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This is Matthew 6:13 / Luke 11:4, the Lord’s prayer. I’m not sure exactly when the Pope came out with this but understand it might have been early June 2019. This previous related question -"Do not lead us into temptation" is a bad translation? was useful. It was asked October 2019 and was looking for textual licence to paraphrase the clause in question as, “so that we might not be led into temptation, deliver…”

But I’m wanting to know if the papal English translation adjustment to the Greek text (if disallowed by the Greek text) would lead to a wrong theology about God’s role, and our role, in the matter of temptation. However, the first part of my query must be settled first, before progressing to any theological consequences, hence posting this textual question in Bible Hermeneutics. If I get the Greek text clarified (from any scholars of any persuasion), then I could post a new question on the second aspect, in the ‘Christianity’ section.

Another useful and related question was - Why pray, "lead us not into temptation"? The answer by Geremia indicates that St. Thomas Aquinas might not have been happy at the current Pope approving that change. Yet, my question is restricted to examining the Greek text of Matthew 6:13 (or Luke 11:4) and not delving into theological interpretations or understandings.

This is the Greek text in question: και μη εισενεγκης ημας εις πειρασμον = and ... not ... unto-carry ... us ... unto ... temptation/trial

The verb is eisphero ... unto-carry or unto-bear. The verb phero is to carry, like a burden. It is always an adverse thing. It may well have meaning in regard to aphesis (remission), a-phero being the negative (unburdening). Young's Literal - And mayest Thou not lead us to temptation

The same verb εισενεγκης is elsewhere in the N.T. and also means to ‘bring in’, ‘bear in’, ‘carry in’ or ‘lead in’. So, Luke 5:18-19 says “the men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy”. And Acts 17:20 reports the Athenian philosophers saying to Paul, “thou bringest certain strange things to our ears”. Then 1 Timothy 6:7, “we brought nothing into [this] world”, and Hebrews 13:11 states that the blood of the beasts “is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest”. In all cases cited the verb has an active meaning. Could the men in Luke 5:18-19 be understood as somehow allowing the man taken with palsy to find his own way in? No way!

Is the Pope’s alteration as linguistically indefensible as would that example of Luke 5:18-19 be, should the verb no longer be taken as active? Are we meant to petition God not to lead us (into temptation), or not to let us fall (into temptation)? The Greek text needs to be established.

  • Which "Papal English translation" are you referring to? – user33515 Feb 13 at 17:56
  • I added 'Papal English' (before 'translation') to avoid any misunderstanding that the Pope actually changed the Greek text. He did not. He came out with English words that were different to previous English words that were the standard translation of the Greek text. There is no translation of the Bible done by Pope Francis. – Anne Feb 13 at 21:02
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In view of James 1:13, 14 ("God does not tempt us"), Matt 6:13 ("do not lead us into temptation") appears to create a contradiction.

I am not familiar with the pronouncements of Pope Francis so I assume the OP has correct quoted him. The basic problem here (as will be seen later) is not a matter of translation but of the theology surrounding the so-called "divine passive".

The verb "lead" (εἰσενέγκῃς) is an accurate translation as it comes from the root verb εἰσφέρω (eispheró) meaning literally, "to carry into". According to BDAG, it has two basic meanings:

  1. to bring into an area, bring in, eg, Luke 5:18, 19, Heb 13:11.
  2. to cause someone to enter into a certain event or condition, bring in, temptation, eg, Matt 6:13, Luke 11:4, Acts 17:29. It is obvious that this second meaning is intended and the numerous English translation reflect this almost unanimously.

The noun "temptation" (πειρασμόν - the cognate verb is used in James 1:13) is from the root noun πειρασμός (peirasmos), which according to BDAG has two primary meanings:

  1. An attempt to learn the nature or character of something, test, trial, eg, 1 Peter 4:12, James 1:2, 1 Peter 1:6, Heb 3:8, 9, etc.
  2. An attempt to make someone do something wrong, temptation, enticement, eg, Luke 4:13, James 1:12, Matt 6:13, Luke 11:4, Matt 26:41, Mark 14:38, etc.

