The Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies
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.Source: http://www.thenazareneway.com/aramaic_primacy.htm
Language of Jesus
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It is generally agreed by historians that Jesus and his disciples primarily spoke Aramaic(Jewish Palestinian Aramaic), the common language of Judea in the first century AD, most likely a Galilean dialect distinguishable from that of Jerusalem. The towns of Nazareth and Capernaum in Galilee, where Jesus spent most of his time, were Aramaic-speaking communities.
Cultural and linguistic background
Aramaic was the common language of the Eastern Mediterranean during and after the Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, and Achaemenid Empires (722–330 BC) and remained a common language of the region in the first century AD. In spite of the increasing importance of Greek, the use of Aramaic was also expanding, and it would eventually be dominant among Jews both in the Holy Land and elsewhere in the Middle East around 200 AD and would remain so until the Islamic conquests in the seventh century.
According to Dead Sea Scrolls archaeologist Yigael Yadin, Aramaic was the language of Hebrews until Simon Bar Kokhba's revolt (132 AD to 135 AD). Yadin noticed the shift from Aramaic to Hebrew in the documents he studied, which had been written during the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt. In his book, Bar Kokhba: The rediscovery of the legendary hero of the last Jewish Revolt Against Imperial Rome, Yigael Yadin notes, "It is interesting that the earlier documents are written in Aramaic while the later ones are in Hebrew. Possibly the change was made by a special decree of Bar Kokhba who wanted to restore Hebrew as the official language of the state".
In another book by Sigalit Ben-Zion, Yadin said: "it seems that this change came as a result of the order that was given by Bar Kokhba, who wanted to revive the Hebrew language and make it the official language of the state."
Josephus points out how people from what are now Iran, Iraq and remote parts of the Arabian Peninsula knew all about the war of the Jews against the Romans because of the books he wrote "in the language of our country", books he then translated into Greek for the benefit of the Greeks and Romans:
H. St. J. Thackeray (who translated Josephus' Jewish Wars from Greek into English) also points out, "We learn from the proem that the Greek text was not the first draft of the work. It had been preceded by a narrative written in Aramaic and addressed to "the barbarians in the interior", who are more precisely defined lower down as the natives of Parthia, Babylonia, and Arabia, the Jewish dispersion in Mesopotamia, and the inhabitants of Adiabene, a principality of which the reigning house, as was proudly remembered, were converts to Judaism (B. i, 3, 6). Of this Aramaic work the Greek is described as a "version" made for the benefit of the subjects of the Roman Empire, i.e. the Graeco-Roman world at large.
Josephus differentiated Hebrew from his language and that of first-century Israel. Josephus refers to Hebrew words as belonging to "the Hebrew tongue" but refers to Aramaic words as belonging to "our tongue" or "our language" or "the language of our country".
Josephus refers to a Hebrew word with the phrase "the Hebrew tongue": "But the affairs of the Canaanites were at this time in a flourishing condition, and they expected the Israelites with a great army at the city Bezek, having put the government into the hands of Adonibezek, which name denotes the Lord of Bezek, for Adoni in the Hebrew tongue signifies Lord."
In this example, Josephus refers to an Aramaic word as belonging to "our language": "This new-built part of the city was called 'Bezetha,' in our language, which, if interpreted in the Grecian language, may be called 'the New City.'"
Unlike Josephus and other Hebrew priests at Jerusalem, the people of first-century Israel had no knowledge of Hebrew, as is confirmed throughout the New Testament. On several occasions in the New Testament, Aramaic words are called Hebrew. For example, in John 19:17 (KJV), the gospel-writer narrates that Jesus, "bearing his cross[,] went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha." The last word is, in fact, Aramaic. The word "Golgotha" is a transliteration of an Aramaic word, because -tha in Golgotha is the Aramaic definite article on a feminine noun in an emphatic state.
Aramaic phrases in the Greek New Testament
The Greek New Testament transliterates a few Semitic words. When the text itself refers to the language of such Semitic glosses, it uses words meaning "Hebrew"/"Jewish", but this term is often applied to unmistakably Aramaic words and phrases; for this reason, it is often interpreted as meaning "the (Aramaic) vernacular of the Jews" in recent translations. The "Semitisms" are mainly words attributed to Jesus by the Gospel of Mark, and perhaps had a special significance because of this.
A very small minority believe that most or all of the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic. However, such theories are rejected by mainstream Biblical scholarship. Traditionally, parts of the Church of the East (Nestorian church) have also claimed originality for the Aramaic New Testament, but it is considered by scholars to be a translation from Greek. Instead, the consensus among mainstream academia is that although it is possible that there may be Aramaic source materials that underpin some portions of the New Testament, the New Testament was compiled and redacted in the Greek language. Scholars are also in agreement that there was at one time an early Aramaic/Hebrew version of a Jewish-Christian gospel, but its relation to the Greek gospels is not completely clear because of a lack of sources.
Talitha kum (Ταλιθὰ κούμ (κοῦμι))
- And taking the hand of the child, he said to her, "Talitha kum", which translates as, "Little girl, I say to you, get up."
This verse gives an Aramaic phrase, attributed to Jesus bringing the girl back to life, with a transliteration into Greek, as ταλιθὰ κούμ.
A few Greek manuscripts (Codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus) of Mark's Gospel have this form of the text, but others (Codex Alexandrinus, the text-type known as the Majority Text, and the Latin Vulgate) write κοῦμι (koumi)/cumi instead. The latter is in the Textus Receptus and is the version that appears in the KJV.
