From: Edward Hobbs (
Date: Sun Jun 29 1997 - 15:15:13 EDT


Jeffrey Gibson has added a significant alternative interpretation to the
meaning of the PEIRASMOS in the Lord's Prayer, one which I have found
attractive since my study of the LXX references to the Wilderness years,
in the early 1950's, long before the publication of the two articles he
references as helpful (which they truly are!). My work was not on the
Lord's Prayer, however, but of the Temptation stories.

The allusions to the 40 years as the "day" or "time" of testing (PEIRASMOU)
are apparently, in the main, focussed on the specific Massah event, wherein
Israel put God to the test, not the other way round. On the other hand,
the accounts of Jesus' testing are all uniformly a matter of Satan PEIRAZON
Jesus (but Jesus replies to one PEIRASMOS, "You shall not put the Lord your
God to the test", reminding the reader of the verdict at Massah).

In my reply to Jonathan I did not want to get into a discussion of the
interpretation of the Lord's Prayer, so I merely pointed to the dominant
viewpoint which actually has shown up in Prayer Books and liturgies, with
the backing of the ICET. To be honest, I'm not clear how I can come down
to any very secure meaning for the clause, primarily because I suspect that
the translation of Jesus' Aramaic was done VERY early (and not by Matthew!)
and Jesus' own words were surely clear to his audience--a clarity we are
unable to get to, regardless of our interpretations hitherto.

Two principles of interpretation already brought to bear, however, do NOT
help me to settle matters.
        (1) Reconciling the "theology" underlying this clause with the rest
of Scripture. For many of us, this principle (an ancient and revered one)
has had to give way to the historical-critical conclusion that the Bible
contains a variety of views and theologies. The B-Greek List cannot argue
interpretations on EITHER of these principles, since they are external to
our stated concerns, and debating them will produce heat, not light.
        (2) Deciding whether PEIRASMOS is a terminus technicus. Since I am
persuaded that this prayer by Jesus came into Greek very early, any
precision in terminology would be unlikely; and more significantly, the
real issue would be whether the Aramaic word behind PEIRASMOS was taken to
be a technical term IN THE ARAMAIC-SPEAKING COMMUNITY, whose literature we
simply do not have. (Using the Peshitta of more than a century later, or
the George Lamsa back-translation, is not a sound way to determine the
discourse of the 30's C.E. Jesus-movement, I fear.)

Edward Hobbs


Jeffrey Gibson wrote: ----------->

You are not alone in feeling the difficulty of this interpretation
of the phrase. Assuming that the PEIRASMOS in view is a testing to
which believers are subject and over which God has some control (he
can "lead" believers into it or not) and responsibility (he permits
the testing ala Job or initiates it himself ala Gen 22, Deut 8),
there is on the one hand the apparent contradiction between the
petition of Mt 6:13//Lk 11:4 and James 1:13 which asserts that God tests no
one, and on the other between the petition and the idea, rife
throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and the LXX, that the believer
welcomes PEIRASMOS and sees it as something desirable (cf. Ps 26:2;
Wis. 3; Sir. 2:1: compare 1 Peter 1PE 1:6-7; 4:12-13). This has
caused many exegetes from Origen to Jeremias to render the
expression "do not let us succumb in temptation".

A way out of this, and, incidently, a way that is gaining favour
amongst some exegetes (and one that I am in the initial stages of
writing about) is a view which sees the object of the PEIRASMOS
spoken of in the petition NOT as believers but as God. What Jesus
tells his disciples they are to pray for is to saved from *testing
God* as Israel did in the wilderness by doubting his power and
covenantal faithfulness, specifically by falling away from trust
that the ways he deems appropriate for those he calls are
sufficient to get God's work done.

There are several advantages to this view. Among them are the facts
that it involves no contradictions between other biblical
pronouncements or assumptions on PEIRASMOS. Second, it coheres well
with what follows the petition in Matthew , i.e., the further
petition that God deliver believers from the evil one = Satan), for
a strong case can be made that, according to Matthew, the Devil in
the temptation story is one who tries to get Jesus to put God to
the test by doubting the effectiveness of the cross in fulfilling
the task God has given to Sons of God. Third, it coheres also with
what the Markan Jesus at Gethsemane tells his disciples they are to
pray for (not that they succumb to the test, but that they turn
their backs on God's ways and thus test God).

If you wish to explore this further, I suggest you look at an
article by C.B. Houk, "Peirasmos, the Lord's Prayer, and the Massah
tradition [Ex 17:1-7]," Scottish Journal of Theology 19 (1966), pp.
216-225 and another from the same journal entitled something Like
"the Decline of Temptation" published last year (I don't have the
reference close to hand, so I can't be more specific). Also one you
must look at is by C.F.D. Moule, `An Unresolved Problem in the
Temptation Clause in the Lord's Prayer', RThRev 33 (1974), pp. 65-

Incidently, while Edward Hobbs is correct in asserting that many (a
majority of?) scholars think that the PEIRASMOS of the petition is
the so-called great eschatological testing, there really is little
to recommend this view. Nowhere in Jewish apocalyptic nor (with the
possible exception of Rev 3:10) in the NT is the term PEIRASMOS an
apocalyptic technical term. If it were, we would expect it to be
accompanied by the article. Moreover, if it were a TT, the petition
would be irrelevant to the daily life of the believer.

Jeffrey Gibson

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