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The Language of the Bible.


The Holy Scripture is originally written in 3 languages: in Hebrew, Aramaic, and in Greek.

The greater part of the Old Testament is written in Hebrew. In the Old Testament chapters 2-8 of the book of Prophet Daniel, chapters 4-8 of the 1st book of Ezra and the book of Sirach, and in the New Testament the Gospel of St. Mathew are written in Aramaic.

In the Old Testament in Greek are written the 2d and 3d books of Maccabees and the entire New Testament, except for the Gospel of Mathew. Besides, the Gospel of Mathew, and all the Books of the Old Testament, which are not accepted by the Jewish canon, were preserved just in Greek, and their Jewish and Aramaic originals were lost.

The first known to us translation of the Holy scripture was the translation of all the books of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek, which was made by the so-called 70 (and to be more exact 72) interpreters in the 3d century BC.

Holy scripture

Demetrius Phalareus, the scientific great noble of the Hellenistic Egyptian King Ptolemaios Philadelphus, set a goal to gather all the existing in the entire world books in the capital of his king. Judea at that time (284-247 BC) was submitted to the Egyptian kings, and Ptolemaios Philadelphus ordered to the Jews to send to the Alexandrian library all the existing by them books, together with their Greek translation. Probably, none of their contemporaries understood that the typical for bibliophiles strife of the king and his noble to make the most full collection of the books will have such an important significance for the spiritual life of mankind.

The Jewish high priests treated this task with the extreme seriousness and realization of their responsibility. In spite of the fact that by that time the entire Jewish nation concentrated in one generation of Judas and the Jews could boldly fulfill the wishes of the Egyptian king themselves, together with that, justly and holy longing for the participation of entire Israel in that, the spiritual leader of the Jews proclaimed fasting and concentrated prayer among the people and called the 12 generations to choose 6 interpreters from each one of them, so that they could unanimously translate the Holy Scripture into Greek, the most spread then language.

This translation, which appeared to be, this way, the fruit of the council exploit of the Old Testament Church, got the name of the Septuagint, i.e. the Seventy, and became the most authoritative narration of the Holy Scripture of the Old Testament for the Orthodox Christians.

Much later (obviously, around the 1st century BC, for the Old Testament part of the Holy Scripture and around the beginning of the 2d AD for Its New Testament part) appeared the translation of the Holy Scripture into Syrian, the so-called Peshitta, which coincides in the most important details with the translation of the Septuagint. For the Syrian Church and the eastern churches, connected to the Syrian church, Peshitta was in the same way authoritative, as for us the Septuagint, and in the Western church the translation made by blessed Geronimo, the so-called Vulgate (which in Latin means exactly the same as in Aramaic Peshitta — "simple"), was considered as more authoritative, than the Jewish original. This might seem strange, but we shall try to explain it.

By the time of Christ the Savior Ancient Hebrew, in which the Law and the majority of the rest books of the Old Testament are written, was already a dead language. The Jewish population of Palestine was speaking the language, common for that time for the Semitic tribes of Front Asia — Aramaic. Christ the Savior spoke that language as well. Those little worlds of Christ, which the Evangelists cite literally: "Talitha cumi" (Mark 5:41), "Abba," when the Lord addressed God the Father (Mark 5:41), the mortal howl of the Lord on the cross: "Eloi, Eloi, lama Sabachtani" (Mark 15:34) — these Aramaic words (in the Gospel of Mathew the words "Eloi, Eloi" — My God, My God) — are given in Ancient Hebrew "Ili, Ili," but the second part in both the Gospels is given in Aramaic.

When during the 1st and 2d centuries after the storms of the Jewish war and rebel of Bar Kochba, the existence of the Jewish-Christian communities ceased, the Holy Scripture in Hebrew disappeared from the Christian medium. It was good for the Divine Providence that the rejected this Providence and by that being unfaithful to its main designation Jewish community would get the new designation, turning out to be the only keeper of the Holy Scripture in the original language, and despite its own will, would be the witness of the fact, that what is said by the Church of Christ concerning the ancient prophesies and prototypes of Christ the Savior and about the Divine Fatherly preparation of the people for acceptance of the Son of God, is not invented by the Christians but is the authentic verity.

When after many centuries of the separate existence in different and together with that battling to the last circles, in the Greek and Aramaic translations of the Holy Scripture and in the translations from Greek and Aramaic from one side and the Jewish original from the other, when they all were brought together to be compared, it turned out that in all the main things they, with the rarest exceptions, are identical. This unanimity is the testimony to the fact, how carefully the holy text of the Divine words was preserved, how triumphantly mankind justified the Divine confidence, which entrusted the absolute truth to the infirm and limited human powers.

But if the texts coincide in the main details, then why does the Greek translation remain to be more authoritative for the Orthodox Christians, but not the Hebrew original? It happens because it was kept by the Divine grace in the Church of Christ since the apostolic times. When the lines of the Bible were rewritten by the Christian writers, then a writer himself, being a child of the Church, the participant of the Church Divine life, knowing the Truth, did not make any grave mistake in the re-written text, and the listeners of that text, to whom he passed the copied book, could not leave without attention anything distorting the significance of the holy words, to which the Church was always so attentive.

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