This summer, my church is doing a “Summer Prayer Challenge,” where we are encouraged to pray the Lord’s Prayer, on a daily basis.
However, I can not keep out of my head the recent decision, some months ago, by Pope Francis to change part of the Lord’s Prayer. For most English-speakers, the controversial phrasing follows the 16th century Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s translation, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
The current Pontiff rejects this translation, as it gives the wrong idea, as “it speaks of a God who induces temptation.” Francis contends that God is not pushing me into temptation, to see if I fall, or not.
Back in Thomas Cranmer’s day, King Henry VIII interestingly shared the same view as today’s Pope. Henry probably would approve of the new English version of the prayer from Roman Catholics, “Do not let us fall into temptation,” instead of “Lead us not into temptation.”
Francis is not completely without justification for being troubled by the traditional reading. He has in the back of his mind 1 Corinthians 10:13 and James 1:13.
But the Pope’s critics have a strong case to make against him, as the new reading flies against a more strict translation of the original Greek text. The controversy sheds some light on why it is so important to read the Bible more contextually. Daniel Wallace, one of my favorite Bible scholars, who is affiliated with Dallas Theological Seminary, explains why.
Wallace argues that the traditional reading of Matthew 6:13, “lead us not into temptation,” is contextually tied to Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, just a few chapters prior. In Matthew 4:1, we read that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
Do you see the connection between Jesus’ prayer that his disciples not be “led” into temptation, and Jesus’ own experience in the wilderness, where he was “led” by the Spirit, to be tempted by the devil?
Perhaps we can just sum up Pope Francis’ decision to try promote the right doctrine, just in the wrong verse…. Well, not exactly the right doctrine, as critics say the change impinges upon God’s sovereignty.
Wallace explains: Leading into temptation is not the same as tempting. God the Holy Spirit led Jesus into temptation, but he did not tempt him. God tests, but Satan tempts.
The new translation decision eliminates the ambiguity and even the apparent absurdity of the text, which makes it easier for some Christians, and inquisitive non-believers, to digest. But in doing so, we miss a very important connection between how we are to think about God’s sovereign rule, and the relationship between the temptation of the Lord, and our temptation to sin, that we experience on a daily basis.
Food for thought.