Pope Francis recently suggested on Italian television that the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Do not lead us into temptation” (Matt 6.13; Luke 11.4), “is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.” He added, “It is Satan who leads us into temptation; that’s his department.” He argued that the verse should be rendered, “Do not let us fall into temptation.”
A myriad of implications arise from the pontiff’s statement. Among them I list just three: (1) Have translations of the Bible gotten this verse wrong for 2000 years, only now to be corrected? (2) What is the nature of translation? (3) Do we have the right to change the wording of the original because it seems to contradict what Scripture says elsewhere?
Matthew 6 in Codex Sinaiticus
(1) Have translations of the Bible gotten this verse wrong for 2000 years?
Jerome’s Vulgate—the version that has been the official Bible of the Catholic Church for centuries—reads here ne inducas nos in temptationem: “Do not lead us into temptation.” Perhaps intentionally, but certainly ironically, the pope said in his interview, “ti induce alla tentazione satana è quello ufficio di satana.” That is, Satan is the one who induces or leads us into temptation, not God. He used the Italian equivalent to Jerome’s Latin (‘inducas’ means ‘lead’ or even ‘induce,’ as the English cognate suggests), but seems to deny what the Vulgate plainly says.
In 1979, the Nova Vulgata became the official Catholic translation (after Vatican II, it follows the Greek and Hebrew more closely), yet it too says ne inducas nos. So, the pontiff is not only going against modern translations but even his own Vulgate.
Other translations also read “do not lead us into temptation” or the like (e.g., “lead us not”): KJV, ASV, RSV, NASB, NIV, ESV, HCSB, NET, WEB, Lutherbibel, Nouvelle Edition de Genève, Reina Valera. Others have “do not put us to the test,” “do not bring us into hard testing,” or “do not subject us to the final test” (NJB, TEV, REB, NABR; the NJB and NABR are Catholic translations).
It may be surprising, however, to discover that a few modern translations come close to Pope Francis’s version. The New Living Translation (2nd edition), a Protestant Bible, has “don’t let us yield to temptation.” The Nouvelle Version Segond Révisée, another Protestant translation, has “ne nous laisse pas entrer dans la tentation” (“do not allow us to enter temptation”). The Nuova Riveduta of the Sacra Bibbia, an Italian Protestant work, reads “non ci esporre alla tentazione” (“do not expose us to temptation”). The NLT and SEGR both accent what might be called the passive or permissive will of God (i.e., “don’t let us”) rather than the active (“don’t lead us”); the Nuova Riveduta seems to be halfway between ‘lead’ of the standard translations and ‘let’ of the outliers.
Nevertheless, there seems to be an overwhelming consensus that “do not lead us” or the like is how the text should be rendered. (We will examine the Greek shortly.) But the few that have gone against the grain—and have been on the market for many years—have not created nearly the reaction of Pope Francis’s latest provocation. Perhaps this is due both to the fact that the pontiff said this and that it stands in direct contradiction to the Vulgate and other Catholic versions. But this leads us into the question of translation philosophy.
(2) What is the nature of translation?
There are two broad theories of translation today—formal equivalence and functional equivalence. Formal equivalence means that the translation attempts to retain the wording and syntax of the original language as much as possible. Functional equivalence means that the translation gives a higher priority to the semantics of the original, bringing out the force of original text regardless of how it is worded.
Brief history of English translations
Both of these have pros and cons. On the one hand, it is a myth that a so-called “literal” translation is more accurate. Many believe that the King James Bible is the most literal translation available. But even the original preface of the KJV noted that the translators’ objective was as much literary quality as it was accuracy. The Authorized Version is probably the only literary masterpiece ever produced by a committee—and it’s a translation no less! If it were extremely literal, this accolade would never have been made about the KJV.
In fact, the Revised Version of 1885—the first English translation done by a committee since the KJV (or AV) appeared in 1611—was done by a committee of British and American scholars who wanted to replace the King James with “King Truth.” But the translation was not palatable because it was too stiff, hardly readable, downright ugly. Ironically, the RV was difficult to read not because of archaisms as much as because of slavish literalism. The sales were awful, and the American Standard Version of 1901 was something of a reaction to it by the Americans on the RV committee. This is still wooden English, though an improvement over the RV. (The NASB has followed in the train of the RV and ASV.)
But in 1952, the Revised Standard Version appeared. Its understated elegance and good English made it memorable. It truly was a revision in the line of the King James Bible. The ESV and the NRSV have continued this formal equivalence philosophy with simplicity, understated elegance, memorability, and accuracy. As Bruce Metzger, the chairman of the NRSV translation committee, stated, the objective followed by the NRSV translators was to “be as literal as possible, as free as necessary.”
