Monday, November 3, 2008


Pray for our nation

I am very concerned about the upcoming election and its ramifications. We have a far-left man from a Moslem Heritage on the verge of becoming the president of the United States. Although he currently denies being a “practicing Moslem” there is no doubt that the man belongs to the Moslem tradition. The “Jeremiah Wright” cult “church” he attended promoted Islam, sold and distributed Islamic literature and would often have Moslem “guest preachers.” If there was any church in America where a Moslem would feel comfortable attending, this was it. Obama was registered as a Moslem in Indonesia, he attended an Islamic school and studied to Koran in school. It turns out that Obama did grow up attending mosque and he does know the Islamic prayers. Obama’s Kenyan family is a powerful Islamic tribe there. Obama has strong connections to his Kenyan relatives and visits Kenya often. (Kenya is about evenly divided between Moslems and Christians. Obama’s family is Moslem.)

News Bias

I have been aware of the Liberal news bias for years but I have never seen anything like this election before in my life. Now we have film footage of Obama attending a meeting of Islamic terrorists and praising their efforts. Now the LA Times is coving up for their man. In the video Obama is meeting with Islamic radical Rashid Kalidi. After all the denials-it comes out that it is true-Obama is a Moslem with Islamic terrorist connections.

You are being lied to

Recently I was reading the newspaper about how that Islamic terrorists being released from Guatanomo Bay are being “reintegrated” in the Saudi Arabian society. Upon their return to Saudi Arabia they are “re-educated.” I thought that was odd-I mean who would “re-educate” them? Saudi Arabia advocates the radical Wahibi cult of Islam. All Saudis are brainwashed in school and through the Saudi media. What happens once a terrorist is released to the Saudis is the terrorists are given a huge amount of money and a new lavish home after meeting with a Mullah and promising not to engage in terrorism any more. They were incited by the same Mullah to go and become terrorists and were trained by the Saudis! So, what is going on? If Saudi Arabia are against terrorism these men would be arrested upon their return from America detainment. If they were serious about being against terrorism, they would execute these individuals as an object lesion. Why shouldn’t terrorists get the death penalty? After all, in Saudi Arabia you could be executed for practicing Christianity. What is going on really is that the “re-education” is a formality. These terrorists are being given a heroes welcome complete with a veterans benefits and retirement package. If you spend time in American detainment, upon your return to Saudi Arabia you will be given a large amount of money and a new home. Why doesn’t our media expose this? Why are they so stupid that they buy into the Saudi Arabian spin? Have you ever noticed how liberals rant and rave about how terrible the United States is? I include Obama and his wife in this. What these people need to do is visit other countries and live as the common people do and see what I have seen. America is not a bad country. Our news media is worthless. I recently saw a story that said “Ultra-Conservative Islam on the Rise in the Middle East.” This has been going on for decades-where have these people been? They are clueless. However, they have done a very good job on trying to sell Obama to the country. Americans’ need to work to break the stranglehold radical Liberals have in the Media. This is not good for democracy.


With my own eyes I have seen Syria promoting a policy of Islamization of Aramaic Christian villages in Syria. They have been waging a war against the Aramaic Christians in Lebanon for over ten years. I have seen North Korans, Iranians and the Bin Laden group in Syria with my own eyes. Syria is a nice country but the regime there is no good.
Over 90% of terrorist who enter Iraq to murder Aramaic Christians and American soldiers come from Syria. Actually, Saudi Arabia brings terrorists from around the world to Syria where they are trained and smuggled into Iraq. Just a few days ago in the last week of October, American forces attacked a terrorist base in Syria and captured a terrorist and killed several others. Recently, Aramaic Christians in Iraq have been hit hard. Hitting terrorists back is a good thing. Syria responded by closing the American School and Cultural Center (a place I have visited). Syria should have been happy we destroyed these terrorists-they are outraged because it is their terrorist network.

The War

Obama and the News Media have been trying to undermine our war effort for years. It is true that Mr. Bush mismanaged the war for a time. However, now things have changed with the surge. Why do Liberal hate the United States more than they hate Islamic terrorism? They don’t understand what Islamic extremism is and how it is a danger to mankind. My greatest fear about Obama is that he is the Moslem president. With him in power, Islamic terrorists will have won a major victory against the United States. We must not stop fighting the evil of Islamic extremism. Until 9-11, American foreign policy was to advance Islam around the world, in such places as Bosnia, Kosovo, even in war torn Algeria. This was Saudi Arabian petro-dollars at work. There has been a minor course correction and it needs to be maintained. I served as a soldier in Iraq. I was shot at and could have been killed. I have made the sacrifice myself and I was right to do so.

Please pray about these issues:
Remember, my comic books “The Assyrians: The Oldest Christian People” and “The Hammer of God: Historical and Character Reference” are now available at
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Stephen A. Missick PO BOX 882 Shepherd TX and

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Is the Cross a "pagan" symbol?

Stephen Andrew Missick

“Every idle word you speak you will give an account thereof on the day of Judgment…” Matthew 12:36

Is the cross pagan? Is it a symbol of some other religion that was later adopted by Christians in a process of “paganizing” the church to make it more appealing to pagans?

If this is true we need to know exactly what religion venerated the cross and exactly what religious significance it had in this particular pagan religion. (People who claim that the cross is pagan cannot provide a clear answer to this question.)

We also need to deal with certain questions such as, “Was Jesus crucified on a cross or a pole?” The Jehovah’s Witnesses contend that Jesus was crucified on a pole with both hands over his head and one nail going though both hands-as one was laid on top of the other. There is no evidence at all that Jesus was crucified in this manner-in fact, we have ancient records and archeological evidence that the traditional depiction of the crucifixion is correct. While we should be wary of tradition, sometimes tradition does indeed preserve accurate information. For example, the Eastern Orthodox Christians differed on how Christ was crucified. In Roman Catholic tradition, one foot is placed over the other with one nail going through both feet. The Orthodox contended that there was a foot stand on the cross and a nail through each foot. Archeologists have found the remains of a victim of crucifixion from the time of Jesus. The man’s name was Johannan. The nail from the crucifixion and a bit of the cross was still affixed to his heel. So, it seems that the Eastern Orthodox were right about this matter.

Some people argue that Jesus was crucified on a pole because the Greek word for cross is “stauros” meaning a pole. Well, the cross is a pole! Jesus carried this cross-beam, a pole, to Golgotha, where it was attached to another pole. Historians believe that there were permanent poles erected at the place of crucifixion and that the condemned carried to cross beam, a pole, to the other pole, on which they were crucified. Just because the Greek word for cross means “pole” it doesn’t mean that the cross on which Jesus was crucified was lacking a crossbeam. Also, the shape of an object does not have to be embedded in a word. For example, we speak of “telephone poles” when in reality they are often ‘telephone crosses,’ but no one calls them this. Crosses ARE poles. When the Bible was translated into Latin the word “cross” was used to translate the Greek word “stauros” because this was what the word was understood to mean. The Latin Vulgate, and earlier Latin versions of the Bible as well, are accurate and the Vulgate belongs to the same textual family as the King James Version. Greek is said to be a very detailed and precise language. The thieves are described as being crucified “one on his right hand, and the other on his left.” They are at the right and left “hands” of Jesus not at his side because his arms are outstretched (Mark 15:27, Matthew 27:38, Luke 24:33).
The question comes down to-“What did the ancients understand the cross to look like?” The “Epistle of Barnabas” is an ancient Christian writing written between 70-132 AD. Barnabas describes Christ’s arms as being “outstretched.” He says,

He speaks to Moses, when war was being waged against Israel by foreigners, and in order that he might remind those being attacked that they had been handed over to death because of their sins, the Spirit says to the heart of Moses that he should make a symbol of the cross and of the one who was destined to suffer because, he is saying, unless they place their hope in him, war shall be waged against them forever. Therefore Moses piled one shield upon another in the midst of the battle, and standing high above them all he stretched out his hands, and so Israel was made victorious. But whenever he lowered them, the men began to be killed. Why so? So that they might learn that they cannot be saved unless they place their hope in him. And again in another prophet he says: “All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient people who oppose my righteous way.” Again Moses makes a symbol of Jesus-showing that he must suffer, and that the very one whom they think they have destroyed shall give life…Barnabas 12:2-4. (Quoting Exodus 17:8-13 and Isaiah 65:20

So, here we have an early Christian writing during a period when apostles of the Messiah were writing, describing Christ’s arms as outstretched, not in an attempt to make Christianity more appealing to pagans-but to show that the mode of Jesus’ death fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. Early Christians writing in the apostolic era understood Christ’s arms to be outstretched upon the cross.

