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This is where we come to delve into the biblical text. Theology is not our foremost thought, but we realize it is something that will be dealt with in nearly every conversation. Feel free to use the original languages to make your point (meaning Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic). This is an exegetical discussion area, so please limit topics to purely biblical ones.

This is not the section for debates between theists and atheists. While a theistic viewpoint is not required for discussion in this area, discussion does presuppose a respect for the integrity of the Biblical text (or the willingness to accept such a presupposition for discussion purposes) and a respect for the integrity of the faith of others and a lack of an agenda to undermine the faith of others.

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Our Translated Gospels

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  • Ambiguity of the Aramaic Text: Exhibit VI, A (Lk. 9:25)

    Continuation of Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence, by Charles Cutler Torrey:
    Luke 9:25 (Mk. 8:36; Mt. 16:26) according to Greek: What is a man profited, if he gains the whole world, but loses himself (נַפְשֵׁהּ)?

    True rendering: . . . but loses his life (same word).

    Luke 9:25 and parallels. In another context, "gains the whole world, but loses himself" might not be challenged, though the enigmatic phrase does not sound like any word of Jesus. As Eaton (Comm., p. 141) remarks, "lose himself" is "a curious expression that seems to have no exact parallel." But the testimony of the preceding verse, joined to that of the exact parallels in Mark and Matthew, shows that Luke mistranslated, in giving to the Aramaic word the meaning which it usually has. He had the same word before him, twice, in the preceding verse, but in each case was debarred from this rendering by the immediately following clause.

    This illustrates a standing characteristic: even more than the other translators, Luke renders words; faithfully, meticulously, often ingeniously, but very frequently without much regard to the context. Numerous examples will appear in the sequel. Also, this passage will be given further mention in the chapter: The Reflexive Pronoun and its Substitutes.

    To be continued...

    Comment


    • Ambiguity of the Aramaic Text: Exhibit VI, B (Lk. 9:51)

      Continuation of Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence, by Charles Cutler Torrey:
      Luke 9:51 according to Greek: When the time came for his ascension (לְמַסְקָנֵהּ), etc.

      True rendering: When the time came for him to go up (same word), i.e., to Jerusalem, etc.

      Luke 9:51. The time for Jesus' ascension had by no means arrived! The Aramaic verbal noun ("going up") must have been used in the various Christian communities very extensively in the theological sense, in the years immediately following the death of Jesus. In this sense it was especially familiar to Luke, and he rendered accordingly.

      To be continued...

      Comment


      • Ambiguity of the Aramaic Text: Exhibit VI, C (Lk. 11:33)

        Continuation of Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence, by Charles Cutler Torrey:
        Luke 11:33 according to Greek: No one lights a lamp and puts it in a cellar (בְּכַסְיָא).

        True rendering: No one lights a lamp and puts it in hiding (same word).

        Luke 11:33. Had Luke never seen a cellar? Did he not know how cellars were used? Doubtless on the day when he wrote these words, hundreds of men in Antioch (or where he lived) could have been seen to "light a lamp and put it in a cellar," with very useful result. To express the general truth intended here, the word is ill chosen.

        The reproach does not fall upon Luke, however. He had no thought of a "cellar," nor can it have occurred to him that the word which he used might thus be interpreted. The ancient translators of his Greek understood him perfectly. Jerome had in abscondito, and the Syriac versions render in the same way. He merely uses the feminine adjective, "hidden." Why feminine? Because in the Aramaic language the neuter gender is expressed by the feminine, as in the adverbial phrase before his eyes. It is simply his meticulous way of translating such phrases. He does precisely the same thing in 14:18; see The Four Gospels, p. 311. If he had had occasion to translate the passages Matthew 6:6, 18, where Greek Matthew employs the neuter gender, he would have rendered just as he does here; without thinking that any one could interpret: "Pray to your Father in a cellar, and your Father who sees in a cellar will reward you."

        To be continued...

        Comment


        • Ambiguity of the Aramaic Text: Exhibit VI, D (Lk. 11:36)

          Continuation of Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence, by Charles Cutler Torrey:
          Luke 11:36 according to Greek: If your whole (כֹּלָּא) body is full of light, the whole (כֹּלָּא) of it will be full of light, etc.

          True rendering: If your whole (כֹּלָּא) body is full of light all (כֹּלָּא) will be light, just as the lamp lights you with its brightness.

