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Aramaic Primacists believe that the Christian New Testament and/or its sources were originally written in the Aramaic language, not Koine Greek as is generally claimed.
The Assyrian Church of the East and other Aramaic speaking churches have historically claimed the Aramaic Peshitta was the original language New Testament.
George Lamsa's translation of the New Testament from the Aramaic brought the Aramaic Primacy issue to the West, though still few are familiar with it. With the rise of the internet, Aramaic Primacists began to pool arguments in favor of their case.
Methods of Argument
On a basic level, pro-Aramaic scholars remind readers that the native language of Jesus, his Apostles, and most or all the authors of the New Testament was Aramaic, not Koine Greek.
Also that the first Christian communities may have come into existence in Aramaic speaking modern Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, and that the first converts to Christianity were likely Aramaic speaking Jewish synagogues even when in Greek or Latin speaking cities.
There are many phenomena that Aramaic Primacists study. For example, some of them include:
Mistranslations are rather self-explanatory. Where the Greek of the New Testament is awkward in places, Aramaic Primacists suggest that it stems from a botched translation from an Aramaic word.
An example from the Epistle to the Romans is Romans 5:7. The Greek translated to English reads: "For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die."
It is suggested that, in the Aramaic, the word "wicked" is used instead of the word "righteous" (which are spelt similarly), again bringing symmetry with the following verse.
Further, the difference between the words "wicked" and "righteous" in Aramaic is only one almost identically shaped letter, leaving the implication that a translator from Aramaic to Greek could have simply misread the word.
Polysemy ("Split Words")
"Split Words" are a distinctive subsection of mistranslations. Sometimes it appears that a word in Aramaic with two (or more) distinct and different meanings appears to have been translated in the wrong sense, or even translated both ways in different Greek sources.
Perhaps the most well known is the translation from Greek: "camel through the eye of a needle." In Aramaic, the word used for "camel" would be extremely similar to that for a certain type of "rope", suggesting that the correct phrase was "rope through the eye of a needle." making the hyperbole more symmetrical.
Aramaic is a Semitic language, a family of languages where all words come from three-letter roots. As a result, speakers of the language employ puns that play on roots with similar sounding consonants, or with the same consonants re-arranged.
For example, in the True Children of Abraham Debate within the Gospel of John 8:39:
They retorted and said to him:"Our abba (father) is Abraham!"Jesus says to them:"If you are Abraham's children, `abad (do) as Abraham would `abad (do)!"
Internal Researching and Reconstructing
Aramaic Primacists are divided into several distinct camps in terms of their methods of researching and reconstructing the Aramaic layer of the New Testament.
Peshitta Primacy Approach
The Peshitta Primacy Approach believes that the Aramaic Peshitta is the closest text to the original New Testament. Prominent figures that side with this view are Dr. George Lamsa, Paul Younan (Peshitta.org), Andrew Gabriel Roth (Aramaic NT Truth), and Christopher Lancaster (Aramaic Peshitta Primacy Proof).
The Peshitta-Critical Approach takes both the Peshitta and the Syriac manuscripts and critically compares them, just as many Greek Primacists take a critical approach to determining which Greek text better represents the original.
The Critical Approach researches into first-century Aramaic, culture, and psychology to reconstruct the New Testament sources in a dialect contemporary to Jesus. Prominent figures that side with this view are Matthew Black, Bruce Chilton, Maurice Casey, and Steven Caruso (AramaicNT.org).
Mainstream and modern scholars have generally had a strong agreement that the New Testament was written in Greek. They acknowledge that many individual sayings of Jesus as found in the Gospels are translations from oral Aramaic, but hold that the Gospels' text in its current form was composed in Greek, and so were the other New Testament writings.
It is especially interesting to note in the Gospel of Mark the format of Jesus' teaching in Greek with scattered, but only occasional, Aramaic expresssions transliterated and then translated.
Most scholars also acknowledge that early Christian writers like Papias and Irenaeus reported that the Gospel of Matthew (and the related non-canonical Gospel of the Hebrews) were written in Aramaic or Hebrew. However, even this is doubted in part with an argument that the literary quality of the Greek of these books indicates that the Greek would be the original.
This argument extends to the other books where the Church Fathers accepted Greek as the original without debate. The Greek New Testament's general agreement with the Septuagint is also counted as evidence by Greek Primacists. However, the Aramaic texts of the New Testament reference Aramaic versions of the Old Testament.
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