The Lord’s Prayer In A Dozen Languages -- By: Donald B. Maclane

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 075:300 (Oct 1918)
Article: The Lord’s Prayer In A Dozen Languages
Author: Donald B. Maclane


The Lord’s Prayer In A Dozen Languages

Donald B. Maclane

A few years ago I experienced a personal renaissance. I decided to read each day a little Hebrew and a little Greek, which since Seminary days I had sadly neglected. Soon I added a Latin Testament and a German. I found so much delight in reading the Testament in these languages that I have added nine more to my collection, — modern Greek, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, and Icelandic. I have a schedule by which I read five verses a day from these books in rotation. I beg of you not to imagine that I have mastered or ever hope to master all these languages. I am the merest amateur and novice. I use no dictionary or grammar. I confine myself to the Gospels, which every minister knows almost by heart anyway, not attempting to read the Epistles. I simply stumble clumsily through the five verses, freely consulting my English Testament in case of doubt. But I have come to love all these languages. My Tower-of-Babel Bible reading is one of the happiest ten minutes of my day, and I wish to share with you my pleasure. Hence this paper, “The Lord’s Prayer in a Dozen Languages.”

1. Let us begin with the Greek. The most notable feature of the Greek is its wealth of terminations to indicate case and person, mood and tense. More than half of the words

in the Prayer have some sign of inflection or conjugation. The genitive, dative, and accusative, the singular and the plural, the masculine and the feminine, the indicative and the imperative, — all of these are differentiated in Greek with a precision and elegance unmatched in the other languages. Take the definite article, the, for example. The occurs 14 times in the Prayer, about twice as many as in any of my other languages (English has only 3 the’s, the kingdom, the power, and the glory). But Greek puts in a the on all occasions,— Our Father who art in the heavens, hallowed be the name of thine, come the kingdom of thine; and so on to the end, it is extremely the-ological. Furthermore, these many the’s are found in the Prayer in no less than eight different forms according to the case, person, or number involved (ho, tois, to, hē, ton, ta, tou, tous). This shows the gusto, the nicety, the elaborateness, with which Greek revels in grammar.

2. Modem Greek. We speak of Greek as a dead language. But modern Greek is very much alive, and is very little changed from the ancient Greek. In modern Greek the Prayer is almost a duplicate of the ancient, word for word, and letter for letter. Whatever changes there are, ar...

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