John 1.1 in Brian Simmons’ Passion [Anti-] Translation: why ‘his Living Expression’ instead of ‘the Word’?

John 1.1 reads:

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. (NA 28)

All thirty-six English versions at biblestudytools.com, including even ‘The Message’, translate λόγος with ‘word’. For example:

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ (NASB)

Brian Simmons, however, has ‘Living Expression’ in place of ‘Word’:

Continue reading John 1.1 in Brian Simmons’ Passion [Anti-] Translation: why ‘his Living Expression’ instead of ‘the Word’?

Brian Simmons and his Passion [Anti-] Translation: what text is Victor Alexander translating from? (3)

The Problem Restated

The reason for my long series of posts about Brian Simmons and his so-called Passion Translation is that sincere Christian believers are reading it, believing it to be a genuine English version of the Holy Scriptures, translated from the original texts, when in fact it is fraudulent, so far as I can see. In many cases where there is an unusual rendering of a verse, Simmons says in a footnote it is translated from the Aramaic. In his FAQs he identifies his Aramaic text as the Peshitta, making it possible to compare his English text with the original from which it is said to be translated. I investigated the first ten such claims in his ‘translation’ of Galatians, and found none of them to be substantiated. What I did find however, was that in the majority of cases, he was following Victor Alexander’s so-called ‘Aramaic New Testament’ which, as its name implies, claims to be a translation of Aramaic scriptures. In these cases, Alexander’s English text, like that of Simmons, does not seem to be translated from the Peshitta.

The question then arises as to whether Alexander might be translating from some other Aramaic source text. In recent years he has consistently refused to say what his source is. He sometimes gives the impression that he may have manuscripts older than the Peshitta, with a different text. For example, as I explained in an earlier post, he has ‘Covenant of the Son of Man’ in Galatians 3.15, rather than ‘human covenant’ as in both the Greek and the Peshitta, and then says in a footnote that:

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

as if perhaps there were some text more ancient than the Peshitta which had this form of text.

More directly, he has implied that he is in possession of the oldest manuscript found, which might further suggest that it is one not known to others:

I don’t need to prove that the manuscript I’m translating from is the oldest found;

Continue reading Brian Simmons and his Passion [Anti-] Translation: what text is Victor Alexander translating from? (3)

Brian Simmons and his Passion [Anti-] Translation: what text is Victor Alexander translating from? (2)

Having discovered that the source of many of the strange perversions of holy scripture in the so-called ‘Passion Translation’ is Victor Alexander’s so-called ‘Aramaic Bible’, I am trying to find out what text Alexander is translating from. In my last post, I recapped on his unwillingness to be specific on this point, and then highlighted his claim that he is translating from ‘the manuscripts of the Ancient Church of the East’. I explained that he is referring to the Church of the East, whose first organisational centre was Seleucia-Ctesiphon, on the banks of the Tigris, just East of the Eastern border of the Roman Empire.  It became known as ‘Nestorian’ from an early date, although that may be something of a misnomer. This church expanded greatly into India, China and Japan, and then went into a rapid decline at the end of the fourteenth century, being reduced, outside of India, to a regional church in Kurdistan.

Alexander goes on to say that:

The Church of the East survived and maintained the Scriptures in the original language all through the conquests of the Mongolians (Genghis Khan) 12th Century, and the Tartars (Tamerlane) 15th Century.

He sometimes gives the impression that he is translating from a unique manuscript not known to others:

I don’t need to prove that the manuscript I’m translating from is the oldest found; archeology is not the issue.

and so on, as I quoted at greater length in my last post. But it may be that the reality of the situation is much more prosaic.

Continue reading Brian Simmons and his Passion [Anti-] Translation: what text is Victor Alexander translating from? (2)

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.

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

Notes:

  1. From a preliminary examination of Ephesians, it looks like the same is true there also.

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:

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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