Sunday, December 8, 2013

Victor Alexander's Aramaic New Testament

Victor Alexander is a native Aramaic speaker who has mastered the more ancient form of the Syriac Aramaic dialect. His translation is fitly named, as unlike most translations, it is not translated from Greek but Aramaic: the language of Jesus (or as Alexander transliterates: Eashoa). His translation is unique among the other translations of the Aramaic Peshitta, as it is not a literal translation, but a more dynamic one.

Alexander transliterates the Syriac name for Jesus (Yod-Sheen-Waw-Ayin) as "Eashoa" (which is the pronunciation modern Aramaic speakers use). He translates the Aramaic "Meshikha" as "Messiah" (closer to the original Aramaic title than the Greek "Christ"). While his translation is accurate for the most part, it has some flaws:

1. Translates the Aramaic word "qnomah" (substance) as "Trinity". Victor Alexander believes the word in the Aramaic to be "qnomeh" (plural), but based on the context in which he translates this word thus so, it makes no since in the context. Here is how he translates John 5:26, "Because as for the Father there is life through his trinity, so also He has given the Son life through his trinity." I am not personally Trinitarian, but even if I was, I would find this to be an incorrect translation, as the word "qnomah" is preceded by singular pronouns. Also, does this mean that both the Father and the Son have Their own Trinities? The word "trinity" in this verse should be substituted as "substance". There are a few other verses that read the Trinitarian doctrine into the text (John 6:53; Ephesians 4:3)+.

2. Some other questionable renderings, but not that many. They could be easily corrected. For an example, here is his rendering of II Corinthians 12:2, "I knew a man through the Messiah for fourteen years, (whether through the flesh, however, or not, I do not know, Allaha only knows,) that he would struggle until heaven's revenge." George M. Lamsa (another native Aramaic-speaking Bible translator) translates the final part as thus, "...this very one was caught up to the third heaven..." His rendering of Hebrews 1:6 wrongly exchanges the phrase "Only-begotten Son" for "the Bread of Life" (which is nowhere in the text).

Despite these flaws, the good outweighs the bad. Alexander's translation is very easy to read, and the footnotes show Aramaic idioms in their more literal form at the end of each chapter, and frequently explain his translation choices. Like Lamsa, Alexander sometimes translates the Aramaic idiom into more English style. He and Lamsa both translate the Aramaic idiom "poor in spirit" in Matthew 5:3 as "humble". He also translates the word "Miltha" as "manifestation" for the most part. While the primary meaning is "word", "manifestation" is another meaning (according to another Aramaic-speaking translator named Paul Younan). An example is Mark 9:10 (which takes place right after Christ's transfiguration and his telling the disciples that He will rise from the dead), Alexander translates it as, "And they held the manifestation in their souls, and they prayed as to what the manifestation was regarding, when he would rise from the dead." I like this translation, as it seems to show the words of Christ to His disciples as revelation. In John 1, Alexander transliterates "Miltha" into English lettering.

I think this would mainly be interesting to compare with Dr. George Lamsa's translation (The Holy Bible From the Ancient Eastern Text) and Paul Younan's Interlinear Peshitta (on [...] as all of these were done by native speakers. I suspect that sometime in the next few years that Victor Alexander will be releasing his translation of the Peshitta Old Testament, which has only been fully translated into English by Lamsa. Several bits of his Old Testament have been released (including Genesis, Jonah, Zechariah, Daniel, and others). I recommend buying Mr. Alexander's translation!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S90VUomo2tM - A video review I did about the translation.
http://www.v-a.com/ - Translator Vic Alexander's website. You can read his translation online here. http://www.bible-geeks.com/