The Aramaic Source of Christ's Teachings
Stephen Andrew Missick
Copyright 2006 Stephen Andrew Missick
A Word from the Author
I began studying Aramaic roots of Christianity and the Aramaic background of the teachings of Jesus after reading about the Aramaic language in F. F. Bruce's The Books and the Parchments. I continued to do extensive research and was able to visit with the Aramaic-speaking Assyrian community in New York and Chicago and with the Aramaic-speaking Chaldean Catholics in Detroit and California. I also visited Aramaic-speaking villages outside Damascus and along the Khabur River Valley in Syria. In 2002, just a few months before I was deployed to Iraq with the United States Army Reserves for Operation Iraqi Freedom, I was given the opportunity to give lectures on the Aramaic approach to the teachings of Jesus at the Nathaniel Center in Kingwood, Texas. While I was in Iraq serving in the military I was able to study Aramaic from Assyrian and Chaldean native speakers who were working as translators at my base. I returned to Syria in 2006 and was able to visit several Aramaic-speaking Christian villages.
I am a Baptist but my approach is non-denominational. I believe that Christians of any denomination will benefit by learning about the teachings of Jesus as they were originally proclaimed in the Aramaic language.
I want to thank Gigi Crow for her support and encouragement. It is because of her that I was finally able to organize my research and share this important knowledge about the language of Jesus with others. I need to also thank my Assyrian friends Albert Jacob, George Hermiz, Wilson Jacob and Sargon Youhannazed. And also my Chaldean friends, Sahar, Salam and Sana Alsanaty. I want to thank the Assyrian people for the kindness and support they have shown me. Aramaic is indeed still a spoken language. There are different groups of Aramaic speakers. The Assyrians are the Christians of Mesopotamia. They belong to the Aramaic Syriac Christian heritage. Their church is called the Assyrian Church of the East. Another group of Aramaic Christians are the Chaldeans. The Chaldeans are a group of Assyrian Christians that united with the Roman Catholic Church in the 1500s. The Chaldeans still speak Aramaic and use it in their worship services. There are also the Mandaeans, who are the Aramaic disciples of Saint John the Baptist. Certain Christians of the Syrian Orthodox Church also still speak Aramaic. Lastly, there is the Christian village of Maloula outside of Damascus where an ancient form of Aramaic is still spoken. I have often visited Maloula.
"A Key to the Original Gospel"
Two thousand years ago a young man proclaimed a message and lived a life that changed the course of history. This man, Jesus of Nazareth, claimed to be the savior promised long before by the ancient prophets of Israel. Still, people are seeking the answer to the question, "Who was Jesus?" (or, "Who is Jesus?" if he truly rose from the dead). For hundreds of years people have been searching for the Jesus of history. Scholars have been shifting through archeological evidence and ancient manuscripts to discover answers. One important avenue of research has been strangely overlooked. The best way to discover the real Jesus and the true meaning behind his words is to investigate those words in the language in which they were first uttered, Aramaic.
The Aramaic language is a Semitic language closely related to Hebrew. It came to be an important language of the Jewish people after the tribe of Judah endured the exile in Babylonia that is called 'the Babylonian Captivity'. This period of exile lasted from 586 until 539. During this period the language of the common Jew switched from Hebrew to Aramaic. The books of Daniel and Ezra are partially written in Aramaic. After the exile Ezra had to interpret the scriptures in Aramaic so that the people could understand them. (Hebrew did remain a living language in certain circles.)
While promoting his film The Passion of the Christ Mel Gibson stated that Aramaic was a "dead language". This movie depicted the final hours of Christ's earthly ministry in such an authentic manner that it was filmed with the actors speaking the original Aramaic. Mel Gibson's comment about Aramaic being a dead language is not true. Aramaic is still spoken by the Assyrian and Chaldean Christians of Iraq. These ancient Christians have preserved for us an important version of the Bible in the Aramaic language. This Aramaic Bible is called the Pesheeta Bible. The Gospels in the Pesheeta represent an ancient translation of the Bible back into a form of Aramaic almost identical to Aramaic of Jesus. The Pesheeta Bible is a valuable tool for studying the words of Jesus in the original Aramaic. (The Passion of the Christ is a powerful and deeply moving motion picture. With this film Aramaic was given an international exposure and I as an Aramaic scholar am much obliged to Mr. Gibson.)
In the late 1800s some scholars began to use these important Aramaic sources to understand Jesus and his teachings better. Two translations of the Aramaic New Testament were made by James Murdock and John Wesley Etheridge respectively. More recently reputable scholars have continued this work. These scholars include C. F. Burney, Joachim Jeremias, Bruce Chilton and Maurice Casey.
In his book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium Bart Ehrman brings out these two important points about understanding the Jesus of history. First, we need to understand Jesus as a native of the ancient Middle East and as belonging to it's Semitic culture. Secondly, we need to understand him as a person who thought in and spoke the Aramaic language. Bart Ehrman said, "Jesus was Jewish. Realizing the Jewishness of Jesus is critical is we are to make sense of his teachings. For despite the fact that the religion founded in his name quickly came to be filled with non-Jews…it was founded by a Jewish teacher who taught his Jewish followers about the Jewish God who guided the Jewish people by means of the Jewish Law. Jesus kept and discussed Jewish customs like prayer and fasting, he worshiped in Jewish places of worship like the synagogue and the Temple, and he kept Jewish feasts like the Passover…He maintained that God's will was revealed in the books written by Moses, especially in "the Law" that was delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai…Most of Jesus' teachings, in fact, relate in one way or another to his understanding of Jewish Law. This Jewish Law, of course included the Ten Commandments, but it contained much more besides…"About Aramaic Ehrman says, "there are multiple attested traditions that Jesus spoke Aramaic. Sometimes, for example, the Gospels quote his words directly without translating them into Greek (see Mark 5:41, 7:34; John 1:42). It is also indicated in the Gospels that Jesus could read the scripture in Hebrew (e.g., Luke 4: 16-20; see also Mark 12: 10, 26), and that he eventually became known as an interpreter of them. He is sometimes, for example, called "rabbi," that is, "teacher" (see Mark 9:5; John 3:2)…There are no traditions that specifically indicate that Jesus spoke Greek, although some historians have surmised that living in Galilee where Greek was widely known [among non-Jews], he may have learned some. Moreover, some have suspected that he communicated with Pontius Pilate in Greek at his trial…At best we can say that it is at least possible that Jesus was tri-lingual-that he normally spoke Aramaic, that he could at least read the Hebrew Scriptures, and the he may have been able to communicate a bit in Greek. The final point is, in my judgment, the least assured." Scholarly consensus and data from the New Testament agrees that the primary spoken language of Jesus, the language he used when performing cures and teaching the multitudes, was Aramaic. Alan Millard in Discoveries from the Time of Jesus states that, "A Jewish craftsman's son brought up in Nazareth, a town on a main road, could be expected to talk in Aramaic, to use Greek when necessary, and to have more than a reading knowledge of Hebrew."
In Aramaic the name Jesus is pronounced Yeshua. In Galilee this name was pronounced Yeshu and in modern Aramaic it is pronounced closer to the Galilean pronunciation as Eshoo. (Until recently the Jewish people referred to Jesus as Yeshu in the Hebrew language.)The Greek language had no 'Y' or 'sh' sound and many Greek names end with an 's' so the Greeks pronounced Yeshua as Iesous, which came into English as 'Jesus'. In this book in order to facilitate comprehension I will most often use the English form, Jesus. In his native Aramaic Jesus would have been known as Yeshua Bar Youseff Men Nasrath, "Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth".
In my Aramaic work I have encountered opposition and even anger and hostility at my contention that Aramaic was the primary language of Jesus. Certain 'Messianic Jews' (Jewish people who believe that Jesus is the Messiah) claim that Jesus spoke only Hebrew. Students of New Testament Greek will claim that Jesus spoke in Greek since the New Testament is written in Greek. Dr. Spiro Zodhiates, a recognized scholar of the Greek New Testament whom I have had the pleasure to meet, conceded that Jesus preached his sermons in Aramaic rather than Greek. (I recognize the Greek text of the New Testament as the authoritative word of God. Looking at the Aramaic words behind the Greek deepens our understanding of what Jesus actually said.) It should be remembered that the Old Testament was composed and is written in both Hebrew and Aramaic. The importance of Aramaic is also illustrated in that it is blessed in the Talmud. (The Talmud is a collection of Rabbinic commentaries on the Sacred Scriptures. The Talmud are authoritative texts for modern Judaism. The Talmud are written both in Hebrew and Aramaic. One Aramaic section is called the Gemara, which is the Aramaic word for completion.) The Rabbinic Blessing of Aramaic says,
"Let not Aramaic be lightly esteemed by thee, seeing that
the Holy One (Blessed Be He) hath given it honor in the
Law, the Prophets and the Writings"
Palestinian: Tractate Sata 7:2
This means that all three sections of the Hebrew divisions of the Old Testament contain a portion in Aramaic. (The Rabbis divide the books of the Old Testament into different sections than Christians do. These sections are called the Torah (the Law), the Kithiavin (the Writings), and the Nebiyiem (the Prophets). Aramaic in the Tanakh (The Old Testament) includes the following sections: The Law, Genesis 31:47, The Writings, Daniel 2:4-7:28, Era 4:6-8 and 7:12-26, and The Prophets, Jeremiah 10:11 (2 Kings 18:17)
The first use of Aramaic in the Old Testament is in Genesis 31:46 when Laban and Jacob made the covenant, "May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from another". The place where this covenant was made was called Jegar Sahadutha ('Heap of Witness' in Aramaic) by Laban and Galeed ('Heap of Witness' in Hebrew) by Jacob. Laban the Syrian (or Aramean) speaks in Aramaic and Jacob the Israelite speaks in Hebrew (or Canaanite). Linguists classify Hebrew as a form of Canaanite and as a dialect of the language spoken by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians. The language we call Hebrew is called 'the Jews language' (Judean) and 'the lip of Canaan' (Canaanite) in the Bible (Isaiah 36:11, Isaiah 19:18). While Aramaic words are interspersed throughout the Old Testament several chapters of Daniel and Ezra are written in Aramaic rather than Hebrew.
I attended a seminar in which Mel Gibson was mocked for depicting Aramaic rather than Hebrew as the language of Jesus ("What does "Mad Max" know?"). Mel Gibson in using Aramaic showed that he seriously studied the most ancient sources and this use of Aramaic was an informed decision that reflects scholarly consensus. This scholarly consensus is based on data from the New Testament, ancient sources and archeological discoveries.
Joachim Jeremias stated in his New Testament Theology, "the mother-tongue of Jesus was a Galilean version of western Aramaic. We find the nearest linguistic analogies to the sayings of Jesus in the popular Aramaic passages of the Palestinian Talmud and Midrashim which have their home in Galilee…In addition to the sentences and words preserved in the original Aramaic [in the New Testament], there are many passages in which an underlying Aramaic wording can be disclosed. This includes expressions which are idiomatic in Aramaic but alien to both Hebrew and Greek (Aramaisms), and translation mistakes which show up when recourse is had to Aramaic."
Maurice Casey in Aramaic Sources of Mark's Gospel says, "The Gospel of Mark is written in Greek, though Jesus spoke Aramaic…It follows that the change in language from Aramaic to Greek was part of a cultural shift from a Jewish to a Gentile environment. If therefore we wish to recover the Jesus of history, we must see whether we can reconstruct his sayings, and the earliest accounts of his doings, in their original Aramaic. This should help us to understand him within his own cultural background."
Joseph A. Fitzmyer in The Semitic Background of the New Testament says, "As for the language that Jesus would have used, the evidence seems to point mainly to Aramaic...Jesus used Hebrew on occasion…the consensus of opinion at the moment seems to support Aramaic as the language commonly used by Jesus and his immediate disciples in Palestine."
In Our Translated Gospels Charles Cutler Torrey concluded, "The material of our Four Gospels is all Palestinian in which it was originally written is Aramaic, then the principle language of the land; with the exception of the first two chapters of Luke which were composed in Hebrew."
Gustaf Dalman in The Words of Jesus: Considered in the Light of Post-Biblical Jewish Writings and the Aramaic Language states that , "From all these considerations must be drawn the conclusion that Jesus grew up speaking the Aramaic tongue, and that He would be obliged to speak Aramaic to His disciples and to the people in order to be understood."
Matthew Black in An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts says, "Jesus must have conversed in the Galilean dialect of Aramaic, and His teaching was probably almost entirely in Aramaic."
According to Biblical archeologist John Romer in Testament: The Bible and History, "Recent linguistic analysis of all four gospels, however, has tied them not to these grand cities of the Empire, but to the verbal culture of Palestine itself. The construction of their Greek texts, the shading and coloring of the writing strongly suggest that much of them had been translated from Palestinian Aramaic, Jesus' own language."
