Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Which language was the New Testament written in, and should it matter?

There is a movement among some believers of the Messianic and Nazarene groups who, by their claims and their actions, are discrediting the Scriptures of the New Testament. While I believe they are sincere in their convictions, I also know that they are dangerously misguided, and misguidedly dangerous. Their position states that the New Testament writers did not pen their works in Greek, but rather in Aramaic; Matthew having employed Hebrew for his gospel in order to reach directly his Hebrew-speaking, Jewish audience.

The idea is an interesting one, at least when only touching its surface. And of course a case could be made for it. But it becomes nearly cultic upon closer examination, and as we will see in this post, completely irrelevant. One might liken the adherents of this movement to the Judiazers who, although they believed Jesus was the Messiah, were guilty of placing the unnecessary burden of first becoming a Jewish proselyte and receiving the Mosaic law so that one could be saved by Messiah. There is a very unhealthy allegiance to the Hebrew language and Jewish tradition among these followers.

This movement of believers whom I address in this post are similar to the Judiazers in that they are giving Torah preeminence over the whole of Scripture, an unhealthy view of keeping the Ten Commandments (not that I do not give them importance) and a foundation-less premise for the superiority of Hebrew and Aramaic as the languages for God’s revelation; Greek being an “unclean” language which God would never have chosen for his New Testament revelation due to the fact that the Greeks were so ungodly. They are pushing for a return to the superior and pure “Hebrew New Testament”.

While these positions do not necessarily affect one’s salvation (unless of course they believe they are saved by their obedience to Torah and hence, their good works), they certainly create unwarranted confusion and come quite close to dismantling all Christian confidence in the New Testament Scriptures.

It is rather clear that Jesus’ mother tongue was Aramaic, for nothing is more natural than to pray in one’s own language as Jesus did in fact do on the cross (Mark 15:34). Notice also that Mark keeps the Aramaic word for word, and then gives his Greek-speaking readers the translation of it. But it is also very, very probable that Jesus knew Greek and spoke it frequently while functioning within a Greek-speaking superstructure, such as the 1st century Roman Empire.

In addition, a quick glance at Jewish history and a comparative reading of the Old Testament citations found in the New Testament, make a solid case for the LXX (also known as the Septuagint), which is the Greek version of the Old Testament translated for the Greek-speaking Jews. There is no doubt the LXX was used, and followed, by most if not all early church Jewish believers. In particular, it was the Old Testament referred to by the New Testament writers,  and not the Hebrew texts.

Below is my latest reply, word for word, in a thread that is becoming a heated debate on this Messianic Nazarene group’s forum. I hope it gives you some helpful insights as to the folly of the arguments, and reinforces your position against this curious subject promulgated by what I believe is fast becoming a quasi-cultic movement. The recipient’s name is left out for anonymity. First is her refutation to an earlier post of mine in which I make the case for the need of writing in Greek when Luke compiled and sent his gospel and the book of Acts to Theophilus, a Greek-speaking believer. I will post that as well, later on uThinkology. No doubt, more exchanges will come and I’ll post them here on uThinkology too. Below hers is my latest answer. Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section.

K. B******* says:

Where is the evidence that Theophilus was Greek? Josephus tells us that he was probably Theophilus ben Ananas who was High Priest in Jerusalem from 37 to 41 C.E., so Acts and Luke were probably written originally in Aramaic. Even Josephus admitted that he wrote his volumes originally in the language of his countrymen because his knowledge of Greek was not good enough! An excellent comparison of the Greek and Aramaic is given by Andrew Gabriel Roth in his book, “Ruach Qadim”. I don’t see how any open minded person can read this evidence without being convinced of the Aramaic primacy of the New Testament.

Mark Nigro says:

Dear K. B******,

One simple reason why I do not believe Theophilus was the high priest is because he would have had firsthand knowledge of Jesus and no need for an explanation to be written by Luke in his gospel. Secondly, why would the high priest inquire at all, regarding Jesus, from a layman of religion such as Luke (layman in the eyes of the religious leaders) when he had the entire Sanhedrin at his disposal? But I can see already that the other points I have tried to make in my previous post are left completely unaddressed on this forum, and therefore a sincere search for truth seems to be lacking.

So let me ask, why does the language matter when the content (message) is YHWH’s Word? Do you think YHWH speaks Aramaic, or Hebrew? They are the languages of men, not of heaven. As for Aramaic, did you know that it was the language of the Babylonians, acquired by the Jews during their captivity, and this is why we have the Targums (portions of the OT in Aramaic, not Hebrew)? You adulate Aramaic, but were the Babylonians a holy people chosen by YHWH as his covenant people? Consequently, it had become the common language of Jews by Jesus’ day due to the many years of their captivity. The langauge stayed with the people, and therefore the language our Messiah spoke was once a Babylonian tongue, a people most despised for their iniquity. But that was not important to Yeshuah, because he came to communicate with men the truth of God for their salvation, and not to honor one language over another.

Now as for Hebrew, prior to Abram being called out of Ur by YHWH, it was the language of an “unholy” and pagan people. I say Pagan, because anyone outside of a covenantal relationship with YHWH is called such. Abram became holy (sanctified) when YHWH set him apart to make from him a people all his own. So, do you think the Old Testament was written in Hebrew because the language was holy and YHWH’s choice from heaven, or because that was the language spoken by the people YHWH called (Israel), and subsequently, the language of their offspring? YHWH has no need of a written language except that man cannot receive special revelation from him without it. Therefore, he communicates to us through written language (in addition to creation), and when he does, he uses the language of the recipient. Otherwise, had Israel not already known Hebrew, they and all their offspring would have had to learn a uniquely new, previously non-existant language created just for the OT, before they could understand what YHWH was saying. But of course, simple reason, logic and a little history (not to mention common sense) tell us this is not the case.

