Home‎ > ‎

Is the Doxology of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:13 a late addition?

External evidence


"
Our Father which art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
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."
(Matthew 6:9-13b, KJV)

The underlined portion above is called the doxology of the Lord's prayer, or the ending to the Protestant version of the Lord's prayer.  Roman Catholic and modern Bible versions of the prayer do not have this ending.  This powerful doxology has been falsely characterized as a late addition as it is not found in
the two earliest Greek witnesses of Matthew 6:13 - Sinaiticus and Vaticanus both from the 4th century.  Yet it is found in the third earliest Greek witness of Matthew 6:13, Codex Washingtonensis from the 4th to 5th century.  Hence a manuscript testifying for the doxology is preceded by only two adverse manuscripts, and that by just one or a half century.  The doxology exists in the majority of Byzantine manuscripts (Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th revised edition (2006)).

Codex Washingtonensis

Codex Washingtonensis is housed at the Freer Gallery, Sackler Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. and the passage of the Lord's Prayer can be viewed at the website of The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts: http://www.csntm.org/Manuscript/View/GA_032 .  Since uncials can be difficult to read, a photograph of the leaf containing the Lord's Prayer has been reproduced here (for non-profit educational fair use purposes) with the prayer underlined and the doxology in particular underlined in blue.  The words of the Lord's Prayer in Codex Washingtonensis match the words of the Textus Receptus word for word, letter by letter for the most part.



Please click on the image to see the full size view

Patristic Evidence

Some early Church fathers, such as Origen, Tertullian and Cyprian, omit the doxology, proving that some or perhaps many early Christians did not accept the doxology.  However, these early omissions do not prove that the doxology was invented at a later time.  Roman Catholics throughout history have omitted the doxology even during times when the doxology was prevalent in manuscripts or printed editions of the Gospel of Matthew.  The Roman Catholic rejection of the doxology has had more to do with tradition rather than conclusions based on contemporaneous manuscript evidence.  Likewise, the omissions by some early Christians could have been due to an early tradition rather than the absence of the doxology in their contemporaneous manuscripts.

We know that the doxolo
gy is very ancient because John Chrysostom (347–407) expounded the doxology in his homily, 
Homily 19 on St. Matthew, at paragraph 10 [Download a PDF of the Lord's Prayer portion of the Homily HERE].  He treats the words as those of Christ himself and says nothing of the alleged spuriousness of the words.  This 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople would have had manuscripts that were earlier than what we have today.  The earliest variant of the doxology appears in the Didache, an anonymous late first century treatise (click here to read it in Greek).  It reads, "ὅτι σοῦ ἐστιν ἡ δύναμις καὶ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας", thereby omitting "η βασιλεια και" and "αμην".  Some critics claim that this incomplete variant of the doxology proves the evolution of a spurious doxology.  Such a conclusion is unwarranted, however, because the Didache is a slightly different version of the prayer to begin with.  Instead of "τοις ουρανοις" (literally, "the heavens") the Didache has "τῷ οὐρανῷ" ("the heaven") - this change suggests that an editor converted the Hebraic expression of a plural heavens, as in שמים (shamayim), to the Greek idea of heaven as a singular location of God's dwelling-place.  Also, instead of "τα οφειληματα ημων" ("our debts") the Didache has "τὴν ὀφειλη" ("debt").  The fact is that the Lord's prayer in the Didache has the doxology, albeit as an erroneous variant.

Internal evidence

Why Matthew has the doxology and Luke does not

The Lord's prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 has the doxology whereas the Lord's prayer in Luke 11:2-4 does not.  The version in Luke says:

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

The above is Luke's version as it appears in the KJV based on the Textus Receptus.  Luke's version as it appears in translations according to the Nestle-Aland 27th Edition Greek text omit many words and are drastically different from Matthew's version. 
The Nestle-Aland 27th follows the readings in early Alexandrian manuscripts, P75, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.  Luke's version in the ESV says:

Father,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.

These early Alexandrian readings may have been influenced by the corrupted version of the Lord's prayer by the second century heretic Marcion, which after "Father" introduces the erroneous line, "thy Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us", and thereafter generally makes the same omissions as in the Alexandrian manuscripts (Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th revised edition (2006)).  In any event, if one were to begin with the supposition that the Nestle-Aland reading of Luke's version is original, then it is easy to explain why Matthew's version contains the doxology: Luke's version is a shorter version and Matthew's version is a longer version.  Being a longer version, Matthew includes a doxology.  However, the reason for the inclusion of the doxology in Matthew's version is more difficult to explain to critics if one were to believe that the Textus Receptus reading of Luke's version is originalIn the Textus Receptus, both versions of the Lord's prayer, in Matthew and in Luke, are nearly identical except for the doxology.  So what is it about Matthew's version that necessitates the doxology?  The answer can be found by examining the context of Matthew 6 in contrast with the context of Luke 11.  The context of Luke's version at Luke 11:1-2 is as follows:

"1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. 2 And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven...."

