Tuesday, June 11, 2019

"The Lord's Prayer" and Henry the Eighth

There has been quite a lot of confusion about changes to the translation of the Pater Noster in the Roman Rite for the dioceses of Italy. The headlines for the stories usually indicate that Pope Francis has changed the wording of the Lord's Prayer and indignation ensues: "He can't make me change the way I say the Our Father! How dare he? Who does he think he is?".

What's even more confusing is that even excellent clarifications of the matter use English to explain how the Italian bishops have revised the Latin of the Roman Missal into Italian! or how the French bishops did so for their vernacular edition of the Roman Missal!

This past weekend I attended four sessions of the Eighth Day Institute (EDI) Florovsky-Newman Week. Each began with the EDI Convocation including the Nicene Creed (without the filioque), a morning or evening prayer, and the Lord's Prayer. Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox pray together, but not really, because Catholics don't add the Doxology and Protestants and Orthodox don't say exactly the same Doxology!

But as this blog explains, Protestants have different versions of the Lord's Prayer among them too:

Have you ever been a little confused when it comes to saying the Lord’s Prayer in a church service?

I remember when I first visited an evangelical church, that did not have a fixed, liturgical tradition. When it came to reciting the Lord’s Prayer, one group was still saying, “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us….,” while the other group had finished their, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…,” several seconds earlier. The “debtors” waited patiently until “trespassers,” like me, had finished, before continuing together.

Clarke Morledge goes on to explain why these variations in English Protestant translation exist. Blame it first on Henry VIII:

King Henry VIII, the boisterous regent of England, had broken away from the Pope, regarding the dispute over what Henry considered to be his unlawful marriage. The Catholic leader refused to grant Henry an annulment, so Henry declared himself to be the supreme head of the Church of England. But what would this breakaway church from Rome look like?

What Henry wanted to do was to standardize on a form of Christian instruction and congregational worship in the language of the people, English, and not in Latin, that formed the backbone of the Roman Mass. A standardized form of the Lord’s Prayer in English was part of Henry’s plans, and he enlisted Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to execute those plans.

Even Henry changes his mind about which version to use, as he adopts some parts of William Tyndale's translation. Henry did not like Tyndale since he opposed Henry's divorce from Katherine of Aragon, but he did consider Tyndale's version of Lord's Prayer had some merit. But Cranmer encouraged him to stick with the first version they'd decided on, according to the blog.

Then King James I creates some more confusion with the Authorized Version:

The story takes an interesting turn from there, during the early 17th century reign of King James. King James agreed upon having a formal revision of the English Bible, what became the so-called “Authorized” King James Version (KJV), in 1611. Here is Matthew 6:9-13 in the KJV:

Our Father which art in heaven, 
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, 
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Notice the subtle change that the King James translators did by substituting “debts” for “trespasses,” etc. . . .

So, why did the King James translators change Tyndale’s “trespasses” in Matthew to “debts,” and leave us all befuddled in reciting the Lord’s Prayer for centuries? The King James translators chose the word “debts,” because it was a more literal reading of the original Greek.

We Catholics actually use Henry VIII's translation at Mass today with changes as described in this article from the EWTN Library:

Later, the Catholic Church made slight modifications in the English: "who art" replaced "which art," and "on earth" replaced "in earth." 

At Mass, we add the Doxology after the Priest prays this after we've recited the Our Father:

Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

And the congregation replies:

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and for ever.  


(Except that we don't say Amen until after another prayer! This leads some Catholics when praying the Our Father outside of Mass--during public recitation of the Rosary, for example--to leave the Amen off at the end of the prayer. Usually when they pray the Our Father out loud--at Mass--they don't end the prayer with Amen.)

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