[b-hebrew] "Mind" in Hebrew and Aramaic

Peter Kirk peter at qaya.org
Mon Apr 3 05:40:43 EDT 2006

On 03/04/2006 08:53, Albert & Julia Haig wrote:
> ...
> But this is all complicated by the fact that 1st century Palestinian Jews were probably speaking Aramaic. An examination of OT Aramaic certainly leaves one with the impression that the word lev was used to mean "mind" most, if not all, of the time. But, as has been pointed out, OT Aramaic only represents a very small subset of Aramaic. Furthermore, the Peshitta of Mark 12:30 distinguisheds heart from mind, and I am informed that the word for mind there is ra`yon, "thought", as in the list above. So the question becomes, was this kind of development of the shema` in which "heart" and "mind" were distinguished something that was (or might have been) already present in Rabbinic discussions about this verse, or is it more likely a concession on the part of Mark to his Greek-speaking audience? Any further suggestions?
This is an interesting topic. But I would dispute the relevance of the 
Peshitta (4th-5th century CE Syriac version of the New Testament) here. 
I know that some people like to claim that the Peshitta is at least to a 
large extent an original Aramaic NT of which the Greek NT is a 
translation. But the scholarly consensus is that the Peshitta is 
basically a translation of the Greek NT. It may include some passages 
which are taken from continuing Aramaic/Syriac oral tradition, perhaps 
mediated by earlier Syriac versions, representing an original Aramaic 
substratum of the NT, even perhaps some of the original Aramaic words of 
Jesus (if they were Aramaic, not Hebrew). But in a case like this, where 
the Peshitta closely follows the Greek NT, the likeliest explanation is 
that it is a translation of the Greek NT.

More useful would be to look at Aramaic and Syriac versions of the 
original Hebrew of Deuteronomy 6:5, i.e. Targums and the Peshitta Old 
Testament. Is there indication there of a text with an additional word 
in the formula? Without any such indication, I would suggest that there 
is no good evidence that the extra word was first added in Greek.

An additional indication of this is the variation of the wording in the 
four different places where this formula is quoted in the NT: Matthew 
22:37 (3 words: "heart", "soul", "mind" (DIANOIA)); Mark 12:30 (4 words: 
"heart", "soul", "mind" (DIANOIA), "strength"); Mark 12:33 (3 words: 
"heart", "understanding" (SUNESIS), "strength") Luke 10:27 (4 words: 
"heart", "soul", "strength", "mind" (DIANOIA)). It would seem that those 
who rendered Jesus' words into Greek used varying strategies to 
translate Hebrew LEBAB and ME'OD, or its Aramaic equivalents.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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