The LORD and the Lord: an interactive online study
Psalm 145:17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
The use of the Emphatic forms of Lord in the Peshitta New Testament

The LORDemp and the Lordsprm: The Lord in Aramaic

                                                                                                                                                     by Ren Manetti

 

The word in Aramaic for lord is mry, marya’. Just as with the English equivalent, lord, and with the Greek and Latin words kurios and domine, there are over seven hundred uses of this Aramaic word in the Aramaic New Testament. In Aramaic, lord appears in almost sixty forms. Of these, only eleven are ever used in reference to the Old Testament name of God, Jehovah. In English, every use must be studied in light of its context to determine whether lord is being used either to represent Jehovah, to name the Lord Jesus Christ, or to simply attribute dominion to a man or a woman. Because eighty percent (48 of 59) of the Aramaic forms of lord are excluded from being a reference to the Hebrew tetramagamatton (JHVH) by their spelling alone, a careful understanding of the Aramaic forms is very important to the study of Lord and LORD in the New Testament.

 

With the listing of the uses of Lord and LORD on this site, are included two new major abbreviations. The first, LORDemp refers to the Aramaic emphatic forms of marya’ when one of these forms represents YHWH. The second, Lordsprm, refers to the use of one of these same emphatic forms for the Lordship of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Introduction: the Use of Emphatic Forms of Lord in the Peshitta

In the Peshitta,[1] the words for lord in the absolute state or construct states are primarily for showing genitive relationships. See the following examples:

 

*Matt. 9:38-constr.; *11:25 (abs. before daleth); 13:27-constr. (lord of a house), 52-constr. (lord of a house); 20:1-constr. (lord of a house), *8 (must be construct), 11-constr. (lord of a house); 21:33-constr. (lord of a house); 24:43-constr. (lord of a house); *Mk. 12:9-constr., 14-constr. (lord of a house);  Lk. 7:41-constr.; *10:2-constr., *21 (abs. before daleth); 12:39-constr. (lord of a house); 13:25-constr. (lord of a house); 14:21-constr. (lord of a house), 23 absolute with emphatic servant and preposition (exception); *20:13-constr., 15-constr.; Acts *14:12-constr. (lord of the gods), 13-constr. (lord of the gods); *17:24 (absolute before daleth); Gal. 4:1-constr. (emphatic not used though Supreme Lord is indicated); Col. 4:1 (masters- emphatic plural; 2nd absolute “a master” – exception) *1 Timothy 6:15 (abs. before daleth).; Jude 1:4 (lord of us?); *Rev. 11:4 (abs. before daleth); *17:14-constr.; *19:16 (absolute before daleth).

 

Besides these few examples, every other use of lord in the Peshitta is in the emphatic state. At one time in the history of Aramaic, and in the era of Biblical Aramaic (the Aramaic for which there are examples in Daniel and Ezra), the emphatic forms carried a weight of “definiteness” or superlative “the-ness.”[2] However, by the time of the Aramaic of Edessa in the 5th century, the proliferation of emphatic forms had, at the very least, diminished this quality. For instance, in English, “my lord” is a sufficient translation of the emphatic Syriac word for “lord” with the first person suffix. However, in earlier eras of Aramaic, a translation such as “the lord of me” would not have been unreasonable. To say this another way, in the Syriac, “my lord” is used of Lord Jesus Christ, and, as a simple title of respect, to say “sir.” For instance, in Matthew 21:30 the honor a son has for his father is expressed with the Aramaic emphatic form of lord. Here is the King James Version:

And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

Here are two translations of the Aramaic, the first from James Murdock (Published in 1851; see http://aramaicnewtestament.org/index.htm), the second from Agnes Smith Lewis (Published in 1896):

And he came to the other, and said the same to him. And he answered and said: I [go], my lord, but did not go

And he said to the second likewise, and he answered and said, Yes, sir, and went not.

The use of the same word for “sir” and for “Lord Jesus Christ,” is just like the New Testament Greek. What might be slightly surprising to a Western mind not familiar with Syriac is that an “emphatic” form is used. That the emphatic forms of Lord are dominant throughout the Aramaic New Testament is evidence that the Peshitta text originated in the period of Middle Aramaic.[3] The Peshitta’s origin is very old, as old as the Latin Vulgate, perhaps even older. However, unlike the Koine Greek of the New Testament, the Aramaic of the Peshitta does not reflect language of the first century but of the fourth and fifth centuries.

No one contests the notion that the Aramaic New Testament, the Peshitta, is written in Syriac, the dialect of Middle Aramaic used in Edessa during the third, fourth, and fifth centuries. What is sometimes argued is that readings from the Syriac reflect even older texts that originated in the time of Jesus.

