Pt.4 The Aramaic Error
Why do we need to be concerned, or on guard about this new Passion Bible?
It is described as “Greek speaks to the mind while Aramaic-Hebrew speaks powerfully to the heart” “We believe it’s time to recover this important original language of the Bible,” “As Brian has studied the original biblical manuscripts, he has uncovered what he believes is the love language of God that has been missing from other translations.” website(underline mine)
In this short paragraph there is lot of reconstruction to digest. We have already made the point of him not having access to the originals, plus the point of being able to read them.
He claims" The Passion Translation is a unique version of the Bible for incorporating the ancient Aramaic scripture, the same language Jesus spoke. ....By referencing the text written in the very language in which Jesus taught, and then overlaying that with the Greek, we are able to translate the root meanings of the Scriptures in a new, fresh way." (CBN-Revealing the Heart of God in "The Passion Translation)
Here is what we need to know. He is claiming the Aramaic was the main language they spoke in Jesus' day, therefore it was the original language the Bible was written in, before the Greek. We will examine this presumption by both history and the Bible.
Background of History
The Torah (Old Testament) was translated into Greek, around 250 BC. Aramaic was a common vernacular among the Jews in Israel under Roman occupation along with koine Greek. This was the universal language from Alexander’s conquests in the fourth century B.C. The Greek Scriptures (Septuagint) was widely in use by the time of Jesusand Paulamong the Pharisees.
It is important to know when the Bible was written, and who were the authors writing to?
Who are the recipients of the word. What was the reason the author was writing them.
William F.Albright was one of the world's foremost biblical archaeologists, Professor of Semitic Languages at Johns Hopkins Univeristy and Director of the American Schools of Oriental Research. In a 1963 interview with Christianity Today magazine, he stated:
“In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and eighties of the first century A.D. (very probably sometime between about 50 and 75 A.D.) William F. Albright (1891-1971)
A. T. Robinson's book, Redating the New Testament, dates all of the New Testament documents between A.D. 47 and A.D. 70. Except revelation by John, 85-95
Luke wrote his gospel 56-60, and then wrote the Acts of the Apostles, 59-63, (a continuation of his gospel) ; approximately 20-25 years after Jesus ascended.
Who were they writing to? The majority were Gentile's. What language did the Gentiles speak, it wasn’t Aramaic, it was Koine Greek. There are 27 letters in the New Testament, 5 epistles were specifically written to the Jews in diaspora.
Both History and manuscript evidence show us that the Bible was predominantly written by the apostles, or legates under them in the known language of the people, which was Greek at the time.
One of the problems with the Aramaic theory is that Paul is not writing to the Jews in his letters but to Gentiles, so he would not be writing in Aramaic whom only the Jews spoke in. So when Simmons writes “The Aramaic can be translated” it not only becomes a moot point, it is completely divorced from the actual writing of the New Testament Bible.
Simmons says TPT is a Greek based translation project that implements the Aramaic, just as the Greek manuscripts use Aramaic words and concepts.”
He says there is “a preference for the Aramaic over the original Greek.” Is there?
The modern growing interest in Aramaic New Testament Gospels came after all the Passion movie by Mel Gibson was done in the Aramaic language. The 5th century Pershitta is the first complete Aramaic translation we have.
The Peshitta Old Testament was translated directly from Hebrew with some influence from Aramaic commentaries called Targums. This translation is believed to have taken place in roughly the first century AD.
The earliest manuscript of the Peshitta is a Pentateuch dated AD 464. There are two New Testament manuscripts of the 5th century (Codex Phillipps 1388). British Library,
The oldest extant New Testament text is the Syriac Sinaitic, a collection of gospels, dated to the 4th century. The oldest extant Old Testament text dates to the 5th century. (London, British Library).
The Origin of the LXX https://academic.logos.com/the-origin-of-the-lxx/
Problems With Peshitta Primacy http://aramaicnt.org/articles/problems-with-peshitta-primacy/
Did Mr. Simmons translate from these?
He claims that “the books of Ezra and Daniel were originally written in the Aramaic language. But only portions of them were in Aramaic (Ezra 4:8-6:18;7:12-26;Daniel 2:4-7:28). The reason, the book of Daniel was not written in Israel but outside Israel, in Babylon where the nation was in captivity and he made use of the Aramaic language the language of the Babylonians. (as are the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds.)