          Luke 11:36. In the Greek, this is a passage of notorious difficulty, with its absurd tautology. It is no wonder that some of the oldest versions omit the verse altogether, for as it stands it is worse than useless. The word-for-word retroversion into Aramaic shows at once the true meaning, with no possible ambiguity. The second "all" is the noun so frequently used in both Hebrew and Aramaic. The figure is carried through consistently: the eye is the lamp of the body; the man who is lighted is the lamp of his surroundings. Matthew 6:33, last clause, seems to have the same meaning (though one could wish that the clause itself had a little more light): If you are dark within, how dark everything will be!

          To be continued...

          Comment


          • Ambiguity of the Aramaic Text: Exhibit VI, E (Lk. 12:49)

            Continuation of Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence, by Charles Cutler Torrey:
            Luke 12:49 according to Greek: I came to cast fire on the earth, and what do I desire if (מָה צָבֵא אֲנָא הֵן) it is already kindled?

            True rendering: I came to cast fire on the earth, and how I wish that (same words) it were already kindled!

            Luke 12:49. Many commentators and translators have given here what I have termed the "true rendering," but without justification, for the text as it stands is clear and idiomatic, and means something else. Their rendering, as Plummer, Comm., truly says, "does rather serious violence to the Greek." References to the LXX merely show that we are dealing here with translation from a Semitic original. This is not "Aramaic-Greek jargon," for (if there had ever been any such literary jargon!) it could never have included a phrase of this nature. It is not "sacred language," for it repeats nothing found in the Greek Bible. Even if Luke had been attempting to deceive his readers, making them think that he was translating documents when in fact he was composing Greek, he could never have hit upon such a phrase as this; for it would not sound Semitic at all, but would merely give good Greek with a false meaning. Was he not sufficiently familiar with his own language to know this? It is simply his usual exact, word by word, rendering (and in this case mistranslation) of the Aramaic text before him. No other conclusion is possible.

            To be continued...

            Comment


            • Ambiguity of the Aramaic Text: Exhibit VI, F (Lk. 19:42)

              Continuation of Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence, by Charles Cutler Torrey:
              Luke 19:42 according to Greek: if (הֵן) you knew . . . what is for your welfare! but now it is hidden from your eyes.

              True rendering: would that (same word) you knew!

              Luke 19:42. A passage closely allied to the preceding. In this case, the Greek makes good sense; but the sentence would have been smoother and more forcible if the rendering of the Aramaic had been correct, not merely literal. Both here and in 12:49 the particle of wishing might have been either illū or hēn; there is no way of deciding between the two.

              To be continued...

              Comment


              • Ambiguity of the Aramaic Text: Exhibit VII, A (Lk. 21:25)

                Continuation of Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence, by Charles Cutler Torrey:
                Luke 21:25 according to Greek: And on the earth distress of nations in perplexity for (בְּשִׁגּוּשׁ) the roaring of the sea and its billows; men fainting for fear, etc.

                True rendering: And on the earth distress of nations in tumult (same word) "the roaring of the sea and its billows," men fainting for fear, etc.

                Luke 21:25. It may seem too prosaic treatment of a poetic passage to comment, that neither the Jews of Palestine nor the most of the inhabitants of the earth would know whether the sea was roaring or not; and yet this fact is doubtless the reason why portents of the sea play no part in the standard Hebrew-Jewish eschatology (Four Gospels, p. 313). "Parthians, Medes, Elamites, the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Cappadocia and Phrygia, in Egypt and Arabia" Acts 2:9 f.) might see the stars fall from heaven, but they could neither see nor hear the waves of the ocean. It approaches the ridiculous to picture the world powers as pausing in their death struggle to wonder why the sea is reported to be stirred up! That which is visualized here is the last act in which the hostile Gentiles will appear, and there is unquestionably allusion to the classical passage Isa. 17:12 f., where the "tumult of many nations" is to be "like the roaring of the seas, and the rushing of many waters." The influence of this picture in the subsequent Hebrew literature is curiously shown in Psa. 65:8, as Duhm, Die Psalmen, has observed. In neither case is there direct quotation, but only reference to the familiar prophecy. Cf. also Jer. 51:55, which gives the same picture of rushing armies ("their waves roar like mighty waters") at the end of the present age.

                Luke misses the allusion, as is not surprising. It would have been overlooked by almost any translator; moreover, I have elsewhere shown good reason for believing that Luke was not especially familiar with the O.T. scriptures, nor accustomed to quote from them (Composition and Date of Acts, pp. 55-57). He could only render as he did, for the "roaring sea" must be given some connection with the human actors who now occupy the scene. The word which might mean "perplexity, confusion, tumult" seemed to be in the construct state, and so he renders it; in reality it was in the absolute state. The phrases in the Aramaic are rhythmical and high-sounding. The passage read
                וְעַל אַרְעָא עָקַת עַמְמִין בְּשִׁגּוּשׁ הֲמוֹן יַמִּין וְגַלִּין

                To be continued...

