The Pope has made news recently saying that the Lord’s Prayer should be retranslated to say “Do not abandon us to temptation.” Undergirding this concern is a very common, modern concern to not portray God as taking an active role in causing the difficult life circumstances we face. However, there is a distinctive problem: the word εἰσφέρω is not the language of abandonment. At a literal level, it ascribes an active causal role to God in regards to πειρασμός, which can be translated as trial or temptation, that the petitioner requests God not to bring. “Abandon” is far too passive.
Furthermore, the connection of the Lords’ Prayer to the temptation of Jesus is paramount here. A tight interconnection of themes
In other words, it might be best to suggest that the Lord’s Prayer is the learned prayer in the crucible of Jesus’ trial, in which Jesus directs His disciples to seek a relationship with God that is not defined by Jesus’ own experience in the wilderness; where Jesus was deprived of food, the disciples are to seek provisions; where Jesus faced the trials that put Israel into exile, the disciples are to pray for restoration; where Jesus faced a time of difficult testing and experiences all the painful, harmful consequences upon the body from it, the disciples are to seek to never have such an experience.
So, when Jesus speaks of not being lead into trial/temptation, it is relevant to recognize how it echoes the temptation narrative, where it is said that “Jesus was led up (ἀνάγω) by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4.1) Once again, there is an active causal role assigned to God, this time through His Spirit, in which Jesus quite literally moves to the location where he will face temptation because of the Spirit.
In other words, both linguistic evidence and evidence from the larger Matthean narrative suggests that God can take an active role in bringing people to a difficult, trying circumstance.
However, because we have so “liturgical-
For instance, our understanding of God has been so influenced by an abstraction of what it means to be ‘”good.” Being “good” in modern discourse essentially amounts to a mixture of a) getting the behavioral formula of righteousness correct and b) not putting people through emotional pain or turmoil.1 The wording of the Lord’s Prayer appears to suggest that God does something that puts people through pain; in a culture that is highly concerned about issues of abuse, this sounds like the wrong type of action that would be unthinkable to attribute to God if God is good. Hence, the Pope mentions what a (loving) father is supposed to do as justification for an alternative translation. I can understand and sympathize with this concern that undergirds this, but it is the wrong solution for the problem.
And, if I may suggest, the Pope’s favored translation isn’t much better in how it portrays God. It can also risk portraying God in the role of a neglectful father who needs to be reminded to help their children. While the Pope appeals to ideals of fatherhood to argue against the more active language, his alternative isn’t much better.
In fact, the very existence of suffering in the world makes any expressions about God that a) is based upon real human experience and b) appeals to God to act with power to change circumstances means that any and all language about God is at risk of portraying God as not being loving, as either being abusive or neglectful.
The root of this problem is that we try to understand God against some abstracted notion of “goodness” that we form based upon our own, pragmatic concerns and circumstances. We are aware of problems of misuse of power and control upon hapless victims, particularly children, and we define the ideals of parenting and fatherhood with these concerns in mind. If we don’t understand the prayer against the backdrop of Christ’s temptations, we will understand it against the backdrop of the problems that are salient within our own culture and society.
The better solution to this problem, I would suggest, is to understand the prayer against the backdrop of Christ’s temptations, it is a profound prayer in which we recognize that God might put anyone of us as His children through difficult trials. Jesus endured it twice, first in the wilderness and second in the cross; notice the shared language about God’s will in the Lord’s prayer and the prayer of Gethsemane in Matthew 26.39. But if God puts you through a trial, know that it has a redemptive purpose behind it as
Thus, I would suggest this solution would entail either a) ceasing to liturgical-