rather than Hebrew or Aramaic? C'mon smarties! Let me know. Also, Jesus wouldn't have spoken Greek, would he?
Why is the NT written Greek...(71 posts) (13 voices)
It was the common language of the Roman Empire at the time, and could be understood pretty much everywhere. While the peasants in Palestine at the time would have spoken Aramaic, they would have understood (or had easy access to someone who understood) Greek. And nobody living outside Palestine would have spoken Aramaic.
Remember the NT was written at least 50 years after Jesus' time. Christianity had already spread outside of Palestine.
A number of the NT writers were pretty obviously writing in their second language. Mark and John are noted for having extremely limited vocabulary. Paul, by contrast, was quite fluent in Greek.
As for Jesus, who knows? Depends if you think he existed, and if he did, what sort of guy he was. Would a charismatic rabbi from Galilee have been able to understand Greek? Unless he had some schooling he probably wouldn't be fluent, but he'd likely have a very basic knowledge of it.
Interesting. So the NT as I know it is an English translation of middle Greek that is a translation of what Jesus *might* have said in Aramaic. And people wonder why non-believers question the Bible as the "word of God."
Pretty much. There are a number of places in the gospels where it quotes Jesus' Aramaic words and then translates it for the reader.
But to me the issue of translating isn't really the killer, but rather the fact that the books were written decades after the supposed events and based off oral stories that spread among a superstitious and desperate people. The idea of Jesus rising from the dead isn't something that got muddled in translation; it's a myth that sprung up long after the death of popular teacher.
And as for the bible as a whole, the content of it demonstrates so clearly that it's not the word of an all-knowing God better than any criticisms on its method of delivery.
Fun fact: while I was in my doubting/"deconverting" process I went to a weekend-long seminar on the authority and infallibility of the bible. The entire thing focused on the translation and transmission of the text. The idea being that we have a very good idea of what the originals (which have long been lost) said. Not once did anyone suggest the idea that maybe, perhaps, the stuff that was originally written was junk.
Well, kids in Jesus's culture would have been fairly well educated for their economic status: 12-13 years of mandatory school will do that for you. Granted, they were focused on preserving the Hebrew language, but Greek was effectively the English of its day. All the cool kids were speaking it. Also, I think everything Paul wrote (which is half the NT) is in Greek. Jeremy is right when he says that the transmission was good after it was initially written down. I actually ran into a guy who was under the impression that every translation was merely a translation of the language that came before it: Greek to Latin, Latin to German, German to English, etc. That just ain't so. The translations are one of the least controversial things about the NT. We pretty much know what they say.
Yet there is so much debate about what the words really "mean". DO we really fully understand the Bible...given that issues of social context, extant traditions, Jewish history and cultural mores, etc.?
Oh, I don't know that we fully understand it. But we do have the translation about as thoroughly worked out as we currently know how.
I have no doubt that Paul was fluent in Greek. He was a citizen of Rome, after all. But Jesus? Could a small time country preacher from Galilee actually speak Greek? Would he even have an education outside of his apprenticeship for carpentry (if even that?)? Would the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin have spoken Greek-- as the elite class? Would Jesus have spoken Hebrew in addition to Aramaic and possibly Greek? That seems like quite a few languages to be spokes by a fairly illiterate, small-town group of people.
Someone educate me, please! :P
"I have no doubt that Paul was fluent in Greek. He was a citizen of Rome, after all. But Jesus?"
This kinda reminds me of the type of conversations people had about Dungeons & Dragons. The fact that skeletons exists is irrelevant but do they take half damage from sharp weapons. If you believe that Jesus was born of a virgin then speaking Greek is a doodle to explain surely?
The short answer is because Jesus did not think to write his own gospel. The book of Jesus might have saved a lot of confusion.
As Jeremy already pointed out, the theory is that the gospels were written in Aramaic or Hebrew, then at some point the Aramaic manuscripts were copied into Greek, then those originals were lost leaving us with the Greek manuscripts as the oldest surviving version of the gospels. So when you say "So the NT as I know it is an English translation of middle Greek that is a translation of what Jesus *might* have said in Aramaic" you've basically got all the important parts of the process covered. There are a couple other steps between "what Jesus might have said" and the modern new testament (see: St. Jerome, Latin Vulgate) but I think "Greek translation of what Jesus might have said in Aramaic" just about sums it up.
My personal theory on the Greek thing is that some form of the Jesus story did originate in Palestine, but never caught on with the locals. The Greeks being polytheists would have had an easier time than Jews accepting that yhwh had a son. "Who's yhwh? Another god? Cool. He has a son? Like Perseus right? Okay I guess." I'm oversimplifying a bit but I do honestly think something very similar to this is the reason why the NT was written in Greek.
"This kinda reminds me of the type of conversations people had about Dungeons & Dragons."
Funny. Most conversations about the minutia of religious teaching strike me this way. Once you are no longer religious, sitting in church and listening to a discussion on extremely detailed analysis of bible topics is like going to the campus Hobbit Society and listening to people argue about when Sindarin and Quenya split from the original tongue.
I remember going to church with my wife and listening to a talk on Elijah where a lot of time was spent discussing the fire from heaven that god used to show he was superior to the baal gods. The speaker was talking about how hot this fire would have had to have been to burn up not only the sacrifice, but also the altar and the trench of water around it. All I could think was, "Elijah cast a max power Flamestrike! Baal priests fail their saving throws!"
As Jeremy already pointed out, the theory is that the gospels were written in Aramaic or Hebrew, then at some point the Aramaic manuscripts were copied into Greek, then those originals were lost leaving us with the Greek manuscripts as the oldest surviving version of the gospels.
Really? My understanding was that the linguistic data pointed to the Gospels originally being written in Greek. Mark uses a few Aramaic phrases, but always provides a Greek translation in the text (i,e, "Abba" is followed by "Father").
Papias suggests that Matthew wrote a gospel in Hebrew, but again, our version of Matthew supposedly shows none of the markers of having been translated from Hebrew to Greek.
Elijah cast a max power Flamestrike!
It was odd for me to see biblical miracles showing up in the player's handbook. Spells like "Sticks to Snakes," for example.
"Really? My understanding was that the linguistic data pointed to the Gospels originally being written in Greek."
This is actually my understanding as well, but I don't know enough about it to say with anything approaching certainty. I know for a fact that John was written in Greek. If I had to bet money, I'd bet on Mark, Luke, and Acts being written in Greek originally as well. Mark is addressed to the Romans, so writing in Aramaic would have been beyond stupid.
(And by "know for a fact," what I actually mean is: why would it be written in anything but Greek? Logos? As far as I know, that ain't a particularly Hebrew concept.)
So, then, the parts of the Bible written in red (to indicate "Christ's words) are actually in Greek-- which means they are not, in fact, Christ's words, but a Greek translation of what Christ *may* have said (since none of it was actually written down at the time)?
How is this not a problem for believers?
As I understand it, the diaspora included many of the Hellenistic peoples and Greek appeared to be the 'Lingua Franca" for religious tracts. Maybe if the original scripts were in Aramaic it would require, arguably, a more common 'European' understanding, to get it out and broadcast away from the middle East.
LRA, they have that covered.
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." (John 14:25)
The Holy Spirit magically caused the gospel writers to remember all his words perfectly.
You have to ignore the fact that the Holy Spirit caused each writer to remember things slightly differently. Heck, Luke wasn't even present during any of Jesus' ministry (he wasn't a disciple), so having him remember stuff that he didn't witness was a real accomplishment.
Also, keep in mind that for a society built around oral traditions, having things recorded was about as rock-solid as you could get. Any problems arising from translation discrepancies are irrelevant / trivial.
Neither was Mark, Matthew or John.
The fundy will insist that Matthew, Mark, and John were all written by the disciples with those names. That the writer of Matthew was the guy Jesus called down out of the tree. That the writer of John really was the guy who discovered the empty tomb, and leaned on Jesus during the last supper, etc. Of course we know this is almost certainly not the case, but the fundy won't acknowledge it.
But they have to acknowledge that Luke wasn't a disciple, because he admits as much.
Matthew, Luke and John are accepted by biblical scholarship, to have no claim to eye witness report and were certainly not the same people as the disciples - who probably could not read or write.
It is accepted that Matthew, Luke and John are rehashed from mark.
Screw what fundies think; they are hardly in a position to use history or reason as an argument. :)
Matthew and Luke are rehashed from Mark (or all three from a common source), but not John. John is completely different, and shares almost nothing in common with the other three.
Huxley, out of bloody-minded curiosity, can you provide any evidence for this statement:
"who probably could not read or write."
Also, Jeremy is completely correct in the comment directly above.
JonJon, out of bloody-minded curiosity, can you provide any evidence for this statement:
Not any that you haven't heard and dismissed already. I seem to recall being over this before on these forums.
If you'll note, though, I haven't said that in this particular thread. Huxley has actually asserted that the disciples could not read or write. I'm open to that being true. I'd just love to hear if he has any sort of backup for it.
I imagine that Matthew the tax collector and Luke the doctor could probably read and write some Greek, due to their occupations, but as for the rest, the probability is fairly low.
Don't forget Judas most certainly would have been able to both read and write. He was the scholar among them.
JonJon, saying that a bunch of Galilean fishermen were probably illiterate is like saying they probably wore sandals. It may not be true, and it's not something that can be proven (we can't even prove they existed), but it's a pretty reasonable assumption.
Yes, but they weren't all fishermen, and as I mentioned before, most kids went to Hebrew school for 12+ years.
Certainly some of them probably were, but if the account of their identity is fairly accurate then we're looking at at least two disciples who can do pretty good math (Matthew and Judas,) Matthew can almost certainly read and write, and I think only 4 of 12 were actually fishermen (right? Could be wrong on that one.)
But how do you *know* they wore sandals?!?!?!?!
"most kids went to Hebrew school for 12+ years."
During the period of the Roman occupation? I've never done any research on this, but that would really surprise me if it were true.
I mean, sure, the children of Sadducees and Pharisees, but every Jewish kid? I've certainly never read anything that would support that.
"The Talmud (tractate Bava Bathra 21a) praises the sage Joshua ben Gamla (1st century CE) with the institution of formal Jewish education. Prior to this, parents taught their children informally. Ben Gamla instituted schools in every town and made education compulsory from the age of 6 or 7. The Talmud attaches great importance to the "Tinokot shel beth Rabban" (the children [who study] at the Rabbi's house), stating that the world continues to exist for their learning and that even for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem classes are not to be interrupted (tractate Shabbat 119b)."
From wikipedia. Further looking indicates that this caught on in like 70 AD, so it looks like the timing may be slightly off. Before this, the informal schooling consisted of recitation, although there were also presumably avenues for training scribes, etc.
Not an expert, but upon further examination it looks like I may have been off by 50 years. That said, simply assuming that the ancient world was illiterate does not always work out. Yes, they had higher illiteracy than now, but there was compulsory schooling in Jewish communities 18-1900 years ago, during the Roman occupation.
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