So you think the New Testament was written in Greek?

January 5th, 2011

In the western world there has long been held the belief that the New Testament was originally written in the Greek language. It was the common language of the day, Paul wrote to Greek speaking Gentiles, etc. etc. The mere notion of the New Testament being written in any other language is treated with harsh disdain. Yet, many are unaware that while Greek texts were spreading westward of Jerusalem, Aramaic texts were rapidly spreading eastward. In fact, the Church of the East claims that the Eastern Aramaic texts are the original, and that they received them from the hands of the Apostles and their associates themselves. Further, they claim to have maintained them to this day without a single change or revision. This has been the long held belief in the east for 2000 years but it seems so far out in the west where we are absolutely, 100% positive that it was written in Greek! But in this light informal article, I'm here to stick a few thorns in that theory.

Now, I'm not going to go into the history, context, or details of why or why not it may have been written in one particular language or another (such as Jewish culture highly discouraging anyone from learning Greek), but I do have some questions for my Greek primacist friends out there. If the New Testament was truly written in Greek, then perhaps you can explain to me the following contradictions and/or peculiar statements...

Note: All quotes are taken from the New American Standard Bible, a translation that is actually fairly accurate and faithful to the underlying Greek Critical text which it's based off of (though it includes some of the larger Majority text readings, such as the ending of Mark, story of the Adulteress, etc.)

Matthew Can't Count

In the first chapter of Matthew, we have a list of genealogies showing the Messiah's family tree starting with Abraham. At the end, Matthew makes the following statement,

"So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations. " (Matthew 1:17 NASB, emphasis added)
Here we see that Matthew claims that there are fourteen generations from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah. But wait; if you actually count the generations he lists, there are only 13...

"After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor. Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud. Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah." (Matthew 1:12-16 NASB)
Okay, let's count these together, just to be sure!

After the deportation to Babylon:
1) Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel
2) Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel
3) Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud
4) Abihud the father of Eliakim
5) Eliakim the father of Azor
6) Azor was the father of Zadok
7) Zadok the father of Achim
8) Achim the father of Eliud
9) Eliud was the father of Eleazar
10) Eleazar the father of Matthan
11) Matthan the father of Jacob
12) Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary
13) by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

Yup, that's only thirteen generations, not fourteen. Isn't the Bible supposed to be infallible?

Matthew Gets his Prophets Mixed Up

Later on we read in chapter 27,

"Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: "AND THEY TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER, THE PRICE OF THE ONE WHOSE PRICE HAD BEEN SET by the sons of Israel;" (Matthew 27:9 NASB, emphasis added)
Here we read that Matthew is quoting the prophet Jeremiah. But wait, the following quote is actually from Zechariah...

"I said to them, "If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!" So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. Then the L-RD said to me, "Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them." So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the L-RD." (Zechariah 11:12-13 NASB)
The statement is also no where to be found in Jeremiah, yet all Greek manuscripts claim that it's in there somewhere!

Leper Party!

Okay, so maybe Matthew wanted to forget his years as a tax collector and therefore got the numbers wrong, and then he had a little too much wine at Passover when he quoted Zechariah and attributed it to Jeremiah. Those errors aren't a big deal, right? Well, this next one kind of is. In Matthew 25 we read the following,

"Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table." (Matthew 26:6-7 NASB, emphasis added)
Okay, so Messiah is at the house of a leper, so what? Well, considering the odd situation where he's not there to heal him, consider the fact that he just broke the following Torah commandment of His Father,

"As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean!' He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. " (Leviticus 13:45-46 NASB, emphasis added)
Lepers were not to be associated with until their leprosy was healed where they were then no longer to be referred to as a leper. Now while we may not realize the significance of this, a Torah Observant Jew or Believer will see this and say that Jesus broke the Torah, therefore not only sinning, but DISQUALIFYING him as being the Messiah.

Are All Rich People Hell Bound?

This next one is a little tricky. I read the same thing in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I like the Matthew account best though, so let's look at that,

"And someone came to Him and said, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments. " Then he said to Him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS; HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of G-d. " (Matthew 19:16-23 NASB, emphasis added)
The first bolded statement is interesting because Christian theology tells me that the law has passed away and we are saved only by believing. Was Jesus lying? Just something to think about...

What I really want to focus on is the last statement which says that it's easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom. Since it's impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, does this mean that all rich people are hell bound? I've heard the whole story about doors in walls surrounding cities being shaped like the eye of a needle, but I don't think that imagery is contextually correct. Is there a way to make this passage easier to understand? The imagery here is telling me that if I'm rich I won't make it into the Kingdom (though Jesus does say that it's only hard, not impossible). This isn't necessarily a contradiction in my eyes; I just think it's a peculiar statement. So what's the deal?