The New Covenant: Newly Translated from the Greek and Informed by Semitic Sources by Willis Barnstone contains the following interesting quote,
…he [Jesus] spoke to his followers and other wayfarers in Aramaic, and except for a few phrases scattered throughout the Gospels, none of his Aramaic sayings have survived. I have wondered for some time how this could be, and wondered even more that Christian scholars have never joined in my wonder. If you believe in the divinity of Jesus, would you not wish to have preserved the actual Aramaic sayings themselves? Were they lost, still to be found in a cave somewhere in Israel?…For some years now. I have asked these questions whenever I have met a New Testament scholar, and I have met only blankness. Yet surely this puzzle matters. Aramaic and Greek are very different languages, and the nuances of spirituality and wisdom do not translate readily from one into the other. Any sayings of Jesus, open or hidden, need to be regarded in this context…
But the question remains, "Did Jesus ever speak Hebrew?" Jesus probably did read Hebrew and used it when reading from or expounding scriptures. He also would have recited certain prayers (such as the Amidah) in Hebrew. Joachim Jeremias believed that Jesus would have almost exclusively spoken Aramaic but he concedes that Jesus probably kept the Passover service, especially during the Last Supper, in Hebrew rather than Aramaic.
Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian who wrote his monumental The Jewish War and The Antiquities of the Jews during the time that the New Testament was being written. Josephus was a Jew born in the Holy Land. He wrote The Jewish War in what he called his 'ancestral language' and then re-wrote it in Greek. So what was his ancestral language? Josephus said he wrote initially in his ancestral language for two reasons. The first is, as a Jew from the Holy Land he did not have a command of the Greek language. He says,
I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greek; although I have so accustomed myself to speak our own tongue, I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness. For my nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations. On this account, as there have been many who have done their endeavors, with great patience, to obtain this Greek learning, there have yet hardly been two or three that have succeeded therein, who were immediately rewarded for their pains.
This means that very few Jews that lived in the Holy Land could speak Greek or speak it well. The second reason was that Josephus was hoping that the version of his book written in his native tongue could be read by gentiles in Assyria, Chaldea and Babylonia, since his native tongue was their native tongue as well. In the first century this region was Aramaic speaking and the direct descendents of the Assyrians, Chaldeans and Babylonians still speak Aramaic till this day. (The writings of Josephus in Aramaic were preserved in Aramaic by Aramaic Christians who looked upon them as important sacred writings.) This proves that Aramaic was the ancestral language of the common Jew born in the Holy Land during the first century.
In Mark 5:41 Jesus resurrects the daughter of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, by uttering, "Talitha, Qumi". This is good basic Aramaic. "Talya" is Aramaic for 'little boy'. "Talitha" is Aramaic for 'little girl'. The word "Qum" means 'to rise' or 'get up'. I have actually heard someone claim that Jesus was referring in Hebrew to a 'tallit' or Jewish prayer shawl and was not speaking in Aramaic. No reputable scholar would say this. Mark, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, accurately translates this Aramaic passage as meaning "Little Girl, Arise". I have seen no evidence of Jesus or Jews of the first century using such prayer shawls. Paul says that use of such head covering is dishonorable (1 Corinthians 11: 4 and 7). Paul also said that the Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem had no such custom of using prayer shawls (1 Corinthians 11:16). On the other hand Jesus did indeed wear the tassels on the edge of his garment that were commanded by the Law of Moses (Numbers 15: 37-41, Deuteronomy 22:12). These tassels are mentioned in the Gospel accounts and many people experienced miraculous healings from merely touching the tassels that Jesus wore (Matthew 9:20, 14:36). These tassels are called tzitzit. Many Jewish customs originated several centuries after the time of Christ and have no foundation in the biblical era. Jesus was an observant Jew but not of Rabbinic Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism was founded around 200 AD in Galilee. Neither Jesus nor the early Church in Jerusalem used prayer shawls and I have seen no evidence that they were used by Jews at this period either. Use of such devices is actually discouraged in the New Testament. Both proponents of Hebrew and proponents of Greek state that Jesus only spoke Aramaic on rare occasions and that the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus was one such occasion. I read a commentary that stated "Jesus here speaks to the girl in her Aramaic language". This insinuates that Aramaic wasn't his language. These advocates of Greek or Hebrew "primacy" usually concede that certain people in Palestine may have spoken Aramaic but it wasn't the language of Jesus or of the common people. Certain Messianic Jews will say that devout Jews spoke Hebrew. Could you get more devout than to be a ruler of a synagogue? The household of Jairus was Aramaic speaking as were all typical Jewish households. Jesus also grew up in an Aramaic speaking household.
Aramaic is a treasure trove to be mined for deeper understanding of the words of Jesus. The study of Aramaic must be based on the scientific method and research. There are many reputable scholars who have carefully studied Aramaic using sound scholarship that is based on research and the scientific disciplines of history, linguistics and archeology. Aramaic scholars must be careful researchers and knowledgeable of Aramaic literature which includes sections of the Old Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Targums, the Peshitta, Christian Syriac Aramaic writings and many other writings as well. I admire the work of Joachim Jeremias. Jeremias used the Aramaic language to understand the life and teaching of Jesus in a fuller and more complete way. Jeremais was also familiar with Jewish customs from the first century and with Aramaic and Hebrew literature. While I do not agree with some of Maurice Casey's conclusions (such as his low regard for the Gospel of John and his, in my view, misunderstanding of the Aramaic term 'Son of Man') I admire his scholarly and scientific approach to Aramaic studies. There are certain charlatans in the field of Aramaic studies who use Aramaic to promote heretical ideas and to further the New Age movement. These people are usually Unitarians. Unitarians deny central tenants of Christianity such as the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ, his divinity, the Holy Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the atonement on the cross, the resurrection, the authority of scripture and other central doctrines that were taught by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and by his holy apostles. I believe in Christian orthodoxy. Orthodoxy refers to Christian dogma that is based on the writings of the New Testament and the teachings of the apostles. Aramaic is a legitimate field of biblical studies that has been neglected for far too long. I have lived and worshiped among Aramaic Christians. The form of Christianity practiced by the Assyrians and Chaldeans is in no way deviant or cultic. They hold to the same core doctrines all Christians do.
Jesus spoke Aramaic. The life of Jesus is the most important life ever lived. The words of Jesus are the most important words ever spoken. The Good News was a spoken message. It was passed on orally for several years before being confined to writing. The Message of the Kingdom of God was transmitted through language. To understand the mysteries of the kingdom were need to investigate the words as they were spoken by the Lord Jesus and the best way to do this is to look at the words in the Aramaic forms in which they were first uttered. In this book I at times refer to "Aramaic Power Words." By this I am referring to words and phrases in Aramaic that are full of theological power and are not easily translatable into English. These are words such as Abba, Barnasha, Shalama and Malkutha D'Alaha among many others.
Words of Jesus
Christ's Aramaic Concept of the Fatherhood of God
Abba is the word Jesus used to express God as the Loving Father. 'Abba' is a uniquely Aramaic word. It is not Hebrew. The Hebrew word for 'father' is 'Avi'. It is not Greek. The Greek word for 'father' is 'pater'. In Aramaic 'Abha' is the word for 'father' and 'Abba' means 'daddy'. Aramaic was the language of Jesus and the first Christians. Today it is the language of the Assyrian and Chaldean Christians of the Middle East. In Judaism, Aramaic was, and it still is, a language of the Jews (although very few Jews speak Aramaic today, only a small tribe of Iraqi Jews do and they number about 10,000 and they all now reside in Israel). Important Jewish literature and prayers, such as the Talmud, the Kaballah, and the Kaddish, are in Aramaic. One important Aramaic Jewish prayer that was written in the Middle Ages is called the Aktamot. The Aktamot was translated into English and made into a Christian hymn by Rev. F. M. Lehman in 1917.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill.
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
O Love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song.
This hymn, which was written in the language of Jesus, conveys an important aspect of Christ's teaching on the unfathomable love of God. It was composed by Rabbi Meir ben Yitzchak in the 11th century in Germany. Translated from the Aramaic it says,
In introduction to the words,
And commencement of my speech,
I begin by taking authorization and permission.
I shall commence with trembling…
His is the eternal strength that could not be described-
Even if the heavens were parchment,
And the forests quills,
If all the oceans were ink, as well as every gathered water,
If the earth's inhabitants were scribes
And recorders of initials-
Christ's teaching of the Fatherhood of God was a radical new message but it did have an Old Testament precedent. God referred to the nation of Israel as his son. Moses said to Pharaoh, "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my Son, even my first-born. And I say unto thee, "Let My son go, that he may serve me" (Exodus 4: 22) There are other important scriptures were God is the father to the nation of Israel.
Yet, O Lord, thou art Our Father,
We are the clay, and thou are our potter (Isaiah 64:8)
A son honors his father,
And a servant his master.
If I am a Father, where is my honor?
If I am a master, where is my fear (Malachi 1:6)
An important passage shows that God in the Old Testament desired to have a relationship with Israel as a Father, but this desire was rejected by Israel and this special relationship that God desired to have with mankind had to wait until the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom of God by Jesus the Messiah.
I thought how I would set you among my sons,
And give you a pleasant land,
A heritage most beauteous of all nations.
And I thought you would call me, My Father,
And would not turn from following me.
Surely, as a faithless wife leaves her husband,
So you have been faithless to me, O house of Israel (Jeremiah 3: 19)
The Davidic King was considered the Son of God in a special way. Of the Son of David God spoke and said, "I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son" (2 Samuel 7:14). This is Messianic in significance and is why Jesus was called in Aramaic Bar-Dawood, the Son of David (Mark 10:47). He had the right to call God his Father. This special prerogative of the Son of David, the Messiah, is seen also in Psalm 2. But as Joachim Jeremias says, with Jesus' doctrine of Abba, "We are confronted with something new and unheard of which breaks through the limits of Judaism. Here we see who the historical Jesus was: the man who had the power to address God and Abba and who included sinners and the publicans in the kingdom by authorizing them to repeat this one word, 'Abba, Dear Father'." It is important to note that God's eternal nature is that of Father. God is about relationships. That is why he desires relationship with people. God's eternal triune nature is about a relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. At Ephesians 3:14 St. Paul states, "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ from whom all fatherhood in heaven and earth is named." This is a direct translation from the Greek. Most modern translations, including the King James Version, read "every family" rather than "all fatherhood". The original Greek has "all fatherhood".
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee. Take away this cup form Me; nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mark 14: 36). Never in Judaism before Jesus did any rabbi dare to address God as "My Father" as Jesus did. Jesus also instructed his follows to pray to Our Father as he did. The use of the word 'Abba' is very important because it is what scholars call "ipissima vox", the original voice, or "ipissima verbo", the authentic words. There is no doubt that this was the exact word Jesus spoke. And Jesus always prayed to God as Father. How important is this saying of Jesus? No less than 170 times in the Holy Gospels does Jesus call God 'Father'.
Abba is however a mystery, a special revelation that comes only through Jesus Christ. The Messiah said, "All things are delivered unto Me by My Father, and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father, except the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him" (Matthew 11: 27). Paraphrased from the Aramaic this means, "Only Father and Son truly know each other. And because only a father and a son truly know each other, therefore a son can reveal to others the innermost thoughts of his Father." So, only Jesus can pass on to others the real knowledge of God. This is further shown in John 14: 8:
Phillip said unto him, "Lord, show us the Father and it will suffice." Jesus said unto him, "Have I been so long a time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Phillip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, 'Show us the Father'? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself; but the Father dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me…
How important is Christ's teaching about God as Abba? Joachim Jeremias stresses it in as such a way as to say that Jesus "goes as far as to say that only he who can repeat this childlike Abba shall enter into the Kingdom of God." This is why Jesus says "Let the little children come unto me" (Mark 10:14) and "Unless you humble yourselves and become like little children you shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of God" (Matthew 18:3-4) and "Unless a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God" (John 3:3) Repentance means a turning away from sins but for the Christian it is more than that because we believe in salvation by grace through faith and not a works based salvation. Joachim Jeremias also says, "Becoming a child again means: to learn to say Abba again. This brings us to the meaning of repentance. Repentance means learning to say Abba again, putting one's whole trust in the heavenly Father, returning to the father's house and the Father's arms…repentance of the lost son [here Jeremias is referring to the Parable of the Prodigal Son] consists in his finding his way home to his father. In the last resort, repentance is simply trusting in the grace of God."
