Give us this day our ………. bread. — Matt 6:11

Fill in the gap.

The Lord’s Prayer is probably the most famous passage from the whole bible. Certainly in the UK where many folks grew up saying it every day in school. But the funny thing is we don’t really know what should fill the gap.

The greek word is ἐπιούσιος (epi-OO-sea-os). Which is a very odd word. It doesn’t appear in other greek literature, and it doesn’t appear elsewhere in the gospels except in the two versions of the Lord’s prayer (Matt 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4). So we have no absolute way of knowing what it might mean.

But it seems to be pretty obvious. The Greek splits into two parts: “ἐπι-” (epi) is a common prefix in Greek that means “upon”, or “over”, and by analogy “beyond”, “more-than”. We have it in our word “epidemic”1 where “-demic” is again related to a Greek root meaning people (c.f. words such as demographics or democracy). The second part of the word “-ούσιος” is a common morpheme in Greek with meanings of “substance”. Hence the debate in the early church between whether Jesus and God were “homo-ousios”: of the same substance.

So using this analysis, we get “Give us this day our super-substantial bread”. And this is exactly how it was translated in the Latin Vulgate (“supersubstantialem”), and in some of the earliest English bibles. But, of course, if you are a protestant, “super-substantial bread” is unacceptably reminiscent of “trans-substantial bread”. And Jesus praying a Catholic prayer? Unconscionable!

Instead you can kind-of make a contrived Greek derivation through a misspelling and odd contracted verb form of ἔπειμι (EP-eye-me) “to come upon”, which is often used along with the word for day (“ἡμέρα” herm-EH-ra) to mean “on the following day” (if you’ve read much of the gospels you’ll recognize that phrase, that’s what it is translating). So it could be that we are meant to read “give us this day our following day’s bread”2, with a spelling mistake and a missing word (the missing word isn’t uncommon, it must be said). From there with a squint we could end up with “daily”. Phew. We’ve avoided sounding Catholic! Hoorah! Let’s not mention the fact that there are perfectly reasonable ways of saying “daily” in NT Greek (such as “κατά ἡμέρα” and “πᾶς ἡμέρα” both using the word for day “ἡμέρα”), so that this construction would be an obtusely strange way to say “daily”.

So early protestant translators used “daily”, even though there is very poor evidence for it3. The King James Version, and practically every English version since has used “daily”. I can’t find who originally used this form of words. It is present in Luther’s 1545 version (“täglich Brot”), was written back into the lexicons, and has passed into most other languages from there (“pain quotidien” in the French Louis Segond, for example, and “日々の食物” in the Japanese Living Bible [specially for Sabio]).

So we’ve ended up with “daily” bread. More through historic accident and sectarianism than through good Greek.

So let’s use the obvious Greek parsing “super-substantial”, via a more common English phrase “supernatural” (which is further from the Greek, of course, I’m not suggesting the author meant supernatural, just that supernatural is the nearest reasonably common word in English). We get the Lords prayer (following Matt):

Our father in heaven:
May your name be holy;
May your kingdom come;
May your will be done,
As in the heavens4, so upon the earth.
Give us today our supernatural bread.
Forgive us our sins, even as we forgive sinners5.
Do not bring us to temptation, but from hardships draw us to yourself.6
—Matt 6:9-13 (tr. mine)

So all together we have a prayer which is about the life in the new Kingdom. It doesn’t talk about prosaic things. And using “daily bread” stands out therefore, where “supernatural bread” works fine.

But of course, when you have such an iconic translation, the translation becomes more important than the ‘original’ (or even first 1500 years of) meaning of the text.


[1] My first thought for an example was “epididymis” which is the coiled tube that pipes sperm out from the testicle. It has a more amusing derivation “epi-” meaning “beyond”, of course, but “-didymis” is also greek, and in fact you may know it from a character in the NT, Didymus Thomas. Didymus means “twins”. So the epididymis, is “beyond the *nudge-nudge-wink-wink* twins”.

[2] Jerome, the translator of the Vulgate, mentions that the (now lost) Gospel of the Hebrews had “bread of the morrow” here, so the sense of the following day’s bread is not entirely new. But Jerome concludes the “of the morrow” translation doesn’t work in context and makes little sense. He wisely goes with the Greek. He doesn’t mention “daily” as a possible translation.

