Brian Simmons and his Passion [Anti-] Translation: what text is Victor Alexander translating from? (part 1)

I have shown in previous posts (here and here) Brian Simmons’ heavy dependence on Victor Alexander’s ‘Aramaic Bible’. When Simmons claims to be translating from the Aramaic text of the Peshitta, it turns out that most often he is taking his text from Alexander, at least in Galatians, which is the first and only book I have researched in detail so far. 1

Alexander’s ‘Sacred Scribal Language of the Scriptures’

I have also pointed out Alexander’s eccentric claim to be translating from what he calls the ‘Leeshana Supprayah’, or the ‘Sacred Scribal Language of the Scriptures’:

However, Leeshana Ateeqah became the Leeshana Supprayah (Scribal Language). This is the Sacred Scribal Language of the Scriptures, which the Hebrew Prophets used and the Apostles of Eashoa Msheekha used. In fact, it is the language Eashoa Msheekha read the Scriptures from in all the synagogues and temples that He visited when He came to the world. This translation has been made from the Leeshana Supprayah, the Sacred Scribal Language of the Scriptures. This is the only Bible that has been translated from scratch using this language as the source material.

In the same post I cited Alexander’s unwillingness , expressed in a short blog post dated 15 February 2014 (part way down the page), to reveal what are the source documents for his so-called translation:

Many people who have asked me to defend the authenticity of my translation’s source documents, want to see proof. However, I know that even if I were to show them a 2000 year old manuscript in my hand and do a Carbon-14 test in front of everyone’s eyes, none of them would believe it still. The truth has been denied for so long that it would literally take me forever.

On occasion, he seems to imply that he may have an ancient manuscript he is translating from, but here again, in a blog post dated a few weeks earlier (30 December 2013, part way down the page) and entitled ‘Proving the authenticity of the Scriptures’, he appears unwilling to specify what it is:

I don’t need to prove that the manuscript I’m translating from is the oldest found; archeology is not the issue. I don’t need to prove that the manuscript I’m translating from has been sanctioned by any church; doctrine is not the issue. I don’t need to prove that the manuscript I’m translating from is in the proper dialect; nationalism is not the issue. The only thing I need to prove is whether or not the manuscript I’m translating from contains the fundamental belief system of the Apostles of Eashoa, the belief system which Eashoa taught. This I’ve done, even if you take just two words: Maryah and Milta. I have a lot more and they’ll be revealed in subsequent commentaries, as I said. If I were to present archeological proof, doctrinal ideas or a chain of authority, it would take me a thousand years and more books than the whole universe could hold.

Alexander is a film-maker and promotes ‘a style of filmmaking where dreams and reality are perceived as one experience.’ It seems possible that he has a similar approach to his translation work, with his ‘Sacred Scribal Language of the Scriptures’ being a product of his imagination.

‘manuscripts of the Ancient Church of the East’

In some ‘Translator Notes’, dated 12 January 2014, for his so-called ‘Aramaic Bible’, Alexander claimed that his translation:

is made from the original Ancient Aramaic Scriptures directly into English. It is translated from the manuscripts of the Ancient Church of the East, which survived the persecutions by the Roman and Greek pagans of the early centuries of Christianity.

Since the ‘Ancient Church of the East’, as a denomination by that specific name, appears to have existed only since 1964 (see below and also Wikipedia) Alexander is probably referring to what is normally called the ‘Apostolic Church of the East’, or simply the ‘Church of the East’. A recent scholarly study by Professors Baum and Winkler of the history of the Church of the East has been translated into English and is available online2

A little history of the Church of the East

The ‘Church of the East’ refers, first of all, to that part of the church of Jesus Christ which lay outside and East of the Roman Empire. A centre developed at Seleucia-Ctesiphon, on the banks of the Tigris just south-east of present day Baghdad, and only twenty or thirty miles East of the Euphrates, which for much of the time was the Eastern border of the Roman Empire. An episcopate is visible towards the end of the third century, with a conflict over a claim to primacy by ‘Papa’ the Bishop of Seleucid-Ctesiphon, the imperial capital (Baum and Winkler, 9). The church was persecuted in the fourth century (339-379 AD) under Shapur II (309-379), the Sassanian King. In 410 AD a synod was convoked by the Sassanian King Yazdgird I (399-420), and the church was on its way to becoming centrally organised (Baum and Winkler, 15), with primacy given to the Bishop of Seleucid-Ctesiphon, purely on political grounds (Baum and Winkler, 17). From that same Synod of Isaac also, the Church of the East ‘can be considered to have been autocephalous’ (Baum and Winkler, 19), which is to say that its head (Greek κεφαλή, kephalē) bishop was not subject to the authority of any other bishop.

At the Council of Ephesus (AD 431), Nestorius (386-450) was deposed from his position as Bishop of Constantinople by Cyril (375-444), Bishop of Alexandria, and condemned as a heretic on questionable grounds. Nestorius had been a student of Theodore of Mopsuestia (c. 350-428) (B & W, 23), and since about 430 AD the school of the Persians in Edessa had also stood under Theodore’s influence (B & W, 22). By stages, a separation occurred which resulted in the Church of the East being regarded as ‘Nestorian’ by the Western church.

This designation is almost certainly inaccurate, but persists to this day. Baum and Winkler write (p. 30 ff) that:

the authority of Theodore of Mopsuestia is emphasized in the synods [of the Church of the East] of the fifth and sixth centuries, while Nestorius is never mentioned. This patriarch of Constantinople, deposed at Ephesus, appears for the first time in the religious disputation of 612 and only in 680 in the acts of an official East Syriac synod. The teachings of Nestorius seem to have had no significance for the official Church. … However the teachings of Nestorius might be judged, the term “Nestorian” in a heretical sense is inaccurate for the Church of the East. Christianity in the Persian empire of the Parthians and Sassanians did not begin with Nestorius nor was there a dogmatic split from the Church of the Roman Empire in the fifth century named after him.

Through a great missionary enterprise from the sixth century onwards, the Church of the East expanded into China, India and Japan. According to John Steward, author of ‘Nestorian Missionary Enterprise‘, it was a ‘Church on Fire’. It went into rapid decline at the end of the fourteenth century, and by the beginning of the modern period ‘had been reduced, outside of India, to a regional church in Kurdistan’ (B & W, 112). In 1898, an Austrian historian estimated the number of ‘Nestorians’ as about 25,000 in the district of Urmiyah in North-West Persia, and 125,000 in the Ottoman Empire (B & W, 134).

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Anglican missionaries introduced for the members of the Church of the East the term ‘Assyrian’, and this they eventually adopted for themselves (B & W, 135). In 1915, 50,000 ‘Mountain Nestorians’ fled from the Turks and left the Hakkari mountains where they dwelt (in modern day Turkey, near the border with Iraq) for Urmiyah (B & W, 137). In June 1918, again fleeing from the Turks, the Assyrians and their supporters, together numbering 70,000, left Urmiyah and travelled south-east to Hamedan, also in Persia, where they found the British, who provided emergency care (B & W, 139). From there they went to a refugee camp in Bakuba in Mesopotamia, just north-east of Iraq. Through slaughter, fighting, famine and disease, their numbers had been reduced from 150,000 to 50,000 (B & W, 139). Further massacres followed in the years to come, which resulted (directly and indirectly) in a further reduction of the Assyrian population in Iraq to 20-30,000 in 1933 (B & W, 144).

In 1936, 9,000 of the Assyrians in Iraq were settled in North-East Syria, along the Khabur river (see B & W, 145). By 1940, there were 30,000 Assyrians in Chicago, the centre of the American diaspora (B & W, 144). About 7,000 Assyrians returned to Urmiyah from 1922 onwards, and by 1965 their population in Iran had reached 40,000, with Urmiyah still their centre (B & W, 145-6). The Church of the East split into two in 1964 after a dispute. The ‘Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East’ was said to have 385,000 members at the start of the 21st century, with 100,000 in the United States, 95,000 in Iraq, 50,000 in Russia and Armenia, 30,000 in Europe, 25,000 in Syria, in Australia and New Zealand combined, and in India, 20,000 in Iran and in Canada, and 5,000 in Lebanon. The ‘Ancient Church of the East’ had around 50-70,000 members, in Iraq, Syria and the United States (B & W, 154-157).

In my next post…

In my next post, I will examine an earlier account by Alexander of his translation work (if such it can be called), in which the impression is given that he is translating not from manuscripts but from printed editions of the Bible in Old Syriac. I will describe the activities of American Presbyterian missionaries in Urmiyah from the 1830s, especially in printing the Bible in Old and New Syriac. Putting the evidence together, I will suggest that Alexander is working from a copy of the Peshitta in Old Syriac, just as all the other translators from the Aramaic are doing. The differences in meaning between his translation and other translations seem therefore to be due either to lack of competence on his part, or to him wilfully perverting the word of God in accordance with his own preferences or beliefs. That is a serious charge, and I am more than retract it, if some other explanation can be put forward, and evidence produced to support it.

Andrew

 

 

Notes:

  1. From a preliminary examination of Ephesians, it looks like the same is true there also.
  2. W. Baum and D. Winkler, ‘The Church of the East: a concise history’, (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003)

Brian Simmons and his Passion [Anti-] Translation: what is the ‘most ancient Aramaic manuscript’ of Galatians?

