George M. Lamsa,
Demons, Devils, Satans
and Aramaic Idioms

George M. Lamsa published 21 books by the time of his death in 1975 and many can still be found at many Christian bookstores across the nation. Lamsa was born near the Turkish/Iraqi border about 1892 and lived there until about 1915.

How Lamsa viewed himself as a Bible translator and commentator can best be seen from the introduction to his New Testament Light, published by Harper & Row:

The author of this book was born and reared in a unique civilization which had remained static from the time of Noah to the dawn of the twentieth centuryin a region where customs and manners remained unchanged and unaltered, and where the people conversed in Aramaic the way the patriarchs and Jesus and his disciples did.  Moreover, they used the same idioms and mannerisms of speech that were used in the Holy Bible.  They wore the same garments and ate the same food, and used the same implements for plowing and threshing as did King David.  The area wherein they lived was like a little island in a great ocean.  They were surrounded by millions of non-Christians and people who spoke alien languages.  Nothing new was introduced into this region until World War I...

Moreover, the author was educated under the care of learned priests of the Church of the East who knew no other language but Aramaic, and highly educated Englishmen, graduates of Oxford, Cambridge and other famous English schools.  The author, through God's grace, is the only one with the knowledge of Aramaic, the Bible customs and idioms, and the knowledge of the English language who has ever translated the Holy Bible from the original Aramaic texts into English and written commentaries on it...

The purpose of this book, like other works I have written, is to throw more light on the obscure passages of Jesus and to elucidate what seems hard and harsh to Western readers and to clarify and strengthen the meaning of the Scriptures.  I am a firm believer in the Word of God and the miracles and wonders which were performed by the Hebrew prophets and Jesus.

Lamsa's books have become quite popular on account of many reasons:

First, his books are engaging and very readable. Second, his comments on the life and customs of Bible times are engrossing to twentieth century Westerners. Third, people are intrigued and awed by Lamsa's claim that he was reared in the same part of the world Jesus lived, thus participating in biblical customs and language, and is hence uniquely able to reveal the Bible's idioms, translate the Bible accurately, and disclose its true meaning.1

But Lamsa's writings are also stirring up controversy, not only due to his unique claims and exalted view of himself and his mission, but also on account of inconsistencies in his translations, the lack of scholarly references that might corroborate his translations and views, his distrust of anything Greek, and his questionable academic credentials.  Some critics have consequently labeled him as a cult figure and thus dismiss many of his more controversial comments and interpretations, describing them as "metaphysical, heretical, and unscholarly teachings—not evangelical..."2

The question therefore remains, was George M. Lamsa a liar and fabricator, who spun together fanciful threads of idioms and Middle Eastern customs and crafted them into imaginative new Biblical insights?  Or was he in fact a Christian scholar who was raised in an Aramaic community that  remained unchanged since the time of Jesus, and who has brought to modern light idioms that have been misunderstood for hundreds of years?  It is surprising that no other Christian scholar with a similar Aramaic background has ever come forward to confirm or refute Lamsa's idiomatic interpretations.  We are therefore left wondering, could Lamsa have been right in much of what he taught?  We do not know for sure.  All we can do is present some of his writings and let the reader judge.  What follows is a list of Lamsa's notes regarding one of the more controversial topics he wrote about: Demons, Devils, and Satans.

Matthew 4:8 - High Mountain

Matthew 4:11 - Angels Ministered

Matthew 8:29 - Come To Torment Us

Mathew 8:31-32 - Lunatics and the Swine

Matthew 16:23 - Calling Peter "Satan"

Mark 1:23-25 - Unclean Spirit

Mark 1:34 - Casting Out Devils

Mark 3:11 - The Insane Confess Jesus

Mark 5:9 - My Name Is Legion

Mark 9:25 - The Spirit of Dumbness and Deafness

Luke 4:41 - Insane Men Confessing Jesus

Luke 8:2 - Seven Devils

Luke 9:1 - Insane, Lunatics

Luke 10:18 - I Beheld Satan Falling

John 8:44 - The Devil Is A Liar

John 12:31 - Prince of This World

John 14:30 - The Prince of This World

Acts 8:7 - Evil Spirits

2 Corinthians 4:4 - God of this World

2 Corinthians 12:7-8 - Satan's Angel

Ephesians 2:2 - The Prince of the Air

1 Timothy 4:1 - Spirits

Revelation 2:9-10 - Synagogue of Satan

Revelation 2:13 - Satan's Seat

Revelation 20:7 - Satan Loosed

Article written and compiled by: iPhilipi P. Kapustaii

1 Juedes, John P., George M. Lamsa: Christian Scholar or Cultic Torchbearer?

2 Ibid.