Can a language be holy or unholy, or is it the content and message that can be holy and unholy? I tell you it is the content and not the medium at all. Just as the ground Moses stood on was not holy except for the presence of YHWH revealed there at that moment. Otherwise, it was just the same dirt that lies beneath the feet of every sheep herder. One last thing, unbelievers speak Hebrew too, and they are not made sanctified before YHWH because of the language. Neither will Greek make one unholy or disqualified. But why are we debating about Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek, when we should be taking the message of the Messiah to those around us in whatever language it is that they and we speak? My suggestion to you and those on this forum would be to spend less time wrangling about Hebrew vs. Greek and start living and sharing the content of YHWH’s NT revelation instead.

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of YHWH shall be saved.” 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Ro 10:12–14)

Sincerely,

Mark Nigro

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15 responses to “Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Which language was the New Testament written in, and should it matter?

  1. Mark,
    Interesting discussion on some issues being discussed elsewhere. A few points worth noting:

    1. Be careful not to conflate some of the odder “Messinic”/”Nazarene” movements with the more mainstream movement of Messianic Judaism. Broadly speaking, there are three main movements to which most of the mainstream groups would belong: The “Messianic Jewish Alliance of America” (MJAA), the “Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations” (UMJC) and those with some connection with the “Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism” (LCJE). Most of the congregations within these groups are more “orthodox” in their faith in Messiah, and tend to avoid the kind of issues which you’re dealing with here. Groups which focus on these issues often don’t have any actual ethnic Jewish people among them! Common “red flags” on the more heterodox groups include referring to Jesus/Yeshua as “YAHshua” (found precisely nowhere in any ancient manuscript, ever) and insisting on some pagan derivation for “Jesus”, and the the use of “two houses” or “Ephraimite” in their description.

    2. As for the language issue itself, while one could make a case for a possible Aramaic original of Matthew, it’s really an academic issue rather than a spiritual one. Some of the early church writers (notably Papias) refer to Matthew having written in “Hebrew;” according to the usage of the day, he would almost certainly have been referring rather to Jewish Aramaic.

    The truth is that there were a *lot* of Jewish writings in Greek. This includes not only the LXX, but a number of “Deuterocanonical” writings like “Wisdom” and the commentaries of Philo. The Dead Sea Scrolls produced by the Essene community at Qumran includes manuscripts in Greek as well as in Hebrew and Aramaic. Jewish thinkers, especially those from outside of Judea itself, had been expressing themselves in Greek for quite sometime, and it was a natural outgrowth of this that the Jewish writers of the NT also wrote in Greek.

    3. While I don’t find arguments of Theophilus’ having been Jewish compelling, I have found arguments that Luke was likely Jewish or a proselyte to Judaism to be interesting. The basis for this is Luke’s apparently deep knowledge of Jewish culture, society and religion, and of the inner workings of the temple leadership (no other Gospel writer seems to describe some of the procedural minutiae of the Temple in such detail). This does *not* however, imply that he wrote in Hebrew or Aramiac, as, again, plenty of Jews were writing in Greek at the time.

    Now, I believe that it is helpful, especially for Jewish people, to have translations of the NT Scriptures which use the original Hebrew names of the Jewish people who wrote or appear therein; I’ve never quite figured out how they got “James” out of “Jacob.” Moreover, I like the fact that David Stern’s “Jewish New Testament” translates texts like Romans 10:14 in a manner which avoids the artificial antagonism towards Torah found in some other translations; his rendering of “For the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers righteousness to everyone who trusts” is, I suspect, closer to Paul’s intent than some other renderings. I am looking forward to a more literal, ESV/NKJV-ish Messianic translation in the works now, which I think will also include this ethos as well as preserve a literal rendering of the entire text.

    Bless ya, bro. Shalom and Ciao!

    Matt

    • Matt, thank you for the excellent points and insights! Especially the clarification about the sound and unsound Messianic groups, which I sure didn’t mean to lump together. I hope my wording doesn’t mislead any readers and publicly I want to state that my agreement with your comment Matt. So glad you chimed in, and I hope you will continue to add your valuable input. Bless you brother, and Shalom! =)

    • Matt, one more thing. I have a copy of the JPS (Tanakh by the Jewish Publication Society) and the CJB “Complete Jewish Bible” by David H. Stern, and published by Jewish New Testament Publications. Like you said, I find the names of people, and of God, to be better represented in a transliteration style rather than Anglo-Saxonized. These two versions remain more faithful to that end.

  2. psalm 22 doesn’t use Aramaic like they used in the NT…I read it Hebrew,and it was all Hebrew,no Aramaic…Eli Eli=Hebrew for God,not My God!Jesus is God,and it fits the content and context…Why would God cry:My God?Blasphemous.Aramaic uses the Hebrew alepbet.

    • Udtlearner, I am not sure I understand how your comment fits the scope of this post, that is, the language in which the NT was written. But I also fail to grasp why you say “Jesus is God and it fits the context” in one phrase and then you say “blasphemous.” Perhaps you could comment with more explanation on your intention and direction. But also please be faithful to the context of this post and don’t use the comment section for a soapbox to other discussions not yet covered on uThinkology, such as the deity of Christ…if that is indeed your point.

