The Lord’s Prayer
A Prayer Revised and Put To Music
by Jimmie Deal
Click here to listen to the song.
The most important thing to remember about the Lord’s Prayer is that it focuses on right living, not about believing any correct doctrine regarding unknowable things. Thus, it is completely non-denominational and non-doctrinal. A Jew, a Christian, a Moslem, a Hindu, or even an agnostic could pray it in good conscience.
I like the Lord’s Prayer, but I have never liked any of the many musical versions of the Lord’s Prayer as sung. So I decided to write my own music. In the process I had to decide how to reword the lyrics.
The Lord’s Prayer was originally prayed in Hebrew or Aramaic. It was transmitted orally before it was written down in Hebrew or Aramaic. Later the Lord’s Prayer was translated into Greek and transmitted orally before it was written down in Greek.
Thus, there were possibilities (almost certainties) that errors were made in translation and transmission. The proof is in the fact that there are least four versions of the Lord’s Prayer that I know of. (Luke 11:2-4, the shortest version; Matthew 6:9-15 which adds one extra line; Didache 9:5, which is the longest and the only one to add “for thine is the power, and the glory”, although omitting “the kingdom”; and the Byzantine version of Matthew 6:13, which includes “the kingdom”.)
Luke 11:2-4, the shortest version:
Father, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread;
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us;
and lead us not into temptation.
Matthew 6:9-15 reads thus:
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you;
but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Didache 8 says:
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
as in heaven, so on earth.
Give us today our daily (needful) bread,
and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors.
And bring us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one (or evil),
for Yours is the power and the glory for ever.
Thrice in the day thus pray.
Next, I have added one line to the song, one which I suggest was originally present but which was deleted through errors in translation and oral transmission. So in the third doublet I have added the line in bold caps:
Give us this day our daily bread,
AS WE SHARE WITH THOSE IN NEED.
Although this line is missing from either of the four versions of the prayer, there is reason to believe that this line or something similar to it was originally part of the prayer. Hebrew prayers generally were written in doublets. Either the same idea is repeated with different wording or there is a paring of linked thoughts. There is alliteration but little or no rhyming of the last word of each line.
The 23rd Psalm is a good example: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want …”. Theologians call it Hebrew parallelism. It was the way the Hebrews did poetry.
From a structural point of view, without “as we share with those in need”, there is no parallelism to follow the “give us this day our daily bread” line.
From a logical point of view, it would have been unlikely for one to thank God for daily bread without saying something about our sharing our bread with others. On this point James had this to say in James 2:15:
If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?
Regarding the final lines of the prayer, “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. Amen”, I quote from my book:
It is possible that Jesus and his followers were students of the mystical and secret kabbalah. The Essenes, probably the sect into which Jesus was born, studied a “twofold philosophy of ” … “the contemplation of God’s being and the origin of the universe.” (Philo, Quod Omnis Probus Liber, xii.; (“Gnosticism,” “Cabala,” www.JewishEncyclopedia.com.) The bottom three sefirot of the kabbalistic tree in descending order are Yod, Yesod, and Malkuth, which in reverse order are “the kingdom, the power, and the glory” of the Lord’s Prayer. (Matthew 6:9-15.) Although these words are missing from the versions in Matthew and Luke, they are to be found in Didache 9:5, which is probably older than Matthew or Luke.)
Next, I rewrote or reinterpreted the following doublet:
Lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil.
I believe this was a bad translation from Aramaic into Greek. My reasoning derives from the book of James, written by Jesus’ brother, who survived him by more than 30 years and was the leader of the Jerusalem Essene disciples of Jesus.
The book of James focuses not on theology but on right living. James may have heard the incorrectly translated doublet in Greek asking God not to lead us into temptation. James was an educated man and may have spoken some Greek. He may have been responding to the mistranslation when he wrote the following remarks found at James 1:12-13:
Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
So I have rewritten this doublet to reflect James’ criticism:
May we not be tested;
But if we are, may we survive the test.
On December 8, 2016, Pope Francis said that the common rendering of one line in the prayer — “lead us not into temptation” — was “not a good translation” from ancient texts. “Do not let us fall into temptation,” he suggested, might be better because God does not lead people into temptation; Satan does.