top of page

Aramaic Grammar Mistakes in the Greek of 1 Enoch?

I don't think the Greek translator of 1 Enoch knew Aramaic that well. Or if he did, I still think he made some pretty bad mistakes. There might be a bit of evidence for this in the Greek of 1 Enoch 12.2–3:

2 Ἐγὼ εἶδον κατὰ τοὺς ὕπνους μου ὃ νῦν λέγω ἐν γλώσσῃ σαρκίνῃ ἐν τῷ πνεύματι τῷ στόματί μου, ὃ ἔδωκεν ὁ μέγας τοῖς ἀνθρώποις λαλεῖν ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ νοήσει καρδίας· 3 ὃς ἔκτισεν καὶ ἔδωκεν ἐλέγξασθαι ἐγρηγόρους τοὺς υἱοὺς τοῦ οὐρανοῦ.

2 I saw in my dreams what I now speak with a fleshly tongue, with the breath in my mouth, which the great one gave to men to speak with them and with understanding of heart, 3 who created and gave to reprimand the Watchers, the sons of heaven.

There are a few issues here. First, in 12.2b, there seems to be no numerical agreement between ὅ and ἐν αὐτοῖς. One would expect the plural ἅ instead of the singular ὅ, since αὐτοῖς seems to have the same antecedent as ὅ (the tongue and breath and mouth). This grammatical discrepancy may have resulted from the Greek translator misreading how Aramaic די functioned here. If we reconstruct the Aramaic using the extant fragments, we get this:

‏ חזית אנה בחלמי די כען אמר בלשן בשרא בנשמת פומי די יהב רׄבא לבני אנשא למללה בהון ולאתבוננה בלבב.

The Greek phrase ὅ ... ἐν αὐτοῖς would translate the phrase די ... בהון. Because די can function as relative pronoun and has the same form regardless of whether it is plural/singular or subject/object, the translator might have mistook the first די for singular and thus translated it as ὅ, when in fact it referred to the various elements in the phrase ‘fleshly tongue’ and ‘the breath in my mouth’, as indicated by the plural ἐν αὐτοῖς. The numerical ambiguity of די in Aramaic would explain the grammatical discrepancy between the singular ὅ and the plural αὐτοῖς. This would also suggest that the translator was not fully competent in Aramaic.

Second, why do the verbs ἔκτισεν and ἔδωκεν have no objects? The resulting translation of the Greek "who created and gave to reprimand the Watchers" is not only awkward in English; it would equally strange in Greek and Aramaic. Due to the awkwardness of this relative clause, Ephraim Isaac (in Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha 1.20) and R.H. Charles (Ethiopic Version of the Book of Enoch, 35n15) state that the Greek text is corrupt and opt for reading ὡς in place of ὃς (making it a subordinate clause to the following sentence). They cite as evidence the Ethiopic manuscripts which in 12.3 have ከመ (‘like’, ‘as’), whose Vorlage could be ὡς. However, it may be that the Ethiopic translator of the Greek recognised that the Greek phrase was problematic and thought (as Charlesworth and Charles do) that the Greek should have read ὡς and thus translating it as ከመ. But even if one emends the text to read ὡς, it still retains the rather awkward-sounding sentence in which ‘he created and gave’ has no object.

I think a better explanation for this second problem is that the translator once again has misunderstood the function of די in Aramaic. The translator might have mistakenly read די as a subject of 'created and gave' referring back to רבא – thus rendering the translation ὅς – when it fact it was the object of 'created and gave', referring back to ‘fleshly tongue’ and ‘the breath in my mouth’. This explains the awkward absence of a direct object for ‘created and gave’. In this reading, a translation of the original Aramaic would be:

I saw in my dream what I know speak with a fleshly tongue in the breath of my mouth,

which [די = tongue, breath in my mouth] the Great One gave to the sons of man to speak with them and to understand in the heart,

which [די = tongue, breath in my mouth] he created and gave to reprimand the Watchers, the sons of heaven.

Such a hypothesis is necessarily speculative. But I do think it explains the otherwise confusing Greek text. If this is right, however, the real question is: what else did the Greek translator of 1 Enoch get wrong?

144 views0 comments
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page