The Old Testament was written almost entirely in Hebrew, with just a small amount in Aramaic. The New Testament was written entirely in Koine Greek.These are facts.In the last book of the New Testament John speaks of the "angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon." (Rev 9:11) “They gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon." (Rev. 16:16)
Aramaic or Hebrew or Greek?
Of the forty authors who wrote 66 books over the 1,600 years, the Scriptures were written in three different languages, the majority of the Bible was written in the Hebrew language. The next largest portion was written in Greek. The Aramaic language has the smallest portion in Scripture.
The Old Testament was translated to Greek called Septuagint 250 years before Christ. There is very little written in Aramaic.
Many Jews may have spoke Aramaic but to have their religion in Aramaic would be a very different matter. Hebrew was spoken and read in the synagogues by the scribes, teachers of the law, Pharisees, and Sadducees. who were the teachers of the word.
Greek was the main language of the Romans, who ruled over Israel during Jesus’ time, anyone who wanted to do commerce with the Romans needed to speak Greek. Being able to speak Greek was a very useful skill as it was the universal language at that time.
The Romans spoke Greek and also spoke Latin. Jesus conversed with Pontius Pilate (Mk.15:2). Pilate would not speak to Jesus in Hebrew nor Aramaic, any language other than his own.
What does the Bible say?
There are 5 places the Aramaic language is mentioned all in the old Testament all in the NKJV 2 Kings 18:26; Ezra. 4:7; twice Isa36:11 and Dan. 2:4. Aramaic is not in the KJV, 5 times in the revised New American Atandard Version (updated), 3 times in the Revised Atandard Version; 4 of the Old Testament verses in The Living Bible. 13 times in the NIV which includes the New Testament: Jn.5:2. 19:13,17, 20; Acts 21:40; Acts 26:14 and none in the Greek NT NA27.
Simmons has “a preference for the Aramaic over the original Greek.” Can a later (5th century) Aramaic text be used to adjust the second century Greek text by which it was overall translated from?
Antioch is mentioned approx. 20 times in the Bible; After the stoning of Stephen (35 AD), some Greek-speaking Jewish believers traveled to Antioch in Syria to spread the Good News to the Jews living there.Antioch in ancient Syria became a center of higher education (theological schools).
Christian proselytes, Hellenistic Jews, were Greek by both their language and culture. They were the God-fearers along with other gentile sympathizers of Hellenistic Judaism (Similar to Cornelius whom Peter spoke to for his conversion). They could not speak Aramaic or read Hebrew, but spoke and read Greek.
John 19:13-14 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.”
John 19:17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.”
Both make the point of the Hebrew names.
Simmons in his teachings mystically applies this name “many of you don't realize the name Golgotha (Aramaic) and Goliath (is Hebrew). (Unveiling kingdom mysteries Jun 6, 2019
The sign above Jesus was written in the majority languages spoken; there is no Aramaic.
John 19:19-20 JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. … was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin; not Aramaic.
Mark 15:34: Did Jesus speak some Aramaic from the cross?
When he spoke of being forsaken they would understand his common tongue. This Bible records this in both the Aramaic and Hebrew form. The Aramaic form is in Mark 15:34: And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
The Hebrew version is in Matthew 27:46: And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani, that is, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Resource Dr. Fruchtenbaum)
From this we see the similarities, the differences are subtle. The Bible includes both Aramaic and Hebrew. Jesus is quoting from Ps.22 which is written in Hebrew.
Matt 27:47 when they heard that, said, "This Man is calling for Elijah !" v49 The rest said, "Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.”
Elijah in Hebrew is Eliyahu or Eliyah. In Aramaic it is Eliya So it seems theyunderstood him in their own dialect and this is why it says both the Aramaic and Hebrew .
As a Roman citizen Paul had Roman names, his main one is Paul. He spoke four languages: Hebrew and Aramaic from the Jewish community, and Greek and Latin from being brought up in Tarsus. Numerous times we see Paul a Roman citizen speak to the people in the Hebrew language Acts 21:40; 22:2; 26:14.
When the light came upon Paul, the voice spoke to him in Acts 9, we find it was in Hebrew (as clarified in Acts 22).
On the mission field, after Paul is taken from the Temple, Acts 22:1-2Verse 2 records the mob's response: And when they heard that he spoke unto them in the Hebrew language, they were the more quiet.”
The very fact that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, does make it harder for the support of them speaking the Aramaic language for everyday.
