A scholarly response on what the Hebrew and Aramaic Bible says concerning LGBTI people.
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The New Testament was originally written in Aramaic. The Greek New Testament is a translation of the Aramaic New Testament. If Jesus was preaching in Aramaic, would it make more sense to write down what he said in Greek or Aramaic? If Jesus' words were written down in Greek, then that would only be a translation of everything he said. Readers would lose information. Also, Jesus' disciples spoke Aramaic; they didn't know enough Greek to write down whole scrolls of teaching in Greek. Josephus, a Jewish historian of the time, said that he only knew two or three people among the Jews that knew Greek; he was one of them. The Jewish Rabbis also discouraged the Jews from speaking in a heathen language. Josephus said this: “I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greeks, and to understand the elements of the Greek language, although I have so accustomed myself to speak our own tongue, that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness. For our nation does not encourage those that learn the language of many nations. On this account, as there have been many who have done their endeavors, with great patience, to obtain the Greek learning, there have hardly been two or three who have succeeded herein, who were immediately rewarded for their pains.” (Antiquities XX, X1 2). However, the Apostles Paul and Luke likely knew more Greek in addition to Aramaic. Luke is attributed as translating some of the Holy Scripture into Greek by the Church Fathers.
The Assyrians and Babylonians had settled Aramaic speaking peoples in Israel and Judah and the Assyrians later imposed the Aramaic language on Judah in the 7th century B.C. Aramaic was made the official spoken language of Judah because it was the generally accepted language of commerce and politics there and in Syria (2 Kings 18:26; Ezra 4:7). Thus Aramaic was the language spoken at the time of Jesus in Judea, Syria, Asia Minor, Persia and Egypt (Isa. 19:18). Aramaic was also spoken by the Jews in other places such as Latin Rome (Italy). Remember, the Bible says that the Jews were scattered abroad (James 1:1). Peter writes his first letter from Babylon, which was in Mesopotamia [or in modern day Iraq] (1 Pet. 5:13). The language there was Aramaic. Aramaic is the language of Aram (Hebrew & Aramaic pronunciation). Aram is often translated as Syria into English; which this pronunciation has its origin from the Greek language. Since Aram is translated as Syria, we call the language of this country Syriac. Aramaic is now the generic word to refer to the Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac dialects.
There is some debate on what language the Apostles are referring to by their use of the word u-ra-ith (or iw-ra-ith) "Hebraicly, in the Hebrew language." This word has two meanings. It can refer to "the language of the Hebrews (i.e. descendants of Eḅer), and hence "the Aramaic language." "Hebrew" is similar to another word, "Latin." They both refer to the language spoken by a certain people. Ro-ma-ith literally means the "language of the Romans" i.e "Latin." Notice we don't call Rome's language "Roman." The second meaning is that u-ra-ith refers to the literal Hebrew or Jewish language of the Old Testament.
We do know that the Jews did speak Aramaic because the Book of Acts records that Aramaic was spoken in Palestine (Acts 1:19). Even Paul wrote an Aramaic letter to the Hebrews (Ivrites), which were the descendants of Eḅer (Ever). However, there is some debate on whether Hebrew was also spoken along with Aramaic in Palestine. It's generally believed that Aramaic was the spoken language and Hebrew was the taught and studied language. Hebrew would have been used in the synagogues for Torah readings, reference, prayer and songs. Thus some see the Hebrew Dead Sea Scroll texts as only reflecting books in their original language to be used for study and that they don't reflect that Hebrew was spoken largely by the common people. However, others view the non-Biblical Hebrew texts or commentary among the scrolls as proof that Hebrew was also spoken in the first century.
It is important for you to know what the writers of the Aramaic New Testament are doing when they write the Aramaic word for "Hebraicly, in Hebrew" in their statements. When you see those words in the New Testament, know that the Apostles are either referring to the Aramaic spoken by the Hebrews and hence their Aramaic words may not exist or be joined with other words in a statement among the other Aramaic speaking places. They have a Biblical Hebrew origin. Otherwise they are translating the meaning of a literal Hebrew word or words into Aramaic. The Aramaic words chosen for their translation share the same root that appears in both the vocabularies of Hebrew and Aramaic, however, the pronunciation is sometimes different. These Aramaic words are either not common or don't appear anywhere else in the Peshitta Old & New Testaments.
Note: At Yeshua's crucifixion, the charge for his condemnation was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin (John 19:20). It wouldn't be right to assume that "Hebrew" refers to the literal Hebrew or Jewish language because this word could refer to the "Aramaic language." It wouldn't have been right for John to use the word Ar-ma-ith "in Aramaic" because this word meant at the time "the language of Aram (Syria)" and not the language of the Hebrewsor the people of Palestine.
The following are examples of what I just discussed above:
Revelation 9:11 says "And they have a king over them, the angel of the abyss, whose renown in Hebrew is ow-du(service), and his renown in Aramaic is shre (the released [-one])." Both ow-du and shre are Aramaic words. John may be referring to the Aramaic spoken by the Hebrews by his use of the word ow-du. Ow-du is the shortened spelling of the word ow-du-tha (service, servitude), and hence the full spelling would have been more recognizable elsewhere. Or John may be translating the Hebrew word av-don (service, servitude) into the Aramaic word that shares the same three letter root. That way the Aramaic speaker will be able to know which Hebrew word John is translating.
The baptismal pool in Jerusalem is said to be called in Hebrew Beth Khisda "place of kindness (or mercy)" [Jn. 5:2]. The actual Hebrew pronunciation would be Beth Khesed. They are all the same words. Khisda and Khesed are from the same three letter root of (kh-s-d). The joining of the word Khisda with Beth may have been different than how other Aramaic speaking persons would have worded that statement. Otherwise, John may be translating the meaning of the Hebrew words into Aramaic similarly to how Paul may have translated the Hebrew words of Yeshua into Aramaic (Acts 26:14). Khisda rarely appears in the Peshitta OT (1 Chron. 19:2; 2 Chron. 1:8; Sira 50:26; 51:11, etc.). The normal and often translation of the word for "kindness, mercy" is tai-bu-tha. Tai-bu-tha is used for the translation of khe-sed hundreds of times.
The place where Yeshua was crucified is said to be called in Hebrew Ga-ghul-ta "the skull" (Jn. 19:17). The word ga-ghul-ta (head, skull) appears only as the name of the hill that Yeshua was crucified on. It's not used in any other context in the whole Aramaic Bible. It wasn't used for the translation of the Hebrew word gulgoleth, which was translated into Aramaic as resha "head" in the Old Testament every time.
Lastly, I want to discuss John 20:16, which states: “Jesus said to her, Mary. She turned around and said to him in Hebrew, Rabbuli! which means, [My] teacher.”Rabbuli is from the Aramaic words Rabbu (greatness) and li (to me); and would hence literally mean: "my greatness" or "my great one (teacher)." "Greatness" can be pronounced with or without the ending part "-tha" (ex. rabbu or rabbutha). Rabbuli apparently represents the Aramaic word Rabbuni "my [great] Master" or "my high Rabi." It is a title of honor and reverence and refers to the top religious leader in Judaism. It is also the translation of the Hebrew word adoni "my Lord" in the Aramaic Targums, and hence also means "Lord." However, Rabbuli follows Aramaic grammar and pronunciation better than Rabbuni (Targum pronunciation/synonym representing the same person). The noun ending part "-ni" to represent "my" is odd based on the various evolutions of Aramaic grammar. It's the only Aramaic noun that I am aware of that does this. - Mary probably knew of the word Rabbuni, but wanted to pronounce that religious title more correctly into Aramaic.
The Greek New Testament has the word Rabbuli transliterated as Rabbuni. The Greek translator substituted the “l” for the “n” either because he knew which Hebrew/Aramaic word was being referenced or he mistook the "l" for a "n." The "l" and the "n" look similar in the Dead Sea Scroll script. Moreover, the Hebrew word Rabboni is a loan word from the Aramaic Language.
The Gospel of John may contain the first time that Rabbuli was written down in religious Scripture. It doesn't appear in the Aramaic Targums or anywhere else in the Aramaic Peshitta Bible. Hence, it isn't a common word. Aramaic speakers in Judea and elsewhere perhaps would have been more familiar with the word "Rabbuni." So John translated the Hebrew-Aramaic word Rabbuli into the Aramaic word mal-pa-na "teacher;" to eliminate any confusion on its meaning.
Note: In Chaldean and Assyrian Aramaic, the b is not doubled for "great" (ra-ba) and teacher (ra-bi). Interestingly, the Aramaic word Rabi "my teacher" or just "teacher" in usage or application, appears more times in the Aramaic New Testament where the Greek New Testament translated it as didaskalos "teacher" (Matt. 8:19; Lk. 7:40, etc). Raba (literally: "great one" or "teacher") appears with other pronouns in the New Testament where the b is doubled. Such as its pronunciation of rabbeh "his teacher" (Lk. 6:40), Rabban "our teacher" (Matt. 26:18) and Rab-bu-li "my teacher.".
