Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Aramaic New Testament: Manuscript Evidence

Unfortunately, the original Aramaic texts of the holy gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Messiah are lost to us. Perhaps they are yet to be discovered as the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi Codices were. We do have ancient Aramaic versions of the New Testament.
While certain books of the New Testament have Aramaic origins, others do not. The epistles of Paul were written in Greek in the original. Paul does, on certain occasions use Aramaic words in his epistles, such as Maranatha, Abba and Cephas. Paul’s use of Aramaic shows the Aramaic origin of the church. But Paul was writing in Greek to Greek-speaking churches.
We do have Ancient Aramaic texts of the New Testament that are useful for capturing the words of Christ in the language they were originally spoken.

Old Syriac: This is an ancient version of the Syriac Bible that seems to have been translated by Aramaic speakers from Palestine. It was discovered in the 1800s.
Peshitta: This is the official Bible of the Aramaic Christian churches. It is of ancient origin.
Harklean: Since the Aramaic Bible is of such ancient origin, it did not originally contain certain books that were at the time considered among the disputed books. Later these books were accepted by the church at large and then to a degree by the Aramaic churches. Their versions of these documents come from revisions to the Aramaic in the Philoxenian and Harklean versions. These extra writings are 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation.
Christian Palestinian Aramaic The Aramaic Speaking Church of the Holy Land died out long ago but in 1952 versions of the Bible they used were discovered outside of Jerusalem. These manuscripts were not complete.
The Diatesseron of Tatian the Assyrian: Tatian the Assyrian made the first harmony of the Four Gospels. He made both a Greek and an Aramaic version. Tatian was the disciple of the famous Saint Justin Martyr. He composed this work around 150 AD. It was so popular among Aramaic Christians that it was used as Scripture. Later, a church official censored it and all copies were destroyed. Tatian is believed to have also used lost Aramaic gospels when composing the Diatesseron. It has survived in an Arabic translation from the Aramaic and also in a commentary to the Diatesseron by Saint Ephraim the Syrian in Aramaic.

Other scholars have used ancient Aramaic sources to make theoretical reconstructions of the words of Christ. Scholars used the grammar of the Jerusalem Talmud to reconstruct the words of Christ. Scholars who have done this are Gustav Dalman, Torrey, Charles Burney and Joachim Jeremias.
Recently, Maurice Casey has used Aramaic from the Dead Sea Scrolls, since this is contemporary with the time of Jesus, to reconstruct his teachings in the original Aramaic.
Of course, in the movie, “The Passion of the Christ’ the words of Christ were put back into the original Aramaic. This was done by Father William Fulco, a Roman Catholic priest and scholar.
The Syriac Peshitta is in a form of Aramaic virtually identical to the Aramaic used by Jesus Christ and it remains a useful and accessible tool for reading the words of Jesus in Aramaic, the language he spoke.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like the translation of Luke10:18 from Aramaic to English.
Thank you
Linda Dotson

4:30 PM  

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