Skip to comments.THE HISTORY OF THE ARAMAIC LANGUAGE
Posted on 07/22/2004 1:12:20 PM PDT by NYer
Aramaic was the language of Semitic peoples throughout the ancient Near East. It was the language of the Assyrians,
Chaldeans, Hebrews and Syrians. Aram and Israel had a common ancestry and the Hebrew patriarchs who were of Aramaic
origin maintained ties of marriage with the tribes of Aram. The Hebrew patriarchs preserved their Aramaic names and spoke in
The term Aramaic is derived from Aram, the fifth son of Shem, the firstborn of Noah. See Gen. 10:22. The descendants of
Aram dwelt in the fertile valley, Padan-aram also known as Beth Nahreen.
The Aramaic language in Padan-aram remained pure, and in the course the common language (lingua franca), of all the Semitic
clans. By the 8th century B.C. it was the major language from Egypt to Asia Minor to Pakistan. It was employed by the great
Semitic empires, Assyria and Babylon. The Persian (Iranian) government also used Aramaic in their Western provinces.
The language of the people of Palestine shifted from Hebrew to Aramaic sometime between 721-500 B.C. Therefore, we
know that Jesus, his disciples and contemporaries spoke and wrote in Aramaic. The message of Christianity spread throughout
Palestine, Syria and Mesopotamia in this Semitic tongue.
Present-day scholars claim that the Aramaic language itself passed through many stages of development:
Old Aramaic 975-700 B.C.
Standard Aramaic 700-200 B.C.
Middle Aramaic 200 B.C.-200 A.D.
Late Aramaic 200-700 A.D.
a. Western Aramaic-
The dialect of the Jews (Jerusalem, the Talmud and the Targums) and the Syro-Palestine dialect.
b. Eastern Aramaic-
The dialect of Syriac form, Assyrian Chaldean form, Babylon, Talmudic Aramaic and Mundaie.
Use of the Aramaic language had become common by the period of the Chaldean Empire (626-539 B.C.). It became the
official language of the Imperial government in Mesopotamia and enjoyed general use until the spread of Greek (331 B.C.).
Although Greek had spread throughout these Eastern lands, Aramaic remained dominant and the linqua franca of the Semitic
peoples. This continued to be so until Aramaic was superseded by a sister Semitic tongue, Arabic, about the 13th century A.D.
to the 14th century A.D., when Arabic supplanted Aramaic after the Arab conquest in the 7th Century. However, the
Christians of Mesopotamia (Iraq), Iran, Syria, Turkey and Lebanon kept the Aramaic language alive domestically,
scholastically and liturgically. In spite of the pressure of the ruling Arabs to speak Arabic, Aramaic is still spoken today in its
many dialects, especially among the Chaldeans and Assyrians.
Before concluding, one more vital aspect of the Aramaic language needs to be mentioned and that is its use as the major
Semitic tongue for the birth and spread of spiritual and intellectual ideas in and all over the Near East. According to the
research and opinion of an outstanding Aramaic and Arabic scholar, Professor Franz Rosenthal, who in the Journal of Near
Eastern studies, states: "in my view, the history of Aramaic represents the purest triumph of the human spirit as embodied in
language (which is the mind's most direct form of physical expression) over the crude display of material power. . . Great
empires were conquered by the Aramaic language, and when they disappeared and were submerged in the flow of history, that
language persisted and continued to live a life of its own ... The language continued to be powerfully active in the promulgation
of spiritual matters. It was the main instrument for the formulation of religious ideas in the Near East, which then spread in all
directions all over the world ... The monotheistic groups continue to live on today with a religious heritage, much of which found
first expression in Aramaic."
Lord's Prayer in Aramaic
written by Deacon Yoaresh Beth
Mar Gewargis Church, Chicago
Good stuff. Thanks!
Interestingly enough, the Sanctuary has 3 'Middle Eastern' styled alcoves directly behind the altar (you know .... they have those pointed arches). Above the alcoves that house the Tabernacle and the Book of the Gospels, are painted golden ribbons on which are written Middle Eastern 'runes'. Last night, I asked one of the Lebanese parishioners to translate for me what was written above these two arches. He hesitated for a few seconds then told me they were written in Aramaic. The one above the Tabernacle, he 'thinks' says "I am the Bread of Life".
