21 December 2014

Contemporary version of the Lord's Prayer

While compiling (and editing and re-editing) my Rosary for Anglo-Catholic Use, it dawned on me that the prayers usually accompanying it, whether said in a Roman setting or an Anglican setting,  were in “church” language.  You know what I mean: “thee”, “thou”, “doest”, “beseech”, “hallowed”, “art”, “thy”, “thine”, etc.; what folks call Elizabethan or King James English, just like Shakespeare’s plays and the “Authorized Version” of the Bible.  Roughly equal to mouthing ecclesiastical Latin during an old style Mass and not really feeling what is said in such a foreign sound, no matter how beautiful to the ears.

At around the same time, looking through the histories of some of these prayers, I discovered that many of the better known English language texts were based on translations which left something to be desired.  That, and the fact that there were older, simpler versions of the prayers in early, sometimes obscure manuscripts.

The best way to go about this is, for each prayer in turn, to give the familiar, churchy-language version first, then my revision, followed by an explanation of the changes.

First up is the Lord’s Prayer, also called the Our Father or Paternoster.

Old, familiar version:

We’ll start with the one nearly every Christian knows, the Lord’s Prayer, or as it is known in Latin, the Paternoster.  The version almost all, regardless of denomination, are familiar with is this version from *PECUSA’s 1928 Book of Common Prayer (BCP), itself a slightly revised version of the rendition in the **CoE’s 1662 BCP:

“Our Father who (which) art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those (them) who trespass against us.  Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.  Amen.”

*Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA
**Church of England

The plain text is that of the 1928 BCP, the two words in parentheses and italics belonging to the version found in the 1662 BCP, which itself is almost entirely the original translation by William Tyndale for his edition of the New Testament, which Thomas Cranmer chose for the first BCP in 1549 despite more accurate translations at hand.  So, in essence, when nearly every English-speaking human on Earth says the Lord’s Prayer, they are saying the Lord’s Prayer According to Tyndale and/or Cranmer.

Updated and revised version:

Father, blessed be your name.  May your dominion come and your will be done.  Let your Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us.  Give us what is sufficient day-by-day.  Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those indebted to us.  And save us from succumbing to temptation.  Amen.

Notes on the Lord’s Prayer

Yes, I realize this must look quite different to the eyes of most Christians of native English-speaking parts.  This is because the Lord’s Prayer According to Tyndale & Cranmer was/is based on the version found in the Gospel of Matthew (6:9-13), while the version just presented, which one might call the Lord’s Prayer According to Chuck, is based on the formula found in the Gospel of Luke (11:2-4).  If you’re looking at the KJV translation of the Lucan formula, which is merely copied straight from the Geneva Bible of 1560, you will notice many differences between that and the one here.  The basis of my version is from later translations which have dropped the additions by “pious fraudsters” trying to make the versions in the two gospels identical.

Nearly universal scholarly opinion holds that the Lucan formula is the elder version of the two and closer to the original.

1) On Father instead of Our Father in heaven”: 

In the oldest manuscripts, the prayer is addressed to “Father” rather than “Our Father” largely because in the context in both gospels is private rather than corporate prayer.  “Our Father” as opposed to just “Father” represents the accretion of liturgical practice into scripture, much like the formulae for the consecration of bread and wine into Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, which is clearly an interpolation by a later editor.

The word in Aramaic, “Abba”, by the way, simply means “Father”.  It does not, I repeat, does not mean and has never meant “Daddy”, an urban myth among evangelicals.

2) On blessed be instead of hallowed be”: 

“To hallow” is so archaic that the last time it was used in America was by President Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address.

3) On “Your dominion come” instead of “Your kingdom come”:

Besides being gender neutral for the most part, “dominion” is less anthropomorphic and less prone to anthropopathy.

4) On Let your holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us”: 

At least two manuscripts of the four gospels, substitute (or maintain) the former over the latter.  The eleventh century Miniscule 700 and the twelfth century Miniscule 162 are called “miniscules” because of the type of script used, not because of their size. 

As the first is also found in the Gospel of the Lord brought to Rome by theologian Marcion of Sinope in the mid-second century, it is not unreasonable to conclude that his reading is the original.  Though some scholars prefer to claim that Marcion’s gospel is the Gospel of Luke with parts removed or altered, it is more likely that his was an earlier version of that gospel, which was not finalized until the last decade of the second century. 

(Note: Marcion also brought with him to Rome all the seven universally recognized epistles of Paul, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon; the rest—Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus—being pseudepigraphal, and Hebrews more likely written by James the Just.)

The late Church Fathers Gregory of Nyssa (late fourth century) and Maximus the Confessor (early seventh century) both used the first clause, while Tertullian, the second-third century theologian, uses it in place of “hallowed (or blessed) be your name” (and also reverses the other to “Your will be done on earth as in heaven.  Your kingdom come”).

