In modern versions of the Lord's Prayer, the first few lines are generally consistent with the original, with following lines becoming progressively more surprising. The last verse contains enough errors to convey a significantly different understanding of the Father.
Although a word-for-word transliteration promotes accuracy, it is awkward. A more natural presentation of the Prayer's words and concepts follows a review of the alterations found in modern versions. A final section briefly describes the inspiration that led to this effort.
Alterations Found in Modern Bibles
We will go through the prayer verse by verse.
The default subject of the first line coincides with the omitted Middle English 'ye' at the end of the sentence. The word 'Father' is one of the known differences between the Greek and Aramaic versions of the Prayer. Jesus used the Aramaic word 'Abba,' meaning dad or daddy.
Wycliffe's 1382 Bible uses 'Hallowed be' as a translation of the Greek verb ἁγιασθήτω. The Greek and English verbs are both commands in the passive voice, and both are seldom seen except in conjunction with the Lord's Prayer. The Westcott-Hort lexicon offers several translations that are better suited to a broad audience, including 'be treated as sacred.'
9. The usual translation, 'Hallowed be thy name,' gives the impression that Christ's first concern is nomenclature. Here's what happened. The word 'name' (ὄνομά in Greek) has always had both a literal use (his name was Jim) and a figurative use (she made quite a name for herself). Today, the figurative use is uncommon. By contrast, in Koine Greek, both uses were common and were suggestive of each other. Lidell and Scott offer the word 'fame' as a potential alternative for translating the figurative use.
10A. Use of the German word order with the verb at the end - Thy kingdom come - effectively transforms these imperative exhortations into declarative wishes.
10B. The second clause typically reads, 'your will be done,' where 'be done' is a translation of γενηθήτω. This Greek word always has to do with coming into a new state of being, for example, a baby being born. When γενηθήτω is translated as 'done,' the new state is that of being finished, as in 'thy will be finished' The context suggests that the new state is that of God's will emerging into the material realm.
10C. The third clause is the demarcation between the above spiritual concerns and following earthly concerns. The customary translation, "On earth as it is in heaven," obscures its role as a boundary between heaven and earth.
The word 'kingdom' is not the only correct translation of βασιλεία. 'Young's 1862 literal translation uses 'reign,' which avoids negative connotations that have caused monarchies to fall out of favor in modern times.
The request for bread may have two intended functions, both of them metaphorical: Bread and thus life comes from the Father, and the followers of Jesus want to survive.
This line refers to the ancient Jewish tradition of releasing someone from a debt by posting a public notice for all to see.
12. Replacing 'free' with' 'forgive' when translating oἄφες introduces an unwanted connotation, as the primary meaning of 'forgive' is to let go of a resentment. Freeing someone does them a favor, whereas forgiving them does one's self a favor.
The occupying Romans often subjected Christians and Jews to mock trials as a pretext for torture, which is probably what this line is about.
13A. Translating the first line of this verse as "lead us not into temptation" has the connotation of asking God not to do Satan's work. This unwanted implication stems from two mistranslated words that mistakenly introduce the will of the one praying.
The word πειρασμόν can mean either trial or temptation depending on the context, with 'trial' being the more common. The word 'trial' is more appropriate to the historical context. Also, 'temptation' involves the will of the one praying, whereas 'trial' does not.
Similarly, mistranslating εἰσενέγκῃς, as 'lead' rather than 'bring' again introduces the will of the one praying.
13B. The second line of this verse holds two challenges that elude modern translations. First, the second word, ῥῦσαι, is unlike any English word in that it carries its own implicit object. Modern translations omit the implicit object, namely God.
13C. The other challenge in this line is the last word, πονηροῦ, which has many defensible translations — toilsome, painful, grievous, worthless, useless, injurious. However, 'evil' isn't one of them, and 'the evil one' isn't even the right part of speech. Recall that the intended audience for the prayer consists of non-Christian fishers, carpenters, and the like. So an ecclesiastical interpretation of πονηροῦ is inappropriate.
Tthis last line of the prayer isn't about fear of the devil but about becoming closer to God..
13D. Modern renderings of the Lord's Prayer often include an added line that is not found in the original. How come? In the early church, it was traditional to follow a prayer with a doxology – a short hymn of praise to God. This added line was the doxology that followed the Lord's Prayer.
The Transliterated Prayer Restated
Here are he words reordered. In some cases. the part of speech has been changed to accommodate the chosen word flow. Mouse over any word to find its origins in the original Greek.
† Wycliffe's 1382 Bible contained all nine of the above discrepancies. They have been inherited by all later Bibles, with some exceptions. In verse 13, the New Revised Standard Version doesn't replace 'bring' with 'lead,' nor 'trial' with 'temptation.' The New American Standard Bible uses 'trial' rather than 'temptation.'
A few years ago, I was saying the Lord's Prayer with some friends and suddenly had the creepy feeling that I didn't understand a word of it.
I mentioned the incident to my daughter, who happens to be fluent in Koine Greek. She smiled and said, "That's because it used to say something different." As an example, she told me what the second half of verse 10 once said. Then she invited me to see for myself what the Lord's Prayer once said. At the time, my knowledge of Greek consisted of having learned the alphabet as a math student. She did an excellent job of getting me started and rescued me whenever I got stuck. But now I have a new puzzle:
If the most widely read passage of the New Testament has accumulated this many errors, how trustworthy could the rest of it be?
Happily, the answer is emerging. Six years ago, HTML didn't understand Greek. Instead of just saying 'γῆς', we had to say 'γῆς'. The Perseus project has now linked Westcott and Hort's Greek New Testament to the LSJ Greek Lexicon, and it offers automated suggestions on where to start in choosing a translation. Thoughtful discussions about how to translate Biblical Greek are turning up all over the Internet. People are shining an increasingly bright light on the ancient teachings.
Text to use as #anno instances
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Cf. Perseus Greek study tool
Cf. Perseus > Autenrieth
Cf. Perseus > LSJ
[ split verb ]
[ added in translation ]
ἄρτον loaf of wheat-bread
ἄφες [ἀφίημι] discharge, set free from
ἀφήκαμεν [ἀφίημι] sent forth, discharged, set free from
βασιλεία kingdom, monarchy; reign, rule
εἰσενέγκῃς carry, bring, as an exhortation
ἐπὶ upon, on
ἡμῖν [to] us
ἡμῶν of ours
θέλημά New Testament: will
μὴ [μή] not, lest
οὐρανοῖς heavens, skies
οὐρανῷ heaven, sky
ὄνομά name, fame
πειρασμόν trial; Mark 14:38: temptation
προσεύχεσθε pray, offer prayers
σου your, of yours
τὰ these, those
τὸ [τό] the, that
τοῖς the, these, those
τὸν [τὸν] the, that
ὡς as, how
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