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In Matthew 27:46, the author quotes Jesus, first transliterating his words with Greek letter (NA28 | ESV):

ηλι ηλι λεμα σαβαχθανι;
Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?

He then translates into Greek:

Θεέ μου θεέ μου, ἱνατί με ἐγκατέλιπες;
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

In the parallel account in Mark 15:34, the transliterated text reads (NA28 | ESV) :

ελωι ελωι λεμα σαβαχθανι;
Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?

This is again translated into Greek:

Ὁ θεός μου ὁ θεός μου, εἰς τί ἐγκατέλιπές με;
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

The transliterated part is different just by two letters. (The Matthean account lengthens the first vowel ē and drops a syllable ō from Mark's Eloi). The Greek is different in a couple small ways that aren’t readily translatable.

The Hebrew of Psalm 22:2 reads (BHS):

אֵלִ֣י אֵ֭לִי לָמָ֣ה עֲזַבְתָּ֑נִי

This comes into the LXX (21:2), quoting Rahlfs:

Ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός μου….ἵνα τί ἐγκατέλιπές με;

There are several text variants for the Mark passage, but if we assume the NA28 is correct:

  • Is there a satisfactory way to understand the relationship between the Matthew quote, the Mark quote, Psalm 22, and what was likely spoken? In particular:

    • Is there any evidence that it was normal a normal pattern of speech to toss in a Hebrew אלי amidst an otherwise Aramaic sentence?1 (That sounded flippant, but this seems plausible to me.)
    • Does Mark's version correspond precisely to an Aramaic translation of Psalm 22:2?2
  • Do the differences in the Greek translations offered by the authors have anything to do with the differences in the Hebrew/Aramaic of the quotations?3

1. My understanding is that Ἠλὶ is Hebrew and the remainder of both quotes is Aramaic, but I’m vaguely aware that there’s an argument to be made for more of it being Hebrew, so I’m happy to hear that.

2. I haven’t been able to find a good date for the Psalms Targum, but it appears to be a little different. (I don’t read Aramaic.)

3. Mostly I’m curious about this true vocative “Θεέ” in Matthew, whereas Mark (and every other NT writer to my knowledge) uses a nominative-for-vocative θεός with the article. Although it's not elsewhere in the NT, there are several (8 that I found) usages of “Θεέ” in the LXX, but not at Psalm 21:2, so I’m not sure where it came from in Matthew.

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    Can you get this in a library near you, Susan? Holly J. Carey, Jesus' Cry From the Cross: Towards a First-Century Understanding of the Intertextual Relationship Between Psalm 22 and the Narrative of Mark's Gospel (Bloomsbury, 2009). It should address at least some of your interests here, I think. Also, maybe have a look at this article, though a bit more tangential.
    – Dɑvïd
    Oct 15, 2014 at 20:12
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    Since the question asks for a comparison of Hebrew/Aramaic languages I will place this in a note, bearing in mind that Mark was actually written in Greek. Jesus' prayer in the Garden was that if possible God take this cup (destiny to be crucified) away. In the chiasm in Mark's Gospel, covering the last 24 hours, this forms event B and "My God. My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" is the matching event B'. In other words, Jesus had hoped that God would cancel the crucifixion, but now feels forsaken by God. Oct 20, 2014 at 5:38
  • If, the book was written in Aramaic originally, the original word here, may mean two things. Some Aramaic primacists have pointed out that in existing Aramaic manuscripts, the Aramaic word used here can mean forsaken or spared.
    – user2027
    Dec 4, 2014 at 17:57

3 Answers 3

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Matthew 27:46:

ܘܠܐܦܝ ܬܫܥ ܫܥܝܢ ܩܥܐ ܝܫܘܥ ܒܩܠܐ ܪܡܐ ܘܐܡܪ ܐܝܠ ܐܝܠ ܠܡܢܐ ܫܒܩܬܢܝ

Around (in the surface, face of) the ninth hour (3 o'clock in Roman time), Jesus yelled in a loud voice, saying "Ayl Ayl lamana shabaqthani"

Written Ayl Ayl, lamana shabaqthani, Ayl means God in Syriac. It's independently ܐܝܠ but ܐܠ as a compound in names.

lamana shabaqthani, this is a line directly from the Psalm 22 Syriac:

ܡܙܡܘܪܐ ܟܒ: ܐܠܗܝ ܐܠܗܝ ܠܡܢܐ ܫܒܩܬܢܝ

Both the Syriac Psalm and what Jesus says in Matthew is "lamana shabaqthani".