An important archeological discovery concerning the mode of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the graffiti from the early Christian period found in Palatine Hill in Rome. It has written “Alexamenos worships his god.” Alexamenos, the early Christian being mocked, is depicted standing in front of the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus is depicted with an ass’s head. This graffiti has been dated to the second century (100s). (It may be earlier- it was found in a place that has been dated to the time of Nero who ruled 54-68 AD.) Jesus has his arms outstretched on the cross. This must be because this was the way most crucifixions were carried out and how even pagans understood Christ to have been crucified. The cross is mocked. This inscription shows that the cross had no religious significance at that time. It not a symbol of the sacred to the Romans-but an emblem of shame and contempt. Anti-Semitic Greeks and Romans believed that the Jews had an idol of a golden ass’s head in the Holy of Holies in the Temple that they worshiped and that every Jewish synagogue had an ass’s head in the vestibule. Part of the reason Jesus is depicted with a donkey’s head is to identify him and mock him as a Jew. In the ruins of Pompey and Herculaneum there is what may be a cross inscribed on the wall at the “Casa del Bicentenario” at Herculaneum. The volcano that buried Pompey and Herculaneum occurred around 70 AD. Ancient graffiti showing a crucified man-being crucified in the same manner as traditional depictions of Christ’s crucifixion has been found at a wall at Pozzuoli at Naples in Italy.
When we study the cross we need serious historical and archeological investigations and not unsubstantiated rumors. Two excellent books have been written on the subject: The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry by Dr. Frederick T. Zugabe and Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Cross by Martin Hengel. Hengel mentions the ancient writer Lucian and says, “According to Lucian, the letter T was given its “evil significance”, “shaped in the form of a tau which tyrants “hang men on”…”I think we can only punish Tau by making a T of him.” So the ancients described the cross as being T shaped. Hengel described the sociological significance of crucifixion. The cross was an unspeakable, obscene, and “utterly vile.” The cross was seen as such a horrible thing that crucifixion was not usually discussed in polite society. A gospel of the cross was, in their view “folly and scandal.” Paul speaks of the “offense of the cross” in Galatians 5:11. And now we have uneducated people claiming that the church used the cross to appeal to pagans-when in reality they found it repugnant! (It should be remembered that the Romans did not invent crucifixion that adopted it from other eastern cultures.)
There have been different arguments made against the cross. One person I encountered said that the cross is like an electric chair or a car totaled in an accident and thus it is repulsive and we shouldn’t want to look at it. In fact, it was insinuated that doing so was disrespectful to God. (This individual took offense at the cross when he noticed a cross that was not prominently displayed in a church.) The group this person was with also believes that we should still be sacrificing animals and that in the Millennium sin-offerings will be re-instituted-which must mean that the blood of the Messiah has not covered for all sins for all time. The Bible is very clear that animal sacrifices are over with the atonement of Jesus. In the Millennium Isaiah says, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.” (Isaiah 11:9).
It is also argued that the cross hurts Jewish people’s feelings. Well, it is meant to! Paul says, “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them that we called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God, because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). These people are trying to remove the offense of the cross. Lets not offend the Jews by the cross, they say, let us remove it out of deference for their feelings. You are going to remove something God has established and in doing so-you make yourself a rebel against Almighty God. The crucifixion, according to Paul, is the “wisdom of God.” When you remove the cross-you presume you are wiser than God. What about the Moslems? They are offended at the cross the same way the Jews are. Are we going to remove the cross for them? When we remove the Atonement what kind of Gospel are we left with? During Gulf War 1, Chaplains were pressured to remove their crosses off of their uniforms to keep from offending Moslems. And now certain “Messianics” want us to remove the cross to keep from offending Jews. These two incidents are basically identical. Christians are being pressured to deny Christ, both of these incidents represent a denial of Jesus Christ. But “The Cross hurts Jewish (and Moslem) peoples feelings.” It is our obligation to remain faithful to the Scriptures-and not to change our beliefs in order to satisfy unbelievers. If the Jews interpret the cross in a negative way that is because they are in error. Some say that Christians have behaved in an un-Christ like manner. However, we should be wary of taking a jaundiced view of Christian history. Historical revisionists are engaging in anti-Christian polemics by re-writing history. Yes, atrocities have been committed but there has also been great kindness and tolerance shown to the Jews and positive cultural exchanges between the Christian and Jewish communities throughout history. The problem isn’t with the cross. The Jews are attaching the wrong meaning to the cross and in doing so, they are in error as the New Testament clearly states in 1 Corinthians 1 that the cross is the stumbling block and rock of offense that God has established-those who oppose it will be ground to powder (Psalm 118:22, See also Matthew 21:42-44. 1 Peter 2:7-8.)
But the cross is a “pagan” symbol, they say-without proof! Some of the evidence they provide is that the cross is used to ward off vampires! Well, this shows how weak their argument is when they have to use mythological creatures to prove their point. Vampires are fictional. Vampires as we know them now, were invented by Abraham Stoker in a novel written in the 1800s. Vampires are demonic. The concept was that the cross represented to holiness and power of Jesus and as they are demonic it reminds them of their defeat by Christ. Well, it shows that the cross is used as a lucky charm, they say. So what? During Viet Nam some soldiers would carry a small Bible in their pocket thinking it would protect them. Is a Bible bad because it has been misused in this manner? Jews also have made idols out of mezuzahs and Torah Scrolls. The idea behind a Mezuzah is to have a Bible verse written on the door post of your house. Later Jewish people developed a superstition of touching the Mezuzah for a blessing or for good luck. In many synagogues Jews dance before and run circles around a Torah Scroll as if it was an idol. They kiss it, bow down before it and worship it. So, now we have people telling us to reject the cross because in extreme cases certain ignorant people have developed superstitions. I am not going to deny the cross of Christ because in some rare and extreme cases a very tiny and insignificant group of people may be superstitious. We need serious evidence that New Testament Christianity is “pagan” and not absurd non-sense.
A professor once said, “Words have contexts-not meanings.” This is also true about symbols. For example, in our culture the swastika is a symbol of Anti-Semitism. However, Buddhists resent this because the swastika is also an ancient symbol of Buddhism. Archeologists have discovered that the Temple of the Lord build by King Herod was decorated with swastikas! At the time it was just a geometrical pattern and it didn’t have the meaning attached to it that it now carries. As Christians, the meaning that we assign to be cross is derived from the New Testament. Speaking of the centrality of the cross, Paul wrote, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
Some people have found rare pictures of Assyrians and Babylonians wearing jewelry that looks like crosses. These “crosses” (plus signs really) are not shaped like the cross that Jesus was crucified on. They are just designs without religious significance. They did not symbolize that God became incarnate to die to redeem mankind. In Egypt there is the “ankh.” It is not a true cross either-it has a loop on the top. It is the Egyptian word for “life” while the cross is a symbol of death. Another device is the “Hammer of Thor.” The Hammer of Thor is not a cross-it’s a hammer. An “ankh” is not a cross either. These symbols are not true crosses and do not symbolize what the cross symbolizes in the New Testament.
But isn’t the cross the symbol of Tammuz? NO! The Bible says, “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18). People have added an unscriptural and totally untrue story of Nimrod and Semiramis and have given it Scriptural authority. This story of Nimrod is given unquestioned authority as if it is the very word of God and it is used to interpret not just the Bible but the whole of history of mankind. The story of Nimrod and Semiramis is not in the Bible and you are not obligated to believe in it-because it isn’t true. Jesus said, “By the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established.” (Matthew 18:16 quoting Deuteronomy 17:6). The story of Nimrod and Semiramis first appears in the mid 1800s AD-there is no supporting witnesses-not in Josephus, not in the Apocrypha, not in the Talmud or any Jewish Legend or ancient writing and not in the Dead Sea Scrolls or the writings of the Church Fathers. There is no evidence from the archeological record either. There is no collaborating or supporting evidence to prove the story of Nimrod and Semiramis is true. Despite this many people have given the Nimrod-Semiramis-Tammuz story canonical status. This is adding to the Bible and is sinful and demonic.
In the mid-1800s, a man in England named Alexander Hislop invented the Nimrod-Semiramis-Tammuz story. Hislop’s ideas are found in a book he wrote entitled “The Two Babylons.” What he did was take the story of Osirus, the story of the Levites concubine in Judges 19, and the story of Semiramis and merged them and invented a new myth that had never been told before. It goes like this: After the flood Nimrod built the Tower of Babel and married his mother Semiramis. Because of his idolatry Shem, the son of Noah, killed Nimrod and dismembered him and scattered his body parts as a warning to other idolaters. Semiramis then gave birth to Nimrod’s child Tammuz, whom she claimed was Nimrod reincarnated and the incarnation of the Sun god. She then invented the doctrine of the Trinity, the Father, being Nimrod, the Son being Tammuz and herself as the equivalent of the Holy Spirit. According to Hislop all religions are a form of sun worship as established by Semiramis. Hislop’s main thesis is that Roman Catholics are not worshiping Christ but are in fact worshiping Tammuz-Nimrod and Semiramis. This is an unfair criticism of the Roman Catholic church.
This isn’t the place for extensive information about it but, “What do we know about Babylonian religion?” Now, due to archeological discoveries we know a lot more than Hislop did. Accurate information on the Babylonians and their religion is found in “The Babylonians” by H.W.F. Saggs. A lot of accurate information about the Babylonians is found in the Bible. Hislop’s theories have been scientifically disproved but his ideas are not biblical. No historian or archeologists takes Hislop or his ideas seriously at all. So, who was Tammuz? Tammuz was a fertility-vegetation god and a consort to the goddess Ishtar. Tammuz was not a sun god. Due to Hislop, many people assume that most ancient religions were centered around Sun worship. The Egyptians were primarily Sun worshipers, however, in most ancient religions including Babylonian religions, the Sun is not the most important god-while he is worshiped as a god. Contrary to Hislop’s thesis, ancient Babylonian religion was not centered around one religion. In reality, along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, various city states emerged. Each city state had their own gods and goddesses and their own religions. Over the centuries, various city-states would become more powerful and they would conquer their neighbors. When this happened they also conquered the god’s of the neighboring cities. So, this meant that various religions would merge. Instead of one religion-that of Tammuz evolving into different religions, what really happened is that different polytheistic religions were merging together. We haven’t found evidence that the ancient Babylonians worshipped the way Hislop claims they did. The Babylonian gods are Enlil “Lord-Wind” the Creator, Ani (or Anu), a “co-creator,” Enki, the God of Earth and Shamashi-the Sun God and the God of Justice. It should be noted that Shamashi was not the chief god. Different city-states had different listings of the chief gods. Other gods include Sin, the moon god, Ninurta, the storm god and Ereshkegal, the god of the dead. Goddesses include Inanna, Ishtar, Gula, Ninhurgad, Ershkigal and Tiamat. Other deities include Damuzi, who is Tammuz, and Murdock, who as the God of Babylonia, became the chief god by defeating all other gods.
The fact is that not all religions are based on Sun worship. There are some beliefs that do seem to be universal in primitive cultures. These are-what is called “animism” which means that the universe is filled with “spirits.” All objects and living things, such as trees, have spirits. The second very common feature is ancestor worship. In this belief, all of your ancestors spirits watch over you, for good or ill and you must appease them. Fertility was very important to the ancients and many religions centered around fertility gods-not sun worship. It is very obvious why-survival depended on fertile crops and upon having children. It is a type of survival mechanism. Hislop is wrong. Roman Catholicism is not Babylonian. However, Babylonian religion is alive and well. It is ironic that people who attack Christianity for being “Babylon Mystery Religion” are actually spreading the real Babylonian religion themselves. Babylonian religion has survived as Astrology. Michael Rood promotes Astrology with his astrologically based calendar. This obsession with Sun worship is odd because the Bible actually uses the Sun and Light as a metaphor for God and his Messiah. Jesus is called the Sun of Righteousness in Malachi 4:2, in Psalm 84:11 it states “Yahweh is a Sun and shield.” In John chapter one Jesus is described as light conquering darkness. The Sun as a metaphor for Jesus and God the Father is Biblical and not “pagan.” There is absolutely no evidence that the cross was a symbol of Sun worship. Repeating a lie over and over again doesn’t make it true no matter how earnestly and passionately you tell the lie.
So, the cross is supposedly pagan because it is the symbol of Tammuz. There is no evidence that the cross was a symbol of Tammuz. Well, some say, Tammuz starts with a “T.” That proves nothing. Besides that, Tammuz was actually called “Damuzi” so does this mean that the letter “D” is a pagan symbol too? And beside that, later some Greeks and Romans adopted the worship of Tammuz. They called him Adonis-actually Adonai, meaning the Lord. So, is the letter “A” pagan? Jewish people now call God “Adonai,” which was used for the god Tammuz. According to Hislop Tammuz was the principle Babylonian god. However, in the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, King Gilgamesh, the hero of the story, mocks Damuzi. If Tammuz was the greatest god to the Babylonians why is he mocked in the most popular story in ancient Babylonia?
There is no evidence that Tammuz was the son of Nimrod. Jewish legends of Nimrod are about him having a magic garment than enabled him to hunt and have him in conflict with Abraham-not Shem.
So, who was this Semiramis woman? The story of Semiramis is found in the writings of Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian who lived in the first century BC. He visited Egypt around 60 BC. According to Diodorus Siculus, Semiramis was a queen of Babylon who was married to a king named Ninus and she had a child named Ninyas. When Ninus was killed by an arrow, she posed as her son and ruled until her son was able to have her killed and claim the throne for himself. Archeologist believe that the person Diodorus Siculus is referring to was the Mesopotamian queen Sammu-Ramat, or Shammuramat, who ruled from 811-808 BC. Her husband’s name starts with an “N” like Nimrod-but both the name and the story is different from the way it is retold by Hislop. There are no Jewish legends, or ancient secular or religious accounts that connect Semiramis with Tammuz, Nimrod, or Shem until Hislop did this in the 1800s AD.
I believe that the “Two Babylons” has been a very harmful book, similar to the Communist Manifesto, Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and cultic literature such as the Book of Mormon. If the “Two Babylons” was true-how come such a major event involving Nimrod and Shem wasn’t recorded in the Bible. How come Josephus didn’t write anything about it? Why is there no evidence at all that proves it to be true? It is either true or it’s not. And if it isn’t true then it’s a lie! It is a deception. Is it God’s will for us to be spreading stories that are not true-or are questionable? Well, its plausible, some may say. If you are going to teach this is true and be authoritative about it-you need to prove it, because either it is true or its not. Does Jesus Christ want us to go forth speaking with authority the Word of God or to focus on possible but uncertain doctrines we don’t know if they are true or not but they seem plausible. The Two Babylons has been popularized by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other cultic organizations and that says a lot about it. We are warned not to add nor subtract from the word of God. Whatever “The Two Babylons” is or isn’t-it is not the word of God! This book has been very hurtful and divisive to the church. People have gotten angry, full of hate and have left the faith over “The Two Babylons.” The Da Vinci Code to a very large degree was based on “The Two Babylons” and was part of the “research” Dan Brown based his book on to prove that both the New Testament and Judaism are both based on paganism. We should be careful about spreading Hislop’s ideas because in doing so we could be spreading false and destructive lies. And who is the “Father of Lies”? According to the Bible, Satan is (John 8:44). “The Two Babylons” has created a lot of confusion and the Bible also declares that God is not the author of confusion, Satan is (1 Corinthians 14:33).
Well, Didn’t Constantine make the pagan cross the symbol of the church? At the battle of the Milvian Bridge Constantine saw a vision telling him “In This Sign Conquer.” The sign was not a cross. It was the “Chi-Ro” symbol, which is the first two Greek letters of the Greek word “Christ.” Constantine is often accused of many things he didn’t do. He was not the first pope-in fact, he weakened the influence of the pope by moving the capital of Rome to Constantinople. How could he have been a pope when he wasn’t even baptized until he was upon his death bed? He did not select what books would be in the New Testament. He did not make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. (That was done later by emperor Theodosius late in the fourth century.) Constantine did however introduce the seven day week. It wasn’t used by the Romans except for those who used it for their horoscopes. Constantine also introduced a weekly Sabbath-on “the day of the sun.” The reason it was called the day of the Sun is because the seven day week was known from the horoscopes and to the naked eye of the ancient-there are seven bodies that move through the sky-the sun (Sunday), the Moon (Monday), Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. (In Spanish, these names of the days of the week are retained.) The other planets were not discovered until the invention of the telescope. Constantine did not start “Sunday worship.” By his time it was an established Christian tradition. Constantine was not a theologian. When Arius denied that Jesus was the eternal Son of God, Constantine did not make any theological pronouncements, he deferred to Church leaders, who in a counsel affirmed the teachings of the New Testament. The cross did not become a common Christian symbol until some time after Constantine abolished crucifixion. Constantine’s “Chi-Rho” emblem was used for a long time before and after he ruled. I do not see what the purpose is in spreading false information about Constantine. It was he who put an end to the centuries long persecution of Christianity and released an edict of toleration of Christians.
In chapter nine of Ezekiel God orders an angel to mark those who repented with a cross to mark those who would be spared God’s judgment. So, even in the Old Testament-the Cross is a symbol of God’s mercy. The fallacious argument that the cross is “pagan” is a statement that must be taken on blind faith. There is no evidence to support this and plenty of information to counteract this false thesis. Preachers and teachers are going to be held to a higher standard. The Bible speaks of this fact in James 3:1. We should be very careful about teaching things that are not true-and attacking Holy things that God Himself has established.
Certain people seem to have a sick obsession with “Paganism.” The problem with these people is that they are putting out inaccurate information about paganism. These individuals go around teaching people untruths-upset and harm people over fraudulent information. These teachers need to get an education. If they really knew anything about Babylonian Religion-they wouldn’t be talking about these cultic ideas about Nimrod. Are we obligated to believe or teach something that isn’t in the Bible and simply isn’t true? Those who do are false teachers and deceivers. Lets briefly examine “paganaphobia.” First, we need to realize that the pagans weren’t wrong about everything. The Egyptians and the Greeks believed that individuals possessed an immortal soul that would give an account for the life lived in this world and that soul would either enter into Heaven or be condemned into Hell. To properly understand the Bible we need to be aware of the “pagan” culture in which the stories of the Bible occurred. For instance, archeologists have discovered that the idea of “covenants” was a central concept in the world in which the Bible emerged. We cannot fully understand the concept of covenants without understanding what the ancient “pagans” believed about covenants. There are other things that the Jewish people shared with the pagans. The “Jewish” calendar is actually the same calendar the “pagans” used. This is so obvious when you see that a month in the Hebrew Calendar is named after Tammuz! This Calendar is used in the Bible and is still used by Jewish people today. The “Hebrew” alphabet is the same alphabet that was used by Israel’s “pagan” neighbors-in fact-it originated with the pagans. We have discovered that Israel’s pagan neighbors spoke Hebrew as well. The Moabite Stone, the Ugarit archives and Phoenician and Carthaginian relics show that “Hebrew” was the common language of that region. The Law Code of Hammurabi was written upon a stone tablet-the way Moses’ was later. God gave Moses the Commandments upon tablets of stone although that was an established pagan tradition. At Timna and Palmyra it has been found that pagans worshiped in Tabernacles. Pagan temples very similar to the Temple of Solomon have been excavated in Syria. Pagan temples have been discovered with a Holy Place, a “Holy of Holies” and two pillars at the entrance of the temple. The Temple and the Tabernacle were decorated with Palm Trees and Cherubim. We have a good idea of what these decorations looked like because we have excavated pagan relics bearing the same images and designs. The pagans sacrificed the same animals the Jewish people did in the same manner. Certain ancient Greeks believed that Jewish people were worshipers of the god Dionysus because the Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated in a similar manner and at the same time as a feast of Dionysus. These same arguments that these teachers make saying that Christianity is pagan can also-and has been-used to argue that Judaism is also based on paganism!
Think about this, why is the shape of the cross so important to these people who hate the cross of Christ? Why should we be so occupied with such a petty issue? These people are so aggressive but they are also in serious error. Their purpose seems to sow discord between Christian brothers. Why do they try to paint our fellow believers as “the enemy”? Are they our enemies or are they our brothers in Christ?
Consider this, what if what these people are doing is casting untrue aspersions upon the Cross-God’s mode of Salvation? This would be Blasphemy. Who are these enemies of the Cross of Christ, those claiming to “Messianics” who have joined in league with the Moslems, Secularists and Atheists to attack the cross! Paul warns us of these people saying, “I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping that they are enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, who mind earthly things.” (Philippians 3:3). What about using some euphemism for the cross such as “torture stake” or “execution stake” or “tree” or “gibbet.” This is all about obscuring the Gospel and ultimately it is about removing the offense of the Cross. We need to clearly preach the Good News and stop attacking God’s method for redeeming mankind-the Cross of Jesus Christ. Our chief concern should be to comply with the commands of Jesus Christ. He ordered us-not to remove the Cross-but to pick it up. Jesus says, “He that taketh not up his cross, and followeth after me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38). Jesus also said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up this cross and follow me.” (Matthew16:24). And now we have Messianic teachers telling us the opposite-that we need to take down and remove the cross-because they find it offensive!
The whole purpose of Jesus in coming to earth was to be crucified. Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of Man must be lifted up that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:14-16). So we see that Jesus was lifted up on the cross-not as a pagan symbol but in order to fulfill Old Testament types and symbols, to fulfill prophecy and to redeem mankind. In John 8:28 we are told that when Jesus is lived up “You will know that I am he.” In John 12:34, Jesus says, “If I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all peoples to myself.” This is what we are obligated to do-to lift up Christ. Are we lifting up Jesus and drawing all men to him or are we lifting up other things? Jesus embraced the shame of the cross, which is the Gospel. Many of these so-called “Messianics” are ashamed of the cross. Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation unto everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, but also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16). Paul isn’t ashamed of the cross, he says, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14). Many of these enemies of the cross of Christ do not believe we are saved by the atonement but claim we are saved by having Jewish ancestry or being “Torah Observant.” Our primary mission is to lead people to the cross. If we are not doing this-then we are leading people into grave error.
Stephen A. Missick
PO Box 882 Shepherd TX 77371

Aramaic as Language of Jesus by Dr. DeFrancisco

Which Language Did Jesus Speak – Aramaic, Hebrew, or Greek?

by James J. DeFrancisco, Ph.D.

This article is in response to the article of a similar title, Which Language Did Jesus Speak – Aramaic or Hebrew? by Brian Knowles published by ACD. While we essentially agree with the thesis of Mr. Knowles in that Jesus spoke primarily a Semitic language we do not agree with the conclusion that it was Hebrew rather than Aramaic. In this article we will provide background information that leads us to our conclusion.

The claim in the second paragraph of Mr. Knowles article in which he states that recently an expanding circle of scholars has rejected the notion of Aramaic as being the dialect spoken by Jesus and the disciples is essentially true. However, this claim is also somewhat of an exaggeration in the context of his article. He evidently forms this position based primarily on the work of several scholars: M. H. Segal, Shmuel Safrai, David Biven, and Roy Blizzard. To support his thesis he utilizes the work of two other scholars (Flusser and Lindsey) but ignores the position and importance of the Aramaic language in their writings. In addition, by not looking closely at the work of Biven and Blizzard, he overlooks at least one major misunderstanding in their quotation of the renowned Aramaic scholar, Matthew Black. The fundamental error is to overlook the fact that all of these scholars did their work in comparison with the Greek New Testament. The importance of the Aramaic language is not given justice and Aramaic versions, i.e. Old Syriac and Peshitta are not even mentioned.

Although there may be an expanding circle of scholars who have or who are rejecting the notion of Aramaic as being not only the dialect spoken by Jesus and His disciples this group is still a small percentage of scholars. In fact, the majority of scholars accept the notion that the primary language of Jesus and His disciples was Aramaic. Biven and Blizzard, while presenting useful information in their book, perhaps stretch the facts a bit to de-emphasize Aramaic in their effort to focus on Hebrew. They also seem to misunderstand and perhaps quote Matthew Black out of context in their attempt to support their thesis.

Knowles, Biven, and Blizzard have somewhat misused the work of Flusser and Lindsey in their de-emphasis of Aramaic because neither Flusser nor Lindsey do this in their own writings. In fact, Flusser and Lindsey often speak of Hebrew and Aramaic interchangeably as they emphasize the Semitic languages over Greek. Also, the Jerusalem Perspective Online website ( contains articles that emphasis the importance of Aramaic, e.g. “Matthew’s Aramaic Glue” by Randall Buth indicates that “a knowledge of the Gospels’ Semitic background can provide a deeper understanding of Jesus’ words and influence the translation process.” Buth then goes on to state that “Matthew shows a specifically Aramaic influence” and that Matthew’s gospel “uses an Aramaic conjunction as the glue to hold stories together.”

