Ancient Aramaic Translation Project Review

Thirty-five years ago I began to read the Scriptures with the idea of someday translating them. My grandfather translated them one hundred years ago, but his translation was lost during the exodus from Urmi. I read the Dr. George Lamsa translation from the Aramaic Pshitta during the 1980s and I was somewhat surprised that the American churches had not considered his translation more seriously. Dr. Lamsa translated during the first part of the 20th Century. I talked to many 'Assyrians' in the US about the Bible, but they belonged to many denominations and could not agree about the origins of the Bible or which was the most genuine Christian church in America. All this gave me some pause in considering a new translation.

In the early 1990s, I found myself marooned in Central California for reasons beyond my control. I was challenged to translate the Bible, and I began tenuously with the Gospel of Mark. I've described my journey as a translator for the last twenty years on my websites, so I won't go into all that again; however, I wish to take up a subject that I've been contemplating for the last few months: a new idiomatic translation of the New Testament.

Until now my work as a translator of the Bible has been in following the trends of Western Bible translation. I have translated from the Ancient Aramaic Scriptures of the Ancient Church of the East -- not from the Greek and Latin versions -- but I've used the English language as a secondary language, hoping to capture the flavor of the Aramaic that Jesus spoke. I've even gone to great lengths to restore certain of the names and titles from the Aramaic language, such as Maran Eashoa Msheekha (Lord Jesus Christ) and Maryah Allaha (Lord God.) Moreover, I have injected some of the wordings of the Ancient Aramaic into the English language so as to provide a more literal translation. I've gone to the point of making the English wordings somewhat ungrammatical and stylistically discordant. All this to capture the meaning of the Scriptures.

I was hoping to produce a translation of the Bible that would appeal to American readers and the Western Churches, so they would begin to appreciate the Ancient Aramaic Scriptures. This did not happen in a significant way. In fact, my New Testament translation hasn't even captured one percent of the audience for the Bible. As for my Old Testament translations, the audience is even smaller. I almost never hear anything about my Old Testament translations. So the question persists in my mind: "Who am I translating for?"

A more practical man would've been discouraged a long time ago; but I have some loyal supporters, and they encourage me to go on translating. Bless their hearts; I can't bring myself to disappoint them. Besides, I enjoy translating the Scriptures.

So, I've decided -- since almost nobody believes that the Scriptures I'm translating from are genuine -- to do an idiomatic translation; i.e., my own stylistic translation of the New Testament from the Ashurit dialect of the Ancient Aramaic language. It happens to be my native dialect, and whatever some people may think of my dialect is not the issue; I want to translate it as I understand it from the language that Jesus spoke.

So, here goes my new translation. I just started today.

July 2, 2014

Ancient Aramaic Church (AAC) | Aramaic Index