It is interesting that BDAG attributes meaning #2 to the Lord's prayer as listed above. A number of traditional commentaries prefer meaning #1, eg, Ellicott, Benson, etc. However, Barnes has a better suggestion:

And lead us not into temptation - A petition similar to this is offered by David, Psalm 141:4; "Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with the workers of iniquity." God tempts no man. See James 1:13. This phrase, then, must be used in the sense of "permitting." Do not "suffer" us, or "permit" us, to be tempted to sin. In this it is implied that God has such control over the tempter as to save us from his power if we call upon him. The word "temptation," however (see the note at Matthew 4:1), means sometimes "trial, affliction," anything that "tests" our virtue. If this be the meaning here, as it may be, then the import of the prayer is, "Do not afflict or try us." It is not wrong to pray that we may be saved from suffering if it be the will of God. See Luke 22:42.

Meaning #2 cannot be ignored. God is sovereign and often the Bible attributes cause to God for events that He allows (but does not actually cause). This idea is technically known as the "divine passive". Examples of this can be found in places like:

  • 2 Sam 24:1 vs 1 Chron 21:1;
  • 1 Sam 16:14, 16, 18:10, 19:9;
  • Judges 9:23
  • Ex 9:12, 10:1, 20, 27, 11:10, 14:8 , etc.

Thus, "lead us into temptation" is a literal and accurate rendering of the Greek. However, the Pontiff's suggested revision is clearly an interpretive one that possibly attempts to include a little of the divine passive element and is already reflected in some other interpretive versions such as NLT, GNT, GWT, etc.

  • It would be useful if you could expand on, 'The verb "lead" (εἰσενέγκῃς) is an accurate translation'. For instance, could you explain what changes to the Greek text would be required to justify "fall" as an English rendition? I am not looking for the meaning of the verse (at this stage), but reasons why the Greek text could only allow for 'lead', or whether it could permit 'fall'. – Anne Feb 13 at 16:32
  • To confirm my claim about the papal change see eu.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/06/06/… “The pope said he thought the English translation of the prayer was not correct. "It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation," he told Italy’s TV2000 channel in 2017, per The Guardian. "I am the one who falls. It’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen.” – Anne Feb 13 at 17:09
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it is necessary to understand the "game" of the prepositions *εἰς (into) πειρασμόν and *ἀπὸ (from) τοῦ πονηροῦ, the center of peirasmon receives advance of linguistic meaning, and transcends the very concept of evil πονηροῦ.

It is the context that will define whether peirasmon will be better translated by temptation or tribulation.

God does not lead his children into temptation. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13)

Therefore, the question is whether peirasmon should be translated by tribulation here, because opting for the word and the exegesis of the Aramaic text, there is nothing to discuss.

"..καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς τόν πειρασμόν..." it couldn’t be possible.

*Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God*. Acts 14:22 King James Version (KJV)

. . . Biblical exegesis is based on the kerygmatic center, that is, Scripture and the New Testament text accessible to all, however, the critical explanation or interpretation of a polysemantic text being of extreme complexity (ambiguity, the means of expression, cultural and chronological distance) is necessary the exegetical methods for the proclamation of doctrinal truths for those who are Orthodox Christians. The Bible is of double character, on the one hand it examines itself as historical and literary text and on the other – as the logos inspired. Each of the two aspects requires own approach. Together, they provide a holistic exegetics:

But the devil requested to take the portion from them, for tempting of humans. Jubilees 10:8

ὁ δὲ διάβολος ᾐτήσατο λαβεῖν μοῖραν ἀπ᾽ αὐτῶν πρὸς πειρασμὸν τῶν ἀνθρώπων Jubilees 10:8 Greek

the Aramaic verb ܬ݁ܰܥܠܰܢ ( root ܥܠ ) in Matthew 6:13, has meaning: bring, enter, the Greek verb is imperative, while the Aramaic verb is condescending. complete lexicon

e.g.

