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The Douay Rheims version (Challoner) has this for Matthew 6:11 :

Give us this day our supersubstantial bread

which is translated from the Vulgate :

panem nostrum supersubstantialem da nobis hodie

However in the parallel passage, Luke 11:3, the Vulgate has :

panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis cotidie

and the Douay Rheims (Challoner) renders it :

Give us this day our daily bread.

Is there any manuscript history explains this seeming anomaly ?

Would this have been Jerome's choice of wording ?

Was a correction made, later than Jerome, to the Vulgate ?


References taken from Vulgate Org

NOTE : The Greek word, occurring in both of these cases (Matthew 6:11 and Luke 11:3) is επιουσιον , epiousion [TR, undisputed].

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  • 1
    I confirm that the Jerome Vulgate (~400 AD) and the Clementine Vulgate (1592) read as you have recorded here. I am also at a loss!
    – Dottard
    Aug 28 '20 at 9:35
  • @Dottard When you say 'Clementine 1592' are you referring to the Reims translation of 1582 of the New Testament and revised by Challoner in 1749/50/52 ? Or was that from Jerome ? I am still never clear as to what is being translated.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 28 '20 at 9:47
  • 1
    Clementine 1592 is the Latin text of the Bible called for at the council of Trent in 1546. It is from this that the Duay-Rheims Bible was translated (the NT in 1582 and the OT in 1610).
    – Dottard
    Aug 28 '20 at 9:52
  • 1
    Quite correct. Actually, it was only the Rheims = NT published in 1582. The OT was published in Douai in 1610. The original english was bearly so being very heavily Latinate and almost impossible to read. Challoner issued a series of revisions, the final being in 1752 to bring the language closer to the KJV without departing from the Clementine text.
    – Dottard
    Aug 28 '20 at 11:12
  • 1
    as you are presumably aware, the KJV was also in the midst of revisions at the same time as the Challoner version of the DRB. Benjamin Blayney issued what has become the standard edition of the KJV in 1769 which was the fifth (and final) major revision since 1611.
    – Dottard
    Aug 28 '20 at 11:24
2

Epi-ousios, just like homo-ousios (con-substantial) or homoi-ousios, are derived from the Greek ousia, meaning essence; the prefixed particles, in each case, are epi- (as in episkopos, meaning overseer), homo- (as in homogeneous or homosexual), and homoio-, meaning (a)like.

The above etymology involves the least amount of complexity. The one proposed in the Greek-English Lexicon, published by Henry Liddell, Robert Scott, and Henry Stuart Jones over a century and a half ago, and presented in the user's self-answer, seems rather problematic, to say the very least, for a number of reasons:

  • For starters, it ignores or overlooks the word's actual masculine and neuter forms, epion and epiwn (found here, by clicking the two show buttons in the article's conjugation section; or here, by clicking the two εμφάνιση buttons in the article's Κλίση sections); the reason I mention this is because it is precisely this masculine-neuter form that the quoted biblical passages employ here (ton arton emon ton epiousion). Now, this would have made some sense, were the feminine form to have been either simpler or shorter than the standard ones; but, as can clearly be glimpsed, this simply is not the case.

  • Secondly, these hypothetical masculine or neuter forms of the feminine epiousa, were they to have actually existed, would have been epiousos or epiouson, but certainly not epiousios or epiousion, the presence of the extra iota being otherwise unaccounted for. Or, to state it otherwise: the feminine form of the masculine epiousios or neuter epiousion would have been epiousia, rather than epiousa, which is what we actually have, the absence (in this case) of the iota from the stem's termination being otherwise unaccounted for.

In conclusion, it is utterly unclear why one would, on either logical, linguistical, or grammatical grounds, prefer the latter (contrived) explanation over the former, whose simplicity basically speaks for itself.

Now, with epi being a near synonym of the Greek hyper, and the latter corresponding to the Latin super (because, in general, the Indo-European initial s- usually becomes an initial h- in Greek), along with the Greek ousia being a cognate of the Latin esse (hence, essentia, itself a near synonym of substantia), a quick verbatim Latin equivalent of the Greek epi-ousion would be super-substantialem (granted, another possible avenue of rendition would have been ob-essentialem), both terms being equally unattested in their respective languages, prior to the New Testament.


Is there any manuscript history explains this seeming anomaly ?

According to the above-linked encyclopedic article,

This quotidianum interpretation is first recorded in the works of Tertullian. This was used in the Vetus Latina, a collective term for various "Old Latin" Bible translations prior to Jerome's Vulgate.

In Luke 11:3, Jerome rendered epiousios, via what had become at that point tradition, as quotidianum, and yet in Matthew 6:11 he also rendered epiousios as supersubstantialem from its morphological components.


Would this have been Jerome's choice of wording ? Was a correction made, later than Jerome, to the Vulgate ?

According to the same encyclopedic article,

Jerome translated epiousios in two different ways: by morphological analysis as 'supersubstantial' (supersubstantialem) in Matthew 6:11, but retaining 'daily' (quotidianum) in Luke 11:3.

To sum up, both modern and ancient scholars have proposed several different translations for epiousios. Even Jerome, the most important translator of the Bible to Latin, translated this same word in the same context in two different ways.

In Luke 11:3, Jerome rendered epiousios, via what had become at that point tradition, as quotidianum, and yet in Matthew 6:11 he also rendered epiousios as supersubstantialem from its morphological components.

In the Vulgate, Jerome translated epiousios in Matthew 6:11 as supersubstantial, coining a new word not before seen in Latin. This came from the analysis of the prefix epi- as super, and ousia in the sense of substance.

The "for the future" etymology is weak, and most ancient interpreters of this scripture do not support such an interpretation. Early supporters of this translation include Cyril of Alexandria and Peter of Laodicea by way of linking epiousios with the verb epienai, "of tomorrow." According to Jewish theologian Herbert Basser, this translation was also considered (but eventually rejected) as a possibility by Jerome, who noted it as an aside in his commentary to Matthew that the Gospel of the Hebrews used ma[h]ar ("for tomorrow") in this verse.


In Romanian, for instance, epi-ousios has been traditionally rendered as unto being (sustenance or subsistence, rather than substance, as it were), similarly to how the related homo-ousios has likewise been translated as of one being.


I hereby post this trivial or common knowledge collection of basic or commonsense information as community wiki. (As one can clearly see by now, I am personally rather fond, both of the site itself, as well as of its philosophy).

2
  • So would you agree that 'necessary' bread, or 'sustaining' bread or some similar wording is suitable ? (Up-voted +1.)
    – Nigel J
    Aug 29 '20 at 22:34
  • 1
    @NigelJ: Since the entire construction is in the accusative, browsing through the above-linked Wiktionary article under the word epi, we see for (the purpose of) and for (with respect to) being listed as possible meanings at the eleventh and twelfth bullet points of the third section (+ accusative), under the paragraph preposition; thus, for sustenance or for subsistence make for a plausible translation of the text's authorial intent.
    – Lucian
    Aug 30 '20 at 10:24
1

I have yet to find any explanation for the word supersubstantialem.

The only explanation of the original Greek word, that I have yet found, is in Liddell & Scott.

Επιουσιος, epiousios

Source and Reference :

  1. Liddell & Scott, 1,700 page Special Edition, American Edition 1854
  2. Young's Analytical Concordance
  3. Daniel B Wallace Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics

Ειμι, eimi, is the Greek copular verb ‘to be’ or ‘to become’.

Young’s Analytical Concordance states of eimi that it is also, in the KJV, rendered by ‘become’; ‘begin to be’ ; ‘be made’ ; ‘come’ ; (notably) ‘come to pass’; (again, notably) ‘dure’ ‘endure’; (and, yet again, notably) ‘follow’.

So, the concept of the word eimi is not only an existence ‘come into being’ but of the perpetuity of that existence ‘endure, follow’. It is an existence that is present and, because it is present, is expected to continue.

This is a broad concept. It is a logical concept - a reasonable expectation.

Thence there follows the word επειμι, epeimi (επι ειμει) which, as the participle, is rendered in the KJV as ‘following’, ‘next’, ‘the day following’ and ‘the next day’.

Here the concept of ‘being’ (today) is extended by epi (a general concept of ‘during’ when related to time, see Daniel B Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics) to mean ‘during being’ or, notably, ‘enduring being’. That is to say, the concept of epeimi is the idea of existence being extended to a following portion of time. That is to say, to tomorrow.

The present participle of epeimi, according to Liddell & Scott, is επιουσα, epiousa and L&S list the meaning, again, as ‘the coming, following, day’ or ‘the next day’.

And, finally, Liddell & Scott lists the word under examination επιουσιος, epiousios (the noun) with the meaning :

: ‘on or for the coming day’, hence, ‘sufficient for the day’

Thus, if one prays for bread as the day dawns, one is praying in the context of the ‘coming day’, the ‘breaking day‘, the day ‘ahead‘.

One takes no thought for the morrow, what to eat or what to put on, sufficient for the ‘day ahead’ the ‘dawning’ day is the thought and the prayer.

