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Goodbye Jesus

The Peshitta


DarthOkkata

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I've heard mention here that the earliest known versions of the New Testament were written about 500 years after Christ's death, and were in Greek, not Aramaic. Seems this might not be really true.

 

I was having an argument with a Christian, and this came up. I've done some looking about, and thus far, it seems it's true.

 

It's called the Peshitta, and it's written in Aramaic, and the earliest version could be as old as 175 AD.

 

Here's an exert from the Wiki page.

 

The origin of the Peshitta New Testament is complicated by the existence of two other Syriac gospel traditions: the Diatessaron and the Old Syriac. The earliest New Testament translation into Syriac was probably Tatian's Diatessaron ('one through four'). The no longer extant Diatessaron, written about AD 175, was a continuous harmony of the four gospels into a single narrative. It, rather than the four separate gospels, became the official Syriac Gospel for a time, and received a beautiful prose commentary by Ephrem the Syrian, which remains the chief witness to its content. However, the Syriac-speaking church was urged to follow the practice of other churches and use the four separate gospels. Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus on the Euphrates in upper Syria in 423, sought out and found more than two hundred copies of the Diatessaron, which he 'collected and put away, and introduced instead of them the Gospels of the four evangelists'.

 

The early Syriac versions of both Old and New Testament with the four gospels, excluding the Diatessaron, is called the Old Syriac (Vetus Syra) version. There are two fifth-century manuscripts of the Old Syriac separate gospels (the Sinaitic Palimpsest and Curetonian Gospels). These are a comparatively free translation of the Greek text, the so-called 'Western' recension of it, and apparently making use of the Diatessaron text for phrasing. The Old Syriac Gospels were probably produced in the third century (although some date it to the early fourth century). The Old Syriac uses the Peshitta Old Testament for Old Testament quotes (and thus is the earliest witness to its existence) in the gospels, even in places where the quote is quite different in the Greek. There is also evidence that translations of the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles also existed in the Old Syriac version, though according to Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History 4.29.5, Tatian himself rejected them

 

Here's the link to the page itself. It's pretty interesting, and makes the NT a bit older than I had previously thought if true.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peshitta

 

While it's nowhere near enough to convert me, it is an interesting article, and might be worth discussing here. I've not read through the book itself yet, but there are several on line versions.

 

Here is one such page for those interested in checking it out:

 

http://www.peshitta.org/

 

http://www.peshitta.org/initial/peshitta.html

 

While far from proving the existence of god, this may prove that some of us here are in error about the origins of the written NT.

 

D'ou!

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I've heard mention here that the earliest known versions of the New Testament were written about 500 years after Christ's death, and were in Greek, not Aramaic. Seems this might not be really true.

I'm confused. The "new testament" is a collection of books. They were all written much earlier than they were canonized into this final collected form. The 500 year number could be referring to extant manuscripts (ie. codex <whatever> as there are more than one) and not actually the date the original text is estimated to have been written. For nearly every single NT text the 2nd century CE is where we'd all look (some might look to 1st century CE for some texts but that's of great debate since there are no surviving fragments from that period so the 2nd century is pretty much the safe bet). All the evidence points very much to Greek origins.

 

mwc

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Here's an exert from the Wiki page.

 

...written about AD 175, was a continuous harmony of the four gospels into a single narrative.

 

 

 

I would really, really, really, really,really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really like to read how they combine the four completely different accounts of the resurection into "one continuous harmony of the four gospels".

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Apart from 3 verses from 125-150 AD which may have been in a letter (and ended up in John), we have nothing till the third century (when suddenly we have whole books) so it is pure speculation in many cases on dates and authors.

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I would really, really, really, really,really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really like to read how they combine the four completely different accounts of the resurection into "one continuous harmony of the four gospels".

This isn't the same as the easter challenge...all the harmonizations simply did was to take the stories and morph them into one. To think of it another way all they did, in essence, is what goes on every year in churches everywhere at xmas/easter. They create a nice continuous narrative for the audience. But it's not the easter challenge by any stretch of the imagination but more just another gospel. :)

 

mwc

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Apart from 3 verses from 125-150 AD which may have been in a letter (and ended up in John), we have nothing till the third century (when suddenly we have whole books) so it is pure speculation in many cases on dates and authors.

But there are attestations from the "fathers" that would point to some written texts used by the church. I'm not talking specifically about the four gospels but simply about the NT in general (as per the topic). So all that's needed is some form of an early "NT" (loosely defined) used by the "church" (pick a definition here too) in the 2nd century (perhaps in the 1st century but that's more difficult to pin down).

 

However, I agree there is a lot of speculation and it seems not too much in the way of revisiting the currently accepted dates.

 

mwc

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Well, I've backed off of using the 500 years too young argument, and simply changed my tune to 'how does 175 years conclude you to believe this is a first hand account?' with the particular Christian bonehead I've been arguing with.

