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The Confederate Lawyer
March 26, 2015

Our Daily Bread
by Charles G. Mills
fitzgerald griffin foundation

GLEN COVE, NY  — In the traditional English version of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” But this phrase has a deeper meaning than the translation conveys.


“Give us this day our daily bread” … has a deeper meaning than the translation conveys.


Seven of the most famous English translations of the Bible use the words as set forth, sometimes with variations in spelling. The Rheims translation of 1582, the first translation printed with Catholic approval, says, “Give us today our supersubstantial bread.”

All of the Greek manuscripts refer to the bread as “ton arton hemon ton epiousion.” The adjective “epiousios” is assumed to be derived from “epeimi,” which means to happen later, and its feminine participle “epiousa,” which combined with the noun “hemera” means “tomorrow.” That “epiousion” means “daily” is an assumption, because the Lord’s Prayer is the only place where it is used in this context. Understood this way, the meaning is “our daily bread.”

Saint Jerome clearly made a different assumption. He translated “ton arton hemon ton epiousion” as “panem nostrum supersubtantialem.” He seems to have assumed that “epiousion” was a combination of “epi,” which has many meanings including “on,” and “ousion,” which means “real nature” or “ousia,” which is the feminine of “ousion” and means being, essence, matter, or true nature. From this Saint Jerome got “supersubstantial,” which was carried forward into the Rheims New Testament. Understood in this way, the meaning is “our supernatural bread.”


The 1979 Neovulgate Bible promulgated by Saint John Paul II uses “supersubstantialem,” but the liturgical tradition is “quotidianum.”


Saint Bonaventure …refers to the Eucharist as “daily, supernatural bread.”

Saint Matthew was translating into Greek the words that Our Lord spoke in Aramaic or possibly Hebrew. It may be that what He said could have had two levels of meaning: an obvious meaning at the time, and a richer meaning that would become clear only after Pentecost.

The beginning of the Lord’s Prayer reflects the first two of the Ten Commandments and the first great commandment to love God above all else. The last two phrases, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” reflect concern for the state of souls. Immediately before this ending is a prayer that reflects the great commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves and the golden rule to do unto others as we want them to do unto us.

Between the beginning that reflects the first great commandment and the end that reflects love of neighbor and desire for salvation, however, is a whole prayer for food, which at first sight seems less spiritual than everything else in the prayer. The prayer for bread should be read in a deeper way. Saint Bonaventure may have sensed this; in his thanksgiving prayer after communion, he refers to the Eucharist as “daily, supernatural bread.” For orthodox Christians, this must mean that the less obvious meaning of the bread in the Lord’s Prayer is the Eucharist.


When we pray the Lord’s Prayer …we are asking not only for our daily natural bread but also for our eternal supernatural food.


Some Christians (typically Calvinists and Evangelicals) and people who call themselves Christians (such as Unitarians) deny that anything supernatural occurs in the administration of the sacraments.

They do not accept a supernatural meaning of the Lord’s words. They are usually the ones who claim an exaggerated literal inerrancy of every word in the Bible. Their position, however, contradicts the unambiguous words in John 6: 41-56 that clearly describe Our Lord’s flesh and blood as food and drink to be eaten and drunk by those who are to be saved.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we should do so with the understanding that we are asking not only for our daily natural bread but also for our eternal supernatural food.

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The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2015 by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com. All rights reserved.

This column may be forwarded, posted, or published if credit is given to Charles Mills and fgfBooks.com.

Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles about the law.

See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.

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