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

 

Galatians 3.19 in Brian Simmons’ Passion [Anti-] Translation: does ‘the Joyful Expectation’ come from the Aramaic as he claims?

Onwards with Simmons’ claims to be translating from the Aramaic. For my purpose and methodology see here and here.

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]

Simmons:

Here is a case where Simmons makes clear exactly which part of his translation (if such it can be called) he is claiming to derive from the Aramaic. According to endnote q, we should find Aramaic words that mean literally ‘Joyous Expectation’.

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 see first of all that where Simmons has ‘Joyous Expectation’, Etheridge and Murdock have ‘seed’, and Lamsa has ‘heir’. The word used is ܙܰܪܥܳܐ (zarᶜā), as is clear from the analytical tool:

Jennings gives the basic meaning as ‘seed’, with metaphorical meanings of ‘race’, ‘family’, ‘offspring’:

Payne Smith adds in addition ‘young or immature offspring’:

There is nothing here about either joy or expectation. From where does Simmons get his ‘the Joyous Expectation’? It is not from the Aramaic as he claims, so far as I can see.

Andrew

Galatians 3.3 in Brian Simmons’ Passion [Anti-] Translation: does ‘becoming slaves again to’ come from the Aramaic as he claims?

I continue with Simmons’ claims to be translating from the Aramaic. For my purpose and methodology see here and here.

Galatians 3.3

οὕτως ἀνόητοί ἐστε, ἐναρξάμενοι πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε; [NA 28]

Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? [ESV]

Or, taking ἐπιτελεῖσθε as middle voice, which seems more likely (see BDAG):

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

Simmons:

The most noteworthy change that precedes endnote c is the change from ‘be completed’ or ‘finish’ to ‘becoming slaves again’. Is there a difference here between the Greek text and the Aramaic?

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 none of the English translations give any indication that the Syriac might support Simmons’ rendering. The word in question is ܡܫܰܠܡܺܝܢ and the lexeme is ܫܠܡ. Jennings gives the meaning as:

The basic meaning is ‘was finished’, ‘complete’. It may look at first sight as if there might be some meanings that could give an idea similar to ‘become slaves to’, as Simmons has it. For example, ‘yielding yourselves up to the flesh’ is not perhaps so far from ‘becoming slaves again to the flesh’. But on closer inspection it will be seen that all meanings of this sort occur under the Ethpa’al conjugation, one of six main verbal forms:

The analysis tool however shows ܡܫܰܠܡܺܝܢ as being in the Pa’el form:

and the meanings given under the Jennings entry above for the verb in this form are all to do with completing, perfecting and finishing:

Given that all Etheridge (‘finishing’), Murdock (‘consummate’) and Lamsa (‘end’) all translate with this kind of meaning, I think it highly unlikely that the analysis tool is wrong here.

I conclude that Simmons’ rendering with ‘becoming slaves again’ is almost certainly not in fact translated from the Aramaic as he claims.

Andrew

 

Galatians 3.1 in Brian Simmons’ Passion [Anti-] Translation. Is he really translating from the Aramaic?

I am examining those instances in Brian Simmons’ book ‘Letters from Heaven’ (part of the so-called ‘Passion Translation’) where he claims to be translating from the Aramaic. I am leaving aside for now the question of why he would prefer to translate Paul’s letters from an Aramaic translation rather than the original Greek, and confining myself to asking whether he is really translating from the Aramaic when he says he is. Galatians 3.1 raises this question in stark form as I will endeavour to show.

For further rationale and methodology see here and here.

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]

Simmons:

Note b:

By referring to ‘this very unusual sentence’, Simmons clearly marks his endnote as applying to the last sentence of his rendering of Galatians 3.1:

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

He says equally clearly that it:

is translated from the Aramaic text.

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

The interested reader can click on the analysis tool here, and see that these English translations, which hardly differ at all from normal English translations of the Greek text, are faithful translations of the Syriac text (Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic).  The verb ܚܣܡ which is given the English glosses ‘envy’ and [be] ‘jealous’ in this analysis tool, also means to ‘bewitch’, as shown in Jennings:

There is absolutely nothing in the Syriac text which has anything to do with Jesus Christ being revealed as the ‘Manifestation of Wisdom’ as Simmons has it. Where does he get this from? I have checked the Eastern UBS text and the Khabouris text and they are exactly the same:

Western UBS: ܐܘ ܚܣܝܪܝ ܪܥܝܢܐ ܓܠܛܝܐ ܡܢܘ ܚܣܡ ܒܟܘܢ ܕܗܐ ܐܝܟ ܗܘ ܕܡܨܪ ܨܝܪ ܗܘܐ ܩܕܡ ܥܝܢܝܟܘܢ ܝܫܘܥ ܡܫܝܚܐ ܟܕ ܨܠܝܒ

Eastern UBS: ܐܘ ܚܣܝܪܝ ܪܥܝܢܐ ܓܠܛܝܐ ܡܢܘ ܚܣܡ ܒܟܘܢ ܕܗܐ ܐܝܟ ܗܘ ܕܡܨܪ ܨܝܪ ܗܘܐ ܩܕܡ ܥܝܢܝܟܘܢ ܝܫܘܥ ܡܫܝܚܐ ܟܕ ܨܠܝܒ

Khabouris   : ܐܘ ܚܣܝܪܝ ܪܥܝܢܐ ܓܠܛܝܐ ܡܢܘ ܚܣܡ ܒܟܘܢ ܕܗܐ ܐܝܟ ܗܘ ܕܡܨܪ ܨܝܪ ܗܘܐ ܩܕܡ ܥܝܢܝܟܘܢ ܝܫܘܥ ܡܫܝܚܐ ܟܕ ܨܠܝܒ

Having received no reply so far to my emails of last week I have now tried asking Simmons on Twitter.

