Re: Lamsa and Aramaic

From: Jack Kilmon (
Date: Tue Aug 05 1997 - 19:43:09 EDT

Elmer Smalling wrote:

> > B-Greek Listers
> >
> > Can someone comment on the Samaritan cleric George
> > Lamsa's interpretation of Matt. 27: 46? Eli, Eli lmana
> > shbakthani - "My God, My God, for this I was kept (
> as
> > opposed to the common interpretation "My God, My God,
> why
> > hast Thou forsaken me?". Is shbakthani derived from
> the
> > Aramaic root work shbak (keep, preserve, spare,
> forgive).

    The Peshitta texts preserves the rendering <aram> )yl )yl lmn)
$bqtnywhile the Hebrew of Psalm 22 is )ly )ly lmh (zbtny. The Greek
used by the author of Matthew (a Greek speaking Syrian Jew) is HLI HLI
LAMA SABAXQANI. How well the Matthean scribe knew either Hebrew
or Aramaic, I am not sure, particularly since he used the LXX as a
for OT citations. $bq is a root for "allowing to leave"
rendering as "forsaken" or as "kept" or as "left" is all in a matter of
context which, unfortunately, we don't have. Lamsa's rendering is
not off-base but I find the usage too coincidental with Ps 22 in context

to overlook.

    If the phrase is original to Jesus and not one of the Matthean
many attempts at OT correlation, I would think that the crucified Jesus
may have wanted to remind those taunting him of this Psalm which was
probably a daily liturgy in a time of Messianic hope. One could argue,
of course, that the Matthean scribe "edited in" the circumstances
in Ps 22 (casting lots, piercing, etc) for affect.

> > I get the feeling that Lamsa is not a favorite of
> > mainstream scholars. If not, why not? Many scholars
> > "bash" Lamsa but do not give details.

    Many Graecists get red in the face at the mere mention of Aramaicas
the language spoken by Jesus...they would prefer he spoke and
preached in Greek. Fitzmyer gets the same "bashing." If there is any
sound basis to question Lamsa's scholarship, I have not heard it yet
and would be interested.

> > Is he not an expert in the idiomatic expressions of
> > Aramaic.. which has lasted for two thousand-plus
> years?

    Yes, he is.

> > I would very much appreciate some comments and
> reference
> > texts or theses that back up the popular scholarly
> view.

    On this particular issue, and as a third party source, check
KautzschGrammer of Biblical Aramaic (it's an oldie but a goody).
Liepzig, 1884, p11.

Jack Kilmon
Houston, Tx

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