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Their favorite Bible translation

The George Lamsa translation is from the Aramaic language. Lamsa believed the original texts were written in Aramaic and were latter changed to Greek. That the Aramaic were more authoritative, but he is wrong. While it may be true that many things were spoken in the Aramaic language (though the bible makes the point of the Greek being used as well). There is no evidence for what Lamsa presupposes.

This is upheld despite all the manuscript evidence that contradicts his theories.   Although the language principally spoken by Jesus was Aramaic almost all Jews were bi or tri lingual. This is even upheld by the fact that the Hebrew scriptures were translated into the Greek language ( Septuagint) 200 years before Christ. The Aramaic text (the Pershitta) is a later 4th century Syriac translation,  a Semitic language used in Syria. All the earliest manuscripts are of the Greek and the majority of manuscript scholars agree. Lamsa intentionally ignores this stating that Greek was never the language of Palestine saying" Josephus states that even though a number of Jews had tried to learn the language of the Greeks, hardly any of them were succeeded." (Lamsa p.9) This is not what Josephus said in his antiquities of the Jews. "What Josephus wrote was that he had failed to attain precision in the pronunciation of Greek. "Lamsa also claims" Indeed the teaching of Greek was forbidden by Jewish rabbis. It was said that it was better for a man to give his child meat of swine than to teach him the language of the Greek's." (Lamsa p.10) (Cited in Greek , Hebrew Aramaic, or Syriac? A critique of the claims of G.M Lamsa by Edwin M.Yamauchi)

Then how does he explain the Septuagint? All this is contradicted by the facts of Greek manuscript evidence found in the Quamrun caves and quotes from the Septuagint in the New testament which are more in number than quotes from the Masoretic text (the Hebrew)

Rabbi Hillel’s school is where Paul learned under rabbi Gamaliel who was the grandson of rabbi Hillel It is a fact the Paul who was versed in the Greek language and philosophy as well as Judaism learning this from his schooling. He certainly did not speak to those on mars hill in the Hebrew language which was reserved for and exclusive to the Jews. Neither did he converse to the roman rulers in Aramaic.

Proof that the Jews were bilingual, In AD 132-135 we find those who were nationals rebelling in Bar Kochba’s side wrote in Greek as well as Hebrew and Aramaic.

In 250 B.C. the Hebrew Scriptures were translated to Greek. The New Testament is written in Koine Greek (Common Greek), there were 4 languages used in the New Testament times Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin, of which Greek was the dominant language. We find the inscription over Christ as being the King of the Jews was written in Greek, Hebrew, Latin. The Greek language was spread by Alexander the Great after he defeated the Persian empire 323 B.C. He saw it as his divine mission to spread the Greek culture throughout the world ( he was Macedonian a Greek). His Hellenistic empire spread to Asia minor, Persia, India, Syria, Egypt, and Israel. He established 70 Greek cities of which half were in Israel. By 300 AD. from Alexander’s conquest Greek became the international language, the dominant language of Israel and the eastern world at the time of Christ.

John 12:20,23 Seems to strongly imply that Philip, Andrew and Jesus understood and spoke Greek as Greeks came up to worship.

When the Gospel writers quoted from the Old Testament it was mostly from the Greek Septuagint. EX: Isa.61:1 The Jews used Hebrew word patterns in the Greek. Acts and Hebrews used a blend of classical and Koine Greek. There are Aramaic and Hebrew words in the Greek, words that were transposed.

There is no New Testament letter written in Hebrew originally, all are in (koine) the common Greek language.

In Mk.7:24 when Jesus spoke to the Syrophoenician woman The Greek word for dogs had no correlation in Hebrew or Aramaic. If Jesus did not speak Greek than the writer used an unnatural expression in translating his words. In Jn.7:35 The Jews question Jesus about going to a place where they will not be able to find him "He is not going to the dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks. Its obvious that as the Son of God he had the ability to converse in different languages. In Jn. 21 Jesus uses two Greek words for love and tending the flock that cannot be reproduced in the Hebrew nor Aramaic language. So it was likely a conversation carried on in the Greek. When Jesus spoke to Pilate I don't think it was in Hebrew since he was a pagan unwilling to learn the language of the Jews.

Who is George Lamsa?

