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

 

 

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