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'Forgive us our debts ...'

From the June 2006 issue of The Christian Science Journal

WHEN ONE OF THE DISCIPLES ASKED JESUS HOW TO PRAY, he responded with what Christians would come to call the Lord's Prayer. Both versions of this prayer, found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, record Jesus as offering grounds for obtaining forgiveness through his use of finance imagery. Although each Gospel records Jesus' words a little differently, both use this explicit financial language: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" Matt. 6:12. and "Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us." Luke 11:4 (RSV).

The debt language in many other classic English Bible translations accurately reflects the Greek manuscripts from which our Gospels were translated. Some translations, however, bypass this imagery when the line is rendered exclusively in terms of "sin" or "trespasses." So, we might ask the question, How important is it to retain the original debt imagery?

The gospel writers' wording and this history behind it can recover the significance of this language, while inspiring us to learn more about forgiving and obtaining forgiveness in our lives.