Re: Metaphors in Greek

From: Jack Kilmon (
Date: Tue Feb 23 1999 - 18:57:59 EST

George Blaisdell wrote:
> >From: Jack Kilmon
> >In the Aramaic idiom, lahMA (bread) was a metaphor
> >for wisdom or teaching and "eating bread" for learning.
> Thanks, Jack, for this valuable and suggestive possibility. The English
> metaphor, "Body of knowledge", still survives, of course.
> The more I read the GNT and listen on this list, the more I am coming to
> the conclusion that the GNT, written in Greek by Jews, has major
> meanings that are Judaically imbedded, and that perhaps are not all that
> accessible to us. I confess that our recent little excursion into
> classical Greek [via the cut off/castration thread ~ Epictetus??] seemed
> to me like a breath of very fresh translational air.
> Do you have any more Aramaic or Hebraic metaphorical understandings for,
> say, body and blood?

There are a number of Aramaic idioms that do not translate in Greek.
of the primary differences between Aramaic and Greek is that Aramaic is
a "meat and potatoes" language that has several meanings for one word.
Greek is very literal with several words for one meaning. As a result,
there are readings with several Greek variants in the witnesses that
sometime distill to one word in Aramaic.

Having said this, however, I should caution that Aramaic retroversion
of entire pericopes, and certainly entire books of the NT is a very
rocky road. These are texts that were written in Greek by Greek
authors (perhaps Mark was Semitic speaking but he wrote the gospel in
Greek). Aramaic can be a very valuable tool *only* (in my opinion)
when looking at a word or single phrase that may have been original
to the Aramaic-speaking Jesus. Even then we must keep in mind that
a pericope or saying was probably paraphrased or interpolated in Greek
translation. As a result, I am only comfortable in retroverting
singular words or small phrases that appear to be Aramaisms preserved
in translational Greek. As an example, the MISEI of Luke 14:26 which
has Jesus asking us to "hate" our father, mother, complete
opposition to one of the "big 10," is SAneh in Aramaic which not
only means "hate" but to "set aside."

Another example would be the Greek variants GAMOUS (wedding)
of Luke 14:8 with DEIPNHSAI (meal, banquet) in the Codex Bezae version
of this saying paralleled in Matthew 20:28. Only in Aramaic does
the word mishTUtha have the double meaning for "meal" AND "wedding."

I am confident, therefore, that that Aramaic word was spoken by
Jesus. I would NOT be confident that an Aramaic retroversion of
the entire aphorism from Luke 14:8-11 would be an accurate
restoration of Jesus' voice. I can buttress my argument for an
Aramaic original by the variants DOCA (glory, honor) and XRHSIMON
(gain, share) between those same texts for Lk 14:10. Only the
Aramaic word shibhha carries both meanings and "honor" may be
the best reading.

To summarize my position, for which I will expect argument from
some, an Aramaic translation of an entire NT work does not
make it "more original" but merely a translation. An Aramaic
retroversion of specific words or small phrases MAY be more
original to Jesus (when different meanings surface) than
the Greek.

In the very least, it is a tool that should not be ignored in
Greek New Testament studies.



taybutheh d'maran yeshua masheecha am kulkon

Jack Kilmon

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