Galatians 3.15 reads:

Ἀδελφοί, κατὰ ἄνθρωπον λέγω· ὅμως ἀνθρώπου κεκυρωμένην διαθήκην οὐδεὶς ἀθετεῖ ἢ ἐπιδιατάσσεται. [NA 28]

A typical translation is:

‘To give a human example, brothers:even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified.’ [ESV]

Looking it up just now in BDAG, there seems to be a strong case for taking διαθήκη  to mean ‘last will and testament’ as in the RSV:

‘To give a human example, brethren: no one annuls even a man’s will, or adds to it, once it has been ratified.’ [RSV]

In the Passion Translation (so-called) Brian Simmons has it as:

‘Beloved friends, let me use an illustration that we can all understand. Technically, when a contract is signed, it can’t be changed after it has been put into effect; it’s too late to alter the agreement.’

He misses out the idea of cancelling the contract, as opposed to changing it, but apart from that, his rendering keeps the basic thought tolerably well.

In  the footnote, however, he claims that the text of the ‘most ancient Aramaic manuscript’ carries a very different meaning:

‘The most ancient Aramaic manuscript has a different meaning for this verse. It could also be translated, “The covenant of the Son of Man that I reference should never be denigrated or changed in any way by men.”’

Simmons claims that the verse could be translated in this alternative way, which would lose the thread of the apostle’s argument. Paul says first that even human covenants (or wills) are not abrogated or altered after they have been ratified (by man). Then in verse 17 he says that the law cannot nullify the covenant that had been ratified by God (and not man). The unchangeability of human covenants highlights the even more certain unchangeability of the divine covenant with Abraham and with his seed (who is Christ). The argument is thus lost if verse 15 also concerns a divine covenant.

If this ‘most ancient Aramaic manuscript’ really existed, different to the Peshitta, with this different meaning, then this would raise the question as to whether this represents an ancient Greek text, also with this meaning, which could then possibly be Paul’s actual words.

Galatians 3.15 in the Peshitta

So what is this ‘most ancient Aramaic manuscript’? The real answer, as I will demonstrate in the section below entitled ‘Pre-Peshitta versions…’, is that the oldest Aramaic manuscript for Galatians is the Peshitta.

The Peshitta text of Galatians 3.15, from the recent scholarly edition by Kiraz and Walters is:

and Walter’s translation is:

while Etheridge (green), Murdock (navy), and Lamsa (purple) have it even closer to the Greek text, with ‘change’ rather than Walter’s ‘replace’:

‘Change’ seems to be most accurate, so far as I can see, as it is generally given in the lexicons as the meaning of ܚܠܦ in its Shaphel form as here (see ܡܫܰܚܠܶܦ݂ above, where it has the ܡ (Mim) prefix, signifying (I believe 1) that it is a participle, followed by the ܫ (Shin) prefix, for the Shaphel form.) Here it is in J. Payne Smith (Mrs Margoliouth), for example:

The Peshitta text seems thus to be about as close to the Greek original as it could possibly be.

So where does Simmons’ alternative rendering come from, with ‘Son of Man’ in place of ‘man’, ‘denigrated’ in place of ‘abrogated’, and so on? The answer, as so often in the Passion Translation (so-called) is that it comes from the pen of Victor Alexander.

Galatians 3.15 in Alexander’s ‘Aramaic Bible’

In the online version of Victor Alexander’s so-called ‘Aramaic Bible’, Galatians 3.15 reads:

‘Brethren, I speak as a human being, the Covenant of the Son of Man that I testify to, let no human being denigrate it or change anything in it.*’

with the note claiming:

‘Only the Ancient Aramaic retains the correct meaning of this passage.’

Remember that in his footnote Simmons gave the meaning of the ‘most ancient Aramaic manuscript’ as:

‘The covenant of the Son of Man that I reference should never be denigrated or changed in any way by men.’

The similarities between the Simmons’ and Alexander’s texts are obvious. Theoretically, they could conceivably be translating from the same source. If so, let one or both of them tell us what that source is.

If, as seems to be me almost certain, Simmons is taking his text from Alexander here, it is noteworthy that he feels at liberty to change ‘testify to’ to ‘reference’, and to embellish ‘ancient Aramaic’ to the ‘most ancient Aramaic manuscript’.

Pre-Peshitta versions of New Testament scriptures

The question therefore arises: Is there an Aramaic version of Galatians earlier than the Peshitta? The answer is no. There are earlier versions of the gospels, but not of the epistles.

The earliest Aramaic versions are in Syriac, which is ‘the name given to the dialect of Eastern Aramaic that was the native language of ancient Edessa and its surrounding area.’ 2

Two excellent scholarly accounts of the Syriac versions of the New Testament are to be found in:

Sebastian P. Brock, The Bible in the Syriac Tradition, (Kerala: St. Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute, 1989) This first edition is online. A revised and expanded edition was published by Gorgias Press in 2006. Brock is ‘generally acknowledged as the foremost academic in the field of Syriac studies today’.

Peter J. Williams, The Syriac Versions of the New Testament, in ‘The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research’, edited by Ehrman and Holmes (Leiden: Brill, 2013). Some or all of the chapter may be found on Google Books. Williams is the Principal of Tyndale House, Cambridge.

A section from Brock’s contents page gives the basic outline of the Syriac versions of the Old and New Testaments:

It may be helpful at this point to observe that there is an important distinction to be made between ‘versions’ and ‘manuscripts’. The Peshitta, for example, is a version of the Holy Bible. The Peshitta translation of the New Testament is ‘commonly dated to the late fourth or early fifth century’ (Williams, p. 150). We do not have the original manuscript of the translator or translators. Copies were made of that manuscript (by hand, of course), copies were made of the copies, and so on in a line of transmission. For the Peshitta, about sixty manuscripts have survived from the fifth and sixth centuries (Williams, p. 151). For the Peshitta (Williams, p. 151-2):

the gap between the earliest manuscripts and the time of translation is less than for almost any other ancient translation, and the degree to which its early text can be known may therefore be proportionally higher.

the diatessaron

The Diatessaron of Tatian was a harmony of the four gospels, which is to say that the four gospels were collated together into a single narrative. Tatian was ‘an important Syrian theologian who wrote in Greek just after the middle of the second century’ (Brock, p. 25). It is not known whether it was originally written in Greek or in Syriac (Williams, p. 144), but it is certain that it circulated widely in a Syriac form (Brock, p. 25). Despite this wide circulation, no Syriac copies survive today. What does survive is a Commentary on the Diatessaron by Ephrem (c. 306 – 373 AD), and this is our most important witness to the text of the Diatessaron itself (Brock, p. 25, Williams, p. 145).

What matters for my purpose today is that the Diatessaron was a harmony of the Gospels only, and did not contain any early Syriac version of any of Paul’s letters.

Old syriac

What is known to scholars as the Old Syriac Version of the Gospels is known from two manuscripts, the Curetonian Syriac, and the Codex Sinaiticus. The latter was discovered by Agnes Smith Lewis in 1892 in St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai (Williams, p. 145). These two manuscripts represent a version that is clearly earlier than the Peshitta, and which is often dated to the third century (Williams, p. 146).

The important thing for my purpose now is that neither manuscript contains any part of Paul’s epistles. There is evidence from patristic citations in Syriac and Armenian that the version did extend to include Paul’s epistles (Williams, p. 146), but if it did, then this part of it has been lost, and its text is unknown to us.

Conclusion

The earliest version of Galatians in Aramaic is that of the Peshitta. There are dozens of manuscripts from the fifth and sixth centuries attesting to its text.

There is patristic evidence that an Old Syriac version of Paul’s epistles did once exist, but no copies have survived, and we do not have its text.

My provisional conclusion is that Victor Alexander is not in fact translating from an ‘ancient Aramaic’ source, older than the Peshitta. Likewise, I do not think that the ‘most ancient Aramaic manuscript’ that Simmons refers to actually exists. It follows that the alternative form of Galatians 3.15, which he presents in his footnote, has no valid basis.

Andrew

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. see, for example, Muraoka, ‘Classical Syriac: A Basic Grammar’, §51. Link.
  2. Williams, ‘The Syriac versions’, p. 143. See this post for details.

Brian Simmons’ claims to be translating from the Aramaic: the ten cases in summary.

I now proceed through these first ten cases from Letters from Heaven, where Simmons claims to have been translating from the Aramaic. The heading of each one is linked to the post that deals with the verse, or part of a verse, in more detail. Here I give only the Greek text and Peshitta text (BFBS/UBS with Western vowel signs from dukhrana.com), one or two translations of each, and Simmons’ rendering. For the translation from the Peshitta I am using that of J. Edward Walters (Galatians 1 is here and Galatians 2-6 is here), plus Etheridge or Murdock or Lamsa on occasion where appropriate for comparison. I mark with an asterisk where Simmons has placed the reference to the endnote where he claims that the translation is from the Aramaic.

Where it is apparent that Simmons has made use of Victor Alexander’s ‘Aramaic Bible’, I give Alexander’s rendering of the verse, or his footnotes, as relevant, and as published on his web-site.

In general it can be seen that the translations from the Peshitta are virtually the same as from the Greek text. This in itself tends to show that the differences between Simmons’ version and normal translations from the Greek are not in fact due to him having translated from the Peshitta.

Galatians 1.4a

τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν (NA 28)

‘who gave himself for our sins’ (ESV)

‘who gave himself for our sins’ (Walters)

simmons

‘who offered his soul as the sacrifice (*) for our sins (Simmons)

‘He who sacrificed himself (*) on behalf of our sins’ (Alexander)

with footnote:

‘Aramaic expression: “Gave his soul.”‘

(Alexander)

Conclusion

In the absence of an alternative explanation, it seems highly probable that Simmons has derived both the idea of sacrifice, and the substitution of ‘his soul’ for ‘himself’, from Alexander.

