[B-Greek] How many languages in Acts 21-22?

George F Somsel gfsomsel at yahoo.com
Wed Aug 18 18:58:09 EDT 2010

It is fairly obvious that `eBen Bo' אֶבֶן בּוֹא "a stone is coming", especially 
when shortened to בֶּן בוֹא BeN BO' would be subject to being misinterpreted as 
"the son comes."  It is also true that such is not possible in Aramaic.  That 
anyone who understood this would translate the phrase as "the son is coming" is 
incomprehensible unless one presupposes that he is jesting.  If he is jesting 
then the reader must be presumed to be aware of the fact or must have it 
explained.  That it is simply rendered as "the son is coming" without further 
explanation can only be explained on the grounds that the one who wrote this did 
not himself understand the wordplay and was relying on a translation by another 
who did not himself fully understand it.


… search for truth, hear truth, 
learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth, 
defend the truth till death.

- Jan Hus

From: Michael Baber <illuminatiaries at yahoo.com>
To: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Wed, August 18, 2010 12:06:33 PM
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] How many languages in Acts 21-22?

FYI, regarding Josephus, here is a good article regarding the stones:
Randall Buth has pointed out to me a fascinating indication that Hebrew was the 
spoken language in the first century. The Jewish historian Josephus describes an 
incident that took place during the siege of Jerusalem (War 5:269-272). Josephus 
relates that watchmen were posted on the towers of the city walls to warn 
residents of incoming stones fired from Roman ballistae. Whenever a stone was on 
its way, the spotters would shout “in their native tongue, ‘The son is coming!’” 
(War 5:272). The meaning the watchmen communicated to the people was: Ha-even 
ba’ah (the stone is coming). However, because of the urgency of the situation, 
these words were clipped, being abbreviated to ben ba (son comes). (This 
well-known Hebrew wordplay is attested in the New Testament: “God is able from 
these avanim [stones] to raise up banim [sons] to Abraham” [Matt 3:9 = Luke 
The wordplay (and pun) that Josephus preserves is unambiguously Hebrew. This 
wordplay does not work in Aramaic: kefa ate (the stone is coming), or the more 
literary avna ata, when spoken rapidly, do not sound like bara ate (the son is 
coming). Another Aramaic word for “stone,” aven, which is related to Hebrew, 
changes the gender of the verb and, in any case, does not work with “son.”
Certainly, a warning about an incoming missile needs to be as brief as possible 
(and, of course, shouted in the language of speech). How many words would an 
English-speaking soldier use to warn his unit of an incoming artillery shell? 
The Hebrew-speaking spotters on the walls of the besieged city of Jerusalem 
needed only two, and these they abbreviated to one syllable each." 

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