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#40 - The Lamsa Bible and an alleged Aramaic original text
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
Question/insight #40: "I have read some of the papers on the Lamsa Bible. It is puzzling to me that his translation got the support of the Eastern Catholic Church which claimed to have obtained Aramaic version of the New Testament came "from the hands of the blessed Apostles themselves." I read your postings but would like a more thorough two-sided view of the controversy surrounding the translation. The foreword clearly indicates the location and name of the Codex documents used by Lamsa,yet Metzger claims Lamsa wouldn't give the source of the Aramaic text used. What gives? Any suggestion where I can find out more about this? Something is very strange here."
Metzger's remarks only further document what I had already concluded before ever hearing his remarks. It's not unlikely that Metzger himself or his close colleagues confronted Lamsa directly about this. Knowing Bruce Metzger, I can't imagine him making reckless and unsubstantiated statements in public or even in private, especially considering how passionately he spoke out against the Lamsa Bible. He clearly had conviction, based upon first-hand knowledge. As I wrote in the Q&A section of the website at http://www.bibletexts.com/qa/qa033b.htm:
Some years ago I had already questioned the value of the Lamsa Bible, when I observed that many of the same errors that appeared in the Textus Receptus were also in Lamsa Bible. These were errors that first appeared, anywhere in the world, in the 16th century, which is when Erasmus haphazardly prepared his first edition of what later become the Textus Receptus. It seems almost as if Lamsa began by translating the Textus Receptus (or the KJV?) or the Latin Vulgate into Aramaic and then translated his Aramaic translation back out to modern English.
Later when I heard Dr. Metzger's remarks, his comments really made sense. They were especially believable, since Metzger is arguably the world's foremost scholar on the subject of New Testament manuscripts and the Greek New Testament. And Metzger was already a recognized biblical scholar when Lamsa first published his Bible in the 1940s, so Metzger is speaking here on first-hand knowledge of the events of that time.
Lamsa's claim that the Eastern Catholic Church "claimed to have obtained Aramaic version of the New Testament came 'from the hands of the blessed Apostles themselves' " is entirely bogus, as is pointed out by Metzger at:
You can also do your own checking of the facts by taking the Lamsa Bible and using the BibleTexts webpage at:
to check whether Lamsa's Bible included many of the errors that are in the KJV. You will find that the Lamsa Bible does not look so good under such scrutiny. Many of those errors did not appear in any ancient manuscript or translation until the 16th century. For instance, see Mat 5:22, Mat 19:29, and many other verses. Metzger's words ring true. Lamsa's claims seem empty.
In the past, I, too, have had the validity of some much-loved biblical research books shot full of holes, but moving on from belief to understanding is always a good thing. Letting the facts lead us is certainly exhilarating and ultimately very liberating.
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer