Tag Archives: jesus

King Jesus of Edessa by Ralph Ellis — Er.. What?

I usually don’t discuss new books here on The Aramaic Blog… but sometimes a work inspires something within me that I cannot contain. One of those books is “King Jesus of Edessa” by Ralph Ellis… and what it inspires (in me) is a bad nervous tic.


It’s the conspiracy to end all conspiracies about who the historical Jesus was. Ralph Ellis claims that he was King “Izas Manu” a patchwork figure that he seems to have cobbled together from a half dozen historical figures spanning two kingdoms (which he assumes are the same) and several hundred years.

Tom Verenna, I believe, puts it best:

[Ellis is] basically suggesting that at least four historical kings (Izates bar Monobaz, Abgar V the Black, Abgar Ma’nu VI, and Abgar bar Manu VIII the Great) from two distinct provinces with separate kings (Edessa in the province of Osroene vs. Arbela in the province of Adiabene) are one and the same person and place respectively. [He seems] to completely ignore the fact that both of these places exist miles apart

It’s quite the “Abgar salad.”

Like Frankenstein’s monster, sewn together from bits of unrelated dead people, I doubt it would work in real life no matter how many times it was struck by lightning.

However, allow me stick to something which is my forté, and that is ancient languages. As Tom has pointed out, much of Ellis’ argument is based upon how certain words sound similarly, regardless of what their actual etymology is, and there are a number of elementary mistakes. Allow me to concur with the following points:

  • There is no relation between Jesus (from the Aramaic ישוע /yeshua’/) and Izas/Izates (from the Persian ایزد‎ /’izad/). The only similarity is in their English transliteration.
  • Barabbas comes from the Aramaic בר–אבא /bar-abba/, not the Latin “barbar”. This etymology is not in dispute.
  • Manu (?) provided it is from Monobaz does not share etymological origins with the Hebrew אמנואל /immanuel/, otherwise I’m not sure where he pulled this one from.
  • Ellis has made very elementary spelling mistakes in Greek, not using a proper final sigma ς where it is required. There are a number of examples of this in the free preview of his book. It would be like spelling דין as דינ or עם as עמ. It’s blatantly incorrect.
And now on to some of my own observations I’ve picked out from perusing Ellis’ work on Google Books:
  • The claim that Adiabene means “Sons of Addai” (I assume  ܐܕܝ ܒܢܝ /addai b’ney/) makes a fundamental mistake that anyone who studies Aramaic of any stripe would find rather embarrassing. A noun in the construct form must precede the noun it modifies (like in ܒܢܝ ܐܝܣܪܐܝܠ /b’ney israel/ = “Sons of Israel”, or בני קרתא /b’ney qarta/ = “sons of the city” = “townsfolk”). Adiabene comes from ܚܕܝܐܒ‎ /hadiyav/. There is no similarity between ܚܕܝܐܒ‎ /hadiyav/ and ܒܢܝ ܐܕܝ /b’ney addai/.
  • The progression of Judas into Addai is a horrible “Edenic two-step.” Judas comes from יהודה /yehuda/, and יהודה and אדי could not perturb from one to the other as he proposes. One cannot simply ignore established etymology.

However, all of this is really to be expected, in my opinion, as Ellis is admittedly proud that he doesn’t play by the conventional rules of academia; however, because of this, I’m not quite sure that anyone could call his book or his thesis “scholarship” without equivocating.

Then again what do I know? I just translate for a living… 🙂


UPDATE April 8 2013:

As you can probably note, there are a large number of comments I removed below. In essence, Ralph Ellis has been commenting on this article under the monicker “Unknown” and we had an interesting — but sadly fruitless — discussion.

He does not operate within any acceptable or cogent framework, and his reasoning and conclusions are categorically haphazard, uncritical, and flawed; they are far from the margin and are grasping to hang on to the fringe. For details, you can read the highlights of it here; I’m not keeping it up on my blog.

The final straw was that he was very uncivil and insulting. Among other things he referred to Tom Verenna as a “fraud,” “stupid,” a “retard,” a “troll,” as having a “self-congratulatory mafia,” and after I asked him politely to stop, obliquely referred to him as a bastard (he was “questioning his paternity”). These are not the words of man with decorum. I will not tolerate such speech in my comments, nor will I tolerate Ellis here any longer.

If anyone has any doubt as to the veracity or sincerity of my statements, I have the entire conversation archived and transcripts are available upon request. In the future I might even publish some excerpts to outline the most absurd of his arguments, but for now we’ll see.


UPDATE April 10 2013:

Apparently now Ellis is taking it upon himself to take a break from smearing Tom, and took a stab at smearing me on the blogs of friends and colleagues. Since I have better things at this point in time to do (like make fun info-graphics) I will express what the general consensus is about this entire debacle amongst Bibliobloggers as of 10:30 EST this morning:


UPDATE April 14 2013:

Kindle doesn’t support Hebrew and Greek?



These ain’t jpegs. Note the proper final forms. These are CSS fonts.