 

The Abbreviation Lordemp The LORD in The LORD and the Lord

Because of the dominance of the emphatic in Syriac, there are many of Aramaic emphatic forms for Lord in the Peshitta. Most of these emphatic forms reflect a pronominal number. That is, the forms with a third person suffix can be translated as “the lord of him” or “his lord”; words with a first person suffix can be translated “the lord of me” or “my lord.” Hence, it is not surprising that the Aramaic also uses an emphatic form without an identifiable pronominal number to say “the Lord”. This word is marya’. There is simply no other way to say “the Lord” in Aramaic without attaching a pronominal reference. An absolute form, for instance, could only translate as “a lord.” Though in certain genitive constructions, as in English, this can imply “the lord” (as in “lord of heaven and earth”),[4] common use requires the emphatic form, “marya’.”

“Marya’” (ܡܳܪܝܳܐ) is also the Aramaic word used as a substitute for Jehovah, or the Tetragrammaton in the Peshitta. Again, this is very similar to the words used in the Greek New Testament. The Greek New Testament also uses the Lord to represent the Tetragrammaton and to name Christ Jesus who is the Lord. In the first instances, “the Lord” is used to represent Jehovah not to mean Jehovah.[5] On the other hand, in both Greek and Aramaic, the uses of “the Lord” with Christ Jesus mean, literally, the lord, according to the lexicon definitions.[6] These lexicon uses declare who Christ is. These literal uses declare to us his lordship as the only begotten Son of God marked out by the Holy Spirit through the resurrection from the dead, the man, the second Adam, who is lord both of the living and of the dead.

The Greek of the New Testament also says lord, the lord, my lord, your lord, his lord our lord, and their lord. However, the article in the Greek New Testament appears or disappears for a wide variety of grammatical reasons. For instance, as Rotherham notes in the introduction to his translation of the Greek New Testament, “’the Lord’ is good English while ‘the God,’ is not.”[7] This is often reversed in Greek. Indeed, there is some evidence that the original representation for Jehovah was not “the Lord” in Greek but an abbreviation for Lord, KY, with a bar over the top.[8] If this was so, the grammatical need for a definite article would be absent. Still, when the Greek article does appear, or, according to Rotherham’s critically emphasized New Testament translation, when the article should appear with lord (kurios), and when the Syriac emphatic form, without a pronominal suffix is used, the note “LORDemp agrees with the Stephens text” is made. Whenever, according to Rotherham, it is unclear that the Greek article is meant, only “LORDemp” is used. In Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 4:1, I Timothy 6:2, and in I Peter 5:3 the abbreviation lordsemp is used to express the plural use of the emphatic form of marya, or the lord.

 

Lordsprm in The LORD and the Lord: an interactive online study

Since, the Aramaic New Testament does not employ the absolute form of lord except to show the genitive, it is probably unwise to translate the emphatic forms as “supreme lord.” To equate Middle Aramaic, Edessa Syriac’s use of the emphatic for Lord with the use of adownai in the Hebrew is also inadequate. The Masoretic text, whatever the source of its vowel pointing, still made abundant use of a plural emphatic for supreme lord and of other simple, nonfigurative, forms for lord.[9] Although an emphatic form to mean “the lord” might have been used during the period of Biblical Aramaic, this is not the case in the Syriac New Testament. (On the other hand, evidence that the Syriac reflects readings from the first century might make this an acceptable translation). Nevertheless, whenever the emphatic form without a pronominal suffix is used for our Lord Jesus Christ, I have shown this as “Lordsprm” (for “Supreme Lord”). Again, it is not necessarily true that the emphatic form of Lord in Middle Aramaic means supreme lord while the absolute forms used to show genitive relationships do not. For instance, in two of the three places “Lord of Lords” appears in the Peshitta (I Timothy 6:15, 19:16) absolute forms of lord, not the emphatic form appears. In the Hebrew Old Testament, the most intensive forms of lord, Supreme Lord, are used both times this phrase occurs (Deut. 10:17 and Psalm 136:3).[10] The point is that, in the Syriac New Testament, while the emphatic form of lord was equal in emphasis to the absolute forms, the definite article quality exists only in the context of specific genitive constructions or in the uses of marya’. This equality in intensity is what one would expect with the proliferation of emphatic forms, and this equality of intensity is what the usage of lord in genitive constructions confirms. The grammatical need to indentify the Lordship of Christ as objective rather than personal (mine, our, etc) was satisfied by the use of traditional genitive constructions. Otherwise, to express the lord with an impersonal pronoun reference, as an objective reality, “marya” was Middle Aramaic’s only choice.

