Debts / Sins / Trespasses

It is interesting how different denominations have different ways of reciting the Lord’s prayer. There is one difference specifically that sets denominations apart and that is the line: “Forgive us our ____, as we forgive those who _____.

Well, what is it, “debts”, “sins”, or “debtors”? I decided to delve into this as background for a sermon I gave today. I thought the results were interesting enough to talk about it briefly. (See link below.) Here is what I found out.

In Luke’s version we have:  “Forgive us our ἁμαρτίας (sin) as we forgive our ὀφείλοντι (debtors).

In Matthew’s version we have: Forgive us our ὀφειλήματα (debts), as we forgive the ὀφειλέταις (debtors). (

So a literal translation would be debtors about 3/4 of the time. This also jibes also with what I found in the definitive Greek version from Nestle-Aland.

Here is my sermon in toto. In it, I only touch on the translation itself.




Ex Nihilo

Most Christians believe the universe was created by God from absolutely nothing. The world then was said to be created ex nihilo. Like many theological terms, ex nihilo is Latin. It means “from nothing”. It is an important concept that finds its roots in the early church when there was much argument over whether or not the universe was made by God from pre-existing matter. It is important because it is fundamental to our concept of God and God’s relationship with the Universe.

If we believe that God is eternal, then logically nothing could exist before God. If we believe that “the world depends on God for its existence” (McGrath, 220) then we must also believe God created its substance, in whatever form. I think the implications of this are profound in that God, in creation, completely made the universe, and in a similar way God loves that creation completely. We were made in God’s image as part of that creation and are loved completely as well.

In the Gospel of John (3:16) we read that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” Did God send Jesus because the universe was made from nothing? Was it a factor in God’s love for us? What do you think?

(ref: Alistair E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 5th Ed. UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.)

Ascribing to God

In Psalm 29, the psalmist tells us to “ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.” (NIV) Reading this got me to wonder exactly what the Hebrew is for “ascribe” in this translation. It is one of those verbs that is a bit nebulous and does not always have an exact word to describe its meaning in another language. “Ascribe” in the Oxford Dictionary is defined as “regard as a quality belonging to.”

The Hebrew is interesting. The word in the original is הָב֣וּ  (Habu). It comes from יָהַב (yahab) which means to give. In this form it is in the imperative masculine plural, which gives the word a meaning something like “you all must give.” So it would literally mean “we must give the Lord glory and strength.” Obviously, glory and strength are qualities that are inherent in God, and not something we can give to God.

I think there is a lot of room for nuance in yahab. It is well to note it is not the most common form of the verb “to give”. The most common form is נָתַן(nathan). So yahab would probably have special connotations. In fact, it is variously translated as “ascribe”, “choose”, “place”, “give”, and even “provide” in the New American Standard Bible (via Bible Works). Most modern translation have it as “ascribe”, though some say “give” and others “honor to God for”.

So, what this really means is that we can come to an understanding of God’s power and glory and proclaim this power and glory after reading the rest of Psalm 29. After all of this analysis, I have to think that the NIV’s “ascribe” is a pretty good translation and conveys most closely the original meaning of the passage.