The Aramaic is ṭlīthā qūm. The word ṭlīthā is the feminine form of the word ṭlē, meaning "young". Qūm is the Aramaic verb 'to rise, stand, get up'. In the feminine singular imperative, it was originally qūmī. However, there is evidence that in speech, the final -ī was dropped so the imperative did not distinguish between masculine and feminine genders. The older manuscripts, therefore, used a Greek spelling that reflected pronunciation whereas the addition of an 'ι' was perhaps due to a bookish copyist.
In square script Aramaic, it could be טליתא קומי or טלתא קומי.
- And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," which is 'be opened'.
Once again, the Aramaic word is given with the transliteration, only this time, the word to be transliterated is more complicated. In Greek, the Aramaic is written ἐφφαθά. This could be from the Aramaic ethpthaḥ, the passive imperative of the verb pthaḥ, 'to open', since the thcould assimilate in western Aramaic. The pharyngeal ḥ was often omitted in Greek transcriptions in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) and was also softened in Galilean speech.
- "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
Abba, an originally Aramaic form borrowed into the Greek Old Testament as a name (2Chr 29:1) [though a feminine one, standing for the Hebrew Abijah (אביה)], common in Mishnaic Hebrew and still used in Modern Hebrew (written Αββά[ς] in Greek, and ’abbā in Aramaic), is immediately followed by the Greek equivalent (Πατήρ) with no explicit mention of it being a translation. The phrase Abba, Father is repeated in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6. In Aramaic, it would be אבא.
- But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother [without a cause] shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Raca, or Raka, in the Aramaic and Hebrew of the Talmud, means empty one, fool, empty head.
In Aramaic, it could be ריקא or ריקה.
Gospel of Matthew 6:24
- No one can serve two masters: for either they will hate the one, and love the other; or else they will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
- And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
- Now the Lord declares, "No servant can serve two masters." If we desire, then, to serve both God and mammon, it will be unprofitable for us. "For what will it profit if a man gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" This world and the next are two enemies. The one urges to adultery and corruption, avarice and deceit; the other bids farewell to these things. We cannot, therefore, be the friends of both; and it behoves us, by renouncing the one, to make sure of the other. Let us reckon that it is better to hate the things present, since they are trifling, and transient, and corruptible; and to love those [who are to come,] as being good and incorruptible. For if we do the will of Christ, we shall find rest; otherwise, nothing shall deliver us from eternal punishment, if we disobey His commandments.(Roberts-Donaldson)
In Aramaic, it could be ממון (or, in the typical Aramaic "emphatic" state suggested by the Greek ending, ממונא). This is usually considered to be an originally Aramaic word borrowed into Rabbinic Hebrew, but its occurrence in late Biblical Hebrew and, reportedly, in 4th century Punic may indicate that it had a more general "common Semitic background".
In the New Testament, the word Μαμωνᾶς Mammon, is declined like a Greek word whereas many of the other Aramaic and Hebrew words are treated as indeclinable foreign words.
- Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. (KJV)
Also in Mark 10:51. Hebrew form rabbi used as title of Jesus in Matthew 26:25,49; Mark 9:5, 11:21, 14:45; John 1:38, 1:49, 4:31, 6:25, 9:2, 11:8.
In Aramaic, it would have been רבוני.
Didache 10 (Prayer after Communion)
- Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen. (Roberts-Donaldson)
1 Corinthians 16:22
- If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.
Depending on how one selects to split the single Greek expression of the early manuscripts into Aramaic, it could be either מרנא תא (marana tha, "Lord, come!") or מרן אתא (maran atha, "Our Lord has come").
Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani (Ἠλί, Ἠλί, λιμὰ σαβαχθανί)
- Around the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, saying "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" which is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
- And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, for what have you forsaken me?"
This phrase, among the Sayings of Jesus on the cross, is given in these two versions. The Matthean version of the phrase is transliterated in Greek as Ἠλί, Ἠλί, λιμὰ σαβαχθανί. The Markan version is Ἐλωΐ, Ἐλωΐ, λιμὰ σαβαχθανί (elōi rather than ēli and supposedly lama rather than lema).
Overall, both versions appear to be Aramaic rather than Hebrew because of the verb שבק (šbq) "abandon", which is originally Aramaic. The "pure" Biblical Hebrew counterpart to this word, עזב (‘zb) is seen in the first line of Psalm 22, which the saying appears to quote. Thus, Jesus is not quoting the canonical Hebrew version (ēlī ēlī lāmā ‘azabtānī) attributed in some Jewish interpretations to King David cited as Jesus' ancestor in Matthew's Genealogy of Jesus if the Eli, Eli version of Jesus' outcry is taken; he may be quoting the version given in an Aramaic Targum (surviving Aramaic Targums do use šbq in their translations of the Psalm 22 ).
The Markan word for "my god", Ἐλωΐ, definitely corresponds to the Aramaic form אלהי, elāhī. The Matthean one, Ἠλί, fits in better with the אלי of the original Hebrew Psalm, as has been pointed out in the literature; however, it may also be Aramaic because this form is attested abundantly in Aramaic as well.
In the next verse, in both accounts, some who hear Jesus' cry imagine that he is calling for help from Elijah (Ēlīyā in Aramaic).
Almost all ancient Greek manuscripts show signs of trying to normalize this text. For instance, the peculiar Codex Bezae renders both versions with ηλι ηλι λαμα ζαφθανι (ēli ēli lama zaphthani). The Alexandrian, Western and Caesarean textual families all reflect harmonization of the texts between Matthew and Mark. Only the Byzantine textual tradition preserves a distinction.
The Aramaic word form šəḇaqtanī is based on the verb šəḇaq/šāḇaq, 'to allow, to permit, to forgive, and to forsake', with the perfect tense ending -t (2nd person singular: 'you'), and the object suffix -anī (1st person singular: 'me').
In Aramaic, it could be אלהי אלהי למא שבקתני.
Jot and tittle (Ἰῶτα ἓν ἢ μία κεραία)
- For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Law (that is, the Torah) till all is fulfilled.
The quotation uses them as an example of extremely minor details. In the Greek text translated as English jot and tittle is found iota and keraia. Iota is the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet (ι), but since only capitals were used at the time the Greek New Testament was written (Ι) and because the Torah was written in Hebrew, it probably represents the Hebrew yodh (י) which is the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Keraia is a hook or serif.
- But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.’
In Aramaic (קרבנא) it refers to the treasury in the Temple in Jerusalem, derived from the Hebrew Korban (קרבן), found in Mark 7:11 and the Septuagint (in Greek transliteration), meaning religious gift or offering.
The Greek κορβανᾶς is declined as a Greek noun, much like other examples.
- for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.
- Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
This word is derived from הושע נא. It is generally considered to be a quote from Psalms 118:25 "O Lord, save (us)", but the original Biblical Hebrew form was הושיעה נא. The shortened form הושע could be either Aramaic or Hebrew.
Aramaic personal names in the New Testament
Personal names in the New Testament come from a number of languages; Hebrew and Greek are most common. However, there are a few Aramaic names as well. The most prominent feature in Aramaic names is bar (Greek transliteration βαρ, Aramaic bar), meaning 'son of', a common patronym prefix. Its Hebrew equivalent, ben, is conspicuous by its absence. Some examples are:
- Matthew 10:3 – Bartholomew (Βαρθολομαῖος from bar-Tōlmay, perhaps "son of furrows" or "ploughman").
- Matthew 16:17 – Simon bar-Jona (Σίμων Βαριωνᾶς from Šim‘ōn bar-Yōnā, "Simon son of Jonah").
- John 1:42 – Simon bar-Jochanan ("Simon son of John").
- Matthew 27:16 – Barabbas (Βαραββᾶς from bar-Abbā, "son of the father").
- Mark 10:46 – Bartimaeus (Βαρτιμαῖος possibly from combination of Aramaic bar and Greek timaeus meaning "honorable" or "highly prized", perhaps "honorable son").
- Acts 1:23 – Barsabbas (Βαρσαββᾶς from bar-Šabbā, "son of the Sabbath").
- Acts 4:36 – Joseph who is called Barnabas (Βαρνάβας from bar-Navā meaning "son of prophecy", "the prophet", but given the Greek translation υἱὸς παρακλήσεως; usually translated as "son of consolation/encouragement", the Greek could mean "invocation" as well).
- Acts 13:6 – Bar-Jesus (Βαριησοῦς from bar-Išo, "son of Jesus/Joshua").
- And James, the son of Zebedee, and John, the brother of James, and he gave them the name Boanerges, which is Sons of Thunder.
There has been much speculation about this name. Given the Greek translation that comes with it ('Sons of Thunder'), it seems that the first element of the name is bnē, 'sons of' (the plural of 'bar'), Aramaic (בני). This is represented by βοάνη (boanē), giving two vowels in the first syllable where one would be sufficient. It could be inferred from this that the Greek transliteration may not be a good one. The second part of the name is often reckoned to be rḡaš ('tumult') Aramaic (רגיש), or rḡaz ('anger') Aramaic (רגז). Maurice Casey, however, argues that it is a simple misreading of the word for thunder, r‘am (due to the similarity of s to the final m). This is supported by one Syriactranslation of the name as bnay ra‘mâ. The Peshitta reads bnay rḡešy, which would fit with a later composition for it, based on a Byzantine reading of the original Greek.
- He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John, you shall be called Cephas", which is translated 'Peter'. (New International Version)
1 Corinthians 1:12
- But I say that each of you says "I am of Paul", or "I am of Apollos", or "I am of Cephas", or "I am of Christ".
- Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days;
In these passages, 'Cephas' is given as the nickname of the apostle better known as Simon Peter. The Greek word is transliterated Κηφᾶς (Kēphâs).
The apostle's given name appears to be Simon, and he is given the Aramaic nickname, kēpā, meaning 'rock' or 'stone'. The final sigma (ς) is added in Greek to make the name masculine rather than feminine. That the meaning of the name was more important than the name itself is evidenced by the universal acceptance of the Greek translation, Πέτρος (Petros). It is not known why Paul uses the Aramaic name rather than the Greek name for Simon Peter when he writes to the churches in Galatia and Corinth. He may have been writing at a time before Cephas came to be popularly known as Peter. According to Clement of Alexandria, there were two people named Cephas: one was Apostle Simon Peter, and the other was one of Jesus' Seventy Apostles. Clement goes further to say it was Cephas of the Seventy who was condemned by Paul in Galatians 2 for not eating with the Gentiles, though this is perhaps Clement's way of deflecting the condemnation from Simon Peter. In any case the relationship of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism (which this involves) is still disputed.
In Aramaic, it could be ܫܸܡܥ.
- Then Thomas, who was called Didymus, said to his co-disciples, "Now let us go that we might die with him!"
Thomas (Θωμᾶς) is listed among the disciples of Jesus in all four gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. However, it is only in John's Gospel that more information is given. In three places (John 11:16, 20:24 and 21:2), he is given the name Didymus (Δίδυμος), the Greek word for a twin. In fact, "the Twin" is not just a surname, it is a translation of "Thomas". The Greek Θωμᾶς—Thōmâs—comes from the Aramaic tōmā, "twin". Therefore, rather than two personal names, Thomas Didymus, there is a single nickname, the Twin. Christian tradition gives him the personal name Judas, and he was perhaps named Thomas to distinguish him from others of the same name.
