Did Pope Francis Change the Bible?
Question: There is a post going around in social media, even in Catholic groups, claiming that the pope is going to change the Bible. I don’t believe this but could you please clarify?
Answer: Even without knowing what the creators of these posts have in mind when they make such claims, we can say with confidence that Pope Francis is not “changing the Bible”.
Sacred Scripture is the Word of God, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The pope has no authority to change the Bible.
However, throughout history and throughout Christian denominations, there have been different translations from the original Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (Old Testament/ New Testament), and different interpretations about the meaning of scriptural passages (known as exegesis). The endeavours of translators and exegetes are not “changing the Bible”; and that is not the pope’s job, nor his intention.
These social media posts might refer to the recent decision by the Italian bishops’ conference to change in the missal (not the Bible!) the phrase in the Our Father “lead us not into temptation” to “do not let us fall into temptation”. Pope Francis has approved that change. In their view, the old formula once made linguistic and theological sense but, with the evolution of languages and theology, it now causes confusion.
In 2017, Pope Francis said: “It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation. I am the one who falls. It’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen. A father doesn’t do that; a father helps you to get up immediately. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation— that’s his department.”
The French bishops in their missal have also changed the line, to “do not let us enter into temptation”. They believe that this captures the sense of what Jesus taught the disciples better than the translation we still use in English. Some may disagree, but that doesn’t mean that the pope or the Church are “changing the Bible”.
The new translations are consistent with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which notes that the verb in the Greek source text “means both ‘do not allow us to enter into temptation’ and ‘do not let us yield to temptation’” (#2846).
There will always be debate about certain Scripture translations and exegesis as the meaning of the words we use change and we gain new theological insights. In the details, the last word is never spoken.
The question was asked and answered in the February issue of the Southern Cross magazine
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