Wednesday, October 29, 2008
What did Jesus say? or ... deal with the text at hand
Among New Testament scholars, a burning question is "What did Jesus really say?"
Well, the answer's simpler than what those New Testament scholars often want to admit: open your Bible, turn to the gospels, and there you have it. Obviously, He said more than is recorded there (John 21.25: " And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written") but what is recorded there is all you need to know.
But New Testament scholars especially like to ponder the words of institution ("This is My Body, This is My Blood"). Some of them (notably Joachim Jeremias, a man whose work I generally admire and profit from) spent a lot of time wondering what the supposed Aramaic words were behind the Greek text of the words of institution.
My earlier post noted that it's not at all certain that Jesus spoke Aramaic as a first language. But whatever He spoke in day-to-day life, the text we have is Greek. That's what we should deal with. Imagining an Aramaic text that doesn't exist isn't really helpful.