Accepting Pope Francis’ revised ‘Our Father’ would imply Jesus was wrong
January 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – As the press widely reported, Pope Francis has suggested changing the text of Our Father from “lead us not into temptation” to “do not let us fall into temptation.”
Pope Francis told TV2000 channel that to pray that God would “lead us not into temptation,” as Christians have prayed for two millennia, “is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.” Pope Francis insists that the Our Father’s translation should be changed to render God’s agency passive regarding temptation because “I am the one who falls; it's not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen. A father doesn't do that, a father helps you to get up immediately. It's Satan who leads us into temptation, that's his department.”
Pope Francis’ comments regarding the Our Father, however, are not merely esoteric issues of proper translation. Rather, Pope Francis’ remarks imply that the words of Jesus Christ themselves are objectively erroneous, and that he as pope has the power to change them.
Proper translation of the Our Father
While the original words of the “Our Father” uttered by Jesus Christ were likely in Aramaic, we can only rely on the Divinely inspired original Greek texts of Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels to know with the certainty of faith what Jesus truly said. Anyone may view these texts in interlinear translation, in Matthew 6 and Luke 11, which read identically in both Gospels as follows:
The Greek verb εἰσενέγκῃς, meaning to “lead into,” “carry into,” or “bring into,” is parsed: aorist tense, subjunctive mood, active voice, 2nd person, singular. Most scholars believe that εἰσενέγκῃς is a subjunctive of prohibition, which is commonly used for negative commands in the second person. While the other petitions in the Our Father make use of the aorist imperative, rather than the aorist subjunctive, εἰσενέγκῃς is, nevertheless, indisputably an active verb.
Numerous scholars confirm this analysis. Msgr. Charles Pope writes: "Eisenenkēs is an aorist subjunctive in the active voice. “Lead us not” is simply the clearest and most accurate translation of me eisenenkēs. To instead render it “do not allow us” is to read into the text an extended meaning that is not there."
Professor Tony Esolen likewise points out: “The words of Jesus are clear. The original Greek is not ambiguous. There is no variant hiding in the shelves. We cannot go from an active verb, subjunctive mood, aorist tense, second person singular, with a clear direct object, to a wholly different verb—“do not allow”—completed by an infinitive that is nowhere in the text—“to fall”—without shifting from translation to theological exegesis."
Fr. Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J. similarly explains that eisenenkēs is “used as a polite form of a negative imperative” or also “in a wider sense of causing someone to enter an event or a condition, as if it were a place” (Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “And Lead Us Not into Temptation,” Biblica 84 (2003) 259-273).
The Spanish translation “no nos dejes caer en la tentación” [“don’t let us fall into temptation”] and the new French translation “Ne nous laisse pas entrer dans l'épreuve” [“don’t allow us to enter into temptation”], which the pope prefers, in truth changes the words of Jesus. This is because the words “let/allow” and “fall/enter” do not occur in the Divinely inspired, inerrant Greek text. Instead, εἰσενέγκῃς in the Greek text lends strong support for the Vulgate Latin’s “ne nos inducas in tentationem,” which retains an active sense, as well as the traditional English translation “lead us not into temptation” and the Italian translation “non ci indurre in tentazione,” with which Pope Francis is undoubtedly familiar.
The aorist tense in the Our Father’s Greek, moreover, conveys the sense that God’s actions to “give,” “forgive,” “lead,” and “lead” us are completed actions from His eternal perspective. Additionally, the active tense of εἰσενέγκῃς, conveyed by “lead us not,” emphasizes a fundamental aspect of the Divine masculine character: that God is “pure act” and creates ex nihilo without any potency.
In essence, all creation is dependent upon God, and no evil or temptation occurs without his permission. These aspects of the active Divine omnipotence, as conveyed by Jesus’ words in the Greek text, are lost in the Pope’s preferred Spanish/French renditions. Furthermore, the passive, revisionist translation also obscures any apocalyptic implications that “lead us not into temptation” may refer to the final eschatological trial, from which we pray that God would spare us.
Pope Benedict XVI in his letter to the German bishops, urging them to translate “pro multis” in the Roman Canon of the Mass as “for many” rather than “for all,” explained the relevant principle that Scriptural translations should apply in cases such as this: “The word must be presented as it is, with its own shape, however strange it may appear to us; the interpretation must be measured by the criterion of faithfulness to the word itself, while at the same time rendering it accessible to today’s listeners.”
The words of Jesus in Scripture, not pastoral or modern sensibilities, however well-intentioned, must be the ultimate criterion for proper translations.
