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I previously asked a question about how to understand these words in the language Jesus was originally speaking. However, the text we have is in Greek, and I realized I’m not as familiar with the assessment of the Greek text here as I’d like to be.

The discrepancy:

Matthew 6:13 ESV

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

But NIV

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

UBS5

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

One argument for the understanding of a personal referent (a la NIV) cites the fact that τοῦ πονηροῦ is articular (i.e. preceded by the), likening it to the usage in Matt 5:39. However, that one also has translational discrepancies, and by no estimation does it appear to be the sort of specific "the evil one" that we might understand in 6:13.

What other evidence is available to help us decide whether Matthew intended to refer to a specific individual (the evil one) or an abstract concept (evil)?

Note: I have that assumed Matthew is the author and that he wrote in Greek. Feel free to understand it as "the author of the Greek text" if you don't hold do either/both of those premises.

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  • Could an alternative rendering, based on ESV, be '... from the evil' ? Sep 15 '14 at 17:34
  • @HowardPautz - sure. Does that mean something different to you in English? <conversation moved to chat>
    – Susan
    Sep 15 '14 at 23:43
  • The NT never refers to the devil as "the evil one" anywhere else, so its reasonable to assume that if he had meant the devil he would have simply said "the devil." Sep 16 '14 at 3:02
  • Ok, Matthew 13:38 actually does use this language (KJV deceived me at first by translating it "wicked one" rather than "evil one"): υιοι του πονηρου. But personally I think Matt 13:38 is an interpolation so I give it no credit whatsoever. The parable of the tares is obviously about heretics corrupting scripture not predestination; the very explanation of the parable found in Matthew is itself a "tare." Sep 16 '14 at 3:07
  • 1
    @davidbrainerd A couple others that are possible, limiting it to Matthew: 5:37, 13:19 (the latter is actually restated by Mark and Luke as satan and the devil, respectively)
    – Susan
    Sep 16 '14 at 3:19
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The tradition that has come down through the Eastern Church is to interpret ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ as "the evil one". That is how the Lord's Prayer appears in every (Eastern) Orthodox Prayer Book and Service Book that is in English, including those translations undertaken by the Greek Orthodox Church. This is probably for most here fairly tenuous support, but I offer it as an additional input.

I think it is logical that the distinction between "evil" and "evil one" would be lost in the west, since Latin has no definite article: ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ becomes a malo. That having been said, Jerome was supposedly fluent in Greek and does not hesitate to discuss Greek etymology in his commentaries, but when he touches on Matthew 6:13 in his 55th Letter ("To Amandus"), he seems to take ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ in the English sense of "from evil" and not "from the evil one".

The Church Fathers Clement, Polycarp, Peter of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, and Basil - all Greeks except Clement - quote Matthew 6:13, but do not comment in a way to determine in which of the two senses they understood the phrase. There is, however, this exegesis in Pseudo-Clement, which dates to some time prior to the 4th century, that definitely indicates an understanding of ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ as "from the evil one":

"Do you maintain that there is any prince of evil or not? For if you say that there is not, I can prove to you from many statements, and those too of your teacher, that there is; but if you honestly allow that the evil one exists, then I shall speak in accordance with this belief.” And Peter said: “It is impossible for me to deny the assertion of my Teacher. Wherefore I allow that the evil one exists, because my Teacher, who spoke the truth in all things, has frequently asserted that he exists. For instance, then, he acknowledges that he conversed with Him, and tempted Him for forty days. And I know that He has said somewhere else, If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself: how then is his kingdom to stand? [Matthew 12:26] And He pointed out that He saw the evil one like lightning falling down from heaven [Luke 10:18]. And elsewhere He said, He who sowed the bad seed is the devil [Matthew 13:39]. And again, ‘Give no pretext to the evil one.’ Moreover, in giving advice, He said, Let your yea be yea, and your nay nay; for what is more than these is of the evil one [Matthew 5:37; James 5:12]. Also, in the prayer which He delivered to us, we have it said, Deliver us from the evil one. And in another place, He promised that He would say to those who are impious, Go ye into outer darkness, which the Father prepared for the devil and his angels [Matthew 25:41]. And not to prolong this statement further, I know that my Teacher often said that there is an evil one. Wherefore I also agree in thinking that he exists. If, then, in future you have anything to say in accordance with this belief, say it, as you promised.”