The Aramaic word "Abba" was used and understood in churches that were founded by Paul, such as those in Galatia but it was also used in churches not founded by Paul, such as Rome. (The Greek word for Father is Pater.) The two passages in which Paul refers to God as Abba are very significant. The first one is Galatians 4:6
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, "Abba, Father." Therefore thou art no more a servant but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
What is important here is the agency of the Holy Spirit in adopting us into the family of God. This same theme is picked up in Romans 8: 15
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh to live according to the flesh, for if ye live according to the flesh ye shall die, but if ye through the flesh do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God. For we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit itself bears witness with our sprit that we are the children of God; and if children then heirs,-heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if so it be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
The greatest difficulty is humiliating or humbling ourselves as children. In our human nature we cannot do this, and this is why we must be born again. In both of Paul's Abba passages he notes that it is through the agency of the Holy Spirit that we are empowered to address God as "Abba". Carlo Caretto reminds us of the difficulty of becoming like a child and embracing God as Abba-Daddy.
"If you do not become like little children you shall not enter the Kingdom," and that's not easy for those who have been complicated by sin. To become like children means to increase our feeling for God's fatherhood over us, it means to think and act as little children do to the father they love. He looks after everything, he resolves everything and so on. When does a little child ever worry about tomorrow? Never, the father takes care of it…All our plans, even on the road to holiness, are perfectly useless: the real plan is in His hand and we need to go to Him like children seeking love. I want to become little so I can run more swiftly towards the great final fire…no holding back, just trust in the immense mercy of the One who immolated His Son to save a slave."
Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we may be called the Sons of God! (1 John 3:1). We were not born as the Sons of God naturally. In our original nature we are fallen. We must be born again in order to become children of God. God loves us so much. The Bible says that God is Love (1 John 4:8). God desires a relationship with us but we must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God (Jon 3:3). We are saved by trust; that is by trusting in Jesus as our Savior. The only way to do this is to make Jesus our Lord.
God is our eternal Father. But we are not to remain children but to grow in the Lord. Paul says that, "for whom he foreknow, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren" (Romans 8: 29). Paul says that we are to be conformed to the image of the Son of God yet he warns us, "be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12: 2).
We are saved but what are we saved from? Not just hell, but the hell we make of our lives with hate, anger, gluttony, greed, indulgence, unforgiveness, selfishness and sexual sin. We are saved unto love, mercy, compassion, kindness, joy, happiness and unto good works. No man can serve two masters, Jesus warns us. He will either love the one and hate the other, or hold to the one and despise the other. Love the Lord, hold on to Him and make Jesus your first love. Jesus calls us to be lost in the Love of God. Jeremias stated that:
But if it is true-and the testimony of the sources is quite unequivocal-that Abba as an address to God is ipsissima vox, an authentic and original utterance of Jesus, and that this Abba implies the claim of a unique revelation an a unique authority-if all this is true, then the position regarding the historical Jesus just described is untenable. For with Abba we are behind the Kerygma. We are confronted with something new and unheard of which breaks through the limits of Judaism. Here we see who he historical Jesus was: the man who had the power to address God as Abba and who included the sinners and the publicans in the kingdom by authorizing them to repeat this one word, 'Abba, dear Father.'
(See Joachim Jeremias The Central Message of the New Testament (SCM press LTD, London 1965, p. 30).) Fatherhood is a universal concept. The idea that Jesus and the writers of the New Testament want to connect with God as Father isn't just the current cultural norms and mores of fatherhood but also the biological act of begetting. Fathers begetting is inherent in being a father no matter what culture you are born into. Frank Stagg in his New Testament Theology notes that, "It was Jesus' function to "being many sons into glory" (Hebrews 2:10). He could only do this by expiating (overcoming) the sins of the people (2:17). He also identified himself with us as our brother (2:11), having fellowship (koinonia) with "blood and flesh, that he could break the power of sin and death for us (2:14f)." (See Frank Stagg New Testament Theology, Broadman Press, Nashville TN 1962, p. 69.) The Eternal Son of God, who is eternally begotten of the Father, took upon himself human flesh so that we may be born into the family of God. This is done by us being, as Stagg notes, "Begotten from above". Stagg says, "Newness of life is described through the "birth" analogy, but probably the stronger New Testament emphasis is seen in its tracing the new life to a divine begetting. John 3:3 may best be translated; "Except one be begotten from above, he is not able to see the kingdom of God." The familiar "born again" misses the meaning at two points. The Greek anothen means "from above" not merely again. It is not just another beginning but a new kind of beginning that is required…Man needs more than improvement; a new destiny requires a new origin, and the new origin must be from God. But even "born from above" leaves something to be desired in translation. Probably "begotten from above" is the meaning. The Greek verb genna…normally…describes the father function of begetting. In effect John 3:3 may declare: "Except one be begotten of God, he is not able to see the kingdom of God." This underscores the fact that one enters the new life through an act of God. The act is not coercive, but it is essential and indispensable." (See Stagg page 115). Jesus identifies God as Father through the act of begetting sons and daughters and says we cannot see the kingdom of God unless we are begotten of the Father.
All three persons of the Triune God play a role in our being begotten into the family of God. Paul refers to Abba in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6. The Holy Spirit is the empowering presence of God and it is through the spirit that we cry out, 'Abba, Father'. In The Promise of the Father, Thompson explains
Paul explicitly locates the believer's address to God as "Abba, Father!" in the work of the Holy Spirit (8:15)…Paul's use of the unusual verb "to cry" (krazein) has been taken to point to the emotional, enthusiastic, or spontaneous prayers of believers. At the same time, the address to God as abba has been read, in light of Jeremias's arguments about Jesus' use of the term, to refer to the believer's sense of intimacy in relationship with God…Paul's use of krazein, rather than a word for confess, speak, or pray is indeed striking. One does not confess that God is Father; one does not even pray to God as father. Rather, they 'cry' to God as Father. The term krazein is also found in Galatians 4:6...It seems likely, therefore, that the verb krazein is used because the Spirit is the ultimate source of these words, rather than because they signify the interior or emotional state of those who are speaking or a particular setting of prayer or worship.
Ben Witherington III and Laura M. Ice suggest that our crying out to God as "Abba" occurs through the infilling of the Holy Spirit in The Shadow of the Almighty: Father, Son, and Spirit in Biblical Perspective. They suggest that by the Holy Spirit "Christians are enabled to cry 'abba, Father!' Notice that the verb "cry" here, which suggests at the very least an earnest imploring of God, if not an ecstatic experience engendered by the Spirit…our minds also are not capable of articulating what we ought to be saying to God in prayer and so the Spirit intercedes and prays with and through the believer, with sighs too deep for words, a possible reference to glossolalia…" (Glossolalia is the phenomenon of 'speaking in tongues'. See Witherington and Ice page 30.)
Abba means more than pater, the Greek word for 'father'. If pater captured the full meaning of the Aramaic word abba, what is the point for using the Aramaic word in the first place, especially in the middle of a Greek text? If abba merely means pater why is abba used so many times? If abba merely meant 'father' the Aramaic term wouldn't have been retained in the Greek text at all. William Barclay believed that Abba is un-translatable. According to Barclay,
There is extraordinary intimacy which Jesus put into the term. Jesus called God, Abba, Father" (Mark 14:36). As Jeremias points out there is not even the remotest parallel to this in all Jewish literature. Abba, like the modern Arabic jaba, is the word used by a young child to his father. It is the ordinary, everyday family word which a little child used in speaking to his father. It is completely untranslatable. Any attempt to put it into English ends in bathos or grotesqueness. It is a word which no one had ever ventured to use in addressing God before.
For Jesus the fatherhood of God was something of almost inexpressible sacredness, and it was something of unsurpassable tender intimacy. In it is summed up everything that he came to say about God in this relationship with men.
When we set this conception of God as the Father, to whom a man may go with the same confidence and trust as a child goes to his earthly father, beside the Jewish conception of the remote transcendence of God and beside the Greek conceptions of the grudging God, the gods who are unaware of our existence, the god without a heart, we see it is indeed true that Jesus brought men good news about God.
(See William Barclay The Mind of Jesus, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1961, p.117.)
The Father/Son relationship is important in the very identity of God. Andrew Murray makes this clear in With Christ in the School of Prayer. Murray describes this as the Key to the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. It explains that the reason that God desires relationships and prayer from us is that his eternal nature and person is that of such relationships. Murray states,
Seeking answers to such questions provides the key to the very being of God in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. If God were only one Person, shut up within Himself, there could be no thought of nearness to Him or influence on Him. But in God there are three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is in the Holy Spirit that the Father and Son have their living bond of unity and fellowship. When the Father gave the Son a place next to Himself as His equal and His counselor, He opened a way for prayer and its influence into the very inmost life of the Trinity itself…As the representative of all creation, Christ always has a voice in the Father's decisions. In the decrees of the eternal purpose, room is always left for the liberty of the Son and mediator and intercessor. The same holds true for the petitions of all who draw near to the Father through the Son. (Andrew Murray With Christ in the School of Prayer (Bridge Logos Publishers, Gainesville, Florida, 2002, p. 135-137).)
Murray illustrates that the Infinite Fatherliness of God is an indispensable doctrine,
fundamental in the message of salvation and crucial in prayer. Concerning the
Fatherhood of God in the message of repentance and salvation Murray states
Jesus came to baptize with the Holy Spirit, who could not stream forth until Jesus was glorified. When Jesus made an end of sin, He entered into the Holiest of All with His blood. There on our behalf he received the Holy Spirit and sent Him down to us as the Spirit of the Father. It was when Christ had redeemed us and we had received the position of children that the Father sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts to cry; "Abba, Father." The worship in spirit is the worship of the Father in the Spirit of Christ, in the Spirit of son-ship. This is the reason why Jesus uses the name of Father here. We never find one of the Old Testament saints personally appropriating the name of child in relationship to God or calling God their Father. The worship of the Father is only possible for those to whom the Spirit of the Son has been given. The worship in spirit is only possible for those to whom the Son has revealed the Father, and who receive the spirit of son-ship. It is only Christ who opens the way and teaches the worship in spirit. (Murray p. 4-5)
Jeremias also illustrates this fact saying,
Judaism had a great wealth of forms of address to God at its disposal. For example, the 'Prayer", Tephilla, later called the Eighteen Benedictions, which was already prayed three times a day in the New Testament period, ends each benediction with a new form of address to God…It can be seen here that one form of address to God is put after another. If we were to collect all the forms of address that appear in early Jewish prayer literature, we would find ourselves with a very extensive lest. Nowhere, however, in the Old Testament do we find God addressed as 'Father"…In post-canonical Jewish literature there are isolated examples of the use of pater as an address to God; these, however come from Diaspora Judaism, which is here following the influence of the Greek world. In Palestine, it is only in the early Christian period that we come across two prayers which use 'Father' as an address to God, both in the form abinu malkenu. But it should be noted that these are liturgical prayers in which God is addressed as the Father of the community…the Father to whom the community calls is the heavenly king of the people of God…It is quite unusual that Jesus should have addresses God as 'my Father"; it is even more so that he should have used the Aramaic form Abba. (Joachim Jeremias New Testament Theology: Volume One: The Proclamation of Jesus (SCM Press Limited, London 1971, p. 63-64).)
In the Old Testament only the Son of David can address God as Father. In a Targum of Psalm 89:27,God promises the future anointed Davidic king that he will call on God saying "You are abba to me, my God!" While Judaism avoids referring to God as Father, let alone Abba, the translator of this passage into Aramaic couldn't find another word to use in this verse. Jesus makes it possible for us to call upon God as "Our Father".
Books and the Parchments F.F. Bruce makes an interesting note about Abba; Aramaic for "Daddy"
While Abba is an Aramaic word, it made its way into Hebrew as well; to this day a Hebrew-speaking boy will address his father as 'abba.'But in addressing God, Jews did not and do not employ this form, the affectionate term for intimate use within the family but the more formal 'Abi', 'my Father' or Abinu, 'our Father'. Jesus, however, of set purpose used the intimate and affectionate from Abba when addressing God, and example was followed by the early Christians who used the same Aramaic word. So Paul in Romans 8:15 and Gal. 4:6 records it as a sign that God has sent the spirit of his son, 'the spirit of Son-ship' to the hearts of believers of Christ when they pray "Abba, Father"
So, why did Jews avoid using Abba in reference to God? Joachim Jeremias explained this in his book The Central Message of the New Testament:
The reason why Jewish prayers do not address God as Abba is disclosed when one considers the linguistic background of the word. Originally, abba was a babbling sound. The Talmud says: 'When a child experiences the taste of wheat (that is, when it is weaned) it learned to say abba and imma (that is, Dada and Mama are the first words it utters); and the church fathers Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Theodoret of Cyrus, all three of them born in Antioch of well-to-do parents, but in all probability raised by Syrian [Aramaic-speaking] nurses, tell us our of their own experience that little children used to call their fathers abba.