[3] Interestingly, the Syriac translation (Pesshita) of the NT uses “neccesary”, although it isn’t clear what parsing of the Greek they were using to arrive at that. This is sometimes pointed to as supporting evidence for the use of the “daily”, though that is a huge stretch even then, since the Syriac used is definitely not that for “daily” – as in the Greek, there is a perfectly normal way of saying “daily”, used elsewhere in the Pesshita, but it is not used here.

[4] I’ve taken a liberty here of pluralizing the Greek singular word ‘heaven’. The plural form is very common as well, both in Greek and Hebrew and doesn’t seem to have much of a semantic difference. Here it just reads more smoothly.

[5] My translation of ‘sin’ here is a bit sneaky. Sin would be correct in Luke’s version, but in Matt he uses the normal word for debts. It is pretty certain, however, that it is being used metaphorically, to mean spiritual debts, and this is the sense in which Luke obviously takes it. Not many folks would argue that the gospel writers want you to understand that Jesus is talking monetary debts here. Particularly since Matt 6:14 goes on to have Jesus explain that he was talking about sin. Of course, if Jesus were to be taken as asking you to pray for the forgiveness of your monetary debts, then it would dent my suggestion that the Lords prayer is all about the kingdom.

[6] The “For thine is the Kingdom” bit at the end is not considered authentic. It is only found in some text traditions and has numerous variations in other texts, so I have omitted it in accordance with the recommendation of Nestle-Aland. — I’m sure that would be yet another reason why conservatives hate the NA text.


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27 responses to “Give us this day our ………. bread. — Matt 6:11

  1. I love your translations. There should be / is there an index, so I can look up troublesome words. Make it a book.

  2. Ian

    Thanks Uzza, I appreciate it.

  3. Wow, that was brilliant. I love your analysis. I learned so much.
    I am an atheist, but now that prayer is much more tolerable. For when I think about supplying daily food, I think to myself, “how ridiculous, that don’t happen.” But with your translation, spiritual support is something I could understand praying for and not being superstitious.

    That was fantastic Ian — thank for all the hard work.


    (1) The Japanese Living Bible: 日々の食物 (that you quoted), says, “Our daily food” (not bread).
    And Strongs tells us the “bread” means:

    1. bread
    bread, a loaf, especially of wheat (barley-bread denotes μᾶζα (maza)) (probably from Sanscrit root AR, the earth, from which a large number of words in various languages are derived, all connected with the earth, for example ἄρατρον (aratron) a plough, Latin aratrum; so ἄρτος (artos 740) bread, it being the most important product of the earth).

    (2) Douay-Rheims Bible says: Give us this day our supersubstantial bread. [I didn’t know that translation until I looked it up here at WIKI — and low and behold , it is the Vulgate in English ! Just like you said.]

    Thanks again!

  4. Ian

    Thanks Sabio, glad you liked it. Yes it took far longer that I thought!

    DR is a pretty faithful translation of the Vulgate, yes. The ‘early english’ bible I aluded to was the Wyclif bible of the late C14, which has:

    “gue to vs this dai oure breed ouer othir substaunce” (in late Middle English).

    ἄρτος is pretty much always just ‘bread’. Interesting derivation though. I rarely bother to read Bauer (the Lexicon) for the derivations of words I already know. And thanks for filling in the Japanese. Google translate was telling me it was ‘daily food’, but I didn’t know if the Japanese word connoted bread or not. I assume there is a Japanese word for ‘bread’. I wonder if (because it isn’t a staple food) this is an example of cultural translation. The translators may have thought ‘daily bread’ suggested an odd food eaten every day.

  5. Thanks, I just spent time reading up on Wycliff — that is fascinating.

    Yes, in the phrase 日々の食物, the character-by-character translation is:
    日 day
    々 (repeat previous character)
    の (possessive)
    食 eat
    物 thing

    I’d be curious for the source text for translating the Japanese Living Bible. They could have use 御飯 to mean food or meals (御 = “go” [honorific prefix]飯 = “han” (cooked rice) but it looks liked they steered away from making it too Japanese since the stories didn’t take place in Japan. Interesting.

    Pan (パン) is the Japanese word for bread — it actually comes from the Portuguese missionaries who first brought it to Japan. Portuguese for “bread” is:   Thus the Japanese word is written in katakana — the Japanese alphabet used to write foreign words or used as italics. It is curious that they did not choose that literal translation.