In the earlier formula, this petition came after “your name be sanctified”.  Since “as in heaven” modifies the other three opening petitions, this one had to be moved.

5) On “Give us what is sufficient day-by-day”:

The problem with the translation of this sentence is that the Greek word often translated “daily bread” or sometimes “bread for tomorrow”—“epiousios”—is specific to these verses of Matthew and Luke in all of Greek literature.  After perusing several versions, translations, and opinions, this is the one that seems best to me, or at least the one I prefer.

Most translations of Luke use the phrase usually “daily bread”, but some agree with the version in the early second century Didache (“The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles to the Heathen”) which had “bread for tomorrow”.  For the versions in Matthew, the early Latin translations, called collectively the Vetus Latina, used “quotidianum”, literally meaning “daily”, while the later Vulgate of St. Jerome (a translation with numerous problems) translates the same Greek word as “supersubstantialem”, or “supersubstantial”.

I have used the phrasing I provided here because “give us what is sufficient day-by-day” preserves the senses of both “daily” and “for tomorrow”.

6) On “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those indebted to us”:

Tyndale translated the “debts” as “trespasses”, and an uncharitable person might think this was to prevent the suggestion that debtors should have the obligations of their debts removed.  The translators of the KJV (and plagiarists of the Geneva Bible) preferred to use the word “debts”, and modern translators have almost universally agreed this is more accurate.   In fact, The Encheiridion, a manual for private devotion according to Sarum Use published between 1528 and 1530 translated this segment of the Lord’s Prayer as “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive out debtors”.

Trespass has a much different connotation in the twenty-first century than it did in Tyndale’s day.  His translation, or rather mistranslation, always makes me think to those signs that say, “No Trespassing: Violators Will Be Shot.  Survivors Will Be Violated”.  Much the same as when we said the old version of the Nicene Creed* when I was a kid that every time we talked about Jesus coming back to judge “the quick and the dead”,  I would get afraid that I was going to hell because I couldn’t run very fast.  In addition, debts and forgiving debts have so much broader and inclusive meaning that simple “trespasses”.

Unfortunately for their credibility and to the deficit spiritually of those who may follow their suggestion, the English Language Liturgical Commission (ECCL; formerly International Consultation on English Texts, or ICET) took the same cop out or intentionally misleading route as did Cranmer and Tyndale before them.  Their deficient text substitutes “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” for “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.  This, despite the fact that every single modern translation without, or nearly without, exception renders that clause “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those indebted to us”.

The original vernacular of the Lord's Prayer before Tyndale and Cranmer got their hands on it was “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (see the 1868 republished edition of The Encheiridion, published originally in 1531), so there is no excuse.

It should be noted, however, that the third century theologian Origen, one of the most prominent of his day, substituted "trespasses" and "those who trespassed against us" for "debts" and "our debtors".

*I have never said the Nicene Creed, never in my life, and neither has any other living Christian of whom I know.  The name is properly the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.

7) On the omission of “deliver us from evil”:

This is absent from all manuscripts of Luke.  In Matthew, different manuscripts testify to “deliver us from evil” or to “deliver us from the evil one”.

8) On the omission of the concluding doxology:

This ending, “for yours are the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever” in Matthew and “for the power and the glory are yours” in the Didache, has always been omitted from the passage in Luke.  Modern scholars regard it as an interpolation in Matthew, and most modern translations omit it entirely or consign it to a footnote.

In the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Lord’s Prayer concludes with this doxology:  “For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory; of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.”

According to Orthodox Wiki, this and its forerunner in the Gospel of Matthew are an allusion to 1 Chronicles 29:11: “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.”

Other notes on the LP

One cannot help but notice that, despite Jesus addressing private prayer in the scenes that introduce the Lord’s Prayer in both Matthew and Luke, in both, even when addressed to “Father” instead of “Our Father” in Luke, that the form of the Lord’s Prayer as presented is communal and corporate as all the petitions use the collective “us” rather than the individual “me”.  This proves more or less beyond doubt that these gospels were composed well after members of The Way, or the Nazarenes, soon to become known as Christians, first started formalizing worship.

Other older renderings of the Lord’s Prayer less often seen than Tyndale’s rendition, either from the King James Version or using Elizabethan English:

Matthean version:  “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily (or supersubstantial) bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.”

Traditional Lucan version:  “Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us day by day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Early Lucan version:  “Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us.  Give us day by day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.  And lead us not into temptation.” 

Tertullian’s version:  “Father in heaven, thy holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us.  Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Thy kingdom come.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation, but take us away from the evil one.  Amen.”

English vernacular version, early sixteenth century: “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.”

Earlier edition of this contemporary version: Father, your name be sanctified.  Your Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us.  Your dominion come.  Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us each day our daily bread.  Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those indebted to us.  And lead us away from temptation.  Amen.


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