It is reported (all over the place) that Pope Francis wants to change the wording of a line in the Lord’s Prayer because it is potentially misleading. The troublesome phrase is ‘Lead us not into temptation’, of which the Bishop of Rome says, “That is not a good translation.” The Guardian provides the full reasoning:
“It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation. I am the one who falls; it’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen. A father doesn’t do that, a father helps you to get up immediately. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation, that’s his department.”
Does God tempt? Does the Holy One lead people astray? Does the traditional rendering of the Lord’s Prayer in the Vulgate – ‘et ne inducas nos in tentationem‘ – contradict Scripture elsewhere?
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed (Js 1:13f).
Are these temptations or tests not simply an unavoidable fact of life? If so, is there any point in asking God to spare us the difficulty and inconvenience? Are they even pre-ordained?
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane…
And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt (Mt 26:36, 39).
If the Son attributes times of trial and testing to the Father, who is Pope Francis to suggest otherwise? The Gospel writers were unambiguous, as the Greek testifies: καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν. The verb εἰσφέρω ordinarily means to lead into or to bring in, and is rendered such elsewhere in the NT. So why does the Bishop of Rome think Matthew and Luke got it wrong?
In fact, their thinking is wholly consistent with the OT understanding of a God who tests His people:
Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no (Ex 16:4).
And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not (20:20).
And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no (Deut 8:2).
Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end (v16).
Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him (13:4).
And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah (33:8).
That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not (Jdg 2:22).
To ‘prove’ in all of these contexts is manifestly to test or endure a trial, and is so rendered in all modern translations: ‘I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their ancestors did’ (Jdg 2:22, NIV). Does Pope Francis intend to revise all these texts also?
Perhaps if instead of scratching the world’s itching ears with his meek and mild Lord’s Prayer eisegesis the Bishop of Rome engaged in a little seriously meaty exegesis, he might ask what sort of trial or test Jesus is talking about (for these are, after all, the words of Jesus which the Pope is seeking to ‘clarify’). Clearly, in light of James 1:13f, it is not the temptation of our own lust, for that is indeed Satan’s department (cf Lk 4:2). So perhaps, in light of Matthew 26:39, it is the trial of of immense pressure and trauma, perhaps even persecution and suffering, because the same Greek word is used (πειρασμός) in the plural and in connection with Jesus’ whole experience and ministry.
So isn’t this line of the Lord’s Prayer simply a plea that disciples of Jesus might be spared the same?
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Mt 26:41).
It’s easy to say you want to identify with Jesus and all the nice things he said, and the good he came to do like feeding the poor and healing the sick. But the Disciples couldn’t handle what Jesus was about to suffer for righteousness. Even Jesus himself could scarcely contemplate it. The ‘temptation’ to which Jesus refers is the trial of overwhelming mental and emotional pressure or the physical pain of an unbearable situation.
It is perfectly reasonable to ask God if we may be spared this, or to plead for strength that we might bear up under it, even if it is an inevitable consequence of speaking the truth and witnessing for Christ. It is hard to know why a pope who is so besieged by thousands of critical and condemnatory co-religionists does not understand this.