No Primal Greek Text Existing

George M. Lamsa, as an Aramaic and a native of the place where YAHUSHUA himself lived, speaks in his book "New Testament Origin" about the fact that there had never been such a thing as a "Greek primary text" and everything originated from the original Aramaic writings - the Estrangelo script, the Peschitta - and thus only Greek translations could come into being: 

"I am not propagating any new theological theory of my own, but have simply translated the oldest text of the New Testament recorded in Estrangelo script from Northern Aramaic, my mother tongue, into English, my adopted vernacular, in order to serve the spread of Christian truth. [...] It was only after World War l that these Christians of the Church of the East (Aramaic Church) heard of the claim that the New Testament was first written down in Greek. The ancient Aramaic text speaks for itself and needs no defense. The inner evidence, which is clearly manifested in the thoroughly Aramaic way of writing, the manner of speech, typical idioms, figurative expressions and the oriental prolix style, is an incontestable testimony.

Since Christianity is an Eastern religion, its sacred books must also have been written in an Oriental language. And that this is so will be readily confirmed by any philologist familiar with the Semitic languages. I am but one of millions of Christians and Muslims of the Bible lands, all of whom are convinced that the New Testament was initially written in Aramaic, and that its manuscripts have been most carefully passed from hand to hand since apostolic times. In the 1920s Aramaic was still virtually unknown in America. Today, however [written in 1947; note to this book], many prominent professors and biblical scholars are turning to this language in order to better understand the Scriptures. Most of those scholars who, only a few years ago, believed that only certain parts of the New Testament were initially written in Aramaic, are now convinced that the entire New Testament was all written in Aramaic.

Aramaic is indeed the key to the Scriptures and gives answers to many problems of the New Testament. No word was recorded in the Greek language at the beginning. Even the Greek Christians themselves have always taken it for granted that their holy books were originally written in Aramaic. Since Greece is not far from Syria, the Greeks were the first Europeans to embrace Christianity. The Semitic people from whom I come were dominated by the Turks for about four hundred years; yet we still speak, write and pray in the Aramaic language of our ancestors. Only a few understand Turkish. I am one of the very few who have learned this language. The adherence of some earlier scholars to the view that the New Testament was first written down in Greek is the main reason why the many revisions of the Scriptures, now long undertaken, have so far met with so little success.

[...] No one in Palestine and Syria would indulge for a moment in the thought that the poor and simple Galilean followers of YAHUSHUA, who were, among other things, shepherds and peasants, could ever have attempted to listen to an address or instruction given in a language other than their native Aramaic, or even to write in such a foreign tongue. The apostles had heard their Master speak and preach in Aramaic and used the same language themselves, both in their daily conversations and lectures and in their letters to relatives and fellow believers.

In their publication, "An Introduction to the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament," the members of the present [then 1947!] Revision Committee of the International Council for Religious Education write on page 27:

"Much more decisive than the use of words taken unchanged from Hebrew or Aramaic (into the Greek text) is the shaping of style and expression according to typical Semitic patterns. This is especially true of the Gospels, the first part of Acts, and Revelation. Since the Gospel was first preached in Aramaic, it cannot be surprising that the words of YAHUSHUA and the apostles which have come down to us retain many characteristics of the original Semitic sentence structure and expression even in the (Greek) translation."

[...] The translators of the New Testament into Greek must have had Aramaic models at hand for their translation into this European language. How else could they have carried out their work?

[...] After the translation of the New Testament into Greek, the Aramaic originals were put aside in Greece. They were lost there in the course of time, as it happened equally with the originals of some philosophical and literary works. Where are, for example, the originals of the Mosaic laws or the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah, Plato and Aristotle? It must be remembered that, unlike today, in those distant times there were hardly any libraries or even museums where books could be safely stored. But even there, as in the homes, they fell victim to destruction during revolutions, persecutions and wars. In addition, a foreign original manuscript becomes almost or completely worthless once its contents have been translated into the vernacular of the new users. For example, at the present time [1947] there are circulating in the Orient many thousands of copies of numerous writings which were translated from English into Near Eastern languages and printed there half a century ago. The few English originals have long since disappeared, while the translations are still in circulation.

