[B-Greek] Looking for a quote-gospel styles

bitan buth ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il
Fri Mar 31 17:30:56 EST 2006

Shalom Albert,
We may be close on some points, working within different perspectives on
>> [RB] One must also ask, could the writer of Greek Matthew have been a
mother-tongue Greek writer? [Most probably not.] Mark? [Most probably
>[AHaig] This is a very important point, and shows that my examples are only
one side of the story. Matthew, especially, and also Mark, provide numerous
examples of Aramaicisms and other evidence that substantial portions were
not written by native Greek speakers. But, rather than brush aside either
set of evidence, why not develop a hypothesis that explains both sets of
data? We are reasonably sure that "Matthew" drew on Mark and Q (and there
may have been multiple Qs), and perhaps other documents as well. Perhaps the
final redactor was a mother-tongue Greek writer who primarily used source
documents written by non-Greek mother-tongue writers. Perhaps the final
redactor was a native Greek speaker who rather literally translated from
Aramaic originals in some cases (which would also explain the presence of
Aramaicisms). The point is that the instances I pointed to are difficult to
explain by the simple explanation of one non-Greek mother-tongue author.> 
[RB] Here for instance, I am hearing a somewhat typical two-language
approach to a tri-lingual situation. 
We seem to agree that Mark is not a mother-tongue author, yet it is almost
impossible for me to attribute Mark's sources to Aramaic. If he had a Greek
source that went back to Aramaic, then that Aramaic was translated from
Hebrew. One problem, here, is that NT folk are not very conversant with
Aramaic narrative styles. If they were, they wouldn't keep talking about
Mark's "Aramaic", but would start discussing the serious problem about why
they can't find a 2Temple Jewish-Aramaic text that would produce Mark's kind
of Greek, while Hebrew fits without problem. See Buth, in Segert
Festschrift, (Maarav) 1990,  for a start. (I have a followup on this due out
in 2007.) 
Matthew is more complicated. I see our Gospel writer using Mark + a large
Greek narrative source that goes back to Hebrew, yet our final Greek Matthew
uses an obvious Aramaic narrative style while writing Greek. Could the
'grandfather' Hebrew narrative be the start of the Papias tradition, even
Matthean? Yes. But we won't know. Could the Hebrew writer ("Matthew" for
lack of a name) have picked up a Greek pen thirty years later and used both
Mark and a Greek translation of his older work? Possible, (and I don't
discount it!) but two authors are a simpler explanation. 
In any case, the overall style and final layer of our last author (our Greek
Matthew) was NOT mother-tongue Greek. This makes it hard for me to ascribe
ignorance rather than purposed selection to such a Greek Matthew, though I
have colleagues who disagree. For data and discussions, see references
. . .
>> [RB] Mark and Luke both quote a Shma with 4 items. This is not the Hebrew
Bible nor LXX, but in my view reflects misdrashic discussions current at the
> [A Haig]But there's an easier explanation: in Hebrew, and in Aramaic (at
least before the  time the Peshitta was written), there was no distinct word
for "mind". >
[RB] We have different sets of data here. They had lots of words for 'mind'.
Though the 'heart' metaphor was one among many. 
> [A Haig] I think Mark and Luke were worried about the possible confusion
that might arise if their gospels were read by a native Greek-speaker. In
Hebrew and Aramaic, the word for "heart" (lev) unambiguously included the
mind, but the Greek, KARDIA, is less clearly inclusive of the mind. So a
literal translation (heart, soul, and strength) might not convey to a Greek
speaker emphatically that the Lord required people to love him with their
minds as well. So Mark and Luke decided to make this explicit - they did a
"dynamic equivalency" translation.>
[RB] That is what I used to think, too. Til I reflected on the nature of the
third item of the shma` MEODEXA literally 'your umpf, your very'. Not only
did this beg midrash, but this is exactly the part that receives two
interpretations in MishBer. 'wealth' is an interpretation both there and
possibly in Qumran. There is also another word in both Hebrew and Aramaic
that means wealth AND 'mind'. (This was given in a paper at SBL in 2003 and
won't be out in a different volume til 2008-9.) I now think that multiple
interpretations of the third item were in circulation and the lawyer's quote
used four items in his response as a way of 'fulfilling scripture', to use
the rabbinic idiom ['to establish a specific meaning or application'].
Finally, Matthew cuts back to three items because of the biblical cadence,
but keeps 'mind' (following Mark) against the LXX, but in line with apparent
interpretation circulating at the time. Let's just say that over the years
I've learned to appreciate the ancients more and now I tend to see
'ignorance of the ancient author' as often modern ubris. NB: usually, not
always. Ancients made mistakes, too, just not as many as are listed in
modern 'accepted wisdom' canons. Again, I have colleagues who disagree, they
prefer simple mistakes where I sometimes see sophistication. We had a
similar problem in Hebrew Bible studies. The simplicity of the stories can
lull us to think that we see simple mistakes or sloppy scissors and paste
work. While the Weisses, Steinbergs and Alters started arguing about highly
sophisticated literature dressed up as simple. That is certainly true about
If you want to see some of this methodology worked out in a 90-page paper,
see Buth and Kvasnica "Temple Authorities and Tithe Evasion: Linguistic
Background and Impact of the Parable of the Vineyard, The Tenants and the
Son", in Notley, et al., ed., Jesus' Last Week, Brill, 2006.
ERRWSQE KAI yisge shlamax, 
Randall Buth



Randall Buth, PhD
Biblical Language Center


c/o margbuth at gmail.com

also, Director, Biblical Studies in Israel
under Rothberg International School,

Hebrew University

ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il


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