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What Language was the New Testament Written in?

Some say Aramaic was the original written language of the New Testament Scriptures as Hebrew was for the old Testament. Jesus, his apostles and followers proclaimed and taught their religious ideas in an Aramaic dialect. This Semitic tongue was the common vernacular of the times.

This view is just as wrong as the sacred name movement where they claim the NT was written in Hebrew and that the name (using the tetragrammaton) was preserved (YHVH)

This has been popularized and known as Aramaic primacy by George Lamsa. Lamsa did not produce the ancient manuscripts that he translated from. Jesus communicated only a few of these teachings in Aramaic recorded in our Greek manuscripts of the Bible.

Lamsa was a native Assyrian who is called a renowned scholar of the Scriptures. Born August 5, 1892, it is claimed by adherents his cultures customs, manners, and language are almost identical to those in the time of Jesus.

Lamsa’a background is in the Nestorian church which are reflected in Lamsa’s writings. He promoted the Nestorian view that Jesus Christ was actually two persons — Jesus and Christ — who, in a manner of speaking, were glued together like two boards. Jesus, Lamsa says, began His existence at birth in Bethlehem, while “Christ existed from the very beginning. He was neither born nor did he die, but he lives forever. This belief is still held by Christians in the East….” (New, 150; see also 177)

Lamsa arrived in the United States, in his early 20's. He studied at the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, and at Dropsie College in Philadelphia.

George M. Lamsa translated his Bible from Aramaic into English in 1933.  Lamsa’s Aramaic translation is a flawed translation of the Bible.  The bible was written in Greek under the jurisdiction of the Hebrew apostles and their appointed legates.

Lamsa interpreted John 1:14, 18 that Jesus was the first-born." The bible says; He is the ONLY son, only begotten Son of God, not the first born.
1 Timothy 3:16 says "God was manifest in the flesh;" Lamsa wrote, "it [the "divine mystery"] is revealed in the flesh." Jesus was a mystery in a body. No, He was God seen in flesh.

Micah 5:2 "whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting," Lamsa writes "whose goings forth have been predicted from of old, from everlasting." Changing it to means what is written of him and not him, himself.

Lamsa’s view, Jesus did not claim to be equal to God, nor did He want to be worshipped. (Gospel, 353, 369). He denied that Jesus Christ ever physically rose from the dead. He claims that Christ rose with a “spiritual body.” Lamsa compares Jesus’ life to a mere glass of water and His death to its evaporation into the air and ocean, (George M. Lamsa, My Neighbor Jesus: In the Light of His Own Language, People, and Time (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1932), 139 (hereafter, Neighbor).

Lamsa said “the Eastern Christians believe in one God with three attributes, instead of three persons.” Other Nestorians also preferred the Aramaic word “attributes” (kenomey) to the Greek concept “persons” (prosopon), even though these held to the doctrine of the Trinity. For more on the influence of Nestorianism on Lamsa, see Douglas V. Morton, “The Lamsa Connection: The Origin of Wierwille’s False Christ,” Quarterly Journal, Jan.-Mar. 1989, 1, 7, 9.)

This is something that William Branham used to support his strange interpretation of the Father son and Holy Spirit being attributes in God.

Lamsa’s Second Coming is not a physical event, but a "spiritual" coming that will take place in the world's consciousness(not just believers): "The second coming of Jesus will be a spiritual coming, that is, he will come in a spiritual body, free from all physical limitations. Moreover, the people's consciousness will be raised to a spiritual level, so that every eye will see nothing but good. In other words, it will be a spiritual life and spiritual kingdom"(George M. Lamsa, More Light on the Gospel (New York: Doubleday, 1968), 151 (hereafter, More).

There are number of other issues with Lamsa that one needs to know before they accept his Aramaic premise. Lamsa founded the Christian Mohammedan Society in 1921 to pursue unity by emphasizing common ground. Lamsa desired to unite nations into a universal state, this led him to avoid matters of dogma and make many concessions to the beliefs of other faiths, seeking the lowest common denominator among religions. He interpreted Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (in his book appropriately titled The Kingdom on Earth) as a commandment for world peace, international understanding, and the overthrow of enslaving governments by meekness and love.

