Bread from Heaven — Part III

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In Parts I and II of this three part lesson, we learned that lechem does not mean ‘bread’ in the literal sense, but rather the animating substance behind physical life. In the Hebrew culture of biblical days, lechem was used to symbolize food, water, shelter – all the material requirements for life. At the end of lesson II, we concluded that Moses regarded manna as a special kind of bread, namely, the lechem hashamayim. In other words, while Moses understood that manna surely sustains physical life, he taught that without our lechem hashamayim, a deep and abiding trust in God, we are dead to the Word and can have no spiritual life

Let’s look at the phrase “our daily bread”? Alas, as in most things Biblical, nothing is ever easy – and so it is with the simple phrase ‘daily bread’. The Greek word for ‘daily’, epiousios, is the subject of no little controversy. This word only occurs in the Lord’s Prayer (in both Matt and Luke) and nowhere else in all of Hellenistic literature. Nor does it occur in the LXX (Septuagint). The suspicion, therefore, is that epiousios is an approximate translation of the Aramaic (or Chaldean) words originally used by Jesus[1].
ASIDE: Because this is a ritual prayer patterned after other Temple prayers extant during Jesus’ day, He may well have been speaking Hebrew. However, it’s a distinction without a difference since the Aramaic, Hebrew, and Chaldean and their idioms are so similar (think Swedish and Norwegian).
In the Aramaic Peshitta, the Aramaic Bible by the Eastern Orthodox Church (who assert that theirs reflects the original text), the words lechem chokiy are used — literally “bread my portion of”, but translated as the bread of our need everyday.
What are we to make of this controversy? Not much, actually. The phrase “daily bread” and its variants, appear to be a straight forward reference to the way God provided manna to the Israelites each day[2] while they were in the wilderness. Since the manna was edible for only a day, they had to trust that God would provide manna each morning.
With all this, what can we say about the LORD’s prayer. Let’s take some liberty with words and substitute where appropriate. Rephrasing we have
Our Father in heaven, hallowed by thy name
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven
Give us this day lach’meinu ha’shamayim
And forgive us… etc.
(NOTE: lach’meinu (Wnmeªx.l) means “our bread”)
Using Mose’s original formulation of bread of heaven to mean the word of God, the concept of lach’meinu hashamayim almost certainly does not mean prosperity. A better understanding would be something along the lines of
Our Father in heaven, sanctified be your name
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven
Give us this day Your Holy Word (Torah Portion, etc.,)
And forgive us… etc.
Now, go and study
  1. [1]Origen argues that the authors of Matthew and Luke invented the word, probably because the Aramaic/Hebrew words used by Jesus were either not understood nor easily translated into Koine Greek
  2. [2]Except the Sabbath.

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