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Epiousios (Ancient Greek: επιούσιος) is a unique Greek word used in the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 6:11) and the Gospel of Luke (Luke 11:3).

Τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον[1]
"Give us today our daily bread,"[2]
Matthew 6:11

However, the word is not found anywhere else in the original scriptures of the Bible, nor, moreover, anywhere else in all of Classical Greek literature. The Greek term otherwise used throughout the New Testament for "daily" is kath hemeran (καθ' ἡμέραν, "according to the day").[3]

Epiousios was rendered as quotidianum ("daily") in the Vetus Latina and revised to supersubstantialem in the Vulgate, albeit only in Matthew's version.

From the New American Bible Revised Edition:

"Give us today our daily bread: the rare Greek word epiousios, here daily, occurs in the New Testament only here and in ⇒ Luke 11:3. A single occurrence of the word outside of these texts and of literature dependent on them has been claimed, but the claim is highly doubtful. The word may mean daily or future (other meanings have also been proposed). The latter would conform better to the eschatological tone of the whole prayer. So understood, the petition would be for a speedy coming of the kingdom (today), which is often portrayed in both the Old Testament and the New under the image of a feast (⇒ Isaiah 25:6; ⇒ Matthew 8:11; ⇒ 22:1-10; ⇒ Luke 13:29; ⇒ 14:15-24)."[4]

In typical, modern-day English, the word is nevertheless most often translated as "Give us this day our daily bread."

Translation and interpretation[edit]

Jerome's Latin Vulgate translates "panem nostrum supersubstantialem da nobis hodie".

Apart from the literal interpretation as a prayer for sustenance, the phrase has been given a variety of spiritual or metaphorical interpretations. The translation of supersubstantial bread[5] has also been associated with the eucharist, e.g. by the Council of Trent (1551).[6]

Chrysostom (Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Homily XIX) commented on the phrase:

What is “daily bread”? That for one day. For because He had said thus, “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven,” but was discoursing to men encompassed with flesh, and subject to the necessities of nature, and incapable of the same impassibility with the angels:—while He enjoins the commands to be practised by us also, even as they perform them; He condescends likewise, in what follows, to the infirmity of our nature. Thus, “perfection of conduct,” saith He, “I require as great, not however freedom from passions; no, for the tyranny of nature permits it not: for it requires necessary food.” But mark, I pray thee, how even in things that are bodily, that which is spiritual abounds. For it is neither for riches, nor for delicate living, nor for costly raiment, nor for any other such thing, but for bread only, that He hath commanded us to make our prayer. And for “daily bread,” so as not to “take thought for the morrow.” Because of this He added, “daily bread,” that is, bread for one day.[7]

A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature,[8] edited by Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker, University of Chicago Press, the standard lexicon for NT Greek, while noting historical interpretations and modern opinions, concludes that Origen was probably correct that the term was coined by the evangelists[9] It lists four possible translations: 1. deriving from Epi and Ousia: necessary for existence, in agreement with Origen, Chrysostom, Jerome and others; 2. one loaf of bread is the daily requirement; 3. for the following day; 4. deriving from epienai: bread for the future.

Status as hapax legomenon[edit]

The word epiousios is only found in the two versions of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew and Luke, not appearing anywhere else in known Classical Greek literature. This makes epousios a hapax legomenon – a Greek phrase meaning 'a word used only once'. The meaning of any such word is often difficult to determine, as cross-references and comparisons with other usages aren't possible.

It was only in the twentieth century that a single additional use of the word seemed to be discovered. The document in which it was found is a 5th-century CE shopping list, identified as Sammelbuch 5224,20.[10][11] The word epiousios is written next to the names of several grocery items. This seems to indicate that it was used in the sense of "enough for today", "enough for tomorrow", or "necessary". However, the papyrus containing the shopping list went missing for many years, until it was discovered in 1998 at the Yale Beinecke Library.[12] The original transcriber, A. H. Sayce, was apparently known as a poor transcriber, and re-examination of the papyrus found "elaiou" (oil) but not epiousi.... So there seems indeed to be no other occurrence of the word in Greek literature.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.greekbible.com/index.php
  2. ^ http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/__PVF.HTM
  3. ^ The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament, 1993, The United Bible Societies, (basis: UBS4 Greek text), page x of Introduction
  4. ^ http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_PVF.HTM#MJF2
  5. ^ E.g., in Richard Challoner's 1750 revision of the Douay Bible: "Give us this day our supersubstantial bread". Quoted in Blackford Condit's The History of the English Bible, A.S. Barnes & Co.: New York, 1882. p. 323.
  6. ^ Trent, Session 13, Chapter VIII)
  7. ^ Matthew VI. 1., 8. “Give us this day our daily bread”
  8. ^ Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker, eds. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. University of Chicago Press (the Bauer lexicon)
  9. ^ "Let us now consider what the word epiousion, needful, means. First of all it should be known that the word epiousion is not found in any Greek writer whether in philosophy or in common usage, but seems to have been formed by the evangelists. At least Matthew and Luke, in having given it to the world, concur in using it in identical form. The same thing has been done by translators from Hebrew in other instances also; for what Greek ever used the expression enotizou or akoutisthete instead of eistaota dexai or akousai poice se?" (Origen, On Prayer) Chapter XVII, "Give us today our needful bread")
  10. ^ F. Preisigke, Sammelbuch griechischer Urkunden aus Ägypten 1.5224:20
  11. ^ Flinders Petrie Hawara p. 34)
  12. ^ Discussion on the B-Greek mailing list, Tue Jun 7 15:43:35 EDT 2005
  • M. Nijman and K. A. Worp. "ΕΠΙΟΥΣΙΟΣ in a documentary papyrus?". Novum Testamentum XLI (1999) 3 (July), p. 231-234.
  • B.M. Metzger, "How Many Times Does ΕΠΙΟΥΣΙΟΣ Occur outside The Lord's Prayer?" ExpTimes 69 (1957–58) 52-54.