Archive for the ‘Aramaic’ Category

Netanyahu Scaremongers again about Iran Nuclear Threat

March 3, 2015

Netanyahu has been at it again today. According to the I, he criticised Obama’s attempts to make an agreement with Iran over the country’s nuclear programme. He told a meeting of AIPAC – the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee – yesterday (2nd March) that Iran’s nuclear project threatens Israel’s very existence. He accused Iran of ‘threatening to destroy Israel’ and that it was ‘devouring country after country in the Middle East, that is exporting terror throughout the world and is developing as we speak the capacity to make nuclear weapons.’

This isn’t the first time Netanyahu has raised fears of a nuclear attack on Israel by Iran. Three years ago in 2012 he told the UN that the Iranians were only a year away from developing an atomic bomb, that would be used against Israel. He came complete with a diagram showing Iran’s growing nuclear capability, shaped like the stereotypical bomb from thousands of old cartoons.

He was lying. About a fortnight ago, the Guardian revealed that, according to leaked documents from Israel’s spy service, Mossad, and their internal security agency, Shin Bet, no such threat existed. The head of the Iraeli army, in much more guarded language, actually cautioned Netanyahu against taking any military action against Iran. The Young Turks discuss these revelations in the video below.

Iran’s Nuclear Power for Generating Electricity Only

Others have come to the same conclusion. Shirin Ebadi, a left-wing critic of the Iranian regime, who has its oppression of women and its exploitation country’s ordinary, working people, made the same point. In her book Iran on the Brink, she argues against an invasion of Iran. According to her, the mullahs governing the country aren’t interested in developing atomic weapons. Their claims that they want to develop it simply as a domestic power source are true. The country is indeed an oil producer, but they use it primarily for export. They intend to build nuclear power plants so that less oil is consumed by the country itself. The oil saved can then be exported, boosting the country’s economy and their own profits.

Netanyahu’s Claims of Iranian Terrorist Threat Exaggerated

Now let’s examine Netanyahu’s claims about Iran exporting terrorism, and ‘devouring country after country’. It’s true that Iran has exported terror around the world. In the 1990s the Iranian secret services were responsible for a massacre of Kurdish separatists meeting in a German restaurant. As for militaristic expansionism, it has been suggested that the Iranians are, or have, given military support to the Shi’ah minority in Iraq. The majority of Iranian Muslims are Shi’ah, and so they wish to support and bolster the power of their co-religionists in Iraq. There have also been claims that they would like to take control of the country. I can also remember reading articles in Private Eye speculating that British forces in Iraq or Afghanistan have also come into contact with Iranian troops there.

Iran has not, however, taken control of Iraq and has absolutely no links to the Taliban or al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. In fact liberal Iranians went to the polls in 2008 to vote out Ahmedinejad as a religious hard-liner who, they feared, would turn their country into a ‘Taliban state’. Afghanistan is a Sunni Muslim nation, a different form of Islam to Shi’ism. As for al-Qaeda and ISIS, they are militant Sunni, and so hostile to Iran and its political ambitions. Given the brutal intolerance of ISIS, the Iranians probably have good reason to fear them.

The mullahs in Iran are deeply hostile to Israel, and much of their rhetoric is poisonously genocidal. However, they aren’t the danger that Netanyahu is presenting them as.

Western Invasion of Iraq Responsible for Increased Persecution of Religious Minorities

If anything, Netanyahu’s rhetoric is also extremely dangerous, and likely to make the tense situation in the Middle East much worse, especially for its ethnic and religious minorities. Twenty years ago the Likud party with the Republicans in America drew up plans for the invasion of Iraq. Likud wished to see Saddam Hussein overthrown as he was supplying arms to the Palestinians. The invasion instead destabilised the region, and made possible ISIS’ emergence. About ten years ago, Dan Cruikshank journeyed to Iraq as part of a BBC TV series looking at the world’s great architectural heritage. He spoke to the patriarch of one of the Eastern Orthodox Christian churches. The interview was strained, with ominous silences where none of them spoke. The patriarch said that previously, relations with Muslim Iraqis had been quite harmonious. They had since become much worse, largely because of the invasion. The Islamic state has butchered the Christian population in the areas they’ve overrun. Iraq’s ancient Christian people, who speak Syriac, a Semitic language descended from Aramaic, have been forced out of their ancient homelands, like Mosul.

