Where does this translation of the Lord's Prayer come from?

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Jake

Puritan Board Senior
"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen."

This is the version of the Lord's Prayer my church uses. I've heard it used at many other churches when Christians pray the Lord's Prayer together. Since we agree that the Lord's prayer "may also be used as a prayer" (WLC 187) I don't think it'd be helpful to debate how the Lord's Prayer is used as a prayer in worship or other times together of prayer.

I'm really just trying to figure out: where did this translation come from? It does not meet Matthew 6:9-13 in any translation I can find. For example, it begins in the KJV "our Father, which art in heaven." The NASB77 starts the same way and ends the same way as the prayer at the top of the post if you include the bracketed text, but translates verse 12 differently.

None of the BCP versions I can find match the text at the top, which often use "trespasses" instead of "debts" among other differences.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I found two very slight adjustments to the KJV. “Who” for “which” in v9, and “forever” for “for ever” in v13. These seem to me like imperceptible modern adjustments, and not any translational determination.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
I was poking around and found quite a few churches have this version in their bulletin. It really is just the KJV version with "who" instead of "which", but I wonder how it became so common. I don't think Webster's edition ever got popular for example.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
I don't think Webster's edition ever got popular for example.
Perhaps, yet given its popular usage it must have had a common origin, and in the absence of another more probable source Webter's seems a reasonable and even the most likely candidate. :2cents:
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
It seems that while in commercial terms Webster's version did very poorly overall, due to his reputation as a respected educator it was adapted for use in some schools and churches around his home region in New England.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
Except it uses "trespass" instead of "debt".
The difference certainly goes back to the UK, where in Scotland Presbyterians use "debts" and "debtors", while the English Episcopalians use "trespass" and "trespasses" (as do Catholics). The smart alec explanation is that there is no law of trespass in Scotland, but we Scots are very concerned about debts. A more likely reason is that the original form in English used "trespasses" but the Scots corrected it in line with the Greek text to debts. But I can't explain the initial use of trespasses, since the Vulgate "debitum" clearly reflects " debts. And prior to the Reformation the Lord's Prayer would presumably have been prayed in Latin anyway.

Maybe a church historian can help us out?
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
I think there is a liturgical pressure that adapts the form a little bit. Thus "who" seems more natural to us than "which" it's easier to say "debts...debtors" than "those who trespass against us" and we usually say "on earth ... in heaven" even though it's "in earth" in Matthew 6:10.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
According to the interweb:

The “debts” form is from the first English translation of the Bible, by John Wycliffe in 1395 (Wycliffe spelling “dettis”)! The “trespasses” version is from the 1526 translation by William Tyndale (Tyndale spelling “treaspases”).

In 1549 the first Book of Common Prayer in English used a version of the prayer with “trespasses.” This became the “official” version used in the Anglican congregations.


This seems plausible to me, since "trespasses" would need to have become sufficiently "fixed" in the liturgical language of the English church before the publishing of the KJV (or even the Geneva Bible) which both have debts. Had the decision been being made after 1611, it seems likely that the KJV would have impacted it. On the other hand, the Scots didn't have a Book of Common Prayer - only a Book of Common Order, which leaves much more to the discretion of the minister. In Knox's own liturgy, there are references to the Lord's prayer "Our Father which art in hevin (sic) etc." which assumes everyone knew and agreed the text of it. Given Knox's time with Calvin in Geneva, it is plausible that he picked up Calvin's usage of debts (see his treatise on prayer) and brought it to Scotland with him, but the usage may already have been different from England before that.

Anyone have any better suggestions?
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
What you cited is exactly what I have my young students learn when they memorize the Lord's Prayer. Where did I get it? I took the KJV (because it's traditional) and I changed a few words that would sound strange today: which to who, in earth to on earth, for ever to forever. I'd be willing to bet others have done the same. I don't find it odd that many churches would independently make the same adjustments. They're obvious adjustments.
 
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