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Aramaic Thoughts


The Peshitta - Part 8

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The Peshitta and Textual Criticism, Part IV

1 Kings 7:7 reads in the MT, "And the hall of the throne, where he judged, he made the hall of judgment. And it was covered with cedar from the floor to the floor." As it is, this doesn’t make a lot of sense, even though most modern translations follow it. Fortunately, both the Peshitta and the Vulgate read somewhat differently here, reading "from the floor to the ceiling." This makes more sense, though it doesn’t explain why the MT and the Septuagint might have made an error here. The interesting thing, however, is that most of the commentators, even though they may read it with the MT, explain the meaning of the text as if the Peshitta and the Vulgate had the correct reading. This generally means that they have to assume a multi-floored building (for which there is otherwise no evidence) and explain it as having paneling that goes from one floor to the floor above it.

1 Kings 8:37 reads in the MT, "If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, if there be blasting or mildew, locust or caterpillar; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be." It is part of Solomon’s prayer, and the syntax even for Hebrew is decidedly odd. However, the oddest part of the verse is "in the land of their cities." The only other place the phrase occurs is in 2 Chronicles 6:28. At that point, the author of Chronicles has simply copied out the text of 1Kings. It is a phrase that strikes the translator as being a mistake. The Septuagint has "before their cities," while the Peshitta has, "in any of their cities." It is possible that in both cases the translator is trying to make sense out of a difficult Hebrew text. It strikes me, however, as equally likely that the Hebrew text has somehow gotten messed up at this point, and that both the Septuagint and the Peshitta are closer to the original.

1 Kings 9:8 reads in the MT, "And this house shall be high. All who pass by it will be astonished and will hiss." The problem is with the word "high." It does not seem to fit the context, and those English versions that retain it reconfigure the sentence in order for it to make good sense. The NIV for example says, "and though this temple is now imposing." The ASV says, "And though this house is so high." The problem is that there is no word in the Hebrew that would indicate "though." Further, the verb translated "is" is of the same form as the following "everyone who passes by will be astonished," that is, carrying the idea of future, not present or past. The Peshitta and the Old Latin both have "heap of ruins" instead of "high." The change in root from the word "high" to the word "heap of ruins" in Syriac is minimal. Hence, it is quite possible that again the Peshitta has preserved a correct reading that has gotten lost in the copying of the MT.

These weeks should have given you readers a taste for what influence and help the Peshitta may be for textual criticism. In the following weeks we will proceed to look at other aspects of the Peshitta.

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'Aramaic Thoughts' Copyright 2020© Benjamin Shaw. 'Aramaic Thoughts' articles may be reproduced in whole under the following provisions: 1) A proper credit must be given to the author at the end of each story, along with a link to  2) 'Aramaic Thoughts' content may not be arranged or "mirrored" as a competitive online service.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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Meet the Author
Dr. Shaw was born and raised in New Mexico. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of New Mexico in 1977, the M. Div. from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1980, and the Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1981, with an emphasis in biblical languages (Greek, Hebrew, Old Testament and Targumic Aramaic, as well as Ugaritic).

He did two year of doctoral-level course work in Semitic languages (Akkadian, Arabic, Ethiopic, Middle Egyptian, and Syriac) at Duke University. He received the Ph.D. in Old Testament Interpretation at Bob Jones University in 2005.

Since 1991, he has taught Hebrew and Old Testament at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, a school which serves primarily the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, where he holds the rank of Associate Professor.
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