One of the first ideas I had regarding the approach to translating the Bible, was
to avoid reading the existing Bible translations thoroughly before translating. I
did not wish the translations from the Greek or Latin versions to influence me. I
wanted a fresh impression, as much as was possible. I attempted to suppress the wordings
and phraseology that had crept into my subconscious. I had to guard against unconscious
inclusions of wordings from other translations. Having attended many church services
since childhood and my reading of the Bible over the years, could make my translating
a difficult task.
One of the mistakes that I made at the very beginning was assuming that the modern Syriac translation of the P'shitta was authentic work of translating. This misconception set me back about a year and a half. At first the mistake depressed me, but later it turned into an unexpected advantage. I became familiar with the evolution of the Aramaic language.
I had already translated the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, in that order. Then I had a conversation one day, with an old Church of the East priest. I told him that I had been translating the Bible from Syriac into English, for the sake of sharing the authentic Aramaic Bible with my American friends and English speaking people. At this time he did not say very much, except for smiling what I thought was approval.
At a later meeting, he asked me what I was doing. I said that I was still translating the Bible. Then he had to tell me. He said, "The Syriac is all wrong!" Talk about being shocked! I had just finished translating Matthew and was getting ready to translate John. I had already translated Mark, before I met him the first time.
I asked him, "Wasn't the Syriac translated from the ancient tongue?" The Church of the East is an Ashurai Church, and we do not use the term Aramaic. This is a modern-day designation. "Aramaic" really evolved from the language of the Ashurai, the people of Mesopotamia.
He said, "No, the Syriac version was translated by the Protestants and Catholics from the Greek versions."
I asked him, still incredulous, "You mean, no one has translated the ancient tongue original at all?"
He said, "No." Then I purchased a copy of the official Ancient Church of the East New Testament Book from him. I began reading Mark, and later Matthew. I was amazed. It was different!
It took me a while to recover emotionally. I had spent one and half years of my life translating the two Gospels from what I thought was the authentic Ancient Aramaic transcription into modern Syriac. Now I found out that I had been translating from a 19th century Syriac translation of what I finally determined was really a Syriac translation of mostly an English version. This 1897 Syriac version that I had, was translated in Urmi, Iran, by American and English missionaries with the help of proselytized Ashurai Christians.
I studied the work and activities of the missionaries in Urmi from about 1839 to 1914. I made some interesting discoveries. The Ancient Church of the East, being impoverished and its people barely surviving under Islamic oppression of the crumbling Ottoman Empire, had allowed the missionaries to enter their villages in north Iran and southeast Turkey. They preached to them their modern religions.
The missionaries from the West came in and established schools and churches and medical facilities. They learned the Syriac Aramaic vernacular and wrote up a grammar for the people. As a result, everyone could now read the Bible in their modern vernacular, which until then only priests of the Ancient Church of the East knew how to read. The ancient Aramaic Scripture had been passed down to them from the Apostolic Age.
The Church of the East had retained the ancient Aramaic in their liturgy, when celebrating Mass and conducting official Church services. The Bible itself was read in the original ancient Aramaic during Church services. The priests explained it to them in their modern Aramaic vernacular, through brief sermons. By this date there were no major theologians left.
In comparison, the Catholic Church has always had priests that knew Latin. The Church of the East priests of this period did not know ancient Aramaic that well. However, the Catholic Latin version was a translation of the Greek, which is itself, by definition, a translation of the words of Jesus Christ spoken in ancient Aramaic. In contrast the Church of the East at least had the original ancient Aramaic Scriptures, hand copied without any changes from the original tongue.
Judging by the thousands of idioms that only make complete sense
in the Aramaic, there is no doubt as to the origin of the Ancient Aramaic New Testament.
The Ancient Church of the East Ancient Aramaic New Testament is the original Gospel of Jesus
Christ. All others are translations.
The Aramaic New Testament is
the paperback edition of my translation with footnotes, 516 pages,
5.5x8.5x1.3 inches paperback,
font size 11. It is $50 (includes shipping.)
To order it by check or money order, write to:
Vic Alexander, translator
To order it through PayPal, click on the "Buy Now" button: