In his book ‘The Aramaic Sayings of Jesus’ Basil Fletcher draws out what he calls the “sublime simplicity, poetic perfection and deep human quality of the words of Jesus…” that somehow become hazy when translated into Greek, and from which come the English translations.
For this post, I want to draw out just one element of Fletcher’s insights from ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ – the line: “Lead us not into temptation.”
This is difficult for many people because it implies that we are asking God our Father, not to lead us into difficult or tempting things, almost implying that without us asking, He would, which doesn’t quite sit right. As a father myself, I wouldn’t lead my children into temptation, so why am I even asking God not to for me?
Fletcher writes (pg. 22-23),
“The Greek word translated by ‘lead’ is eirenegbes and no one could quarrel with this translation. But if we translate the Lord’s Prayer into Aramaic the most appropriate word to use is talinen because it rhymes beautifully with passinen and this is a word that could be rendered into English by ‘abandon’ as well as by ‘lead’.
This at once makes sense of the phrase, for it becomes ‘Abandon us not in the time of trial‘….[and] here a retranslation into Aramaic gives us a more reasonable meaning than a literal translation from the Greek….The fact that the Lord’s Prayer is revealed as a poem may mean both that it was said by Jesus in this way so that his followers could easily remember it, and that it was chanted or sung in this form in the early centuries of church worship.”
This post is dedicated to a missionary friend who is sick, in the sure and certain hope that God will not abandon in this time of trial.