The Lord’s Prayer and the Kaddish Prayer

“Therefore pray in this way: ‘Our Father who are in Heaven, hallowed be your name, let your Kingdom come, let your will be done also in the earth, just as it is in Heaven.”1 (Matthew 6:9-10)

The Lord’s Prayer is well known in Christianity as the way that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, but what does it mean? Some Christian faiths take Jesus’ teaching of the prayer to be literal and believe it is to be memorized and repeated in a rote manner. Others believe he meant it merely as an example of how to pray, taking into account its structure, flow of subject matter and emphases.2 Suppose for a minute that there is a deeper meaning within the text that Jesus was trying to get across to his disciples.

One of the customs that was around during Jesus’ time was the recitation of a Jewish prayer called the Kaddish. What is particularly interesting about the Kaddish is that it bears a striking resemblance to the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer. The language between the two prayers is similar with parallels between the reverence of God’s name, the kingdom, and his will being highlighted. It is said that both the Kaddish and the Lord’s Prayer “spring from the same source,” and so the “essence” of both prayers is the same. The similarities are “more than linguistic” and support the theory that the Lord’s Prayer begins as an “adaptation of the Kaddish” that the disciples were familiar with, “but has been modified to deal with current issues.”3

Here is the text of the Half-Kaddish for comparison with the text of the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-10) above:

“May his great name be magnified and made holy (amen) in the eternity which he created in his will. And may he establish his kingdom in your lifetime and during your days and in the lifetime of all of the House of Israel, swiftly and soon. Now say Amen. And may His great name be blessed for ever and ever. May He be blessed, praised, beautified, exalted, lifted up, adorned, raised up on high, and worshiped, Blessed be He. Over all blessings, songs, and praises and sorrows declared on earth. Now say Amen.”4

Why use the Kaddish when teaching the disciples a new way to pray? For hundreds of years the Jews had been petitioning God, in this prayer, to establish the coming kingdom during their lifetime, but it wasn’t until Jesus introduced the Lord’s Prayer that the coming kingdom took on a new meaning.

In teaching the disciples a new way to pray, Jesus revised the Kaddish they were familiar with to show the Jews that the kingdom was indeed coming soon and it was going to happen in their lifetime. He not only gave us an example to follow, but he showed them the answer to the prayer the Jews had been praying for hundreds of years.



REFERENCES

1 http://biblehub.com/aramaic-plain-english/matthew/6.htm
2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord’s_Prayer
3 http://athenaeum.libs.uga.edu/bitstream/handle/10724/9556/schwartzberg_jennifer_a_200705_ma.pdf?sequence=1
4 Ibid.

Author: Olivia

I am a mom and a homeschooling teacher of two little ones. I am also a Biblical Studies major with a hobby in Creation Science. I love to research Biblical topics and how science and the Bible live in harmony with each other. I learn beside my children when we read, build, and explore with the help of our glorious classroom - God's green Earth!

4 thoughts on “The Lord’s Prayer and the Kaddish Prayer”

  1. Very insightful post! One possibility I never hear mentioned is that the reverse was true, that the Lord’s Prayer influenced the Kaddish, and what that might mean. Many assume that the Kaddish existed first, but the International Critical Commentary on Matthew says this is uncertain. Either way, understanding the fulfillment of the Kingdom promises in and through Jesus is so powerful. N. T. Wright explains this so well.

  2. I have yet to find any reliable source (other then hearsay) that dates the Kaddish before Christ. Wiki states it was as late as 900 AD. Some around the same time the new testament was written.

    It may be just me but I don’t see much in the way of similarities between the two. Only the fact that both worship God.

    There is also none of the forgive sins and debtors in the Kaddish so only the first part of the Lord’s prayer can be compared.

  3. The Kaddish is written in Aramaic, not Hebrew. It bears an even more striking resemblance to the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic – especially the Full Kaddish. It is as if the words were rearranged in a different order from one to the other. The Full Kaddish addresses God as “the family of Israel before their FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN” and Who created the the “ACCORDING TO HIS WILL”; as well as HALLOWED or Sanctified be THY NAME; and “May the kingdom come speedily”. It truly is amazing that the first few stanzas of the Lord’s Prayer reflect this prayer. Although it may not have been written down for a few years after Christ’s time, it was certainly already a huge part of Jewish Liturgy many years before Christ.

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