Origins of The Lord's Prayer

Why do theologians spend years studying Classical Greek? Because common translations of the New Testament do not fully reflect their Greek Origins.

How can the vast majority of us profit from this Classical Greek scholarship without studying Classical Greek? By reading a faithful word-for-word literal translation of the Greek, as in the following transliteration of the Lord's Prayer:

Father of ours who 's in * heaven,

hallowed be thy name of yours,

come thy kingdom of yours,

arise thy will of yours,

as in heaven, also on earth.

This bread of ours that 's for the coming day give us this day.

And free us from these debts of ours
as also we have freed those debtors of ours

And do not lead us into trial,

but draw us to you, away from that which is grievous .

How can we be sure that a word-for-word transliteration is itself faithful? In a word, page notes. Mouse over any word of the above prayer, and you will find the Greek word it came from along with common alternate translations of the Greek word. In some cases, a reference to a Greek-English lexicon is provided for backup. Additional page notes comment on significant differences between the literal word-for-word translation and traditional translations.

But what is the original, most authentic version of the Greek New Testament? In 1853, Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort asked an interesting question: What was the original Greek version of the New Testament? They compared available ancient Greek texts and worked backwards to a probable common ancestor, which they called The New Testament in the Original Greek. Their work is based on the oldest extant versions of the New Testament, including the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus. The above transliteration is taken word-for-word from their work, Matthew 6:9-13.


In ordinary English, sentences beginning with "Father" are addressed to one's father, whereas those beginning with "Our father" are about one's father.

This line contains one of the known differences between the Greek and Aramaic.  Jesus used the word Abba, meaning dad or daddy.

This phrase may well have been an assertion of omnipresence rather than remote residence.

Greek's use of bracketing pronouns, e.g., τὸ ... σου, provides an attentive quality which is lost in translations that cater to customary English efficiency.

From a modern perspective, ὄνομά is the Greek root of our word nomenclature.  However, when the Lord's prayer was first given, ὄνομά commonly referred to the meaning of a name rather than the name itself.  Consequently, this line may well pertain to veneration for God as we understand him, as opposed to the veneration of nomenclature.  

The repetitive structure of the above three lines creates a rhythm that contributes to the meditative quality of the prayer.

The verb  γενηθήτω  has more to do with accepting God's will than with doing his work for him.

Notice the order of these two clauses.  This is the transition line between the two main parts of the prayer from the eternal realm to the human realm. 

Literally translated, this line appears to have a double meaning, having to do not only with freedom from starvation but also that bread, and thus life, should come from the Father.

This sentence may well be metaphorical, but the verb ἄφες has more to do with debt relief than moral forgiveness.
This term is thought to refer to the trials, persecution, and testing of faith that Jesus and his followers were being subjected to at the time the prayer was recorded. Translating this term as "temptation" has the connotation of asking God not to play the devil.

Both this and the following line make good sense in reference to the persecution of Jesus' early followers.

The verb ῥῦσαι is interesting in that it carries an implicit object. Failure to translate this implicit object lessens God's role here.

Accurately translated, this final line deals with love of the Father rather than fear of the devil.  The final phrase, τοῦ  πονηροῦ, does not translate as "evil" or as "the evil one". The problem is that πονηροῦ only means "evil" in the ecclesiastical semantics for classical Greek that was developed after the prayer was written.  In any case, making this term more specific (i.e., replacing "grievous" with "evil" or "the Evil One") causes the request made in this line to be less general, that is to say, weaker.

Word-for-word transliteration 
from the 4th century Greek

Popup Greek Lexicon

Cf. lexicon

Cf. Perseus Greek study tool

[ added in translation ]

[ added during transcription ]

[ added in some manuscripts ]

[ omitted in some manuscripts ]

[ split verb ]

ἀλλὰ but

ἄφες discharge, set free, let go,
release, dismiss, excuse

ἀφήκαμεν have discharged, set free, let go,
released, dismissed, excused

ἀγιασθήτω be venerated, hallowed, sanctified

ἀπὸ of separation, from

ἄρτον bread

βασιλεία kingdom

δὸς give

εἰσενέγκῃς lead, bring, carry

εἰς into, unto, to, towards, for, among

ἐλθάτω [let] come, appear, arise, come into being

ἐν in, by, with

ἐπὶ on, upon

ἐπιούσιον for the coming day, sufficient for the day, daily

γενηθήτω [let] become, happen, arise, be complete

γῆς earth

thy, your

ἡμᾶς us

ἡμεῖς we

ἡμῖν [to, for, with, by, in, at] us

ἡμῶν of ours, our

καὶ also, so, even, indeed, but, and

μὴ no, not, lest

who, that, which

ὀφειλέταις debtors

ὀφειλήματα debts

ὀφειλέταις debt

ὄνομά name, identity, traits, qualities

οὐρανῷ skies, universe, heavens; ecl.: heaven, eternal realm

οὐρανοῖς sky, universe; ecl.: heaven, eternal realm

πάτερ father, forefather, ancestor, progenitor

πειρασμόν trial, temptation, testing

      Lidell-Scott lexicons

πονηροῦ [of the] toilsome, painful, grievous, worthless,
useless, injurious; ecl : evil.

θέλημά will

ῥῦσαι draw to one's self, rescue, deliver, set free,
redeem, shield, guard, protect

σήμερον today, this day

σου of yours, of thine

τὰ this, these

τὸ thy, your

τὸ ... σου thy ... of yours

τοῖς the, that, this, these, those

τόν the, this, that

τοῦ the, that

ὡς as

Oti sou estin h basilleia kai h dunamiV
kai h doxa eiV touV aiwnaV.
 For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever.  

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