The Aramaic Peshitta New Testament was used as the source behind the Greek New Testament Translation, the Armenian Translation, Malayalam Translation (Indian Language), etc. The Greek New Testament was used as the source behind the Latin Vulgate and other translations because the Greek language has vowels within its words like Latin and English. If someone can’t pronounce the text, then it is very hard to read and make a translation.
The Greek New Testament has many Aramaic words within its contents, such as: Abba, raca, Cephas, eli eli lama sabachthani, Maranatha, talitha cumi, rabbi, mammon, etc. Some of those words are pronounced a little different in the Aramaic language, but nevertheless, they are Aramaic words, not Greek words.
The Greek New Testament is purged of the words “Arameans” and “Aramaic” in the many places that they occur. For example, Romans 1:16 (Lamsa) says this: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God to salvation to every one who believes, whether they are Jews first, or Arameans (Syrians).” In the place of Arameans, the Greek New Testament has the word Greeks. The Aramaic New Testament has reference to both Arameans and Greeks in its contents. So it is not about the Aramaic New Testament being biased. However, the Greek New Testament has an obvious purging of the words “Arameans” and “Aramaic.”
The reason why the word Aramean(s) was translated as Greek(s) is because the Greeks didn’t like the Arameans and the translators of the New Testament knew that a holy book praising Arameans wouldn’t be accepted. In history, it was the Greeks that defeated the Aramaic speaking nations of Media and Persia. Also, in the additional parts of Esther, we see some hostility between the Arameans and Greeks. After King Ahasuerus realizes that Haman’s plot to kill the Jews was evil, he wrote this: “…Haman, son of Hammedatha, a Macedonian (or Greek), certainly not of Persian blood, and very different from us in generosity, was hospitably received by us…But, unequal to this dignity, he strove to deprive us of kingdom and of life; and by weaving intricate webs of deceit, he demanded the destruction of Mordecai, our savior and constant benefactor, and of Esther, our blameless royal consort, together with their whole race.” (Esther E:10,12-13 NAB).
In Jastrow’s Hebrew Aramaic Dictionary, he states that Aram (Syria) is also a disguise for “Rome.” For the word “Aramean,” Jastrow says this word also means “a Gentile, Roman.” However, there is no good reason to believe that the word “Aramean - Ar-ma-ya” meant anything other than a “descendant or citizen of Aram (Syria) and /or an Aramaic speaker” in the Aramaic writings of the Old and New Testament. Though it is true that the adverb ar-ma-ith means” “Aramaically” or “as an Aramaen” at Galations 2:14 - “…If you as a Jew are living as an Aramean, and not as a Jew, why are you compelling the Gentiles that they shall live as Jews.” This is because the Aramaeans were more Gentile in there manners and descent.
The Roman Empire allowed freedom of religion and Christianity from its start was thought of being an offshoot of Judaism. There was no need for any code words for “Roman – Ro-ma-ya” or “Rome – Ro-me,” since the Aramaic New Testament uses both those words in its contents. In the Aramaic text at Acts 16:1, Timothy is said to have an Aramean father. Additionally, Titus is said to be an Aramean (Gal. 2:3). Are Timothy’s father and Titus really Romans or Gentiles? By adding additional meanings to the word “Aramean,” it would make the author’s meaning indiscernible. However, the verses in the New Testament are not obscure. Smith’s Compendious Syriac Dictionary and Oraham’s Dictionary don’t define the word “Aramean” as also meaning “a gentile or Roman.”
"Yoshiyah caused Yeconyah and his brothers to be begotten. [They lived] at the time of the captivity of Babylon." (Matt. 1:11 Peshitta). The way Yoshiyah "caused this" is by "fathering" Yehoyaqim (Jehoiakim) who in turn "fathered" Yeconyah. So YEHOYAQIM is the missing name in the genealogy. The FIRST group is from Awraham to David. The SECOND group is from Shelomoh (Solomon) to YEHOYAQIM. Then the THIRD group is from Yeconyah to Yeshua. FOURTEEN people and generations. Thus, there is no error in the Peshitta regarding the missing name in Matthew chapter one.
The Aramaic verb i-liḏ "he begot, fathered" is in the causative Apel form as ow-liḏ "he caused to be born, fathered." Often this causative form also refers to the more immediate "generating" of a father; such as when he "begets" a son. However, this word can have an extended meaning also (Deut. 4:25; 2 Ki. 20:18; Jer. 16:3; Eze. 47:22). So, it means "to father," as in Awraham fathered Yiẓkhaq (Isaac) [Matt. 1:2], most of the time in Matthew chapter 1. But at verse 11, it has the broader meaning. The text should be translated as "Yoshiyah caused Yeconiah to be born [by his son Yehoyaqim]" based on the Old Testament genealogy record.
