First, if liturgical translations frustrate you, just use Latin. It is, after all, the official language of worship of the Roman Catholic Church.
I have had a couple dozen panicked or confused emails, and a few more that are simply curious, about the Pope remarks about (… you knew that was coming…) the translation of the Our Father.
Context: Recently the French changed their wording. It was pretty bad, frankly. That probably got the Pope thinking in translation terms about the Lord’s Prayer.
So the Pope opines that the Our Father says something that sounds in Italian like God the Father leads us into temptation, which doesn’t right. In English we have something that sounds a little like that: “lead us not into temptation”.
The Pope says something. People go bananas. Huzzah! Another chance for us to find out what the prayer really says! right?
Matthew 6:9–6:13 and Luke 11:2–11:4 are our GREEK biblical texts which are the foundation of the Our Father as we say it in Latin and in English. The Greek of the line in question, from Matthew, is “καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν”. Frankly, the Greek is tricky. Read in a straight forward way, it says what we say when we say the Lord’s Prayer. So, what does it really say?
One of the last sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this petition.
VI. “And Lead Us not into Temptation”
2846 This petition goes to the root of the preceding one, for our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to “lead” us into temptation. It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation.” “God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one”; on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil. We ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle “between flesh and spirit”; this petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength.
2847 The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man, and temptation, which leads to sin and death. We must also discern between being tempted and consenting to temptation. Finally, discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a “delight to the eyes” and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death. God does not want to impose the good, but wants free beings…. There is a certain usefulness to temptation. No one but God knows what our soul has received from him, not even we ourselves. But temptation reveals it in order to teach us to know ourselves, and in this way we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the goods that temptation has revealed to us.
2848 “Lead us not into temptation” implies a decision of the heart: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also…. No one can serve two masters.” “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” In this assent to the Holy Spirit the Father gives us strength. “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, so that you may be able to endure it.” [Hence, we need graces. God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to say “No!”… provided that we choose to suffer in the short term, of course.]
2849 Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony. In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to his battle and his agony. He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with his own. Vigilance is “custody of the heart,” and Jesus prayed for us to the Father: “Keep them in your name.” The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch. Finally, this petition takes on all its dramatic meaning in relation to the last temptation of our earthly battle; it asks for final perseverance. “Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake.”
Could the English version which is traditional in deeply rooted in our identity a “bad” translation? No. It isn’t. However, it is incumbent on the Church’s pastors to teach people what it means, so that when they pray it, they get it.
So, there’s nothing wrong with the Pope bringing up the point. It gives us an opportunity to go beyond the shallow and our into the deep to fish up abundant meaning fishes.
Also, St. Augustine eloquently explains the Lord’s Prayer. Among other things, he says:
Thou dost not see the devil, but the object that engages you you see. Get the mastery then over that of which you are sensible within. Fight valiantly, for He who has regenerated you is your Judge; He has arranged the lists, He is making ready the crown. But because you will without doubt be conquered, if you have not Him to aid you, if He abandon you: therefore do you say in the prayer, Lead us not into temptation. The Judge’s wrath has given over some to their own lusts; and the Apostle says, God gave them over to the lusts of their hearts. How did He give them up? Not by forcing, but by forsaking them.
If we do not pray and engage with God as suitors and dependents, we fall out of contact with Him and we grow cooler and cooler until our hearts freeze and harden. God will not force us. He will respect the “foresaken” nature of our relationship. So, it is a good idea – it is CHRIST’s idea, and so it’s good – to pray using that petition about temptations. No what you are praying.
Finally, the teachings of the Lord, while at times on the surface are pretty straight forward, are nevertheless offerings from the divine, eternal Logos. They contain unfathomable depths and mysteries.
Catholic World Report has a good article about this issue with the Pope – HERE