And they haven’t been the only people ISIS have persecuted. They’ve also attacked the Yezidis, a faith which contains elements of Sufi Islam and Zoroastrianism.

Iran also has its non-Muslim religious minorities. About 3 per cent of the population are Armenian Christians. Like the Syriac-speaking churches, these are one of the most ancient branches of the Christian faith. There is also an Anglican church in Tehran. These churches have also suffered persecution at the hands of extremists and bigots. Iran was also the ancient home of Zoroastrianism, the state religion of the Persian Empire. Zoroaster was the prophet, who reformed the Iranian religion and instituted the worship of the god Ahura Mazda, the good deity responsible for the creation of the world and its good creatures. I think there are even one or two Jews left in Iran, for all that most of them emigrated when the Ayatollah Khomeini declared they were free to leave after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Netanyahu’s belligerent rhetoric threatens to make the situation worse in Iran for all its religious minorities, and for liberal Muslims wishing to create a more open, tolerant and modern country. It stands to provoke even further suspicion and resentment. And by making such claims, Netanyahu also makes the situation worse for Israel by increasing international tension and the possibility of further violence.

Conclusion: Netanyahu’s Rhetoric Cynical Electioneering

But as The Young Turks point out, Netanyahu really isn’t interested in promoting peace or securing Israel’s safety. He wants to stoke fears of an Iranian nuclear threat in the hope of gaining further domestic votes. It’s a cynical attitude that threatens the safety of everyone in the region. Especially as the leaked documents to the Guardian have shown, it’s based on lies.

Obama reassured AIPAC that he had no intention of allowing the Iranians to build nuclear bombs. He should be believed, as should the Iranians, when they say that it really is all about generating electricity. The real liar is Netanyahu, and his lies threaten everyone.

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The Greek Texts as God’s Word: A Reply to ‘Submit’

July 11, 2013

I had this comment posted by ‘Submit’ to my post Christianity and the Survival of Ancient Learning: Part Two

Are Greek texts pure word of God. Where is Logia of Jesus in Aramaic. Where is Matthew’s Aramaic gospel?

P46 (175CE) is Greek manuscript with the largest percentage of difference on record. This just proved that Church have been changing words since early 2nd century at will.

Here is the words of the early church father, Origen (3rd century CE):
“The differences among the manuscripts have become great, either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they either neglect to check over what they have transcribed, or, in the process of checking, they make additions or deletions as they please.” Origen, early church father in “Commentary on Matthew.”

Regarding the oldest surviving fragment, Colin Roberts compared P52 writings using ONLY 5 samples from the early 2nd century CE back in 1935 and concluded based on those 5 samples; P52 was from the early 2nd century.

(Brent Nongbri’s 2005. The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel)
What I have done is to show that any serious consideration of the window of possible dates for P52 must include dates in the later second and early third centuries. – Brent

Compare with 4th century codexes. You will be surprise how Holy Spirit inside the scribes fail to prevent them from changing words of God ever since the beginning.

‘Submit’s’ Question and Muslim Attitudes to the Gospels

Now it occurs to me that there’s a bit of Muslim polemic in here. ‘Submission’ is the English translation of the Arabic term, Islam, and while it’s possible that ‘Submit’ took his or her name from the ‘Submit’ button on the comments box, it could also be a reference to Islam’s name. One of the tenets of Islam is that it preserves the original teaching of the Jesus and the other Judaeo-Christian prophets, which the Jews and Christians have deliberately altered. Now I have to say that with arguments like those, I suspect there may be a double standard considering the penalties some Muslim societies have placed on the critical examination of Islam’s own sacred texts in the way the Bible has by Western scholars.

Now let’s examine some of ‘Submit’s’ claims and questions.

Where is Logia of Jesus in Aramaic. Where is Matthew’s Aramaic gospel?

