As I continue work on the Scripture Restoration Project I often find myself caught up for hours dealing with various intricacies of the Scripture texts. There are many times when I am filled with exhilaration with some new textual discovery and the excitement that comes with wanting to share it with you. I am especially grateful for those of you who are making this work possible.
Today I want to share with you a couple of those discoveries I have made as I have completed restoration of the original Hebrew of the “beatitudes” ( Matthew 5:1-12 and Luke 6:20-26)
While I was working on this text, I found some very interesting things when I compared Matthew 5:11 and Luke 6:22.
In the KJV these read:
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. (Matthew 5:11 KJV)
Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. (Luke 6:22 KJV)
The first thing I noticed is that the version in the KJV (and Greek) Matthew, has two verbs that men do to the “blessed” in this saying, while Luke has three verbs. But something very exciting happened when I looked at Matthew in the Aramaic.
To begin with (and I will cover this in more detail later) the Hebrew and Aramaic is better translated “happy” rather than “blessed”.
In the Aramaic there was a textual variant between our two surviving copies of the Old Syriac version. The Old Syriac Sinaitic manuscript reads “Happy are you when men hate (סנין) you and persecute (רדפין) you…” while the Old Syriac Curetonian manuscript reads “Happy are you when men persecute (רדפין) you and reproach (מחסדין) you…”
What was also exciting was to compare these readings to Aramaic Luke (Old Syriac and Peshitta) where the reading is “Blessed are you when men hate (סנין) you and separate from (מפרישין) you and reproach (מחסדין) you…”
If we lay these out together we see a close correspondence:
(Old Syriac S)
(Old Syriac C)
(Old Syriac and Peshitta)
Next I compared the Hebrew Dutillet/Munster text with Old Syriac Matthew and something amazing happened. DuTillet/Munster reads “Happy are you when men despise (קלל) you and persecute (רדף) you…” while Shem Tob has “Happy are you when men persecute (רדף) you and reproach (גדף) you…”
If we compare with the Old Syriac Aramaic Matthew we see a pattern:
|Old Syriac (S)||Old Syriac (C)||DuTillet/Munster||Shem Tob|
Here we see clearly two scribal traditions within Hebrew Matthew for this verse, with the DuTillet/Munster text being allied with the Siniatic Aramaic and with the Shem Tob text being allied with the Curetonian Aramaic.
We can see that like Luke, the original Hebrew of Matthew, had three verbs here, but with a different verb in the middle position than that in Luke.
We also see that each scribal tradition in Matthew omits one of the three words. In Old Syraic (S) and DuTillet/Munster the verb after “persecute” is omitted, and in Old Syriac (C) and Shem Tob the verb before “persecute” is omitted.
Once again the DuTillet/Munster and Shem Tob Hebrew versions of Matthew each preserve part of the original, and with some detective work, we can restore the original (which is what this project is all about)
Another interesting passage in this verse of Luke (6:22) is the phrase “cast out your name as evil” (KJV) The Old Syriac says שמא דביש which is clos to the original Hebrew which certainly followed the idiomatic expression we see in Deut. 22:19 “evil name” (שם רע) meaning a bad reputation.
One of the important things about the original Hebrew of the Beatitudes is that, where the KJV reads “Blessed” the Hebrew has “happy” (אשרי). This gives the beatitudes a much deeper meaning.
When the beatitudes say “happy are they which are persecuted” and “happy are you… when men… persecute you” it is teaching us that our happiness should not depend on our external circumstances. We can be happy even when persecuted, if our happiness is based only on what is internal. We cannot control what is external. The only thing we can control is what is internal, what we think and therefore how we choose to feel.
The work is meticulous but rewarding.
But this project needs your help. I cannot do this alone. Our need is great. The rent was due yesterday. This work will take hours of my time. As many of you know, my wife is chronically ill (her medications have cost us almost $300 this week, after insurance), and I spend most of my time at home as her caretaker. I work at a desk less than six feet from her bed. So I am in a position to dedicate many hours to this important work that I have been directed to do.
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-James Scott Trimm