Galatians 2.10

μόνον τῶν πτωχῶν ἵνα μνημονεύωμεν, ὃ καὶ ἐσπούδασα αὐτὸ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι. (NA 28)

‘Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.’ (ESV)

‘Their only concern was that we remember the poor, which was something I was already eager to do.’ (Walters)

simmons

‘They simply requested one thing of me: that I would be devoted to the poor and needy, (*) which was the burden I was already carrying in my heart.’ (Simmons)

‘That we may devote ourselves to the needy alone, and I was at a loss as to why they did this.’ (Alexander)

Conclusion

Simmons’ ‘be devoted to’ has no basis in the Aramaic, but is found in Alexander’s work, which is likely therefore to be the origin of it.

Galatians 3.1

Ὦ ἀνόητοι Γαλάται, τίς ὑμᾶς ἐβάσκανεν, οἷς κατ’ ὀφθαλμοὺς Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς προεγράφη ἐσταυρωμένος; (NA 28)

‘O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.’ (ESV)

‘O thoughtless Galatians! Who has brought about contention among you? For Jesus the Messiah was put on display before your eyes when he was crucified.’ (Walters)

‘What has happened to you Galatians to be acting so stupidly? You must have been under some evil spella to have missed the revelation of truth! Didn’t God open your eyes to see the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion? Wasn’t he revealed to you as the Manifestation of Wisdom?‘(*) (Simmons)

Conclusion

I have not been able to find the source of the sentence:

‘Wasn’t he revealed to you as the Manifestation of Wisdom?’

even after an exchange with Brian Simmons on the subject on Facebook.

I have to conclude therefore that he has added it of his own volition.

Galatians 3.3

οὕτως ἀνόητοί ἐστε, ἐναρξάμενοι πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε; (NA 28)

‘Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?’ (RSV)

‘Are you so foolish that, having begun with the Spirit you are now finishing with the flesh?’ (Walters)

simmons

‘Your new life in the Anointed One began with the Holy Spirit giving you a new birth. Why then would you so foolishly turn from living in the Spirit to becoming slaves again to your flesh? (*) Do you really think you can bring yourself to maturity in the Anointed One without the Holy Spirit?’ (Simmons)

‘Did you become so foolish that while before, the Spirit abided in you, you have now become the slaves of the flesh?’ (Alexander)

Conclusion

Having found no justification for Simmons’ ‘becoming slaves again to’ in the Aramaic text, I conclude that it derives from Alexander’s ‘become the slaves of’.

Galatians 3.19

Τί οὖν ὁ νόμος; τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν προσετέθη, ἄχρις οὗ ἔλθῃ τὸ σπέρμα ᾧ ἐπήγγελται, διαταγεὶς δι’ ἀγγέλων ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου. (NA 28)

‘What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.’ (NKJV)

‘Why then was the Law given? It was added because of transgression until the descendant to whom the promise was made would come. The Law was given through angels by means of a mediator.’ (Walters)

simmons

‘Why then was the Law given? It was an intermediary agreement added after the promise was given to show men how guilty they are! It remained in force until the Joyous Expectation (*) was born to fulfill the promises given to Abraham. And here’s another contrast: When God gave the Law, he didn’t give it to them directly, for he gave it first to the angels; they gave it to his mediator,r who then gave it to the people.’ (Simmons)

‘Why then the Law? Since there would be too many liberties taken, until there came the seed that was prophesied. (*) And he would give the Law through the angels by the One who is Able.’ (Alexander)

with footnote:

‘“To whom were directed the joyous expectations.”’

Conclusion

Since there is no justification for Simmons’ ‘the Joyous Expectation’ in the Aramaic, and given that Simmons himself in an exchange on Facebook did not deny its derivation from Alexander, it must be certain that this comes from Alexander’s ‘joyous expectations’, even if it does not have the same place in the sentence as it does in Alexander’s footnote. There it comes in addition to ‘the seed’, and not in place of it.

Galatians 3.22

ἀλλὰ συνέκλεισεν ἡ γραφὴ τὰ πάντα ὑπὸ ἁμαρτίαν, ἵνα ἡ ἐπαγγελία ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοθῇ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν. (NA 28)

‘But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.’ (ESV)

‘But rather, Scripture confined everything under sin so that the promise made through the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah might be given to those who believe.’ (Walters)

simmons

‘But the Scriptures make it clear that since we were all under the power of sin, we needed Jesus! And he is the Savior who brings the kingdom realm (*) to those who believe.’ (Simmons)

‘Except, Scriptures comprised of everything that was under the power of sin,* so that the Kingdom that is the Faith in Eashoa Msheekha would be proffered to those who believed.’ (Alexander)

Conclusion

Since there is no justification for translating ܡܘܠܟܢܐ as ‘kingdom realm’, it seems certain that Simmons’ phrase comes from Alexander’s ‘Kingdom’.

Galatians 4.3

οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς, ὅτε ἦμεν νήπιοι, ὑπὸ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου ἤμεθα δεδουλωμένοι· (NA 28)

‘Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.’ (NKJV)

‘So also when we were children, we were subjugated under the natural elements of the world.’ (Walters)

simmons

‘So it is with us. When we were juveniles we were enslaved under the regulations and rituals of religion. (*)’ (Simmons)

‘Thus we also, while young we were under submission to the rituals of the world.’ (Alexander)

Conclusion

There is no justification for translating ܐܶܣܛܽܘܟ݁ܣܰܘܗ݈ܝ (ᵓesṭūkkəsaw) with ‘the regulations and rituals’ since the lexeme ܐܣܛܘܟܣܐ is simply a transliteration or loan word of the Greek στοιχεῖον, meaning ‘elements’, ‘fundamental principles’ or ‘elemental spirits’. I conclude therefore that Simmons has derived it from Alexander’s ‘the rituals’.

There is no justification for translating ܕ݁ܥܳܠܡܳܐ as ‘of religion’. I wonder if Simmons has simply invented it because he thinks it fits better with the idea of ‘regulations and rituals’, and perhaps also with his conception of the overall message of Galatians. This is a very serious distortion of holy scripture.

Galatians 4.7

ὥστε οὐκέτι εἶ δοῦλος ἀλλ’ υἱός· εἰ δὲ υἱός, καὶ κληρονόμος διὰ θεοῦ. (NA 28)

‘So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.’ (ESV)

ωστε ουκετι ει δουλος αλλ υιος ει δε υιος και κληρονομος θεου δια χριστου (Byzantine/Majority Text)

‘Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.’ (NKJV)

‘You are no longer slaves, but children, and if children, then also heirs of God through Jesus the Messiah.’ (Walters)

simmons

‘Now we’re no longer living like slaves under the law, but we enjoy being God’s very own sons and daughters! And because we are his, we can access everything our Father has—for we are one with Jesus the Anointed One! (*)’ (Simmons)

Conclusion

Simmons has made three major changes to the text. First, he has changed the idea of inheritance to one of access. Second, both the Majority text and the Peshitta have the idea of agency, that the believer’s position as an heir of God is ‘through’ Christ, through Jesus the Messiah. If Simmons means by his footnote that his second sentence (at least) is translated from the Aramaic, which does have this idea, then he has removed it with his rendition. Third, he has added the idea of oneness with Jesus Christ (or Jesus the Anointed One as he prefers it).

There is no justification for any of these changes in the Aramaic text.

Galatians 5.25

Εἰ ζῶμεν πνεύματι, πνεύματι καὶ στοιχῶμεν. (NA 28)

‘If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.’ (ESV)

‘If we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.’ (Lexham Bible)

‘Therefore let us live in the Spirit and be in accord with the Spirit,’ (Walters)

‘Let us therefore live in the Spirit; and let us press on after the Spirit.’ (Murdock)

simmons

‘We have now chosen to live in the surrendered freedom of yielding to the Holy Spirit! (*)’ (Simmons)

Simmons has, firstly, dropped the exhortation, and secondly, replaced the idea of following or being in accord with the Spirit, by that of surrendering and yielding to the Spirit. He has also added the idea of freedom. I found no justification for any of these changes in the Aramaic text.

probable source

It seems probable that Simmons was influenced by the versions of Lamsa and Alexander:

‘Let us therefore live in the Spirit, and surrender to the Spirit.’ (Lamsa)

‘To live thus is by the Spirit and in submission to the Spirit.’ (Alexander)

From Alexander, he may have derived the absence of exhortation. From Lamsa’s ‘surrender’ and Alexander’s ‘submission’ may come Simmons’ ‘surrendered’ and ‘yielding’. The idea of freedom seems to be his own.

Galatians 5.26

μὴ γινώμεθα κενόδοξοι, ἀλλήλους προκαλούμενοι, ἀλλήλοις φθονοῦντες. (NA 28)

‘Let us not become vainglorious, provoking one another, envying one another.’ (ASV)

‘Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.’ (ESV)

‘and let us not become arrogant, which makes us contemptuous and jealous of one another.’ (Walters)

‘and let us not be vain-glorious, contemning one another, envying one another.’ (Etheridge)

‘Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.’ (Lamsa)

Here there is a difference between translations from the Greek and most translations from the Peshitta. It is doubtful whether ܩܠ can mean ‘to provoke’. The older lexicons do not have this meaning, and it is noteworthy that even in Walter’s recent translation, it was found necessary to substitute the idea of being contemptuous of others, for that of provoking others.

simmons

‘So may we never be found dishonoring one another, or comparing ourselves to each other, for each of us is an original. We have forsaken all jealousy that diminishes the value of others. (*)’

discussion

Simmons’ version differs in several ways from the meaning of both the Greek original and of the Peshitta:

  • Instead of the exhortation against vain glory and conceit, he has one against dishonouring others, and one against comparing oneself with others;
  • he adds an explanatory clause, making the apostle Paul say that the reason for these exhortations is that each of us is an original;
  • in his second sentence, he substitutes a claim that jealousy has already been forsaken, for an exhortation against envy.

The idea of diminishing the value of others is similar to that of contempt or of disparagement (see J. Payne Smith, p. 505). To this extent there may well be an influence from the Peshitta, whether from the original or (more likely given my findings elsewhere) from translations. But the Peshitta does not have the idea that it was the jealousy which had caused the contempt for others. In the Peshitta, there is first the exhortation against contempt, that is of looking down on others. Then there is the exhortation against envy, which results from looking at others and seeing them as having more than ourselves in some respect. It seems to me to be, if anything, rather the converse of contempt, than the cause of it. So in conclusion I do not think Simmons can be said to have translated from the Aramaic here.

Results

I have tried to summarise my results in the following table showing, for each verse, the main changes that Simmons has made to the meaning of holy scripture, and the possible source of these changes:

In no case can it be said that Simmons’ text has been ‘translated from the Aramaic’ as claimed. In six out of ten of these verses, there is a strong indication that Victor Alexander is the source of the change. In Galatians 5.25, it looks like the source may be either Lamsa or Alexander or both. In two cases, it looks like the change may have been made by Simmons himself without any justification for it. Finally, in Galatians 5.26, one of the changes probably derives from the Aramaic, whether directly or indirectly, but Simmons himself is perhaps the source of the other changes.

If, as seems certain, Brian Simmons is using Alexander as his source in many verses, rather than the original Syriac text, then this has very serious implications. First, it seems to mean that he is not being honest. Second, as I have outlined previously (later sections of post) Alexander’s renderings are completely unreliable, as they do not appear to be based on a physical manuscript in the normal way. He is a film-maker who promotes a style of ‘Felliniesque’ film-making where, by his own account, ‘dreams and reality are perceived as one experience’. There is every indication that parts of his so-called translation derive from his own imagination.

Andrew

 

 

 

The Passion [Anti-] Translation: is Brian Simmons really translating from the Aramaic when he claims to be?

I have been investigating whether Brian Simmons, in his so-called ‘Passion Translation’ of the holy scriptures, has really translated from the Aramaic when he says he has.

Simmons claims to be translating from the original languages. In the FAQs at the ‘Passion Translation’ website, it is stated (FAQ: ‘What process was used…’) that:

Dr. Simmons engaged a three-stage process for bringing the original languages into modern English. First, he analyzed the passage in the original biblical language to establish its meaning.

Further (FAQ: ‘What textual source materials were used…’), it is claimed that this is:

an entirely new, fresh translation from the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic documents.

For the New Testament, Simmons used Nestle-Aland (27th ed.):

as his Greek base text from which to work, while incorporating insights from the Syriac (Aramaic) Peshitta, as well as the Roth text.

As I have previously pointed out, ‘the Roth text’ must I think be referring not to Aramaic textual source material at all, but rather to Andrew Roth’s English translation of the Peshitta. (I have searched for an edition of the Syriac text by an editor called Roth, but not found one.) It seems strange to include an English translation among the ‘textual source materials’, when it is clear from earlier in the paragraph that by this he means ‘the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic documents’.

Which edition of the Peshitta text was used?

Simmons does not tell us which Peshitta text or texts he is using. This highly unusual for a translator, if not unheard of. Here for example is James Murdock in 1858 detailing the editions of the Peshitta text which he employed:

J. W. Etheridge, in 1849, is somewhat less explicit, but still gives an indication (at p. 32) of the editions that he is using:

Or to take a recent example, Janet Magiera in 2005 states (p. 7) that she is using the United Bible Societies’ ‘The Syriac New Testament and Psalms’:

But in Simmons’ ‘Letters from Heaven‘, in the ‘Translator’s Introduction’ where one would expect to find such information, there is only a further implied claim that he has been translating from the original text, without any indication of which edition of it he has been using:

An exchange with Brian Simmons on Facebook

On 6 March, on the ‘Passion Translation’ Facebook page, I questioned the accuracy of Simmons’ rendition of Galatians 3.1, and especially its final sentence, of which I could find no sign in the Peshitta 1:

In reply, Brian Simmons seemed to assume that I had been looking in George Lamsa’s translation from the Peshitta, and recommended three alternative English translations (or so-called translations in one or more cases), namely those of Victor Alexander, Dave Bauscher, and Andrew Roth:

This strikes me as an odd answer, since Brian didn’t say which if any of these editions had a sentence similar to the one I was looking for. All three links were to books that required purchasing. Did he intend that I purchase all three to look for the missing words?

Also, I found it strange that he assumed I was looking at Lamsa’s English translation. I was in fact looking at the Peshitta Tool at Dukhrana.com, which has two forms of the Syriac text, along with translations into English by Etheridge, Murdock and Lamsa. Since he says that he is working from the original text, I had rather expected that he answer my question from that text. Accordingly I put the Syriac text in my reply, to encourage him to answer me from it. I also asked him which of the three English translations he had recommended was the one I should be looking at:

In reply, Brian made no reference to the Syriac text, but directed me specifically to Alexander’s work:

After a further look at Alexander’s web-site, I realised that he has in fact put his bible translations (or so-called translations) online. To my great surprise, I discovered that Alexander’s version of Galatians 3.1 offers no support for the sentence I was questioning in Simmons’ version. Here is Galatians 3.1 in the ‘Passion Translation’, Kindle Edition:

and here it is in Alexander’s:

There has nothing here about Jesus being revealed as the Manifestation of Wisdom, as Simmons has it. I had asked Simmons where this came from; he referred me to Alexander’s version; but Alexander’s version (at least as he has it online) has nothing like this. I pointed this out to Simmons an hour later:

but received no reply. Where did he get these words from? He says in note b that:

The words, “Manifestation of Wisdom” can also be translated, “Artisan” or “Fashioner” or “Master Craftsman.”

This sounds as if there are some actual Aramaic words which he is looking at. But what are they? And what sort of words would they be which could be translated:

  • Manifestation of Wisdom

on the one hand, and:

  • Artisan; Fashioner; Master Craftsman

on the other?

The next day, I pressed him for an explanation of where his sentence came from:

but again received no reply.

‘Joyous expectation’ or ‘seed’?

Having received no explanation from Simmons about 3.1, I changed the subject and asked him about Galatians 3.19, which he ‘translates’ as follows:

In this case, as I have shown in a short post, it is possible to identify the Aramaic word which Simmons claims to have translated ‘literally’ as ‘Joyous Expectation’. The word is ܙܰܪܥܳܐ (zarᶜā); its most literal meaning is ‘seed’; and it can carry (see the same post) the further metaphorical meaning of ‘offspring’, ‘family’ and ‘race’. It does not mean ‘joyous expectation’ or anything like it.

Having been alerted by Simmons himself to the influence of Victor Alexander’s work on the Passion Translation (so-called), I had by now found the source of Simmons’ ‘joyous expectation’ in one of Alexander’s footnotes. He translates ܙܰܪܥܳܐ normally as seed:

but then in a footnote he adds what seems to be a kind of gloss:

The antecedent of ‘To whom’ must be the seed, so that we would have either:

‘until there came the seed that was prophesied, to whom were directed the joyous expectations’

or

‘until there came the seed, to whom were directed the joyous expectations’.

If the former, then the words in the footnote would be a kind of commentary by Alexander. If the latter, they would be his ‘translation’ of the clause that follows ܙܰܪܥܳܐ (zarᶜā), that is, ܗܰܘ ܕ݁ܠܶܗ ܗܘܳܐ ܫܽܘܘ݈ܕ݁ܳܝܳܐ (haw dəlēh həwā šūddāyā), for which a rather literal translation would be something like that of Etheridge (p. 311): ‘of whom was the promise’.

Either way, the words in the footnote are not standing for ܙܰܪܥܳܐ (zarᶜā). At the same time, it is I think obvious, given that Simmons had previously himself referred me to Alexander’s work, that Simmons’ ‘Joyous Expectation’ derives form Alexander’s ‘joyous expectations’.

It appears then that:

a) Simmons, when he claims to be translating from the Aramaic, is actually taking text from English translations of the Aramaic, and even from footnotes to such translations;

b) on this occasion, he either misunderstood where that text belonged in the sentence, or perhaps simply preferred to make it serve a different function in another place in the sentence.

I have to admit that I hadn’t thought the matter through to this extent when I asked the following question of Simmons on 8 March. I simply pointed out that he had taken ‘Joyous Expectation’ from Alexander, and asked him where Alexander in turn had derived it from:

In reply, Simmons did not deny that Alexander was the source of ‘Joyous Expectation’, so I think we can take that as certain. As to where Alexander got his ‘joyous expectations’ from, Simmons believed that it would be from his ‘perspective’ as a present day Aramaic speaker:

Alexander does indeed claim to be fluent in Aramaic and I have little reason to doubt him. While Aramaic speakers are rare among the Assyrian diaspora today, they do exist, and there is nothing too surprising about his claim to have gone to an Aramaic language school as a child, connected with the Presbyterian Church (possibly the Assyrian Evangelical Church, which is Presbyterian?).

But I don’t yet understand Simmons’ point. Let’s say, for sake of argument, that the word ܙܰܪܥܳܐ (zarᶜā) had acquired a new meaning over the last 1600 or 1800 years since the Peshitta was translated from the Greek. People had been planting their seed and thinking with joyous expectation of the harvest to come, and begun to use the word to mean not only the seed but also the feeling that came with it. Would this then justify translating the word as it appears in the Peshitta as ‘joyous expectation’? Not at all, it seems to me. What matters is what the word meant at the time of authorship, not what it might mean now.

