Do you recite the Lord’s prayer, if so, which version?

Do you recite the Lord’s prayer, if so, which version?

-by Sam Nzabandora. Aug. 20th, 2012

To many people, this may seem to be just an issue that doesn’t merit any serious discussion until you come across this version of the Lord’s prayer:

Our Father in heaven,
 Reveal who you are.

Set the world right;
 Do what’s best — as above, so below.

Keep us alive with three square meals.

Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. 
You’re in charge!

You can do anything you want!
 You’re ablaze in beauty!
 Yes. Yes. Yes.

So the question is this, “which Lord’s prayer version should be considered standard?”

When I read that version of the Lord’s prayer above, I couldn’t help but notice among many changes, that asking God’s forgiveness is changed from a request to more or less an order, ordering God to forgive everybody. Even our duty to forgive others is shifted to God. This doesn’t sound like the way Jesus would have taught his disciples how to pray! So I started searching for the original Lord’s prayer.

I started with Wikipedia, and found different translations from Greek into Latin then English. However, I needed to get as close as possible to the language Jesus spoke in as he taught his disciples how to pray, to be able to understand why we have these discrepancies. The language that Jesus would have spoken and taught in and which is accepted by most bible scholars and historians is an old dialect of Aramaic – an ancient Syrian language.

I came across interesting Aramaic variations of translations, but enlightening. One of them has even an audio translation. Of all the research I did, I found the translations from Aramaic language within Biblical Studies blog to be the most valuable ones. I hope you will find that to be true too.

One of the puzzling issue I could not understand was the discrepancy when it comes to forgiveness. One version of the Lord’s prayer talks of forgiving debts, while another is talking about sins.

I consulted the old testament of the bible, to get a picture of the type of Forgiveness God talked about to the children of Israel. It is found in the Book of Leviticus Ch.25,  a Jubilee year is mentioned to occur every fifty years, in which slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would manifest.

Total forgiving of all kinds among men had to take place for God to do the same to man kind. I see something similar to the way the Lord’s prayer is constructed. In fact I have no problem accepting that Jesus taught his disciples that “for God to forgive you, you must forgive others too”. But now the question is forgive what, Sin or Debt?

When we look at the way Jesus related with the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised and how the tax collectors milked the poor, and the story of a Wealth Man And The Kingdom Of Heaven (Matthew 19:16-30), the answer starts to become apparent.

The rich man has obeyed all the commandments and loves his neighbor as himself and asks Jesus what else was remaining for him to do in order to enter heaven; below is how Jesus responds:-

Reading the Text:

16 Now a man came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

18 “Which ones?” the man inquired.

Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said, “What do I still lack?”

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Now after reading the above exchange the rich man had with Jesus, does it sound like the forgiveness in the Lord’s prayer is about sin instead of debt? To answer that question with confidence, first, we have to agree with bible scholars and historians that around the time of Jesus, the language spoken in the area Jesus taught was old Aramaic language. Secondly, that the Aramaic language within Biblical Studies blog used here, though not exact dialect Jesus would have spoken because of time and geographical differences, it is however close enough to get a fair translation.

With that in mind, the answer to understanding whether or not the forgiveness in the Lord’s prayer is about debt or sin lies within the word “khaybeyn”. According to the translation, this word does not just mean sin or debt, but both in addition to shortcomings etc. khaybeyn = sins/debts/shortcommings; hence in order to get God’s forgiveness, you have to forgive others who are indebted to you, sinned against you plus other shortcomings; in other words, to expect God’s total forgiveness, you have to be willing to forgive others wholly, in “Totality”. 

That is the correct forgiveness in the Lord’s prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. Jesus’s teachings included material forgiveness, besides spiritual – case in point: When Peter came to Jesus asking about forgiving his brother when he sins against him, Jesus taught him of the consequences of “not forgiving from the heart” using an example of debt in “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.”

Just choosing one because it is the easiest of all to forgive, doesn’t cut it; Jesus would tell you just like he told his disciples,“I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”; that is my conclusion. What is yours?

There is also another observation that I made: “Before Jesus, total forgiveness – Jubilee, comes around every 50 years; after Jesus’s coming, he teaches that total forgiveness, should come around daily with daily prayer” .   If we could follow and wholly put the Lord’s prayer in practice as Jesus taught, instead of selectively choosing the easy part, the world would have less economic problems. If you doubt me, check out the following links:-

Could a Debt Jubilee Help Kickstart the American Economy?

