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Pope Francis may approve edit to The Lord's Prayer. But is the change theologically correct?


A brief exploration into biblical exegesis

(Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

The Lord's Prayer, found in Matthew 6 and Luke 11, is the most famous Christian prayer, recited by hundreds of millions of Christians around the world each day. In fact, it is the only prayer Jesus provided his followers. He gave the prayer to distinguish his followers from the Jewish leaders, whom Jesus referred to as "hypocrites."

But now, Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, may approve an edit of the prayer over what some experts believe is a theological error.

What are the details?

Researchers "from a theological, pastoral and stylistic viewpoint" concluded after 16 years of research that a line from the prayer referring to "temptation" is incorrectly translated in English, according to Express UK.

The line "lead us not into temptation" should be edited to "abandon us not when in temptation," the alleged experts say.

The altered version has been submitted to the Vatican and is likely earn the approval of Pope Francis, who just last year voiced contempt over the idea that God might lead his people into temptation.

"It's not a good translation," Francis said last year. "I am the one who falls. It's not Him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen. A father doesn't do that; a father helps you to get up immediately.

"It's Satan who leads us into temptation — that's his department," he added.

At the time, Francis also gave his stamp of approval for edits already confirmed in other languages, such as the French and Spanish translations, arguing church liturgy must be given modern language.

But is the edit theologically correct?

Many scholars would agree with the idea that God, who the Old and New Testaments both agree is good, would not lead his children into temptation. However, when examining Genesis 3, which is where Bible readers learn of humanity's fraction from their Creator, we learn that temptation is not something God induced, but rather is seemingly a natural part of being human.

Indeed, Jesus, who is God become flesh, was "led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" following his baptism (Matthew 4:1). The Greek word the New Testament writers use for "spirit" is pneuma. The reference refers to one part of the triune God (Father, Son, Spirit). Pneuma is also the same word used by Greek writers who translated the Hebrew Bible into what is known as the Septuagint. Its Hebrew equivalent is ruach, which in the Hebrew Bible refers to God's Spirit.

Additionally, the Greek word used in the prayer for "temptation" is peirasmos. Its core meaning is "temptation," but the idea behind the word is more nuanced, also suggesting "trial" and "testing."

At any rate, the theme remains the same: Being human provides the vulnerability to be tempted, but it is never God who does the tempting. In Genesis 3 it was the talking "snake." In Genesis 4 it was "sin." And after Jesus' baptism it was "the devil."

Meanwhile, the Bible does not directly address why God allows humans to be vulnerable to temptation. However, we learn in Genesis 3 that relational destruction and death, both with God and other humans, is the result of humanity's decision to redefine good and evil on their own terms, instead of trusting God.

When Eve saw the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, she saw that it was good (note that this is the first time in the story anyone other than God declares anything in creation to be "good") — and then indulged herself, believing the lie of the snake that God was holding out on humanity, and that eating the fruit would make her "like God." God provided humanity with free will, and as the Old Testament paints over and over, humanity continually fails the test of faith.

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