"that behold, the virgin shall conceive and beget a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is being interpreted as "Our God is with us." (Matt. 1:23). Matthew is just translating the Hebrew words (or name) Immanuel "God is with us" into Aramaic as "Our God is with us." That phrase is more accurately said "Our God is with us" in Aramaic (see Judith 13:13) versus the Hebrew way of just "God is with us." That's why the word "Our" is added in the translation.
There was a need for a translation for clarity. El is not the normal word for "God" in the P'shitta Bible. That would be the word Alaha "God." Also, when Immanuel was given the Aramaic pronunciation of Ammanuel, it should be noted that Ammanu is not the correct way to say "with us" in Aramaic. Amman is the correct way to say "with us" (Acts 1:21-22; 21:16; etc.). There is no "u" at the end anywhere else where the words "with us" occur in the Aramaic Bible. The "u" is found in the Hebrew language (i.e. Immanu - "with us"). So Matthew isn't translating a hypothetical Aramaic word (Ammanuel) with other Aramaic words.
Jesus said this: “….But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ (mo-re), shall be in danger of hell fire.”(Matt. 5:22 NKJV). Jesus said not to call someone a fool. Later, Jesus called the Pharisees and scribes: “Fools(mo-roi) and blind!…”(Matt. 23:17 NKJV). The Greek word mo-ros (singular - fool) appears in both of these verses. Jesus is recorded as calling the Pharisees and scribes fools, something he told his disciples not to do. If Jesus is an example to his students, then he is not practicing what he preached and is a hypocrite. However, this is clearly a translation blunder that can be explained by the Aramaic text.
The Aramaic text has two different words in the place of “fool(s)” at the above mentioned verses while the Greek text has the same word. Both of these Aramaic words can be translated as “fool(s),” but they also have a different shade of meaning from each other. Lela (at Matt. 5:22) means “a fool, brute” while sach-le (at Matt. 23:17) means “ignorant ones, those lacking understanding, fools.”
“…Do you not remember the five loaves of bread of the five thousand, and how many baskets(Greek singular: ko-phi-nos) you took up? Neither the seven loaves of bread of the four thousand, and how many baskets(Greek singular: spur-is) you took up?” (Matt. 16:9-10 Lamsa). James Strong’s Dictionary says that ko-phi-nos is of uncertain derivation. Ko-phi-nos looks like the Aramaic word qo-pi-na, which is used at the same place in this verse. Qo-pi-na (large basket) looks like the emphatic form for the word qo-pi "basket;" the ending part na being the normal way to make some Aramaic words emphatic. Another related word that also means "basket" is qu-pe (or qu-pa - Assyrian pronunciation). So qo-pi-na looks more Aramaic than Greek to me. Qo-pi-na is probably related to the words q'pa “to collect, gather in heaps” and qo-pa-ya “a carrier, porter.”
The second word looks like it is of Greek origin by the way it is spelled into Aramaic. However, it is clearly a loan word into Aramaic and both Aramaic and Greek share the meaning of this word and its root. The Greek word spur-is (basket) is from the word sphaira ( a sphere, etc), not the Greek word spear-o (to sow) which James Strong connects in error. The Aramaic word is-pri-dha means “a round plaited basket” and the word is-pi-ra means “anything of round shape, a sphere, ball, etc.”
“And if your eye offends you, remove it and cast it away from you; it is better for you to go through life with one eye, rather than to have two eyes and fall into the Gehenna of fire.” (Matt. 18: 9 Lamsa). Gehenna is the Greek transliteration of the Aramaic word Ge-han-na (Classical Aramaic & Assyrian pronunciation). Ge-han-na is the Aramaic transliteration of the Hebrew words Gey Hin-nom (meaning: Valley of Hinnom). In addition to Ge-han-na meaning the “Valley of Hinnom,” it also means: “[the] place of punishment for the wicked after death; the abode of the evil spirits; the place of the dead” (Oraham). Gehanna also means: “the place of torment” (Smith’s Syriac Dictionary).
There is a variant spelling for Gehanna; which has a yodh between the "g" and "h." In Chaldean, both spellings can be pronounced Gee-hana; though the more ancient or Classical Aramaic pronunciation is an alternate Chaldean pronunciation. Geehana (or Greek: Gehenna) is translated as “hell” in the New Testament.
