Tag Archives: wordplay

Shakespeare in Early Modern English vs. Jesus in Galilean Aramaic?

No, this isn’t some epic battle or what not, but more a brilliant metaphor for what can be seen when one looks at the New Testament through Aramaic eyes.

When one recites Shakespeare in its original accent, there are puns and wordplay that leap off the page that are simply not there in modern language. In the same manner, when one looks at the words of Jesus and his early followers in Aramaic, one sees things that they cannot even fathom in Greek or English.

Note to self: If I’m ever in London, I need to check out one of the Globe performances in OP. 馃檪


There is no Shame in the Gospel – Another Pun?

I’ve come across another potential pun within Aramaic contemporary to Jesus… but this time (of all places) as a saying within Romans. Where Romans discusses there being “no shame in the Gospel” (Romans 1:16) the sentiment may have originally come from an Aramaic play on words similar to the English phrase “You must be ‘whole‘ to be ‘holy.'”

One common root in contemporry dialects to Paul for “to shame” is 讘住专 /b’sar/, where the most likely original word employed for “Gospel” comes from the root 讘砖讉专 /b’艣ar/ (“message, good news, tidings”). This would most likely be the word 讘砖讉专转讛 /b’sartha/ or 讘砖讉讜专转讛  /b’sortha/. This is unlike the later Christian Aramaic loan from Greek word 蔚峤愇蔽澄澄晃刮课 /euangelion/ that is found in Syriac as, 軔軜堍軗軤軡軜堍 /ewanglion/ (with which this potential wordplay does not work).

“There is no 讘住专 /b’sar/ in 讘砖讉专转讛 /b’艣artha/.”

The two roots 讘住专 and 讘砖讉专 are pronounced the same, and yet are spelled differently. In later dialects, very often the 砖讉 (艣in) was written with 住 (samek) so there was no spelling difference at all.

Other juxtapositions of “shame” and “the Gospel” are also found in 2nd Timothy 1:8 and 1 Corinthians 4:14-15. I must ask myself, why do they occur in strongly Greek texts? At this time I am not sure. All I know is that a plain translation into contemporary Aramaic is rather compelling as it would be too unlikely for such a platitude like this to house a pun like this by chance. No examples are found in the Gospels or Acts which do have very strong Aramaic under-layers, but I cannot think of any context in their narratives where such a phrase would ‘naturally’ crop up.

Nothing conclusive yet, but an article will be up on AramaicNT.org expounding upon this soon.

I would like to invite comments.


He Who Lives By The Sword

When I was going over some sayings of Jesus, a new pun popped out at me that I hadn’t realized before and I cannot seem to find anyone else who has mentioned it yet. Perhaps I may be the first. 馃檪

In Matthew 26:52 we have a scene where Jesus rebukes Peter for being rash:

Then said Jesus to him, Put up again your sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

In the Greek, the bolded part above reads thus:

蟺伪谓蟿蔚蟼 纬伪蟻 慰喂 位伪尾慰谓蟿蔚蟼 渭伪蠂伪喂蟻伪谓 蔚谓 渭伪蠂伪喂蟻畏 伪蟺慰位慰蠀谓蟿伪喂
pantes gar hoi labontes mahairan en mahair锚 apolountai
For all who did take a sword, by a sword they shall die.

A plain retro-translation back into Galilean Aramaic reads:

讘讙讬谉 讻诇 讚谞住讘讜谉 住讬讬祝 讘住讬讬祝 谞诪讜转讜谉
bagin kal d-nsab saiyf, b-saiyf yimuthun
For everyone who took up a sword, by a sword (OR 鈥渋n the end鈥) they shall die.

Which is *very* interesting.

In Western Aramaic dialects (specifically Galilean) the word saiyf can mean either 鈥渟word鈥 or 鈥渆nd.鈥 Given the context, this wordplay is undoubtedly intentional, and the Greek as we have it today, of course, misses this right off the bat.

Furthermore this has fun implications for the “Peshitta Primacy” movement, as it outlines differences between dialects.

The same passage in the Peshitta reads:

軣軤軛軜堍 軗軡塥 軛堍軜堍 軙堍埭軖軜 埭軡堞軔 軖埭軡堞軔 堍堋軜墁軜堍
kulhun ger hanun da-nsab saife, b-saife n鈥檓uthun
For all of they who take up swords, with swords they shall die.

Not only does this double meaning not occur in Syriac, or other Eastern dialects from the era, the Peshitta misses it completely, instead choosing to render both instances of /saipa/ in the plural (which makes the pun impossible in the Peshitta… say that 3 times fast).

I’ve gone ahead and put this into the “He Who Lives By The Sword” and “Problems With Peshitta Primacy” articles over on AramaicNT.org, but I think it might deserve its own spot in an article devoted solely to Galilean Aramaic Wordplay.

Finally of note, this pun does not occur in Hebrew. (As far as I am aware.)

All of this taken together is strong evidence that this saying within Matthew dates back to an Aramaic source (be it oral or written) which means that it is quite an early tradition.