Monday 4 June 2012

A literal translation - yeah, right!

Publicity for yet another Bible translation features in the latest Journal.  Based on a press statement, the announcement fairly gushes:
  • the new version "is more amazing than the Dead Sea Scrolls."
  • it's "a literal translation."
  • the Old Testament is from "the original Hebrew manuscripts."
  • the New Testament is from the "original Aramaic."
Amazing indeed!

Amazing because there are no original Hebrew manuscripts.  The earliest available are the Dead Sea Scrolls.  What we do have is copies of copies and, as those self-same DSS demonstrate, there's obvious development of the Hebrew Bible with variants floating around back in the BCE.

Amazing because the New Testament was written in Greek, not Aramaic.  Those few Aramaic phrases that do appear stick out like a sore thumb.  There are a few scholars, somewhere south of the academic consensus, who imagine substantial chunks of the Gospels do go back to an Aramaic source - Maurice Casey is among the best known.  But Casey himself would, I suspect, have an apoplectic fit if any of his students made the claim that the full NT - or even the complete Gospels - hark back to Aramaic, or worse, that the Peshitta is anything other than a translation.

Given that any 'Aramaic' re-envisioning of the New Testament is an exercise in speculative and creative reinterpretation, it is equally amazing that this could be touted as "a literal translation."  A literal translation of what?

Amazing also that this whole project seems to be largely the work of one bloke, Don Esposito, "senior elder of the Congregation of YHWH Jerusalem."  Don seems to think that the Peshitta pre-dates the Greek New Testament.  That's a truly novel approach.  Don's qualifications?
I will say upfront that I am neither a Hebrew or Aramaic scholar, and don’t claim to be one.
Now let's think.  Don isn't a Hebrew or Aramaic scholar, by which I take it that he knows next to nothing about these languages.  Yet...
I have fervently prayed and asked our Heavenly Father for guidance throughout the year and a half that I have been working on this project. I can also tell you that many times while doing this work I felt the spirit of YAHWEH directing and guiding me to the finished work of this translation.
Oh well, that's all right then.

My conclusion is that this isn't a literal translation and, given Mr Esposito's lack of familiarity with the languages, not even a translation as such.  Mr Esposito seems to me to be one very confused chap.  If you want an English translation of the Peshitta with a modicum of credibility, George Lamsa's Holy Bible: From the Ancient Eastern Text is still readily available.

Not that this isn't a labor of love; I'm sure it is.  Not that Mr Esposito is trying to make a fast buck out of the naivete of his flock - he provides a free PDF download of his version.  But as a serious Bible translation it ranks right down there with Fred Coulter's.  Well, maybe below Fred's - he at least reads Greek.


  1. The problem is that the bible just doesn't say what modern people would like for it to say.

    It's that "hidden mystery" thing, you know, like how Paul knew stuff about Jesus without ever meeting him or getting it from the guys who were apostles "before" he was.

    Yes, if they revise it and translate it enough, maybe someday it will say just what modern people want it to say, and if it doesn't, paraphrase it like Paul did. Oh, that's right, they already did that, didn't they?

    I reckon the Xian Church is thwarted by their own efforts to have an official Canon that will be accepted by everybody. What with all their forgeries and editing of texts over the centuries, they have hidden their own tracks so well that even the Church cannot uncover them.

  2. you know Corky, for some things you just have to depend on God to take care of it. I know that is a tough concept for you....

  3. Yeah, Larry, I figure we can let God take care of the big things - like creating universes, galaxies and stuff. For the small stuff like writing books and making war over 'em - we can take care of that, no problem.

  4. What is Don Espositos background? I CANT seem to get any info, qualifications or background on the guy.

  5. The only thing Alexander the "Great" did is try and destroy a civilization of Israelites, the chosen people of YHVH. Oh, Hitler tried also. If you really believe there are no Hebrew or Aramaic documents that were hidden away when either of those tyrants were on their way to conquer, enslave, and murder then you are as ignorant as your comment. Adonai made a donkey talk and you somehow can't grasp that YHVH can use anyone. Even a man named Don Esposito. Why is the world so against Israel and Hebraic Roots? Sheeple really put faith in a "bible" written in 1611 by the Scottish king of England that killed those that went against him saying it was a true translation? I use KJV, HCS, and a JPs translation, oh, wait, I also have this one. What happened to Love being the greatest commandment? I think a Jewish King said that. Also, where is your translation and what did you use to translate from? You haven't got your own translation? But you ridicule and make racist comments about someone who does? Now, where in the KJV does it say the Greeks are Gods chosen people? When does Paul write a letter claiming He is Greek? Wait, in his letter to the Romans, he says I am an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin. He was also a Pharisee. This means he would have spoken and written in Hebrew first. Read your KJV and know it, learn history and realize "God" isn't in a box.