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In Antioch of Syria, though it was a celebrated Greek city, Syriac, as well as Greek, continued to be spoken. Professor Neubauer says,
“Antioch and other Syrian towns would not give up Syriac,” (pp. 63, 70.)
He says also, “Had Greek been generally spoken and taught, why should the Talmud record a general exception, in favour of Gamaliel; and later, in the second century......in favour of the family of Judah the saint, the redactor of the Mishnah," a decision that they “should be allowed to learn Greek, because they had to conduct negotiations with the government,” (p. 67.)
The Greek Scriptures record some of THE EXACT WORDS USED BY JESUS. Many of these are words which were used only in Syriac dialects. This fact is often referred to as proof that Christ spoke in Syriac. Bp. Walton, in the 13th of his Prolegomena, sec. 19, says, “There are many purely Syriac words left in the Greek N. T., which cannot be explained without a knowledge of Syriac; as raca, Matt. v. 22; momuno, riches, vi. 24; Bar-de-yauno, son of a dove, xvi. 17; Kurbono, offering, Mark vii. 11; shebakthoni, thon has forsaken me, Matt. xxvii. 46; Benai-Regesh, sons of thunder, Mark iii. 17; Talitho, kumi, Damsel, arise ; Mark v. 41; Khekaldemo, the field of blood, Acts i. 19. Many others occur in Acts v. 1; ix. 36; John i. 47; 1 Cor. xvi. 22,-[Moran etho, our Lord has come]; and elsewhere. Indeed Jesus, the name of our Lord, is Syriac for Saviour; the name Messiah is also Syriac, meaning Anointed......The writers of the New Covenant first made known the heavenly words to the Jews, and to other surrounding populations, in this their native tongue, and afterwards wrote in the Greek language, but in doing so retain everywhere a flavour of Syriac.”
Prof. Neubauer says, with reference to 1 Cor. xvi. 22, written to Greeks, “Is not the watchword, Moran etho, [our Lord has come), which passed to Greek-speaking populations, a sufficient proof that the speech of the first Christians was Aramaic,” (p. 54.) A still more decisive proof that it was so, occurs in a remark made by Luke. He, guided by God's Spirit, said that the word Akeldama, (in the Pesthito Khekul-demo), the field of blood, was part of the language commonly used in Jerusalem. There is no such word as Khekul, field, in Ancient Hebrew. The only languages in which Castle, in his Lexicon of the six related languages :—Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Samaritan, Æthiopic, and Arabic, says it occurs, are Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic. It does not occur in Gesenius's Lexicon of ancient Hebrew. When therefore Luke says" And it became known to all the dwellers in Jerusalem, insomuch that in their language that field is called Akel-dama, that is, the field of blood,” (Acts i. 19), we have infallible proof that the Syriac language was the language of Jerusalem.
JOSEPHUS is a witness of very great importance on this subject also. He was so perfectly familiar with the state of things in Palestine, in the first century, and took such care to give correct information, that his testimony has great weight. At the end of his
Antiquities, (written in Greek,) he said, “I am bold to say that no other person, whether a Jew, or of another race, would have been able, had he wished, to produce this work for Greeks, so accurately; for I am admitted by my own countrymen to excel them far in the learning of our country, and I have applied myself with diligence to obtain a knowledge of Greek literature.........For among us those are not esteemed who learn the languages of many nations; ......but testimony for wisdom is given to those only who understand well our laws, and are able to explain the meaning of the sacred writings. For this reason, out of the many who have toiled at this endeavour, scarcely some two or three have succeeded well.” This testimony of the most learned and reliable of unconverted Jews, is proof how few Jews had much knowledge of the Greek language.
Another proof of this, is what he relates of the time when he was a captive in the Roman army on the outside of Jerusalem. In defending himself against Apion (Book I.), he says that he presented his Greek history of the Jewish war "to the chief commanders Vespasian and Titus, and to many Romans who were in the war," and that these all bore testimony to his truthfulness. They all therefore knew Greek, and would have understood what those Jews who came out of the city, and surrendered themselves, said, if these could have spoken only a few words of Greek. But Josephus says, “The things told by those who surrendered themselves, only I understood.” It is impossible therefore that the Jews of Palestine and Jerusalem could have understood either the Redeemer or his apostles, if they had spoken to them in Greek, or in any other language but that which Josephus calls the language of his own country at that timea dialect of the widely spread Syriac language.
