To be able to find out the truthfulness of one’s belief and principle, first we should know the bases of these beliefs. How accurate are these references? How near or far are these from the absolute truth?
The Iglesia ni Cristo which was founded by Felix Y. Manalo during the early 20th Century is probably the only known denomination in the Philippines that makes use of the Lamsa Bible. What is the Lamsa Bible?
Formally titled The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts (ISBN 0060649232), the “Lamsa Bible” (which it is commonly called, after its editor, George M. Lamsa) first appeared in 1933. It was derived, both Old and New Testaments, from the Aramaic text used by the Assyrian Church of the East and other Syriac Christian traditions, called the Peshitta text.
This is in contrast to the various western Bibles in the English language, both Roman Catholic and Protestant. Most western versions are derived from the various critical Hebrew and Greek texts. The New Testament books of the King James Version (KJV), for instance, comes from the Stephens Greek text.
PROBING THE AUTHOR
The Lamsa Bible was authored by George M. Lamsa, an Assyrian scholar and author. He was born in Mar Bishu in what is now the extreme east of Turkey. A native Aramaic speaker, he translated the Aramaic Peshitta (literally “straight, simple, sincere or true”) into English versions of the Old Testament and New Testament.
Lamsa was a member of the Assyrian Church of the East. He was a strong advocate of one of that Church’s beliefs: Peshitta primacy (a form of Aramaic primacy). His hypothesis was that for the New Testament, the Peshitta was the original text, and the Greek version was translated from it. In support of this, he noted that Aramaic was the language of Jesus and the earliest Christians.
Lamsa further claimed that while most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, the original was lost and the present Hebrew version, the Masoretic text, was re-translated from the Peshitta.[ref. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamsa_Bible]
Lamsa claimed that he was the only person on earth able to accurately interpret the Bible: “The author, through God’s grace, is the only one with the knowledge of Aramaic, the Bible customs and idioms, and the knowledge of the English language who has ever translated the Holy Bible from the original Aramaic texts into English and written commentaries on it….” But are Lamsa’s interpretations of the Bible reliable? [ref. http://www.equip.org/free/DL010.htm]
Lamsa’s claim to be the preeminent authority on the meaning and translation of the Bible rests on his claim that he “was born and reared in a region in the near East which had escaped modernization, a region where the customs, manners and idioms of the ancient Aramaic language are still miraculously preserved to the present day.”
On the surface Lamsa appeared to regard all of the Bible highly. However, he distinguishes between the authoritative teachings of Jesus and what he considered to be the inferior doctrine of His disciples. The apostles, he claims, were unduly influenced by Jewish religion, traditions, laws, and practices, and so reveal human weaknesses in what they wrote. [ref. http://www.equip.org/free/DL010.htm]
FACTS OR FRAUD?
Lamsa says some Scriptures were lost and others were destroyed (e.g., burned) or rejected because they were “contrary to the new doctrines and dogmas” adopted at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325.43 He says certain passages were “deliberately forged” and added to the books of the Bible. The Greek texts as well as subsequent Bible versions, he adds, are corrupted by mistranslations and contradictions due to ignorant translators and the texts’ transition from Aramaic to Greek, Greek to Latin, and Latin to English. Lamsa also asserts that the two oldest biblical manuscripts known today are Peshitta Aramaic texts from the fifth and seventh centuries, making Greek texts appear to be later and corrupt. Thus, despite Lamsa’s superficial respect for the Bible, he distrusts, condemns, and changes portions of it.
Scholars universally agree that the New Testament was written in Greek and that we now possess scores of manuscripts which were written before the Peshitta. Most pastors have copies of the Greek New Testament (the UBS or Nestle-Aland text) which compiles readings of several hundred old manuscripts in Greek, Aramaic, and other languages. The reader can refer to this to find the names, content, dates of production, and current location of these texts. Their dates are determined by many factors, so a claim made by Lamsa that deceitful translators cut the dates out of texts to make them appear older is false. Most contemporary versions (NIV, NAS, etc.) translate the UBS text directly into English (or another language), so Lamsa’s assertion that the Bible was corrupted by being translated from Greek to Latin to English is inaccurate. [ref. http://www.equip.org/free/DL010.htm]
The most disturbing feature of the Lamsa Bible is that he often allows his theology and opinions to dictate his renderings. For example, he does not believe that people personally live after death, so he inserts the word “death” in places the writer used “sleep” (1 Cor. 15:6,18,20). Most passages which refer to the Trinity and Christ’s deity are left intact, but Lamsa changes the wording of John 1:18, Acts 20:28, Micah 5:2, and Hebrews 7:3 because they contradict his Nestorian presuppositions. His anti-Greek bias shows as he repeatedly replaces references to “Greeks” with “Arameans.” [ref. http://www.equip.org/free/DL010.htm]
A notable difference between Dr. Lamsa’s translation and other versions of the New Testament occurs in the fourth of the Words of Jesus on the cross – Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani. These are regarded by virtually all scholars as a quotation in Aramaic of the opening of Psalm 22, which in English is “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Where this similar to how the psalm appears in the Aramaic Peshitta Old Testament, it also appears in earlier Aramaic Targums. Lamsa believed that the text of the Gospels was corrupt, and that it is not a quotation but should read /Eli, Eli, lemana shabaqthani, which he translates as: “My God, my God, for this I was spared!”/
An accompanying footnote in Dr. Lamsa’s English version of the Bible explains Jesus’s meaning as “This was my destiny.”
Most Aramaic scholars, however, contend with Lamsa’s assertion about Jesus’ last words, as the word שבקתני [shvaqtani] in Aramaic is the perfect 2nd person singular form of the verb שבק [shvaq] which means “to leave, to leave s.t. left over, to abandon,” or “to permit” with the 1st person singular pronoun affixed. This would, in turn, cause the phrase to translate as “why have you left me?” “why have you let me be?” “why have you abandoned me?” or “why have you permitted me?”
With this in light, serious Aramaic scholars believe that Lamsa, and many other Aramaicists who, like native speakers, extend the semantic areas of words to provide whatever meanings are needed, go beyond the evidence of existant texts. [ref. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamsa_Bible]
His Bible translation though tainted in areas is for the most part agreeable with other translations. But where Lamsa actually interprets the Scripture is found in his Idioms in the Bible explained and the key to the original gospels written by Lamsa in 1971 published by Harper Collins. He has a allegorical interpretation ignoring the plain literal translation. The back cover states that this book goes far in correcting such error that have crept into biblical scholarship. In this book he explains his interpretation of the scripture of his Bible –he believes these are figures of speech and not literal. Here are just a few examples.
Bible= Gen.1:3 “Let there be light”
Lamsa’s interpretation =”Let there be enlightenment
Bible=Gen.2:9 “Tree of life in the midst of the Garden”
Lamsa interpretation = Sex , posterity
Bible=Gen.3:24 wrestling with the angel of the Lord
Lamsa interpretation = Being suspicious of a pious person
Bible=Ex.3:2 the burning bush not consumed
Lamsa interpretation = difficulties ahead difficulties will be overcome
Bible= Ex.3:5 Take off your shoes for you are on Holy ground.
Lamsa interpretation =Disregard pagan teachings, cleanse your heart
Bible= John 1 the word was God
Lamsa interpretation = the word is – a utterance, a command
Bible= John 1:18 the only begotten son
Lamsa interpretation= The first one who recognized the fatherhood of God. The only God-like man; hence, a spiritual son of God.
Bible= John 3:3 Born again
Lamsa interpretation= to become like a child, to start all over.
Bible=Jn.10:36 I and my father are one
Lamsa interpretation = the father and I agree.
Bible= 1 Thess. 4:17 to meet him in the air
Lamsa interpretation = to hasten to greet him
Bible= Rev.1:18 was dead and behold I am Alive forevermore.
Lamsa interpretation= I was unknown and now I am well and successful
(to be continued…)