Pope Francis

On Saturday, there was an article about Pope Francis in our city’s secular press. Again. Nothing too unusual for this Christian leader who has managed to attract the attention even of non-Christians and the often-anti-christian media. But this time, the article was complete with complex Greek and Latin word analysis! And it’s not even a slow-news week. Never is, now, in the age of Trump!

The article has Pope Francis critical of “Lead us not into temptation” as a translation in the Lord’s Prayer. God just does not do this – lead us into temptation.

The Pope is enthusiastic about the new French version which came into effect at the start of Advent this year. It was:

Ne nous soumets pas a la tentation (Do not submit us to temptation)

And now it has become:

Ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation (Do not let us enter into temptation)

The original Greek is

καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμὸν

and the word being debated is εἰσενέγκῃς (eisenenkes). It is problematic, not just for the theological reason presented by the English of God leading us into temptation, but – it is a word that only occurs here, in the Lord’s Prayer. So it is difficult to work out what it means. Let alone that it (presumably) translates the Aramaic that Jesus was using.

As alluded to in the article, εἰσενέγκῃς is the Aorist Active Subjunctive of εἰσφέρω (eisphero) which occurs 512 times in the New Testament. And εἰσφέρω is pretty easy to translate: εἰσ into; φέρω carry. [Yes, I know – for those of you ready to leap – etymology is not a guarantee of meaning!]

The Spanish have it as “No nos dejes caer en tentación” (“Do not let us fall into temptation”).

There is another problem in the line: πειρασμὸν (peirasmon). In its original context, it does not look to be referring to “temptation” in the sense that we use it now. It occurs 21 times in the New Testament, and can mean a trial, a probation, a testing, a temptation, a calamity, an affliction. In the Lord’s Prayer, it probably has an eschatological focus (a good reflection in Advent): the final ‘time of trial’ which, in biblical thought, marks the last days, the time of apostasy when we might renounce Christ because of suffering and persecution.

The ecumenical, international English Language Liturgical Consultation version, hence, has:

Save us from the time of trial.

That was the version able to be used by Roman Catholics in New Zealand until the latest missal translation (NZ Anglicans and others continue to use it). Maybe this Pope will allow NZ RC bishops (and others) to bring it back.

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