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In Matthew 6:13, The Lord's Prayer reaches its end with the famous:

and deliver us from evil (or from the evil one)

I'm not here to ask which translation is right, I just want to understand what are the reasons behind the choice from evil (which I personally prefer).

Is it that the Greek τοῦ πονηροῦ (tou ponērou), even known articulated, is neutral, as opposed to masculine, that we can understand "the evil" as a generalization of all evil? Or is it perhaps something else?

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  • It differs in that I'm not interested in which one is right, but what are good reasons for the case "from evil", as opposed to "evil one".
    – Dan
    Mar 24, 2023 at 12:22
  • Such a question is included in those 2 or 3 questions on the same topic. I can assure you that theres no reason for supporting the abstract evil there; the only reason is lack of Greek knowledge that people may support the interpretation.
    – Michael16
    Mar 24, 2023 at 13:23
  • @Michael16 so why do some Bibles translate it that way, and even those that don't, like NET, offer it as an alternative? To me, it seems like, the adjective and definite article, could be seen as both neutral or masculine, if we take it as neutral, it fits perfectly in describing and abstract concept, "the evil", hence "evil", if masculine, then "the evil one".
    – Dan
    Mar 24, 2023 at 15:16
  • The difference is not apparent to most, but it is a little advance thing. The translations are wrong that do not understand it; and it's not a big error. However, it is a mistranslation.
    – Michael16
    Mar 24, 2023 at 15:37
  • @Michael16 Would you like to expalin?
    – Dan
    Mar 24, 2023 at 21:42

2 Answers 2

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The reason it is usually translated as "evil" is because the Greek word "πονηροῦ" is in adjective form. However, its usage in many of these verses is a bit unique, seeing as it is preceded by the article which would normally be expected of a noun.

Even in English, there are times when the article "the" may be used with a word that is not a noun. For example: "The more, the better!" Neither "more" nor "better" in this common saying would typically be considered a noun. However, when preceded by the definite article, it can become a noun--as noted even in the dictionary.

The same principle applies here to the Greek. It becomes a matter of interpretation on the part of the translators. In order to make sense in English as a noun, they might feel obligated to add a word that the Greek does not have, i.e. "the evil one." If the translators are sensitive about adding words, they may choose not to do this, and just leave the expression as is, with "evil"--of course, omitting "the", but Greek articles are not so precise as English articles, so they probably feel better able to justify this.

It is likely that the Greek author had both "the evil one" and "evil" in general in mind when penning the words; i.e. it may be double meaning. If one ponders for a moment, however, it seems more logical that we be delivered from a sentient being more than some abstract and inanimate thing.


Regarding the gender of the word "πονηροῦ", please consult the grammatical notations for this word as present in both Matthew 5:37 and Matthew 6:13, with screen captures of an interlinear Bible for these posted below.

Matthew 5:37 enter image description here

Matthew 6:13 enter image description here

If you look at those images carefully, you should see what I think I am seeing--identical spellings for "πονηροῦ", yet one being labeled as "neuter" and the other as "masculine". Neither does the preceding article "τοῦ" (which is not translated) show any difference.

It may be that this is just one of those forms in Greek that can be considered either masculine or neuter. I have taken fewer Greek courses than Hebrew, so I will have to defer to others on this question.

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  • And does the gender being neutral play a role?
    – Dan
    Mar 23, 2023 at 14:02
  • @Dan I'm not sure about the gender for this word or what role, if any, that may play. To more fully answer that question and to help you see the source of my uncertainty, I will add more to my answer above so that I can insert screenshots that will help explain this.
    – Biblasia
    Mar 23, 2023 at 14:22
  • thanks! It's just a remark I found in the Biblehub like I've included in the description, where in this verse from Matthew it's neutral, as opposed to other verses where the definite article and evil appear (do not resist the evil doer Matthew 5:39) where it's masculine.
    – Dan
    Mar 23, 2023 at 14:28
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The phrase in question in Matt 6:13 is:

ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.

The last two words could either be masculine or neuter. If we insist on neuter, then the phrase addresses evil generally.

However, if, as if far more likely, πονηροῦ is masculine (based on the construction with the article preceding it) it should be more strictly translated:

... of the one of evil

  • because both the article and "evil" are genitive. Thus, we are force to translate, very literally:

... but deliver us of the one of evil

This is because the article often stands as a pronoun in the Greek, as here. In more idiomatic English, as per most versions -

... deliver us from the evil one

This is most correct.

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  • Thanks! I understand that, there are also arguments for the neutral reading, like for the example, as you mentioned, having the genitive form of the article, as opposed to just "ὁ"
    – Dan
    Mar 24, 2023 at 12:06

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