‘Teach Us the Secret Runes’. The Lord’s Prayer in Heliand

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The ninth century Heliand is a poetic retelling of the New Testament in Old Saxon, written by an anonymous monk for the purpose of confirming the conversion his fellow Saxons to the new faith. This conversion had been forced upon them by the Frankish invaders. The author adepts the story of Jesus Christ to fit within the feudal Saxon society and precursory Nordic mythology. This contribution focuses on the Saxon rendering of the Lord’s Prayer as it is situated in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. Several key differences between the Saxon version and its biblical original are pointed out. These mirror and illustrate the attempt of the anonymous author to inculturate Jesus’ message. Finally, it is shown how, by some subtle phrases in the text of the Heliand, the poet of the Heliand is including his Saxon audience to fit themselves spiritually into the biblical story. Through the Heliand, Jesus seems to speak directly to its readers, thus stimulating a transformation of the reader-or hearer-himself.

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