The Lord’s Prayer: “Adding To” or “Subtracting From” Scripture?

OurFather

Introduction

“For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory.”

In many churches the Our Father (“The Lord’s Prayer”) is said slightly differently. Some (e.g., the Catholic and Orthodox) conclude with the prayer for deliverance from evil, while others (mostly Protestant) go on to say, “for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory” before saying “Amen.” This seems strange. Are some churches subtracting this phrase from Jesus’ prayer, or are others adding to it? Neither seem to be good ideas for Christians (e.g., Dt. 4:2, 12:21; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:19).

The Our Father is found in Matthew chapter 6 where Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray. It might seem to be “case closed,” then, if this line were in the Bible – a clear example of the Church “subtracting from Scripture” due to its tradition. And there it is:

Mt6.9_13KJV

However, the history behind this little phrase is a bit more involved – and it argues for the reliability of Church tradition, not against it.

Addition or Subtraction?

It seems that this “concluding” phrase does not belong in the Bible. It is not included in the oldest biblical manuscripts, and is not considered to be part of the original biblical text by most scholars (although it is possible that the less ancient readings better reflect the originals, this is a minority position in biblical scholarship). Further, although early Church Fathers such as Jerome, Gregory the Great, Ambrose, and Augustine wrote of the importance and beauty of the “Our Father” prayer, none of them included the phrase when they referenced it. There is also an ancient Aramaic version of the “Our Father” that also lacks the longer ending.

Finally, although the longer ending remains popular in use today, there are many Bibles that do not include it. Catholic Bible translations (e.g., the Vulgate, the Douay-Rheims, or the New American) have never included it, and today most Protestant Bibles do not either: the ASV, CEV, ESV, GWT, GNT, NET, NIV, NIRV, NLT, and TNIV drop the phrase entirely, and others like the HCSB, NASB, and NCV bracket the phrase to set it off from the original text. Even the modern version of the translation pictured above (the KJV) includes a footnote stating that the phrase is omitted in older manuscripts.

Mt.6.13

So it seems that this phrase might very well have been an addition to the original prayer that Jesus instructed his disciples to say. How, then, did it get there?

Origin

“For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever.

Although not in the original New Testament gospels, this phrase (which resembles 1 Chronicles 29:11) is found in ancient liturgical use as a short doxology (praise response) traditionally said just after the Lord’s Prayer.

The Christian manual known as the Didache (c. 95 A.D.) has a short version of the doxology after the “Our Father” in chapter 8, and the doxology’s longer reading is found in the fourth century Apostolic Constitutions (7.24). It is likely, then, that at some point in time, a scribe (familiar with the liturgy) added the phrase while copying the “Our Father” passage, and it then found its way into later translations of the text itself. These copies eventually outnumbered the more ancient copies, and the phrase became part of the gospels in the majority of Bible manuscripts.

didache

When Protestants produced their own Bible translations (such as the KJV shown above), they used the majority text manuscripts (which contained this added phrase) as their source. The result was that their translations included the phrase as if it were part of the original gospel writings. In England, Tyndale’s translation included it as well. Then, when Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church, he decreed the inclusion of the added phrase in worship. Finally, the virulently anti-Catholic Queen Elizabeth had it included in the

In England, Tyndale’s translation included it as well, and when Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church, he decreed the inclusion of the added phrase in worship. Finally, the virulently anti-Catholic Queen Elizabeth had it included in the Book of Common Prayer. Once it was brought over to America by the Puritans, the phrase’s addition was further solidified.

BCP

So English Protestants added a traditional Catholic prayer to the Bible in order to distance themselves from what they thought were unbiblical Catholic traditions! The inclusion of the doxology continues in the Catholic and Orthodox liturgies today – just not their Bible translations.

Conclusion

ironically, what might at first seemed like an illegitimate subtraction from the Word of God due to Church tradition is actually more faithful to both. In fact, the truth was better preserved by oral rather than written tradition (contrary to the claims of many Protestant polemicists). Although they have corrected the error in many of their Bible translations, though, it seems the Protestant tradition(!) of adding the phrase to the Lord’s Prayer may take a bit more time to overcome.

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