The Mystery Word: "Daily"

While most of the articles here discuss the common words and phrases that Jesus used and their possible meanings, the word "daily" used in the Lord's Prayer (Our Father) is unique,. Though translated as "daily", almost all scholars recognize that that translation has no basis in fact, history, or logic. For those looking for proof that the Bible we read is not accurate, they need look no further than this word.

The Greek Word

The Greek word is an adjective, epiousios, but it is introduced by an article which means that it is being used as a noun, ton epiousios. The form matches the accusative form of the preceding word for bread, ton arton, In Greek the actual letters are: τὸν ἐπιούσιον. The use of this word is identical in both Matthew 6:11 and Luke 11:3. If you look up the word on the Greek Perseus site or in many ancient Greek dictionaries, it gives the definition as "sufficient for the coming".  

This compound Greek word is parsed into two parts, the prefix epi and the base word, ousia,

The prefix is based on the preposition, ἐπὶ (epi), which means "over", "upon", "on", "at", "by", "before", "across," "after" in position, "during", and "against." To get a complete definition of epi, click here. As a prefix, it often used in verbs and generally means "over" or "upon" in the sense of placing something on top or over something else. When beginning added to a word beginning with a vowel, the final "i" would usually be dropped.

The base word οὐσίας (ousia), which as a noun, means "that which is one's own", "one's substance", "property", "substance", "essence", "true nature", "substantiality", "stable being", "immutable reality", and in Magic, "a material thing by which a connection is established between the person to be acted upon and the supernatural agent". It is also the feminine form of the participle for the verb εἰμί (eimi) "to be" so "being". However, it could also be the participle form of another Greek word, εἶμι (eimi), which is  means "coming in the future" or "going in the future". 

The masculine ending on epiousios came from it being used as an adjective rather than a noun. Given its meaning as a noun, an adjective based upon it could mean something like "coming", "substantial", "essential", "natural", or even "magical".

Given the wide variety of meanings for both the prefix and root word, a large number of meanings is possible, but the idea of being "over" or "upon" something and the idea of being "substantial", "essential", "natural" or "coming in the future". There is a question about the order in the two separate word parts. The compound can mean either "being upon" or "upon being", when it above what is essential or substantial or what essential or substance rests upon. You can play with these ideas directly and see what you can get before reading what people down through history have done with them.

Early Understanding

My tendency is to go back to the earliest sources since they understood their way of speaking better than we understand it now. Over time, changes in worldview and belief systems change the meaning of words.

From the very beginning, this word was recognized as something very special.

The first scholar to comment on this word was Origen, (c. 184 – c. 253), an early Christian scholar in Alexandria writing the late second and early third century. He saw this as a new word, one Jesus invented. He saw it as meaning "necessary for existence", in other words, what being or reality depends upon. 

The idea of "daily" goes back to Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240) , who wrote the original Latin version of the BIble, Vetus Latina, He translated te word into quotidianum. which means "daily" but in the sense of "ordinary", "common", "unremarkable", "usual", "habitual", "normal", and "regular" as well as "everyday". It doesn't have anything to do with the Greek term for "daily", which Jesus would have certainly used if that was his meaning. 

A couple of centuries later, St. Jerome, was doing the Latin Vulgate translation from the Greek. He translated this word epiousios into the Latin supersubstantialem, which was a new word in Latin. This view was supported by other fourth-century Christian writers, most notably, Augustine, who was probably the most influential of early church philosophers. Another fourth-century interpretation was "for the future" was supported by people like Cyril of Alexandria. This view came from linking epiousios with another Greek word epienai which means "of tomorrow".  This view was rejected by Jerome, but the root einai is the present infinite form of the Greek verb "to be" so it is related to ousia, which is the participle form of "to be". However, the word epinai is also the infinitive form of two others of the 

This Latin supersubstantialem is translated into supersubstantial or "superessential" in English, but we have to be careful because "super" has taken on the meaning of "superior" that the Latin word for "over" has but the Greek word doesn't have in the same way. This is especially true in our modern use because of ideas like "Superman". In Latin, the idea of supersubstantial would also include the meaning of "on top" what is essential. Our idea of "super" doesn't mean physically on top as the Latin word does and as the Greek epi certainly does.

Of course, these ideas have been debated and comment on ever since. I don't think I respect the modern commentaries as much as the ancient ones simply because they are more influenced by ideas of dogma and, sadly, religions politics. 

For more information see:

Wiki Article

Article at Triangulations