Monday, July 31, 2006

What's peshat with the Peshitta II

Pt. I

Paleo Judaica links to an article on CBS11TV about the Peshitta (via Tyler Williams and Christian Brady. They all point out that it is not every day that the Peshitta makes the news, so to that extent it is a good day! But naturally the article is full of errors, including the entire baisc premise, which is that the New Testament was translated from Aramaic to Greek on specious grounds like the idea that "Neither Jesus, nor his immediate disciples, who were illiterate fishermen, nor his Galilean Followers, knew or spoke Greek."

One gaping flaw with the argument that the New Testament was originally the Peshitta is that it is written in an Aramaic dialect that was spoken way Northeast of ancient Galilee, which is why the idea that there is an Aramaic and a Syriac is justified (as opposed to just Aramaic, or Chaldaic or whatever)! Even if we grant the premise that they didn't know or speak Greek, they certainly didn't know or speak Syriac.

In any case, the Peshitta (פשיטתא in Hebrew characters) is an interesting topic. Although today it is the Bible of certain eastern churches, there is a theory (admitedly of unknown provenance to me) that the first part, the translation of Tanakh was originally a Jewish Targum. One theory is that it was prepared for the converts (in Adiabene in modern Kurdistan), of whom הילני המלכה and her son מונבז המלך are well known to anyone who learns Gemara, eg., Gittin 60, Sukkah 3, Nazir 19).

In Hebrew letters the פשיטתא begins like this:

ברשית ברא אלהא ית שמיא וית ארעא

Compare with 'Onqelos:

בקדמין ברא יקוק ית שמיא וית ארעא

and with Yonathan:

מן אוולא ברא אלהים ית שמייא וית ארעא

Not radically different, but sometimes the differences are very acute. Sometimes the Peshitta also translates names into Syriac, while 'Onqelos and Yonathan generally retain the Hebrew names.

Thus, in the Peshitta משה is מושא and ישראל is איסריל etc.

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