Other translations have followed a more functional equivalent philosophy. The NIV and New English Bible were the first major English translations in the last three centuries to break completely from the Tyndale-Geneva-King James chain. The New English Bible (now, Revised English Bible [REB]) is much more of a functional equivalent work than the NIV, and it is also much more elegant and memorable than the NIV. But the NIV (and its revision, the NIV 2011) is both very accurate and very readable. It has become the most popular Bible translation in any language in history. And yet, even the NIV reads “do not lead us into temptation” in Matt 6.13.
All translation is interpretation
It is important to recognize, however, that all translation is interpretation. The reason is that the syntax and lexical mapping in one language never match exactly that of another language. The context determines the meaning. A so-called “word-for-word” translation is quite impossible for anything more than a short phrase or sentence. In this passage, for example, the word translated “temptation” is the same word that is elsewhere translated “testing.” Interpretation is required; translators cannot simply leave the word to allow for both meanings since “temptation” has connotations of sin while “testing” does not. However, in this passage there is good reason to see πειρασμός (peirasmos) as bearing the force of temptation, as we will see below. But the point is that an interpretation of the text is already done in even the most formal equivalent translations of this passage. In one sense, the pope’s rendering is an interpretation of an interpretation.
Many on the functional-equivalent side of the translation debate are determined to clear up all ambiguities in the text, to make everything crystal clear. Some of these translators have little training in exegesis. Typically, the less training they have in the original languages and biblical studies, the more they assume that the Bible is perfectly clear everywhere; it just needs to have the proper functional equivalence to bring out its meaning. But this is terribly naïve.
Students in seminary often come into the program thinking that once they get some Greek and Hebrew under their belts the interpretive issues will simply disappear. The reality is that study in the original languages in some places will expand on the interpretive possibilities, in others shrink them. But most importantly, such training will replace a misinformed list of options for one that is better informed and at least has some validity.
Ideally, a translation should give the readers of the Bible in their own language the same interpretive options that a reader of the original will have. And this means that it is important for readers of the Bible to struggle with the same, often intentional, ambiguities found in the original text.
When the NET Bible was in beta-mode, we field-tested it on the Internet. Comments were welcome; hundreds of thousands poured in. Some professional translators committed to functional equivalence argued with our rendering of ἐν Χριστῷ as “in Christ.” They pointed out that this hardly communicated anything in English and that it was difficult to grasp Paul’s meaning of his favorite phrase (he uses it 73 times). They noted correctly that Paul uses ἐν Χριστῷ in a variety of contexts and in a variety of ways. And they wanted us to reflect those nuances in every place. Their view was in line with what Lady Oppenheimer wrote in her book Incarnation and Immanence (, p. 17): “Christians have a great deal to say about the ways in which people can be related to God and to each other, and many of the things they wish to say take for granted the possibility of certain sorts of close relationships which are not on the face of it compatible with common sense.”
We rejected their input on this point and decided to keep the translation “in Christ.” Why? Because we believed that the modern English reader should have the same semantic options as the original reader. Close analogies to this sort of language are not to be found in Greco-Roman literature. This means that Paul’s original readers had to work hard to get at the apostle’s meaning, ultimately coming to see the rich tapestry of “in Christ” as deeper and richer than any functional equivalent could provide. In this instance, we felt that clearing up the ambiguity of the text would rob the modern reader of the joy of discovery and the value of thinking deeply about Scripture.
There are times, however, when retaining the original ambiguity does not help the modern reader. In such cases, interpretation is required of the translator. In Rom 3.22 the NET translators felt that translating διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ as “by faith of Jesus Christ” was simply too ambiguous. This is exactly what the KJV has here, and it communicates poorly what the meaning of the original is because it does not interpret. Although one or two scholars have suggested that πίστις Χριστοῦ means “faith of Christ”—that is, the faith that Christ himself had—this is not a popular view. The two leading options are either “faith in Christ” or “the faithfulness of Christ.” How could they be so disparate? The reason is due to one lexical and one grammatical problem. πίστις lexically can mean faith or faithfulness. And the genitive Χριστοῦ can be subjective or objective. If objective, Christ is the object of πίστις (and hence, “faith in Christ”); if subjective, Christ is semantically the subject (“the faithfulness of Christ”—that is, that he is faithful). Leaving the text as “faith of Christ” hardly allows for either of these interpretive translations. The ambiguity in English is not the same as it is in Greek. In this case, a more literal translation ends up being the worst translation. The only real choice here is for translators to commit to one interpretation since leaving it neutral actually gives the wrong impression of the meaning to the English reader.
So then, should translation be formally equivalent for functionally equivalent? Neither one is adequate. Faithful equivalence is really required—faithful to the meaning of the original. If this can be accomplished by following a somewhat formal equivalent (since a completely formal equivalent is quite impossible), fine. But Greek and Hebrew are structured so differently that to force both of them into one kind of translation model is a one-size-fits-all mentality that simply won’t work.
On the one hand, there are hundreds of places when formal equivalence simply doesn’t help the English reader understand the interpretive possibilities of the original text. Yet that is the goal of formal equivalence. As we have said, the reality is that every translation is an interpretation. The question is how much we should try to interpret in any given place.
On the other hand, functional equivalence translations often take liberties with the text by offering a less-likely or even an illegitimate rendering, and they frequently make the text clear for a reader who could, in their own native language, figure out what the author is talking about. Some of the most stunning prose in the Bible is full of figurative language that to reduce it to its referential meaning is to destroy its beauty, thought-provoking nature, connotative force, and lingering memorability.
The Lord’s Prayer and translation
The pope’s rendering certainly is on the functional-equivalent side rather than the formal-equivalent side. But does that make it illegitimate?
In this instance, the bishop of Rome has taken many liberties with the text, both linguistically and contextually, thereby robbing the modern reader of seeing the connections that Matthew himself has laid out.
Not only is the Greek in both Matt 6.13 and Luke 11.4 textually certain (variants for “do not lead us into temptation” are trivial amounting to minor spelling differences), but the syntax is clear. The verb in the petition “lead” is an aorist active subjunctive (εἰσενέγκῃς); with the negative particle, “do not lead” is the idea. The pope wants it to mean “allow” which speaks instead of God not permitting something rather than him actively leading us. And the pontiff seems to have assumed that the Greek “lead into temptation” means “permit to fall into temptation.” Several lexical, syntactical, and interpretive shifts are seen here.
The broader context of Matthew’s Gospel may give us a clue as to why the Lord said, “Do not lead us into temptation.” Immediately after Jesus’ baptism, we are told that he “was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4.1). The Greek text indicates that the purpose of the Spirit’s leading Jesus into the wilderness was so that he would be tempted by the devil (“to be tempted” [πειρασθῆναι] is an infinitive of purpose, giving the purpose of the Spirit’s leading). Mark words this even more starkly: “Immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness” (Mark 1.13).
Evidently, there is a sense in which Jesus was delivered into the hands of the evil one, by the Holy Spirit himself, to be tempted. But the Greek here makes an interesting point about who is responsible for what. Two passive verbs are used in Matt 4.1— ἀνήχθη (“he was led”) and πειρασθῆναι (“to be tempted”). The agents are listed with identical prepositions: ὑπό. This is the preposition used especially for ultimate agent. It is rare to see ὑπό followed by πνεύματος (“Spirit”) in the NT (only five passages). Doing so here, Matthew shows that the Spirit is not subordinate to the devil but is the agent ultimately responsible for leading Jesus into the wilderness, while the devil is the ultimate agent of the temptation. The Spirit is not responsible for that. The Spirit did not tempt Jesus, but he did lead him to be tempted. The balance is intentional: leading into temptation is not the same as tempting. God the Holy Spirit led Jesus into temptation, but he did not tempt him. Wrestling with the implications of this requires more than a little reflection.
Although Satan’s purpose was to destroy Jesus before he ever went to the cross, God’s purpose in using Satan was painted on a broader canvas. God tests; Satan tempts. The Son of God went through similar testing as the children of Israel in the wilderness. They were there for forty years; he was there for forty days. Where they failed he succeeded.
Further, the temptation that the Lord faced was the ultimate temptation—the offer of the entire world on a platter. Jesus can ask the disciples to pray that the Father would not lead them into temptation and that God would deliver them from the evil one precisely because Jesus himself faced the ultimate temptation by the evil one. Whereas the Spirit led Jesus to be tempted, Jesus asks the Father not to lead his disciples into temptation; whereas Jesus was delivered over to Satan for tempting (testing from the Father’s perspective), Jesus prays that his followers will be delivered from the evil one. It is precisely because of Jesus’ substitutionary death and life that this prayer can be recited today by Christians with the full assurance that God will answer us.
Pope Francis’s translation, however, subverts all this: “do not let us fall into temptation.” The original text speaks clearly of God leading, not permitting. To tamper with the wording misses the connection with the Lord’s temptation.
