What is the Aramaean word for bread?

«Our daily bread» - or more?

Against fear of the future

Most of us have prayed at one point or another, "Give us our daily bread today," and for many this is a rather strange request in the 21st century. A look behind the scenes of this prayer reveals something surprising - and can prevent fear of the future.

"Give us today our daily bread" - that sounds good, modest, crisp. Millions of people pray this prayer every day, and there is no denying it: for many people in the world, this request is a challenge. Because they don't know whether they'll have enough bread to eat tomorrow.

For us in the rich West, praying like this seems completely out of date. Don't we need more than just a piece of bread today? Even the food pyramid shows us that besides the daily carbohydrates, other things are also necessary ...

We also have a bank account. And the freezer. And a cellar with preserves. Then why should we pray for something as - excusez - puny as "daily bread"?

An absolutely unique word

If you look at the prayer known under the name "Our Father" in the (Greek) basic text, you will discover something amazing in precisely this verse (Matthew Gospel, Chapter 6, Verse 11): The word we mean with "daily »Translate means« Epiousios »in Greek. And now the gag: This word only occurs here in the whole of the Greek language and ancient literature! Nowhere else - neither in Classical Greek nor in the New Testament - do we find the word "epiousios". That means: You can't really say exactly what it means!

Jesus spoke a different language

Now we know that Jesus spoke in either Aramaic or Hebrew 2,000 years ago. What kind of word may he have used in teaching this request to his listeners?

Scholars have tried for centuries to find out what Jesus was teaching here and what to pray for. Some of the declarations translated: "Give us the bread we need today (or tomorrow)" or "just as much as we need today". Strictly speaking, that would mean that we shouldn't stockpile bread.

An American researcher and Middle Eastern language expert, Kenneth Bailey, took a different path. He was born in the Middle East, died in 2016 at the age of 85 and has among other things written a book entitled “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes” (for example: “Jesus through the eyes of a person from the Middle East”). And he got an amazing idea.

Very early - as early as the 2nd century AD - the New Testament (and with it this word too) was translated into Syriac. Syriac is a language related to Aramaic, most of the words are the same. And the Syrian translation does not translate the word «epiousios» as «daily», but as «perpetually, without end, forever» (the word, by the way, has the same stem as the word «Amen»). So you could reproduce this old Syrian translation in German as “Give us today the bread that doesn't run out”.

Against existential fear

That way, the emphasis would not be so much on "daily", but the Lord's Prayer could free us from the fear that one day it will no longer be enough. One of the most elementary human fears is existential fear. Will we have enough What if i lose my job? Or do the children get sick? How do we do it?

So when we pray «Give us our daily bread today», we ask God for his provision - not only today, but also tomorrow and in the future. We pray that he will rid us of fear of the future. And if you pray this prayer often, you will feel more and more deeply: Another, stronger one, has my life in hand. Thank God!

Bread and more

Will you go one step further with me? We need more than bread, we all know that. But we also need more than a good car, a fit body, a cool partner or life insurance. For real quality of life we ​​need things that we cannot eat or buy, but can receive and internalize. When Jesus says he is the "bread of life" (Gospel of John, chapter 6, verse 35), he means exactly that: in order to really live and not just exist, we need something higher and deeper. And that's exactly what Jesus gives: meaning, goal, freedom, sigh of relief, eternity, a floor under your feet. Because it enables a personal relationship with God - what we are actually made for.

As you can see, our request is a prayer that is worth praying every day. When do you start (again)?

On the subject:
Often prayed - newly understood: prayer that spans the world
Trained baker - today pastor: Thoughts from Paul Bachmann on the request for daily bread
And yet it nourishes: "Our daily bread" does not come from the bakery or the supermarket

Date: 01/26/2017
Author: Reinhold Scharnowski
Source: Jesus.ch