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?


5 Answers 5


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? Sep 23, 2019 at 11:19

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.

But rather, But also

Thayer states,

"ἀλλά, an adversative particle, derived from ἀλλά, neuter of the adjective ἄλλος, which was originally pronounced ἄλλος (cf. Klotz ad Devar. ii., p. 1f), hence properly, other things namely, than those just mentioned. It differs from δέ, as the Latin at and sed from autem, (cf. Winer's Grammar, 441f (411))."

Katabiblon gives additional meaning:

ἀλλά but-rather emphatic/hard-adversative, "but-rather/instead", as distinct from the softer, more common, "δέ"

LSJ lists examples of its correlative conjunction function of alla, with and without the conjunction pair alla kai, but also etc:

  • c freq. after οὐ μόνον, μὴ μόνον, with or without καί, οὐ μόνον ἅπαξ, ἀλλὰ πολλάκις Pl.Phdr.228a, cf. Th. 3.59, X.Mem.1.4.13, etc.; without μόνον, οὐχ ἑσπέρας, ἀλλὰ καὶ μεσημβρίας E.Fr.1006: also after οὐχ (or μὴ ( ὅτι, οὐχ (or μὴ) ὅπως, either, not only . . but... μὴ ὅτι ἰδιώτην τινά, ἀλλὰ τὸν μέγαν βασιλέα Pl.Ap.40d; μὴ ὅτι κατὰ τὸ σῶμα, ἀλλὰ καὶ κατὰ τὴν ψυχήν Id.Smp. 207e; or, not only not . . but... οὐχ ὅπως κωλυταὶ . . γενήσεσθε, ἀλλὰ καὶ . . περιόψεσθε Th.1.35; οὐχ ὅτι ὠργίζοντο, ἀλλ' ἐζήλουν D.19.265; the neg. form is ἀλλ' οὐδέ, μὴ ὅτι ὑπὲρ ἄλλου, ἀλλ' οὐδὲ ὑπὲρ ἐμαυτοῦ δίκην εἴρηκα Is.10.1, etc.

The sentence in Matt 6:13 does show contrast, but not the typical kind of simple contrast. The two clauses are somewhat complementary, but the second clause is a greater idea. If "but rather" is used in instead of but, it may help to clarify the meaning. "Rather" as a conjunction, is often used in phrases such as "but rather" to introduce a new or contrasting idea that suggests something the writer would rather do, or to indicate an alternative or preference. It can also be used to indicate an additive relationship between two clauses. The use of "but rather" is an example of a correlative conjunction pair that is used to link a negative statement with a following statement, indicating a fuller or truer description of the situation. The use of "not only...but also" is a correlative conjunction that emphasizes the parallelism between the two requests. It depends on you, which way would you translate the verse, if not as a simple contrast using "but".

The also in "but also" is supported from the conjunction καὶ (kai) in the beginning of the sentence, which means: and, also, in addition to. These two conjunctions "but also" can be viewed as together. Some sentences using but:

  • We must not complain about the problem, but (= instead we must) help to put it right.
  • She's not a painter but a writer (= she is a writer, not a painter).
  • She's not only a painter but also a writer (= she is both).

Similarly, you can understand the following verses, by supplying an additive conjunctive adverb with but: but also, but rather, instead:

  • Matt 5:39 Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

  • Matt 8:4 “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

Thus, NHEB Matt 6:13 'lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’, asks God to not only protect us from temptation, but also rescue us from the evil one. The type of contrast between the clauses can be understood by their smaller and greater relation.


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'. Aug 16, 2014 at 7:00

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.

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    Oct 6, 2019 at 7:11

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