The Syriac Peshitta translation and Lamsa’s translation


The Peshitta (Classical Syriacܦܫܝܛܬܐ  pšîṭtâ for "simple, common, straight, vulgate", sometimes called the Syriac Vulgate is the standard version of the Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition.

General but not universal consensus is the Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated into Syriac from the Hebrew, probably in the 2nd century AD, The New Testament, originally excluding certain disputed books (2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation), had become a standard by the early 5th century. The five excluded books were added in the Harklean Version (616 AD) of Thomas of Harqel. However the 1905 United Bible Society Peshitta used new editions prepared by the Irish Syriacist John Gwynn for the missing books.

 The common misconception that the New Testament was originally penned in Greek still persists today in a vast majority of Christian denominations.  Most scholars and theologians acknowledge that Eshoo Mshikha, the Apostles, and the Jews in general spoke Aramaic indeed many instances of Aramaic survive in the Greek New testament manuscripts.  However, they still maintain that the New Testament was penned in Greek by the Apostles and disciples of Mshikha.

The Church of the East has always rejected this claim.  We believe that the Books of the New Testament were originally penned in Aramaic, and later translated into Greek by first-century Gentile Christians in the West, but never in the East, where the Aramaic was the Lingua Franca of the Persian Empire.  We also hold and maintain that after the books were translated into Greek, the Aramaic originals were discarded, for by now the Church in the West was almost completely Gentile and Greek-speaking.  This was not the case in the East, which had a Jewish majority (especially in Babylon and Adiabene) for a much longer period.  Even when the Church of the East became mostly Gentile, the Aramaic was preserved and used rather than translated into the various vernacular languages of the regions to the East of the Euphrates river.

Even to the West of the Euphrates river, in the Holy Land, the main vernacular was Aramaic.  The weekly synagogue lections, called sidra or parashah, with the haphtarah, were accompanied by an oral Aramaic translation, according to fixed traditions.  A number of Targumim in Aramaic were thus eventually committed to writing, some of which are of unofficial character, and of considerable antiquity.  The Gemara of the Jerusalem Talmud was written in Aramaic, and received its definitive form in the 5th century.  The Babylonian Talmud with its commentaries on only 36 of the Mishnah's 63 tractates, is four times as long as the Jerusalem Talmud.  These Gemaroth with much other material were gathered together toward the end of the 5th century, and are in Aramaic.  Since 1947, approximately 500 documents were discovered in eleven caves of Wadi Qumran near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea.  In addition to the scrolls and fragments in Hebrew, there are portions and fragments of scrolls in Aramaic.  Hebrew and Aramaic, which are sister languages, have always remained the most distinctive features marking Jewish and Eastern Christian religious and cultural life, even to our present time.


 Aramaic Lectionary - about
A.D. 550.
  Pierpont Morgan Library
New York, N.Y.


In reference to Aramaic, the Latin Patriarch Maximus at Vatican II, stated:

"Christ, after all spoke in the language of His contemporaries.  He offered the first sacrifice of the Eucharist in Aramaic, a language understood by all the people who heard Him.  The Apostles and Disciples did the same and never in a language other than that of the gathered faithful."


The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts (commonly called the Lamsa Bible) was published by George M. Lamsa in 1933. It was derived, both Old and New Testaments, from the Syriac Peshitta, the Bible used by the Assyrian Church of the East and other Syriac Christian traditions.

Lamsa, following the tradition of his church, claimed the originality of the Aramaic New Testament, against the academic mainstream opinion that the language of the New Testament was Greek, and thus claimed his translation was superior to texts based on later Greek manuscripts. Consequently, Lamsa claimed that the New Testament of his translation, was based on older sources than other English Bibles, translated from Greek. The New Testament translators of the King James Version, for example, used an edition of Erasmus' Greek Textus Receptus. The Aramaic primacy of the New Testament text is considered by its proponents to be more accurate than the text used for the KJV of the Holy Bible.


Some places in Lamsa's translation, differ from the Greek texts used as the basis of other English-language Bibles.

Matthew 27:46

An example is found in Matthew Matthew 27:46 where Lamsa has "My God, my God, for this I was spared!" where the Greek text has "My God, my God why have you forsaken me."


And about the ninth hour
Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying,
Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?
that is to say,
God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?


This is rendered in Lamsa's translation:

And about the ninth hour,
Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said,
Eli, Eli lemana shabakthan!
My God, my God, for this I was spared!


Though in fact the Peshitta does not have four lines in this verse. The 1905 United Bible Societies edition by George Gwilliam of the Peshitta in Syriac contains only three lines, the Aramaic "Eli, Eli,.. " (ܐܝܠ ܐܝܠ ) etc. not being given twice:

ܘܠܐܦ̈ܝ ܬܫܥ ܫܥ̈ܝܢ
ܩܥܐ ܝܫܘܥ ܒܩܠܐ ܪܡܐ ܘܐܡܪ
ܐܝܠ ܐܝܠ ܠܡܢܐ ܫܒܩܬܢܝ


Peshitta Aramaic/English Interlinear New Testament

Chapter: 27:46



This verse in Greek manuscripts states that from the Cross, Jesus (quoting Psalm 22:1) cried out, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' (See Matthew 27:46) proponents of the priority of the Aramaic New Testament such as the Nestorian Church claim this verse is a mistranslation into Greek.


Matthew 19:24

Some scholars of the Peshitta and the Greek New Testament claim that in Matthew 19:24 as the Aramaic word for 'camel' is written identically to the word for 'rope.' an error occurred due to the translator's limitations when the original scrolls were being transferred into Greek. This would mean Matthew 19:24 commonly translated as, 'It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.' Would read 'rope' instead of 'camel'.

To support this they claim that rope, is much more in keeping with the imagery of a needle, and that it is probably what Jesus said, and what was originally recorded. Saint Cyril in his commentary on the Holy Gospel according to Luke (Luke 18:25) says that camel is the term used by those versed in navigation for a thick rope, thereby both stating that the term camel is the right one and that its meaning is that of a rope and not the animal. This suggests the Lamsa 'rope' translation is the more accurate "meaning" translation and 'camel' is the more accurate 1st century "slang" translation.


Peshitta Aramaic/English Interlinear New Testament

Chapter: 19:24