Nazarene Space

WHICH IS THE OLDEST ARAMAIC?
(Part 2)

By James Trimm


SEMITIC NATURE OF THE GREEK WESTERN TEXT

Matthew Black states, that “Semitisms” are “a special

feature of the text of [Codex] D”.
Black states:

“The Bezean [Western] text in all the Synoptic Gospels…
is more frequently stained with Aramaic constructions
and idiom than the [Alexandrian] text.”
(An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts; 1st & 2nd ed.

P. 212; 3rd ed. P. 277)

In fact in an extensive study of the occurrence of Semitisms

in the Book of Acts, Max Wilcox found something very

amazing, something which he viewed as a “textual problem”.

He found that Codex D (and the Greek Western text in

general) was far more replete with Semitisms than any of the

other Greek texts:

“ …there is the textual problem of Acts. In this connection

we may recall that in no inconsiderable number of places,

where the evidence indicated or suggested Semitism, that

evidence was not found in all the manuscripts, but was

confined to one manuscript or group of manuscripts,

frequently D (and its allies).”
(Semitisms of the Book of Acts; Max Wilcox; 1965; p. 185)

The Greek Western text of Codex D plays as a missing link

between the original Aramaic New Testament and the received

Greek text.

In Hebrew and Aramaic when a preposition applies to more

than one noun in a series the preposition is usually

repeated. In the example below we have a case where the

normal Aramaic grammar appears in the Old Syriac as well as

the Greek Western text of codex D both of which repeat the

preposition. However the Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek

text types eliminate the second occurrence of the

preposition creating a more natural Greek reading. In some

cases the Peshitta agrees with the Old Syriac but in some

instances the Peshitta has been revised to agree with the

Byzantine Greek.

Matthew 14:9
Greek Western text of Codex D:
”And because of the oath and because of the guests”

Byzantine and Alexandrian Greek:
”and because of the oath and the guests”


Mark 6:36
Codex D has:
"to the surrounding fields and to the villages"

Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek has:
“to the surrounding fields and villages"


Mark 8:31
Codex D:
"by the elders and by the chief priests and the scribes"

Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek:
"by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes"

Luke 2:34
Codex D:
"for fall and for rising"

Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek:
"for fall and rising"


Luke 2:52
Codex D:
“with God and with men”

Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek:
"with God and men"


The second evidence for the Aramaic origin of the Greek

Western type text of Codex D is its tendency to use two

verbs where the later Greek text types use a participle

construction. This is important because this type of use of

a participle construction is common in Greek (and in

English) but impossible in Aramaic.

The following is an example:

And having approached, the Tempter said to him….
(Mt. 4:3 from Greek Alexandrian and Byzantine)

But this grammatical construction is impossible in Aramaic

so when we look at the Aramaic we see the participle

construction replaced by a normal verb and an “and” placed

before the second verb as follows:

And he approached (to him) the Tempter and said to him…
(Mt. 4:3 from Aramaic; portion in parenthesis is in OS only)

Wherever the Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek use the

participle construction as shown above, the Aramaic has a

normal verbal construction followed by “and” prefixed to the

second verb as shown above. Now one might wrongly take this

as evidence that the NT had been written in Greek and that

the Aramaic was translated from the Greek. On the surface it

might appear that Mt. 4:3 is written in idiomatic Greek that

an Aramaic translator had to adjust for the Aramaic

language. (since the Aramaic could have been a natural

translation of the Greek but the Greek could not have been

translated literally from the Aramaic without being either a

paraphrase or a more idiomatically Greek revision of an

earlier Greek version). But the key missing link is the very

Semitic style of the Greek Western text type of Codex D.

The Aramaic has:

And approached (to him) he the Tempter and said to him…
(Mt. 4:3 from Aramaic; portion in parenthesis is in OS only)

The primitive Western Greek text of Codex D translates the

Aramaic literally to mean:

And approached (to him) he the Tempter and said to him
(Mt. 4:3 from Western Greek of Codex D)

And the later Greek scribes revised this into more idiomatic

Greek to mean:

And having approached, the Tempter said to him
(Mt. 4:3 from Byzantine and Alexandrian Greek)

Now one example does not make a pattern. But we have more

than one example. One can also cite LOTS of examples of this

same pattern throughout the text of Codex D where the

Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek use a participle

construction and the Western Greek uses a normal verbal

construction and adds an “and” before the second verb:

Mt. 4:3; 5:13; 9:28; 13:1, 4, 48; 17:7; 20:6, 30; 21:6; 25;

26:51; 27:58; 28:19 Mark 2:16; 4:36; 5:23; 8:10; 10:22;

