Friday, October 4, 2013

Meltha in the Syriac NT

So lately I've been trying to learn more about Syriac/Aramaic. I found this great resource:

One word in particular that I've been looking at is Meltha, which is used in John 1:1 for Logos or Verbum or Word. This stood out to me because the Hebrew word for "word" (and therefore the Aramaic word which is cognate with it) is dabar, or something like that. So what is this word? That website above has a nice concordance built into it, so I was able to find other passages that use it.

Here are a couple passages:

"But I say unto you, that whosoever looseth his wife, except on account of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery; and whosoever taketh her who is sent away, committeth adultery." (Matthew 5:32)

The RSV says "ground" for the word which the Peshitta translation calls "account". (It keeps switching to Green...don't know why, just going to ignore it..) This keeps its meaning close to "logos" which often means account. The Greek uses "logos" and the Latin "causa".

"And every one who shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but every one who against the Spirit of Holiness shall speak, it shall not be forgiven to him, neither in this world nor in the world to come." (Matthew 12:32)

I thought this passage was interesting since it talks about a "word" against the Son of man, who is indeed the Word. Other languages use "logos" and "verbum".

"Wherever a man hears the word by which the kingdom is preached, but does not grasp it, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart; his was the wayside sowing." (Matthew 13:19)

 Another instance of meltha/logos/verbum, where it seems that "word" can easily refer to the Word. "But does not grasp it" reminds one of John 1:5 where the light shines in the darkness but the darkness does not grasp it. 

I must needs go now, but it's comforting to see the correspondence of meanings across the ancient versions of texts. More than the Syriac (which is still very foreign), it was interesting to see other places where logos and verbum fit together. Sometimes people think Word is a bad translation of Logos at the beginning of John, but the ancient translation looks good to me.

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