“Give us this day our daily bread” – “epiousion”
People have been thinking about epiousion, the word translated “daily”, since early in the Church Age. Determining its meaning is made more difficult by the fact that it does not appear anywhere else in Greek literature, only in Matthew and Luke, and it is thought to have been coined by the Gospel writers.
There are two basic possibilities for the derivation of our word. It could come from a word meaning “being”, or it could derive from a word for “coming to”. If it means “being”, the petition can be translated “Give us this day our necessary bread”, in other words, the bread we need to sustain our lives. If epiousion derives from a word for “coming to”, then the prayer is asking for the coming bread, the bread that comes to us from God.
Many scholars think that the bread we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer is the bread of the End of Time, the bread that we shall eat in the Banquet of the Kingdom. They say the prayer is asking for the nourishing sustenance of God’s full and future Glory, to be given to us today.
Given the ambiguity in our word epiousion, caught between being and coming, today and tomorrow, we can suggest it enshrines the basic Christian tension between present and future, as we live in the present, but groan for the coming of the Kingdom. Seeing that Jesus is the Bread of Life, we suggest that in the Lord’s prayer, we ask our heavenly Father to satisfy our hunger for his coming Kingdom with the Bread of Christ, as he comes to us in the Spirit from eternity. In the word epiousion, we ask for essential nourishment for today from the future glory, breaking in to the present, of the manifest Victory of God in Christ Jesus.