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The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) says:

Matthew 6:13 Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil

The two phrases "Lead us not into temptation" and "deliver us from evil" don't seem to be in contrast with each other. So is this simply an antiquated grammar rule (as of translation) or is there more to it?

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As a supplement to Frank Luke's answer, I add another way of thinking about it.

The construction in English is very similar to the Greek: not X, but [instead] Y. (Wallace calls ἀλλὰ here a contrastive conjunction.1)

For example, if I say

"Put not your hand into boiling water, but use a spoon."

The contrast is between:
X= put your hand into boiling water
Y= use a spoon
Notice that X does not contain the negation.

In Matthew the contrast is between:
X= lead us into temptation
Y= deliver us from evil
Again, the particle of negation is not part of X.

For another example of a similar construction in Matthew, see Matt 5:17b (ESV)

I have not come to abolish [the law or the prophets] but to fulfill them.

X= to abolish
Y= to fulfill


1. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 671.

  • Why not openly state that the basic assumption is just false. Both parts are contrasting. Although there is no need for that content-wise. "And don't… and do" works just the same. Consequently, I guess your X-examples would work better if they included the negation ("Do not put your hand… (but) instead use a…") for explanation? – LаngLаngС Sep 23 '19 at 11:19
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The word translated "but" is alla. It is used to show the next clause is adverse to the first. Usually, the word is translated as "but." According to the NET translation team, it can be used in the sense of:

1) but 1a) nevertheless, notwithstanding 1b) an objection 1c) an exception 1d) a restriction 1e) nay, rather, yea, moreover 1f) forms a transition to the cardinal matter

It's not "but" operating under an old grammar rule. The issue is trying to make both phrases contrast. As you say, they aren't. However, "deliver us from evil" is adverse to "temptation." Perhaps a diagram will help.

You are reading it like this:

{Lead us not into temptation,
{but deliver us from evil.

However, it should be read like this:

Lead us not into {temptation,
                 {but deliver us from evil.
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The Strong's number for "lead" is 1533 and is rendered in Greek "εἰσφέρω" (eispherō); it is a compound word taken from Strong's numbers 1519 and 5342; and it lit. or fig. means to carry inward. With the understanding that the spiritual life is a life that is lived from the inside-out or should I say that all that we encounter in life stems from the inward condition of our souls. Therefore, one can conclude that Jesus understood the concept "lead" to stem from each individuals soul. The epistle of James 1:13-14 reads

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed (The Holy Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984. Print).

To conclude, I would have to suggest, that the verse found in Matthew 6:13, should render "lead us not into temptation" as carry inward us not into temptation that would result in us acting out evil. But, rather deliver (which literally means drag) us from the evil that as human beings we are capable of creating.

  • 2
    You seem to be focusing on the word 'lead' - the question is asking about the word 'but'. – Jack says try topanswers.xyz Aug 16 '14 at 7:00
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Agreed with the OP, the passage is grammatically incorrect. It should read:

"And lead us not into temptation, AND deliver us from evil"

Consider the following:

"And lead us into temptation, BUT deliver us from evil".

That would make sense. Resisting temptation has merit, even Jesus went through it.

  • Hello david , welcome to BHSE, glad to have you with us. If you haven't already, please make sure to take our tour, to see how we are a little different from other sites you may know. Thanks! (hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour) – sara Oct 6 '19 at 7:11

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