Implications of the Pope’s revisions to the Our Father
To be sure, the Pope is correct in saying that God doesn’t act by “inducing” or “pushing” us into temptation “to then see how I have fallen,” and that Satan is responsible for tempting us. After all, St. James says: “Let no man, when he is tempted, say that he is tempted by God. For God is not a tempter of evils, and he tempteth no man.” (James 1:13).
However, when Pope Francis goes one step further and suggests that the Latin/Italian/English translation (“lead us not into temptation”) “speaks of a God who induces temptation,” he introduces new theological problems. It is one thing to suggest an alternative translation; it is another to denounce the clear active grammar of the inspired Greek text of Jesus’ words as erroneous. Moreover, St. Jerome’s Vulgate, mirrors the original Greek in tense, number, and voice. Notably, the Council of Trent declared that the Vulgate’s translations of Scripture “must be held as authentic.”
Pope Francis’ criticism implies one of three things: (1) εἰσενέγκῃς in the inspired Greek text is not an active subjective of prohibition, and somehow the normal linguistic rules of understanding Biblical Koine Greek do not apply; (2) St. Matthew and St. Luke conveyed Jesus’ words incorrectly by “speak[ing] of a God who induces temptation,” echoing the head of the Jesuit order who downplayed Jesus’ words categorically prohibiting adultery, since “at that time, no one had a recorder to take down his words”; (3) or, Jesus Christ himself “speaks of a God who induces temptation,” requiring Pope Francis to correct the words of Jesus Christ himself.
A charitable interpretation would say that the Holy Father has simply not examined the inspired Greek text, and simply came to his linguistically erroneous conclusions out of pastoral concern for understanding the text correctly: that God is not the efficient cause of sin.
The more straightforward interpretation of the Holy Father’s words here, however, would indicate a disturbing pattern, evidenced by his actions regarding Amoris Laetitia: that the teachings of Sacred Scripture are mutable and that Christ words themselves need to be changed to be updated to fit modern sensibilities.
Specifically, Pope Francis seems to emphasize a God of only mercy without rules, contrary to Jesus’ admonition that we should also “fear him [God] that can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28). Indeed, Pope Francis seems to think praying “lead us not into temptation” runs against his idea of God as a merciful father who always “helps you to get up immediately,” without any reference to the consequences of sin.
What’s more, if the plain meaning of Jesus words in the Our Father, as faithfully conveyed in the Latin, Italian, and English translations, lead the faithful into error, and therefore can be changed by papal fiat, can Pope Francis also “correct” and “change” Christ’s unambiguous and blunt words condemning adultery through sophistic nuances? Or if Jesus’ teaching in the Our Father needs to be tweaked to be more “pastoral,” might similarly the pope water down the Church’s teaching on contraception, sodomy, sterilization, euthanasia, or abortion through changing the language we use in the Church to speak about them?
If the pope can, by his own will, change the words of Jesus handed down to us from the apostles and preserved in Sacred Scripture, where does the slippery slope stop?
Pope Francis’ other teachings imply God tempts man to sin
Aside from the Our Father debate, Pope Francis’ correct teaching that God does not “induce” or “push” us into temptation is contradicted by his numerous other teachings where he alleges a conflict among the Ten Commandments, and his other statements in which he prays that God induce traditional-minded Catholics to fall into sin.
- On November 30, 2015, Pope Francis said regarding the use of condoms by Africans to prevent the spread of HIV: “Yes, it [a condom] is one of the methods. The moral teaching of the Church on this point is found here faced with a perplexity: the fifth or sixth commandment? Defend life, or that sexual relations are open to life?”
- On December 12, 2015, Pope Francis said in his morning homily: “When I have seen a Christian… [with] such rigidness on the outside, I ask the Lord: ‘But Lord, throw a banana peel in front of them, so that they will take a good fall, and feel shame that they are sinners, and so encounter You, [and realize] that You are the Savior.”
- On February 19, 2016, the Pope described using contraception to prevent the conception of babies with microcephaly due to the Zika virus (viz. for eugenic purposes) as “the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy” since “we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment.” He subsequently cited a disputed anecdote that “Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape.” Pope Francis’ press secretary further confirmed the pope was talking about contraception or condoms.
- On October 1, 2016, Pope Francis said that to “make efforts to convert” an Orthodox Christian to the Catholic faith “is a very grave sin against ecumenism: proselytism”. “We should never proselytize the Orthodox!” Pope Francis insisted.
