Sons of the House of Eloah: The Aramaic Origin of Ephesians

Sons of the House of Eloah: The Aramaic Origin of Ephesians
James Scott Trimm

Some have a hard time with the idea that the Pauline Epistles were written in Aramaic (and in the case of Hebrews, in Hebrew) but in Ephesians 2:19-20 Paul begins a flow of logic, which only makes sense in the Aramaic not in Greek.

19 Henceforth, you are neither strangers nor foreigners, but sons of the city, who are sanctified, and sons of the house of Eloah.
20 And you are built upon the foundation of the emissaries and of the prophets: and Yeshua the Messiah has become the head of the corner of the building (Ps. 118:22-23).
(Eph. 2:19-20 HRV)

To begin with in verse 19 in the Greek, Paul identifies his audience as “fellow-citizens (συμπολιται) of the saints” and “of the household (οικειοι) of Eloah (Theos).”

However in the Aramaic Peshitta verse 19 literally says “sons of the city” (בני מדינתא) an Aramaic idiom for “citizen”.  Verse 19 then in the Aramaic has “and sons of the House of Eloah” (ובני ביתה דאלהא) in idiomatic way of saying “of the household of Eloah” in Aramaic.  It should be noted that the phrase “House of Eloah” (ביתה דאלהא) is also an idiomatic term in Hebrew and Aramaic for the Temple.  Remember, none of these idiomatic expressions appear in the Greek which simply reads “of the household (οικειοι) of Eloah (Theos).”

Then in verse 20 Paul refers to the “household of Eloah” as “having been built (θεντες) on the foundation of the emissaries and prophets, being the cornerstone (ακρογωνιαιον) himself, Messiah Yeshua”.  Verse 21 then says “In whom all the building (οικοδομη) being fitted together grows into a Holy Temple in YHWH.”  And finally verse 22 has “In whom also you are-being-built-together (συνοικοδομεισθε) into a habitation for God by the Spirit”.

However in the Aramaic “having been built” (v. 20) is ואתבניתון “cornerstone” is ריש קרנא דבנינא  literally “the head corner of the building”.  In verse 21 “the building” is בנינא  and “you are being built” is מתבנין .  The words for building here are all benyana (בנינא) and the verb root for “to build” in each case is b’na (בנא) which is the verb root for the word “stone” ‘abana (אבנא).

It is important to know that there is a common wordplay in Hebrew between “son(s)” ben (sing.) b’nai (plural) and “stones”.  A classic example is found in Matthew 3:9

And think not to say within yourselves,
We have Abraham to our father:
for I say unto you, that Elohim is able of these stones
to raise up sons unto Abraham.
(Matt. 3:9)

By using these related words Paul has implied a wordplay between believers as “sons of the House of Elohim” (2:19) and “stones of the Temple” (implied in 2:20-22).  The wordplay is very clear in the Aramaic and is clearly original to the document.  The use of the Aramaic idioms “sons of the house of” and “House of Eloah” becomes the transition point at which Paul’s argument turns to the subject of an allegorical Temple built out of believers in 2:20-22).  The whole point to Paul’s argument is embedded in an Aramaic word play that is absent in the Greek, that is itself rooted in an Aramaic idiom which is also absent from the Greek.  This is very clear evidence that Paul wrote in Hebrew or Aramaic and his work was then translated into Greek.

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