Like all proper projects, this page lists our translation methodology, itemizing out process and assumptions.

  • The base text for the English will be the WEB Bible. It is public domain and free.
    • A future goal is for the base text to be swappable between several popular Bible versions.
  • All passages that contain direct speech will be quoted or reconstructed in their original language and displayed as an English-readable transliteration so that the reader may intone a reasonable approximation of the words as they read without direct knowledge of the language, itself.
    • This will include Classical Hebrew, Galilean Aramaic, Judean/Babylonian Aramaic, and Koine Greek.
    • Hebrew and Greek will be marked as such to disambiguate.
  • Aramaic reconstructions will employ the following rubric:
    • The initial structure will conform to the Greek, with cognate passages from the Syriac Peshitta, and Christian Palestinian Aramaic (Melkite) New Testament texts (where available) as direct reference.
    • From there, the text will be analyzed and retro-translated into Galilean Aramaic or Judean Aramaic as is appropriate.
    • The text will then be transliterated using a plain English-readable transliteration and added inter-linearly to each line of a quote block above its English translation.
    • If Aramaic text is displayed:
      • It will be in Hebrew Unicode without niqqud and employ appropriate contemporary orthography.
      • The following disambiguations will be employed:
        • Emphatic endings will default to ה he. (Changed 12/12/12)
        • Feminine Absolute and Pronominal endings will be default to ה he.
        • “Ai” adjectives will be spelled with  יי yod-yod. (Changed 12/12/12)
  • Hebrew reconstructions will employ the following rubric:
    • If the source is known, it will be quoted verbatim.
  • Greek reconstructions will employ the following rubric:
    • If the source is known, it will be quoted verbatim.
  • Noted difficulties:
    • Retro-translations are, at least in part, exercises in speculation. Possibilities will continue to be refined.
    • The transliterated texts may not directly represent the English gloss of the interleaved translation (as they focus upon the underlying Greek). This will especially be the case when version swapping is implemented.

This list will be updated regularly.

4 thoughts on “Methodology

  1. Hello. I think this project is very interesting, I find reconstructions and retrotranslations very useful in order to learn ancient languages.
    I have a couple of questions about the methodology;

    What corpus is exactly used in order to reconstruct the Galilean Aramaic of the time of Jesus? I know there is a number of targumim and other galilean texts, but of later date, as far as I know (for example, in the CAL under the Palestinian Aramaic section)

    What opinion do you have about the work of the arameologist Maurice Casey? (in two books he reconstructed a good deal of Mark and Q texts) He believes that the best Aramaic nearer both place and time to reconstruct is Qumran Aramaic, but he writes about Galilean:
    “Virtually no Galilean Aramaic of the right period survives, however. Later sources are centuries later, and much of what goes under the heading of Galilean Aramaic does not really come from Galilee” (Aramaic Sources of Mark’s Gospel, pp89)

    What is the place of Qumran Aramaic regarding reconstruction of Jesus’ Aramaic in your opinion?

    Best Regards

    1. Casey’s work has been quite an inspiration for me. I do find myself differing in opinion with him about the usefulness of the earlier portions of the Galilean (Jewish Palestinian Aramaic) corpus. The biggest problems with the Galilean corpus is twofold:

      1) As Casey notes, a matter of classification. Many people are familiar with the famous mistakes of W. B. Stevenson in his “Grammar of Palestinian Jewish Aramaic” where he primarily based his work on the dialect of Targum Onqelos, which does not actually represent Galilean, only marginally using texts *closer* to Galilean (such as Palestinian Targumic). To this day, many people when they think of “Galilean Aramaic” resort to Stevenson’s work as it’s freely available, and are unaware of this.

      2) The corrupted transmission of Galilean texts. Where Galilean is a Western Aramaic dialect, when it was later preserved and handed down by Eastern Aramaic speaking scribes, they saw fit to “correct” a good deal of “mistakes” they found to proper Eastern Aramaic readings… not realizing that those “mistakes” were in perfectly proper Western Aramaic to begin with. Because of this tragedy, E.Y. Kutscher remarks (all the way back in the 70s) something true to this very day, that we *still* have yet to have a proper syntax of the language, and that nearly every published grammar falls victim to these corruptions.

      When reconstructing early Galilean I am taking a more (for lack of a better word) “holographic” approach, working with the earliest and least corrupted portions of the “true” Galilean corpus, alongside contemporary dialects (Samaritan, Qumran, etc.) and early inscriptions (which are admittedly few) in an effort to “peel back” enough years to get something as close as possible. Qumran Aramaic is an important piece of that puzzle given the prominence of and his exposure to the related dialects, but it more represents Eastern Aramaic than what Jesus would have natively spoken (which, as we can see of his close followers in Matthew 26:73, was obviously not the local dialect).

  2. Thanks for your answer! I find your approach really interesting.

    I suppose that, as always concerning earlier Aramaic dialects, the vocalization is highly speculative. Which Galilean texts, according to you, in the CAL are the better for the task (the earlier and “purer”)?

    I will check the progress of the project. I think is a hard task but worth trying, good luck.

  3. Hello Steve,
    I think you make the perfect project. Holy Biblie with correct translation is very very important
    I rejoice to your translations

    Greetings from Slovakia

    (My mother language is slovak. It is the most difficult language of the world)

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