He was a man who was into psychic phenomenon, this alone should disqualify him from being a reputable source for the Scriptures. He denied the Trinity which is clearly expressed in his translation, which is why it is accepted by certain churches. This is why it is the most popular translation among the cults. He believed sin was error and he was a universalist believing all would be saved (not even the Iglesia ni Cristo church would accept this). He also believed the Holy Spirit was a influence or power. Like the Sadducee's he denies a belief in personal angels or demons. He also had a view of Christ as 2 persons in one body (Nestorian heresy which some trace to his upbringing) not 2 natures in Christ the one person. Lamsa also claimed to be the sole competent interpreter of the scriptures. "Moreover, the author was educated under the care of learned priests of the church of the east who knew no other language but Aramaic,..the author, through God's grace, is the only one with the knowledge of Aramaic, the bible customs and idioms, and the knowledge of the English language who has ever translated the Holy bible from the original Aramaic texts into English and written commentaries on it, and his translation is now in pleasingly wide use" (G. Lamsa More light on the Gospel (NY 1968). Certainly Iglesia would not agree with Lamsa's position on salvation since they teach one MUST join their Church to be saved. So why use a man who they would discredit for these things as well? Because He's one of  the few published authors they can find that can agree with their position.

Lamsa was anti supernatural and found natural explanations for  his understanding Scripture. For example the floating axe head with Elisha Lamsa thought the axehead came to the top of the water because Elisha put the stick in its hole. He translates this verse, And he cut off a stick and thrust it in there; and it stuck in the hole of the axehead (George Lamsa, translator, The Holy Bible Translated from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts, 1961, p. 417).

The miracle was then one of divine guidance of Elisha putting the stick into the water and finding the axehead, and not the axehead floating to the top.

His Bible translation though tainted in areas is for the most part agreeable with other translations. But where Lamsa actually  interprets the Scripture is found in his Idioms in the Bible explained and the key to the original gospels written by Lamsa in 1971 published by Harper Collins.  He has a allegorical interpretation ignoring the plain literal translation. The back cover states that this book goes far in correcting such error that have crept into biblical scholarship.  In  this book  he explains his interpretation of the scripture of his Bible --he believes these are figures of speech and not literal. Here are just a few examples.

Bible= Gen.1:3 "Let there be light"                                              

 Lamsa's interpretation ="Let there be enlightenment 

Bible=Gen.2:9 "Tree of life in the midst of the Garden"                      

Lamsa interpretation = Sex , posterity

Bible= Gen.5:24 God took Enoch (Heb.11:5 States expressly he did not see death)                                                                         

Lamsa interpretation= He died painlessly, he had a heart attack  

Bible=Gen.3:24 wrestling with the angel of the Lord                           

Lamsa interpretation  = Being suspicious of a pious person         

Bible=Ex.3:2 the burning bush not consumed                                  

Lamsa interpretation = difficulties ahead difficulties will be overcome

 Bible=   Ex.3:5 Take off your shoes for you are on Holy ground.     

Lamsa interpretation  =Disregard pagan teachings, cleanse your heart

 Bible=   John 1 the word was God

Lamsa interpretation = the word is - a utterance, a command

Bible=  John 1:18 the only begotten son 

Lamsa interpretation= The first one who recognized the fatherhood of God. The only God-like man; hence, a spiritual son of God.

Bible= John 3:3 Born again

Lamsa interpretation= to become like a child, to start all over.

Bible=Jn.10:36 I and my father are one                                     

Lamsa interpretation = the father and I agree.

Bible= 1 Thess. 4:17 to meet him in the air

Lamsa interpretation = to hasten to greet him

Bible=  Rev.1:18 was dead and behold I am Alive forevermore.

Lamsa interpretation= I was unknown and now I am well and successful

 for more on the Bible in the Greek Language

Its obvious with only these few examples that the Lamsa's interpretation of the Bible is tainted by a certain view, of anti-supernaturalism. There are many other scriptures that can be cited on this, while not everything he says is wrong because he believes it all relates to Aramaic language and not Hebrew or Greek it becomes a wrong understanding in areas. This would show up in certain places of his Bible translation that is from the Aramaic. 

Sources used- George Lamsa Christian Scholar or cultic torchbearer by John p. Juedes


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