known externally to human beings in God’s world. But why does “hallowed be your name” come immediately after the opening invocation of the Lord’s Prayer? Recall, from earlier in the chapter, what happens when you walk into the house(hold) of another person in the ancient biblical world. How does it look to you? Are fields and flocks, servants and dependents, slaves and aliens, married and unmarried members in good shape? Do all get enough? If all is well, you praise the name, you extol the reputation of the householder. If, then, you wander the earth seeing God as the world’s divine Householder, do you praise God for a job well done? Do you “hallow” the name (reputation) of that God? Or would you like to bluntly say to God, the Father/Householder of the World, “How’s that working out for you?”  955  

a burned but not burned bush. It was a visual paradox or contradiction in terms. If the bush is burned, it is consumed; if the bush is not burned, it is not consumed. But how can the bush be burned and not consumed, be burned and not burned at the same time? That’s like a square circle. Next, God tells Moses: “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (3:5). That command is given between the preceding visual paradox of the mysterious bush and the succeeding verbal one of the mysterious name. Then God is identified in three ways. First, with regard to the past of the Israelites, God is the God of their ancestors, the Lord of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (3:6, 15, 16). Second, with regard to the present, God is the God who will deliver them from “misery” and “sufferings” by taking them “out of Egypt” (3:7–10). Finally, with regard to the future, God promises to bring them “into a land flowing with milk and honey” (3:8, 17). But magnificent as all that is, Moses is not satisfied, and this most fateful interaction takes place: Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors…has sent me to you.’” (3:13–15a)  991  

The primary and fundamental name of God is a verbal paradox just as the burned-but-not-burned bush is a visual one. God’s reply to Moses’s question is, in effect: “My name is the unnameable one.” But that is a contradiction in terms. It both gives and does not give a name—it is a bush that both burns and does not burn—at the same time. In other words, it is a warning to Moses and us that we cannot ever fully, adequately, or completely name the Holy One. God is fundamentally unnamable. And yet we must always try—the unnameable name must be named, the unburnable bush must be burned, the sacred ground must be walked on—but unsandaled. That is why, despite that warning, God actually gives Moses a nameable name. That secondary or operational name of God is the God of past, present, and future, the God of tradition and deliverance, indeed, of tradition as deliverance and deliverance as tradition. God is the one who saves God’s people from the bondage, misery, and suffering imposed on them by “taskmasters.” There must always be, however, a tension between the primary name—the Unnameable One—and all other names given to God, even that of Deliverer and Savior of God’s people. Even that of Father or Householder. On the one hand, we cannot ever name the Holy and think we have it done. On the other, we cannot ever not name the Holy and think we have it made. That mysterious paradox of God’s primary name both produces and subverts, both demands and mutates all of God’s other names. How we think a deliverer should deliver and a savior save may not be exactly how God delivers and God saves. And that is why we, like Moses, must keep standing on holy ground and must also keep removing our sandals. Not one act or the other, but both together.  1010  

I turn back once more to Matthew’s version of the Abba Prayer of Jesus. We saw its overall structure at the end of the last chapter, recognized its two parallel parts, and noticed how the first part was emphasized as a unit by that triple “your” for God and those framing mentions of “in heaven” (literally, “in the heavens” and “in heaven”). That very deliberate unity is further underlined—in Greek—by having exactly the same format for the three segments:   Be hallowed    the     name           of you Be come          the     kingdom     of you Be done           the     will             of you   In the Greek of all our versions, the verb in each line comes first and ends with -tht in rhyming format. That makes the triad sound like a deliberate chant. Next, those three verbs are all in the Greek imperative mood, used for orders and commands, rather than in its optative mood, used for wishes and requests. Furthermore, “hallowed” and “done,” in the passive voice, frame the active “come,” but the emphasis in all three cases is on God’s action. That is surely extraordinary. And the imperative mood continues throughout the second half of the prayer. Imperatives appear again in “give us,” “forgive us,” and “deliver us.” Should we not have polite requests with “may it be” or at least persistent prayers with “let it happen”? But “be hallowed” and “be come” and “be done” are commands. So who is commanding whom here? Are we ordering God the Father/Householder or is God the Father/Householder ordering us? Or are we, as it were, ordering one another—collaboratively?  1025  

God is our model for holiness, they must also indicate—with all due respect—how God is holy. As we saw in the last chapter, the divine Householder is a model for the human householder or, as the Lord’s Prayer says, “on earth as in heaven.” One preliminary comment about Leviticus 19 before I focus on God’s holiness as reflected in our own and on how that helps us understand “hallowed be your name” in the Lord’s Prayer. That chapter is from the Holiness Code of Israel’s Priestly tradition. It is therefore no surprise that, unlike the prophetic tradition, seen in Chapter 1, this Priestly tradition resolutely refuses to separate ritual action from distributive justice. Ritual with a God of justice creates and empowers—by interactive covenant—a people of justice. How, then, is divine and human holiness interpreted in Leviticus 19? First, continuing from that opening command to be holy as God is holy, the chapter repeatedly reminds us of that divine model—with three refrains: I am the Lord. (8 times: 19:12, 14, 16, 18, 28, 30, 32, 37) I am the Lord your God. (6 times: 19:3, 4, 10, 25, 31, 34) I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. (1 time: 19:36) We are never allowed to forget divine holiness as a model—or better, empowerment—for human holiness. But notice especially that climactic identification of God as the one “who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (19:36). God is the Deliverer, Redeemer, and Savior of the oppressed. Liberation from Egyptian bondage is, by the way, a constant motivating refrain throughout the book of Leviticus—from 11:45 and 19:34 through 22:33, 43 and 25:38, 42, 55 to 26:13, 45. It is because God acted that way that Israel must act likewise—and be the deliverer of its own oppressed. Second, here are several examples from Leviticus 19 of how God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt must be continued in Israel’s deliverance of its own oppressed: When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God. (19:9–10) You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. (19:13–15) When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (19:33–34) My conclusion, so far, is that, for Leviticus 19, divine holiness models human holiness insofar as both maintain distributive justice—especially by delivering the endangered, freeing the oppressed, and protecting the impoverished. That certainly applies to and within Israel, since God says six times, “I am the Lord your God.” But God also says eight times, “I am the Lord” without any qualification or restriction. Does that apply, then, to the whole world? The answer takes us back from Leviticus 19 to Genesis 1, but still on the trajectory of divine holiness as distributive justice.   The link from Leviticus 19 to Genesis 1 comes from a divine command that is made toward the start and then repeated toward the end of Leviticus 19: “You shall keep my sabbaths” (19:3, 30). What do the “sabbaths” (notice that plural) have to do with the holiness of God’s name? How does God’s Sabbath rest pertain to God’s distributive justice? That question also arises from another point. The verb “hallowed,” “sanctified,” or “holy-fied” appears on the very first page of our Bible amid multiple emphases on the seventh day,…  1077  

Creation is the work of seven days, and, as its climax, the Sabbath day is built into the very fabric of our world, the very creation of our earth. That is why, as we see below, the Sabbath(s) will be so important for understanding the holiness of God and what it means to make and keep holy the name of that God. Finally, one last point before continuing the Leviticus 19 lead that sent us to Genesis 1. In that ecstatic vision of the dawn of creation there is no bloodshed—not between animals, not between animals and humans, and not between humans: God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. (1:29–30)  1200  

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. (Exod. 20:8–11) Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed. (Exod. 23:12) Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day. (Deut. 5:12–15) That is all addressed, as we saw in Chapter 2, to the householders of Israel—both men and women—concerning the Sabbath day in their homes. It applies to everyone, including work animals, slaves, children, and resident aliens. Furthermore, “blessed” and “consecrated” in Exodus 20:11 repeat the same Hebrew and Greek verbs as “blessed” and “hallowed” seen earlier in Genesis 2:3. The Sabbath makes holy, hallows, sanctifies, and consecrates the entire creation, because it places the justice of equality as the crown of creation. Not only the householders, but everyone—animals, slaves, children, dependents—must all get an equal day of rest from work. To emphasize that meaning, I have italicized “so that” in the last two texts, because it gives the purpose and intention of those divine commands. Everyone alike must get a rest from work and must get it not at the householder’s pleasure or whim, but because it is built into the rhythmic measure of time, is in fact the primary regulator of weekly time. The Sabbath day has nothing to do with freedom from work so that one may go to some place of worship. It is about the distributive justice of rest from work for all who work as worship itself. It is public manifestation of God’s very character as the Just One, because it comes with God’s creation itself. Sabbath Year. We are still following the Sabbath process as it turns time itself into both symbol and example of divine justice, following Sabbath day, Sabbath year, and Sabbath jubilee as they establish and hallow, respectively, the weeks, the years, and the centuries of human time upon this earth. The Sabbath year is celebrated, of course, every seventh year. Aspects of liberation or deliverance are associated with it: resting the land, remitting debts, and freeing debt slaves. I consider only the first one here and reserve those other two for Chapter 7, when we consider “Forgive us our debts” in the Lord’s Prayer. Two rather different versions of the Sabbath year’s “rest” for the land and its purpose appear in Exodus 23 and Leviticus 25. We must be careful not to read the latter back into the former. Here is that earlier vision: For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard. (Exod. 23:10–11) For six years, it says, the land may be worked, and the produce gathered in as harvest. But during the seventh year, what it produces is to be left for poor people and wild animals. On the one hand, this is but a seventh-year extension of the yearly command to…  1220  

