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Only Once Continually

Give us this day our daily bread.”   Matthew 6:11Matthew 6:11
English: World English Bible - WEB

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Daily – The Greek word epiousion is one of the most unusual words in the entire Bible.  It occurs only in the Lord’s Prayer.  In order to understand the meaning of most Biblical expressions, scholars often look to other uses either in the Bible or outside the Bible.  But this word appears here in this verse for the first time; it is not found in any other Biblical context and has no clear cognates in other ancient languages.  All of this is even more unusual since the meaning of the word certainly must have been clear to Yeshua’s disciples and the early Christians.

Of course, Yeshua spoke this prayer in Hebrew.  So if we translate it back into its Hebrew form, the word becomes tamid.  Gordon and Johnson note that “tamid is rich in meaning, which makes it difficult to translate into English.  The closest approximation in English to the word tamid is ‘continually,’ although some prefer to translate it as ‘daily.’”[1]  As Gordon and Johnson point out, if Yeshua had spoken the Greek word epiousion to the crowd, no one would have understood Him.  But the use of tamid is perfectly understandable in Hebrew.

Tamid is particularly useful because of the symbolic meaning of bread in Scripture.  Lehem means both physical sustenance and spiritual nourishment.  Since Yeshua places emphasis on both, it is particularly appropriate that He would use a word that means having enough every day.  Digesting God’s word is just as important as eating the bread on the table, in fact, it is sometimes more important.

This much is clear.  This petition in the Lord’s Prayer pushes aside any claim that we might have on even the basic necessities of life as our rights.  Even life’s most basic needs are the gifts of God.  It is not that we are to be content with only the most basic elements of life.  Rather, we are to acknowledge that everything, even the necessities, come to us as gifts.  When we think of this part of the verse, the word for “daily” begins to make some sense.  We are part of the fellowship of the redeemed.  More than anyone, we know that our basic needs must come to us one day at a time.  We are healed for this day.  We are helped for this day.  We are whole for this day.  The basic necessities of our lives cannot be stored up for tomorrow nor appropriated from yesterday.  We can only live daily.  When we say the Lord’s Prayer, the word daily has a special significance.  This word summarizes our lives.  One day at a time.

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[1] Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson, A Prayer to Our Father, p. 134

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