Re: Telltale Signs of a Donor Language

From: Albert L. Lukaszewski (
Date: Mon Mar 22 1999 - 14:05:50 EST

For some very good studies on Greek translated from a Semitic source, you
might want to check out the work of Ray Martin -- esp. _Syntactical
Evidence of Semitic Sources in Greek Documents_, Syntax Criticism of the
Synoptic Gospels_, and _A Syntax Criticism of Johannine Literature, the
Catholic Epistles, and the Gospel Passion Accounts_.

Another way that one can see a donor language is in the use of LXX vs. MT.
When I was studying James a couple years ago I noticed that, while his
Greek is exceptional, his quotation of the Hebrew Scriptures showed signs
of a Semitic original. E.G., in quoting the Decalogue he uses "MH" with
the subjunctive to indicate prohibition rather than the LXX "OU" with the
future indicative. LXX rendered the Biblical Hebrew "Lo)" with the
imperfect (an emphatic form) to be negation of an indicative form. The
result is God, in his omniscience, saying that the Israelites will never
commit murder, etc. An obviously absurd rendering. James, on the other
hand, properly captures the prohibitory sense of the commandments in his
translation. As I recall, none of the variants of LXX offer "MH" +
subjunctive. This seemed to me to indicate that the author of James was a
Semite by birth who was quoting the commandments as from memory,
translating them into Greek as he went.

Hope this helps,
Albert Lukaszewski

At 01:18 PM 3/22/99 -0500, Theodore H Mann wrote:
>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.
>Theodore "Ted" Mann
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