[by Dean Smith] The Liesborn Gospel, listed for sale at $6.5 million, contains the four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The book, with a cover made of carved oak, was ordered by the Abbess of the Leisborn convent in Germany probably for a wealthy woman who had just taken her vows.
These books of the Gospels are extremely rare with only five complete sets known to exist. They were also very sacred and considered mystical as they were thought to be “the physical embodiment of the Word of God.” The books were often elaborately decorated with rare jewels.
The one being sold by Les Enluminures Gallery, an ancient manuscript dealer based in Manhattan, dates to around 980 AD and comes with a special added feature — a prayer circle.
The prayer circle was copied on one of the blank pages decades after the book was created.
It is made up of five circles. Moving from the outside ring to the inner, the first or outer ring reads “The order of the diagram written here teaches the return home.”
The next ring, called the “seven petitions,” has seven statements from the Lord’s prayer such as “Will be Done” and “Kingdom come.”
The third ring, titled “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit” has the gifts written in red and between them, written in black, are events from Jesus’ life including Jesus’ baptism, His resurrection, incarnation and even His descent into hell to preach to the spirits imprisoned there.
The fourth ring has the seven types of people who Jesus considered blessed such as the “Meek” and “Clean of heart.”
The inner circle with the word God (Deus) printed on it has a pin hole, which was possibly used as a compass point where a device could be spun or moved to select a person’s prayer journey.
Others speculate the prayer circle itself was a mystery and people had to figure out its secrets. Maybe the various colored words mapped out the prayer journey while others wonder if the words of the Lord’s prayer are the key to unlocking the prayer circle.
Though it is uncertain how the prayer wheel worked, people used it to guide their prayer journey perhaps traveling down the various spokes during their prayers.
Curiously, the page before the prayer wheel is missing and it may have had instructions on how to use it.
Lauren Mancia, an expert in medieval culture from Brooklyn College, who studied the wheel said:
“Monks and nuns in the Central Middle Ages often get a bad rap for unsystmatic thinking — doing all this prayer by rote, mumbling and not caring about the sense. This diagram suggests that they’re not just mumbling, they’re using a mnemonic device to remember and internalize, or even too make an inner journey.”
Most suspect the prayer wheel, like the Gospels in which it was found, had magical qualities, where people could recite certain sequences of prayers for different results.
It some ways it shows how easy it is to transform Christianity into a series of magical rites.
Jesus warned against prayers made of vain repetitions:
7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7 NASV)
The Greek word translated repetitions is “battalogeo” and refers to endless babbling or repeating of the same phrases over and over. It was thought these words or incantations had magical properties and saying them repeatedly would invoke their god’s favor.
Jesus described these repetitions as meaningless, literally vain or empty.
We see the belief in action during Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 8:26. The Baal prophets called on their god from morning to noon. They were undoubtedly chanting various phrases as they believed these words would magically spring their god into action.
Because of the miracles associated with Jesus’ ministry, some looked upon Jesus as a magician. Marine archaeologists even discovered an ancient pot used for soothsaying or predicting the future, with the words “Jesus the Magician” written on it as the practitioner tried to invoke Jesus’ powers.
God wants us to pray, but it needs to be personal and guided by the Holy Spirit. In Romans, Paul says the Holy Spirit will come along side us in our prayers. The Holy Spirit knows the will of God and if we allow Him will guide our prayers.
“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27 NASV)
- Medieval prayer wheel found inside rare Liesborn Gospel — but how the diagram was used remains a mystery: Daily Mail
- No dice required: A medieval prayer wheel surfaces, but how it was used is anyone’s guess: Religion News