Does uncovering the Hebrew origin’s of a prayer help us to understand it as it was originally understood by the listeners of the Galilee area over 2,000 years ago? In A Prayer to Our Father, Nehimia Gordon and Keith Johnson present a case that their investigation will inspire others to explore a common heritage between Jews and Christians or at least to “embrace” the blessing of the Hebrew language.
Do not expect a scholarly work, this is more of a personal journey and story of two men discovering common ground in the Scriptures. The opening sentence set the tone: “As the only prayer written by Jesus himself…” I missed the part in the Scriptures where it said Jesus wrote the Gospels.
If you have studied the Gospels and searched the internet for insight, you may see that there is an active discussion going on about the language in which the Gospels were originally written. In 1987, university professor George Howard wrote THE HEBREW GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, a scholarly introduction to an ancient Hebrew version of Matthew. Based on the existence of Hebrew word “puns” and other evidence, Howard believed that the text written in the 14th century was based on an original Hebrew writing rather than a Hebrew translation of a text written in another language. Gordon and Johnson use the old Hebrew version in order to argue that the “Lord’s Prayer” was originally written in Hebrew and therefore, additional insight can be gained for today’s English readers if we look at the Hebrew.
A Prayer to Our Father delivers some insight, but much of the book is the story of Gordon and Johnson as they meet each other, began studying Hebrew together and agreed to discuss the book of Matthew (at Gordon’s request). A significant portion of the book is about the search for the physical location where the sermon on the Mount was given based on the Scriptures and other ancient writings. This search is like “archeology lite” because it seemed to be based on their personal observations and feelings, rather than historical records and research.
Be aware that Gordon identifies himself as a Karaite Jew, but does not explain that he is a founder of the Worldwide Karaite revival movement. Some of the links from his website lead to anti-missionary sites designed to lure people away from their belief in Jesus/Yeshua.
Overall, the book was interesting concerning the personal stories of the authors but not useful as a reference or teaching tool.