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George Lamsa : biography

5 August 1892 - 22 September 1975

George M. Lamsa () (August 5, 1892 – September 22, 1975) was an Assyrian 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") Old and New Testaments into English.



Where many scholars hold that the sources of the New Testament and early oral traditions of fledgling Christianity were, indeed, in Aramaic, the Peshitta appears to have been strongly influenced by the Byzantine reading of the Greek manuscript tradition, and is in a dialect of Syriac that is much younger than that which was contemporary to Jesus.Casey, M. (1998) Aramaic sources of Mark's Gospel. Cambridge University Press.

Critics of Lamsa assert that he, like many native speakers Aramaic, extend the semantic areas of words beyond the evidence of existent texts.Casey, M. (1998) Aramaic sources of Mark's Gospel. Cambridge University Press.

Bruce Chilton, scholar and prominent Aramicist, has said:

"A still less defensible tendency confuses Aramaic of the first century with Syriac, a different form of the language. The approach of George Lamsa, who used the Peshitta Syriac version as an index of replicating Jesus’ teaching in Aramaic, has been taken up and popularized by Neil Douglas-Klotz. This approach willfully perpetuates a basic confusion of language, since Aramaic and Syriac come from different centuries and areas (although they are closely related Semitic languages), and is based on uncritical treatment of the Peshitta, a Syriac version of the Gospels."Chilton, B. "The Aramaic Lord's Prayer"

In 1989 the Christian Evangelical apologetics research ministry Christian Research Institute asserted in a published review that several of Lamsa's theological positions and interpretations were not supported by the Bible. The review concludes by saying:

"On the surface, Lamsa appears to be a revealer of biblical truth and culture and a friend of evangelical Christianity. Closer study, however, has revealed that Lamsa promotes metaphysical, not evangelical teachings which have led him to inaccurate interpretations and translations of portions of the Bible. As an ambassador of Nestorian, not biblical culture, Lamsa became a cultic figure in his own right." by John P. Juedes, Christian Research Journal, Fall 1989, Volume 12 Number 2, page 9

William M. Branham, evangelist and personal friend to Lamsa has said:

"To our gratification we find the words in both amazingly the same so that there is no difference actually in content or doctrine. We may even conclude that God has allowed these newly discovered manuscripts and recent publications of already known scripts to come before us to prove the authenticity of what we already had. And we find that though translators may fight each other, scripts do not."

History and views

Lamsa was a member of the Assyrian Church of the East. He was a strong advocate of a belief traditionally held by part of that Church; that Aramaic New Testament of the Peshitta was the original, and that the Greek version was translated from it. In support of this, he claimed that Aramaic was the language of Jesus and his disciples.Lamsa, G. (1933) The Four Gospels According to the Eastern Version. A. J. Holman Company. Philadelphia. Trans. by George M. Lamsa. p. xvi–xviii According to Lamsa, "Aramaic was the colloquial and literary language of Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor and Mesopotamia, from the fourth century B. C. to the ninth century A. D."Lamsa, G. (1933) The Four Gospels According to the Eastern Version. A. J. Holman Company. Philadelphia. Trans. by George M. Lamsa. p. xv This view of the Assyrian Church regarding the Language of the New Testament is rejected by mainstream scholarship, but Lamsa's views won support among some churches such as The Way.J. Gordon Melton, Martin Baumann Religions of the World, Second Edition 2010 p3092 "The Way, like most scholars, believes that Aramaic was the language spoken by Jesus, but in addition it believes Aramaic to be the language in which the New Testament was originally written, contrary to almost all scholars, who believe it was written in Greek. This view is based on the work of George M. Lamsa, especially his Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts (1959), and the books of ..."

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