Pope Francis wants to change a line of the Our Father

The line is “lead us not into temptation”. The Pontiff suggests that “do not let us fall into temptation” would be a better translation. This translation is fairly loose, but not really contrary to the meaning of the line.

In the Latin Vulgate, Matthew and Luke have the same wording for this line in the Our Father prayer: “Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.” And the translation as “And lead us not into temptation” is not very controversial. A fairly literal rendering of the Latin does not allow any substantially different wording.

I suppose a looser translation could give us the wording suggested by Pope Francis: “do not let us fall”, rather than “lead us not”. He is right that God does not tempt anyone, nor does He lead anyone into temptation, directly. However, God does permit sinners, who frequently thwart His grace, to be lead into temptation by their own sinful desires and by other sinners. And God helps the faithful to avoid temptation by both providence and grace. So the prayer asks for help from God in avoiding sin, by avoiding any form of temptation, whether interior or exterior.

The translation suggested by the holy Pontiff is theologically accurate, but it represents a looser translation. The Pope has a fairly liberal approach to Catholicism, and that is not, in itself, wrong. The assumption among conservatives, that liberal Catholicism is contrary to orthodoxy, is false. The Pontiff is liberal and orthodox.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a looser translation of the Bible or of the Lord’s prayer. The Church benefits from having a multiplicity of different translations and approaches to the faith. So, one of the common errors of the conservative Catholic subculture is the insistence on only one path, one version of the Faith, one answer to every open question, one way of approaching a life of faith, as if conservatism were equal to orthodoxy or faithfulness.

I’m not sure how much of an uproar might result from this particular comment of the Pope. But there should be no real disagreement. He makes a good point, and it is good to have different wordings of the prayers used by the Church. I myself have changed the wording that I use for the Our Father several times over the years. There is no one best wording.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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8 Responses to Pope Francis wants to change a line of the Our Father

  1. Mat says:

    Deuteronomy 4:2 You must not add to the word that I am commanding you, neither must you take away from it, so as to keep the commandments of Jehovah your God that I am commanding you. Matthew 23:8 But you, do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your Teacher,+ and all of you are brothers. 9  Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father,+ the heavenly One. 10  Neither be called leaders, for your Leader is one, the Christ.

  2. Matt says:

    My entire life I felt that asking God to not lead us into temptation was rather strange. The change that Pope Francis proposes “that do not let us fall into temptation” is perfect.

  3. Tom Mazanec says:

    I know enough from my trying to learn Latin and Esperanto that one cannot perfectly translate between two different languages. If we want to say the Lord’s Prayer exactly as Jesus said it, we would have to say it in Aramaic.

  4. Emanuel says:

    That is interesting. In my home country (Angola) and others Portuguese Speaker Countries, we say “do not let us fall into temptation”

    • Ron Conte says:

      Interesting. So this suggestion of the Pope is not so radical as the press is making it seem.

    • Sofía says:

      It is also the case in Spain and I guess other Spanish-speaking countries. The official translation in vernacular has always been “do not let us fall into temptation”, as far as my memory can reach. My case was rather the contrary, it was strange to me when I learnt the Our Father in English or Latin and found “do not lead us into temptation”.

  5. Debbie Poisson says:

    I love the Our Father prayer!:). It’s the heart of my life. The Fathers Divine will means everything to me. Sometimes I will also add to the prayer to make it even more personal to me when the spirit moves in me such as I will emphasize Thy kingdom come in me and thy will be done in me (in all I think, say and do) and on earth….. I myself have never had a problem with the Our Father prayer with ” lead us not into temptation” for it was always understood….. help me not to fall into temptation. I think it’s okay to make the prayer more meaningful to you but doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to change for everyone.

  6. deckercw says:

    The Holy Father’s native language is Spanish. In Spanish, that line is commonly translated, “et no nos dejes caer en la tentacion.” “Do not let us fall into temptation” would be a very literal translation of the Spanish with which the Holy Father is undoubtedly very familiar. I think the Holy Father is simply advocating for the common Spanish rendition over the common English one as a better expression of the underlying theological truth. An interesting question, to which I do not know the answer, is how ancient is the Spanish translation. After all, the English translation with which we are familiar predates Vatican II by a long time. I assume the same is true of the Spanish translation.

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