Re: 3rd-person imperatives in the Lord's Prayer

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Thu Aug 14 1997 - 06:45:52 EDT

At 08:47 PM 8/13/97 -0500, Jeffrey Gibson wrote:
>Just a quick response to your question on why the first three petitions
>of the LP are formulated in 3rd person aorist imperatives. As BDF note
>(sec. 337 n. 4) this is simply stardard Greek practice in prayers (and in
>liturgies), particularly those with specific petitions. It does not
>necessarily reflect any special feature of a presumed Aramiac
>original, whatever that may have been.

A few other interesting things about this use of 3rd person aorist imperatives:

1. ELQETW is active, hAGIASQHTW and GENHQHTW are both passive. What exactly
is the distinction in meaning in this context?

2. This seems similar to the indefinite plural, but it is singular. BDR does
not mention anything about singular versus plural in this usage - were both
forms used in prayer?

3. Most prayers in the NT do not seem to follow this usage. I did find it in
Matt 26:42 GENHQHTW TO QELHMA SOU, which matches the words in the Lord's
prayer exactly.

4. I notice that Jesus uses the same form when he heals people or performs
miracles, e.g. Matt 8:13 hWS EPISTEUSAS GENHQHTW SOI, see also Matt 9:29,
Matt 15:28. In 1 Cor 3:18, Paul says "if anyone of you thinks he is wise,
let him become foolish (MWROS GENESQW) so that he may become wise.

Overall, at least for GENHQHTW, the meaning seems to be "let your will be
done" or "may your will be done", but I wonder how significant it is that
Jesus used this form to perform healings - is this a real command, with the
authority of God backing it up? Should we interpret Matt 8:13 hWS EPISTEUSAS
GENHQHTW SOI as a short prayer?


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703

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