An old friend of mine is now a youth pastor. On his blog, he requested some help with a Greek translation issue in the New Testament. He read in a book (Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book) that “daily” could be translated “fresh” – as in, “give us this day some fresh bread.” He wondered about that, and asked if anyone knew anything else about that translation.
This is actually quite a contentious issue. You’d think that “give us this day our daily bread” is a rather straight forward phrase, but it’s not and it’s likely that any understanding we have may be wrong. I’m going to post my original comment here (with some changes) and then add some additional comments to (hopefully) initiate some discussion:
The word (“epiousios”) translated “daily” appears only in Matt. 6:11 and Luke 11:3. And I’m not just including the New Testament in this – it doesn’t appear in any Greek literature of the period, any earlier period – and in later periods, only in citations from the Lord’s prayer (Bauer’s Lexicon says: “Origen was right. Found in our literature only . . . in the Lord’s Prayer.”) Nearly all the dictionaries and lexicons I looked at have something like “of uncertain meaning” tagged next to this word. However, here’s some things I found
1. Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (2nd edition – I wish I had a copy of the slightly more recent 3rd edition) spends quite a bit of detail discussing the possible roots of the word (there are around a dozen different good candidates/theories for the origin and possible meaning of the word).
Here are some possible meanings from Bauer (including my modest attempts at showing how that meaning would look in translation):
a. “necessary for existence.” (Today, give us the bread we need to live).
b. “for today” (Today, give us the bread we need today)
c. “for the following day” (Give us tomorrow’s bread today)
d. “the future” (Today, give us bread for the future)
e. “belongs to” (Give us the bread that belongs to today – or, Give us today’s bread)
2. Thayer’s Lexicon mostly agrees with Bauer’s (above) but there are a few other possible meanings not given in Bauer’s:
a. “ready at hand” (Today, give us the bread that is ready at hand)
b. “allowance” (Today, give us our allowance of bread)
c. sufficient food (Today, give us sufficient bread – or bread that suffices).
3. Liddell & Scott’s Greek/English Lexicon (which is focused on Classical Greek) says it means “for the coming day” and notes it only appears in the NT.
The disputes really fall over which Classical and Koine words are at the root of the evangelist’s neologism. There are half a dozen good candidates, though no real consensus. I could bore you with all the geeky linguistic details of the various possible roots, but I won’t. If you must know, then read any of the Lexicon’s I cite above.
To sum up: I told my friend “Today’s bread” is a possible translation. “Fresh bread” is something of a stretch, but works if you assume that “today’s bread” is also “fresh bread.” (of course, you know what happens when we assume . . . )
Or, in other words, “fresh” likely wasn’t the original, intended meaning, but if (if!) “today’s bread” is the correct translation, then “fresh” is maybe okay by implication.
My question for M* readers is this:
Are there any implications for knowing this? I treat it as sort of theological trivia, but given that it is the Lord’s Prayer, shouldn’t we try to figure out what Jesus was asking for? If he was asking for “today’s bread” or “tomorrow’s bread”, does that change what we should be asking for in our prayers?
Speculate away (informed comments from those more knowledgeable about Greek also welcome).