Should the sixth petition of the Our Father be translated as “Do not let us fall”?

And is the English rendering “do not lead us into temptation” bad theology? Here’s why the answer to both questions is “no”.

The Catholic bishops in France have begun implementing a new translation of the sixth petition of the Our Father so that instead of reciting “ne nous soumets pas à la tentation” (“do not submit/subject us to temptation”), the petition is now prayed as “ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation” (“do not let us enter into temptation”). The previous translation was thought to express the notion that God brought people into difficult trials that could influence them to sin. Pope Francis in a recent interview is reported to have said that the rendering “do not lead us into temptation,” in Italian “non ci indurre in tentazione,” is a poor translation because God as a father would not push someone into a temptation to see them fall. Rather, humans fall and Satan is the one who leads people into temptation. The pope’s thought is probably influenced by the Spanish translation of the Our Father which says, “do not let us fall” (“no nos dejes caer”). His comments have been picked up by major news outlets, some of which have taken his remarks to say the pope suggests or proposes changing translations that say “do not lead us.” Fr. Jonathan Morris has said the Italian and English versions of the sixth petition are “bad theology” and that languages with the translation “do not let us fall” are closer to the Greek.

So, is the Greek text more accurately reflected in translations that say, “do not let us fall?” Is the English rendering “do not lead us into temptation” bad theology? In short, the answer to both questions is “no.”

As a liturgical text, the vernacular translations of the Our Father in Mass are based on the Latin text of the Roman Missal and the Latin word rendered “lead” in English is “inducas,” which means “to lead in,” “bring in,” and “introduce.” The current Spanish and new French translations translate “inducas” as “fall” and “enter” respectively but this is inaccurate and a mistranslation because other Latin words such as “decumbere” and “cadere” mean “fall.” Thus, the English is a better translation of the authoritative Latin text but there is also the question of the meaning of the biblical Greek text underlying the Latin.

The Latin word “inducas” is a translation of Greek word εἰσενέγκῃς in Matthew 6:13 which means “to carry in”, “bring in”, “introduce,” and “lead in”. Thus, the English and Latin translations of the Greek text are more accurate renderings than those which ask, “do not let us fall/enter into temptation.”

To render the main verb of the sixth petition as “fall” is not only a mistranslation of the Latin and Greek texts but also an imposition of an improper theological viewpoint without trying to understand the meaning of εἰσενέγκῃς/inducas in its proper context. In other words, understanding εἰσενέγκῃς/inducas as “fall” is based upon a reaction to the modern understanding of the word “lead” apart from its proper theological context. It is better to try to understand what εἰσενέγκῃς means in its context instead of trying to change a theological phrase or notion that is uncomfortable to us because Job’s sufferings permitted by God, a virgin giving birth, a man coming back from the dead, and God becoming man are all just as jarring. Pope Benedict XVI noted in Jesus of Nazareth that the last two petitions of the Our Father are closely connected and they help make sense of the word εἰσενέγκῃς.

The first clue is the word “temptation” which renders the Latin “tentationem” and the Greek πειρασμόν, which can mean temptation or trial. This word can refer to individual circumstances where a person encounters temptations or trials in their life but it can also be an eschatological reference to the end times when there will be a great trial or tribulation.  The fact that πειρασμόν occurs only one other time in Matthew’s Gospel in the garden of Gethsemane (“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation,” Matt 26:41) lends credence to understanding πειρασμόν eschatologically because the Paschal Mystery is the central eschatological event of salvation history that tries the faith the apostles. Luke uses πειρασμόν in his rendition of the Lord’s Prayer and his other uses of this word suggest that it means individual trials or temptations. In the end, πειρασμόν probably refers both to an eschatological event at the end of time and to individual temptations or trials.

The second clue is the seventh petition which reads, “but deliver us from evil,” and this is a literal translation of the Latin. The Greek text is a bit more vague because it can mean deliver us from evil as an abstract concept or deliver us from the “Evil One.” The Latin and English versions opt for the abstract understanding which can mean the petition is asking God to deliver a person from evil in their individual temptations and trials or from evil generally. However, if the Greek text is understood as the “Evil One,” this interpretation comports well with some Second Temple Jewish expectations of the end times. Some groups of Jews, such as the Qumran community and Enochic Jews, envisioned an end time battle between a messiah figure and an ultimate evil entity like the Catholic understanding of Satan in the book of Revelation. Like πειρασμόν, the seventh petition can be a prayer to be delivered from evil in one’s individual trials and to be released from the clutches of the evil enemy of God in an eschatological sense.

Advocates against translating εἰσενέγκῃς/inducas as “lead in” are not giving enough attention to the eschatological overtones in the sixth and seventh petitions of the Our Father. Asking God to not lead us into temptation does not mean asking Him to forgo trying make us fall. Instead, “lead” should be understood from the theological perspective of divine providence in conjunction with Second Temple Jewish eschatological expectations where God leads all creation both as a whole and in each individual’s life. Thus, using the word “lead” is not “bad theology;” it is just misunderstood.

The Father led Job in his life through sufferings inflicted on him by Satan and the Father led Jesus through the Paschal Mystery because it was the Father’s will. God does not tempt anyone (James 1:13) and does not cause anyone to fall. Rather, the word “lead” asks God to direct our lives and the sixth petition is asking God to not give us more than we can bear as Pope Benedict XVI teaches following Saint Cyprian. It can also mean asking God to not let us undergo the trial of the end times. To translate εἰσενέγκῃς/inducas as “fall” or “enter” is not only linguistically inaccurate but also dismisses the eschatological dimension present in the Lord’s Prayer.

About Jason Bermender 1 Article
Jason Bermender is a doctoral student in biblical theology at Marquette University writing his dissertation on exorcistic figures in the Bible. His research interests include the Old Testament, the Gospels, the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Second Temple Judaism, exorcism, and demonology.

30 Comments

  1. Quote: “Pope Benedict XVI noted in Jesus of Nazareth that the last two petitions of the Our Father are closely connected and they help make sense of the word εἰσενέγκῃς.”

    And there’s the difference between a Pope who knows scripture and one who doesn’t and wants to impose his own. So who is really humble: the Pope who accepts the word of God or the own who makes his own word the word of God? The fake humility of the latter is evident.

    And you’d think the current Pope could not possibly rise higher in pride but there it is.

    • The verb “eisphero” really does mean to lead into, the prefix “eis” meaning “into” and the verbo “phero” meaning to carry or to lead. St. Jerome’s translation into Latin translates the Greek literally, so I don’t see how it can be changed. On the other hand, the last petition “but deliver us from evil”, in y opinion could be better translated as Deliver us from the Evil One”. The Greek word “ponerous” would seem to be better translated this way. The Latin “libera nos a malo”, could also be understood as the Evil One. Of course, changing the translation of a traditional liturgical prayer is a very complicated matter

  2. This is a fantastic article! Respectful and confidently composed. I appreciate how easily it was to read and how I could feel like I was a Greek/Latin scholar – if even for just a minute – because of how clearly the translations were explained. This is the article I’ll be sharing when this topic comes up!

    • Simplicius Simplicissimus, on being asked if he knew how to pray, gave a rather clear and simple version of the Our Father. Today Pope Francis has, like Simpliccisimus, brought us back to that singular simplicity and clarity:

      “Our father which art heaven, hallowed be name, to thy kingdom come,
      thy will come down on earth as it says heaven, give us debts as we give
      our debtors: lead us not into no temptation, but deliver us from the
      kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Emma.”

      Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen (1669)

  3. The current translation needs no correction.
    Anyone with modest instruction in the Lord’s Prayer understands what it says and means.
    Only the proud and over educated have the time and purpose for this nonsense.

    Would that the bishop of Rome simply recognize and do his job and not everyone else’s

  4. Paragraph 2846 of the Cathecism states the Greek can mean both “do not allow us to enter…” and “do not let us yield…”
    Curious how many other languages use phrasing other than “lead” in their translations.

  5. Thank you for being one of the first catholic news sites to start discussing this issue. I’m amazed at the lack of articles concerning this even from those catholic sites who are hyper-critical of the pope and nitpick everything.

    I do not know what to think about this translation. To change/reinterpret the Our Father gives me the willies. Why?, because we live in times where everything is being challenged, changed, reinterpreted and not necessarily for the reason of revealing truths. While the change appears to be spiritually logical, that does not mean that changing it makes it better. Are we not to keep the words given/spoken by God/Jesus as they are, and our job is to understand and interpret? One must ask as well, why the need to change it; do we not understand what Jesus was saying and why it was said as such. I understand that words/meanings from one language can be interpreted in another language with some variation, but I see no burden or lack of honor and respect for God in the original translation.

    When BXVI changed “…and also with you” to “and with your spirit”, that change too was unnecessary and now makes little to no sense. While I am no theologian, is any man capable of changing something as precious as the Lord’s Prayer? And for that matter, are we to expect the same Vatican, catholic response to questions with the usual failure of explaining the thought/spiritual process of why it needs to change? Or, are we to just shut up like good sheep and do as we are told. I hope this subject gets much discussion/dissection so that as Christians who will be held accountable for our own faith and lives can do so with integrity, confidence, and full understanding of what is happening.

