Re: Jesus Words: Aramaic or Greek?

From: Jack Kilmon (
Date: Fri Sep 04 1998 - 13:25:24 EDT

Mark Goodacre wrote:

> Looking at Aramaic possibly embedded behind the Greek text can indeed be
> helpful, but one should perhaps begin by asking whether one can
> make good sense of the Greek text at hand.

This is perfectly true just as we cannot assume that the Greek scribewas ignorant
of the Aramaic original although this could be true in
certain select cases. There are, however, a number of cases where
the Aramaic makes more sense than the Greek..but I like your
treatment of the "debts/sins" issue and concede that was not the
best example. Having said that, although you are absolutely
correct that the Matthean scribe exploits this metaphor to make it
understandable to his Hellenistic Jewish audience, the "sin" idiom
is not obvious as the LP stands alone.

    This is also one of those areas that puts me on the fence on
the "Luke used Matthew" thingy since Luke seems to "explain"
the idiom with his use of AMARTIAS...or was he using a source
document similar to the one used by the Matthean scribe?

> This is an example of a term that
> makes good sense in Greek, for which theories of underlying Aramaic are
> interesting but unnecessary.

In this example, perhaps. But I would differ with you that looking atthe
underlying Aramaic is *generally* "interesting but unnecessary."
It is my view that the examination for an Aramaic substratum could
be essential as long as it is done with a sound methodology for
determining the presence of an Aramaic substratum. This is the rub.
"Retroversion" is a word that raises the hairs on the back of the
necks of Graecists and it shouldn't for as "back-translation" it is
distinguished from "translation." It assumes an Aramaic original.

As an example, in my opinion the 1st beatitude is safe for "back-
translation" (retroversion) while the 9th would be only a translation.

In short, I believe that the Aramaic factor is essential in the exegesis
of sayings considered historical to Jesus.


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