What’s with the Aramaic texts?

What’s with the Aramaic texts?

“By referencing the text written in the very language in which Jesus taught, and then overlaying that with the Greek, we are able to translate the root meanings of the Scriptures in a new, fresh way.” (Brian Simmons) 1

The Passion Translation team claim that:

  1. The Aramaic manuscripts are more reliable than the Greek manuscripts 2

  2. Aramaic language is more passionate and poetic than  Greek language 3

What are these Aramaic manuscripts?

Many Christians know that small portions of the Old Testament were written in Aramaic (eg. parts of Daniel). There are also copies of the whole Bible that were translated into Syriac Aramaic, known as The Peshitta. The idea of using an Aramaic Bible as the basis of a new English translation is appealing. As Steve Caruso notes, some linguistic phenomena “come across more clearly than they do in the Greek simply by virtue of being an Aramaic language”. 4 However, Caruso also notes that “this does not necessarily point to the Peshitta being the original.” 5

Is The Peshitta more reliable than our Greek manuscripts?

No. The Peshitta is a translation from Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Bible into Syriac Aramaic. Syriac Aramaic was most popular from 5th-8th century AD and is a different dialect to the Galilean Aramaic that Jesus spoke:

“When we look at the New Testament in light of the time period, we find places where the Peshitta doesn’t quite match. It is written in a language that is 200-300 years too young and whose ancestor was difficult for Jews in the 1st century to comprehend. When we look at the New Testament in light of Jesus’ own dialect (early Galilean Aramaic, a dialect quite different from Syriac), we can find places where such phenomena as wordplay, puns, and potential mistranslations exist that are not present in the Peshitta. 6

Brian Sandifer clearly illustrates the problem with giving primacy to the Peshitta:

“TPT privileges the Aramaic translation of the Bible as a primary source text, putting it on the same level as the original Hebrew and Greek when translating. As a philosophy of translation decision, this is irresponsible no matter how sincere. Frankly it’s just weird. Say a bilingual English-Spanish speaker heard your spoken English message, understood you with complete accuracy, and wrote it down in Spanish for Hispanics to understand. Then someone else came along several generations later and translated that Spanish text back into English. Would you be more confident that your spoken message was accurately conveyed in the Spanish text or the English text?” 7

Is Brian Simmons the first person to use The Peshitta in English Translations?

No. The critical source texts used by standard modern English translations have incorporated elements of The Peshitta where appropriate. 8 There are also already English Bibles translated exclusively from The Peshitta. You can access three different English translations online: http://www.dukhrana.com/peshitta/. In that sense, it is unclear how Brian Simmons is tapping into something new or “unlocking secrets” of the Aramaic text.

Is the Aramaic more poetic than the Greek?

The claim that Hebrew and Aramaic is more poetic than Greek sounds reminiscent of the Islamic insistence on reading the Qu’ran in Arabic. Is Arabic the language of God? Or Hebrew? Or Galilean Aramaic?  Or Syriac? When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples at Pentecost the good news of the resurrection of Jesus was proclaimed in many languages! (Acts 2:7-8) 9

Should Christians living in Greece read the Bible in Aramaic to truly understand God’s love? Should English speakers only read the Bible in French as it is regarded in the West as “the language of love”? Surely each language is capable of poetic and passionate expression? The unsubstantiated claim that Aramaic or Hebrew is superior to Greek undermines the value of translating the Bible into English.


Making use of the Syriac (Aramaic) Peshitta is not new or necessary. The Passion Translation claims to unlock secrets and to introduce a radical new method for Biblical translation while working with the same manuscripts that other English translators already use. Perhaps we can all take on board the wisdom of Eddie Arthur:

“As a general rule, anyone who claims to have studied the text of the Bible and found something that everyone else has missed is best avoided.”  10


If The Passion Translation is introducing new ideas and unlocking secrets, it is wise to discover the source of those ideas and secrets. Andrew Chapman has been studying Brian Simmon’s translation of the Aramaic. Using case studies in Galatians, Chapman argues that The Passion Translation has borrowed some words and phrases from the Victor Alexander Aramaic Bible, words and phrases that Chapman cannot find in The Peshitta.

Learn more about the Victor Alexander Aramaic Bible here: http://readingthepassionbible.com/victoralexander/


  1. http://www1.cbn.com/books/revealing-the-heart-of-god-in-the-passion-translation
  2. “For centuries, it has been believed that the New Testament was first written in Greek. … Some scholars now lean increasingly towards the thought that Aramaic and Hebrew texts of the New Testament are the original manuscripts, and that many of the Greek texts are copies, and a second generation from the originals! This is radically changing translation concepts, and will result in many new translations of the New Testament based on Aramaic.” [Excerpted from “Translator’s Introduction” to Letters from Heaven by the Apostle Paul, the fourth instalment of The Passion Translation], cited by Holly Pivec, Spirit of Error blog.
  3. “Aramaic and Hebrew are related linguistically, and both are considered to be passionate and poetic. Greek speaks to the mind while Aramaic-Hebrew speaks powerfully to the heart.” – Brian Simmons [Christian News Wire, 7th October 2014]; see also http://www1.cbn.com/books/revealing-the-heart-of-god-in-the-passion-translation
  4. Steve Caruso, Problems with Peshitta Primacy: http://aramaicnt.org/articles/problems-with-peshitta-primacy/
  5. Steve Caruso, Problems with Peshitta Primacy: http://aramaicnt.org/articles/problems-with-peshitta-primacy/
  6. Steve Caruso, Problems with Peshitta Primacy: http://aramaicnt.org/articles/problems-with-peshitta-primacy/
  7. Brian Sandifer, My Concerns Regarding the Passion Bible Translation, Dangitbill
  8. See the Preface to the ESV and the Preface to the NIV 2011
  9. Acts 2:7-8
  10. Eddie Arthur, Kouyanet, “Here we go again: The Passion Translation”