 

I'm not certain, but it seems to have at least some validity to it. I'd rather not spread misinformation, and I've not yet had the chance to read through the book itself all the way, or do much research into it's history beyond Wiki. I've done some light skimming, and even then, it's still a 3rd century version.

 

The jury is still out on this one as far as I'm concerned, pending investigation. I'm interested in hearing what people here have to say about it.

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Reading the Wiki, it seems like the NT part of it was translated 3rd century from the Greek version. This only makes it an early canonized New Testament, before the Nicaean, which isn't anything new. The Nicaean canon was just an attempt to create a common canon. (MWC will correct me here if I got it wrong, but that's how I remember it.)

 

Also, my understanding is that there are fragments that are older than this manuscript. Some early as the 2nd or even maybe the 1st century. And those are in Greek. That would make Greek the more likely original language for the books.

 

I think, as of date, this fragment is the oldest: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rylands_Library_Papyrus_P52

 

And it's dated somewhere between 150-180 CE.

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The Nicaean canon was just an attempt to create a common canon. (MWC will correct me here if I got it wrong, but that's how I remember it.)

Nicea wasn't about canon at all (that happened later) but was all about figuring out what the hell jesus was exactly. That's why people (and most of us at some point) have the Nicene Creed. It's to say that jesus is the same stuff as god and not some other stuff or some other creation. It was, and is, a big deal to know that this jesus is the same exact stuff (as I recall the translated word works out roughly to "stuff" so I'm not kidding) as the father god. The thing is they don't define "stuff" but leave it at that. The two are the same stuff so whatever the father god is made out of, well, so is the son god since he kind of came out of his innards (his "bowels" as I recall).

 

Anyhow, that's all way off topic. The point is that Nicea wasn't about canon. That happened 50-100 years later (I'd have to look) at a different council but there were rough lists already floating around by this time. I guess that the only thing that may be related is that Nicea helped kill off the heretical documents as a result of this decision. I imagine that would make the canon debates a little easier with less texts to discuss. :)

 

Also, my understanding is that there are fragments that are older than this manuscript. Some early as the 2nd or even maybe the 1st century. And those are in Greek. That would make Greek the more likely original language for the books.

Right, as you point out there are papyrus fragments (I think from G.John, G.Matthew and Revelation) but they all date from roughly the mid-2nd century. There's nothing earlier that we have in hand but only the testimony of the church "fathers." How reliable all of that is debatable but taken at face value it shows that something was happening at least by the beginning of the 2nd century for sure. People debate the authenticity of Paul's letters and place them in mid-late 2nd century instead of early 1st. My opinion on this is that there was an early movement that was usurped and the works redacted. So "Paul's" letters aren't all Paul's letters but a mix of some earlier "Paul" and a later redactor "Paul" (or two...maybe Justin or Marcion...around that time frame...I find the openings of Paul's letters suspicious...they're very verbose when most letters, even between actual important people, would be "From X to Y greetings. On with business..." and that's all but not our bondslave "Paul" who blabs for days on end in his greeting alone).

 

I didn't look but I think the wiki has a page somewhere for a list of all the old NT papyrus fragments by date. Just a few are from 2nd century as HB rightly pointed out. The rest come later with none from the 1st century CE.

 

mwc

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Nicea wasn't about canon at all (that happened later) but was all about figuring out what the hell jesus was exactly. That's why people (and most of us at some point) have the Nicene Creed. It's to say that jesus is the same stuff as god and not some other stuff or some other creation. It was, and is, a big deal to know that this jesus is the same exact stuff (as I recall the translated word works out roughly to "stuff" so I'm not kidding) as the father god. The thing is they don't define "stuff" but leave it at that. The two are the same stuff so whatever the father god is made out of, well, so is the son god since he kind of came out of his innards (his "bowels" as I recall).

 

Anyhow, that's all way off topic. The point is that Nicea wasn't about canon. That happened 50-100 years later (I'd have to look) at a different council but there were rough lists already floating around by this time. I guess that the only thing that may be related is that Nicea helped kill off the heretical documents as a result of this decision. I imagine that would make the canon debates a little easier with less texts to discuss. :)

As I expected, MWC comes to my rescue and give me more insights. :)

 

I see. But still, even if it wasn't the Nicaean council that made the canon, the Bible we have today is based on the late canon, while scholars know that there were many other canons before the Orthodox version. Basically, the Peshitta is one of the earliest in history, but it doesn't really make any difference to anything.

