Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Aramaic Terms in Mark

In 3.17; 5.41; 7.11, 34; 14.36; 15.22, 34 Mark reports an Aramaic usage (mostly in Jesus’ speech, 15.22 is the exception), followed by a translation formula (either a simple O ESTIN, or the fuller equivalent: O ESTIN MEQERMHNEUOMENON, 14.36 is the exception here). The transmission of these terms in the textual tradition is a very interesting study and I wish there was a good book on the subject.

The Syriac omits the translation phrase entirely (with one exception: 15.22); the Greek witnesses vary considerably in the spelling of the various terms. Occasionally there is evidence of some knowledge of the language (e.g. the shift from KOUM to KOUMI [or vice-versa] at 5.41; or the readings with BANH- at 3.17 [although this would be Hebrew]). Possibly these could qualify as the places where the textual tradition of Mark varies the most.


  1. I say, toss 'em all out, since we all know that great variance on any unit is a sure sign that it wasn't original.

    Apparently these were all inserted by the first Greek translator of Aramaic Mark in an attempt to hoodwink us into thinking it was composed in Greek.

  2. I agree with the comment above. Under the normal rules of textual criticism, everyone would be agreed that these are evidence of the Greek having been translated from an Aramaic original (i.e. the Aramaic Peshitta). But Greek primacists usually change their own rules every time they see something that implies an Aramaic original, and prefer to go with yet another Greek MS as being the original. The evidence points to the Aramaic Peshitta coming first. and the Greek MSS being translated from it.

  3. Koumi was written before koum.

    The final unstressed /i/ was still pronounced in sabachthani. Koum is a later development, which does show knowledge of the language.

    The Syriac obviously does not wish to say the same thing twice and so does not represent both Greek and Aramaic.

    Of course the Greek came before the Syriac texts. No one in the early church doubted that. There is no evidence for an original Aramaic Mark

  4. I would like to hear from 'Anonymous' (or from 'Aramaic Scholar', who agrees with his comment) why the first Greek translator of Aramaic Mark would "attempt to hoodwink us into thinking it was composed in Greek".
    I cannot find a motif. Why would he want to convince his readers that Mark was written in Greek, while he knew it wasn't?

  5. Again, I cannot see why this 'translator from Aramaic' left these terms in Aramaic, adding his translation. Why didn't he just translate them, just like the rest of Mark's Gospel.
    However, if Mark's Gospel was originally written in Greek (as I think it was), then these Aramaic phrases make perfect sense: each one of them was short and striking, pronounced in a lively and emotional context, which made them stick in the memory of the narrators. The evangelist kept them as they were pronounced, for rhetorical reasons, and provided a translation because he couldn't expect his readers to understand them without explanation.