He sought a “new world order” in which “the light of the gospel would be shared, racial and class barriers would be eliminated, and national boundaries would be eliminated.” (George M. Lamsa, The Kingdom on Earth (Lee’s Summit, MO: Unity School of Christianity, 1966), 106-107 (hereafter, Kingdom). Lamsa credits Islam with achieving this goal. (The Secret of the Near East [New York: Orientalia, 1923], 101 [hereafter, Secret]).

Lamsa spoke of psychic involvement in a speech given to the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.), (based on medium Edgar Cayce and the pursuit of psychic phenomena. He encouraged use of the “talents” of Creative (psychic) Power manifesting through men and spotlighted his native Near Eastern people’s claim to a “sixth sense”: the ability to become aware of God through dreams, visions, intuition, and clairvoyance.” (Robert W. Krajenke, Stand Like Stars (Virginia Beach, VA: A.R.E., 1970)

Dr. George Lamsa, in his book, "New Testament Origin," states, “Not a word of the Scriptures was originally written in Greek...the Scriptures were written in Aramaic.

What Lamsa neglects to tell people is that most Jews in Jesus’ day were multilingual speaking Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. The Hebrew was more used in the synagogues for their religious services, and Aramaic was the common language spoken among the Jews in everyday life. So was Greek as they lived among the Gentiles in the land. And was used Jesus occasionally in His 3 1/2 years of earthly ministry to the Jewish people along with Greek.

History and manuscript evidence shows us that the Bible was written in the known language of the people, which was Greek. There are well over five thousand manuscripts in Greek going back to the early centuries.

Four examples of Aramaic are found in the Gospel of Mark. To the little girl, "Talitha cumi", I say to you, rise up," (Mark 5:41) To the blind man, "ephphatha", "be opened," (Mark 7:34). His prayer in Gethsemane, he says "Abba, Father," A term of endearment meaning, "Father," "Daddy," (Mark 14:36). When being crucified the Bible has Jesus saying, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani" "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me," (Mark 15:34.) All four spoken by Jesus in Mark's Gospel.

Lamsa's Aramaic translation reads: And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said, Eli, Eli lemana shabakthan! My God, my God, for this I was spared!” That certainly conveys a different meaning than “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Which comes from the Hebrew of Psalm 22 which most scholars of the language say it speaks of being abandoned.

The earliest known edition of New Testament writings that included Syriac texts was the Diatessaron (around 170 A.D) by Tatian (120-173 A.D.), who was a Syrian convert to Christianity. Only some of the Syriac text of the Diatessaron are found in a commentary by Ephraem (310-373 A.D.).

The promoters of the Aramaic primacy are unable to produce any Aramaic manuscripts older than the Greek. And there is good reason. Since the gospels were written to the Gentiles of that day for evangelistic purposes it is illogical to think they would have to learn a whole new language to read the Bible. It was written in the most popular spoken language of the gentiles, Greek, not Aramaic that would only be for the Jews.

The New Testament of the Peshitta (Aramaic) was translated from the Greek. Lamsa never produced any earlier Aramaic manuscripts nor referred to them specifically. There are no ancient Aramaic documents of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, only Greek documents.

Why would Paul write in Aramaic as he was sent to Gentiles in Galatia, to the Romans, or those in Corinth? They didn’t know Aramaic, but Greek which was the universal language of the day for hundreds of years (for the common people -- koine Greek). He would then have to teach them another language to be able to even read the Bible. To claim that ‘the whole of the New Testament was written in Aramaic, and not Greek when we have the manuscript evidence is incredulous to reality. It contains more hubris than fact.

Today there is Rocco A. Errico, who was a student of the late George M. Lamsa who tutored him, Errico is the founder of the Noohra Foundation (meaning "light" and "enlightenment”) in San Antonio, Texas. An organization devoted to Aramaic Biblical research. 

Errico interpreted the Lords prayer as:

Our Father who is everywhere
Your name is sacred.
Your kingdom is come.
Your will is throughout the earth
even as it is throughout the universe
You give us our needful bread from day to day,
And you forgive us our offenses
even as we forgive our offenders.
and you let us not enter into materialism.
But you separate us from error.
Because yours are the kingdom, the power and the song and praise.
From all ages, throughout all ages.
(Sealed) in faith, trust and truth

(an expanded translation by Dr. Rocco A. Errico):

Though some of it is th nearly the same, I would think many would see the differences, not only in word but meaning.

For example in the KJV it says our Father in heaven. and is asking for his kingdom to come (not here yet)

Lamsa and his disciples have a very different view, a very mystical view.


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