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 www.youtube.com/aramaic12.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org www.youtube.com/aramaic12
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.”
BIBLICAL ARCHEOLOGY REVIEW MAGAZINE’S ARTICLE ON ARAMAIC
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 (www.aramaicbible.org) 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)