Debt Cancellation: Biblical Norm, Not Exception

Credits to Steve Caruso for the Lord’s Prayer Translation

The Translation

Below I’ve included a transliteration of the Lord’s Prayer from the Syriac Peshitta with my own translation and notes. I’ve tried to break things down word by word to clear up any misconceptions, questions or naysaying. This isn’t a perfect translation, as no translation is, but I believe that it does a better job outlining things in a more or less comprehensive fashion:

Notes on transliteration below:

  • v = “v” made with both lips

  • dh = “th” as in “this”

  • kh = “ch” as in “Bach”

  • q = a hard “k” in the back of the throat

  • th = “th” as in “three”

  • sh = “sh” as in “shoe”

  • ` = a hard “uh” in the back of the throat

  • ‘ = a glottal stop; separate the sounds

  • – = just a separation between grammatical structures for understanding. It doesn’t affect pronounciation.

  • The vowels are only most-likely examples as they vary greatly between dialects, but will follow the general pattern I’ve outlined.

    Abwun dvashmaya
    (Our father who is in heaven.)

abwun = our Father
d-va-shmaya = of whom/which – in – heaven

Nethqadash shmakh
(May your name be holy.)

nethqadash = will be holy
shmakh = your name
Note: The imperfect or “future” tense can be used in some cases as an adjuration, i.e. “May so-and-so happen.”

Tethe malkuthakh
(May your kingdom come.)

tethe = it will come
malkuthakh = your kingdom

Nehweh tsevyanakh
(May your will be [done])

nehweh = it will be
tsevyanakh = “your will” or “your desire”
Note: This literally means closest to “Your will will be” which is awkward in English at best.

Aykana dvashmaya
(As it is in heaven)

aykana = like, as
d-va-shmaya = of whom/which – in – heaven

Af bar`a
(Also [be] on the earth)

af = also
b-ar`a = in/on – the earth

Hav lan lakhma
(Give us bread)

hav = give
lan = to us
lakhma = bread

Dsoonqanan yomana
(That we need today)

d-soonqanan = of which – we lack/need
yomana = “today” or “daily”

Ushvuq lan khaubeyn
(And forgive our sins)

u-shvuq = and allow/forgive
lan = unto us
khaybeyn = our sins/debts/shortcommings

Aykana d’af khnan
(Also as we)

aykana = like
d-af = in the same manner – also
khnan = we

Shvaqan lkhaiveyn
(Have forgiven sinners)

shvaqan = we’ve forgiven
l-khaiveyn = unto – sinners/debtors/the guilty, etc.

U’la te`lan lnisyouna
(And don’t lead us into danger.)

u-la = and – not
te`lan = “lead us” or “cause us to enter” (could be either due to verbal form ambiguity)
l-nisyouna = unto – danger/temptation

Ela patsan men bisha
(But deliver us from evil)

ela = but
patsan = deliver us
men = from
bisha = evil

Metul d’dheelakh hee malkootha
(Because the Kingdom is yours.)

metul = because
d-dheelakh = of which – “yours” (it’s a grammatical construct signifying ownership which is a bit complicated to explain here)
hee = is
malkootha = kingdom

Ukhaila utheshbookhtha
(And the power, and the glory)

u-khaila = and – power
u-theshbooktha = and- glory

`Alam l`almeen
(Forever; To eternity)

`alam = forever
l-`almeen = unto – the ages (idiom. “eternity”)


ameyn = “truly” or “it is truth!” traditional ending to prayer or an oath (e.g. “ameyn ameyn amarna lakh” = “truly, truly I’m telling you!” or “I swear!”)

The Catch

Yes there’s a catch. 🙂 About the Peshitta and Old Syriac versions: They are written in Syriac Aramaic, a dialect that truly crystalized after the lifetime of Jesus and in a different geographical location, so this would not be the exact language that Jesus would have used.

In essence, the catch is that even these (including my text above) would not be the “Original Aramaic” of the Lord’s Prayer.

I know of several reconstructions of the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic that would be very similar to the dialect that Jesus would have used, given certain assumptions we make about him. However, those will come about on a later date.

Stay tuned!




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