As most of you are already aware - the Semitic languages were at one time written without vowels.
Imagine for a moment how tough this must have been to dicipher.
Let's pretend that English is the same way - let's write a word using only consonants:
Now, what exactly did I mean when I wrote "GD?" Well, here are some possibilities:
As you can see - it's nearly impossible to tell simply by looking at the word GD alone what I meant by it.
What are we then to do?
Well, we must consult the context. That's the only way to tell which possible meaning was meant exactly.
If I said this:
"Paul is not GD."
Does it make it any easier? No - all three choices could apply equally well. But according to literary convention - we have no vowels. So let's write this the proper way:
"Pl s nt GD."
There. Just to make our job tougher.
Now, this could mean any of the following:
- Paul is not God.
- Paul is not Good.
- Paul is not Gaudy.
- Paula is not God.
- Paula is not Good.
- Paula is not Gaudy.
But wait a minute! We forgot another important literary convention! The earliest texts did not have spaces in between words! So let's re-write our sentence properly:
Wow. Look at that. Now this could also have these additional meanings:
- Pleasant God.
- Please not Gaudy.
- Plus not good.
It's amazing that Zorba did the great job that he did. I mean, it's tough.
So this demonstrates that much more consideration than just looking at the text must happen.
We must consult tradition, as well. We must also consult the social issues of the day as they related to the particular group of people who produced such writing. A translator's job is not easy.
This brings me to my main point. In Peter 5:3, you find the 4 letters MRYA used. As you can tell from the context, this passage is definetely not talking about God (YHWH.)
But wait a minute! I thought you told us, Paul, that MRYA is only used as a title for God? What gives, Paul?
This is where knowledge of these little nuances of Aramaic is a must for someone who takes it upon himself to translate Aramaic. I've consulted a recently published version where the person responsible for this translation totally missed what happened here when Peter wrote MRYA (as is evidenced from the footnote for this passage.)
In short - the explanation is that MRYA in Keepa 5:3 is a totally different word than MRYA used elswhere to refer to God alone. In Keepa 5:3 - the word is not pronounced "Mar-Ya" but "Mara-ye".
In the irregular state of a noun which happens to have a weak third-radical (in this case an Aleph) and is in the plural Emphatic form, a Yodh is inserted before the weak third-radical.
So in this case, the root 0rm ("lord") has a weak third-radical (0) and since Peter wanted to give the plural of 0rm he must insert a Yodh (y) character before the weak third-radical.
The result is 0yrm (Mara-ye - "lords") which just happens to be spelled with the same consonants as 0yrm (Mar-Ya) but it is NOT the same word and is NOT pronounced the same.
In later texts after the vowel and accent markings were invented, the word in Keepa 5:3 was written differently to demonstrate this point. Later manuscripts write the word in Keepa 5:3 as 0---Oye^rAm (Mara-ye) whereas the special title for God, Mar-Ya was written with the following vowel markings: 0---AyrAm (Mar-Ya) without the Syame markings above the Resh character which indicates plurality.
Does this mean that the special title for God in Aramaic, Mar-Ya, specifies a plurality of gods or a pantheon?
NO. It just happens by chance that these rules Aramaic has for proper construction of III-weak Emphatic plural nouns happens in this one case to produce a result that contains the same consonantal spelling as Mar-Ya.
It does NOT mean that God is plural - nor does it mean that MarYa has lost it's special reserved status for God alone.
It's just that by chance these rules produce a consonantal spelling which by chance just happens to be the same as the consonantal spelling of the special title for God - Mar-Ya.
But it's not the same word, does not have the same pronunciation nor does it mean the same thing as "Mar-Ya."
Thanks for listening to my rambling.