Pope Francis just did it ... He "changed the text"!

This is a very interesting event for people interested in the history of religion, and particularly that of “reform” in religion. In a certain sense that is history in the making, happening right now, we can witness it with our own namarupas! and observe its effects and the various reactions to it. Fresh insight into religion as a living experience rather than assorted words in a history book.

Pope Francis is kind of a revolutionary, we already know that. The article lists some of his controversial progressive moves, including the present one, which naturally upset many traditional and conventional Catholics and even non-Catholics. What’s remarkable about this tiny little “text reform” though is that, I believe, it is also directly relevant to some of our discussions and concerns here, as regards the Pali Canon or EBT. The Pope’s change of text in this example is not merely a pedantic grammatical one, or that of a spelling mistake; rather it is actually motivated by changing the “idea” about the relations of God and Satan, with the “tempting” of human.

Though discussions about these matters of the Text exist, in every religion, among those following and practising it in earnest; what is again remarkable about this event is the adoption and application of such change on such “top level”! Pope Francis was obviously aware of these discussions taking place below, among religious practitioners who haven’t the power to do more than just discuss. But this brings to mind again the power and potential of discussion; should a leader emerge who, far above, yet finds in himself the curiosity to attend to it.

So it seems, even in a swamp where words of wisdom are not so readily or easily discernable amidst the relentless buzzing of mindless flys, and croaking of the frogs which crave them; it may be still worthwhile for earnest and sincere people, to break the silence, every now, and then!

Here is the news article:

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Correct me if I’m wrong but these prayers and the catholic lithurgy have changed many times over the centuries and even in the 20th century (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_of_Paul_VI)

But I agree, it’ good to see that these changes are still possible depsite the size of this particular community! I suppose this is the advantage of having a centralized power such as the papacy, it’s much easier to have changes adopted by the majority.

Strange and frustrating. In the NYT article there is almost no mention of the translation issues involved. I believe both translations make sense. That seems to me to be the obvious question that a reporter would want to ask and report on.

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I didn’t mean this was the first time; but this certainly is far from being a usual everyday normal event. This always means a lot and it is hard for many people to imagine the extent by which something like that seem to shack the earth beneath the feet of a certain type of religious people and leaders alike.

You must not forget that, like in Islam, Christian texts are considered to be “the word of God”, that is, a “sacred” text; and to introduce changes on something like that sends shock waves in certain established directions that have been around since the beginning of the story! One can only admire the valour and sense of purpose of those who embark on such reforms, exposing themselves in the process to a lot of pressure and resistance and blame etc. The history of Christianity and Islam, though much younger to that of Buddhism, is full of such brilliant reforms where certain problematic portions of the text were … kind of “contained”, and in this and other few instances, even changed in order to conform to Doctrine, or else plainly rejected by religious authorities as inauthentic.

In this case, Pope is actually trying to defend doctrine; to instate the impeccably benevolent nature of God, as such that He may never lead a human into temptation. To the unsuspecting reader this might appear to be a trivial matter; but those who know about Gnostic cosmology (where God may be interpreted precisely as a tempter!), and about the age long rivalry between Christianity and Gnosticism; they might discern why this verse has been debated among devout Christians for a very long time and has been a cause of much unrest.

We have some instances of the same in the Pali Canon, where a certain text plainly contradict Dhamma!! Ajahn Chah once noted this regarding one of the protective parittas which are frequently chanted to lay people to dispel danger and suffering etc. We see further evidence of this contradiction between the text and, even, common sense, in the Vinaya as well; most notably of course being the case of the ordination of women. And one cannot help but juxtapose here: While the Catholic Pope himself introduces changes on a holy text to protect doctrine; rigidity and stiffness endure in adhering to a Pali text that has never ever been regarded as holy or sacred!

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καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν
kai mē eisenenkēs hēmas eis peirasmon
and not lead us into temptation

Pope Francis is raising objection to eisenenkēs.

BibleHub has a resource for this:

The Greek correspondence dictionary at Billmouse is even more detailed:

There is even more on the page that is less friendly to easy reproduction here: https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/eisphero

So eisenenkēs means more or less what it means. With its declension, coupled with hēmas, it can only mean "lead us " or “bring us”, grammatically speaking. Which brings us to peirasmon, a place or time of testing/trial. Not “temptation”, but not not temptation IMO.

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What Pope Francis has done which is so meaningful to me is to bring back the idea of “christlike” Christians. People who behave in a compassionate, loving, forgiving manner and set doctrine and religious divisions aside so they can better be there for fellow human beings. That is huge and I hope this makes changes for christianity as a whole!