In The Jesus Sources (Hkesher, 1990), Lindsey states that “. . . Mark is a Gospel of equivalents. He had what you might call a ‘targumist’ mentality.” Targums were traditionally written in Aramaic. In A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark, Lindsey uses “Hebrew or Aramaic” in several sentences that group these two languages together (perhaps interchangeably) since they are closely related cognate languages. Unfortunately, he may be mistaken in his interpretation of the Aramaic words, “My God, my God . . .” in Mark 15:34 as being a direct quotation of the targum of Psalm 22. Several Aramaic commentators have taken another position on these words of Jesus as early as the 9th century (Ishodad of Merv). Since these words were spoken in Aramaic, the evidence of Aramaic experts should be taken into consideration. Also, it is interesting that Jesus would use Aramaic just moments before his death if it was not his primary language. If He was reciting Holy Scripture, why didn’t he recite the Shema in Hebrew instead?

Regarding the expression, “son of man,” Lindsey is clear that “the original is Aramaic . . . and so far as we know Jesus and the people of his day knew the text only in Aramaic.” (The Jesus Sources, p. 72). The text being referred to here is Daniel 7:13 which is written in Aramaic – in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Other citations of Aramaic in The Jesus Sources include:

We have chosen to use Kepha, for it is perfectly clear that Jesus uses this
Aramaic form in naming Simon.” (p. 74)

Lindsey refers to “the Hebrew word ‘Amen’” (p. 74). This word is identical
in Aramaic. . . as are many other words.

In Jesus, Flusser uses Palestinian Hebrew and Aramaic interchangeably for the term “fox” (p. 52, n. 28). He uses Hebrew and Aramaic together in reference to the writings from the time of Jesus (p. 128). Although he doesn’t specifically mention it regarding his section on the “Chamber of Hewn Stone and Caiaphus,” he is actually demonstrating the use of an Aramaic word, “Caiaphus” is a Latinized form of “Kepha.” This obviously shows that the common names of people and places utilized Aramaic. This is demonstrated also with “Gabbatha” (p. 254) and “Golgotha” (p. 255) as well as “mamona” (Aramaic) in comparison with “mammon” (Hebrew) showing the close similarity of these two languages (p. 94, n. 5).

Bivin and Blizzard, unfortunately, make comparisons exclusively using Greek texts (Codex Sinaiticus, Bezae, and Alexandrinus) with a focus on Hebrew as more original than Greek. Aramaic is de-emphasized, omitted, and referred to with little understanding in their book Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, which doesn’t totally live up to its name.

In Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, on pages 12-14, for example, in quoting Matthew Black they suggest that Black supports their position. The statement however is actually used by Black in an argument in which he opposes the Hebrew gospel position and it is further qualified by his beginning the sentence with the word “If . . .“ Black also qualifies it with a footnote in reference to page 16 of his book where he states, “Jesus must have conversed in the Galilean dialect of Aramaic, and His teaching was probably almost entirely in Aramaic.” He actually judges the emphasis of using Hebrew as a gospel language as an “extreme position” and goes on to explain that it “has found little if any support among competent authorities” and is “absurd.” To the contrary, Black in fact, states that “these Scriptures were provided with a targum for the benefit of the Aramaic speaking masses who could no longer understand Hebrew. The use of the term ‘Hebrew’ to refer to Aramaic is readily explicable, since it described the peculiar dialect of Aramaic which had grown up in Palestine since the days of Nehemiah and which was distinctively Jewish . . .” The reader is referred to page 48 of An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts by Black.

Professor Safrai has provided a detailed overview of languages used in Israel. Much valuable information is available on the website. A major portion of one of his articles on this subject is presented at some length below:

“Prof. Safrai presents an overview of the three languages used in the land of Israel during the days of Jesus, and concludes that Hebrew was the primary language spoken by the Jewish residents at that time.
The land of Israel was under the influence of Greek culture from the time of its conquest by Alexander the Great at the end of the fourth century B.C.E. Although scholars have divergent views regarding the influence
of Hellenism on religious works, literature and everyday life in first-century Israel, it is generally accepted that the Greek language was used by many of the inhabitants.

“The Role of Aramaic
Aramaic was quite widespread in Jerusalem and in other parts of the land, as can be seen from the large number of Aramaic inscriptions which have been discovered dating from the Second Temple period. The
use of Aramaic is also evident from the literature created in that language. The Genesis Apocryphon, the Targum of Job and portions of several other Aramaic works were found in the ancient library of the Essenes
at Qumran, and Jewish sources of the period mention additional non-extant works.

“Aramaic also had a strong influence on Mishnaic Hebrew, and Aramaic words are found in the New Testament and in the writings of Josephus. Unlike in countries such as Egypt where Aramaic almost disappeared when the country came under the influence of Hellenism, Aramaic remained a vibrant language in the land of Israel and Syria even during the centuries of Græco-Roman rule until the Arab conquest at the beginning of the seventh century C.E.

“Aramaic was the language of communication between Jews and those non-Jews not connected with the government or living in Greek cities. An ordinary non-Jew mentioned in rabbinic literature is referred to
as an Aramean and generally has an Aramaic rather than a Greek name (Tosefta, Pesahim 1:27). It is possible that some Roman officials who served long periods of time in the land of Israel learned Aramaic, and Jews may have been able to converse with these officials in Aramaic.

“However, the role of Aramaic in everyday life should not be exaggerated. Many scholars who admit the widespread use of Hebrew in the last few generations of the Second Temple period claim that Temple
services were conducted in Aramaic. While there were a number of Aramaic words and phrases associated with the administration of the Temple and Temple area, the vast majority of references relating to Temple life reflect the use of Hebrew there. The Mishnah preserves many descriptions of various aspects of everyday life in the Temple, including statements of Temple officials which almost always are in Hebrew. Moreover, to date all of the inscriptions found in the Temple area are written in Hebrew, except for two Greek inscriptions, originally part of a balustrade surrounding the inner Temple, which warned Gentiles not to go beyond that point.

“Tannaic and amoraic sources state that it was customary in the synagogue to translate the readings from the Torah and the Prophets into Aramaic. Rendering the Scriptures into Aramaic offered an opportunity to introduce into the readings elements of the Oral Torah in popular form. This was done for the benefit of religiously uneducated people who may not have completely understood Biblical Hebrew. One rabbinic source explicitly states: "…and he translates [into Aramaic] so that the rest of the people, and the women and children, will understand it" (Tractate Soferim 18:4).However, the custom of translating the readings of the Torah and Prophets into Aramaic is not mentioned in any source before approximately 140 C.E. Sources from the second Temple period and the era immediately following the destruction of the Temple do not reflect this custom. The phenomenon of sages understanding Biblical Hebrew while the rest of the population required a translation is the reality of a later period and was not the situation during the first century C.E.

“Mishnaic Hebrew
Either Hebrew or Aramaic was used in the synagogue or at other communal gatherings, but there are a number of questions concerning the relationship of these two languages in the land of Israel. The Torah and Prophets were undoubtedly read in Hebrew, as were prayers, but what was the language of Torah instruction in the synagogue? In what language did people speak in the marketplace and within the family circle? In which tongue did the sages address their students? Was there a difference between Judea and Galilee?

“Most scholars since the beginning of the nineteenth century have concluded that Aramaic was the spoken language of the land of Israel during the Second Temple period. Even when scribes of that period or later attest that they wrote or transmitted traditions in Hebrew, scholars have persisted in claiming that this "Hebrew" was actually some type of Aramaic dialect then prevalent among the Jews of the land. It has even been claimed that the Hebrew in which the Mishnah was written was an artificial language of the bet midrash, house of study, which was a translation from Aramaic, or at the very least heavily influenced by Aramaic.

“However, some seventy years ago a number of Jewish scholars in Palestine (later the State of Israel) began to see that the Hebrew of the Mishnah had been a living and vibrant language, spoken in the house of study, synagogue, on the street and at home. Mishnaic Hebrew does not deal only with matters of religion, but mentions, for instance, the names of dozens of implements used at the time, and records thousands of events and sayings about mundane, secular aspects of life. . .
“The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the documents from the period of the Bar-Kochba revolt (132–135 C.E.) conclusively settled the question of whether Mishnaic Hebrew had been an artificial or a living language. Hymns, prayers and biblical works written in Hebrew were discovered, as well as documents composed in the Mishnaic Hebrew dialect. Among them were letters containing Hebrew slang and abbreviated Hebrew forms characteristic of everyday speech . . .
“Rabbinic Literature
When the Jewish writers of the Second Temple period referred to Hebrew, they meant Hebrew and not Aramaic. They did not confuse the two languages, but distinguished quite clearly between Hebrew and Aramaic, referring to the latter either as "Aramaic," "targum" or "Syriac" (sursit). The sages also clearly differentiated between the Hebrew and Aramaic sections of the Bible. . .

“One cannot fulfill the obligation of reading from the Torah scroll unless the text is written in square script in Hebrew and in a book [some manuscripts read "on parchment"] and in ink. (Tosefta, Megillah 2:6)
In other words, the Torah scroll must be written in square Hebrew script and not in the old archaic Hebrew script, nor in Aramaic. . . (NOTE: Aramaic also includes the usage of “Hebrew” square script which is
called in Hebrew, “Ktav Asshurim,” i.e “Assyrian Letters” –JJD)

“II Kings 18 tells of the Assyrian general Rabshakeh’s advance on Jerusalem and his attempt to persuade the
beleaguered inhabitants of the city to surrender. The leaders of Jerusalem requested that he speak Aramaic and "not the language of Judea" so that the rest of the city’s inhabitants would not understand (v. 26). Josephus
relates the story in the following manner:
“As Rabshakeh spoke these words in Hebrew, with which language he was familiar, Eliakim was afraid that the people might overhear them and be thrown into consternation, and he asked him to speak in suristi, [Syriac, i.e., Aramaic]. (Antiquities 10:8)

“Galilee and Judea
There is an oft-repeated claim in scholarly literature that a high percentage of the Galilean population was religiously uneducated, and that the people consequently knew and used less Hebrew. Literary sources, however, provide no indication that this claim is correct.

“There are a number of "anti-Galilee" statements in rabbinic literature, but one can find similar barbs directed against residents of other regions of the land. What the sources do indicate is that Galilee belonged
to the accepted cultural milieu of Judaism at that time, including the world of Torah study, and that culturally and spiritually Galilee may have been closer to Jerusalem than Judea.

“There is a statement in rabbinic literature that the Judeans retained the teachings of their Torah scholars because they were careful in the use of their language, while the Galileans, who were not so careful with
their speech, did not retain their learning (Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 53a–b; Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 4d, et al.). While this saying is sometimes considered to be evidence for the dominance of Aramaic over Hebrew
in the Galilee because some of the examples discussed are in Aramaic, it actually only refers to the Judeans’ feeling that Galileans mispronounced the guttural letters het and ‘ayin and dropped the weak letters ‘alef and hey. This in no way reflects on the cultural status of Galilee, nor does it show that the use of Hebrew was less common there than in Judea or Jerusalem.