Abba means Daddy. It seems almost irreverent to address God, who is seen my many as distant and sanctimonious, in such an intimate and loving way. But this is what Jesus dared to do and what he dares us to do. That is to have an intimate loving relationship with almighty God.
The Kingdom of God:
An Aramaic Perspective of the Teachings of Jesus
And Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." ['at hand' means 'near' or 'upon you'] (Mark 1: 14). In this verse we are also commanded to 'Believe the Good News'. Jesus said, "I confer on you [my disciples], just as my Father has conferred upon me, a Kingdom!" (Luke 22:29) Later in Luke's Gospel, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." (Luke 12:30) Paul of Tarsus also proclaims the Kingdom of God and reminds us that, "For the Kingdom of God is not in word but in Power" 1 Corinthians 4:20. It is obvious that the central theme of the teaching of Jesus Christ was his teaching about the Kingdom of God, which is also called the Kingdom of Heaven. (In the Gospel of Matthew we find it called the Kingdom of Heaven more often. This helps us get more perspective on what Christ was teaching. It must be born in mind that this form is used in Matthew out of deference to the sacred name of God, which Jews hold in such reverence that they dare not utter it. Matthew's Gospel was written primarily for a Jewish audience.) While the Kingdom of God was the central message in the teaching of Jesus it rarely preached upon today.
The theme of the Kingdom of God is so important that it is recorded in the book of Acts that the resurrected Jesus spent forty days with his disciples instructing them about this doctrine by "speaking of things pertaining to the Kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). In the synoptic gospels the disciples are often depicted as being dense. In the Gospel of John they are depicted in a more favorable light but even here it is conceded that they did not fully understand until after the resurrection (John 2: 22). The theme of the Kingdom of God was so important that Jesus would not ascend up into glory until he knew that the apostles had comprehended the mystery of the Kingdom of God. Neither the phrase "the Kingdom of God" nor the phrase "the Kingdom of Heaven" are found in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible. This was a revolutionary new Aramaic teaching of Jesus. Despite the fact that the Kingdom of God isn't mentioned in the Old Testament it does indeed have an Old Testament background.
Believers must ask the question, "What is the Kingdom of God?" There are numerous ways to translate or interpret the Greek Basilios tou theos. Basilios in Greek is Malkutha in Aramaic, the Reign of God. Malkutha Delaha or Malkutha Dshmaya, this is translated as the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Dominion of God, the Reign of God, God's Imperial Reign, or the Inheritance of God. Joachim Jeremias stated that it is difficult for the western mind to grasp what Jesus meant when he taught in Aramaic about the Malkutha, the kingly reign of God. Jeremias states,
One thing is certain: the word malkuta did not have for the oriental the significance that the word 'kingdom' does for the westerner. Only in quite isolated instances in the Old Testament does malkutha denote a realm in the spatial sense, a territory; almost always it stands for the government, the authority, the power of a king. But this does not mean that malkutha is understood in an abstract way; it is always in a process of being achieved. Thus the reign of God is neither a spatial nor a static concept; it is a dynamic concept. It denotes the reign of God in action, in the first place as opposed to earthly monarchy, but then in contrast to all rule in heaven and on earth. Its chief characteristic is that God is realizing the ideal of the king of righteousness, constantly longed for, but never fulfilled on earth. From the earliest times, the oriental concept of kingly righteousness- and indeed that held in Jesus' time- was not primarily one of dispassionate adjudication, but of the protection which the kings extends to the helpless, the weak and the poor, widows and orphans.
Jesus preached the Good News of the Kingdom of God. The focus of Christ's preaching was the Kingdom of God, but it is not ours now. Why not? Jesus said "Seek ye first THE KINGDOM OF GOD and all of his RIGHTEOUSNESS and all these things will be added unto you." Instead of seeking God's Kingdom many are seeking after the things of the world. Note the connection between the kingdom and righteousness. It is important also that for us it must be KINGDOM FIRST. We need to have a biblical understanding of righteousness. Is Righteousness only "imputed"? Does the Bible teach we don't have to live holy lives because we are declared "legally (but not actually) righteous"? Jesus told his followers to be "perfect" as our heavenly father is perfect. Kingdom living is living by God's principles of love, kindness and righteousness.
The three Hebrew words that are encompassed in the Aramaic MALKUTHA. Mark Saucy in his The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus in 20th Century Theology refers to Carmignac's research in this field under the title "The Mirage of Eschatology".
MALKUTH: "reign" This is the exercise of royal power even in the temporal aspect. This is the Joyful Message of the Reign of Christ the King in both public and private life. In the past Christians desired to have godly governments that exercised Christian principles of morality, justice and virtue in society. This idea is encompassed in the Doctrine of the Kingdom of God. This principle is attacked by proponents of the so-called 'separation of church and state'. With the departure from these concepts we see an increase in crime, violence and perversion in society and a decline in the family values and in educational standards.
MELUKAH: "royalty" This is the dignity of the king. These are the aspects that distinguishes the king from every other person. This is how Christ and God is our unique ruler. Regarding this royalty the Zealots at the time of Jesus had the slogan "No King but God". Early Christians were persecuted because they would not honor the emperor as the Divine King, that is, in the way only Jesus must be worshiped. This term reminds us that we are the Covenantal Children of God, a 'peculiar' or 'set apart' meaning "holy" people. Pagan Rome saw the Christians devotion to God as a threat to the authority of the Empire. As Jesus taught we are to worship only Adonai, the Lord God Yahweh. The Messiah, Jesus, is the king of the Kingdom of God.
MAMLAKA: "kingdom" The Dominion of God, this designates the territories or people over which the king exercise his authority, and thus the term evokes a spatial connotation. This aspect of the Kingdom is mentioned in the Lord's Prayer when Jesus says, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." This term refers to the Church and in a way evokes the idea of Christendom. The church is comprised of people who in turn constitute the Kingdom.
Like the phrase "the Son of Man", the phrase Kingdom of God is used often in the Gospels but rarely in the rest of the New Testament. The Kingdom of God is given many other titles in the epistles. We have the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, but we also have the Kingdom of Messiah (or the Kingdom of Christ), the Kingdom of Jesus and the Kingdom of the Son (or the Kingdom of His Son as in Colossians 4:11). In Romans 14:17 Paul reminds us as Mims does in The Kingdom Focused Church to have a Kingdom focus. "The Kingdom of God is not food and drink…but RIGHTEOUSNESS, and PEACE, and JOY in the HOLY SPIRIT." These are the principles of the Kingdom of God. In Aramaic it is zaddiqa, shalama, khadutha and Rukha Kodsha. We shouldn't waste our time arguing fine points of doctrine and dietary law but rather spend our lives focusing on these liberating principles. In the Apocalypse there are two additional principles patience and strength (Revelation 1:9, 12:10). These principles can give us power for living in our daily lives. The Liberating Principles of the Kingdom of God translated from the Aramaic are,
Zaddiqa: In Aramaic this word means, righteousness, meet, fit, proper and right. Also, there is the Aramaic word Kenutha, which means justice, just and to be just.
Shalama: Peace, completeness, the peace from God.
Khadutha: Joy, happiness, to rejoice, to be glad, gladness
Rukha Kodsah: The Sacred or Holy Spirit. Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit is available as a gift to all the children of God to give joy and peace. It enabled the children of God to feel the emotion of his love for them.
Khiey: Power and Strength. In the Lord's Prayer we ascribe to the Father power, khiye, and tishbokhta, glory.
Msibniotha: (also Sakki) to have patience, to wait for expectantly
The focus is above, on the Father, not on our own selfish desires Other passages remind us that the Kingdom of God is the Inheritance of his Holy Ones. The Saints of God are "worthy" of the inheritance (1Corithians 6:9-10, James 2:5). Sinners will not inherit this Kingdom (Galatians 5:21). One of the aspects of God's Fatherhood is the inheritance that his children have in the Kingdom. According to Ephesians 5:5 we have an inheritance in the Kingdom of Messiah. Still other passages remind us of the full advent of the Kingdom of God with the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15: 24, 50, 2 Timothy 4:1& 18). Where is the Kingdom of God? Jesus says that the kingdom of God is within us. The Aramaic word is probably more accurately translated as "among" us. When we come together in the fellowship of the community of the church God's Kingdom is there. Jesus is the King Messiah and the Church is part of the Kingdom he established. Yeshua personifies the Kingdom of God.
The Eschatological Kingdom of God is referred to by the Greek word Parosia. This word means arrival, coming presence and 'appearing'. It is not used in the New Testament. This phrase was coined by Justin Martyr. The closest that the New Testament comes to this word is in Hebrews 9:28 where it says "He will appear". The equivalent Aramaic word is Mithheya ('appearing'). This refers to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
The Southern Baptist Churches have a legacy of preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God as can be seen in this excerpt from the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message:
The Kingdom of God is the reign of God in the heart and life of the individual in every human relationship, and in every form and institution of organized human society. The chief means for promoting the Kingdom of God on earth are preaching the gospel of Christ, and teaching the principles of righteousness contained therein. The Kingdom of God will be complete when every thought and will of man shall be brought into captivity to the will of Christ. And it is the duty of all Christ's people to pray and labor continually that his Kingdom may come and his will be done on earth as it done in heaven.
Unfortunately, this great quotation as been expunged from the Southern Baptist Confession of Faith. It must also be borne in mind that we are called to a Kingdom. Paul says God has "called us to his Kingdom and Glory" (1 Thessalonians 1:5). In is my firm belief that the greatest need the church has is for preachers to preach the message that Jesus taught. Jesus preached the Good News of the Kingdom of God (Malkutha d-Alaha) as so must his disciples. The world hungers and thirsts for it. The Kingdom of God in the preaching of Jesus consisted in feeding the hungry, tending the sick, clothing the naked, comforting the distressed and imprisoned (Matthew 25). In short, the Kingdom of Heaven is 'Love in Action.' Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the famous Albanian Roman Catholic nun, in her works of loving compassion showed the world what Christ's kingdom is all about. The Aramaic word for a deep and abiding love that it manifested in acts of kindness is khooba. Khooba-love is Kingdom-love. It is a mindset of unconditional love and affection that causes what is good and wholesome to be seen. St. Paul reminds us that without love we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13). James the Just and the Apostles reminded us that we are to love not in word, but in deed and truth. The Love of Jesus, the love of Abba-father, is not only believed; it is something to be lived out. This is the Kingdom of God.