In Aramaic, it could be ܬܐܘܡܐ.
- In Joppa, there was a disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas.
The disciple's name is given both in Aramaic (Ταβιθά) and Greek (Δορκάς). The Aramaic name is a transliteration of Ṭḇīthā, the female form of טביא (Ṭaḇyā). Both names mean 'gazelle'.
In Aramaic, it could be טביתא.
Aramaic place names in the New Testament
- Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane.
- And they went to a place that has the name Gethsemane.
The place where Jesus takes his disciples to pray before his arrest is given the Greek transliteration Γεθσημανῆ (Gethsēmanē). It represents the Aramaic Gath-Šmānē, meaning 'the oil press' or 'oil vat' (referring to olive oil).
In Aramaic, it could be ܓܕܣܡܢ. This place name is more properly an Aramaized version of an original Hebrew place name. Gath גת is a normal word for press in Hebrew, generally used for a wine press not an olive press though; and shemanei שמני is the Hebrew word shemanim שמנים meaning "oils", the plural form of the word shemen שמן, the primary Hebrew word for oil, just in an Aramaic plural form (-ei instead of the Hebrew plural suffix -im). The word in Aramaic for "oil" is more properly mišḥa (משחא), as also attested in Jewish writings in Aramaic from the Galilee (see Caspar Levias, A Grammar of Galilean Aramaic, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1986).
- And they took him up to the place Golgotha, which is translated Place of the Skull.
- And carrying his cross by himself, he went out to the so-called Place of the Skull, which is called in 'Hebrew' Golgotha.
Gagūltā Aramaic, means 'skull'. The name appears in all of the gospels except Luke, which calls the place simply Kranion (Κρανίον) 'the Skull' in Greek, with no Semitic counterpart. The name 'Calvary' is taken from the Latin Vulgate translation, Calvaria.
In Aramaic, it could be ܓܓܘܠܬܐ. Though this word has the Aramaic final form -ta / -tha, it is otherwise also closer to the Hebrew word for skull, gulgolet גולגולת, than to the Aramaic form.
- When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge's bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
The place name appears to be Aramaic. According to Josephus, War, V.ii.1, #51, the word Gabath means high place, or elevated place, so perhaps a raised flat area near the temple. The final "א" could then represent the emphatic state of the noun.
In Aramaic, it could be גבהתא.
- And this became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that field was called, in their own dialect, Akeldama, that is Field of Blood.
The place of Judas Iscariot's death is clearly named Field of Blood in Greek. However, the manuscript tradition gives a number of different spellings of the Aramaic. The Majority Text reads Ἀκελδαμά (Akeldama); other manuscript versions give Ἀχελδαμάχ (Acheldamach), Ἁκελδαμά (Hakeldama), Ἁχελδαμά (Hacheldama) and Ἁκελδαμάχ (Hakeldamach). Despite these variant spellings the Aramaic is most probably ḥqēl dmā, 'field of blood'. While the seemingly gratuitous Greek sound of kh [x] at the end of the word is difficult to explain, the Septuagint similarly adds this sound to the end of the Semitic name Ben Sira to form the Greek name for the Book of Sirakh (Latin: Sirach). The sound may be a dialectic feature of either the Greek speakers or the original Semitic language speakers.
In Aramaic, it could be חקל דמא.
Pool of Bethesda (Βηθεσδά)
- Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.
Bethesda was originally the name of a pool in Jerusalem, on the path of the Beth Zeta Valley, and is also known as the Sheep Pool. Its name in Aramaic means "House of Grace". It is associated with healing. In John 5, Jesus was reported healing a man at the pool.
In Aramaic, "Bethesda" could be spelled בית חסדא.
Did The Jews of 1 st century Israel speak Greek or Aramaic ?
1 41 1 4 1 1 5 1 Lu 23:38 Lu 23:38 (MUR) And there was likewise a superscription over him, written in Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Lu 23:38 (BYZ) 1 1 45 1 1 1 45 5 4 5 4 Lu 23:38 (WH) 1 45 4 5 4 45 Lu 23:38 (TR) 1 1 45 1 1 1 45 5 4 5 4 Lu 23:38 (ASV) And there was also a superscription over him, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 4 428 (Peshitta) 28 (MUR) And he went in and out with them, at Jerusalem. 28 (BYZ) 5 45 14 14 14 11 5 5 54 414 4 28 (WH) 5 45 14 14 14 11 5 5 54 414 28 (TR) 5 45 14 14 14 28 (ASV) And he was with them going in and going out at Jerusalem, 1 4 4 4 4 29 (Peshitta) 29 (MUR) And he spoke openly in the name of Jesus and disputed with those Jews who understood Greek. But they wished to kill him: 29 (BYZ) 5 45 1 54 5 14 45 29 (WH) 5 45 1 54 5 14 45 29 (TR) 11 5 5 54 414 4 (#:#) 5 45 1 54 5 14 45 29 (ASV) preaching boldly in the name of the Lord: and he spake and disputed against the Grecian Jews; but they were seeking to kill him.
Apparently from this and Acts 21:37, we may conclude that Paul the Apostle spoke Greek fluently. Hellenists, like Philo, did not speak Aramaic or Hebrew, hence, Paul would have singled them out as a group, since he knew the language.
Thayer’s Greek –English Lexicon has for 5 “Hellenist”0 1675 5 Hellenistes hel-lay-nis-tace’ from a derivative of 1672; TDNT-2:504,227; n m AV-Grecians 3; 3 1) a Hellenist 1a) one who imitates the manners and customs or the worship of the Greeks, and uses the Greek tongue 1b) used in the NT of Jews born in foreign lands and speaking Greek
So the Greek NT refers to some Hellenists in Jerusalem who had come from other countries speaking Greek. This is a far cry from the claim that all Jews in Israel were Hellenists ! Many, however, would have us believe just that claim!
1 4 1 4 1 1 4 Ac 21:37 Ac 21:37 (MUR) And when he came near to entering the castle, Paul said to the Chiliarch: Wilt thou permit me to speak with thee? And he said to him: Dost thou know Greek? Ac 21:37 (BYZ) 5 1 5 1 4 5 1 25 1 5 Ac 21:37 (WH) 5 1 5 1 4 5 1 25 5 1 5 Ac 21:37 (TR) 5 1 5 1 4 5 1 25 5 1 5 Ac 21:37 (ASV) And as Paul was about to be brought into the castle, he saith unto the chief captain, May I say something unto thee? And he said, Dost thou know Greek?
And now, let’s zero in on the central question: What language did the Jews of first century Israel speak ?
Acts 1:19 And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. 1 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 4 1 4 1 Ac 1:19 (Peshitta) Ac 1:19 (BYZ) 5 5 5 54 14 5 1 5 1 5 5 45 545 5 1 5 Ac 1:19 (WH) 5 5 5 54 14 5 1 5 1 5 5 45 545 5 1 5 Ac 1:19 (ASV) And it became known to all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch that in their language that field was called Akeldama, that is, The field of blood.) 184 3 Akeldama ak-el-dam-ah’ of Aramaic origin, corresponding to 02506 and 01818 0 ; ; n pr loc AV-Aceldama 1; 1 Aceldama =" Field of Blood" 1) a field purchased with Judas’s betrayal money, located near Jerusalem
The answer is to the question at the heading is, “Yes”. Seriously, there were some Greek speaking Jews in Jerusalem. The Greek NT refers to them as 5 -“Hellenists”. Acts 1:19 in the Greek makes plain however that the language of the inhabitants of Jerusalem was Aramaic. The fact that the NT points out there were Greek speaking Jews actually confirms that most of the Jews did not speak Greek. It was pointed out that there were some who did because they were the exception, and as we have all heard, “The exception proves the rule.” Acts 1:19 settles the matter of the language of 1 st century Jews in Palestine.
Acts 21:40 514 5 454 4 5 5 1 5 5 1 5 1 5 1 5 Ac 21:40 And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto [them] in the Hebrew tongue, saying, 1 4 4 41 4 Ac 21:40 Ac 22:2 45 5 5 1 5 1 45 1 4 Ac 22:2 (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) 1 1 4 1 4 4 Ac 22:2 Ac 26:14 5 5 5 5 4 4 1 4 5 1 5 4 4 5 1 1 51 5 Ac 26:14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? [it is] hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 4 4 1 5 1 4 1 4 4 4 Ac 26:14
Thayers NT Greek Lexicon has the following entry for 1 translated “Hebrew”): 1446 1 Hebrais heb-rah-is’ from 1443; TDNT-3:356,372; n f AV-Hebrew 3; 3 1) Hebrew, the Hebrew language, not that however in which the OT was written but the Chaldee , which at the time of Jesus and the apostles had long superseded it in Palestine .
“Chaldee” is Aramaic ! The last three references in Acts show that Paul understood Aramaic and that our Lord in Heaven spoke Aramaic to Paul, most likely because it was the tongue common to both of them as Palestinian Jews. Naturally, this signifies the God-breathed language of The New Covenant to be Aramaic ! Please find a reference to Deity speaking Greek and we shall all listen reverently at your feet. So we have seen at least six references in The Greek New Testament that testify that the Jews of first century Jerusalem spoke Aramaic as their proper language and that a relative few , called Hellenists, spoke Greek.
Josephus , born A.D. 37, confirms this in his works also, having written them in Aramaic and having them translated into Greek. He specifically addressed the issue of Jews speaking Greek in the negative, saying that he himself, who had studied Greek, was neither fluent in it nor able to converse in Greek. He also said he knew of only two or three Jews who were fluent in Greek.
Another bit of interesting evidence: John 1:23 45 gazed 0 4Jesus 4 4to 1 45 he brought him 1 4Simeon 4 4are 4you 1 45 He said 4Jesus 4 4at him 4Kapha 4shall be called 1 1 4you 1 !4son of Jonah And he brought him to Jesus and Jesus gazed at him and He said: “You are Simeon, Son of Jonah; You shall be called Kapha” (“a Stone”). * 4 "“Simeon” occurs 165 times in the Peshitta NT. The Greek equivalents “5 ”& “5 ” (“Simon” & “ Simeon”) occur only 82 times ! Often the Greek Name, “ 51”- “Petros” is used instead. The Greek of this verse , however, retains the Aramaic “Simeon” and “Kapha” , which it then explains with the words : “ 1 45 51” – “Cephas , which is translated Petros.” Here the Greek text declares that the name “Petros” is a translation of the Aramaic name “Kapha”. We here find hard evidence, and in 160 other places where this Greek name occurs, that the Greek NT is translated from Aramaic ! Naturally, the Peshitta has no similar translation from Greek to Aramaic, here or anywhere else. Repeat the above statement several times and ponder it: The Greek text declares itself to be translated from Aramaic !
Aramaic New Testament
The Aramaic New Testament of the Bible exists in two forms: (1) the classical Aramaic, or Syriac, New Testament, part of the Peshitta Bible, or "Peshitta" (2) the "Assyrian Modern" New Testament and Psalms, published by the Bible Society in Lebanon (1997) and newly translated from Koine Greek. The official Assyrian Church of the East (known by some as the Nestorian Church) does not recognise the new "Assyrian Modern" edition, and traditionally considers the New Testament of the Peshitta to be the original New Testament, and Aramaic to be its original language. This view was popularised in the West by the Assyrian Church of the East scholar George Lamsa, but is not supported by the majority of scholars, either of the Peshitta or the Greek New Testament.
The traditional New Testament of the Peshitta has 22 books, lacking 2 John, 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude and Revelation, which are books of the Antilegomena. The text of Gospels also lacks the Pericope Adulterae (John 7:53–8:11) and Luke 22:17–18. These missing books were reconstructed by the Syriacist John Gwynn in 1893 and 1897 from alternative manuscripts, and included them in the United Bible Societies edition of 1905. The 1997 modern Aramaic New Testament has all 27 books.
Aramaic original New Testament hypothesis
The hypothesis of an Aramaic original for the New Testament holds that the original text of the New Testament was not written in Greek, as held by the majority of scholars, but in the Aramaic language, which was the language of Jesus and the Apostles.
The position of the Assyrian Church of the East is that the Syriac Peshitta (a Bible version which is written in a vernacular form of Aramaic), used in that church, is the original of the New Testament. For instance, the patriarch Shimun XXIII Eshai declared in 1957:
The late Patriarch of the Church of the East, Dinkha IV (1976–2015), has not publicly pronounced that the Peshitta is the original New Testament. Variants of this view are held by some individuals who may argue for a lost Aramaic text preceding the Peshitta as the basis for the New Testament.
This view is to be distinguished from the view held by most historical critics, that the Greek New Testament (particularly the Gospel of Matthew and Gospel of Mark) may have had Aramaic source texts which are no longer extant.
The most noteworthy advocate of the "Peshitta-original" hypothesis in the West was George Lamsa of the Aramaic Bible Center. A tiny minority of more recent scholars are backers of the Peshitta-original theory today, whereas the overwhelming majority of scholars consider the Peshitta New Testament to be a translation from a Greek original. For instance the noted Assyriologist Sebastian Brock wrote:
Some advocates of the "Peshitta-original" theory also use the term "Aramaic primacy", though this is not used in academic sources, and appears to be a recent neologism, as is the phrase "Greek primacy", used to characterize the consensus view. The expression "Aramaic primacy" was used by L. I. Levine, but only as a general expression used to denote the primacy of Aramaic over Hebrew and Greek in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period (i.e. roughly 200 BC - 70 AD). The earliest appearance of the phrase in print appears to be in David Bauscher.
George Lamsa's translation of the Peshitta New Testament from Syriac into English brought the claims for primacy of the Aramaic New Testament to the West. However, his translation is poorly regarded by most scholars in the field. The Old Syriac Texts, the Sinai palimpsest and the Curetonian Gospels, have also influenced scholars concerning original Aramaic passages. Diatessaronic texts such as the Liege Dutch Harmony, the Pepysian Gospel Harmony, Codex Fuldensis, The Persian Harmony, The Arabic Diatessaron, and the Commentary on the Diatessaron by Ephrem the Syrian have provided recent insights into Aramaic origins. The Coptic Gospel of Thomasand the various versions of the medieval Hebrew Gospel of Matthew also have provided clues to Aramaic foundations in the New Testament especially the gospels. Many 19th Century scholars (H. Holtzmann, Wendt, Jülicher, Wernle, von Soden, Wellhausen, Harnack, B. Weiss, Nicolardot, W. Allen, Montefiore, Plummer, and Stanton)[not in citation given] theorized that portions of the gospels, especially Matthew, were derived from an Aramaic source normally referred to as Q.[dubious ]
The best evidence for at least one of the Greek books of the New Testament to have been translated out of the Aramaic, comes from a textual analysis of those attributed to the Apostle John. Their variation in writing style is so considerable, that it would preclude them having been written in Greek by the same author. St Dionysius of Alexandria lent support to this argument, when pointing out how John's style of writing differs so markedly between his Gospel and Revelation. He concluded that the sophisticated writer of the former could not have written the clumsy Greek of the latter. Thus, the only way for John to have been the author of Revelation is for it to have been penned by a translator. However, Dionysius himself left open the possibility that it was written in Greek "by a holy and inspired writer" other than John.
Methods of argument
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Advocates of the hypothesis of an Aramaic original for the New Testament often invoke the following arguments.
No knowledge of Greek in the Jesus community
The 1st century AD historian Josephus states that his nation did not encourage the learning of Greek, which implies that a Jew who spoke Greek would have been rare in the first century.
Perceived logical improbabilities in Greek
One passage that it is argued contains a logical improbability in Greek is Matthew 4:8. There isn't a mountain high enough to view "all of the kingdoms of the earth" since the earth is round. The Hebrew word found in Ibn Shaprut's medieval translation of the Greek Gospel of Matthew in the appendix to The Touchstone (c.1380) uses "eretz" which can be translated as earth or land. By substituting the Hebrew word "eretz" into the passage makes it possible that "all the kingdoms of the land of Israel" were viewed from a high mountain such as Mount Tabor in Israel. However the same is true for Greek ge which can mean land or earth depending on context. Also since "all the kingdoms of the land of Israel" is seen as an unlikely meaning most commentators on Matthew have seen "all the kingdoms of the land of earth" as being either hyperbole or a vision.
Another proposed example concerns Matthew 24:51 and Luke 12:46. Agnes Smith Lewis (1910) noted that the verb used in all of the Syriac versions "palleg" has the primary meaning of "cut in pieces" and the secondary one of "appoint to some one his portion." The primary sense leads to the possible problem of how someone cut to pieces could then be assigned to something else. But, Smith argues, if we take the secondary meaning then we are may suggest that the Greek translator misunderstood a Syriac idiom by taking it too literally. The translation would be "and shall allot his portion and shall place him with the unfaithful" instead of the Greek "shall cut him in pieces and shall place him with the unfaithful." Hugh J. Schonfield (1927) notes that the Hebrew verb "bahkag" means literally to "break forth, cleave asunder" and concludes that the Greek translator has failed to grasp the sense in which the Hebrew word is here used.
Another proposed example involves the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew. Schonfield (1927) argues that the text of Matthew indicates three genealogical groups of 14 each. However, the Greek texts of Matthew have two groups of 14 and a final group of 13. The SyriacCuretonian and Syriac Sinaitic add the following to Matthew 1:13, "Abiud begat Abiur, Abiur begat Eliakim. Dutillet's Hebrew version of Matthew adds Abihud begat Abner; Abner begat Eliakim. In both Syriac and Hebrew the spellings between Abiud and Abiur are so close that during translation into Greek the second name could have been dropped mistakenly. In any case, all Greek texts contain only 13 names while possibly indicating 14 should be in the final portion of the list. The two Syriac texts and one Hebrew text have 14 names and indicate 14 should be in the final portion of the list.
Some[who?] treat "split words" as 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 interpreted in the wrong sense, or even translated both ways in different documents.[original research?]
Perhaps the most well known example cited by advocates of an Aramaic urtext for the Gospels is the parable of the "camel (καμηλος) through the eye of a needle." (Mark 10:25, Matthew 19:24, Luke 18:25) In Aramaic, the word for "camel" (גמלא) is spelled identically to the word for "rope" (גמלא), as published in the works of Lamsa, a native speaker of Aramaic, whereby the correct phrase becomes "rope through the eye of a needle," making the hyperbole more symmetrical. The Aramaic word might also be translated as "beam", making a connection between this passage and the passage on removing a beam from your eye—Matthew 7:5; Luke 6:41–42.
Aramaic is one of the Semitic languages, a family where many 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. In applying this principle, scholars[who?] have studied the dialogues of the New Testament and in some cases claim that how a choice of words that apparently seem completely unrelated or awkward in Greek may originate from an original Aramaic source that employed puns, or vice versa. Agnes Smith Lewis discusses how the Aramaic words for "slave" and "sin" are similar. "He who sins is a slave to sin" John 8:34. She uses this to point out Jesus used puns in Aramaic that were lost in the translations.
For example, in the True Children of Abraham debate within the Gospel of John, some[who?] consider the conversation took place in Aramaic, note possible examples of punning between the words "father" (אבא, abba), "Abraham" (אברהם, abraham) and the verb "to do" (עבד, `abad):
- John 8
- 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)!"
An alternate possibility is that the above conversation was actually conducted in Aramaic, but translated into Greek by the gospel writer. Portions of the oral sayings in Matthew contain vocabulary that may indicate Hebrew or Aramaic linguistic techniques involving puns, alliterations, and word connections. Hebrew/Aramaic vocabulary choices possibly underlie the text in Matthew 1:21, 3:9, 4:12, 4:21–23, 5:9–10, 5:23, 5:47–48, 7:6, 8:28–31, 9:8, 10:35–39, 11:6, 11:8–10, 11:17, 11:29, 12:13–15, 12:39, 14:32, 14:35–36, 15:34–37, 16:18, 17:05, 18:9, 18:16, 18:23–35, 19:9–13, 19:24, 21:19, 21:37–46, 21:42, 23:25–29, 24:32, 26:28–36, 26:52.
Absence or presence of Aramaic quotations and translations
In the Greek New Testament, a number of verses include Aramaic phrases or words which are then translated into Greek. In the Peshitta, sometimes the word or phrase is quoted twice in Aramaic, indicating that the words needed to be translated from one Aramaic dialect to another.
For example, Matthew 27.46 reads:
However, the parallel verse in Mark 15:34 reads in both in the quotation/translation form it has in the Greek:
The evidence of these verses, some[who?] claim, tend to support the claims of St. Papias and Irenaeus that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Aramaic presumably for Aramaic speakers in Syria-Palestine, while the Gospel of Mark was written for the Greek speaking Christians of Rome, who would not have known Aramaic fluently; but, who might have become familiar with certain phrases from the preaching of the Apostles or the liturgy. This is in similar fashion to how the words "Alleluia", "Amen", "Abba", "Hosanna" and "Sabaoth" are still in common usage in the western liturgy.
On the other hand, while Mark 3:17 ("Boanerges") and Mark 15:22 ("Golgatha") is repeated and also slightly changed in the double quotation in the Peshitta, the verses Mark 5:41 ("Talitha koumi"), Mark 7.34 ("Ephphatha") do not include any doubling.
Although the aforementioned is a discussion concerning the inclusion of quotation marks, the Lamsa translated Peshitta for Matthew 27:46 reads: "And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said, Eli, Eli, lamana shabakthani! which means, My God, My God, for this I was spared (or this was my destiny)."
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Advocates of the primacy of the Peshitta
According to mainstream textual scholars, the Peshitta New Testament is translated from The Greek New Testament. However, some writers believe that the Aramaic Peshitta is the closest text to the original New Testament. Among those who side with this view were William Norton of North Devon (1880), the late Assyrian author George Lamsa, and the owners of several websites: Paul Younan (Peshitta.org), Andrew Gabriel Roth (Aramaic NT Truth), David Bauscher (aramaicnt.com). In modern day, this movement is primarily based on the internet, although some historical advocates of the priority of the Peshitta include several Aramaic-speaking churches.