  6. BTW, how did you know about this? Is this common knowledge in certain circles?

  7. Ian

    I was reading it (in Greek) this weekend and thought: “that’s odd”, then went digging. I hadn’t come across it before. I think I last read the Lords Prayer in Greek a few years ago when I was more rusty, and probably just looked it up and believed the lexicon, rather than parsing the word myself.

    But the reason you’ve never heard of it is that there are thousands of isolates like it.

    There are around 5500 different words in the NT (including names). Of these around 2000, or 36% appear only once, and a further 850, or 15%, appear only twice. So 50% or so of words in the NT as rare as this one! Now, many (most in fact) are either names, or are found in other literature outside the NT, but still, you get the sense of how common this problem is.

  8. When someone quotes “the Greek”, shouldn’t they name their source of “Greek”. Aren’t there several Greek sources. People name the translations they are quoting, I think the same should happen for Greek. What greek text did/do you use?
    I am pleading for a bit of an education on Greek Source, I guess. Maybe you could write another post. I am using this fine post of yours to add to my collection of Bible Manipulations.
    Thanx Ian — if you have time. (I added you in my blog list under “Educational Atheist” sites)

  9. Ian

    Yes, there are lots of greek texts. But this particular one shows no significant variation across them.

    Without reference, you can normally assume that (from me). If there are significant variations, I’ll try to give an indication of that.

    And not just greek, early translations also can shed light on possible greek variations circulating that are now lost. Though obviously that is more speculative. A fair amount of weight is given in translating this word to an early syriac version which has ‘constant’, for example.

    As I said in a previous post, I tend to work from the NA27 critical text, which lists in detail the most significant variations (not without bias, it has to be said, but it is normally agreed to be the best we have). This does, however, exclude things that the editors judge to be spelling mistakes or other obvious scribal errors. I gave examples of that when I went through the Sinaiticus text of the Johannine comma a few months ago.

  10. Sorry, forgot. Hard to remember this stuff. So you are using the NA27 Critical Text.

    So when I did my Matt 6:11 post to talk about yours, I went to an on-line Sinaiticus text.

    Let’s see, we have the Alexandrian and the Constantinople text traditions and the NA27 is from Alexandrian the KJV is from Constaniople. Sinaiticus is also Alexandrian. Is it the base text of NA27 (an eclectic text). Do I got that straight?
    Help I need a diagram !

  11. Ian

    Yes, this is probably worth a post.

    Nothing you’ve said is wrong. Obviously there more to it than that, but yes, pretty much.

  12. I think pictorially for the large part — I get lost in paragraphs and long sentences. Also, I need to see the big picture and then later fill in the details. So concerning textual stuff, I am slowly piecing this together.

  13. Jus

    Wow! Very nice translation, Ian! And you have a very nice blog! I’m glad to have found it. Thanks for sharing…

    I was wondering (probably it already has occurred to you too), what if he was really referring to the supersubstantial “bread of life”?

    “…Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God…” — Mat 4:4

    “…he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD….” — Deut 8:3

    “…Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day…” Exo 16:4

    “When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat….'” — Exo 16:15

    “…Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven…” — John 6:32

    “…I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh…” — John 6:51

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” — John 1:1,14

    “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you…” — John 6:27

    “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” — Isa 55:2

    “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;…. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” — Ps 19:7-10

    etc. etc.

  14. Ian

    Jus, welcome to the blog, and thanks for the kind words!

    I really appreciate you finding those references out. Yes, I couldn’t agree more. There’s a well-attested ambiguity about ‘bread’, particularly its use as a metaphor for spiritual sustenance. And I can’t see any reason why that couldn’t be the sense in which Q has Jesus use it in our passage.

    As you’ve pointed out this is a favorite metaphor of John’s Jesus, and Q’s lower level of comfort with it may partly explain why Q uses this odd word to describe it, while John is far more obvious in his metaphors. If this is the case, then I’d suggest a bread-metaphor is a good candidate for either a very early source or the historical Jesus.

    I like to wonder about Ex 16:15, where is sounds like the Mana didn’t really look like bread.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to research your comment.

