The Pope has approved changing the Lord’s Prayer from “lead us not into temptation” to “do not let us fall into temptation”. This was not done on textual grounds, but from a “theological, pastoral, and stylistic viewpoint”. Excuse me, but since when does that trump the biblical text?
History of the Text
I looked at several English translations going back to Tyndale (1534) and they all have the traditional reading. The reason is that the Greek text is clear and there are not even any textual variants for that verse. All Greek textual traditions read the same. The only other possible translation I can see is “may You not lead us into temptation” which emphasizes the subjective mood of the verb, but that doesn’t address the Pope’s concern.
I also looked at the Latin Vulgate, since that is the traditional Bible of the Catholic Church. It reads, “ne inducas nos in temptationem“. You don’t have to know much about Latin to see that this is “do not induce/lead us into temptation”. This is especially interesting since the Pope said, “It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.” Well, even the Latin Vulgate states that!
Analysis and Proper Interpretation
Based on textual grounds, the Pope is wrong. His apparent problem is one of interpretation, not translation. It should not be interpreted as stating that God induces temptation. The focus of the predicate phrase “but deliver us from evil” (or “the evil one”) indicates what God actually does.
A similar idea would like an incident with one of my sons. When he was younger, he wasn’t following us as he should, so my wife and I just walked on without him. My son said something to the effect of, “Don’t leave me here. Take me with you.” That is a similar grammatical construction of Matthew 6:13. My son knows that we wouldn’t leave him somewhere, but he states the negative to emphasize the positive. I believe that may be what Jesus is doing with that sentence.
There are other ways to interpret that verse too, which does not infer that God is actively pushing us into temptation. Regardless, the Pope does not have the authority to change the verbiage. It is what it is.
Interpreting Negative Statments
On a related note, Christians also need to be careful about interpreting what the Bible says that God will not do. One time I had someone tell me that God blots people’s names out of the Book of Life. I asked where they found that. They pointed me to Revelation 3:5, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” From this they inferred the positive from the negative: that God has a blotter and in certain circumstances will blot people’s names out. That is demonstrably wrong. What if we inferred the positive with the negative with other verses? How about “God is not a man, that he should lie…” (Num. 23:19) Do we infer that God is a man and lies?? Of course not. Revelation 3:5 states that God will not blot people’s names out. And a simple study of who the “overcomers” are will help people come to a better conclusion. (1 John 5:4-5)
The moral of the story is that nobody has the authority to change the biblical text. It has been preserved in thousands of manuscripts and the text is the text. Proper interpretation is the key.