Since Matthew 5:17 (see Analysis at beginning of ch. 5), our Lord has been showing that he requires in the subjects of the Messianic reign, a higher and more spiritual morality than that which was taught and practised by the Scribes and Pharisees. This is continued in Matthew 6:1-18; and as Matthew 5:20 introduced the first main section, (Matthew 5:20-48) so Matthew 6:1 introduces the second. (Matthew 6:1-18) In Matthew 5:20 it is said that their righteousness must exceed the Scribes and Pharisees; accordingly (Weiss, Luketteroth) Matthew 5:20-48 gives examples from the teachings of the Scribes, and 6:1-18 from the practice of the Pharisees. The general principle of verse 1 is illustrated by applying it to three exercises highly valued among the Jews (commended together in Tobit 12:8), viz. almsgiving, (Matthew 6:2-4) prayer, (Matthew 6:5-15) and fasting. (Matthew 6:16-18) Each of these, he says, should be performed, trot with a view to human approbation and reward, but to that of God. Calvin: "A very necessary admirer in all virtues the entrance of ambition is to be avoided, and there is no work so laudable as not to be in many instances corrupted and polluted by it."
1. Your righteousness i. e., righteous actions or good deeds (as in Matthew 5:6,10,20), including such as alms-giving, prayer, and fasting. To do righteousness is a phrase of frequent occurrence, as in Psalm 106:3 Isaiah 58:2, 1 John 2:29, 3:7,10. To be seen of them, More fully rendered, 'with a view to be looked at (or gazed at) by them'; the Greek construction is the same as in Matthew 5:28, 23:5, conveying distinctly the idea of purpose, design; and the Greek verb is a strong word (the root from which comes theatre), and suggests the being gazed at as a spectacle. So 'hypocrite' is originally 'actor,' one who plays a part. This meaning of 'to be seen,' is very strongly brought out by Tyndale, Great Bible, and Geneva, 'to the intent that,' etc.; and for 'seen' Geneva says, 'looked at.' What our Lord forbids is therefore not publicity in performing good deeds, which is often necessary and therefore proper, but ostentatious publicity, for the purpose of attracting attention and gaining applause. This obviously does not conflict with Matthew 5:16, where the object to be had in view is that God may be glorified, not ourselves (See on that passage) No reward of—or, with (comp. margin of Com. Ver.), as if laid up in God's presence for you. Comp. Matthew 5:12,46; 1 Peter 1:4.—The Greek and Roman philosophers and the Jewish writers have many maxims upon the importance of being unostentatious in virtue, especially in deeds of benevolence. A desire for the approbation of our fellowmen is not in itself wrong, and not incompatible with piety, but it should be completely subordinated to the desire that God may approve us, and that he may be glorified in us. This entire subordination is manifestly very difficult, and hence many think it easier to denounce ambition altogether, forgetting that ambition is an original principle of our nature, to destroy which would be as injurious as it is impossible. But while not inherently sinful, ambition, like anger (see on 5:22), is exceedingly apt to become sinful, and hence the solemn warning here given.
2-4. The first of the three subjects to which our Lord applies the great principle of v. 1 is Alms-giving. (Matthew 6:2-4) Therefore presents what follows as an inference from what precedes, the specific precept inferred from the general. Thou, see on "Matthew 5:23" Matthew 6:5. When thou doest, appears to take for granted that they will do so, as likewise in v. 5 and 16. The English word 'alms' is an abridged form of the Greek word here used, eleemosune (comp. our adjective eleemosynary), gradually reduced to German almosen, Wyclif's almesse, Scotch awmous, our alms (ams). Sound a trumpet, is by the Greek commentators and nearly all recent writers understood as merely a figurative expression, common to many languages, for parade and effort to attract notice and applause. There is no authority for the conjecture of Calvin (mentioned as early as Euthymius) and some others (including Stier), that it was a practice among the Jews for an ostentatious alms-giver literally to sound a trumpet before him in public places to summon the needy (sounding it through another person, see margin of Com. Yet.). Lightf. sought long and earnestly for evidence of such a practice, but found none; and it is very improbable that such a thing would have been permitted 'in the synagogues.' We see much benevolence at the present day so ostentatious that the giver might very naturally be figuratively described as sounding a trumpet before him. The notion of edersheim, "The Temple," p. 26, that the expression refers to trumpet-shaped contribution-boxes, in the temple treasury, appears extremely far-fetched and fanciful. Hypocrites. The word is borrowed by us from the Greek, and in classic use signified an actor, who wore a mask and played a part. This well illustrates, as it naturally led to, the sense in which the word is so often used in Scripture. As to synagogues, see on "Matthew 4:23". That they may have glory, or, be glorified of men, in contrast to seeking the glory which God gives. (Comp. John 5:44) Verily I say unto you, see on "Matthew 5:18". They have, or, have received. So Vulgate, Wyclif; and so Com. Ver. translates the same word in Luke 6:24. The Greek verb is a compound, signifying to have entirely, have the whole of, have in full. The idea is that in being gazed at and glorified by men they have all the reward they will ever obtain, for they must fail of the reward marooned in v. 1. (Comp. Psalm 17:14) See the same word below in Matthew 6:5,16. But when thou doest alms, the position of the words making 'thou' emphatic, in contrast to the hypocrites. Let not thy left hand, etc. Here, as in v. 2, we have a figurative expression. It suggests the pleasing and striking image of a man passing one who is in need, and with his right hand giving alma in so quiet a way that, so to speak, even his own left hand does not know what is going on. That, in v. 4, is not 'so that' but 'in order that,' expressing not simply the result. but the purpose; just as in v. 2, in Matthew 5:15, etc. Of course this does not require that all benevolence shall be literally secret, but that no benevolence shall be ostentatious (see on "Matthew 6:1"). So far from trumpeting your almsgiving before the public, do not even let it be known to yourself. Which seeth in secret, not exactly who sees what is done in secret, but who is present in secret and sees there. Comp. Matthew 6:6,18, 'which is in secret.' Calvin :" He silently glances at a kind of folly which prevails everywhere among men, that they think they have lost their pains if there have not been many spectators of their virtues." Reward, recompense, or, repay, is the word explained on Matthew 5:33, and different from the noun rendered 'reward' in v. 1 f. We are not told when or how the recompense will be given, and may understand that it will be both in time and in eternity, both in character and in felicity.
