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The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord's Prayer Paperback – August 23, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

No prayer is better known in the Christian world than the Lord's Prayer, taught by Jesus to His disciples as they listened to Him preach about the Kingdom of God. Crossan, co-founder of The Jesus Seminar and acclaimed author of many works on the life and mission of Jesus Christ, writes to answer the question, "How can we who live today hear the words of the Lord's Prayer in ways that reflect the concerns of His immediate hearers and impact our lives 2,000 years later?" Delving deeply into the story of the Jewish nation in Jesus' time, Crossan shows how Jesus, couched in the words of this prayer, advises His followers to reject violent methods of resisting their Roman captors, and instead work for the coming of the Kingdom of God, the only way to achieve true freedom. The theme of nonviolence permeates this book and becomes the foundation for Crossan's understanding, not only of the Lord's Prayer, but also of a variety of extra-biblical sources he references to support his thesis. A fine effort by a fine scholar. (Sept.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Noted biblical scholar Crossan takes a fresh look at the Lord’s Prayer, also called the Our Father and the Abba Prayer. Prayed by Christians of all denominations and doctrinal persuasions, yet mentioning none of the issues that divide them, it is certainly Christianity’s official prayer and surely its greatest. Crossan takes key words from the prayer (Father, name, kingdom, will, bread, debt, and temptation), examines their meaning in a biblical context, and concludes that it is a revolutionary manifesto, proclaiming nonviolence and distributive justice. This seemingly radical exegesis will be as welcome to some as it is disconcerting to others. Even if one disagrees with the author’s conclusions, it will be difficult to dislike his book, as one of Crossan’s gifts is his ability to challenge his readers in a gentle, respectful, and nonconfrontational manner. --Christopher McConnell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (August 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061875686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061875687
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John D. Crossan is generally acknowledged to be the premier historical Jesus scholar in the world. His books include The Historical Jesus, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, and Who Killed Jesus? He recently appeared in the PBS special "From Jesus to Christ."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 66 people found the following review helpful By David Crumm on September 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
You're probably familiar with John Dominic "Dom" Crossan from his appearances in TV documentaries about the Bible, the life of Jesus and the ancient world. Over the past decade, his books for general readers have become very popular in congregations nationwide. Yes, some of Crossan's perspectives are provocative and he's more likely to be enjoyed in mainline Christian congregations rather than evangelical circles, but overall: This guy's books draw crowds for spirited small-group discussions in congregations coast to coast.

In "The Greatest Prayer," Crossan focuses on the "Lord's Prayer" or the "Our Father," depending on your own personal tradition with this prayer. Crossan is an internationally respected scholar and, in some previous books, he has taken readers deep into scholarly research. Here, he deliberately chooses not to take readers through a detailed historical exploration of the ancient world. Rather, he simply lifts up each section of the world's most popular prayer and explores how each phrase relates to the overall wisdom of the entire Bible. That's a reader-friendly way of approaching the subject. It's easy for people at any reading level to enjoy. Crossan's goal is to give us a vivid sense of what this revolutionary prayer must have meant in the lives of the men and women who first heard it, who first repeated it and who carefully preserved the prayer for us to enjoy thousands of years later. In making this connection, he extends the prayer's relevance right into the heart of our contemporary world.

The book is divided into 8 sections, making it a great choice for a two-month small-group study. The reading is neither too technical nor too long. This is a book custom-designed for a lively experience of spiritual reflection and moral dialogue in small groups. Simply encourage members to get the book, assign the weekly reading--and you'll have no shortage of conversation when your group gathers.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Orlando R. Barone on January 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Crossan's profound and revelatory little book on the meaning of The Lord's Prayer is, for those of us who pray this prayer daily, a spellbinding journey. It is a trek of faith through the labyrinthine passageways of ancient scripture, its sacred memory, and its profane history. It is a meditation on the ways we choose to approach one another, with a flailing sword or a proffered loaf of bread. It is finally a bracing analysis of the strange prayer that was Jesus' answer to the simple request, "Lord, teach us to pray."

There are three ancient versions of the Lord's Prayer, which Crossan calls the "Abba Prayer," for good reason. Renditions appear in Matthew, Luke, and the Didache ("The Teaching [of the Twelve Apostles]") a very early little catechism rediscovered in the 19th century). Matthew, the most "Jewish" of the evangelists, preserved seven petitions, a number that alerts Hebrew readers of the holiness and importance of what they are reciting. Luke has five petitions.

Crossan perceives six tropes in Matthew; he combines the last two: "And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one." Thus he constructs a nicely balanced poetic sensibility, with a crescendo of three petitions orienting us to God's name, God's kingdom, and God's will, followed by a second crescendo making that orientation clear for us on earth: (1) all of us get the sustenance we need on a daily basis; (2) all of us are awarded a debt-free future inasmuch as we free our debtors; and (3) we are preserved from the temptation to slip into violence to promote God's reign and therefore saved from the grasp of the evil one.

The key to this analysis is the Exodus story, the central memory of the children of Abraham.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Doc Phil on October 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Dominic Crossan has once again applied his background as an historian and as a Catholic priest to remind us, or educate us for the first time, that what Jesus' message was and is, is to love one another. He argues effectively that what Jesus taught in the Lords Prayer is that "justice" in the Bible is not retributive justice, but distributive justice -- that all must be treated the same, and that all must be treated with love. It's a tall order at times, but that is the message of the Lord's Prayer, which all too often is used to seek punishment for those whose actions we do not agree with, rather than seek compassion within to assist them or to assist ourselves to deal with the unwanted behaviour. I would certainly list this as a recommended reading for there is some serious thought put into this new tome of Crossan, serious thought that we might all want to consider. Check it out!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Karen Oberst on December 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved Crossen's metaphor of God as Householder. It led to an entirely new take on the Lord's Prayer. As has been mentioned, some of his views would be challenging in evangelical and fundamental circles, but he backs up his ideas with a lot of scholarship. I didn't agree with all of his conclusions, but he gave me a lot food for thought, and a deeper appreciation for the prayer and for that I thank him very much. I give the book four stars because I think it would be a little too dry and scholarly for some readers. But for a new understanding of this common prayer, pick up this book. It's well worth the read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia L. Wall, LCSW on January 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
During my childhood, the Presbyterian Church was a second and safe home. But I wouldn't tolerate the exclusive nature of Christianity as taught from the dogma of the pulpit, arguing against so many being deemed "unsaved" and the of making us--Protestants in particular--so special. The one saving grace was the minister's explanation and appreciation of "The Lord's Prayer": it grounded me into the rhythm, the simple nature of communication and fairness. "Forgive me my debts/trespasses AS I forgive others' against me." The words can be said by anyone who has a sense of a larger intelligence, a Higher Self or Higher Power. For me, the concept of releasing old fears and hurts has been a major step in my developing self-trust, and having Faith in a positive future, regardless of one's belief system.

This book goes so much more deeply into the intention and purpose of prayer and how to proceed. A scholarly work, but for those unafraid of time spent contemplating, worth the time.
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