Answering the Pope’s Reinterpretation
“Therefore, pray this way:
‘Our Father who is in the Heavens!
Set apart is Your Name.
Your Reign come: Your will come into being, as it is in Heaven, also on earth.
Our apportioned bread, give us today.
And forgive us our debts of wrongdoing, as we also have forgiven those owing a debt to us because of wrongdoing.
And may You not lead us to testing through temptation, but deliver us from the evil.’ ”
מַתִּתְיָהוּ Matit’yahu 6:9-13, mjlt
Q: Hello, I am wondering about the Pope’s changing of the part in the Lord’s prayer concerning “lead us not into temptation” to “do not let us fall into temptation.” Is he correct? Thank you.
A: Thank you so much for your question! In a word, no. Pope Francis is completely wrong.
Most translations of Matthew 6:13 ask the Father to “lead us not into temptation”—the way this phrase has been translated since the first English Bible. According to Pope Francis, however, he feels that “a father doesn’t do that…. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation.” This was the rationale behind his retranslation of “lead us not into temptation” to “do not let us fall into temptation.”
This raises a crucial distinction. From Pope Francis’ point of view, we are to ask the Father to prevent us from giving in to temptation. The traditional rendering, on the other hand, suggests that God actually leads us into temptation, which is an irreconcilable idea for many.
The problem for Pope Francis, however, is that—without a doubt—the Greek underlying “lead us into” means exactly that, and can in no legitimate way be translated as “let us fall into.” The word εἰσενέγκῃς, eisenegkes means “to bring, carry, or lead in.” Not even the root of the word gives a hint of “falling.” Additionally, the traditional rendering is not at all in conflict with how God may choose to lead us, as demonstrated by the unambiguous language of how He led His own Son in Matthew 4:1, which says that “Yeshua was led up to the desert by the רוּחַ, Ruach to be tempted by the Accuser” (MJLT, emphasis added).
So Pope Francis is completely wrong in his retranslation of Matthew 6:13.
That said, given his concerns, he would have been better off to take a second look at the word “temptation” instead.
As previously stated, most translations of Matthew 6:13 use the word “temptation.” But the Messianic Jewish Literal Translation of the New Covenant Scriptures (MJLT NCS) renders the phrase, “And may You not lead us to testing through temptation” with “through temptation” in italics, meaning it was added for clarification.
Though most translations use “temptation” to translate this form of πειρασμός, peirasmos (the Greek word being used here), a distinction can be made between πειρασμός, peirasmos and πειράζω, peirazo, which can also be translated as “temptation.”
This distinction can be seen in many translations, as the ESV demonstrates in James 1:12-13, for example. In that passage, the same exact word translated as “temptation” in Matthew 6:13 is instead translated as “trial,” and a related word, πειράζω, peirazo, is translated as “tempted.” James 1:12-13 in the ESV therefore reads,
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial (πειρασμός, peirasmos)… Let no one say when he is tempted (πειράζω, peirazo), ‘I am being tempted by God’ ” (emphasis added).
In the end, while Pope Francis got the first part of the phrase in Matthew 6:13 completely wrong, there is nevertheless a legitimate alternative to the traditional translation, as demonstrated by the MJLT. By rendering πειρασμός, peirasmos in Matthew 6:13 not as “temptation,” but as “testing,” this makes much clearer what we are asking the Father not to lead us into.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!