Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Gospel of Matthew: Preserved phrases or loan words from other languages

Today I welcome back a less-crowded personal schedule with the benefit of being able to pursue some of my more research-intensive studies. This post continues the data analysis project comparing all the ancient documents that are commonly referred to as "gospels", whether inside or outside the recognized scriptures of the Christian faith.

Criterion: Preserved Phrases or Loan Words from Hebrew or Aramaic

For this next part of the series, I'm evaluating the extent to which the author preserved phrases or loan-words from Hebrew or related languages. This would include words absorbed into Hebrew from other languages (e.g. languages spoken in and around Babylon) in earlier times. Those familiar with the New Testament may recall some passages in which a writer used a word that was not in the language of the main narrative, for example:
Mat 27:33  And when they came to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, the place of the skull
In some cases (as above) the foreign loan-word is translated by the original author; in other cases the translation is not included, such as:
Mat 5:22: whoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council
When we see such a passage it gives us pause. The documents are translated into the reader's language for most of the text, yet here we come across a foreign word still in its original language. This is done in recognition that the original author had left the word in a language different than the surrounding text, and the translator reproduced the same situation for us in our own language. In some cases, the modern reader is left in search of a footnote to explain the meaning of the foreign word. In other cases, the words may have become so familiar with time that the reader may have forgotten that words such as rabbi or sabbath are originally loan-words from Semitic languages. In either case, it reflects a situation where the original text contains a foreign word embedded in a text that is generally not in that language.

But enough for the introduction; what do we find of these loan words or foreign phrases in one of our documents? 

The Gospel of Matthew

We'll begin with the well-known Gospel of Matthew, which has come down to us in Greek. Modern translations are based on older Greek manuscripts.

Before I move onto the results, two quick notes on the format: 
  • When I am tracing one specific word, I have looked up the Strong's number (a resource used for word studies by some students of these texts) and have included the Strong's number for reference. For example, the Strong's number for "Golgotha" is "G1115". This is done to make it easier for anyone interested to reproduce or cross-check the results.
  • I'll include text showing the usage for the first example of each word but not for later uses of the same word; this is meant to strike a balance between showing usage and easing the burden on the reader, since interested parties can easily look up the remaining references.

On to the results. While the text of the Gospel of Matthew has come down to us in Greek, it retains a number of untranslated words and/or loan words from Hebrew and related languages:

Amen: G281 (may be translated at times: "truly", or in older translations "verily")
Mat 5:18: For truly I say to you, til heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle shall pass away from the law, til all is fulfilled.
Mat 5:26
Mat 6:2
Mat 6:5
Mat 6:13
Mat 6:16
Mat 8:10
Mat 10:15
Mat 10:23
Mat 10:42
Mat 11:11
Mat 13:17
Mat 16:28
Mat 17:20
Mat 18:3
Mat 18:13
Mat 18:18
Mat 19:23
Mat 19:28
Mat 21:21
Mat 21:31
Mat 23:36
Mat 24:2
Mat 24:34
Mat 24:47
Mat 25:12
Mat 25:40
Mat 25:45
Mat 26:13
Mat 26:21
Mat 26:34
Mat 28:20
Golgotha: G1115
Mat 27:33  And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,
Corban: G2878
Mat 27:6  And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, "It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood."
Mammon: G3126
Mat 6:24 You cannot serve both God and mammon.
Passover: G3957
Mat 26:2  You know that in two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man will be surrended to be crucified.
Mat 26:17
Mat 26:18
Mat 26:19
Rabbi: G4461
Mat 23:7  And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
Mat 23:8
Mat 26:25
Mat 26:49
Raca: G4469
Mat 5:22: whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council
Sabbath: G4521
Mat 12:1  At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the grain; and his disciples were hungry and began to pluck the heads of grain, and to eat
Mat 12:2
Mat 12:5
Mat 12:8
Mat 12:10
Mat 12:11
Mat 12:12
Mat 24:20
Mat 28:1
Satan: G4567
Mat 4:10  Then Jesus said to him, Get away from me, Satan
Mat 12:26
Mat 16:23
Hosanna: G5614
Mat 21:9  And the crowds that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
Mat 21:15
Matthew also contains an instance in which a longer phrase is recorded in another language:
Mat 27:46  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is to say, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Mat 27:47  Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, "This man calls for Elijah."
The previous is something of a catalog of how the Gospel of Matthew uses words or phrases from Hebrew/Aramaic. The last and longest is Jesus' cry from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Without the form in the other language ("Eli, eli ..."), the reader might not understand why a listener could mistake it as a call for Elijah; that confusion depends on the specific sounds made in the other language. In case of doubts about what language was being spoken at that moment, that quote would seem to point us in the right direction. The writer has preserved a quote in what is being portrayed as the original language of the conversation, and a reaction to those words that is based on the listeners sharing that language.


David Madison said...

Fascinating. Thanks for returning to this research.

Weekend Fisher said...

Thank you! I'm glad to have time to pursue it again. (Summers are generally not good for things other than my day job, on the schedule.)

Take care & God bless
AnneK / WF