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I would be a little bit careful about Pope Francis’s revolutionary creds, personally, bhante, though I am not you nor am I in charge of you. For instance, one can find all sorts of articles about him by the Western media, but when one checks the Vatican’s press releases, they are often wildly misquoted. For instance, I read an article about him a while back claiming that he “abolished” hell!

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Similarities between Christians and Buddhists
Among Christians there are those who understand that anything in English (not Koine Greek or in some cases Aramaic) must be a translation and not to be confused with the original. And then there are many who have a hard time with any translation that is different from the one they were raised with.
I suspect much the same probably holds for Buddhists!

A good teacher should occasionally make some kind of reference or reminder to the idea that, unless we are reading the suttas in their original language, one or more translations were involved.

I think a good argument can be made that the “lead us not into temptation” translation results in a misleading or confusing sentence in English. It’s very reasonable to say that a better translation would be something like “lead us/guide us away from tribulation”.
In dharma terms it’s close to “guide us away from suffering”.

IMO the NYT article sensationalizes the issue a bit. A good argument in support of the change can be framed in traditionalist or fundamentalist terms. That framing was in little evidence in the article in question.

There is a psychological trait that may come into play. Some people like the new and the novel even to the point of craving it. Some more prefer stability.


Compassion suggests asking “what type of person would have the hardest time understanding this change” and then being sure to frame a section of the article to address that audience. This is much more likely to happen when one is supported by a intellectually / ideologically diverse team. The presence of this type of diversity is suggested by the EBT and seems to shape the Buddha’s teachings.

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Pope John Paul II was also a kind of revolutionary … to speak with some Catholics.

My impression is that there is a tendency to a bit of hagiography towards Francis in some circles. One at least should recognize that most strong Popes have their critics. Especially so when they um… pontificate on topics outside their central remit such as economics and science.

If I may raise a counterpoint, for the sake of proposed collective reflection, bhante.

Christianity already has a fully-formed doctrinal system of checks-and-balances to make sure God always comes out on the top, no matter what the Bible may seem to say. Even areas of the Psalms, where it says μακάριος ὃς κρατήσει καὶ ἐδαφιεῖ τὰ νήπιά σου πρὸς τὴν πέτραν “Happy is the one who seizes your [Babylon’s] infants and dashes them against the rocks!” that is interpreted through the hermeneutical lens of Christ (God) conquering death (Babel & its progeny). God comes out on top, because God needs to come out on top, because sensible people aren’t going to follow a religion with a God that is unambiguously wicked.

If anything, it is quite possible that Pope Francis’s suggestions of changing the traditional translation are more in line with the tendencies in historical Buddhisms that EBT studies tries to do away with. The changing of the a word, here.

Imagine in an ancient society, with different literacy paradigms. Maybe Pope Francis writes a commentary which becomes considered authoritative. In that commentary, perhaps it argues that eisenenkēs hēmas actually means “let us to be led”. Other writers begin to read the text with the newer understanding. I do not mean to be contrarian, just to offer food for thought.

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Note that the proposal is for languages where the prayer has been translated that way. For example, in portuguese the prayer is already the way he suggested (maybe for many centuries). Quick googling shows spanish to be the same (unsurprisingly, perhaps, given this pope’s origin).

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It is the same as the English in French

mais ne nous soumet pas à la tentation

And in Irish

agus ná lig sinn i geathú

I wonder if it depends on when the translation arose.

I see that both the quality and quantity of your curiosity after this subject have exceeded my own! :slight_smile:

Well, my purpose was not really to evaluate the Pope, and even the content of the text-change is only a secondary matter here. Nor do I find the whole thing “good or bad”, but I have only found the very event to be “noteworthy and remarkable”, as most people who are familiar with religion-history recognise what big deal it is to change text like that.

Honestly I found the NYT article to be fine; if anything, it has actually missed showing (rather than sensationalised) the extent by which this is such a bold move in the world of religion, as well as missed representing (again rather than sensationalising) the more extreme forms of traditionalist opposition to an event like that. This article was what I chose to share here on the forum; I have been reading about Christian theology and monasticism for a long time so, don’t worry so much about me!

There is an old joke about this translation:

“lead us not into temptation; I can find it myself.” :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

More seriously. I wish for spiritual friends who encourage me to stay out of the neighborhood of temptation , because I’m likely to end up knocking on its door if I get too close.

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Hi again

Yes, I thought the verse was a request not to be tested.

Testing someone, for me is from a suspicious, unfriendly mental attitude, unless both parties know what is going on and agree, as in a test at school.

best wishes