The new testament in Aramaic


I was talking to someone who was telling me that he has read the new testament in Aramaic and it really changes the meaning of the new testament. Has anyone else heard anything similar or know what he’s talking about? I tried looking it up but I wasn’t able to find anything. :confused:


**I have an AENT (Aramaic English New Testament) published 2011 by Netzari Press LLC.
It claims to be “based on an ancient 164 CE [Aramaic] text that is much older than the oldest Greek manuscripts circa 350 CE.”

I have never tried to verify that claim and haven’t used this version very much.
But I think that it is worth the small price. **


My two cents. I think there’s a huge chance you met a guy from the so-called ‘Aramaic primacy’ crowd.

Subscribers to ‘Aramaic primacy’ believe that the original language of the New Testament books is not Greek, but Aramaic.

While many people do believe that at least one or two books of the New Testament are likely to have an Aramaic source behind them (according to an early Church tradition, Matthew wrote a gospel in ‘Hebrew’ - more likely Aramaic; more recently, a scholar, the late Maurice Casey, proposed his theory that the gospel of Mark used a written Aramaic source for his gospel), many Aramaic primacy adherents usually take it up a notch and say no, most or all New Testament books were actually originally written in Aramaic - the Greek texts (what we usually consider to be the original language of the NT books) are really just translations.

A subcategory of Aramaic primacy is the so-called ‘Peshitta primacy’. The Peshitta is a Syriac (an Aramaic language - Aramaic has many dialects) version of the Bible that has been traditionally used by Churches that use Syriac as their liturgical language.

Contemporary scholarship believes that the Peshitta is a translation of the Greek New Testament made somewhere before the early 5th century. (I should note: the Peshitta is not the only Syriac version of the New Testament that we have.)

However, Peshitta primacy adherents beg to differ. Some Peshitta primacy adherents would claim that the Peshitta NT is the ‘original’ version of the New Testament (because hey, after all, didn’t Jesus speak Aramaic?); others would qualify their beliefs a little, so even if the Peshitta may not be ‘the original NT’, they’d say that it represents more faithfully the meaning and the original context of Jesus’ words compared to the Greek text. They usually point to passages which were supposedly ‘lost in translation’ in the Greek to support their argument.

Now the thing about Peshitta primacy is that it’s, well, not really that defensible once you look deeper into it.


Is this the one by Andrew Gabriel Roth? Because if it is, he’s (to be blunt) engaging in sensationalism.


Thanks for the links.
It appears that Mr. Roth’s claim -that his AENT is based on a 164 CE text in Aramaic- does not hold up.


I was talking to someone who was telling me that he has read the new testament in Aramaic and it really changes the meaning of the new testament. Has anyone else heard anything similar or know what he’s talking about? I tried looking it up but I wasn’t able to find anything.

I’ve read a good portion of Roth’s Aramaic New Testament. I won’t delve into the debate about Aramaic primacy, primarily because I am not a scholar in the subject to accurately weigh the merits on each side of the debate.

Regardless, the text to me was worth the purchase. Roth clarifies quite a few obscure words and phrases, adding additional clarity to confusing passages. He has a lot of commentary - very opinionated commentary - but it makes for fascinating reading.

One of his premises - and I am summarizing and simplifying here - is that Christ did not abolish or replace the Torah. He is also very much against what he deems pagan influences in the Church.

To me, the book is very helpful as an additional resource alongside other commentaries and translations. It is just one perspective, and an interesting one.


The New Testament as it was approved and canonized on by the Church is in Greek. If a version in some other language does change the meaning of the Greek original version, that is just the result of the opinion of those behind that other version, and it lacks any authority. And similarly if passages in an English translation of the New Testament changed the meaning of what the original Greek version said, these passages should be dismissed as just the personal view of the translators, and not what the New Testament said at all


Roth’s claim comes from the so-called Khabouris Codex, an old manuscript of the Peshitta. The manuscript itself is medieval (12th century), but there is supposedly a note - a colophon - in the manuscript that claims that the text is ultimately copied from an exemplar dating from a hundred years after the “great persecution.” Some assume this “great persecution” to refer to Nero’s persecution of Christians and accordingly assume it means AD 164-165.

But here’s the thing: we don’t know if the colophon’s claim is true, or whether it is even genuinely written by the original scribe who wrote the manuscript. And if it is true, whether the “great persecution” really does refer to the Neronian persecution of the mid-1st century. (Who knows? It could be some other later persecution - IMHO Diocletian’s or Shapur II’s could fit the bill just as well, maybe even more than Nero’s, because Nero only specifically targeted the Christians in the city of Rome.)


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