The Jews held alms-giving in the highest estimation. Thus Tobit, 12:8, says, "It is good to do alms rather than to treasure up gold. For alms delivers from death a misinterpretation of Proverbs 10:2, 11:4, and this will purge away every sin." Comp. Sirach 29:11 ff. The Talmud says that almsgiving is "more excellent than all offerings," is "equal to the whole law," will "deliver from the condemnation of hell," and makes a man "perfectly righteous." In the Talmud of Babylon, Psalm 17:15, is explained to mean, "I shall behold thy face on account of alms" properly, 'in righteousness', and the inference is drawn that "on account of one farthing given to the poor in alms, a man becomes partaker of the beatific vision." Maimonides particularizes eight degrees of alms-giving, the merit being graded according to the circumstances. (In like manner the Roman Catholics attach great value to gifts and other kindnesses to the poor, believing that they atone for sins.) Holding the books of Tobit and Sirach to be canonical, they find in them proof-texts for this doctrine. Add to the above Sirach 3:30, "alms will atone for sins." In this, as in various other cases, there is reason to fear that Protestants by a natural reaction from Romish error, fail to value an important Christian duty as they should do. See Proverbs 19:17, also the cup of cold water, (Matthew 10:42) the judgment scenes, (Matthew 25:35 ff.) also 1 Corinthians 9:6 ff.;Philippians 4:18 f.; 1 Timothy 6:19; James 1:27. That is a good saying of a Roman poet, "It is only the riches you give that you will always have." And see Tobit 4:7 ff.
Some of the Jewish writers also enjoin secrecy in alms-giving. Talmud: "He that does alms in secret is greater than Moses." A Mohammedan proverb says: "Hast thou done a good deed, cast it into the sea; if the fish find it not, yet will God see it." And among the traditional sayings of Mohammed, we find, "In alms-giving, the left hand should not know what the right has given"—one of the numerous instances in which Mohammed borrowed from the Scriptures, not only the Old but also the New Testament.
V. 1. vinet (in Luketteroth): "To be perfect, (Matthew 5:48) it is absolutely necessary to seek the notice and aim at the approval of a perfect being." chrys.: "It may be, both that one doing alms he had the wrong text before men may not do it to be seen of them, and again that one not doing it before men may do it to be seen of them..... He (Christ) defines both the penalty and reward not by the result of the action, but by the intention of the doer."—V. 1 and 5:16. Good Works in Public. (1) Wrong motive, that men may honour us.
(2) Right motive, that men may glorify God.—boardman: "Distinguish between doing right in order to help others, as when one lights a beacon in order to guide the sailor, and doing right in order to be praised by others, as when one stands in full blaze of a chandelier in order to display his own jewelry." dykes: "The actions of piety, like its tones or its gaits, are so imitable, and the imitation is so hard of detection, that they become the invariable livery of the hypocrite. For the same reason, they seduce those who are not yet hypocrites into becoming so. When a man would increase or preserve a reputation for piety which he has once honestly enough obtained, it is fatally easy to perform pious acts, with this end in view, a little oftener or a little more ostentatiously than he would do were he only careful about serving God."