- In 2016, in his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis taught that for a divorced and civilly remarried person to abstain from adulterous acts in some cases may cause “further sin” (AL 301) and that such a person may have “great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins” (AL 298). In a footnote in Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis also misquotes Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, and states that for a divorced and civilly remarried person to abstain from adulterous acts can make it “that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers” (Footnote 329). Moreover, the Buenos Aires’ bishops’ guidelines implementing Amoris Laetitia, which Pope Francis has promulgated as his “authentic magisterium” for which “there are no other interpretations” of Amoris Laetitia, cites cases “when a person judges that he would fall into a subsequent fault by damaging the children of the new union,” to allow public adulterers to receive Holy Communion in such circumstances without intending to live in continence.
How are these sayings of Pope Francis relevant to his comments about the Our Father? If we take Pope Francis at his word in several of these statements, God, the Supreme Divine Legislator, seems to literally “lead us into temptation” by putting human beings in horrible moral dilemmas in which the Ten Commandments contradict one another:
- If you obey the Sixth Commandment by avoiding the intrinsic evil of contraception, and you have HIV, you will thereby violate the Fifth commandment against murder by risking your spouse contracting HIV.
- If you obey the Sixth Commandment by avoiding the intrinsic evil of contraception, and you are at risk of the Zika virus, you will thereby violate the Fifth commandment against murder by risking conceiving a child with microcephalus birth defects.
- If you obey the Sixth Commandment by avoiding the intrinsic evil of adultery, and you are divorced and civilly remarried, abstaining from adulterous sex will make you guilty of “new sins” by endangering “faithfulness” to your adulterous partner and “damage the children of the new union.”
- If you obey the First Commandment by preaching the truth of the Catholic Faith to non-Catholics using words, you commit a “very grave sin against ecumenism.” This would imply that one could commit grave sin by obeying Christ’s Great Commission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
- Finally, for traditional-minded Catholics, Pope Francis hopes God would “throw a banana peel in front of them, so that they will take a good fall, and feel shame that they are sinners.” This directly contradicts Pope Francis’ alleged basis for changing the Our Father, since “I am the one who falls; it's not him [God] pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen.”
- Pope Francis’ explicit insistence that obeying the Sixth Commandment against adultery could offend God by simultaneously violating the Fifth Commandment against murder makes God into the kind of irrational, voluntaristic deity that Pope Benedict XVI warned against in his famous Regensburg lecture. Far from being a God of mercy, Pope Francis’ God who would subject human beings to “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenarios makes the Holy Trinity, whose sacred persons, His Holiness jokes, are always “arguing behind closed doors,” into a caricature of the fickle pagan deities of Greco-Roman antiquity. Moreover, while Pope Francis reminds us that we should not forget “it's Satan who leads us into temptation” he says elsewhere, shockingly, that Christ “made himself to be devil, serpent for us.”
In truth, there can never be any conflict among the Ten Commandments, since they come from the same Divine lawgiver who, in his omniscience, prescribes the Decalogue, especially in its negative precepts, for all times and circumstances.
Pope Pius XII, moreover, explicitly condemned the heresy of “situation ethics” because it sought to create exceptions to the Decalogue’s exceptionless negative moral precepts, especially with respect to “adultery and fornication, the abuse of marriage, the solitary sin, stealing and robbery, taking away the necessities of life, depriving workers of their just wage…” Instead, Pius XII taught, “all this is gravely forbidden by the divine Lawmaker. No examination is necessary. No matter what the situation of the individual may be, there is no other course open to him but to obey.”
There are no easy answers for Pope Francis’ strange novelties and contradictions in his teachings about the Catholic Faith, the Ten Commandments, and the Our Father.
What’s at stake in this “Our Father” translation debate is much more than an esoteric scholar’s debate over Greek syntax; rather, it is about whether we can rely on the words of Jesus, contained in the Catholic Church’s’ Sacred Scripture and Tradition, and whether the Pope has the power to change them.
Those who have followed his pontificate closely know this is not the first time Pope Francis has effectively sought to correct the words of the Savior, most notably on adultery. Accordingly, in these times of great confusion, Catholics should cling to the truth of Jesus Christ as preserved in the perennial teachings of the Holy Catholic Church, and perhaps pray an Our Father for our Holy Father to have the grace to carry out his Petrine ministry, to defend the truth of Christ and confirm his brethren in the faith.
Editor's note: Andrew Guernsey is a graduate student in governmental studies at Johns Hopkins University, where he recently received his undergraduate degree in classics and political science. He interned with LifeSiteNews as an accredited journalist in Rome in 2015 during the Ordinary Synod on the Family. Andrew currently works in Washington, D.C. as a lobbyist advocating for pro-life public policy.