“the our father was adulterated,” denounces jesus christ
confirms the word “debts.”
RACHEL Today our microphones are installed in Tabgha, the hill of the seven springs, near Capernaum. It was Jesus Christ himself who suggested this site to us. Why do you prefer this place, Jesus?
JESUS Many memories… I came here many times, at night, to pray…
RACHEL But since you are God himself, praying would mean talking to yourself…
JESUS I don’t know what you’re talking about, Rachel. How am I going to talk to myself? I was talking with God. I was asking God for our daily bread, I was asking for strength, I was giving thanks, I was asking God to help make his Kingdom of justice arrive soon.
RACHEL Maybe I’m being rash, but … here before our microphones, could you share one of your prayers with our audience?
JESUS Why not? My favorite prayer began like this Abba, yitkadash shemaj, tete maljutaj, lajman delimjar…
RACHEL Excuse my ignorance, but what language are you speaking?
JESUS Aramaic, the language we spoke in Galilee.
RACHEL Could you translate your prayer for us?
JESUS It goes like this Papa, holy be your Name, your Kingdom come, your will be done…
RACHEL I know that prayer! You’re praying the “Our Father”, right? But with one change I heard you say “papa”.
JESUS Yes, abba, papa.
RACHEL Does that show an excess of confidence in God?
JESUS With God you can never be too confident. God knows us and loves us.
RACHEL Well, let me tell you something that prayer is the most famous prayer in the world.
JESUS You don’t mean it?
RACHEL Yes, it’s the best-seller of all prayers. Every day millions and millions of people pray it.
JESUS Well, that certainly is music to my ears, Rachel. If that’s the case, then for sure there are no more unjust money-lenders in the world. My dream must already be a reality.
RACHEL Excuse me, Jesus Christ, but … what are you talking about?
JESUS About my prayer. If people have recited it so much, then by now all debts must have been canceled and forgotten.
RACHEL Debts? What are you referring to?
JESUS I’m referring to what I ask for in my prayer. Don’t you remember, Rachel? How does it begin?
RACHEL Okay, if I make a mistake, please correct me. Let’s see. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Am I doing okay?
JESUS Keep going, keep going…
RACHEL “Give us this day our daily bread,…”
JESUS Go on.
RACHEL “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”
JESUS No, no, no…
RACHEL What do you mean, no?
JESUS I didn’t say that. I didn’t talk about trespasses.
RACHEL All right, then, “sins”, which is the same thing.
JESUS No! I talked about debts.
RACHEL Debts with God.
JESUS Debts with the money-lenders.
JESUS Debts of money, Rachel.
RACHEL Hold on a minute, we have a call coming in … Yes, hello?
LIANA This is Liana Cisneros speaking. I represent the Jubilee 2000 Campaign, and I want to congratulate Jesus Christ and tell your audience that the Our Father has in fact been poorly interpreted. That prayer actually refers to material debts.
JESUS You see I was right, Rachel?
RACHEL Liana, you’re saying that that famous prayer, the Our Father, has been adulterated?
LIANA Yes, just like decaffeinated coffee. They removed from it its very essence.
RACHEL And what was that essence?
LIANA Jesus Christ can explain it to you better than I can. See you later!
RACHEL Thank you, Liana Cisneros… Jesus Christ?
JESUS Listen, Rachel. In my time poor people earned very little and took out loans in order to be able to feed their families. They became indebted to the landlords and the money-lenders. Those debts were unjust, and they became eternal because the people couldn’t pay them, not in a thousand years. So they ended their days humiliated and desperate.
RACHEL It happened in your time, and it’s still happening today.
JESUS I talked about those debts. I begged God for that yoke to be broken. God will not forgive us if we do not first cancel our debts with the poorest people.
RACHEL Perhaps without meaning to, you are touching on a topic that is a burning issue today. Because there are rich countries which call themselves Christian, but they refuse to pardon the debts of the poor countries. And there are also international institutions which are strangling the indebted nations.
JESUS Well, I assure you that they will not be pardoned if they don’t first condone those debts. This is the Word of God.
RACHEL Thanks be to God. [sounding confused] Ahem… From Tabgha, near Capernaum, this is Rachel Perez of Emisoras Latinas.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
*More information about this polemical topic…*
The Aramaic language
Like all the Israelites of his time, Jesus spoke Aramaic, a Semitic language belonging to the same linguistic family as Hebrew. Aramaic has a history of more than three thousand years, and it is still a living tongue, spoken today by some 400,000 persons in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Israel, Armenia and Georgia. It is used in the liturgy of several eastern churches (Chaldean Catholic, Maronite Catholic, Syrian Catholic and Syrian Orthodox).
Aramaic was the common language used in Galilee and Judea starting in the fifth century before Christ, while Hebrew became a language limited to teachers of the Law and students of the sacred scriptures. The gospels preserve a few Aramaic words or expressions used by Jesus, for example, “raca” (fool), “talitha cumi” (little girl, get up), “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?). Naturally, the Aramaic spoken in Galilee had a characteristic accent, which explains why Peter was recognized as a Galilean in Jerusalem. In order to give greater realism to the masochistic film “The Passion of the Christ” (2004), Mel Gibson had his characters speak in Aramaic. However, people who currently speak Aramaic thought the language used in the film was forced and artificial.
Several times the gospels refer to Jesus’ custom of praying in silence at night (Luke 5,16). Jesus also would have recited the traditional prayers of his people: in the morning, in the evening, before meals and on the Sabbath in the synagogue. What most impressed his contemporaries, though, was his very personal way of talking with God: it was a constant, confident conversation quite apart from liturgical laws and ceremonies.
In the prayer called the “Our Father” Jesus departed from the religious customs of his people and his times. The prayers used by the Israelites were recited in Hebrew, but the Our Father is a prayer in Aramaic, the language used by the common people. What is most remarkable in this prayer is that Jesus addresses God as “Abba” (papa, daddy), a cherished word in the Aramaic tongue. “Abba” and “Imma” (papa, mama) are the very first words a young child learns to utter. For Jesus’ contemporaries, it would have been inconceivable and disrespectful to address God so informally. In all the extensive prayer literature of ancient Judaism, there is nowhere to be found a single example in which God is invoked as “Abba”, neither in liturgical texts nor in private prayers. For that reason biblical exegetes consider this expression to be the “ipsisima vox Iesu”: it is unquestionably a word that was spoken by Jesus.
Year of Grace: cancellation of debts
Jesus knew quite well of the abuses that creditors and money-lenders committed against the poor people of his country, and he was quick to denounce them. In the first sermon he gave, in the synagogue of Nazareth, he proclaimed the “Year of Grace”, referring to a very ancient legal institution going back to the time of Moses. According to the scriptures, the Year of Grace was to be celebrated after every “seven weeks of years”, that is, every fiftieth year, after 49 (7 × 7) years have passed (Leviticus 25,8-18).
When the prescribed year arrived, all slaves were to be set free, all debts were to be canceled, and all properties that had been acquired were to be returned to their original owners, all with the aim of avoiding a concentration of wealth in Israel. The social function of this law was to help keep families united around a patrimony that was large enough to guarantee a dignified life. The Year of Grace was celebrated also as a memorial to the original equality that had existed in the earliest history of the people of Israel, when nothing belonged to anybody and everything belong to all.
There was another law with similar aims, namely, the law of the “Sabbatical Year”, which was to be observed every seven years. Such legal provisions were designed to guarantee freedom and dignity for the people. In the synagogue of Nazareth Jesus protested that these laws were not being observed. Given the huge differences that existed between rich and poor, he proposed a new celebration of the Year of Grace as the starting-point for bringing about serious change in his country. In keeping with this, Jesus’ favorite prayer makes it clear that God will not forgive our “debts” to Him is we do not first pardon the debts that others have with us.
Jubilee Year: canceling the external debt
The Year of Grace is also called the “Jubilee” Year because in ancient Israel it was announced by the sounding of a horn called a “yobel” in Hebrew. In 1996 a coalition of Christian development agencies launched a campaign called Jubilee 2000, which later spread to more than 60 countries around the world. Since the external debt of the poor nations of the South continues to be a heavy burden on their economies, we still hear the echoes of that campaign today.
This campaign demanded the cancellation of the foreign debt of the planet’s poorest countries. It succeeded in collecting 24 million signatures from people of all nations. The agencies promoting this initiative explained their reasons for denouncing the external debt as unjust. The principal reasons are these: many international loans are negotiated secretly between corrupt local elites and powerful lenders like the IMF and the World Bank; the people most affected by the external debt are the poor, because the national budget allotments for health, education and drinking water are reduced in order to repay the foreign debt; there do not exist bankruptcy laws for nations, nor is there any framework for establishing when a debt simply cannot be repaid; finally, the negotiations for debt cancellation are always controlled by the creditors.
Despite later initiatives, such as the so-called HIPC, aimed at pardoning almost totally the debts of many of the world’s poorest and most highly indebted countries, the problem of unmanageable foreign debts continues to be a destabilizing element for the great majority of countries.
Liana Cisneros is a Peruvian researcher, a member of “Jubilee Plus”, a London-based center that specializes in the analysis of foreign debt and continues the work of the Jubilee 2000 Campaign. She participates in our program to reinforce Jesus’ opinion about the cancellation of debts.