… And lead us not into temptation

The pontiff of Rome, Francis, is contesting that Matt. 6: 13, which traditionally reads, “And lead us not into temptation”, should rather be read, “And do not allow us to fall into temptation”. The reasons given suggest that we’re responsible for entering into temptation and not God. This seems to agree with James 1: 13-14. When commenting on this, Doug Batchelor, an Adventist preacher on Amazing Facts television broadcast ministry wrote, “Protestants have known for centuries the Lord’s prayer is more accurately translated “lead us away from temptation.” These two interpretations can be theologically accurate but not accurate in lexical semantics. The traditional reading is accurate. Again, the word “temptation” in context here, differs widely from that of James’.

Various manuscripts and Greek lexicons agree with the traditional reading of the text:

καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν

“Do not bring/lead us into temptation”

The key problem in the text is with the word πειρασμόs translated “temptation”. This same word is often translated as trial (James 1: 2, 12; 1 Pet. 1: 6) or test (1 Pet. 4: 12) or enticement from the flesh (Gal. 4: 14; James 1:14).

According to the Bible, the inroads of temptation can come from within (James 1:14) and without (Job 1: 6-12; Matt. 4: 1; Lk. 4: 1, 2; Rev. 3:10). What is from within stems from our own desires, and Satan is responsible for temptations from without. God may try our faith but does not tempt us with evil (Heb. 11: 17) since the purpose of temptation is to lead into sin.

Again, “And lead us not into temptation” should be understood in its larger context of the Jesus narrative in the Gospels. The prayer follows immediately after Jesus had returned from the wilderness and having been tempted by Satan. Both Mathew and Luke records that the Spirit led Jesus to be tempted but the tempter was neither the Spirit or God. It was Satan (Matt. 4: 1; Lk. 4: 1-2). Knowing the subtlety and severity of Satan’s devices, Jesus advises us to pray that God saves us from the hands of Satan’s temptations. This makes sense when Jesus added, “but deliver us from the evil one”1.

From this background, I think what Jesus meant in the Gospels is not the same as in James 1: 13, 14. James is talking about self inclinations into sin. Matt. 6: 13 is a temptation that comes from without (Satan). Looking at the story of Job and Jesus’ own temptation in the wilderness, God can sometimes permit Satan to tempt us to some degree but He delivers us eventually. This agrees with 1 Cor. 10: 13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”.

In context, “And lead us not into temptation” may suggest a protection from falling into Satan’s temptations. God will not bring the temptation but He may lead us to face Satan and his temptations victoriously. Or He may not put us to the test like Job and Jesus. Or, and more so, He may not permit Satan to tempt us at all. The request is not for self resistance against temtpation but protection from Satan. In the Lord’s prayer, it is God who is the subject or actor, not you.

One last thing to note, to fall into temptation is not sin but yielding to it makes you sin. Aren’t we tempted everyday from both within and without? Haven’t God been faithful in delivering us from Satan’s temptations?

  1. The Lord’s prayer follows the pattern of Psalm 23 where God is the shepherd leader who leads, protects and guides the sheep, just like the Father in the Lord’s prayer who will not lead His children into temptation but will deliver them from Satan.  
Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi

Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi

Pastor/PhD Student
I am a Seventh-day Adventist pastor designate for the Adventist Fellowship Geneva in Switzerland, and studying for a PhD at the University of Geneva.
Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi

@owusugyamficlif

@adventist theologian @adventistpastor Wisdom is not gained from a big head. It's from a big God. He's the ultimate source of all realities.
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Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi