Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Aramaic Primacy

            What I am writing about today is the ancient Eastern text that I believe to be the best New Testament text available to the Christian church: the Aramaic Peshitta. It has been preserved and revered for 2,000 years by Assyrian Christians in the Assyrian Church of the East and the Syriac Orthodox Church. According to them, it was delivered to them by the apostles themselves and their associates. This ancient version's great antiquity is supported by the fact that it is missing five books (II Peter, II John, III John, Jude, Revelation), which are often referred to as "The Western Five". Another reason why the Peshitta is important is the fact that it is written in an Aramaic dialect very similar to the Galilean dialect of Jesus: Syriac.
            The Peshitta cannot be traced back to any Greek text, rather, the Greek texts can be traced back to the Peshitta. Many differences between Greek texts can be traced back to a misreading of an Aramaic word that looks similar to another. For example:
Matthew 11:19- "The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her CHILDREN." (King James Version, following the Byzantine text)
Matthew 11:19- '“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." ' But wisdom is proved right by her ACTIONS."' (New International Version, following the Alexandrian text)
This contradicts both texts renditions of Luke 7:35: “But wisdom is justified of all her CHILDREN.”
            The Peshitta reads "actions". The contradiction arose from the word ܒܢܝܗ, which can mean "children" or "actions". It can be proven that it says "actions", because Matthew in Aramaic uses the more specific  ܥܒܕܝܗ, which can only mean "actions". Here is George M. Lamsa's translation of the Peshitta's rendition of these verses:
 "The Son of man came, eating and drinking, and they said, Behold, a glutton and a wine-bibber, and a friend of publicans and sinners. And yet wisdom is justified by its works."- Matthew 11:19
"And yet wisdom is justified by all its works."- Luke 7:35
            There are also places where the Greek New Testament completely mistranslates and Aramaic word (again, because it looks like another). The main example that I can think of is in Romans 5:7. The Greek text, following the King James Version, reads, "For scarcely for a RIGHTEOUS man will one die: yet peradventure for a GOOD man some would even dare to die."
The Peshitta (following the Lamsa translation), reads this way, "Hardly would any man die for the sake of the WICKED: but for the sake of the GOOD, one might be willing to die."
            This mistake in the Greek rose from the misreading of ܪܫܝܥܐ (wicked) as ܪܫܝܢܐ (blameless).
            The Peshitta also contains wordplay and puns that are completely missed in the Greek. The Lord's Prayer recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 (translated by native Aramaic speaker Paul Younan):
Awon d'washmayya (our Father in Heaven)
nith-Qaddash Shmakh (holy be your Name)
Teh-teh Malkothakh (your Kingdom come)
Nehweh sow-ya-nakh (your Will be done)
Aykanna d'washmaya (as it is in heaven)
ap b'ar-aa (also on earth)
Haw-lan lakh-ma (give us the bread)
d'son-qa-nan yo-ma-na (of our need this day)
w'ashwooq lan khaw-beyn (and forgive us our offences)
aykanna d'ap akhanan shwaqan l'khay-ya-weyn (as we have forgiven those who have offended us)
w'la taa-lan l'nis-yo-na (and do not lead us into trial)
ella passan min bee-sha (but deliver us from the evil one)
mottol de-lakh he mal-ko-tha (for yours is the kingdom)
w'khayla (and the power)
w'tishbokhta (and the glory)
l'alam, almen, amen. (forever and ever, amen)
            The fact that the Greek completely lacks this poetry, shows that there was an Aramaic original behind the commonly used Greek New Testament. There is also another form of poetry used called a "Janus Paralellism", which exploits multiple definitions of one word in one sentence. Matthew 13:31-32
ܐܚܪܢܐ ܡܬܠܐ ܐܡܬܠ ܠܗܘܢ ܘܐܡܪ ܕܡܝܐ ܡܠܟܘܬܐ ܕܫܡܝܐ ܠܦܪܕܬܐ ܕܚܪܕܠܐ ܕܢܣܒ ܓܒܪܐ ܙܪܥܗ ܒܩܪܝܬܗ
 "He related another parable to them, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field."- Lamsa
ܘܗܝ ܙܥܘܪܝܐ ܗܝ ܡܢ ܟܠܗܘܢ ܙܪܥܘܢܐ ܡܐ ܕܝܢ ܕܪܒܬ ܪܒܐ ܗܝ ܡܢ ܟܠܗܘܢ ܝܪܩܘܢܐ ܘܗܘܝܐ ܐܝܠܢܐ ܐܝܟ ܕܬܐܬܐ ܦܪܚܬܐ ܕܫܡܝܐ ܬܩܢ ܒܣܘܟܝܗ
"It is the smallest of all SEEDS; but when it is GROWN, it is larger than all of the herbs; and it becomes a tree, so that the FOWLS of the sky come and nest in its branches."- Lamsa
            The Aramaic word for "fowls" can also mean "flowers" or "grows", as well as "seeds". This is a very beautiful form of poetry that is also used in the Hebrew Old Testament, which no scholar will say was written in any other language besides Hebrew. This poetry cannot be replicated in the Greek language of the New Testament, and it isn't.