    [Incidentally I use Q here to mean “the common source of Luke and Matthew which is not Mark”, its a debate for another day whether Q is a real document, or whether Matthew = Q or Luke = Q]

  15. Thanks for this – I was trying to remember a place that Marc Goodacre first pointed me to on this subject. I got here BTW through Clayboy. On my own blog I jotted down what I think of this bread thing – in a word: – it is the produce of the earth a la Psalm 67. (My translation here) (Hundreds of images and three blogs too – O dear)

    It’s a curious coincidence that I was working on Psalm 9 today and that your blog pointed me to Psalm 67 the centre of which :

    for he will judge the peoples with equity
    and the tribes of the earth he will rule

    is just about identical with the centre of Psalm 9.

    And he will govern the world in righteousness
    He will make the case for the peoples with equity
    and יְהוָה will be secure refuge for the crushed
    secure refuge in times in trouble

    Maybe the bread also has a touch of justice.

  16. Ian

    Thanks Bob – and welcome to the blog! I always appreciate new folks joining the discussion.

    That is an interesting exegesis. I think your approach is valuable and obviously crucial within a faith community, who need to understand what the texts should mean for them.

    I think it is much more difficult to make those kinds of links when dealing with the text on its own terms though – as a historical document, written in a context that is familiar with OT texts, but certainly not connected in any direct way. What did Q mean when giving Jesus this word in the Lord’s prayer? What would the first readers of these texts have understood by the phrase? Those are much more subtle questions. I think there is no justifiable critical methodology that would allow you to link its use to the psalms you mention, or with Jesus (it presupposes a Christology that no scholar would argue is present in Q).

    But, as I said to start with, if you are primarily addressing a faith community that links Psalms and Q into a single theological framework with 4th-5th century Christology, then an exegesis that brings them together seems perfectly reasonable and useful. And in that context I like your weaving of the strands.

  17. Thanks for the welcome, Ian. There are interesting threads in your comment. I admit that in this century I must look through a thick lens to the original words and traditions. My lens does not include Q and I am only just beginning to take an interest in the Fathers. The most complex part of the immediate lens is my own history during this period of collapse in Christendom. The collapse started of course long before I was born and my schooling included mostly the period from Shakespeare to Eliot, Byrd to Duruflé. There is nothing coherent in the various narrow or broad communities of faith that I grew up with. So the lens is quite cracked also, and the eyeball looking through it is one that participatea in the distortion.

    To polish the lens, I read the most popular book of the first century – the Psalter. This is the book that informs the conversation between the Father and the Son in Hebrews – so I don’t need Chalcedon or even my own traditions when I read the psalms – if I read them with my own decision making re translation. I don’t see any other way to polish the lens – otherwise one is reading reformation theology and not Hebrew poetry.

    I can’t tell you if my work is exegetical or an imposition of my own experience onto the text. I call my translations personal and I am open to challenge on them. With respect to the prayer under discussion – the Hebrew grace before meals – who brings forth bread from the earth – reminds me that the one called ‘son’ in the Scriptures (Hebrews, John, and the Johannine intrusions in the synoptics, Luke 10:21, Matthew 11:25), outside any Trinitarian reference, requires a sustenance that includes and goes beyond the maintenance of the biological unit. Something happened in those days that happens today also in a mystery and that motivates study, fear and love, in a mixture.

    I search to find words that can express such anointing – whether it be applied to the king, or Jesus, or Israel, or any individual of any sort. I find it really interesting that such a common word as ‘daily’ holds so much more interest than our traditions allow. It shows that finding words is not a trivial or meaningless task whether one is addressing a ‘faith’ community, or just reaching out to another unknown unit in the blogosphere.

  18. Ian

    It is a great metaphor. I appreciate folks who can find good visceral metaphors – I’m too literal I’m afraid. I also appreciate the effort you’ve made in analysing and translating the psalms. I spent a chunk of time last night reading through selections and I enjoyed it.

    Where I suspect we differ is the presumption that there is anything intrinsically valuable to look at through your lens. I think, for example, that the idea there is some coherent original or overarching meaning is incorrect. I see the bible as just a historically contingent selection from a broad range of writings that expressed an even wider range of theological stand-points and understandings for a large number of different faith communities. The connection between books of the bible is not original meaning or any kind of coherence, but that those books were expedient at a period in time (politically, in C3 for the NT, in linguistic terms in C4 for the OT) when the canon was canonized.

    That’s the reason I would have trouble relating bits together in the way you do. Sure, the writers of the gospels would have known the psalter, but how can we even begin to work out how they might have interpreted it, when we can’t even understand what they thought of what they themselves write? I’ve never seen that kind of thing done with any kind of critical integrity.

