Tag Archives: mistranslation

“Did Yeshua Give us the name of the anti-christ?” – An Odd YouTube Video

[NOTE: If you find this article interesting, you might also find this one a curiosity: “‘Barak Hussein Obama’ Mentioned in Ancient Manuscript?” Read on…]

Now for those of you who are regular readers of this blog, you know that I do not dive into matters of theology here. I try my best to simply represent issues as they pop up in scholarship and popular culture, and when an issue such as this (which breaches both theology *and* politics… yeesh…) I proceed…

… hesitantly…

The following clip appeared 3 days ago on YouTube, and since has had over 100,000 views:

UPDATE August 28 2014: The original video was taken down years ago, but recently there has been a sudden surge of traffic to this article so I looked about and found that the video was re-uploaded to YouTube and now has over 600,000 hits. Here it is:

I originally decided to shy away from this video clip, but when I saw that Salon.com had picked it up through my news feeds (if anything even mentions “Aramaic” on the Internet, I hear about it), I figured it was in the limelight enough to finally comment.

So here is my analysis, theology and politics 100% removed. This is a look into the actual claims of the video. The following transcript is reproduced under Fair Use Doctrine for the purposes of criticism in a manner consistent with current protections and rulings:

Luke 10:18:
And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning falling from the heavens.

“These words are written in Greek and translated to English; however, Jesus spoke these words originally in Aramaic, which is the most ancient form of Hebrew.

As you know, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. If a modern Jewish Rabbi were to speak these words of Jesus today, he would speak them in Hebrew, much the same way that Jesus would have spoken them.”

Mistaken Claim:
Aramaic is not the most ancient form of Hebrew. Since Hebrew is a Canaanite language, the most ancient form of Hebrew would be Proto-Canaanite. Jesus spoke Old Galilean Aramaic, which is part of the Aramaic language family. Eventually the Canaanite and Aramaic language families date back to Proto-Semitic, but that is certainly beyond the scope of this claim. The two are very different languages.

“So in Hebrew Jesus said that he saw Satan falling ‘as lightning from the heights’ or ‘from the heavens.’

So what are the words for ‘lightning’ and ‘heights’ or ‘heavens’ in Hebrew?

From the Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary word #1299: A primitive root-word meaning ‘to lighten’ or ‘lightning’ or ‘to cast forth’ — the word is “BARAQ”.

In the Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary word #1300: ‘lightning’ or by analogy ‘a gleam, a flashing sword, or a brightness or a glittering’ — the Hebrew word is “Baw-Rawk”

So ‘lightning’ or ‘a flash of light’ in Hebrew is pronounced “ba-rak” or “baw-rawk”

Correct Claim:
Baraq [ברק] is the word in Hebrew for ‘lightning.’ In Aramaic, its cognate is also “baraq” [ברק] or “barqa” [ברקא] depending on dialect and context.

Mistaken Claim: Mr. Obama’s first name does not come from the root “baraq” [ברק; bet-rish-qof] but the root “barak” [ברך; bet-rish-kaf] and is a common Semitic name and means “blessed” or “blessing.” To claim that these two words are the same is like saying that “right” and “write” are the same word, as they sound similarly but both come from very different etymology.

Now consider this amazing fact: The Book of Isaiah is the source of the origin of the Christian concept and understanding of Satan or ‘Lucifer’ as Isaiah calls him in chapter 14, especially in verses 12 – 19.

Mistaken Claim:
Isaiah does not call Satan ‘Lucifer.’ Latin translations of Isaiah use the name ‘Lucifer’ (which literally means the “morning star” “day star” or the planet Mercury) as a translation of the Hebrew phrase הילל בן־שחר [“hillel ben shakhar” = “morning star, son of dawn”].

In Isaiah chapter 14 verse 14 ‘Lucifer’ or Satan is credited with these words:

“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”

In the verses of Isaiah that refer directly to Lucifer, several times it is mentioned that Satan has fallen from ‘the heights’ or from ‘the heavens.’

The Hebrew word used in this text for the ‘heights’ from which Satan fell is Strong’s Hebrew Word 1116, pronounced “Bam-maw.”

Bammaw is most commonly used to refer to a ‘high, sacred place,’ as well as the ‘heights’ to ‘the heavens’ or ‘the clouds.’

The actual form of the word used in Isaiah 14:14 is במתי [“bamathe”]. Only in its root form is it pronounced “bah-mah.”

Correct Claim: במה [“bamah”] does mean “high place.”

Comment: במה [“bamah”]’s primary meaning is “shrine.” The “High places” mentioned in the King James Version of the Bible describe built-up altars that were used in religious practice throughout Mesopotamia.

Mistaken Claim: במה [“bamah”] does not mean “the Heavens” or “the clouds.”

Comment: “The Heavens” in Hebrew is השמים [“ha-shemayim”] where in Aramaic it is שמיא [“shmaya”].

