[b-greek] Re: Semitic Patterns of Speech in the Writings of Paul?

From: Dale M. Wheeler (dalemw@teleport.com)
Date: Fri Sep 22 2000 - 14:24:03 EDT

<x-flowed>Dr. Deborah J. Greenhill wrote:

>Blessings, All,
>Yesterday a conversation came up about semitic patterns in I Corinthians
>1:23-25. Is this true? If so, are there other instances where Paul uses
>Hebraisms to show his linguistic abilities for Aramaic or Hebrew? If
>Hebraisms are evident in the underlying tones of Greek texr, is it
>possible to reconstruct accurately a Hebrew text of the writings of Paul?
>Clement of Alexandria states that there was an original Book of Hebrews in
>the Hebrew language. Discounting the Book of Hebrews are there other
>possibilities for Hebrew originals [read 'autographs']?
>Thank you for any response. I am using this material for a graduate level
>research paper.

What specific "semitic" patterns in 1Cor 1:23-25 were you referring to?? I
can't see anything that looks "semitic" at all; in fact the passage looks
very Greek instead of semitic; Apollonius' canon constructions (both with
and without the article, when Hebrew would have an article with just the
absolute noun), word order (subjects first), the use of naked cases
(datives w/o prepositions to indicate other than indirect object; genitives
w/o preps to indicate other that possession), etc. The only thing I can
see that looks remotely odd is the use of AUTOIS at the beginning of v. 24,
but that's hardly semitic.

As to Hebrews; first of all Eusebius' quote from Clement doesn't mean that
the book was written in Hebrew, but in the dialect spoken by the Hebrews at
the time, namely Aramaic (just like hIBRISTI in the NT). Also, if Hebrews
was translated from Aramaic into Greek, whoever did it covered the Aramaic
tracks well because the book simply doesn't read like a semitically styled
document...its just very nice literary Hellenistic/Koine. In fact several
of the quotes follow LXX forms of the text rather than the Hebrew OT when
those two don't exactly match. Cf., Westcott on Hebrews.

There are occasionally some things in the NT which strike the ear as a bit
too semitic sounding, but its unlikely, IMHO, that those things indicate
semitic originals; rather they seem to me to just show that Koine had
absorbed a lot of influences by the 1st century and that speakers were just
speaking/writing the language they knew and none of this seemed strange or
sounded funny to them. In fact, one would have to seriously ask why any of
the NT writers would write anything in Hebrew, since there were so few
people who could actually speak the language in the 1st cent (that's why
they had the LXX and the Targums). Aramaic would be possible, but again
the question is why would the NT writers want to limit their audience so
severely when they all could speak Greek and so could everyone else in the
Empire and its borders at this time. Doesn't it make more sense to say
that they would write in the language that would give them the best
opportunity of reaching the most people; or in the case of the epistles, in
the language the recipients would understand? And why is there absolutely
no physical evidence for any of these texts...which might be understandable
if the NT was like other ancient documents which have exemplars only
several centuries after their compositions, but the NT has documents that
could be as early as 50-100 years after the writing of the original....but
no Aramaic versions.

Now if you want to read a Greek text that sounds semitic, read Revelation,
which was either: (1) translated and written down on the fly by John as he
heard it spoken in Hebrew, or (2) John deliberately stylized it to make it
sound like an OT prophet writing in Hebrew-ized Greek or LXX style.

My $.02 worth...

Dale M. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Research Professor in Biblical Languages Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97220
Voice: 503-251-6416 FAX:503-254-1268 E-Mail: dalemw@teleport.com

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