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Which it the Oldest Aramaic NT? (Old Syriac vs Peshitta) Part 2

WHICH IS THE OLDEST ARAMAIC NT?
(Part 2)

By James Trimm



SEMITIC NATURE OF THE GREEK WESTERN TEXT

Matthew Black states, that “Semitisms” are “a special feature of the text of [Codex] D”.
Black states:

“The Bezean [Western] text in all the Synoptic Gospels…
is more frequently stained with Aramaic constructions
and idiom than the [Alexandrian] text.”
(An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts; 1st & 2nd ed.
P. 212; 3rd ed. P. 277)

In fact in an extensive study of the occurrence of Semitisms in the Book of Acts, Max Wilcox found something very amazing, something which he viewed as a “textual problem”. He found that Codex D (and the Greek Western text in general) was far more replete with Semitisms than any of the other Greek texts:

“ …there is the textual problem of Acts. In this connection
we may recall that in no inconsiderable number of places,
where the evidence indicated or suggested Semitism, that
evidence was not found in all the manuscripts, but was
confined to one manuscript or group of manuscripts,
frequently D (and its allies).”
(Semitisms of the Book of Acts; Max Wilcox; 1965; p. 185)

The Greek Western text of Codex D plays as a missing link between the original Aramaic New Testament and the received Greek text.

In Hebrew and Aramaic when a preposition applies to more than one noun in a series the preposition is usually repeated. In the example below we have a case where the normal Aramaic grammar appears in the Old Syriac as well as the Greek Western text of codex D both of which repeat the preposition. However the Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek text types eliminate the second occurrence of the preposition creating a more natural Greek reading. In some cases the Peshitta agrees with the Old Syriac but in some instances the Peshitta has been revised to agree with the Byzantine Greek.

Matthew 14:9
Greek Western text of Codex D:
”And because of the oath and because of the guests”

Byzantine and Alexandrian Greek:
”and because of the oath and the guests”


Mark 6:36
Codex D has:
"to the surrounding fields and to the villages"

Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek has:
“to the surrounding fields and villages"


Mark 8:31
Codex D:
"by the elders and by the chief priests and the scribes"

Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek:
"by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes"

Luke 2:34
Codex D:
"for fall and for rising"

Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek:
"for fall and rising"


Luke 2:52
Codex D:
“with God and with men”

Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek:
"with God and men"


The second evidence for the Aramaic origin of the Greek Western type text of Codex D is its tendency to use two verbs where the later Greek text types use a special construction. This is important because this type of use of a special construction that is common in Greek (and in English) but impossible in Aramaic.

The following is an example:

And having approached, the Tempter said to him….
(Mt. 4:3 from Greek Alexandrian and Byzantine)

But this grammatical construction is impossible in Aramaic so when we look at the Aramaic we see the construction replaced by a normal verb and an “and” placed before the second verb as follows:

And he approached (to him) the Tempter and said to him…
(Mt. 4:3 from Aramaic; portion in parenthesis is in OS only)

Wherever the Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek use this construction as shown above, the Aramaic has a normal verbal construction followed by “and” prefixed to the second verb as shown above. Now one might wrongly take this as evidence that the NT had been written in Greek and that the Aramaic was translated from the Greek. On the surface it
might appear that Mt. 4:3 is written in idiomatic Greek that an Aramaic translator had to adjust for the Aramaic language. (since the Aramaic could have been a natural translation of the Greek but the Greek could not have been translated literally from the Aramaic without being either a paraphrase or a more idiomatically Greek revision of an earlier Greek version). But the key missing link is the very Semitic style of the Greek Western text type of Codex D.

The Aramaic has:

And approached (to him) he the Tempter and said to him…
(Mt. 4:3 from Aramaic; portion in parenthesis is in OS only)

The primitive Western Greek text of Codex D translates the Aramaic literally to mean:

And approached (to him) he the Tempter and said to him
(Mt. 4:3 from Western Greek of Codex D)

And the later Greek scribes revised this into more idiomatic Greek to mean:

And having approached, the Tempter said to him
(Mt. 4:3 from Byzantine and Alexandrian Greek)

Now one example does not make a pattern. But we have more than one example. One can also cite LOTS of examples of this same pattern throughout the text of Codex D where the Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek use the special construction and the Western Greek uses a normal verbal construction and adds an “and” before the second verb:

Mt. 4:3; 5:13; 9:28; 13:1, 4, 48; 17:7; 20:6, 30; 21:6; 25; 26:51; 27:58; 28:19 Mark 2:16; 4:36; 5:23; 8:10; 10:22; 12:20; 14:22 Luke. 5:14, 24; 8:27; 15:23; 19:5, 35 Jn. 6:11; 9:35; 11:17; 12:36