 

Right, as you point out there are papyrus fragments (I think from G.John, G.Matthew and Revelation) but they all date from roughly the mid-2nd century. There's nothing earlier that we have in hand but only the testimony of the church "fathers." How reliable all of that is debatable but taken at face value it shows that something was happening at least by the beginning of the 2nd century for sure. People debate the authenticity of Paul's letters and place them in mid-late 2nd century instead of early 1st. My opinion on this is that there was an early movement that was usurped and the works redacted. So "Paul's" letters aren't all Paul's letters but a mix of some earlier "Paul" and a later redactor "Paul" (or two...maybe Justin or Marcion...around that time frame...I find the openings of Paul's letters suspicious...they're very verbose when most letters, even between actual important people, would be "From X to Y greetings. On with business..." and that's all but not our bondslave "Paul" who blabs for days on end in his greeting alone).

 

I didn't look but I think the wiki has a page somewhere for a list of all the old NT papyrus fragments by date. Just a few are from 2nd century as HB rightly pointed out. The rest come later with none from the 1st century CE.

 

mwc

True. The point is though that the earliest fragments were Greek, so it's a bit suspicious when there's some later canon, consisting of Arameic text, and it's claimed to be the earliest and original? To me I think this has something to do with one of those first splits in the Church, between the Armenian and the Roman. Both claim to have the original. So typical.

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True. The point is though that the earliest fragments were Greek, so it's a bit suspicious when there's some later canon, consisting of Arameic text, and it's claimed to be the earliest and original? To me I think this has something to do with one of those first splits in the Church, between the Armenian and the Roman. Both claim to have the original. So typical.

Right. This is political. Remember that it's not Aramaic but Syriac which came around in the 3rd century (basically an off-shoot of Aramaic but not strictly Aramaic). What they're doing is saying that they're older and so they're the "right" version. Same old argument with the added twist of saying that you can trace from Syriac to Aramaic more or less directly to what people in Judea would be speaking/writing in 1st century CE as opposed to Greek then Hebrew or Aramaic. They're saying their line is more direct. But the attestations we have say the authors wrote in Hebrew and Greek but no one mentions Aramaic (although some Aramaic like statements are "quoted" in the gospels).

 

Whether or not the texts they have are "better" in any way is impossible to tell without autographs really. Maybe they do have something more "authentic" but maybe they have junk. The question as to what is authentic is important too. Authentic how? You like the Harry Potter comparison. Okay. They have a more pure version of the HP 1st draft. Interesting for sure but still fiction. If there aren't major differences in their version and the Greek then it shows the stories had pretty much stabilized by whenever their version was written (175CE if they're correct). So then that still leaves a 2nd century (or earlier obviously) authorship wide open which really doesn't say much since it's 150 years post-jesus gap. That's really not too long for some sort of loose canon (ooh, a pun) to form.

 

mwc

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Here's a link to a pretty exhaustive list of NT manuscripts. It's broken down by century. What stands out is the paucity of manuscripts from the early centuries, something almost never mentioned by Christian apologists.

 

NT Greek MSS

 

Respectfully,

Franciscan Monkey

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Good info guys, thanks.

 

Darth, if you haven't read it yet, I'd suggest "Misquoting Jesus" by Bart Ehrman (hell, anything by Bart Ehrman, really). I just reread it and it touches on some of the points that Hans and MWC are talking about. It's also just a damn good book about how the bible may have been written and changed thru the ages.

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Good info guys, thanks.

 

Darth, if you haven't read it yet, I'd suggest "Misquoting Jesus" by Bart Ehrman (hell, anything by Bart Ehrman, really). I just reread it and it touches on some of the points that Hans and MWC are talking about. It's also just a damn good book about how the bible may have been written and changed thru the ages.

 

I'll check that out on Amazon later. Thanks for the info, I wasn't familiar with the subject, and didn't want to go in with assumptions and misconceptions about it. I'll be reading up on the subject in case I run into it again. Most of the sites I've found on the subject so far were apologist friendly, and I'm wary of such information.

 

Thanks for the info all. Seems I've got a bit of reading to do.

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I'll check that out on Amazon later. Thanks for the info, I wasn't familiar with the subject, and didn't want to go in with assumptions and misconceptions about it. I'll be reading up on the subject in case I run into it again. Most of the sites I've found on the subject so far were apologist friendly, and I'm wary of such information.

 

Thanks for the info all. Seems I've got a bit of reading to do.

Indeed. Knowledge is power, Grasshopper.

 

You might want to check your local library first, if you want to save a few bucks. Despite being in the heart of Texas, 'misquoting jebus' was in my library here.

 

I'm currently reading my second book by Bart Ehrman. It's about Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdiline and the historical basis behind them. So far it's pretty interesting but I'm still reading it in small stages. "Misquoting Jesus" is nice because the introduction is Ehrman's own deconversion story. He started out as a fundy but fell away from the faith because of his education. Plus the book is good too.

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I'm currently reading my second book by Bart Ehrman. It's about Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdiline

 

I love that group! Lemmon Tree, Puff the Magic Dragon, Blowin' in the Wind.

 

:lmao:

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