The Bible Answers Short Questions From Our Readers
Plain Truth Staff
Why do you use the expression "Holy Spirit" instead of "Holy Ghost" in quoting scriptures?
Some have assumed that the "Holy Spirit" and the "Holy Ghost" mentioned in the King James Version of the Bible are two different spirits. This is not true! The word "ghost" is an unfortunate translation that should be avoided. In the inspired original Greek only one expression is used — meaning "Holy Spirit." In every case the English words "Ghost" and "Spirit" comes from one Greek word "pneuma," meaning "spirit" — not some nebulous "ghost." This Greek word pneuma, unfortunately translated "Ghost" so many times, is properly translated "Spirit" in Luke 11:13, Ephesians 1:13, 4:30, and I Thessalonians, and in many other scriptures when referring to God's Spirit. When the King James Version of the Bible was first printed in 1611 — over 1400 years after the New Testament was first written in the Greek language — the English words "ghost" and "spirit" were both used to mean the same thing. Thus it was quite natural that the translators should have used both words in translating the one Greek word pneuma into English. This inconsistent usage has given many the false impression that a Holy Ghost AND a Holy Spirit exist as two separate spirits. This idea is utterly untrue. The word "ghost" has become obsolete as far as general English usage goes. But many have foolishly insisted upon continuing to use the word "ghost" in referring to God's Spirit. They think of God's Holy Spirit as some misty, spooky being. The only p roper way to clarify the subject is to use the expression "Holy Spirit" in all cases chat refer to the Spirit of God, instead of translating one expression two different ways and giving unsuspecting Bible students the false impression that two spirits, a Holy Ghost and a Holy Spirit, are meant.
Sometimes I become so discouraged by my problems that I don't know what to do. It makes me feel like giving up. What should I do?
A Christian has no reason to become discouraged. Discouragement comes from concern about oneself. God commands us to cast all our cares upon Him because He cares for us (I Pet. 5:7). After you go to God in prayer and cast your problems upon Him, leave them with Him. You should forget about bearing them. Then, with your problems forgotten, you will not be concerned for self, but for others. Pray for others — for those who have more problems than you do, remembering that you are one of the few on this earth who are able to receive God's rich spiritual blessings. Pray for the growth of God's work so chat others may also hear the true gospel! We will be flesh only a brief time compared to the eternity God has prepared for us in the Kingdom of God. Keep yourself so busy in your concern for others that you do not have time to become discouraged. All people have the same problems and temptations (I Cor. 10:13) but God promises you a way of escape from yours. You can leave your problems and discouragement behind by applying these principles from God's Word — the same principles by which Christ forgot His own problems.
Of what value is the Lamsa translation of the Bible? And what about his hypothesis that the New Testament was written in Aramaic, not Greek.
On the market is a recent translation by George M. Larosa of the Syriac, or Aramaic, Bible into the English language. This work is not a translation from the Hebrew Old Testament or the Greek New Testament. It is a translation into English from the Aramaic Bible used in the Near East. The Lamsa translation is based on Eastern (Aramaic) manuscripts from which the standard text of the Syriac churches is taken. The Aramaic or Syriac Bible is commonly known as the Peshitta (which means "simple," "clear" or "common"). Its New Testament text is claimed by both the Patriarchate of the Church of the East and Mr. Lamsa to be the original text which the Apostles wrote. This foolish and groundless claim has unfortunately led some people to acknowledge the Peshitca Bible to be the most accurate body of Scripture. Consequently they assume the Larosa translation to be the most accurate English translation of the original text. First, let's look at the Old Testament portion of the Peshitta. There is ample proof, admitted by all competent authorities, that this part of the Aramaic Bible is a poor translation from original Hebrew manuscripts. This is also proved by the Bible itself. God encrusted the JEWS — not the Syrians — with the preservation and transmittal of the Old Testament Scriptures (Rom. 3:2, Acts 7:38). The Old Testament in the Peshitta is clearly a translation from Hebrew texts. It is frankly acknowledged as such by the overwhelming majority of scholars of Aramaic. Furthermore, the entire Syriac translation of the Old Testament was foolishly revised at a late date by comparing it with the Septuagint, a corrupt translation of the Old Testament into Greek which was begun in Alexandria in 275 B.C. Hence the Syriac Old Testament admittedly "is not very trustworthy as evidence for the Hebrew text" (Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, by Kenyon, p. 81). Second, let's look at the New Testament portion of the Peshitta. Two basic questions need to be answered. First, were the New Testament Scriptures originally written in the Aramaic language, as Lamsa and the Church of the East claim? And second, is Lamsa's translation into English a trustworthy translation of the Syriac