    • “When BXVI changed “…and also with you” to “and with your spirit”, that change too was unnecessary and now makes little to no sense.”

      He didn’t actually change it; it is a correction of an incorrect translation of the Latin “et cum spiritu tuo,” which is what the Novus Ordo says. One of any number of lousy translations that ICEL stuck us (the English-speaking world) with. A first-semester Latin student could’ve told ICEL that “pro multis” means “for many,” but ICEL was too busy pushing its agenda to get the translation right.

    • “spirit” in “and with your spirit” refers to the special charism of the Holy Spirit given in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. That is why it is only ever said to a bishop, priest, or deacon.
      “and also with you” was a ham-fisted attempt by certain so-called “spirit of vatican II” theologians to laicise the clergy and clericalise the laity, to pretend that both were spiritually equal. They are not. I always hated “and also with you”, it was the worst of many awful features of the 1970s English translation. The greeting “the Lord be with you” is infinitely more than merely saying “hi how are ya goin'”, or “have a nice day” “you too” which “and also with you” seems to convey.

      Frustratingly, even now we have changed to “and with your spirit”, many priests then ruin it by then adding “good morning” or “good evening” and expect the congregation to respond “good evening Father”. (I have even heard priests repeat the “good morning” several times, each time louder, to force the congregation to say the same before he deigned to go on with the Mass.) NO, no no! “The Lord be with you” incorporates and infinitely transcends “good morning” which is unnecessary. It is not just a greeting, it’s a ritual prayer!

    • “When BXVI changed ‘…and also with you’ to ‘and with your spirit,’ that change too was unnecessary and now makes little to no sense.”

      You have it backwards.

      Back in the 1960s, when the Latin Rite Mass changes began in earnest and the vernacular started being used, the translation for “et cum spiritu tuo” used in English was, “And with your spirit.” To this day, all Byzantine Catholics using English in the liturgy say, “And with your spirit,” and always have.

      The Roman Rite was later changed when the newer translations came out, and it was those changes that “made little to no sense.”

      What Pope Benedict XVI did was to correct what had erroneously been changed and “made little to no sense.”

  6. I have always interpreted the 6th and 7th petitions to be in tandem as asking God to lead us away from that which tempts us and from all evil that would do us harm.

  7. Shouldn’t the underlying question be then: If the Greek verb in question can be translated “to introduce” or “to lead in” then why does not the Pope and the Catechism clearly acknowledge this? Why does the Catechism render it more likely “do not allow us to enter into temptation” as the French and Pope appear to render it? Further, while not mentioned in any article I have read on this subject thus far, why do we not consider Rom 1:28 where God “gives up” the stubborn to their sinful way. He does this not to destroy them, but as we well know to eventually call them back (Prodigal Son). In this way we can conceive the more orthodox notion that God is not lukewarm – he is God so that he always “leads” he does not simply “allow” as if his Divine Will is less than definitive, i.e. even his allowing is his leading. Finally, this reinforces for me in my own discernment the often overlooked notion of the fear of God, which yes is filial fear, but also servile fear for those who (like me) have strayed. Or is the fear of God in either form no longer the beginning of wisdom? If it is, then how is it wisdom to lessen the fear of God for theological (and pastoral) convenience?

  8. This is not a serious scholarly Theological study, it is a News Media article so I do not put much stock into the content. Second, there are no citations, thus it could be said that so much of the material is subjective and opinion based, not based upon referenced facts. In addition, is known that language changes over time, words change over time, culture changes over time, so meaning of words change over time. What is clear to one generation may be unclear to another. That is observable, measurable and real. The word “awful” used to mean “full of Awe” yet now it means “terrible”. We need to be sure that we are speaking about the intent and meaning of the word of God and not get mired down on the little minutia of what a Greek word may mean and/or meant over 2000 years ago. We need to look at the entire Holy Bible to be sure that there is consistency. James 1:13-14 clearly states: No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. This passage of the New Testament is meaningful and must be added to this discussion. Finally, the last paragraph of this article states two blatantly incorrect, mistakenly wrong facts: “The Father led Job in his life through sufferings inflicted on him by Satan and the Father led Jesus through the Paschal Mystery because it was the Father’s will.” First, God the Father did not lead Satan to cause Jobs sufferings, God allowed Satan to cause Job suffering by lifting the protection that Job had by God from Satan. Second, God the Father did not lead Jesus (God the Son) to suffering, Jesus had free will as we all do, so God let it be known to Jesus what he wanted from Jesus and Jesus chose by his free will to accept Gods will to suffer in the Paschal Mystery. This last paragraph is so wrong on so many levels that it completely ruins the entire premise that the author poses and thus cannot support his “no” statement at the start of the article. FAILURE! As a College Professor with a Doctorate degree, having taught and mentored students for years, I give this newspaper article a D.

