What does “hallowed be thy name” mean?

In English the most common form of the Lord’s Prayer begins, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” The phrase “hallowed be thy name” is a translation of ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου. It means something like “Let your name be sanctified” or “Please sanctify your name.” It’s the first of three petitions that mean roughly the same thing:

ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου
ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου
γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς

Let your name be sanctified;
Let your Kingdom come;
Let your will be done, as in heaven also on earth.

“Hallowed be thy name” obviously sounds rather archaic. (Is its origin the 1662 Anglican Book of Common Prayer?) I’ve long wondered if people think it is supposed to mean “hallowed is your name” or “Holy is your name,” and recently that suspicion has been confirmed by a number of theologians I’ve heard explaining it exactly this way. As a result, it is not understood as the first of three closely related petitions but as part of the initial address: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name [pause]; Thy kingdom come…”. The Greek prayer would suggest something more like this:

Our Father who art in heaven:
[petition 1] hallowed be thy name,
[petition 2] thy kingdom come,
[petition 3] thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

As noted above, “let your name be hallowed” means roughly the same thing as “let your kingdom come” and “let your will be done.” God hallowing God’s name means making the holiness of the name known to the nations. See Ezekiel 36:22-24:

Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. I will sanctify [= hallow] my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. (NRSV)

8 thoughts on “What does “hallowed be thy name” mean?

  1. Excellent and concise, Nathan. I tried to say something similar in an OT course I’m teaching; it’s a major theme in Christopher J. H. Wright’s work (shows up in his exposition of Ezekiel as well as his various books on mission).

  2. That it’s a petition in 3’s makes this make a ton of sense to me, seein’ as I don’t know ancient Greek and whatnot.

  3. “God hallowing God’s name means making the holiness of the name known to the nations” BY gathering his people from the nations as Gerhard Lohfink har rightly pointed out (see Jesus and Community). That is, “hallowing” God is praying for the restoration of the people of God as a sign of and witness to God’s glory (Matt 5:16). I find this emphasis in Lohfink’s work very helpful.

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