When I was going over some sayings of Jesus, a new pun popped out at me that I hadn’t realized before and I cannot seem to find anyone else who has mentioned it yet. Perhaps I may be the first. 🙂
In Matthew 26:52 we have a scene where Jesus rebukes Peter for being rash:
Then said Jesus to him, Put up again your sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
In the Greek, the bolded part above reads thus:
παντες γαρ οι λαβοντες μαχαιραν εν μαχαιρη απολουνται
pantes gar hoi labontes mahairan en mahairê apolountai
For all who did take a sword, by a sword they shall die.
A plain retro-translation back into Galilean Aramaic reads:
בגין כל דנסבון סייף בסייף נמותון
bagin kal d-nsab saiyf, b-saiyf yimuthun
For everyone who took up a sword, by a sword (OR “in the end”) they shall die.
Which is *very* interesting.
In Western Aramaic dialects (specifically Galilean) the word saiyf can mean either “sword” or “end.” Given the context, this wordplay is undoubtedly intentional, and the Greek as we have it today, of course, misses this right off the bat.
Furthermore this has fun implications for the “Peshitta Primacy” movement, as it outlines differences between dialects.
The same passage in the Peshitta reads:
ܟܠܗܘܢ ܓܝܪ ܗܢܘܢ ܕܢܤܒܘ ܤܝܦܐ ܒܤܝܦܐ ܢܡܘܬܘܢ
kulhun ger hanun da-nsab saife, b-saife n’muthun
For all of they who take up swords, with swords they shall die.
Not only does this double meaning not occur in Syriac, or other Eastern dialects from the era, the Peshitta misses it completely, instead choosing to render both instances of /saipa/ in the plural (which makes the pun impossible in the Peshitta… say that 3 times fast).
I’ve gone ahead and put this into the “He Who Lives By The Sword” and “Problems With Peshitta Primacy” articles over on AramaicNT.org, but I think it might deserve its own spot in an article devoted solely to Galilean Aramaic Wordplay.
Finally of note, this pun does not occur in Hebrew. (As far as I am aware.)
All of this taken together is strong evidence that this saying within Matthew dates back to an Aramaic source (be it oral or written) which means that it is quite an early tradition.