THE CONCLUSION to which such a concurrence of evidence leads is that Syriac was unquestionably the language commonly spoken in Palestine in the time of Christ, and that very few Jews had a good knowledge of Greek.
This conclusion leads almost of necessity to another; namely, that there must have been some provision in writing, made by the apostles for the use of that large body of Christians who know no language well but Syriac. Whatever was revealed as the will of God, whether written at first in Syriac or in Greek, was to be taught, not to the Jews only, nor to the Gentiles only, but to all disciples every where ; that all might know it, and all be guided by
it. Peter, writing to Hebrews, said (2 Epistle i. 15), “ Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.” This could only be done by writing. The apostles knew well, and must have remembered as Peter did, that what they had taught by voice would soon be unknown to most, unless the disciples were well supplied with it in writing. They must all, of necessity, have had Peter's desire. They must have wished to make provision that what they taught by revelation to some one church might be known to all churches, not only while they lived, but after they were dead. Paul, who was willing to be made a curse, with view to the salvation of the Hebrews, must have desired that what was revealed to him for the guidance of Greeks, should be known also to Hebrews; and that it was known to Hebrews in his life time, appears from the remark of Peter, who laboured chiefly among Hebrews, and who, when writing to Hebrews, speaks of “all” Paul's letters as well-known writings. In his 2 Epistle iii. 16, he says of Paul, “ As also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which those who are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures to their own destruc
His words imply that all Paul's letters had been extensively read by Hebrew Christians, and that they were treated with the same supreme regard as " the other Scriptures.” They cannot have been read by more than a few of the Hebrews in Greek; it seems almost certain that there must have been some Syriac translation. Such considerations as these prepare us to receive readily whatever proof may exist, that Greek was not the only language in which the apostles left written records of God's will.
TREMELLIUS, a Christian Jew, who was a Professor in the University of Heidelberg, and who published, in 1569, an edition of the N. C. Peshito, contended that unless God loved foreigners more than Jows he must have provided these, as well as the Greeks, with the inspired writings in their own tongue. He said that it seemed to be “ wholly in accord with truth, that at the very beginning of the Church of Christ, the Syriac version was made either by the Apostles themselves, or by their disciples ; unless indeed we prefer to suspect that, in writing, they intended to have regard for foreigners only; and to have either no regard, or certainly very little, for those of their own nation,” (Gutbier's Peshito, p. 29.) We know that the apostles, instead of showing less regard for the Jews than for the Gentiles, always went to the Jews first, and showed a surpassing regard for their welfare. It seems to be extremely probable that Paul himself took care that most of his epistles should be written in Syriac as well as in Greek, so as to inform his own countrymen everywhere of whatever was revealed to him for the guidance of all Christians throughout the world.
III.--TAE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SYRIAC OF THE PESHITOSYRIAC TEXT, AND THE POPULAR SYRIAC DIALECT OF PALESTINE.
The Syriac words which are retained in the Greek text have a slight difference, in form, from those of the Peshito-Syriac text; and show that the Syriac of Palestine, used by the Redeemer, differed slightly from that of Edessa, for which city the Peshito-Syriac was made. Professor Neubauer says, that the Syriac words which are recorded in the Greek text, show that the Jewish Syriac distinct dialect, in some respects, from the Syriac of the Syrians, (p. 53.). No book of the New Covenant writings has come down to us, written in the popular dialect of Palestine. The Gospel of Matthew is said by all the early Christian writers to have been written for the Christians of Palestine in their own Syriac language. It has not come down to us in that dialect. But Jerome (who died A.D. 420) said that he had seen a copy of it. His words are these :“ Matthew, the first [writer), composed in Judæa, for those of the circumcision who had believed, a gospel of Christ in Hebrew letters and words. Who it was who afterwards translated it into Greek is not sufficiently certain. Moreover the Hebrew gospel itself is preserved even to this day in the Library at Cæsarea, which Pamphilus the martyr collected with the greatest diligenco," (Jer. Jones on the Canon, part ii., chap. xxv., sec. 13; also Prager on 0. C. Peshito, p. 36.) The siege and destruction of Jerusalem are probably the cause of its having been so rare even at that time. It seems also to have been afterwards corrupted and made worthless. But it was much more important that copies of the inspired books should be preserved in the more widely used Syriac dialect in which the Peshito is written, than in the local dialect of Palestine. And God so ordered events that though whatever books of the New Covenant were written in the Syriac of Palestine, seem to have perished, those of the Peshito in the Edessa dialect were multiplied exceedingly, and were copied with the utmost care.