  3. Pingback: Part Two of “Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Which Language was the New Testament written in, and should it matter?” « Welcome to uThinkology

  4. I would like to share my beliefs. I am from India. Since I am a Christian from Eastern Tradition, I believe New Testament is written in Aramaic. But Western Tradition strongly opposes this by saying that New Testament is written in Greek. So I will use examples from my part to show why I believe New Testament is written in Aramaic. Aramaic New Testament is also known as Aramaic Peshitta.

    Before I get into Aramaic Peshitta, I will show historical evidences to show if Jews spoke Greek language in first century AD.

    Jewish Historian Josephus wrote –

    “I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greeks, and understand the elements of the Greek language, although I have so long accustomed myself to speak our own tongue, that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness; for our nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations, and so adorn their discourses with the smoothness of their periods; because they look upon this sort of accomplishment as common, not only to all sorts of free-men, but to as many of the servants as please to learn them. But they give him the testimony of being a wise man who is fully acquainted with our laws, and is able to interpret their meaning; on which account, as there have been many who have done their endeavors with great patience to obtain this learning, there have yet hardly been so many as two or three that have succeeded therein, who were immediately well rewarded for their pains.” – Antiquities of Jews XX, XI

    Jewish Wars (Book 1, Preface, Paragraph 1) – “I have proposed to myself, for the sake of such as live under the government of the Romans, to translate those books into the Greek tongue, which I formerly composed in the language of our country, and sent to the Upper Barbarians. Joseph, the son of Matthias, by birth a Hebrew, a priest also, and one who at first fought against the Romans myself, and was forced to be present at what was done afterwards, [am the author of this work].”

    In Antiquities of Jews Book 3, Josephus points out that Hebrews called Pentecost “Asartha.” Asartha is Aramaic, because Aramaic places the definite article (“the”) at the end of the word, thus the ‘tha’ at the end of ‘Asartha’ is the Aramaic definite article on a feminine noun. This is the same thing with the Aramaic words in Bible like Gabbatha (John 19:13) and Talitha (Mark 5:41). The ‘tha’ at the end of ‘Talitha’ is the Aramaic definite article on a feminine noun.

    In first century AD, Jews called Aramaic “Hebrew”, because that is the language of Hebrews. Jews are also called Hebrews, because they are the descendants of Abraham the Hebrew (Genesis 14:13, Philippians 3). If it was Hebrew, then definite article of Hebrew would have been in the beginning of the word. If Josephus was writing Hebrew, then the word “Asartha” would have been “Ha Atzeret.” Like Hebrew, the definite article (“the”) of English is at the beginning of the word. We say “the car.” We never say “car the.”

    Another example is Golgotha in John 19:17. Golgotha is Aramaic. If I write Golgotha in Hebrew, then the word will become “Ha Gulgoleth.”

    Even today, Many Iraqi Jews call their Aramaic “Hebrew” (“Ibraith” in Aramaic), because it is the language of Hebrews. So when Jews said “Hebrew” in first century AD, they are referring to their Hebrew tongue which was Aramaic in first century AD. We call Deutsch “German”, because it is the language of German People.

    Another point that should be noted is Old Hebrew was preserved through scrolls in first century AD, because it is considered as the holy language among Jews. High Priests preserved Hebrew scrolls for religious purposes in temple of Jerusalem.

    But the spoken language of Israel was Aramaic (Gabbatha, Golgotha, Asartha, etc.) in first century AD

    According to the Talmud, there were silver trumpets in the temple into which people deposited their offerings. It must be noted that the offering trumpets were labeled in Aramaic, which is not surprising since they are dealing with money! When it comes to getting their money the Temple establishment made sure that these ornate offering buckets were inscribed in the language they spoke – Aramaic. Peshitta Tanakh is first century Old Testament written in Aramaic.

    Just like Jews preserved Old Hebrew for religious purposes in first century AD, many Hindus preserve Sanskrit in Kerala (a state of India) for religious purposes, because it is the holy language of Hindus. But the spoken language in Kerala is Malayalam. In Italy, Latin language is used for religious purposes at Churches. But the spoken language of Italy is Italian.

    Another thing that must be noted is Judean Aramaic was also known as Hebrew in order to differentiate the way Aramaic is spoken in Judea and Aramaic spoken in Galilee and Syrian regions. Aramaic in Syrian regions was called Syrian tongue while Aramaic in Judea was called Hebrew tongue.

    Through Matthew 26:73 and Mark 14:70, Peter was exposed by his Galilean Aramaic speech among people. Judeans used Dead Scrolls Alphabet to write their Aramaic while Syrians commonly used Estrangela Alphabet to write their Aramaic in first century AD. The Galilean accent of Aramaic would have sounded to the Judean Aramaic somewhat like Cockney sounds to a British aristocrat. In Talmud, Galileans are ridiculed for the way they spoke Aramaic in Galilean regions.

    Also note the names in English Bible of New Testament – “Bar”tholomew, “Bar”abbas, “Bar”nabbas, “Bar”sabbas, “Bar” Jesus, Simon “Bar” Jonah, “Bar” Timaeus, etc.

    Aramaic word Bar means Son. In Hebrew, Ben means Son. Even Rabbis point out that “Bar” in Bar Mitzvah comes from Aramaic.

    In Josephus’ Jewish Wars, one of the top 3 leaders who fought against Romans was Simon Bar Giora. Bar Giora means “Son of a proselyte” in Aramaic.

    Now comes the important part. Aramaic Peshitta (Aramaic NT) and Crawford Codex (Aramaic NT manuscript which preserves Aramaic Revelation). Let’s look at several errors and confusions in Greek NT that is corrected by Aramaic Peshitta.

