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“Thy Kingdom come” in Lord’s Prayer:

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10 KJV)

Q1. Does this mean:

A1. We hope and pray that your kingdom will come. Or A2. We hope and pray that your kingdom has come. A3. We hope.. is now coming.

B1. We affirm/acknowledge that your kingdom will come. Or B2. We affirm.. has come. B3 We affirm.. is now coming

C. Intentionally left ambiguous as (to me at least) it is in English.

D. Something else.

Q2. Is the answer the same for “Thy will be done”?

Q3. Someone told me the original is in Aramaic not Greek as I expected. That true?

Can’t imagine Im the first to ask but I looked awhile for the answers to 1 and 2. I just threw in 3 as Im sure the answer is quite easy for anyone working on 1 and 2.

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    I like the structure of this question! I updated to add the text of the verse from Matthew Jul 5 at 3:16
  • Thanks! Ok I’ll note that and do similar on any future questions
    – Al Brown
    Jul 5 at 19:42
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The operative verb referenced by the OP in the Lord's prayer is ἐλθέτω from the root verb ἔρχομαι. The form ἐλθέτω is Aorist Imperative Active - 3rd Person Singular. Strictly, this might be translated something like:

Let the kingdom of God come [as a command]

Note that this verb is neither perfect (ie, has a completed aspect) nor is it future (ie, your kingdom will come) - it is simply an earnest request for God to fulfill His promise to establish His kingdom of Heaven.

The next verb is Γενηθήτω = "be done" is exactly the same form.

That this prayer was originally spoken to the disciples in Aramaic is scarcely disputed; however, there is no evidence that it was written in anything but Koine Greek originally by Matthew and Luke.

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  • Very helpful summary of the Greek! No evidence of a Hebrew Matthew seems a touch strong. (I also confess, I would be willing to dispute that the Sermon on the Mount was originally given in Aramaic--though I claim nothing close to certainty on this particular point) Jul 5 at 3:21
  • To get the most out of the Greek, one should point out that Thy name be hallowed / Thy kingdom come / Thy will be done is a construction of three parallel clauses. Jul 5 at 11:55
  • Dottard I commented under Hold the Rod’s comment about his and your comment, esp regarding comes or will come.
    – Al Brown
    Jul 5 at 19:18
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What's throwing you is the brevity of wording and the use of the subjunctive, the latter of which is increasingly rare in contemporary English.

If it were a simple statement it would just be 'thy kingdom comes', and here we're praying 'We pray that thy kingdom comes'. But that would jar in the ear of an English speaker before the 20th century because the indicative 'comes' would sound too 'confident', almost arrogant: why pray for something if you're already confident it will happen?

This being so, classical English gives us two options: 1 the conditional 'we pray that thy kingdom would/might come', or 2 the subjunctive: "We pray that thy kingdom come.". Of the two, the conditional is more doubtful than the subjunctive, and perhaps doesn't embody the level of faith that a Christian soul ought to have in God. That's likely why it was always translated using the subjunctive: it conveys the right level of faith, without arrogance, but also without undue doubt.

There's more: the use of the subjunctive allows the traditional version of this phrase to omit the first three words ("we pray that") because they're unambiguously implied by the final three words. So you just get 'Thy Kingdom come.' This also mirrors the Latin text which is the direct source of the traditional English version; that too has just three words 'Adveniat regnum tuum' - of which the English is a word-for-word translation, and Adveniat ('come') is subjunctive too, see http://latindictionary.wikidot.com/verb:advenire

Perhaps the gentlest modern English rendering might be 'Let your kingdom come', but it's an extra word and upsets the rhythm of the prayer, to my ear.

BTW I have no expertise in Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic, but have no particular reason to doubt what previous posters have said about it.

The same is at work in 'Thy will be done.', which is subjunctive again. Indicative would just be 'thy will is done' and conditional would be '[we pray that] thy will would/might be done'. The Latin is more of a mouthful, is less metrical and doesn't rhyme as well: "Fiat voluntas tua". So the English translation is an improvement, in my humble opinion!

However the Latin wins in being able to put the verb at the beginning in all three of the first imprecations in the prayer; something like:

Hallowed be thy name, Come be thy kingdom, Done be thy will.

Funny word order to us (though just the sort of thing that Latin excels at), but you get the tri-fold parallelism that the English version lacks.

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    That funny word order looks fine to me. Is it really ungrammatical?
    – wizzwizz4
    Jul 5 at 16:27
  • 1/2 Thanks for your answer. Someone above seems to be implying praying that it “will come” is inaccurate because there is a way in greek to use a future tense there and they didnt. If I understood correctly. This seems like it might apply to “would/might come”. That it’s adding a future aspect. (I personally believe the kingdom of God does unfold here at times and places, or maybe at times and places for certain persons. Maybe that’s heretical; although I dont know.)
    – Al Brown
    Jul 5 at 18:56
  • 2/2 It might be worth adding the word now to what you wrote. “We pray that thy kingdom would/might come now” or better yet “We pray that thy kingdom now comes.” After reading your answer again, Im sure you knew is present tense, and that the would/might was to add a sortve conditionality to make it less of an order to God, and not to imply anything about time. So Im even more convinced that “would now come” is a good translation.
    – Al Brown
    Jul 5 at 19:02
  • Early in the third paragraph, didnt you mean to write, “We pray that your kingdom now comes.” with an “s”? Im not nitpicking; just want to make sure I follow.
    – Al Brown
    Jul 5 at 19:41
  • @wizzwizz4 I think it's ok too
    – KingLogic
    Jul 5 at 21:20
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Q1

The verb here is Ἐλθέτω (elthetō), meaning "to come", and it is in the imperative form (think "commanding" something). Other ways to render this in English would be statements such as "let it come", "may it come", or, if we wanted to apply the seldom used English subjunctive to capture some nuance, my translation would be:

"[we pray] that Your kingdom come".