[...] It will interest the Western reader to know that in the Near East manuscripts which become old and defective are copied with the greatest precision and the original is burned afterwards. The author has repeatedly personally witnessed such destructions of ancient writings that have become defective. This conspicuous custom is based on the fact that Orientals regard every word of the Scriptures as sacred and therefore do not wish to permit the continued existence of sacred books that have become defective.

Therefore, when the question is asked, as is often done, "Where are the originals of the New Testament written by the apostles?" the answer is: "These originals, which in the course of time have become unsightly or even damaged, were copied letter for letter in the most exact manner and then burned." Such copies of the original writings, written by hand, have been preserved without the slightest textual alteration through the centuries to the present day, in the same Aramaic language and Estrangelo script in which the originals were written by the apostles.

[...] A thorough and faithful translation must, of course, start from the Aramaic text of the Early Church of the East. We still have today [then 1947] scrolls of ancient Aramaic texts for both the Old and New Testaments.

[...] Why should the Christian Gospels have been recorded in a foreign language which the Near Eastern peoples could neither read nor write, and moreover in a language which in Palestine and Syria was understood only by official government circles, but not by the people?

[...] It was in accordance with the natural development that Christianity spread first among the people of Semitic origin and cultural background. [...] The Galileans, Jews and Syrians were the first to accept the teaching of YAHUSHUA. Moreover, the apostles preached initially in the synagogues.  Therefore, those converted by them were their own countrymen and also Syrians, especially those who were related to Jewish families by marriage. [...] Furthermore, the Christians continued for quite some time to go to the temples and synagogues for their worship; they followed Jewish customs and traditions and kept the Mosaic Law and the Sabbath. For almost two hundred years, the rulers (overseers = epi-skopoi = bishops) of the Jerusalem community were Semites, in other words, the followers of YAHUSHUA were obedient to the teachings of the prophets.

Rev. Dr. John Urquhart, in "The New Biblical Guide," Volume VII, on pages 325 and 326, puts this in the following words:

"[...] When we bear in mind that they [i.e., fellow Israelites, Gentile proselytes, Gentile seekers after God] were the first converts who were to become the teachers of all those later, and that the books of the New Testament were intended for them in the very first place, then we understand also why the Hebrew ("Hebrew" means Aramaic, spoken by Hebrews) character of the New Testament was inevitable even if it had not been intended."

Western Christians often forget that Christianity is an Eastern religion and the Bible is an Oriental book recorded by Orientals primarily for use by their own countrymen. They also forget that biblical manuscripts were widely distributed in the Middle East from the earliest times, in contrast to the great rarity and relatively late acquisition and use of the Scriptures in Europe and America. But all this was only natural, for Christianity began in the East.

[...] The ancient Aramaic Estrangelomanuscripts were handed down without any falsification, for the Church of the East remained free from the heresies and polemics that appeared elsewhere. Parts of Eastern Christianity always preserved their independence from Byzantium and Rome.

[...] The Holy Scriptures reached Western Europe via Rome. That is why most European countries trace their Christianity back to Rome. Until the time of the Reformation they were called "Roman Christians". Their church language was for some time Greek and then Latin.

[...] Western scholars may recall that the Romans ruled the Near East for more than six hundred years, but that their language, Latin, by no means became the vernacular of the Oriental peoples. How then would it have been possible for the few thousand Greeks to impose their language and way of life on the peoples of the Near East? Furthermore, it must be remembered that the Turks were masters of the Bible lands for about four hundred years, until they were expelled by the English in 1918, without having succeeded during this long period in causing the natives to adopt the Turkish language and culture. The people of each country continued - as if nothing had happened - to speak their ancestral languages, to continue their own traditional worship and to remain faithful to their ancient customs. These facts are known to anyone who has spent any length of time in the Middle East and has really come to know it.

Note on this by the translator Dr. Richard E. Koch: "None of the three great monotheistic religions originated with the Greeks, other Europeans or America. Strikingly, all three were entrusted to the peoples of the Middle East. They obviously possessed the prerequisites and qualities needed for this, which were not present, or only to an insufficient degree, among us Occidentals who were so different."