Here the land is to be left fallow, so that the land itself has a rest; there is to be no work on cereals or vines. Nothing, you will note, is said about the poor.  1267  

Should you ask, “What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?” I will order my blessing for you in the sixth year, so that it will yield a crop for three years. When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating from the old crop; until the ninth year, when its produce comes in, you shall eat the old. (25:20–22)  1270  

The Priestly tradition was not interested in crop rotation, agricultural management, or responsible farming. It was intended as shock treatment, to make the hearers realize that God’s land was a living thing and to make them ponder its right to have a rest like everything else in God’s creation. It is, once again, not about agricultural wisdom, but about distributive justice—for the land itself, the inhabitants, the domestic animals, and the wild animals. It applies, furthermore, across the great Mediterranean triad of grains, olives, and vines. The logic of all these Sabbath injunctions is an attempt to return once more to that beginning moment of Sabbath creation, when all the world was distributed fairly and equitably by God and was declared good and blessed in its inaugural glory. And so, immediately after the Sabbath year in Leviticus 25:1–7 comes the Sabbath jubilee in Leviticus 25:8–55. Sabbath Jubilee. “Ah, you who join house to house,” warned the prophet Isaiah, as we saw earlier, “who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land” (5:8). But how do you stop that process of ever increasing inequality? Like this: You shall count off seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the period of seven weeks of years gives forty-nine years. Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; on the tenth day of the seventh month—on the day of atonement—you shall have the trumpet sounded throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. (Lev. 25:8–10a) This establishes a super-Sabbath, as is clear from all those multiplied sevens. It is also the climax of the entire Sabbath process of restoring justice and righteousness that runs through the Torah from Genesis to Leviticus. That is why that jubilee year starts on the Day of Atonement. It is an attempt—every half century—to atone for what has happened to the holy land of a holy God. As always, holiness means the justice of a fair distribution for all, the justice of an equitable household: It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, or reap the aftergrowth, or harvest the unpruned vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you: you shall eat only what the field itself produces. In this year of jubilee you shall return, every one of you, to your property. (Lev. 25:10b–13) The word “jubilee”’ is Hebrew, but in the Greek Old Testament it is translated as “forgiveness” in the sense of debt release, remission, freedom, liberty. We will, of course, find the term again later in “Forgive us our debts” from the Lord’s Prayer in Chapter 7. The purpose behind the Sabbath jubilee of forgiveness is to return all alienated property to its original familial ownership. But why must that happen? “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity,” God says a few verses later, “for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants” (25:23). As resident aliens and tenant farmers we cannot buy and sell land at all; nor can we even mortgage or foreclose on it permanently. Since God’s inaugural distribution to the tribes and families of Israel was fair and equitable, the Sabbath jubilee seeks to restore that original situation.  1274  

Great nations can proclaim that all are “created equal” and never accomplish that vision; they can train their children to pledge allegiance to “liberty and justice for all” despite what is all around them. Still,  1304  

Name is about face, countenance, honor, or public reputation. But in the biblical world—and others like it—reputation was one’s deep identity rather than one’s surface image. God’s name is God’s character and identity as publicly acknowledged in the world. It is, the Bible insists, a holy name, but that does not give us any immediate content for divine holiness—or for human holiness on the model of God’s. Does not every religion consider as holy the name of its God? All that we have seen so far—from Leviticus 19 to Genesis 1 and from Sabbath day through Sabbath year to Sabbath jubilee—proclaims that the holy name and divine reputation of the biblical God concerns distributive justice and restorative righteousness and that our holiness is a participation in that divine character, identity, and name. I began this chapter with the visual paradox of God’s burned but unconsumed bush and the corresponding verbal paradox of God’s named but unnameable identity. Moses was told that, despite having an utterly and absolutely mysterious name, God was to be known as the Deliverer of the oppressed: “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them” (Exod. 3:7–8). God the Deliverer from injustice said, “This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations” (3:15). Next I asked how God’s name is made holy or hallowed, and I followed that question from Leviticus 19 back to Genesis 1. In that former text the holiness of God was mirrored in the holiness of God’s people, and both types of holiness meant—no surprise after Exodus 3—deliverance of the oppressed, the impoverished, and the defenseless. In that latter text, the holiness of the Sabbath day, that is, the justice of an equal rest for all, came from creation itself. It was not just a cultic mandate for Israel, but a challenge of distributive justice for all the world.  1307  

The next chapter, on “Your kingdom come,” shows that the biblical tradition, which flowed through Jesus into his Abba Prayer, presents an alternative to the violent normalcy of our world and a different vision for peace on our earth.  1326  

Those imperial kingdoms are animal-ified (not person-ified!) as “beasts” from the disorder of the sea’s fury. By contrast the fifth kingdom is personified “like a son of man” from the order of God’s heaven (7:13). That gives us two expressions requiring some explanation: “son of man” and “kingdom of God.”  1364  

In male chauvinistic usage in Hebrew or Aramaic “human being” may be termed “man” or “son of man.” For example, the King James Bible translates the poetic parallelism in Psalm 8:4 literally: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” But the New Revised Standard Version translates it: “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” What is at stake in Daniel behind that “son of man” language? It is this: the first four empires—that is, all previous ones—are inhuman; only the fifth and final empire is truly human. The fifth kingdom, the kingdom of God, is brought down from heaven to earth by a transcendental Human One who has been entrusted with it by God, the transcendent Ancient One (7:9–13). Daniel 7 mentions this three times for emphasis:  1368  

the transcendent “humanlike one” is both the guardian and the personification of God’s kingdom. The “beastlike” ones are imperial kings who represent imperial kingdoms—compare the “four kings” of 7:17 with the four “kingdoms” of 7:23. The “humanlike one” represents God’s kingdom. It is given to “him” in 7:14, but for all God’s “people” in 7:18, 27. The other point is that triple emphasis on “everlasting.” Imperial kingdoms come and go, rise and fall, but God’s kingdom is an “everlasting” one. This is emphasized as well in earlier chapters of Daniel:  1382  

Daniel 7 places beastlike kingdoms versus a humanlike kingdom, earth-born kingdoms versus a heaven-born kingdom, and, as earlier in Daniel, transient kingdoms versus an everlasting kingdom.  1392  

Why, then, would I or anyone else today want to speak of the “kingdom” of God in the Lord’s Prayer? Would it not be better to speak of the people of God, the community of God, the kinship of God, or, especially, the household of God? Why continue to accept such an antique and male-focused expression as “kingdom”? There are two main reasons. One reason is that retaining “kingdom” but qualifying it as divine is a way to show that it clearly, directly, and explicitly opposes all those earthly imperial kingdoms. It intends to present a specific alternative option to the imperialism that has been for so long the normalcy on earth. Another reason is that God’s kingdom is not just about interior and individual religion. It certainly includes that aspect, but only within the wider aspect of exterior and communal and—dare we say the word?—organized religion.  1402  

Our English word “kingdom” translates the Hebrew malkuth and the Aramaic malkutha. Both those words emphasize process over person and style of rule over area of control. You could more accurately translate them as the “reigning” of God rather than the “kingdom” of God, because they stress the type and mode of divine rule—as distinct from the type and mode of imperial rule. The Greek equivalent is the feminine noun basileia and, once again, what is underlined is not so much where God rules the world as how God rules the world. When you read “kingdom of God,” therefore, mentally rephrase it as the “ruling style of God.” It imagines how the world would be if the biblical God actually sat on an imperial throne down here below. It dreams of an earth where the Holy One of justice and righteousness actually gets to establish—as we might say—the annual budget for the global economy. (By the way, the word “economy” comes from the Greek words oikos, “household,” and nomos, “law.” “Economy” means the law of the household.)  1410  

Deep below our historical world are the tectonic plates of empire and eschaton, and we have just seen their seismic clash in Daniel 7. Empire is easy enough to understand. It has been the way of the world throughout the last six thousand years of recorded history.  1421  

We can trace imperialism back to the invention of irrigated agriculture on the floodplains of rivers like, for example, the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). Annual snowmelts from distant mountains sent rich alluvial sediment downstream, and irrigated farming enhanced by dikes and canals vastly increased fertility, prosperity—and population. We call it the Neolithic, or New Stone Age, Revolution. We also call it the dawn of civilization. With that magnificent Mesopotamian dawn we got not only irrigated farming, but also written records, walled cities, and permanent temples. We also got control and manipulation of grains, animals—and people—since irrigation demands organization of the many by the few. We also got imperialism. As prosperity and population increased, the farmer “haves” pressed outward and the nomad “have-nots” pressed inward. How far, then, would borders have to extend to ensure safety and security? Outward, ever outward—maybe outward to the whole world. The dawn of civilization was also the birth of empire. Eschaton is not quite so easy to understand. The Old Testament’s faith was that God was just, in control of the world, and in covenant with Israel to establish justice worldwide. But the Old Testament’s experience was that the world was unjust and under the control of evil, and that Israel received far more than its fair share of oppressive violence. How could you possibly reconcile that faith and that experience? By eschaton? The word eschaton is an ordinary Greek word for “the end.” So its meaning always depends on context. The end, yes, but the end of what? First, a negative. It is not—emphatically not—about the end of the world. That unfortunate misunderstanding arises especially from reading Matthew, who speaks a few times about “the end of the world” (13:39, 49; 24:3, 20) in the King James Version. But his Greek term is actually not “world” (kosmos), but “age” (ain)—Matthew refers to the end of this age, period, or time of evil, war, violence, injustice, and oppression. Hence the New Revised Standard Version correctly translates Matthew’s Greek as “the end of the age.” The eschaton is not about the destruction of the world, but about its transformation into a place of justice and nonviolence. It is not about the annihilation of the earth, but about its transformation into a location of freedom and peace. Daniel’s vision of the kingdom of God coming down from heaven to earth was an eschatological vision, and my own term for that is the Great Divine Cleanup of the World. Here is how that future is imagined in four texts, three from the Bible and a final one from outside it. First, God’s Great Cleanup establishes worldwide peace. Recall those famous lines found verbatim in two separate biblical books: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid” (Mic. 4:3–4; Isa. 2:4). Next, God’s Great Cleanup establishes a worldwide banquet. There will be “for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear…. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth” (Isa. 25:6, 8). Finally, God’s Great Cleanup establishes worldwide equality. I cite here a text from outside the Bible because, unlike those preceding prophetic texts, this one comes from the same time as Jesus. “The earth will belong equally to all, undivided by walls or fences…. Lives will be in common and wealth will have no division. For there will be no poor man there, no rich, and no tyrant, no slave. Further, no one will be either great or small anymore. No kings, no leaders. All will be equal together” (Sibylline Oracles 2.319–24).  1424  