                Comment


                • Ambiguity of the Aramaic Text: Exhibit VII, B (Lk. 22:60)

                  Continuation of Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence, by Charles Cutler Torrey:
                  Luke 22:60 according to Greek: Peter said man, what you say (גַּבְרָא דִּי אָמַר אַנְתְּ) I do not know.

                  True rendering: the man of whom you speak (same words) I do not know.

                  Luke 22:60. The mistranslation here is the same which was made in Mark 14:68; see the comment on Exhibit III, A. As was there remarked, it is not necessary to suppose that Mark's rendering influenced Luke, for any translator is likely to render a phrase according to its most common meaning. In this third denial, in the same scene with the others and following close upon them, "I do not know what you say"(!) sounds particularly foolish.

                  The statement that the third denial "followed close upon" the others requires a comment. The dramatic scene is pictured in the Gospel as in Mark and Matthew, which at this point say "soon after" (Mark 14:70, Matthew 26:73). Luke's "after about an hour" is the very familiar translation of Aramaic shāʿā, which commonly signifies an indefinite short time, very often "moment" (Augenblick). He had in his Aramaic text the same phrase, precisely, which occurs in Daniel 4:16(19). Did Daniel stand before Nebuchadnezzar "about an hour," in his embarrassment, before beginning to speak? The Greek translator (Theodotion) assures us that he did.

                  As for the word "man," at the beginning of Peter's denial, Luke very naturally rendered it as in verse 58, where it was vocative. This is possible, but on the other hand: (1) The emphatic position of the word, taken as direct object, adds a certain sharpness to the denial; (2) it may not be merely accidental that both Mark and Matthew have the noun at this point. Jesus was a man, of whom Peter had no personal knowledge, and of whom he wished to hear no more.

                  To be continued...

                  Comment


                  • Ambiguity of the Aramaic Text: Exhibit VII, C (Lk. 23:54)

                    Continuation of Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence, by Charles Cutler Torrey:
                    Luke 23:54 according to Greek: and it was Friday, and the sabbath was dawning (וַהֲוָה יוֹמָא דִי עֲרוּבְתָא נָגְהֵי שַׁבְּתָא).

                    True rendering: it was now the night between Friday and the dawn of the sabbath (same words).

                    Luke 23:54. This is an amusing specimen (and perfectly typical) of the literal translator's nonsense. Each of the two statements made is flatly false, for it was neither Friday, nor was the dawn of the sabbath even approaching. The time intended is obviously the evening which was the beginning of the sabbath. Luke was confronted with the same standing Aramaic idiom which has already been discussed in dealing with the passage Matthew 28:1, in which the Greek translator, though doing his best, was unable to make any acceptable sense (see Exhibit IV, F). I explained this passage, and also Matthew 28:1, in Studies . . . presented to C. H. Toy (1912), pp. 300, 315 f.

                    To be continued...

                    Comment


                    • Ambiguity of the Aramaic Text: Exhibit VII, D (Lk. 24:9 ff.)

                      Continuation of Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence, by Charles Cutler Torrey:
                      Luke 24:9 ff. according to Greek: (The women) returned (from the tomb), and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest. They were Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; and the other women with them told these things to the apostles(!). And these words appeared in their sight as idle talk, etc.

                      True rendering: They were Mary Magdalene, and . . . the mother of James, and the other women who were with them. But when they told these things to the apostles, their words appeared to them as idle talk, etc.

                      Luke 24:9 ff. This case is different from any of the preceding. The Greek offers an absurd reading, not because of mistranslation of word or phrase, but because of a false division of sentences. It seems certain that Luke intended no pause after the words "the other women with them." If that had been the case, the next word, the verb "they told," would have been accompanied by a conjunction. In the original Aramaic text, on the contrary, the new sentence began, as a matter of course, with the unaccompanied verb. This might easily happen without special reason, for at this point Jewish Aramaic differs from Hebrew; but in the present instance the decisive factor was the repetition, after interruption, of that which had been said in verse 9. A precisely similar case is to be seen in Dan. 5:4.

                      In this connection, another example of Luke's false division of sentences may be presented. In 21:12 f. both sense and parallels show the fact unmistakably. The Greek reads (English R.V.): "Before all these things, they shall lay their hands on you, and shall persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name's sake. It shall turn out unto you for testimony."