St. Ann is our parish patroness. This entire week, Father has been offering a Novena to her at 7pm. What a beautiful blessing to have an opportunity each day to partake of this Novena, to raise our voices in jubilant prayer and song before the Blessed Sacrament and to kiss a relic from the mother of our own Blessed Mother. Those of us who show up each night are almost predictable. And, yet, tonight I wanted to cry, laugh and rejoice in the familiarity of those faces. We are truly like 'family'.
I can't properly express it in words. Suffice it to say that in such a small community, each person's personal hardships are well known and coveted, as we pray for each other. Sunday's liturgy always culminates with a mini celebration of 'family' when we spend time together in colation. Father always joins us, rendering the moment that much more special.
I feel so truly blessed to be a part of this community, its spirit, structure, commitment to each other. God has surely answered my prayers, in leading me to this humble group of Maronites. To Him be the glory forever!
The Hebrew patriarchs preserved their Aramaic names and spoke in Aramaic.
A quick 'google' search turned up the following. It is late, so I can't pursue it further. Start here and please share with us what you learn. ;-D
"Hebrew is one of the world's oldest languages, spoken and written today in much the same way as it was more than two thousand years ago. After ceasing to exist as a spoken language about 250 B.C., it was reborn as a modern language in the 19th century, and today it is the principal language of the State of Israel. Books, newspapers, and magazines published in Israel today are written in a Hebrew that is much the same as the language of the Bible."
Aramaic comes through Aram the 5th born son of Shem. The name Hebrew is derived through Eber, grandson of Arpakshad, the 3rd son of Shem.
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The Patriarchs originally spoke Hebrew. They later changed to Aramaic during the Babylonian exile. Only the later books of the Old Testament (Daniel, Ezra and Nechemiah) are in Aramaic.
We bought a copy of George Lamsa's translation of the Aramaic Bible. There are some interesting and important differences between that and the KJV.
I would be interested in hearing about the differences.
Obviously, without a computer it would be hard to do a line by line comparison. One important difference is in the Lord's prayer:
Instead of, "Lead us not into temptation," Lamsa's translation reads, "Do not let us enter into temptation."
Kinda significant, isn't it? One would think God wouldn't do such a thing as to lead us into opportunities to sin, but who knows?
Then there are Christ's pivotal words from the cross, as related in Matthew and Mark:
MAT 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
MAR 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
The usual interpretation I hear is that Christ was citing David's Psalm 22 describing how lots were cast for his clothes, etc.
PSA 22:1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
This passage has always troubled me, even when I was a young child. Why would God, in his final moment of triumph over pain, having lived a perfect life, having endured a brutal crucifixion to the end without ever forsaking His role as a human, offering a real example of what we were given in God's image and how far we fall short, who we could be, how far and how completely He meant what He had always said about forbearance, tolerance, and forgiveness... WHY would he ask that one thing that could even allow the slightest doubt about who He was, why He was here, and His unity with God the Father?
As I said, it's always troubled me. I am certain that whole books have been written on the topic.
Lamsa's translation of Matthew reads (I'm not going to type it all), "My God, my God, for this I was spared," and in the margin it reads "sent" as an alternative for "spared." IOW, by Lamsa's translation of the Peshitta, Christ was declaring the mission for which He came to have served its purpose; He had attained His goal: to have completed His life as a human without error.
Kinda pivotal, isn't it? One would think that a distinction this important, a difference this huge, would be the topic of extensive discussion within the Church. Frankly, during my rearing in both Catholic and Episcopalian churches (I went to school at the one and worshipped at the other) I never heard such a discussion. I did ask the priests a couple of times, but never got a satisfactory answer. They usually just babbled chatechism, to the discerning child bearing all the appearance of speaking as they had been told to speak without a clue as to why.
I have seen some rather vitriolic exchanges about Lamsa's translation, but never an extended discussion of this crucial verse. Frankly, not being an expert in the origins of either translation, I am not sure such would do me any good. We have used the Lamsa version along with a concordance as contextual cross references to clarify passages of the KJV. Until we learn better, we just muddle along.
Very interesting. I was always taught that when Christ took the sins of the world apon himself while on the cross, God the Father could no longer look at him so he turned his back. Hence the cry.
That makes a nice story, but where does Christ or one of his principals say that in the Bible?
Further, how could God, as Christ, turn His back upon Himself? It makes no sense to me.
Hahahaha, I guess my only answer is that I was raised Baptist. Never knew them to hold strictly to the actual text.
We have a discussion going over here you might be interested in.
Shucks, I was interested in what you would have to say. Maybe you could email me something later.