(3) What does the original text really mean and do we have the right to change it in translation?
The pope makes a good point that our heavenly Father does not tempt us. And yet, he argues that point from a theological construct derived elsewhere in the Bible (see James 1.13). “Do not lead us into temptation” does not mean that God tempts us; the petition is for God’s protection from the evil one, as the rest of Matt 6.13 says.
Further, the notion that we can change the wording to fit the meaning that we find somewhere else might actually be doing a disservice to the biblical authors’ intentions. The Bible is full of paradoxes, figurative language, jolting imagery. To simplify and pacify such language cuts off the legs of its literary and even spiritual power.
At bottom, what the pontiff is doing is interpretation—but interpretation that removes the tension and paradox from the text, is not true to the force of the original, and buries the connection to Jesus’ temptation. Better to leave the text alone and allow God’s people to experience the joy of discovery of the meaning of Holy Writ.
63 thoughts on “Pope Francis, The Lord’s Prayer, and Bible Translation”
New Bible Translation: Instead of the NIV, it will be the POPE translation……pick up your copy today….lol…
Not sure what you are driving at here.
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Thank you for this enlightenment about the text and translations.
I think you would be interested in these facts: In Brazil, the most common version of “Our Father” prayer says “não nos deixe cair em tentação” (do not let us fall into temptation). But the written text of most translations says “não nos induzas à tentação” (do not lead us into temptation).
In the spoken language the change that the Pope proposes is already common here in Brazil. Once the Pope comes from Argentina, I searched for the “Oir Father” version most common in Argentina. It also states “No nos dejes caer en la tentación” (Do not let us fall into temptation).
For most Latin-American people, this change wouldn’t be really a change, but a confirmation of what they already pray.
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Same with the recent French (Officielle Liturgique) translation for Catholics. I’m sure the same will happen eventually with the “NAB” (the English/American equivalent), as both are translated by their regional bishop’s committees.
On a sidenote, say what you will about Catholics, but I sometimes admire their uniformity. I hold to an old tradition myself (Orthodoxy), but there’s a joke about us:
Are you part of an organized religion?
No, I’m Orthodox.
Even Protestants have the Orthodox beat here (so many denominational universities, committees, publishing arms, etc).
Anyways, I’m sticking with the KJV.
Very helpful article Dr. Wallace. Not only do you articulate well the intention of the text, buy you provide a great refresher on translation and textual criticism. I fully concur that all translation involves interpretation despite some who want to deny that.
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Sir … since hearing about the Pope’s suggestion, I have been thinking about the change. Thank you so much for taking the time to coherently discuss the text and what it means.
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Intriguing article as usual. Thanks for taking the time to develop this.
Interesting is it just to conform to the South American version or is it because the Pope now wants to start changing the meaning of scripture and see how people will react. Which most won’t so one thing can lead to the next. We will have to wait and see.
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
Thank you s very much!
Reblogged this on Victoria 2070 a.d..
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enjoyed your piece, thanks Bob Donahue
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Reblogged this on Marius Cruceru and commented:
Papa a sugerat o schimbare de traducere. De ce? Iată de ce propunerea dînsului este scandalizantă și amendabilă.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. Thank You!
The Roman bishop’s thoughts on the wording of the Lord’s Prayer may come out of the Roman Catholic view of authority: the Roman Catholic Church having equal or more authority than Scripture. Something I do not ascribe to.
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Thank you for clarifying this worrisome but not unexpected trend from this pontiff ….
Sadly the Portuguese translation, of a Dutch Calvinist minister called JOAO FERREIRA DE ALMEIDA, – yes, probably a distant relative; I am Almeida too – renders in all Portuguese translations, revised, corrected, and original, “…do not let us fall into temptation…” – Terrible! I think this is attempt to eliminate the perceived contradiction with the statement by James, who in his book states in chapter 1 vs 13 “Let no man say when he is tempted: I am tempted of God for God cannot be tempted with evil, NEITHER TEMPTETH HE ANY MAN” (no wonder Luther had no love for James… the papist favorite book!)
So, if Jesus asks God “do not lead us into temptation”, how can James state that “…God doesn’t tempt any man…”? Well…
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Leave it alone!
Thank you for your kind and honest assessment of the truth. I pray those who seek to know the truth will follow the example of the Bereans: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).
While the word “peirasmon” could mean “temptation”, it also means “test”, or “trial”. This double beaning is present in the Lord’s prayer. It is not wise to reduce its meaning only to half of its original intent. Leave it alone!
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Many thanks for another excellent post. I wish you and yours a great and, dare I say, temptation free Christmas.