Peter is his Greek name (meaning “stone” or “pebble”), Simon is his Hebrew name, it means “God hears.” He also had a third name, in Aramaic, Cephas. Acts 15:13-14 at the church in Jerusalem James addresses Peter by his Hebrew name, Simon. This same name that Peter used of himself in II Peter 1:1. What this shows is that the Jews of Jesus’ day were multi lingual.
What was the language of the Jewish people?
The proof is Pentecost in Acts 2:5-11 “And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. … everyone heard them speak in his own language. V.7-11 “Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs--we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”
From this we find Jews spoke different languages. Let me quote a Hebrew scholar on this matter.
Acts 2:9-11 “The first four names include the Parthians, the Medians, the Elamites and dwellers of Mesopotamia. These came from east of Judaea, spoke Aramaic, and were descendants of the Ten Tribes. The fifth name given is Judaea, which includes Galilee, and the language spoken here was Hebrew. The next five names are Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia. These are all in Asia Minor or present day Turkey, and they spoke Greek. The next two are Egypt and the parts of Libya around Cyrene. These were in North Africa, where they also spoke Greek. Next were sojourners from Rome, so Europe has representatives, and they spoke Latin. Next he mentions Cretans who spoke Greek, and Arabians who spoke Nabetean. The make up was that of two different groups: Jews by nationality, people who were born as Jews, and proselytes, Gentiles who were converts to Judaism” (The Day of Pentecost and the Birth of the Church: MBS 160 Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum)MBS160 The
While Aramaic is among the languages spoken it is not what all Jews spoke. The common language of portions of Judeawas Aramaic. They recognized something different because those speaking were Galileans.
The Flawed Aramaic argument
The Aramaic is not a deeper, (a superior), or heartfelt language.
Simmons says, “By referencing the text written in the very language in which Jesus taught, and then overlaying that with the Greek, we are able to translate the root meanings of the Scriptures in a new, fresh way”
"Jesus spoke Aramaic he taught in Aramaic, the apostles taught in Aramaic as well.”
Apparently “the secrets of the Hebrew is the Aramaic language.”
Again, the Jews spoke Hebrew for centuries, their Scriptures were written in Hebrew and then in Greek to be read by the people they lived among. The apostles taught in Greek to the Gentiles who did not know Aramaic which was their main outreach when outside Israel to the Gentiles. Even Jews in synagogues outside Israel would speak the language of their culture (as seen when they gathered at Pentecost in Israel).
Prior to Simmons there were others who exalted the Aramaic language of the Scriptures. This is called the Peshitta Primacy, that the Syriac Bible is the original text of the New Testament. This position in modern history began with the works of the late George Lamsa, which can be found more likely in Messianic Judaism instead of the Hebrew roots movement.
Simmons says,“As translated from the Aramaic” is found in Simmons’ notes over 400 times. Which certainly implies the Aramaic corrects the Greek.
Dr. George Lamsa, in his book, "New Testament Origin," states, “Not a word of the Scriptures was originally written in Greek ... the Scriptures were written in Aramaic.”
Historians are unable to produce any Aramaic manuscripts older than the Greek. There are no older Aramaic documents of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, only Greek documents. The lack of transcript evidence does uphold the originals were not Aramaic.
Since the gospels were written to the Gentiles of that day for evangelistic purposes it is illogical to think they would have to teach a whole new language for the Gentiles to read the Bible, as only the Jews spoke Aramaic. The evidence is that it was written in the most popular spoken language of the Gentiles, Greek, not Aramaic.
Why would Paul write in Aramaic as he was sent to Gentiles in Galatia, to the Romans, to those in Corinth? They didn’t know how to speak or read Aramaic. Greek was the universal language of the day (for the common people Koine Greek, as is English today). If it was all first written in Aramaic he would then have to teach the Gentiles another language to be able to even read the Bible. That may take years before they could read the letter that was sent. To claim that ‘the New Testament was written in Aramaic, and not Greek when we have the manuscript evidence is incredulous to the reality of history.
Some problems of the Aramaic as postulated by Simmons. “Gods name, Hallowed it be his name, in the aramaic text the name can mean all kinds of things, it can mean light, sound, it can be identity, it can be a characteristic of that person, it can be honor, it can be fame."
If it can be any of these terms, try applying these words to when God uses his name and see how absurd this is.