    1) 1 Corinthians 13:3
    1 Corinthians 13:3 (KJV) says: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

    The ISV of 1 Corinthians 13:3 says: “Even if I give away all that I have and surrender my body so that I may boast but have no love, I get nothing out of it.”

    Versions that say burned or a variation thereof: ALT, AMP, ASV, BBE, CEV*, DARBY, Douay-Rheims, ESV*, Geneva, GodsWord, Holman, KJ21, KJV, LITV, MKJV, MSG, NASB*, NIV*, NIVUK, NKJV*, RSV, TEV, WE (Worldwide English), Webster, Weymouth, WYC (Wycliffe), YLT (Young’s Literal Translation).

    The versions marked by an asterisk, *, have footnotes that mention that early mss (manuscripts) have boast or a variation thereof, rather than burn. It is noteworthy that the Alexandrian NU Text says boast also.
    Versions that say boast or a variation thereof: ISV, NLT (New Living Translation), Rotherham.

    The reading (kauchswmai, “I might boast”) is in Greek manuscripts like Ì46 Í A B 048 33 1739*.

    The competing reading, (kauqhsomai, “I will burn”), is found in Greek manuscripts such as C D F G L 81 1175 1881* and a host of patristic writers. A few other Byzantine Greek readings include: (kauqhswmai) (“I might burn”) and καυθη∋ (“it might be burned”) read by 1505.

    Now, it just so happens that the Aramaic root yqd can mean “to burn”, but can also mean “to boast”. It is clear that the disagreement in the Greek texts points to the Aramaic original. Here is the verse from Aramaic Peshitta, translated by Aramaic scholar Paul Younan:

    “And if I give all my possessions to feed {the poor,} and if I surrender my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

    2) Philippians 1:8

    “I long for all of you in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” – (Byzantine Greek texts)

    “I long for all of you in the love of Jesus Christ.” – (Alexandrian Greek texts)

    The Aramaic root, “r-kh-m”, can mean “bowels” and also “love”.

    In Semitic thought, the bowels are viewed as the seat of compassion (as the heart is the organ viewed as the seat of intellect and wisdom.)

    3) Romans 8:24

    “For if we see it, do we hope (elpis) for it? ” – (Byzantine Greek texts)

    “For if we see it, do we wait (dechomai) for it? ” – (Alexandrian Greek texts)

    The Aramaic root, “s-k-y”, can mean “hope” and also “wait”.

    4) Mark 9:49

    “And everything will be salted with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt.” (Translated from Greek NT)

    Salted with fire?

    Solution: Aramaic word “melakh” can mean “salt” or “destroy.”
    In Aramaic, this also becomes a word-play on the dual meaning of “melakh.”

    5) Simon the leper or potter/jar maker? – Matthew 26:6 / Mark 14:3

    The KJV says (Matthew 26:6): “Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,”

    The KJV says (Mark 14:3): “And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.”

    The Greek reads (“Simônos tou leprou”), which literally means “Simon the Leper” or “Simon the Skin-Diseased” (“λεπρου” (leprou, or lepros in the nominative case) can stand for various skin diseases like it’s Hebrew-Aramaic counterpart). This seems strange, because according to the Law laid down in Leviticus, Lepers are not allowed within the city:

    Leviticus 13:45-46 And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.

    Garibo’ can easily be confused with Garobo’ since Aramaic at that time was written without vowel markers.

    Gariba’ means POTTER or JAR MERCHANT where, Garoba’ means LEPER or SKIN DISEASE

    But both are spelled with the same consonants: Gomal – Reesh – Beyth – Alap

    In addition, why was there no record of Jesus healing Simon? If he were a leper, it would be very dangerous for His disciples and other people in the house. Leprosy is a very contagious disease and not worth the risk of catching. Here the Aramaic sheds some light on a story whose host was a non sequitur of the circumstances.

    Since Aramaic was written without vowels in first century AD, there was no distinction between the Aramaic words. Since in this story a woman pours oil from a jar it is apparent that Simon was a jar merchant or jar maker and not a leper.

    Side note – While Aramaic words are identifical, they are not in Hebrew. The Hebrew for a potter is יוצר (yotser) while leper is צרוע (tsaru’a).

    6) Luke 10:6

    Luke 10:6 (KJV) – “And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.”

    “Son of Peace” is also mentioned in Greek NT manuscripts.

    Luke 10:6 (H.T Anderson translation of Greek manuscript Codex Sinaiticus) – “And if a son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it; but if not, it shall return upon you.”

    The Aramaic “Bar Shlama” literally means “son of peace”, but idiomatically this is an expression which means “harmony” or “agreement,” in other words, the opposite of contention.

    But since the Greek literally translates “son of peace”, this is evidence that it was translated from an Aramaic original. Greek translators rendered the phrase literally because he did not understand its idiomatic meaning.

    7) Hate or Put aside? Luke 14:26

    This is an awesome example, as it solves one of the biggest problems/contradictions of the Greek New Testament. The command to hate others and ourselves!

    The KJV says: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

    Greek NT manuscripts say the same. Here is the verse from the translation of Fourth century Greek manuscript “Codex Sinaiticus.”

    Luke 14:26 (H T Anderson Translation of Codex Sinaiticus)- “If any one comes to me and hates not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

    The argument goes, “How could one follow someone who claims that you need to hate your family and OUR SELF and only love him? Didn’t he say to love your neighbor?”

    The answer lies in the Aramaic word sone’.