Andrew

 

 

Galatians 2.10 in Brian Simmons’ Passion [Anti-] Translation: why ‘be devoted to’ rather than ‘remember’?

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’.

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)

Simmons:

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’:

and the definitions in Payne Smith and the CAL are similar, with nothing related to devotion.

This part of Simmons’ version, therefore, has no basis in either the Greek or the Aramaic.

Andrew

 

Galatians 1.4a in the Passion [Anti-] Translation: is it translated from the Aramaic as claimed?

In my last post I examined two cases where Brian Simmons claims in his so-called Passion Translation of the bible to be translating from the Aramaic. In Romans 1.11 it would appear that he is justified in his claim, with other English translations of the Peshitta also having ‘gift of the Spirit’ rather than ‘spiritual gift’. But in Romans 1.9, where he has ‘through the revelation of his Son’ rather than ‘in the gospel of his Son’, the Peshitta has ܒܸ݁ܐܘܲܢܓܸ݁ܠܝܼܘܿ (bewangelīāwn), ‘in the gospel’, seemingly belying his claim.

In this post, I begin a more systematic evaluation of Simmons’ claims to be translating from the Aramaic. I hope to examine all such claims in his book Letters from Heaven, which contains his renderings of Paul’s letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, and I and II Timothy. Here I begin with the first of these claims, contained in a footnote to Galatians 1.4. I am using the Kindle edition.

The Aramaic text is from the Peshitta tool at dukrhana.com. Unless otherwise stated I use the UBS text with Western vowel signs. The three English translations are by Etheridge (green), Murdock (navy), and Lamsa (purple).

As I said in my previous post, I am not here examining the question of why Simmons would prefer to translate from the Peshitta rather than from the Greek original. My overriding concern is to discover whether he is being truthful when he says that he has done so.

Galatians 1.4a

τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν (NA 28)

“who gave himself for our sins” (ESV)

“who offered his soul as the sacrifice for our sins” (Simmons)

“who gave himself for our sins” (all 3 translations)

Analytical tool, here:

Jennings Syriac Lexicon of the New Testament, here:

It can be seen that while the word ܢܰܦ݂ܫܶܗ  (napšēh) can mean ‘soul’, it can also just as well mean ‘self’. The entry in the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon confirms that it can function as the reflexive pronoun (as ἑαυτὸν does in the Greek text):

In conclusion, therefore, it might be possible to translate the Aramaic text as:

“he gave his soul for our sins”

but there is no necessity to do so. There is no basis in the Aramaic text for Simmons’ ‘offered … as the sacrifice’. The word used just means ‘gave’, as in the three English translations of the Peshitta above:

It seems probable that Simmons has indeed made use of the Peshitta here, in making the change from ‘himself’ to ‘his soul’. But he has not translated from the Peshitta in making the change from ‘gave’ to ‘offered … as the sacrifice’. This part of the ‘Passion’ text seems to come from his own imagination, so far as I can see.

An additional concern

It seems to me that there is a potential danger in changing the text from ‘who gave himself for our sins’ to ‘who offered his soul as the sacrifice for our sins’. It is true that Isaiah 53.10 tells us that the LORD would:

‘make His [the Man of sorrow’s] soul an offering for sin’ [NKJV]

the word used being נֶפֶשׁ (nephesh), which is normally translated ‘soul’, but still it seems crucial to guard carefully against docetism. The Lord Jesus Christ gave His whole self for our sins, as I understand it, not His soul only. Simmons’ rendering might possibly open the door to a docetic interpretation, it seems to me.

UPDATE 20 MARCH 2017:

I have now realised, thanks to a lead proffered kindly by Brian Simmons himself (see this post at the section entitled ‘The mystery solved…’), that Simmons has almost certainly made use of Victor Alexander’s rendering here. There is more on Alexander starting at the same section of the above post. He is a film-maker who promotes a style of ‘Felliniesque’ film-making where ‘dreams and reality are perceived as one experience’. I give reasons in the above post why I think it possible that ‘the manuscript’ Alexander has claimed to be translating from may not actually exist. His work is clearly unreliable and should not be made use of by another translator, especially when he, as in the case of Simmons, has claimed to be working from the Aramaic text itself.

Alexander’s rendering of Galatians 1.4a is:

and his footnote reads:

It looks to me very much as if Simmons has derived the idea of sacrifice from Alexander’s version of the text, and his use of ‘his soul’ rather than ‘himself’ from Alexander’s footnote.