Thanks for this great article, just read this here.
Thanks for putting clarity in these things.
It only shows that Christian exegesis and theology are so full and alive and well!
Thanks for the article. You have a typo, “for” should be “or” in the phrase: “So then, should translation be formally equivalent for functionally equivalent?”
Thanking God for your scholarship, & love for Him & His word.
Apparently, the Pope would like to change the translation in order to harmonize the passage theologically with other verses. However, perhaps the somewhat ambiguous, thought-provoking nature of this verse should lend ourselves to deeper study in keeping with the perspicuity of scripture.
It may make a change for those who like to pontificate and be called Popes , to show an interest in the Scriptures , which is the word of God . For 1500 years previous Popes may not have shown much interest in scripture it seems ,other than to supress its general use even to the extent of forbidding its use when they had much more world power than now .
I wonder if this present Pope is a linguist and expert in the biblical languages and able to comment on the passage which aroused his interest ?. Look up Faraboveall.com . Thank you .
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My only complain of his statements is that his preference is not something that is sudden, nor unheard, in Catholicism; specifically, in Chinese.
* The classical chinese version by Matteo Ricci: 又不我許陷於誘感。
* Chiense CCC, 2759 / Dun Scotus Translation: 不要讓我們陷於誘惑，
Both of them translate to “do not let us fall into temptation”
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thank you for sharing
You bring up some very good points! Also to keep in mind, some words have different meanings and connotations in other cultures than ours. Another scholar, John Walton points out that for example, the word “to create” is usually interpreted in our culture as a creation out of nothing, but in the Ancient Near East, it most likely meant that the deity was making order from the chaos that was. The matter itself already existed, the god assigns functions and roles to it. This possible cultural misinterpretation affects how we view the story of creation in Genesis. An amusing mistranslation I think, happened when the Greeks mistranslated the Hebrew word for “young woman” as “virgin” (Parthenos) and it became a fundamental dogma in modern Christianity! That’s sort of the issue with taking a text like the Bible, or any religious text claimed to be divinely inspired as the actual word of God, or whatever deity one chooses. One word out of place, can change one’s whole interpretation of what’s trying to be said, as you pointed out (Ex. Having faith in Christ, or the faithfulness of Christ…). Another Hebrew thing was this “thou shalt not kill” vs. “thou shalt not murder” translation. Sort of different meanings, huh? Begs the question of why an omnipotent deity would leave such matters to fallible human error, such as the differences in language linguistically, conceptually, and culturally…
History Is Interesting (HII),
You have made a few points without giving the other perspective or view? (or either you don’t know or you have a bias against certain beliefs? in other words, one can assume that you are not a Christian? This taints your line of reasoning. Hence, as a Christian, I will give my ‘tainted’ view, contradicting your points. But who is right? Are Christians suppose to take what non-Christians state as truth or even factual of Christianity without examining the data? I don’t believe so.)
Let’s look at your first statement: ‘Another scholar, John Walton points out that for example, the word “to create” is usually interpreted in our culture as a creation out of nothing, but in the Ancient Near East, it most likely meant that the deity was making order from the chaos that was. The matter itself already existed, the god assigns functions and roles to it. This possible cultural misinterpretation affects how we view the story of creation in Genesis.’
John Walton’s views have been rejected by many Christian Apologetic authors, including William Lane Craig (Walton refuses to have a public debate with Craig). For more on this please read the following:
Let’s look at your second statement: ‘ An amusing mistranslation I think, happened when the Greeks mistranslated the Hebrew word for “young woman” as “virgin” (Parthenos) and it became a fundamental dogma in modern Christianity! That’s sort of the issue with taking a text like the Bible, or any religious text claimed to be divinely inspired as the actual word of God, or whatever deity one chooses.’
Did the early church fathers (of Christianity) believe that Jesus was born of a virgin? Of course, they did. Even the Muslim faith believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. Did the Jews of the OT believe this? Most Christian NT & OT scholars believe so. It’s mostly the non-Christian Jews, atheists, agnostics, etc. who believe that Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin (some scholars believe that the term ‘young woman’ was equivalent-in this context-to virgin due to the understanding of Biblical Criticism, especially what’s called New Testament Authenticity. (using the criteria of embarrassment, NT scholars are able to state that it is more plausible than not for the ‘virgin conception’). For more on this please review the following:
Finally, your last few statement(s) clearly delineates that you have a bias towards Christianity due to the fact that since you don’t have all the answers, you assume that no one else does. I will give you a list of materials that you can read, enabling you to open/break down your biases:
William Lane Craig: Reasonable Faith
NT Wright: Resurrection of the Son of God
J. Warner Wallace: Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith
Kenton L. Sparks: Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible
Craig A. Evans: Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies
Daniel B. Wallace, J. ED Komoszewski, & M. James Sawyer: Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss The Real Jesus And Mislead Popular Culture.
I would give you more, but I think this should be enough to get you started.
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There is still a lot of historical evidence pointing to Christianity being like other past religions, (syncretism and the historical record, anyone?) but let’s not debate that ad-nauseum. I got interested in the blog due to the fact I enjoy the study of Ancient Greek. I’m still quite the beginner, so you must know far more about it than I! You have the texts in the original Greek right in front of you as well as other sources from history to draw upon. Make your own judgments from there. My point in my comment was bringing up a very real part of translating and interpreting what is said in a text from a foreign culture and time period. Ancient Israel, Judea, Rome etc of Biblical times was far different in worldview, cultural context, and values from our 21st century Western society. Considering the content of the Bible was written within their cultural framework, to understand its message, one must look at it as the ancients who wrote it (or received, if you prefer). I don’t denounce your faith than any other faith I study in an objective light.
One thing I will concede to is yes, I do have prejudices about it coming from a highly Judaeo-Christian society, but not in the way you envision. I will be transparent: I am not religious at all. Part of me wants to almost push back at Judeo-Christian themes, but I will admit that’s wrong of me and not objective or scholarly. I should be able to study Christianity in a scholarly and impartial light, to both its critics and its adherents, neither upholding nor condemning it. I’m tying to work through and overcome those prejudices and give it the fair and scholarly treatment it deserves like any other historical belief system. I’m not perfect at it by any means yet, but I’m trying, so thanks for pointing out any unfairness in my scholarship of the topic 🙂
τις καλύτερες ευχές
Interesting! However, you are still allowing your biases to creep back in:
‘There is a lot……Christianity being like….’
Of course! No one is denying this. The 2 books, by Evans & Sparks, that I mention above, list those similarities and differences (Wright’s text does, as well). However, you are insinuating or implying that there is more to it than just similarities and differences?
You stated that you ‘enjoy studying Ancient Greek’? Be careful of studying only Ancient Greek. Too much Ancient Greek leads to understanding and interpreting the Bible from a Greek (or even Roman) perspective (i.e. Greek philosophy, culture, etc. becomes the basis for understanding the Bible. For more on this please read/review Robert Jewett’s book ‘Paul’s anthropological terms : a study of their use in conflict settings’. Jewett does an excellent job of identifying terms that we, westerns and ancient Greeks, have confused due to us not understanding the Hebrew culture, including religion, philosophy, etc. Furthermore, Ben Witherington III believes that most likely Jesus spoke in Syrian Aramaic. Do I need to read an Aramaic bible to see how it differs from my current NIV study bible? I don’t know).
Moreover, Wright asserts that before Greek or Roman influence, Jews believed that when you die your body goes to a place of rest ..Shoel..until the Resurrection. Then, your whole body will be resurrected, and you will receive a transformed, physical, resurrected body (like Jesus’ resurrected body) to live in/on the new, transformed earth, or you will receive a resurrected body, enabling you to burn in hell for all eternity. However, the ancient Greeks, Aristotle & Plato, believed that when you die, your body goes into the ground, and your ‘spirit’ floats to another world. Today, many believers (and non-Christians) agree with the ancient Greeks when speaking of life after death, completely ignoring what the Hebrews believed about bodily resurrection, before Greek and Roman influence (even Wright is now conceding that maybe our body does have a ‘spirit’ and maybe, after we die, it is waiting in an in-between place-paradise-until the Resurrection…SMH @ Wright).
We all have biases, but I am still wondering how anyone can honestly (no biases) study the Bible, Christianity, etc. without converting, as Lee Strobel & J. Warner Wallace (both former atheists) did?