    Aramaic word sone’ can mean to put aside or to hate. It depends on the context.

    This also makes sense of 1 John 4:20

    “If a man says, I love God, and yet hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”

    So with this in mind, the more correct translation of Luke 14:26:

    “If any man comes to me, and doesn’t put aside his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

    This contradiction in Greek can also be seen in Romans 9:13.

    Romans 9:13 (Below)

    KJV – “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”

    NIV: “Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.””

    This error is in all Greek NT manuscripts. But let me use an ancient Greek papyrus.

    In Greek Papyrus “P46″(dates around 175 AD – 200 AD), we see this error in Romans 9:13 -“As it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

    As I pointed out, the answer lies in the Aramaic word “sone”. It can mean “to put aside” or “to hate.” It depends on the context.

    Romans 9:13 (English translation of Peshitta): “As it is written, Jacob have I loved but Esau have I set aside.”

    As this error is caused by a mistranslated word, it is an example of a semi-split word.

    8) Romans 5:7-8 (Translated from Greek NT) – “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; though for the good man perhaps some one would even dare to die; but God renders his love for us conspicuous in this, that, we being yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

    Notice the word “righteous.” This is confusing, because righteous and good are synonyms.

    I believe H T Anderson’s English translation of Greek NT manuscript Codex Sinaiticus (4th century AD) is one of the easiest to access on Internet.

    Here is Aramaic Peshitta translation of Romans 5:7-8.

    Romans 5:7-8 (Etheridge Translation) – “for hardly for the wicked one dieth; for on account of the good one may perhaps dare to die. Nevertheless Aloha hath manifested his love for us, in that, when we were sinners, the Meshiha for us died.”

    Unlike Greek NT which says “righteous”, Aramaic Peshitta says “Wicked.”

    Why is that?

    This error in Greek NT happened due to a horrible mistranslation from Aramaic Peshitta which is explained in the below 5 minute youtube video.

    Through this video, you will find out that this error in Greek NT manuscripts can “only” come from misreading the Estrangela text in Aramaic Peshitta.

    There are several other errors and confusions like these in Greek NT manuscripts. So it is necessary to look into the subject rather than follow the quotes of so called Church Fathers and so called Scholars who claim New Testament is written in Greek.

    Quotes from Bishops who support Aramaic Primacy

    With reference to the originality of the Peshitta text the Church “received the scriptures from the hands of the blessed Apostles themselves in the Aramaic original, the language spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself…which has come down from the Biblical times without any change or revision.” – Mar Eshai Shimun, California, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, April 5, 1957.

    “I have no reason to doubt that the Peshitta is superior to that of the Greek. It was handed down to us by the Apostles through the scribes and preserved to us in our very own generation. No other version written in any other language can claim such authenticity and antiquity.” – Patriarch Mar Dalin I, China in the 1800’s, Assembly of Jerusalem

    “Undoubtedly the Peshitta, written in the Aramaic language of the East, contains the pure and untainted Word of the Messiah.” – Mar Yokhanan Dalin III, Portugal in 1980, Assembly of Jerusalem

    “We have in the Aramaic Peshitta the preserved word of Our Lord unchanged from the time of the Apostles.” – HH Patriarch Mar Michai, Detroit in 1989, Assembly of Jerusalem.

    “Christ, after all spoke in the language of His contemporaries. He offered the first sacrifice of the Eucharist in Aramaic, a language understood by all the people who heard Him. The Apostles and Disciples did the same and never in a language other than that of the gathered faithful.” – Latin Patriarch Maximus, Vatican.

    Script Tampering and Additions in Greek

    1) Can’t you leave the old reading alone? – Hebrews 1:3

    Although this doesn’t really support Aramaic Peshitta primacy that much, still it is noteworthy to see that there were script tampering in Greek manuscripts.

    Peshitta manuscripts are treated with far more respect than these Greek copies.

    This is from Codex Vaticanus, Hebrews 1:3. The footnote (“sidenote” rather) reads:αμαθεστατε και κακε, αφες τον παλαιον, μη μεταποιει
    Translation: “Fool and knave, can’t you leave the old reading alone and not alter it!”

    In case you were wondering, Hebrews 1:3 deals somewhat with the Divinity of Jesus. It seems that tampering with such verses was quite common in those days (cf. the Comma Johanneum)!”

    2) Pericope de Adultera (John 7:53-8:11) – Woman caught in adultery
    Unlike the later Greek manuscripts, this is not in Peshitta and earliest Greek NT manuscripts (that contains John) like Papyrus 66 (3rd Century AD), Papyrus 75 (3rd century AD), Codex Vaticanus (4th century AD), and Codex Sinaiticus (4th century AD).

    3) Matthew 27:9-10 – “Jeremiah” not named in Peshitta.

    In Greek NT manuscripts and English translations from Greek, Jeremiah is mentioned as the prophet.

    Matthew 27:9-10 (H.T Anderson Translation of Greek Manuscript Codex Sinaiticus) – “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying: And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him who had a price set upon him, on whom they of the sons of Israel set a price, and gave them for the potter‘s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

    The KJV says: “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.”

    The NIV says: “Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.””

    Here is the problem for Greek primacists: The prophecy was actually by Zechariah.

    Zechariah 11:13
    KJV: “And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.”
    NIV: “And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”-the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter.”

    Does Peshitta have this “contradiction”?

    Matthew 27:9-10 (Etheridge Translation) – “Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet, who said, And I took the thirty (pieces) of silver, the price of him who was precious, whom the sons of Isroel bargained for; and gave them for the field of the potter, as the Lord commanded me.”