Conclusions

I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that Brian Simmons is probably not translating from the Aramaic when he says he is, for three reasons:

  1. Most of the translations seem to be incorrect, as I have endeavoured to show in my ten posts on Galatians (starting here), as well as my post on Ephesians 5.22, and an early post with a similar title with this one, in that part of it which dealt with Romans 1.9.  I find it hard to see how he could have deviated so far from usual translations and the lexical meanings of words if he was working from the Syriac text.
  2. He fails to tell us what edition of the Peshitta he is translating from.
  3. When I enquired about particular verses he made reference only to English translations from the Aramaic and not to the original. This remained the case even after I had posted the Syriac text, and made reference to the Peshitta Tool, and thus indicated that I was willing to discuss the original text.

Andrew

 

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. I edited my first comment on 20 March 2017 just to correct ‘Hebrew’ to ‘Hebrews’. A screenshot of the original is here.

Brian Simmons, Sid Roth, The Passion [Anti-] Translation and Ephesians 5.22: ‘submit’ or ‘be tenderly devoted’

Brian Simmons was interviewed by Sid Roth for an edition of ‘It’s Supernatural’ broadcast on 2 February 2015. At 20.20-59 Simmons says that whereas ‘in the bibles of many men’ Ephesians 5.22 reads:

‘Wives submit yourselves unto your husband as unto the Lord.’

the Aramaic text (still according to Simmons) is:

‘Wives be tenderly devoted to your husband as the church is tenderly devoted to Christ.’

As Roth observed, this is a ‘big difference’:

This claim attracted my attention, and so I endeavoured, despite myself not knowing Syriac (the form of Aramaic that is used in the Peshitta), to test it.

Ephesians 5.22

First of all, the Passion Translation (so-called) does indeed have the first part of Ephesians 5.22 rather as Brian Simmons gave it on the Sid Roth show, with ‘tenderly devoted to’ rather than ‘submit’. Here it is as it appears in the Kindle Edition of ‘Letters From Heaven by the Apostle Paul (The Passion Translation)’:

The Greek text reads:

[21] ὑποτασσόμενοι ἀλλήλοις ἐν φόβῳ Χριστοῦ [22] αἱ γυναῖκες τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν ὡς τῷ κυρίῳ, [NA 28]

The verb for verse 22 is supplied from verse 21 and is the participle ποτασσόμενοι from ὑποτάσσω, which as Simmons rightly says, means in the middle/passive voice as here ‘to submit oneself’ or ‘be subject’. Normal English translations include:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. [ESV]

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. [NASB]

Simmons says he is translating from the Aramaic rather than the Greek. As in my previous posts, I leave aside the question of why he would prefer to do that, when it must surely be certain that Paul would have been writing in Greek to the Ephesians. My purpose here is simply to ascertain whether Simmons really has translated this verse from the Aramaic as he claims. He makes explicit in his FAQs that he is claiming to work from ‘the original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic documents’, and not from English translations of these:

English translations

The Peshitta tool gives three English translations from the Peshitta text, which is the Aramaic version that Simmons says in his FAQs he is ’employing insights’ from. Etheridge’s is in green, Murdock’s in navy, and Lamsa’s in purple:

A new translation by James E. Walters was published in 2013 by Gorgias Press. The chapter is here, and Ephesians 5.22 reads:

Thus all four translations have ‘our Lord’ instead of ‘the Lord’, but are otherwise along the same lines as the translations from the Greek. How then does Simmons derive ‘be tenderly devoted to’ from the Peshitta text?

Checking the text

First of all, we may compare the two forms of the Syriac text that are available at dukhrana.com, just to check that there are no differences in manuscripts that might explain Simmons’ translation. Like Hebrew, which has the same consonants as Syriac, they are to be read from right to left.

BFBS/UBS

Khabouris:

It can be seen that the two forms of the text are identical in this verse.

The meaning of ܡܶܫܬ݁ܰܥܒ݁ܕ݂ܳܢ

Here is the verse again, with Western vowel signs and transliteration:

ܢܶܫܶܐ ܗܘܰܝܬ݁ܶܝܢ ܡܶܫܬ݁ܰܥܒ݁ܕ݂ܳܢ ܠܒ݂ܰܥܠܰܝܟ݁ܶܝܢ ܐܰܝܟ݂ ܕ݁ܰܠܡܳܪܰܢ

(nešše həwaytēn meštaᶜbəḏān ləḇaᶜlaykēn ᵓayḵ dalmāran)

The Dukhrana analysis tool shows that the word at issue is ܡܶܫܬ݁ܰܥܒ݁ܕ݂ܳܢ (meštaᶜbəḏān), and that it is in the Eshtaphal form:

I explained in an earlier post – and here I should perhaps repeat my disclaimer that I don’t know Syriac, I am only delving a little into standard grammars – that Syriac has six main verbal forms: pe’al, pa’el, and aph’el, and their three Eth-pattern counterparts, ethpe’el, ethpa’al, and ettaph’al. The Eshtaphal is not one of these six primary forms.

Muraoka at Section 49 has the same six forms, written slightly differently. He explains that the Eth forms can be used for the reflexive as well as for the passive:

I mention this because ὑποτασσόμενοι in Ephesians 5.21-2 can either be taken as a passive (‘be subjected’), or a middle, which can be translated into English in a reflexive way (‘submit yourselves’).

Muraoka goes on to describe further less common forms, including the Eshtafal (that is, the Eshtaphal, as he writes it), which is the Eth-pattern counterpart to the Shafel:

An ‘s’ with a caron on top, š, represents the ‘sh’ sound, hence (I think) ‘Eshtafal’. The word we are looking for is meštaᶜbəḏān. The initial mim (‘m’) signifies (I think) that this is a participle (Muraoka  §51):

So, even before using the dictionary tools at dukhrana.com for the word, it is already looking like this word may be the same as one of the three mentioned by Muraoka:  ša’bed, ‘to subjugate’.

The lexeme is ܥܒܕ (three consonants, ʿē-beth-dalath, where ʿē is similar to the Hebrew  ע, ʿayin), and its primary meaning is ‘to do’, or ‘to act’, as shown by Jennings:

For the Shaphel form, ܫܥܒܕ  (with first letter ܫ (shin), so shin-ʿē-beth-dalath) Jennings gives the meaning as ‘has subjected’. This is indeed the same word ša’bed that Muraoka listed among those that occur in the Shaphel form. In the Eshtaphel form, which is the one we are looking for, he gives the meaning as ‘was subjected’.

J. Payne Smith (Mrs Margoliouth) gives the meanings ‘enslave’, ‘bring into subjection’ and so on for the Shaphel form, and ‘to be enslaved’, ‘be subject’, ‘to submit’ and so on for the Eshtaphel:

Likewise the entry in her father’s Thesaurus Syriacus (col. 2772) gives the meanings ‘subjectus est’ (be subject), ‘in servitutem redactus est’ (be in a condition of slavery, servitude) for ܥܒܕ in the Eshtaphel form, and cites Ephesians 5.22 among the Testament examples of its use. It can be seen that it was sometimes used to translate δουλεύω (‘be a slave’, ‘be subjected’), ὑπακούω (‘to obey’), and πείθω (in James 3.3, where πείθω means ‘obey’), as well as ὑποτάσσω:

In the leading Syriac-English academic lexicon, Sokoloff’s 2009 Syriac Lexicon, the word is listed under ܫ (shin), in its shaphel form, here referred to as ‘Quad’ for quadriradical (so-called I think because the root has four consonants rather than the usual three). The passive and middle voice type of meanings  are listed under ‘QuadRef.’, which signifies the quadriradical reflexive form, and is therefore equivalent here to the Eshtaphel form, which is the one we are looking for:

Sokoloff’s Lexicon is based on Brockelmann’s Syriac-Latin Lexicon Syriacum, and indeed for this word the citations are almost identical (p. 506):

In both Sokoloff and Brockelmann we do find one occurrence of the meaning ‘dedicate oneself’ (‘se dedit’), which may seem somewhat closer to the meaning ‘be tenderly devoted to’ which Simmons is claiming in Ephesians 5.22. But on the other hand:

  1. The idea of dedicating oneself to a heresy is still quite far from the idea of a godly devotion to another person.
  2. The reference is to an extra-biblical source, so provides weaker evidence for the use of the word in the Peshitta.
  3. In all the biblical references given in the Eshtaphel/QuadRef form, Brockelmann and Sokoloff give the meaning either under 1a, ‘submit oneself’ (‘se subjecit’), or 2. ‘to be subjugated, enslaved’ (‘subactus est’, ‘servivit’).

Finally, we turn to the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon, where the word is listed under its quadriradical Shaphel form šˁbd (ܫܥܒܕ), followed by the reflexive/passive Eshtaphel form, here called quad T:

The main meanings given are ‘to be enslaved’, ‘to be subservient’. ‘Worship’ is given as a further meaning, and it might perhaps be argued that this is not very far from Simmons’ ‘be devoted to’. But the same type of objections seem to apply as to the meaning ‘dedicate oneself’ considered above:

  1. The meaning at 2(a) of ‘to worship’ must be related to the idea of subservience. Simmons’ ‘be tenderly devoted to’, on the other hand, has a different connotation altogether.
  2. The citation is from an extra-biblical source.
  3. The CAL provides no evidence for this type of meaning in the Peshitta.

I conclude therefore that in Ephesians 5.22 there would be no justification for translating ܗܘܰܝܬ݁ܶܝܢ ܡܶܫܬ݁ܰܥܒ݁ܕ݂ܳܢ as ‘be tenderly devoted to’ rather than, say, ‘be subject to’, or ‘submit yourselves to’.

