The Leadoff Triple in the Lord’s Prayer

Rather late in life I’ve undertaken to teach myself koine Greek, with the principal purpose of enabling myself to read the New Testament in its original language.  I don’t plan to quit, and a good thing, too, as I suspect the project will continue until I shuffle off this mortal coil.  The idea was that perhaps there are insights one can get best with this skill, and in this post I will share what might be one of them.

When we recite the beginning of the common translation of the Lord’s Prayer into English, I think the tendency is (certainly this was true in my case) to include “hallowed be Thy name” as part of the opening address, so to speak — “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” all in one breath — and then shifting to the next thought, putting together “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” helped along in doing this perhaps by the fact that these two phrases nearly rhyme.  That also results, by the way, in “on earth as it is in Heaven” really referring (only) to those two phrases.

But I think the original Greek suggests that “hallowed be Thy name” is to be included in a threesome with “Thy kingdom come” and “Thy will be done”:  We’re asking that all three things be done together (and therefore, by the way, that all three be done “on earth as it is in Heaven”).

Here’s my transliteration of the Greek:

Agias/theeto to onoma sou    Thy name hallowed

El/theto e basileia sou    Thy kingdom come

Geni/theeto to thelima sou    Thy will done

I’ve added the slashes in the first word in each line (Agiastheto, Eltheto, and Genitheto) to emphasize that we have some rhyming at work here, too, with those opening words in each line ending with the sound “theeto/theto,” followed by a short word meaning “the” (to, e, to), then a word ending with the “ah” sound (onoma, basileia, thelima), and then all three ending with the short word for “Thy” (sou).

I hasten to say that I don’t think that this changes dramatically the meaning of the prayer, but I think it’s interesting — and of course you might as well know how the prayer is actually structured as you recite it.  I’ll note, finally, that having the three lines working together like this suggests also that perhaps they are indeed to echo the prayer’s triple closing affirmation of “the kingdom and the power and the glory ….”  See also my post on this blogsite,  “The Lord’s Prayer as Chiasm.”