Bible Answer

Can God “lead us into temptation”?

In December 2017, Pope Francis proposed changing the Lord's Prayer. Can you explain the interpretation from Greek of the line “…lead us not into temptation…”?

Pope Francis suggested on Italian television that the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Do not lead us into temptation” (Matt 6.13; Luke 11.4), “is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.” He added, “It is Satan who leads us into temptation; that’s his department.” He argued that the verse should be rendered, “Do not let us fall into temptation.”

The pope's criticism of the common English translation is correct, though his proposed alternate translation is not accurate. 

Jesus’ model of prayer employed a Greek figure of speech near the end, which cannot be translated word-for-word into English without losing the proper sense of its meaning.The phrase in Greek literally reads “leads us not into temptation,” but that’s not the true sense of Jesus’ intended meaning. We know this because other Scripture directly contradicts such a translation, especially James 1:13

James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.

The proper meaning of the Greek phrase is closer to "keep us faithful during temptations.” So Jesus wasn’t suggesting God might lead us into temptation – God never does this according to James 1:13 – rather, He was modeling how we should petition God for strength in the face of temptation.