V. 2-4. Two ways of doing good, and two kinds of reward.—what is the hypocrite's reward? Praise from some of his fellow-men, with the consciousness that he does not deserve it, a perpetual dread lest they find him out, and frequent fears of that coming time when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed.—It is not necessarily wrong to employ example and emulation in persuading men to give. (1 Corinthians 8 and 1 Corinthians 9)—Hypocrisy. (1) Its nature. (2) Its unwilling tribute to true piety—as counterfeit coin is abundant because genuine coin is so valuable. (3) Its reward. (a) the reward it may gain, (b) the reward it must miss. rochefoucauld: "Hypocrisy is a sort of homage that vice pays to virtue." henry: "The hypocrite catches at the shadow, but the upright man makes sure of the substance." ecce homo: "But there are subtler forms of hypocrisy, which Christ does not denounce, probably because they have sprung since out of the corruption of a subtler creed.... They would practice assiduously the rules by which Christ said heaven was to be won. They would patiently turn the left cheek, indefatigably walk the two miles, they would bless with effusion those who cursed them, and pray fluently for those who used them spitefully. To love their enemies, to love any one, they would certainly find impossible, but the outward signs of love might easily be learnt. And thus there would arise a new class of actors, not like those whom Christ denounced..... hoping to impose by their dramatic talent upon their Father in heaven." luther: "If we cease our charitable deeds because men are ungrateful, that shows that we were not aiming to please and honour God."
5. The general principle of v. 1, that good works must not be performed ostentatiously, is now applied to a second example (compare on v. 2). And when thou prayest. The correct text is, and when ye pray. It was early changed in some copies into "thou prayest," to agree with the singular verbs which precede. But throughout this passage (v. l-18) the plural is used in the general injunctions, (Matthew 6:1,5,16) and the singular in the pointed personal applications. (Matthew 6:2-4,6,17,18) Compare on Matthew 5:23. Hypocrites, comp. on Matthew 6:2. Synagogues, see on "Matthew 4:23". Some would take the word here in its etymological sense, as denoting "gatherings" anywhere, but there is no propriety in departing from the usual meaning. It was not wrong to pray in the synagogues, which was a common usage; but these hypocrites prayed there rather than in secret, and did so for the purpose of display. In the corners of the streets, they could be seen from four directions, and be delightfully conspicuous. The word for "streets" is different from that of v. 3, and denotes broad, spacious streets. To pray standing. Three postures in prayer are mentioned in Scripture; standing, (1 Samuel 1:26; Mark 11:23; Luke 18:11,15) kneeling; (2 Chronicles 6:13; Daniel 6:10; Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60, 9:40, 20:36, 21:5) and in eases of peculiar awe or distress, prostration on the face. (Numbers 16:22; Joshua 5:14; Daniel 8:17; Matthew 26:39; Revelation 11:16) Standing being therefore a common posture, it is plain that this formed no part of the display, which consisted in choosing the most public places to parade their devotions. The Talmud of Babylon says that persons would sometimes stand three hours in a public place and a praying posture (Lightfoot). The excuse for such parade of devotion was found in the idea that when the hour of prayer arrived, one must pray wherever he was; so with the Mohammedans now, who may often be seen praying in the most public places. The practice of indolently sitting during prayer finds no support either in Scripture precedent, in (unless 2 Sam. 7:18 be claimed as such) the natural feeling of propriety, or in devout experience.
Verily I say unto you, see on "Matthew 5:18". They have, have received—"have in full." See on "Matthew 6:26".
6. But thou, changing again to the singular number for pointed personal an application (see on "Matthew 5:23"). The word rendered closet signifies originally a store-room, and then any private or retired room. Rev. Ver., "inner chamber." It is frequently applied in the Septuagint to a bed-chamber; comp. Isaiah 26:20, "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast." Compare also Matthew 24:26 Luke 12:3. The notion that our Lord designs to refer to a particular room on the top of a Jewish house, or over the main entrance of the building, is unwarranted, and unnecessarily restricts the meaning of the passage. The inner chamber may in fact often be best found in the solitude of nature: as Jesus frequently did. (Mark 1:35, 6:46, 14:32) Shut thy door, the word denoting that it is not only closed, but fastened, thus giving the idea of the most complete privacy. (Comp. 2 Kings 4:33) In secret our Father is present, in secret he sees, and though men will not recompense, he will. Comp. Proverbs 15:3.(Openly is a spurious addition, as in Matthew 6:4)
7 f. Slightly digressing in a very natural way from the precise line of thought in v. 1-18, and resuming the plural of general address, our Lord here appends a censure of another and kindred fault in prayer, in the injunction, use not vain repetitions. The Greek has a rare word formed so that its sound shall resemble the sense (onomatopoeia), and used to express stuttering, the indistinct speech of little children, or any confused babble. This well represents the practice common in the public worship of some of the heathen, as when the priests of Baal continued from morning until noon to cry: "0 Baal, hear us I", (1 Kings 18:26) and the multitude in the theatre at Ephesus for two hours shouted, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." (Acts 19:34) A great crowd continuing to repeat the same words, every one for himself, would make just the babbling noise which the Greek word expresses; and so would a single person, when, wearily and without interest, and as rapidly as possible, repeating the same word or phrase. Tyndale rendered "babble not much," followed by Great Bible and Geneva. The Com. Ver. rendering, "use not vain repetitions," was suggested by the commentary of Beza, whose guidance that version frequently follows. It is possible that as a stutterer often repeats the same word, the Greek word came to be used to denote idle and unmeaning repetitions in general. The idea of the heathen was that for (in) their much speaking they would be heard. So the Roman comic writer Terence makes one person tell another not to stun the gods with thanksgivings, "unless you judge them to have no more sense than yourself, so as to think they do not understand anything unless it has been said a hundred times." The Jews must have been inclining to the same practice, thinking that there was merit in saying over certain words of prayer many times. In Talmud Bab., R. Hanin says, "If prayer is prolonged, it will mot be without effect." Another objects that it may make one sick, and a third that it may make him gloomy. Compare Mark 12:40, "And for a pretence make long prayers." Yet Ecclesiastes 5:2 had pointed out the impropriety of much speaking in prayer, "Therefore let thy words be few," and the apocryphal book of Sirach (Ecclus.) 