You may be thinking that the Gospels may have been written in Aramaic. But what about Paul’s epistle to Latin Rome or Paul’s epistle to the Greek speaking Corinthians? Wouldn’t it make sense for these to be written in Greek? Maybe a Greek letter to the Corinthians would make sense, but the Greek Epistle to the Corinthians shows that it is a translation from the Aramaic. Also, a Greek epistle to the Romans doesn’t make sense because the common people there spoke Latin, not Greek. Only a few business merchants would have spoken Greek. It should be noted that all 27 books of the New Testament show evidence of an Aramaic Original.
At the very beginning of Paul’s epistle to the Romans, Paul said that the gospel of Christ…is the power of God to salvation to every one who believes, whether they are Jews first, or Arameans (Syrians).” (Rom. 1:16 Lamsa). So we see that the message in Paul’s letter was first directed to the Jews, then the Arameans. The Jews in the scattered areas of Rome and Corinth spoke Aramaic.
Another proof that the epistle to the Romans was originally written in Aramaic is that the Aramaic text clears up the following verse: “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.” (Rom. 5:7 NKJV). Why would it be hard for someone to give up their life to save a righteous man? This verse doesn’t make sense in the Greek New Testament. The Aramaic New Testament makes sense and says this: “Hardly would any man die for the sake of the wicked; but for the sake of the good, one might be willing to die.” (Lamsa). The words “wicked” and “righteous” are both five letter words in the Aramaic language. The three letters that are different from “righteous” to “wicked” are similar in the Dead Sea Scroll Script; and obviously the Greek translator saw the word “righteous” instead of “wicked” in this verse.
A third proof of an Aramaic original of Romans is contained in the following verse: For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:15 NKJV). Why would Paul be using a Aramaic word, “Abba” if he was addressing Greek speakers in Rome? And I’m not saying I believe the residents of Rome spoke Greek.
Paul’s letters to the Corinthians also show proof of an Aramaic original. In First Corinthians, Paul said his letter was to the Aramaic speaking peoples (the Jews and the Arameans): “But for those who are called, both Jews and Arameans, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God;” (1 Cor. 1:24 Lamsa).
A second witness of an Aramaic original behind the Greek text of First Corinthians is at the following verse. “So if I do not understand the utterance, I shall be as a barbarian to the speaker, and the speaker shall be as a barbarian to me.” (1 Cor. 14:11 Lamsa). The word Bar-ba-ros (Barbarian) is in the Greek text in this verse. Barbarian is actually a loan word from the Aramaic, which literally means “an outer son” or “foreign son;” but in application, a “stranger and uncivilized person.” Barbarian is from the Aramaic words bra “son” and ba-ra-ya “outer, distant, further, foreign.” The final a in bra was dropped in the merging of the two words; putting the word "son" in its construct pronunciation of bar "son of." The second word Ba-ra-ya is related to the Aramaic word ba-ra, which means: “the outside, open country, wild.” Ba-ra-ya appears at the following places in the Aramaic Bible: (Matt. 8:12; 1 Cor. 5:12-13; 2 Cor. 4:16). Barbarian is pronounced bar-bra-ya (Chaldean pronunciation) or bar-bar-ra-ya or bur-bur-ra-ya (Syriac or Assyrian pronunciation) in Aramaic.
Note: Sometimes the two letters "b and r" are pronounced bar (son of), as in the Chaldean compound words bar-na-sha "son of man, human" and bar-bra-ya "barbarian." However, sometimes bar is pronounced bir or bur (son of) in both Chaldean and Assyrian. When the pointed (or written) a vowel precedes the letter r, sometimes the a has a i (think of the word stir) or u (think of the word fur) sound. The word "son of" is transliterated as bur in Alexander Oraham's Assyrian Dictionary. A Chaldean book would transliterate the pronunciation as bir or ber (think of the word Berlin). It's the same sound or pronunciation in a word that is spelled the same.
And a third witness that First Corinthians was originally written in Aramaic is at the following verse: “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maran atha.” (1Cor. 16:22 KJV). The Aramaic words maran itha (our Lord came) were transliterated as maran atha here. Dr. Lamsa transliterated these words as maran etha. The Syriac pronunciation of these words is moran etho. Why are these words in the Greek text if Paul was writing to Greek speakers in Corinth?.
“…and the cry of the reapers has already entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.” (James 5:4 Lamsa). The Aramaic word Tswa-uth (hosts) is the same as the Hebrew word Tse-va-oth (armies). Their meanings and spelling are the same but their pronunciation is different. When the Divine Name YHWH appears before the word “hosts,” the Greek text many times translated that statement as “the Lord of Sabaoth.” However, Sabaoth isn’t really a Greek word. A Greek person may be taught that Sabaoth means “hosts, armies” but this word isn’t used in the Greek Language outside of the above statement. The LXX translators interpreted the word Tse-va-oth as: dynameon [of armies] (2 Kingdoms 6:2; i.e. 2 Sam. 6:2), parembole [camp] (Judg. 8:10), et cetera elsewhere in the Greek Old Testament outside of that phrase. Dr. Lamsa kept the word sabaoth from the KJV translation at this verse, but the Aramaic text clearly says: “…the LORD of hosts.”
“And because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his Son into your hearts crying, Abba, Abon, O Father, our Father.” (Gal. 4:6 Lamsa). The Aramaic text ends with Abba, Abon. Dr. Lamsa just translates those two words by adding the words “O Father, our Father” in our English Bible. What needs to be taken from this verse is that the word Abba is found in the Greek text; proving an Aramaic original behind the Greek text of Galatians.
The Galatians were residents of Galatia. Galatia was a place in Asia Minor. Ga-la-ti-a looks like the Aramaic word gal-ta (also pronounced gil-ta), which means “an error, mistake in writing.” The residents there spoke Aramaic. So it wouldn’t make sense to send a Greek letter to the Galatians. The letters and books of the New Testament were sent to people that spoke Aramaic, Greek and Latin. The letters and books sent to Aramaic speaking persons have a Aramaic city (or region) name. And the letters and books sent to people that spoke Greek or Latin have a Greek or Latin name.
The proof of an Aramaic original behind the Greek text of Revelation will be based on the Aramaic text found in the Crawford Codex. I believe the Crawford Codex contains the original text of the five books (2 Peter, 2nd & 3rd John, Jude & the Revelation) that were not included in the canon by the Church of the East. I have found proof of this. Dr. Lamsa used the Harklean Syriac Version for the source of his Aramaic to English translation of those five books. Though I will be quoting Dr. Lamsa’s translation of Revelation; I will be using the Crawford manuscript text of Revelation, which is the original text for those books in the Greek translation.
The Harklean Version is a revision from the Philoxenian version which was done in A.D. 616 by Thomas of Harqel. Thomas aimed at providing a literal translation of the Greek, even if that meant unintelligible Syriac. The Harklean is considered a masterpiece in mirror translation; every particle in the original Greek is somehow represented in Syriac. The Harklean Version along with the other Bible versions and revisions into Syriac were done by the Monophysite bishops because of theological reasons; so their doctrine might agree with the doctrine of the Byzantine Church, which was the powerful imperial sect. The Patriarch of the East expelled them and their works were condemned. Dr. Lamsa states that: “in some provinces, owing to the pressure exerted by the Byzantine emperors, these new revisions were introduced. But when the territory was occupied by the Persian government, they were destroyed.” (Lamsa Bible Introduction p. viii). The following verses will show proof of an Aramaic original behind the Greek text of Revelation.
“And his feet were like the fine brass of Lebanon, as though they were burned in a furnace..” (Rev. 1:15 Lamsa). The Greek text has the word chal-ko-li-ba-no, which was translated as “fine brass” in the KJV. This word has troubled scholars because it appears no where else in Greek literature; except in two places in the book of Revelation. Chal-ko-li-ba-no is actually two words that got merged into one. It is from the Greek words chal-kos (brass) and li-ba-nos (Lebanon). There are at least two other instances where two or more Aramaic words were combined to form a new Greek word in the Greek New Testament translation.
The Harklean and the Crawford manuscript of Revelation both say "Lebanese brass" or “brass of Lebanon.” Though the Harklean manuscript has an additional one letter variant spelling for "Lebanese, of Lebanon." Thomas obviously believed chal-ko-li-ba-no was saying “brass of Lebanon” in Greek. Otherwise he may have been aware of this reading from the Crawford manuscript.
“You say, I am rich and my wealth has increased and I need nothing; and you do not know that you are miserable and a wanderer and poor and blind and naked.” (Rev. 3:17 Lamsa). The additional words “and blind” are in the Greek text and in the Harklean version, but not in the Crawford manuscript. The words “poor” and “blind” look alike in the Aramaic text. A dreary eyed translator probably saw the word “poor” twice and thus translated the word “poor” the first time and at his second look translated it as “blind.”
“And they had a king over them, who was the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abado, but in Greek his name is Apollyon.” (Rev. 9:11 Lamsa). This verse from the Harklean Version matches the Greek text. The underlined words in the Crawford manuscript say: “And in Aramaic his renown is Shre.” Shre means "the released [-one]" or "the loosed [-one]." It's a description of Satan because he will be "released" or "loosed" from his prison or confinement (Rev. 20:3, 7).