De somniis 2:176 τίς ἂν δύναιτο μᾶλλον ἀρετῆς ἵμερον ἢ καλοκἀγαθίας ζῆλον ἐμφῦσαι; βούλει, φησίν, ὦ διάνοια, εὐφραίνεσθαι θεόν; εὐφράνθητι αὐτὴ καὶ ἀνάλωμα μὲν μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς μηδέν τίνος γὰρ τῶν σῶν χρεῖός ἐστιν; ἀλλ᾽ ἔμπαλιν ὅσα σοι δίδωσιν ἀγαθὰ χαίρουσα δέξαι. Philo

De somniis 2:176 Who could implant in man a desire for virtue and excellence, more strongly than is here done? Dost thou wish, says the scripture, O mind, that God should rejoice? Do thou rejoice in virtue thyself, and bring no costly offering, (for what need has God of anything of thine?) But, on the other hand, receive with joy all the good things which he bestows upon thee;

  • I am having great difficulty trying to follow this. It may (possibly) contain something of real worth (the first paragraph hints at this) but nothing is clear to me. And suddenly Aramaic is mentioned (why ? ?). Then some Greek is cited without a translation or a reference. And why is Acts 14:22 mentioned ? I am left feeling that I am missing something significant : but what it is, I cannot tell. – Nigel J Feb 12 at 16:15
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    Interesting though comparison of the word 'temptation' is with 'tribultation', that has nothing to do with the question, really. The query is whether 'lead us not' is right, and that 'do not let us fall' is wrong. – Anne Feb 12 at 16:27
  • Consequently, Franciscus interprets the passage this way: 'do not let us fall', in accordance with 1 Timothy 6:9, 1 Corinthians 10:13. To privilege the Aramaic text will have serious theological consequences, is it really that the text should be read "temptation" instead of "tribulation"? – Betho Feb 13 at 22:44
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I'm no fan of Pope Francis - and as such am not defending the suggestion to change the traditional translation of the Our Father - however, what he was advocating seems to be more that there should be a more helpful translation for modern people of the Lord's Prayer. A translation, after all, can be accomplished in at least two ways: by an attempt to capture the original structure or order or grammatical features of the sentence in the original language (form, feel), or by an attempt to capture more faithful what the original was intended to convey (emphasis on meaning), inasmuch as all translations sacrifice one for the other, albeit to varying degrees, as both cannot be preserved fully, 1:1 - because no two languages have a 1:1 relationship, put simply.

That is to say, Pope Francis was most likely advocating a disambiguatory translation of the Our Father which doesn't retain, and thus whose proper understanding does not depend on the recognition and appreciation of the ancient rhetorical value of, reinforcement by negation: "lead us not into x, but into the opposite of x, lead us into that."

One can disagree with the means he advocates or advocated (a new translation), but not the core intention to disambiguate and thus bring clarity to the Our Father - for whom, for some moderns, it might otherwise seem like an oddity or theological contradiction. In my humble opinion, I recommend first better catechesis, as if God tempteth no man is not more obvious than that we should pray to him, or how we should, then catechesis has failed miserably and prayer will be dead on arrival anyway - as all who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth, that is, they must know who He is.

TL;DR The pope is not suggesting it has been wrongly conceived in Greek ('translated wrong' - 'doesn't mean that'), but wrongly related in modern language, so as to possibly be misleading to some.

  • Indeed, it is the English translation of the text that the Pope took issue with, not the Greek wording. Once clarity comes with the Greek form being established, then I may ask a fresh Q on whether the 'new' English wording actually takes away from the theological meaning of the Greet text, or not; in other words, if the desire to clear up an 'ambiguous' phrase is unwarranted because the phrase has a deliberate theological meaning as it stands, so that to change it would actually hide an important truth Jesus was indicating. – Anne Feb 13 at 16:12

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