Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the purpose of this project?

A: To provide a learning resource for people who are interested in the language of Jesus and his disciples (namely Galilean Aramaic).

The first part of this is an interlinear retro-translation of the Bible where direct quotes are presented in their original languages in a way for readers to recite a reasonable approximation of what they would have sounded like without prior knowledge. This is primarily intended as a liturgical resource.

The second part of this entails classes and other resources (both in print and on the web) so that readers can obtain knowledge about Biblical languages through self-guided study and more formal learning programs.

Q: What is your methodology?

A: That is covered in the Methodology section.

Q: Do you use the Peshitta New Testament?

A: Where the Peshitta New Testament will be consulted as a resource, it is written in a dialect (Classical Syriac) which quite different from Galilean Aramaic in both grammar and vocabulary.

Q: Aren’t retro-translations speculative?

A: All translations of ancient texts are speculative in some manner. In order to approximate the dialect that Jesus and his early followers spoke, educated choices will have to be made about what words and constructs to use. We do not think that this project will be perfect or authoritative (as that is not it’s goal), rather we hope that the translations are accurate enough to give the average reader an appreciation of the languages it represents.

3 thoughts on “Frequently Asked Questions

  1. When I brought up the Galilean to a man who’s been studying the bible in the Peshitta, he sounded almost skeptical. I don’t know if that’s personal with him or if Galilean poses a problem with the legitimacy of thinking that Peshitta is the most accurate. I have no experience in textual criticism but is the fact that Galilean still survives somewhat a kind of bane in the side of Peshitta? Or is it too early to tell?

    1. Any talk of Galilean Aramaic tends to be a bugbear to Peshitta Primacists, and I have personally experienced similar backlash. I fear that it does have to do with issues of legitimacy, and even exclusivity as often Peshitta Primacy is taken as a fundamental (even almost like a dogma).

      The fact is that the Peshitta is written in a dialect of Syriac that wasn’t spoken and written until 200-300 years after Jesus’ time. It’s simply too young. This alone is really enough to disqualify the Peshitta as the “very words of Jesus and his followers”.

      Furthermore that looking at the Greek NT with Galilean in mind shows places where the Peshitta “got it wrong” or missed inherent wordplay due to dialectical differences (some of which are simply fundamental between Eastern [Syriac, JBA, Mandaic] and Western Aramaic [Galilean, Samaritan, CPA] dialects) is a further blow.

      I’ve outlined a bunch of this in “Problems With Peshitta Primacy” which can be found in the Articles menu above.


  2. What’s your view on whether Jesus spoke Greek as well as Aramaic? It seems to me that he could not have preached in the Decapolis, or had a private conversation with Pilate, using Aramaic alone.

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