Thinking

“Give Us Today Our ??? Bread”

Did you know that the Greek word translated as “daily” in “give us today our daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer is a hapax legomenon (technically, a dis legomenon because it occurs twice, in Matthew 6:11 and Luke 11:3), which means that it -only- occurs there in any extent Greek text? And what does that mean? Basically, that we don’t actually know with certainty what it means, because there’s not enough context to determine it.

Furthermore, the translation as “daily” seems wrong for a number of reasons, whether morphological (the Greek word is epiousios) or common sensical (there’s a very common Greek word for “daily” and this isn’t it).

There’s a history of translation regarding the word, and “daily” seems to be possibly mistaken. A long history (including Jerome) translates it as “superessential,” a rather technical neologism that basically just takes the Greek and literalizes it (epi = “super”; “ousios” = essence/essential). Origen translated it as “necessary for existence”–basically taking the epi to mean “necessary” and utilizing the “substance/essence” in the technical, more philosophical way. Others in history support this translation as well.

Other scholars, going back to Cyril of Alexandria and many scholars today, read it as “for the future/of tomorrow” so it reads “give us today our “bread of tomorrow”; and many of these scholars read this not in a mundane sense of caring for the next day but rather eschatologically, with connections to the future messianic feast. Thus, the prayer would include a petition to provide today for the coming age.

So when you pray the Lord’s Prayer, think on this!

Most of this information can be found on the Wikipedia page on the word. I was clued into this interesting fact by the fantastic book, The Writing of the Gods: The Race to Decode the Rosetta Stone by Edward Dolnick.

About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.

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