We are expressing our desire that it comes (as insightfully noted by Perry Webb, it's a third-person imperative, not second-person--this is comparable to the Spanish "Ojala", wishing God to make something occur without directly commanding anyone). The aorist tense of this verb indicates a one-time action but does not indicate that the action is complete. The timing is not specified.

Of the options provided in the OP, A1 most closely aligns with the Greek text. We are praying that this will happen.

(textkit has a helpful discussion of Greek aorist imperative here)

Q2

This is again an aorist imperative in the Greek, same basic idea.

Q3

There are theories that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic or Hebrew (though this, by itself, does not tell us in what language the sermon was originally given). The principal supporting evidence is the statements of early Christian historians (there are actually quite a few who tell us Matthew was written in Hebrew), two of which are cited here:

Irenaeus of Lyons:

Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect (Against Heresies 3.1.1)

Origen of Alexandria (one of the top Hebrew scholars of his time):

First to be written was by Matthew, who was once a tax collector but later an apostle of Jesus Christ, who published it in Hebrew for Jewish believers (quoted by Eusebius in HE 6.26.4)

What we have to work with is the Greek text--if there were nuance in this statement in Aramaic or Hebrew we are at the mercy (or inspiration) of the translators.

For an argument that Irenaeus, Origen, and others are referring to Hebrew and not Aramaic, Buth & Pierce have recently argued cogently that ἑβραϊστί and related words were never used to refer to Aramaic. (see R. Buth and C. Pierce "Hebraisti in Ancient Texts: Does ἑβραϊστί Ever Mean 'Aramaic'?")

For my own work arguing that the Gospel of Matthew was originally composed in Hebrew, see videos here and here.

The latter half of the second video is an argument that Jesus spoke Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek. It does not conclusively indicate what language was spoken when the Sermon on the Mount was first given (that would be a much longer post), but focuses on what language was used when the Gospel of Matthew was written.

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  • Below Perry says, “3rd person imperatives in Greek are more like a request while 2nd person imperatives are commands”, so it makes sense to avoid a direct order to God. But Dottard disagrees with you by saying comes instead of “will come”. Translating only for meaning Im leaning toward: “We pray that your kingdom now comes” or “We pray that your kingdom will come” depending on whether you or dottard are correct. If at all ambiguous, then perhaps, “We pray that your kingdom comes” is best.
    – Al Brown
    Jul 5 at 19:14
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    @AlBrown good question, I amended my post to address some of the grammar more clearly. My translation into English would use the subjunctive: "[we pray] that Your kingdom come" Jul 5 at 19:55
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    Another great answer. Again you have my vote. The Greek word 'Etheto/Ethato', from what I can gather is best expressed as 'Let come'. "Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth" [NWT], would appear to be alluding to the 'Millennial' kingdom, as up until then, the earth is Satan's kingdom. Wouldn't you agree? Jul 7 at 2:07
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    @OldeEnglish thanks! I do like the "let" translations, I think it's an effective way to express it in English. Re the millennial kingdom, I've wondered about this. The millennium seems a straightforward interpretation. Or is it His church? You make a fair point about Satan's power prior to the millennium. The millennial reign certainly strikes me as the most definite point wherein one might say "God's kingdom has come". Jul 7 at 4:05
  • @HoldToTheRod , Im extremely curious about a question thought you might be up for taking a look. If ya want. God bless: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/63780/…
    – Al Brown
    Jul 26 at 23:47
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I won't rehash the Greek imperatives other than to say 3rd person imperatives in Greek are more like a request while 2nd person imperatives are commands.

Dealing what Jesus might have spoken, looking at the Peshitta and Hebrew translations, there is too much variation to say what is possible, other than Jesus would have used the imperfect tense with a jussive sense. Essentially the same meaning as the Greek.

Hebrew uses perfect tense (completed action) for past tense. Imperfect tense (incomplete action) is used for future tense. Infinitives and particles are usually used for present tense. Hebrew has 2nd person imperatives, but the idea of the Greek 3rd person imperative would be expressed with the imperfect with the jussive sense, even if not the specific jussive form. The jussive would just be a difference in the vowel points. The consonants would be the same.

Thus, there is no reason to believe what Jesus would have spoken in Hebrew/Aramaic would have been different than what Matthew expressed in Greek.

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  • Thanks. So the difference in implication between 3rd person imperatives and other statements makes it such that the wording structure can stay the same while the meaning varies when going from “hallowed be thy name” stating a fact and “thy kingdom come” as a request in the greek. And that is what doesnt come through in english hence my question. Under Hold to the Rod’s comment I asked about present vs future for the request, comes vs will come (only if you’re interested).
    – Al Brown
    Jul 5 at 19:27
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    Would someone request something that already is? God is already holy ,but it is up to us to keep his name holy in how we use it.
    – Perry Webb
    Jul 5 at 20:36

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