Part 8 / Matt. 6:9-13
The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer reads as follows: “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.” (Matt. 6:13). If you read the ESV or the NIV translation you may have noticed that the conclusion is not printed as part of the text; instead, it is included in the margin. The NASB includes it, but it is placed in brackets or is italicized. The King James version and some older translations include it as part of the normal text. What gives?
The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer has sparked much debate. Believers often turn to Matthew 6:13, and other passages like it, as a litmus test for the reliability of a given translation. If the conclusion is not there, it is assumed that the translators have taken parts out of the text of Scripture. This is clearly something we should never do, right? (see Deut. 4:2 and Rev. 22:18-19) It isn’t that simple.
Translating the ancient text
Translating the ancient text into modern English begins with the study of manuscripts. A manuscript is a fragment, page, or scroll that contains a portion of Scripture. We don’t have the original documents, but we have thousands of copies. Daniel Wallace writes: “In Greek alone, there are more than 5,600 manuscripts today. Many of these are fragmentary, especially the older ones, but the average Greek NT [New Testament] MS [manuscript] is over 450 pages long. Altogether, there are more than 2.6 million pages of text, leaving hundreds of witnesses for every book of the NT [New Testament].” We also have more than 20 000 manuscripts in other languages like Latin, Armenian, and Coptic.
No other ancient text comes even close to the sheer number of manuscripts we have available for the New Testament. This means that we have a massive collection of manuscripts to study and compare. The vast majority of these manuscripts agree and there are no alternative readings. On the odd occasions where there are alternative readings, however, we must determine which reading is the most probable. The science of studying the reliability of manuscripts is called “text criticism”. Text critics have various criteria by which they measure the reliability of a text: age, place of origin, number of similar copies, to name a few.
What does this have to do with Matthew 6:13 and the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer? There are several manuscripts that include the conclusion as we know it today, or a slightly different version of it. However, the oldest and most important manuscripts that we have do not. Early Christian commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer, like those of Tertullian or Cyprian, also do not contain any references to the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer. This has led most modern scholars to conclude that the conclusion was only added later in the late second century.
That explains why the ESV and NIV place it in the margin. They include it in the margin because they are honest and transparent translations. They are not trying to take parts out of the Biblical text; they want to give us the most accurate representation of the original text.
Should we pray the conclusion?
When we taught the Lord’s Prayer to our children, we decided to include the conclusion. While the conclusion was probably not part of the original, it does not contain anything that is not thoroughly biblical. Take the first part of the conclusion as an example: “yours is the kingdom”. This echoes what is said elsewhere in Scripture. In 1 Tim. 1:17 Paul praises God as “the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God”. The Psalms declare: “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.” (Ps. 145:13). The traditional conclusion of the Lord’s prayer serves as a reminder that God is on his throne and that he rules over all. Our petitions are directed to the God who reigns. It is God’s sovereign right to govern the world in such a way that our prayers are answered. Our confidence in prayer, therefore, is not based on our position, but on the position and authority of God.
The same applies to the second part of the conclusion: “yours is… the power”. In Revelation 19:1 the great multitude of heaven cries out: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God”. Power is God’s own possession; our strength is derived from him. God is all-powerful or omnipotent. He is so powerful that he can create with a word. In the words of Psalm 33:8-9: “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” Our confidence in prayer, therefore, is not based on our power, but on the power of God.
Finally, the conclusion declares: “yours is… the glory.” God is glorious. David stood in awe of God’s glory: “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.” (1 Chron. 29:11). We glorify God because God is glorious. Our praise is a response to his perfection. Our attitude in prayer, therefore, is one of grateful humility, giving God all the praise for his answer to our prayers.
The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer echoes what the rest of Scripture teaches. In the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (question 107), it is a helpful reminder “to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise Him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to Him; and, in testimony of our desire, and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen.”
So, we pray: “yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen”