It appears that Catholics in Italy, France and Spain are getting revised translations of the Lord’s Prayer. The problem is the line “Lead us not into temptation”. The Pope complained in 2017 that this is a bad translation, not on exegetical grounds but on theological grounds:
It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation. 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.
The line is being changed to something like “do not let us fall into temptation.”
I respectfully tried to put the Pope right on this at the time, clearly without success.
- In both Matthew and Luke the meaning of the Greek is clear: “do not bring (eisenegkēis) us into testing” (Matt. 6:13; Lk. 11:14).
- I’m not sure that “do not let us fall into temptation” is a theological improvement. Doesn’t it rather imply an abdication of moral responsibility?
- In any case, Jesus is not talking about “temptation” in the general sense of an inducement to do what is morally wrong. What peirasmos signifies is the particular “testing” of the disciples’ faith and vocation that hardship and persecution presented.
- Jesus differentiates between God, who might lead the disciples into testing, and Satan, who does the testing. We cannot say, therefore, that Satan leads us into “temptation.” Being led into testing and being tested are two very different things.
- Jesus was “led up (anēchthē) by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil” (Matt. 4:1). Luke has the simple “was led (ēgeto) by the Spirit” (Lk. 4:1); Mark has the more violent “the Spirit casts him out (ekballei) into the wilderness” (Mk. 1:12). No question though: it is God who leads him into this testing.
- Jesus meant quite seriously that his disciples should pray not to be led, in the course of their mission, into situations that would test their faith to the breaking point.
- The Lord’s Prayer, therefore, is an eschatological-missional prayer for the followers of Jesus in the first century. It is how you should pray when you are called to embark on the perilous journey of proclaiming the coming of the kingdom of God to rebellious Israel in the period leading up to the war against Rome.
- If we continue to pray the Lord’s Prayer today, we should not pretend it was composed for us. We pray it at some remove from its original sphere of meaning and application.
- It’s just one more reason why the church needs to develop a historical consciousness.