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As to your last sentence, I find it hard to actually convert if one studies the texts of the Bible, OT and NT in an objective light. If you really read the content, there are numerous parallels with other religious of the time. Unlike the Christianity of today, which is exclusionary of other belief systems, the pagan predecessors did not see any issue or conflict in weaving common themes, stories and motifs into later religious texts, and even adopted other religion’s deities into their own pantheons. I know that a historical Christian argument at the time when Christianity was first getting started, was that the Devil made corrupt Christian rituals expressed through pagan religions, such as Mithraism for example, because the rituals were so similar! Even some Protestants, like the Puritans shunned things like Christmas, as they knew of its pagan roots, and wanted to get back to a strict Christian, Biblical interpretation without the paganism they knew was infused in Christian practices. What, in the Christian worldview, I honestly don’t know, explains the world before Christianity was around? I mean, why did God (who exists for the sake of argument) allow people to not worship the one true God and follow his plan? Other religions still exist. How does the Christian religion argue its position that it is indeed, the true faith, the factual faith, versus every other religious system humans have created? Is there empirical evidence to these claims, in the physical world, and theologically? Or is this a question of faith alone? I’d like to hear this from the perspective of a Christian believer. To me personally, as you ask a personal question, I see from what I have studied objectively about the religion, is a religion rooted in the traditions of older religions that came before it, and a world which predates Christianity entirely. Why would I “convert” to something that has not of yet, shown me to be the be all end all, but another rich human expression out of many? How do I choose among all my options? If you have found the evidence needed for your belief to convert, it’s up to you personally to make that call.
As for the caution in studying Greek, I will keep that in mind. You remind me that to study the ancient people that laid the foundation for Christianity, one must look towards Hebrew culture, not Greco-Roman too much. However, keep in mind, in the days of Early Christianity, many Christians lived and developed their theology within the wider society of Greco-Roman paganism. It was only after Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire did it solidify its official doctrine at the Council of Nicea. There were plenty of now extinct “heretical” sects such as Gnosticism, Marcionism and others with very different beliefs about Jesus’ essence, and even how many gods there were! Also noting, back to your first reply, the “virgin” example I brought up was solidified by the Council of Nicea. Islam came about after that became part of official Christian doctrine.
(Even if Christ was not born of a virgin, does that mean it diminishes all his wonderful and wise teachings? Much of what Christ says is very profound, and non believers too can gain wisdom from him regardless if you believe he will save you, or is just a man. If that one detail about him isn’t true, should we dismiss and belittle all he has to offer both the Christian, and non-Christian solely because of his birth? Why don’t more believers who feel threatened if one detail, like a virgin birth, or if he had a wife or not is incorrect? Why not focus on his message, and what he had to say that made him so great, than such superficial details?)
As for bias, yes, I do have my biases, being a non-religious person immersed in a Judaeo-Christian culture. I’ve said above how I’m trying to overcome my own prejudices to study this topic in a scholarly and impartial way. But, as you said, everyone has bias of some sort, I assume even believers. The very fact you subscribe to the Christian religion takes away your impartiality as you would argue me rejecting it may take away mine. No matter how we feel about something, the opposite may be true no matter how hard you wish, for you, or myself. You could be right, and I wrong, and nothing about how I feel would change that. Same for you…
Anyways, thank you for humoring me at length… I won’t bother you anymore! May you find peace in your faith, 🙂
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I didn’t know that you examined all the religions that existed before and during Christianity? You examined each one to see if they were (or were not) exclusionary or tolerant of other beliefs? If you did then, I am impressed (currently, there are over 4000 different religious beliefs in the world. some historians believe about a little over a half existed during and/or before the first century AD. so if you examined, lets say 2000 different religions, to see if they were exclusionary or tolerant of other beliefs, then I am truly impressed)!
Your second statement (and to the end of your 1st paragraph): ‘What, in the Christian worldview, I honestly don’t know,……’
It is clearly obvious to anyone (or every Christian) that you never heard of the field of Christianity entitled ‘Christian Apologetics.’ If so then you would not have made these statements. Please watch some of the debates between William Lane Craig (and review Craig’s book ‘Reasonable Faith’. Craig uses mathematics, science, philosophy, statics, history, and theology to provide evidence for the Christianity.) vs atheists & agnostic scholars (some of these scholars are educated in the field of science, philosophy, etc. however, Craig, for lack of better terminology, makes all of them look pretty bad. Craig is not the only one; he is just considered the best Christian Apologetic of our time. Don’t take my word for it. See for yourself by reading the following (from atheist & secular websites):
Your third statement: ‘many Christians lived and developed their theology with…..’
Partially true, but this does not mean that Paul (and his ‘assistants), the disciples of Jesus, and the early church fathers incorporated Greco-Roman philosophy and/or religious beliefs into their teachings or writings. Those authors, who did, as you stated, were denounced as heretical as early as the first century AD (some scholars believed that these ‘heretical authors’ were denounced by the disciples and Paul during their ministry).
Finally, your last statement: ‘No matter we feel….’