7:1, said, "Do not prattle in a multitude of elders, and do not repeat a word in thy prayer." So the Roman poet Plautus says, "Transact divine things in few words." The practice of praying a long time, as a formal observance, would naturally lead to unmeaning repetition. The Buddhist monks at the present time, will for whole days together cry aloud the sacred syllable Um; and some Mohammedans "turn about in a circle, and pronounce the name of God until they drop down." After a Mohammedan funeral in some countries, devout men assemble, and repeat Allah el Allah. "God is God," three thousand times. A traveller in Persia tells of a man "who prayed so loud and so long that he lost his voice, and then groaned out, in voiceless accents, the name of God fifty times." (Tholuck.) So in some prayers recorded in the Avesta, and in the old Egyptian writings. M. Huc tells of Buddhist students in Chinese Tartary, who will put a written prayer on a wheel, which is turned with a crank, or even by wind or water; and they believe that every revolution is a prayer, and adds to their merit. In like manner, Roman Catholics now think it very devout to repeat many times—often fifteen, and in some cases a hundred and fifty times—the Ave Maria (Hail, Mary), and the Pater Noster (Our Father, i. e., the Lord's Prayer), and count the repetitions by slipping the beads of the rosary—thus employing (Tholuek) the very prayer our Saviour set in contrast to such notions and practices. This use of a rosary is a Buddhist practice, which came through the Mohammedans to the Spanish Christians. But our Father (see on v. 9) is not slow to attend, as Elijah mockingly represented Baal to be, nor unable to understand unless it is said a hundred times; he knoweth what we need, not only as soon as we ask it once, but even before we ask it. Observe, however, two things: (1) God's knowing before we ask is no pray in order to give him information, but to express our own desire, out feeling of need and dependence. Not that prayer, as many say, is designed simply to influence ourselves; men would pray very little if they really believed that to be all. We pray, as hoping thereby to induce God to grant what we desire; and his foreknowledge and even predestination of all things is no more an objection to praying than to acting. (2) Our Saviour cannot mean that long-continued praying is in itself improper, for he himself sometimes spent a whole night in prayer, (Luke 6:12) and he spoke more than one parable to encourage perseverance in prayer; nor is it necessarily wrong to repeat the same words—a thing sometimes very natural when we are deeply in earnest—for in Gethsemane he "prayed a third time, saying again the same words." (Matthew 26:44) The difference between these and the practice condemned is plain. Augustine justly distinguishes between much speaking in prayer, and much praying.
9. After this manner therefore pray ye, with a strong emphasis (as the Greek shows) on "ye." This injunction is presented as a consequence of what precedes. Since it is unavailing for us, and unworthy of our God, to pray as the heathen do, (comp. Matthew 6:7, 5:47) therefore do ye pray thus. The special (though of course not exclusive) design with which the prayer that follows is here introduced is to put in contrast with that of which he has just been speaking (Matthew 5:7) a specimen of the right kind of prayer. He thus teaches them "by example as well as by precept," to avoid the faults in question. Regarded from this point of view, we are struck with the comprehensiveness and simplicity of the prayer, truly the very opposite of "much speaking," of babbling repetitions and boisterous passion. How vast its scope, how varied its applications, how simple its language. Tertullian already observed that it is "as copious in meaning as it is condensed in expression." Yet with all this comprehensiveness, there is no propriety in gravely defending, as some do, and seeking to establish by artificial exposition, the mere rhetorical hyperbole which Tertullian adds ("On Prayer," chap. 1), that "in this prayer is comprised a compend of the whole gospel."
Substantially the same prayer is recorded in Luke 11:2-4 as a specimen or model of prayer in general, given in response to a special request from one of the disciples. Now we know that Jesus repeated many striking or important sayings at different times and in different connections (see General Introduction to chap. 5). There is thus no difficulty in understanding that he gave this prayer on two different occasions. They who think otherwise must either suppose that Matthew has artificially constructed this discourse out of scattered materials, or that Luke has introduced on an unreal occasion (Luke 11:1) what actually belonged to this discourse; and there is no sufficient ground for either supposition. Recent studies in the harmony of the Gospels (Wieseler, Clark's Harmony) make it highly probable that the occasion on which Luke gives the prayer was long after the Sermon on the Mount, during the last few months of our Lord's ministry, and away in Judea or Perea. But even if it be supposed that the prayer was given only once, it would remain true that the two Evangelists have recorded it in very different terms. Even in the common Greek Text and the Common Version, there are several different expressions; and the unquestionably correct text given in the Revised Version makes the differences quite considerable.
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
And bring us not into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins ;
For we ourselves also forgive every one that is
indebted to us.
