On Doxologies, the Kingdom, and the Oxford Comma

A friend of mine (who you may have seen on this blog as squelchtoad) posed a delightful question on facebook:

The doxology at the end of the Lord’s prayer is often written “For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory.” Is it meant to mean “the kingdom, the power, and the glory” or is “the power and the glory” an epithet for “the kingdom”?

Catholics don’t incorporate this doxology into the end of the Lord’s Prayer (though, in the post Vatican II Mass, the laity say it as a separate thing after an interjection by the priest). In some Protestant churches, it’s part and parcel of the prayer. But why have a theological argument through the lens of history and bible scholarship when we can frame it through grammar instead!

I did some poking around, and I couldn’t find an answer to the question.  But, in the process, I managed to get the closing song from Pippin stuck in my head, discovered an elevator variant I’d really like to ride, and got this advice from the Fake AP Stylebook: “Use a comma after every item in a list of three or more, but then take back one comma to honor the Hebrew God whose sentence this is.”

I don’t think this is the kind of thing that’s clarified by going back to the Latin, since presumably “kingdom” “power” and “glory” are all in the same case either way.  So does anyone have a citation about the interpretation or a way to suss this out?


Two suggestions from the facebook thread (first from a Catholic, than an Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian:

“The power and the glory are really distinct from the kingdom. The kingdom is God’s reign in creatures. The power and the glory are both divine attributes, and thus really identical with God himself. God’s reign is not God, but the providence by which he reigns is God.”

“Google “‘thine is the kingdom’ site:bcponline.org” and you will see that the Oxford comma is most definitely prescribed. One possible justification for this (and keep in mind, I’m just a layman): Christ’s glory shines in his moments of apparent weakness as much as in those of apparent power.”

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  • Eddie S

    From the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    Article 4


    2855 The final doxology, “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever,” takes up again, by inclusion, the first three petitions to our Father: the glorification of his name, the coming of his reign, and the power of his saving will. But these prayers are now proclaimed as adoration and thanksgiving, as in the liturgy of heaven. The ruler of this world has mendaciously attributed to himself the three titles of kingship, power, and glory. Christ, the Lord, restores them to his Father and our Father, until he hands over the kingdom to him when the mystery of salvation will be brought to its completion and God will be all in all.

    • And the Latin version of that actually has an Oxford comma!

      Doxologia finalis « Quia Tuum est regnum, et potestas, et gloria » tres primas petitiones ad Patrem nostrum, per inclusionem, resumit: […]

      Anyway, even without any commas, which is the version I’d seen previously, what with there being no clear rules for commas in Latin, the three distinct things interpretation makes more sense because the Latin has an extra and “quia tuum est regnum, et potestas, et gloria”=”because yours is the-kingdom, and the-power, and the-glory”. That’s also how we say it in German: “Denn dein ist das Reich und die Kraft und die Herrlichkeit…”. Without the Catechism’s explanation one could still argue that it’s supposed to mean “the kingdom and (the power and the glory)”, but it would be a real stretch and one could just as well argue for “(the kingdom and the power) and the glory”.

      So case closed, it’s a list of three things.

      • Paul

        The early Romans didn’t use punctuation. They didn’t even use spaces to separate words.

        And I first remember seeing “the power and the glory” in psalm 62.


  • Ink

    Ugggh, Pippin. I’m sorry. (I have really bad memories of SMing that show in high school. Those who remember it generally acknowledge it never happened.)

    Also the Paternoster looks like it was named by the first words you say when you step on it.

  • Rachel K

    I’ve also heard this translated as “the kingdom and the power and the glory,” which removes the ambiguity.

