“And don’t let us yield to temptation” - Mt 6:13 (Monday with Mounce 178)
One of the greatest exegetical conundrums for me is this final phrase in the Lord’s Prayer. My assumption is that when asked how to pray, Jesus would have given an answer that was understandable. But then again, I am not Jesus.
As we all know, Jesus starts by orienting us to God, his immanence and transcendence. “Our Father in heaven.”
We then confess his supremacy in all things: his holiness, kingly rule, divine will. And we conclude by admitting our dependence on him for all things: sustenance, forgiveness, and protection from sin and Satan (assuming τοῦ πονηροῦ is substantival).
But what does it mean to “lead us not into temptation” (καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν)? We all know that God does not tempt us (James 1:13-14), and we know that testing can be good for us (James 1:2) — the two interpretive positions on πειρασμόν. So what does this phrase mean, and why would Jesus conclude his model prayer with something so difficult to understand?
Most of the translation follow the same basic thrust as the NIV. The NRSV has a slight difference: “And do not bring us to the time of trial,” referring presumably to keeping us from the final eschatological evil (so also NEB).
But the one that really caught my eye was the NLT: “And don’t let us yield to temptation.” I was ecstatic to read this; although I don’t study from the NLT, I do read it to see what the translators believe the verses mean. This makes perfect sense! Fantastic. One less exegetical conundrum.
But one problem. εἰσφέρω doesn’t mean “yield.” Now, I want to be very careful here. Translators always have reasons for what they do; there are no random translations that I have ever seen. BDAG gives two basic meanings to εἰσφέρω. “1. to bring into an area, (bring in. 2. to cause someone to enter into a certain event or condition, bring in.” So how can it mean “yield”?
I would guess that the NLT translators view the verse as a plea for God to keep us from trials and testing that would prove too difficult for us to endure, and hence lead to our yielding to sin. This is the very thing God has already promised (1 Cor 10:13). But if this is what Jesus meant, I wish he had said it. Of course, so did the Twelve wish that Jesus would stop talking in parables, metaphors, and riddles, but rather speak plainly. But if there is anything Mark 4 teaches us, it is that Jesus expects us to commit ourselves to him and his way of thinking if we are to understand what he is saying.
The question is whether this is the purpose of a translation or commentary?
I just watched a fascinating video recommended by a scholar I respect. It was fascinating because I never tire of hearing liberal scholars assert with such confidence what they are so confident of, regardless of how little “evidence” there really is. In this video one “scholar” was convinced that John the Baptist was much more important a religious leader tan was Jesus. Jesus was merely one of John’s disciples, Jesus proclaimed John’s message, and the church devalued John in order to elevate Jesus, putting words in John’s mouth like, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
But the most surprising statement was that when Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, there is a good chance (so says the scholar) that Jesus repeated the prayer that John had taught him. So perhaps if I have frustrations with this final phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, I should take it up with John the Baptist when I see him next.
William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek, and is the general editor for Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV. Learn more about Bill at BillMounce.com, and visit his other blog on spiritual growth, Life is a Journey, at BiblicalTraining.org.
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