Friday, July 29, 2016

Addressing Charges of Historical Inaccuracy or Lack of Grammaticality in John's Gospel

"John 1:35 seems to create a conflict with Mark 1:12 in the Greek Gospels, since both place him at different places 3 days after His baptism. However, the Aramaic version of John/Yoch 1:35 reads 'on another day' instead of the Greek 'the next day', eliminating any conflict with Mark 1:12."

Firstly, I must point out that this is not an example of a Johannine grammatical or linguistic error. At most, it would be a textual error, but there is nothing ungrammatical about John writing THi EPAURION PALIN hISTHKEI IWANHS in Jn 1:35. What you are actually positing is a historical inaccuracy or biblical contradiction, not a grammatical error. However, I fail to see how you can even discern a conflict between Mk 1:12 and Jn 1:35. Mark records the events that immediately transpired after Jesus' baptism. John, on the other hand, recounts Jesus' baptism without actually recording that Jesus was immersed by the Baptizer or that he even went into the wilderness afterwards. His focus is on what happened after Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness. Larry Hurtado writes concerning Mk 1:9-13:

"It is interesting, by comparison, that the Fourth Gospel does not actually say that Jesus was baptized by John (John 1:29-34) but includes a lengthy passage where the Baptist explicitly describes Jesus' superiority (John 3:22-30). In the passage before us [Mk 1:9ff], there is no such reluctance to associate the beginnings of Jesus' ministry with the Baptist" (Mark, p. 19).

"The Greek version of John 19:31 contains one line of bad grammar, which reads, 'the Jews did not want the bodies [plural] left on the cross [singular] during the Sabbath'. The Aramaic version says, "the Jews did not want the bodies [plural] left on the crosses [plural] during the Sabbath". So which ancient version should be considered more reliable - the Greek version with bad grammar or the Aramaic version without any?"

I think it is a bit strong to call EPI TOU STAUROU TA SWMATA EN TWi SABBATWi "bad grammar." To be sure, we apparently do have an example of what is called a CONSTRUCTIO AD SENSUM in Jn 19:31. However, Daniel B. Wallace explains:

"Although there is a lack of concord in such constructions, they are not infrequent. Indeed, a neuter plural subject normally takes a singular verb. It is an example of CONSTRUCTIO AD SENSUM (construction according to sense, rather than according to strict grammatical concord). Since the neuter usually refers to impersonal things (including animals), the singular verb regards the plural subject as a collective whole. It is appropriate to translate the subject as a plural as well as the verb, rather than translate both as singulars" (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 399).

Examples of AD SENSUM constructions are:

Acts 2:43; 1 Cor 10:7; Rev 8:9; 11:18.

Interestingly, David Aune also notes concerning the so-called barbarisms or solecisms in the book of Revelation:

"In most of these instances, there is MS evidence that scribes have tried to correct these constructions by making them congruent in number . . . In each instance, however, the presence of the CONSTRUCTIO AD SENSUM is probably LECTIO ORIGINALIS" (Revelation 1-5, p. CCV).


Keefa Ben Yahchanan said...

Dr. Foster

It seems that you are dealing with someone who advocates the Aramaic Primacy Theory. Recent attempts have been made by Andrew Gabriel Roth indicating that Aramaic was the original tongue of the Christian Greek Scriptures, however after conversing with a Greek professor about this issue he made the point that the Aramaic copies we have were copied from the Greek!

Edgar Foster said...

Good point, Br. Pierre. I still find Aramaic reconstructions of the GNT to have limited value. Maurice Casey argues for an Aramaic substratum vis-a`-vis Mark's Gospel (See "Aramaic Sources of Mark's Gospel." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). You can
read about his book here:

Duncan said...

I wonder what the differences in conclusions might be if bench-marked against Hebrew instead of Aramaic. Enough to be significant?

Duncan said...

This is probably going to be a useful future resource.

Duncan said...

Duncan said...

This gives an example of the Hebraism issue. This type of analysis should be made on all NT Koine.

Edgar Foster said...


thanks for the links. On the question about Hebrew-Aramaic and whether the conclusions would be any different if we used one language or the other, see the Joosten link you posted. He's obviously correct that Hebrew-Aramaic are sister languages: the latter is a dialect of the former. So I don't believe any substantial difference in our conclusions would result from using Hebrew instead of Aramaic or vice versa.

I have some quibbles with Joosten's assumptions, but it's understandable what he's trying to do.