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.
Ben Sira, "My child, if you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for temptation" (2,1). This mode of thinking, however, is based on the conviction that God leads his people at all times and is with them even when he leads them into such tests, temptations, or evil.
An interesting instance of the same way of speaking of God is found in a pre-Christian Palestinian Jewish text found in Qumran Cave 11. In a prayer preserved in 11QPsa 24,10 (= Ps 155 [Syriac Psalm III], line 11)9, one reads, "and lead me not into what is too hard for me"10.
3. The Mode of Expressing God’s Activity
Both in these OT and Jewish instances and in the temptations of Jesus himself, one detects a protological way of thinking and of expressing God’s activity. It ascribes to God or his Spirit a causality the effect of which could be to the detriment of the persons concerned. God is thought to be somehow the cause of it, even if the temptation or testing does not come from God himself. This mode of thinking is called protological, because it attempts to explain the resulting condition of failure or apostasy, but it is not a wholly logical explanation.
It begins with the idea of God leading his people, bringing them where they have to go. As it develops, it even attributes to God all the good and evil that comes to human beings, because he is the cause and creator of everything. Thus Deutero-Isaiah manifests this mode of thinking when it depicts God saying, "I fashion light and create darkness. I make well-being and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things" (Isa 45,6c-7)11. Stuhlmueller aptly remarks apropos of this verse: "Evil is no giant staggering through the world at his own whim; somehow, it accomplishes God’s will for purifying and disciplining his chosen ones"12. A similar idea is expressed by Amos (3,6), "If evil (h(r) comes upon a city, has not the Lord caused it (h#&( )l)?" It is also borne out by Isaiah in 10,5-20, especially in v. 6, "Against an impious nation [Judah] I send him [Assyria], and against a people under my anger I order him to seize plunder, carry off loot, and tread them down like the mud of streets". What should be noted here is that it is not simply that God permits such punishment of his people by invading enemies; no, he is said to be the cause of the evil that comes to them. Similarly in Judg 2,14-15, "The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he handed them over to plunderers who plundered them, and he sold them into the power of their