 [...] Paul was, after all, a Pharisee and followed the Mosaic laws and teachings, which were so repugnant to the Greeks, to the letter. [...] At the time of Paul there were only a few Greeks who were converted. The work of evangelization began among them and the Romans only after Christianity had definitely taken root in Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia, and the Gospels, written in Aramaic, had become known in wide circles. How could the books have been recorded in Greek after Paul's conversion, when he himself was busy suppressing well-organized church communities in Judea and Syria that used Aramaic writings?  [Emphasis added by Bet-Hallelu-YAH]

These groups must have had copies of the Scriptures in their own language in order to convert members of other races. Paul obviously possessed Aramaic documents when he traveled to Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome. One must always keep in mind realistically that Christianity had been put under guard and ban in the Roman Empire. Who would have dared to take on such a dangerous task at a time when Christians were being murdered by the thousands? Let us remember the recent analogous conditions in Central Europe! Translation into Greek generally began only at a later period, when the influence of the Greek language spread eastward. Until then, Aramaic had played the leading role in commerce and religion there, while Greek predominated in these relations in other parts of the great empire.


Dr. F. C. Burkitt, in his book, "The Earliest Sources for the Life of Jesus," published by E. P. Dutton & Co, New York, and Constable Publishers, London-England, highlighted the following on pages 25 and 29: 



"But our Lord and His disciples spoke Aramaic; there is no indication that they were familiar with the Greek version of the Holy Books with which we are familiar (the Septuagint translated in Alexandria about the year 300 B.C.). In the synagogues of Palestine, these Scriptures were read to them in the original Hebrew. This was followed by a more or less stereotyped rendering in Palestinian Aramaic, the national language, which was closely related to Hebrew. A truly faithfully transmitted word of YAHUSHUA or Peter, therefore, should be more in harmony with Hebrew than with Greek, and in any case should not have to base its point and its application, particularly appropriate to the special occasion, on a specifically Greek mode of expression ...

Quite apart from linguistic questions and purely literary criticism, the three synoptic (the first three) Gospels are probably translations from Aramaic. The main ideas of these first three books, the underlying words around which the thoughts associated with the Gospels revolve, all find their explanation and illustration in then contemporary Judaism: the Kingdom of God, the Messiah, the Last Judgment, treasures in heaven, Abraham's bosom, - all these are purely Jewish ideas and quite foreign to the original thought of the Greco-Roman world."

The writers of the New Testament bore witness to the fact that these sacred writings were intended for the Jews and the members of the Ten Tribes who had been scattered over Mesopotamia (Assyria), the Persian Empire, Asia Minor and other parts of the Roman Empire. That the Gospel of YAHUSHUA HA-MASHIACH was preached first and foremost to these people is a well-known fact that has been proven by the Gospels themselves, the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles. In other words, the New Testament is a reminder addressed to the people of the Old Testament that YAHUSHUA HA-MASHIACH is the promised Messiah and that the Scriptures have been fulfilled. There is nothing in the entire New Testament that is foreign to Hebrew thought and Semitic culture.

[...] Greek was hardly spoken in Palestine at the time of YAHUSHUA by other than some higher officials. Locals, princes appointed by Rome, administered the country. Everywhere one used one's own language: in the synagogues and in court, in trade and commerce, and in intercourse with the authorities. Exactly the same was the case even a few years ago, when the Middle East was under the trusteeship of Western powers. Arabic and other oriental languages were spoken by the population as well as by the authorities. Western officials learned Arabic, while some of the more highly educated locals spoke English and French. According to Flavius Josephus, the great Jewish writer and contemporary of the first Christians, Greek was neither read nor spoken in Palestine in his time (38-97 AD), and only a few Jews had some success in their efforts to learn Greek. Josephus was not interested in the controversy over the New Testament, that is, in the introduction of the new religion. For this reason alone, and also because he lived at the same time as the apostles, his findings about the language spoken in Palestine in that era carry more weight than the statements of most other scholars. In the preface to his book on "The Jewish Wars" Josephus wrote:


"I have resolved to translate into Greek, for all those who are under Roman rule, my books which I originally wrote in our national language."

In his work "Jewish Antiquities" we read in Book XX, XI, 2: "I too have made great efforts to acquire knowledge in Greek and to learn to understand the basic features of this language. But I am so accustomed to the use of my mother tongue that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient accuracy. Although some exerted themselves and expended much patience to become proficient in Greek, the success was hardly granted to two or three to see themselves rewarded for their efforts."

[...] Paul did not write in Greek. There is no indication and no reason to believe that Paul was able to read or write Greek because he had received some training in Jerusalem. On all his journeys Paul preached in Jewish synagogues, which must not be overlooked. [...] Everywhere Aramaic was the language of the synagogues. That is why Paul addressed his fellow Jews in this language and also used it for his correspondence with them. In another language they would not have understood him. During the trial in Jerusalem, he defended himself in Aramaic. It would have been difficult to correctly reproduce Hebrew thoughts, theological expressions and idioms in a foreign language. [...] Paul was born a Roman citizen, but this by no means implies as a matter of course that he spoke Greek or Latin. [...] On the other hand, Paul was brought to Jerusalem as a boy, where he was to study under the supervision of Jewish authoritative figures. He was a student of the scribe Gamaliel. At that time, the Greek language and culture was such a repugnant abomination to the Jews that they considered it better to eat pork than to learn Greek. Hebrew was the sanctified language of the church. The common people, however, spoke and wrote Aramaic. At no time did Jews in the Middle East abandon their religion, their Holy Scriptures, or their Semitic language. On the contrary, the Jews, not only of Asia Minor, but also in other parts of the world, held on to their religion and language with great tenacity.[...] Had they not done so through the millennia, their racial cohesion and their religion would have been lost to them long ago. Thousands of Jews living in the Middle East still speak and write Aramaic today.

[...] YAHUSHUA's sharply formulated statements must therefore have been written down on small scrolls at the same time as HE spoke; otherwise no two of His disciples or later followers would have agreed with each other regarding His parables, commandments and teachings. There were many professional scribes and also many educated men, for there were synagogue schools in Galilee and Judea. The Hebrews had been writing for almost two thousand years before YAHUSHUA's time. In the Old Testament we learn that Moses, Joshua, David and all the Jewish kings kept hired scribes. Jeremiah and other prophets wrote their books themselves. To some, God gave the command to write in visions. In view of all this, does it not seem almost impossible that the inspired Word of God, proclaimed by YAHUSHUA, should have waited until the year 90 to be recorded by the Greeks?  [Emphasis added by Bet-Hallelu-YAH]

[...] Mark and Luke were converts who had never seen YAHUSHUA. They kept records for Paul, prepared his journeys and assisted him in his work. [...] They were disciples of Paul and neither they nor Paul were contemporaries of YAHUSHUA. Therefore, the Gospel of Mark cannot be older than that of Matthew, who had wandered together with YAHUSHUA and had heard HIM preach. Paul's letters could not possibly have been the first Christian writings, as assumed by certain scholars, since Paul, Mark and Luke were converted and trained as Christian missionaries only years after YAHUSHUA's ascension. [Emphasis added by Bet-Hallelu-YAH]

Had these men lived at the same time as YAHUSHUA, they would have mentioned this in their communications. In this case, they would have referred to first-hand accounts and incidents that would have indicated personal encounters with YAHUSHUA. However, their writings, on the contrary, are based on documents that were handed down to them and on communications that they received from a few eyewitnesses, as can be read in Luke 1:1-4: "Now since many have already undertaken to write an account of the events that took place among us, as handed down to us by those who have been eyewitnesses and ministers of the word from the beginning, it has seemed good also to me, who have followed everything closely from the beginning, to write it to you, most noble Theophilus, in order, so that you may know the reliability of the things in which you have been instructed. "

[...] We must realize the importance of the fact that the ancient Church placed the Gospel of Matthew at the head, because it was the first one written. This means that it was the first known document to be read in the parishes. This is clear from the letters of Paul, who in many places quotes the words YAHUSHUA. [...] There are people who are led to the erroneous assumption that Paul had to write in Greek because he spent six months or a year in a Greek city. [...] There are many thousands of educated Americans or Europeans who live in foreign countries and yet continue to correspond in their own mother tongue.

[...] According to Eusebius, the "father of church history," the Gospel of John was written only after the first three accounts had already become widely known and disseminated. Eusebius tells us that John read the three Gospels and approved of their contents. [...] As Eusebius reports, John was inclined to the opinion that much, which was already generally known as a result of the already published writings, need not be repeated in his gospel.