In Hebrew the letter Waw is often transliterated as a “U” some scholars use the “O” of this transliteration. It is primarily used as a conjunction to join concepts together. So, to join in Hebrew poetry the concept of lightning or ‘baw-rawq’ and the high place or heaven or the heights of heaven, the letter “U” or sometimes “O” the Hebrew letter Waw would be used.

So “Baraq ‘O’ Bam-maw” or “Baraq ‘U’ Bam-maw” in Hebrew poetry similar to the style written in Isaiah would translate literally as, “Lightning and the Heights” or “the Heavens” or “Lightning from the Heights” or “the Skies” or “the Heavens.”

Correct Claim:
Waw is used as a conjunction.

Mistaken Claim: Waw, as a conjunction, is never an “O” sound. In Hebrew, as a conjunction it would be pronounced “veh-” “u-” or in Ancient Hebrew “weh-“. In Jesus’ dialect of Aramaic, it would be pronunced “weh-.”

Mistaken Claim: Waw, as a conjunction never means “from.”

Comment: ברק ובמה [“baraq we-bamah” or “baraq u-vamah” due to pronunciation rules] would mean “Lightning and Shrine.”

The word “Satan” is sah-tan in Hebrew; a direct translation.

Correct Claim:
שטן [“‘satan”] is the Hebrew and Aramaic word for “Satan.”

So back to Jesus’ prophesy in Luke chapter 10, verse 18. If spoken by by a Jewish Rabbi today, influenced by the poetry of Isaiah, he would say these words in Hebrew, the words of Jesus in Luke chapter 10, verse 18 as:

“And I saw Satan as Baraq u-Bama.”

Mistaken Claim:
In light of the previous comments, in Hebrew it would have most likely been ברק מן השמים [baraq min ha-shamayim]. In Aramaic, it would most likely have been in ברקא מן שמיא [barqa min shmaya] or in Galilean Aramaic ברקה מן שמייה [barqa mən shəmayya]. (Update Aug 28 2014)

Did Jesus reveal to us the name of the Antichrist?

I report, you decide.


I believe that in light of the languages in question, that it is clear that this entire argument, theology and politics strictly aside, is based upon several, demonstrably faulty premises.


PS: This is also ironically, The Aramaic Blog’s 100th post. Can’t say it isn’t spectacular. 🙂


UPDATE November 2012:
For those of you interested in the dialect of Aramaic that Jesus, himself, spoke I have posted my reconstruction of The Lord’s Prayer in Galilean Aramaic:

The Lord’s Prayer in Galilean Aramaic


Or if you’re interested in learning the language of Jesus, yourself, be sure to check out:

“Jesus Saves” Ring in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek

'Jesus Saves' in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek words? Not quite. Read on.(Or so it claims… Read on.)

Good morning fellow Aramaic Enthusiasts,

Today I was looking around eBay for a bit, and I came across a listing I had seen a number of times before, but since it never really interested me I always failed to take a closer look.

This time, however, I figured “what the heck?” and clicked through to the listing… and was unpleasantly surprised.

There is no Aramaic to be found on this ring.

Instead, in the very center, there is an Arabic phrase. Not too much of a surprise, actually. Aramaic is often confused with Arabic, and even more often Amharic, so this is an easy goof to make. However, the ring had something else in store that piqued my interest.

The inscription in Arabic read:

جيسوس ينقذ

Now, I must admit that my Arabic is not very good, but even at my level of comprehension, I noticed something a little bit odd. I did not see عيسى‎ “Isa,” the Arabic cognate for “Jesus” anywhere.

Instead I saw جيسوس: “JEE-SUS” spelled out phonetically.

I must admit that I’ve never come across such a transliteration before, so I Googled it, which returned with a mere 27,000 hits. This seems like a good chunk (perhaps it is used amongst some small Arabic circles), but this is also in juxtaposition with 8,000,000+ hits for عيسى‎ “Isa”.

The owner of the entry has been emailed, and I do hope that they update the listing.

UPDATE: As “bulbul” reminded me below, يسوع “Yasu`” is also another valid spelling of Jesus’ name in Arabic, and is the form used most frequently among Arab Christians. Needless to say, that form isn’t found on this ring either.


Abba Isn’t Daddy – The Traditional Aramaic Father’s Day Discussion

It is traditional that I bring up the common myth that the Aramaic word “abba” means “daddy” around this time of year, but I must admit that this is the first year in a long time that sightings of that anecdote among the blogs are few. (So either, there isn’t as much interest this year, or people are actually doing their research. 🙂 )

So, for those of you who aren’t familiar with this particular meme, it is common to find around the Internet and in sermons throughout the world that where Jesus is recorded in the New Testament to use the Aramaic word “abba” that the term was an informal word, the likes a child would refer to their pop (i.e. “dad” or “daddy”).

