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Refuting the claims of The ARAMAIC A primacy (the Pershitta)

The earliest versions of the New Testament in Aramaic (Peshitta) date to the 4th-5th century, Not before. The Aramaic excludes the second Letter of Peter, the second and third Letters of John, the Letter of Jude, and the Revelation of Christ to John.  Which makes it problematic in two specific areas, the date of writing and the crucial content that is missing for anyone to claim this is the original language the Bible was written in..

In 100-160 AD Justin Martyr quotes all 4 Gospels, the book of Acts and the epistles of Paul and Revelation. So these could not have been in Aramaic, but Greek.

The first five books of the Bible were incorporated by Moses 1,500 years before Christ came, all in the native tongue of Hebrew. The Old Testament was ALL written in Hebrew except for the Book of Daniel, which was not written in the land of Israel, but written in Babylon. Half of the book is not written in Hebrew (Dan. 2:4–7:28), the Jewish tongue, but in Aramaic, the language of the Babylonians because the Jews were in captivity at the time. This book was written with a specific prophecy of when the Messiah was to come. Aramaic portions of the Old Testament also include Ezra 4:8–6:18; 7:12–26; Jer. 10:11.

The Bible is a collected book written by 40 authors writing 66 books over the period of 1,600 years.  They wrote it in three different languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, the last being the least amount it was written in.

The Greek language was spread by Alexander the Great after he defeated the Persian Empire in 323 B.C. Due to Alexander’s conquest, Greek became the dominant language of the world and in Israel that was under Roman occupation at the time of Christ.

 In 250 B.C. the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek, called the Septuagint. This translation of the Old Testament was basically done for Greek-speaking Jews in Alexandria Egypt during the reign of Ptolmey Philadelphia IV of Egypt. The Pentateuch was first translated, then later the rest of the Old Testament books were added to the Greek translation.

Under Roman occupation many of the Jews were multi-lingual, speaking at least two or three different languages, one of which was Greek.  Before the time of Jesus, the Jews no longer used Hebrew as their everyday language, Aramaic was part of their common tongue. However, they continued to read the Holy scriptures in Hebrew in the temple.

More than 300 years later after Alexander the Great, the New Testament began to be written in common Greek by eyewitnesses. They also quote the Old Testament from the Greek for the New Testament. Some passages they preferred quoting from the Greek Septuagint rather than the Hebrew. For example in Romans 3 there is a large quotation from Ps. 14, where there are six whole verses in the apostle's quotation which are not found in the present Hebrew text, but are preserved in the Septuagint! (source from Adam Clarke's Commentary)

If the New Testament Bible was written in Aramaic would then mean it was only for the Jews who spoke it. But history shows us that even the Old Testament was translated to Greek over 200 years before Jesus.

The apostles communicated the name we know as Jesus, in the Hebrew Yeshua, into Greek, Yesou.  Even the Book of Hebrews written to the Jews warning them not to go back in Judaism was written in Greek. But some ignore this fact and have started whole movements contrary to Biblical and historical evidence to promote Aramaic.

The early church writings all show they quoted from the Greek, not Aramaic. But not just any Greek family--but from a certain Greek family of manuscripts. There are no ancient New Testament letters (prior to 400 A.D.) written in Hebrew or Aramaic, they are in Koine the common Greek language.

Approximately 15-30 years after Christ, the New Testament began to be written in the common language of Greek (Koine) rather than the Aramaic which Jesus and the Jewish people spoke to each other during his time. The New Testament was translated in Greek so people outside of Israel could read God's Word in their own tongue as this was the main language currently in use and these were the people the gospel was now to go to. God began a new thing, reaching out to the whole world through the Hebrew people in Greek language.

The oldest (130 A.D.) was a fragment of John’s Gospel, known as P52, which dates back to the first half of the second century. The oldest New Testament comes to us as fragments and scraps of papyrus excavated (mostly) in Egypt (where apparently the Septuagint was translated).  

Their are Greek manuscripts we have go back to even 85 or even as far as 65 A.D. Recently found are the scraps from a page of what was once a papyrus copy of the Gospel of Matthew chpt.26, (Nestle Aland lists this as fragment Magdalen Papyrus (P64). They are currently in the Magdalen College's library at Oxford University.

From 100-300 A.D. we have total of 36,289 patristic quotes of the Greek New Testament. Ron Rhodes notes there are also some 86,000 quotations from the early church fathers and several thousand Lectionaries (church-service books containing Scripture quotations used in the early centuries of Christianity).

There are in existence around 5,000 Greek manuscripts with part or the whole of the Greek New Testament. The earliest complete copies of the New Testament are Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, both of which date to the early fourth century. 

There are 8,000 Latin, Jerome completed the Latin Vulgate in about the year 405 A.D. The Gospels were published in 384 A.D., and the rest of Scripture afterward. There are about 30 Old Latin Version manuscripts dating back to the second century. and 1,000 versions from other languages, making 14,000 manuscripts; parts of the New Testament. What is missing is the Hebrew/ Aramaic translation in any kind of a similar amount.                                                                                                                                               

Later on the Bible was translated into different languages as the gospel was spread, Syriac, Latin, Coptic (a late form of Egyptian). The Syriac Versions dating between fourth and seventh centuries. These include the Peshetta, Palestinian, Philoxenian and Harclean, all of which are Greek dialect’s which differ from the common Koine that the New Testament was written in.

Saul/ Paul

He was a Roman citizen according to Acts 16:37-38 and 22:25-29 and was therefore from a wealthy family. As a Roman citizen, he would have had three Roman names, but only one is actually known: Paulus or Paul. He learned four languages: Hebrew and Aramaic from the Jewish community, and Greek and Latin from Tarsus. Nowhere does he address himself by an Aramaic name.

In Act 9 when Jesus was made known to Paul by his glory we find he spoke to him in his native tongue. Acts 26:14- And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' When Paul asks 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus. It  was NOT in Aramaic that Paul heard the Lord speak to him.

Paul wrote the majority of the letters of the New Testament, he used his Roman name instead of his Hebrew name Shaul (Saul); Paul in Latin (Roman) is from the Latin Paulus. He intentionally made himself known by this name to reach the Greek speaking people he was a missionary to. He changed “the name” of the savoir into their language as well. Acts 21:37 and 40 records Paul's ability to speak in both the Greek and Hebrew language.

Acts 9:36-37 “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, translated Dorcas: this woman was full of good works …. And she died. Peter is close by and summoned to Joppa (Yafo in Hebrew). Joppa or Jaffa is located ten miles northwest of Lydda.  Luke explains that the name Tabitha is the Aramaic word for “gazelle,” the Greek word for “gazelle” is Dorcas (in Hebrew tzvi). So Luke gave both her Aramaic, Jewish name, Tabitha, and her Greek or Gentile name of Dorcas.

We see occasional Aramaic terms in the Greek New Testament. Acts 21: 40: “And when he had given him leave, Paul, standing on the stairs, beckoned with the hand unto the people; and when there was made a great silence, he spoke unto them in the Hebrew language, ...

He quieted the mob into absolute silence speaking to them in the Hebrew language, (Styrongs concordance (Hebraídi Interlinear Transliterated Bible) some say it is the Aramaic language “the vulgar language of the Jews, which, at this time, was not the pure Old-Testament Hebrew” (from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible)

 We have scholars split on whether this was Hebrew or the derivative of Aramaic. The native language was a close dialect of the language of the Jews and Jesus. However, it's not what Jesus spoke, as he did speak with the other languages, but what is written. Hebrew was reserved for the Bible in the Old Testament and Greek was used in the New Testament.

Jesus as a child went to Jewish schools learning the Hebrew Scriptures. He learned the Hebrew language written and spoken. His time was spent in synagogues and school memorizing the Old Testament in Hebrew, which was normal for most children.  Being under Roman occupation he like most Jews learned to speak numerous languages; Aramaic and Greek, and possibly Latin.

The first 7 deacons of the church all had Greek names showing they were from the Diaspora and immigrated to the land of Israel. Mark and Luke are not Hebrew names nor is there an equivalent for their names in Hebrew. There is no record of any Aramaic or Hebrew name for Andrew. There are many words in the Greek New Testament are transliterations from the Aramaic language. Peter's name Cephas is from “kepha” (rock); Thomas is from “toma” (twin). “Bar” the Aramaic word for (son) is used in the names of Bartholomew, Bar- Jonas, Barabbas (Bar-abbas) and Bartimaeus. (The Hebrew word for son is ben). Golgotha is from “golgolta” (skull).

Some other Aramaic phrases found in New Testament literature are Mark 5:41 talitha cumi “girl arise; Mark 7:34 “be opened”; Mark 3:17 “sons of thunder.”Jn.1:42 Kepha ‘rock” Jn.20;16 Rabonni “my teacher my master.”

Peter is known by three names in three different languages.  For example, Simon (Shimon) is Peters Hebrew name, mean "God hears." Peter Greek name (Petros), means "stone" or "pebble." His Aramaic name, Cephas (Kaifa).

The name Peter is mentioned over 155 times in the New Testament, 94 of those are in the gospels. The name Cephas is found spoken once by Jesus in John 1:42, the rest are by Paul in 1 Cor. 1:12; 1 Cor. 3:22; 1 Cor. 9:5; 1 Cor. 15:5; Gal. 2:9.

Simon his Greek name is mentioned over 55 times in the gospels, 9 more times in the book of Acts. In his own letter he identified himself by both his Hebrew and his Greek name, as “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1)

From the beginning the church copied and shared the original documents to circulate the apostle's writings. By the closing of the 2nd century, about 170 A.D., we find the expression the New Testament for the Bible which was in the hands of the pastors and people of the church.

The Hebrews were Jews who were born in the Land and spoke Hebrew at the time Jesus was among them. They spoke Aramaic in public at times as well, certainly Greek and even Latin as they dealt with Gentiles that were bi or trilingual.

Those who translate the Aramaic assume that his twentieth century Syriac is equivalent to the Aramaic of the fifth cent. When written, and therefore is superior to all Greek manuscripts. WRONG!

The Dead Sea scrolls which precede the New Testament by 50-100 years are written in Hebrew Greek and Aramaic. Only 12% are in Aramaic (some in Nabataen Aramaic), most are written in Hebrew (standard square lettering), 27 Greek manuscripts. Among the finds in the caves were non-biblical literary works, and documents, deeds, and letters.  Enoch and Tobit, are in Aramaic and Hebrew. Apparently they collected outside religious writings, not just the Bibles.

Aramaic in the Bible

Jesus addresses God the Father and He called Him by a combination of the Hebrew-Aramaic term: Abba, Father (Abba Pateér) once (Mark 14:36) two times are by Paul (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).

‘Father’ is used by Jesus in the gospels at least 170 times, 3 times in Acts, 3 times in the Book of Revelation and near another 100 times in the letters by the apostles.

Jesus’ fourth sentence from the cross near the end of the 3 hours of darkness is recorded 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?

 Here we read of the people mistaken him as saying Elijah, as Mark says the same, Mark 15:35 “Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, "Look, He is calling for Elijah.”

Most of Lamsa's Aramaic reads like the KJV but it is his subtle changes and his explanations that are dangerous. Lamsa’s translation "Eli, Eli, lemana shabakthani," which according to his notes means, "My God, my God, for this I was spared," the footnotes: "this was my destiny."

This does not bring clarity. And what he does to Psalm 22:1 is worse: "My God, my God, why hast thou let me to live? and yet thou hast delayed my salvation from me, because of the words of my folly."

Most understand this as Jesus quoting Psalm 22:1, a cry for help as fellowship was severed temporarily before He physically died. This is the only time in the Gospels that Jesus ever says, “My God, my God.” The only time He ever addressed the Father as “My God” (We see a similar statement in the Old Testament Ps 109:26  Help me, O LORD my God!

Speaking to Mary Magdalene John 20:17 “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.' “My Father ” Jesus used over 45 times by Jesus in the gospels.

We find the inscription over Christ John 19:20 as being the King of the Jews was written in Greek, Hebrew and Latin; it does not have Aramaic.

Lamsa’s footnote reads, “Hebrew here refers to nationality, but the language of the inscription was Aramaic.” It reads “in Aramaic, Latin and Greek” Not in Hebrew. Which he cannot prove.

The first supernatural event is when the Holy Spirit was given to the church in Acts 2 where they spoke in other unlearned languages of the Gentiles, communicating to people of the different nations who were gathered the Jewish Feast of Pentecost. V.12: “we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” God had reversed what he did at the tower of Babel, as the people were trying to unite without him, He now was bringing people together into His church through His Son through a supernatural act of language.

Aramaic in the New Testament

Jews were multi-lingual speaking at least two different languages one of which was Greek of the Gentiles.  Aramaic was used, however they continued to read the scriptures strictly in Hebrew in the temple.

53,000 manuscripts of a part or the whole of the Greek New Testament. The Aramaic primacy argument contradicts the fact of Greek manuscript evidence found in the qumran caves. The and quotes from the Septuagint in the New Testament are as many in number than quotes from the Masoretic text (the Hebrew). For example, in Cave 4 one fragment containing some of Daniel 7:28, 8:1, the language changes from Aramaic to Hebrew.

The rabbis had a concept, which was referred to as the Word which was not the same as the Greeks ‘word.’ “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ( John 1:1) memra is an Aramaic term that describes the “Word.” When John wrote his Gospel in Greek, he needed a Greek term to translate the Jewish Aramaic term memra, and the only Greek term he had was logos.

Contrary to the logos of Greek philosophy, he meant it to refer to the “Word” memra of Jewish theology. It is John who wrote of ‘the word being God’ that he, was personal spoke exclusively on Jesus (the word made flesh) being God incarnate.

Aramaic today

Most of the Aramaic supporters know that it was George Lamsa who made this false view of Aramaic being the original language of the New Testament.

Lamsa claimed to be the sole competent interpreter of the scriptures because of knowing Aramaic. “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 Gods 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)

Lamsa took it upon himself to change the wording of Scriptures that contradicted his Nestorian viewpoint. (as in Jn.1:18, Acts 20:28, Micah 5:2). His bias against Greek was evident as he replaced references to the "Greeks" with "Arameans." Lamsa's interpretation of Scripture was distorted by his full reliance on only Aramaic  (which the New Testament was not originally written in). Lamsa idioms in the Bible from came only from Aramaic words. But one cannot neglect the other languages Hebrew, Greek, and Latin idioms used in the Bible, (for example Paulís description of our spiritual armor). So it cannot be limited to one culture and language, though one may be more abundant.

Lamsa also claimed  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)

This is disproven from history, from the Bble itself. His argument showed his bias.

The Didache, written in Greek between 60 AD at the earliest, to 100 A.D. contains 22 quotations from Matthew with references to Luke, John, Acts, Romans, Thessalonians, I Peter; and speaks of “The Gospel” as an already written document.

Victor P. Wierwille also held the view that the Aramaic (Peshetta) was the oldest manuscript of the New Testament. (Power for Abundant Living, pp.127-128)

Lamsa said in his book, "New Testament Origin," “Not a word of the Scriptures was originally written in Greek ... the Scriptures were written in Aramaic.”

