Answer Man

Why does the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ have different endings?

A close-up of a rosary, often used as a guide for Christians, especially Catholics, during prayer.
A close-up of a rosary, often used as a guide for Christians, especially Catholics, during prayer. Pixabay

Q: Why are there two different endings to the Lord’s Prayer? When said in a Catholic church, the prayer ends with “deliver us from evil.” But my Protestant friends continue with “For thine is the kingdom ... ” etc. Was there some kind of New Testament typo?

Cathy Stoltz, of Belleville

A: God bless you for asking, because I often wonder the same thing when I listen to KMOX play it at 5:55 each morning.

Most of their versions deliver the full kingdom-power-glory-forever treatment that you and I are familiar with. Others — by The Martins and Robert Stone, for example — do it the Catholic way and sing their amens after “evil.”

As a Protestant, I have to admit I feel these latter versions finish too abruptly. They’re sort of like watching a modern train end without a caboose. There’s just something comforting about that final line that gives the prayer a completeness to my ear. Yet I know the version at Matthew 6:9-13 in my Bible has Jesus telling me to end the prayer at “evil.” A similar one at Luke 11:2-4 shortens it even more by wrapping up at “temptation.”

So am I putting my soul in jeopardy by embellishing the prayer with an unbiblical splashy finale? Certainly not, mainstream Catholic and Protestant experts agree. So why the difference? Two major reasons: One involves how the Bible was handed down before achieving its modern written form. The other points to Queen Elizabeth — Queen Elizabeth I, that is — whose subjects in the 1500s wanted to differentiate the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church, which had excommunicated her father, King Henry VIII.

Actually, the whole issue may be moot, some say.

“The fact that this (phrase) is not in the Bible is not certain,” says Dr. Timothy R. LeCroy, lead pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Columbia, Mo. “This is a matter of debate among biblical scholars. Granted, most biblical scholars will say that it is not original to the text of Matthew. But this is a guess on their part. A very educated guess based on solid scholarship, yet a guess nonetheless.”

What is certain, he argues, is that the line has a “very long history” of being used in the early church. For example, the Didache was a much-used manual of morals, worship and doctrine written in 90 A.D. Its text contains the extended version of the prayer, so we know it was used in worship during the church’s earliest days.

That shouldn’t be surprising, according to the folks at catholicstraightanswers.com. In the Bible, they say, it’s common to find prayers that end with what is called a “doxology,” a short hymnlike verse that praises the glory of God. That’s what this final line in the Lord’s Prayer is. In fact, it may have been borrowed from King David’s exultation of God at I Chronicles 29:4-19, which says, in part, “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory and the victory and the majesty ... thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.”

So this final line clearly has Old Testament roots. Then why wasn’t it added to the New Testament prayer?

The Catholic website hypothesizes that it may have involved regional differences. Two millennia ago, history often was handed down by word of mouth before being put into writing. As a result, Catholics living in the eastern half of the Roman Empire usually added the doxology while those in the western half believed the “Our Father” as said during today’s Mass was sufficient. When scholars decided on the final written version, they chose to omit it. Others, however, kept it going out of tradition.

“The text of the New Testament you hold in your hand is based on two different families of manuscripts,” LeCroy explains. “One family is called the Alexandrian and the other the Byzantine. On 99 percent of the New Testament these two families agree. Yet they differ on some points. The end of the Lord’s Prayer is one of them.”

KJVtoday.com (King James Version Today) adds more hypotheses. The omission may have been a mistake by a scribe who was familiar with Luke’s version and lopped off the final line in Matthew. Perhaps it was an effort to harmonize Luke’s version with Matthew’s. Or it may have been that those developing the Bible did not want to confuse worshipers who had learned the prayer by ear and were unfamiliar with the doxology.

Whatever the reason, Catholics maintain that the Protestant-Catholic split was solidified during the reign of Elizabeth I from 1558-1603, when the Church of England added the doxology to further rid the church of Catholic vestiges. So even though it omitted from the King James Version in 1611, it remains the standard for English-speaking Protestants. Today, both churches seem to do their best to pooh-pooh the difference.

“We see that the Catholic Church has been faithful to the Gospel text of the Our Father, while Protestant churches have added something of tradition to the words of Jesus,” catholicstraightanswers.com offers.

“My preference is to say it because it is the more catholic (universal) thing to do,” LeCroy says. “In other words, more Christians over the scope of Christian history, and even today, have said it, so I’ll go with saying it. But if the church across the street does not say it, it’s OK, too. It’s not something to worry a whole lot about in my opinion.”

For a detailed treatise on the issue, see www.kjvtoday.com/home/is-the-doxology-to-the-lords-prayer-in-matthew-613-a-late-addition.

Today’s trivia

In what city would you find the nation’s tallest federal courthouse?

Answer to Saturday’s trivia: When it was finished in early 1939, it was known simply as Camp Hi-Catoctin. Constructed in Maryland’s Catoctin National Park, it was meant to serve as a family camp for federal employees. But while seeking a retreat from the muggy summers in Washington, D.C., President Franklin D. Roosevelt discovered Hi-Catoctin and, in 1942, turned it into his presidential retreat, which he quickly renamed Shangri-La. It was the term for a Himalayan paradise that James Hilton had used in his 1933 novel, “Lost Horizons.” (FDR joked that the Asian Shangri-La was from where aviator Jimmy Doolittle had taken off for his famous raid of Tokyo on April 18, 1942.) In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower renamed it Camp David after his grandson.

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer

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