“The New Testament
When Paul spoke to the Roman commander, he used Greek (Acts 21:37). When he addressed the people,
however, he spoke to them "in the Hebrew language" (Acts 21:40).

“Hebrew-speakers commonly referred to Jews as yisrael, Israel, in contrast to Ioudaioi, Jews used by Greek speakers and yehuda’in, Jews used by Aramaic-speakers. In literary works written in Hebrew, Jews refer to themselves as yisrael, Israel or bene yisrael, sons of Israel, while non-Jews refer to Jews using the Aramaicized
yehuda’in, Jews.

“When the author of the Book of Acts refers to Jews he normally uses the term Ioudaioi, Jews. However, when he relates the words of Jesus or of Peter and his companions, he has them refer to Jews as yisrael, Israel
(Acts 1:6; 2:22; 2:36; 3:12; 4:10; 9:15). The author of the Book of Acts also relates that Rabban Gamaliel addressed the Sanhedrin as "Men of Israel" (5:35).

“Jesus probably spoke Hebrew within the circle of his disciples, and since the thousands of parables which have survived in rabbinic literature are all in Hebrew, no doubt he likewise told his parables in Hebrew.
The view that Aramaic was the language of conversation in first-century Israel seems to be supported by the Aramaic words found in the New Testament. Many scholars have seen Jesus’ words to Jairus’ twelve-year-old daughter, "Talitha kumi" (Mk. 5:41), as proof that he spoke Aramaic. Yet, even if Jesus spoke to her in Hebrew, he could have said "Talitha kumi." One must not forget that many Aramaic words in various forms found their way into Hebrew in the Second Temple period. The command to "get up" kumi is the same word in Hebrew and Aramaic. . .

Hebrew was certainly the language of instruction in schools, as well as the language of prayer and Torah reading. The language of instruction in the house of study also most certainly was Hebrew, and this was likely the case regarding instruction in the synagogue. It would seem that Hebrew was spoken in the marketplaces of Jerusalem (Jerusalem Talmud, Pesahim 37d), but there is not enough information to determine whether this also was the case in other cities. It is not impossible that there were religiously uneducated people who did not understand Hebrew and were conversant only in Aramaic. There is some evidence for this linguistic phenomenon beginning in the second century C.E., but it is unlikely that such was the case in the first century. Although the Jewish inhabitants of the land of Israel in the time of Jesus knew Aramaic and used it in their contacts with the ordinary, non-Jewish residents, Hebrew was their first or native language. It is especially clear that in enlightened circles such as those of Jesus and his disciples, Hebrew was the dominant spoken language.

-“Spoken Languages in the Time of Jesus,” Safrai, Shmuel

However, many (most) scholars understand Aramaic to be the common spoken language of the people in Galilee during the time of Jesus and his disciples. This dialect of Aramaic used in Galilee is similar to the dialect used in the Peshitta New Testament. The Peshitta has remained intact for the past 1600-1800 years. Thus, Aramaic should not be discounted, let alone eliminated, as the true common language of Jesus and the Apostles and, possibly, the original language of the New Testament. At the very least, it is the language of those Christians (Mishakyae) in the Holy Land and the Near East who preserved Christianity in its purest Semitic form since the ancient times.

Fitzmyer, an expert in NT Aramaic, indicates that “From at least the eighth century B.C. Aramaic had become a lingua franca in the ancient Near East; and contrary to the impression that one gets from the ordinary Hebrew Bible, in which (according to Kittel’s edition) the Aramaic protion occupy a maximum of 22 pages and a few stray verses in Genesis (31:47) and Jeremiah (10:11) out of a total of 1434 pages, Aramaic was not the less important of the two languages. As for the use of Aramaic in Palestine, it is now attested from the middle of the ninth century B.C. onward.” A Wandering Aramean – Joseph A. Fitzmyer, p. 6). Fitzmyer states that “Hebrew . . . was apparently the more indigenous of the two in Palestine” but clarifies his statement with the qualification that it a form called “Postbiblical Hebrew” and that although evidence of such Hebrew is found in Qumram texts, “it is not abundant and comes from restricted areas.”

Fitzmyer concludes that “the most commonly used language of Palestine in the first century A.D. was Aramaic, but that many Palestinian Jews, not only those in Hellenistic towns, but farmers and craftsmen of less obviously Hellenistic areas used Greek, at least as a second language,” and that “pockets of Palestinian Jews also used Hebrew, even though its use was not widespread.” (p. 7). Fitzmyer criticizes Birkeland’s thesis that Hebrew was the language of the common people and sustains a solid position with the consensus of scholars supporting the position of “Aramaic as the language most commonly used by Jesus and his immediate disciples in Palestine.” (pp.7-8)

Fitzmyer admits that Papias’ statement regarding the Gospel of Matthew being written in the “Hebrew” dialect most likely means “in the Aramaic language” but that this is highly debatable. (p.11). Regarding the Syriac, Fitzmyer’s position is that although “Syriac tradition is obviously secondary and derivative from the Greek. . . that, in the choice of Syriac forms of names, especially geographical names, that tradition may be closer to some of the native Palestinian names that have become Grecized in the NT text tradition.” (p. 12)

Fitzmyer explains that “Though the two languages, Hebrew and Aramaic, had co-existed for several centuries in the Near East before this, Aramaic became the more important of the two, serving as the lingua franca during the latter part of the Neo-Assyrian empire and during the Persian period. Hebrew is usually regarded today as the more important of the two languages, because it is the tongue of the bulk of the OT. And yet, historically it was restricted to a small area on the south-eastern coast of the Mediterranean, whereas Official or Imperial Aramaic was used across a major portion of the Near Eastern world, from Egypt to Asia Minor to Pakistan. Indeed, it gradualy supplanted Hebrew in most of Palestine itself as the common tongue.” (p. 29) “His footnote in reference to this statement indicates that Neh. 8:8 may be hinting at this situation.” (p. 47) . . . “If asked what was the language commonly spoken in Palestine in the time of Jesus of Nazareth, most people with some acquaintance of that era and area would almost spontaneously answer Aramaic. To my way of thinking, this is still the correct answer for the most commonly used language, but the defense of this thesis must reckon with the growing mass of evidence that both Greek and Hebrew were used as well.” (p.38)

Other scholars debate whether Aramaic or Greek were used in the original NT writings but most agree that it was Greek. David Biven agrees as well:

“From time to time, one hears reports of the discovery of a portion of the New Testament written in Hebrew or Aramaic. To date, such reports have proven false. Readers of JERUSALEM PERSPECTIVE should realize that there is not a single extant Hebrew-language manuscript from the early Christian era of any of the New Testament books.

1. All of the canonical gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—were written in Greek.
2. As the author of the gospel of Luke states in his prologue, many written accounts of Jesus’
life already were in circulation.
3. The early church fathers testify that Matthew wrote “the words of Jesus” in “Hebrew.”
4. There are many Semitisms in the gospels.
Those are the bare facts of the matter. Any further statement regarding the original language
of the life story of Jesus is conjectural. A conjecture may enhance understanding, and it may
even be correct. But until it is proven, it cannot be treated as fact.

Jerusalem School Perspective
The Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research has arrived at two conclusions that serve as working hypotheses for their research:
• An account of Jesus’ life was written in Hebrew, probably by one of Jesus’ original disciples.
• One or more of the sources used by the writers of the synoptic gospels is derived from a Greek translation of that Hebrew account.

The scholars of the Jerusalem School do not claim that the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke were originally written in Hebrew. They contend only that the authors of the synoptic gospels used sources that were derived from an earlier Hebrew gospel. In fact, not every part of the synoptic gospels shows Semitic influence. Many parts, such as the prologue to Luke’s gospel, show little or no Semitic influence.

Semitic Influence
On the other hand, there are non-gospel portions of the New Testament that show Semitic influence. For example, the first half of the book of Acts, up to 15:35, is noticeably more Semitic than the second half (cf. Max Wilcox, The Semitisms of Acts).

… While there are various degrees and types of Semitic influence throughout the New Testament, the members of the Jerusalem School recognize that all the books of the canonical New Testament, including the synoptic gospels, were written in Greek. However, study has consistently shown the importance of recognizing the profoundly Jewish background of the gospels. Jerusalem School members firmly believe that a Hebraic perspective is the key to a better understanding of the Greek Testament. We invite you to join us in studying the gospels more closely, and examining the evidence we have found to support our hypotheses”.

-“A Gospel In Hebrew?,” Bivin, David

The position that I have taken is as follows: The gospel message was originally given orally. This oral tradition has both Aramaic (the primary transmission of the original message since Aramaic was the lingua franca of the time) and Hebrew (the more formal language used in religious services and study of the Torah) dimensions. Greek was then used in the primary translations of these two Semitic languages for use by the Gentiles. The oldest manuscripts of the complete New Testament were preserved in Aramaic (Syriac) going back to the 4th century (as possibly as early as the 2nd century) C.E. This text is known as the Peshitta and is still in use today by Near Eastern churches. I have a copy of it in its ancient form. It is also important to understand that both Aramaic and Hebrew are cognate languages. Many words are identical. The Hebrew language actually uses Aramaic lettering known as Ktav Assurim (Assyrian letters). Papias and others that referred to early Christian writings, e.g. Matthew’s Gospel, as being written in Hebrew were referring to the letters more than the language since it would have been difficult – if not impossible – for them to distinguish between Hebrew and Aramaic. My position is well documented by factual and historical evidence. It can be substantiated by universities, synagogues, and the Assyrian Church of the East. So, while I can agree with the emphasis of Knowles, Biven, and Blizzard of Semitic languages over the Greek language relative to New Testament studies, I cannot agree with their conclusion that the language of the day was primarily Hebrew. The majority of reputable scholars would not agree with their position either.