    But I can engage in that kind of theological method. So the bread in Matt 6 has a dual role. On one hand it is earthly, on the other above susbtance. It has connotations of a saviour who, despite being made of regular earthly stuff, at the same time transcended the earthly and was both super-natural and teleological. The irony in the text being that for centuries we’ve mistaken the bread as being purely earthly, in the same way as Jesus’s contemporaries mistook him for regular flesh and blood. Where the connotation that the bread is ultimately sustaining has been minimised much as the divinity of Christ was lost to most observers.

    But that is theology, and because I don’t actually believe it, doing it feels more of a game to me. Though, as I’ve said, it is an entirely appropriate, even vital, program for a faith community (even of one person).

    So please don’t take anything I say as being snarky about you, or your translations, or your suggestions. Because my starting point is a critical one (in both senses of the word), I disagree with your conclusions, but I can and do appreciate how you come to them!

  19. That’s a great comment too – and with many threads including some assumptions with which you are less critical than I think you might be. But let me spin a response in another post. You are a long way from lacking in metaphor. I begin to wonder just how creative our language can be – but I must go now to blueberry hill for a glass of wine or a gin and tonic…

  20. Ian

    Thanks, I look forward to your other post.

    “including some assumptions with which you are less critical than I think you might be”

    Perfect, I appreciate any help in thinking more clearly about this stuff!

  21. Sam Perez

    I’ve read your post, and many of the comments. Your analysis was quite interesting.

    You should know, if you do not already, that etymology (by which you arrived at “supersubstantial bread”) represents an older paradigm in Biblical linguistics. Words have their fuller meaning, not in themselves, but in relation to other words (i.e. sentences, paragraphs, etc.). Although “supersubstantial bread” seems like a fresh and legitimate way of reading that phrase in Matthew’s account of the Lord’s prayer, it seems to read much into one word. The lexical range of any one word is such that every word in the Bible could be read in multiple ways. To transfer an outlying meaning of a word to every occurrence of that word is quite illegitimate. We don’t even do this in English! Language simply does not work that way.

    On a broader scale, I do appreciate your efforts in reading the Christian Bible even as you are a self-proclaimed atheist, and I commend you for that. I wish more atheists read the Christian Bible. And I wish more Christians would read their own Bible, too! However, reading the Christian Bible alone will not yield meaning, if by doing this one thinks that meaning resides in oneself. One may read and study the Bible thoroughly, but never “get it”. This seems to be the warning Jesus gives to his audience in John 5:37ff.

    PS James Barr and Moisés Silva have written extensively on Biblical interpretation and linguistics, and I would commend their writings on these subjects to your blog.


  22. Ian


    Thanks for posting, and welcome to the blog!

    “To transfer an outlying meaning of a word to every occurrence of that word is quite illegitimate. ” – But that is the entire point. There are no other occurrences of this word, not in the New Testament, not in ancient Greek literature, not in other Koine texts or non-canonical literature. Even supposing that the early readers would have been able to understand it (which, to be honest is a great argument for it meaning ‘supersubstantial’), you’d want to look at early translations of it. And there you find only one early translation that renders it anything like ‘daily’ (the Vetus Latina). So to read it as “daily” is just as much of an outlying meaning, unless you have some new evidence.

    I have read Silva’s “Biblical Words and Their Meaning”. Although I’m not really an OT guy. But I think you might be misunderstanding their arguments. Parr and Silva are concerned about the use of etymology and a contraindication or a nuance to contextual meanings – to say that such and such a word has the sense of X, because it has a particular etymology, even though in context it clearly has meaning Y. You simply can’t make those arguments for isolates. The later english translation of a word does not form a linguistically meaningful data point for inferring its original sense when there is no contemporary evidence, and neither Parr or Silva would argue (or have argued) that it does, on my understanding of their work.

    “However, reading the Christian Bible alone will not yield meaning, if by doing this one thinks that meaning resides in oneself.” Actually it yields a lot. But I agree, it doesn’t say what most people think or want it to say. To find the Jesus of Christianity you have to read him into the next, not read it to find him. Of course, this isn’t a pejorative thing – you can interpret this as being the holy spirit which convinces and empowers the Christian to find the deeper meaning in the text. Or you can, as I would, see the same tendency in all religionists to find things in their holy book that aren’t really there, or that are contradicted by what is there.