In Luke we read that our Lord was in prayer; and when he had ceased, his disciples asked for instructions on how to pray. 
Whereas the prayer in Luke is given in response to the disciples' request for instruction, the prayer in Matthew is given in the context of the sermon on the mount.  The sermon on the mount included the following three teachings (among others):
  1. the kingdom of heaven belongs to God
  2. the folly of self-glorification; and
  3. the laying up of treasures in heaven.
The doxology is included in Matthew's version of the prayer because the doxology relates to these teachings.

The teaching that the kingdom of heaven belongs to God

In the Bible we see two phrases, "the kingdom of heaven" and "the kingdom of God".  The question of whether or not the two signify the same thing will not be dealt with here.  There is an interesting debate on this subject.  In any case, the two are different from a purely linguistic viewpoint.  The phrase "kingdom of God" explicitly describes the owner of this kingdom as God.  On the the hand, the phrase "kingdom of heaven" does not refer to the owner as God.  It seems obvious that God is the rightful owner of this kingdom of heaven from a theological viewpoint, but we are simply looking at the word from a linguistic viewpoint.

Luke's Gospel never refers to the kingdom of heaven whereas Matthew refers to it a total of 32 times.  As Luke refers to the kingdom as "the kingdom of God" a total of 12 times before the introduction of the Lord's prayer at Luke 11:2-4, by the time we get to the prayer it has already been established that the kingdom belongs to God.  The same cannot be said of Matthew's Gospel.  In Matthew's Gospel, we do not see the phrase, "the kingdom of God" until after our Lord finishes his teaching on how to pray.  The first mention is at the verse, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33).  Before the Lord's prayer in Matthew, our Lord only refers to the kingdom as "the kingdom of heaven", a total of 7 times.  In this context where the connection between the "kingdom" and "God" has not been made yet, it is more necessary than in the context of Luke 11 to declare that the kingdom belongs to God, our Father which art in heaven.  It is fitting then that once it is declared, "For thine is the kingdom..." at Matthew 6:13, our Lord makes a sudden switch from using the phrase "the kingdom of heaven" to "the kingdom of God" immediately at Matthew 6:33.

The teaching on denouncing self-glorification

The statement, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." is a recognition and declaration that God alone deserves credit and glory.  The kingdom is not ours.  The power is not ours.  The glory is not ours.  The doxology affirms to God that "It's not about me, it's all about you."  Nothing else in the Lord's prayer affirms this doctrine as clearly as the doxology.  Consider this meaning of the doxology as you examine the context of Matthew chapter 6:1-18:

Matthew 6:

1  Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2  Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3  But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4  That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

5  And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 7  But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8  Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. 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. 14  For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15  But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

16  Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17  But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18  That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

The hypocrites' attitude of glorifying the self stands in stark contrast with the attitude of glorifying God expressed in the doxology.  Throughout Matthew 6, the Lord exposes the hypocrites' conduct of seeking self-glory and each time provides a counterexample of what to do instead.  Being a reactionary model prayer to the hypocrites' and heathens' misguided prayers of self-glorification, Matthew's version of the Lord's prayer must necessarily provide a counterexample in the form of a doxology - a statement that gives glory to God.  Luke 11 makes no mention of this issue regarding self-glorification so Luke's version of the prayer makes no mention likewise.

The teaching on laying up treasures in heaven

The doxology echoes David's prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:11, which says, "Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all." Many textual critics see this resemblance and thereby conclude that a Byzantine scribe incorporated David's prayer into the Lord's prayer.  Such a superficial analysis fails to consider the contexts of 1 Chronicles 29 and Matthew 6.

David's prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:11 appears in the context of the Israelites' giving of treasures to the temple of God.  We read as follows:

1  Furthermore David the king said unto all the congregation, Solomon my son, whom alone God hath chosen, is yet young and tender, and the work is great: for the palace is not for man, but for the LORD God. 2  Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God the gold for things to be made of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and the brass for things of brass, the iron for things of iron, and wood for things of wood; onyx stones, and stones to be set, glistering stones, and of divers colours, and all manner of precious stones, and marble stones in abundance. 3  Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God, I have of mine own proper good, of gold and silver, which I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house, 4  Even three thousand talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and seven thousand talents of refined silver, to overlay the walls of the houses withal: 5  The gold for things of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and for all manner of work to be made by the hands of artificers. And who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the LORD? 6  Then the chief of the fathers and princes of the tribes of Israel, and the captains of thousands and of hundreds, with the rulers of the king's work, offered willingly, 7  And gave for the service of the house of God of gold five thousand talents and ten thousand drams, and of silver ten thousand talents, and of brass eighteen thousand talents, and one hundred thousand talents of iron. 8  And they with whom precious stones were found gave them to the treasure of the house of the LORD, by the hand of Jehiel the Gershonite. 9  Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.