Since When Does our Heavenly Father Forsake a Righteous Man?

Some of the most hotly debated words in Scripture are when Messiah is hanging on the execution stake and cries out in Aramaic "Eli Eli lemana shabakthani". The big question is, what do those words actually mean? The Greek New Testament seems to think it means the following,

"About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" that is, "MY G-D, MY G-D, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME? "" (Matthew 27:46, NASB, emphasis added)
Considering all of the Psalm 22 imagery of the scene, it would make sense that Messiah was quoting Psalm 22:1 which says in Hebrew "Eli Eli lama azbatani", or "My El My El, why have You forsaken me?" Azbatani can only mean forsaken, but its Aramaic counter part (shabakthani, which the Greek transliterates as sabachthani) can mean much more than just forsaken. Without getting into the linguistics of it all though, I'd like to address the issue I see with how the Greek renders it.

Scripture can never contradict itself, right? And we know that Messiah was the only righteous man who ever lived, so how do we explain passages such as Psalm 9:9-10, 37:25, or Isaiah 19:14-16? Our Creator will never forsake the righteous or those who seek Him and love Him. In fact, in the case of Messiah, both He and His Father knew right from the get go what was to happen. The whole plan had even been plotted out before the beginning of time. Furthermore, if His Father forsook or left Him at the time of His execution, then how do we explain Zechariah 12:10 where the Almighty says: "they will look upon ME whom they have pierced while mourning for HIM (Messiah) as an only son"? The Hebrew reads "et asher dakaru" which means "towards me have they pierced", so our Father in heaven never left (forsook) Messiah during His execution at all.

But it's certainly obvious that what happened as recorded in Matthew has a direct correlation to Psalm 22 (i.e. Psalm 22:6-8 compared with Matthew 27:39-40, or Psalm 22:16-18 with Matthew 27:34). So how do we explain all this imagery then? Well, the key is in verse 43,

"HE TRUSTS IN G-D; LET G-D RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM; for He said, 'I am the Son of G-d.'" (Matthew 27:43 NASB, emphasis added)
Here we can clearly see how everyone around thought that our Heavenly Father abandoned Messiah (much like Psalm 71:10-11), but little did they realize that Messiah knew this was to happen from the very beginning and in fact, this was the purpose of His coming into the world. So no, He was not forsaken, and for the Greek to accuse Messiah of saying such makes Him out to be liar. But, if you can read and understand Aramaic, you know that that's not what He said...

Pharasaical Amnesia

Pharisees are usually not given a very positive light in the latter books of Scripture, but the Greek makes them look even worse. You'd think that by studying and observing the Torah all the time you'd be familiar with your ancestors, the nation of Israel, being enslaved for four hundred years in Egypt. But, not in the Greek! John's account of the Good News states,

"They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free'?" (John 8:33 NASB, emphasis added)
Abraham's descendants never yet been enslaved to anyone? Hmm...

"G-d said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years." (Genesis 15:13 NASB, emphasis added)
And we all know that this happened in Egypt until the time of the Exodus. I guess the Pharisees were so stressed by the words of Messiah that they forgot.

Pharasaical Brain Fart

The Pharisees in John's account really get mixed up because they make yet another statement that's incorrect,

"They answered him, "You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee. " (John 7:52 NASB, emphasis added)
Is that so? Did you know that both Jonah and Nahum were from Galilee? In regards to Jonah,

"He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the L-RD, the G-d of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher. " (2 Kings 14:25 NASB, emphasis added)
Gathheper is located in Galilee east of Japha. Next we read about Nahum,

"The oracle of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. " (Nahum 1:1 NASB, emphasis added)
Jerome claims to have toured Galilee where a town there was identified as ancient Elkosh. Nahum was also of the tribe of Simeon that inhabited Galilee. So the Pharisees are wrong on at least two accounts regarding this statement. Along with forgetting the Exodus, this is giving them a pretty bad reputation. Either that or the Greek is wrong...

This Just In!! Temple Now Open to Eunuchs...

In the Torah, there is a very specific command which bans Eunuch's (castrated men) from entering the Temple in Jerusalem to worship.

"No one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the L-RD." (Deuteronomy 23:1 NASB)
This means that unlike other men of Israel, they would not go up to Jerusalem at the time of the feasts to worship. But according to the Greek New Testament, this has changed,

"So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, " (Acts 8:27 NASB, emphasis added)
If you don't know Torah, you might not notice this, but an Orthodox Jew will laugh at the New Testament's claim to infallibility based on occurrences like this. So my friends, if you have an explanation to clear up this contradiction, I would like to hear it.

