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Lamsa Bible Questions

In the following e-mail exchange, the e-mailers’ comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.


>Hello Gary,

This is Judy. I have ordered the Aramaic Bible by Lamsa. What is your opinion on it? I searched your pages but couldn't find anything on it. Is it really a direct translation in Jesus language? What is your thoughts on it?

Thank you for your time.
Judy
5/23/1999<

The Lamsa Bible (LB) is supposed to be a translation of the Syriac Pershitta (SP). The SP is fourth century, Aramaic translation of the Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT) Scriptures. So, at best, what you are getting with the LB is a translation of a translation. As such, it would not be as accurate as a direct translation from the original languages.

Yes, Jesus probably did speak Aramaic, at least most of the time. He probably also spoke Greek and possibly even Latin. But God chose to have the original manuscripts of the NT written in Greek. So it is those words that are considered "God-breathed."

Now Lamsa believed the SP somehow more accurately preserved Jesus' words than the Greek text did. But hardly any other scholar would agree with that idea. Just because Jesus spoke Aramaic does not mean an Aramaic translation of His words would be more accurate.

Again, the SP took the Greek text and translated it into Aramaic. In doing so, there is no guarantee whatsoever that it arrived at the words Jesus actually spoke. Anytime a language is translated into another language, then translated back again, something is "lost." And then to translate it into a third language (in this case English) only exaggerates the problem.

I hope the above all makes sense. The bottom line is, the LB, if it was truly a translation of the SP, might be interesting for comparison purposes, just as say a translation of the Latin Vulgate would be. But in no way would the LB be more accurate than say the NKJV. The latter is a translation of the Hebrew and Greek texts. So it is more a "direct translation" than the LB is. Again, the LB, at best, is a translation of a translation. And the more times something is translated the greater chance there is for problems.

Now I have been hesitant in the above in saying the LB is truly a translation of the SP because I have read that it really is not. What I have read says the LB is mostly just an updating of the KJV, with only occasionally utilizing readings from the SP. I have a copy of the LB but I have not done an in-depth study of it. So I cannot say for sure.

Moreover, I have also read that the Aramaic of the SP is a different dialect of Aramaic than what Jesus spoke. Not being an expert in Aramaic I couldn't say for sure. But if this is true, it means even without all of the above problems, the LB would still not be a "direct translation" of Jesus' words.

Also, there are some questions about the orthodoxy of George Lamsa himself and the accuracy of his ideas in regards to related matters. These are raised by the Christian Research Institute in an article on their site. It is located here.

So all of the above simply means the LB is really not that trustworthy of a translation. With doubts about it being what it claims to be, a translation of the SP, with doubts about the orthodoxy and ideas of the translator, and with even an accurate translation of the SP being a "historical curiosity" at best, the LB is probably not the best version to use. There are simply many other much better translations on the market today.

I hope that helps!


>Gary,

You are the best! Thank you.

Judy
5/25/1999<

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