12:20; 14:22 Luke. 5:14, 24; 8:27; 15:23; 19:5, 35 Jn. 6:11;

9:35; 11:17; 12:36

In addition, in some of the passages where the Greek Western

text of Codex D does use the participle construction, the

Western Greek STILL adds the “and” to the second verb, as if

an earlier version had the normal verbal construction and

had been revised to a less choppy participle construction

but the reviser had neglected to remove the “and” from the

second verb. Examples may be found in:

Mt. 27:33 Mk. 2:1; Mk. 5:27; 6:48; 7:25; 8:10; 10:22; 11:2;

14:63; 15:46; 16:11, 15 Lk. 8:8; 9:6 Jn 12:3

This pattern of literal translation from the Aramaic in the

Western type text and revision toward less choppy, more

flowing Greek in the Alexandrian and Byzantine text types

should forever satisfy those Aramaic Primacists who have

expressed doubt that the Greek Western text of Codex D is

the most primitive type of Greek text and, in fact, a

“missing link” between the original Aramaic and the

Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek text types.

Another evidence for the Aramaic origin of the Greek Western

type text of Codex D is that of the use of relative pronouns

(some English relative pronouns are: this, that, those,

these). Aramaic has no definite article (in English the

definite article is “the”). As a result Aramaic makes more

use of relative pronouns in order to compensate for its lack

of a definite article. However Greek does have definite

articles, making many of the relative pronouns in the

Aramaic unnecessary in the Greek versions. Now as we examine

the Greek Western text type of Codex D we find that yet

another pattern develops. In many places where the Aramaic

Old Syriac text uses a relative pronoun, Codex D retains the

relative pronoun (often also adding a definite article) and

then the Greek Alexandrian and Byzantine text types drop the

relative pronoun which is not really needed in the Greek,

and leave only a definite article. The following is a list

of examples:

Mt. 15:24
Codex D: "the sheep, those"
Alexandrian & Byzantine Greek: "the sheep"

Mt. 15:32
Codex D: "the crowd, this"
Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek: "the crowd"

Mk. 8:2
Codex D: “the crowd, this”
Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek: “the crowd”

Mk. 10:22
Codex D: “This the word”
Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek: “the word”

Luke 17:17
Codex D: “these ten”
Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek: “the ten”



WESTERN TEXT A TRANSLATION FROM ARAMAIC

Torrey refers to “…the Aramaic which (as I believe)

underlies the Bezan Grk….” (Our Translated Gospels p. 4 n.

19) and later refers to “…the Aramaic retro-version which

lies back of the Bezae Greek…” (ibid p. 134)

Fredric Henry Chase stated:

“The Syriac text of the Acts, on which large portions
of the Bezan text are based, is not that of the Syriac
Vulgate [the Peshitta]. It is that of an old Syriac

version,…
The conclusion that it is an Old Syriac text which lies
behind that of Codex D is founded on the consideration
of two lines of evidence—external and internal.
(The Old Syriac Element in the Text of Codex Bezae;
by Fredric Henry Chase B.D.; 1893 p. 1)

However, rather than come to the obvious conclusion that the

Greek Western text of D represents a translation from the

Aramaic Old Syriac text, Chase instead theorizes: The Bezan

text of the Acts is the result of an assimilation of a Greek

text to a Syriac text. (ibid) It is the conclusion of this

author that Torrey and Chase were each close to the truth.

Torrey was correct that the Greek Western text was a

translation from an Aramaic original but was blind to the

fact that the Aramaic original which lies behind the Western
Greek text was the Old Syriac. On the other hand Chase

recognized that the Old Syriac underlies the Greek Western

text, but failed to acknowledge that the Greek Western text

was a translation from an Aramaic original.

The evidence that the Old Syriac is the Aramaic which lies

behind the Greek Western text represented by Codex D is

clear. It is also clear that the Peshitta is a revision of

the Old Syriac. The following examples demonstrate this

point:

Matthew 14:9
Old Syriac: ”And because of the oath and because of the

guests”
Greek Western text of Codex D: ”And because of the oath and

because of the guests”
Byzantine and Alexandrian Greek: ”and because of the oath

and the guests”
Peshitta: ”but because of the oath and the guests”

In this example the Old Syriac repeats “because” as is

normal in Aramaic. The Western Greek translates literally.

The Byzantine (and Alexandrian) Greek were revised into

smoother Greek thus removing the additional “because” and

the Peshitta was revised to agree with the later Greek

reading.


Luke 2:52
Old Syriac: “with God and with the sons of man”
Codex D (Greek Western Type Text): “with God and with men”
Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek Text Types: "with God and

men"
Peshitta: “with God and men”

In this example the Old Syriac repeats the preposition

“with” as it should in Aramaic Grammer. The Greek Western

Text translates literally, retaining the additional “with”

even though this is choppy Greek. The Alexandrian and

Byzantine text types were revised into smoother Greek,

omitting the unneeded second preposition. Finally the

Peshitta was revised to agree with the later Greek reading

even though it is poor Aramaic.


Mt. 15:24
Old Syriac: "[the] flock, those"
Codex D: "the sheep, those"
Alexandrian & Byzantine Greek: "the sheep"
Peshitta: "[the] sheep"


The Aramaic uses a relative pronoun here (remember Aramaic

has no “the”) and the Greek Western Text translates

literally retaining the unneeded (in Greek) relative pronoun

“those”. The Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek were revised

to read more smoothly in Greek, removing the unneeded word

“those”. Finally the Peshitta was revised to agree with the

later Greek reading thus omitting the relative pronoun.


Mt. 18:2

DuTillet Hebrew Matthew:
“And Yeshua called to one boy…” (a certain boy)

Shem Tob Hebrew Matthew:
“And he called one boy…” (a certain boy)

Old Syriac Aramaic Matthew:
“And Yeshua called to one boy…” (a certain boy)

In the Hebrew and in the Old Syriac Aramaic (but not the

Peshitta) we have a common Semitic idiom by which a

“certain” thing is modified with the word “one”. In this

case Yeshua calls “one boy” in the Hebrew and Aramaic, i.e.

“a certain boy”.

Codex D has:
“And Iesus called the one boy…”

This Western Greek reading preserves the Semitic idiom “one

boy” which has no place in the Greek language. However the

later Greek has been revised into smoother Greek to read:

“And he called a boy…”

And the Peshitta was revised to agree with the later Greek

text to read:

“And Yeshua called a boy…”


HEBREW MATTHEW AND THE OLD SYRIAC

Many Peshitta Primacists have attempted to shrug off Hebrew

Matthew (Shem Tob and DuTillet both) as having no ancient

origins at all but as being late translations from Greek or

Latin made in the Middle Ages.

Many readings in Hebrew Matthew make it clear that it is not

a translation of either that Latin Vulgate or a Greek

Byzantine type of text but is of ancient origin having many

agreements with ancient versions unknown in the Middle Ages.

Matthew Black has noted these “unexpected variants” found in

DuTillet Matthew but then suggested that they could be

“satisfactorily accounted for by the assumption of an Old

Latin original for the Hebrew text.” However Black betrays

the shortcoming of his own theory by admitting that many of

these “unexpected variants [are] found elsewhere in Syriac

sources only.” (An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts

by Mathew Black 3rd edition; 1967 p. 295) In fact there are

several passages in which DuTillet agrees with the Old

Syriac against all other versions including the Old Latin:

An important quality of the Old Syriac Aramaic is its close

agreement with Hebrew Matthew as represented by the DuTillet

and Shem Tob versions. The frequent agreement between the

Old Syriac and Hebrew Matthew, combined with a lack of

correspondence between definite articles (in DuTillet and

the Greek) point to Hebrew Matthew as the source for the Old

Syriac Aramaic Matthew.

Among the more telling connections between Hebrew Matthew

and the Old Syriac are:

1:13 The DuTillet Hebrew manuscript of Matthew contains the

missing name "Avner" which occurs between Aviud and

Eliakim in the DuTillet Hebrew text of Mt. 1:13. The Old

Syriac Aramaic version of Matthew has "Aviur" where the

Peshitta and Greek have "Aviud" .

5:34
DT:”for it is Elohim’s throne (theirs)”
OS: ”which is Eloah’s (their) throne”
(both have the same grammatical error!)

For more information on these Hebrew Versions of Matthew

see:
http://www.nazarene.net/hantri/FreeBook/AramaicTextualCritic

ism.htm


CONCLUSION

I have done my best to explain some very complex issues in a

way that (I hope) anyone can understand without having a

knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and without already

having a background in the various text types and versions

of NT manuscripts.

I hope that this paper has clarified why I differ with the

Peshitta Primacy theory which Andrew Gabriel Roth has

maintained.

I believe the evidence is clear that the Old Syriac is the

oldest type of Aramaic text extant, that the Western Greek

text represents a literal Greek translation of this Aramaic.

Furthermore the Alexandrian and Byzantine text types

represent revisions of the Greek to a smoother Greek text.

Finally the Peshitta represents a revision of the Old Syriac

to a more Syriac, less Judaic dialect with somewhat better

agreement with the revised Greek Byzantine type of text.

James Trimm

For more info see my book:
The Hebrew and Aramaic Origin of the New Testament
http://www.lulu.com/nazarene


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