In addition, in some of the passages where the Greek Western text of Codex D does use the participle construction, the Western Greek STILL adds the “and” to the second verb, as if an earlier version had the normal verbal construction and had been revised to a less choppy construction but the reviser had neglected to remove the “and” from the
second verb. Examples may be found in:

Mt. 27:33 Mk. 2:1; Mk. 5:27; 6:48; 7:25; 8:10; 10:22; 11:2; 14:63; 15:46; 16:11, 15 Lk. 8:8; 9:6 Jn 12:3

This pattern of literal translation from the Aramaic in the Western type text and revision toward less choppy, more flowing Greek in the Alexandrian and Byzantine text types should forever satisfy those Aramaic Primacists who have expressed doubt that the Greek Western text of Codex D is the most primitive type of Greek text and, in fact, a
“missing link” between the original Aramaic and the Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek text types.

Another evidence for the Aramaic origin of the Greek Western type text of Codex D is that of the use of relative pronouns (some English relative pronouns are: this, that, those, these). Aramaic has no definite article (in English the definite article is “the”). As a result Aramaic makes more use of relative pronouns in order to compensate for its lack of a definite article. However Greek does have definite articles, making many of the relative pronouns in the Aramaic unnecessary in the Greek versions. Now as we examine the Greek Western text type of Codex D we find that yet another pattern develops. In many places where the Aramaic Old Syriac text uses a relative pronoun, Codex D retains the relative pronoun (often also adding a definite article) and then the Greek Alexandrian and Byzantine text types drop the relative pronoun which is not really needed in the Greek, and leave only a definite article. The following is a list of examples:

Mt. 15:24
Codex D: "the sheep, those"
Alexandrian & Byzantine Greek: "the sheep"

Mt. 15:32
Codex D: "the crowd, this"
Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek: "the crowd"

Mk. 8:2
Codex D: “the crowd, this”
Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek: “the crowd”

Mk. 10:22
Codex D: “This the word”
Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek: “the word”

Luke 17:17
Codex D: “these ten”
Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek: “the ten”



WESTERN TEXT A TRANSLATION FROM ARAMAIC

Torrey refers to “…the Aramaic which (as I believe) underlies the Bezan Grk….” (Our Translated Gospels p. 4 n. 19) and later refers to “…the Aramaic retro-version which lies back of the Bezae Greek…” (ibid p. 134) Fredric Henry Chase stated:

“The Syriac text of the Acts, on which large portions
of the Bezan text are based, is not that of the Syriac
Vulgate [the Peshitta]. It is that of an old Syriac version,…
The conclusion that it is an Old Syriac text which lies
behind that of Codex D is founded on the consideration
of two lines of evidence—external and internal.
(The Old Syriac Element in the Text of Codex Bezae;
by Fredric Henry Chase B.D.; 1893 p. 1)


However, rather than come to the obvious conclusion that the Greek Western text of D represents a translation from the Aramaic Old Syriac text, Chase instead theorizes: The Bezan text of the Acts is the result of an assimilation of a Greek text to a Syriac text. (ibid) It is the conclusion of this author that Torrey and Chase were each close to the truth.

Torrey was correct that the Greek Western text was a translation from an Aramaic original but was blind to the fact that the Aramaic original which lies behind the Western Greek text was the Old Syriac. On the other hand Chase recognized that the Old Syriac underlies the Greek Western text, but failed to acknowledge that the Greek Western text
was a translation from an Aramaic original.

The evidence that the Old Syriac is the Aramaic which lies behind the Greek Western text represented by Codex D is clear. It is also clear that the Peshitta is a revision of the Old Syriac. The following examples demonstrate this point:

Matthew 14:9
Old Syriac: ”And because of the oath and because of the guests”
Greek Western text of Codex D: ”And because of the oath and because of the guests”
Byzantine and Alexandrian Greek: ”and because of the oath and the guests”
Peshitta: ”but because of the oath and the guests”

In this example the Old Syriac repeats “because” as is normal in Aramaic. The Western Greek translates literally. The Byzantine (and Alexandrian) Greek were revised into smoother Greek thus removing the additional “because” and the Peshitta was revised to agree with the later Greek reading.


Luke 2:52
Old Syriac: “with God and with the sons of man”
Codex D (Greek Western Type Text): “with God and with men”
Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek Text Types: "with God and men"
Peshitta: “with God and men”

In this example the Old Syriac repeats the preposition “with” as it should in Aramaic Grammer. The Greek Western Text translates literally, retaining the additional “with”
even though this is choppy Greek. The Alexandrian and Byzantine text types were revised into smoother Greek, omitting the unneeded second preposition. Finally the
Peshitta was revised to agree with the later Greek reading even though it is poor Aramaic.