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  • I have yet to find any explanation for the word supersubstantialem. - See my comment on the main post.
    – Lucian
    Aug 29 '20 at 4:02
  • @Lucian eimi is an irregular verb and is somewhat more irregular than has been realised. Liddell & Scott have fully documented this in the 1854 American Edition (1,700 pages).
    – Nigel J
    Aug 29 '20 at 4:10
  • Epi, meaning over (as in episkopos, meaning overseer), is a synonym of hyper, meaning above, the equivalent of the Latin super; and ousia is the equivalent of essentia, a synonym of substantia. It is also unheard of to concoct a masculine or neuter from a feminine (!); the Greek endings -os, -on, -a, corresponding to the Latin -us, -um, -a, are well-known, and attached directly to the root, never on top of each other (!). In Romanian, it is translated as for subsistence, which, in my opinion, best expresses the authorial intent.
    – Lucian
    Aug 29 '20 at 4:16
  • @Lucian You still need to explain why the Vulgate has cotidianum as a translation for epiousion in Luke 11:3.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 29 '20 at 4:31
  • And what exactly would such an answer look like ? Do you want me to teach you how to use Google, Wikipedia, and Wiktionary ? I honestly don't understand.
    – Lucian
    Aug 29 '20 at 4:35
1

As noted, the word in question, επιουσιον epiousios, is only used twice:

Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11) [ESV]
Give us each day our daily bread (Luke 11:3)

In addition to the sparse New Testament use, it is a neologism. From a literary perspective the New Testament writers "invented" this word. Alternatively, if one accepts Matthew and Luke accurately recorded what Jesus said, then it was Jesus Himself who made up and then used the word. Hence its meaning would be found in the answer to the request, τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον. Literally, the bread of us τὸν ἐπιούσιον grant us today.

Brant Pitre offers this analysis of the meaning:

If we break up the word into its two main parts and just translate it literally, this is what we find: (1) epi means "on, upon, or above." and (2) ousia means "being, substance, or nature. Put these two together and the meaning seems to be: "Give us this day our supernatural bread." Indeed, among some ancient Christian writers it was very common to translate the Greek word epiousios as literally as possible. In perhaps the most famous translation of the Lord's Prayer ever made, in the fourth-century Latin Vulgate, Saint Jerome writes these words: Give us this day our supersubstantial bread.

What is the meaning of Jerome's translation? He himself tells us elsewhere: the bread of the Lord's Prayer is supersubstantial because "it is above all substances and surpasses all creatures."1

Pitre concludes this can only be referring to one thing: a daily prayer for new manna from heaven. "By instructing His disciples to say each day 'Give us this day our supernatural bread,' Jesus taught them to ask God for the miraculous food that the Messiah himself would give them during their journey to the new promised land."2 He agrees with N.T. Wright who says:

The prayer for bread has its historical background in the provision of manna in the wilderness. God’s daily gift, following the people’s grumbling, became the stuff of legend. Jesus actions in the feeding miracles alluded to the wilderness stories, as the evangelists (especially John) suggest. In the context of the Lord’s Prayer, this clause aligns the followers of Jesus with the wilderness generation and their need to know God’s daily supply of not only literal bread but also of all that it symbolized.

Manna was not needed in Egypt. Nor would it be needed in the promised land. It is the food of inaugurated eschatology, the food that is needed because the kingdom has already broken in and because it is not yet consummated. The daily provision of manna signals that the Exodus has begun, but also that we are not yet living in the land.3

Conclusion
επιουσιον, epiousios, is a word Jesus made up which His disciples are to request:

Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Grant us today, the bread of us, the epiousios. Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil one.4

This is developing, or building upon what was taught in the Exodus from Egypt:

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Where the Israelites had been fed by manna while in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land to teach them to live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD, Jesus taught His disciples to request each day their epiousios.

When first used a neologism is defined by that use, which in the case of the Lord's Prayer is unclear. Jesus gives a more complete teaching of epiousios in the synagogue at Capernaum:

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”...60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6)

epiousios is no longer "supernatural bread." It is bread made by the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. He is the Word and the Word of God, epiousios is both spirit and life which believers are to request each day.


  1. Brant Pitre, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, Doubleday, 2011, p. 95
  2. Ibid., pp. 96-97
  3. N.T. Wright, "The Lord's Prayer as a Paradigm for Christian Prayer," Into God's Presence Prayer in the New Testament, edited by Richard N. Longenecker, Eerdmans, 2001, pp. 142-143
  4. Some manuscripts continue: For yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen. If these are not original, they are an appropriate post-Resurrection addition.

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