The Syriac New Testament’s uses of lord reflect the spoken Aramaic of that era, not the potential emphases of Biblical Aramaic. Nevertheless, in general, in the Syriac, while “our Lord” means the lord of all who believe, the Aramaic use of “the Lord” seems reserved for showing that Jesus Christ is lord over all. That is, only when the Syriac wants to declare that Christ is objectively lord, is the definite, emphatic form of lord, without a pronominal reference, used. The universal quality of the lordship of Jesus Christ, independent of whether a man or woman accepts him, is expressed in Syriac with “marya” (ayrm), the Lord. When the Syriac wants to declare to us that he is the Lord, in essence, that he is “Lord of Lords and King of Kings,” it uses “marya” – the Lord. When the Syriac wants to make known that whether a man accepts Christ as lord or rejects his lordship, Jesus Christ is lord, it uses “marya.” When the Syriac proclaims that whether a man is living or dead, Jesus Christ is Lord, and to him every knee shall bow, it uses “marya.” When the Syriac declares the universal, objective, and absolute quality of the lordship of Christ it says “the Lord.”

 

Too much should not be made of the numerous instances in which the Peshitta reads “our Lord” or “my Lord” while the Greek and the Latin read “the Lord.” In the first place, while there are at least 128 uses of lord in the vocative in the Greek New Testament, there is no vocative case in Aramaic. The Greek and Latin vocatives do not require an identifying pronoun to accompany them (Similarly, we do not say “O our Lord” in English); however, neither the Latin nor Greek vocative has an analogue in Syriac. The use of emphatic forms to communicate the vocative in the Peshitta (“Our Lord, we don’t know where you are going”), may be odd in English (we would say, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going!”) but this would not necessarily be odd to an Aramaic reader. Additionally, if one is not absolutely committed to an Aramaic primacy (the belief that the Syriac is correct and from it all other “translations” came), the occasional rendering of a Greek form of kurios as “our Lord” is very understandable. The Greek definite article does not always occur when the Greek means (in English) “the Lord.” Additionally, if the Syriac was influenced by the Latin Vulgate, even more latitude in translation must be granted, for Old Latin did not have definite or indefinite articles at all. 

 



[1] Based on the Dukhrana Analytic Lexicon (http://www.dukhrana.com/lexicon/),

[2] “The emphatic or determined state is an extended form of the noun that functions a bit like a definite article (which Aramaic lacks; for example, kā, 'the handwriting'). It is marked with a suffix. Although its original grammatical function seems to have been to mark definiteness, it is used already in Imperial Aramaic to mark all important nouns, even if they should be considered technically indefinite. This practice developed to the extent that the absolute state became a virtual rarity in later varieties of Aramaic.” from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aramaic_language.

[3] See: Hasting, James, Davidson, Andrews et al.  A Dictionary of the Bible, p. 34 column 2

[4] See a longer explanation of English and Aramaic use in the genitive in Galatians 4:1

[5] In Exodus 3:4 God connects Jehovah directly to the Hebrew verb “to become.” As father includes honor and lordship, so Jehovah includes these but is of even greater meaning.

[6] At the  Aramaic Lexicon and Concordance website one can search on English word lord. The resulting lexicon entry is a little unwieldy because not only are numbers assigned each form of lord, but numbers are given for the use of each form with a wide range of Aramaic connective and prepositional prefixes. Marya’ entries are numbered 12364 (bmry`-in the lord), 12367 (dlmry`), 12375 (dmry`), 12379 (wbmr`), 12386 (wmry`)12392 (lmry`)12407 (mry`), 31031 (bdmry`), 31032 (dbmry`), 31033 (wdmry`), 31034 (wlmry`). In every case the lexicon definition of marya’ is given as lord. Never is Jehovah named as the definition for marya’. These Aramaic numbers, based on The Way International’s Aramaic concordance’s numerical system, may also be used in a search of Dukhrana Analytical Lexicon of the  Syriac New Testament which likewise denotes lord for every use. The Dukhrana Analytical Lexicon is also linked, by each Aramaic form, to two other online English sources: JenningsSyriac New Testament. Lexicon, and Payne Smith’s A Compendious Syriac Dictionary. In every instance, the lexicon denotation of marya’  is given as lord.

[7] Rotherham, Joseph. The New Testament Critically Emphasized. “Introduction” page xv.

[8] Phillip Comfort on page 209 of Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography gives an impressive account of the plausible development of a system in which KY with a bar was used to specifically replace Jehovah in the Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew.

[9] See “Adown and Adownai” on The LORD and the Lord: an interactive online study

[10] See “Adown and Adownai” on The LORD and the Lord: an interactive online study

 

*These verses are examples of the grammatical requirement that the Peshitta Aramaic use the construct state in place of the emphatic to show ownership. The phrases “lord of lords” (with the plural intensive in Hebrew—Deuteronomy 10:17) and “the Lord of heaven” would surely demand, from context, the title Supreme Lord. Likewise, the lord of the vineyard is the vineyard’s supreme lord. However, grammatically, the construct forms, rather than the emphatic were sufficient. The article-like power in these Aramaic genitive constructions “the Lord of heaven” must be translated into English. Likewise, this emphatic power is contained in the sense of the Aramaic constructions without the specific use an emphatic form. When these genitive constructions with lord appear, I’ve used lordcnsrt or lordabs.