And bring us not into temptation.
If then our Lord gave the prayer on two occasions, he gave it in quite different terms, which shows, beyond all question, that it was not intended as a form of prayer, to be repeated in the same words. If, on the other hand, it be supposed that he gave the prayer only once, then the Evangelists certainly did not understand it to be a form of prayer, or they would not have recorded it in such different terms. There is no important difference in the substance of the two prayers; for the petition, "Thy will be done," etc., only brings into special prominence something that is involved in "Thy kingdom come," and the petition, "But deliver us from the evil one" only gives the other side of the foregoing, "And bring us not into temptation." There is no material difference in the two prayers, but there is certainly a great difference in form. It is entirely proper in praying, and indeed very desirable, to repeat any passage of Scripture that seems specially appropriate. Few passages, if any, would be so often appropriate for such a purpose as this prayer, because it is so rich and sweet, and because the Saviour expressly gave it, on both occasions, as a model of praying. But in the face of the above facts, it cannot for a moment be maintained that he has made it our duty to repeat this prayer whenever we pray, or to use these precise words from beginning to end whenever we feel moved to adopt the prayer.
The common title "The Lord's Prayer" has been in use among Christians from an early period, being found already in Cyprian, about A. D. 250, if in no earlier writer, The prayer contains no allusion to the mediation of Christ, says nothing about asking in his name, for which the disciples were not yet prepared. (John 16:23 f.) Like many other portions of Scripture, it was especially adapted to the precise times in which it was spoken, and the interpretation and applications of it must be made accordingly.
It is often asserted by modern Jews and rationalistic Christian writers that no portion of this prayer is original; for they say that all its petitions are found in the Talmud or in the liturgies now used among the Jews, and supposed by them to be ancient. Let us collect and consider the facts. They must be mainly stated at second hand; but the sources will be indicated.
"Our Father, who is in Heaven," occurs often in the Jewish liturgies. One of the Jewish prayers contains: "Let us sanctify thy name in the world, as they sanctify it in the high heavens." Among the prayers the Kaddish is especially valued, and has to be often recited: "Magnified and sanctified be his great name in the world which, according to his good pleasure, he created, and may he spread abroad his reign in your days; and may his redemption blossom forth, and may Messiah be at hand and deliver his people." (Wet.). And there are various other prayers that God's name may be sanctified. In the Talmud a Rabbi says: "Every prayer in which the name of God is not mentioned is no prayer." And another says: "That prayer in which the kingdom of God is not named, is no prayer." As a matter of course, the Jewish prayers often include many petitions in regard to God's kingdom, though the exact phrase, "Thy kingdom come," has not been cited, the nearest approach to it being, "Reveal the glory of thy kingdom upon us speedily." The Talmud of Bab. (Berach. f. 29b) gives short prayers proper for time of peril, derived from several Rabbis, and among them this: "Rabbi Eliezer says, 'Do thy will in heaven above, and give place to those that fear thee below; and do what thou pleasest.'" The same treatise (f. 60 b), gives as a prayer before falling asleep: "Do not make us enter into the hand (power) of sin, nor into the hand of temptation, nor into the hand of contempt." And again (f. 16 b): "Rabbi was wont thus to pray: 'Let it be thy good pleasure to deliver us from impudent men and impudence, from an evil man and from an evil chance, from an evil affection, from an evil companion, from an evil neighbour, from Satan the destroyer, from a hard judgment, and from a hard adversary,'" [So Lightfoot, Wetstein, Sepp, and Wünsche, in his German translation of Talmud Bab., Vol. I., A. D. 1886. Schwab's French translation of Talmud Jerusalem has "from a corrupter," instead of "from Satan the destroyer."]
It thus appears that no parallel has been found to several important clauses of the prayer, such as "Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth," or the prayer for daily bread, to which nothing similar has been adduced save one of the short prayers in the Talmud, "The wants of thy people Israel are many, their thought is limited; may it please thee, O Lord our God, to give each one what he needs for nourishment, and to every creature what it lacks"—which is really no parallel at all. Nor is any parallel offered to the petition that we may be forgiven as we forgive, upon which our Lord laid special stress by repeating its thought after the close of the prayer (Matthew 6:14 f.) The nearest approach is in Ecclus. 28:2. (See below on "Matthew 6:12".)
Again, the resemblance in several cases is not very marked, as in "Thy kingdom come," "Deliver us from the evil one." The only exact parallels are to the address, "Our Father who art in heaven," and to the petitions, "hallowed be thy name," and "Bring us not into temptation."
