Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

From the October AD 2003
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

    Question:   You occasionally refer to the Greek of the New Testament. Wouldn't it be more accurate to refer to the Aramaic spoken by Christ? In the Consecration of the wine, isn't "for many" a Semitic way of expressing "for all" as in Matthew 20:28

    Answer: Greek was the international language at the time of our Lord (later it was Latin, at least until a few hundred years ago). If a person could read, there was a high probability that he could read Greek. Even among Jewish people of the ancient world, who placed a high value on the ability to read the Scriptures, Greek was rising in importance. The last few books of the Old Testament (OT) were written in Greek (an excuse used by some to reject them as uncanonical). Before the time of Christ a fair number of Jews had emigrated from Palestine to other parts of the world (the "diaspora") and were unable to read Hebrew with adequate fluency. This prompted the translation of the entire Old Testament into Greek -- the "Septuagint" version of Alexandria.1 This Greek OT text is often cited in the New Testament, so it must have been in use by Jewish people even in Palestine in our Lord's time. And, of course, the New Testament was not directed exclusively to Jews.

    The entire New Testament (NT) was written in Greek. Because of its literary style, there is some conjecture that Saint Matthew's Gospel was originally written in Aramaic and later translated into Greek. We have no physical evidence that this was true, and it is conceivable that Matthew thought in Semitic forms in his mind, and that they influenced the style of his Greek. In any event, we have only Greek texts for all of the NT books.

    If we have a version of the NT in Aramaic or Hebrew, it had to have been translated from the Greek. That could make its "Semitisms" the product of the translator from Greek to Semitic, as much as the product of the Evangelist who wrote in Greek. Certainly, the Jews had a way to distinguish between all and many. The reader cited Matthew 20:28. But even if we make the unlikely assumption that the word "many" is being used identically in both cases, there is nothing in either passage to demonstrate that the "many" is certainly the "all." If you look at Hebrews 9:28 you can see the word "many" being used in a sense that clearly means "not all." (That is one of the phrases referred to by the Catechism of the Council of Trent in explaining why Catholics don't use the word "for all" in place of "for many" in the Consecration of the wine..2

1.  Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Septuagint,"
2.  Catechism of the Council of Trent,



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