Aramaic Primacists and the Peshitta
- Dear Albion,
My view is that all of the books of the NT were originally written in
Greek. However, research into Aramaic and Syriac forms of the text
are valuable, especially in the Gospels and Acts and wherever else
Aramaic oral traditions and/or Aramaic source-literature may have
existed before the Biblical books were composed.
If one were to adjust the Aramaic Primacists' approach so as to argue
for the existence of Aramaic source-materials, instead of Aramaic
originals of the books themselves, their arguments would be better
received. As a whole, I think that what the Aramaic Primacists have
noticed and misinterpreted amount to the following:
(1) relics of an Aramaic Sayings-source used by Matthew (which was
translated into Greek, and then used in its Greek form by Luke).
(2) Relics of the Diatessaron.
(3) Syriasms in Western witnesses.
(4) Places where Greek copyists and Syriac translators both desired
to "improve" perceived difficulties in the Greek text.
Basically, when I attempt to connect the dots, as identified by
Matthew Black and others, it seems a lot easier to form a picture of
what I've just described than to form a picture of Aramaic originals
of the books.
Which, again, is not to say that it is not worthwhile to explore the
possible impact of Aramaic and Syriac material on the production and
transmission of the text. Some variant-units seem to have origins
which are opaque except for where the impact of Aramaic or Syriac
seems to shine through. Mark 8:10 might be one example of this.
Here's what J. Rendel Harris had to say about it, in "A Study of
Codex Bezae" (1893), in a chapter titled, "Does the Codex Bezae
"Those who have, like ourselves, sought to explain the perplexing
textual anomalies of the Western readings, have generally fallen back
either upon the hypothesis of reflex Latinism or upon reflex
Syriasm. And it has usually happened that the Syriac hypothesis has
been taken up, because the Latinizing theiry was supposed to be no
longer tenable. Certainly it is not a theory against which we ought
to be prejudiced in advance. There are some things in the New
Testament that perhaps will never yield to any other mode of
elucidation. Take for example Mark viii. 10, which in Cod. D reads
[Greek:] KAI HLQEN EIS TA ORIA MELEGADA
[Latin:] ET VENIT IN PERTES MAGIDAN.
Here most early texts give us [Greek:] DALMANOUQA, so as to read
[Greek:] HLQEN EIS TA MERH DALMANOUQA.
But since the letters [Greek:] LMANOUQA are an almost exact
transcript of the Syriac for [Greek:] EIS TA MERH, we have a text
which is equivalent to
[Syriac, which I can't replicate here]
and it is clear that the text is dittographed and that the real name
has dropped out.
If this explanation be the right one, we have lighted upon a case in
which all Greek MSS. except D have a Syriac error! An astonishing
thing, but not an impossibility. Let this instance suffice to shew
that it is by no means an unreasonable thing to look for Syriac
corruptions in the New Testament."
That's just one of the interesting things that can be uncovered by
the study of Aramaic and Syriac texts. It's a fine shovel, but the
Aramaic Primacists, especially the Peshitta Primacists, are digging
in the wrong place.
AA: "And how near is the Byzantine Text to the Syriac Peshitta N.T.
I'm not a Syriac specialist, but an estimate of 80% agreement, maybe
a bit higher, in the Gospels, is probably about right. I don't know
about the rest.
This should raise a question: if the Peshitta was based on the work
of Lucian, then shouldn't the Syriac OT closely agree with the
Lucianic OT text? Lucian is *known* to have worked on the OT.
Metzger mentioned (in "The Lucianic recension of the Greek Bible," p.
33) that Stockmayer (in a work published in 1892) "found more than a
score of readings in I Samuel where Lucian agrees with the Peshitta
against the Masoretic text and the current Septuagint text." More
than 20 readings is evidence of something, yes, but in a book the
size of First Samuel I think a lot more is necessary to indicate a
very close relationship. Metzger proceeded to say, "Although the
exact date of the translation of the Old Testament Peshitta is not
known, most scholars believe that it was made in the second or third
century of the Christian era. Thus, at least in the Books of Samuel,
it too affords evidence of Ur-Lucianic readings."
If the producer(s) of the Peshitta incorporated into the text of
First Samuel only something like 20 or 30 uniquely Lucianic readings -
- preserving, everywhere else, readings older than Lucian -- then why
wouldn't a similar approach have been employed in the NT text of the
Peshitta, with the result that a small stratum of young readings
rests upon an otherwise more ancient text?
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.
Minister, Curtisville Christian Church
Tipton, Indiana (USA)