Shre was mistranslated into the active tense here. The three letter verb root looks like it has the past tense meaning and not the present or active tense meaning because there isn't a da-lath (Hebrew pronunciation da-let[h]) at the beginning of this verb. Shra, it's verb root, has many meanings depending on the context; such as: “to loosen, dismiss, break, violate, etc." It rarely means "to destroy,” but it can carry that meaning (see Matt. 26:61). Apparently the Greek translator read this verb as sha-re "the One destroying, Destroyer" and translated it as Apollyon "the Destroyer."
The Aramaic word aw-du was also mistranslated into the Greek language. Aw-du is the shortened form of the word aw-du-tha "servitude, service." It's referred to as a "Hebrew" word either because it is a pronunciation unique in the Aramaic spoken by the Hebrews or John is using this word to represent and translate the Hebrew word av-don; which has the same meanings and three letter root. They both also share a fourth letter (i.e. the vav [waw]). This word could be translated into English as "service or servitude." Or transliterated as avdon if the literal Hebrew or Jewish language is meant and hence follow the pattern of other Greek renderings in the Greek New Testament.
This Greek translator however thought aw-du was a transliteration of the Hebrew word av-ad-don (destruction); even though av-ad-don starts with an aleph and not an ayin as aw-du does. The Crawford text gives a good description of Satan because he serves God and it's only by God's permission that Satan can successfully act against godly people (see Job 1:12; 2 Cor. 12:7).
Interesting Note: Aw-du has the same letters of the name Ab-du (servant - see Ezra 8:6). Abdu is one of the Aramaic transliterations of the Hebrew name e-ved (Ebed - servant). Sometimes a final waw is added to an Aramaic transliteration of a Hebrew name to make that name not look like an Aramaic word; which Abdu without the waw would look like the indefinite spelling for the word "servant" in Aramaic. The Hebrew words e-ved (servant) and av-don (service) or the Aramaic words abdu [aw-da] (servant) and aw-du[tha] (service) are all related. They all share the letters Ayin, Bet[-h], and Dalet[-h]. These words describe the Satan (Adversary) as having a "serving" role.
“Then I saw the dead, small and great, stand before the throne; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” (Rev. 20:12 Lamsa). The Harklean and Greek text has the words “of life” in this verse. The Crawford manuscript says: “..the book of judgment..” Those two Aramaic words look very similar in the Dead Sea Scroll Script. How did the Crawford manuscript get “..the book of judgment..,” if it is not the original? The words “life” and “judgment” do not look alike in the Greek language.
If a book is translated from one language to another, then there should be some evidence of this transition. The following verses will show that the Crawford manuscripts of Revelation are the original, while the Harklean text of Revelation shows that it is a translation. The Crawford manuscripts contain correct Aramaic speech while the Harklean text is greatly influenced by Greek communication.
The Harklean translation uses many of the same Greek words in the text of Revelation. Some examples include pud-re (from po-de-re - ephod at 1:13, tro-nos (from thro-nos - throne) and lam-pe-de (from pl. lam-pa-des - lamps) at 4:5, and qros-til-los (from krus-tal-los - crystal) at 4:6. The Crawford manuscripts have true Aramaic words for the previous examples plus more elsewhere within the text. The Crawford text has ap-po-dha (ephod), curs-ya (throne), nah-hi-re (lamps) and gli-dha (crystal) in the place of the borrowed Greek words in the Harklean text.
Additionally, Aramaic words that got transliterated into the Greek text of Revelation received a Greek spelling and pronunciation. When Thomas was translating from the Greek into Aramaic; he retained the Greek pronunciation significantly while departing from the original Aramaic spelling and pronunciation. Some examples include Zmurna and Laodicea. Zmurna was translated as Smur-na in the Greek text. Thomas translated Smurna as Smurna in his translation. Laodicea (Laodikeia), though a Greek word, is pronounced Ladhiqia in Aramaic. Since Thomas was translating from the Greek, he kept the Greek pronunciation significantly by translating that word as Laodiqia.
Note: Thomas did transliterate the word smurna as smurna in his Aramaic translation. The common people that don’t know this Greek pronunciation pronounce this word as smorna though. The sixth Aramaic letter has two vowel sounds, which are “u” and “o.” Most names of people and places from the Hebrew Bible are spelled the same way in the Aramaic Bible. Because the vowel points were not used then, the local people ended up pronouncing those words differently than the Hebrew pronunciation. If a person knows Hebrew as well, then he would be able to pronounce those words correctly by using the same consonants from the Aramaic transliteration. This pronunciation phenomenon is also true of Greek and Latin names of people and places in the Aramaic New Testament. Most of those words can be pronounced correctly if a person knows Greek or Latin by using the Aramaic spelling for those words.
