Monday, January 8, 2018

Pope Finds Fault With The Lord’s Prayer! (Does God Lead Us Into Temptation?)

            Oops! Have we been incorrectly reading and reciting the Lord’s Prayer1 all these years? To say that 8 out of 10 Christians know and use the Lord’s Prayer may not be farfetched. But when Pope Francis asserted that the Biblical translation of the Lord’s Prayer should be corrected, it did, justly, spark debates in Christendom. Is the Lord’s Prayer incorrectly translated?

            This is the controversy, “Pope Francis’ remarks on the “wrong” translation of the Lord’s Prayer in a TV show hosted by the Italian Bishops’ Conference’s TV2000 network are part of a wider debate that has taken place in Italy for over two decades. The Pope said that the words “non ci indurre in tentazione” – “Do not lead us into temptation,” in the English version – are not correct, because, he said, God does not actively lead us into temptation.” (Emphasis Mine).2

            Pope’s criticism is predicated on the fact that God is not evil to lead people into temptation so that they sin, “The Pope’s intent seems to be to emphasize that God’s active will does not “tempt” men, that, instead, the permissive will of God allows people to be tempted because of their sinfulness…The theological context is complex, but certainly the Pope has not intended to deny the theological and scriptural sense in which God allows, or permits, temptation.” (Emphasis Mine).3

            Fair enough!

            Pope’s criticism motivates us to ask many questions. Thankfully, the three most pertinent questions have been asked and answered by Daniel Wallace, who is Christianity’s premier active textual critic. He is the Senior Research Professor of NT Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He cites three pertinent questions, "A myriad of implications arise from the pontiff’s statement. Among them I list just three:4