The mystery solved: enter Victor Alexander

From where then did Simmons derive his translation with ‘tenderly devoted to’ instead of ‘submit to’ or ‘be subject to’? The answer came from Brian himself, who kindly answered my query about another verse in the Passion Translation (Galatians 3.1), where his claim that he had translated from the Aramaic did not appear to stand up.

Curiously, Alexander’s translation of Galatians 3.1 has nothing about Jesus being revealed as the Manifestation of Wisdom, as Simmons has it, so that mystery remains unsolved. But look now at Alexander’s translation (so-called) of Ephesians 5.22:

(By way of explanation, ‘Maryah’ is Alexander’s transliteration of the Aramaic word ܡܪܝܐ (consonants: mim-resh-yodh-alaf) ‘Mar-ya’, which is used in the Peshitta to translate the tetragrammaton יהוה (YHWH), and occasionally of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, as for example in Acts 10.36 (‘He is LORD of all’ or ‘He is Lord of all’). Here, however, the word appears to be ܡܪܐ (consonants: mim-resh-alaf), ‘Mara’, meaning ‘Lord’ or ‘master’, so there does not seem to be any justification for Alexander using ‘Maryah’.)

What is of direct interest here is Alexander’s rendering ‘be devoted to’. I have discovered in the last week that in many cases where Simmons claims to have translated from the Aramaic text, but where his version seems to have little or no relation to that text, his source is in fact Alexander. So I have no doubt, in the absence of other explanations, that Alexander is the source here also. But from where does Alexander derive ‘be devoted to’?

So far as I have been able to ascertain so far, Victor Alexander claims to translate not from the Peshitta text known to scholars, but rather from what he calls the ‘Leeshana Supprayah’, or the ‘Sacred Scribal Language of the Scriptures’, which was used, according to Alexander, by both the Hebrew prophets and the apostles of ‘Eashoa Msheeka’ (Jesus Christ):

George Lamsa’s bible was translated from the Old Testament and New Testament Peshitta, so in claiming that his is the only bible translated from the ‘Leeshana Supprayah’, he seems to be differentiating this language from that of the Peshitta. Later on the same page, Alexander claims that Adam also spoke the same language:

Elsewhere, incidentally, he claims that all twelve apostles were fishermen, a claim that would seem to be contradicted by the fact that at least one of them was a tax collector (Matthew 9.9, Mark 2.14, Luke 5.27):

Alexander’s source documents

Alexander seems to imply that he does have a physical manuscript (or manuscripts) from which he is translating, but on the other hand he displays an unwillingness to present it for examination, or even to explain what it is or where it came from:

A few weeks before, similarly, he had referred to ‘the manuscript I am translating from’, but declined to say more about what it actually was:

Is the Holy Spirit feminine in nature?

Victor Alexander claims that in the ‘Ancient Aramaic language’ the Holy Spirit is feminine in gender, and that the Lord Jesus always refers to the Holy Spirit as ‘She’. This is, he claims, ‘an expression of the Holy Spirit’s nurturing quality and Her sacred, compassionate nature’:

I think Alexander is correct in saying that the Spirit in Old Syriac is feminine in gender. After describing a misconception in the Gospel of Philip that Mary could not have conceived of the Holy Spirit, since the Holy Spirit was female, the Syriac scholar Sebastian Brock points out (p. 250) that the word for ‘spirit’ is grammatically feminine in the Semitic languages as a whole:

The word ܪܘܚܐ (ruḥa) means ‘wind’ and ‘breath’ as well as ‘spirit’. Since there is no neuter in Syriac there would appear to be little significance in its being feminine in gender. It is then not too surprising if feminine forms appear with the word.

Consider, for example, Mark 4.31:

The Syriac words for ‘kingdom’, ܠܡܠܟܘܬܐ (verse 30), and ‘grain’, ܦܪܕܬܐ, are both feminine, and in consequence both the pronouns used to refer them in this verse are in the feminine form, ܗܝ. This does not mean that the kingdom of God is feminine and that grain is feminine. All three English translations have our neuter pronoun ‘it’, rather than ‘she’, as these are impersonal concepts.

It is true that in the earliest Syriac manuscripts, the feminine pronoun is used at least once by Yeshua to refer to the Holy Spirit. Here is John 14.26 in the Peshitta (black) and the Sinaitic Palimpsest (purple):

Healey (p. 21) shows the difference between the masculine and feminine independent personal pronouns:

It can be seen that the Peshitta has the masculine form (‘hw’ in the transliteration) three times, and the Sinaitic Palimpsest has the feminine form (‘hy’) three times. It seems to me that the feminine form in the Palimpsest is probably best seen as a consequence of the grammatical gender of ruḥa, rather than as signifying femininity of the Holy Spirit. If a translation were to made of the Palimpsest it might perhaps be appropriate to use the English neuter ‘it’, as in the example from Mark 4.31 above.

Moreover, it does not appear to be the case, as Alexander claims, that the Lord Jesus always used the feminine pronoun to refer to the Holy Spirit. In John 15.26, the masculine pronoun is used to refer to the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, in both the Peshitta (three times) and the Sinaitic Palimpsest (once, third from the end):

In my opinion, referring to the Holy Spirit as ‘She’, as Alexander does, is heretical. He seems to say (14 February 2014), if I understand him correctly, that when Jesus said to the beloved disciple ‘Behold your mother!’ (John 19.27), He was speaking about the Holy Spirit:

But it is clear from the previous verse that Jesus was actually referring to His mother Mary, who was standing there by the cross.

Film-making and Fellini

Victor Alexander is an independent film-maker, with a career in film-making starting soon after he graduated from San Francisco State University in 1970 with a B.A. in Film Production. His films seem to me to be marked by menace, violence, lust, magic and fantasy. For example, The Chase (2009) concerns a girl being stalked by two different men. Alexander describes it as a ‘psychological thriller about stalkers and the pray [sic].’ It seems to me to be designed to evoke fear. The Red Queen (2009) includes gratuitous nudity, as young people dance around a fire. Alexander says it is:

the story of a group of rockers, fire dancers and actors — all players in a magical game. It is a journey through uncharted territory, of dreams and reality. … This is my most felliniesque movie.

He says in his personal account that he wanted from the start to be a film-maker like Fellini, and this appears to be still his main influence in film-making. He wrote two years ago that he loves shooting in the style of Fellini:

On his YouTube channel, all his Favourited videos are of Fellini films, except for one of his own. In a casting call for ‘The Story of Jesus’, which was to be ‘a feature film based on the producer’s translation from the ancient Aramaic scriptures’, Alexander stated that ‘This will be a Fellini-esque movie’. Moreover, he has a web-site (felliniesque.com) promoting a type of film-making he calls Felliniesque, which is:

a style of filmmaking where dreams and reality are perceived as one experience.

On the same page, under the heading ‘Fantasy vs Reality’, he quotes Fellini as saying  that the layer of ‘fantasies, dreams and imagination’ is ‘the real person’:

Again, he quotes Fellini as saying that ‘the truth is never clear’:

Fellini’s biographer Hollis Alpert describes him as having a ‘preoccupation with magic and the occult’, and as being ‘fascinated by and a good friend of Gustavo Rol, a magician from Turin’. According to Alpert, Fellini spoke of forces that could control the wind and rain, and believed Rol could ‘make these forces pass through himself like a medium, or channel’, and that Rol was ‘a man who had developed powers every one of us could have’:

I am not suggesting that Alexander has an interest in the occult, but I do think it is unwise at the least, and potentially dangerous, for a professing Christian to identify himself so strongly with a man who has such an interest.

The filming of The Red Queen

Alexander has given an account of the filming of footage for The Red Queen. They were driven to a ranch in the Sierra mountains where a private party was being held. There were ‘hundreds of acts’ with ‘fire eaters and fire dancers of every description’. He kept filming through the night. At dawn, Victor’s wife Liv, playing the Red Queen (who was a ‘Queen from a distant star’, according to the soundtrack’), saw a star which Alexander identifies as Venus, the so-called Morning Star. He says she spoke in tongues and said ‘in the Ancient Aramaic’ that:

‘It’s the star that the Father gave to Jesus, Eashoa Msheekha; it’s the Morning Star!’

I wonder about this. I believe in speaking in tongues, and believe that Christians can speak in human languages, as in Acts 2, and I can’t rule out speech in ancient languages, even if there is no biblical precedent for it to my knowledge.  I don’t have a problem with God speaking through a Christian during a very ungodly event, and can see that it could possibly have a redemptive quality, conceivably in the way that Alexander portrays it in a short synopsis attached to a clip from the film:

But I do have two questions. We are not to despise prophecy, but we are to test it (1 Thessalonians 5.20-21). First, what does Alexander mean by ‘Ancient Aramaic’? Is he referring to a known language corresponding to an identifiable region and era, such as the Syriac of the Peshitta for example? And does he know this language well enough to be able to understand it when spoken?

Second, all things in heaven and on earth were given to the Lord Jesus (Matthew 28.18). So does it make sense to speak of a single star being given to Him? He is the Morning Star (Revelation 22.16), and will give the morning star to the one who overcomes and keeps His works until the end (Revelation 2.28). He has been given all the stars, so can we rightly speak of ‘the star’ which was given to Him?

Conclusions

Brian Simmons claimed on the Sid Roth show in 2015 that the Aramaic text of Ephesians 5.22 begins:

‘Wives be tenderly devoted to your husband…’

rather than:

‘Wives be subject to your own husbands…’ or:

‘Wives submit to your own husbands…’

Likewise in Simmons’ book Letters from Heaven he has the verse beginning:

‘For wives, this means being tenderly devoted to your husbands…’

with an endnote to say that this has been translated from the Aramaic.

