Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why Maurice Casey is Almost Certainly Wrong About Aramaic Gospel Primacy

Yes, I don't think that the original gospel was written in Aramaic.  The Church Fathers actually never say anything of the sort. When you go through the actual evidence of the Patristic sources it is impossible to mistake their clear attestation that the original language of the gospel was Hebrew.  We tend to think of Hebrew as a dead language in the period yet the evidence from Qumran contradicts that old assumption.  This isn't the place to get into a tangential discussion about how, why or when Hebrew could have been the original language of the gospel but it has to be recognized that this what the oldest sources tell us.

I only bring this up because I came across a surprising discovery while trying to make sense of Eastern 'Diatessaronic' readings of Luke 6:43 and Matt 7:14 related to the Marcionites and Manichaean sects.  As I demonstrated in a previous post, it is Matthew - not Luke - which seems to preserve the Marcionite reading of this saying.  I couldn't get over this so I started to dig deeper and what I came with was something which seems completely unrelated to Marcionitism - namely what I consider to be a strong argument supporting the Patristic claims regarding an original Hebrew gospel. 

If we stick to the differences between the surviving Greek texts which preserve this saying we see a difference with respect to the idea of whether the fruit of the 'bad tree' was 'corrupt' or 'evil':

Οὐ γάρ ἐστιν δένδρον καλὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν σαπρόν, οὐδὲ πάλιν δένδρον σαπρὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλόν. [Luke 6:43]

οὐ δύναται δένδρον ἀγαθὸν καρποὺς πονηροὺς ποιεῖν, οὐδὲ δένδρον σαπρὸν καρποὺς καλοὺς ποιεῖν. [Matt 7:18]

Ἢ ποιήσατε τὸ δένδρον καλὸν καὶ τὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ καλόν, ἢ ποιήσατε τὸ δένδρον σαπρὸν καὶ τὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ σαπρόν· ἐκ γὰρ τοῦ καρποῦ τὸ δένδρον γινώσκεται. [Matt 12:33]

If we factor in the Marcionite and Manichaean readings (I can't list all of them) we get even a greater variation still.  There are two citations in De Recta in Deum Fide:

οὐ δύναται δένδρον σαπρὸν καρποὺς καλοὺς ἐνεγκεῖν, οὐδὲ δένδρον καλὸν καρποὺς κακοὺς ἐνέγκαι

οὐ δύναται δένδρον σαπρὸν καρποὺς καλοὺς προενεγκεῖν, οὐδὲ δένδρον καλὸν καρποὺς σαπροὺς προενέγκαι

We can add this to the parallel textual reading of Mani in the Acts of Archelaus.  The first two come from Mani:

a good tree cannot bear bad fruit nor a bad tree good fruit’

ὅτι οὐ δύναται δένδρον καλὸν καρποὺς κακοὺς ποιῆσαι, οὐδὲ μὴν δένδρον κακὸν καλοὺς καρποὺς ποιῆσαι. [AA 5.4]

a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree bear good fruit?”

Non potest arbor bona malos fructus facere, neque arbor mala bonos fructus facere [AA 15.6, trans. Vermes, Hegemonius, 60. GCS 16, p. 24.15–19]

The next from Archelaus his opponent:

Let him say what evil is, in case he is defending or constructing the mere name. But if it is not the name of evil but its substance, let him expound to us the fruits of this wickedness and iniquity, since the nature of a tree can never be recognised without its fruit

Sed postremo dicat quid est malum, ne forte nomen solum defendat aut adstruat. Quod si non nomen mali, sed substantia, fructus nobis malitiae et nequitiae huius exponat, quoniam non agnoscitur umquam arboris natura sine fructu [AA 18.7, trans. Vermes, Hegemonius, 67. GCS 16, p. 29.24–28]

The thing that struck me is that there is absolutely no consistency to any of these readings with 'bad,' 'evil' and 'rotten' being substituted almost at will.

My original question was 'what was the original Marcionite reading.'  That seems to be answered with Megethius's citation in De Recta in Deum Fide.  The problem is again that this reading seems to confirm that the Marcionite reading resembles our Matthew rather than Luke.  Even still it shows a little variation from what Tertullian implicitly says in Against Marcion Books One and Two.  The bottom line for me was that it seems impossible to explain all the variation with this saying not only between the Catholic and the Marcionite reading but also the disagreements between their texts and that of the Manichaeans.

The answer it would seem is to remember that the Acts of Archelaus was originally written in Syriac according to Jerome.  In the Peshitta we find ܒܐܫ which means 'bad' or 'evil' in Syriac and Aramaic.  So in Syriac and Aramaic we have a 'bad tree' and a 'bad fruit.'  So now I had to account for the 'rotten' tree and the 'rotten' fruit reading.  And then it occurred to me.  The same three letters - בָּאַשׁ - in Hebrew mean disgusting, foul, odious, stink. In other words, the existence of an original Hebrew text of the gospel would explain why Greek translators read the same three letters in different ways depending on whether they assumed that Hebrew or Aramaic was the original language of the gospel. 

I wonder whether other examples of this phenomenon exist out there.  For the moment at least it is enough to point out the literary precedent for the gospel's use of בָּאַשׁ - Isaiah 5.  The passage from Isaiah has already influenced the gospel composition by means of the Parable of the Tenants (Mark 12.1-12; Matthew 21.33-41, 41, 41-42, 43-44, 46, 45; Luke 20.9-17, I8, 19).  Yet when we look to the Hebrew of the text it should be obvious its connection to Luke 6:43, Luke 7:18 and the rest of the related passages:

I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard:
My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.
He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit (בְּאֻשִׁים).
Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.
What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?
When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad fruit (בְּאֻשִׁים)? 
Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed;
I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled.
I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there.
I will command the clouds not to rain on it.
The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel,
and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

The similarity between Mark 12 and Isaiah 5 however develops specifically from the Greek translation of the passage where eight of the same Greek words are used to describe the planting and protection of the vineyard.

Καὶ ἤρξατο αὐτοῖς ἐν παραβολαῖς λαλεῖν. ἀμπελῶνα ἄνθρωπος ἐφύτευσεν, καὶ περιέθηκεν φραγμὸν καὶ ὤρυξεν ὑπολήνιον καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν πύργον, καὶ ἐξέδετο αὐτὸν γεωργοῖς, καὶ ἀπεδήμησεν. 2 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς τοὺς γεωργοὺς τῷ καιρῷ δοῦλον, ἵνα παρὰ τῶν γεωργῶν λάβῃ ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος· [Mark 12:1 - 2]

ᾄσω δὴ τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ ᾆσμα τοῦ ἀγαπητοῦ τῷ ἀμπελῶνί μου ἀμπελὼν ἐγενήθη τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ ἐν κέρατι ἐν τόπῳ πίονι. καὶ φραγμὸν περιέθηκα καὶ ἐχαράκωσα καὶ ἐφύτευσα ἄμπελον σωρηχ καὶ ᾠκοδόμησα πύργον ἐν μέσῳ αὐτοῦ καὶ προλήνιον ὤρυξα ἐν αὐτῷ καὶ ἔμεινα τοῦ ποιῆσαι σταφυλήν ἐποίησεν δὲ ἀκάνθας [Isaiah 5:1 - 2]

 Of course Isaiah 5:2 LXX says 'thorns' and the Hebrew 'rotten fruit.' But there is something here, don't you think?

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