There is increasing argument that many of the sayings of Jesus (the
Lord’s, prayer for example) had already been recorded in early historical
manuscripts. They suggest that Jesus simply borrowed them. Is this true?

In order to answer this question, I would need specific
examples. If you have some specific claims about Jesus repeating the
words of those who came before him, I could address the question better.
Without any specific examples, let me at least take a stab at the question
in general. There will always be those who see it as their personal
mission to try to undermine belief in Jesus as the Son of God. People try
to claim that he sinned. The problem is that there is no record of him
sinning. People try to claim that the apostles made up the stories of
Jesus’ miracles and so forth. The problem with these arguments is that
there is no evidence to support the claim that he did not work miracles,
but plenty that he did (see The Miracles of Jesus). When theologians run
out of possible attacks on the deity of Jesus, they might try to attack
him by claiming that nothing he said was original, and that he was simply
mimicking those who came before him.

I am sure that a great number of the things which Jesus said
had already been said by someone before him. Besides, Jesus often
consciously quoted from the Old Testament. It would not be surprising
that he also used well-known sayings of the Jews of his day to illustrate
his teachings. However, there are definitely some sayings of Jesus which
would be unique. For example: “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?”
(John 8:46), or “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) and “I am the
way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through
me.” (John 14:6). The question is not whether Jesus ever, consciously or
unconsciously, quoted a previous person. The question is whether he was
who he claimed he was. If Jesus is “The resurrection and the life,” (John
11:25), what difference would it make if some of his sayings had been said
by someone else before him? This attack on Jesus is a smoke screen, plain
and simple.

As to whether or not the Lord’s prayer was a quote by Jesus,
verbatim from someone before him, I would have to say that I am very
skeptical of this claim, unless someone could show me evidence. My guess
(which is just a guess) is that someone found one particular phrase in the
Lord’s prayer recorded elsewhere, rather than the whole thing. However,
even if it were true, it does not take away from the fact that Jesus is
the Son of God, the Resurrection and the Life, the Bread of Life, the Way,
the Truth and the Life, and so forth. He proved his right to make these
claims by raising Lazarus from the dead, by feeding five thousand, by
calming a great storm, by raising from the dead (see the article at the
web site, The Claims of Jesus). I fail to see why. even if it were true
that some famous sayings of Jesus were actually quotes from others before
him, this would be a big deal.

John Oakes, PhD

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