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Hallo again to all.

In the summer of this past year, Pope Francis approved changes to the version of the Lord's Prayer said by Roman Catholics throughout the English-speaking world. The liturgy will no longer say 'Lead us not into temptation' but rather 'Do not let us fall into temptation', according to reporting by major press outlets, including the Guardian and USA Today. The pontiff's argument from 2017 claims of the previous translation that '[i]t is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation'.Lord's Prayer inscription from the Church of the Pater Noster (CC-SA 3.0, by Anton 17)

Having professionally taught people how to translate Latin and Greek, we found this statement striking for two major reasons. First, it put theology as the driver in translation. Second, it blatantly ignored the rich history of the Lord's Prayer and its translation into the English language, beginning in modern English with Tyndale's 1526 translation, continuing to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, and ending most famously with the 1662 BCP's version:

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
But deliver us from evil:
[For thine is the kingdom, the power,
and the glory, for ever and ever.]

The translation in traditional language is basically unchanged in the modern world, save perhaps a swap from 'them' to 'those' and 'which' to 'who'. It very adequately captures the Greek of Matthew and Luke. The section that Pope Francis finds objectionable in the Greek is:

 καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ

It says literally: 'And do not lead us into trial but deliver us from evil' (or 'from the evil one', as the Greek does not admit clarity on that form). We realize that we find Francis' attempt at redefining the translation offensive, not least because it ignores the simple, straightforward Greek in favor of imposing meaning. Equally, some of the most fruitful theology comes from those times when Jesus says something that sounds very hard indeed. Surely admitting that God allows us to come into times of trial counts as something like that.

We would argue that this is something that the English tradition of translation for the Lord's Prayer has superbly captured. Some slippage of meaning has doubtless occurred, 'temptation' coming to mean something like nudging us to sin rather than a 'time of trial,'* such as Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. Surely, however, that is cause to refine our English translation of the Greek—not throw it out all together.

The Anglican tradition often faces criticism for being too soft, too willing to compromise, or too willing to 'fudge' meaning. In spite of this, one thing we find admirable about our tradition of prayer books as a yardstick of our theology is that we must always reckon with the community of faith not just in our own time, but in all the times that ever rendered a prayer book. In the US, 1979 responds to 1928 as it did to its previous editions. Common Worship in the Church of England could not exist bereft of 1662. When we revise our prayer books again, we will have to read, mark, and inwardly digest how our predecessors understood Scripture, God, and our faith, and that is a good and holy thing.

We do not, of course, wish to be too harsh on the good Pope. He clearly understands the confusion caused by that slippage of meaning in 'temptation', but we think that we can do better than ignoring the text. Indeed, we would argue that our Anglican heritage demands that we do so, and that this is one of our gifts to the church catholic.

Regardless of translation, see you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

8 September 2019

* This rendering is used in the English Language Liturgical Consultation's translation, which appears in several Anglican prayer books.

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