Clementine Homiles, Homily XIX, Chapter II

Cyril of Alexandria, however, writes an extensive commentary on the phrase in exactly the other sense, understanding, it seems, ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ to refer to evil in the general sense:

And there is a certain close connection in the clauses: for plainly it follows from men not being led into temptation, that they are also delivered from evil; or perchance, were any one to say, that the not being led into it is the same as the being delivered from it, he would not err from the truth.

Sermon LXXVII on Luke

A similar dichotomy can be found in The Philokalia - a compendium of several centuries of spiritual advice written in Greek. These are later writings, but perhaps still helpful. Theodorus the Ascetic, a monk in the 9th century in Jerusalem, wrote:

It is on this account that we have been commanded to entreat the Master not to lead us into temptation, but to deliver us from the evil one (Matt. 6: 13). For if we are not delivered from the fiery arrows of the evil one (Eph. 6: 16) through the power and help of Christ, and found worthy of attaining dispassion, we are laboring in vain, thinking that through our own powers or efforts we shall accomplish something. Therefore, he who wishes to stand against the wiles of the devil (Eph. 6: 11) and render them ineffectual, and to share in the divine glory, ought day and night to seek God's help and divine succor with tears and sighs

Spiritual Text No. 69

On the other hand again, we have Maximos the Confessor (6th century) taking the phrase in the other sense in his On the Lord's Prayer:

He makes his peace with all in order to be free from all the depravities of this present age when he departs to eternal life, and to receive from the Judge and Savior of the universe a just recompense for what he has done in this life. Both these kinds of men, therefore, need to exhibit a pure disposition towards those who have offended them. This is true in general: but it has particular reference to the concluding words of the prayer: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from what is evil (Matt. 6: 13).

Finally, we have the commentary of the 11th century Byzantine Theophylact of Ohrid who writes, "He did not say, from evil men, for it is not they who do us harm, but the devil" (Explanation of the Gospel According to Matthew).

Given what the others have contributed in their answers and considering the above, I think we must conclude that the phrase could have been understood in either sense or perhaps in both senses at once: evil in general, and/or the evil one (i.e. the devil)

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I'm not a Greek scholar. However, thanks to the hard work of those who have made it possible for the average citizen to dig deeper into the words of God, I have at my disposal tools such as The Interlinear Scripture Analyser (TISA).

In regard to the current question, I thought I might see if I could discover some pattern of usage for the words "απο του". It occurs 101 times in the NT, and 16 times in the book of Matthew. Since the writer of Matthew is responsible for the verse in question, I figured his usage might be a good start.

The occurrences in Matthew are:- 1:24, 3:16, 5:18, 6:13, 8:1, 9:16, 12:43, 14:26, 14:29, 23:35, 24:1, 24:29, 27:24, 27:40, 27:42, 28:8

Here's the first few:

  • απο του υπνου
    from the sleep

  • απο του υδατος
    from the water

  • απο του νομου
    from the law

  • απο του πονηρου
    from the misery

  • απο του ορους
    from the mountain

I see a pattern here. If:

του υπνου = the (place/realm of) sleep

του υδατος = (the place of) the water

του νομου = (the place of) the law

του πονηρου = the (place/realm of) misery

του ορους = (the place of) the mountain

Then, prefacing such expressions with "απο" simply indicates a separation FROM the place/realm. This would make it equivalent to the Mathematical notion of ~A (not A) - an element is either a member of A, or a member of ~A (i.e. not a member of A).

So, my conclusion: the writer of the Gospel of Matthew is recording Jesus' words as "..., but deliver us FROM THE (place/realm of) MISERY/PAIN/HARDSHIP/LABOURS...". He is not making a reference to the EVIL ONE.

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  • 2
    This is an interesting approach, but there is so much variety in the use of ἀπὸ that I’m not sure it’s going to get you anywhere. (There are actually way more than 101 because there’s no reason to exclude feminine or plural articles.) However, thinking about ῥύομαι (to deliver) + ἀπὸ (+/- article) + genitive could be interesting. There are only two (with article) in the GNT: Rom 15:31 and 2 Thes 3:2; both refer to individuals.
    – Susan
    Nov 2 '15 at 13:45
  • I understand there is a feminine form, but the form in question was masculine, and I figured: what's true for the masculine form would also be true for the feminine. I'll have a look at ῥύομαι
    – enegue
    Nov 2 '15 at 13:54
  • Right, I only meant to point out that this is a very common construction. Looking through ῥύομαι + ἀπὸ in the Septuagint is proving interesting, though, so thanks for that idea (an exercise that impinges on the territory of a related question). It overwhelmingly refers to (“from”) something concrete, and very often individuals, suggesting to me the opposite of your conclusion. :-)
    – Susan
    Nov 2 '15 at 14:12
  • Romans 15:31 is not a problem: απο των απειθουντων FROM (the place of) THE STUBBORNLY UNBELIEVING - viz. JUDEA. Neither is 2 Thessalonians 3:2 a problem: απο ατοπων και πονηρων ανθρωπων FROM THE (place/realm/sphere of influence of) PERVERSE AND EVIL MEN. απο looks to me like the Greek linguistic equivalent of the mathematical notion of NOT.
    – enegue
    Nov 2 '15 at 15:29
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I think Mathew meant the 'evil one'. Those that have experienced both evil and evil from the "evil one" know the difference. Jesus said to his disciples that they were going to be sifted like wheat by the Evil One not by some evil. A serial killer can be evil, a dictator can be evil, your next door neighbor, or colleague can also be, but the evil that comes from the Evil One is to separate you from god, ruin your faith and that of others and make you an example to others...

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  • Welcome to the site, Harry! Unlike other sites, we would like to have sources for our answers. Your response comes across as an opinion based on personal experience rather than on documented sources. Can you edit your response so it directly addresses the evil/evil one problem with a link to a source that supports your answer?
    – Steve
    May 10 '19 at 15:32
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Did Matthew intend “evil” or “the evil one” in the Lord’s Prayer? Matthew 6:13

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

Matthew 6:13 (NASB)

13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from [a]evil. Footnotes: Matthew 6:13 Or the evil one

Matthew 6:13 (ASV)

13 And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from [a]the evil one.

Matthew intend "the evil one" in the Lord's prayer, Jesus gave us the answer.

"But deliver us from the evil one", are the closing words of the model prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples, it is a petition to God to to rescue them from the "evil one." So who is the" evil one" we need to protect ourselves? Jesus gave us the answer in the parable of the" weeds in the field", He said:

Matthew 13:38-39 (NRSV)

38 "The field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels

The "evil one", then is Satan the Devil ,the powerful spirit being that is the ruler of the world, John wrote:

1 John 5:19 NASB

19 "We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one."

Shortly before his death, Jesus prayer to God to protect his disciples from the evil one,Jesus knew that his followers would face the invisible enemy who is like a roaring lion, that is seeking to devour someone. 1 Peter 5:8

John 17:15 Expanded Bible (EXB)

15 "I am not asking you to take them out of the world but to ·keep them safe [protect them] from the ·Evil One [or evil; C the Evil One is the Devil]."

1 Peter 5:8 (NASB)

8 "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."

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From the BibleHub http://biblehub.com/lexicon/matthew/6-13.htm the last term in Greek is "πονηροῦ" which usually has been translated as evil. However, its direct meaning is "cunning" "deception". It could be about self-deception or illusion.

In other words, the meaning could be:

"And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the illusion"

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  • Welcome to the Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange. We are glad you are here! Please take a moment to take the site tour and review some of our guidelines for participants.. I am unclear on why you choose "deliver us from the illusion" instead of "deliver us from deception" or "deliver us from the deceiver"... Mar 24 '17 at 3:59
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It strikes me that "Deliver us from evil" is more general. I get the sense the author is saying evil is everywhere. "Deliver us from the evil one" tells me, "watch out when I come across or am exposed to evil in some energy or person". "The evil one" speaks to me of personification. My bias is that Latin is more "linear" and the Greek is more expansive, with its mythology as an example. Thus Latin would have a more black and white view of evil. Thomas R. Oswald

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  • Welcome to Bible Hermeneutics SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    May 21 at 13:04
  • Hi Thomas, welcome, and thanks for the contribution to the site. Could you expand a little on how your assessment of Latin relates to the text, written in Greek? May 21 at 22:07
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This is a case where you would let Scripture interpret itself. Ephesians 6: 12 informs the true Christian what the conflict is all about. If that verse is not clear enough you can defer to Matthew 25: 41, where we are told the deliberate destination of said adversaries. That is why a Christian is to leave room for God's vengeance. Romans 12: 19.