    (English teacher and former administrative assistant sidebar: I HATE the war on Oxford commas. When I was an administrative assistant at a college, one of my jobs was to proof the parents’ newsletter, and I had to use the AP Stylebook–which prohibits Oxford commas. There was a sentence that, as originally written, read something like “The department of student development covers areas as diverse as safety and security, counseling, and campus ministry.” I had to change it to “The department of student development covers areas as diverse as safety and security, counseling and campus ministry,” which turns something that was once a straightforward list into a cutesy mess that didn’t fit the matter-of-fact tone of the rest of the article. I even sent the article back to the original writer and begged her to pick different student development organizations so it wouldn’t look so stupid, and then kicked it up to the college’s head editor asking for an Oxford comma exemption just this once, but when the time came to mail the final version of the newsletter, there was “safety and security, counseling and campus ministry” in all its twee glory.)

    • That translation is from the KJV and NKJV, in Matt 6:13, which squares with the Greek Received Text. The Critical Texts of Westcott & Hort; the Nestlé Text, and the United Bible Society, are based on the Alexandrian Texts which don’t have the bit from “the Kingdom” to “Amen”

    • Peter

      I learned the King James Version, which is “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.” No grammatical ambiguity there.

  • Always best to check your sources! The Lord’s prayer comes from the Pater Noster, which uses not only both commas but also a double use of ‘and’:
    Quia tuum est regnum, et potestas, et gloria in saecula.
    For yours is kingdom, and power, and glory forever.
    – This could be interpreted in a number of ways, but the one that probably comes closer to the Latin would be: for royal authority is yours (alone), and all power, and all glory forever.

  • Pete

    I don’t think your deity has much “power and glory” if IT
    needs 1356 (TEV) pages of text to make it’s point, or embeds
    a revelation in a specific cultural/religious context which
    diminishes universality.

    Who can experience “power and glory” in a being which
    allows creatures to be eternally cast from it’s sight because
    of bad judgement, or failure to properly believe in or adhere
    to the magisterial authority of an institution?

    Where is the true divine power and glory which can offer
    something to it’s creatures that is universal, and most of all,
    indisputable from every angle of critical thinking?

    Are you sure you have interpreted your understanding of
    objective morality in a way which is free of your emotional

    • It’s almost like every single one of your “criticisms” and blatant misrepresentations have been addressed for millennia.

    • Irenist

      You’re trolling a post about commas? Seriously?

      • leahlibresco


        • Brandon B

          A comma war that involves 1,356 tera-electronvolts would be pretty entertaining.

    • Arizona Mike


      Thou shalt not use “it’s” as the possessive form of “it,” as it’s an abomination unto me.

    • deiseach

      I don’t think your confectionery company has much “work, rest and play” if it needs thirty-four brands of candy!

      Why can’t it make its point with just one? Why can’t it offer one thing to all universally, even the lactose- and glucose-intolerant?

      Are you sure you have interpreted your understanding of global chocolate brands in a way that is free of your tastebud preferences?

      • Pete


        You think that switching out “candy company” for “divine revelation”
        is really going to work with me?

        Once again: give me a deity of true “power and glory” that provides a
        “way” which is indisputable….a “way” which is just as “powerful and
        glorified” as it’s spiritual source….clear….without question or even
        need of an apologist to defend it because it is self-evident.

        Atonement, blood sacrifice, elements of a sacrament which are “body
        and blood” of a sacrificial victim, “spiritual food and drink”, all speak
        of a deity who is not very interesting…I received “holy” communion
        64 times in my time as a Catholic, unaware of mortal sin, and each
        time I never had an experience that I was consuming your deity.

        Just bread wafers and cheap wine, “consecrated” by magical

        There is no rational reason to think otherwise.

        If that is all that your deity can offer as a physical sign of being
        related to it, then your deity is not worthy of worship.

        • Derek

          Yes, Pete, exactly — “there is no rational reason to think otherwise.” The experience of living a life that is in communion with God is not often rational. It’s a leap of faith followed by an acceptance of the loss of control (voluntarily) of your path. If the “way” that you seek is truly “without question… because it is self-evident” then where does the act of faith enter in? Part of the whole point is that faith involves letting go of what is rational, obvious, and sensory (yes, I am pro-Oxford comma) and experiencing something that doesn’t make sense (molecularly, it’s still just bread and wine — to many it is the embodiment of the perfect example of how one can serve others), that takes much study and curiosity and openness to discover, and that betrays the sensory input that we rely on to experience the universe. This is why one does not “receive” Holy Communion — if one has faith that the Eucharist is the living example of Christ’s work in the world today, then one lives the Eucharist by becoming one with Jesus, by embodying Christ’s message, and living in the example of Christ. I do not know you; I do not know what motivates you. I know only that your criticism is necessary to remind all those who have faith in God’s Kingdom as the right relationship in which to live, in God’s power to create life, and in God’s glory as the one who has been found to have served all, that it is precisely because our faith is not rational that it is worthy of being cherished in this otherwise rational world.