Actually, according to the Aramaic Scriptures Research Society in Israel, the two international languages used in spreading the gospel were Greek (in the Mediterranean regions of the Roman Empire) and Aramaic in the Holy Land and the East: “In the Holy Land, Syria, Mesopotamia, and other countries of the Parthian Empire, these writings were circulated in Aramaic, lingua franca of the East. . . The main vernacular in the Holy Land, however, was Aramaic. The weekly synagogue lections of the Holy Scriptures, called sidra or parashah, with the hapthtarah, were accompanied with an oral Aramaic translation, according to fairly fixed traditions.” This quote is from The Bible Society – Jerusalem – which published THE NEW COVENANT – Commonly Called The New Testament – Peshitta Aramaic Text With a Hebrew Translation in 1986. The Editor’s Note states that, “In the Greek text of the New Testament one finds Aramaic locutions in disguise, in addition to several words and phrases in Greek transcription, such as ‘talitha qumi’, ‘lema shevatani’, ‘mamona’ and others, indicating that Yeshua spoke in Aramaic, and no doubt used Hebrew in conversations with scribes and other religious leaders, in addition to the synagogue use of Hebrew.” (p. ii). They proceed to explain that, “Rabbinical literature in Aramaic is printed in the Hebrew alphabet. Christian manuscripts in Eastern Aramaic are written in the ancient script called estrangela (round, thick-set).” (p. iii)

Hebrew and Aramaic are very closely related. Many words are identical in spelling. “Aramaic is about as close to Hebrew as Spanish is to Italian.” (p.1096) Raymond E. Brown, D. W. Johnson, Kevin G. O’Connell, “Texts and Versions” Sect. 101 “Aramaic and Syriac Versions;” The New Jerome Biblical Commentary “Translation of the Scriptures into Syriac had its roots in the developing pre-Christian Aram targums of OT books brought by 1st/2d-cent. AD Jewish and christian preachers from Palestine into the district of Adiabene (surrounding Irbil in modern Iraq) and to the neighborhood of Edessa (Urfa in modern Turkey).” However, this source also maintains that the language of the Syriac Bible is somewhat distinct “from the Western Aramaic of Palestine that was used by Christ and the apostles. The Syr Bible . . . NT is wholly a transl. from the Greek. Claims that the Syr Gospels are the form in which Jesus spoke his teaching – claims often made by people who have every reason to know better – are without foundation.” (Sect. 116; p. 1098) The Peshitta “was established firmly enough in the early 5th cent. To remain the Bible of all Syr-language Christians despite the Nestorian and Monophysite movements and the disruption of unity that accompanied them.” (Sect. 125, p. 1099) “For the NT in particular, textual transmission of the Peshitta has been remarkably faithful and precise, and good early mss. exist for both Testaments…” (Sect. 127, p. 1099)

Thackson explains that “Syriac is the Aramaic dialect of Edessa, now Urfa in Eastern Turkey, an important center of early Christianity in Mesopotamia. Edessene Syriac was rapidly accepted as the literary language of all non-Greek eastern Christianity and was the primary vehicle for the Christianization of large parts of central and south-central Asia. . . Today it is the classical tongue of the Nestorians and Chaldeans of Iran and Iraq and the liturgical language of the Jacobites of Eastern Anatolia and the Maronites of Greater Syria.” Introduction to Syriac – W. M. Thackson (p. vii)

Aramaic must not be neglected in New Testament studies for at least three reasons:

1. Because Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Near East during the time of Jesus and His disciples.
2. Because it is the language of the Peshitta – an ancient and very “faithful and precise” version of the New Testament texts.
3. Because this language has been preserved and is still used today by
Christians in and from the Near East.

For these reasons the Aramaic language provides valuable insight into interpretations and nuances in New Testament studies which can be validated by contemporary scholars who have had this language passed down virtually intact for generations over at least the past 1600 years.

I do not want to de-emphasize the importance of the Hebrew language. It is a beautiful and powerful language that is unique in several respects. Some knowledge of Hebrew is vital to understanding the Holy Scripture. However, let us also maintain the importance of the Aramaic language and its importance in New Testament studies in particular. It provides insights on early Christianity and it clears up many difficult to understand passages because of the nuances that are evident only from an understanding of Aramaic – the lingua franca of the times and places of early Christianity.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

May Aramaic Herald Newsletter

Aramaic Trivia: “Aramaic in Popular Culture”

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is coming out in theatres at the end of this month. Interestingly, Aramaic is used in the Indiana Jones movies. In the first Indiana Jones film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at the end of the movie Rene Belloq, a Nazi agent opens the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant is of course mentioned in the Holy Bible. Moses had it built to contain the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. However, on the top of the Ark rested a decorative throne called the “Mercy Seat.” What the Ark looked like was a type of palanquin or sedan (which in a sense it was). The most accurate reconstruction of the Ark of the Covenant can be seen at an (agnostic) website called Now, I don’t agree with everything on this website, but his reconstruction of the Ark of the Covenant is very accurate, for the most part. Steven Speilburg and George Lucas used paintings of the Ark of the Covenant by James Tissot for their designs. James Tissot was a French artist who spent much of his career in England. He died at about 1905, I believe. After a “Born-again” experience he decided to devote himself to painting the Bible. He decided to travel to the Holy Land and study Judaism to gain a better understanding of the New Testament. He began with the life of Christ. He completed the “Life of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” project but unfortunately, he died when he had only completed about half of the Old Testament. His students used his sketches and drawings to complete the Old Testament project. In the “Raiders” movie, Belloq dresses up in the sacred garments that the Jewish High Priest was to wear and chants this prayer in Aramaic:
Not in Man do I trust
And not on any Child of God do I rely,
In him whose God is true-
And whose Torah is true-
In him I will trust and to his Holy
Precious praise.

After reciting this, in the movie, Belloq looks into the Ark of the Covenant and is smitten dead by God.

The “Harry Potter” films also contain Aramaic. The word Abracadabra is of uncertain origin. Now it is often used by stage magicians. However, it used to be considered a very powerful incantation. It is first mentioned by Romans in the second century AD. No one knows its source with certainty. It may have been just gibberish or a made up word. However, some have theorized that it is Aramaic, either Avra Kedabra (or Avada K’Davarah”) meaning “Creating is speaking” or “”I will create as I speak” or avada kedavra “what I speak is destroyed.” This is how it is used in Harry Potter-as the “Killing Curse.” As a curse, it could also be translated “perish like the word” or “transgress as I speak.” In the Harry Potter novels it is used as the curse. Most of the spells in these “Harry Potter” novels are in Latin, with the exception of avada kedavra, which is Aramaic. I have serious reservations about the Harry Potter novels because they may cause young people to be interested in the occult. What really disturbs me is J.K. Rawlings revelation that one of the central characters, Dumbledore, is meant to be a homosexual and is intended to normalize homosexual behavior to children. On the other hand there are medieval Christian symbols that are used in Harry Potter, including those taken from the Grail legends and the story of the “Fisher King.” In the final book, Harry Potter becomes a type of “Christ-figure” himself, sacrificing himself and (seeming to) die and rise again.

Barnabas the Facilitator

Questions about Barnabas:
Who was Barnabas?
With whom was he most closely associated?
Who was his near relative?
Of what place is he associated with?

Barnabas was a facilitator or an enabler. Church tradition, and certain scholars, believe him to have been on of the 70 disciples mentioned in Luke chapter 10. (In “Rabbi Jesus” Bruce Chilton, an Aramaic scholar, argues that Joseph Barnabas was the host of the “Last Supper.”) In the Bible he is described as a “good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24). He is introduced in Acts 4:36 as a Levite, which is a Jewish priest. In Acts 6:7 it is recorded that “many priests came to the faith.”
In Acts 4:36 the Aramaic name “Barnabas” is translated as “Son of Encouragement.” It is described as an Aramaic nick-name given to him by the apostles. The word “Nabi” in Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic means “prophet.” In 1 Corinthians 14:3 Paul (Saul Paulus of Tarsus) says, “he who prophecies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”
(Barnabas was a wealthy benefactor of the church. After Barnabas gave a generous offering, later Annanias and Saphira attempted to copy his example but to lie and to claim that they gave more that they actually had. God smote Ananias and Saphira dead for this sin.)
After Saul/Paul’s history of persecuting Christians, the Twelve Apostles didn’t trust him. However, Barnabas sought him out and introduced him to the apostles (Acts 9:26-30). However, Paul was exiled back to his home city of Tarsus for several years. Barnabas was instrumental in the first conversions of gentiles to Christianity (Acts 11:20 and 22). After success among the Gentiles, Barnabas sought out Paul and brought him to Antioch in Syria to help out with the new Gentile (non-Jewish) church (Acts 11:25). Later, Barnabas and Saul were sent to collect money for starving people in Israel. (Notice, often Barnabas’s name is listed first. In Acts 13:2 it is recorded that Barnabas and Saul were sent by the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel in foreign lands. They started in Cyrpus, because Barnabas was a Cypriot. (Today, Moslems have invaded taken over and now rule half of the Island of Cyprus. Of course, the world tolerates this act of Islamic aggression.) After great successes Barnabas and Saul had a falling out over John Mark and “certain men from James” (Acts 15:36-41 and Galatians 2:11-13). In Colossians 4:10, it is mentioned that Mark was the nephew of Barnabas. What had happened was that Mark had abandoned Barnabas and Paul in the middle of the first missionary tour. This proved to Paul that Mark was unfit for the work of a missionary and evangelist. However, near the end of Paul’s life, Paul instructs Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
So, how was Barnabas an important “enabler”? Well, first his generous financial contributions helped sustain the church and help get it off of the ground. Secondly, he personally initiated evangelism to the non-Jews. Without his help, no one would have even heard of Paul the Apostle. He introduced Paul to the Apostles and later searched out and found Paul and put him to work in evangelizing non-Jews. Despite their later falling out, Barnabas made Paul’s ministry possible. Barnabas was wise not to give up on John Mark. Due to Barnabas’s influence, Mark continued to work in Christian ministry and wrote the first Gospel of Mark. (This is the first Gospel written in Greek. Matthew wrote in Aramaic and his writings may have focused more on the teachings rather than the life of Jesus. Many of the deeds of Jesus were later incorporated into the Gospel of Matthew from the Gospel of Mark.) Barnabas returned to Cyprus, where he is still highly regarded and is the “Patron Saint” of Cyprus. Of course, the Moslems have been allowed to vandalize and destroy places in Cyprus associated with Barnabas. Barnabas’s greatest success was in the inspiration and support he gave to other people-his work as “the son of encouragement.” Barnabas didn’t seek glory or greatness for himself-he worked to inspire it in others. He wasn’t interested in self-promotion, but in promoting the work of Christ. There is an important ancient writing called “The Epistle of Barnabas,” while it is very ancient, it most likely wasn’t written by the Joseph Barnabas of the New Testament.
An early apostle.
Mark the Evangelist
The Isle of Cyprus. Barnabas was a Cypriot.

Once again, I want to mention the work of the Barnabas Fund in helping persecuted Christians. See:

The Titulus

This quotation is taken from “the Illustrated Family Encyclopedia of the Living Bible” (1967 edition) and explains the illustration on the cover of this month’s newsletter:
In the time of Jesus the language mostly spoken by the Jews in Palestine-and to some extent used also in the written texts-was a Judean variant of Aramaic known as Judaeo-Aramaic; this is the language referred to in the Gospels as “Hebrew” (John 5:2, Acts 21:40 ect.). The rabbis continued to use Hebrew proper as a written language, and it was also spoken to some extent by the educated classes even in later periods. Aramaic would naturally have been used in the inscription set up over the cross specifying the crime for which the condemned man had suffered, because it was the one language understood by all of the population on whom the punishment was intended to make an impression. The second language would be Greek which became the language of cultured people throughout the Eastern Mediterranean in Hellenistic times, and remained so under the Romans. It was the language understood by most of the Jews in the Diaspora, who thronged Jerusalem at Passover; the Temple inscriptions warning Gentiles against entering the Inner Temple [these inscriptions have survived] were written mainly in Greek; and so were the Gospel themselves. The third language mentioned here is Latin, the language of the Roman army and administration. It may be presumed, however, that the actual order of the languages written on the inscription over the cross would have been different from that set out here: Latin, as the language of Rome, would have taken first place, followed by Greek and Aramaic. When Pilate is said to have “written” the inscription this does not necessarily mean that he wrote it with his own hand; probably it was dictated to a scribe. The scripts shown in the reconstruction [on the cover] are the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the current Greek and Latin script found in public notices painted on the walls of Pompeii and elsewhere.

