Sunday, August 11, 2013

What Should Be Forgiven?

Trespasses, sins, guilt, debts, shoulds?

Palladian's version of the Lord's Prayer (evolved from a machine) struck me because of how the words "trespasses" and "trespassed" survived wholly intact:

Or father
court in heaven
shall be dining biking them,
but I will be done
on corporate as it is in heaven
give us this day ordeal the bride
and for guests are trespasses
as a brief for give those who trespassed against its
and leave us not into temptation
to deliver us from evil
for design to step forward
and glory forever,
on and.

The Lord's Prayer has appeared in English since the latter's earliest recorded times but the word "trespass" did not appear until the 16th century. Originally, we used the word gyltas which is cognate with the modern English word "guilt":

Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum
si þin nama gehalgod
tobecume þin rice
gewurþe þin willa
on eorðan swa swa on heofonum
urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us to dæg
and forgyf us ure gyltas
swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum
and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge
ac alys us of yfele soþlice.

By the 14th century, the word had evolved to a combination of dettis and synnys, which are cognate with modern English words "debts" and "sins;" Middle English had clearly felt the influence of the Norman Conquest (1066):

Oure fadir þat art in heuenes halwid be þi name;
þi reume or kyngdom come to be.
Be þi wille don in herþe as it is doun in heuene.
yeue to us today oure eche dayes bred.
And foryeue to us oure dettis þat is oure synnys
As we foryeuen to oure dettouris þat is to men þat han synned in us.
And lede us not into temptacion but delyuere us from euyl.

By the 16th century, "trespasses" had supplanted guilt, sin, and debt to give the verses we know by heart:

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 trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil.
"Trespass" has an archaic meaning of sin or transgression but the word today largely means to stray into another's territory--like being "offsides" -- 5 yard penalty. The OED instructs on the origin of trespass; it is French in origin, meaning to transgress or literally to go beyond. It's odd that we use a word of French origin when the French themselves use the word debit or debt and apparently always have done so: link

The Italians use debito and the Latin Mass uses the identical concept: link

I once wrote a blog post on this topic (which originated in an Althouse comment). There is a curious convolution of monetary debt and sin in the German language (Nietzsche is involved) and I wrote about it here.

[Cross-posted with a question here]


  1. Quite interesting and informative. I shall take care not to trespass.

    Do men receive faith, that saves, because God arbitrarily bestows them with faith? Does God predetermined who will be saved and them cause them to have faith so they can be saved? No and No.

    Faith comes from hearing God's word preached.

    Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.(NKJV)

    Romans 10:14 How they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?(NKJV)

    Faith comes when men believe the gospel. Faith is not forced on men by God.


    Ephesians 2:8 is used to prove that faith is a gift from God, however, that is not what is says.

    Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God,(NKJV)

    Salvation is the gift from God. Faith is not the gift.

    Mark 16:16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

    Why would Jesus condemn men who do not believe if God is the one who arbitrarily bestows faith on men so they can be saved?

    To have faith that Jesus is the Son of God is a choice. To trust in God is a choice. To believe that God resurrected Jesus from the grave is a choice. To believe that Jesus is both Lord and Christ is a choice. God does not force men to have faith. Saving faith is the not a gift from God. Salvation is the gift from God.


    1. Hear the gospel. Romans 10:17
    2. Believe. John 3:16
    3. Confess. Romans 10:9
    4. Repent. Acts 3:19
    5. Be baptized in water. Acts 2:38

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  3. I've had a sign on property that I owned, "Trespassers will be eaten/Serán comidos intrusos". It's effective and leaves the nature of the penalty to the reader to sort out.