One of the most famous lines ever uttered by Jesus, and my Greek lexicon says, “of doubtful meaning,” how can this be? Well, it seems that in both versions of the Lord’s Prayer: Luke’s that we will hear on Sunday and Matthew’s that we will pray on Sunday; the word used to describe the type of bread is, wait for it, a hapax legomenon!
The Greek word “epiousios” is found in both versions, which they probably borrowed from Q or some other shared source, and, at least according to none other than Origen, was not a word used in ordinary speech. He posits that perhaps one of the evangelists coined the term. So, if the word for “daily” wasn’t used to mean “daily,” does it make a difference? And if so, what does it mean?
Thanks to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, I’ve come to know that in the Peshitta Syriac New Testament, the word is translated to mean “necessity.” “Give us the bread of necessity for today.” In the Curetonian Gospels, which are also Syriac in origin and perhaps older than the Peshitta, it is translated as “continual.” The question remains, “does it matter?” Well, probably not. In the end, the earliest translations seem to be in line with the more modern “daily.” Jesus invites us to follow in the footsteps of Israel in the wilderness and to trust God enough only to ask for provision for this day. Tomorrow’s worries will take care of themselves. Whether the bread comes to us continually or only according to our necessity, the reality is the gifts of God will come to suit us for today, and today alone.
That’s our prayer, then. Give me the bread I need for today, and by extension, make be to be content with what I have and not anxious about what is to come.