Deliver Us From Evil

Articles 2 Comments

At the end of Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer we read, “But deliver us from evil” in the King James Version and Revised Standard Version. A number of more recent English translations differ. The Good News Bible, New Century Bible, New International Version, New Jerusalem Bible and New Revised Standard Version all render Matthew 6:13b as keep us, save us, rescue us, or deliver us “from the evil one.” The difference is significant, and invites our curiosity.

מְתֻרְגְּמָן Meturgeman is Hebrew for translator. The articles in this series illustrate how a knowledge of the Gospels’ Semitic background can provide a deeper understanding of Jesus’ words and influence the translation process.

At the end of Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer we read, “But deliver us from evil” in the King James Version and Revised Standard Version. A number of more recent English translations differ. The Good News BibleNew Century BibleNew International Version, New Jerusalem Bible and New Revised Standard Version all render Matthew 6:13b as keep us, save us, rescue us, or deliver us “from the evil one.” The difference is significant, and invites our curiosity.

Translators of the two older English versions rendered the Greek phrase ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ  (apo tou ponērou, literally, “from the bad”) as “from evil.” Translators of the newer versions listed above rendered the same phrase as “from the evil one.” Which translators were right? Is the phrase ambiguous?

The earlier translators have Jesus teaching his disciples to ask God for protection against evil—all evil, regardless of its origin. The later translators limit the meaning to a request for protection against the evil one, in other words, against Satan, or the devil. To get to the roots of this linguistic problem, we’ll need to do some digging.

A Quick Peek at the Greek

First, a quick lesson in Greek. All Greek nouns and adjectives are categorized according to gender. Gender may be masculine, feminine—or neuter! Sometimes a Greek word may appear carrying one gender in one context and a different gender in another context. The difference in gender affects meaning. For example, ponēros is masculine in gender and means “an evil man or masculine entity.” But ponēron, being neuter in gender, means “evil” or “evil thing” in a broad, impersonal sense. Difficulties arise in contexts where the masculine ponēros and the neuter ponēron appear after certain prepositions. When they do, their endings may be identical and indistinguishable.

Premium Members
If you are not a Premium Member, please consider becoming one starting at $10/month (paid monthly) or only $5/month (paid annually):

One Time Purchase Rather Than Membership
Rather than a membership, you may also purchase access to this entire page for $1.99 USD. (If you do not have an account select "Register & Purchase.")

Login & Purchase

 


Comments 2

  1. Clifton Payne

    Excellent article Randall. Thank you for writing it. Even with my limited Hebrew that was how I understood the text. It is nice to have the support of your suburb scholarship.

  2. Pingback: The Angel Who Has Delivered Me From Harm | Jerusalem Perspective Online

Leave a Reply

Online Hebrew Course

Do you want to learn Hebrew? Check out our online Hebrew course Aleph-Bet: Hebrew Reading and Writing for Christians in 17 Easy Lessons.

Most Recent LOY Articles