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No Man Sews a Piece of New Cloth On an Old Garment


Doing some work on the Aramaic Words translation project this evening as a means to relax, I came across an interesting bit of wordplay that has been overlooked before.

In Mark 2:21 we have the parable of the patch:

“‘No one sews a piece of new cloth on an old garment; otherwise, the new that filled it pulls away from the old, and a worse tear is made.”

The particular wordplay focuses around the two words “old” and to “pull away.” The Greek uses the word παλαιός /palaiós/ (“old”) which is the word where we get the prefix paleo- (paleography, paleontologist, paleolithic era, “paleo diet,” etc.) and for the latter it uses the verb αἴρω /aírō/ (“to raise up, take away”).

The most obvious and immediate translation of παλαιός is the word which is very common and pretty much equivalent. A direct translation of αἴρω doesn’t quite work in Aramaic of any variety as the most obvious choice would be (“to raise up”), but does not bear the connotations of pulling away. However, another very common verb, (“to take, take away, pick up, pull away”) does bear that connotation in the same context we’re seeing here.

This makes the best choices as  for “old” and  for “to take/pull away,” so when it came to rendering  the middle portion of the verse, putting everything in its proper tense and form for Galilean Aramaic we end up with:

“That the new (that) filled (it) takes away  (nasbah) from the old  (saba).”

Curiously enough, this is also an inadvertent blow to the position of Peshitta Primacy, as the Syriac Peshitta has the word (“old, worn out”) rather than (“old”), which is not quite equivalent to the Greek.

As I continue through the parables in Mark, I hope to find some more neglected gems like this. 🙂


Sermon on the Mount? Or the Plain?


Another interesting potential quirk of the Aramaic language, specifically the Galilean dialect, may clear up a small source of confusion that presents itself between two of the Gospel accounts: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6).

Scholars have spilled much ink over comparing these accounts, finding parallels between the teachings found in these portions, even when some of the sayings don’t quite fall into the same places. For example, we have:

  • The Beattitudes (Mt 5:2-12; Lk 6:20-23)
  • Love Your Enemies (Mt 5:38-48; Lk 6:27-36)
  • Do Not Judge, Lest You be Judged (Mt 7:1-2a; Lk 6:37-38)
  • etc. etc.

However, despite all of these parallels and similarities, one thing has always been puzzling and a matter of great contradiction: Why does Matthew say that the sermon was shared on a mountain (ὄρος = /oros/), where Luke says Jesus descended a mountain and shared his preaching on a plain (πεδινός = /pedinos/)? Aren’t those two things rather opposite, glaring details?

The answer may rest within the Aramaic word which in Galilean is usually spelled . Where in most Aramaic dialects, it means “mountain” in Galilean it can mean either “mountain” or “field.”

  • = “Temple Mount” 1
  • = “Snowy Mountain” (a title)
  •  = “Field mouse”
  •  = “The workers were in the field.”

As the early oral traditions circulated and were re-told many times before they were written down in the Gospels, this kind of confusion could have happened readily. Galilean Aramaic speakers (who were among the first of Jesus’ followers) might not have caught the distinction without context, and once the story was translated into another dialect of Aramaic, or even another language such as Koine Greek (which is what the New Testament was compiled in) the sense in that telling was codified.



  1. is the construct form of which is used in certain compounds.

The Epiphany 2013


Given that today is Epiphany, it is only appropriate to have a proper Collect. Here you will find the day’s collect from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer translated into Galilean Aramaic, and the Gospel reading from the Aramaic Words translation.

(The underlines glitched out, and I am in the midst of re-adding them.)

The Collect

In Galilean Aramaic

Elah, b-dabar kohab hameyt b’rak yehidai l-`amaiya d-ar`a:
“O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth:

D’bar lan, d-yad`in lak b-hemanu, l-sh’kinthak,
Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence,

hen nih’mey l-hedrak apin l-apin; 
where we may see your glory face to face;

b-Yeshua` M’shiha Maran, d-hai w-maleyk b-ak w-b-Ruah Qud’sha,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

had Elah, k’dun l-`alam. Amen.
one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

The Gospel

Matthew 2:1-12

Here it is a bit of a break from what one would expect. The words as they were originally spoken (so much as can be ascertained) would have primarily been in Greek (as Herod’s court was held in Greek) and Hebrew (as there is a quote from Micah).

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying,

ποῦ ἐστιν ὁ τεχθεὶς βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων
2 Pu estin ho teh’thìs Basileùs ton Iudèon?
“Where is he who is born King of the Jews?

εἴδομεν γὰρ αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀστέρα ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ καὶ ἤλθομεν προσκυνῆσαι αὐτῷ
Ìdomen gar autù ton astèra en te anatolè ki èlthomen proskunèsi auto.
For we saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he asked them where the Christ would be born.