                      True rendering: "Before all these things they shall lay hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and bringing you into prisons. Before kings and governors, for my name's sake you will be brought (perhaps yittōbal bʿkōn) for testimony."

                      Comparison of the Greek of Mark 13:9 and Matthew 10:17 f. shows plainly the division of clauses intended in the text which Luke translated. After he had made the very easy mistake of connecting "synagogues and prisons," the rest of his translation followed of necessity. See also The Four Gospels, p. 313.

                      To be continued...

                      Comment


                      • Ambiguity of the Aramaic Text: Exhibit VIII, A (Jn 5:36)

                        Continuation of Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence, by Charles Cutler Torrey:
                        John 5:36 according to Greek: But I have the witness, who am greater than (דִּי רַב מִן) John.

                        True rendering: But I have the witness of one who is greater than (same words) John.

                        John 5:36. This is one of the clearest examples of mistranslation. The English R.V. reads: "But the witness which I have is greater than that of John." This rendering, though not ill-suited to the context of the passage, cannot be obtained from the Greek. Weizsäker's German translation has: "I have a witness, greater than John." The Greek plainly forbids this also. Walter Bauer, Johannes (in the "Handbuch" series), renders: "I have the witness in a higher degree than John." This is neither good sense nor justified by the text. The manuscripts fall into two main groups, the one giving the adjective "greater" as nominative, the other as accusative. Zahn, Das Evang. des Johannes, followed the sound critical principle in choosing the more difficult reading, the nominative, which is also attested by a majority of the oldest and best manuscripts. Since this reading, which is translated above in the "Exhibit," represents Jesus as making an unpleasing comparison of himself with John, it is no wonder that ancient editors and interpreters "corrected" the Greek.

                        The translator rendered in the most natural way. The adjective, being masculine, could not be connected with "witness," which is feminine; and it is not strange that the true meaning of the evangelist's obscure phrase was not seen. "The witness of a Greater than John" is the reading best satisfying the context, for the fact of this divine and personal witness is what the whole section, verses 32-37, aims to present.

                        To be continued...

                        Comment


                        • Ambiguity of the Aramaic Text: Exhibit VIII, B (Jn 5:44)

                          Continuation of Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence, by Charles Cutler Torrey:
                          How can you believe, who receive glory one of another, but seek not the glory that comes from the only God (יְחִיד אֳלָהָא)?

                          True rendering: . . . but seek not the glory the comes from the only-begotten-Son of God (same words)?

                          John 5:44. You are ready, Jesus says, to derive glory from a merely human Messiah (verse 43b), but are not willing to receive it from the true Messiah, the Son of God. The passage 12:43, sometimes compared, is not parallel, for the context there is altogether different and the "glory" signifies praise; whereas in the present passage it is the reflected glory from the Messianic king.

                          The phrase which our Greek renders "the only God" is the very same which has already appeared in 1:18 and 3:18; mistranslated in the former passage, see the note. Cf. also 1:14 and 3:16. In 3:33 and 5:27 the same thing is said in another way, see the notes on these passages. The Greek adjective rendered "only-begotten" is the standing equivalent of a Hebrew-Aramaic word which is very commonly used in this sense; see, for the Hebrew, Psa. 22(21):21; 35(34):17. It appears constantly in the Targums in speaking of an "only son." It is also used of God, the "only, unique" One; and the Greek translator of John has this justification for his rendering here; it is only the context that forbids it.

                          This is probably one of the cases in which the letter aleph was written twice by mistake, and the passage will therefore be included in Exhibit XXIII.

                          To be continued...

                          Comment


                          • Ambiguity of the Aramaic Text: Exhibit VIII, C (Jn 11:33, 38)

                            Continuation of Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence, by Charles Cutler Torrey:
                            Jesus sees Mary weeping, and goes to the tomb of Lazarus, in anger (בִּרְגַז).

                            True rendering, in either passage: deeply moved (same word).

                            John 11:33, 38. Jesus sees Mary weeping for her brother, and the sight arouses his "anger." Bauer, Comm., explains, that this hot indignation was caused by the lack of faith in his supernatural power, shown by the sisters and their friends. It was "Beleidigung seiner Majestät." Jesus nurses his resentment, and goes "in anger" to the tomb. Zahn, Comm., tries to make it appear that the "zornige Erregung" was not directed against "die Macht des Todes"(!). Bernard, Comm., appealing to the original meaning of the Greek verb, to "snort" like a horse, whence "snorting" or "roaring" in wrath, suggests that Jesus was uttering "inarticulate sounds." Thayer-Grimm, Lex., gives "very angry" as the meaning of the verb here.