In all these cases of resemblance the expression is one most natural to be employed. In regard to calling God our Father, see below; and petitions as to God's name and kingdom, and as to temptations, must of course enter sometimes into Jewish prayers. What then is the amount of the charge that the prayer is not original? Some of its petitions have no parallel in Jewish literature, and others only partial parallels. And as to the resemblances, exact or partial, a little reflection shows that nothing else would have been natural. Is it reasonable to suppose that the Great Teacher would give as a model of prayer to his followers a series of petitions that were throughout such as nobody had ever thought of or felt the need of? A wise teacher links new instruction to what is already known and felt. And our Lord's ethical and devotional instructions would have been really less efficient if they had been marked by the startling originality which some have unwisely claimed for them. Grotius: "Our Lord was far removed from all affectation of unnecessary novelty." Those, on the other hand, who have represented this prayer as entirely wanting in originality, are refuted by the facts; for we have seen that several of the petitions are without parallel, and that the cases of resemblance are perfectly natural; while the brevity and comprehensiveness of the prayer as a whole are wonderful in the extreme. It may be added, without treating it as an important fact in the present case, that some prayers in the Jewish liturgies are unquestionably more recent than the time of Christ, (see Margoliouth, Weiss, Ebrard in Herzog), and that even prayers and other matters in the Talmud may have been derived from the New Testament. The Rabbis borrowed freely from Greeks and afterwards from Arabians, and it is by no means so certain as some modern Jews imagine, that they did not also borrow from Jesus and his apostles. But the explanation of the matter before us is independent of that question.
The prayer naturally falls into two divisions, and it is an instructive and impressive fact that the first petitions are those which relate to God, his kingdom and his glory, and hose relating to ourselves come afterwards, as being of less importance. Bengel: "The first three are thy, thy, thy; the others, us, us, us." So likewise the Ten Commandments fall into two parts; the former setting forth our duty to God, the latter to our neighbour. At the present day, the prevalent tendency is to begin with human nature and wants, and to ask how Christianity suits itself to these; the Bible teaches us to think of God, and ask how we may suit ourselves to his nature and will. As we are afterwards taught to seek his kingdom first, (Matthew 6:33) so here to pray first that it may come. Yet the distinction in the prayer is not absolute, since the fulfilment of the first petitions will be also for our good, and the fulfilment of the others will be also for God's glory. There has been much useless discussion in Germany as to whether the prayer contains seven petitions (the Lutheran view, following Augustine), or only six (the Reformed or Calvinian view, following Chrysostom), according as we consider verse 13 to be one petition or two. Some writers try to find in the several petitions sets of threes, as if illustrating the Trinity; but this is artificial and fanciful.
9. Our Father. The use of the plural, throughout the prayer, instead of changing to the singular, as is done in v. 2, 6, 17, evidently presents this as a specimen of social rather than secret prayer; and so, involves prayer for each other, and not for ourselves alone. Compare Matthew 18:19 Malachi 2:10. The thought of God as our Father is presented in some passages of the Old Testament, (as Isaiah 63:16; Psalm 103:13; Deuteronomy 32:6) and oftener in subsequent Jewish writings (Tobit 13:4; Ecclus. 28:1; 51:10; Wisdom 2:16; 14:3); and the later Jews have several prayers in which God is addressed as "our Father in heaven," an idea doubtless drawn by them from the Old Testament The heathen, too, were not wholly unfamiliar with the thought. Max Müller:" We have in the Veda the invocation Dyauspiter , the Greek Zeu pater, the Latin Jupiter; and that means in all the three languages what it meant before these languages were torn asunder—it means heaven-Father." (Boardman.) Plutarch says that the superstitious man recognizes only that which is sovereign in God, and not the fatherly; and Seneca, that God has a fatherly mind towards good men. But it is Jesus who has rendered this idea so clear and precious; distinctly comparing the feelings of human parents towards their children, (Matthew 7:11) and making the great thought familiar by frequent repetition. In one sense God is the Father of all men, as in one sense all men are brothers; and so we can fitly speak of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man; and yet it is only believers in Christ who can in the fullest sense call God Father, (1 John 3:1 John 8:42) and call each other brethren. (1 John 3:14) In heaven. God, who is everywhere present, is constantly represented in Scripture as making his special abode, and the special manifestation of the presence of his glory, in heaven. Aristotle noticed that this idea was common to all nations. But the heathen made heaven itself, variously personified, an object of worship; while in Scripture, heaven is but the dwelling-place of God. (Comp. Plumptre.)
hallowed be thy name. To pray that his name, Jehovah, by which he is distinguished from all heathen deities, and marked out as his people's God, may be sanctified, regarded and treated as holy (comp. Exodus 20:8 Leviticus 22:2,32 Ezekiel 36:23, 1 Peter 3:15, and contrast "despise my name" Malachi 1:6), involves the idea of praying that God, in all his character and dealings, may be reverenced and glorified. Compare such expressions as "they that love thy name," "that know thy name" in the Old Testament, and "glorify thy name" in John 12:28 Revelation 15:4. This idea of taking the proper name as representing the person in his entire character, is altogether natural, but was rendered peculiarly impressive to the Israelitish mind by their remarkable reverence for the name of Jehovah—a reverence which at length became superstitious, so that the later Jews would never pronounce that proper name at all, but uttered instead of it the word Adonai, which means Lord—and this led to the translation of Jehovah in the Septuagint by Kyrios, and in the English by Lord. The Anglo-Saxon word " hallow," though often employed in the Old Testament, is used nowhere in the King James Version of the New Testament, except here and Luke 11:2. Elsewhere that version uses the Latin word sanctify. But in this familiar and cherished prayer the old Anglo-Saxon word was retained (comp. on Matthew 1:18, as to the use of Holy Ghost). So likewise the Latin Vulgate, while translated anew from the Hebrew, retained the old Latin Version of the Psalms, as being so familiar that change would not be tolerated; and the English Book of Common Prayer, though altered elsewhere to suit the King James Version, retains still the translation of the Psalms from the Great Bible, or Coverdale.
