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Friday, October 23, 2015


Over the years of this journey I have found such colorful differences in our languages and cultures. The most obvious and easiest to spot are those in English, since obviously that is my first language. The manners of speaking, idioms, etc. in the American South are not quite the same as in California, nor are they in Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other English speaking areas of our world. In Great Britain, someone might say, "Put it in the boot." Confusing to a Californian who pictures the ones that go on the foot. But over there it means in the car's trunk. Or they might say "I'm going to buy a jumper." A what??? A sweater. There are tons of examples as you know, but I imagine you get the idea.

This is leading up to the Bible. The language in Bible lands was Aramaic. Jesus spoke it, his disciples spoke it. The account of Jesus' teachings was written first in Aramaic, but apparently the West did not know this for many centuries. From Aramaic, it was translated later into Greek as the Jesus Movement spread out. The people in the Bible lands did not speak Greek but spoke Aramaic, and the Romans spoke Latin and some Greek. The Western people somehow thought the New Testament was originally written in Greek and took the versions translated into their own languages from the Greek as the absolute correct versions. Meanwhile, the Peshitta (the original Eastern text of both the Old and New Testaments) continued to be the scripture of the Eastern Church. Because of the quirks of history, its tyrants and movements, the Eastern Church in the Near East and the Western Churches went on unaware of each other.

One can immediately imagine the problems of someone translating the Peshitta into Greek +1900 years ago without knowledge of the customs and idioms of the Aramaic speaking peoples.

So, for example Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt. Let's say, I say to you "I'm in a pickle." If you take that literally, you will mentally see me in a giant cucumber - which we know is ridiculous. You have to know our idioms to know what I mean. Well, in the Aramaic, a pillar of salt is an idiom for having a heart attack or a stroke (they didn't know the difference way back then). It is equally ridiculous for us to think that she was actually turned into a pillar of sodium chloride. That was not what was meant.

Back in the 70's, I became acquainted with Dr. Rocco Errico (in fact he was one of the 3 who laid hands on me and ordained me in 1978). Rocco was carrying on and expanding the great work of Dr. Lamsa, the Aramaic Bible scholar. I hope you'll get some of their books either on Amazon or from the Aramaic Bible Society.

Anyway, Rocco introduced me to the knowledge of what was spoken and what was meant, especially in the New Testament from his study of Aramaic. It was way beyond eye-opening for me. Just to be clear, I'm in no way an expert, just a student and reader of their various works.

The first I studied was Dr. Errico's book on the Lord's Prayer. Right from the beginning it was/is stunning. For example, the Aramaic word Abba is usually translated "Father." It is sort of Father, but it is actually not gender specific. It is more like Beloved because Abba is used by spouses to one another, to children. to those friends who are close. I just re-read this book last week on my Kindle, and enjoyed it once again. (I read Lamsa's book on the 23rd Psalm this week too, soooo good and soooo helpful). Also, Rocco has some Youtube videos on the Lord's Prayer from Aramaic. You might look at them if this is of interest to you.

In storage, I have Lamsa's Bible, his Bible Commentaries, his book on idioms, and some others plus some of Rocco's books. I've downloaded several to my Kindle and bought a paper copy of the New Testament translated by Dr. Lamsa because I got tired of waiting for the time to come that we can unpack and be home again. I pray that this time in the wilderness for us is about to conclude.

Anyway, if we want to take the Bible seriously and honor those who lived it and wrote it down, it seems to me we need to do a little scholarly digging on our own. I hope many, many Christians will do some study along the vein of study I have been mentioning in this little article.

I'll share some more along this line in coming days. Please let me know if this interests you. I know people are reading my posts because of the statistics that show up, but people don't speak to me or write to me about the ideas usually. I'd love feedback if you feel so led.

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