The N. C. Peshito-Syriac, properly so called, NEVER CONTAINED THE WHOLE OF THE BOOKS WHICH WE HAVE IN THE GREEK TEXT, The books 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation, were never regarded as part of it, though these books, in a separate Syriac translation, were admitted to represent inspired books. The extraordinary esteem in which the books of the Peshito were held, shows that the Syriac copies of these were regarded as having had a far more exalted origin than the Syriac text of the other five. The fact seems to be, that at the later date at which the omitted five books were written, no inspired men corrected them in the dialect of Edessa; and that for this reason the Syriac translation of these five books was not permitted to be associated with that of the other books, to prevent it from being regarded as of the same authority.
BP. WALTON, in his Polyglot, Prol. xiii. sec. 16, says that
Syriac writers state that 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation, were not in the ancient edition" of the Peshito.
J. WICHELHAUS says, “It is very well known that the Syrians did not reject” the five books not contained in the Peshito. deem the sum of the matter to be that by the tradition of the Syrians, the Peshito version was made in the time of Abgar the King (of Edessa), at the time when the gospel was preached
7 there,” (p. 63.) The Nestorian Christians deemed it " to have been written by Apostolic Authority,” (p. 153.) At p. 85, Wichelhaus says of the five books which are not in the Peshito, that “by the consent of all, they ought to be assigned to the end of the lives of the Apostles ;" and that some derive from their omission an argument for the antiquity of the Peshito, as having been" written before the four epistles and the Revelation were published,” (p. 85.)
Bp. Huer, in his learned work “On the most illustrious Translators, 1683,” remarks that the absence of those five books is “ great proof of the antiquity" of the N. C. Peshito, (p. 126.)
The N. C. Peshito-Syriac IS OF SPECIAL WORTH for two reasons ; first, that there is credible testimony that it was made in the lifetime of the Apostles; and next, that the copies of it have been made with the greatest exactness and care. Wichelhaus says “There was no doubt about its truth and perfectness; and on that account the more effort and labour were bestowed on the text of the version, to keep it pure and free from every taint of error and variation,” (p. 153.) “All persons testify, and the history of the Syrians itself clearly proves, that the greatest care was taken from the most ancient times, in order that the letter of the sacred Scripture might be always perfectly preserved in agreement with itself. For of the Peshito version, there was the greatest veneration," (p. 230.)
IV.-HOW WE MAY KNOW WHETHER BOOKS WHICH ARE SAID TO BE THE WORD OF GOD, ARE SO OR NOT.
Three things need to be proved to make it certain that any book which we have now, contains, “not the word of men, but the word of God,” (1 Thes. ii. 13.) First, proof by miracles that God spoke by the alleged writer, (see John iii. 2; . 38; Heb. ii. 3, 4.) Secondly, proof by the hand-writing of the alleged author, or other means, that the original copy of the book was declared by him to be “the word of God.” Paul gave this token by his handwriting, in every epistle (2 Thess. iii. 17, 18.) Thirdly, proof that the book which we have now is the same book which he delivered, and has been copied and handed down to us without alteration. The first and second proofs could only be known to those of the first centuries. The hand-writing of the apostles,
which proved the divine authority of early copies, soon perished. What we need now is clear and credible testimony that copies, which were in