Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Way International's Aramaic-English Interlinear New Testament

Native Aramaic speaker and controversial Bible translator George M. Lamsa traveled all around the United States of America, lecturing about the Aramaic Peshitta text, its originality, and the importance of studying the Aramaic language. The people he spoke to had beliefs that ranged from Orthodox and Evangelical beliefs to heretical and occultist. One of these controversial groups was The Way International, founded by Victor Paul Wierwille (who allowed Lamsa to stay in his house while he was proofreading his Holy Bible From the Ancient Eastern Text).

The Way International's translation is simply titled Aramaic-English Interlinear New Testament (3 volumes: 1 includes Matthew-John, 2 includes Acts-Philemon, and 3 includes Hebrews-Revelation). I don't exactly know who the team consisted of. I've heard some say that it was a team of American scholars, including Janet M. Magiera (who translated the Aramaic Peshitta New Testament Translation and the Aramaic Peshitta New Testament: Vertical Interlinear) and I've also heard that it was a group of Assyrian scholars and that the work was edited by members of the Way. The Interlinear is a companion piece to The Concordance of the Peshitta Version of the Aramaic New Testament, The Aramaic New Testament, Estrangela Script, and English Dictionary Supplement to the Concordance to the Peshitta Version of the Aramaic New Testament.

I consider the Way International to be a cult. This group denies the deity of Jesus, which is clearly affirmed in the New Testament writings (John 1:1-14, 20:28; Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9). They also teach that the Holy Spirit and what they call the gift of "holy spirit" are distinct and that the gift is something other than the Spirit of God coming to indwell in believers (Romans 8:9-11; I Corinthians 3:16; Galatians 4:6). 

The format of the Interlinear is great. When you open it up, on the left page the King James Version of the New Testament (to the left) and the Way International's Word-For-Word translation of the Aramaic text (to the right) are on it. On the page to the right, the Interlinear can be seen. It includes the Aramaic text, with a direct English translation of it, word for word, underneath it without changing the grammar. There are numbers by the words to tell you how to read it in proper English grammar (or you could just use the Word-For-Word Translation). Above each Aramaic word is a number that can be looked up in The Concordance to the Peshitta Version of the Aramaic New Testament, which shows the Aramaic word, a definition of it, and times in which it is used in the Peshitta text. The text itself is a mixture of Eastern and Western Peshitta readings, but mostly Western. This makes the translation mostly a translation of the Western Peshitto, rather than the Eastern Peshitta.

Amazingly, the Way International's translation of the Aramaic New Testament places accuracy and non-partiality in translation over their theological beliefs. The translation accurately translates every verse that shows the deity of Christ:

"In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and God was the word."- John 1:1

Here is the Interlinear reading (read right to left):

1761      747   749a    112          135            135     1562   749a    112          1761     747    1761     749a    112           3012
ܒܪܫܝܬ ܐܝܬܘܗܝ ܗܘܐ ܡܠܬܐ ܘܗܘ ܡܠܬܐ ܐܝܬܘܗܝ ܗܘܐ ܠܘܬ ܐܠܗܐ ܘܐܠܗܐ ܐܝܬܘܗܝ ܗܘܐ ܗܘ ܡܠܬܐ
the                      was      and        God  with        was         the    and   the           was        In the
word                              God                                            word  <it> word                      beginning

"And Thomas answered and said to him, My lord and my God."- John 20:28

Here is the Interlinear reading:

        135       1854   1510    172a          3311                  2387a
ܘܥܢܐ ܬܐܘܡܐ ܘܐܡܪ ܠܗ ܡܪܝ ܘܐܠܗܝ
and                 My      to        and             Thomas             And 
my God         lord     him     said                                       answered

"...and the fathers and from whom the Messiah was seen in the flesh. He who is God who is over all, to him be our praises and our blessings forever and ever. Amen."- Romans 9:5

Here is the Interlinear reading:
   166      2359        2359    343            3448   1510 1425 2347    135          112              408       1909         959b           1170        2  
 ܘܐܒܗܬܐ ܘܡܢܗܘܢ ܐܬܚܙܝ ܡܫܝܚܐ ܒܒܣܪ ܕܐܝܬܘܗܝ ܐܠܗܐ ܕܥܠ ܟܠ ܕܠܗ ܬܫܒܚܢ ܘܒܘܪܟܢ ܠܥܠܡ ܥܠܡܝܢ ܐܡܝܢ
Amen.          forever           and our    [be] our  to him all, who is   God        He who         in the       the         was          and from       and the
                 and ever          blessings    praises                  over                     is                flesh     Messiah    seen            whom         fathers

The Way's translation however, is not completely free of theological bias. Their theology on the gift of the Holy Spirit comes through in some places (I'm going to skip giving the Interlinear reading:

"I baptize you with water unto repentance, but he who comes after me is stronger than me, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with holy spirit and with fire..."- Matthew 3:11

"Simon said to them, Repent and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of the lord Jesus for the remission of sins, that you might receive the gift of holy spirit."- Acts 2:38

The Aramaic word that is translated here as "holy spirit" is Rukha d'Qudsha (ܪܘܚܐ ܕܩܘܕܫܐ). The letter alef (ܐ) at the end of both words shows that this word is in the emphatic state, therefore it should be translated as "the Holy Spirit" or more literally as "the Spirit of Holiness". While it is subtle bias, it is bias nonetheless. 

The Way International's translation of the New Testament from the Peshitta is very accurate and reliable. This small amount of bias does not keep its readers from getting the truth of the Word of God out there. The fact that they limited their "interpretiveness" even to the extent of contradicting their religious teachings. I do highly recommend purchasing this and the companion volumes that I mentioned earlier in the article. In order to purchase this translation, call 419-753-1018 from Monday-Friday during the hours of 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Eastern time).