          • Pete

            Derek I see that that you mean well, but to be honest you are just
            talking about the deity I don’t want….

            The god of “woo”.

            After investigating scholarship about Jesus not being a Messiah,
            as well as a false prophet and partially fabricated by Gospel writers,
            I don’t know why anyone is finding an intense life with “Christ”.

            I have never found strong evidence from any Christian of any
            time period inside or outside of the Bible which “closes the case”,
            and compels a person to enter into faith in the context we are
            speaking of.

            I have prayed my face off for “contact”…and all I got was silence,
            so either your divine powers don’t want me, or they don’t exist.

            Please, someone give me amazingly strong evidence which will
            solve the issue once and for all…until then you all just want it
            to be true, and try to back it up somehow.

          • Argus

            The lives of the apostles and early christians are amazingly strong evidence.
            They lived and more often than not, were put to death for what they were proclaiming.
            Not for something they want to be true, or believe in – but for what they have seen for themselves.

  • When in doubt, Oxford comma! 🙂

  • jenesaispas

    Great cartoon:)

  • Jason Schalow

    The Textus Receptus version of the Greek text of Matthew (which contains the doxology) has “hoti sou estin he basileia kai he dunamis kai he doxa…” (Mt. 6:13) translating literally as ‘because belonging to you is the kingdom and the power and the glory’.

    It is as clearly an enumerated list in Greek as it is in the Latin translation…the power and glory are not functioning as any kind of adjectival clause referring to the kingdom. Interesting idea though–and also a good reminder of why study of the scriptures in the original languages is so important.

    • Jason Schalow

      Also a reminder of why we should drop the useless oxford comma and use a colon where it belongs:
      “we invited the strippers: jfk and stalin” 🙂

  • N

    If you’d heard the prayer recited, you might have heard them pause after each thing for emphasis.
    “For thine is the KINGDOM, the POWER and the GLORY, forever and ever, amen’
    It sounds pretty good whatever you think of it’s truthfulness. Putting things in groups of three is an old trick in writing.

    By the way, if you rearrange the sentence so the pural group is second, it seems to work without the comma.
    ‘We invited JFK, the strippers and hitler.’

  • Something bizarre I’ve noticed about the Oxford comma of all things is that otherwise intelligent and capable people advance the most ridiculous arguments in favor of or against it. The next time I see “No, the Oxford comma creates ambiguity!” I am going to go crazy. 🙁

    (To be clear, I’m pro-Oxford comma.)

  • Steve Schuler

    A wise man once told me that if we all took greater care with our commas that the world would be a much better place. Maybe that’s true, I don’t know.

    What I do know is that I am very curious how you managed the journey from believing in objective morality, to finding a suitable metaphysics in Catholoicism to support objective morality, to believing the Apostles Creed to be literally true. To my knowledge you have not addressed the hows and whys of this transformation of mind. Was it a ‘leap of faith’ or something else? Do you think that you were supernaturally induced to this dramatic change in your worldview? The questions one might pose of you are manifold, as I’m sure you are aware.

    Clearly, this is your blog and what you write about is completely at your discretion, but I suspect that I am not alone amongst the readers who follow your blog in hopes of gaining a better understanding of what motivated your conversion and how it came to be. I would imagine that given the very short time that has passed betweed you being overtly atheistic until your very recent confirmation that it might not be well sorted out in your own mind yet, so I hope that I am not putting undo pressure on you to discuss this prematurely.

