GEORGE M. LAMSA
August 5, 1890 – September 22, 1975
Georgia M. Lamsa, a native Assyrian, renowned scholar of the Scriptures, lecturer and author, F.R.S.A. was born in a civilization with customs, manners and language almost identical to those in the time of Jesus. His native tongue was full of similar idioms and parables, untouched by the outside world in 1900 years.
Until World War I, his people, living in that part of ancient Biblical lands which today is known as Kurdistan in the basin of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, retained the simple nomadic life, as in the days of the Patriarchs. Only at the beginning of the 20th century did this isolated segment of the once great Assyrian Empire learn of the discovery of America and the Reformation in Germany.
Likewise, until that same time, this ancient culture of early Christians was unknown to the western world and the Aramaic (Syriac) language was thought to be dead. But in this so called Cradle of Civilization, ancient Biblical customs and Semitic culture, cut off from the rest of the world, were preserved.
Lamsa’s primary training as a boy was to tend the lambs. But, as the first born son in his family, while yet an infant, he was dedicated to God by his devout mother. Years after her death, when Lamsa was twelve, her vow was renewed by native tribesmen, an ox was killed and its blood rubbed on his head. This vow to God, Lamsa claims, has always been part of him. “God’s Hand,” he affirms, has been steadfastly on my shoulder, guiding me to His Work.
Lamsa’s formal studies began under the priests and deacons of the ancient Church of the East. Later he graduated with the highest honors ever bestowed from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Colleges in Iran and in Turkey, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Theology of the Church of the East. Lamsa has never married, but has dedicated his life to “God’s Calling”.
At the beginning of World War I, when Turkey started invasions, Lamsa left and went to South America. Living was hard during those years; he knew but three words in Spanish; water, work and bread. As best he could he existed; in the British Merchant Marine for a time, then working on the railroad, in mines and later in printing shops, a trade he had learned in college.
After arriving in the United States, in his early 20’s, Lamsa, by day, worked as a printer and by night, went to school. He later studied at the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia and at Dropsie College in Philadelphia.
It was through his struggles with the idioms of English, during these years, that Lamsa gradually launched into his “life’s” work of translating the Scriptures from Aramaic (Syriac) into English. Yet many years were to pass before the world received his translations.
First as a lecturer in churches and seminaries, in halls and auditoriums, before statesmen, theologians, groups of artists, actors and others, Lamsa received recognition as a poet-philosopher, and an authority on all phases of Eastern civilization.
It was his own inner compulsion, and the urgings of hundreds who heard him that drove him forward and brought about, after 30 years of labor, research and study, his translation of the Holy Bible from the ancient Aramaic Language, used by Christians from the earliest times. It is a known truth that Jesus and his followers spoke Aramaic.
There were times when he was temporarily stopped in his translations, when the idioms in the manuscripts could not be given correct English meaning. Lamsa relates “Often I would lie on the bed with the script before my eyes (he has a photographic memory which retains chapter after chapter of Biblical passages), and suddenly the translation would come, the English words would fall into place.
I discovered that the words in the Bible contain power; that they are charged with the Holy Spirit. Everything comes and passes away, but "God’s Truth endures forever.”
It is Lamsa’s firm belief that his translation will bring people nearer to the true Word of God and will facilitate understanding between East and West.