I think I first heard the joke in grade three.
“What’s under there?”
“Ha, ha! I made you say underwear.”
This kind of word play is known as double entendre. One thing is said with an obvious meaning while a secondary, subtle meaning is added. Usually double entendre is ironic or risqué. The use of similar sounding words and puns play into this game.
We say ‘under where’ to ask about a location, but our grade three brains giggle because of the same sounding word ‘underwear’. We think about the item of clothing under our pants.
How something is worded can have a great effect on how listeners respond to it. Often in the work of translating speech or text from one language to another, essential meanings can get lost in translation. The aging of language and current usage of words affect how we understand what is being said.
I still giggle when my 73-year-old dad talks about putting on his rubbers to go out in snowy weather. I realize that I still have a grade three brain in some respects.
Words change their meanings and we sometimes have to sort out what is being communicated.
So what do English Bible readers in 2011 think it means when they read a verse like Matthew 6:13? In the King James Version it says:
This part of the Lord’s Prayer inspires a characteristic response.
“Why would we ask God to not lead us into temptation? I thought God did not tempt people to sin.”
Atheists and skeptics love to take verses like this and say, “See? Aha!” At the website www.skepticsannotatedbible.com the column note for this verse reads, “Does God tempt people?” [i]
The joke is on us poor believers who cannot read the Scriptures and see the contradictions. They made us say underwear. Okay, so I may be resorting to grade three logic on this one, but my point is that people do not always go past the text to understand what is being said.
If the less accurate meaning suits our purposes we will settle for it. A misguided believer and a skeptic may have much in common when it comes to their concern for knowing the truth.
In this verse of the Lord’s Prayer, I wonder how far we really want to go in understanding it. Is Jesus telling us to bring the dark secrets and bad habits into our prayer life? How do we ask for God’s help in parts of our nature that we want to covered up or ignored?
Millions of English speaking believers have prayed, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
But, what does it mean?
The New International Readers Version says it this way: