My Translation of the Lord’s Prayer

I am glad we recite the Lord’s Prayer on a weekly basis. My five year old has asked – what is our daily bread as well as what are our debts. It shows the power of liturgy. However he has also asked – what is ‘thy.’ I can’t remember why I took up translating the Lord’s Prayer, but I did and this is my translation below. It isn’t terribly different from modern translations.

Our Father who is in Heaven,
Your name be made holy
Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,
And lead us not into [temptation/trials]
But deliever us from the evil one
For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

A few notes: First “hallowed” means to be made holy – that’s the point of the prayer. If you use hallowed you’ve successfully made sure 90% of those reciting don’t know what they are saying. We might as well go back to Latin.

Second, we say lead us not into “temptation.” The Greek word there can mean either temptation or trials. Since God does not tempt (James 1:13) I think the likely reading is do not lead us into trials – think of the wilderness wanderings, exile, etcetra (see 1 Cor. 10:13 where again the word could be trial or temptation, but trial makes more sense). There is no context so we have to determine it based on what the Bible says about God.

Third, evil and evil one is a tough call. The word can be both and it’s up to context to determine why one fits better than the other. We will always experience evil in a fallen world, but we can escape Satan. It could also be evil works (cf., 2 tim 4:18).

Fourth, yes I left in “For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever Amen.” It’s a completely true saying (likely adapted from 1 Chron. 29:11-13). The words “power and glory” appear in the Didache (an early church document) so it early when these lines are added. The text without this line appears in all major manuscripts, Siniaticus and Alexanderian (the two big and early ones), which is why all modern translations do not include it. As long as people know that, I think it’s a great way to conclude the prayer.

Those are the translation notes but my wider argument (which I will try to condense) it that since the Bible is timeless we should stop using archaic translations. It doesn’t help anyone to learn a separate language for church. The Bible isn’t written in a holy language(s), it’s actually written in the most common and simple language of the day.

Our liturgy should be the same. When we retain archaic languages from old translations we are effectively telling people that the Bible isn’t timeless. We don’t have to make a new translation every year but at least every hundred years (and the KJV is now 400 years old!). The timelessness of Shakespeare is not his language, but his ideas. Second, the Bible existed 1500 to 4000 years before Shakespeare, so why are we holding to a translation from that era? It’s fine if you don’t want to update the Bard – he’s a product of Victorian England; but it isn’t fine if you don’t want to update the Bible (and the ligturgy that comes directly from it).


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