I have always been fascinated by Cranmer’s poetic rendering of Matthew’s (and Luke’s) rendering of Jesus’ phrase:
Give us this day our daily bread.
Please stick with me through some heavy linguistics. It will be worth it.
In Greek, which Matthew wrote and Jesus didn’t use when teaching his Lord’s/Kingdom/Father prayer, it says:
THE – BREAD – OF – US – THE – EPIOUSION – GIVE – TO – US – TODAY
Apparently, according to Danker’s Lexicon, the word epiousion was coined by the evangelists where they were translating Jesus’ Aramaic “Abba” prayer (see also J. Jerimias: Abba). Origen said early on that the word was coined by the evangelists.
The word exists nowhere else. In the New Testament or in secular Greek literature.
“Ousia” means substance/being. “Epi” means marked or designated “right on top of.” Think “epicenter.”
In depth-etymological terms, it can’t mean “daily” or “tomorrow’s bread” as so many have suggested.
We have to go with depth etymology, because we can’t go with any parallel Greek usage outside of “our” literature.
Thus they coined a Greek word to get at what Jesus was saying in Aramaic, because what he was saying was not to be contained in a normal “off the shelf” Greek word. The problem is, our current Aramaic versions of the New Testament are, in some ways, translations from the Greek. We don’t have pre-Luke/Matthew Aramaic versions of the gospels.
When doing a depth-etymology, it’s best to stick with the un-spun core-root meanings of the parts involved in the compound word.
Thus “designated-present-substance” is the best we can mine from the root words.
It unravels if we try to project it beyond the Greek into what Jesus may have said in his language–we end up with compound speculation.
But in hand, we have EPIOUSIA.
What do you think, based on what we have said, that it means?
I’ll take a stab at it:
Jesus saw provision as dynamic, and not as static. Everything we need comes out of the Father-substance (hence the Father prayer). Have a lunch box? Feed 5,000 people.
Need to pay taxes? Take the Krugerrand out of the fish’s mouth. The Father feeds and provides for us as he does the lilies and the birds.
Don’t store up treasures in barns. Rely on daily manna. Trust God for your abundance.
Get your provision from substance, don’t try to gather it from the circumstances around you.
The epiousion is the designated/marked substance from which our bread comes.
This is the abundance we are teaching a Robinwood Church. Not some form of American consumer greed.
The world is not a zero-sum game (more for you, less for me), it is an “open system.”
Give us of the designated substance our bread today. I know it’s not as “sexy” as Cranmer, but nothing in English is 🙂
What are your thoughts?