(1) Have translations of the Bible gotten this verse wrong for 2000 years?
Jerome’s Vulgate—the version that has been the official Bible of the Catholic Church for centuries—reads here ne inducas nos in temptationem: “Do not lead us into temptation.”…In 1979, the Nova Vulgata became the official Catholic translation (after Vatican II, it follows the Greek and Hebrew more closely), yet it too says ne inducas nos. So, the pontiff is not only going against modern translations but even his own Vulgate…
It may be surprising, however, to discover that a few modern translations come close to Pope Francis’s version. The New Living Translation (2nd edition), a Protestant Bible, has “don’t let us yield to temptation.”….Nevertheless, there seems to be an overwhelming consensus that “do not lead us” or the like is how the text should be rendered
(2) What is the nature of translation?
There are two broad theories of translation today—formal equivalence and functional equivalence. Formal equivalence means that the translation attempts to retain the wording and syntax of the original language as much as possible. Functional equivalence means that the translation gives a higher priority to the semantics of the original, bringing out the force of original text regardless of how it is worded…
All translation is interpretation
It is important to recognize, however, that all translation is interpretation. The reason is that the syntax and lexical mapping in one language never match exactly that of another language. The context determines the meaning. A so-called “word-for-word” translation is quite impossible for anything more than a short phrase or sentence. In this passage, for example, the word translated “temptation” is the same word that is elsewhere translated “testing.” Interpretation is required; translators cannot simply leave the word to allow for both meanings since “temptation” has connotations of sin while “testing” does not. However, in this passage there is good reason to see πειρασμός (peirasmos) as bearing the force of temptation, as we will see below. But the point is that an interpretation of the text is already done in even the most formal equivalent translations of this passage. In one sense, the pope’s rendering is an interpretation of an interpretation
Ideally, a translation should give the readers of the Bible in their own language the same interpretive options that a reader of the original will have. And this means that it is important for readers of the Bible to struggle with the same, often intentional, ambiguities found in the original text…
So then, should translation be formally equivalent for functionally equivalent? Neither one is adequate. Faithful equivalence is really required—faithful to the meaning of the original
The Lord’s Prayer and translation
The pope’s rendering certainly is on the functional-equivalent side rather than the formal-equivalent side. But does that make it illegitimate?...Not only is the Greek in both Matt 6.13 and Luke 11.4 textually certain (variants for “do not lead us into temptation” are trivial amounting to minor spelling differences), but the syntax is clear. The verb in the petition “lead” is an aorist active subjunctive (εἰσενέγκῃς); with the negative particle, “do not lead” is the idea. The pope wants it to mean “allow” which speaks instead of God not permitting something rather than him actively leading us. And the pontiff seems to have assumed that the Greek “lead into temptation” means “permit to fall into temptation.” Several lexical, syntactical, and interpretive shifts are seen here.
The broader context of Matthew’s Gospel may give us a clue as to why the Lord said, “Do not lead us into temptation.” Immediately after Jesus’ baptism, we are told that he “was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4.1). The Greek text indicates that the purpose of the Spirit’s leading Jesus into the wilderness was so that he would be tempted by the devil (“to be tempted” [πειρασθῆναι] is an infinitive of purpose, giving the purpose of the Spirit’s leading). Mark words this even more starkly: “Immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness” (Mark 1.13).
Evidently, there is a sense in which Jesus was delivered into the hands of the evil one, by the Holy Spirit himself, to be tempted. But the Greek here makes an interesting point about who is responsible for what. Two passive verbs are used in Matt 4.1— ἀνήχθη (“he was led”) and πειρασθῆναι (“to be tempted”). The agents are listed with identical prepositions: ὑπό. This is the preposition used especially for ultimate agent. It is rare to see ὑπό followed by πνεύματος (“Spirit”) in the NT (only five passages). Doing so here, Matthew shows that the Spirit is not subordinate to the devil but is the agent ultimately responsible for leading Jesus into the wilderness, while the devil is the ultimate agent of the temptation. The Spirit is not responsible for that. The Spirit did not tempt Jesus, but he did lead him to be tempted. The balance is intentional: leading into temptation is not the same as tempting. God the Holy Spirit led Jesus into temptation, but he did not tempt him. Wrestling with the implications of this requires more than a little reflection.
Although Satan’s purpose was to destroy Jesus before he ever went to the cross, God’s purpose in using Satan was painted on a broader canvas. God tests; Satan tempts. The Son of God went through similar testing as the children of Israel in the wilderness. They were there for forty years; he was there for forty days. Where they failed he succeeded.
Further, the temptation that the Lord faced was the ultimate temptation—the offer of the entire world on a platter. Jesus can ask the disciples to pray that the Father would not lead them into temptation and that God would deliver them from the evil one precisely because Jesus himself faced the ultimate temptation by the evil one. Whereas the Spirit led Jesus to be tempted, Jesus asks the Father not to lead his disciples into temptation; whereas Jesus was delivered over to Satan for tempting (testing from the Father’s perspective), Jesus prays that his followers will be delivered from the evil one. It is precisely because of Jesus’ substitutionary death and life that this prayer can be recited today by Christians with the full assurance that God will answer us.
Pope Francis’s translation, however, subverts all this: “do not let us fall into temptation.” The original text speaks clearly of God leading, not permitting. To tamper with the wording misses the connection with the Lord’s temptation.
(3) What does the original text really mean and do we have the right to change it in translation?
The pope makes a good point that our heavenly Father does not tempt us. And yet, he argues that point from a theological construct derived elsewhere in the Bible (see James 1.13). “Do not lead us into temptation” does not mean that God tempts us; the petition is for God’s protection from the evil one, as the rest of Matt 6.13 says.
Further, the notion that we can change the wording to fit the meaning that we find somewhere else might actually be doing a disservice to the biblical authors’ intentions. The Bible is full of paradoxes, figurative language, jolting imagery. To simplify and pacify such language cuts off the legs of its literary and even spiritual power.
At bottom, what the pontiff is doing is interpretation—but interpretation that removes the tension and paradox from the text, is not true to the force of the original, and buries the connection to Jesus’ temptation. Better to leave the text alone and allow God’s people to experience the joy of discovery of the meaning of Holy Writ."  
Endnotes:

1The Lord’s Prayer is found in the gospels according to Matthew (6:9-13) and Luke (11:2-4).

2https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/analysis-what-is-the-context-of-pope-francis-words-on-the-lords-prayer-78607

3Ibid.


4https://danielbwallace.com/2017/12/12/pope-francis-the-lords-prayer-and-bible-translation/ (Emphases in the quoted text are mine.)

2 comments:

Denny Benjamin said...

Excellent Anna.

We should also consider the interactions between God and Satan, the Adversary. Satan says that Job and by extension humans only worship God for the benefits that He provides. So God allows Satan to tempt Job to see if Job's relationship with God was purely business.

As a believer, I want to abide in/obey God and not do my will.

Denny Benjamin said...

Sorry, a correction .....

The testing was to show Satan that Job did not worship God for the benefits