The Peshitta (Aramaic New Testament)

My previous post made mention of an Aramaic New Testament.  This has turned out to be an interesting side trip in my studies.  The assertion I mentioned is that the original gospels were written in Aramaic rather than Greek.   However, regardless of whether Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John actually wrote in Greek, it is important to note that the actual verbal sayings of Jesus to his disciples were almost certainly in Aramaic.  So the “original Greek texts” that we refer to so often in modern times can only be translations at best.  It seems to me that reading a transliteration of the New Testament in Aramaic would be the closest we English speakers can get to receiving the actual words of Christ.

Some years ago I was given a copy of the The Peshitta on CD ROM.  The Peshitta is the official Bible of the Church of the East.  The name Peshitta in Aramaic means “Straight”, in other words, the original and pure New Testament.  The Church of the East believes that the Peshitta is the only authentic and pure text which contains the books in the New Testament that were written in Aramaic, the Language of Mshikha (the Messiah) and His Disciples.

In reference to the originality of the Peshitta, the words of His Holiness Mar Eshai Shimun, Catholicos Patriarch of the Church of the East, are summarized as follows:

“With reference to….the originality of the Peshitta text, as the Patriarch and Head of the Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church of the East, we wish to state, that the Church of the East received the scriptures from the hands of the blessed Apostles themselves in the Aramaic original, the language spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and that the Peshitta is the text of the Church of the East which has come down from the Biblical times without any change or revision.”

The above information is from an excellent web site:  http://www.peshitta.org/.  This website includes the full Aramaic text of the four gospels plus Acts, along with an interlinear English translation.  I keep finding new things to study much more rapidly than I can keep up!

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4 comments on “The Peshitta (Aramaic New Testament)

  1. Jay says:

    I once came across a resource that claims to have the text of the Lord’s Prayer in the original Aramaic. It was so striking that I committed myself to learning to say it. The meter and rhythm holds true to the oral tradition in that a poetic style of speaking was easier to memorize than normal rhetoric. The site has an audio file and a text version with translation. It also speaks to the language itself which tends NOT to differentiate between a world “beyond” with a world “within”. Jesus spoke of the Kingdom as if it were attainable now. Life abundant vs. life eternal. Perhaps the language he spoke was more suited to portraying His truth than what we use now to decipher it.
    http://www.thenazareneway.com/lords_prayer.htm

  2. John Habegger says:

    A noteworthy article in wikipedia,” The Aramaic New Testament” calls into question the hypothesis that the Peshitta did in fact precede the Greek NT. Apparently many, if not most, scholars see it as the other way around, i.e. that the existing Aramaic text was a translation from the Greek. I found it stimulating reading.

  3. Joey says:

    I’ll have to ask Karen about this. (I would ask her now, but she’s asleep.) Her master’s degree in seminary is going to be in biblical studies, and she is taking New Testament Greek now. I’ll have to get her to ask her professors about an Aramaic New Testament.

  4. RM Ramlow says:

    Don’t be surprised if many Western scholars (especially those who spent years learning Greek and developing theology from it) want to downplay evidence that the Greek NTs were translations from Aramaic. If the original NT was Aramaic this essentially means theories based on the Apostles’ choice of particular Greek words in one place or another are of little worth. It would overturn centuries of dominance had by Greek exegetes. It would mean the peculiarities of Greek NTs should not have influenced the Christian faith as much as has been. Power like that is not easily surrendered.

    However, I believe if you sincerely study it out for yourself, you will find that the textual evidence for the origin of the Greek NTs being an Aramaic original is both plenty and powerful. Translating into Greek lost so much in poetry, idioms and wordplay – but even more, the poetic nature of Semitic language could not come across in highly technical Greek. This is why the disagreements among the different families of Greek NT texts so often find in the Peshitta the original comprehensive Semitic meaning the Greek was forced to split one way or another. The Peshitta itself does not need to be the original in order to show this; even a Syriac Aramaic translation from a Galilean/Judean Aramaic original would retain nearly everything that confused or challenged early Greek translators. Peshitta studies are a Biblical goldmine.

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