Bar Nasha, the Son of Man
"Let your hand rest on the Man at your right hand, the Son of Man whom you have raised up for yourself"
"I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
Acts of the Apostles 7:56
"What is Man, and who is the Son of Man? Thou hast raised him up in glory"
Jesus calls himself the "Son of Man" over eighty times in the Gospels. Obviously it is central in our understanding who Jesus is and who he understood himself to be. The title "the Son of Man" is used in all four gospels. After the gospels it isn't used again in the rest of the New Testament, except one place in the Book of Acts and twice in the Revelation of St. John. This has led many scholars to believe that it had a special significance for Jewish believers but when the church focused on the Gentile mission, its use was dropped. However, while the term "the Son of Man" isn't used in the epistles the concept of the Son of Man is found in the writings of the apostle Paul. A very interesting thing about the use of the Son of Man is its use in the Gospel of John. John's gospel is very different from what are called the synoptic Gospels, which are Matthew, Mark and Luke. For all of their differences the significance of the term Son of Man is also found in John. This shows us that this is a very significant point that we must not overlook. Jesus in the Gospel most often refers to himself as the Son of Man. Mystery also surrounds the title "the Son of Man". What does it mean? Why did Jesus call himself the "Son of Man"? The Aramaic word that Jesus used was "Bar Nasha", literally translated it means "Son of Man" but in Aramaic it means a man, a person or a human being. Son of Man is not a Greek expression, rather it is an Aramaic figure of speech. The word "Barnasha" is still used in Modern Aramaic. Now people are translating it in different ways included Son of Adam (in Hebrew "Ben Adam"), Child of Humanity, the Human One, the Person, Mortal, the Man and the Human Being. Part of the reason for the new translation in to avoid the use of the masculine gender. This political correct reasoning is absurd and confusing. The correct literal translation is Son of Man. It is scandalous that our Bibles are no longer being literally translated from the original languages. Christians should not tolerate the Bible being translated inaccurately (which is basically changing the Bible) for politically correct purposes. The most important thing for a believing Christian should be knowing what Jesus said and why he said it. In this instance the Aramaic provides additional clarity. In referring to himself as the Son of Man, Jesus was proclaiming himself to be the pre-existent Messiah prophesied by Daniel, Enoch and in the Psalms. To understand Jesus for who he is and who he understood himself to be we must explore the meaning of this term. The concept of the Son of Man is identical to the understanding of Christ as the Second Adam, in Aramaic the Adam Kodman. This form of the expression "the Son of Man" is the one preferred by St. Paul of Tarsus. The Hebrew for Son of Man is used in the Book of Ezekiel. God used the phrase to refer to the prophet Ezekiel. In Hebrew, as in Aramaic, "Son of Man" is another way of saying 'person' or 'human being.' The background to the meaning of Bar Nasha (the Son of Man) in the teachings of Jesus comes from the Aramaic section of the Book of Daniel. In Daniel chapter seven this messianic "Son of Man" figure is introduced. Jesus called himself Bar Nasha. In Daniel this same term is used in a slightly archaic form. In the Aramaic of Daniel it is Bar Anash. Daniel is one of the most important and influential Aramaic books ever written. People are familiar with stories from Daniel such as Shadrack, Mesheck and Abednego in the fiery furnace and the story of Daniel in the Lion's Den. Few people realize that these wonderful stories are written in Aramaic. Another interesting thing about these stories is they happened in history. During the war in Iraq, I mounted a camel and rode out into the desert and journeyed to the ruins of the Tower of Babel mentioned in Genesis 15. I also traveled to the ruins of Babylon and walked the same streets that Daniel, Ezekiel and the other prophets of old did transverse. I stood in the throne room of the mighty King Nebuchadnezzar and with my own eyes saw the famous "Writing on the Wall"; the four words that changed the world and that were carved into the wall by the hand of God. The hand of God wrote upon the wall of Belshazzar's palace in the Aramaic language. This famous Aramaic expression – like many in the New Testament left un-translated in our Bibles –"mene mene tekel upharsin" (Daniel 5:25). Daniel interpreted these Aramaic words, written by the finger of God, to mean the Fall of the Babylonian Empire and the rise of that of the Persians. F.F. Bruce states
Some well-known words in the Aramaic of Daniel are reserved un-translated in our English version. These are the words that appear on the wall at Belshazzar's feast: MENE, MENE TEQEL UPHARSIN. We are not to suppose that these words were illegible. Or even that, taken as separate words, they were unintelligible. They are common Aramaic words, indicating various weights…meaning "numbered, weighed and divided".
God wrote with his finger in the Aramaic language. Daniel interpreted the prophetic meanings of these Aramaic words for the wicked king. This isn't the only time God chose to speak in the Aramaic language. Later, God spoke through Jesus in Aramaic. Many important prophecies about Jesus are found in the Book of Daniel. Daniel wrote his prophecies in a symbolic manner. In chapter seven various monsters represents a succession of evil kingdoms that are overcome by the Messiah, who is represented as a human being and is called, "the Son of Man". Another thing to note in Daniel is the contrast between the monsters representing the evil human empires verses the Messiah, God's eternal king who manifests himself not as a beast but as a human being. These beasts also appear in the Book of the Revelation. There are two beasts, the beast from the earth, the Behemoth, and the Beast from the sea, the Leviathan. It must be noted that in the original manuscripts this section of the book of Daniel is in Aramaic, not Hebrew. In Daniel we find the Apocalyptic Son of Man. This title for the Messiah is found in the Aramaic section of the Book of Daniel (Daniel 2:4-7:28). In Aramaic it means "Person" or "Human being", but it does have divine significance. Daniel says,
I was watching in the night visions, and behold , one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nation, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away and his kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed.
It is prophesied that this Son of Man brings God's Kingdom to this earth. Jesus often spoke of himself as this Son of Man and he most often preached of the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory that this Son of Man figure was prophesied to bring. Also, in calling himself the Son of Man Jesus identified himself with humanity.
The concept of the Son of Man is further explored in the Book of Enoch. Enoch was recognized as scripture by some in the early church (Jude 14-15) and used by certain of the early Church Fathers as scripture (Barnabas, Clement, Justin Martyr, Ireneas and Tertullian.) Scholars have determined that the Book of Enoch was held by the Jews of Jesus' day to be canonical. According to The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English, " of all the non-biblical books found in caves adjacent to the Dead Sea, the one that offers the most promise of having been considered authoritative to the Jewish community at Qumran is …Enoch. That some considered this writing to be the word of God is without question…The Caves at Qumran have produced 20 manuscripts of Enoch, as many as the book of Genesis-all of them in Aramaic." St. Augustine repudiated the Book of Enoch, and under his direction the book was suppressed. The Jews of Jesus' day were familiar with the book of Enoch and its messianic figure called The Son of Man in chapters 37-71. When Jesus called Himself the Son of Man he was referring to the prophecies of Enoch and Daniel and was claiming to be the preexistent divine Messiah. "Him that hath ears let him hear" (Mark 4:11). This is an Aramaic figure of speech that means "let he who can catch my meaning do so". His listeners who knew the book of Enoch and Daniel caught his meaning. Here is an example of one of the prophecies concerning the Son of Man found in the Book of Enoch.
At that hour, that Son of Man was given a name, in the presence of the Lord of the Spirits, the Before-time, even before the creation of the sun and the moon, before the creation of the stars, he was given a name in the presence of the Lord of the spirits. He will become a staff for the righteous ones in order that they may lean on him and not fall. He is the light of the gentiles and he will become the hope of those who are sick in their hearts. All those who dwell upon the earth shall fall and worship before him; they shall glorify, bless, and sing the name of the Lord of the spirits. For this purpose he became the Chosen One; he was concealed in the presence of (the Lord of spirits) prior to the creation of the world, and for eternity. And he has revealed the preserved portion of the righteous because they have hated and despised this world of oppression (together with) all its ways of life and habits in the name of the Lord of Spirits; and because they will be saved in his name and it is his good pleasure that they have life. In those days, the kings of the earth and the mighty…shall fall on their faces; and they shall not rise up (again), nor anyone (be found) who will take them with his hands and raise them up. For they have denied the Lord of the Spirits and his Messiah.
Enoch was removed form the canon by the Jews because it was too Messianic and by the Christians partly because it was too Jewish. As Dr. Francis potter noted, "when the official canons and doctrines of Jew and Christian were established, in a period when each side hated the other bitterly, as the contemporary literatures of both show historically, the neither side wanted any evidence which would reveal that the… Book of Enoch was the missing link between Judaism and Christianity." The Semitic Judeo-Christians of Ethiopia preserved the Book of Enoch. It has survived due to Ethiopia's isolation from the rest of the Christian world. In Ethiopia it is given canonical status by the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox churches. The book of Enoch is valuable but it contains later additions to the text and is thus comparable in value to the Book of Maccabees. Enoch, in the form it has come down to us, cannot be given canonical status.
Paul, in his epistles, contrasts the First Adam (of Adam and Eve) against the Second Adam, the Son of Man. The Hebrew word Adam is in a sense the Hebrew equivalent of the Aramaic Bar Nasha. Both terms mean Man, Human Being or Person. Paul refers to Christ as the New Adam (or Son of Man) in Romans 5:14. In 1 Corinthians 15:22 Paul states that it is so written that, "The first man Adam become a living soul." And the last Adam, who is Jesus the Son of Man, was made a quickening spirit. Here we see that while Adam brought death and damnation Christ, the Second Adam, brought salvation and eternal life. In Colossians 1:15-20 Paul states,
He [the Son of Man] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature. For by him were all things created that are in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in all things He might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all the fullness dwell, and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things to Himself-by Him, I say, whether they be things on earth or things in heaven.
Hugh J. Schonfield described the Jewish mystical belief in the Second Adam, "The belief was that the Archetypal Man (the Son of Man), the Messiah (Christ) Above had been incarnated in Jesus as the Messiah Below, having in the Beginning served as the expression (word) of God on which the Universe was framed. The concept emanated from mystical Jewish teaching." This idea is also found in the Kaballah and Jewish occultism. John's Gospel focuses on "the Word of God", Jesus, who is God and on his having come down from the heavenly Father. This concept is also related to the idea of the Son of Man in Jewish mysticism.
There has also been much confusion in the meaning of the two phrases; the Son of Man and Son of God. Some people have seen the term Son of Man as a title of Christ's humanity and Son of God a title of his divinity. Lee Strobel also explores The Son of Man in The Case for Christ,
Son of Man is often thought to indicate the humanity of Jesus, just as the reflex expression Son of God indicates his divinity. In fact, just the opposite is true. The Son of Man is the divine figure in the Old Testament who would come at the end of the world to judge mankind and rule forever. Thus, the claim to be the Son of Man would be in effect a claim to divinity. (p. 36-37)
Even during the ministry of Christ people were asking the question, "Who is the Son of Man?" This is illustrated in the following two verses.
We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth forever: and how sayest thou, The Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man? St. John 12:34
He asked his disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" Matthew 16: 13
He was asked this question and he asked people this question. Even now people are still asking. Is he a prophet, a wise man, a guru or a great rabbi? Or is he more that his, is he the king and the Messiah? Or is he something greater, the pre-existent redeemer and God Incarnate? Jesus clarified his identity as the Son of Man by adding other titles to it such as "The Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27-28) and "The Messiah (Christ) the Son of the Living God" (Matthew 16: 16). Jesus had a mission to fulfill as the Son of Man. As the Son of Man he came to "Seek and save those who are lost" (Luke 19:10). As the Son of Man he came "not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many"(Mark 10:45) and the Son of Man came "To Forgive Sins" ( Mark 2:10). The mission of the Son of Man is not yet complete. He will return as the Son of Man and "Come in Power and Glory with all of the holy angels with him and he shall sit on his throne of Glory" (Mark 25:31) and then "There will be a Day of the Son of Man and his Sign shall appear in heaven" (Mark 13, Matthew 24-25). So while Jesus fulfilled prophecies as the Son of Man yet there remain prophecies to be fulfilled. So we need to look for signs to watch for the fulfillment of these scriptures. The question remains, "Who will see the Son of Man?" This is also dealt with in the Holy Gospels.
The High Priest answered and said to him, "I put you under oath by the living God; Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God!" Jesus answered and said to him, "It is as you say, Nevertheless, I say unto you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." Matthew 26:63-64
"…and then shall appear the Sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming with power and great glory…(Matthew 2:30)
When Jesus called Nathaniel to be an apostle he spoke of the future glorification of the Son of Man. He said, "Verily, verily I say unto you (the apostle Nathaniel), hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man (John 1:51)." Jesus here is referencing the vision of the Patriarch Jacob, who is also called Israel, that the Patriarch saw at a place called "Bethel" which is translated "House of God". Jacob's vision is found in Genesis 28:12. Jesus as the Son of Man is the New Israel and he himself is Bethel, the New and Everlasting House of God. According to the Prophet God the Day of the Son of Man will be the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord spoken of by the Prophets of the Old Testament. John says all flesh will see the Son of Man, "Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him…" (Revelation 1:7). In Matthew 25 Jesus says that he will sit and Judge all mankind as the Son of Man. Everyone who is living, who has lived and who has yet to live will stand before the Judgment Seat of the Son of Man and give an accounting of their lives. Faith is the way to escape condemnation. We find salvation by believing in the Son of Man. In John's Gospel Jesus encountered a man whom he has healed and asked him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" The Man responded by asking,
"Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you." He said, "Lord, I believe!" and he worshipped. (John 9:35-38). Jesus said he came to bring life, not to condemn. He lived as an expression of who God is and to show us the Path to knowing God. This is the function of the Son of Man. There is no condemnation for those who are in the Son of Man. By believing in the Son of Man we become part of his mystical body. This is what is stated in the Aramaic prophecy of Daniel.
John 12:34, the Book of Enoch and the Book of Daniel show that learned people at the time of Jesus understood the Son of Man to be the Messiah. What does it mean when we say Messiah? In Aramaic Messiah is Meshikha and it means "Anointed One". It refers to the anointing of oil in consecration. The Holy Spirit is the anointing and symbolically is also the oil. The gospel preached by John says that we are anointed ones as well. 1 John 2:20 states "You have been anointed by the Spirit and have knowledge…the anointing you have received abides in you." The Holy Ghost is the empowering presence of God. When we through believing in the Son of Man are birthed into the family of God by the power of the Holy Spirit we are then given the right to address the Heavenly Father as Abba. (Galatians 4:6, Romans 8: 15-17)
Ephphatha, "Be opened!"
