Does God Tempt Us?
Pope Francis was at the centre of controversy last year when he supported a French Church’s wording of The Lord’s Prayer to remove the phrase “lead us not into temptation.”
In an interview with Italy’s TV2000, a channel owned by Italy’s conference of Bishops, the Pope suggested that the theology surrounding the phrase needed to be clarified.
“It’s not about letting me fall into temptation. It’s I, the one who falls, not Him pushing me toward temptation, so as to then see how I fall,” Francis said.
“No, well, a father won’t do that. A father will immediately help you pick yourself up. Satan’s the one leading you into temptation. That’s Satan’s task.”
Instead of “lead us not into temptation”, Pope Francis commended the phrase “don’t let us go into temptation” which changes the emphasis.
It is worth highlighting here that Pope Francis is not suggesting that Jesus’ words themselves should change, but rather that the translation of the New Testament’s original Greek is at issue.
According to Massimo Grilli, a professor of New Testament studies at Gregorian University in Rome, the problem stems from the translation of the Greek word “eisenènkes” In an interview with the LA Times, Grilli explains how this creates a problem in how we understand the Greek words.
“The Greek verb ‘eisfèro’ means ‘take inside,’ and the form used in the prayer, ‘eisenènkes,’ literally means ‘don’t take us inside,’” Grilli said.
“But that’s a very literal translation, which must be interpreted.”
So, even if we acknowledge translation issues, there is a wider theological question surrounding the interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer that might be expressed as “does God tempt us?”
The concept that God might tempt us is widely seen as being different to the concept of ‘testing’. Walter Brueggemann is one theologian who has observed the idea of ‘testing’ within Scripture. While admitting that the idea is unsettling, and while discussing the story of Abraham and Isaac, Brueggemann writes, “As the ‘high and holy One,’ God tests to identify his people, to discern who is serious about faith and to know in whose lives he will be fully God.”
Brueggemann goes on to explain, however, that God is simultaneously the one who tests and provides for us. “And as the one among the ‘humble and contrite,’ God provides, giving good gifts . . . We are not permitted by this narrative to choose between these characteristics of God.”
Image by Andy Barrow
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor.
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