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Oct 16 2013

Jesus the blasphemer?

It turns out that devout French Catholics may have been committing blasphemy for the last half-century when saying the Lord’s Prayer. It appears that the official French translation of the line “Lead us not into temptation” was translated into French in 1966 in a way that could be wrongly interpreted.

The existing French version of that line reads, “Et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation”, which translates as “Do not submit us to temptation.”

This has long been controversial because of the possibility of interpreting it in a way that suggests God has the power to make people succumb to the temptation of sin — contradicting most orthodox Christian theology which holds that He is infinitely and unchangeably good.

In the revised formulation, to be included in new bibles published on November 22, the line will read “Et ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation” or “Let us not enter into temptation.”

I am still a bit puzzled. Surely the English line “Lead us not into temptation” also could be taken to imply that their god has a tendency to lead people to do wrong things which means that he is not “infinitely and unchangeably good” either. So why isn’t Jesus a blasphemer? Or is it that since he is also god, he cannot blaspheme against himself?

Theology gives me a headache.

10 comments

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  1. 1
    invivoMark

    Words can’t describe how immensely satisfying it is to watch the Republicans squirm.

    It almost makes up for the fact that so many innocents are deeper in the frying pan due to furloughs and program cuts.

  2. 2
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    It might happen one day on the Democratic side. And if it did, would Republicans, for the good of the country, kinda give a little?

    LOFUCKINGL

    When have the Republicans given anything to the Democrats for the good of the US in the last 21 years? Unless you’re counting Mitt Romney as a suicide attempt, I’m counting…zero? Yes, zero. Only because I can’t figure out how they could possibly have given -i-squared attempts, but if it were possible, they’d have done it.

  3. 3
    Luc Nerwinski

    Actually the original Greek translates “Cancel our debts, as we cancel what our debtors owe us”. The New Testament was composed in Greek; an Aramaic source for the gospels is just a hypothesis. I have no idea what prompted Jerome to translate the Greek into “lead us not into temptation” (ne nos inducas in tentationem), but Jerome’s Latin Vulgate is the official Catholic bible, and so I say let the Catholics deal with it.

    Thank you, Mano, for bringing this trivia to my attention and taking my mind for a moment off the Rethuglicans’ attempt to destroy the world’s economy.. I followed PZ and Ophelia over to FtB, and your blog is a deeply appreciated bonus.

  4. 4
    Luc Nerwinski

    Correction to my last post. My only excuse is that it’s been about half a century since I was saying that prayer in Greek and Latin. The Greek does say “lead us not into trial” (me eisenengke hemas eis peirasmon)–so “temptation” is a reasonable possible translation.. For some reason my addled old brain was thinking of the “forgive us our trespasses” bit. Sorry for the misinformation.

    I should have just left it alone for the Catholics to deal with it.

  5. 5
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    Whoa…both my and the other comments were on another post entirely. Dunno what happened there. Sorry.

  6. 6
    Mano Singham

    Welcome! I am always impressed by the breadth and depth of knowledge of the readers to this site.

  7. 7
    Mano Singham

    I don’t think it is your fault. This comment was in response to the Lindsey Graham post, right? For some reason, that post disappeared and your comment was reposted elsewhere.

    I have no idea why. Sorry about that.

  8. 8
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    The Jesus I know would never blaspheme, he goes to church every sunday. His wife makes great tamales though.

  9. 9
    Irreverend Bastard

    … that suggests God has the power to make people succumb to the temptation of sin …

    Well, of course god has such a power. He’s supposed to be frickin’ all-powerful, isn’t he?

    When god “submits” us to temptation, that sound to me as if he lets us make the final choice in the matter. “Here’s some temptation, let’s see what you make of it.” Free will, and all that rot.

    But if god stops us from “entering into” temptation, that sounds more like he overrules our free will. “Look at that nice temptation, too bad I will never let you have it.”

    But if god could do that, why is there evil or suffering in the world?

  10. 10
    nkrishna

    The Old English word for “temptation” was “costnung” which also meant “trial” or “tribulation,” similarly to Greek, apparently (@#4). So it seems like the word often had a greater semantic scope in centuries past than it does now. This idea would seems to speak more to God as a judge (submitting humanity to a trial or a test) rather than a tempter.

    You can actually confirm this by looking at the etymology of “temptation.” The Old French “tempter” comes from Latin “temptare,” mean “to try” or “to test.” The meaning of “temptation” that connotes sin is more recent. So it seems like the line wasn’t originally theologically problematic, but the French have realized that the language has shifted out from under them.

    A note: this does strike me as theologically problematic–language change is largely unconscious, so we could all become unknowing blasphemers at any time if the right word shifts meaning the right way. Looks like God didn’t think this one through.

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