“Lead us not into temptation”

In a televised interview the Pope gave on Dec. 5, 2017, he said that the words “lead us not into temptation” are wrong, because God does not lead us into temptation.

Instead, the Pope believes that a better rendering of what Jesus actually said would be “do not let us fall into temptation.” His words caused a great sensation.

I think the infallible Pope does not understand the Lord’s words, and the meaning of the prayer He left us, known appropriately as The Lord’s Prayer.

It is quite…tempting to accept the Pope’s explanation, except that it changes and corrects the Lord’s words, giving them the opposite meaning.

Unfortunately the Pope does not know Greek, and, being infallible, did not bother to consult those who do, or else he would know that the Greek eisenegkes means just that: indurre (in the Italian he spoke), lead into, bring in(to).

In our commentary The Heavenly Banquet, we noted:

“after much thought, it was left ‘do not lead us to temptation.’ [But] how can God lead us into temptation, put us in harm’s way?”1

These must have been the thoughts in the Pope’s mind, as they are in the minds of many of us. But the solution lies elsewhere, in the word “temptation.”

We went on to explain in our commentary:

“The Greek word peirasmos, rendered in English with “temptation,” comes from the verb peirazo, ‘to test [hard], to probe, to prove’ (cf. 2 Cor. 13:5, Acts 15:10, 1 Cor. 10:9, e.a.).

The Scripture is clear: ‘Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted with evil and He Himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire’ (James 1:13-14).

We nevertheless know that this life is a test, full of temptations. God allows them in order to strengthen us. How else will we merit the crown unless we become victorious over the temptations of life?”

We also made the following additional comments 2:

“We do not ask God not to trick us with beguilement in order to make us fall into sin—that’s Satan’s work! We ask God not to test us hard, not to put us to trial. With this prayer we confess our weakness, that we cannot overcome with our own strength alone the tests God puts in our way in order to strengthen us and test us like gold in the fire, but that we need His mercy and grace.

This is expressed, and explained, in the prayer that follows immediately after the Lord’s Prayer in the Liturgy of St. James: ‘And do not lead us to temptation, Lord, O Lord of power[s], who know our infirmity, but deliver us from the evil one and his works.’

Temptation strengthens us and gives us endurance and perseverance. Without temptations how are we going to prove ourselves victors? But we should resist, and ‘pray that we may not be overwhelmed by temptation.’ (Bishop Alexander)

As long as we are in this life, we are to expect temptation and suffering. As St. Anthony the Great († A.D. 356) said, ‘Take away temptation and nobody will be saved.’ Therefore, temptations are good! The Lord said they are necessary!: ‘Offenses (skandala) must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes’ (Mt. 18:6)!

‘We know that God does sometimes subject us to testing in order to lead us to salvation, but we know also that He does not permit us to be tested beyond our capacity, for, ‘No temptation comes upon you, which is not common to man. But God is faithful and will not allow that you be tempted beyond your ability, but with every temptation, He provides a way to overcome it...’’ (1 Cor. 10:13)."

My favorite rendering of “lead us not into temptation” remains the Today's English Version (Good News Translation): “Do not bring us to hard testing.” The entire version is nothing short of inspired.

  1. (pp. 307)
  2. (p. 311)

2 thoughts on ““Lead us not into temptation””

  1. A comment received by e-mail:

    “This essay is nonsense. I agree with the Pope. Do you actually think he did not consider the Greek?”

    Fr Emmanuel:

    “No. He did not. He made no mention whatsoever of either the original Greek or the Vulgata. He addressed only the translations in French and Italian.”


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