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Author Topic: The Peshitta as a Syriac Vulgate  (Read 1467 times) Average Rating: 0
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Matthew777
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« on: November 13, 2006, 05:10:39 AM »

The Peshitta is most likely a composite of the Alexandrian and Byzantine text-types for Syriac-speaking Christians, much like how Jerome synthesized various Greek manuscripts for the Latin tongue. This would explain why the Peshitta agrees with the Byzantine text in some parts, while favoring the Alexandrian in others.

One could argue that the Peshitta is the original New Testament, and therefore the common source of the Alexandrian and Byzantine text-types and their divergence from each other, but that would ignore the weight of historical and manuscript evidence which favors a Greek origin for the New Testament.

Despite not being the original, the Peshitta can be useful for New Testament scholarship. For example, since the Peshitta is one of the oldest translations of the New Testament, it provides an early witness for the original text, much like how the Septuagint, though a Greek translation, provides an early witness for the Old Testament.

A more complicated argument would be that the Peshitta, in its very language, sheds light on the intended meaning of the New Testament. The Syriac of the Peshitta is a dialect of Aramaic, the language which Jesus and the Apostles spoke. Though the New Testament authors wrote in Greek, they thought and spoke in Aramaic. Since Greek was not their first language, they could have made linguistic errors in their writing, which the translators of the Peshitta may have corrected.

Imagine if an English-speaking student in Spanish class confused the words "nosotros" and "vosotros" because of their similarity in pronunciation and that they differ in only one letter. "Vosotros" is the plural for "you" while "nosotros" means "we" and therefore, if one were to confuse these words for each other, the opposite of the intended meaning would be conveyed. However, the Spanish student couldn't really be blamed if he didn't know any better. The Spanish teacher, in having a mastery of both the Spanish and English languages, would be able to correct his error.

Given that there is very little historical and manuscript evidence to support Aramaic primacy, if any, Aramaic primacists are forced to focus the majority of their attention to the apparent mistranslations within the Greek text, that only the Peshitta could supposedly correct.

Quote
Aramaic primacists suggest that in some places where the Greek New Testament reads awkwardly, that it may stem from a mistaken translation from an originally Aramaic source.

An example frequently cited is Romans 5:6-8. The Greek, translated to English, reads:
6 For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous (δικαιος) man; though perhaps for the good (αγαθος) man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Aramaic primacists argue that the progression of the author's argument does not follow logically, in that the author claims that Jesus of Nazereth died for the "ungodly" rather than for the "righteous," so the author's statement that "one will hardly die for a righteous man" seems to be out of place given the paradox of "[God's ] own love towards us."

It is suggested that this reading lies within an Aramaic source. In Romans 5:7 of the Peshitta, where the Greek reads "righteous," we find the Aramaic word for "wicked" (רשיעא) rather the word for "righteous" (רשינא) as expected. Furthermore, Aramaic primacists point out that in several Aramaic writing systems, contemporary to the times of Paul, the words "wicked" and "righteous" look confusingly similar. This leaves the implication that a scribe while translating, whatever the source of the discourse was, from Aramaic to Greek could have simply misread the word.

[edit]
Polysemy ("split words")

"Split words" some Aramaic primacists treat 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.

Perhaps the most well known example that Aramaic primacists cite 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), suggesting that the correct phrase was "rope through the eye of a needle," making the hyperbole more symmetrical.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aramaic_primacy

There are many more examples of apparent mistranslation that Aramaic primacists provide, without realizing that that their position of Aramaic primacy isn't the only possible explanation. If the New Testament were originally written in poor Greek, or at least Greek that is incorrect in certain parts, by men who spoke and thought in Aramaic, the translators for the Peshitta could have served as a much needed corrective. This theory may be false, but at least it serves as a middleground between those who believe in Peshitta primacy, and those who find the Peshitta to not be all that important for ascertaining the real meaning of the New Testament.

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« Last Edit: November 13, 2006, 05:50:35 AM by Matthew777 » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2006, 06:09:01 PM »

The Peshitta may not be the original New Testament, and I'd have no problem in accepting that, but it's still the official Biblical text of the Indian Orthodox Church, as it has long been for the churches in the Syriac Christian tradition.

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« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2006, 06:55:40 AM »

I know how silly it may look to reply to your own thread, but this reinforces my first post:

Quote
The Syrian Orthodox Church believes that the Holy Bible, which comprises of the Old Testament and the New Testament, is the divine word of God. Its Fathers labored in translating the Holy Scriptures into Syriac since the very dawn of Christianity. These Syriac translations of the Bible are the oldest and most ancient in any language. Further, the Syriac New Testament is quite unique for it presents the teachings of our Lord in an Aramaic dialect (Syriac) which is akin and would have been mutually comprehensible with the Palestinian dialect of Aramaic in which Christ taught. Since the translation of the Bible into Syriac started as early as the first century, the Syriac version preserves the very ancient renditions of the original texts. In fact, the Syriac Church Fathers produced a number of translations of the Bible and revisions of these translations from the original languages of the Bible.

The words of Christ were first transmitted in his native language, the Palestinian dialect of Aramaic, either orally or in a written form. It is from this Aramaic tradition that the Greek Gospels were derived. The Syriac New Testament as we know it today is an early translation of the Greek text back into Syriac, the Aramaic dialect of Edessa (Modern Urfa in Southeast Turkey). The Syriac Old Testament is a translation from the original Hebrew and Aramaic (a different Aramaic dialect from Syriac which is known by the name 'Biblical Aramaic').

The close similarities between the Palestinian dialect of Aramaic spoken by Christ and Syriac offer us a unique understanding of some of the Biblical readings...

Another interesting reading appears in the Lord's prayer. The King James reads "and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). The Syriac version reads "and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." This implies that we must first forgive our debtors before asking forgiveness from God. The English New Revised Version agrees with the Syriac in this verse!

In many instances the Syriac language offers interesting interpretations of Biblical verses. An understanding of Syriac homonyms, for example, help us clarify the reading in Matthew 19:25 (also Mark 10:25 and Luke 128:25), when Jesus tells us how much easier it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. The Syriac word corresponding to camel is gamlo which means 'camel.' However, gamlo has other meanings as well, one of which is given by the Syriac lexicographer Bar Bahlul (10th century) in his Syriac dictionary: "gamlo is a thick rope which is used to bind ships." Considering that Jesus was speaking to fishermen, this meaning of gamlo seems more appropriate.
http://sor.cua.edu/Bible/index.html


George Lamsa and his questionable theological opinions should not tarnish the name of the Peshitta. He never said anything insightful that others hadn't discovered before.

Peace.
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He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how. - Friedrich Nietzsche
www.aramaicpeshitta.com
http://www.mechon-mamre.org/e/et/et0.htm
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