555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

249. Why Have We Differing Versions of the Lord's Prayer?

There is no absolute evidence that the prayer was taught on one occasion only. Matthew reports it as given during the Sermon on the Mount, and Luke (who was not one of the twelve) places its delivery after the close of the Galilean ministry, but mentioning no time or place. Many of the best scholars regard the position of the prayer in Matthew as unhistorical and give the preference to Luke, although it by no means follows that even he gives the original form. If delivered on more than one occasion, the prayer may have had one form for a small group of disciples, and another form for the whole body of Jesus' followers. And this might account for the presence of a clause in one version which was absent in the other. The word "trespasses" may be regarded simply as a variant. Furthermore, it is conjectured that Luke made certain changes in the expressions of the prayer, to make its meaning clearer to Gentile hearers. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, is the first writer who expressly mentions the use of the Lord's Prayer in religious worship, but it was not generally used in Christian churches during the early days. There is no evidence that it was employed by the apostles. Luke omits the closing doxology, and although it appears in Matthew's Gospel as we now have it, it is not to be found in any of the early manuscripts, and is probably an interpolation due to liturgical use.