Sunday, February 1, 2009

Matt 6:9b-10: The Lord's Prayer Revisited

πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς
ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου
ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου
γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου
ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς
Which we uually translate something like:
Our Father, who is in Heaven, hallowed be thy name
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

But we tend to read 'hallowed' as being a stament of fact, i.e. 'your name is holy.' But this takes us away from the original Greek where the archaic 'hallowed' is perhaps better rendered 'sanctified.' Our English translation also misses two other things present in the Greek. 1) The repetition of the word σου (your/of yours) at the end of three phrases which links together name, kingdom and will. and 2) the use of the imperative form of each verb. Perhaps my translation here (which is poor English) demonstrates those features.

Father of ours, who in Heaven is,
Sanctified must be the name of yours
Coming must be the kingdom of yours
Happening must be the will of yours
As in Heaven, so on Earth.

Reading it like this the prayer takes on a different shape. 1) Reality is reflected, in that God's name is often not (as it should be) holy but often treated as a swear word and used casually. 2) The inevitability of God's name being sanctified, the Kingdom's arrival, and the accomplishment of God's will, shows our prayer not to be a request for God to do something but an alignment of ourselves through prayer to the future certain promise of Heaven coming to Earth. If God's name will one day be treated with total holiness then we antipate that day by doing so now. If God's kingdom and will will one day be supremely manifested on Earth then we anticpate that day by living according to them now.

[Disclaimer: I am still a novice when it comes to Bible translation and so take my translation as being a provisional attempt of a learner rather than the work of an expert, please!]


  1. John, the traditional English does all you've tried to bring out. So your problem isn't your translation but your reading of the English.

    They're all imperative and they all show the Name, Kingdom and Will are God's.

    Hallowed is a great word and there's not really a better English one. The Malagasy hohamasinina is good - "in the process of being declared holy in an imperative mood."

    Keep up the Greek though, you're putting me to shame.
    Here's the Westminster Shorter Catechism on these verses:

    Q. 101. What do we pray for in the first petition?
    A. In the first petition, which is, Hallowed be thy name, we pray that God would enable us and others to glorify him in all that whereby he maketh himself known; and that he would dispose all things to his own glory.

    Q. 102. What do we pray for in the second petition?
    A. In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come, we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.

    Q. 103. What do we pray for in the third petition?
    A. In the third petition, which is, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven, we pray that God, by his grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey and submit to his will in all things, as the angels do in heaven.

  2. Jon, I've gone crazy and called you John. My apologies.

  3. Phil, I forgive you. :)
    Yes Hallowed is in the imperative but noone i know (except you) reads it like that. (hence my choice of words in the original post) I have heard countless people explain it as being an old fashioned word for 'holy'. The main point which struck me though was that the traditional way does not, or at least never did for me, make the connection between name, kingdom, and will as all being things that are to come into fruition. But maybe it was just me.

    Thanks for sharing from the WC. My query is are those phrases really 'petitions' (requests)or are they statements of faith?

  4. Jon,
    Thanks for that. I get it now you've explained like that. ;)

    They are petitions AND statements of faith. There's something about the purpose of prayer in there which may need more unpacking. They're definitely part of the now-not yet tension of this current age.

    Sent you something via email.

  5. Very cool sir.
    Just to dump some of my uncomparable wisdom on you...
    I love the alternative/corrective to 'give us this day our daily bread' bit by N.T. Wright (the Lord and His prayer) and Amy Jill Levine (Jewish N.T. scholar - The Misunderstood Jew):

    I think the Greek reads something like "give us this day the bread of the day", which should be seen (with Jewish worldview eyes) as one/all of the following:

    "...give us this day, the bread of the Day..." (as in, eschatological consummation and the eating and feasting that is consistently used to picture it...)

    "...give us today, the bread of Tomorrow..."
    "...give us today, the bread of the world tomorrow..."
    "...give us in this age, the bread of the Age to Come..."


    So, this line echoes the eschatological flavour (the inaugurated eschatological flavour, to be more specific) of the line just before: "thy kingdom come", etc. "on earth as it is in heaven"

    both lines have the "let it be NOW like it's going to be eventually" feel to them... love it.

    sorry for the ramble