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Fw: [XTalk] Q studies: the question of Aramaic

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  • Jim West
    forwarded on behalf of the undersigned- who is having trouble posting to the list.... ... ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Jim West, ThD
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 7, 2000
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      forwarded on behalf of the undersigned- who is having trouble posting to the
      list....


      >
      >>One further comment re the use of Aramaic in studying the Greek NT is that
      >>of dialect. Jeremias and Black both worked largely from the Targumim and
      >>the early rabbinic literature. While Fitzmyer has included the DSS in his
      >>work on the Semitic backgrounds to the NT, such labors tend to be in a
      >>rather unsystematic fashion. Neither a lexicon nor a grammar of
      >Palestinian
      >>Middle Aramaic exists. The subdiscipline of NT Aramaic studies and HJ
      >>research is shooting in the dark, I think, more than necessary if it would
      >>consider the grammar and vocabulary of the Aramaic dialect most closely
      >>related to the original NT documents in both time and space.
      >>
      >>For this reason, I find some of Casey's work problematic. He has also
      >>relied on a literal translation technique. However, I know of only one
      >>study of translation technique in Hellenistic Greek texts with Middle
      >>Aramaic originals -- 1 Enoch by Larson (sp?) which was not in print the
      >last
      >>time I checked with Brill. Hence, a literal translation technique is not
      >>necessarily justified -- especially when one considers the looseness of
      >>translation exhibited in the Writings of the LXX.
      >>
      >>IMHO, NT Aramaic studies needs to be more cautious when it comes to matters
      >>of dialect. And, to reiterate what Jack mentioned, HJ studies in general
      >>and the decisions of JS have seemed to shy away from the whole issue of
      >>Aramaic traditions
      >>behind the Greek. As I recall, C.A. Evans in _Jesus and His
      >Contemporaries_
      >>criticizes JS
      >>and similar studies for being heavy on the Hellenism at the expense of the
      >>Judaic element in
      >>first-century Palestine.
      >>
      >>A. Lukaszewski
      >>University of St. Andrews
      >>
      ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


      Jim West, ThD
      jwest@...
      http://web.infoave.net/~jwest
    • Mahlon H. Smith
      ... Since the name of the JS has been invoked in this discussion, please permit me a quick clarification in rejoinder. The JS project was to assess the
      Message 2 of 2 , Jul 12, 2000
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        A. Lukaszewski wrote:

        > >>
        > >>IMHO, NT Aramaic studies needs to be more cautious when it comes to matters
        > >>of dialect. And, to reiterate what Jack mentioned, HJ studies in general
        > >>and the decisions of JS have seemed to shy away from the whole issue of
        > >>Aramaic traditions
        > >>behind the Greek. As I recall, C.A. Evans in _Jesus and His
        > >Contemporaries_
        > >>criticizes JS
        > >>and similar studies for being heavy on the Hellenism at the expense of the
        > >>Judaic element in
        > >>first-century Palestine.
        > >>

        Since the name of the JS has been invoked in this discussion, please
        permit me a quick clarification in rejoinder.

        The JS project was to assess the historical value of the content of
        *texts*, not to reconstruct the most probable Sitz of HJ (though of
        course, in the inevitable hermeneutical circle, every scholar's a priori
        impression HJ's Sitz is bound to influence his/her estimate of the
        historical value of specific texts). Since there are no extant early Xn
        Aramaic texts we were never called upon to vote on any "Aramaic
        traditions behind the Greek." But that does not mean that we "shied
        away" from this issue. On the contrary, there were several regular
        fellows who are reasonably competent in Aramaic (e.g., Bruce Chilton,
        B.B. Scott, -- former rabbi -- Sanford Lowe), & who regularly
        interjected reference to Aramaic parallels, vocabulary & constructions
        when appropriate to the interpretation of a pericope. Though my Aramaic
        is much more elementary than theirs & heavily dependent on lexical tools
        & the work of other scholars, I regularly made discussion of a possible
        Aramaic Vorlage part of my analysis in my several papers on the Son of
        Man sayings. [Cf. FORUM 4,4 p. 83ff & 7,1 207ff for the 2 in print]. So,
        the issue of an alleged Aramaic background was always on the JS
        roundtable whenever it was germaine to assessing the historical origin
        of any textual datum.

