Re: George Lamsa

From: Jack Kilmon (
Date: Fri Sep 04 1998 - 17:13:20 EDT

Lamsa's work can give anyone a good "primer" on Aramaic.
Lamsa's native language is Aramaic and his "New Testament
according to the Aramaic" is based on the Peshitta. His
presentation of idioms is very useful. Taken as part of an
overall study of Aramaic, using Johns, Black, Taylor, Fitzmyer,
Errico, and Jeremias, his work is helpful. I am unaware of a "new age"
application of his works.

I think that a knowledge of Aramaic can be, at times, very
illuminating when we look at a Greek renderings of sayings
that we are confident (as far as that can go) are ipsissima verba
Iesu. There are cases when Greek textual variants will distill
to one when back-translated to Aramaic, therefore the Aramaic
can be one of a number of tools in assessing the best reading.

This, of course, reflects my viewpoint that there IS an interface
between Aramaic and NT Greek and therefore, at times, the
application and discussion of that paradigm can be topically
appropriate for the b-Greek list.

I do not arrive at this viewpoint through a tendentiousness
associated with "my favorite language" as some, Graecists as
well as Aramaists, are wont to do at times. It is a platform
that has been constructed through both linguistic and cultural
studies of the languages in use in 2nd temple times.

Very generally, Greek has many words for one meaning
(at times) while Aramaic has one word for many meanings.
This is a product of culture. There are those who would
disagree with me when I say that the sayings of Jesus arise
from an Aramaic-speaking Semitic culture and not
a Greek culture.

The NT, however, is interesting in that the authors, perhaps
with the exception of Luke, are Semitic but Greek-speaking
rendering the sayings of Jesus who was Semitic and Aramaic
speaking (at least as a primary language). That there was an
Aramaic source behind some of these it oral
or written...has some considerable evidence in the NT.

My point is that when we are discussing the Greek textual
variants throughout the Greek witnesses, a little Aramaic
wont hurt (g).


Jane Harper wrote:

> > I think a good starter would be "Idioms of the Bible Explained" by
> > George Lamsa.
> Just as an aside, is there scholarly support for Lamsa's work? I first
> encountered him in a "new age" context, and my experience has been that in that
> venue, special pleading rules...
> 'Course, that's just MY experience. Please disabuse me if I'm wrong.
> Janie
> Jane Harper
> Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, CA
> **************************
> Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. (King, 1963)

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