10  Wherefore David blessed the LORD before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. 11  Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. 12  Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. 13  Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. 14  But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. 15  For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding. 16  O LORD our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own. 17  I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee.

This theme of 1 Chronicles 29 - that of giving treasures to God - is echoed in Matthew 6:19-21, just six verses after the Lord's prayer.  Matthew 6:19-21 says:

19  Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Immediately prior to preaching on the importance of laying up treasures in heaven, it is no coincidence that our Lord first alluded to a doxology associated with the Old Testament passage that most extravagantly portrays the act of giving treasure unto God. 
Luke 11 makes no mention of this issue regarding laying up treasures in heaven so Luke's version of the prayer does not have the doxology which alludes to 1 Chronicles 29:11.  With careful study of the context we can see why Matthew's version includes the doxology while Luke's version does not.

Early manuscripts may not be reliable

The absence of the doxology in early Alexandrian manuscripts poses no problem to the belief in its authenticity.  Origen, a 3rd century Church father from Alexandria, wrote a commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.  He makes no mention of the textual variant at Matthew 6:13 but makes a point which should caution us from taking readings found in a few Alexandrian manuscripts at face value.  Origen says in his Commentary on Matthew at 15.14"...the differences among the manuscripts [of the Gospels] have become great,either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they either neglect to check over what they have transcribed, or, in the process of checking, they lengthen or shorten, as they please." (Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 3rd ed. (1991), pp. 151-152).  Since such a prominent Alexandrian father admitted the widespread corruption of manuscripts in Alexandria, sometimes by way of "shorten[ing]", it would be unwise for us to dismiss the authenticity of the doxology on the basis of just two codices that are earlier than Codex Washingtonensis by not even a full century.  One of those earlier manuscripts is Codex Sinaiticus.  This manuscript is known for having careless omissions.  The following omissions are accepted as mistakes by practically all textual critics.  They are referenced here as examples of why "older" does not mean "more reliable".

1 Corinthians 13:1-2

A total of  32 Greeks words are omitted at 1 Corinthians 13:1-2.


1 Corinthians 13:1-2 in Codex Sinaiticus
(Source: The Codex Sinaiticus Project Website: http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/ )

The text should read, "εαν ταις γλωσσαις των ανθρωπων λαλω και των αγγελων αγαπην δε μη εχω γεγονα χαλκος ηχων η κυμβαλον αλαλαζον και εαν εχω προφητειαν και ειδω τα μυστηρια παντα και πασαν την γνωσιν και εαν εχω πασαν την πιστιν ωστε ορη μεθιστανειν αγαπην δε μη εχω ουδεν ειμι " but the scribe of Sinaiticus omitted the underlined words.  When the scribe finished copying the first "αγαπην δε μη εχω", his eyes jumped to the second "αγαπην δε μη εχω" and resumed copying from there.  A later scribe inserted the omitted words in the top margin.

Luke 10:32

Luke 10:32 is omitted.


Luke 10:32 in Codex Sinaiticus
(Source: The Codex Sinaiticus Project Website: http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/ )

Here, the scribe omitted all of verse 32 by skipping the words in between the "αντιπαρηλθεν" at the end of verse 31 and the "αντιπαρηλθεν"
at the end of verse 32:

"κατα συγκυριαν δε ιερευς τις κατεβαινεν εν τη οδω εκεινη και ιδων αυτον αντιπαρηλθεν ομοιως δε και λευιτης γενομενος κατα τον τοπον ελθων και ιδων αντιπαρηλθεν σαμαρειτης δε τις οδευων ηλθεν κατ αυτον και ιδων αυτον εσπλαγχνισθη" (Luke 10:31-33)

Luke 17:35

Luke 17:35 is omitted.


Luke 17:35 in Codex Sinaiticus
(Source: The Codex Sinaiticus Project Website: http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/ )

Here the following underlined words were omitted because "αφεθησεται" appears twice:

"λεγω υμιν ταυτη τη νυκτι εσονται δυο επι κλινης μιας ο εις παραληφθησεται και ο ετερος αφεθησεται εσονται δυο αληθουσαι επι το αυτο η μια παραληφθησεται η δε ετερα αφεθησεται" (Luke 17:34-35)

John 6:55

Important words are omitted at John 6:55.


