The Aramaic sources of Luke says ‘son’ (ܒܪܗ/b'reh), but the Greek source texts say ‘donkey’ (όνος/onos), specifically a burro, which is a donkey used to carry goods around. Which is correct?
The position of our translation project is that all of the New Testament was probably originally written in Aramaic, except for Mark, Luke, and Acts, which were likely in Greek and then translated into Aramaic. This disagreement between son and donkey actually supports our position. Why?
Well, in Aramaic, they are two completely different words:
- ܚܡܪܐ (donkey) sounds like h’marah
- ܒܪܗ (son) sounds like b'reh
However, in Greek, the two words look and sound similar:
- ονος (donkey) sounds like oh-nos
- υιός (son) sounds like ee-oss
Indeed, the two Greek words not only sound similar (with the same number of syllables, the same ending, and the start both being vowel-sounds), but they have the same number of letters; and with some poor penmanship, the υ could easily appear closed and look like ο, and if written quickly, a ν and ι could even be mistaken.
So it’s more likely that the original scroll of Luke was in Greek, and the translator either misheard or misread ‘donkey’ as ‘son’. Since the word ‘son’ still works in the passage, the error probably went unnoticed.
Therefore our translation says burro, the name for a donkey that is used as a working pack animal.
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