  • Easy mnenomic: There is an “Ox, ford”, but no “Cam, bridge”.

  • Ice9

    Sigh. Dilettantes love the comma issue because there is a semblance of a rule to free them from the obligation of precision. That’s why writing isn’t multiple choice. If your audience is liable to fearful confusion over the explosive mix of party guests, lavish a subordinate clause or one of your lifetime allowance of colons on the sentence to ensure clarity. If you are paying by the word in the personals of The New Yorker, go with ‘We invited strippers JFK and Stalin.’ If your readers are leiing in wait for you to spit an inflinitive or fumble lay-lie or commit an Oxford comma, try ‘We invited a pair of strippers with pictuesque names and a scold with a hardcover Warriners up his ass.’

    The doxolojer

    • Ice9

      Has become, via translation or habit, a polysyndeton and is therefore immune to prosecution for misdemeanors under the Tallinn Agreement. Look it up.


  • Arizona Mike

    Not really relevant to the Oxford Comma debate, but my English teacher had a poster on the wall that read:

    Let’s eat, Grandpa!
    Let’s eat Grandpa!
    Commas: They Save Lives.

  • I’m going to go with the Didache for $1000.

    The origin of the phrase is found in the 8th chapter of the first century document commonly known as “the Didache” or “The Teaching of the Apostles”.

    8:1 And let not your fastings be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and the fifth day of the week;
    8:2 but do ye keep your fast on the fourth and on the preparation (the sixth) day.
    8:3 Neither pray ye {as the hypocrites,} but as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, {thus pray ye.
    8:4 Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name;
    8:5 Thy kingdom come;
    8:6 Thy will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth;
    8:7 give us this day our daily bread;
    8:8 and forgive us our debt, as we also forgive our debtors;
    8:9 and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one;}
    8:10 for Thine is the power and the glory for ever and ever.
    8:11 Three times in the day pray ye so.

    Note the fact that “Kingdom” is a later addition. This makes it quite impossible for the “power” and “glory” to reference kingdom word in the original: they are necessarily independent entities.

    Not only that, but the original Latin repeats “and”, as does the original Genevan English (which is where the most common English version of the prayer actually comes from) which was patterned after the TR (which, by my understanding, also has the repeated “and”).

    • (Genevan English references the Genevan Bible, which predated the KJV by 51 years. As best as I can tell, the doxology enters into the liturgy about the time of the English Commonwealth, despite the fact that King Jame’s Authorized Version had already been around for more than a generation. I do wonder if this might have to do with a rise of prominence of the Genevan Bible (still used at the time of Cromwell) which might have, as a Protestant document, carried more favor with the revolutionaries of the mid-17th century. It is conspicuous that the doxology is clearly present throughout the 1662 BoCP (admittedly, it uses commas and not the redundant “and” which I remember as a child))

  • Pete


    “The lives of the apostles and early christians are amazingly strong evidence.
    They lived and more often than not, were put to death for what they were proclaiming.
    Not for something they want to be true, or believe in – but for what they have seen for

    It is not strong evidence at all considering that there is no other witness which can verify
    what they supposedly experienced. There are no witnesses which were/are impartial and
    wrote down anything which is in the historical record.

    Why were such “amazing” events not noticed and recorded right then and there by

    You really don’t know exactly what the apostle’s experienced down to the last detail.
    Remember also that the apostle’s were illiterate, superstitious peasants who were NOT
    good critical thinkers. Basically you have partisan, historical fiction from several
    decades after the supposed events.

    You have stories which may or may not have some basis in real events.

    • Just a thought. First the disciples were not all back-water peasants. Matthew was a tax collector, John and James were relatives of the priests (as Levites, literacy would have been an expectation), Peter may have been a fisherman but it looks like he and Andrew owned their own business and may have employed several people. All of this suggest that these five were at least in the middle class and that three of these were literate (probably all of them) (Christ was clearly literate, but we’re talking about his disciples). Considering the fact that literacy in the empire at large would have likely only been in the high teens, the fact that 25% (at least) of these were able to at least read speaks quite a bit to the education of the first disciples. We should also consider that there is evidence suggesting that Jude was brother to Matthew (there is no disambiguation between two fathers of the same name suggests that the two “Alphaeus” are the same man. since they share a father it is likely that they share an education) and we should also note that it is incredibly likely that Philip was bi-lingual.

      Further, we have Paul who was clearly educated and clearly literate. We have no reason to question his education as a Pharisee, an education which would have been fairly extensive and thorough. While he might not have been witness to the events, we can see that he studied those who were. I don’t know about you, but any time I’ve seen an educated person try to get the truth from an uneducated person the educated person is able to get quite a bit even if it has been bollixed in the meanwhile.

      I know it is a popular narrative to say that the Apostles were idiots from Galilee, almost as a repeat of Nathaniel in John 1:46, but that narrative seems to be outright false. They may not have been Virgil, but they were definitely not the first century equivalent of hillbillies.

      • Pete

        I stand corrected, I should know better actually then to say that the
        apostle’s were illiterate across the board…however, that does not mean
        they were able to overcome the suffocating magical thinking, and
        religious tyranny of their culture, and use critical thinking to see
        what was really happening.

        We don’t know exactly what they thought or didn’t think other
        than what we may or may not have in terms of “accepted documents”.

        Paul was not a direct witness to Jesus, and his conversion story
        looks like a common hallucination…whatever he heard from Peter
        or James or any other “witness” is not good evidence either because
        we don’t know what they really experienced.

        Jewish scholarship crushes the idea that Jesus was the Messiah
        in the 1st place, so we can see how the deceptions bloom from those
        apostle’s who were fooled by the “Christ” in to thinking one thing
        or another…people do in fact die for a lie, and die for things they
        think are true, but are not actually so.

        • The problem is that this is about as good as it gets when dealing with the happenings of Antiquity. In a world where generally 16% of people could read, we have a group where there is a high likelihood that the majority were able to read. That is astounding.

          The real arguments here are, 1. that people today believe that everyone in the past were a bunch of yokels, and 2. that the records of the past are never reliable. In the latter case the argument quickly becomes, “we don’t know, so it didn’t happen” even though the miracle narrative has withstood scrutiny time and time again. If miracles are naturalistic or rationalistic, then nature is a far stranger beast than any skeptic dare admit.

          The former argument, “everyone before us is a yokel” is both egocentric and dubious. It recalls the the Chesterton quote: “Iceland is impossible because only stupid sailors have seen it; and the sailors are only stupid because they say they have seen Iceland”. And the mapping is almost literal.

          • Pete

            I am not saying: “we don’t know, so it didn’t happen”

            I am saying: ” we don’t have amazing, pristine texts, so to
            assume things, or build a theology which will demand our
            obedience, based on those ancient texts, is not the proper,
            ratonal course”.

            If we had excellent texts as a source of the religion, then
            we would not have all these competing denominations, which
            is a sign of a deity who did not have the foresight to see what
            would happen, or take steps to alleviate those future difficulties
            by providing a clear text based on a revelation which no one
            can argue with.

          • we would not have all these competing denominations

            According to the Christian narrative, however, this type of division is to be expected. If the text existed as you suggest, that would be a negation of free will.

            or take steps to alleviate those future difficulties by providing a clear text based on a revelation which no one can argue with.

            This requirement has always stuck me as a bit odd. You’re basically saying that “God should have left us the full truth” but it is fairly clear that an infinite God could not be completely expressed in a finite thing, let alone an inanimate book.

  • Pete

    @Ignatius Theophorus:

    An infinite being who is supposedly the source of love
    itself, should be able to express itself in terms of a revelation
    which is “finite”…therefore my original point still stands
    about a clear, universally orientated communication for
    all times which alleviates all sectarian conflict.

    I don’t have the mental power to argue about “free will” to
    it’s negation to academics so I will let that portion of your
    response go.

    However, in my personal experience, I have never experienced
    a moment when I had free will, or when any of my choices were
    not influenced by, or outright determined by mental conditioning
    or environmental phenomena.