Truly hearing Jesus
Neil Douglas-Klotz, Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus, Harper and Row (1990).
What would it have been like to hear Jesus preach in person? Sometimes when I kick back with the King James Bible, I imagine that sweet poetry flowing from his lips— almost forgetting that Jesus would not have spoken English but Aramaic.
Prayers of the Cosmos helps us hear the language Jesus actually spoke—and that can make a big difference in our understanding.
Translating the Beatitudes and The Lord’s Prayer from Aramaic, Douglas-Klotz contrasts his rendering of these familiar texts with the Greek-based King James Version. He points out that ancient Greek focused largely on understanding the world through abstract concepts, as opposed to Aramaic’s concreteness and specificity. Translating from the Aramaic, according to Douglas-Klotz, helps readers connect with Jesus more directly and more personally.
While the emphasis on mysticism and bodily experience (the book includes various “body prayers”) didn’t resonate with me, this book did give me an uplifting closeness to Jesus’ teachings.
For example, one Aramaic translation of “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” is: “Aligned with the One are those whose lives radiate from a core of love; they shall see God everywhere” 1
Suddenly the text meant more to me than the old familiar interpretation: you’ll receive goodness if you’re pure. It now meant that when I acknowledge my “core” as divine Love, and shine forth that light of Love, I’m one with God and thus can’t see anything opposed to His all-powerful goodness.
Interestingly, the translation of the Lord’s Prayer validates Mary Baker Eddy’s interpretation of the inspired word of the Bible. For example, Eddy interprets “Our Father which art in heaven” as “Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious.” Douglas-Klotz says, “Father-Mother… you create all that moves in light” 2
To me, this was powerful to read! It confirms that God’s completeness—the union of both masculine strength and feminine tenderness—always has been and always will be a fixed fact. Despite centuries of other interpretations, He never was a harsh, condemning Father figure. Rather, He has always been our all-powerful and compassionate Caregiver.
The combination of King James text, Aramaic writing, its translation, and scholarly notes by Douglas-Klotz brings Jesus’ teachings nearer and dearer. The complexity of his words reaches the ear naturally, providing us with a powerful sense of his actual voice.
So, what would it have been like to hear Jesus preach in person? Prayers of the Cosmos may get us pretty close to this experience. The book reveals the profundity and specificity of Jesus’ instruction, helping us understand the immediate relevance of his teachings.RSS feed
Topics: Christ Jesus