Epiousios – one word, lots of questions


In the podcast we touched upon the word epiousios and I want to cover some stuff we didn’t get to.

To recap epiousios is the Greek word that is translated as ‘daily’ in ‘daily bread’. It’s also the only place in the whole of Greek writing that it’s found. That’s weird because Koine Greek had a word for ‘daily’ so why did the Gospel writers feel the need to invent a new one?

Well, there’s more to it than that so let’s kick off with a deeper look at the word. Most invented words (I’d say all, but there’s always one exception) are either an onomatopoeia (a word for a sound such as ‘swoosh’ or any animal sounds) or a¬†portmanteau (two words smashed together such as smog, brunch and sitcom). Epiousios is a portmanteau (as indeed is portmanteau) and what’s interesting is that portmanteaus usually fill a void. Smog is smoke and fog and is a particular weather event only found in cities; brunch is breakfast and lunch and is a meal betwixt the two.

On first look epiousios does not fill a void, there was already a word for ‘daily’ so what gives?

Theory 1: Jesus made the word up

Theory 2: It was a long and theologically complicated sentence that the writers distilled down to one word

Theory 3: What we talked about in the podcast, that it means more than just daily; that there are ideas of manna from Heaven; Jesus as the Bread of Life or supernatural needs for the day.

There are two more interesting points that this brings up that we didn’t get to cover in the podcast:

Number 1: Where does the word originate? It makes no sense that both writers made up the exact same word, rather it suggests that Matthew and Luke got the prayer from another place. Normally it is agreed that they got there information from Mark, but Mark doesn’t have the Lord’s Prayer in it. So what gives?

Well, many consider that there is a, now lost, document of Jesus’ sayings that scholars call ‘Q’. Someone jotted down all the sayings of Jesus, as He said them, with no plot. The gospel writers then used this Q document within their narratives of Jesus’ life. Personally I put forward that Matthew wrote this Q document and that’s why the Gospel is attributed to him. After all if the apostle himself wrote the Gospel, why would he have felt the need to copy Mark’s account? John, the other apostle to write a Gospel, wrote his own thing. So this appearance in Luke and Matthew, but not in Mark, along with this very specific word, gives credence to the theory of some sort of ‘sayings’ document.

Number 2: Jesus spoke Greek. There’s actually a surprising amount about this on the Internet. The language of Judea and the areas where
Jesus spent most of His time spoke Aramaic. Ergo, Jesus spoke Aramaic. Except Koine Greek was the lingua franca of the whole area. This being so there are some that argue Jesus would have known Greek, even spoken it. He does speak to some people around the Greek Decapolis. In fact, even the fishermen that Jesus chose as disciples would have spoke and wrote Greek in order to write their Gospels and letters. Ooh, which is a topic for a later podcast, but is that possible? Maybe they had a translator, but, and I’m spit-balling here, why would they write in Greek if Aramaic was the dominant language? It would make sense that the Gospels were written in Greek because that was the language that Jesus taught in, that all their notes were in.

Does it matter? Not really. It’s not faith changing, but it is interesting that nestled in a very common set of verses is a single word that throws up a lot of questions. It really highlights just how much is out there (or in there) that we never talk about in church. And some of those are faith changing; some of those change the way we live out our religion.



(Just my thoughts, they don’t represent BT or Beanyman’s views)