daily, epiousios, G1967

by | Oct 5, 2021 | Word Study - Greek

The word translated “daily” in the Lord’s prayer (ἐπιούσιος) appears only in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:11 and Luke 11:3. Since this word is used nowhere else, we can’t be sure what it means. Both modern and ancient scholars have proposed several different suggestions for its meaning.

Strongs Number: G1967

Greek Lexical Dictionary: Strong’s #1967 – ἐπιούσιος

Original Word: ἐπιούσιος, ον

Part of Speech: Adjective

Transliteration: epiousios

Phonetic Spelling: (ep-ee-oo’-see-os)

Definition: unknown; see below

NASB Translation: daily (Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3)

In the Lord’s prayer, the phrase is “Give us today our epiousion bread” (τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον).

For each possible meaning, scholars must decide if Jesus is speaking literally or metaphorically. There is no universal consensus. Here are the major options.

Daily (time)

Daily is the most common English translation following the King James Version of the Bible.

Some suggest the word comes from the preposition epi as for and ousia as being; “for the [day] being” with day implied. Some see this as an allusion to Exodus 16, where the Lord provides manna for the children of Israel in the wilderness.

Others suggest epiousios is related to the word epiousei (ἐπιούσῃ) which means “next” in the context of “the next day or night”.

Critics: While this is the traditional translation, many modern scholars reject “daily” as the best meaning. The word daily only has a weak connection to any proposed etymologies for epiousios. Further, all other instances of “daily” in the English translations translate the word hemera (ἡμέρα, “day”), which does not appear in the Lord’s prayer. Because Greek has several other words based on hemera that mean daily, there’s no reason for Matthew & Luke to choose an obscure word to mean daily. The daily translation also makes the term redundant with “this day”.

Tomorrow (time)

Translating this word “for the future” is becoming increasingly popular among modern scholars, leading to several related translations, including: “bread for tomorrow,” “bread for the future,” and “bread for the coming day.” Early supporters of this translation include Cyril of Alexandria and Peter of Laodicea who linked epiousios with the verb epienai, “of tomorrow.”

Kenneth E. Bailey, a professor of theology and linguistics, proposed “give us today the bread that doesn’t run out” as the correct translation, based on the Syriac translation of the gospels. The Syriac versions of the Bible were some of the first translations of the Gospels into another language and date from the 2nd Century. Syriac is also close to Jesus’ own Aramaic. The translator(s) were close in both time and language to Jesus. The Syriac gospel translates epiousios as ameno, meaning: lasting, perpetual, constant, trustworthy, never-ceasing, never-ending, or always.

Critics: “For the future” was rarely considered as proper by early writers, who had far more knowledge of Koiné Greek than modern scholars. Also, an adjectival form of “for tomorrow” exists in ancient Greek which could easily have been used instead.

Necessity (amount)

Another interpretation is to link epiousios to the Greek word ousia meaning both the verb to be and the noun for substance. Origen (an early Christian theologian and native Greek) thought the gospel writers invented this word (neologism). Origen thought “bread necessary for existence” was the most likely meaning, connecting it to the to be translation of ousia. The word refers to a necessary amount in this view.

The amount is debated. Some argue the necessary amount was subsistence and we should pray for just enough bread to stay alive, the bread of subsistence. (Origen opted for subsistence.)

Others think subsistence is too harsh and opt instead for the amount we need, whatever that amount it. Some might need an entire loaf, others might need one slice, the idea being: Give us enough to sustain our existence.

Lutheran scholar Douglas E. Oakman suggests “give us today bread in abundance” as another translation. He notes that in the contemporary literature ousia can mean substance, but it also has a concrete meaning of a large, substantial estate. Hence, abundance.

Critics: Like daily, this translation also has the problem that several well known Greek words for “necessary” could have been used instead.

Supersubstantial (type)

In the Vulgate, Jerome created a new Latin word, supersubstantialem (supersubstantial) to translate epiousios in Matthew 6:11. This came from the analysis of the prefix epi- as super and ousia in the sense of substance.

However, in Luke 11:3, Jerome translated epiousios as quotidianum (daily) which had already become tradition.

Catholics connect this translation to the eucharist, meaning the communion bread of the Last Supper.

Critics point out that the Eucharist developed well after the gospels were written and neither author would have any knowledge of them. Craig Blomberg, a Protestant New Testament scholar, notes that these “concepts had yet to be introduced when Jesus gave his original prayer and therefore could not have been part of his original meaning.”

More detail: Wikipedia Epiousios

Photo by Marek Studzinski on Unsplash