                            This is merely another illustration of the straits to which interpreters are driven in attempting to explain our Greek as text which the evangelist wrote. Jesus was not snorting on this occasion. He was not enraged by the discovery that death is mighty. And, as I said in a former discussion of the passages (Harvard Theological Review, 16, pp. 338 f.): "The picture of Jesus fuming in indignation over human faintheartedness in a time of deep affliction is intolerable, since it is untrue." Fortunately, the explanation of the miserable Greek reading (miserable, but quite according to custom!) is as obvious and certain as any specimen of mistranslation can be.

                            The Greek translator rendered, as usual, according to the most common meaning of the verb; see the note on Mark 3:5 (Exhibit I, A), where the main facts are stated. Even in the O.T., where the verb is still very frequently employed in its earlier and wider signification, the same false rendering seen in the Gospels occurs several times. In Ex. 15:14 ff. the terror of the nations at the display of Yahweh's might is described. "When the peoples heard it, the were shaken"; . . . (verse 15) "trembling"; . . . (verse 16) "terror and dread." According to the LXX (Cod. B), in verse 14, they were angry; so also Latin, irati sunt. But Cod. A, Syriac, and Targum knew better; and so did Aquila, and Symmachus. So also in Psa. 99(98):1, "The Lord reigns, let the people tremble, . . . let the earth be shaken." Here again the Greek and Latin versions say: let the peoples be angry!―the same purely mechanical rendering which we see in John. In Isa. 23:11, instead of "he has shaken the kingdoms" the LXX has "he has enraged the kingdoms." Still another example is Job 37:2, where, according to the Greek translations, men are exhorted to "hear in anger the voice of the Lord. These examples may suffice to show how the one very common meaning of the verb-root rgz is made by translators to do duty in strange places.

                            There is one O.T. passage, containing (in both Hebrew and Targum) this verb of "anger," which affords a perfect parallel to the verses in John which tell of Jesus' emotion in the scene at Bethany. We read in 2 Sam. 19:1 (18:33), that when David heard the news of the death of his son Absalom, "the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, weeping and lamenting as he went." In this case, the LXX renders by the verb which should have been employed by the translator of John.

                            To be continued...

                            Comment


                            • Ambiguity of the Aramaic Text: Exhibit VIII, D (Jn 12:11)

                              Continuation of Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence, by Charles Cutler Torrey:
                              Because of him (Lazarus) many of the Jews went and believed (אָזְלִן וּמְהַימְנִין) on Jesus.

                              True rendering: Because of him many of the Jews, more and more, were believing (same words) on Jesus.

                              John 12:11. "Many of the Jews 'were going and believing' on Jesus." This very familiar Semitic idiom, meaning, "were believing in increasing number." is perhaps hardly in need of illustration from the LXX; see however the following O.T. passages, in which both Hebrew and Aramaic have the idiom. Gen. 8:3, the waters kept subsiding ("were going and subsiding"); 26:13, the man grew ever greater ("went and grew great"); Judg. 4:24, the hand of the children of Israel kept growing stronger ("went and grew strong"); 1 Sam. 14:19, the tumult steadily increased ("went and increased"); 2 Sam. 3:1, the adherents of Saul were becoming weaker and weaker ("were going and being weak"). In all these and similar cases, the Greek translation of course renders the auxiliary verb, "going, proceeding, went," etc.

                              Several examples of this idiom in the Greek of the Gospels have received notice in the preceding pages, viz. Mark 4:8, 19; Luke 8:14; see the note on the last-named passage (Exhibit V, D). Another example in John follows.

                              To be continued...
                              Last edited by John Reece; 09-09-2014, 04:13 AM.

                              Comment


                              • Ambiguity of the Aramaic Text: Exhibit VIII, E (Jn 15:16)

                                Continuation of Our Translated Gospels: Some of the Evidence, by Charles Cutler Torrey:
                                John 15:16 according to Greek: I have ordained you to go and bear fruit (תַּאזְלוּן וְתַעְבְּדוּן פַּרִין), and that your fruit should be lasting.

                                True rendering: . . . to bear more and more fruit (same words).

                                John 15:16. See the preceding note, illustrating the idiom found in this verse; also the note on Luke 8:14, where this passage is mentioned.

                                To be continued...
                                Last edited by John Reece; 09-10-2014, 03:47 AM.

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