WORD STUDY – WOUNDED HEART (ARAMAIC)
Luke 9:55: “But he turned and rebuked them and said, ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.”
I have sat through a number of Bible studies and Sunday School classes where a verse similar to this is read and someone raises their hand and says: “But that is not in my Bible.” What follows is a brief pat answer from the leader about differences in translations. What gets more dicey is a verse like Luke 9:55 where the KJV has the last phrase “ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of” but our modern translations, like the NIV, ESV etc. do not have this phrase. This usually sends the leader sputtering who really has no answer, at least one that can be given in brief statement. I tend to keep my mouth shut during these questions as I am briefly transported back to my days in graduate school where I studied textual criticism and how it led me to question my own faith and belief in the authority of the Scriptures. Yesterday I listened to a segment on the internet about a book that was guaranteed to convince the reader that the Bible is truly the Word of God. This book apparently went into something called: Bible Codes and the “amazing” results of these Bible Codes prove in no uncertain terms that the Bible is truly the inspired Word of God.
I am not about to waste $25.00 on a book of so called Bible Codes to convince me that the Bible is the Word of God because I know no such evidence will convince me. I accept my Bible and the dozens of others in different translations sitting on my table right now as the true inspired Word of God by faith and faith alone.
So what do I do with a passage like Luke 9:55 where my KJV includes that last phrase but other modern translations do not? I turn to my Aramaic Bible. You see the problem lies in the use of the Greek manuscripts for translation. The KJV depended heavily upon the Textus Receptus which are a group of fifth century manuscripts used by Erasmus in 1512 to develop a standard Greek NT alongside the Latin Vulgate. Erasmus had access to only six manuscripts all dated around the fifth century AD. Modern translators have access to far more manuscripts, some earlier, than the ones available to Erasmus and the translators of the KJV version. Modern translators use the Nestle-Aland Text or the Novum Testamentum Graece which is the standard Greek text used by all Evangelical Bible Colleges and Seminaries. This Greek New Testament is based upon a much broader range of manuscripts. This is known as the critical text or eclectic text which refers to a committee who decided what manuscripts were closest to the original Greek manuscripts, since the originals are believed to no longer exist. They look at the date of the manuscripts (earlier the better) the geographical location where the manuscripts originated and the accidental or intentional corruption of the manuscripts. Putting this all together the committee voted and agreed as to what was the closet to the original. In this case the last phrase of Luke 9:55 did not make the final cut so it was therefore declared not a part of the inspired Word of God. In graduate school I was involved with the translation of the New International Version (NIV). I have since heard it referred to as the New Inspired Version. I respect the NIV but I have no real love for it.
The bottom line is, which version has it right. Did Jesus actually say to James and John: “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of?” We really do not know.
As this battle for the Greek Bible went on in the Western world and the Western church, the Eastern church (Greek Orthodox today) did not suffer such turmoil. One big reason for this is that unlike the Western church, the Jewish people were accepted. In the Western Church Constantine (306-337) eased the Jews out of the church as he developed the Roman Catholic church or Western Church. Constantine sought to unify Europe and creating one religion and a key to this was to incorporate many pagan ideas into the church to create this unity. The Jews could not accept this and left, leaving Constantine to develop the church without any Jewish influence and moving Scripture out of its Semitic roots into the Latin and Greek. One of the Greek mysteries of the Greek New Testaments is the disappearance of the original manuscripts and only those that date to the time Constantine can be found. Not to accuse Constantine of tampering with the Bible but kicking the Jews out of the church and losing the original manuscripts does creates a smoking gun in my mind.
The Eastern church, however, retained its Semitic origins and welcomed Jewish Christians and it is the teaching of the Eastern Church that the New Testament was written in Aramaic, a Semitic language common to all Jews and then was later translated into Greek a non-Semitic language. I am not sure about the Pauline letters but I feel very comfortable with the idea that the Gospels at the minimum were originally written in Aramaic.
The Aramaic Bible does retain this phrase by Jesus: “you know not what manner of spirit you are of” however, it is clearly an Aramaic idiomatic expressed used even today in the Middle East. It has no reference to the spirit world. It is used idiomatically to express the idea: “You don’t realize how angry you are.” James and John, like many of us today (and I am the biggest offender here), will deny our anger and feel justified in our actions. We say things like: “I am not angry, I am just pointing out a fact.” In truth, Jesus pointed out to these two disciples, aptly called the sons of thunder, you are angry, you are speaking out of anger. The word rebuke in Greek is Epetimesen which means to censure or admonish. In the Aramaic the word is ka,a, which is equivalent to the Hebrew word ka’ah meaning to feel despondent, or to grieve in your heart. The Aramaic word also means to rebuke but it is a verbal expression of despondency.
In other words Jesus did not scold James and John, as the Greek text would suggest, but only expressed his inner grief over their reaction. Here he has laid bared his heart to his disciples, his love for mankind and James and John are ready to potty train the Samaritans with lightning bolts for their rejection. The tragedy is that James and John thought they were being very pious and righteous following the example of Elijah, when all the time they were just angry and vengeful. I have heard, and maybe I am guilty myself, some Christians point out someones faults in what they term as speaking in love. Yet it is clear to everyone listening, except the one speaking, that the person is really angry.
Maybe there is a play on words here, maybe there is an evil spirit that blinds us to our bitterness and anger and makes us believe we are being holy and pious when we call someone a toad and blast them out of the water. Yeah, we can say: “Oh, maybe I was a little angry here, but I was justified in it.” Just as James and John were justified in their anger and even had Scripture to back them up. Yet it still caused Jesus a ka’a, – wounded heart.