The word apocalypse comes from Greek and means a revelation about the eschaton. In Daniel 7, for example, the seer has an apocalyptic revelation. It begins by saying that “Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed” (7:1). Later his dream vision is explained by an angelic interpreter: “As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me. I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter” (7:15–16). Notice one special aspect of the term apocalypse (or apocalyptic). In itself, it could apply to any revelation about the Great Divine Cleanup of the World. But empires had been steadily getting more powerful and now, in the first century CE, Rome was the most powerful empire the world had ever known. In that context, apocalypse emphasized revelation about the imminence, the any-day-now-ness of God’s transformative advent. If not now, when? If not now, why not? The word messiah in Hebrew becomes Christos in Greek. It means God’s “anointed” agent for that eschaton. In Daniel 7, for example, that transcendental Human One (“one like a son of man”) who brings God’s kingdom down from heaven to earth for God’s people is one such messianic figure. But that term requires more detailed consideration, since Jesus was accepted by those first Messianic or Christian Jews as the Messiah, or Christ.   When the eschaton dawned, when the kingdom came, when the Divine Cleanup began, would God do everything by direct and immediate divine intervention? Would the eschaton be, as it were, a lightning strike of divine power? Or would God use some intermediary? If so, what would that messianic agent of transformation be like? Would it be angelic or human and, if human, would it be an anointed priest, an anointed prophet, or an anointed king?  1459  

The domestic householder’s fair administration of the house was, as we saw in Chapter 2, the great model for the divine Householder’s just administration of the world house: Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. (Ps. 99:4) I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord. (Jer. 9:24) In Israel’s ongoing experience, however, that notion of “household” extended not only from the peasant’s farm as house to God’s world as house. In between, it was also applied to the king’s land as house, since the king was the divinely appointed householder of God’s land: Blessed be the Lord your God who has delighted in you [King Solomon] and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made you king to execute justice and righteousness. (1 Kings 10:9; 2 Chron. 9:8) Thus says the Lord [to the king of Judah]: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place. (Jer. 22:3)  1476  

My proposal is that Jesus had an interpretation of God’s Great Cleanup of the World that differed radically from the more general expectation among his own people. You could call his alternative vision a tradition swerve, a paradigm shift, a model change, or even a disruptive innovation. My own preference is to describe the challenge of his kingdom movement—and thence of the “kingdom coming” in his prayer—as a paradigm-shift within contemporary Judaism. The term paradigm shift was originally used over forty years ago to explain the transition from an established scientific viewpoint to a radically new one—for example, from Newtonian to Einsteinian physics. A standard paradigm, ordinary model, or traditional interpretation continues undisturbed for such a long time that we think of it as reality itself. Problems, anomalies, and things that do not fit tend to get swept under the rug of normalcy, until the mound gets so big that people start stumbling over it. But the set paradigm or normative model holds fast until a new vision emerges that explains not only all that the older one did, but also those other discrepancies that the old model could not. The term paradigm shift is actually useful not just for scientific revolutions, but for many other tradition swerves in human experience—in art and literature, in music and drama, in politics and religion. And, indeed, the first century CE had paradigm shifts in several other crucial areas. By the start of that century Rome was successfully shifting its political paradigm from a republic led by two aristocrats to an empire led by one autocrat. By its end Judaism was successfully shifting its religious paradigm from Temple sacrifices led by priests to Torah study led by sages. In the middle of that century, in between those two momentous model changes in Roman imperialism and Jewish traditionalism, that of Jesus may have seemed at first but a minor Galilean eccentricity. But, eventually, it too would be as world-changing as they were. If you grant, then, that the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus was a paradigm shift within the popular expectation of his people, what was its precise content? What was different about it? What hope did it leave behind, and what new hope did it shift to? When, for example, Jesus prayed “Your kingdom come,” what exactly was the precise meaning of that kingdom of God for his tradition swerve or paradigm shift within eschatological, apocalyptic, and messianic Judaism?   What is the best way to sharpen the contrast between the popular contemporary expectation of God’s Great Cleanup, or the coming of the kingdom, and that proclaimed by Jesus? I think it is by focusing on the difference between John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ.  1528  

The baptism movement of John was changed into or replaced by the kingdom movement of Jesus.  1559  

And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” (3:10–14) But John was wrong, terribly, tragically wrong. He announced the immediate advent of an avenging God and what came was the immediate advent of an avenging local ruler. Herod Antipas, the Rome-appointed governor of Galilee, arrested and executed John. And God did nothing—no intervention and no prevention. John died in lonely isolation in Antipas’s southern fortress of Machaerus, east of the Jordan. And God did nothing—no intervention and no prevention. Jesus watched, Jesus learned, and Jesus changed. He radically reinterpreted. Eschaton—what was it to be? Apocalypse—when was it to be? And messiah—who was it to be? He changed his understanding not only about the kingdom of God, but about the God of the kingdom. When he finally spoke his own vision with his own voice, Jesus differed profoundly from John in proclaiming a paradigm shift within his contemporary Jewish eschatology. I summarize the contrast between John and Jesus in three points. Imminence or Presence? John said, as we saw above, that God’s Great Cleanup of the World was in the future, but imminent. Jesus, on the other hand, said that it was present, already here. These are a few examples of Jesus’s announcement of the kingdom’s presence rather than its imminence: “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:20–21) “The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force.” (Luke 16:16; Matt. 11:12–13) “If it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.” (Luke 11:20; Matt. 12:28) “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (Luke 10:23b–24; Matt. 13:16–17) “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.” (Mark 2:19–20; Matt. 9:15–16; Luke 5:34–35) Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:14b–15; Matt. 4:17) That final example is particularly significant. Notice that Mark does not say that God’s kingdom “is coming near” or “is approaching,” but “has come near” or “has approached.” Intervention or Collaboration? It is hard, however, to realize how absurd the proclamation of the kingdom’s presence must have sounded to its first hearers. Where, they would have asked Jesus, is God’s transfigured world to be seen? Is not Tiberius still emperor of Rome, Antipas still tetrarch of Galilee, and Pilate still prefect of Judea? How has anything changed in a world of peasant poverty, local injustice, and imperial oppression? In answer Jesus proclaimed another—and necessarily concomitant—aspect of his paradigm shift within contemporary eschatological expectation. You have been waiting for God, he said, while God has been waiting for you. No wonder nothing is happening. You want God’s intervention, he said, while God wants your collaboration. God’s kingdom is here, but only insofar as you accept it,…  1585  

The repetition of the idea “not from this world” (“if…from this world”—it’s not—and “not from here”) frames what cannot and did not happen. The followers of Jesus did not “fight,” did not use violence even to attempt his release. The difference between God’s kingdom and Rome’s empire, between Jesus and Pilate, between Jesus’s companions and Pilate’s followers is that one is nonviolent and the other is violent. Violence cannot be used even to protect or free Jesus. The coming of God’s kingdom, the dawn of eschatological transformation, the Great Divine Cleanup of the World—by whatever name—is nonviolent, and so also are our God-empowered participation in it and God-driven collaboration with it.  1650  

It is also almost inevitable that Christians—then and now—prefer to discuss and debate about God’s future intervention (or lack of it) than our present collaboration (or lack of it). But, in any case, the Abba Prayer’s challenge about God’s kingdom coming is not about the imminence of divine intervention, but about the empowerment of human collaboration. Here is what counts: God’s kingdom did not, could not, and will not begin, continue, or conclude without human collaboration. It will not happen by divine intervention alone—neither to start, continue, or conclude. That is why Matthew’s Abba Prayer has two even parts with the divine “you” in the first half and the human “we” in the second half. And those two parts are correlatives. They come together or never come at all. They are like two sides of the same eschatological coin. Have you ever seen a one-sided coin? All of that was precisely summed up by two African bishops who lived at either end of the continent about a millennium and a half apart. “God made you without you,” said Augustine of Hippo in 416, “but he doesn’t justify you without you.” That was magnificently misquoted by Desmond Tutu of Cape Town in 1999: “St. Augustine says, ‘God, without us, will not; as we, without God, cannot.’”  1687  

