Tag Archives: peshitta

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.

Aramaic Class Preregistrations Open

Preregistration for the following classes over at Aramaic Designs has opened:

ARC010: The Aramaic Lord’s Prayer

This is a specialty 8-week course that was put together at Aramaic Designs for anyone who is interested in learning more about the Lord’s Prayer in Jesus’ mother tongue, Aramaic.

Duration: 8+ weeks.
Price: $50

[preregister here]

SYR101: Classical Syriac

This course will serve as a basic introduction to Classical Syriac Aramaic, a major literary dialect that was prominent between the 2nd and 8th centuries CE, most notably as the vehicle for Syrian Christianity, that stretched as far as China and India. Upon completion, the student will have a firm grasp of Syriac grammar and a sizeable vocabulary.

Duration: 15+ weeks.
Price: $100

[preregister here]

Both of these courses are set to open before the end of July. They are 100% online so you can enroll at any time and work through them at your own pace.

Preregistrants will have access to the material for an extended period of time and the ability to put in requests for additional material before the class open officially.


New Aramaic Class: The Aramaic Lord’s Prayer

A number of people have expressed their interest in the Aramaic classes that are offered over at Aramaic Designs, but that the price (in this economy) has been prohibitive.

Because of this a new class is in development that should be ready in the next couple of months that will be on the topic of the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer. The basic information at this time is as follows:

ARC010: The Aramaic Lord’s Prayer
Duration: 8 weeks (~2 months)
Enrollment: Rolling (you can enroll at any time)
Price: $50

Current Syllabus: (subject to change, but probably close to this)

  1. What’s So Special About The Lord’s Prayer?
    – Context & History
    – The Prayer in Greek
  2. A (Brief) History of Aramaic & the Language of Jesus
    – An Introduction to Aramaic & its Alphabet
    – The Aramaic of Jesus
  3. The Syriac Peshitta Lord’s Prayer
    – An Introduction to the Peshitta
    – The Peshitta Lord’s Prayer
  4. Other Syriac Lord’s Prayer Traditions
    – The Other Syriac Traditions and Their Relation to Each Other
    – Old Syriac, Harklean, etc.
  5. Scholarly Reconstructions of the Lord’s Prayer
    – Reconstructing the Words of Jesus
    – The Jesus Seminar
    – Individual Scholarly Reconstructions (Jeremias’, Fitzmeyer, Chilton, Brock, etc.)
  6. Modern Aramaic Traditions of the Lord’s Prayer
    – The Plight of Neo-Aramaic
    – Neo-Aramaic Examples (Neo-Assyrian, Ma`loula, etc.)
  7. Odd Translations of the Lord’s Prayer
    – An “Aramaic” Imagination
    – Notable Odd Translations (Ouseley, Lamsa/Errico, Douglas-Klotz, etc.)
  8. Conclusions, Thoughts & Final Paper
    – Aramaic and Prayer
    – Greater Historical Context
    – Final essay on any topic covered in the class, or other topic subject to professor approval (~500-1000 words).

All who are interested or wish to have more information, please email in to Information@AramaicDesigns.com.


“Ancient” Syriac Bible found in Cyprus?

(A picture of the manuscript.)

Fri Feb 6, 2009 7:57am EST

NICOSIA (Reuters Life!) – Authorities in northern Cyprus believe they have found an ancient version of the Bible written in Syriac, a dialect of the native language of Jesus.

The manuscript was found in a police raid on suspected antiquity smugglers. Turkish Cypriot police testified in a court hearing they believe the manuscript could be about 2,000 years old.

When I saw images of this relic, they reminded me of something that happened a back in July of last year where I was approached by an individual, who claimed to come from Turkey, trying to sell me a forgery (click the link for pictures). Naturally, such an experience has made me skeptical when I heard about a “manuscript [carrying] excerpts of the Bible written in gold lettering on vellum and loosely strung together” and written in “eastern script.”

(A picture of the manuscript forgery I was offered.)

Given what I have seen of the manuscript thusfar, I’m going to have to tentatively concur with JF Coakley on his analysis. Unless other hard evidence surfaces to the contrary (carbon dating or thorough textual analysis), this is probably either a work no earlier than the 15th century, or a modern forgery.

UPDATE & NOTE (Feb 11th): It seems that I was a bit ambiguous above as to the identity of the manuscript in question. I do not believe the manuscript the police found to be -the- document I was offered, but more that it fits a consistent pattern of forgeries that are showing up in Turkey. All of the defining characteristics look like they match (which both manuscripts seem to share):

  • “Golden letters”
  • Written on leather rather than actual vellum
  • Bound together haphazardly.
  • “Synopses” of New Testament stories rather than full text.
  • Written in Pseudosyriac or modern Syriac.
  • Written in Eastern script.
  • Very characteristic illustrations.
  • Etc.