What is meant by Aramaic Primacy? Is Aramaic the original language of the New Testament?
Aramaic Primacy is the claim that the New Testament was originally written in the colloquial language of the time of Jesus on earth, Aramaic. This belief is also known as Peshitta Primacy, so called after the collection of biblical manuscripts in Aramaic, the Peshitta.
However, most scholars agree that the New Testament was penned originally in Koine Greek, the primary academic and written language at the time of Jesus and His apostles. Confusing the debate, many scholars acquiesce to theories that Mark and Matthew may have consulted Aramaic sources when they wrote their Gospels in Greek. However, the concept of Aramaic Primacy goes far beyond such a claim.
The belief in Aramaic Primacy was popularized by George Lamsa. Lamsa, and other researches, unfortunately failed to distinguish the ancient Aramaic from the more modern Syriac. Additionally, Lamsa and others also fall short when translating, making outright inaccurate and sometimes subtle mistakes on such important doctrinal truths as the Trinity and the deity of Jesus. Lamsa's translation of the Bible from the Aramaic, published in 1957, is problematic.
The Peshitta manuscripts, upon which the belief in Aramaic Primacy is built, are important biblical and historical documents, but they are most likely from much later than the first century based on their language usage and dialect. Too, the Peshitta fails to fully capture wordplay and metaphor, a common challenge with translated documents.
Still, Syriac churches, some Messianic Jewish believers, and the Hebrew Roots Movement, hold to Aramaic Primacy.
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