text? The earliest existing Aramaic New Testament manuscripts are of the 5th century A.D. and are rejected even by Lamsa himself and the Church of the East. These manuscripts are known to be late and corrupt revisions and onetime versions which were made by renegade bishops from faulty Greek texts (See Lamsa's The Holy Bible, Introduction, p. VIII). The earliest manuscripts of the Syriac Peshitta text are now lost, but copies of them were used by Lamsa for his translation. For many years scholars debated the question of whether these manuscripts were prior to the 5th century A.D. It is now acknowledged that "there is the possibility that the Peshitta is a direct translation from the Greek made at a time long anterior to (long before) 300 A.D." (The Oxford Debate on the Textual Criticism of the New Testament, Miller, p. 38). It is because the evidence goes back to early times that Larosa and the Church of the East have mistakenly assumed that their manuscripts were copies of others originally written by the Apostles in Aramaic, rather than translations from the inspired, original Greek. But this assumption is not true! The Bible proves that the preservation of the text of the New Testament has been entrusted co the Greeks. The most accurate New Testament text is to be found in the official Greek text of the Greek Church (Rom. 1:16, 3:2 and 10:19-21). GREEK, not Aramaic, was the universal language of the Roman Empire. It was so commonly used that it was spoken almost as much as Aramaic in those eastern countries of the Roman Empire where Aramaic was the native tongue. Notice the proof of this in Mark 15:34. This surprising verse PROVES that Mark wrote in a language different from the one in which Jesus spoke! Jesus was speaking in Aramaic. Therefore, if Aramaic were the original language of all the New Testament, Mark would not have had to translate the words of Jesus because everyone would already have clearly understood what Jesus was saying in His native tongue. But Mark had to translate it! Notice: "And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?' which is, being interpreted, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'" Now consider this astounding fact. If the Syriac rather than the Greek text formed the original New Testament, there would be no reason for us to find in the Peshitta Bible the words "which is, being interpreted, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'" But what do we find? The Aramaic New Testament repeats the original Greek text word-for-word! The Aramaic text when translated into English reads, "And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, 'My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?' which is, being interpreted, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'" There could be no stronger proof — despite the false claims of Mr. Lamsa and the Church of the East — that Aramaic is not the original language of the New Testament. The Syriac manuscripts which form the Peshirta text are merely early translations of the original, inspired Greek text which God has preserved through the Greek people. Dr. Lamsa attempted to cover up this devastating truth by cleverly leaving the Aramaic words of Jesus untranslated in his English version. What about the trustworthiness of the Lamsa translation? Lamsa's translation of Mark 15:34 provides yet another shortcoming of his translation. Lamsa mistranslates the words of Jesus to read, "My God, my God, for this I was spared!" This is a far cry from the Aramaic text which Dr. Lamsa purports to properly translate. The Aramaic does not read as Dr. Lamsa renders it. It reads exactly the same as the original inspired Greek: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Jesus' words are a direct quote from Psalm 22:1, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Jesus was forsaken when he became our sinbearer (II Cor. 5:21). The Father let Jesus die for our sins! That's why Jesus was forsaken unto death. Yet to hide the fact that Jesus quoted Psalm 22: 1 as He faced death, Dr. Lamsa purposely mistranslates Psalm 22:1 as, "My God, my God, why hast thou let me to live?" What error! Jesus did not live. He died for our sins and had to be resurrected. Another example of the shoddiness of Lamsa's translation is found in Luke 23:54. Here Dr. Lamsa deliberately mistranslated the word "preparation" by the word "Friday". The word "Friday" is not in any authoritative manuscript. This is an out-and-out misinterpretation of the original text and a direct perversion of the truth. Friday was not the preparation. Such evidence should make even the most skeptical realize that the Lamsa translation cannot be considered as an authority in textual problems. But is the Lamsa translation of such little value that it should not be used at all? No, by no means. Like many other translations, it makes a few passages more understandable, as Hebrews 4:9. It can therefore be of help if it is compared with a more literal and accurate translation of the inspired Greek text (such as the King James version) so that the intended meaning of the scripture will not be misunderstood. The claims of Dr. Lamsa and the Church of the East regarding the New Testament being originally written in Aramaic are not true. Lamsa's translation cannot be trusted in many places. Yet it can sometimes be useful in making the meaning more clear. It should always be compared with an authoritative translation of the inspired Greek text.