November 07, 2022 Emmanuel Reformed Church (RCUS)

A Question About the Lord’s Prayer

A Question About the Lord’s Prayer

Question: Why do some English Bible translations, including the Roman Catholic Bible, not include “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” at the end of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6? 

Answer: This is a great question, thanks for asking! The answer is going to get a little bit into the weeds of the subject of Textual Criticism. Textual Criticism is a scholarly discipline that attempts to examine all of the existing manuscript evidence for a literary work and determine (or perhaps “reconstruct”) what the original document said. Usually when we speak of Textual Criticism, it’s in reference to the Bible (and in particular the NT). 

Now when some people hear the phrase “textual criticism” and the Bible in the same sentence, there is a reflexive negative reaction against it. For some, “textual criticism” is something carried out by unbelieving scholars who are attempting to undermine the authority of the Bible. To be sure, there are some in the field who are unbelieving and perhaps they want to discredit the Bible, but the vast majority of them are simply scholars attempting to do scholarly work. In fact, there are a good number who are Bible-believing Christians whose main desire is to make sure what we hold in our hands is, in fact, the actual inspired words of the Bible.

The reason you need the discipline of textual criticism is because we do not have the original writings of the Bible and the NT. Instead what we have are many, many manuscripts, or copies, of the NT writings. At the time of writing, there are some 5,000+ NT manuscripts in the original Greek, and 25,000+ manuscripts in Greek and other languages. Scholars, when they study these manuscripts, notice “family resemblances” among them. These “family resemblances” are noted as a “text type.” Text types usually refer to the geographical region where the manuscripts were found. Text types will have certain characteristics in common with one another. For example, the Alexandrian text type (so noted because this tradition originated in the ancient city of Alexandria in Egypt) tends to contain some of the older manuscripts and the readings tend to be shorter in length.

When scholars engage in examining the manuscript evidence, they employ some basic rules of textual criticism. First rule is the older the manuscript, the more likely it is to be original. This would seem to stand to reason. If you have a document and it is copied many, many times, errors begin to creep in. Once an error is in a copy, then that error gets copied and more errors creep in. So the older a manuscript is, the closer it is to the original writing, and thus the more likely to be original. The second rule is the shorter reading is to be preferred to a longer reading. This would apply to our question regarding the Lord’s Prayer. The KJV/NKJV have the longer ending, while other English translations (ESV, NIV, etc.) have a shorter ending. The reasoning behind the shorter reading being preferred is that scribes and copyists are more likely to add to a verse than subtract from a verse when making a copyist error. The third rule is the more difficult reading is to be preferred over a smoother reading. The logic behind this rule is that a scribe is more likely to correct apparent discrepancies in the text, thus if there is a reading that is “difficult,” it is to be preferred.

Why do I mention all of this? Because all of this work is being done behind the scenes by scholars as they study the ancient biblical texts. Their labors are collected into what is referred to as The Critical Text of the Greek New Testament. This Critical Text is currently found in two popular Greek New Testaments that form the basis for nearly all modern English translations of the NT. The first is the Novum Testamentum Graece (currently in its 28th edition by Nestle-Aland), and the Greek New Testament (currently in its 5th edition by United Bible Society). These Greek NT’s will have the Greek text “above the line” and in the footnotes they will have shorthand notes that defend the readings “above the line” and other variations from the text.

When it comes to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, the last line (“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen”) is not included in what would be considered the “oldest” manuscripts of the NT textual tradition. Moreover, that last line is also not included in what would be considered the “Western Text Type.” This is the text type that would have been prevalent in the old Roman Empire, or the western half of the Roman Empire (the eastern half being centered in Byzantium, or Constantinople). The Western text type forms the basis for much of the Roman Catholic translations (including the Vulgate, or the primary Latin translation of the Bible). In many of our modern English translations, that last line is omitted and you will see footnotes that say something like: (1) “Some manuscripts add…” (ESV); (2) “Some late manuscripts…” (NIV); (3) “Some later manuscripts add…” (CSB). Some other translations include the last line of the Lord’s Prayer in brackets and include a footnote that reads “This clause is not found in early manuscripts” (NASB).

So in short, when scholars are working on an English Bible translation, they refer to the Critical Text and they weigh the textual evidence themselves to determine what gets included into the English translation and what gets included in the footnotes. Regarding the longer ending to the Lord’s Prayer, the scholars in charge of creating most of the popular English translations on the market (the ESV, the NIV, the CSB, the NASB, the NLT, etc.) have decided to not include the longer ending based on the belief it is not part of the original NT, but rather an addition added by some scribe, and worked its way into various textual traditions.

A somewhat related question might be “why is the longer ending included in the KJV and NKJV?” That would require another article to answer, but in short, it’s because the KJV/NKJV follow a different “test type” of the NT than the other English translations. Most English Bibles contain a preface that gets into their translation philosophy and the main textual basis for their translation.

I hope this helps!

~ Pastor Carl