Psalm 82 is quite unusual within the general biblical tradition. It imagines God not as the only God, but as the supreme God over all the other Gods, the Powers-That-Be, who administer the world here below. It opens like this: God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment. (82:1) Why is any “judgment” necessary? Because those whose duty it is to run the world under the supreme God have failed dismally to keep it a just and equitable place. God speaks to them: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (82:2–4) It is striking, by the way, within the poetic parallelism of those three verses that “justice” is considered a “right” of the defenseless. But it is what comes next that concerns me here. After God reads off that catalogue of cosmic malpractice, the psalm continues: They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk around in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. (82:5) Those three lines are not just in parallelism; they form a crescendo. The indicted rulers do not even make excuses. They do not even recognize their global obligations under the supreme God. “Who said anything about justice?” you can imagine them responding. “Why even bring up this justice thing? Is rule not simply about power?” But watch what happens next. First, the result is not simply that their malpractice disobeys or disdains the will of the supreme God. The injustice of those rulers shakes the foundations of the earth. That is not a divine punishment, but a human consequence. Second, there isn’t even any punishment for those failed rulers. The opening verse promised “judgment,” but here is what happens next: I say, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince.” (82:6–7) We were waiting for some sort of punishment, but what did we get? Not punishment, but consequences.  1753  

Genesis 1 tells us we are “images of God,” and Paul calls us “heirs of God.” Our freedom is to accept or reject that responsibility for God’s world. So we should think much less about heavenly punishments and much more about earthly consequences. We humans are, in fact, that “divine council” of Psalm 82. Holding all of that in mind, I turn back to this chapter’s subject, to the climactic third challenge in the first half of the Lord’s Prayer.  1786  

Jesus spoke of collaboration, not substitution. When he warned his companions about his fateful journey to Jerusalem, he did not say that he went instead of them. He said: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). That is collaboration, not substitution. Paul, likewise, spoke of participation, not substitution. “In Christ” is his favorite expression, never “by Christ.” Or think of this rhapsodic acclamation: “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). That, once again, is about our participation with Jesus and not our replacement by Jesus. I repeat my question. When, why, how, and where did that theology of substitution arise? The answer to the “when” part is: not until a thousand years after the time of Jesus. It arose only at the very end of Christianity’s first millennium. But why, how, and where?  1844  

It is from Anselm’s book that we got that argument for vicarious satisfaction or substitutionary atonement outlined above. Again and again throughout his presentation, Anselm mentions the “will of God.” Here are just a few examples: It is then plain that no one can honor or dishonor God, as he is in himself; but the creature, as far as he is concerned, appears to do this when he submits or opposes his will to the will of God. (1.15) So heinous is our sin whenever we knowingly oppose the will of God even in the slightest thing; since we are always in his sight, and he always enjoins it upon us not to sin. (1.21) Since, then, the will of God does nothing by any necessity, but of his own power, and the will of that man [Christ] was the same as the will of God, he died not necessarily, but only of his own power. (2.17) Anselm is quite clear on why God must “will” the incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus and why God cannot simply forgive everyone without any punishment at all. That would mean, he says, that God is indifferent to evil, that God does not care about sin one way or another. But that would be impossible, he concludes, for a just God. God must therefore “will” adequate punishment for human sin, and only the both human and divine Jesus is an appropriate victim.   Anselm’s logic is flawless, and that is probably why his theology is so persuasive. But that flawless logic depends on two presuppositions. The first one takes us back to Chapter 2 and the importance of metaphor, especially of those basic ones we need when speaking of God. What is the dominant metaphor guiding Anselm’s vision of God and presumed every time he argues—quite logically—about the will of that God? When I was growing  1873  

Norman kings were feudal lords whose identity, honor, and integrity demanded that just retribution be administered for all offenses. Indeed, the security and stability of their Norman empire—especially in newly conquered England—demanded that procedure. Feudal lords were like, say, our judges in courts of law; they could not walk into the room and forgive everyone in sight. God, for Anselm, was the Norman-style Lord of the Universe. Forgiveness of evil would have meant indifference to evil. What, however, if you change that foundational metaphor on which the logic of vicarious punishment totally depends? What if you imagine God not as a transcendental Norman Lord, but as a transcendental Jewish Householder? The Lord’s Prayer did not begin, after all, with: “Our Judge, who art in Court,” but with “Our Father, who art in heaven.” What would the image of Father as Householder do to Anselm’s powerful logic? There is also another presupposition behind Anselm’s logic. His major argument was that God had to punish evil or else he was not a just God. At a first hearing, that seems absolutely correct: It is not proper for God to pass over sin unpunished…. It is not fitting that God should take sinful man without an atonement…. This cannot be effected unless satisfaction be made, which none but God can make and none but man ought to make, [so] it is necessary for the God-man to make it. (Cur Deus Homo? 1.12, 19; 2.6) But what if God’s justice and righteousness operate not by punishments, but by consequences? And what, then, if the focus of divine justice and the interpretation of God’s will were removed from externally added punishments and placed on internally derived consequences? My own proposal is that, from the divine creation in Genesis 1, through the divine council in Psalm 82, and on to Hackel’s curve and King’s arc, the equitable distribution of our world is a necessity built into the very destiny of that world. We do not, it seems, get away with injustice for very long.  1899  

why not imagine God as a monastic abbot rather than a feudal lord or as a spiritual director rather than a Norman king? Monasteries were, as Anselm well understood, places for slow transformation and not for swift punishment. “How sad,” said Sophocles a millennium and a half earlier in his play Antigone, “when those who reason, reason wrong.”  1921  

Why did religions—across time and place—come up with blood sacrifice? Why did religions—independently and cross-culturally—decide that God or the Gods wanted dead animals or dead people?   We humans maintain good relations with one another or restore them, if broken, either by a gift or by a meal. That is Anthropology 101. We do exactly the same to make or restore good relations with God or the Gods. The English word “sacrifice” comes from the Latin sacrum facere, “to make sacred.” Religions offer gifts or share meals with God or the Gods—that is, they make gifts or meals sacred—either as request for the future or as gratitude for the past. (Remember those psalm prayers of request and gratitude in Chapter 1.) In the Jewish tradition, for example, a valuable animal could be offered to God as a gift. It was totally consumed by fire and thus “made sacred” as a holocaust. Alternatively, the animal could be offered to God and then returned to the offerers after having been “made sacred.” They could then feast on holy food with their God. Sacrifice, and especially blood sacrifice, is never about substitution, but always about a gift or meal.  1940  

Jesus died to maintain the integrity of his life. Or, to reverse Mel Gibson’s claim in The Passion of the Christ, “Living Was His Reason for Dying.” His nonviolent resistance to violence as a revelation of God’s own character was consummated by that execution. We have no word for the crucifixion of Christ other than “sacrifice,” a making sacred of both life and death, a gift both to divinity and to humanity. It was never, ever, a substitution for anything. But, still, what about that sacrificial death for sin and as atonement? How does that fit into Jesus’s death and God’s will?  1965  

do you know where the word “sin”—in the singular—first appears in the Bible? By whom was it first mentioned? In what context did it first appear?  1974  

says Genesis 4, the farmer Cain killed the herder Abel. The opening sin of human history, the beginning of an escalatory process undergirding human history, was the violence of fratricidal murder. Or as God said to Cain: “Sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it” (4:7). That is, of course, the first mention of “sin” in the Bible, and it is in the singular. Next, we expect some form of divine penalty. Maybe God will now invent capital punishment and execute Cain for his murder of Abel? But here is what we get: The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear!” (4:10–13) The earth is a living being, and Cain has defiled and desecrated it by shedding murdered human blood upon it. The result is the earth’s revulsion, as it were, so that Cain is “cursed” from—or by—the earth itself. Is that human consequence or divine punishment?  1986  

there is an exponential growth in murderous violence throughout that chapter. In the first stage, Cain kills Abel, and God acknowledges, “Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground” (4:10). But there is no violent punishment from God. In the next stage, God warns of the inevitable escalation of the tribal blood feud: “Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance” (4:15). In the final stage, the blood feud reaches epidemic proportions.  1999  

the Bible’s first mention of “sin” is not just fratricidal murder, but escalatory violence itself. Escalatory violence means that we have never invented a weapon we did not use, never invented one that was not surpassed by the next one, and never slowed down the speed of that replacement. We got, for example, from the first iron sword to the first hydrogen bomb in less than three thousand years. The death of the nonviolent Jesus as the revelation of God’s nonviolent character is a sacrifice (a making sacred) that atones for our sin of escalatory violence. Furthermore, as Paul insists so repeatedly, all Christians are called to reject “that world” that rejected Jesus. We are baptismally committed to resist nonviolently the normal violence with which “the rulers of this age…crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8). Not just the Romans, but every government our world has ever known would have removed or silenced Jesus one way or another. Those who demand justice nonviolently are sometimes silenced by injustice violently. Public execution is simply the older and cruder method. God did not “will”  2008  

God “wills” our human freedom. All else is consequence.  2025  

God’s name, kingdom, and will come to their climax “in heaven,” that is, in their eternal intention. The metaphor I have in mind for this is a great river pushing relentlessly against a logjam. It was always there pushing, but one day it finally broke through. If we could assess all the variables of time and place, we could possibly explain why it happened at that time and in that way; but barring that, the exact reason for time and place may elude us. “As in heaven” reminds us that God’s will for creation was always there and ever the same, but that a window of opportunity opened in the first century CE and “as in heaven” became “so on earth.” That is what John says most accurately and poetically at the start of his gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (1:1–2,11–16) The Word (Logos in Greek) is the eternal vision and creative dream of God for the world. It is the “will” of God for justice and righteousness, which “became flesh” in Jesus of Nazareth.  2054  