When you review the works of Christian Apologetics (Geisler & Turek’s ‘I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist’, Craig’s ‘Reasonable Faith’, Wallace’s ‘Forensic Faith’, just to name a few), then you will see that your ‘feelings’ should have very little to do with the mountain of evidence that Christian Apologetics provide for the Christian faith (remember, as I stated earlier, Lee Strobel & J. Warner Wallace were atheists before they took the challenge of examining the evidence for Christianity. Once, they did. They converted. The only way that one doesn’t convert is to do what most atheist or agnostic scholars, like Bart Ehrman does: don’t connect the dots, deny that a ‘3 day old corpse’-or even deny that Jesus ever existed or was even crucified, as a few ‘scholars’ have tried to do-can come back to life, and/or misinterpret the Bible).
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Sorry, my last comment is still awaiting moderation (I just informed them to delete it). I will make a final statement on this matter, as well.
Based upon your responses (and even your own admission of being bias), it is obvious that you haven’t studied the Bible in an ‘objective light.’ (or you wouldn’t have made the comment regarding ’empirical evidence’. Really? The empiricist view went out of style in the 1960s, when Thomas Kuhn ‘argued that the empirical perspective of acquiring information and knowledge, through observation, experience, and experimentation, are influenced by prior beliefs and experiences.’ Even a few scholars concur that the rationalist view, asserting that ‘reason and/or reflection alone is considered evidence for the truth or falsity of some propositions’, is considered a better choice than the empirical perspective. There is more than one way of acquiring knowledge than just our sensory experiences.) You haven’t taken the time to do what Lee Strobel & J. Warner Wallace did. You also truly haven’t even begun to objectively study the branch of Christianity entitled Christian Apologetics (don’t worry, most Christian pastors & teachers haven’t even heard of it! Please review the works that I mentioned above, and even watch some of the Christian apologetic debates. William Lane Craig is considered one of the top Christian Apologetics of our time).
Finally, your last statement, starting with: ‘No matter how we feel about something…..’
I do concur that Christianity has spread across the globe not with our comprehension of what constitute as facts, evidence, data, knowledge, etc….but mostly through our human emotions? Christian Apologetics aims not to explain Christianity based on how a one ‘feels’. It is a branch of Christian Theology ‘that aims to present historical, reasoned, and evidential bases for Christianity. This evidence includes not only from the field of science, mathematics, philosophy, history, statistics, but also how we use, define, and present what we-with our biases-denote as evidence, knowledge, information, and how & why we process this knowledge in a certain way.’
Or is it something more, another form of acquiring information/knowledge that we as humans have yet to uncover, or maybe it is here, and we are just casting a blind eye to it? Why are 4 billion (out of 7 billion) people (Christians & Muslims) anticipating a man named Jesus to return to and judge the Earth inhabitants? Why do only 15% of Christians tithe, but yet the gospel message is being preached around the world? Why do we still even have ‘In God We Trust’ on our currency, instead of ‘Zeus, Augustus Caesar’ we trust?’ Why is China going to be the largest Christian nation by 2030, as Christianity continues to grow (and don’t believe those studies, stating that Christianity is on the decline in America. Those studies are not conducted by a peer reviewed journal/audience, even their research methods are questionable, suspect, flawed…)?
Although Christian Apologetics is a growing field in Theology, it is not the main reason why Christianity is continuing to prosper.
If you are truly ‘objective’ of studying Christianity & the Bible, then you have a lot of homework to do…..just ask Wallace & Strobel (both were former atheists)………
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Sorry, I forgot to add statements/examples of Jewett’s work: “Certainly, flesh and spirit are not two different ‘parts’ of a human person.” This dualistic nature (common among today’s believers and non-believers) was never part of what the Apostle Paul (along with other Jews who were not influence by Greco-Roman ideology/philosophy) believed. Sometimes, you will here today’s pastors and teachers of the Bible make the following inaccurate statements: ‘my spirit was saved but my flesh was not.’ Nothing could be further from what Paul was proclaiming.
Jewett continues: “The human spirit is not a ‘God-related principle of self-consciousness within man which could be directed by the divine spirit to moral activity in opposition to the flesh.’ This conception so dominated exegesis in the latter part of the last century that even scholars who stood in opposition to the liberal theology accepted it…..’Spirit’ was not a philosophic category providing continuity between God and man”.
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Sorry….My last comment was caught up in WordPress.
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Maybe the pope was saying something more profound than that there is a translation error: This passage of the Bible is a fictional invention of the author. Jesus never said these words. Jesus would never tell us to ask God not to tempt us.
To come out and say that to the lay public would be too disruptive. It would cause the lay public to question the veracity of the entire Bible. Therefore, the pope simply blamed the translators.
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