John 6:55 in Codex Sinaiticus
(Source: The Codex Sinaiticus Project Website: http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/ )

This passage ought to say, "η γαρ σαρξ μου αληθως εστιν βρωσις και το αιμα μου αληθως εστιν ποσις (For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed)." However, Sinaiticus reads, "η γαρ ϲαρξ μου αληθωϲ εϲ τι ποσις" (For my flesh is drink indeed)." This nonsensical reading arose when the scribe skipped everything in between the first "αληθως" and the second "αληθως".

John 16:15

John 16:15 is omitted.


John 16:15 in Codex Sinaiticus
(Source: The Codex Sinaiticus Project Website: http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/ )

The scribe skipped the following underlined words of John 16:15 due to the repetition of the same words:

"εκεινος εμε δοξασει οτι εκ του εμου ληψεται και αναγγελει υμιν παντα οσα εχει ο πατηρ εμα εστιν δια τουτο ειπον οτι εκ του εμου ληψεται και αναγγελει υμιν μικρον και ου θεωρειτε με και παλιν μικρον και οψεσθε με οτι εγω υπαγω προς τον πατερα" (John 16:14-16)

The scribes of early manuscripts worked under poor working conditions.  Sometimes they made honest mistakes and omitted a great number of words.  If the omission of the doxology at Matthew 6:13 was a similar mistake, though confined only to some early manuscripts, it would be most unfortunate to accept the mistake as an original reading.  We should know better than to make a verdict on the authenticity of a passage on the basis of just two early manuscripts that have proven errors of omission. 

Reasons for the omission

Hypothesis 1: mistake

Perhaps the omission of the doxology was a mistake.  Perhaps a scribe who was familiar with Luke's version of the Lord's prayer thought that he was finished the Matthew portion of the prayer after having written, "...deliver us from evil."  After glancing back at the parent copy and seeing, "Amen", he may have concluded the prayer at that point and wrote "Amen".  Some variants actually have "amen" without the doxology (17, vgcl).  The "amen" could have dropped out at a later date to conform the prayer with Luke's version.  This is not an unreasonable scenario considering some of the strange scribal errors seen in Codex Sinaiticus.

Hypothesis 2: harmonization

Perhaps the omission of the doxology was deliberate.  The omission could be sufficiently explained as an early attempt to harmonize the prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 with the other version of the Lord's prayer in Luke 11:2-4.  There is evidence of attempts at harmonizing the two prayers:
  • Luke's version says "forgive us our sins" whereas Matthew's version says "forgive us our debts".  But scribes have tried to change "sins" in Luke's version to "debts" in order to harmonize the two prayers (see D, 2542, b c ff2 vgmss).
  • Luke's version asks for daily bread "day by day (καθ ημεραν)" whereas Matthew's version asks for bread "this day (σημερον)".  But scribes have tried to change "καθ ημεραν" to "σημερον" in Luke's version in order to harmonize the two prayers (see D, 2542 pc it vgcl bomss).
Unless one were to grasp the contextual differences between Matthew 6 and Luke 11, as explained above, one would find it difficult to explain why Matthew's version should have a doxology when Luke's version does not.  Hence an early skeptic might have removed it believing the doxology to be a pious addition or a gloss from a liturgical text.  Yet if the doxology were added later it would be most probable that a similar doxology would also be added to Luke's version of the prayer, at least in some manuscripts.  But there is no such thing to be found in the body of manuscript evidence.

Hypothesis 3: the oral tradition overrode the written word

For the first several decades since the formation of the Church, many Christian communities did not have the written New Testament.  These Christians received doctrines and traditions orally and passed them on orally to the next generation.  No matter how early the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written, the oral traditions were inevitably older.  When a written tradition appeared to differ from a well-established oral tradition, the oral tradition might have taken priority in some communities.  Consider the following hypothesis:

Suppose that in the early years of the Church, some Christian communities orally received the Lord's prayer as later recorded by Luke (the version with no doxology).  These communities had not yet learned of the version with the doxology.  Suppose that these communities later came into contact with the Gospel of Matthew without ever seeing the Gospel of Luke.  In this scenario, these communities were faced with a written version of the Lord's prayer that is different from the oral version that had been remembered since the beginning.  As these communities had no knowledge of the Gospel of Luke, the idea that there might have been two occurrences in which our Lord taught how to pray may not have crossed their minds.  Members of these communities may have regarded the doxology in the Gospel of Matthew as a spurious addition to what had been believed to be the only version of the Lord's prayer.  As a result, these communities may have omitted the doxology thinking that they were doing the service of guarding the one and only true version of the Lord's prayer.

Read more articles from: The King James Version is Demonstrably Inerrant
Also read: The Greek Text (Textus Receptus) of the King James Version is Reliable


Sources:
  • The Codex Sinaiticus Project Website: http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/ 
  • Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th revised edition (2006).
  • The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_032/CodexW_016a.jpg)