Summer Projects

Hopefully, this summer I will be able to complete three projects: the publishing of “Aramaic: The Language of Jesus of Nazareth,” the completion and publishing of my Jabez Prayer project and completing my “Chronicles: Facts from the Bible” comic project. My main focus, I believe will be the Jabez Prayer project-which is mainly about the Kenite hypothesis. Well, what is the Kenite hypothesis? The Kenite hypothesis states that knowledge of the name of God, YHWH, was transmitted to the Israelites by an Arab tribe called the Kenites. Recent archeological evidence confirms this and it is also clearly stated as being true in the Bible. The earliest appearance of the name of God, YHWH, is in an ancient Egyptian temple. The YHWH inscription is describing an Arabic tribe worshiping Yahweh outside of the territory of the Egyptians. These primitive “Yahwoh” worshipers were neither Israelites, Hebrews nor Jews-they were Arabic Kenites. These discoveries also help us to understand the accurate pronunciation of the name YHWH-probably Yahoo, Yahu or Yahwoh, and not “Yahweh.”

April Newsletter

The Bread of Life (Part One)

The question is what did Jesus mean when he said, “This is my body”? The messianic rabbi argued that Jesus wasn’t referring to his body-he was referring to the law of Moses-which we need to “ingest” by constant reading, study and application.
This man also argued that there is no “New Testament” because the Law of Moses is eternal and does not change. Therefore, for someone to please God it is necessary for him or her to carefully observe all 613 instructions from the Law of Moses.
All Christians understand “Holy Communion” to represent the physical body and blood of Jesus. Of course, there is disagreement among Christians about how it represents the body and the blood. Roman Catholics believe it becomes literal body and blood in the mass. Other churches believe that there is a “real presence” somehow (spiritually) in the “elements” meaning the bread and wine. In my church it is regarded as a symbol of the body and blood. Either way, the bread and wine of communion represents the body and the blood of Jesus-it is just understood in how it does this differently. So this man is really bringing a radical new teaching.
Now, lets look at what the Bible says. Should we speak of an “Old” and “New” Testament? Yes, if we accept the Bible, because that is how it is explained in the Scriptures. This is seen in the Bible at 2 Corinthians 3:6 and 14 and in the Epistle to the Hebrews at Hebrews 7:22, 9:15 and 18. In these passages it speaks of the Old Testament as passing away. Now, we are obligated to accept the Old Testament as Scripture, to reject the Old Testament is a heresy called “Marcionism.” And the Old Testament is good. But the New Testament is better and God’s complete revelation. (I don’t mean to attack the Old Testament, but I was reading the Battle of Jericho in the Book of Joshua. After the battle the Israelites slaughtered everyone, even babies and the elderly. I thought about that and I know I am incapable of doing such a thing. In all fairness, I know other ancients did more horrible things, such as slowly torturing their conquered enemies and carrying out rapes. So, we see an elevation of moral standards, to a small degree, but when we have arrived at Christ-why would we want to go back to a way that is inferior and incomplete? The New Testament cherishes life to such a degree-that the church has always held that abortion is the taking of an innocent human life and is a mortal sin. The Christian church has indeed always been opposed to abortion. People have different opinions now-but the Apostles of Jesus taught it was wrong. There are many good things in the Old Testament-but the reality is that they had not yet arrived at the high standard we are now at in Jesus Christ. They lived in anticipation for the future complete revelation. Joshua did spare Rahab the Prostitute and all her family because she submitting to God. So, it is possible that many people were spared. But is describes the elderly and children as being slaughtered.) This gentleman didn’t like to say “New Testament” he liked to say “Apostolic Writings” but the Bible describes it as the New Testament. (A side note: some of these Messianic Jews like to describe Paul as “Rabbi” Saul/Paul. My problem with this is we have several writings of Paul and he describes himself as an Apostle-never as a “Rabbi.” Of course, in Assyrian, Rabi merely means teacher or professor. But in Matthew 23:7-8, Jesus discourages the use of such honorific titles. Paul described himself as an apostle and as a slave of Christ: meaning messenger and servant. If you are really a teacher or professor-which is all this term means in Assyrian, there is no harm in using it-but if you are pridefully demanding to be called by a certain title of great honor-this is what Jesus condemned.) About the New Covenant-not only is this how the New Testament describes itself, this is how Jesus Himself describes his work in Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, and 1 Cor. 11:25. Now in the Old Testament, the Prophet Jeremiah prophesied that God was going to make a New Covenant-that would not be like the Old Covenant. This is predicted in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and implied in other passages. So, I think that is clearly established in the Bible that we have an Old and New Testament.

Now lets look at the statement: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

First, lets look at where this appears in the New Testament. Before Jesus began his ministry, he was in the desert where he was tempted by Satan. This incident is briefly alluded to in Mark (Mark 1:12) but is fully described in Luke and Matthew. Now, one interesting thing about this story is that it came directly from Jesus himself. No one was with him in the desert. So obviously, when Jesus was with this disciples he sat down and described to them what had happened to him.

Now, we need to talk about the Gospels and what they are:

The word Gospel-is based on the Greek word “Evangilion” which means “News” or “Good News.” This has two meanings now: first, the “Gospel” is the message that Jesus preached and secondly a “Gospel” is a biography of Jesus. We have four Gospels:
Matthew, Mark. Luke and John. There is also a Gospel of Thomas. Many Bible scholars value the Gospel of Thomas. The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of sayings of Jesus. Some of the sayings in this Gospel are not accurate. I do agree that it is a historically significant Gospel-but it isn’t as valuable as the Four Gospels. I will discuss Thomas a latter time (if you are interested). The earliest Gospel is clearly Mark. We know this for two reasons 1. it contains many Aramaic words and phrases and 2. “Matthew” and Luke actually quote from Mark extensively. The Gospel of Matthew as we have it, isn’t the Gospel as it was written by Matthew. According to Church tradition, Mark wrote down Peter’s recollections and Matthew wrote a life of Christ in Aramaic which someone else later put into Greek, which is the Matthew we now have. Luke was probably written by the man named Luke who is described in the Bible. He was a student of St. Paul. He wrote in Greek (and for Greeks) and didn’t use Aramaic in his Gospel the way the other Gospels do. Now-Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the “Synoptic” Gospels because they are all similar. Most of the similarity is in that Matthew and Luke repeat almost everything in Mark. Now there is a lot of information in Matthew that is unique to Matthew and in Luke that is unique to Luke. Matthew the Apostle probably wrote a writing scholars refer to as “Q” a “lost” Gospel that can be reconstructed because it is extensively quoted by Luke and Matthew. Its like this. Imagine if we didn’t have Mark. Well, scholars could hypothetically reconstruct the Gospel of Mark since it is quoted by Matthew and Luke. But we still have Mark. There is another writing they both quote from we no longer possess. It was probably the original writings of Matthew. All of this is maybe too academic but it is interesting.

Now lets look at the Temptation: We find it in Matthew 4:1-11 and in Luke 4:1-13. They tell it a little differently, for instance the order of the temptations is given in different orders. The interesting thing is that when Jesus answers Satan he quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy all three times. Satan quotes Scripture at Jesus too. The devil quotes from the Book of Psalms.
Now-what is the significance of the temptations?
First, lets look at them.
First, Jesus is hungry. Satan tells him to turn the rocks to bread in order to satisfy his hunger. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 “Man shall not live by bread alone…” Then Satan quotes Psalm 91 and tells Jesus to jump off of the precipice of the Temple so all the people can see a miracle of angels catching him. Jesus answers from Deuteronomy 6:16, which says don’t tempt God. (In Luke this temptation is last-perhaps Luke places it last in order to emphasize the Deity of Christ.) Then Satan offers Jesus a trade-if Jesus bows down to Satan-the Devil will give him all the kingdoms of earth in exchange. Then Jesus answers the Devil with Deuteronomy 6:13. “Worship and serve God alone.”
I read something I thought was interesting. This Bible scholar said that the three greatest needs the Israelites (actually Jews) had at that time were for food, because people barely had enough food to survive, they desired supernatural intervention-as they had seen under Moses, and as an oppressed people many wanted to overthrow the Roman empire. So Satan, was attacking Jesus-through the greatest perceived needs of the Jewish people at that time. This does make some sense to me. Jesus rejects living up to the expectations of the people and decides to fulfill his obligations as messiah to his heavenly father alone. These other ideas are revealed to be actually satanic in origin.

First off, what is “Deuteronomy”? Well, the word Deuteronomy is Greek for “Second Law.” What happens is Moses is about to die-so he repeats his law to the Israelites. Certain laws, such as the Ten Commandments are given a second time. Now, Deuteronomy is the last book of the books of Moses-which are also called the Pentateuch (Greek for Five Books) and the Torah (Hebrew for “Law” or “Instruction). Moses may have written parts of these books-but in reality they were completed hundreds of years after the time of Moses. Genesis is the story of beginnings, were we find the story of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Abraham. Exodus tells of the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt. Leviticus has some moral laws but also detailed instructions of how to carry out animal sacrifices and such things. Numbers describes the Israelites journeys through the desert and contains a census which is where the title comes from. Then we have a repeating of laws in Deuteronomy, which does contain ethical and moral laws but also laws about religious obligation and sacrifices.

Deuteronomy 8:3 states,
“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Literally, “Lord” is Yahweh or Jehovah-a special name of God.)

Okay, so what is “manna”? It is a Hebrew word for “What?” or “What is it?” Now this “ma-“ word is also found in Arabic where for “who” sometimes you say “meen?” I think in Assyrian you say “Moody?” so you see the “ma-“ or “mo-“ prefix. All Semitic languages are very similar: Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic and Modern Assyrian Aramaic-are all closely related. The story of manna is found in Exodus 16. The story goes like this: The Israelites are out in the desert with Moses. They have no food and they angrily come to Moses and demand food. Moses prays and in the morning a type of wafers are found scattered on the desert floor. It is described as tasting something like honey (Exodus 16:31) in other places it is described as either not tasting very good or that the people had grown tired of eating it. God fed them manna until they entered the promised land under Joshua-once they crossed into the Holy Land-God stopped the manna. (According to the Harper Collins Study Bible, the word Manna probably comes from old Aramaic-see page 109).
Now, sometimes scientists offer scientific explanations of the Biblical miracles. Some scientists say perhaps it was a kind of moss that grows in the desert-others has explained it as a type of residue or excretion left by certain desert insects.
Perhaps, but the Bible describes it as a miracle.
So what does this have to do with Jesus Christ? A lot and I will explain that later.

Pope Baptizes ex-Moslem

Pope Benedict baptized Magdi Allam, an Egyptian born critic of Islamic extremism. Mr. Allam was baptized by the pope of Easter (March 22, 2008). Mr. Magdi is the author of the book “Long Live Israel” and has stated that Islam is “physiologically violent.”