This stemmed from an idea that was originally proposed by a scholar named Joachim Jeremias (b1900-d1979); mainly, that the form “abba” originated from “child-babble.” The connection between “abba” and “daddy” was then popularized by his following.

However, this idea was immediately challenged by a number of other scholars, such as James Barr who published an article entitled “Abba Isn’t ‘Daddy'” (in the Journal of Theological Studies) which outlined the numerous problems with such an assertion and addressed them in detail.

Overall, I believe that Mary Rose D’Angelo summed up what happened next nicely:

“Jeremias began almost at once to retreat from the claim that “abba” had the same connotations as “daddy.” In a sense, Barr’s title (but only his title) misrepresents Jeremias. Even as Jeremias acknowledged that the word was in common use by adults and was used as a mark of repect for old men and for teachers, he continued to stress the origins in babytalk and the consequent intimacy as a special component of Jesus’ use of the word. This meaning seems to have been the basis on which he regarded Jesus’ use as absolutely distinct from the Judaism of his time.

The NT itself gives quite a different reading of αββα. Each of the three occurrences of αββα in the NT is followed by the Greek translation ο πατερ, “the father.” This translation makes clear its meaning to the writers; the form is a literal translation — “father” plus a definite article — and like abba can also be a vocative. But it is not a diminutive of “babytalk” form. There are Greek diminutives of father (e.g., παππας [pappas]), and the community chose not to use them.

–Mary Rose D’Angelo. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 111, No. 4 (Winter, 1992), pp. 615-616

And beyond this, many years after Jeremias’ death, modern linguistic study of how children pick up speech has completely discounted his conclusions of abba as “babytalk.”


There is still a point of confusion: In Modern Hebrew, “abba” has become commonly used as… You guessed it: “Daddy.” So, when a Hebrew speaker happens upon this anecdote, to them it makes “perfect sense.” 🙂

The myth survives.

Nevertheless, happy Father’s Day to all of the pas, fathers, pops, dads, papas and daddies out there, wherever you are!


An Ambiguous Tattoo: Modern vs. Classical

In my usual searches across the Internet for Aramaic tattoo oddities, I came across the following tattoo that illustrates an very important point about how different some dialects can be. Here is a transliteration of the text:

gbrt’ yshw` mshykh

This tattoo’s owner believes it means “Jesus Christ Almighty,” but ambiguity lies within the word gbrt’.

In some dialects of Modern Aramaic, Arabic loan sounds and loan words have creeped into the language. To represent these, some dialects use diatrics to represent Arabic phonemes by marking similar consonants.

For example, the set of diatrics used to write Arabic text in Syriac letters is known as “Garshuni” (or “Karshuni”) where small loops and dots are added into the crooks of the letters to indicate the Arabic equivalents. In Assyrian dialects, a similar principle is applied, where a squiggle “~” (known as a Majliana) is placed under or over certain consonants.

The letter in question is the gâmal “G” at the beginning.

(The sounds Gâmal makes.)

When tattooing, sometimes these diatric squiggles can end up looking like standard vowel markers. Because of this gbrt’ can first be read as a loan-word from the Arabic “jabbar” which means “almighty.” Jbârthâ’, however, should be masculine, not feminine as it would be an adjective (i.e. Jesus -is- mighty). This would make the entire translation read:

jbârthâ’ yeshû` mshîkhâ’
“(She is) Almighty: Jesus Christ”

…which doesn’t seem to be what the owner is after.

On the other side of interpretation lies gebârthâ’ which is a word found in several dialects of Aramaic (most notedly Syriac) where it is the feminine form of gabrâ’ which means “man” (i.e. “woman”). This would make the translation read:

gebârthâ’ yeshû` mshîkhâ’
“The Woman: Jesus Christ”

…also not quite what they were after.

I won’t repeat myself again as to how important it is to double-check your translations. 🙂 Aramaic Designs will do it for free so there is no excuse!


Danielle Lloyd’s Hebrew Tattoo Disaster

Master (soon to be Doctor) Tyler Williams of Codex (of whom I am a big fan) has found what I believe to be one of the most tragic tattoos of all time:

Its owner, Danielle Lloyd (a British fashion model currently amidst some scandal or another) apparently did not check her sources well before inking this down her back.

The text reads as follows:

אונלי גוד קן ג”ודג ם, אונלי גוד כן ג”ודג ם
‘wnly gwd qn g”wdg m, ‘wnly gwd kn g”wdg m

Now, those of you who read Hebrew, stop scratching your heads for a moment and take a closer look at the English transliteration.

Still not seeing it?

Let me add in some vowels for you:

אונלי גוד קן ג”ודג ם, אונלי גוד כן ג”ודג ם
‘only god qan judg m, ‘only god kan judg m

Yes. It -is- saying what you think it is. This tattoo has transliterated the English phrase “Only God can judge metwice and incorrectly.

I believe that on Codex, Pat McCullough commented best:

“Well, only God can judge her.”