Leading article: Yielding to temptation

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The Independent Culture
"LEAD US not into temptation..." How often we have heard those words, embedded as they are in the Lord's Prayer, which the Gospels tell us Jesus taught to his disciples. Whether or not we are religious, the words wash over and around us, their rotund syllables sounding like the tolling of bells, and about as meaningful. But ever since early Protestants such as William Tyndale began to translate the Bible from Latin into the vernacular, people have demanded to know just what these words mean. After all, you can hardly translate something without thinking first what it's about.

For those who prefer the aesthetics of religion to its claims to be in touch with a supernatural reality, the King James version, of 1611, solves the problem neatly. The vocabulary of Tudor England is now so dated that much of it works like Church Latin, in which unknown words hallowed by age allow sanctity comfortably to oust comprehension. But reformers never rest, and today's literal-minded translators have returned to the Synod of the Church of England, determined to let daylight in on magic. If they were to have their way, out would go "temptation", for example, and in would come "time of trial".

To our unbelieving mind, there's not a lot of difference here. The important thing surely is what temptation might be dangled before us, or what trial we could be asked to undergo. Jesus, readers of the Bible will recall, was himself tempted by the Devil, during his 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, with "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them". For many of us, though, it's more likely to be that extra digestive biscuit (and we say, go on, take it, you only live once).

As to power and glory, since this is an age in which people are more likely to pray for their chance to obtain those twin desiderata than to avoid them, it hardly matters how the Synod chooses to render the ancient words of the New Testament.

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