Tens of Thousands of innocent Muslem civilians killed by Al-Qaida

In Iraq, most of the casualties are Iraqis. Many Christians have died and indeed the Christians have been targeted for annihilation. However, the greatest number of people killed in “suicide”-homicide attacks are Iraqi civilians the greatest number of whom are Islamic. Finally, some Muslems are beginning to be outraged as is reported in an articles by Josh Meyer “Al-Qaida members questioning tactics, U.S. says: Deaths of fellow Muslims provide criticism, but group still seen as threat” in the Thursday, April 24, 2008 Houston Chronicle.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Aramaic Youtube Videos

Opening a new door in Aramaic ministry

Aramaic Ministry on “You-Tube”

With advancements in technology, it is now possible to do things today that were impossible even five years ago. On “you-tube” it is possible for anyone to put together a television program and broadcast it globally-for free! I have hundreds of photographs and hours of video that I have taken in the Middle East when I was visiting the local Christians. A couple of years ago I put together some programs on a local station. Now I am taking the interviews that I have done and my photographs and video footage and am broadcasting them on “you-tube” on the internet. Finally, a friend of mine, Heather Nelson, is helping me to edit the footage, to download it and to upload it onto “youtube.” So far, I have videos of me preaching about Aramaic, “slide-shows,” interviews and Modern Aramaic and English interviews and programs. This has virtually unlimited potential. Please take a look at

Elephantine Aramaic Discovery

One of the most important Aramaic manuscript discoveries is the Elephantine Papyri. Now all of these ancient Aramaic documents are available in English translation. The Aramaic documents are written by a colony of Jewish mercenaries in southern Egypt. They date from the fifth century Before Christ. These Jewish settlers actually built a temple to Yahweh in Egypt. The documents allude to persons mentioned in the Old Testament. They give us important insight into the beliefs and practices of the Jewish people in ancient times and also in how Aramaic was spoken at that period. Certain of the letters are correspondence to the Jewish High Priest in Jerusalem. Others are instructions on how to observe the Passover. There is a variety of documents, including legal and business archives. The book is entitled “The Elephantine Papyri in English: Three Millennia of Cross-cultural Continuity and Change” by Bezalel Perten and J.J. Farber.

Magdala to be excavated!!!
According to the Sept/October 2007 edition of Biblical Archeological Review there is a major archeological excavation planned for the city of Magdala, the home of Christ’s disciple Mary Magdalene. The article states, “Given the Magdalene’s prominence in the Gospels, it is surprising that so little attention has focused on the town from which she came and by which she is known. Magdala is the Aramaic name of the site. The Arabic name of the site is Majdal, which obviously echoes the earlier Aramaic name. But the same place is referred to as Taricheaea by the Jewish historian Josephus and other ancient sources. The Hebrew form of the name is Migdol, which means “tower.” Taricheaea means “(salted) fish” in Greek, presumably the source fo the town’s wealth. Combining the two names-Magdala, meaning tower, and Taricheaea, meaning fish-suggests a (perhaps salted) fish tower.”

CONTACT Stephen Missick
PO Box 882 Shepherd TX 77371

Did Jesus Speak Greek rather than Aramaic?

Most of the time, those who deny that Jesus spoke Aramaic are those who insist that Jesus spoke only Hebrew. However, there are those who believe that Jesus spoke only Greek. This is a minority position. Some of the people who argue for this point to the recent excavations of Sepphoris, Sepphoris was a Greek city that was very close to Nazareth. Certain scholars have taken extreme positions and have created a new Jesus who is a Greek philosopher of the Cynic tradition. (Richard Batey has written a book about the excavation of Sepphoris and is significance for Jesus studies entitled “Jesus and the Forgotten City.” The radical liberal John Dominic Crossan is identified with the position that Jesus was philosopher of the school of Cynicism. His opinions are so extreme that they border on the absurd.
Biblical Archeological Review has dealt with this controversy in a couple of interesting articles. One, from the July-August 2000 edition is entitled “How Jewish Was Sepphoris in Jesus’ Time” by Mark Chancey and Eric M. Meyers. Another from the “July-August 2007 edition is entitled “How Jewish was Jesus’ Galilee” by Mark A. Chancey. In the 2000 article a subsection dealing with the issue is entitled “Did Jesus Speak Greek?”
The article says, “Did Jesus speak Greek, in addition to Aramaic, the vernacular of Palestinian Jews at the turn of the era? If so, then the task of recovering Jesus’ teachings would be easier, because scholars would no longer have to wonder what nuances were lost when Jesus’ words were translated from the original Aramaic into the Greek of the New Testament Gospels. Indeed, if Jesus spoke Greek, then some of the teachings recorded in the Gospels might preserve his exact words. Many scholars, citing Greek inscriptions found in Lower Galilee as evidence that the language was widely spoken there, contend that Jesus probably did speak Greek. They point out that Jesus’ home village, Nazareth, was barely 4 miles, or an hour’s walk, from cosmopolitan Sepporis; therefore, they argue, Jesus could hardly have avoided knowing at least a little Greek. In fact, the evidence for the use of Greek in Galilee before and during the time of Jesus is extremely limited…For the most part, however, our evidence for the use of Greek in Galilee postdates the first century AD…” We must also remember the Christian Palestinian Aramaic New Testament fragments that shows that Aramaic continued to be the language spoken in the Holy Land, even centuries after the time of Jesus. So, the witness of the New Testament that clearly states that Aramaic was the language of Jesus Christ still stands. I am concerned how that certain people attack “Greco-Roman Christianity” and the (so-called) “Greek Jesus” without a proper understanding of Hellenism. The strength of Western Civilization comes from its fusion of Greco-Roman rationalism with Semitic (or Biblical) spirituality. I feel that everything that Western Civilization has achieved, in science, medicine, music and the arts is derived from the union of Greco-Roman thinking with Christian monotheism. The Greek and Roman world had its strengths and its weaknesses. I focus on the Aramaic background of Jesus and the apostles but I will not demonize the Greek and Roman cultures.

The Barnabas Fund Helps Aramaic Christians

I am greatly impressed with the work of The Barnabas Fund with helping suffering Assyrian Christians.

Voice of the Martyrs on Iraq

I am greatly disappointed with “Voice of the Martyrs.” If you want to help suffering Christians, do NOT give to the Voice of the Martyrs but instead donate money to the Barnabas Fund. My problem with the VOM is this: they claim to be a “Voice” for Martyrs-and yet the refuse to report on the persecution of the Christians of Iraq. Even the liberal anti-Christ news media has reported on the persecution of Iraq’s Assyrian Christians in their 2 December 2007 edition of the “60 minutes” news program. However, in their January “Special Edition” of the “Voice of the Martyrs” there is a report on several (about 50) countries and Iraq has gotten a short blurb:
“Iraq has experiences a troubled history since Bible times. US military operations have both helped and hindered Iraqi Christians. Fighting between Muslim factions has directed attention away from Christians for the time being. There are around 70 evangelical congregations in Iraq, but conversions are doing little more than replacing emigrating Christians Muslim 96.85%, Christians 1.55%. Iraq is a complex mix of severe persecution and a place of increased freedom for believers and evangelism. Since 2003 there has been a mass exodus of Christians from Iraq. Many of those who stay behind have been kidnapped. Amidst the chaos of a country being rebuild with ongoing conflict, many churches have succumbed to threats and a spirit of fear by closing the doors in 2007. The few churches that remain recognized the potential for division and have begun meeting to encourage each other. One church reports of an outreach to Muslims that began when one person came asking about Christianity. Muslim converts now tell others about the ministry.”


In the January-February article of BAR there is a short article on Aramaic. See Page 12:

“The language that Jesus spoke has been preserved for thousands of years in the mountains of Syria. The streets and shops of a tiny village called Maloula (population: 5,000) are some of the last places on earth where you can still hear Aramaic being spoken. Aramaic, a 3,000 year-old language closely related to Hebrew, was once the main commercial and diplomatic language of the ancient near east. Hebrew had been the dominant language in the ancient Iron Age kingdoms of Israel and Judah, but by the time the exiles returned to Judah from the Babylonian captivity in the sixth century B.C., the Jewish people were speaking Aramaic.
As Aramaic became the popular language, few could understand Hebrew anymore. Although Hebrew was the original language of the Scriptures, it was gradually relegated to religious settings. Hellenistic influence also brought Greek into use throughout the region in the fourth and third centuries BC.
It is likely that Jesus understood both Hebrew and Greek because of his knowledge of scripture and his childhood in a heavily Hellenized area of Galilee, However, he would have primarily spoken a dialect called Palestinians Aramaic in his everyday conversation and teaching.
Aramaic gradually fell out of use as Greek and ultimately Arabic spread throughout the region. Yet the remote location of Maloula protected its people and its language from invasion by foreign influences over the centuries.
The people of Maloula and the Syrian government are working hard to preserve their unique linguistic heritage. A special school has been set up to help students of all ages learn or refresh Aramaic skills and, now, to write his traditionally oral language. Many of the religious people here take very seriously what they believe is their responsibility to, quite literally, keep the words of Jesus alive.” Written by Dorothy D. Resig.
I have visited Maloula many times. I think the article is a little inaccurate because the government of Syria has actually spent a lot of money in an effort to Islamicize and Arabize Maloula. The building of the Aramaic school was delayed for years while the government spent a lot of money building mosques and housing for Arab Moslems so that they could dominate this ancient Aramaic Christian village. I love Syria but there are serious problems with its regime.
There was a huge attack against Christians in Syria in the late 1800s. The Moslems massacred many. This is discussed in “The Blood Libel: The Damascus Affair of 1840” by Ronald Florence. There are actually two Aramaic speaking Islamic villages outside of Maloula. During the attacks in the late 1800s the neighboring villages were forced to convert to Islam. Maloula was probably spared because, at the time it was a very isolated village. Now, because of modern transportation it is a short drive from Damascus. It is about a 45 minute bus ride. Everyone in Maloula speaks Arabic now, in addition to their Aramaic-however, Aramaic seems alive and well. For the time being at any rate. We need to pray that Syria would cease to be a puppet state of Iran and that Iran and Syria’s ability to spread murder and mayhem would soon be severely limited.

I sent a letter to BAR thanking them for writing about Aramaic. What does concern me is that from time to time articles about Maloula appear which insinuate that Maloula is the only place where Aramaic is spoken. Of course the Assyrians speak Aramaic as well. I also sent Dorothy Resig a copy of my booklet “What Language Did Jesus Speak?” In my letter I also mentioned the efforts of Aramaic Bible Translation ( to translate the Bible into all the modern forms of Aramaic.
In Maloula they speak “Western Aramaic.” The Assyrians speak “Eastern Aramaic.” These are two different dialects of the Aramaic language.

Aramaic: The Language of Jesus of Nazareth

Hopefully, my new book “Aramaic: The Language of Jesus of Nazareth” will be available very soon. The DVD edition of the book as well is available from William Brooks, Big Blue Windmill Productions, PO Box 10174, College Station, TX 77842)