Friday, March 21, 2014

Difficult Verses Explained By the Peshitta: Romans 5:7

"For hardly for the wicked one dieth; for on account of the good one may perhaps dare to die." Etheridge's Translation of the Peshitta

"For scarcely for a righteous man will any one die, for for the good man perhaps some one also doth dare to die..."- Young's Literal Translation

Which one of these makes more since? The Peshitta, obviously. Now how in the world could the Greek manuscripts have gotten this wrong? Let's look at the words "good" and "wicked" in the Aramaic language:

Wicked in Aramaic (Estrangela font): ܪܫܝܥܐ 

Righteous in Aramaic (Estrangela font): ܪܶܫܝܳܢܳܐ 

If you look very closely, you'll notice that these two words are only one letter apart! "Wicked" is resheya and "righteous" is reshyana. The letters ayin and nun look extremely similar, as you can see if you look at the second letter on each word if you read them from left to right (Aramaic is meant to be read from right to left, like most Eastern languages). This is similar to a mistake made that resulted in us transliterating the city name Amorrah as Gomorrah. Look at the letters ayin and gamal:



This type of scribal error is known as "polysemy" or "split words". This is when two letters look so similar in their respective fonts that one can easily be mistaken for another, resulting in two possible different readings. Think about the letter "O" and the number 0. When written by hand, the two can look very similar. If you were looking at a code written by hand like C1083, you could easily mistake it as being C1O83. This is a common phenomenon that is seen when studying the Peshitta. Read my article titled Aramaic Primacy for more examples of polysemy.