The key to understanding the Lord's prayer is that everything is the will of God.

Lastly, there is a verse that likening Satan to a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. That fits perfectly with the book of Job the first chapter.

Update 1: Scripture interpreting Scripture

The term "let the Scriptures interpret itself" means to let Bible truths empirically answer any doubts or questions you have as well as ignore false teachings from men/women and seek the answer for yourself.

Example

If I were to say that there are only two ways to get the sum of nine by adding two whole (non-decimal) numbers, you would first need to check an example yourself to see whether my statement is true or false:

9 + 0 = 9
8 + 1 = 9
7 + 2 = 9
6 + 3 = 9
5 + 4 = 9

Based on the above equations, my statement would be false and you would know that I was not telling the truth.

Applying that same train of thought and example, if certain passages of Scripture build upon subtle facts and consistent truths, it would be wise, when reading it, to apply those truths to each verse (where context allows) because the Bible cannot contradict itself (it is God's word). Deviating from this approach leaves room for opinion, mistranslations and false teachings.

Revisiting the aforementioned passages of Scripture to develop premise
»[Ephesians 6: 11-12] 11 - Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 - For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

»[1 James 4: 7]: Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

»[Romans 12: 19]: 19 - Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord.

»[Matthew 25: 41]: 41 - "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;

»[1 Peter 5: 8]: 8 - Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

»[1 Job 1: 7]: The LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil."

Putting it all together
So, after taking into account all of the Bible verses mentioned above and all the truths that they claim, when you come to Matthew 6:13, context (as well as a good grammatical parsing guide) should determine what it does or does not say. Consider the King James Version lexicon, which says that the word "poneros" is an adjective that is genitive, singular and masculine.

KJV Lexicon
πονηρου adjective - genitive singular masculine
poneros pon-ay-ros': hurtful, i.e. evil; figuratively, calamitous; also (passively) ill, i.e. diseased; but especially (morally) culpable, i.e. derelict, vicious, facinorous; neuter (singular) mischief, malice, or (plural) guilt;

Then, consider the passages of Scripture that denotes Satan as being a father to many.

»[John 8: 44]: "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

»[Matthew 13: 38 - 39]: 38 - and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 - and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.

Since the word was prefaced by "the" and cast as a nominative, the evil one is a correct transliteration. That being said, however, and without going too far off into another tangent, in coming to this conclusion please defer to Gil's Exposition analysis and the following three passages of Scripture...
»[John 6: 70]: Jesus answered them, "Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?"

»[John 13: 2]: During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him,


»[Matthew 4: 1]: Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

[Jesus was delivered from Satan (the evil one) in the wilderness AFTER being tempted by him.]

☼[Matthew 6: 13]

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.'

Thank you for reading,

If I have misspoken or misrepresented the bible in anyway please let me know and I will first research, and then correct any oversights if applicable. Alex

Full disclosure: Up until now, when I recited the prayer, I used 'evil' and not 'the evil one' as that is how I memorized it as a kid.

►Sources:
www.biblehub.com (Greek lexicon + KJV Lexicon)
www.studylight.org (Indepth Greek lexicon with all possible definitions of a specific word)
www.gotquestions.org/Judas-Iscariot.html (To locate John 6: 70)
www.google.com (for definitions of nominative + genitive + definite article + facinorous)

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-4

Understanding how the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil brought Sin into the world will help to understand how this deliverance is to be meant.

This Knowledge of Good is of Process, and its consideration as Good. See Jesus spoke of "Thy will be done". For it is during conflicting processes that the change in emotions occur.

The Example situation. I want to wash my car, and Mom wants to water the garden. Both processes depend on the use of the hose. Who will use the hose is the conflicting process.

Consider both coming to grab the hose at the same time. To respond with my body and grab the hose first, results in destruction to Mom's process. Therefore I am under condemnation. Yet if I yield the Hose to Mom and am willing to be Last to use the hose, then I am free from this error. The error that I am in deliverance from is that evil.

Let us look again to the text of the prayer

In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV)

Can be Decoded as

In this manner, therefore, ask: Our Breath in Sky, Holy be your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in Sky. 11 Give us this day our daily words. 12 And forgive us our errors, As we forgive those erroring against us. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from our errors. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13 Decoded)

See it saying "not lead us into temptation" this is to not response with the Flesh. Yet to yield to the Son of the Breath, the Words.

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