I am grateful to Catholic World Report for publishing an article I wrote on whether it is best to translate the sixth petition of the Our Father as “do not lead us” or “do not let us fall.” You can read the article HERE.
The article began as a Facebook comment and evolved to a blog post which I submitted to CWR instead. I have reproduced the unrefined Facebook comment below (click “Read More” if you are on the homepage) followed by a comment from another person because there are a few elements I could not incorporate in the CWR article that I may return to later. Fr. Z suggests looking at the Catechism’s explanation and Fr. Hunwicke offers some interesting information on how the Our Father was viewed eschatologically in its fourth petition. Also, it appears the Italian Bishop’s Conference is changing their translation of the sixth petition.
As a liturgical text, the “Our Father” in Mass is based on the Latin and the word rendered “lead” in the English translation is “inducas.” The Latin word means, “to lead,” “bring,” “introduce,” “induce,” “influence,” etc. The new French and current Spanish translations, ironcially becuse they are closer to Latin linguistically, render “inducas” as “fall.” That is quite a mistranslation and the English is actually a better translation of the Latin. The Latin liturgical text is based on the Greek word εἰσενέγκῃς which means “to carry into,” “introduce,” “bring into,” etc. The Latin liturgical word is not exactly the same as the Greek but it is pretty close so they are accurate equivalents. To render the Lord’s prayer as “fall” is not only a mistranslation but an imposition of a theological viewpoint without trying to understand or draw out the meaning of this word in the text. The last two petitions have an eschatological ring as indicated in the matthean Greek text which actually specifies that we be delivered from “the evil one.” The evil one is typically an eschatological figure in Second Temple Jewish writings. The Latin has made this more abstract by saying we should be delivered from “evil” but it is still orthodox to understand this abstract Latin term eschatologically. As an eschatological viewpoint, the word εἰσενέγκῃς/inducas is entirely appropriate. The best way to illustrate this is by contextualizing the last two petitions of the Pater Noster with the eschatological prophecies in Matt 24 as when Jesus says he has shortened the days for the sake of the elect or in Luke 21 about escaping tribulation. In the Old Testament, the “Day of the Lord” became a day of tribulation to be avoided. Thus, the Pater Noster petition is really asking God to not bring us to the day of tribulation where few will be saved because the suffering will be so great as well as the temptation to lose faith. This understanding is also confirmed because the Greek word underlying the Latin “temptation” can mean “temptation” and “trial.” The petition can be understood as asking God for us not to undergo the great trial/temptation/tribulation at the end of time and it is not reduced to our everyday life though it does include that because every act we make today prepares us for future trials in our life and at the end of it whether we make it to the end of the world or just the end of our life.
Well, I was going to point out that εἰσενέγκῃς is from the prefix eis meaning into and the verb fero meaning carry or lead, like the latin in ducere. Therefore lead into is a perfectly accurate translation. But since Jason M Bermender has done a lengthy job of it I would only add that DIFFICULTY IN UNDERSTANDING is not to be avoided. The MYSTERY of evil is something that people since before Job have struggled with. God, insofar as He leads us daily, does in fact lead us into temptations (read trials), He also leads us out of them just as He went to the cross and rose again. While we might pray like St. Paul to have our trials (thorn in the flesh) removed, His response is always: “be not afraid” and “my Grace is enough”!