The Aramaic Door to Spiritual Illumination
Jesus came to heal both physically and spiritually. A healing ministry is a part of the Great Commission Jesus gave before he ascended to heaven (Mark 13:18). Part of the Gospel that Jesus preached was that God had the power to heal (Matthew 10:8). When Jesus sent his apostles out to spread his message before the crucifixion he sent them out to heal the sick and to perform miracles. However, we must never force God's hand. Even the apostles themselves did not presume to do this. We must pray and believe and then trust enough to leave it in the hand of the Lord. Paul reminds us that sometimes we suffer for the glory of God (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). This is also seen in the Passion of Jesus. When Jesus suffered the injustice, the ridicule, the shame, the beatings and the torture it was all for the glory of God. Matthew tells us that he bore our sickness and took upon himself our infirmities and it was by his stripes that he are healed (Matthew 8:17). In this passage Matthew is quoting Isaiah 53. Matthew quotes many scriptures as being fulfilled by Jesus but here he doesn't interpret Isaiah 53 as Jesus being an atoning sacrifice for our sins on the cross. His understanding is that there is spiritual power for physical healing that comes from what Jesus suffered during his passion. James, the Brother of Jesus, tells us in his epistle that the New Testament church prays for the sick and anoints them with oil. We ought to pray expecting an answer and according to James it is the prayer of faith that saves the sick, heals him and results in the forgiveness of sins (James 5: 14-15).
On more than one occasion Jesus used spit, saliva and dirt to make a poultice with which to heal (Mark 7:33, Mark 8: 23, John 9:6). In Mark 7:34 it reads, Then, looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha", that is, "Be opened". Jesus here opened the ears and freed the tongue. When Jesus preformed this miracle he used the Aramaic word Ephphatha which means "Be Opened". In Modern Aramaic this word is pronounced Pthahha. In ancient Semitic tradition there are four levels of interpreting the scriptures. The first is the Briyah, the way of Knowing. This is the literal or historical meaning of the text. The second level is Atzilut, the way of being which is an allegorical or symbolic meaning. The forth level is Yetzirah. This is the way in which the text speaks directly to the reader. This is the way of feeling. Here the spiritual and mystical meanings of the text are discovered. The final level is the Asiyah, the way of Doing. Here we find the moral lessons and ethical principles within the text. Jesus wants us to have are ears opened. This man was deaf. Jesus wants us to open our spiritual ears so we can hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us. In Matthew 11:35 Jesus says "He that has ears to hear let him hear". Jesus wants us to be spiritually discerning. This is most likely an Aramaic idiom meaning "Whoever can catch my meaning let him do so." Jesus was using parables to impart spiritual truths and he was expecting his disciples to be ready to hear from God. In the Revelation of Saint John this Aramaic idiom is used again because the Glorified Jesus is using religious symbolism and expects us to be not just hearing but listening for God (See Revelations 2: 7, 11, 17, 29, 3: 6. 13, 22 and 13:9). Whenever Jesus said he was the Son of Man, barnasha in Aramaic, he was proclaiming himself to be the Messiah. During Hannakuh Jesus was approached by people who asked him, "How long do you make us doubt, if you are the Messiah tell us plainly." He replied, "I have told you, but you have not believed" (John 10:22-25). These people were spiritually deaf. Jesus also enabled this man to speak. The Holy Spirit comes upon us to cause us to speak the words of God. Jesus said at this time, "It is not you that speaks but the Spirit of your Father which speaks in you" (Matthew 10: 20). When we confess God's word our name is confessed before God in heaven (Matthew 10: 32). On the Feast of Shavaout (Pentecost in Greek) it was the Holy Spirit that gave the men and women assembled "utterance" to proclaim the Joyful Message of God's Kingdom (Acts 2:4). Jesus wants us not to be fearful and full of inhibitions but be boldly and assertively proclaims words of faith. The Spirit gives us the Power to speak the word of God. An early prayer of the apostles is found in Acts 4: 29-30.
Grant to your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word, by stretching out your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of your Holy Servant Jesus.
As this was a prayer of the early Jewish Christians in Jerusalem we know that it was originally prayed in Aramaic. Certain important Aramaic words are found in this prayer. The word for "Healing" is Aswatha. It means to heal to restore to health, as a medical doctor does (the Aramaic word for doctor or physician is asya). Aswatha also means a cure or to cure. Of course, Jesus and his followers did this in a miraculous manner. Mighty Deeds-Wonders is Gbarnotha in Aramaic. It is related to the word for hero or gallant, it means valiant deeds; exploits. Signs in Aramaic is Atotha. It refers to a miracle or divine intervention. John's Gospel constantly reminds us of the miracles Jesus performed as signs (John 2:11, 20: 30-31).
In America many Christians believe that with the death of the last apostle and the completion of the New Testament God withdrew his Holy Spirit and ceased to speak to man or work miracles. However, in the eastern tradition, especially among Aramaic Christians and the Coptic Christians of Egypt, this is not the case. These ancient Christians believe that God's power still is manifested among his people from the days of the apostles until this very day. There are stories of miracles such as an apparition that appeared to a king of the Keriat tribe in Mongolia around the year 1000. An angelic visitor told the king to seek out and accept the good news preached by the Aramaic Christians belonging to the ancient Church of the East, called the Nestorian Church. The king was obedient to this vision and as a result many Mongols became believers in Jesus as Messiah. For centuries many Mongols were Christians and belonged to the Aramaic church tradition. Due to the Black Plague and Islamic persecution the church in Mongolia has disappeared. In my journeys I have seen miracles such as crying Icons and I have on three occasions encountered apparitions of a spiritual beings. While in Damascus I met Sister Myrna, an Arab woman who while in fervent prayer received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ. I was there while the validity of the miracle was being verified by Father Fox, a Roman Catholic priest. What do these miracles tell us? They tell us that there is a spiritual reality beyond this physical world which is as real, or perhaps more real, that the world we see around us and experience with our five senses. Our faith isn't put in signs but in the word of God. I have experienced certain miraculous events. I cannot understand some of the things I have seen and experienced. I can understand what the Bible says and the doctrine Christ teaches. That is where our faith must be grounded. If we follow miracles we may be deceived. Jesus warns us that there will be "lying wonders". The Bible says we must test the spirits to see if they are from God (1 John 4:1-2). The standard we use to do this is the Holy Scripture. On two other occasions Jesus used the poultice to heal the blind (Mark 8: 23, John 9:6). In Mark 8 initially the man wasn't completely healed he "saw men as trees walking". Jesus prayed for him again and his sight was completely restored. This teaches us that at times the answers to our prayers are not immediate but we must preserve in prayer. Jesus taught his disciples that "men always ought to pray and faint not…will not God avenge his own elect who cry out to him day and night" (Luke 18:1-7). We must persevere in prayer with God. In John's Gospel we are reminded that the true sight we really need is spiritual sight. Jesus condemned those religious leaders who were spiritually blind (John 9: 39-41, Matthew 6:22-23). Jesus is the true light that gives us the vision. By seeing Jesus we are given the light of God within. We also want illumination, to have our spiritual eyes opened. This is the gift of God that comes through following the way of the Master. Jesus as the Ascended Master appeared to Paul and explained to him the nature of God's Good News. It is "to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me" (Acts 26: 18 NKJV). Many people are blinded from the spiritual truth as if a dark spiritual power has veiled their eyes. With the spiritual enlightenment Christ brings, we are not, as Paul says, like "Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were hardened. For until this day the same veil remains un-lifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless, when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:13-18, New King James Version). Moses covered his face with a veil, similar to the way the Berber Tuareg men do and as Moslem women do as well. When Moses returned from the presence of the Lord his face would glow. He wore the veil because his glowing face frightened his brother Aaron and the Israelites (Exodus 34: 29-35). He also wore it so they wouldn't see this glory slowly fade away. Paul tells us here what the veil symbolizes and why Christians should not wear such a veil, or "tallet". Paul reminds us here that we have the Holy Spirit and through the power of the Holy Spirit the veil is taken away. Let us not put this veil back on. Christians should beware of adopting practices of unbelievers and remember what Paul says here: people who follow the law of Moses, but not the law of Christ, do not have any special insight into the Bible, they cannot even understand their own scriptures properly because they do not have the Spirit of God, through whom the Scriptures are properly discerned. Jesus died in order to destroy the veil. He did not depart into glory until his Spirit had torn the veil of the temple, ripping it in two. As the Holy Gospel states, "And Jesus cried out and breathed his last. And in that instant the curtain of the temple's inner sanctum was sheared in two from top to bottom" (Matthew 27:50-51). Jesus shredded this veil into pieces. A deeper understanding of this is found in Hebrews 10: 19-22 which says we now have the right to come to the Holy of Holies which before was reserved only to the high priest. (Under the Old Testament, a veil in the temple was erected to separate man from God. Only the High Priest could cross through the veil and enter the inner sanctum, called the Holy of Holies, and he only did so only once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On this day he would bring the blood of bulls and goats as a blood sacrifice to appease the wrath of almighty God against the sins of the people.) The barrier between God and Man was torn open by the death of the Son of God. The author of Hebrews stated, "Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast with the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works" (Hebrews 10:19-24, NKJV). God himself, through Jesus, the Eternal Son of God, has destroyed the barrier, that ancient veil that separated God from man. Now he wants us to come to Him, as his sons and daughters, to Him as "Abba, Dear Father." This is the New and Everlasting Covenant that was spoken of my Ezekiel and Jeremiah (Ezekiel 16:60,62, Jeremiah 31:31, 32:40) Now, let us boldly approach the throne of grace, where we may obtain mercy and find grace in the time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Jesus taught us saying, "and all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive" (Matthew 21:22). Jesus will open our eyes, but we must believe. Scriptures declare, "without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). This faith (called Haimanutha in Aramaic) is victory, victory in Jesus. The word of Jesus gives us victory over all the evils and difficulties we face in life, whether they are family, financial or emotional problems. God is greater than any thing. He loves you and he cares about you. Rely upon him and he will give you the true peace (Shalama in Aramaic). Scripture declare that "With God all things are possible!" (Luke 1:37, Matthew 10:27). Paul teaches us, "For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor authorities, nor powers, nor things subsisting, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me from the love of Alaha [Aramaic for 'God'] which is in our Lord Yeshu Meshikha [Aramaic for Jesus the Messiah]" (From a translation based in part on that of John Wesley Etheridge's translation of the Aramaic Peshitta New Testament). Jesus says "Ephaphatha!," "Be opened!" and has removed the veil that barred men from the presence of God. (The correct pronunciation of "Ephphatha" in Aramaic is "Ethpatakh".)
There are many people who are seeking God but have gone astray. Some people are using Aramaic as a tool of meditation. They believe that by listening to Aramaic or by uttering it they are spiritually empowered and given a type of mystical charge by repeating or hearing Aramaic words. Some find listening to Aramaic soothing and empowering. Aramaic is a very special language. It is a beautiful and a very spiritual and a poetic language but it is still a human language. For instance, once I was in Detroit attending an Aramaic Chaldean Catholic church service. I listened to the Aramaic people worship in the service singing beautiful songs in the language of Christ. When I went outside the church after the service I saw certain of the parishioners get into a minor automobile accident and a man got out of his car and began shouting curses and obscenities in the language of Jesus! With Aramaic, as with any human language, it is possible to lie, curse, seduce, to blaspheme and to be obscene. This man's behavior is in no way typical of the behavior of the vast majority of Assyrians, Chaldeans and Arameans. The Assyrian people have been very good to me. When I visited Assyrian villages, the Assyrians showed me great kindness and hospitality. I believe that they do indeed have a special insight that comes from knowing the language of Jesus and belonging to his culture. For some Aramaic people, they live a mode of life in their villages that is very similar to the culture Jesus grew up in. In certain villages I went through their orchards and fields, saw them tending their crops and shepherding their sheep. Aramaic people are a very happy, kind and hospitable people. They are also one of the worlds most fervent and devout Christians. But being a native Aramaic speaker doesn't necessarily give one any special spiritual knowledge or automatically make someone a good person. Being a native Aramaic speaker doesn't make on an authority on the teachings of Jesus any more than growing up speaking English makes one an authority on the works of William Shakespeare. Knowledge of Aramaic, especially that of a native speaker, is a great advantage but for one to be a teacher it must be coupled with study of history, theology, archeology and Biblical and extra-biblical texts. Certain meditative techniques are valid and biblical (2 Kings 3:15, Acts 10:10, Revelation 1: 10). But these meditation techniques can lead to doctrinal error, mental instability for the weak minded and even leave one vulnerable to the influence of evil spiritual forces if one isn't a mature believer who is rooted in the word of God. (I am speaking of "mantra" meditation and meditation techniques of emptying the mind. Repeating Aramaic phrases, such as the Lord's Prayer of the Beatitudes, can be done in such a way that it is "mantra" meditation.) The point isn't how Aramaic sounds, even though it is very moving to hear the words of Christ as they were actually spoken. There is nothing wrong with listening to Aramaic for its calming and soothing effect. I believe it is also valid to use Aramaic in praise and worship. It may be good to use Aramaic in meditation as long as one is very cautious about the mode of meditation and does so with the realization that while Aramaic may be mystical it isn't magical. In the Old Testament to meditate on a truth meant to focus on it and deeply ponder it and not to clear or empty the mind. The importance of Aramaic is when we study Aramaic as the language of Jesus we are at the very source of the most important words ever spoken. With the Aramaic we have Christ's authentic words without having them filtered through Greek, Latin or any other pagan culture or language. Even thought the words are beautiful what is important is not how they sound but what they mean. The meaning of the words of Jesus is the object of our pursuit. Also, I firmly believe that steps must be taken to preserve Aramaic as a spoken language. It is a very valuable heritage that must not be allowed to die and must never be forgotten. God in his providence and for his special purpose chose to speak to mankind in the Aramaic language in the Old Testament and then when he spoke through his Son, the Eternal Word of God, it was in the Aramaic language. Aramaic is indeed a very special and a holy language.
