Jan 16, 2013

'Son of Man' in Syriac (Aramaic)

I had a question for a guy I know who teaches Syriac so he recently checked out the Son of Man sayings in Syriac.Here is what he told me ... In both the OS and Peshitta, the occurrences when Jesus mentions the "Son of Man" the construction is very specific. The word that compounds to form the equivalent of "men" in Aramaic is:
Which is the combination of bra (son) and ansha (soul, or man).  This is the general way to say it, however, whenever the Greek has hatou hius anthropou, the Syriac text uses:
ܒܪܗ ܕܐܢܫܐ
This is more specific because of two things:
[1] the use of the pronominal suffix at the end of the first word (which would be the word on the right). This is the sideways three looking letter. This is the 3.M.S. suffix, which would translate "his son" and
[2] the use of the dalath prefix in front of the second word, which signifies possession (kind of the same thing as the genitive case in Greek).  
Therefore, this phrase literally would read: "His son of the man" of "Son of it the man."

Now, there is no definite article in Syriac, but the translator here went to great lengths to be very specific in his translation of this title, which goes a long way in showing that, at least to the early Syriac/Aramaic Church, this was a special title, and not just some way to say "a person."  Look at how different this is from the first one above it.

I know this is a bit technical but still can be helpful. And again, I did not write this, this is from a friend of mine who is an expert in this area. This is his answer to my question.


  1. Anonymous1:46 PM

    Iknow it doesn't have support in some other texts, but do you happen to know if any other texts support the KJV reading in John 3:13---

    And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man *which is in heaven.*

    "the Son of man which is in heaven" is obviously intriguing to a Mormon :) . The KJV translators do a pretty good job, I think. Do you happen to know what the basis was for that phrase "which is in heaven?" Like I said, this isn't a ubiquitous phrase, and may be unique to the KJV. Just curious what your resources say about this. Thanks!

    ---McKay Jones

  2. McKay -

    Very astute question. I'm glad you comment on the blog =)
    Here is what Bruce Metzger said:

    "...the majority of the Committee, impressed by the quality of the external attestation supporting the shorter reading, regarded the words ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ as an interpretative gloss, reflecting later Christological development."

    SOURCE: United Bible Societies, 'A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament', 174-75.

    And here is what Dr. Dan Wallace says,

    "The witnesses normally considered the best, along with several others, lack the phrase in its entirety (Ì66,75 א B L T Ws 083 086 33 1241 pc co). ... And if v. 13 was viewed in early times as the evangelist’s statement, “the one who is in heaven” could have crept into the text through a marginal note. ... the witnesses that lack this clause are very weighty and must not be discounted. Generally speaking, if other factors are equal, the reading of such mss should be preferred. And internally, it could be argued that ὁ ὤν is the most concise way to speak of the Son of Man in heaven at that time (without the participle the point would be more ambiguous). Further, the articular singular οὐρανός is already used twice in this verse, thus sufficiently prompting scribes to add the same in the longer reading. This combination of factors suggests that ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ is not a genuine Johannism. Further intrinsic evidence against the longer reading relates to the evangelist’s purposes: If he intended v. 13 to be his own comments rather than Jesus’ statement, his switch back to Jesus’ words in v. 14 (for the lifting up of the Son of Man is still seen as in the future) seems inexplicable. The reading “who is in heaven” thus seems to be too hard. All things considered, as intriguing as the longer reading is, it seems almost surely to have been a marginal gloss added inadvertently to the text in the process of transmission." (NET Bible, John 3:13, note 30)

    Both of these sources also give some reasons why a minority of TC experts do think the longer reading is original, as well as even pointing to an article which defends the longer reading.

    I hope that helps!


  3. Anonymous12:34 PM

    Those are great resources! I am currently reading the Interpreter's Bible (KJV side-by-side with the RSV, with exegetical and sermon notes), and I am by no means an expert on Bible manuscripts and variant readings. Metzger and Wallace's insights on this were interesting and helpful.

    I still think it's interesting, even though I would never build a proof-text case around it . . . ;-)

    Thanks again!



Thank you for your comment!

Follow by Email

There was an error in this gadget


To find out more about the ministry of BACKPACK APOLOGETICS or to schedule a speaking event at your church or school, contact Vocab:

E-mail: vocab@vocabmalone.com