In 1957, he began his association with Aramaic Bible interpreter George M. Lamsa.  Lamsa finished his translation of the Lamsa Bible in Wierwille's home, Lamsa and Wierwille produced the first American Aramaic grammar in 1960. "(The Aramaic-English New Testament. American Christian Press. 1988. P.7) 

That same year in April another virulent anti-trinitarian, William Branham endorsed and promoted Dr. George Lamsa and his flawed concept of Aramaic primacy of the Bible. Branham stated, “I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Lamsa, today, the translator of the Lamsa translation of the Bible.” (60-0401E Queen of Sheba. TULSA, OK).

What did THIS ‘Aramaic scholar’ believe?

Lamsa wrote a number of books, Key to the Original GospelsNew Testament OriginIdioms in the Bible ExplainedThe Hidden Years of JesusGospel LightOld Testament Light Commentary; and New Testament Commentary. Some are popular today.

His speaking engagements were primarily hosted in Unity and Religious Science churches for nearly 30 years after coming to America. 

Lamsa believed sin was error; he was a universalist. He also believed the Holy Spirit was only an influence or power. This is seen in His activity but Scripture has the Spirit known as a “he,” a personal being who is also called God just as the Father is called God. What this means is that he did not know Christ and the Holy Spirit was not involved in his understanding of Scripture.

He denied that Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead. He claims that Christ rose with a "spiritual body."Lamsa’s Second Coming was not a physical event, but a "spiritual" coming that will take place in the world's consciousness (and not just with believers): "The second coming of Jesus will be a spiritual coming, that is, he will come in a spiritual body, free from all physical limitations. Moreover, the people's consciousness will be raised to a spiritual level, so that every eye will see nothing but good. In other words, it will be a spiritual life and spiritual kingdom"(George M. Lamsa, More Light on the Gospel (New York: Doubleday, 1968), p.151 (hereafter, More).

He constantly spiritualized the meanings to be other than what is meant, calling them idioms.

The reason for this his view of Christ was the Nestorian heresy. He had an allegorical interpretation for many verses.

Bible= Gen.1:3 “Let there be light

Lamsa’s Aramaic Bible =“Let there be enlightenment.” Which is absurd since there was no human yet.

In Prophecy: Daniel 11:38, prophesies of the antichrist. "But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things.

The Lamsa Bible, says this evil man will honor "the mighty God..." As subtle but significant change to make it look like he is not rebellious.

Isaiah 14:12: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!"    Lamsa's version reads: "How are you fallen from heaven! howl in the morning!" huh?

The "Nestorian church" broke from the church over the doctrines solidified in the 3rd Ecumenical council, held in 431 AD. Nestorians emphasized the human nature of Jesus who said his union was a moral one and not organic. Separating the two nature’s they had no personal unity which rendered the incarnation invalid. That while Jesus was in His humanity His deity was not involved which denied the hypostatic union and the incarnation. He distinguished the human Jesus who died from the divine Son who could not die. The problem was if Jesus who died was only human and not God, His death could not be efficacious to all.

No doubt there was a certain amount of misunderstanding of this controversy and probably others as well throughout history. Nestorius was condemned for his teaching and removed from his office.  However, Lamsa did side with the Nestorian heresy explaining and defining it in his books. In Gospel Light, Lamsa states that Jesus was never worshipped as God (p. 353) Lamsa not only denied the deity of the LORD Jesus Christ, he denied the biblical teaching on salvation, on these core doctrines alone he and his Aramaic concepts must be rejected in his teachings.

Clearly Lamsa’s personal beliefs steered his interpretations, especially his Nestorian view that Jesus is only human. And the bible specifically calls this the spirit of antichrist, denying the incarnation of God. This is why the anti-trinitrians, those who deny Jesus being deity in human flesh all use his Aramaic interpretation.

See-The Bible Delivered to us Today

 

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