I continue my investigation of Brian Simmons’ claims to be translating from the Aramaic in certain verses of his so-called ‘Passion Translation’ of the Holy Bible. Please see my previous posts (here and here) for rationale and procedure. To avoid selectivity on my part I am taking these claims in order as they appear in ‘Letters from Heaven’.
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)
From the position of the footnote, it would appear that Simmons is appealing to the Aramaic for writing ‘poor and needy’ rather than simply ‘poor’. He may also be claiming that the more substantive change from ‘remember’ to ‘be devoted to’ also derives from the Aramaic, although this is less certain. I will take these one at a time. The Aramaic, and translations from the Aramaic, read:
ܕܠܡܣܟܢܐ is translated with ‘the poor’ by Etheridge and Lamsa, and with ‘the needy’ by Murdock. Jennings’ definition for the lexeme ܡܣܟܢܐ is simply ‘a poor person’:
but J. Payne Smith has both ‘poor’ and ‘needy’ (see the second Syriac word for the same form):
‘Poor and needy’ would therefore be an acceptable translation of the Aramaic, I think. It should be noted however that it would probably also be an acceptable translation of the original Greek word πτωχός, whose first formal equivalent in BDAG is ‘dependent on others for support’, as also in BAGD:
That said, there is no reason to doubt that Simmons has translated his ‘the poor and needy’ from the Aramaic as he claims.
‘be devoted to’
Turning now to Simmons’ ‘be devoted to’, this is certainly not a meaning of the Greek μνημονεύω which means ‘remember, keep in mind, think of’ [BDAG]. We turn therefore to the Aramaic, and the word is ܥܗܕܝܢܢ, lexeme ܥܗܕ. Jennings gives the meaning as ‘was mindful of, remembered’:
This part of Simmons’ version, therefore, has no basis in either the Greek or the Aramaic.