Confusion in Romans

Back when I used to read from the Greek, I was always confused with a certain passage in the book of Romans. It reads as follows,

"For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But G-d demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:7-8 NASB)
So I don't get it. Isn't a righteous man the same thing as a good man? Or maybe he's even better? But why then would someone never die for a righteous man but perhaps for a good man? This doesn't make any sense! In verse 8 it states that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. A sinner is neither good nor righteous though. Every Greek manuscript reads exactly as shown above. And Romans, of course, was written to a Gentile audience, so it has to have been written from Greek meaning that this is the original wording, right? Wrong. But, as a Greek primacist, if you do have an answer to help clear up this confusion, I'd like to hear it.

Getting in bed with Jezebel…

The last example I’m going to give is a startling statement from the book of Revelation. While this is a book that is full of startling statements, there is something in particular about this one,

'But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 'I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. 'Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. (Revelation 2:20-22 NASB, emphasis added, italicized words retained)
Jezebel is a false prophetess who leads Believers away into sexual immorality, and here our Messiah in His revelation to John is saying that He will throw her on a bed! That’s the last place you’d want to throw someone who is involved with sexual immorality and adultery. In the New American Standard Version, they add in the words “of sickness” in italics. Italicized words are claimed to be added in for clarity because they are supposed to be implied. However there is nothing in the original Greek to suggest this reading, nor is “bed of sickness” an idiom of any sort. The original Greek simply says “I will throw her on a bed”. The translators of the NASB have tried to rectify this bad reading with the addition of words (which I’d be careful of, given the warning in Revelation 22:18) but regardless, this is still a spot where the Greek falls short.

Have you ever wondered...?

Have you ever wondered why the text of the King James Version contains so many extra verses and words than say, the New International Version or the New American Standard Version? There is a massive variation in the Greek manuscript record with major conflicts over what was actually written. The KJV is based off of the Byzantine family or Majority text of the Greek where as most modern Bible versions are taken from the Greek Critical text which makes use of the earliest Greek manuscripts available. People who think that you need only one Bible or that textual criticism isn't important won't realize this, but the conflicts between these texts include things such as the entire last half of Mark 16 and the entire story of the adulteress in John. Many other variations pertaining to things such as the Law, the Trinity or the Deity of Christ will also be found. So unlike the Tanach ("old testament") where the textual variations really make no difference (i.e. Genesis 4:8), these sorts of things are no small issue. They do in fact make a big difference when it comes to establishing what you believe and without looking into these things yourself you’re just going to have to trust the particular translation committee of the Bible you own (and I can guarantee you that they will not be void of bias…).

So, having said that, have you ever wondered what was originally written? Or have you ever wondered when the Greek word "kurios" (translated as Lord) is referring to the Father or to the Son? There's no distinction in Greek so you have no idea whether it means lord (my human master) or L-RD (as in The Almighty).

What if I told you that all the peculiar passages and contradictions I pointed out above are immediately cleared up when going to the Aramaic? Not only that, but what if by going to the Aramaic you could even explain why the Greek reads incorrectly? Furthermore, in the Aramaic we can clearly see a distinction made between the Father and the Son by using two different terms for what the Greek just calls Kurios/Lord. Was this just guesswork by an early scribe, or is the Aramaic the original?

Besides what I pointed out above, there are many other changes and clarifications in the Aramaic manuscript record which is JUST AS OLD AS THE GREEK IS (if not older in a few disputed manuscripts). In fact, Aramaic manuscripts that originate from the same time frame as our oldest Greek texts have many readings that only the later Greek Majority text contains (such as the ending of Mark). In other places however, it reads like the early Greek manuscripts (Critical text) and opposes the later Majority text, proving that at the very least it comes from an earlier source text than our available Greek and has been preserved with a much finer accuracy. We also find many instances where the Hebrew Scriptures and Aramaic text match up perfectly in word choices and terminology. Many Semitic word-plays can be found also, as well as beautiful Aramaic poetry in practically every single book that is completely lost when translated into Greek. These are all strange occurrences if the New Testament was indeed originally written in Greek...

To learn more about the Greek New Testament, please see the following,

Greek New Testament Manuscripts
Confronting the Greek NT

If you're interested in studying more about the Aramaic Origins of the New Testament, I recommend the following books,

Ruach Qadim: Aramaic Origins of the New Testament
Ruach Qadim: The Path to Life

Or to just see the differences yourself and read the very words which Yeshua and His Torah-keeping disciples spoke, pick up a copy of the Aramaic English New Testament which proclaims the original first century faith as it was once delivered to the Set-Apart Believers. It might seem unrealistic, but it is possible to erase 2000 years of confusion, division, and corruption (not to mention, anti-Semitism...). If you are ready to cross over, then I pray that our Heavenly Father will bless you richly in the study of His word. Amen!

The Aramaic English New Testament