Monday, January 11, 2016

"After This Manner Therefore Pray Ye..."

Matthew 6.9-13 Webster

After this manner therefore pray ye:

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on 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.”

We use language to communicate the meaning of words. Words are the primary vehicle of language and convey different meanings to different people. Both the words (their tone, inflection, volume, context, nuances, etc.) and the audience (its background, culture, mood, age, beliefs, etc.) must converge in order for communication to occur. Words alone, even lots of them, do not guarantee good communication.

To communicate the Word of God, translators attempt to combine the meanings of the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic biblical texts with the language of the people they target. 

This translation objective is not a new effort. “America’s Schoolmaster”, Noah Webster, published many books widely used in schools across our nation including spelling, history, and grammar books. Upon the completion of his famous An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), Mr. Webster embarked on a project to update the King James Version of the Bible with an aim to make it more readable to 19th century Americans. He believed this common version of 1611 contained obsolete phrases, incorrect grammar, and offensive expressions. “His purpose was to clear away these obstacles to the use of the Bible as a model of correct and decent English usage in American schools and homes.”[1] Webster completed his revision of the King James Bible in 1833[2].

Today, Webster’s version of the Bible is mostly obsolete but there is one passage in his revision that remains popular in Christian circles to this day. That is, of course, the “The Lord’s Prayer” recorded in the gospel of Matthew. It’s difficult for even the most contemporary of language purists to do away with this 175 year old version of prose from the lips of Jesus. The “Our Father” in other modern translations doesn’t quite sound right.

On any given Easter Sunday, an estimated 2 billion believers worldwide will recite these words.[3] You’ve probably memorized Noah Webster’s version of “The Lord’s Prayer” and didn’t even know it. Say this prayer several times during the day. Let these words of Christ unite you with centuries of Christians who have also chosen to observe the words of Him who said, “Pray then in this way…” or, as Noah Webster and King James put it, “After this manner therefore pray ye…”


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[1] “Webster’s Revision of the KJV (1833)”, Michael Marlowe, July 2005, http://www.bible-researcher.com/webster.html#intro.

[2] The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, in the Common Version. With Amendments of the Language, Noah Webster, ed., New Haven: Durrie and Peck, 1833. Reprinted Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987.

[3] "Across the globe, Christians are united by Lord's Prayer", Kang, K. Connie. Los Angeles Times, in Houston Chronicle, p. A13, April 8, 2007. “On Easter Sunday 2007 it was estimated that 2 billion Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Christians read, recited, or sang the short prayer in hundreds of languages in houses of worship.”

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