Simmons actually says, “Its really a myth for a word to word translation, your taking a big axe and you’re chopping off all kinds of meaning when you insist on having a word for word translation, it cannot be done... we’re going to the cutting room floor and picking up all of the nuances and treasures that have been cut off because of a strict literal word for word translation mindset that eliminates great great meanings to the text that maybe go outside the common translation.”
I love the word of God and believe it is fully inspired by the Holy Spirit.” (The Passion Translation, Interview with Brian Simmons on Sozo Talk Radio EP020 Dec 1, 2018) Much of this interview should be heard.
Which translation is fully inspired? If the other translations are inspired why did the Holy Spirit lack the ability to speak our heart language? All of these runaround explanations to introduce his new Bible as the improved version.
When someone takes to translate the meaning of a word they look at the other words in a sentence to arrive at its correct meaning, the context will determine the meaning of the words of the author. Simmons says it cannot be done but it has already been done as the KJV and benefited millions over centuries. What we get from his statement is that he does not believe in the literal word to word. Yet if one looks at his translation he has added words that are not there.
Sentences need to be readtogether as a whole for one to arrive at the overall meaning. If one doesnot comprehend the overall meaning first, the diciphering of individualwords will mislead. The combined meaning of sentence becomes mostimportant to arrive at the meaning of the author who wrote inspiredby the Holy Spirit.
The KJV version was done by 54 men, 47 of them were the finest Bible scholars, translators known at the time. These men were proficient in the languages Latin, Greek, Hebrew and others. These scholars consulted the original languages, the Greek texts. Making a translation faithful to the original languages of the Bible. Does it have weaknesses, a few, all translations from one language to another will. But one can be assured it was a trusted rendering of the word.
Simmons says George Lamsa was the goundbreaker, a pioneer in Aramaic "he tried his best to stay close to the King James, so in doing that it somewhat diminishes what he did but we’re all thankful for him."
William Branham (promoter of the Latter Rain) felt the same on the Aramaic, he fully believed in Aramaic originals. "Aramaic, and NOT THE GREEK was the language of the people, so it seems possible that the New Testament was first written in the Aramaic." (Church Age Book)
History shows the Syriac, Aramaic Peshitta is not the original text upon which the New Testament Bible was basedon.
Simmons’ reliance on Aramaic manuscripts to produce this translation is problematic because the earliest Aramaic manuscripts found are from the fifth century. In contrast to Simmons’ translation of the New Testament, the standard English translations are based on much earlier and more reliable Greek manuscripts that have lineage to the apostles writing.
His work as a “dynamic-equivalent translation” has some very questionable conclusions. Yes there are portions of some verses that are acceptable, but there are other portions that are not, this is not a safe way to read the Word.
For example Jn.3:34 “The One whom God has sent to represent him will speak the words of God, for God has poured out upon him the fullness of the Holy Spirit without limitation.[aa]
His note on this verse says John 3:34 Or “the Spirit does not give anything in small measures.” There is some textual evidence that this verse is saying, “The Son gives the Spirit [to his people] without measure.”
Simmons changes the application. The true context of this is NKJV John 3:34-36 “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” It is the about the Son and Father relationship, speaking of the Son whom was sent by the Father, He is the one who has the Spirit without measure, not all of us.
Again this is related to his own belief system of believers being everything Christ is.
Simmons says “We’ve got to end biblical illiteracy. We are in a movement of people filled with the Spirit but not always filled with the light of the Word of God.”
I don't think he is ending biblical illiteracy, he can be contributing to it. One must consider what he teaches on the Bible at the churches he speaks at. I find this all to be a stepping stone to his Latter Rain teachings.
I do not think you can be filled (controlled by the Spirit without understanding and living by the Word.) With this said, he teaches “The Word of God is the spouse of the Spirit. They’re married. They’ll never file for divorce. They’ll never separate. They always come in a package. We need Spirit and Word don’t we?” (Brian Simmons // An Interview With The Man Behind The Passion Translation, Welton Academy. http://podcast.weltonacademyonline.com/podcast/brian-simmons-the-man-behind-the-passion-translation/
I understand teachers talke liberty to make a point, but using the word in this way. saying the Word is his spouse seems to go over a line thats called truth. So Jesus has a bride who is, and now we learn through new revelation the Holy Spirit is married.
Yes we need the spirit and the Word - spoken accurately, truthfully.
As we will see, theology, interpreting the word in its correct context matters.