    “One may read and study the Bible thoroughly, but never “get it”. ” Yes, this puzzles me about a lot of Christians. They claim to read and study the bible, but never actually see it for what it is. They miss what’s really going on. I understand that Christians think they have some special access to the meaning of the text. But I also know what they think that meaning is, and why and how they think it arises. I think they’ve stopped too soon, because I think there is territory on beyond what those Christians will allow themselves to discover. The bible is truly an amazing document, but it is not a document of Christianity in the way Christians think. If you’re stuck there, then I’d encourage you to come along further in your journey, and see the bible for what it truly is.

  23. Alfredo Barrera

    The Our Father has seven parts.

    1. Our Father, Who art in heaven
    Hallowed be Thy Name;
    In the beginning there was only God and by his Word He created all things out of Himself. However, everything has its substance in Him, because nothing can be outside of God. To accept the unity of life is to love. God is Love. John 1:1-5 and 1John 4:7-8

    2. Thy kingdom come,
    This is the kingdom where Love rules in our lives.

    3. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
    This is the will of Love.

    4. Give us this day our supersubstancial bread,
    Not only of bread lives man but by the Word of God. Luke 4:4
    God loves us.

    5. and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;
    We are loved and we should love. John 15:12

    6. and lead us not into temptation,
    Let us always love.

    7. but deliver us from evil. Amen.
    As long as we don’t fall back into temptation we will be free from evil. We will abide in His love for ever.

    The process of salvation is this: We accept the rule of Love and we join in and take refuge in His Love.

  24. Ian

    Alfredo, thanks for stopping by the blog and taking the time to comment.

    I couldn’t quite work out what the point of your comment is, though. Are you trying to evangelize? If so, then I assume your aware that I’m an atheist, and unlikely to be interested. Are you claiming that these interpretations you give are part of the meaning of the Lord’s prayer? In which case, are you aware that you’re co-opting John’s gospel to interpret something only found in Luke and Matthew, which is highly dubious. I’m not sure I really get it. It reads like your personal interpretation presented as a sermon.

    That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate your comment. Maybe if you are willing to think carefully about what you want your readers to get from your comment, we can have a proper conversation.

    [edit: I wrote “Mark and Matthew” rather than “Luke and Matthew” initially]

  25. Alfredo Barrera

    Dear Ian,
    I just wanted to share an observation. I am sorry that you did not like it. I intended no offence. However, I did like your research regarding the greek word ἐπιούσιος as it is found in the prayer. Thank you for that.
    I do believe that there is a harmony among the gospels so that one gospel can help us understand another. I don’t think that they are monolithic and isolated but part of an organic whole that we call the New Testament. In other words, I see the gospel writers as faithfully giving the same message, but directed to different audiences.
    Again I apologize for offending you, if I did.
    Since there are seven parts to the Our Father, how would you interpret and connect each part?

  26. Ian


    Thanks for the reply! I wasn’t offended. Its just that I get the odd drive-by evangelism comment, and it is difficult to find anything constructive to say. Your reply, however, is more meaty!

    “I don’t think that they are monolithic and isolated but part of an organic whole that we call the New Testament” Yes. So by the end of the second century Christians were of this opinion. It helps us understand what the “New Testament” (i.e. the collected writings endorsed by the later church” say, but it doesn’t help us understand the individual writings. John (the gospel about Love and the pre-existent Jesus) was written to a very different group of people in a different situation to Luke or Matthew.

    I don’t understand why the “since” in your last statement. The fact that it has seven clauses in one particular translation isn’t meaningful to me (it has 8 in mine). I interpret the prayer in fairly obvious terms. It means what it says, it doesn’t have a hidden meaning about love or some such.

    Our father in heaven: – Jesus isn’t unique in calling God ‘father’, but it is characteristic of him.
    May your name be holy; – obvious
    May your kingdom come; – Again, talking about the kingdom is a key Jesus-ism, although it is highly debateable what he meant. Lots and lots of ink has been spilt by scholars on this topic.
    May your will be done,
    As in the heavens, so upon the earth. – obvious
    Give us today our supernatural bread. – discussed above
    Forgive us our sins, even as we forgive sinners. – Again not original, but the reciprocity is characteristic of the early Jesus movement, c.f. Paul “If you forgive men when they sin against you…”
    Do not bring us to temptation, but from hardships draw us to yourself. – obvious

    Does that answer your question?

  27. Pingback: The Lord’s Prayer Retranslated – Grassroots Apologetics

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