Series Title: "Pray Then, Like This ..."
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matt. 6:13).*
* ESV Footnote: Or the evil one.
There is much speculation among Bible scholars and teachers about these phrases Jesus gave to disciples like you and me. Here are some questions that arise.
Does the Lord tempt us?
Is it evil or the evil one?
What is the relationship between temptation and evil (evil one)?
In the body of Christ (Messiah), there is a lot of confusion about the whole concept of Satan (the devil, the evil one) and his relationship to us and the evil at work outside and inside of us.
What do these words of Jesus mean? We know he refers to the evil one as the father of lies. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). Jesus is contrasting, as he does in our prayer, the Father of grace and truth with the father of lies.
The principle is this, if you do not have a clear biblical understanding of God as your Father, you will be subject to being inappropriately related to the father of lies. One of the reasons we see so much of the church consumed with the devil and the end times is they are not properly consumed with our Father in Heaven and his present reality in their life.
If you practice the presence of your true Father, you will be less inclined to practice the presence of the father of lies.
The term satan in the Hebrew Bible speaks of someone who opposes or obstructs or is an adversary or an accuser. It is important to note that the term satan can be used of both humans and angels. For example, Balaam is hired out as a prophet to curse the Israelites. On the way to execute his evil task, his donkey perceives what he, as a human, cannot; the angel of the LORD is standing in the way. So the donkey refuses to go ahead.
The angel of the LORD said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me" (Numbers 22:32).
In Hebrew, it literally says, I have come to be a satan to you. Biblically speaking, the term satan is not intrinsically negative. It is someone who opposes, who accuses, who is an adversary. Again, the word can be used in reference to men or angels (those of the LORD or those fallen).
Do you recall when Jesus used the term satan, not in the demonic sense of the devil, but in the sense of someone opposing or obstructing his purposes? The story begins at Caesarea Phillipi where Peter makes a confession that delights Jesus because it is a revelation.
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock [the truth of his confession] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:16-18).
It is here and in the light of this that the Master brings his disciples deep into his counsel. Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. You know the story, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you."
In a scene that is as memorable as it is misunderstood, Jesus turns and says to Peter, Get behind me, satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.
Jesus is not calling Peter the devil. He is saying that Peter is obstructing his path, playing the part of an adversary. In strong terminology warranted by the moment Jesus says, "Peter, you are seeing with the eyes of the flesh, not with the eyes of the Spirit. God has a purpose in this, do not oppose it."
The term satan can also have the more supernatural connotation of an evil, angelic being who obstructs. In direct opposition to God's instruction, Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel (1 Chron. 21:1). It is also the first time we see that well-worn phrase, "The devil made me do it." [Laughter]
We see this language more often in the New Testament. For example, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart (Matt. 13:19), and, in all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one (Eph. 6:16).
What we find in all this is a kind of ambiguity; on the one hand, satan can be a human, and on the other hand, satan can be an angelic demonic evil power. The ambiguity is deliberate.
In light of this, it really shouldn't come as a surprise that we find two different renderings of the Greek term in Matthew 6:13. It can be equally translated as evil or the evil one. There is a history of debate within Christendom over the preferred interpretation. The Western (Catholic) tradition opts for deliver us from evil while the Eastern (Orthodox) tradition prefers deliver us from the evil one.
Which is it we are asking our Father in Heaven to do?
Is it to deliver us from evil or to deliver us from the evil one? Here is a hint. I am asking the question in a very Greco-Roman way. In other words, the Western mind wants an either/or answer. I suggest that from a Hebraic perspective, the answer is both. There is truth in each translation. And as we shall see going forward in our study, that is what Jesus intended.
Want to go deeper? Click here to explore audio seminars by Dwight A. Pryor.
Interested in taking one of our dynamic online courses? Click here.
This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.