Recently someone came to this blog after searching the question "Which version of the Lord's Prayer?"
I don't know exactly what that question was looking for, but I've always been bothered by how some people say "debts" while others say "trespasses" when publicly reciting the Lord's Prayer.
So in 2012 I set out to find the origins of this difference, which is why search terms like those above bring people to the blog:
Like I said, have you ever noticed when praying the Lord's Prayer aloud everybody does good until you get to the line "forgive us our..."? Have you noticed how at that point in the prayer cacophony breaks out as some people say "debts" and others say "trespasses"?
I got curious about this difference so I went in search of the translations that render this differently, to try to track down the origins of the problem.
I started with the NIV:
NIV:Okay, so the NIV has "debts." So I went on to look at other translations. And guess what? There is almost universal agreement among the major translations, all having "debts" like the NIV:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors...
ESV, ASV, NASV, KJV, NRSV, NJ:To be sure, some more modern, dynamic and contemporary translations have "sins" or "wrongs." But none of these, along with the more established translations, have "trespasses."
our debts...our debtors.
So that left me scratching my head. Where in the world did "trespasses" come from?
Given that I use the Book of Common Prayer I knew it had "trespasses." So my hunch was that "forgive us our trespasses" came from the BCP rather than from the bible translations. I'm using the 1979 BCP. But just to make sure I went back to the 1549 edition, the very first BCP. And sure enough, "forgive us our trespasses" is there:
Book of Common Prayer (1549):But that raises another question. Where did the 1549 BCP come up with this translation? Recall, the Authorized (King James) Version didn't appear until 1611.
OURE father, whiche arte in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy kyngdom come. Thy wyll be done in earth as it is in heaven. Geve us this daye oure dayly bread. And forgeve us oure trespasses, as we forgeve them that trespasse agaynst us. And leade us not into temptacion. But deliver us from evell. Amen.
After some sleuthing I learned that the 1549 edition of the BCP used the Tyndale Bible (1526). And checking the Tyndale Bible I think we find the origin of "forgive us our trespasses":
Tyndale Bible (1526):In short, from the KJV onward the translation of Matthew 6.12 had gone with "debts." But the 1526 Tyndale Bible had it as "trespasses." This translation was used in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and has been preserved in the BCP to the present day.
And forgeve vs oure treaspases eve as we forgeve oure trespacers.
It's a Tyndale Bible/Book of Common Prayer vs. King James Version thing.
And thus the cacophony in our churches.