At Matthew 27: 9 (NKJV), it says: ‘Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced,.’ All three of the major Greek texts (Majority [Byzantine], NU and Textus Receptus) say this verse was written by Jeremiah the prophet. But that is incorrect. This verse matches more closely to what Zecaryah wrote (see Zechariah 11:13).
The Aramaic New Testament says this: “Then what was spoken by the prophet was fulfilled,…” The Aramaic New Testament doesn’t name the prophet. The Greek translator or copyist (editor) thought Matthew was quoting Jeremiah, but he was wrong. So the Peshitta New Testament is correct, while the Greek New Testament is wrong.
There are three 6th to 9th century Greek manuscripts that agree with the P'shitta reading of "the prophet." So that leaves the possibility that a copyist (or copyists) added the name Jeremiah to the Greek text versus it being the original wording of the 1st century Greek translator.
The additional Aramaic tradition always says: "the prophet." Tatian made (completed) the Diatessaron (Lit. "of the Four [Gospels]" or "The Harmony of the Four Gospels") in AD 150 or 170. This verse from Matthew just says "the prophet" (Diates. 51:13). The name "Jeremiah" is not there. The (MtSin) Old Syriac text also just says: "the prophet." So I think it's safe to say that a copyist didn't just delete the name "Jeremiah" from the P'shitta Mattai text because it was a contradiction. - The (MtCur) Old Syriac text only goes to Mattai chapter 23.
Note: Tatian initially compiled the Diatessaron from the Aramaic Peshitta Gospels. There are readings in that document that match the Peshitta text and not the Greek NT or "Old Scratch" (i.e. the so-called Old Syriac texts). The P'shitta Gospels clearly pre-date the Old Syriac texts; which are translations from the Greek New Testament. The Diatessaron was likely called Darba "of the Four [Gospels]" in Aramaic; but very early when the Greek Diatessaron was made, the Greek word Diatessaron was adopted into the Aramaic language and the Aramaic written work was also called the Diatessaron (i.e. Dya-tis-sa-rown). The Book: "The Doctrine of Addai" mentions the "Diatessaron" as being read in the Church. - The Diatessaron is an important document for several reasons. One reason is that it shows that the P'shitta New Testament is older than the 5th century surviving manuscripts. Hence, the P'shitta text can be dated to at least the 2nd century by that document alone. In an even earlier attestation, J.S. Assemane, in his Bibliotheca, stated that a 78 A.D. dated Syriac Gospel was found in Mesopotamia; though no physical evidence has be found yet.
“As it is written in(with) Isaiah the prophet, Behold I send my messenger before your face, that he may prepare your way, (Mal. 3:1) The voice that cries in the wilderness: Make ready the way of the Lord and straighten his highways (Isa. 40:3).” (Mark 1:2-3 Lamsa). There are many mistranslations (or misinterpretations) in the Lamsa translation, just like there are many mistranslations in every English Bible. The Aramaic preposition beh most of the time carries the meaning of “with.” Interestingly, the Greek word en at this verse also carries the meaning of “with,” but also means “by.” Because the first part of Mark’s quoting is not in Isaiah’s book, later Greek texts were changed to read “As it is written in the prophets..” “As it is written with Isaiah the prophet” is the correct reading because not only is it in the Aramaic text; it also agrees with the oldest Greek manuscripts. Additionally, the Latin Vulgate (4th cent.) says the same thing, but exchanges “with” for “by,” reading: “As it is written by Isaiah the prophet..” Aramaic, like English and other languages, will express a message with words but the whole thought is not contained in those words. The words “Isaiah the prophet” refer to “the writing of Isaiah the prophet.” That verse should read: “As it is written with the writing of Isaiah the prophet..” One example of the Aramaic language using a word that doesn’t contain the complete thought is at the following verse: “…Haman who rules over all the provinces and is second in rank after the King…” (Esther 13:6 / B:6 [NAB]). The Aramaic text literally says that Haman is “…second after the King…” The words “in rank” were needed to complete the thought or give the correct meaning to the verse. The words “in authority” could have also been used.
All Mark is doing is combining a sentence from Malachi with a sentence from Isaiah to establish a teaching. If Mark really was trying to say “as it is written by Isaiah the prophet,” then he would have added an extra word to single out that prophet. Mark would have said “As it is written by the hand of Isaiah the prophet,” like Matthew did at Matthew 4:14. The Aramaic text there literally says: “…that was spoken by the hand of Isaiah the prophet, who said.” Dr. Lamsa, however, translated the words “by the hand” as “by” at this verse and at others (See Matt. 3:3, 8:17, 12:17, etc.).