Joseph A. Fitzmyer, «And Lead Us Not into Temptation», Vol. 84 (2003) 259-273
The sixth petition of the "Our Father" has been translated in various ways across the centuries. This article discusses its literal meaning and the permissive paraphrases of it, explaining the sense of "temptation" and God’s activity in "leading" into it, as well as the various subterfuges adopted to avoid the obvious meaning of the Greek formulation, including its supposed Aramaic substratum. It concludes with a pastoral explanation of the petition.
occurrences in the LXX causative forms of the Hebrew verb )wb, especially the hiphil )ybh (e.g. Deut 7,26); it occurs once as the translation of the Aramaic aphel of ll( in Theodotion’s version of Dan 6,19 (l(nh )l, rendered as ou)k ei)sh/negkan).
The second word that needs some comment is peirasmo/n. The noun is anarthrous, basically meaning "test", "trial". It and the cognate verb peira/zw denote the action by which one verifies or probes the quality of a person or thing, as in Wis 3,5; Gen 22,1; Sir 6,7; 27,5.7; 1 Pet 4,12. In such cases, it means "a test" or "a probe". It can, however, often denote an attempt to get someone to do something wrong, a "temptation", or "enticement" (to sin). In what sense is peirasmo/j used in the sixth petition of the PN? It has been understood in three different ways.
(1) For many commentators the emphasis in the Matthean PN is eschatological4. In this case peirasmo/j would refer to the tribulation of the end-time (see Mark 13,19, alluding to Dan 12,1; Rev 3,10) and would denote the eschatological "trial" enticing the faithful to apostasy. Whether the same nuance would be present in the Lucan PN, which betrays more concern for the everyday existence of Christians5, is debatable. A number of commentators, however, contest this eschatological meaning of anarthrous peirasmo/j, because it is nowhere else so used in the NT6.
(2) peirasmo/j in the sixth petition could denote rather a "testing" of the faithful even in one’s ordinary existence (apart from the eschatological tribulation); French épreuve7.
(3) peirasmo/j could mean in the sixth petition "temptation"; this is a wider sense of the constant danger of enticement to sin, as elsewhere in the NT (e.g. Mark 14,28; Matt 26,41; 1 Thess 3,5; 1Tim 6,9; Jas 1,12).
For many commentators, peirasmo/j in this petition, whether it is understood in the eschatological sense or in the wider sense, scarcely denotes something that come from within the human being (doubts, craving, illness, covetousness), but is seen rather as something that comes from without. It would rather be a force, situation, or event that confronts the person being tested or tempted, coming perhaps from someone or something that challenges the individual to show fidelity. It can be either human or diabolic, as the seventh petition of the Matthean PN may suggest, depending on whether tou= ponhrou= is taken as neuter, "evil", or masculine, "the Evil One",