Sunday, March 18, 2007

Thoughts about Arni (Luke 3:33)

As a side-effect of the Talpiot tomb discussion, I've been reading Richard Bauckham's Jude and the Relatives of Jesus, an interesting read and a work of high merit. One of the most stimulating chapters is the one on the Lukan genealogy of Jesus. The genealogy has a couple of odd names that drew my attention. In this post I'll discuss one of them, the name Arni in Luke 3:33 ("Amminadab, son of Admin, son of Arni").

"Arni" is an odd name in Hebrew. Although there are names with a general similarity — Aran (Gen 36:28) and Oren (1 Chr. 2:25) — the name in Luke 3:33 corresponds in the parallel Greek/Hebrew genealogies to "Ram" or "Aram" (Ruth 4:19, 1 Chr. 2:10; cp. Matt. 1:4). In several major witnesses to the text of Luke (including D and A and Peshitta), "Aram" appears instead of "Arni," and in others it occurs in addition to "Arni." "Aram" was apparently added later as a correction or crept in as a marginal or interlinear gloss. (I assume that "Admin" also originated as a correction of "Arni.")

It therefore seems that "Arni" was a copyist error for "Aram" and recognized to be such already in ancient times. However, "Arni" could only be an error for "Aram" in Hebrew script: ‏ארם‎ could be mistakenly read as ‏ארני‎, but ΑΡΑΜ could not as easily be read as ΑΡΝΙ.

There are examples of similar errors in the Bible at Amos 7:7, where the Hebrew text ‏אדני‎ should probably, on the evidence of the LXX, be read ‏אדם‎. The reverse error occurred in 1 Sam. 17:32, where Hebrew ‏אדם‎ should probably be read ‏אדני‎ (cf. LXX).

This suggests that the original of Luke's genealogy, at least for these names, must have been in Hebrew script, since it reflects a copyist error only possible in Hebrew. The question is, was the copyist error present in the Hebrew biblical genealogies that were used as a source for these names, or was it present in a separate Hebrew genealogy preserved, say, in the family of Jesus? If it was the latter, then the Lukan genealogy may be older and more reliable than it is usually considered to be. In a future post I'll try to adduce some evidence to show that that is actually the case.


Rupert Goodwins said...

As the rawest of laymen in this field, I'd love to know how much other evidence there is for Hebrew antecedents of New Testament texts. One of the most enervating aspects of early Christianity is the distance between modern perceptions of it and its time as a Jewish sect, although the reasons ancient and modern for this disparity are reasonably guessable.

In fact, is there a name for the study of the interrelationships of the Mosaic religions? Apart from 'inadvisable', that is.

Anonymous said...

I'm missing your paleographical logic. What about ני is liable to be confused with mem?

EMC said...

Dear Anonymous: At most periods of the square Hebrew script, nun-yudh can easily be confused with mem (especially non-final mem), especially if the yudh is written too closely to the nun. Even in printed editions, or in your own comment, one can see the resemblance.

Eibert said...

Dear EMC: In fact, nun-yod or nun-waw are more easily confused with final mem than with non-final mem, and non-trained readers can easily confuse those. I have asked several of my students to transcribe 4Q468i, and all but one read the last word of line 2 as ending with final mem, hence reading “their neck” instead of “our neck.”

EMC said...

Sorry, Eibert, I meant to say "final mem"!