            The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that few Jews in Israel knew Greek also:
 "...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...." — Antiquities of the Jews 20,11.2
            The Greek used in the Greek New Testament is very Semitic in flavor, very similar to that used in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament. Some scholars have even referred to the Greek grammar of Revelation as "grammatical anarchy". The fact that the Greek New Testament and the Greek Old Testament share the same kind of Grammar seems to show that the Greek New Testament, like the Septuagint, is a translation of a Semitic document. Josephus says that he wrote his book "The Wars of the Jews" in his native tongue (which would be Aramaic) and later translated it into Greek. The books of the New Testament that are said to have the best Greek grammar are Luke, Acts, and Hebrews.
            The author of Luke and Acts (Luke, of course) is said by church history to have come from Antioch in Syria, which contained large populations of Greek and Aramaic speakers. He is also stated not to be Greek, but Syrian. This means likely that Luke was a bilingual person, speaking both Greek and Aramaic fluently. It is very likely that he wrote his Gospel and the Book of Acts in Aramaic and translated them himself into Greek. Some historians also state that the Epistle to the Hebrews was written by Paul, but translated by Luke into Greek. Some have noted that the Aramaic grammar used in Paul's letters (Romans-Philemon) is remarkable similar to the Aramaic used in Hebrews. The Greek grammar in the Greek versions of these letters differ (between Romans-Philemon and Hebrews, I mean). While Luke's grammar is believed to be the best Greek of the New Testament, Josephus' is agreed to be superior.
            Jewish synagogues would also not allow anything to be read in the synagogue but Hebrew and Aramaic. The Septuagint was also not widely used among Jews in the Holy Land, the Talmud speaks of a day of mourning when the translation of the New Testament into Greek was completed. They also said that it was better to feed your children the meat of swine than to teach them Greek (and/or Greek wisdom). A Pharisee like Paul (who referred to himself as a Hebrew of the Hebrews in Philippians 3:5, or "As Jewish as you can get!"), would be very much against Hellenism. Through these facts, we can be very certain that the Greek Septuagint was not used commonly by Israeli Jews, but by Hellenistic and Alexandrian Jews. Jesus and the apostles (including Paul), most likely spoke enough Greek to get by, but not enough to speak it publicly. It is noteworthy that Paul and Peter never seemed to go anywhere without a translator (like Mark or Luke).
            The Epistles of Paul are usually believed to have been written to congregations of Greek ethnicity, but this is not an accurate reflection of history. Most early Christians were Assyrians (supported by the fact that the largest Christian denomination for a long time was the Assyrian Church of the East) and Jews, with some Greeks mixed in. The Peshitta (showing another sign of indepence from the Greek) refers to Titus and Timothy both as Arameans (another word for Assyrians). The early church leaders were most likely Jews. Jews took Aramaic wherever they went, so the leaders probably read the Epistles in Aramaic and translated them immediately into Greek for the benefit of the non-Aramaic speaking Christians. This kind of tactic was used for reading the Tanakh (Jewish name for the Old Testament), which would be read in Hebrew and then translated into the language of the country.
            The oldest complete Greek New Testament manuscripts (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) are from the 4th century. The oldest Peshitta manuscript we have is from the 4th century, but there is a Medival manuscript of the Peshitta called the Khabouris Codex, which is copied from a manuscript from AD 165, which would be the 2nd century. Dr. J.S. Asseman alsio mentions seeing an Aramaic manuscript of the four Gospels from AD 78 (1st century). The oldest Greek fragment is from AD 125 and is from the Gospel of John. Scholar Daniel Wallace mentioned that a 1st century Greek fragment of the Gospel of Mark has been discovered. The Arabic translation of the Diatessaron (a harmony of the Gospels by Tatian, a student of Justin Martyr, written at around AD 175), which was originally written in Aramaic, matches the Peshitta against other Aramaic versions (including the Curetonian Gospels and Sinaitic Palimpsest, also called "The Old Syriac Gospels").