    Peshitta does not name the prophet, and thus does not share this contradiction with the Greek texts.

    It may be that the Greek translators chose to name Jeremiah (being very liberal and adding to God’s Word I might add) as “the prophet”, because of similar prophecies in the Book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s prophecies however are different than the NT quotation, as they do not mention “the potter” and seventeen pieces of silver are involved, instead of thirty. God told us not to add to His Word for a reason! This also strengthens Aramaic Primacists’ belief of Gospel of Matthew being written in Aramaic.

    4) Whenever a “Heathen”, or “Aramean” or “Arameans” is mentioned in Aramaic Peshitta, it is replaced by “Greek” or “Greeks” in Greek NT manuscripts. Here are some examples.

    A) Mark 7:26 (Greek NT and NIV Translation of Greek NT) – “The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.”

    But in Mark 7:26 of Aramaic Peshitta says this – “But the woman was a heathen, from Phoenicia in Syria; and she besought him to cast out the demon from her daughter.”

    B) Acts 16:1 (Below) – In Greek NT manuscripts and English translation of Greek manuscripts say that Timothy’s father was Greek.

    Acts 16:1 (H.T Anderson translaton of Greek manuscript Codex Sinaiticus) – “And he came down to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a disciple was there named Timothy, son of a believing Jewess, but of a Grecian father:”

    Acts 16:1 (KJV) – “Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:”

    What does Peshitta say?

    Acts 16:1 (Etheridge Translation) – But a certain disciple was there whose name was Timotheus, the son of a certain Jihudoytha, a believer, and his father an Aramoya.”

    Jihudoytha is Aramaic term for Jewess and Aramoya is Aramaic term for “Aramean.” Peshitta says that Timothy’s father was an Aramean.

    C) Galatians 2:3

    Galatians 2:3 (Translated from Greek NT) – “But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised;”

    Galatians 2:3 (NIV) – “Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.”

    In Greek NT manuscripts and English Translations of Greek NT manuscripts, it say Titus was a Greek.

    What does Peshitta say?

    Galatians 2:3 (Peshitta Translation) – “Titos also who was with me, who was an Aramoya, was not constrained to be circumcised.”

    Peshitta says that Titus was an Aramean. Not Greek. Aramean is an Aramaic speaking Gentile. Whenever Aramean or Arameans is mentioned in Peshitta, it is replaced with Greek or Greeks in Greek New Testament. In Aramaic, the word for Greek is “Iavanoya.”

    Greeks called Arameans “Syrians.” This was mentioned by Greek Historian and Geographer Strabo (64 BC- 23 AD) in his book Geography.

    5) Below Verses are not in Peshitta (Aside from mentioned above).

    1) Matthew 27: 35. “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.”

    2) Luke 22: 17, 18. “And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this and divide it among yourselves : for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.”

    3) Acts 8:37 – “And Philip said, If thou dost trust with all the heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus the Anointed is the Son of God.”
    The verse in Acts 8:37 is not in some Greek manuscripts either.

    4) Acts 15:34. “But it pleased Silas to remain there.” This is not found in some Greek manuscripts either (For Example, Codex Sinaiticus).

    5) Acts 18:6. “Your blood is on your own heads.”

    6) Acts 28:29 – “And when he had said these things, the Jews departed,
    and had much reasoning among themselves.”

    7) 1 John 5:7, 8 (also known as Comma Johanneum)

    There are several other errors and confusions in Greek NT. But the post is too long already. If you want more information about Aramaic Peshitta, then you may visit Peshitta.org for more informations. There are Aramaic Scholars there who can help you. All these valuable informations I posted above are the efforts of several Aramaic Peshitta scholars.

    • Friends,

      I researched this when I had no axe to grind; I had simply come to a point where I had to know the truth about God at any cost. A necessary part of this search was to determine the original language of the NT – not to defend any modern doctrine or religion, but to determine once and for all the true textual foundations of the earliest faith in Yeshua. Commenter “konwayk” shares critical points, many of which I’ve verified personally in my own searching. An _honest_ investigation reveals the NT was indeed penned in Aramaic. Contrary to the arguments of the modern Hellenists, this doesn’t attack or make the Greek NTs worthless, any more than the Septuagint is worthless; both are priceless tools in seeing how mostly-capable Bilingual Believers interpreted the Semitic originals for their Hellenized brethren.

      Mark’s arguments betray a need to deeply and honestly reexamine the issues. For instance, he would support the Greek NT as original by referencing its similarity to the Septuagint when quoting OT passages. No one actually familiar with the Aramaic NT and OT would seriously consider this as evidence that the Original NT was in Greek, since the Aramaic NT has the reciprocal feature: its quotes of the same passages are more related to the Aramaic translations of the Tanakh. Greek Primacy has no winning argument there; rather, the user succeeds only in appearing uninformed. If Mark’s reaction is so obviously not based on his own sound and thorough scholarship, from where is it really coming?

      Another of Mark’s sad mischaracterizations is his attempt to paint primacy of the Aramaic NT as some fringe Messianic Jewish nutjobbery. At best this is ignorance. The position that the NT is originally in Aramaic is not generated by any recent movement or fringe. This is an esteemed and venerable tradition in almost all ancient Eastern Christian churches. Among these most are as “Orthodox” as any Western Church you can name. As a Westerner Mark may not realize Christianity is in origin an Eastern religion, not Western. Before Mongol and Muslim conquests, the Eastern believers actually vastly outnumbered Western believers. This means that at one time, the primacy of the Aramaic was the _majority_ Christian view. This is reflected in the early writings of even the Western “Church Fathers”, as they freely confess that Matthew and Paul wrote originally in Hebrew Aramaic, and that to get Greek versions, others had to translate.

