This article is part of the series Adventures in Biblical Interpretation.
In the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread” from the Lord’s Prayer, the meaning of the Greek word translated as “daily” is unknown. We have no use of the term anywhere else in the entire body of ancient literature. So when it came time to translate it, they came up with something that sounded good to them. They guessed. Sure, it’s a perfectly reasonable guess, but it doesn’t seem to fit smoothly.
Ian from Irreducible Complexity retranslates the Lord’s Prayer like this:
Our father in heaven:
May your name be holy;
May your kingdom come;
May your will be done,
As in the heavens, so upon the earth.
Give us today our supernatural bread.
Forgive us our sins, even as we forgive sinners.
Do not bring us to temptation, but from hardships draw us to yourself.
This is an elegant and beautiful translation.
This translation is much more thematic with the life and teachings of Jesus as laid out in the book of Matthew. Jesus did nothing if not go on and on and on about the Kingdom of God/Heaven. Jesus was far more concerned about our spiritual state than mundane daily needs. This prayer is a summary of life in the Kingdom.
We should be sinless even as the father is holy. We should forgive even as the father forgives us. We should seek the kingdom of God on earth as he draws us in, providing us support and spiritual sustenance. We seek to have the father’s holiness permeate our world.
This is a prayer of expectation. It contains the essence of why Jesus taught what he did: as the herald of God’s Kingdom on earth. For one day Jesus will return and all the wrongs will be set right. Peace will reign. And the father’s will will be done. Unconditionally.
3 thoughts on “The Lord’s Prayer Retranslated”
I was just wondering your thoughts. Bread is the symbol of Christ’s body. It’s a part of our per say “ritual” that we carry in communion. When I read the Scriptures I get a sense of feeling that Jesus was not for any rituals, the condition of the heart was more important. For example like prayer, Jesus says not to do it like hypocrites but close your door and say it where nobody hears you except our Father. Why do get this sense that Jesus leans more towards actions of the spirit, and then in the end we end up with two very important rituals that define Christianity?
I never thought about this before but is it possible that we made communion more of a ritual than it was meant to be? It’s something that occurrs when we break bread and drink from the cup. It’s a physical action we do on a daily basis. We just don’t pay attention. The commandment was to love each other in the new covenant and the symbols of this covenant are the bread and cup, kind of like the rainbow after the flood. Thanks
How insightful! I am actually preparing a separate post on the Lord’s Supper that covers the meaning and purpose of the communion ritual. It has taken me 30 years to really appreciate what the ritual means. The bread represents the body of Jesus as the Jewish passover lamb and the wine represents the blood of his sinless death. Passover was about the angel of death passing over the faithful. Jesus is the final passover lamb. True death passes us by forever. This is what we remember in the ritual. It is the power of the message of Christ. It is not the resurrection that cleanses sin and brings life, but the sacrifice, in accordance with old testament law. The resurection, the final obliteration of death, is the promised reward.
Jesus was never in favor of ritual for the sake of ritual. Hosea 6:6, which Jesus quoted from twice, nails it:
The purpose of every ritual, including sacrifice, prayer, and communion, is to point a person towards God. The care of orphans, widows, and the poor is a common biblical motif. James 1:27 says:
The consistent theme of the whole Bible’s religion is the importance of holy living. Being spiritual means living the right way. Rituals that accomplish these goals are fine, especially communion which symbolizes the whole purpose of the life of Jesus.
Jesus cared about the physical, as he did when he healed ten lepers. But he cared most about the spiritual. Both the Lord’s Prayer and the Lord’s Supper point at the primacy of the spiritual while not negating the importance of living right.
God has an interesting character. He wants a connection. I think anyway we spin it, it’s in our human nature to want make something special, especially if the relation is to God. Remembering Him and proclaiming His death isn’t and shouldn’t be a ritual.