The Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic
(The prayer's first section as understood through a Gnostic and Kabbalistic lens)
Abwoon D’washmaya Nethqadash Shmokh Teythey Malkuthakh Nehwey Sebyanach Aykanna D’washmaya Aph B’arha
Biblical version from the Gospel of Matthew 6: 9-13.
“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
The following translation was drawn from the work of Neil Douglas-Klotz in his book Prayers of the Cosmos and upon his review, he told me that this was kosher according to his own translation.
Abwoon Oh, Source of All! Mother-Father of the Cosmos
D’washmaya With Radiant Light that bursts forth from you
Nethqadash Shmokh We tune our hearts as instruments of your Holy Tone
Teythey Malkuthakh Come quickly! May Your Kingdom within become alive in us. Newey Sebyanach As is your desire, your yearning,
Aykanna D’washmaya May your Holy Light that fills the heavens
Ahp B’arha Be with us, here, now, in all beings.
Notes: This translation is an attempt to work with the meanings of the words as they relate to the broader proto-Christian, Gnostic system, placing less emphasis on the nuance of Aramaic language translation.
My sense is that the work of Neil Douglas-Klotz (www.abwoon.org), a former teacher of mine at the former Institute of Culture and Creation Spirituality in Oakland, has been enormously valuable in breathing into that old familiar prayer the breadth of rich interpretation found within the Aramaic language. However, the theological analysis, I believe, is still somewhat bound by a later “Christainized” and perhaps less original (proto-Christian, Gnostic) interpretation.
Douglas-Klotz’s distance from these proto-Christian and Gnostic themes are illustrated in his book The Hidden Gospel. He defines Sophia as a Wisdom figure primarily based on materials in the Old Testament and barely references the Gnostic Christ's teaching on Sophia.
The work of Lewis Keiser, Ph.D, in his essay The Authentic Meaning of the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer, argues that this prayer is from the late first – mid second century and was influenced by a more Pauline theology that was less specific and more expansive than what was possibly being taught in early first century Palestine. It is this Pauline, Hellenized system, according to James Tabor (Paul and Jesus) and many others, that is the primary theological foundation upon which orthodox Roman Christianity was built. Paul, who had a key influence in the development early Gnostic theology such as with Valentinus and Marcion, ironically may have had the unique opportunity to fold into this emerging “orthodox” version of Christianity, the seeds of these profound (earlier?) gnostic concepts. (Keiser, unfortunately in this article, I think, falls into that ever-so-common trap of seeing “gnostic” as a later corruption of the more original teachings of Yeshua). As a result, there are streams of the esoteric traditions that are found within this Lord’s Prayer, such as with the Kabbalist term Malkuth.
Kaballah and Gnosticism are related, like cousins of Jewish and Christian mysticism. In the Luriac Kabbalah system, the last emanation from the divine, the tenth sefiroth known as the “kingdom” Malkuth, is where the indwelling presence known as Shekinah resides, in this earthly realm though it is made of the stuff of it’s higher form, Hokhmah (Wisdom).
“The Shekhinah is below as it is above. And what is this Shekhinah? Let us say that it is the light that has emanated from the Primal Light which is Hokhmah. And this [i.e., the emanated Light] likewise surrounds everything, as is written, “the whole earth is filled with His glory” [Isa. 6.3]. Quoted in Gersham Scholem, On the Shape of the Godhead. p. 173.
According to Keiser, Malkuthakh invokes the universal principle of sovereignty, and the self authorship of free will.
He goes on to say that this Abwoon (Godhead) “is not a father or a deity, but the ultimate philosophical, metaphysical, causal, and scientific reality—the origin and unity of all. Godhead is the interior guiding intelligence that pervades all energy, matter, and life.” This would correspond to the Kabbalah concept of Ein Soph.
“Recently various authors have published what they claim to be the original Aramaic version of the Lord’s Prayer. However, this is not the authentic prayer that Yeshua, the Jesus of history, transmitted to his disciples. It is merely a second-century Syriac translation adapted from the Greek versions in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. It is used in the modern Syrian churches.
“Although Syriac was a development of Aramaic, the Abbun d’bishmayo or “Our Father Who art in Heaven” is taken from the Diatessaron or harmony of the New Testament gospels translated from the Greek into Syriac by Tatian about A.D. 160–175. In other words, the so-called Aramaic version of the Lord’s Prayer is merely a translation into second-century Syriac of the … Greek version in Matthew and Luke (c. A.D. 85-90). Like all the sayings and parables of Yeshua in the New Testament gospels, the Lord’s Prayer was poorly translated from Aramaic and altered to make sense in terms of the Pauline theology of the gentile churches.” (Keiser)
The significance of all this to the above translation is that, looking at the essential elements of the prayer through the lens of a Gnostic Paul, it opens up, perhaps, an even more profound prayer to the Divine Source and the “place where the light first came to being from itself” (Gospel of Thomas). This Abwoon prayer, as praise and desire for the divine Light emanation, is on par with the equally powerful Gayatri Mantra.