Primacy of Aramaic oral tradition
The fact that the Gospel of Mark in the Greek also has Jesus quoting Psalms 22:1 in Aramaic as shown above, is confirmation that an Aramaic rendering of the Old Testament already had established itself in popular oral tradition as documented by Zeev ben-Hayyim and others. Accordingly, other instances of Greek New Testament manuscripts not following the Hebrew text when they quote the Old Testament, indicate that further evidence exists to support Aramaic primacy in the spoken Word, if not the written. For example, not only do they not follow the Hebrew in all such instances, but they supply Greek readings that faithfully represent the Aramaic text even to the extent of contradicting the Hebrew. While such evidence is nonetheless inconclusive for any Gospel to have been written first in Aramaic, it is as impossible for oral accounts in Aramaic of Gospel events not to have been known to Gospel authors so as not to have influenced Greek readings, as it is impossible for oral accounts of official acts of war or terror to be unknown to the targeted audience, let alone non-existent, in their native tongue before they document it in a foreign one, as exemplified by Josephus in his Wars of the Jews, which was written first in Aramaic.
Peshitta-critical advocates of an alternative Aramaic original take both the Peshitta and the Syriac manuscripts and critically compare them, similar to how some scholars who hold the majority view that the language of the New Testament is Greek take a critical approach to determining which Greek text better represents the original. Notables who side with this view are James Trimm (S.A.N.J.), and Joe Viel. This movement is also primarily based on the internet.
Aramaic source criticism
Source-critical advocates of an Aramaic original research first-century Aramaic, culture, and psychology to reconstruct the New Testament sources in dialects contemporary to its authors. Prominent figures that side with this view are Matthew Black, Bruce Chilton, Maurice Casey, Geza Vermes, Frank Zimmermann, and Steven Caruso.
Mainstream and modern scholars have generally had a strong agreement that the New Testament was written in Greek and that an Aramaic source text was used for portions of the New Testament, especially the gospels. They acknowledge that many individual sayings of Jesus as found in the Greek Gospels may be translations from an Aramaic source referred to as "Q", but hold that the Gospels' text in its current form was composed in Greek, and so were the other New Testament writings. Scholars of all stripes have acknowledged the presence of scattered Aramaic expressions, written phonetically and then translated, in the Greek New Testament.
An example of how mainstream scholars have dealt with Aramaic influences within an overall view of the Gospels' original Greek-language development may be found in Martin Hengel's recent synthesis of studies of the linguistic situation in Palestine during the time of Jesus and the Gospels:
Response to Papias
Papias provides a very early source for the idea that the canonical Gospels were either based on some non-Greek written sources, or (in the case of Matthew) possibly "composed" in a non-Greek language. The relevant fragments of Papias' lost work An Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord (Logiōn kuriakōn exēgēsis, c. 110–140) are preserved in quotations by Eusebius. In one fragment, Papias cites an older source who says, "When Mark was the interpreter [hermēneutēs, possibly "translator"] of Peter, he wrote down accurately everything that he recalled of the Lord's words and deeds." Papias' surviving comment about Matthew is more tantalizing, but equally cryptic: "And so Matthew composed [or collected] the sayings [or record] in the Hebrew tongue, and each one interpreted [hēprormēneusen, possibly "translated"] them to the best of his ability." A similar claim comes out more clearly in a text by Irenaeus, but this testimony is later than (and may be based on) Papias.
Even if they do imply non-Greek originals, these accounts have been doubted[by whom?], 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 majority view scholars. Aramaic primacists point to quotations from the Hebrew (Masoretic) Old Testament in the Alexandrian text type that indicate at one point a non-Greek speaking audience was addressed (See Matthew 2:15, 2:18, 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27; John 19:37; Acts 13:18; Romans 9:33, 11:35; 1 Corinthians 3:19; 1Peter 2:8). Aramaic primacists question why the New Testament would quote from the Hebrew Old Testament and not from the Septuagint if it was written in Greek originally. Quotes from the Hebrew Old Testament are present in Alexandrian texts that are thought to predate Jerome's use of the Hebrew Old Testament for the Vulgate.
Response to specific verses
There are also alternative explanations for the cases where Aramaic Primacists claim that the Aramaic seems to read better. One example (as stated above) is in the case of the "camel through the eye of a needle." In Jewish and Christian literature we see the following:
- "...who can make an elephant pass through the eye of a needle."
- - Babylonian Talmud, Baba Mezi'a, 38b
- "They do not show a man a palm tree of gold, nor an elephant going through the eye of a needle."
- - Babylonian Talmud, Berakoth, 55b
- "13 There was a rich man named Onesiphorus who said: If I believe, shall I be able to do wonders? Andrew said: Yes, if you forsake your wife and all your possessions. He was angry and put his garment about Andrew's neck and began to beat him, saying: You are a wizard, why should I do so? 14 Peter saw it and told him to leave off. He said: I see you are wiser than he. What do you say? Peter said: I tell you this: it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
- - Apocryphal Acts of Peter and Andrew.
Aramaic Primacists, most notably Lamsa, generally respond that these sources are late compared to the account in Q, as the Mishnah, the base document of the Babylonian Talmud was compiled in 200, where the Acts of Peter and Andrew is a 3rd-century work and therefore the original mistranslation of גמלא (gamlâ) predates and is potentially the source of these subsequent paraphrases. The Aramaic word for camel can also mean "rope" thus saying "it easier for a rope to go through the eye of a needle".