John Dominic Crossan is arguably the world’s foremost scholar of the historical Jesus. Twenty-five years ago, Crossan co-founded the Jesus Seminar with Robert Funk, a group of mostly liberal scholars who decide on the historicity of the deeds and sayings of Jesus.
A former Roman Catholic priest and professor emeritus of religious studies at DePaul University, Crossan newest book, his 26th, looks at the Lord’s Prayer, or the Our Father. In The Greatest Prayer, Crossan argues that Christianity’s best-known invocation is misunderstood and undervalued in today’s society.
Q: You call the Lord’s Prayer Christianity’s “greatest prayer,” but also say it can be prayed by followers of all religions. Why would non-Christians recite it?
A: Any religion’s greatest prayers should be addressed to the whole world. If a prayer only speaks to you, that’s fine. But I would like to hear you speaking to all of us. The Lord’s Prayer is the greatest because it comes from the heart of Judaism and the lips of Christianity—but speaks to the conscience of the world.
Q: You also call it Christianity’s “strangest” prayer.
A: Ask a Christian what’s the most important things about Christianity, and see if you find those in the Lord’s Prayer. When Christians emphasize what’s most important for them, it’s usually not in the Lord’s Prayer, and they almost never mention that “give us this day our daily bread” means exactly that—that everyone has a right to the material basis of life. It’s “strange” in that there’s a huge discrepancy between what most people think Christianity is really about and what Jesus thinks Christianity is really about.
Q: The Lord’s Prayer addresses God as “Father.” Is that a turn-off for women?
A: It is, and they’re going to have to learn, as we all have to, what is meant by people who use a different culture than our own. Sheep and shepherds don’t do much for me, but I will allow ancient people the validity of their language.
FULL STORY 10 Minutes with John Dominic Crossan (Religion News Service)