Matthew 6:13 ESV

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.


And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.


καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν, ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.

I’m familiar with the basic arguments on either side from the Greek. I’m most interested here in knowing if considering the words Jesus may have been using in Hebrew or Aramaic can help us sort out whether “τοῦ πονηροῦ” is meant to refer to an individual ("the evil one") or an abstract concept ("evil").

  • Why do you think the answer should be found in Hebrew/Aramaic rather than Greek? – curiousdannii Sep 15 '14 at 7:57
  • 1
    @curiousdannii - I don't necessarily. However, I'm (sort of) familiar with the arguments from the Greek and don't think it's possible to be certain there (maybe I'm wrong). Since Jesus was very likely not speaking Greek, it seemed interesting to try to figure out what he may have actually said. That's very speculative, of course, but I was curious what people thought. – Susan Sep 15 '14 at 8:07
  • @curiousdannii - OK, I agree that we need more of an assessment of the Greek - I posted the question. – Susan Sep 15 '14 at 8:52

In Mt 6:13 the Syriac translation of the Bible (Pšīttā) has bīšā (ܒܝܫܐ), which is masculine gender, determinate state, singular of the adjective “bad, evil”, so the most literal translation would be “the evil one”. The abstract noun “evil, badness” is bīšūṯā (ܒܝܫܘܬܐ), or you can use the feminine determinate singular of the adjective, namely bīštā (ܒܝܫܬܐ) with the same meaning (“evil, badness”); see Brockelmann/Sokoloff, Syriac lexicon, pp. 143-4.

Syriac is Eastern Aramaic; Jesus would have spoken Western Aramaic (more precisely: Palestinian Western Middle Aramaic), but it is likely that these words would have been used in the same way in his native dialect. Of course, we do not actually have the Pater Noster in any Western Aramaic text from the time of Jesus. Thus the Pšīttā really only tells us how the translators understood the Greek text, not what words Jesus would have used himself.

PS. I hope the Syriac font works on your computer.
PPS. I am a Semitist, not a "Semiticist".

  • Thanks! I actually looked it up and both (Semitist, Semiticist) were listed, but I'm changing it at your recommendation. – Susan Sep 12 '14 at 10:44
  • Sir - Thank you for the concise summary (+1). Can you double check whether the adjective is in the determinate state (definite article present) or the absolute state (definite article not present)? Apparently, when the definite article is absent, the feminine gender would imply the general sense of evil whereas the masculine gender of the same adjective would imply someone evil. Please click here and review comments highlighted in yellow. Very Respectfully – Joseph Sep 12 '14 at 13:42
  • I am sorry, I cannot see any yellow highlights, just a table of contents. – fdb Sep 12 '14 at 14:12
  • Sir - please click here for the expanded view, which proposes the absolute state of the adjective (instead of the determinate state). Very Respectfully submitted, Joseph – Joseph Sep 12 '14 at 16:21
  • Thank you, I can see it now, and have checked Nestle’s German original, p.71. There is actually a mistake (author’s oversight?) in both versions: bīšā ܒܝܫܐ is not “st. abs. msc.”; it is the determinate (or “emphatic”) state, not the absolute state. I have added a note about the feminine ܒܝܫܬܐ in my answer. Is it any clearer now? – fdb Sep 12 '14 at 16:36

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