UPDATE: In fact there’s an entire website and free utility dedicated to properly displaying Hebrew on Kindle. Allow me to give them a plug here:

There are plenty of screenshots to see there.


Big News: AramaicNT.org Has Been Reborn

If you read this blog a loooong time back, you probably remember AramaicNT.org. It was a pet project of mine where I posted some of my Aramaic Source Criticism work.

A few years ago, it was hacked and instead of updating it, I simply pulled it down.

However, today I am proud to reveal that it has been repurposed into a fun and interesting project:


About the Project

About the Project

For a very long time, AramaicNT.org has laid vacant as I moved on to other projects.
Now I believe it is time to bring it back in the form that I originally envisioned it to be: A website that shares the words of Jesus and his early followers in his very own language that is easy enough for anyone to read and enjoy.
My current plan is twofold:
1) I wish to publish public domain versions of the Canonical Gospels (and possibly the Gospel of Thomas as well) and wherever Jesus or his followers are speaking, provide a simple transliteration of their words in a reconstruction of their original language so that the reader may intone those very words for themselves.
2) I want to put together a series of resources for people who are interested in learning Galilean Aramaic as a conversational language (much like one would learn another old language like Latin) and foster a community of individuals to have regular discussions or classes — be they written or oral — to keep the language from falling into total obscurity.
If you would like to help out with any aspect of this project, please feel free to contact me, or visit the Help Us page for more information.
שלם לכולהון
(Peace be with you)
Steve Caruso, MLIS
Translator, Aramaic Designs (RogueLeaf)

I’ll eventually also get up all of my old Aramaic Source Criticism stuff too, but please be sure to check out how things are progressing from time to time here:



Potential Jesus Saying Pun

So in the course of working on my dictionary, I came across something interesting that only tends to happen in Galilean Aramaic.

In the Hebrew of Leviticus 19:18 we see the famous second half of The Great Commandment very closely related to the Golden Rule:

וְאָֽהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ
ve-ahavat le-re’aka ka-moka
“And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Which was repeated as a saying of Jesus not only in the Gospels (specifically Matthew, Mark, and Luke) but by Paul (Romans, Galatians) and even James. It has also been discussed by early Jewish sages such as Akivah and Hillel, and is a common theme for the summation of the teachings of Jewish Law.
However, we can see from it’s wide attestation among Jesus’ early followers that it had a very special place in the early Christian movement. Why? Despite the obvious power of such a sentiment on its own, I believe I may have found an additional reason why it “stuck” in so many places.
Very often puns and alliteration are used as a means to remember things. It makes them memorable and easy to recall (sometimes even get stuck in your head). 
If you were to render “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” into early Galilean Aramaic, it would come out similarly to:
תירכם למגירך כגרמך
tirham le-magirak ke-garmak
“Neighbor” is from the root MGR where “self” was from GRM. Quite alliterative, and quite an interesting oratory twist on the traditional commandment with a slight re-shuffling of the root.
Another amusing note is that this is something that so-called “Peshitta Primacists” have overlooked, as in Syriac this passage is traditionally rendered as:
ܬܚܒ ܠܩܪܝܒܟ ܐܝܟ ܢܦܫܟ

tehav la-qaribak ‘ayk nafshak
As you can see, there is no such pun or alliteration in the traditional Syriac Peshitta rendering, as the words necessary to do so have different meanings between the two dialects. 
Where in most Aramaic dialects, qariba can be used as an adjective or substantive to denote things that are “near,” in Classical Syriac its meaning extended to “neighbor” where in Galilean it extended to mean “relation” as in one’s family members. Where both dialects share the sense of “near” these two additional meanings to not intersect between them.
Similarly, nafsha in most Aramaic dialects denotes the “self” or “soul.” In Classical Syriac it’s almost exclusively used as the reflexive pronoun by use of the appropriate pronominal suffix (nafshi = “myself”, nafsheh = “himself”, nafshah = “herself” etc.). In Galilean, however, where the first person reflexive is commonly with nafsha (i.e. as nafshi = “myself”), the word garma (literally “bone”) is significantly preferred (garmeh = “himself”, garmah = “herself” etc.).
Anyways, these are just my initial impressions over something I tripped over quite by accident that may or may not prove to be significant. More thoughts on this later.

Family-Friendly Jesus is Unavailable…

I came across an interesting tweet on Twitter today, culled from my large Aramaic-seeking nets that wasn’t completely a match for the Aramaic Blog’s regular musings. However it was too long to retweet, so I’ve decided to post it here instead for everyone’s enjoyment:

From messianicisrael on Fri 19 Feb 10:47 AM EST via Facebook:

For those looking for a family friendly, Yeshua… { “errorCode”: 503, “errorMessage”: “Service unavailable.”, “statusCode”: “ERROR” }

It seems that when technologies don’t mesh quite right…

We now return you to your regular Aramaic blogging. 🙂


Jesus-Era House Unearthed

AP Photo/Dan Balilty

While not strictly Aramaic-related, check out this magnificent find that just was unearthed in Nazareth. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish my third installment in the Tattoo eBook debacle some time today. 🙂