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How Two Scribal Errors Ironically Preserve the Original Reading

How Two Scribal Errors Ironically Preserve the Original Reading
James Scott Trimm

In Matthew 4:24 the KJV reads (in agreement with the Greek):

And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
(Matthew 2:24 KJV)

The DuTillet Hebrew version of Matthew opens this verse with the phrase:

ותצא שמועתו אל כל העם

“And his fame went forth to all the people”

While the Munster Hebrew text has:

ותצא שמועתו אל כל ארם

“And his fame went forth to all Aram”

And as is so often the case, Shem Tob has a revised Latinized reading:

וילך שמועתו בכל ארץ סוריא

“And his fame went into all the Land of Syria”

The Shem Tob reading can be immediately discounted as an obvious corruption. This leaves us with the variant between DuTillet’s HaAm העם (the people) and Munster’s Aram ארם (Aram (i.e.Syria)).

This was clearly an error of diction. A scribe must have been taking dictation, and misunderstood “HaAm” (the people) as “Aram” (Arama/Syria).

The Old Syriac Aramaic is the Smoking Gun

So how do we know that the error of diction did not go the other direction. Perhaps a scribe misunderstood “Aram” as “HaAm”. How do we know Munster did not have the correct reading?

The answer lies in the reading of the Old Syriac Sinaitic Aramaic manuscript of Matthew. In this ancient Aramaic manuscript the scribe omitted this phrase altogether. This must have been an example of the scribal error known as homoeoteleuton, which literally means “same ending”. This type of error occurs when a scribe’s eye skips from one appearance of a word to a subsequent appearance of the same word. In this case the scribe wrote the phrase “all sickness and manner among the people” (at the end of Matthew 4:23) and then looked back over to look at his source text, looking for the word “the people” and accidentally found his place in the wrong place, picking up with the word “the people”, not at the end of verse 23, but at the end of the opening phrase of verse 24. thus failing to copy that opening phrase, but instead picking up with “and they brought to him…”.

This second scribal error in the Old Syriac Sinaitic manuscript, demonstrates that the last word in this opening phrase of verse 24 must have been “the people” as we read in DuTillet and not “Aram (Syria)” as we read in Munster.

The Old Syriac Curetonian manuscript then, must have been revised to agree with the Peshitta Aramaic, which itself have been revised to agree with the Greek Byzantine text.

This is just another example of the type of detective work involved in this project of restoring the original Hebrew text of the Scriptures for the Scripture Restoration Project.

We must raise at least $1,740 by the end of the day Friday to clear rent and electric!

My wife was originally to have surgery on Wednesday the second. I am sorry to say that surgery has had to be postponed until Feb. 9th. We found out there would be a co-pay for the surgery, of which we were not previously aware. The fact is that the rent was due Tuesday and we do not even know if we will be able to cover that at this point, so we had no choice but to postpone the surgery, whether we liked it or not.

I am telling you all this for two reasons. First of all the rent is due Tuesday, and at this point we do not have it. Secondly to highlight just how serious things have become in the last few months financially. Over the summer, the person who had been our largest single contributor for the previous two years, notified us that they would have to drastically reduce their giving. Then just as their donations decreased, another long time contributor stepped up and started giving some large donations. Unfortunately this person has not been able to donate at all in about two months. These donations helped us pay off some bills to lower our monthly budget and even gave us a small safety net for a while. But that safety net has now been completely depleted. So much so that we have had to postpone my wife’s surgery and prioritize the rent (which even then, we still do not have the rent covered yet).

The time is short, and there is much work to be done. This is no time to pull back from the great work in front of us!

As you know we have been digging ourselves out of a budget shortfall.  As I have said to you many times, I look on this work as a co-operative one with me, and all of you combining our resources together in order to get the job done of helping to teach this great truth to all in the world who will listen. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for your continued support, you are the ones who make it all possible by your contributions and your prayers for our work. I truly appreciate your help in every way.

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