I get questions about whether the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic. Some really aren’t questions; they are (I presume) well-meaning people trying to inform me of the “fact” of Aramaic primacy. In light of those sorts of emails, it was nice to come across a well-written summary of why this is a myth (by a professional Aramaic translator no less) It is an even-handed discussion that goes beyond the way I try to disabuse people of the myth in a shorter, less elegant way.
I would only add that this discussion makes zero sense for the two-thirds of the New Testament written to Gentile churches. It’s really about gospel originals (and Luke must then be excluded). And there are no (as in zero) manuscripts of the New Testament that compete with the earliest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament for chronological primacy, either. Aramaic New Testaments from antiquity are all translations made a couple centuries or so after the New Testament was written in Greek.
I periodically am asked about the Lamsa translation of the Bible, which is an attempt to produce an English translation on the basis of Aramaic (Syriac) manuscripts, there is a review here. It speaks for itself (Lamsa’s translation wasn’t exactly hailed by Aramaic specialists).
Originals were far more likely to have been written in Hebrew. Hebrew writers, Hebrew doctrines, Hebrew Messiah, Hebrew language. With almost the entire TaNaKh written in Hebrew, it is unlikely these Hebrew writers would have done differently with their own commentaries on Torah.
The originals of Paul’s letters and other letters, and Luke’s Gospel, and Acts (Luke as well) wouldn’t have been in Hebrew. Even “Hebrews” uses the LXX more than the MT. Basically, except for Matthew and Mark, there’s really no coherent reason to think any book of the NT might have been written in Hebrew.
Well of course, this is only opinion by both of us, since we do not have them (granted their absence tends to favor your opinion). However, the absence of original/early manuscripts in Hebrew is not conclusive evidence they did not exist. Speculation I admit, but as far as we know there are many Hebrew manuscripts hidden in Vatican vaults or other documents recording their destruction by the Romans. The early Roman “church” displayed a hatred of all things Jewish and worked hard to separate and distinguish the religion they were developing with the religion of the Jews. Even to this day, the Roman church has begrudgingly admitted thier “sins” against the Jews over the centuries.
The only fact that can be stated is that the earliest manuscripts we have are all in Greek, yet these were still several hundred years after the originals. After the Diaspora, all things Jewish/Hebrew were being destroyed, lost, hidden, buried, etc. This was not accidental, but by concerted effort to eliminate the “Jewish threat” (Bar Kochba, etc.)
I am referring to the numerous Hebrew idioms that can be found throughout the NT and the increasing number of Hebrew manuscripts being found (Matthew and Revelation for example). I understand these are not from first few centuries, but having been in the possession of Jewish sources (rabbis who were evidently not followers of Yeshua) could suggest similar patterns of care as for Tanakh. I am also referring to the notion that the Way was originally entirely Jewish and there is no reason to believe the writers would have suddenly begun using Greek. I do think use of Greek was likely for those assemblies that were Hellenists.
Time will tell.
Mike, are you familiar with the work of Dr. David Bivin at Jerusalem Persective to reconstruct a Hebrew version of portions of the Gospels?
Just wondering if you are familiar with it, and if so, what you think about it.
“Under the direction of David Bivin, Jerusalem Perspective has launched an attempt to reconstruct the account of Jesus’ life which, according to church tradition, was written in Hebrew by Jesus’ disciple Matthew.”
“Although this ancient eyewitness account is no longer extant, we believe that significant portions of this source have been preserved in the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. If this theory is correct, then the first three canonical Gospels are the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of that conjectured Hebrew biography, which we refer to as the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.”
Nope – not familiar.
typical liberal wolf trying to make himself sound so high and mighty. There is plenty of proof the NT was written originally in Aramaic. Plenty. But don’t listen to the Hebrew FrootLoops who have co-opted the whole discussion.