      So viewing the Aramaic as the original is NOT an innovation, and it is NOT just some pet fringe theory. But enough about what it’s not…

      What IS it? Well, apparently it IS _scary_. Not for me, but rather for anyone whose theology is supported by massaging the Greek to read how they please. For when the textual evidence (some of which Commenter “konwayk” shares) shows that the Greek is not original, and the translations thereto were not inspired, then the theological conclusions based on these false assumptions are invalidly reached.

      For those thus hostile to the originality of the Aramaic NT, the time has come to get sincerely introspective before you resume participation in this discussion. Greek Primacy’s best arguments are tired and self-defeating. Mark, you need to ask yourself, why do you _really_ find the originality of the Aramaic threatening? What doctrine do you feel is at stake? And is it worth lying to yourself about the New Testament?

      • Quality guy,
        I appreciate your feedback here and it gives me a chance to address some misconceptions regarding my post, as well as address some false conclusions and assumptions you have made.

        Firstly, this post is a bit more than three years old, so I’ve had to reread it to verify the points to which you have countered. Since writing it, I’ve had the pleasure of studying biblical Hebrew and have just recently finished second year Hebrew with my seminary. This adds insight into the issue and, while I have not necessarily changed my position on Greek primacy, I remain more than open to changing my view and will pursue the topic further as time allows me.

        Now, the purpose of my post was not merely the defense of Greek authorship, but primarily AGAINST the attitude and inferences of this *particular* messianic movement that disregards the Greek texts as unholy with an undue reverence to Aramaic as a language. My argument is NOT to be a bulwark against the possibility of Aramaic primacy. That would be foolish, as scholarship must always remain open to weigh new posits and evidence.

        Secondly, you say that an honest consideration of the subject would of necessity lead one to conclude that the NT was penned in Aramaic. And that my arguments betray the need to deeply and honestly reexamine the issues. This infers that I, and the vast majority of NT scholars, have not taken an *honest* look at it, and are therefore being dishonest by claiming scholarly authority on the subject. Or, they have seen the evidence yet intentionally ignore it for some reason which you have not suggested clearly. Either way, you are making a bold claim against NT scholarship. Are you assuming a conspiracy? What do the ‘Hellenists’ have to gain? Do you really believe that everyone who honestly considers the subject MUST conclude Aramaic primacy? Some hold to Greek primacy after having weighed the evidence honestly. And you wonder if I as a Westerner realize that Christianity is in origin an Eastern religion. Do you mean to portray my complete ignorance regarding the origins of the Messiah? I’m not sure why you would say such a thing? Your argument here is neither scholarly nor honorable.

        Thirdly, you state that Aramaic primacy is scary for anyone, and I quote “whose theology is supported by massaging the Greek to read how they please.” My friend, where do I begin do address the fallacy of this statement? It is not scary to me, as one who holds to the Greek text. Nor is scary to anyone I know who maintains Greek primacy. In either case, whether Aramaic or Greek, we do not have the original texts, so there remains the issue of faith in God for the transmission process.

        And no matter where you go from the original, unless believers can read Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, the church will be working with a translation. Please note that I believe we must defer to the ancient texts for the best exegesis, but the core doctrines of the faith are understood in any translation I have ever seen be it from the MSS, the LXX to the MT and Eclectic texts. So what is the point? Unless, of course, you think that doctrine cannot be reached, understood or taught in any language other than the original? In which case every Bible lover must learn Hebrew and Aramaic and toss our respective translations?

        Finally, do you really think that those who work with the Greek texts ‘massage’ them to read how they please? For such a ludicrous accusation you could have at least given an example as to how any scholar in the history of the church has intentionally (or continues to do so) ‘massaged’ the Greek texts to read how they please? This accusation implies that a principle motivation for which to ignore what you perceive is an airtight case for Aramaic primacy, is so that we can manipulate the Greek texts. Shame on your for such an offense to the countless brothers and sisters in Christ who, by their integrity and love for the Word of God, would prefer to be burned at the stake than to live such a lie consciously.

        Fourth and lastly, you ask the question of why I lie to myself and what I have to fear. This both assumes that your position must be correct yet I remain in denial of its truthfulness, and that there is something to fear in the position of Aramaic primacy, such as a doctrine to be altered. But you are wrong on both accounts being true of my actions. I am not refusing any evidence, rather am continuing to look into the matter and may at anytime come back on here and retract my position. Nor do I fear the possibility that the NT was penned in Aramaic. It certainly is plausible. Why would I fear it? What would Aramaic primacy detract from NT authority or doctrine (other than your accusation of massaging the Greek text), to which you alluded? And on that point, I agree with you. It is the content and the message, not the language that matters most. Which is the point of my post to begin with. This is why churches all over the world continue to be born, grow and spread the gospel with Bibles in their own respective, non-biblical language. To conclude with my concern as stated in my first point, Greek is not unclean nor is Aramaic holy as languages go.

    • Konwayk,

      Thank you for your careful and detailed comment. Your work is much appreciated here as we continue to dialogue about this. I’ve not been on here in a long time to keep up with this blog, unfortunately. But I do hope to recommence its regular maintenance. When I can, I’ll look more into each of your points and comment. Currently (and this is why I’ve been so quiet on here) I am still settling in after a huge transition from Europe to the USA.

      Until next time,
      God bless!

