Keith Hunt - Preface to Aramaic Bible Restitution of All

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Preface to the Aramaic Bible

What the Church of the East has to say

All CAPITAL letter words, for emphasis, are mine (Keith Hunt)


     The favorable reception accorded the Lamsa translation of
the Gospels, later of the New Testament and of the Psalms, has
prompted us to publish a COMPLETE translation of The Holy Bible
from the Peshitta, the AUTHORIZED Bible of the Church of the

     This translation of the Old and New Testaments into
English is based on Peshitta manuscripts which have comprised the
accepted Bible of all of those Christians who have used Syriac as
their language of prayer and worship for many centuries. 

     It is appropriate that as we have translations based on the
Greek Septuagint of the Old Testament and on the Latin Bible of
Jerome, so also should there be available to the modern reader
that form of the text which was translated anciently into a
branch of the Aramaic language which has been used by Christians
from EARLIEST times.

     In the long history of the Aramaic language, there are three
periods of special interest to us. 

     From the sixth to the fourth century before Christ, it was a
language of empire extending from the borders of Persia to those
of Europe, and down the Nile through the length of Egypt. It was
in those days spoken and written by the Jewish people at LEAST
EQUALLY with Hebrew; and so we have parts of Ezra and Daniel, and
one verse in Jeremiah (10:11), that were composed in Aramaic and
preserved in that ancient form of the language in the midst of
the Hebrew Old Testament.

     In the first century, JESUS and his earliest followers
certainly spoke Aramaic for the MOST PART, although they also
knew Hebrew. Therefore the Gospel message was first preached in
the Aramaic of the Jews of Palestine.
     Modern scholarship tells us that the originals of the Four
Gospels and of other parts of the New Testament were written in
Greek; this is DISPUTED by the Church of the East and by some
noted Western scholars. Regardless of which view one may
accept, Aramaic speech is an underlying factor and it is
unquestionably true that documents written in Aramaic were drawn
on by writers of the New Testament, the basic inspired
form of the Christian message.

     Aramaic was the language of the Church that spread east,
almost from the BEGINNING of Christianity, from Antioch and
Jerusalem, beyond the confines of the Roman Empire. This differed
from the language of Palestine in choice of words and grammatical
forms rather more extensively than does American English from
British English and in written form these differences became
regular and standardized. The Jews and Christians used the
literary dialect of Aramaic that we call Syriac, almost at the
same time to propagate their translations of the sacred
books brought from Palestine and the West, reaching into Syria
and Mesopotamia and the nearby mountains, quite early into India,
and into China in the course of time. 

     Modern scholarship believes that as happened in other parts
of the Church, the earliest copies of the sacred books in Syriac
were revised again and again to bring them closer to the standard
of the Hebrew and Greek texts from which they were drawn; this
view, too, is NOT accepted by the Church of the East. Under
any conditions by the fifth century A.D. the Peshitta version in
its present form held the field by universal acclaim.

     The fixed stand of the Church of the East with respect to
some of the points mentioned above can best be understood by
reference to the following letter, which we are authorized to
quote, from the Patriarch and Head of that Church:

Patriarchate of the East, Modesto, California, AprilS, 1957

     "With reference to your letter concerning Lamsa's
translation of the Aramaic Bible, and the originality of the
Peshitta text, as the Patriarch and Head of the Holy Apostolic
and Catholic Church of the East we wish to state, that the
Church of the East received the scriptures from the hands of the
blessed Apostles themselves in the Aramaic original, the language
spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and that the Peshitta is
the text of the Church of the East which has come down from the
Biblical times without any change or revision."

Mar Eshai Shimun
by Grace, 
Catholicos Patriarch
of the East

     From the Mediterranean east into India, the Peshitta is
still the Bible of preference among Christians, though today
nearly all who use it speak Arabic, or one of the tongues of
South India.
     West of the Euphrates, spoken Aramaic as a mother-tongue
survives today only in two mountain villages northwest of
Damascus, differing as much from the speech of Jesus' day as
French from its parent Latin. East of the Euphrates, in the
Kurdish mountains, and near Lake Urmia, perhaps a hundred
thousand people (Christian, Jew and Muslim) speak another form of
it, strangely mixed with borrowed words from the various
languages of their polyglot neighbors, but still basically akin
to the Aramaic (Syriac) of olden times.

     George M. Larosa, B.A., F.R.S.A., the translator of this
work is uniquely fitted for the task to which he has devoted the
major part of his life. He is an Assyrian and a native of ancient
Biblical lands, where he lived until World War I. Until that
time, isolated from the rest of Christendom, his people retained
Biblical customs and Semitic culture which had perished
everywhere else. This background, together with his knowledge of
the Aramaic (Syriac) language, has enabled him to recover much of
the meaning that has been lost in other translations of the

     Manuscripts used in making this translation were the Codex
Ambrosianus for the Old Testament and the so-called
Mortimer-McCawley manuscript for the New Testament; the former is
in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, Italy, and has been identified
as fifth century A.D.; the latter was used for our previous
translation of the New Testament, of which this edition is a
revision, and has been variously identified as sixth or seventh
century A.D. Comparisons have been had with Peshitta manuscripts
in the Morgan Library, New York, N. Y., with manuscripts in the
Freer Collection, Washington, D. C., with the Urumiah edition,
and with a manuscript of the Peshitta Old Testament in the
British Museum, the oldest dated Biblical manuscript in
existence. Our translator states that comparisons show NO
DIFFERENCES in text between these various manuscripts, and that
he has filled in the few missing portions of Chronicles from
other authentic Peshitta sources, as noted in his Introduction.

     We hope that this translation will be of aid to Bible
readers and students in obtaining a more thorough and complete
understanding of the Scriptures.

May 1957 


     This preface is worth meditating on carefully, as we bring
you the "Introduction" by Lamsa, to the English version of the
Aramaic Peshitta Holy Bible. The Peshitta OT and NT is an
interesting insight into God's preservation of His whole Holy
Word - (Keith Hunt)


Compiled 2003

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