Popularity. To guarantee his general popularity across the entire country, Antipas decided on his own version of a Hasmonean-Herodian connection. He divorced his wife, a princess from Arab Nabatea in Transjordan. And he persuaded Herodias, granddaughter of the beloved Mariamne, to divorce her husband, Herod (Philip?). Double divorce and, of course, double trouble. You can now understand how both John and Jesus deliberately undermined that drive for increased popularity and how intolerable such opposition to their hopeful plans must have been for Herodias and Antipas. John the Baptist told Antipas, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18); and Jesus told them both, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11–12). Those accusations were not just moral criticism, but political interference with Antipas’s royal plans. Imagine as well what his plans for Tiberias did to peasant fishers and their villages along the lake. There were probably taxes for every stage of fishing—for having a boat, for fishing with dragnets, maybe even for casting a net from the shore. You might also have to sell your catch to Antipas’s warehouses for dried and salted fish. No wonder Jesus’s two most prominent disciples—Mary and Peter—were from fishing villages within a fishing economy changed utterly by the advent of Tiberias. Magdala, for example, had been the most important fishing center on the lake before the arrival of Tiberias and, situated as it was just a few miles to the north, its prosperity must have been severely strained by Antipas’s new creation. Mary would have known, before she ever heard the voice of Jesus, that the situation was not right, fair, or, more important, the will of God. Recall what we saw in Chapter 4 about the seismic clash between the tectonic plates of empire and eschaton in Daniel 7. In the first century CE those plates carried on their respective surfaces the contemporary kingdom of Rome and—as always—the kingdom of God. But all seismic convulsions—even those that start slowly—take place in very specific place and very particular time. And so it came to pass that it was precisely along the shores of the Sea of Galilee’s northwest quadrant—from Tiberias through Magdala and Capernaum to Bethsaida—that the violence of Rome’s empire and the nonviolence of God’s eschaton confronted one another in the 20s of the first common-era century.   We also saw in Chapter 4 that those who opposed Jesus knew that his visionary program had something to do with food, with “eating and drinking,” and so they mocked him as a “glutton and a drunkard” (Luke 7:33–34). But his program was actually about who owns the earth, the land, and the lake—God or Rome—and who, therefore, owns the food produced by earth, land, and lake. If “the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it” (Ps. 24:1), who owns the lake and all the fish in it? If, as God claims, “the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants” (Lev. 25:23), who owns the Sea of Tiberias? Antipas had multiplied the loaves in the valleys around Sepphoris, and he now intended to multiply the fishes in the waters around Tiberias—for the kingdom of Rome. But a magnificently parabolic counterstory tells us how Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes—for the kingdom of God. As I mentioned above, there are six versions of this story in our present New Testament. But for my present purpose I focus on the first one in Mark as the earliest gospel.  2196  

What exactly is the function of such a detailed narrative? Two elements help us see the purpose. The first element we have seen already. Jesus brings the disciples over to his vision that, with the kingdom of God already present on earth, they are responsible for the adequate distribution of food. “You give them something to eat” prevails over “send them away.” And it is indeed striking that the Twelve agree that collaborative eschatology involves teaching the people, but not feeding them. For Jesus, however, the teaching is about feeding. As already seen so often, the Great Divine Cleanup involves a fair distribution of God’s earth for all God’s people. But how can anyone else do what Jesus did—if you take the story literally? As told, it is certainly a miracle. But if it is—and I suggest that it is—a miracle in a parable, we are asked to think about meaning and implication. This is where a second element becomes equally important. Jesus could—as Mark certainly believes—have made food suddenly appear, have brought down food from heaven, or even turned stones into bread—for others. Indeed, you might think that a location “in the desert” indicates that Jesus will provide food from heaven as God did in the desert during Israel’s Exodus from Egypt (Exod. 16). Furthermore, that awkward division of the people into hundreds and fifties might recall a similar division of the people by Moses during that same Exodus journey (Exod. 18:21, 25). It looked like Mark was preparing us for a new exodus and a new food-from-heaven miracle. That is not, however, what Jesus did. Instead of any exodus-like option, Jesus multiplied actual food already there, already present, already available: “He said to them, ‘How many loaves have you? Go and see.’ When they had found out, they said, ‘Five, and two fish’” (6:38). Why bother with that? Why not just do it from scratch? That is where those four verbs become important:   TAKE BLESS BREAK GIVE   Even when Mark repeats and shortens the story in 8:1–9, he still retains that sequence of those four verbs: “He took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd” (8:6b–7). Why is their sequence so significant? I read Mark’s parable to say that there is more than enough food already present upon our earth when it passes through the hands of divine justice; when it is taken, blessed, broken, and given out; when food is seen as God’s consecrated gift. The now present kingdom of God is about the equitable distribution of our earth for all. Jesus simply enacts that parable of God as Householder of the World. I take two elements from that inaugural story in Mark 6:32–44 to pursue throughout the rest of this chapter. A first element is that combination of bread and fish. “Bread” is widely used in the biblical tradition as a simple summary for “food,” but why keep bringing in “fish”? It is easy to imagine Jesus “breaking” bread, but doing the same to fish is somewhat messier. No wonder, therefore, that in John’s version the multiplication story in 6:5–13 is followed by a long discourse on Jesus as the “bread of life” (6:35, 48), but not the “fish of life.” A second element is that fourfold sequence took, blessed, broke, and gave—in whole or in part. That sequence is too solemn and repetitive not to be significant. It emphasizes that God—through Jesus—has first to bless the food or that God—through Jesus—has first to be given thanks for the food before Jesus passes it out. It has been thus made sacred or, better, reclaimed for God to whom it had always belonged. I look next at those two elements in that order: first, the bread and fish, then the few verbs, took, blessed or gave thanks, broke, gave.   Those six multiplication—better, distribution?—stories about bread and fish all take place during the earthly life of Jesus. But there is another story about bread and fish from after his earthly life. Well, actually,…  2263  

Why does the couple not evince any surprise at the sudden revelation and equally sudden disappearance of their risen Lord? It is because that story is a fairly obvious parable about earliest Christianity’s standard ritual in community worship. First comes the reading of the scriptures. That is necessary, but not enough. It warms the heart, but does not yet reveal the Christ. That happens only when food—and household—is shared with the random stranger. Only then can you announce that Christ “had been made known…in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). Notice, by the way, the word “break.” They each could have had individual bread before them at a meal, but that verb emphasizes the sharing of communal food rather than the enjoyment of a personal supply. How are we to understand those three stories—in the desert from Mark, by the lakeshore from John, and at Emmaus from Luke? First of all, that continuity from Jesus before to Jesus after the resurrection is significant. Of all the many things Jesus did before his resurrection, it is that multiplication of bread and fish and the invocation of those four verbs in Mark that reappears as bread and fish in John 21 and as those four verbs in Luke 24. Why is that important? There is, I think, a confrontational edge to that emphasis on “fish.” It is not a passing criticism of Antipas from the earthly life of Jesus (Mark 6), but involves what Jesus is and ever remains as the revelation of God. It is, to repeat, about Galilee’s lake as a microcosm of God’s world—who owns it, controls it, distributes it (John 21). Furthermore, that distribution is by sharing even with—or especially with—the random stranger. Only then is Jesus still present in the Christian community (Luke 24).  2356  

I turn next to two other stories that continue and even consummate those preceding three texts. Once again, the first story is set before and the other is set after the resurrection of Jesus. Here the continuity is from Mark in 14:22–25 to Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:20–34. Mark uses that same fourfold verbal sequence took, blessed, broke, and gave during what we call the Last Supper and he calls the “Passover meal” (14:14, 16): “While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them…. Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them” (14:22–23). Passing the common cup emphasizes, as does breaking the common bread, that the symbolism is about sharing communal food and not just consuming individual supplies. The standard sequence of those four verbs draws our attention to the fact that bread and fish has now become bread and wine. On the one hand, bread and wine is simply the Mediterranean way of expressing food and drink. Recall, for example, the poetic parallelism in Proverbs about those who “eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence” (4:17) or are invited to “eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed” (9:5). On the other hand, that sequence of bread and wine allows the equation of bread with the body and wine with the blood of Jesus. Why make that equation? We think of ordinary death as a separation of body and soul or flesh and spirit. But violent death—for example, execution—is a separation of body and blood. The eucharistic meal recalls that Jesus not only lived for the just distribution of food and drink, but died for insisting on that same thing. He was not demanding charity, generosity, or even hospitality. Rome did not crucify people for those proposals. Jesus was insisting that the world and its food—summarized as bread and wine—belonged to God and not to Rome. For that he died violently on a cross—so that “bread and wine” led to “body and blood.” It follows, therefore, that Christians participating in the Lord’s Supper are collaborating with the justice of God as revealed in the life and death of Christ. Jesus says nothing about his substitution for us, but rather invites our participation with him. “He took a cup,” for example, “and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it” (Mark 14:23). So how exactly does that work out in practice? One answer comes from Paul, writing on that very question to the Corinthians. Roman householders often gave feasts that included not only their social equals, but also their freed slaves, clients, and assorted hangers-on. That was, of course, a deliberate display of hierarchical power. But at such banquets, Roman moralists asked, should all get the same food and drink? Some said of course not. At the end of the first century CE, the poet Martial—who would eventually flee Rome for his native Spain—complained bitterly in his Epigrams about such calculated social humiliation. “Let us eat,” he demanded, “the same fare” (3.60). Others said yes, of course. One of Martial’s patrons was the very aristocratic Pliny the Younger. He insisted indignantly in his Letters that his custom was “to give all my company the same fare.” But that meant, he continued, “that my freed slaves do not drink the same wine I do—but I drink what they do” (2.6). “Social equality” there was cultural slumming. And that was the problem Paul ran into with the eucharistic meal at Corinth. The original title “Lord’s Supper” meant the Lord’s style of supper, that is, a share-meal where all alike got enough of the same food and drink. Equality in Christ meant equality in menu. It was not, of course, our symbolic morsel and sip, but a true meal. What happened at Corinth was that the drag of cultural normalcy pulled the Lord’s Supper back into Roman hierarchical expectations. When the various small Christian communities of Corinth celebrated the Lord’s Supper together at the home of a better-off member, the nonworking…  2371  