I have I think shown that the case for translating ܡܶܫܬ݁ܰܥܒ݁ܕ݂ܳܢ with ‘be subject to’ or ‘submit to’ (or similar) is overwhelming. The primary meanings of ܥܒܕ in its Shaphel and Eshtaphal forms given in the lexicons relate to subjection and submission, and they show no significant deviation from this type of meaning in the biblical usage of the word in these forms.

I have explained that Simmons himself pointed me to Victor Alexander’s work as a source for his translations, and that Alexander has ‘be devoted to’ in Ephesians 5.22. I intend to demonstrate in a future post that where Simmons claims to have translated from the Aramaic, he has actually derived his rendering from Alexander’s work. So I think it almost certain that Alexander is the source here.

I have shown that Alexander claims to be translating from a manuscript written in a ‘Sacred Scribal Language of the Scriptures’, but has been unwilling to specify what this manuscript is. I have also shown that he promotes a style of ‘Felliniesque’ film-making where ‘dreams and reality are perceived as one experience’.

Putting these things together, I think there is a possibility that the manuscript that Alexander claims to be translating from does not actually exist. If this is true then it looks like Simmons’ rendering of Ephesians 5.22 has no basis in reality.

Andrew

 

 

Galatians 5.26 in Brian Simmons’ Passion [Anti-] Translation: exhortations lost.

This is the last of ten posts looking in turn at the first ten occasions, starting in ‘Letters from Heaven’ at Galatians its first book, when Brian Simmons claims that what he writes is ‘translated from the Aramaic’. Here I look at Galatians 5.26. For more on my purpose and methodology see here and here.

Galatians 5.26

μὴ γινώμεθα κενόδοξοι, ἀλλήλους προκαλούμενοι, ἀλλήλοις φθονοῦντες. [NA 28]

which almost demands to be translated as the ASV does, very simply:

Let us not become vainglorious, provoking one another, envying one another. [ASV]

and Tyndale likewise, long ago:

Let vs not be vayne glorious provokinge one another and envyinge one another. [Tyndale]

κενόδοξος  comes from κενός, meaning ’empty’, and δόξα, meaning ‘honour’ or ‘glory’. BDAG’s definition is ‘pertaining to having exaggerated self-conceptions’, which ‘vainglorious’ captures best I think. But renderings with ‘conceited’ or ‘boastful’ and similar are of course quite acceptable too.

προκαλέω means ‘to call out to someone to come forward’, and thus frequently in a hostile sense ‘provoke’, ‘challenge’ [BDAG].

Simmons:

So may we never be found dishonoring one another, or comparing ourselves to each other, for each of us is an original. We have forsaken all jealousy that diminishes the value of others.’ [Simmons]

Simmons seems simply to have substituted two ideas of his own, that is to dishonour others and to compare ourselves with others, for two ideas contained in holy scripture, that is to become vainglorious oneself, and to provoke others.

Simmons removes the exhortation against envy and substitutes for it an assertion that a certain type of jealousy has been left behind. On the face of it, envy is liable to arise when we are tempted to perceive another as greater than ourself, or at least that their situation is better in some way than ours. If by jealousy Simmons means envy, I don’t quite see why this should in itself involve ‘diminishing the value of others’, although it may certainly give rise to ‘putting the other person down’ in one’s mind, so as to attempt to rid oneself of the distress.

Needless to say, I see no advantage, and great peril, in substituting one’s own thoughts for God’s thoughts, so we must now turn to the Aramaic to ascertain whether this is indeed the source of Simmons’ rendering of the verse, as he claims it to be.

Here is the Western UBS Peshitta text from dukrhana.com with transliteration and three English translations by Etheridge (green), Murdock (navy), and Lamsa (purple):

It can be seen immediately that all three English translations of the Peshitta are very similar to normal English translations of the original Greek text. The only substantive difference is that Etheridge and Murdock have ‘despising’ or ‘contemning’ (which means the same thing), instead of provoking. The reason seems to be that there is some uncertainty over the meaning of the Syriac word, as may be ascertained by an inspection of the lexicons. It occurs here in the aph’el form. The Peshitta tool gives the lexeme as ܩܠ, qof-lamadh. Jennings gives the basic meaning as to be light or lightened (that is, in weight), but then, without explanation, adds the meaning ‘provoking’ for Galatians 5.26:

The CAL, on the other hand, gives the basic meaning in the C form (causative, corresponding more or less to aph’el) form as ‘to roast’, with the further meaning ‘to vex’, ‘torment emotionally’, under which Galatians 5.26 is listed with the rendering ‘provoke’:

The link to Payne Smith takes one again to meanings connected to lightening (of weight) and lessening. Under the aph’el form, and when the word occurs with ܥܰܠ, (which it does in Galatians 5.26:

)

ܩܠ can mean ‘to make light of, disparage’ (three lines from bottom):

On the next page (506), Payne Smith has the lexeme ܩܠܐ (qof-lamadh-alaf rather than qof-lamadh) with primary meaning ‘roast’. Under the aph’el form, the first meaning is ‘to fry’, but the second is ‘to lighten’ (a load), followed by ‘to make light of, hold in light esteem’ when the word occurs with ܥܰܠ:

Payne Smith’s father R. Payne Smith had cited Galatians 5.26 in his Thesaurus Syriacus (p. 3615) under the Latin meanings ‘sprevit’ (from ‘sperno’, ‘to despise’, ‘contemn’ etc) and ‘contempsit’ (from ‘contemno’, ‘to consider a person … of small value’, ‘to contemn’ etc):

He points out (‘sed’ means ‘but’) that there seems to be a problem reconciling such a meaning with the Greek original ἀλλήλους προκαλούμενοι, but presumably could not find a basis for proposing a meaning like ‘provoke’. If Etheridge and Murdock found no other meanings in the lexicons they were using in the middle of the nineteenth century, then they would have been obliged to translate in the way they did, rightly or wrongly.

Maybe something of this idea of despising can be discerned at the end of Simmons’ rendering of the verse with his peculiar ‘that diminishes the value of others’, but it cannot truly be said that he has translated from the Aramaic. The Peshitta has the exhortation against vain glory, where Simmons has his against dishonouring others, and it has the exhortation against envying others, which Simmons has replaced with an assertion of freedom from that particular vice.

Andrew

 

Galatians 5.25 in Brian Simmons’ Passion [Anti-] Translation: possible influence of Lamsa and Alexander.

This is the ninth and penultimate post in a series looking at Brian Simmons’ claims that certain verses in his so-called ‘Passion Translation’ are ‘translated from the Aramaic.’  To avoid selectivity on my part, I am examining one by one the first ten such claims in his book ‘Letters from Heaven’, which starts with Galatians. For more on my purpose and methodology see here and here.

Galatians 5.25

Εἰ ζῶμεν πνεύματι, πνεύματι καὶ στοιχῶμεν. [NA 28]

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. [ESV]

If we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. [Lexham Bible]

(BDAG gives ‘follow the Spirit’ for this verse. Its definition of στοιχέω is ‘to be in line with a person or thing considered as standard for one’s conduct’.)

Simmons:

The exhortation of the Greek text (the subjunctive mood of στοιχῶμεν is hortatory) is lost in Simmons’ version, as is the sense of progression: if we live, then let us also keep in line. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of his rendering is the idea of surrendering and yielding to the Spirit. The Greek text does not itself contain this thought. One could argue that surrendering and yielding to the Spirit is necessary if we are to follow and stay in line with Him, but this would be a matter of interpretation, not of translation, in my opinion.

If Simmons’ claim that his rendering has been translated from the Aramaic is correct, then we should expect to find this distinctive feature in the Aramaic text. But do we?

Here is the Western UBS Peshitta text from dukrhana.com with transliteration and three English translations by Etheridge (green), Murdock (navy), and Lamsa (purple):

Although Etheridge lacks the second clause, the Syriac text does contain both clauses, as the analysis tool shows:

In its first occurrence, ܪܘܚܐ (rūḥā), ‘breath’, ‘wind’ or here, ‘spirit’ or ‘Spirit’, is preceded by a beth, the preposition ܒ (b’), meaning ‘in’; while in its second it is preceded by a waw, the copulative conjunction ܘ, meaning ‘and’, ‘also’, and by a lamadh, the preposition ܠ, meaning ‘to’ or ‘for’, which can function as the sign of either the direct or the indirect object, among other uses. The imperfect tense, used here for both verbs, and which indicates an action that is incomplete (hence im-perfect) or future, can be used (p. 62) for the jussive mood (‘let…’):

The first meaning of ܫܠܡ  is ‘finish’, ‘complete’, ‘come to an end’, which does not work here, but the word can also mean ‘correspond to’, ‘agree’, ‘conform to’, as shown in Jennings:

Jennings shows further meanings in conjugations other than the simple pe’al, which is the form in Galatians 5.25. One of these is ‘yielded up’:

j. payne smith

J. Payne Smith (Mrs Margoliouth) does give the meaning ‘yield, surrender’ for the word in the pe’al form, but only as the ninth in her list (i), after the meanings ‘agree with’, ‘agree to’, ‘follow’, ‘follow after’, ‘correspond [to]’, ‘resemble’. The one example she gives of this use of the word is from a non-biblical source, and should be given less weight than usage in the Peshitta, it seems to me:

r. payne smith

Her father, R. Payne Smith, gives the meaning of  ܫܠܡ in Galatians 5.25 by means (col. 4184) of the Greek word στοιχέω which it there translates. He also cites four other places in the New Testament where the word translates στοιχέω:

Romans 4.12

Notably, it is used to translate στοιχοῦντες (the participle in its masculine nominative form) in Romans 4.12:

καὶ πατέρα περιτομῆς τοῖς οὐκ ἐκ περιτομῆς μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς στοιχοῦσιν τοῖς ἴχνεσιν τῆς ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ πίστεως τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Ἀβραάμ. (NA 28)

‘and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.’ (NASB)

where the same word can be seen in participial form as ܕ݁ܫܳܠܡܺܝܢ  on the second line, fourth from right. The lexeme of the following word ܠܥܶܩܒ݂ܳܬ݂ܳܐ (ləᶜeqḇāṯā) is ܥܩܒܐ (‘e-qof-beth-alaf), means ‘heel’, ‘foot’, ‘track’. In the plural, as here, with the lamadh prefix as sign of the direct or indirect object, it can mean ‘in the footsteps’, as ἴχνεσιν does in Greek. It follows that ܫܠܡ  can naturally be translated here as ‘follow in’ or ‘walk in’. It cannot mean ‘yield to’ here, which is further evidence that it does not mean ‘yield to’ in Galatians 5.25.