Andrew

Is Brian Simmons of The Passion Translation really translating from the Aramaic?

In The Passion Translation of sections of the New Testament, Brian Simmons frequently claims in footnotes to have translated from the Aramaic text. For example he renders Romans 1.9 as:

with footnote:

The Greek text (NA 28) reads:

9 μάρτυς γάρ μού ἐστιν ὁ θεός, ᾧ λατρεύω ἐν τῷ πνεύματί μου ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, ὡς ἀδιαλείπτως μνείαν ὑμῶν ποιοῦμαι

which almost demands to be translated along the lines of the ESV, for example:

‘For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you’

All 36 English translations at Bible Study Tools, including the Message Bible, translate τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ with ‘good news’ or ‘gospel’ or ‘glad tidings’. Simmons has ‘revelation’, which is a different idea. He says that he has translated from the Aramaic, so to the Aramaic we go, expecting to find a word closer to ‘revelation’ than ‘gospel’.

Simmons’ Aramaic text is the Syriac Peshitta. From his web-site:

while incorporating insights from the Syriac (Aramaic) Peshitta, as well as the Roth text.

By ‘the Roth text’ Simmons must I think be referring not to another Aramaic textual source material, but rather to Andrew Roth’s English translation of the Peshitta. So it is to the Peshitta we turn for our Aramaic text. I don’t know Aramaic so use the Peshitta tools at dukhrana.com. First of all, here is the Western UBS text, with transliteration and three English translations, by Etheridge (green), Murdock (navy), and Lamsa (purple):

The first thing most of us (who don’t know Aramaic) will notice is that all three translators have ‘gospel’ and not ‘revelation’. The more observant may be struck by the similarity between the transliterated word ‘bewangelīāwn’ and the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον meaning ‘gospel’. Clicking on the ‘analyze’ tool brings up the meaning of each word. Here are the words for the clause of interest:

Clicking on ‘2:282’ provides confirmation that the word for ‘Gospel’ is indeed the word that looks like εὐαγγέλιον:

The b’ suffix means ‘in’, in much the same way (I think) as בְּ does in Hebrew. The lexeme itself – which corresponds to the form of the word which appears in a lexicon (a dictionary) – is:

Clicking on ’16’ in the table above brings up the entry for this word in Jennings Lexicon to the Syriac New Testament:

It can be seen first that, although this is a Syriac to English lexicon, the meaning is given first in Greek because it is a loan word from Greek; and secondly that the meaning of εὐαγγέλιον, as said before, is ‘Gospel’. It can be seen also that Romans 1.9 is listed among the occurrences of the word, confirming that this is the Aramaic word used there.

Finally, the Peshitta tool at dukhrana.com has two alternative Peshitta text types, the Eastern and the Khabouris. I have checked these for Romans 1.9 and they both have the same word ܒܸ݁ܐܘܲܢܓܸ݁ܠܝܼܘܿ (bewangelīāwn), ‘in the gospel’.

My provisional conclusion then, subject to correction, is that Simmons’ rendering of Romans 1.9 is not in reality translated from the Aramaic as he claims. I have written to him for an explanation but not received one as yet.

Romans 1.11

Two verses later, there is an example of Simmons giving a rendition which actually does seem to derive from the Aramaic, as he claims. The Greek text (NA 28) of Romans 1.11 reads:

ἐπιποθῶ γὰρ ἰδεῖν ὑμᾶς, ἵνα τι μεταδῶ χάρισμα ὑμῖν πνευματικὸν εἰς τὸ στηριχθῆναι ὑμᾶς,

The ESV, as a typical example, has:

‘For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you’

and most versions (KJV, ASV, RSV, NIV, NASB etc) translate χάρισμα … πνευματικὸν (charisma pneumatikon) as ‘spiritual gift’, πνευματικός being the adjective from πνεῦμα, meaning ‘spirit’.

Simmons’ text however has ‘the gift of the Spirit’ instead of ‘some spiritual gift’:

He explains in a footnote that he has translated from the Aramaic:

The Peshitta tool shows that all three English translations have ‘gift of the Spirit’ rather than ‘spiritual gift’:

The analysis tool confirms that the Aramaic text has a noun meaning ‘spirit, wind, breath’ rather than an adjective:

It is not that Aramaic lacked an adjective meaning ‘spiritual’, as one such was used in 1 Corinthians 2.13, 15 and elsewhere, as can be seen from the definitions in Jennings:

It just seems to have been a change made by in the translation process from the Greek original to the Peshitta.

In this case, therefore Simmons seems to be justified in saying that he has translated from the Aramaic. As I said above, I am not here examining the question of why he would prefer the Peshitta reading to the original Greek text. (I have written to him twice on that point and not received a reply so far.)

What remains is to investigate whether Simmons’ apparently mistaken claim in Romans 1.9 is a one-off and so probably an inadvertent error, or whether there are more such claims which turn out to be apparently unfounded. In my next post I give further cases where Simmons’ text differs from normal versions, with no possible basis from the Greek text, and where he has claimed to be translating from the Aramaic, but where this claim turns out to be false, so far as I have been able to ascertain, to the best of my endeavour.

Andrew