        The JS never voted specifically on Aramaic retrojections by 20th c.
        scholars such as Casey, Fitzmyer, Black, Burney etc. precisely because
        of the caveats mentioned by Jack Kilmon & A. Lukaszewski. Any Aramaic
        version of the Jesus tradition is a speculative reconstruction from the
        Greek text that depends as much upon the personal judgment & linguistic
        assumptions of a later translator as a translation into any language, be
        it English or Coptic or Christian Syriac. And as anyone who has done
        translations knows, there is always more than one way for any sentence
        to be translated. (Just this past spring a Maronite student of mine
        proudly presented me with an elegant copy of the Gospels in "modern" --
        i.e. ecclesiastical -- Aramaic written in Syriac script, which woodenly
        retro-translates the awkward Greek hO hUIOS TOU ANQRWPOU into a
        previously non-existent Aramaic neo-logism). So, there is nothing
        historically certain about any alleged Aramaic Vorlage of any Jesus
        tradition. Knowledge of Aramaic helps the scholar when, as Jack said, it
        helps clarify a problematic text or captures an idiom that is awkward or
        apt to be misunderstood in the Greek.

        I don't want to reopen the whole debate about whether Jesus taught in
        Aramaic, but one point in Jack's note that I am not as certain about is
        his statement that the "vox Iesu was in Aramaic." I think it is
        historically probable that Jesus *thought* in Aramaic constructions, but
        what language was on his tongue for any given saying is less certain.
        Galilee was multilingual in the first c. CE & some of HJ's entourage
        came from at least a marginally Hellenized background (e.g., the
        apostles Philip & Andrew -- & thus probably Simon Peter). So, unless one
        rules out *a priori* HJ's ability to converse in Greek, determination of
        what language Jesus used in formulating any saying depends completely on
        his original intended audience for that aphorism. And determining that
        is also always a matter of speculation -- either by some 1st c.
        Greek-speaking evangelist or by a modern scholar working in a totally
        different cultural/linguistic environment.

        When I was working on the Son of Man sayings & puzzling over the origin
        of that gosh awful Greek neo-logism hO hUIOS TOU ANQRWPOU, which
        virtually everybody recognizes as wooden translationese, I became aware
        that no scholar seems to have given serious consideration to the
        possibility that this idiom -- which is found almost exclusively in
        sayings ascribed to Jesus (rather than as a title for Jesus or anyone
        else) -- goes back to HJ himself: i.e., results from HJ's own
        less-than-grammatically-perfect attempt to articulate in Greek the
        Aramaic idiom BAR eNASHA in his mind. To me, this offers the simplest
        explanation of why this particular Greek idiom occurs virtually
        *exclusively* in Jesus *sayings*, genuine or not. [The only exceptions
        are martyrological confessions ascribed to Stephen in Act 7 & James in
        Eusebius HE 2.23.13, neither of which is historically verifiable]. Xn
        writers who used hO hUIOS TOU ANQRWPOU were those who were trying to
        echo or imitate a recognizably peculiar element of HJ's own speech. If
        so, then the VOX IESU IPSISSIMU must have been in Greek at least some of
        the time. Otherwise, one is faced with having to explain why writers
        like Luke & Matthew or hypthetical editor of Q, who are demonstrably
        quite competent in Greek, regularly used the doubly articular hO hUIOS
        TOU ANQRWPOU rather than the more normal anarthous hUIOS ANQRWPOU, which
        was regularly used even by Xn writers, to translate or allude to the
        Semitic idioms BEN ADAM & BAR eNASH in Daniel & other Judaic scriptures
        (e.g., Heb 2:6, Rev 1:13, & Justin's Dialog -- especially 100.3) or how
        it is that the doubly articular idiom is used in all but one instance by
        GJohn in Jesus sayings that are quite independent of anything in the
        synoptics. Attempts to trace hO hUIOS TOU ANQRWPOU to a christological
        title in some primitive community [Q or Markan] are always bound to
        founder on the absence of textual evidence that early Xns or Jews used
        this idiom as a title for Jesus or any one else. So rather than spin
        speculations about the practice of early Xn communities in the void, I
        think that here we have substantial textual evidence that HJ himself
        sometimes spoke in Greek. Imperfect Greek, but Greek nonetheless.

        Shalom!

        Mahlon

        --

        *********************

        Mahlon H. Smith, http://religion.rutgers.edu/mh_smith.html
        Associate Professor
        Department of Religion Virtual Religion Index
        Rutgers University http://religion.rutgers.edu/vri/
        New Brunswick NJ

        Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
        http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/

        A Synoptic Gospels Primer
        http://religion.rutgers.edu/nt/primer/

        Jesus Seminar Forum
        http://religion.rutgers.edu/jseminar/
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