Evangelical Theologian Expresses Concern Over Pope's Proposed Change to Lord's Prayer

Pope Francis waves at the end of the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican November 22, 2017.
Pope Francis waves at the end of the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican November 22, 2017. | (Photo: Reuters/Max Rossi)

A theologian with an evangelical seminary based in Illinois has expressed concern over Pope Francis' proposed change to the Lord's Prayer.

Recently, the pontiff garnered headlines when he said that he supported changing the current passage of the Lord's Prayer that reads "lead us not into temptation" to "do not let us fall into temptation."

David W. Pao, chair of the New Testament Department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, told The Christian Post that the suggested change reflects the idea that "the Aramaic original" of the temptation petition "might have carried a permissive sense."

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"This permissive sense is consistent with a similar petition in the Jewish prayer a first century Jew might be familiar with (cf. b. Ber. 60b)," explained Pao.

"Moreover, the petition that follows in the Lord's Prayer ('deliver us from the evil one,' Matthew 6:13b) clearly points to the devil as the one who leads people to sin."

Pao also told CP that despite the intention, the proposed new language "does not represent the best reading of the Greek text nor does it exhaust the meaning of this petition."

"First, this 'permissive' reading is not explicitly expressed in the Greek of Matthew 6:13a, and 'lead us not into temptation' remains the best and most natural rendering of this petition," continued Pao.

"Second, if 'temptation' is understood as 'temptation that leads to sin'' (see Galatians 6:1), then it is important to emphasize that God does not lead people into such 'temptation' (see James 1:13-14). Nevertheless, the underlying Greek word behind 'temptation' can also refer more generally to 'testing,' and the Bible does describe God bringing His people into times of 'testing' (e.g., Deuteronomy 8:2, 16)."

Pao added that "the petition likely assumes the presence (and the coming) of periods of testing, and this petition should then be understood as a call to God for protecting His people from falling into sin in the midst of such testing (Matthew 26:39, 41)."

Earlier this month, the Catholic Church in France decided to edit their rendering of the Lord's Prayer, specifically the petition regarding temptation.

Originally the French language Notre Père had "Lead us not into temptation," or "Ne nous soumets pas a la tentation" (Do not submit us to temptation). However, on the first day of Advent, the worshipers prayed, "Ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation," which translates as "Do not let us enter into temptation," reported The Times.

Pope Francis signaled support for this amending of the popular Christian prayer, telling an Italian television station on Wednesday that "do not let us fall into temptation" was better.

"Do not let me fall into temptation because it is I who fall, it is not God who throws me into temptation and then sees how I fell," said the pope, as quoted by the BBC. "A father does not do that, a father helps you to get up immediately."

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