One of the central prayers of Judaism is the Sh’ma`. The name of the prayer is derived from the opening word of Deuteronomy 6:4, though the prayer as it is recited in Judaism goes beyond that verse. Interestingly, however, when Jews recite the longer form of the prayer, it is common, today, for it to include a line between the material from Deuteronomy 6:4 and Deuteronomy 6:5, a line which is not found in the Biblical text: barukh shem kavod malkuto l`olam wa`ed, roughly “blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom, for ever and ever”. While there are various theories as to how such extra(?) material developed, Rabbinic literature treats it as predating the revelation of the Torah.
Turning to Christianity, one of the central prayers in that faith is the Lord’s Prayer, the most often employed version of which comes from the 6th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. However, even today, different Christians recite that prayer differently, with some including a line at the end not included by others. That line is often referred to as the doxology, and translates (to use the rendering in the KJV) as “for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever, amen.” The difference is reflected in different editions of the Bible. It is not found in the earliest Greek manuscripts, and is also absent from the Vulgate, though it is nonetheless ancient, as it appears in the Peshitta and the Didache.
As per the title of this blog entry, the intention here is only to briefly note an intriguing parallel in these variant forms of the Sh’ma` and the Lord’s Prayer. In both Judaism and Christianity, one of the most central and oft-repeated prayers of the faith may or may not include a line which some recite and others do not, a line which some would say (perhaps without the best manuscript support?) is properly part of text found in the 6th chapter of a scripture recording the content of that prayer, and that line refers to the eternal glory and kingdom of God. That’s a curious and fascinating parallel, indeed!
However, one realizes that discussing this subject on specifically this blog may run the risk of arousing the more polemical side of certain hearts and minds, and thus may incur charges of “corruption”. So it may be worth sharing that perhaps there is another possibility, here. When contemplating the Christian side of this apparent parallel, it may be instructive to note the possible lessons which might be inferred from its Jewish counterpart. Is revelation only transmitted in written form, or can there be a parallel track of revealed tradition which is not part of the written corpus? I can understand if Christians who hold strongly to Sola Scriptura may feel some unease about the proposition and its potential implications, but it seems such a proposal could provide a new way of looking at textual variants.
The concept is not necessarily outside the scope of orthodox Islam, either, as in Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani’s FatHul-Bari, there is discussion on the ayatur-rajm, a verse about stoning which some claimed was once part of the Qur’an. Al-`Asqalani touches on the idea, held by some, that the recitation (tilawat) of the verse was abrogated, but the ruling remained (نسخت تلاوتها وبقي حكمها). Now, Muslims are not required to endorse such a view, but the point is that the view is not an absurd one within the history of orthodox Islam. If both Judaism and Islam are able to make room for the possibility of revealed traditions running parallel with the written corpus, one is left to wonder why such could not also be a possibility for the Christian faith.
(1) If one notices that, and wonders why, my transliteration differs between the title and the body of the article, I prefer sh’ma`, but decided to use the more popular shema in the title for the sake of online searches and/or those quickly glancing at the entries available on the blog.
(2) Jewish prayer books will typically have the Sh’ma` comprising material from Deuteronomy and Numbers. An allusion to the Sh’ma` in the New Testament (cf. Mark 10:29-30) includes at least the material in Deuteronomy 6:4-5. As will come up in this blog entry, various Talmudic texts allude to a Sh’ma` which extends beyond Deuteronomy 6:4.
(3) An alternative translation might be “blessed is His Name, glory and kingdom, for ever and ever.” Or “blessed is the name of the glory of His kingdom,” et cetera.
(4) For example, according to Talmud Bavli, tractate PesaHim 56A, and the Zohar, vol. I, 234B (or parshat WayeHi, para. 518, in the Sulam), Jacob’s sons recited the line now found at Deuteronomy 6:4, and he responded with the relevant line. Aside from that, according to the end of the 2nd chapter of Devarim Rabah, when Moses rose to meet God, he heard the ministering angels reciting that same line, and brought it down to the nation of Israel (apparently transmitting it orally separately from the Torah rather than including it in the text of the Torah). However, the aforementioned Bavli PesaHim 56A has certain Rabbis making the passing statement that “Moses did not say it”. That might be interpreted as contradicting the statement in Devarim Rabah, or it could be taken as meaning he did not recite the line within certain contexts.
(5) I first became aware of this about a decade ago, when I first got interested in Catholicism, and was told by a Protestant friend that Catholics recite the Lord’s Prayer “wrongly”.
(6) Compare, for example, how Matthew 6:13 reads in the KJV vis a vis how it reads in the Douay Rheims, or more modern translations, like the NIV, ESV, NRSV, et cetera. Some also note that it is excluded from the version of the prayer in Luke 11, though the Lucan text differs from the Matthean text in other ways (even in the “Textus Receptus”; more so in editions based on earlier manuscripts), perhaps raising a question of whether Jesus Himself transmitted different versions of the prayer at different times, thereby tacitly conveying the permissibility of reciting it in various ways?
(7) It also appears in the Old Syriac of the Curetonian manuscript, though in a slightly truncated form, omitting the reference to the power (cf. George A. Kiraz’ Comparative Edition of the Syriac Gospels, (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996), vol. I).
(8) Though it omits the reference to the kingdom.
(9) For a mild analogy, note that as-Suyuti’s Itqan has a tradition in which one recalls a version of what is now in surat al-AHzab 33:56, but ending with the added line “and upon those praying in the first row” (وعلى الذين يصلون الصفوف الأول). Interestingly, separate from that tradition, there are commentaries which include the same line (not as part of the Qur’anic text, but rather as part of the explanation). Even if one wishes to say that the tradition was rooted in one accidentally incorporating into their text an interpretation of that text, one could still see the “extra” material as reflecting a correct (perhaps even, in a sense, revealed?) extra-textual understanding of the text. Such a line of thought has value even for some of the more controversial (or “egregious”?) textual variants in the Bible. Consider, for example, the Comma Johanneum (i.e. the seemingly more Trinitarian version of 1 John 5:7 which presently seems to have no early Greek manuscript support). Proponents of the reading object that the statement can be found in Patristic literature, while Christians who reject the reading can still see the statement as reflecting a certain truth. This raises an interesting question, at least within a Christian paradigm: if the line is not properly part of the text, was it an accurate commentary on the text incorporated into it? Perhaps a true tradition which was originally external to the core text?