Deep Dive: What happened to the end of the Lord’s Prayer?


As we’ve been going through our series on the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, you’ve maybe noticed a section of the prayer that seems missing (depending on your Bible’s translation). Here’s Matthew 6:9-13 from the English Standard Version:
9 Pray then like this:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Here’s the same passage from the King James Version:
9 After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

 Ignoring the occasional thine and thou, the biggest difference between the translations occurs in verse 13 with, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” At the start of the series you were maybe surprised to see that phrase entirely absent from our Matthew 6.

So what happened? Considering the KJV was translated well before the ESV, NIV, and others, why was that phrase left out of these later translations?

Here it’ll be important to remember how we got the Bible in our hands. Before Gutenberg invented his press, all books were produced painstakingly by hand. To make further copies, scribes and later monks and nuns would reproduce a book by writing it out word for word. These reproductions are called manuscripts, literally “written by hand.” Since books of the New Testament started being copied as early as they were written (circa. AD 40 for some of Paul’s letters) and were reproduced by hand even for a period after the printing press was invented (AD 1440), we have thousands upon thousands of manuscripts, some comprising mere scraps and sections, others full books or the whole Bible.

With this human means of production it’s easy to understand how human error could sneak in, swapping a “their” for “there” for instance. These unintentional changes didn’t spread uncontrolled, but they did occur. Additionally, certain more cavalier scribes were sometimes inclined to make intentional changes to the text. Most often these were light edits to make reading easier; they would clean up “bad” grammar or clarify the things they thought were unclear. We should see in this that, the vast majority of the time, these copyists were trying to help people understand God’s word more fully.

Now, if the possibility of having mistakes and edits in scripture makes you a little concerned, we should take encouragement with just how productive all these scribes were throughout the years. Many of our other ancient works, like Thucydides’ History or Plato’s Republic, only exist in a few dozen or a few hundred manuscripts at most. In contrast, we have something around 5,800 manuscripts of the New Testament, some from within a century or two of the original composition. As pastor and author John Piper points out on this topic, “No other ancient book comes close to this kind of wealth of diverse preservation.”

All of those copies help us keep up with the stream of copy edits and changes, which are well known and documented, and help us determine when certain changes were introduced. In addition, we have loads of writings from early church leaders, some of whom were direct disciples of the Apostles, that include scriptural quotes which confirm our scriptural accuracy. Over and above all this, we have Sovereign God in control of every step along the way, guiding the Church’s careful attention to his word throughout history.

Now, maybe this type of scholarship is a little dry to you, but it comes in real handy when you come up against issues like this. We can all be thankful for the thousands of years of work that has gone into producing our Bibles.

If you hadn’t already gathered, the King James Version is old. It was commissioned in 1603 by the eponymous King James I of England, who tasked a host of scholars (47 in fact) to generate a new English translation of the Bible, particularly in response to certain failings in the other English versions available at the time. These scholars, using Hebrew and Greek manuscripts and other translations as reference points, generated the classic King James translation that has endured up until today, though it has, over the years, received some regular maintenance.

In contrast, the NIV was produced in the late 1970s and the ESV, itself based on the RSV from the 1950s, was released in 2001. Between the time of James’ translation and these more modern ones, plenty of scholarship on manuscripts and manuscript alterations occurred, refining our understanding of Hebrew and Greek word use and, as stated before, the origin of certain additions and subtractions from the earliest manuscripts.

Which brings us back to our missing doxology in verse 13. When the KJV was produced, the manuscripts on hand included, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” In fact, manuscripts all the way back to the 5th century include it. But, between the KJV and today, scholars have discovered earlier manuscripts from before the 5th century, and it turns out that the earliest ones don’t include the doxology. On top of that, some early church fathers alive before the 5th century omitted the doxology when they quoted the Lord’s Prayer in their writings, giving support to the conclusion many modern translators have arrived at, that the doxology was a latter addition to the text.

That addition was most likely tacked on by a scribe or other church member out of 1 Chronicles 29:11, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory…Yours is the Kingdom, O Lord.” Why this was done we can’t really know. Looking at the different versions of the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11 and Matthew 6 we can surmise that early Christians used the Lord’s Prayer in a number of different ways, both reciting it word for word and using it as a starting point for saying their prayers in their own words. Perhaps this was a creative addition someone added along the way that picked up broader use in their church community. Or, perhaps the scribe was putting an end on a prayer that seemed to be lacking one. The Lord’s Prayer is pretty unique in that it’s relatively open ended. Perhaps Jesus meant for us to continue praying in our own words, or in silence as we listen to God’s presence, or something else entirely. For whatever reason, he left his prayer without an Amen, and at some point someone decided to add one, plus a little extra.

Luckily the scribe didn’t tack on something insane or contrary to the rest of the scriptures. “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever,” presents no theological difficulty, which is probably the reason it stuck around in the manuscripts for so long. And while newer translations support leaving it out, some respectable scholars contend that it should be left in for many sound reasons, one being that when we recite the prayer corporately everyone will say roughly the same thing, aside from the occasional thine and thou.

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