will recall, from Chapter 3, that the Priestly tradition moved from Sabbath creation through Sabbath day and Sabbath year to climax with Sabbath jubilee. That same tradition created a magnificent parable to sum it all up and located it during the Exodus from Egypt. It is a vision of the Sabbath day, but also of how God distributes food as manna/bread for all. It is also the best commentary on “our daily bread” in the Abba Prayer of Jesus as meaning enough bread for today, and tomorrow, and every day to come.  2441  

there are five very precise instructions for harvesting this miraculous food from heaven: The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day.” (16:4) “On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.”…On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food. (16:5, 22) “Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer [about a half gallon] to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.” The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed…. Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed. (16:16–18, 21) “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” But…some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. (16:19–20) On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. (16:27) Those parabolic emphases are quite clear. When God directly distributes food there is enough for each and every day (daily bread?); there is miraculously the same amount for each person per day no matter what each takes; there is no hoarding because it spoils overnight; there is no food even present on the Sabbath, but twice as much the day before; but when that pre-Sabbath bread is kept overnight, it “[does] not become foul, and there [are] no worms in it” (16:24). There is, however, one very interesting aspect to the people’s “fill of bread” (16:8, 12), to “the bread that the Lord has given them to eat” (16:15). It is the householder who is commanded by God to pick up enough bread for the entire household each morning: “Gather as much of it as each of you needs…according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents” (16:16). It is, as always, about the householder and the house as microcosm of the Householder and the House.  2450  

Enough food for today must also involve no debt for tomorrow.  2478  

The prayer’s first half on God’s name, kingdom, and will had no “ands” between them. Each of those three challenges involved the other ones even despite a deliberate climax in presentation. God’s name cannot be hallowed except through the coming of God’s kingdom, which results in God’s eternal will being done on earth. But the prayer’s second half is cumulative; hence those “ands” between bread and debt as well as between debt and temptation. It is not about bread or debt or temptation, but about all three together in a crescendo. So what comes next after “Give us our daily bread” is—and must be—“and forgive us our debts.” 7  2480  

that Jean-François Champollion, having taught himself Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, used the Greek section of the Rosetta Stone to crack the other two Egyptian scripts.  2499  

In that text the first two points mentioned are the mitigation of taxes and the remission of debts as the new ruler “apportioned justice to all.” Go back now from 196 BCE to 1760 BCE and from the Egyptian hieroglyphics of the Rosetta Stone to the Babylonian laws of the Code of Hammurabi.  2507  

Hammurabi ruled the Old Babylonian Empire from 1728 to 1686 BCE, and his law code is the fullest one still extant from the ancient Mesopotamian world. At the top is a bas-relief of Hammurabi himself as he receives the legal prescriptions from the god of justice, the sun god Shamash. The prologue asserts that Hammurabi has been divinely appointed “to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evildoers; so that the strong should not harm the weak.” The epilogue repeats that divine mandate: “that the strong might not injure the weak, in order to protect the widows and orphans…in order to declare justice in the land, to settle all disputes, and heal all injuries.” In between those framing declarations are 282 case laws (“If…”), and this is the one of present interest: If any one fail to meet a claim for debt, and sell himself, his wife, his son, and daughter for money or give them away to forced labor: they shall work for three years in the house of the man who bought them, or the proprietor, and in the fourth year they shall be set free. (#117) That law is not just about release from taxes or debts, as on the Rosetta Stone, but about release from debt slavery itself. No matter how great the unpaid debt, the resulting slavery and forced labor could only last for three full years. It is, as it were, an early version of our limited liability law.   The legal codes of the biblical Torah continued that ancient Mesopotamian tradition. They involve justice descending from heaven to earth; the king as its divine incarnation; release from tax and debt, interest and slavery; and special concern for the most vulnerable ones—the poor and the oppressed, the widows, orphans, and resident aliens. There is, however, one magnificently unique feature of that divine vision of distributive justice and restorative righteousness in its biblical realization. There, as seen in Chapter 3, the metronome of time itself—its days, years, and centuries—beats to the rhythm of the divine justice from Sabbath creation through Sabbath day and Sabbath year to Sabbath jubilee. My primary focus in this chapter is on debt and its forgiveness. But in the biblical tradition debt, slavery, and slavery for debt are very closely connected. In debt slavery persons are sold into temporary or permanent slavery to pay off debt. That type of forced-labor enslavement was described almost four millennia ago in the Code of Hammurabi—as we read above—and taken up into the covenantal theology of Israel from that Mesopotamian tradition. That interaction of debt and slavery and especially of slavery for debt in the biblical tradition raises a secondary focus for this chapter. Debt slavery makes me wonder if in our contemporary world those places where slavery is forbidden by law have simply replaced it with excessive debt as neoslavery. Maybe excessive debt is a far better way of owning or controlling individuals and nations than old-fashioned forms of direct slavery and direct colonialism? Within that biblical tradition—and everywhere else as well?—debt leads easily into slavery. But with or as debt comes interest or pledge. I begin therefore with interest or pledge as possibly leading to excessive debt in the Bible:   INTEREST or PLEDGE DEBT SLAVERY  2514  

As always, the model for such things as noninterest loans is God’s deliverance of the Israelites from those Egyptian “taskmasters set over them to oppress them with forced labor” (Exod. 1:11) followed by the gift of the land of Canaan as their inheritance.  2556  

others.” (Neh. 5:1–5) “After thinking it over,” Nehemiah said, “I brought charges against the nobles and the officials; I said to them, ‘You are all taking interest from your own people.’ And I called a great assembly to deal with them” (5:7). This is his decree: I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us stop this taking of interest. Restore to them, this very day, their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the interest on money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them. (5:10–11) The aristocracy of nobles, officials, and priests accepted his decree and swore to follow it not only with distributive justice for the future, but also with restorative justice for the past. A half millennium later, the deuterocanonical 4 Maccabees summed it up succinctly: “As soon as one adopts a way of life in accordance with the law, even though a lover of money, one is forced to act contrary to natural ways and to lend without interest to the needy and to cancel the debt when the seventh year arrives” (2:8). Notice, however, that distinction between interest and pledge in those texts from Nehemiah and also that both are revoked. Some of the aristocracy demanded interest on loans to the peasantry despite those laws seen above from Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 22. Others respected those laws, but demanded a pledge instead (usually the family farm), which would be taken if the loan was defaulted on. Pledges against default could be far more damaging than interest on loans. That is why the biblical tradition, although it doesn’t forbid pledges, seeks at least to control the social havoc of pledges—large or small. For example:  2578  

pledge. You shall wait outside, while the person to whom you are making the loan brings the pledge out to you. If the person is poor, you shall not sleep in the garment given you as the pledge. You shall give the pledge back by sunset, so that your neighbor may sleep in the cloak and bless you…. You shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge. (Deut. 24:6, 10–13, 17)  2595  

recall the sequence in Chapter 3 from Sabbath creation through Sabbath day and Sabbath year to Sabbath jubilee. The days, years, and centuries of human time were thereby absorbed—as just mentioned—into the divine rhythm of distributive justice and restorative righteousness. I mentioned there that the Sabbath year had three aspects—resting fields, remitting debts, and freeing debt slaves—and that the last two would be discussed in this chapter. I return then, as promised, to the Sabbath year within God’s dream of God’s world for all God’s people. I begin with debt slavery within the oldest legal section of the Bible, that is, the Book of the Covenant in Exodus 20:22–23:33. It opens, as you might imagine, like this: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (20:2). So, having been liberated from slavery as a people, how can one Israelite ever—permanently—enslave another Israelite?  2603  

striking difference between debt-slavery release in Exodus 21 and that in Deuteronomy 15. With regard to debt slaves: If a member of your community, whether a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and works for you six years, in the seventh year you shall set that person free. And when you send a male slave out from you a free person, you shall not send him out empty-handed. Provide liberally out of your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press, thus giving to him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; for this reason I lay this command upon you today. Do not consider it a hardship when you send them out from you free persons, because for six years they have given you services worth [twice] the wages of hired laborers; and the Lord your God will bless you in all that you do. (Deut. 15:12–15, 18)  2642  

so you shall plunder the Egyptians. (Exod. 3:21–22; see 12:35–36) That “plunder” is simply the back pay and “damages” due to those who have been enslaved. Some nations do it willingly, some unwillingly, and some never.  2659  