Brockelmann

Brockelmann includes Galatians 5.25 among the instances where ܫܠܡ  means ‘secundus est’ (from ‘sequor’, ‘to follow’), and translates στοιχεῖν:

comprehensive aramaic lexicon

In the full version of the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon (which I have only just now realised is online), Galatians 5.25 is cited for the word in its pe’al form under the meaning ‘follow’:

The closest the CAL comes to ‘yield’, ‘surrender’ is ‘to give up, sacrifice oneself’, but this is in the aph’el form, not the pe’al:

lamsa and alexander

The lexical evidence, taken as a whole, provides no justification for assigning the meaning ‘yield to’ to ܫܠܡ. It may be that Simmons has derived his rendering of Galatians 5.25:

‘We have now chosen to live in the surrendered freedom of yielding to the Holy Spirit!’

from two English versions, those of Lamsa and Alexander:

‘Let us therefore live in the Spirit, and surrender to the Spirit.’ (Lamsa)

‘To live thus is by the Spirit and in submission to the Spirit.’ (Alexander)

From Alexander, he may have derived the absence of exhortation. From Lamsa’s ‘surrender’ and Alexander’s ‘submission’ may come Simmons’ ‘surrendered’ and ‘yielding’. The idea of freedom seems to be his own.

Andrew

 

 

Galatians 4.7 in Brian Simmons’ Passion [Anti-] Translation: the two main changes not derived from the Aramaic.

This is the eighth of what I plan to be ten posts in which I examine, one by one, Brian Simmons’ claims to be translating from the Aramaic in certain verses of his so-called ‘Passion Translation’. My current intention is to look at the first ten such claims in Letters from Heaven, and then take stock. For more on my purpose and methodology see here and here.

Galatians 4.7

ὥστε οὐκέτι εἶ δοῦλος ἀλλ’ υἱός· εἰ δὲ υἱός, καὶ κληρονόμος διὰ θεοῦ. [NA 28]

So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. [ESV]

ωστε ουκετι ει δουλος αλλ υιος ει δε υιος και κληρονομος θεου δια χριστου [Byzantine/Majority Text]

Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. [NKJV]

Note that NA 28 has διὰ θεοῦ at the end of the verse, while the Robinson/Pierpont Majority Text has διὰ Χριστοῦ.

Simmons:

In the second sentence, to which the endnote may perhaps be expected to apply in particular, we see two major changes from the usual translations. First, there is the idea of access rather than that of inheritance. Second, there is the idea of being one with Jesus Christ, rather than gaining an inheritance from God through Jesus Christ. We might therefore expect to see ideas of this sort in the Aramaic text if Simmons is indeed translating from it as he claims.

Here is the Western UBS Peshitta text from dukrhana.com with transliteration and three English translations by Etheridge (green), Murdock (navy), and Lamsa (purple):

It can be seen that the English translations are nearly the same as the normal translations of the original Greek text, the only difference being the fuller name given to the Lord Jesus.

The word ܝܳܪܬ݁ܶܐ simply means ‘heirs’, as shown in Jennings:

and in Payne Smith:

The word ܒ݁ܝܰܕ݂ (b’yad) is composed of the preposition ܒ (b’) meaning ‘in’, but also sometimes ‘by’, among other meanings, and ܝܕ (yad), meaning ‘hand’. The meaning of the composite word is given under the lexical entry for ܝܕ in both Jennings and Payne Smith. Jennings has it as ‘by means of’, ‘by’, ‘through’:

and Payne Smith similarly as ‘through’, ‘by means of, ‘by the help of’ and so on:

It can be seen that the Aramaic text is very similar to the Greek and that neither the idea of access, nor that of oneness with someone, or to be found in it. All that remains is that Simmons may have derived his ‘Jesus the Anointed One’, in place of ‘God’ (NA28, ESV) or ‘Christ’ (Byzantine/Majority, NKJV) from it. But this is of rather minor significance, it seems to me, in comparison to these two substantial changes in meaning. As it happens, there are also Greek manuscripts with διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ at the end of the verse, as can be seen in the penultimate variant in the apparatus for the verse in the UBS Greek New Testament (5th Revised Edition):

I conclude that Simmons is hardly justified in claiming that his rendering of the verse is derived from the Aramaic.

Andrew

Galatians 4.3 in Brian Simmons’ Passion [Anti-] Translation:

This is number 7 of a series of posts investigating Brian Simmons’ claims to be translating from the Aramaic in certain verses of his so-called ‘Passion Translation’. My current intention is to look at the first ten such claims in Letters from Heaven, and then take stock. For more on my purpose and methodology see here and here.

Galatians 4.3

οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς, ὅτε ἦμεν νήπιοι, ὑπὸ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου ἤμεθα δεδουλωμένοι· [NA 28]

Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. [NKJV]

Simmons:

Instead of ‘under the elements of the world’, Simmons has ‘under the regulations and rituals of religion’, which is a different thing entirely. Has this been translated from the Aramaic as he claims?

Here is the Western UBS Peshitta text from dukrhana.com with transliteration and three English translations by Etheridge (green), Murdock (navy), and Lamsa (purple):

We notice immediately that there is no indication of any divergence from the Greek text and normal English translations of it. It would appear that ܐܶܣܛܽܘܟ݁ܣܰܘܗ݈ܝ (ᵓesṭūkkəsaw), lexeme ܐܣܛܘܟܣܐ , comes directly as a transliteration or loan word from the Greek στοιχεῖον, meaning ‘elements’, ‘fundamental principles’ or ‘elemental spirits’. Both Jennings:

and Payne Smith:

define the word first of all by means of its Greek equivalent. There is clearly no divergence at all between the Greek and the Aramaic at this point.

The lexeme of ܕ݁ܥܳܠܡܳܐ  is ܥܠܡܐ , which means either ‘age’ or ‘world’, as shown in both Jennings:

and Payne Smith:

The dalath (ܕ) before ܥܠܡܐ is here a marker of the genitive: ‘of the age’, ‘of the world’.

I conclude that there is no divergence between the Greek and the Aramaic Peshitta in this verse, and that Simmons cannot have derived his ‘the regulations and rituals of religion’ from the latter.

Andrew

Galatians 3.22 in Brian Simmons’ Passion [Anti-] Translation: is ‘the kingdom realm’ translated from the Aramaic as he claims?

I am continuing with my investigation of Brian Simmons’ claims to be translating from the Aramaic in certain verses of his so-called ‘Passion Translation’. My current intention is to look at the first ten such claims in Letters from Heaven, and then take stock. For more on my purpose and methodology see here and here.

Galatians 3.22

ἀλλὰ συνέκλεισεν ἡ γραφὴ τὰ πάντα ὑπὸ ἁμαρτίαν, ἵνα ἡ ἐπαγγελία ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοθῇ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν. [NA 28]

But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. [ESV]

Simmons:

Endnote t most probably refers especially to ‘the kingdom realm’, which immediately precedes it, and is a startling departure from ‘the promise’. But Simmons’ version differs greatly from the original text in other major respects. First, in the original, the gift of the promise comes out of  (ἐκ) faith in Jesus Christ (or possibly out of the faith of Jesus Christ). This is lost in Simmons’ rendering. Further, it seems to be me to be implied in the scripture that the promise is given by the Father, whereas Simmons has ‘the kingdom realm’ being brought by Jesus. Altogether, this amounts to a wholesale revision of the original text.

What does the Aramaic say, from which Simmons claims to be translating? Here is the Western UBS Peshitta text from dukrhana.com with transliteration and three English translations by Etheridge (green), Murdock (navy), and Lamsa (purple):

It can be seen immediately that all three translations are along the same lines as normal renderings of the Greek text. The word   ܕ݁ܡܽܘܠܟ݁ܳܢܳܐ  (dəmūlkānā), lexeme ܡܘܠܟܢܐ, is translated with ‘that the promise’ in all three. The dalath (ܕ) before ܡܘܠܟܢܐ  is serving (I think) as the final conjunction ‘that’, translating ἵνα. Jennings gives ‘promise’ as the sole meaning of ܡܘܠܟܢܐ,:

Payne Smith adds the idea of possessions in lands and property, presumably from the idea of things that have been promised to heirs and beneficiaries of bequests:

Conceivably, Simmons is developing this idea further, and is thinking that ‘the kingdom realm’ is that which has been promised to believers. But this would certainly be by way of interpretation, not of translation.

Andrew