They haven’t survived, but there’s no reason to believe that they were deliberately suppressed. The canon of scripture was formed from the books the churches used for preaching, learning about the Lord, and worship. There was no formal process in which Christian scholars deliberately decided which books to include in the canon, and which to exclude. Now the lingua franca of Jews outside Palestine, and indeed of the eastern Mediterranean in general, was koine Greek. The early Christian communities used the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Bible that had been composed for the Jewish community in Alexandria in Egypt. Some scholars have suggested that the division between the Greek and Hebrew communities mentioned in Acts may not refer to ethnic divisions in the early Christian community, but between Greek and Hebrew-speaking Jews. There is still some debate amongst scholars over how far Rabbinic Judaism was hostile to the early Christian communities. Some Jewish scholars have maintained that the Birakat ha-Minim, or 12th Benediction in the Talmud, was not written against Christians. The Birakat ha-Minim condemns ‘Nazarenes’ and other heretics. Earlier scholars have seen it as an attempt by the rabbis to combat the growth of Christianity. As I said, it’s disputed by Jewish scholars, who have argued that Christians were still welcome in the synagogues until the early 2nd century. The church historian Eusebius mentions Jewish Christians, such as the bishop, Hegesippus. Robin Lane Fox in his book, Pagans and Christians, notes that the Jews were largely hostile and unresponsive to Christian mission. Christian preaching to Jews in the synagogues appears to cease with St. Paul. Given that the wider language of the Jewish diaspora was Greek and that after the First century Gentile Christians exceeded Jewish Christians, it appears to me that Matthew’s Aramaic Gospel may not have survived, not because it was deliberately suppressed, but because it wasn’t relevant to the wider Christian community. Its use by Aramaic-speaking Jews would have meant that it would have died out when their community did.

Syriac, the Peshitta, and the Hebrew Gospels

There is also the general point that the Patristic sources, which mention this version of the Matthew’s Gospel simply states that it was written for the Jews ‘in their own language’. This could be Aramaic, or possibly Hebrew. It may also mean that the Gospel was superseded by the Peshitta, the Syriac language version of the Bible used by Assyrian and other Eastern Orthodox churches. Syriac is descended from Aramaic, and developed around the city of Edessa after 200 AD.

Problems of Assuming Bible first Written in Aramaic

Now there is the problem in that ‘Submit’ assumes that the Bible, at least in its earliest stages and elements was composed first in Aramaic, then translated into Greek. But this need not necessarily have been the case. AS I have said, koine Greek was the international language of the eastern Mediterranean. The language of the imperial administration, up to the Muslim conquest in the 7th century AD was also Greek. It is possible that Christ may have known some Greek, and part of his answers when tried by Pilate may also have been in Greek. It’s thus possible that the first logia composed by the Christian community may have been in the Semitic koine Greek used by the Jewish communities there, rather than in Aramaic or Hebrew.

Differences in Gospel Copies due to Scribal Errors, Not Invention

Now let’s deal with his contention that there are major differences in the various copies of the Gospels. In fact what he is describing, and what Origen was trying to correct, are copying errors. Manuscripts were frequently copied through dictation. This allowed a single reader, dictating to a number of scribes at the same time, to produce many copies of the same book, rather than a single scribe laboriously copying out the text for one book after another. The problem with that process, however, is that words that sound the same could be confused. Furthermore, Greek texts from the ancient world can be extremely difficult to read. There’s very little punctuation, and no gaps between words. It’s also true that some scribes may have slightly altered the text to make the passage clearer. Despite this, there are no major differences. About 97 to 99 per cent of the text in all the extant copies of the Greek Bible is the same, and there are no differences when it comes to the fundamentals of the faith.

As for scribes changing the text of the Bible ‘at will’, this also isn’t true. The scribal changes follow the conventions of three different stylist families, resulting from the different scriptoria that produced them. If the scribes were introducing such changes at will, they would be much more random and it would be much more difficult to group them into families.

Conclusion: Gospel Texts Accurate with only Minor Differences

So the early Greek texts were not altered at will, but largely through scribal error, and these differences do not altered the fundamental meaning of the Gospels themselves. They remain largely accurate copies of the original documents.