  5. Please forgive me if I missed something. I did not have the ability to go in depth into your perspective. First off thank you for it. It is insightful and well thought. That being said this issue is a shade of grey not black and white. In terms of any language being “Holy” it is preposterous. In fact the old testament makes it very clear that diverse language was created as a punishment to engineers and workers whom thought they might invade heaven through the skies. However language it self is important. The reason is that it carries the culture of the time as well as concepts that are perhaps not present today. For example even in the new testament when Jesus speaks of having the faith of a mustard seed it is important to note that mustard plants are considered a weed and a nuisance. Small not only in size but in consideration and even in respect; yet in faith it is more then enough. Not to mention that the choice and syntax of certain words were sometimes employed to invoke understanding, thought, and discernment. Therefore the time culture words syntax and yes language is important so that we might not misinterpret the message. This will require an open mind and investigation. The message is eternal the rest is history. Take Care

  6. Are Greek texts pure word of God. Where is Logia of Jesus in Aramaic. Where is Matthew’s Aramaic gospel?

    P46 (175CE) is Greek manuscript with the largest percentage of difference on record. This just proved that Church have been changing words since early 2nd century at will.

    Here is the words of the early church father, Origen (3rd century CE):
    “The differences among the manuscripts have become great, either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they either neglect to check over what they have transcribed, or, in the process of checking, they make additions or deletions as they please.” Origen, early church father in “Commentary on Matthew.”

    Regarding the oldest surviving fragment, Colin Roberts compared P52 writings using ONLY 5 samples from the early 2nd century CE back in 1935 and concluded based on those 5 samples; P52 was from the early 2nd century.

    (Brent Nongbri’s 2005. The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel)
    What I have done is to show that any serious consideration of the window of possible dates for P52 must include dates in the later second and early third centuries. – Brent

    Compare with 4th century codexes. You will be surprise how Holy Spirit inside the scribes fail to prevent them from changing words of God ever since the beginning.

  7. That there are alterations and variant texts is absolutely undeniable. But to say that the church was the one doing it is an assumption that cannot be supported historically. What makes you conclude it was the church?

  8. Hi, there Mark. What an awesome internet stumble that brought me here. I was a bit concerned about the origin of the NT when I started studying Catholicism. It never once crossed my mind that Aramaic or Hebrew was the original. I always held to the Greek since the NT is preserved in Greek anyway. As to the importance of whether the NT was written in Aramaic, Hebrew, or Greek has grown within me. It did cross my mind one day when studying the different Bible versions, “wasn’t the NT writers Hebrew? Hmm, why is the NT in Greek?” Never heard the Aramaic argument until Catholicism. Now when I search, I see “Peshitta Primacy” and whatnot. Some websites devote time to say the Peshitta [supposed Aramaic original] has errors, giving examples, and actually says its a translation itself. So….

    Moving on, what got me really started was when I was studying (Mt.16:18), “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My church”.

    As you may know, Catholics point directly to the Aramaic here to say “Peter” and this “rock” are one and the same. Aramaic word being “kepha” and that is where they get their papacy…upon Peter, so I detest this completely.

    I am still studying and coming across a lot of people saying this and people saying that, quoting this church father and that church father, but I would like documentation, you know? It doesn’t matter what any church father said, in my opinion. Where’s the beef? If there is an Aramaic NT, let’s see it. Very simple and make sure it wasn’t written AFTER the Greek and then saying it was written before the Greek. I mean, Papias was the first who stated it, then others stated Papias and so on through the ages but is he really trustworthy? I mean, I don’t know the guy but does he offer documentation? That’s my thing. Thus far, to me, Aramaic or Peshitta primacy is just a theory to me and not taken seriously.

    I don’t know, man. I am unlearned, but striving for the answers myself. The only Aramaic I know in studying the Bible is in Daniel and that was while he was in Babylon where it was spoken; probably had to learn it. Everywhere else is Hebrew and NT is Greek. My question is if the NT is Greek buuuut its a translation of the original Aramaic, well then why wasn’t the Aramaic preserved? Why is this even up for debate? Even if Jesus or others in the NT said a word in Aramaic or Hebrew here and there [which are different dialects from my understanding and not the same exact language] doesn’t hold water to say “there is your proof the Greek is translated”. Of course I am reasoning with logic. Man, what a brain combustion topic. Geez. God bless you, brother. Hey, I don’t mind being corrected if I am wrong. Its how I learn! 😀

  9. IF the NT scriptures were written in Aramaic, then why does Matthew qualify that Golgotha means “a Skull”. An Aramaic reader would already know that. It is like telling an English reader that I visited Bath in England and it means Bath. A Hebrew or Greek reader on the other hand would appreciate the additional information. In Revelation John only tries to relate to 2 languages Hebrew and Greek. In Hebrew Abadddon, but in Greek Apollyon. These are proper names being qualified against each other in 2 languages of scripture. The same with “the place which is called in Hebrew Harmageddon” being a real Hebrew word, familiar to Hebrews, but qualified for who? For Greek readers – by all accounts at that time it is likely that Hebrew was not the common tongue anywhere.

    Despite protests from Hebrew Roots movements, there is no real evidence that the NT was “originally” written in Hebrew (and it would not make sense that it was, if Koine and Aramaic were the common tongue). This is supported by frequent quotations from LXX in the NT. There is also no real reason to believe that the original documents were in Aramaic given the above, the absence of any real evidence and the absence of any real reason why it must be so?

    Arguing for Aramaic “pure” NT primacy seems like a non-starter – it is just causing confusion.

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