“The Spirit of prophecy came upon me on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying,” (Rev. 1:10 Lamsa). The Harklean text shows that it is a translation from the Greek because it contains the same words (the Lord’s day), which are in the Greek text. Those words refer to Sunday. The Crawford text says: “the first of the week.”
CHURCH FATHERS & THE FORMER PATRIARCH OF THE EAST:
The Church Fathers bear witness that the New Testament was written in Aramaic.
A letter was sent to the former Patriarch of the East asking him about the the Peshitta text. It should be noticed that he said the Peshitta NT was never changed. This is from the Lamsa Bible (p. ii):
Patriarchate of the East, Modesto, California, April 5, 1957
“With reference to your letter concerning Lamsa’s translation of the Aramaic Bible, and the originality of the Peshitta text, as the Patriarch and Head of the Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church of the East we wish to state, that the Church of the East received the scriptures from the hands of the blessed Apostles themselves in the Aramaic original, the language spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and that the Peshitta is the text of the Church of the East which has come down from the Biblical times without any change or revision.”
Mar Eshai Shimun
By Grace, Catholicos Patriarch
Of the East
1st Note: Mar Shimun became an American citizen in 1949. Because of the uncertainties caused in 1933 by the independence of Iraq from colonial rule, he ultimately relocated to the United States. He was assassinated on November 6, 1975.
2nd Note: When Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII said that the Peshitta is without change or revision, he is stating that the Peshitta isn't a revision from an Aramaic translation of the Greek New Testament and that the integrity of the Aramaic Peshitta text hasn't been changed. However, the Peshitta text has been changed in two areas. The original Peshitta text was written in the square Aramaic or Biblical Hebrew text. We know this because the Church Fathers mention Matthew, Paul and Luke, and say that those authors wrote their books or letters in the Hebrew language or in Hebrew letters. That script only used the yod to show the future tense and hence that leads us to the second change, which is the use of the nun instead of the yod to show the future tense; to match the different script. No words were changed. The Targums by Onqelos (c. 110 CE), who lived from (c. 35 -120 CE), have the same grammar as the Peshitta with the exception of using the yod instead of the nun to show the future tense. Again, the Peshitta originally used the yod; and hence the Peshitta represents Aramaic grammar for the first century. Additionally, the cursive Estrangela Aramaic script has never been the script for Hebrew; but the block Ashshuri (Assyrian) script has. The Peshitta Bible (Old & New Testaments) adopted the Estrangela script in the 5th century.
The Peshitta text also agrees substantially with the Neofiti Targums (c. 1st century - based on grammatical spelling & geographical words) and the Jerusalem Targums (circa 50 BCE). The Jerusalem (Pseudo Jonathan) Targums came first, then Neofit Targums and finally the Onqelos Targums. The Onqelos Targums represent the best in first century Aramaic grammar but the other two Targums show us later Aramaic grammar than the Aramaic books in the Dead Sea Scrolls; and hence how the Aramaic language evolved, getting closer and closer to the first century grammar of the Peshitta Bible.
The Dead Sea Scrolls contain the Aramaic books of Enoch, Tobit, the Testament of Levi, etc. Those books were authored before the 1st century and were faithfully copied; retaining the older spellings of words. This is because they are religious or holy books. They don't represent the Aramaic grammar spoken or written in the 1st century. The differences are minor though. The word "that" was spelled with two letters as dhi and later became one letter as "d." The word cadi "when" became cadh and the letter he "h" was replaced with the letter alap "a" at the end of verbs, pronouns, adjectives and sometimes rarely nouns (examples: innah to inna "I," bạah to bạa "he sought," etc.). The "h" was likely replaced with the "a" because the "h" means (translates into the pronouns) "him, his and her" when attached to words.
3rd Note: Because of persecutions, wars and illiteracy; a lot of Aramaic speakers don’t know their own history concerning the originality of the Peshitta New Testament. That is, however, changing fast.
“Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people and ASSYRIA the work of my hands and Israel my heritage.” (Isa. 19:25 Lamsa).
In order to conserve space, I have decided that this is enough proof that the New Testament was originally penned in Aramaic. I encourage individual Christians to read the original Aramaic text for themselves to be convinced and eliminate any doubt. The original Aramaic New Testament of course has many more proofs that it is the original. Other evidence includes that the Aramaic contains much more meaning by its words and manners of speech (idioms). There are also Greek names that are from the Aramaic pronunciation that are different than the established Greek pronunciation from the Hebrew Old Testament. Textual Criticism is also another proof. A final proof is that there are coded messages in the Aramaic New Testament that have been found by following the same procedure in which the Hebrew text was put into Code finder.
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