For the next four weeks I will be posting on the book, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus Vol. 2 - Mentor, Message and Miracles , by Fr. John P. Meier, Volume 2 of Meier's five-volume study of the historical Jesus. My citations to this book will be to "Meier" or "Meier Vol. 2."
At page 317 Meier states:
[T]he historical Jesus did expect a future coming of God's kingdom, and that kingdom was in some way a transcendent one, surmounting this world's barriers of time, space, hostility between Jews and Gentiles, and finally death itself. A completely un-eschatological Jesus, a Jesus totally short of apocalyptic traits, is simply not the historical Jesus, however compatible he might be to modern tastes, at least in middle-class American academia.
What does the prayer which Jesus taught his disciples tell us about these kingdom expectations? Jesus begins the prayer with, "Our Father," Greek pater which reflects Jesus' "striking use" of the address, Aramaic "Abbe" which means “my own dear father” for God. Meier at 294. The petitions of the prayer "are meant to reproduce the trusting and unaffected attitude of a child dependent on an all-powerful and loving father." Meier at 294.
In the words of the prayer, “Your kingdom come,” we have a petition asking for this kingdom to come soon. Meier at 295, 297. The "symbol of God's kingship is central to his message." Meier at 294. That may be common knowledge to believers and we take that for granted, but God's kingship is a message which is not central to the NT outside of the Synoptic Gospels and is not central to the OT or to ancient Jewish literature. God's kingship soon coming to this world was an expectation of Jesus that he brought to this prayer, the only prayer in the NT which Jesus taught to his disciples. Meier at 294.
There is beautiful parallelism in the two phrases: “hallowed be your name,” and “your kingdom come.” Meier at 295. In both the Aramaic and the Greek there are two beats in both, one on the verb and one on the noun, both ending with the same sound (from the pronoun) and that creates a rhyme in the prayer. Meier at 295. This means that these two parallel lines go together and help to explain each other. And what does this have to with Jesus' thoughts of God's kingdom?
Jesus says, "hallowed be your name." To hallow is to sanctify the name of God. This means two things. First, Israel should "sanctify God's name, as opposed to profaning it" (Meier at 295): "This sanctification includes believing God's word, trusting his promises, standing in awe of his majesty, praising him in worship, and observing his precepts in cult and in everyday life." Meier at 295.
Second, to sanctify the name of God means he manifests power and glory "in the blazing of a theophany that can bring either salvation or condemnation." Meier at 296 (citing OT). Meier discusses the “equivalence of a person and the name of the person …” Meier at 296. God does this "by manifesting his power, glory, and holiness (= his transcendence, his "otherness," his "God-ness") ...." Meier at 295-296. He sanctifies himself by a “powerful intervention.” Meier at 296 (citing Ezekiel where God brings his scattered people home to their own land).
Which of these two meanings of "sanctify your name" does Jesus have in mind here? In the context of this prayer, the call to sanctify God's name "is probably neither a prayer that people will honor and praise God's name nor, as it were, an exhortation to oneself to do the same." Meier at 297. For Jesus the "theological concentration" here (citing OT, Qumran literature and the OT) is a petition for God himself to sanctify his name:
God alone can rightly and fully manifest himself in all his power and glory, that is to say, God alone can sanctify his name, which, it is hoped, he will do soon. This interpretation is supported by the close connection between the first and second "you petition." Certainly only God can make his kingdom come; the tight parallelism between the two petitions would seem to argue that the same is true of sanctifying the name.
Meier at 297.
The prayer creates a picture of a great change coming, not from human actors but from God (“Abba”), our loving Father. For those who are praying with Jesus, there is no need to fear.