Mt. 15:24
Old Syriac: "[the] flock, those"
Codex D: "the sheep, those"
Alexandrian & Byzantine Greek: "the sheep"
Peshitta: "[the] sheep"


The Aramaic uses a relative pronoun here (remember Aramaic has no “the”) and the Greek Western Text translates literally retaining the unneeded (in Greek) relative pronoun “those”. The Alexandrian and Byzantine Greek were revised to read more smoothly in Greek, removing the unneeded word “those”. Finally the Peshitta was revised to agree with the later Greek reading thus omitting the relative pronoun.


Mt. 18:2

DuTillet Hebrew Matthew:
“And Yeshua called to one boy…” (a certain boy)

Shem Tob Hebrew Matthew:
“And he called one boy…” (a certain boy)

Old Syriac Aramaic Matthew:
“And Yeshua called to one boy…” (a certain boy)

In the Hebrew and in the Old Syriac Aramaic (but not the Peshitta) we have a common Semitic idiom by which a “certain” thing is modified with the word “one”. In this case Yeshua calls “one boy” in the Hebrew and Aramaic, i.e. “a certain boy”.

Codex D has:
“And Iesus called the one boy…”

This Western Greek reading preserves the Semitic idiom “one boy” which has no place in the Greek language. However the later Greek has been revised into smoother Greek to read:

“And he called a boy…”

And the Peshitta was revised to agree with the later Greek text to read:

“And Yeshua called a boy…”


HEBREW MATTHEW AND THE OLD SYRIAC

Many Peshitta Primacists have attempted to shrug off Hebrew Matthew (Shem Tob and DuTillet both) as having no ancient origins at all but as being late translations from Greek or Latin made in the Middle Ages.

Many readings in Hebrew Matthew make it clear that it is not a translation of either that Latin Vulgate or a Greek Byzantine type of text but is of ancient origin having many agreements with ancient versions unknown in the Middle Ages.

Matthew Black has noted these “unexpected variants” found in DuTillet Matthew but then suggested that they could be “satisfactorily accounted for by the assumption of an Old Latin original for the Hebrew text.” However Black betrays the shortcoming of his own theory by admitting that many of these “unexpected variants [are] found elsewhere in Syriac sources only.” (An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts by Mathew Black 3rd edition; 1967 p. 295) In fact there are several passages in which DuTillet agrees with the Old Syriac against all other versions including the Old Latin:

An important quality of the Old Syriac Aramaic is its close agreement with Hebrew Matthew as represented by the DuTillet and Shem Tob versions. The frequent agreement between the Old Syriac and Hebrew Matthew, combined with a lack of correspondence between definite articles (in DuTillet and the Greek) point to Hebrew Matthew as the source for the Old Syriac Aramaic Matthew.

Among the more telling connections between Hebrew Matthew and the Old Syriac are:

1:13 The DuTillet Hebrew manuscript of Matthew contains the
missing name "Avner" which occurs between Aviud and
Eliakim in the DuTillet Hebrew text of Mt. 1:13. The Old
Syriac Aramaic version of Matthew has "Aviur" where the
Peshitta and Greek have "Aviud" .

5:34
DT:”for it is Elohim’s throne (theirs)”
OS: ”which is Eloah’s (their) throne”
(both have the same grammatical error!)



CONCLUSION

I have done my best to explain some very complex issues in a way that (I hope) anyone can understand without having a knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and without already having a background in the various text types and versions of NT manuscripts.


I hope that this paper has clarified why I differ with the Peshitta Primacy theory which Andrew Gabriel Roth has maintained. I believe the evidence is clear that the Old Syriac is the oldest type of Aramaic text extant, that the Western Greek text represents a literal Greek translation of this Aramaic. Furthermore the Alexandrian and Byzantine text types
represent revisions of the Greek to a smoother Greek text. Finally the Peshitta represents a revision of the Old Syriac to a more Syriac, less Judaic dialect with somewhat better
agreement with the revised Greek Byzantine type of text.

James Trimm

For more info see my book:
The Hebrew and Aramaic Origin of the New Testament

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Views: 89

Comment by GARY ATKINSON on May 8, 2019 at 7:04am

The Church of the East claims they received the New Testament scriptures from the original Apostles. Since that time copies of copies have been made. You have to have faith to believe they copied them as accurate as possible. This position goes back to the earliest history to be found.Aramaic or Old Syriac who knows.

Their all kinds Aramaic words found in Greek some Greek found Aramaic that what transliteration causes between the languages of the world and in all languages . You cannot take a isolated incident and prove anything. Having said that because of the enormous amount of Aramaic embedded in the Greek codex is just further proof that the Greek is copies from Aramaic. To me YHWH and/or Maryah is all over the Aramaic and Greek has no word which is proof enough for me Aramaic rules. 

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