    • “As a College Professor with a Doctorate degree, having taught and mentored students for years, I give this newspaper article a D.”

      Seriously?

    • “What is clear to one generation may be unclear to another.”

      Especially if the “another” is a crew of precious, yet brainless, snowflakes who are genuinely startled to learn that there was ever

      You may be a “College Professor” but you’ve apparently not troubled yourself to look up basic things like the difference between God’s active will and His permissive will.

      ” We need to be sure that … We need to look at …. This passage of the New Testament is meaningful and must be added to this discussion.”

      Oh yeah? Sez you.

      • Sorry, part of my comment disappeared. The complete sentence is “Especially if the “another” is a crew of precious, yet brainless, snowflakes who are genuinely startled to learn that there was ever anything different about the world before it started to revolve around them.”

    • This is not a serious scholarly comment. It gives no referenced facts or citations except for one Bible verse, the very same verse cited in the last paragraph of the article which this supposedly learned commenter condemns as “wrong on so many levels” without giving even one fact or actual argument to refute the factually based statements made in the article. Failure!

    • Thank you for your comment and I post on here for anyone else who is interested in my methodology or deeper study. You are correct that this is a news article, but that genre does not automatically mean this or any other work here is fiction.

      Second, this column was previously being prepared as a blog post with citations for my personal site. However, I realized this information could help a lot of people and quickly reworked it for CWR with its audience in mind. Some of the changes made included the removal of footnotes, reducing the word count to as close to 1000 words as possible so the audience would read it in its entirety, and reformulating sentences to make it easier to understand the content instead of being bogged down by excessive qualifications common in the academy.

      Regarding citations, I suggest looking through some dictionaries and ancient language lexicons to find that the definitions above are accurate. As for the theological content, the word “lead” occurs in an eschatological prayer and ought to be understood eschatologically. I therefore compared the eschatological elements of the Lord’s Prayer to documents such as 1 Enoch and 11QMelchizedek. Please feel free to read those and I did not go into depth in other Second Temple Jewish literature for the audience’s sake. Also, Fr. Hunwicke—google his name for his blog—has pointed out an eschatological understanding of the fourth petition from St. Jerome. “Lead” can also be understood eschatologically because God is often portrayed and understood in Second Temple Jewish texts as directing the world especially in times of tribulation. Thus, “lead” is best understood as referring to God’s divine governance even, or especially, through trials or temptations.

    • Your comment is not a scholarly article. It contains no references. As a human being who recognizes a pure jerk when I see one, I give your comment an F.

    • Faith Christiana, your post is plain foolish.

      The very fact that God gives us a good things which we tend to make into gods is in fact God leading us into temptation. Temptation is the nature of the fallen world. From the moment we are born, we are born into temptation. The child learns to exercise his/her wiles and will, the adult seeks to make a good of created things.

      The question is not about being led into temptation but whether there is reason for being led so. If we believe that God is omniscient, omni benevolent and omnipotent, then God does lead us into temptation but only ever for our good.

  9. Cf. ARTICLE 3 THE SEVEN PETITIONS > VI. “AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION” > CCC 2846

    CCC 2846 explains that the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation”.

    CCC 2846 This petition goes to the root of the preceding one, for our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to “lead” us into temptation. It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let yield to temptation.”1 “God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one”;2 on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil. We ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle “between flesh and spirit”; this petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength.

    1 Cf. Mt 26:41.
    2 Jas 1:13.

  10. I think the idea of altering the Lord’s Prayer is the core of the problem. It is the LORD’s prayer after all! Who would have questioned the translation up till 2017? I have asked my students “Which prayer is the perfect prayer and why?” And they respond “the Lord’s Prayer” then we look at it in detail. But to change it suggests that up till now, it was translated and misunderstood by the Lord’s own Church. There are many scripture verses whose meaning is elusive; what will become of these? In fact, the Lord does test us. But He will always make a way of escape for us from the test if we depend on Him for help.

  11. What most English speakers do not understand is that “No nos dejes de caer en la tentaclón” (Spanish: do not allow us to fall into temptation) has been the standard translation for years among the Spanish-speaking. So the Pope is coming at this from his own native tongue.

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  4. Does God Tempt Us to Sin? Should we Change the Words of the Our Father Prayer? | Defenders of the Catholic Faith | Hosted by Stephen K. Ray

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