Matthew’s Aramaic Glue

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Knowledge of the different ways of joining stories in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic can help us understand the history and relationships of the Synoptic Gospels. The three synoptic writers use different linguistic methods to glue their stories together. None of these is purely Greek, and all show Semitic influence. Matthew shows a specifically Aramaic influence, and in this article we will see how he uses an Aramaic conjunction as the glue to hold stories together.

מְתֻרְגְּמָן Meturgeman is Hebrew for translator. The articles in this series illustrate how a knowledge of the Gospels’ Semitic background can provide a deeper understanding of Jesus’ words and influence the translation process.

Atranslator must understand and interpret all the linguistic signals in his source, and use those signals in a way that is both natural in the target language and congruent to the original text. Every language has particular ways of putting a story together, and the more a translator knows about each language’s construction system, the better translation he will provide.

In Hebrew events are joined together by -ְו (ve-, “and”), while in English we generally prefer not to have a conjunction. Hebrew also carefully distinguishes word order to signal the structure of the story. This can be very significant for a translator, and for Gospel research.

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Comments 2

  1. Pingback: Sending the Twelve: “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  2. It appears to me that ‘tote’ – ‘az’ is functioning very much like the waw consecutive used in narrative. I have translated the waw as ‘then’ many times, e.g. ‘then there is setting, then there is daybreak: one day”, to show sequence. I couldn’t say my use of ‘then’ means I was translating Aramaic, since I was working with Hebrew. I noticed that Delitszch used waw consecutive for tote quite a number of times. In the LXX, is does appear that the Hebrew usage of waw consecutive has rubbed onto the use of KAI, and perhaps in non-Jewish Greek this usage is not so clear, and therefore, TOTE is used to bring out the Hebraic sense more clearly in Greek. So I am wondering if ‘tote’ can really be a marker to tell Aramaic over Hebrew influence?

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  • Randall Buth

    Randall Buth

    Randall Buth is director of the Biblical Language Center and a lecturer at the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Home for Bible Translators. He is a member of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research. Buth received his doctorate in…
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