[...] In modern times, the New Testament has also been retranslated from Greek and English texts into Aramaic. It is therefore only too understandable that the accuracy and purity of the Gospels - and other New Testament texts - and thus also their comprehensibility have suffered greatly through the rewriting into new alphabets, the introduction of vowel designations, the translations and the various adaptations of content, and as a result there are today several Aramaic readings that differ from one another. Only the Estrangelo-Peschitta, which became known in the West only towards the end of the 19th century from the interior of Kurdistan, and which since apostolic times had always been copied letter by letter in its ancient Aramaic script, never revised and never translated into a foreign language [at least at that time around 1940s/60s when Lamsa wrote this book, note of the author of this book], has escaped all these dangers and remained unchanged pure.

[...] Due ambiguities in the Greek codices have arisen from the fact that their scribes were not sufficiently familiar with Aramaic when they translated the Holy Scriptures from this Semitic into their European language. In addition, when the Europeans began translating the Bible into the modern languages a few hundred years ago, they did not know of the existence of the Peshitta. Also, knowledge of Greek had been almost entirely lost, and Latin had taken its place. The Greek (Byzantine) Empire had then been almost completely subjugated by the Muslim Turks.

[...] The text of the ancient Aramaic Estrangelo-Peschitta must not be confused with a similar version used by the Western Syrians or Monophysites, called the Peschitto. Changes have been made to it since the fifth century!

[...] Complete manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments, or even individual parts of them, are in the possession of followers of the Church of the East. Many very old and valuable manuscripts of the complete Aramaic Bible in Estrangelo script were lost in the turmoil during and shortly after the World War I, when the Assyrian Christians were driven out of their homeland and their churches were destroyed and looted.

[...] The reader must also remember that translating from one language to another is a difficult task, and errors are almost inevitable. This is also true for today's international treaties and agreements.

[...] A biblical scholar or a whole group of scholars can undoubtedly find more modern English or German words than were used in the King James Version or in Martin Luther's original translation. But this does not improve errors introduced in the translation of the Aramaic text into Greek and carried on from the Greek into the Latin Vulgate and from the latter into English or German. This fact is generally recognized at the present time.

[...] These texts were sometimes adopted into the Greek and more recent versions without the more exact knowledge of the linguistic peculiarities and specific meanings inherent in the Semitic words and expressions, i.e., the translators often transmitted them word for word instead of sense for sense.  They must have possessed an Aramaic text, for no transmission would have been possible solely by oral transmission; and no memorial tradition could have come into being without prior written fixation. If the New Testament was not fixed in writing before the year 70 or even 90 A.D., as some theologians believe, then the accounts of YAHUSHUA's birth, teaching and crucifixion cannot be the full truth.

On the other hand, if the Gospels had been written in Greek in the first place, their writers would undoubtedly have used a Greek style of writing.

[...] A comparison with the ancient Aramaic Estrangelo-Peschitta shows that the - in spite of all previous revisions - still quite numerous passages which are difficult to understand were caused by human inability in the translation from Semitic into Greek, which was carried out in the early Christian period and under difficult circumstances. The main causes can be identified as:

1. actual translation errors.

2. incorrect choice of expression in the presence of Aramaic words with multiple meanings.

3. confusion of words that look very similar in the Estrango script, but have completely different meanings.

4. ignorance of typical Northern Aramaic idioms and word formations, as well as of specific customs and traditions, and their literal rather than sensory translation into Greek.

5. inaccurate copying of Aramaic words and expressions which have been carried over untranslated into the Greek manuscripts and from them into our modern versions.

 [...] One thing must not be overlooked: that all preserved ancient Aramaic texts recorded in Estrangelo script agree completely with each other, no matter when they were copied and from which documents they were taken over; in any case they always have exactly the same wording, because they all derive from the first scrolls. If they had originated on the basis of Greek or other documents in other languages, their correspondence could never be so perfect, since numerous differences appear in the various Greek as well as in the modern texts. The unceasing efforts to eliminate errors and to ascertain the true text and content of numerous biblical passages have produced considerable differences among the numerous readings of the Scriptures.

A translation of the New Testament or other sacred literature should be done only by one who, through decades of personal experience, is thoroughly familiar with both: with the biblical conditions in the Orient and with the peculiarities of the original language of the document before him, on the one hand, and with that country and its language into which he is translating, on the other.

[...] The Christians of the East had already been reading the Bible for a millennium and a half when the Christians of Europe first received it. This undoubtedly gives the Orientals the right to write about their ancient Holy Scriptures, which originated in their homeland, and about their origin and content." (cf. Lamsa, 1965, various pages from "New Testament Origin": translated independently, since no English copy was available).