            This shows that the New Testament was in Aramaic and Greek at the same time. What most people don't think about is that when Paul was going to the West with the Word of God, Peter was going to the East (whose first and possibly second Epistles were written from Babylon, as I Peter 5:13 states). Peter's ministry was primarily to the Jews, who would have most likely spoken Aramaic among themselves. The Epistle of James was also written to the scattered tribes of Israel (James 1:1).
            The Aramaic Peshitta also has other important factors that support an important traditional Christian doctrine: the deity of Jesus Christ (Eshoa Meshikha in Aramaic). Several verses refer to Him as “MarYa”. MarYa is the Aramaic cognate of YHWH (YHWH, the name of God revealed in the Tanakh). MarYa is best translated as “Lord YHWH”. Here are some New Testament verses in which the Peshitta reveals Messiah to be YHWH (English quotations from the Aramaic English New Testament unless stated otherwise):
En hacil Dawid kare leh MarYa aicana Bre huw?
“Therefore, if Dawid calls him Master YHWH, how is he his son?”- Matthew 22:45
Etiled l’cun ger yawmana paruka ditawhi MarYa Meshikha bamdinteh d’Dawid.
“For born to you all today (is the) Savior that is Master YHWH the Mashiyach, in the city of Dawid.”- Luke 2:11
Sharirait hacil neda culheh bit aisrel d’MarYa w’Meshikha avdeh Alaha l’hana Eshoa d’antun zakaphtun.
“Let therefore the whole house of Israel know truly, God has made this Yeshua, LORD JEHOVAH and The Messiah, whom you had crucified.”- Acts 2:36, The Original Aramaic New Testament in Plain English
Amar l’hun Shimon tuvu w’amadu anash anash mencun bashme d’MarYa Eshoa l’shuvkan khatahe datkablun maqhavta d’Rukha d’Qudsha.
‘Shimon said to them, “Repent and be immersed each of you in the name of Master YHWH-Y’shua for the forgiveness of sins, that you may receive the gift of the Ruach haKodesh.”’- Acts 2:38
Miltha ger d’shadar lavnai Israelw’sabar enun shlama w’shaina b’yad Eshoa Meshikha hanaw MarYa d’cul.
“(This is) the Word that he sent for to the sons of Yisrael to give hope and peace and tranquility to them through Y’shua the Mashiyach. He is Master YHWH of all!”- Acts 10:36
Ela dilan khad huw Alaha Abba d’cul meneh wakhanan beh w’khad MarYa Eshoa Meshikha d’cul bideh waph khnan bideh.
“Yet to us, on our part, there is one Elohim, the Father from whom are all things, and we in him; and one Master YHWH-Y’shua, the Mashiyach, by whom are all things, and we also by him.”- I Corinthians 8:6
Aina hacil dacul men lakhmeh d’MarYa w’shate men caseh w’la shawe leh mkhayav huw ladmeh d’MarYa walphagreh.
“He therefore, who eats of the bread of Master YHWH and drinks of His cup and is not worthy of it, is guilty of the blood of Master YHWH and of His body.”- I Corinthians 11:27
Man dacel gir w’shate meneh cad la shawe khuyaba huw l’naphshe acel w’shate d’la presh pagreh d’MarYa.
“For, whoever eats and drinks of it, while he is unworthy, eats and drinks condemnation on himself by not discerning the body of Master YHWH.”- I Corinthians 11:29
Metul hana mawda ana l’cun d’lit anash d’b’Rukha d’Alaha mamalel w’amar dakhrem huw Eshoa w’aphla anash meshcakh l’mimar d’MarYa hu Eshoa ela en b’Rukha d’Qudsha.
“I therefore explain to you, that there is no man that speaks by the Spirit of Elohim, who says that Y’shua is accursed: neither can a man say that Master YHWH is Y’shua, except by the Ruach haKodesh.”- I Corinthians 12:3
Barnasha kadmaya aphrana d’men ara barnasha datren MarYa men shamaya.
“The first man was of dust from the earth; the second man was Master YHWH from heaven.”- I Corinthians 15:47
W’cul leshan nawde d’MarYa huw Eshoa Meshikha l’shuvkha d’Alaha Abbuhi.