Finally, Deuteronomy 15 vacillates between two ideal visions on this whole subject of debts. Compare this magnificent contradiction: There will, however, be no one in need among you, because the Lord is sure to bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession to occupy. (15:4) Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.” (15:11) Both parts of that last sentence are implicitly cited by Jesus in Mark 14:7: “You always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish.” However, with both Deuteronomy 15:11 and Mark 14:7, the whole verse must always be cited. It is very unfortunate that we often hear only the abbreviated version, “You always have the poor with you” from Matthew 26:11 and John 12:8. The absolutely nonbiblical result is often complacency with what is then interpreted as a divinely constituted inequality that demands not justice for all, but—at best—charity for some.   Everything seen so far about the Abba Prayer of Jesus has shown it to be a hymnic summary of the distributive justice and restorative righteousness of the biblical God. That theme reverberates from one end of the Christian Old Testament to the other. Indeed, it is always the very character of the divine Householder that is at stake. That character was revealed in God’s archetypal release of Israel from slavery in Egypt. That external release is the permanent model for the internal release from slavery of fellow Israelites. The biblical God did not oppose Egypt because it was not Israel, but because it was not just. Equal opposition would have awaited Israel from God if it had become the new Egypt.  2662  

Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. (Gen. 1:26) We humans are image stewards of God. We are created, in other words, to run God’s world with God, through God, and in God. Just so, in microcosm, and again as already seen, God tells Israel: “The land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants” (Lev. 25:23). Furthermore, and again as already seen, Paul rephrased our dignity as “images of God” by calling us “heirs of God.” As divine heirs, we are responsible, Paul concluded, never to increase but always to alleviate the “groaning of creation” (Rom. 8:17–22). Images and heirs, stewards and managers, tenant farmers and resident aliens owe literal debts to the owners of their assigned properties. And that debt is to do and produce whatever the owner expects of them. We owe it to God to run God’s world responsibly. We owe the divine Householder the conservation of the world house; we owe the divine Homemaker the consecration of the earth home. We owe God adequate care of all God’s creation. We owe God collaboration in hallowing God’s name, in establishing God’s kingdom, and in doing God’s will “as in heaven so also on earth.” We owe it to God to cease focusing on heaven, especially in order to avoid focusing on earth. We owe it to God to ensure that there is enough food and not too much debt in God’s well-run Household.  2683  

After that, God warns that their action of taking back the slaves has “profaned” God’s name (34:16)—remember God’s name from Chapter 3?  2716  

Therefore, thus says the Lord: You have not obeyed me by granting a release to your neighbors and friends; I am going to grant a release to you, says the Lord—a release to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine. I will make you a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth…. [Your] corpses shall become food for the birds of the air and the wild animals of the earth…. The towns of Judah I will make a desolation without inhabitant. (34:17–22) In that parable the very reason for the Babylonian exile was an alleged acceptance and then a rejection of the Sabbath year “release” from debt and debt slavery. In that parable the Sabbath year’s release from debt slavery is judged so important that defaulting on it is the specific reason for Babylon’s imperial devastation of Israel. Recall that incident on debt release seen above in Nehemiah 5? The Zedekiah and Nehemiah stories frame the Babylonian exile by citing the nonremission of debt as its cause beforehand and the remission of debt as its remedy afterward.   That literal understanding of debt as what one owes to God or neighbor seems immediately obvious as Israel’s biblical tradition flows into and through the Abba Prayer of Jesus. It also represents that literal hope for enough bread today and no debt tomorrow that has been the ancient dream of the earth’s “have-nots.”  2718  

(18:24–25; a good example, by the way, of enslavement for debt). But when the debtor begged for mercy, the debt was totally remitted. This debtor then went to another who owed him a mere “hundred denarii” and, despite his own experience with the king’s forgiveness, he disregarded the second debtor’s pleas for mercy and “threw him into prison until he would pay the debt” (18:30). Infuriated by the first debtor’s actions, the king “handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt” (18:34). Finally, Matthew ends the parable with this: “So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (18:35). In this case, literal debt is a parabolic metaphor for sin. In terms of divine and human forgiveness, Matthew moves from “debts” (6:12) to “trespasses” (6:24–15) to “sins” (18:15, 21–35). I conclude with Luke. His version of the Lord’s Prayer leaves out two sections present in Matthew and The Teaching (see the Appendix): “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven and “rescue us from the evil one.” But he also makes one very significant change in what he retains: And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. (Luke 11:4) Matthew works from “debts” through “trespasses” to “sins,” but Luke gets there right away. But, of course, he still retains “indebted to us” rather than “sinning against us.” I have three conclusions from all of that textual activity. One is that “debts” was originally intended quite literally. Jesus meant that eternal peasant dyad of enough bread for today and no debt for tomorrow.  2750  

And, at least for the biblical tradition, when debt creates too much inequality, it has become sinful.  2771  

condition—God will forgive, only if we forgive. That conditional aspect of forgiveness is made very explicit by the negative interpretation added at the end of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew: For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (6:14–15)  2774  

I conclude that, whether you read Matthew 6:12 in the Lord’s Prayer as about debts or sins, divine forgiveness is never conditional and should not be interpreted with either 6:14–15 or 18:15, 21–35.  2786  

The positive ideal of enough bread for today and the negative one of no debt for tomorrow are standard hopes of the “have-nots” of history.  2791  

When those legions marched against Israel, they marched with fire and sword. We will teach you a lesson, they said, and, if we have to return, it will not be for a couple of generations. Watch the dates: they came in 4 BCE, they came in 66 CE, and they came in 132 CE. They never had to come again.  2829  

From the tiny hamlet of Nazareth you went first up over the ridge and then around ancient swamps on the valley floor four or five miles to reach the city of Sepphoris. Josephus does not tell us what happened to Nazareth when that legion destroyed nearby Sepphoris in 4 BCE. But we can easily imagine it from the account in his Jewish War of what happened to other small villages as the Roman legions and their Arab allies continued south toward Jerusalem: They encamped near a village called Arous [in Samaria, which was] sacked by the Arabs. Thence Varus advanced to Sappho [in Judea], another fortified village, which they likewise sacked, as well as the neighboring villages which they encountered on their march. The whole district became a scene of fire and blood and nothing was safe against the ravages of the Arabs. Emmaus, the inhabitants of which had fled, was burnt to the ground by the orders of Varus. (2.69–70) That is what would have happened to Nazareth and to any of Sepphoris’s adjacent villages in 4 BCE. Grain, produce, and livestock would have been taken, and farms, houses, and trees destroyed. Those unable to hide successfully would have been killed if male, raped if female, and enslaved if young.  2841  

context, Jesus lived in the lull between two violent rebellions against imperial oppression in his Jewish homeland.  2861  

For myself, I do not think of that figure as a transcendental spiritual individual, but rather as Temptation personified and presented anthropomorphically. But notice especially how, in Matthew’s sequence, the three temptations progress from personal and individual through corporate and communal to structural and systemic temptation.  2940  

counterscripture like this one: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it” (Ps. 24:1). We expect him to say that the earth does not belong to the tempter, but to God.  2978  

worship. He simply refuses that worship with a citation of Deuteronomy 6:13: “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him’” (Matt. 4:10; Luke 5:8). But why did Jesus not deny flatly any demonic control over the earth? Notice that, actually, the tempter never speaks of “creation” or “the world” or “the earth,” but of “all the kingdoms of the world” along with their “glory” (Matthew and Luke) and “power” (Luke). That is the violent world of civilization—as demonstrated,  2981  

The tempter does not own and cannot offer to anyone the “world that God so loved” (John 3:16), but only that world we are told “not to love,” for it contains only “the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches” (1 John 2:15–16).  2987  

What, then, is the difference in precise content between worshiping God and worshiping Satan? To obtain and possess the kingdoms of the world, with their power and glory, by violent injustice is to worship Satan. To obtain and possess the kingdom, the power, and the glory by nonviolent justice is to worship God. They are, in other words, two ways of establishing our world and controlling our earth. The last and climactic temptation for Jesus is to use violence in establishing the kingdom of God on earth and thereby to receive it as the kingdom of Satan. And so also for us. Recall what we saw in Chapter 5 about humanity’s original sin as escalatory violence in Genesis 4? As God warned Cain, “Sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it” (4:7). Jesus’s climactic test/trial/temptation—and our permanent test/trial/temptation—is to establish the kingdom of God by violence. That would equate the eschatological and the imperial kingdoms. That would conflate divine and demonic power.  2991  

translations. The King James Version of the Abba Prayer concludes with this addition: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever” (Matt. 6:13b). There is no great problem with adding that phrase into the biblical text from the prayer’s liturgical practice. But, since that threesome of kingdom, power, and glory first appeared on the lips of Satan in the climactic final temptation of Jesus, we must always intentionally focus that “thine” on God as nonviolent rather than on Satan as violent. Nonviolent justice or violent injustice is the essential choice between God and Satan and their respective kingdoms.    3017  

You can judge the importance of that incident by the changes and adaptations across those four accounts. Notice these main ones: Defensive sword used: In all four versions someone—“one of those who stood near” (Mark), “one of those with Jesus” (Matthew), “one of those around him” (Luke), or “Simon Peter” (John)—strikes the slave of the high priest and cuts off his (right) ear. Defensive sword rejected: In three versions Jesus admonishes the striker: “Put your sword back into place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew); “‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him” (Luke); and “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John). Offensive swords mentioned: Also, in three versions Jesus asks the same question verbatim: “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit?” (Mark, Matthew, and Luke). In all cases the general purpose is to raise this question: If opponents use violence to attack Jesus, should his disciples use violence to defend him? The answer is quite clear. Even when opponents use the sword to attack Jesus, the disciples must not use it to defend him. But if not then, when? If not then, never! But that is the precise “temptation” to which Peter succumbed in Gethsemane. Had he been praying rather than sleeping, he might not, as Jesus told him, have entered “into temptation” (14:38). Especially if, like Jesus there, he had prayed the Abba Prayer.  3068  

The disciples accept the permission on defensive weapons and start to take inventory. They reassure Jesus that they have two swords among them. What is his reply—for Luke? The Greek phrase hikanon estin should not be translated approvingly or even ambiguously as “It is enough,” but emphatically and disapprovingly as “Enough of that!” (which, by the way, is how the Greek phrase is translated in the recent monumental commentary on Luke’s gospel by Father Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J.).2 In other words, both the unit 22:35–38 at the Last Supper and the unit 22:49–51 in Gethsemane conclude with similar dismissive statements about even defensive violence from Jesus: “Enough of that!” (22:38) and “No more of this!” (22:51). All of those assertions and especially those rather tortured contradictions indicate that injunctions from Jesus against even personal defensive weapons—whether staffs or swords—were just a bit too much for his followers to accept. Accordingly, in very human fashion, they both admitted them in one place and reversed them in another. But, whether by affirmation or negation, they confirm for us that Jesus not only demanded nonviolent resistance, but that he also wanted it manifested externally, visibly, and symbolically. Finally, therefore, we can name “the last temptation” of the disciples in general and of their leader Peter in particular. It is defensive counter-violence. The disciples must continue in prayer—rather than in sleep—to avoid entering into that ultimate temptation. They must especially avoid being led into that temptation “by God,” that is, for Christ. We can easily imagine—and maybe even agree with—their protests. Even if offensive violence is forbidden by Jesus, surely at least defensive counter-violence must be allowed? But Jesus’s negation of that exception is shown most clearly in Gethsemane. No, it is not acceptable for the followers of Jesus to use defensive counter-violence even to defend Jesus himself.   Five connected themes are interwoven throughout this book’s meditation on the Abba Prayer of Jesus. A first theme begins by translating the patriarchal name “father” as the more appropriate term “householder.” It accordingly understands God the Father as God the Householder of the World. And as the human householder makes sure that all in the household have enough, so also does the divine Householder. That is the awesome simplicity behind the Bible’s acclamation of God as a God of “justice and righteousness.” It is only just and right that all who dwell together—in household or Household—have enough. A second theme is that, at the dawn of creation in Genesis 1:26–27, the divine Householder created human beings as “images” of that divine character. We are to collaborate with God as appointed stewards of a world that we must maintain in justice and equality. “It is required of stewards,” as Paul says, “that they be found trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:2). A third theme is that, for Christians, Jesus is the “Son” of the “Father,” who is the divine Householder of the World. “Son” is another patriarchal term, but also a very specific one in a world of male primogeniture, where the firstborn son—or the only son—is the sole heir of the household. Jesus is the Heir of God, the divine Householder of the World. A fourth element is that Christians are called to collaborate with Christ as Heir of God. That comes from the collaborative nature of the kingdom of God as eschaton, that is, from our necessary participation in the Great Divine Cleanup of the World. We cry out “Abba! Father!” to quote Paul once more, in ecstatic awareness that we are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:15, 17). A fifth and final theme is how all of that comes together in the Abba Prayer of Jesus. It is both a revolutionary manifesto and a hymn of hope not just for Christianity, but for all the world. Better, it is addressed from Christianity to all the world. Better still, it is from the heart of Judaism through the…  3125  

even if God is—from one end of the Christian Bible to the other—a God of nonviolent distributive justice and restorative righteous ness, is that biblical God not also—or even more so—a God of violent retributive justice and punitive righteousness?  3168  

Think, once again, for example, of that magnificent vision repeated verbatim in two eighth-century BCE prophets. God, the nations of the earth proclaim, “will teach us his ways that we may walk in his paths.” To what end? So that we beat our “swords into plowshares” and our “spears into pruning hooks,” so that “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:2–4; Mic. 4:2–3).  3171  

Constantinople’s monastic Church of St. Savior in Chora is now Istanbul’s Kariye Museum. Its superb collection of mosaics and frescoes was created at the start of the fourteenth century, when the Latins were gone, the Byzantines were back, and the Muslims had not yet arrived. Above the door from the outer narthex, or vestibule, to the inner one is an image of Christ Pantocrator, that is, the “All-Powerful One,” so named even as the Byzantine emperor was called Autocrator, the “Self-Powerful One.” Both  3207  

this time his left hand holds the opened rather than the closed Book of the Gospel. But he is still not reading it. Instead, it is opened toward us and tells us in the Greek of Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I [will give you rest].” That, of course, is not the book, but the Christ speaking to us. From all of that, I draw this conclusion. Christ never reads the book, because Christ is the norm, the criterion, the purpose, and the meaning of the book. The book points to Christ; Christ does not point to the book. We are not the People of the Book; we are the People with the Book. The Gospel of John does not say, “God so loved the world that he gave us” a book (3:16). The Revelation of John does not say that we are saved “by the ink of the Lamb” (12:11). For over a hundred years Christians have asked WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) and not WWBS? (What Would the Bible Say?). If Christ is the norm of the gospel, then he is also the norm of the New Testament, and of the entire Christian Bible. That, of course, is why we are called Christ-ians and not Bible-ians. That, therefore, is my answer to this Epilogue’s first question. Confronted, as we are, by tandem visions of both a nonviolent and a violent God throughout our Bible, we simply ask ourselves another question. Is Christ the incarnation and revelation of a nonviolent or a violent God? Since Jesus the Christ was clearly nonviolent (thank you at least for that correct judgment, Pilate), we Christians are called to believe in a nonviolent God. In other words, the nonviolent incarnational Christ challenges and judges the violent apocalyptic Christ. Our Christian Bible, therefore, tells a most strange story. It is one whose meaning is in the middle, not the end, one whose climax is in the center, not the conclusion. That is, by the way, why we Christians count time down to the incarnation of Christ and then back up from it. Unfortunately, then, our Christian Bible has itself succumbed to the great temptation of the evil one, namely, to make God violent and Jesus the revelation of that violent God. But the final and climactic unit of the Abba Prayer pleads against that desecration. It challenges us, first, to go back through our Bible and notice that other God, the God not of violent retributive justice and punitive righteousness, but of nonviolent distributive justice and restorative righteousness. And it challenges us, second, to think about Jesus as creator of the Abba Prayer and to ask ourselves: Do we find any divine violence in it? Or do we find in it—and in the life that produced it as its summary—a nonviolent vision that is still the last best hope for our species and our earth?   The second major question or objection concerns that word justice itself, even when it is taken to mean equitable distribution rather than stern retribution. In public lectures, when I avoid anthropomorphic language and speak of God as Justice rather than of God as just, I very often get the objection that God is not Justice, but Love. I am told—quite correctly—that nowhere in the Christian Bible does it say that “God is Justice,” but it says twice in 1 John that “God is Love”: Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. (4:8) So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide  3227  

God, and God abides in them. (4:16) Should divine justice and divine love be played off against each other and, if not, how are they to be reconciled in Christian consciousness? Is it enough simply to combine them? Is it enough to note—quite correctly—that texts in the Christian Bible speak both of a God of justice in Isaiah 30:18 and Malachi 2:17 and of a God of love in 2 Corinthians 13:11? Is it enough to say—quite correctly—that “love” in the Bible is not just emotional but operational, not just about feeling but about acting? Is it enough to insist—quite correctly—that for John (e.g., 13:34) and Paul (e.g., Rom. 13:8) “loving one another” means “sharing” with one another? I think, however, that we must move toward a much closer correlation of justice and love than any of those suggestions. One the one hand, so many individuals and groups who have started out with a dream of distributive justice for all peoples have ended up in bloody slaughter. One way to establish that justice would be to kill all those who oppose it. Why, in other words, does distributive justice tend so often to end up in violence? On the other hand, “love,” that most precious word in our language, refers to an almost unimaginable range of referents—from, say, our favorite candy bar to the soul mate of our life, from, say, our favorite sports team to God Almighty. If “justice” tends so often to go wrong, why does “love” tend so often to be empty? Could it be that love is a style or mode of justice, so that you can never have either alone? We speak of a human being as composed of flesh and spirit or of body and soul. Combined, they form a human person; separated, what’s left is a human corpse. When body and soul or flesh and spirit are separated, we do not get two persons; we get one corpse. Think, then, of justice as the body of love and love as the soul of justice. Think, then, of justice as the flesh of love, and love as the spirit of justice. Combined, you have both; separated, you have neither. Justice without love or love without justice is a moral corpse. That is why justice without love becomes brutal and love without justice become banal.  3255  

John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” this is the urn’s message: “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’—that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”  3275  

“Justice is love, love is justice. That is all we know on earth, and all we need to know.”  3279  

Matthew 6:9–13 Our Father in the heavens, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven so on earth. Give us our daily bread today And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.   And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Luke 11:2–4 Father,   hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.   Give us our daily bread each day And forgive us our sins,   for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation The Teaching (Didach) 8.2 Our Father in heaven,   hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven so on earth; Give us our daily bread today And forgive us our debt   as we forgive our debtors.   And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one, for yours is the power and the glory forever.  3282

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