In Mark, it says "Elahi Elahi lamana shabaqthani".

ܐܠܗܝ ܐܠܗܝ ܠܡܢܐ ܫܒܩܬܢܝ

There is a difference between Mark and Matthew, even in the Aramaic, and yes, Mark is exactly the same as Psalm 22:2 in the Peshitta.

The issue of why he switched from Hebrew to Aramaic is negligent. In the Talmud Bavli, they use Hebrew words within Aramaic grammar. For example, בדיק= דק, which means "to test" in Hebrew, but in Aramaic it means "to grind into a powder", and in Arabic it means "to knock". They're using it to say "is there someone who doesn't test it with water"בדיק ליה אמיא.

Therefore, "flip-flopping" can be considered common among Aramaic speaking Jews in the 1st century, especially in regards to the learned.

The Aramaic translation of the Psalm is not that different: Psalm 22:2

ܡܛܘܠ ܡܢܐ ܫܒܩܬܢܝ/ מטול מה שבקתני

The difference "מטול/mtool" means on account of. So then the Targum reads

"My God, on account of what have you left me?"

mtool is dropped for a more "modern" prefix "L", which means "for". None of them correspond exactly to the Jewish Aramaic targum (about 200 years older than Jesus, according to Biblical scholars), but they correspond to the later updated Aramaic, which is about 50-100 years after Jesus. However, the Talmud also says that an Aramaic targum was sent down with Moses on Mt. Sinai (which makes it ~1600 years older than Jesus, Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 3a).

Edit: Yes, shawwaq/sh-b-q (dependent on nuqze, or the Aramaic diacritics) can mean leave/forsake, and it can also mean to forgive and allow. "lashuqana d-khuttahee", which is taken from the Nicene creed in Aramaic, which means "for the forgiveness of sins.

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  • Would you say that Jesus' intent is to point his disciples to Psalm 22?
    – Perry Webb
    Feb 11, 2019 at 0:25
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The Lamsa bible translates Matthew 27:46 from the Aramaic as, "Eli, Eli, lemana shabakthani! My God, my God for this I was spared!" "For this was my destiny." It was a statement of victory and not a question.

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    I'm very grateful for your participation here. We're a little different from a forum, so do take the site tour if you haven't already. This doesn't show its work, which is a requirement on this site. Don't just tell us what you know, tell us how you know it. Apr 25, 2015 at 4:30
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In support of the original post, there are foundational things that I do not veer from. One, is that God has stated many times that he will never leave us or forsake us. This applies to all of his children, even and most importantly, his Son. If it does not, then God is not a God of his word, and how could Jesus have been able to do what he did? Jesus prayed for "this cup to be taken away." (if there was another way) He accepted (willing chose) what had to occur and drank from the cup. God was with him on the cross, just as He is with us in our lesser trials. It does not follow, what God states he is, that Jesus would cry out "Why have you forsaken me?" In that moment, I believe God gave him the revelation of what his crucifixion meant, (the mystery) therefore the statement of victory. The mystery is Christ in you, something never available before. Our relationship to God was taken away in Adam, thru Christ it is restored. He may have died for our sins, but he was sinless. How could God not have been with him on the cross? Jesus trusted in God, God makes our paths straight.(Proverbs 3:5-6). For all the verses that state he never leaves us or forsakes us, I would deeply question the one verse that is translated, Why has thou forsaken me? Just my thoughts

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  • It must have been an imagination of the author anyway, who portray a natural reaction of the man dying like that, feeling forsaken. Also, it could be created for an allusion to Psalm 22 verse. There is nothing objectionable in it.
    – Michael16
    Mar 30, 2023 at 12:41
  • My concern is that it is being taught by many preachers that God did turn away, because Jesus represented all sin. In the Aramaic bible, Jesus's last words are translated to what the original post states. In other words: For this reason was I spared. (kept) We must be careful with commas, periods, question marks; they were not present in the original text. We must be careful to not add, subtract or treat Gods words lightly. Proverbs 30:6 Mar 30, 2023 at 17:56

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