Crossan has written several books about the historical Jesus. In a sense, he said in an interview, each one has helped lead to his latest book, "The Greatest Prayer: Rediscovering the Revolutionary Message of the Lord's Prayer" (HarperOne 2010).But not everyone is convinced.
Crossan calls the Lord's Prayer "a prayer from the heart of Judaism on the lips of Christianity for the conscience of the world."
To understand it, he said, it is necessary to comprehend the culture in which it was written, that of 1st century Judaism. The prayer appears in the New Testament twice, in slightly different forms: In Matthew 6:9-13, and in Luke, 11:2-4. In both cases, it is delivered by Jesus, which helps explain the revered status it holds.
When Jesus' disciples heard the prayer, Crossan said, they would have responded differently than a modern churchgoer. To begin with, he said, the term "Father" — "Abba" in the original Greek or Aramaic — connoted a "householder," one who oversaw the affairs of a family. A householder, he added, would have been judged by how well he provided for everyone.
When the prayer continues with "hallowed be thy name," he said, what it means by "hallowed" is "a fair distribution for all, the justice of an equitable household."
In other words, Crossan said, the prayer is about "distributive justice," about making sure that all are cared for.
"It is revolutionary," he writes, "because it presumes and proclaims the radical vision of justice that is the core of Israel's biblical tradition.… 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."