Religion Booknotes

The Lord’s Prayer

A Text in Tradition

Kenneth W. Stevenson

Fortress, $22, 290 pp.


When Jesus’ disciples asked him how to pray, he taught them the Lord’s Prayer (Catholics call it the Our Father). For that reason, this prayer has always held a privileged place in the personal piety of the Christian faithful. It has also attracted the attention of many Christian writers. Commentary on the Our Father began during the Roman persecutions and extends to this day. Yet before Kenneth Stevenson’s book was published, an overview of this commentary was difficult to find. One had to rely on Jean Carmignac’s books, which are four decades old and in French. This volume is therefore most welcome.

One of the earliest thinkers to write about the Our Father was Origen. He struggled to translate the Greek word epiousios, which is generally translated as “daily.” It is a confounding puzzle because the word is found nowhere else in Greek. Origen simply says that the Evangelists invented it. Jerome translated it as “supersubstantial,” but that was simply a guess at the root of the original Greek word. As Stevenson shows, the...

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About the Author

Lawrence Cunningham is John O'Brien professor of Theology (Emeritus) at the University of Notre Dame.