10. Thy kingdom come. Of the three words, kingship, reign, and kingdom, to which the Greek word here employed is equivalent (see on "Matthew 3:2"), it would be best in this and many passages to use the second term reign, since we can use only one. The reference is plainly to that Messianic reign which all devout Jews were expecting, (Mark 15:43 Luke 23:51) and which John and Jesus had been proclaiming as now near at hand. (Matthew 3:2, 4:17) The prayer that it might come would in the minds of our Lord's hearers refer especially to the beginning of the reign, the introduction of the kingdom; (Luke 17:20 f.) but just as in the prophetic view the whole period from the beginning of Messiah's reign to its ultimate triumph, frequently appears as a point, so in the full sense the coming of that reign or kingdom includes the idea of its complete establishment. It is therefore perfectly legitimate for us to use the petition with our minds specially directed towards the consummation of Christ's reign, the complete establishment of his kingdom, his final glorious triumph, when the kingship (sovereignty) of the world, shall become our Lord's and his Christ's. (Revelation 11:15) Thy will be done is more exactly thy will come to pass, 'take place,' the same verb as in Matthew 1:22 (see foot-note "Matthew 1:22"), Matthew 5:18, 24:6,34 (where it is rendered 'come to pass,' in Com. Ver.), and the same expression as in Matthew 26:42, and Acts 21:14. This of course involves the idea that moral creatures are to do his will, as in Matthew 7:21, 12:50 (where the word 'do' is employed), but it expresses a more comprehensive thought. Theological writers distinguish three senses of the term will. God's will of purpose always comes to pass, in heaven, earth, and hell. But his will of desire does not yet always come to pass on earth as it does in heaven. He wished Jerusalem to be saved, (Luke 13:34) and they would not. He does not "wish that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance", (2 Peter 3:9) and yet many refuse to repent, and perish. He wishes "all men to be saved", (1 Timothy 2:4) yet many are led captive by Satan according to his own will. And God's will of command, how often and how flagrantly it is disobeyed; how few of his moral creatures on earth are prepared to say, "I delight to do thy will, O my God", (Psalm 40:8) or as Jesus said, literally, "My food is to do the will of him that sent me"; (John 4:34) how few are joined to Christ by the fullness of that tie, "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother." (Matthew 12:50) In earth as it is in heaven. The Rev. Ver., As in heaven, so on earth, gives the order of the Greek, and makes a difference in the emphasis.—We ought to be continually praying this prayer. In heaven, everything takes place as God wishes, everything is perfectly pleasing in his sight. Ah! when shall it be so on earth? When shall his reign fully come, and his will take place, 'as in heaven, (so) also upon earth?' O Lord, how long!—This impressive petition is really involved in the foregoing, simply stating separately one element of it; for when God's reign is fully come, his will must come to pass, etc. When therefore this is omitted from the prayer on the second occasion, (Luke 11:12) we perceive that no principal thought of the prayer is thus lost. Yet this is by no means a mere repetition or expansion, for it brings into prominence one practical element of God's reign, which we ought specially to desire and aim to bring about. Some (e. g., Westcott and Hort's Greek Testament) would affix "as in heaven, so also upon earth," to all the three foregoing petitions, making it apply separately to each of them. This is a possible view, but not probable. (1) The words would not harmonize so well with "thy reign come," as with "thy name be sanctified," and "thy will come to pass." (2) The omission of these words in Luke 11:2 would thus be harder to account for.
11. Here begins the second division of the prayer, that which contains petitions for ourselves (compare on Matthew 6:9). The grammatical construction here changes. The foregoing clauses pray that something may come to pass in the course of God's providence. The succeeding clauses directly petition God to give and forgive. Daily bread. Bread naturally represents food in general, all that is necessary to support life, of which bread is commonly esteemed the most important and indispensable part. (Mark 3:20, 2 Thessalonians 3:12 Proverbs 30:8, margin.) There seems to be no warrant for understanding the term as here including spiritual nourishment. It is altogether natural and proper to draw the inference that if we are bidden to ask God for bodily food, we need quite as much to ask him for that of the soul; but inference is a different thing from interpretation. Conant:" The beauty and propriety of this single petition for earthly good (restricted to that without which life cannot subsist), has been felt in all ages of the church." Many Fathers, and many in every age, have wrongly insisted upon "spiritualizing" the passage, as they have done with well-nigh everything in Scripture. Against the overdriven spirituality which affects to be too indifferent to earthly good to think it worth asking for, Jesus vindicates a place for earthly good in our prayers. In the present age, it is especially important to urge that men shall pray for temporal good, since so many think that the recognized presence of law in all temporal things puts them beyond the sphere of prayer; as if that would not exclude God from his universe; and as if there were not law in spiritual things also. The word (epiousion) rendered daily, is extremely rare and obscure. Origen says, that it was not found in any Greek writer or in colloquial use, but seemed to have been coined by the Evangelists. Only three senses of the term have now any advocates: (1) '(bread) for to-morrow,' and so 'daily,' Bishop Lightfoot, Meyer, Grimm, Wunsche, Nicholson, margin of Rev. Test.; (2) 'needful,' Godet, Keim, Keil, Cremer, margin of Rev. Test. (American Revisers); (3) 'supersubstantial,' Jerome in Matthew, and many Romanists. Etymological considerations strongly favour (1), and render (3) practically impossible. Bishop Lightfoot, "On a Fresh Revision of the New Testament" App., has conclusively shown (and McClellan and Canon Cook vainly strive to meet his facts and arguments), how strongly (1) is supported by the early versions, being uniformly given by the Old Latin (and even Jerome retains it in Luke), by both the Egyptian versions, the Old Syriac, and the "Gospel according to the Hebrews." Origen preferred (2), explaining it as meaning needful for the soul—a spiritualizing conception, which suited Origen's turn of mind and habitual methods of interpretation; and he gave this view great currency among the Greek Christians (see Suicer) and the later Syrians. Jerome, by an impossible etymology, rendered it. 'supersubstantial' in Matthew, though retaining in Luke the 'daily' of the Old Latin, and is followed in both passages by Wyclif and the Rheims version. Many Romanist writers have tried to use this rendering in Matthew for the support of transubstantiation, though the Romanist prayer-books have uniformly retained 'daily.' Plumptre strangely adopts Jerome's rendering, understanding it to mean "over and above material substance" (in which a material word is gratuitously inserted), and thus entirely restricting the petition to spiritual bread. In (1) "Give us today our bread for to-morrow," would mean our daily bread, if we remember that one should not let the day close without knowing how he is to have food for the next morning. It is very difficult to see how (2) could ever have suggested the idea of daily, which is found in all the earlier versions, and often referred to by Greek Fathers (Suicer). Moreover, the idea of (2) could have been easily expressed by existing Greek words, while that of (1) would have required the coining of a Greek adjective (Origen above). The objection to (1) is that it seems to conflict with Matthew 6:34, "Be not anxious for the morrow"; but it is fairly answered that the way to prevent such anxiety is to pray that to-morrow's bread may be given us to-day, as in Philippians 4:6, the remedy for anxiety is prayer; and if Matthew 6:34 prohibits prayer for to-morrow's bread, then (Achelis) verse 31 would prohibit prayer for any food. If we combine all the evidence, it would seem that (1) must be very decidedly preferred With this compare James 2:15, Rev. Ver., "And in lack of daily food"; Proverbs 30:8, lit., "Feed me with my portion (or allowance) of bread"; (Acts 6:1; 2 Kings 25:30) also the fact that the manna was given one day's supply at a time. This day, or simply 'to-day.' In Luke 11:8 it is 'day by day.' The phrase in Matthew is said by various Fathers (Wet.) to have led to the daily repetition of this prayer, which is mentioned as early as the beginning of the third century; but Luke's phrase shows that at least in the second case nothing of the sort was contemplated.
12. Debts. This term is here used for transgressions, sins. In Aramaic, the native language of our Lord and the Evangelists, the word debt (chob) is very often used for sin. See numerous examples from the Targums in Buxtorf. This use is perfectly natural in itself, since an obligation to God which is not duly met becomes to us a sin; compare the illustration of sin by a debt in Matthew 18:21,24,28. In like manner the English word duty denotes that which is due, owed. (Plumptre.) Accordingly in Matthew 6:14 f., the same idea is represented by 'trespasses,' transgressions. And in Luke, (11:4, Rev. Ver.) the prayer reads, "And forgive us our sins; for we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us." So clear is it that debts here means sins that Tyndale translates in Matthew 6:12 by trespasses and trespassers; but this is unwarranted, and was not followed by any other English translators. Observe that this petition is connected with the foregoing by and. The life sustained by daily bread is not enough; we need also the forgiveness of sin (Weiss); compare 'And bring,' Matthew 6:13. As we forgive—or, as in Rev. Ver.—also have forgiven—our debtors. This does not present our forgiveness of others as the ground of our being forgiven, nor as strictly the measure of God's forgiveness towards us (for he forgives perfectly', while everything in us is imperfect); but by comparing the forgiveness we supplicate with that we have shown, it states very impressively the idea, afterwards still further emphasized in Matthew 6:14 f., that the unforgiving cannot be forgiven. Observe that the Revised text (no doubt correct) makes it "have forgiven," already before we seek forgiveness—not a mere momentary effort at forgiveness, trumped up for the nonce. In Luke 11:4, it is, 'For we ourselves also forgive every one that is indebted to us,' which means not simply present but habitual forgiveness, as shown by the 'every one? Luke's term 'for' might seem to make our forgiving the ground of our being forgiven; but it rather means that there is no unforgivingness on our part to form an obstacle to our being forgiven. Compare Matthew 5:7;