Re: Telltale Signs of a Donor Language

From: Jack Kilmon (
Date: Mon Mar 22 1999 - 13:38:05 EST

Theodore H Mann wrote:

> Greetings:
> Is it possible to tell from a translation of a missing original what the
> language of the original might have been? I'm thinking once again about
> the claim that Hebrews was originally written in Hebrew, and translated
> into Greek by Luke or whoever. I also have in mind various comments I
> have read and heard that some of the NT documents were translated into
> Greek from Aramaic. Can a scholar with the appropriate training and
> experience look at a translation and say something like: "This is not the
> way this would have been done, if the original language were Hebrew (or
> Aramaic, German, French, etc.), or, "There are grammatical and
> syntactical clues in this translation that lead me to believe that the
> original document was in......."? Many thanks.

It is possible to recognize translational Greek from Semitic (Hebrew or
Aramaic) sources. I know of no complete NT work that does not appear
to have been authored originally in Greek, and particularly the very
literate, almost classical, Epistle to the Hebrews. I am aware of imbedments
of material, more often sayings material, in the NT that are in translational
Greek and show "markers" of an Aramaic original and the Greek-penning
author either using a Greek translational source (like the Matthean Scribe)
or doing a direct translation from an Aramaic source (as Luke may have done).

I see no indications, with a background in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic,
that any NT work was penned, in its present canonical form, in Hebrew
or in Aramaic. I do see scattered Aramaisms transmitted from source


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