Does The Lord’s Prayer Make Mention Of The Devil? -- By: Lemuel S. Potwin

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 048:190 (Apr 1891)
Article: Does The Lord’s Prayer Make Mention Of The Devil?
Author: Lemuel S. Potwin


Does The Lord’s Prayer Make Mention Of The Devil?

Professor Lemuel S. Potwin

Ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ. Matt. 6:13.

The revisers of the English New Testament thought best to conceal from the public the results of their labors until the work should be complete. The German revisers of Luther’s version thought differently. They issued a “Probebibel” to invite and stimulate the study of those outside of the responsible board, and to learn their opinions before it was too late to use them. There cannot be much doubt, as we look back, that the Germans took the better course. Our method saved time, and perhaps labor, for the committee. It had also the pecuniary advantage of an excited public curiosity, and whatever other good may be supposed to have come from a number of genuine surprises; but it lost the criticism of the many who were to use the book, and whose favor would lead to a speedy introduction of it. Hence the discussion that followed the publication of the New Testament took the form largely of defence and attack; and it soon became evident that this discussion was out of time unless the publication could be regarded as tentative. This idea, unfortunately, was opposed by the Revisers, and not insisted on either by their opponents or by the great body of the undecided.

So ten years have gone by, and the idea of either attacking or defending has gradually subsided, until students of the New Testament have returned to the good old way of interpreting the original Greek as best they can, leaving the versions to take care of themselves. It is in this spirit that we wish to take up the last petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Probably no greater surprise was found in the whole Revision than the rendering “Deliver us from the evil one.” In some minds there was a feeling akin to indignation that so important a question, long mooted among interpreters, should have been settled for the whole English world by the majority vote of a small company without wider consultation. It was hard, ten years ago, to discuss this rendering without prejudice; but now we have become used to it, and, if it is correct, we are all ready to adopt it.

Is it correct? Or is the former rendering correct, “Deliver us from evil”?

Let us put aside, at the outset, certain considerations that are indecisive.

It is hardly needful to say that the presence of the article before πονηροῦ has no bearing whatever on the question, though its’ absence would, of course, be decisive. We never say, in English, “the evil” when we...

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