"Lead Us Not Into Temptation "
By Angela Crowell

Many readers have wondered why the Lord's prayer is worded differently in the Book of Mormon and the Inspired Version of the Bible. In III Nephi 5:105 the verse reads "lead us not into temptation", and in Matthew 6:14 the verse reads "suffer us not to be led into temptation." Various authors in the church have sought to explain this apparent contradiction. Some have suggested that the scribe erred in writing from memory and thus gave us the wording of the King James Version(1). However, even though Joseph Smith revised the Book of Mormon manuscript in 1837, he did not change the wording to agree with the Inspired Version of the Bible (2). Perhaps the Seer did not consider this difference to be a mistake.

In E. W. Bullinger's book, Figures of Speech Used In the Bible: Explained and Illustrated(3), the author gives reference to this New Testament scripture. Bullinger is a scholar of high standing. Since the original date of publication in 1898, this classic work has been considered by many scholars to be the foremost authority on the subject; and it is still in print. According to Bullinger while the language of the New Testament is Greek, the men who recorded it were Hebrews: the words are Greek, the thoughts and idioms are Hebrew The New Testament abounds with Hebraisms i.e., expressions conveying Hebrew usages and thoughts in Greek words. This has a significant bearing on the interpretation and understanding of many passages in the New Testament. Bullinger stresses the importance of the idiomatic expression of words and phrases (the exact reproduction, not of the words but of the thought and meaning of the phrase). Unless translation is idiomatic, serious mistakes can be made; if a translation is absolutely literal, many errors will also appear.(4)

In his chapter on idioms and idiomatic usages of verbs, the author presents several rules and examples of active verbs including the following: "'Active verbs were used by the Hebrews to express not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent do." Two examples from the Old Testament are Exodus 4:21 and Jeremiah 4:10. In Exodus 4:21 we read in the King James Version: "I will harden his heart (i.e., I will permit or suffer his heart to be hardened), that he shall not let the people go." In Jeremiah 4: 10: "Lord God, surely thou host greatly deceived this people": i.e., "Thou hast suffered this people to be greatly deceived, by the false prophets, saying: Ye shall have peace(4), etc. "

The most important example of this idiomatic usage in the New Testament is Matthew 6:13 (14 I.V.). Bullinger interprets the passage this way: "Lead us not (i.e., suffer us not to be led) into temptation.(5)" Numerous Bible commentaries support Bullinger's statement on this scripture. J.R. Dummelow explains in his book, One Volume Bible Commentary: "God does not Himself tempt (James 1:13) but He allows us to be tempted, and what God permits is often spoken of in scripture as His act."(6) Adam Clark's Commentary on the Bible agrees: "Bring not in, or lead us not into. (This is a mere Hebraism God is said to do a thing which He only permits or suffers to be done.(7)" In Barnes' Notes on the New Testament the author gives the some interpretation. "This phrase then must be used in the sense of permitting. Do not suffer us or permit us, to be tempted to sin. In this it is implied that God 'has such control over us and the tempter, as to save us from it if we call on him."(8) Finally, in William Hendriksen's New Testament Commentary, Expositions of the Gospel according to Matthew, the author comments: "Though it is true that God himself never tempts man to sin (James 1: 13), it is also true that there is good reason permit us voluntarily to ask him not even to permit us voluntarily to run into temptation."(9)

Bullinger's interpretation of the idiomatic use of the verb in this scripture supported by other scholars in the field-thus offers the most plausable explanation concerning the difference in wording between the two books of scripture. "Lead us not into temptation" is a Hebrew idiom strictly translated in the Book of Mormon. "Suffer us not to be led into temptation" is correctly interpreted into English in the Inspired Version of the Bible. Obviously Joseph was a Seer in the truest sense of the word.

In summary, both are correct: the wording in the Inspired Version is (in a sense) an explanation of the Hebrew idiom which clarifies the mean' for us. The wording in the Book of Mormon is the Hebrew idiom itself. We take comfort in the words: "I Nephi ... make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language Egyptians." (I Nephi 1:1)

Footnotes:

  1. Question Time, Vol. 2, Herald House, Independence, Mo., 1967, p. 66.
  2. Ibid.
  3. E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech used In the Bible: Explained and Illustrated, Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1898, pp. 819-20.
  4. Ibid, p. 823.
  5. Bullinger, p.824.
  6. J. R. Dummelow, (ed.), The One Volume Bible Commentary, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1936, p. 647.
  7. Adam Clark, Commentary an the Bible, abridged by Ralph Earle, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1979, p. 778.
  8. Barnes' Notes on the New Testament, edited by Ingram Cobbin, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 1980, p. 30.
  9. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1973, p. 337.

This article taken from Recent Book of Mormon Developments vol. 1 p.63.