“And that every tongue should confess that Master YHWH is Y’shua Mashiyach to the glory of Elohim his Father.”- Philippians 2:11
W’daw d’men Maran makablitun purana b’yartuta l’MarYa ger Meshikha palkhitun.
“And know you that from out Master (Y’shua) you will receive a recompense as the inheritans; for you serve Master YHWH, the Mashiyach.”- Colossians 3:24
Ela kadeshaw b’lebawtcun l’MarYa Meshikha w’hwaitun mataibin l’mapac b’Rukha l’cul d’tava l’cun miltha al savra d’haimanutcun b’macicuta w’v’dekhlata.
“But sanctify Master YHWH the Mashiyach, in your hearts. And be you ready for a vindication before everyone who demans of you an account of the hope of your faith.”- I Peter 3:15
Ena alaph w’taw amar MarYa Alaha haw ditawhi witawhi hwa wate haw d’akhid cul.
‘”I am Alap, also Taw,” says Master YHWH, Elohim; who is, and was, and is to come, (Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh) the omnipotent.”- Revelation 1:8
Amar cad masahed halen in ate na bagal ta MarYa Eshoa.
‘And when he testified these things, he said, “Yes, I am coming soon.” “Come, LORD JEHOVAH Yeshua.’- Revelation 22:20, The Original Aramaic New Testament in Plain English
            These might not be all of the clear and undeniable places in the Peshitta in which Jesus is referred to as YHWH. Another clear reference to Jesus’ deity (without using MarYa), is found in Romans 9:5, which reads in the Aramaic as:
W’avahata w’menhun etkhzi Meshikha b’vsar d’itawhi Alaha d’al cul d’leh teshbkhan w’vurcan l’alam almin amin.
“And from among whom Mashiyach appeared in the flesh, who is Elohim over all; to whom be praises and benediction, forever and ever; Amen.”- Romans 9:5, Aramaic English New Testament
            Unlike the Aramaic, the Greek reading of this verse is ambiguous, translated either as:
“Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.”- King James Version
“Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.”- New International Version
            Another interesting thing is the Aramaic cognate of logos (word), used in John (Yochanan) 1:1.
B’reshit aytohi hwa miltha w’huw miltha aytohi hwa l’wat Alaha w’Alaha aytohi hwa huw miltha.
“In the beginning was the Miltha. And that Miltha was with Elohim. And Elohim was that Miltha.”- John 1:1, Aramaic English New Testament
            Aramaic speaker Paul Younan tells us that the Aramaic word miltha not only means “word”, but also “manifestation”, “instance”, or “substance”. Victor Alexander, a native Aramaic speaker who translated the Peshitta, frequently translates miltha as “manifestation”. I think the words “word”, “manifestation”, or “substance” all fit into what John was telling us in the first verse of His Gospel, as Jesus is the Word, the Manifestation, and the Substance of God. Jesus Christ is MarYa Alaha (Lord Yahweh God) and the Father of all.
            I feel that I have shown thoroughly why I believe the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic, and the importance of studying the New Testament through the Aramaic language. There are many translations of the New Testament available for study. Here is a list:
John Wesley Etheridge’s Translation of the Peshitta New Testament- http://aramaicpeshitta.com/AramaicNTtools/Etheridge/etheridge.htm
James Murdock’s Translation of the Peshitta New Testament- http://aramaicpeshitta.com/AramaicNTtools/Murdock/murdock.htm
William Norton’s Translation of the Peshitta Epistles: http://archive.org/details/translationineng00nort -Hebrews, I John, I Peter, James
The Lamsa Bible by George M. Lamsa
Aramaic-English Interlinear Gospels by Paul Younan:
The Original Aramaic New Testament in Plain English by David Bauscher:
The Aramaic-English Interlinear New Testament by David Bauscher:
The Testimony of Yeshua by Lonnie Martin:

            Many other translations are available from the Way International (3 volume Interlinear and translation), Andrew Gabriel Roth, Victor Alexander (a native Aramaic speaker), Janet Magiera (who also has a 3 volume Interlinear), Rocco Errico (only The Gospel of Matthew), James Scott Trimm, Herb Jahn, A. Frances Werner, and Joseph Pashka (only the Gospels and Acts with a companion volume that has the Aramaic text transliterated into English letters without vowels). Each of these translations have issues, but all of them have something valuable to offer. Here are websites that have really good information on the Aramaic Peshitta: