About the Peshitta v2.0

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The Church Fathers tell us that the original manuscripts were written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and then translated into Greek. Because we have a Hebraically-oriented faith, we want to have those Semitic (Hebrew and Aramaic) originals.

Some people believe the Aramaic Peshitta NT contains the inspired originals, or perhaps that it descends from the originals. As much as I wish that was true, there are some issues with the Peshitta, which seem to indicate that it is either a high quality translation from Greek, or that it has been altered over generations, to include a great many Greek names and terms.

There are too many issues to catalogue them all here, but for one example, the Apostle Shaul is not Shaul, but Paulos (פולוס), even when he goes up to Jerusalem—yet in Hebraic circles he would certainly have been called “Shaul.”

Acts 21:18
18 On the following day Shaul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.
PEH Acts 21:18 וליומא אחרנא עלן עם פולוס לות יעקוב כד אית הוא לותה כלהון קשׁישׁא

Another issue is that the Peshitta uses the word eucharistia (דאוכרסטיא) for bread in Acts. This is clearly a reference to the (Catholic) Eucharist.

Acts 2:42
42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of the Eucharist, and in prayers.
PEH Acts 2:42 ואמינין הוו ביולפנא דשׁליחא ומשׁתותפין הוו בצלותא ובקציא דאוכרסטיא

This stands in marked contrast to the typical Aramaic word for bread, which is lechema (לחמא), which is a close relative of the Hebrew word lechem (לחם). In fact, the Aramaic Peshitta records that the bread Yeshua broke during the Last Supper was lechema (לחמא).

Luke 22:19
19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
PEH Luke 22:19 ונסב לחמא ואודי וקצא ויהב להון ואמר הנו פגרי דעל אפיכון מתיהב הדא הויתון עבדין לדוכרני

The apostles would not have used the term eucharist or eucharistia. These are pagan terms—and the fact they are used in the Peshitta indicates either that they were inserted into the Peshitta after the eucharist had already been adopted—or more likely that the Peshitta was a high-quality backward translation into Aramaic (similar to the Salkinson-Ginsburg backward translation of the King James Version into Hebrew in the late 19th century).

Let us also consider Mark 15:34, where the Peshitta quotes Yeshua (who was speaking Aramaic), and makes a point of translating His Aramaic speech into Aramaic text (which makes no sense). [Note: I could not get the Aramaic to display properly here. If you need it, please email me, and I will send it to you.]

Mark 15:34
34 And at the ninth hour Yeshua cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lamna sabachthani?” which is translated, “Elohi, Elohi, lamna sabachthani?”
PEH Mark 15:34
καὶ τῇ ὥρᾳ τῇ ἐνάτῃ ἐβόησεν ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς φωνῇ μεγάλῃ λέγων· ᾿Ελωΐ, ᾿Ελωΐ λαμὰ σαβαχθανί; ὃ ἐστι μεθερμηνευόμενον, ὁ Θεός μου ὁ Θεός μου, εἰς τί με ἐγκατέλιπές; 

If Mark hypothetically wrote Yeshua’s Aramaic speech into an Aramaic scroll that would later be incorporated directly into the Peshitta, he would not have said the words, “which is translated”. Instead he would simply have recorded what Yeshua said (without the comment).

What then? The Church Fathers clearly testify that the original manuscripts were written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and were translated into Greek. If the Peshitta is not original, it does seem to be a very high quality backward translation (like the Salkinson-Ginsburg), even to the point of reconstructing Semitic poetry forms.

Others argue that the Peshitta descends from the original, but that many Greek terms (Hellenisms) have been brought into the text. (That seems possible, but unlikely.)

For those interested in researching the Peshitta, a very high quality version can be found at www.aent.org. Please do not purchase on the Shabbat.

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