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The Greek language is of great importance to understand the full interpretive sweep of Biblical history.  For example, when we study the Septuagint (the oldest Greek translation of the Old Testament), we find it provides clues as to what that original Hebrew text looked like 2,000+ years ago.  However, the current Hebrew Bible in use by all Jews and most Christians is the final product of the Masoretes, a group of Jewish scholars who standardized the text and pronunciation of Scripture from 500 to 1100 CE.  So, it should not be surprising that neither the Greek nor Aramaic versions of the New Testament precisely quote the Masoretic Text simply because it simply wasn’t around in final form in the First Century.  As a result, the Septuagint (or LXX for short) is one of the very few windows into that long ago Hebrew, but as important as it is, the LXX is still only a translation and it says so.  The LXX therefore bows down to its Hebrew ancestor and in the same fashion, on numerous levels, it can also be demonstrated that the Greek New Testament also bows down to its ancestor—the Aramaic New Testament—but that’s another for another day (for more information please visit www.aent.org or www.HebrewNewTestament.com).

 

     The overriding point is this, just because the Greek wasn’t the original text for either Tanakh or the New Testament doesn’t mean its study is any less important.  I and the vast majority of scholars embrace an eclectic approach when studying ancient manuscripts in order to arrive at a correct understanding.  However, as far as First Century rabbis in Israel were concerned, they may have tolerated Scripture translations into Greek for the dispersed Jews, but they rejected the same product for their own use.  A notable refrain in the Talmud  (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 49b) was, “Cursed is the man who raises swine and cursed is the man who teaches his son Greek wisdom”—the word “wisdom” widely understood as being Scripture translation into Greek as opposed to “Greek philosophy, which was considered as being pagan and therefore banned.  Just to make sure the point was clear, these same First Century rabbis instituted a fast on the anniversary of the completion of the LXX.

 

     It therefore becomes very important to distinguish between languages that First Century Jews could speak and languages they would reserve solely for Scripture and sacred interpretation.  Today, every synagogue on earth has a Torah scroll in Hebrew, regardless of the local language the congregation speaks.  Jews root themselves culturally and historically to their sacred languages that are in their liturgy, Scripture and most ancient prayers are Hebrew and Aramaic, never in Greek!  So let us compare apples to apples and understand the difference commercial fluency in Greek, and the sole veneration of the Semitic languages for Scripture.  Doing so will bring us closer to unraveling many issues that were previously obscured within Greek and Latin based thinking, which has pervaded Western civilization over the past two millennia.

 

     Greek has its place and I study and learn with it weekly.  But there is a wealth of knowledge held within the original source, the tests that were translated into Greek, in the original Hebrew and Aramaic Scripture itself.  My prayer is that Wheel of Stars and the Aramaic English New Testament will both get you excited about the history, language and culture of Mashiyach.  May these resources open up many new possibilities for a deeper understanding of the Biblical calendar and why it is important for us today.

 

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