5 They said to him,

ἐν Βηθλέεμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας οὕτως γὰρ γέγραπται διὰ τοῦ προφήτου
“En Bethlè’em tes Iudèas ùtos gar gègrapte dià tu profètu
“In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is written through the prophet,

וְאַתָּה בֵּֽית־לֶחֶם אֶפְרָתָה
צָעִיר לִֽהְיוֹת בְּאַלְפֵי יְהוּדָה
מִמְּךָ לִי יֵצֵא לִֽהְיוֹת מוֹשֵׁל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל
וּמֹוצָאֹתָיו מִקֶּדֶם מִימֵי עֹולָֽם

6 ve-Attah Beyth-Lehem Eprathah
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
ça`ir l-heyoth b-alpey Yehudah,
being small among the clans of Judah,
mimmak li yeçe’ l-heyoth moshel b-Yisra’el;
out of you one will come out to me that is to be ruler in Israel;
u-moça’othayu miqqedem mimey `olam.
whose goings out are from of old, from ancient times.”

7 Then Herod secretly called the wise men, and learned from them exactly what time the star appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem, and said,

πορευθέντες ἐξετάσατε ἀκριβῶς περὶ τοῦ παιδίου
Poreuthèntes exetàsate akribòs perì tu pedìu.
“Go and search diligently for the young child.

ἐπὰν δὲ εὕρητε ἀπαγγείλατέ μοι
Enàn de eùrete apangìlatè mü,
When you have found him, bring me word,

ὅπως κἀγὼ ἐλθὼν προσκυνήσω αὐτῷ
òpos kagò elthòn proskünèso autò.
so that I also may come and worship him.”

9 They, having heard the king, went their way; and behold, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

11 They came into the house and saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Opening their treasures, they offered to him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Being warned in a dream that they shouldn’t return to Herod, they went back to their own country another way.

Translation Update: Mark 2:18-20

It’s about fasting.

Today’s translated Passage: Mark 2:18-20 is complete.

18  John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, and they came and asked him,

L’mah talmidey Yohanan w-thalmidey Prisha’a çaiymin, 
“Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast,

bram talmideik la çaiymin?
but your disciples don’t fast?”

19  Jesus said to them,

Mah mashkah beney ganuna’ kad hathna’ `emhon l’miçum?
“Can the groomsmen fast while the bridegroom is with them?

K’mah d-hathna’ `emhon, la mashkah l’miçum.
As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they can’t fast.

Bram yithun yomaiya’ kad hathna’ yithn’seb minhon,
  But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, 1

w-yiçmun b-‘ileyk yomaiya’.
and then will they fast in that day.


This is a passage that tends to be overlooked by some, but does have some interesting tidbits about the culture and times of Jesus and his early followers: Mainly fasting. Fasting is the practice of abstaining from food for a determined period of time, and due to the body’s natural responses it (among other things) heightens the senses, and is believed to allow one to be more aware of themselves and their spiritual pursuits.

In modern days, a number of different fasting traditions are observed within the greater body of Christian tradition, and a lot of benefits of regular fasting have been uncovered by scientists, but since these are not within the scope of this article, I recommend that you research those on your own. 🙂

In any case, we first see that the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees are put in contrast with Jesus’ disciples over the fact that they fast where Jesus’ disciples do not. Fasting was a common facet of certain sects of first century Judaism, with particular days of the week dedicated to this practice in addition to fasting on particular holidays and before certain rituals. Where the fasting habits of the early Baptists are not very well known, we do know that various sects of Judaism fasted twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays.

So, this particular passage in Mark tells us two interesting things:

1) This shows that the author of this pericope where Jesus is confronted was probably aware of the practice of fasting and the controversy surrounding it, and Jesus’ response serves as an explanation for differing practices on fasting. From sources outside the Bible we find that some early Christians also fasted twice a week like the Pharisees, only they did so on Wednesdays and Fridays. The Didache (an early collection of post-Biblical Christian observances) mentions this change of schedule due to a contention between early Christians and some Jewish movements. Given the language employed (the Didache refers to “not fasting like the hypocrites,” presumably certain sects of Pharisees) this was apparently a sticking point between them.

2) The discussion of the bridegroom being “taken away” gives us a hint towards this story’s origins in Aramaic. “To take” in the Greek of the New Testament is represented by the word ἀπαίρω /apaírô/ which means “to be taken away” or “carried off” and is found here in the Aorist Passive. This use and placement of the Aorist Passive is a perfect grammatical fit for the use of the Imperfect tense of the Aramaic word /n’sab/, which not only means “to take” but “to marry.” This meshes completely with the discussion of the bridegroom and early wedding customs. Furthermore, no such additional meaning inherently exists in Greek.

In essence, this is evidence of this passage being an early tradition within the New Testament narrative.



PS: Good luck to everyone who is in the middle observing St. Martin’s Lent, one of the many fasting observances within the greater body of Christian traditions.


  1. “To take” in Aramaic is also a common word for “to marry.”

The Lord’s Prayer in Galilean Aramaic

The Lord’s Prayer reconstructed in Galilean Aramaic has now been posted for everyone to enjoy with some lengthy commentary. Click here to view it.

Supporters also get some neat perks, including an audio recording, a huge image of the Prayer written in contemporary handwriting, and access to ARC010: The Aramaic Lord’s Prayer course.