Enter your email address to receive updates by email:

subscribe in a reader like my facebook page follow me on twitter Image Map
Podcast Message Line: 512-222-3389
Logos Catholic Bible Software

« The Nature of Hell | Main | EMI To Nix DRM! »

April 03, 2007


Rob in Maine

Would it be problematic to say that the use of "estin" is the word the Greek writer used for what Jesus really said in Aramaic? Much as there are translation problems between the original Greek and English, there could have been issues from Aramaic to Greek. The original Greek MS would still be the inspired word of God.

Jordan Potter

Assuming He was speaking in Aramaic, that is. For all we know, He could have been speaking in Hebrew.

Or He might have been speaking in Greek. In any rate, it is Greek which the Holy Spirit inspired.

The teaching passage on the Eucharist, I Corinthians 10:16 and on through chapter 11, has far less room for ambiguity. And clearer passages explain less clear passages.


Jordan and Rob,

Hebrew doesn't have the verb "to be", at least not in the present tense. And although I am not as familiar with Aramaic since it is a close linguistic cousin to Hebrew I would not be surprised if it does n't have "to be" either.



Didn't God reveal His Name to Moses, in Hebrew, as "I Am"?


What did Jesus and the New Testament writers mean?

Whether or not one is an expert in Greek etc. an obvious way of approaching this type of question would be to ask how an issue was understood by those who were historically and culturally closer to the Greek idioms, the NT writers, the Apostles and the historical Jesus.

This can be investigated without accepting any special authority of the Apostolic Fathers.

This page has an excellent summary

Two highlights:

In 110 AD, St Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1):
'Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.'

'In summarizing the early Fathers’ teachings on Christ’s Real Presence, renowned Protestant historian of the early Church J. N. D. Kelly, writes: "Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood" (Early Christian Doctrines, p440).'



Yes He did, and because of that the present tense of "to be" doesn't exist.

There is I am as God's name, but no you are, he is, they are etc.

The past and future tenses are cognates of YHVH but not sufficiently similar to be confused with God's Name.


Josh Hood

Aramaic has the same verb "to be" as Hebrew. A present tense usually wouldn't have a verb expressed but would either have the predicate standing in a predicative position or instead use an enclitic pronoun as a copula, a distinctively Aramaic usage.


The question of the exact meaning of YHVH is vastly beyond the question of the words "of consacration." There is no verb to be in either Hebrew or Aramaic and there doesn't need to be. Modern Hebrew doesn't either! Is there really a difference in "The house is red" or "The red house"? How about "This, my body," or "This is my body," sorry it is a distinction without a difference (as lawyers like to say, opps, is that a comment from Satan?).


It is not uncommon for Greeek to drop the verb "to Be" as well.


Is there really a difference in "The house is red" or "The red house"?

"The house is red" is a complete statement which tags "red" onto house after "the house" is presented. "The red house" is only an introduction, not a complete statement, which leaves the reader hanging. It emphasizes red before house.


"The house is red" also presents existence of the house. But with "the red house", you don't know if the house "is" or whether it isn't. It may be "the red house burned down."


"God is He Who Is; His very name is I AM. God's own proper name, here revealed for the first time, in Hebrew 'Yahweh'...almost certainly represents an early form of the Hebrew verb 'to be', meaning 'He Who Is' or 'The Existing One'." Warren Carroll, "The Founding of Christendom", page 59.

J.R. Stoodley


So when God says "I am who am... This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you" The literal Hebrew is what? "I who...This is what you shall tell the Israelits: I sent me to you"?

Tom P

I have a question about what Jimmy said: "It can also be used literally ("Jesus is the Son of God") or figuratively ("King Herod is a sly fox")."

Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that "sly fox" is being used figuratively, and not "is"? It seems to me that a copula serves as a logical operator, which by definition cannot be figurative.

A thing "is" only if it "is", and if it only figuratively "is" then it actually "is not".



if it only figuratively "is" then it actually "is not".

If it figurstively "is", it still figuratively "is".

J.R. Stoodley

I think what Jimmy means is that in both languages the word "is" can indicate a connection that is either literal or figurative in nature.


The exact meaning of the tetragram, YHVH, is a matter of detailed scholarly discussion. If you are interested, consider looking at the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament.


The original divine Name was "Ehyeh Aher Ehyeh" YHWH is a conjugate of to be, and apparently means something like "He Who causes to be" or The Creator.


Exactly Puzzled! And you are right to say "apparently" and "something like." In any case it does not appear to mean exactly "I am who I am."


This whole thread & discussions like it always remind of trying to analyze a kiss.


Or He might have been speaking in Greek. In any rate, it is Greek which the Holy Spirit inspired.

But if you accept the traditional view of St. Irenaeus and others that Matthew was written in "Hebrew" (i.e., Aramaic) and translated into Greek, then at least for that book, the Holy Spirit inspired the Aramaic rather than the Greek.


Seamus, that idea has been substantially discredited in the view of main stream scholars.


