Question:

I would like to comment on the use of Aramaic in Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani. It's not the Greek word and its meaning that's in question or the crux of the argument. The Aramaic is the problem. The Aramaic word that the Greek word was translated from was supposed to have more than one meaning and this wasn't discovered until later. It wouldn't matter how it was used in any other translated text in the Greek. If the Aramaic word has two different meanings, who decided to used the one Greek word for one of the Aramaic meanings of the word? The translations of the text from Aramaic to Greek in the Scriptures has its problems like any other language. Some believed he was calling for Elij(Y)ah because the Aramaic word for God is similar. But I have to admit I like the later translations because I feel better having a God that doesn't forsake His only Son. It plainly makes more sense.

Heresy is going against the religious authority and its accepted views. Translators could be labeled as heretics, tried for heresy and burned at the stake for translating a more accurate meaning or newly learned meaning of words against a previously held belief. The problem is that most people don't understand that translated texts are not the inspired word of God but a translation of it. And the Bible warns us about translating in error, so it will happen. They simply didn't know the Aramaic word had more than one meaning and that is why they used the Greek word that fit the one meaning they had of the Aramaic. I'm not belittling those that think differently, but some of us now believe it for reasons not known by others.


Answer:

The above was written in response to the answer titled, "Could Jesus have said "My God, my God, for this I was kept?" " The verse in question is:

"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"" (Matthew 27:46)

What you have chosen to ignore is that it was not man who translated the phrase "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani." The book of Matthew was written by the apostle Matthew who was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Mark's inspired account gives exactly the same translation in Mark 15:34. In speaking of being inspired, Paul stated, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (I Corinthians 2:12-13). Take careful note that Paul states that the words taught were selected by the Holy Spirit and not by man. This is why we claim that the biblical text as originally written is inerrant; God doesn't make mistakes. It is true that errors could be made in the copying and translation of the copies since man has been involved, but this is not such a problem in this particular passage. The translation was made by the Holy Spirit in Matthew and Mark's original text. We don't have to guess as to which of two possible Aramaic means should be assigned to the phrase. The Holy Spirit told us what the proper translation was into the Greek. "And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (II Peter 1:19-21).

You made another mistake when you said, "Some believed he was calling for Elij(Y)ah because the Aramaic word for God is similar." Matthew 27:47 states, "Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, "This Man is calling for Elijah!"" Mark's account gives a bit more detail. "Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, "Look, He is calling for Elijah!" Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, "Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down."" (Mark 15:35-36). The people thought that Jesus was calling for the prophet Elijah, the one prophesied to come again in spirit (Malachi 4:5). But Jesus had already explained that the spirit of Elijah had already came when John preached in the land (Matthew 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13).

Translators have been threaten in the past, but this is not happening in the modern world. Nor has past threats stop the production of translations. There are plenty of translations coming out each year -- a few good and many bad. The reason that "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani" is not translated as you believe it ought to be is for one very simple reason: the text doesn't support your translation.

November 5, 2008