I beg to differ, Patrick. See vol. I of Warren Carroll's "History of Christendom".


Bill, as with everything in Scripture, there are a lot of different opinions, but I am apeaking of contempory Catholic and other Christian scripture scholars like Ray Brown, Fitzmyer, Harrington, etc. not Church historians describing a position these scholars have abandon at this point.


You used the word "discredited". Just because some scholars have abandoned a position does not mean it is discredited.


Bill, I sorry, I didn't mean it in a perjoritive sense either. I also said "in the view of mainstrean scholars" and in my last posting cite three past presidents of the Catholic Biblical Society as examples of who I meant. Also, have a wonderful Easter.


The problem with the view that Matthew haLevi wrote his gospel first in Hebrew, attributed to Ignatius of Antioch, is that we have, in the British Museaum, a portion of a codex of the Gospel of Matthew, written in Greek, and the paleography shows that it had to have been written no more than 12-17 years after the Passion.

Another problem is why would Matthew haLevi write in the dead scholarly language of the rabbis and not in the lingua franca of the Empire, including the Jews of the Diaspora, Greek, the administrative language of the Empire, which he, as a Roman tax farmer, would have had to have known reasonably fluently.

There remain the possibilities that the passage in question is not geniunely by Ignatius of Antioch, that Ignatius might have made a mistake, or that he meant that Matthew wrote with a Palestinian Jewish "accent" in his Greek - a view that has been advanced by credible scholars.

What is known about the providence, text types, earliest extant fragments and references to this particular letter attributed to Ignatius of Antioch?


Or, that he wrote his gospel first in Hebrew or (more likely) Aramaic for the local Christians who spoke Aramaic, then translated it himself into Greek.


The Hebrew text of Matthew did exist and was said to be present in the library at Caesarea:

"Among other priceless lost treasures in the library, Jerome knew the copy of the Aramaic (so-called "Hebrew") text of the Gospel of Matthew."

Irenaeus quoted Papias as stating that Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew letters.

Further, according to Jerome, De Viris Illustribus, ii:

Matthew, also called Levi, apostle and aforetimes publican, composed a gospel of Christ at first published in Judea in Hebrew for the sake of those of the circumcision who believed, but this was afterwards translated into Greek though by what author is uncertain. The Hebrew itself has been preserved until the present day in the library at Caesarea which Pamphilus so diligently gathered, a city of Syria, who use it. In this it is to be noted that wherever the Evangelist, whether on his own account or in the person of our Lord the Saviour, quotes the testimony of the Old Testament he does not follow the authority of the translators of the Septuagint but the Hebrew. Wherefore these two forms exist: 'Out of Egypt have I called my son,' and 'for he shall be called a Nazarene.'

J.R. Stoodley


I don't know much about this issue so I'll just clarify that Seamus equated "Hebrew" with what we today call Aramaic, which was the common language of near-eastern people at that time. As you likely know the New Testament several times calls Aramaic "Hebrew" I suppose because it was the language of the Hebrews at that time.

If Matthew's main target audience was Jews it would make sense that he would write in the language that more of them understood.

At the end of the day though I still would bet it was originally written in Greek because only Greek copies still exist and I have read refutations of the idea that the gospel was written to a Jewish audience. Who knows though.

J.R. Stoodley

Or maybe it was written in Hebrew or Aramaic. Esau's quotes are pretty strong. I don't know.

I'll point out though that it is concievable for it to have been written in Greek and then translated into Hebrew or Aramaic, and then for a legend to develop that the "Hebrew" translation was the original.


J.R. Stoodley:

Please refer to my Apr 9, 2007 2:14:46 PM post above.

J.R. Stoodley

it is what caused me to write my second comment.


J.R. Stoodley:

It appears we cross-posted.

However, I still side with the early Church Father on this matter in spite of your conjecture above.


There is no language for God. He knows all. Jesus spoke in the language that everyone understood. But the Holy Spirit inspired in Greek because it was the only language that was perfect and wouldn't be able to be mistranslated. But it seems that people today are not taught that the Greek Language was the language of the intellects. As for Rob in Maine, do you know what He said in Aramaic? Of course not. As for Matthew and John, were not Greek but Jews. Why the wrote in Greek? John 12. 20-23 While the Jews were denying and and crucifying Jesus, the Greeks were glorifying Him as He said in that verse.


"Jesus spoke in the language that everyone understood."
And what language would that be that *everyone* understood?

"But the Holy Spirit inspired in Greek because it was the only language that was perfect and wouldn't be able to be mistranslated." Evidence? And how do you explain the mistranslations of the Jehovah's Witness' Bible?

"As for Rob in Maine, do you know what He said in Aramaic? Of course not." How do you know?

"While the Jews were denying and crucifying Jesus..." Jesus was crucified by the Romans. And the Jews of our Lord's time didn't have a monopoly on denying Him.


"...the Greek Language was the language of the intellects."

The Greek dialect in which the books of the New Testament was written was the Koine, the language of the common people.

The comments to this entry are closed.

January 2012

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31