Rabboni, "My Master!"
Master, Teacher and Rabbi
The Aramaic word Rabboni is used twice in our Greek text of the New Testament. In Mark Jesus is called Rabboni by Blind Bartimaeus. This passage is found in Mark 10: 46-52. Here the Aramaic name "Bartimaeus" is translated as "the son of Timaeus." He cries out "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me". Jesus, as the hour of visitation has arrived, accepts this Messianic title. Jesus asks him "What wilt thou that I do unto thee?" To which the blind man replied, "Rabboni, that I might receive my sight." Jesus restored unto him his vision and Bartimaeus began to follow Jesus. The story of Bartimeus is important for many reasons. First, when he heard Jesus was near to him he cried out for Jesus. He also referred to Jesus as the Son of David and as Master. When people tried to silence him he cried out even more. When Jesus called for him, Bartimeus took a step of faith as he cast aside his beggars cloak in faith believing that he was leaving that life behind. When he was brought before Jesus he was asked by the Master, "What do you will that I unto thee?" It was obvious that the man desired to be healed. Jesus said this to remind us that the Father knows our needs before we ask him (Matthew 6:32). Our heavenly Father desires us to make requests unto him in prayer. Jesus also asked him what he "willed" him to do unto him. We shouldn't bring idle wishes to the Lord in prayer but we should pray with a fervent will. James reminds us that the fervent and effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
In John's Gospel, Jesus is called Rabboni by Miriam of Magdala at the Resurrection of our Lord. The Risen Jesus comes to the tomb and finds Mary weeping for him. John 20: 16 says, "Jesus saith unto her, "Mary." She turned herself and saith unto him, Rabboni, which is to say, Master." Mary R. Thompson in Mary of Magdala notes, "The word Rabboni is Aramaic and is certainly meant to be a term of some intensity, even of endearment, 'my teacher.'" What does this Aramaic word mean? It means "My Master" but it also means "my rabbi," "my Lord" and "my teacher".
The book Rabboni: The Life Story of Jesus by W. Phillip Keller is a retelling of the life of Christ. He correctly begins the story in 'eternity past'. He states, "Our Lord did not have His beginning at the little hamlet of Bethlehem. His story does not start with a stable. This may be the common concept of Christ but it is not the correct one. He cannot be confined to the limitations of earthly time and space. For before the earth was, He existed." In Modern Aramaic the word Rabbi is Rabi. It means "teacher". School teachers, professors and learned men are called 'rabi'. Rabboni is the personal form it means "My teacher" and "my master". Jesus must be our personal lord, master and teacher. In the Gospels we see Jesus presented as a Jewish Rabbi. We must however concede that Jesus did not have formal rabbinic training (John 7:15). Jesus was self-educated. Jesus is referred to as 'teacher' more often than any other title in the Gospels. That he is a Rabbi is conceded even by his enemies. Jesus was often addressed as Rabbi, meaning 'master' or 'teacher' and Mari, meaning 'lord'. Interestingly, the precise form "rabbi" is used more often in John than in any other gospel. (In Aramaic Jesus is also called "Malpana" another word that means 'teacher'.)
Jesus demonstrates he is a rabbi by expounding on the scriptures, by being 'torah-observant' (for instance in observing Jewish feast days) and by interpreting the Old Testament in Aramaic as a meturgeman. A meturgeman was a professional memorizer and someone who could recite the entire Aramaic oral tradition of the Old Testament from memory. To understand the mind of Jesus it is necessary to understand that Jesus was familiar with the Old Testament scriptures in such a way. Jesus was also a traveling rabbi and a man of the people. He didn't spend a great time on arcane and largely irrelevant points of doctrines. The Parables of Jesus were practical and dealt with everyday life and the common people. Jesus explained the mysteries of the Kingdom of God in modes familiar to the shepherd, the fisherman and the farmer. Jesus also demonstrated that he is a Rabbi by expounding the scripture. On many occasions Jesus clarified his teachings or challenged his adversaries with the word of God, that is quotations from the Old Testament (Matthew 12: 3-8, Mark 29: 27-18, John 10: 34-35). The Biblical feast days are extremely important in understanding the ministry of Jesus. The Gospel of John is structured around Jesus going down to Jerusalem to keep Jewish religious festivals. Jesus even celebrated the Feast of Hanukkah. Hanukkah is a Jewish feast day that usually falls around December 25. It celebrates the miraculous victory of Judas Maccabee and his brothers against the Greek rulers of Syria who tried to eradicate the Bible and the Jewish people. Also, it is impossible to fully understand the Passion of the Christ outside of the fulfillment of the Jewish Passover and Jesus' identification of himself with the Passover Lamb.
In fact, our Messiah is the Passover. According to the Greek text of the New Testament, Moses and Elijah were discussing the 'exodus' Jesus was going to undergo in Jerusalem upon the Mountain of Transfiguration (Luke 9:31). Jesus is sometimes referred to as the "Paschal Lamb." This is from the Aramaic word for Passover which is "Pascha." In English people celebrate "Easter" but in most other European languages the Aramaic word "Pascha" is used to refer to this celebration. In John and in Revelation Jesus is the portrayed as the Lamb of God, whose blood takes away the sons of the world (John 1:29, Revelation 5:12). This is the Blood of God (Acts 20:28). For Salvation to take place the blood had to be applied (Exodus 12:7). In the story of the Passover in the Book of Exodus, the Israelites escaped the final plague, which was the death of the firstborn, by applying blood of a lamb on their doorposts. The blood of the Lamb brought salvation and freedom from slavery in Egypt. Jesus was the Firstborn Son (Luke 2:22) and the Only Son (of God, Jesus did have brothers and sisters). As a sign of the coming Savior God had told Abraham to sacrifice his 'only son' (Isaac was symbolically the 'only son', Abraham had fathered Ishmael, but had banished him. Genesis 22:16). Abraham prophesied that God would provide a lamb for a sacrifice (Genesis 22: 8). Jesus is the Passover Lamb. This sacrifice of the lamb is uniquely connected to Passover. The atoning annual sacrifice at Yom Kippur was a bull not a lamb. It was the blood of a bull that was sprinkled on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant (Leviticus 16:11-14). The blood of a bull was atonement for the priest and it was followed by the blood of a goat which was atonement for the people. John said that Jesus is the Lamb because he is the sacrifice that frees us from the land of slavery, this is a metaphor for enslavement to a life of sin. Like Joshua of old, Jesus leads us into the land of promise. Only the Blood of the Lamb could free the captive slaves. This is the only way God has made for atonement. Who went out with Moses? Those who obeyed God's word through Moses by applying the blood of the lamb. The Bible says it was a "mixed multitude" because some Egyptians were obedient to God (Exodus 12:38). Once more we see that ethnicity or race doesn't matter. Whoever applies the Blood of the Lamb of God has salvation.
The story of the Transfiguration is another example of Jesus keeping the Old Testament feast days. According to Eastern Tradition, the reason Peter offered to build booths, or tabernacles, for Jesus, Moses and Elijah was because the Jewish Feast of the Tabernacles was approaching (Mark 9:5). In the Gospel of John, Jesus celebrates this holiday in Jerusalem. According to John's Gospel, Jesus the Word became flesh and "tabernacled" among us (John1:14). Peter reminds that that our body is a "tabernacle" that must be put away (2 Peter 1: 13-14). Jesus' observance of the Feast of Tabernacles is noted in John 7:2. On the principle day of the feast which is called "the Great Hosanna" the Jews carried out a ceremonial pouring out of water. On this occasion Jesus cried out, "If any man thirst. Let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture has said, out of his inward parts shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37-38). John says that Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit. Where is this prophecy written? Jesus was probably quoting an Aramaic Targum rendering of a passage in Isaiah, most likely Isaiah 28: 16-17, where waters come from a hidden or interior place. He may also be referring to Isaiah 12:3, 44:3, 55:1, or perhaps even all of these passages. We should also be mindful of Jesus' teachings on those who thirst (Matthew 5:6) and the teaching on the Living Water he gave to Samaritan Woman at the Well. Jesus is not the Living Water, he gives the living water. The Living Water is the Holy Spirit (John 4:14, John 7:39). The last chapter of Zechariah contains an important prophecy related to the End of Days and a prophetic significance of the Feat of Tabernacles. During the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus declared, "I am the Light of the World. He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). During this festival, the Jews lighted great lights in the temple and in the city of Jerusalem. Jesus in this context identified himself as the Light of the World. The Feast of Tabernacles is explained in Leviticus 23: 33-36; 39-43 and Exodus 23:16. Some people have tried to argue that Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles. The only scripture that connects Christ birth with tents is John 1: 14 which states, "The Word [Jesus] became flesh and tabernacled among us." According to Luke's Gospel, the Holy Family went to Bethlehem to register for the census, not to go celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Luke 2:3-5). The Evangelists tell us when Jesus or his parents went to Jerusalem in order to celebrate a feast day (Luke 2:41-42, John 5:1). Those who try to argue that Jesus was born on Sukkot (meaning the Feast of Tabernacles) try to identify the months mentioned in Luke with months of the Jewish calendar. However, in reading the text, it is clear that the months are being counted from the conception of John the Baptist and are not referring to Jewish months in the Jewish calendar (Luke 1:24, 26 and 36). (The Jewish calendar is the same as was used by their pagan neighbors and is virtually identical to the calendar used by Aramaic Christians.) We don't know when Jesus was born but we do know where he was born-in a feeding trough in some type of a barn in Bethlehem. Jesus was not born in a shack erected for the Feast of Tabernacles. During the Feat of Tabernacles, Jews build temporary booths in which to live in during the festival. There are other important Jewish feasts that were celebrated by Jesus. The Feast of First-fruits (Leviticus 23: 9-14) is mentioned in1 Corinthians 15: 20-23 where Paul states that the Messiah in his resurrection is our first fruits. James and John both state that believers are also a type of first fruits (James 1:18, Revelation 14:4). This festival was on the third day after the Passover. Pentecost (Leviticus 23: 15-22, Exodus 23:16) was a celebration of the giving of the law. The church was born on the Feast of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples as is recounted in the second chapter of the book of Acts. Paul continues to keep Pentecost as is seen in Acts 18; 19-21 and also acts 20: 16. Paul reported to the leadership of the church in Jerusalem on Pentecost. The Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23: 23-25) was a holy convocation and has eschatological significance in both the Old and the New Testaments (Isaiah 18:3, Joel 2:1-3:21, 1 Thessalonians 4: 16, 1 Corinthians 15:52, Revelation 8-9). Two others Feasts are Biblical Feasts but are not the Seven Feasts of the Lord. These include the Feast of Purim, which has its origins in the Book of Esther, and Hanukah whose origin is describes in the first book of Maccabees. In John 10:22 we find Jesus in Jerusalem observing Hanukah. Jesus, on this occasion, identifies himself as the Good Shepherd of Israel perhaps as the heroic Maccabees were shepherds of Israel in the past. He also affirmed his divinity on this feast day. Hanukah is still a very relevant feast-day especially with the struggle against paganism we are suffering through today. Jesus told his followers to follow his example (John 13:15). As Christ observed the Biblical Festivals, Christians would do good to at least learn from them. In fairness, Christians around the world do observe the Paschal Celebration and Pentecost, both of which have their origins in the Biblical Festivals.
Many scholars have wondered about Jesus' place in the Judaism of his day. Some have tried to argue that Jesus was a Pharisee. The Pharisees were a denomination of Judaism that held to a belief in angelic beings and in an afterlife of eternal rewards and punishments. Scholars have found similarities with the message of Jesus and the practices of the early church with those of the Pharisees and Essenes. These discoveries place Christianity in its historical context. Although Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy he shared with them the belief in angels and in the eternal soul and also in the existence of paradise and hell (Gehenna). Both the Essenes and early Jewish Christians practiced communal meals, baptismal rituals, and communal ownership of property. Both Essenes and early Christians shared a focus on prophecy and on the Kingdom of God. Both groups had an ecclesiastical structure with 'bishops' or overseers. Also, both worked cures. Although Jesus preached against the hypocrisy and corruption of the Pharisees, he shared many doctrines in common with them. Christ's teaching regarding angels and the afterlife were similar to the teaching of the Pharisees and clearly distinct from that of the Sadducee faction. There were two main schools of thought among the Pharisees; the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai. Certain scholars believe that Jesus was close in spirit to the Great Rabbi Hillel, who lived before the time of Christ. (Hillel was active at around 20 B.C.) There is a legend of a gentile who was a seeker after religious truth. He came to the Holy Land to learn about Judaism. He became weary of trying to grasp the complexities of Jewish doctrine so he decided to confront the two greatest rabbis of the time, Shammai and Hillel, with a question. He approached Rabbi Shammai and asked him, "Explain the whole of the Law of your God while I stand on one foot." Shammai became infuriated. He took a plank (he, like Jesus, was a carpenter by profession) and began swinging it at the gentile, hitting him and shouting rebukes to the gentile "blasphemer". Then the gentile went to Hillel and asked him the same question. Hillel told him, "Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow-man. This is the whole Law. The rest is commentary. Now go and study." The statement was also repeated by Jesus as the Golden Rule. (Actually prior to the time of Hillel, it was written in the old Aramaic book of Tobit. Here is reads in Tobit 4:15, "Do to no-one what you would not have done to you.") While we see a similarity in both the teaching and gentle spirit of Jesus and Hillel, in his teaching on divorce, Jesus agreed with Shammai rather than Hillel. The Law of Moses states, "When a man takes a wife and marries her, if she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some shameful thing in her, and he writes a bill of divorcement and sends her out of his house" (Deuteronomy 24:1). The disciples of Hillel interpreted this as any displeasing thing. According to Hillel, if a wife burned the dinner that would give her husband the grounds for a divorce. Shammai taught that "shameful thing" referred only to a sexual lapse. Christ's teachings follow that of Shammai in this instance. Jesus taught, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so, and I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery" (Matthew 19:8-9). Jesus taught, "At the beginning he made them male and female, and said, for this reason shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19: 4-6). Divorce rates among professing Christians are at over 50 percent in the United States. This is shameful. Men and women are breaking their marriage vows for selfish unbiblical reasons and this displeases God. Jesus asks us, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord', and then you won't do what I told you to do?" (Luke 6:4). Now we have many professing Christians who are the victims of divorce. I believe that this issue should be dealt with in a loving manner. However, divorce in a hateful thing and the Bible is very clear about this matter. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin so that we may repent. A dark power causes people to seek to justify their actions and blame others instead of taking personal accountability and doing what is right, no matter how difficult it is. Divorce was very harmful to women in the first century. Today, divorce is out of control. Many homes and hearts have been shattered and scarred. Love ought to be more than following a fleeting passion, but rather the making of a strong commitment. Love should be a firm decision than involves making sacrifices. Divorce is harmful to individuals, families and society and is against the teachings of Jesus the Christ. Even in the Old Testament book of Malachi God speaks and says, "I hate divorce." It says, "For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garments with violence, says the LORD of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously" (Malachi 2:16).
The Lord's Prayer in the Original Aramaic
In has been confirmed by scholars that Jesus composed this famous prayer in Aramaic and not in Hebrew, Greek or Latin. To understand the Lord's Prayer properly we must study it in Aramaic. Very few people have attempted to understand the Lord's Prayer by studying it in the original Aramaic. The best work available in which this is done is by Joachim Jeremias and is entitled The Prayers of Jesus. How do we know that the Lord's Prayer was composed in Aramaic and not in Hebrew or Greek? Sebastian Brock notes, "A further important pointer to Aramaic is provided by the two different versions of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:9-15 and Luke 11:2-4: while Matthew has 'and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors' (verse 12), Luke has 'and forgive us our sins and we forgive everyone who is indebted to us' (verse 4). In Aramaic, but not in Hebrew of this period, the words for 'debt,' 'debtor', are frequently used in the sense or 'sin', 'sinner'; in Matthew we have a literal translation of the underlying Aramaic words, while in Luke, in the first half of the verse, there is a more idiomatic rendering." So it is either "sins" or "debts" and not "trespasses" as it is often incorrectly recited. Since Jesus spoke these divine words it is important that we recite them correctly and not tamper with or alter the words spoken by God as many have done. Why was it changed to 'trespasses'? Perhaps it is because many people don't want to deal with the reality or the gravity of their sins. The idea of being indebted and being obligated to forgive debts owed is also uncomfortable and challenging. Believers need to take the teachings of Jesus very seriously and once we know better it is important to quote Jesus accurately and pray in the manner he instructed us to and not in some version altered by men who think they know better than God incarnate. Perhaps these men thought by changing God's words they could make them more palatable to the masses. However, in doing this they divest the words of their power and incur the wrath of Almighty God.
Another indication of the Aramaic Origin of the Lord's Prayer is the similarity between it and the Kaddish. The Kaddish is an ancient Aramaic prayer that dates to the time before the ministry of Jesus Christ. The Kaddish is still often recited by the Jews especially as a mourner's prayer. Joachim Jeremias also noted the Aramaic origins of the Lord's Pray in The Prayers of Jesus. He states that at the time of Jesus, "It is true that the Kaddish which served to round off the synagogue service is in Aramaic [rather than Hebrew]. But this is an exception due to the fact that the Kaddish is the prayer which the preacher ended his sermon, which was delivered in Aramaic. In contrast with the [Hebrew prayers] Shema and Tephilla, the Lord's Prayer is an Aramaic prayer. This is shown by the words…which are typical Aramaisms, and by the way in which the first two petitions directly echo the Kaddish. Moreover the invocation of God as 'Abba", coined by Jesus, is also Aramaic, as is finally the cry from the cross (Mark 15:34). Thus Jesus not only prayed in his native tongue in his private prayers, he also gave his disciples a formal prayer couched in the vernacular when he taught them the Lord's Prayer. In so doing, he removes the prayer from the liturgical sphere of sacred language and places it right in the midst of everyday life."
Some people argue that the "Our Father" should not be called the Lord's Prayer. These people believe it is more appropriate to call it the Disciples Prayer, since it was to be the prayer to be prayed by the apostles, or the Model Prayer, since it serves as a model for us to structure our prayers after. It has also been called 'Jesus' Blueprint for Prayer' It is said the actual Lord's Prayer is Christ's 'High Priestly Prayer" found in the Gospel of John (John 17). There may be some point to these objections but the "Our Father" as the Lord's Prayer has past into general usage and it is the central prayer composed by the Lord Jesus the Messiah for his followers.
So why should we study the Lord' Prayer in Aramaic? The first reason is because that is how it was originally uttered. Rocco Errico provides a good secondary reason, "It is very difficult, when translating from one language to another, to retain the authentic impact and power of a certain word or thought. We usually lose something through translation. This task is even more challenging when it involves such vastly different cultures as our Western culture and that of the Near or Middle East. For example, this has been and is still a problem in translating the Bible from Eastern Semitic tongues (Aramaic and Hebrew) into Western languages."
The Lord's Prayer contains the essence of the entire teachings of Jesus, his Good News, or Joyful Message, that he preached wherever he traveled in the Holy Land. It also contains the basic message of the Torah and the Prophets.
Sebastian Brock noted that there are two different versions of the Lord's Prayer in the New Testament. Brad Young in The Jewish Background to the Lord's Prayer also notes this and highlighted the differences.
Luke 11: 2-4
Hallowed by thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Give us each day our
And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves forgive
Everyone who is indebted to us;
And lead us not into temptation
Matthew 6: 9-13
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed by thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our
And forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven
And lead us not into temptation But deliver us from evil.
[For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, forever. Amen.]
Luke is the shorter version that has come down to us and some scholars believe that Matthew's version represent an expanded version of the Lord's Prayer. But this isn't necessarily so. Sometimes due to constant repetition words become too familiar and lose their power. Thus, it is helpful to look at a recent translation where this prayer is worded differently. In God's New Covenant: A New Testament Translation by Christian Jew Heinz W. Cassirer the Prayer of Our Lord is translated in the following manner;
Father of ours, you who have your dwelling place in heaven:
May your very name be treated as holy.
May your Kingdom appear.
May your will be accomplished on earth as it is accomplished in heaven.
Provide us this day with the bread that is needful to us.
Remit us the debts we have incurred against you
as we have done to those who owed us a debt.
And do not bring us to the point of being put to the final test.
On the contrary, come and rescue us from the evil one.
The complete Lord's Prayer, with the benediction, is found in the ancient book called the Didache, which dates from 70- 125 AD. Interestingly, after giving the prayer in says to pray it three times a day, in accordance with Jewish tradition. Here is the Lord's Prayer in the traditional form that is recited by Aramaic Christians.
Aykana dwashmayya aph ara
Hab lan lakhma dsunqanan yowmana
Washboq lan hawbayn aykanan dap hanan shwaqnan l-hayawayn
Wa la talain lnesyona
Ella passan min beesha
Mittol d'lakh hee malkootha wa khaylan w tishbookhta alalam almeen Amen.
Our Father which art in Heaven
Here we find a central doctrine of Jesus' teaching, the Fatherhood of God. In Aramaic this is Abba. It isn't our right to address God as our Father but a privilege to those who are adopted into the family of God through the agency of the Holy Spirit on the basis of their faith in Jesus the Messiah.
Some Aramaic scholars believe that in its original form the Lord's prayer began with "Abba", which means "loving father" or perhaps more accurately "daddy". The great Baptist theologian Doctor John R. Rice stated, "The word "Abba" is a very intimate Aramaic term for father, and it would not be amiss to translate it "papa" or 'daddy." It seems a little irreverent perhaps at first glance, but actually it would not be amiss for us to feel like calling our Heavenly Father "Our Daddy who is in Heaven," The better a father is, the better an image is of God who is the Father of all those who are born again, born into His family as the children of God." Calling God our Father is a gift to those who are born again into the family of God by faith. Jesus said that for one to enter the Kingdom of God we must do so as a child. Children at the time of Jesus had no rights and were dependent upon others to provide for them and to protect them.
Before believers came into the family of God they were in a perilous situation. They were "fatherless". In the Old Testament Yahweh is "A Father of the fatherless, a defender or widows, is God in his holy habitation" (Psalm 68:5). I have traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and in both Egypt and Palestine I saw very young single mothers holding their infants begging in the streets. In the Middle East be fatherless is to live a life of shame and poverty. If a child is conceived of an unmarried woman, regardless of the circumstance, the child and mother are condemned to live alone without family or home. In the Old Testament Yahweh calls himself a Father to the Fatherless. If we chose God can be our Father as well.
The form "Our Father" is important because it stresses community against individualism. Ancient Semitic cultures knew the importance of belonging and working together in order to survive. To survive it was necessary to belong to a tribe or a clan. We come to God in his community. God's children need to commune together in a fellowship. This is stressed in the teachings of Jesus in his Lord's Prayer. We must not be individualistic. It is not "My Father" but "Our Father" in how Jesus instructed his children to pray. With these words Jesus establishes the church.
Praying to God as Father is an awesome privilege that we should do with utmost reverence, even though it in Aramaic is the intimate form Abba, which means "Daddy". John Chrysostom prayed, "And make us worthy, O Lord, that we may joyously and without presumption may make bold to invoke thee, the heavenly God, our Father, and to say, Our Father…" Ken Hemphill notes, "There was more reverent fear and distance in the mind of the first-century Jew when they thought of God. They would not have dared to address him with such an air of familiarity as "Father."" Much less, the intimate form "Abba'-Daddy!" Jesus, and he as Messiah alone, empowers us to call upon God as Father.
Hallowed Be Thy Name
In the Kaddish we find a similar expression. In Aramaic it is "yit-ga-dal ve-yit-ka-dash she-mei raba" which means, "Magnified and sanctified be His great Name." In the Lord's Prayer there is no 'name' given to God beside that of 'Father'. In the Old Testament the name of God is Yahweh. Jews in the time of Jesus (and today) did not dare utter the sacred name of God. In the New Testament this name of God is not mentioned but is alluded to, especially in the Revelation. To be Holy means to be "set-apart". Both Jesus and the Old Law says that we are to be Holy as God is Holy (Matthew 5:48 Leviticus 19:2, Deuteronomy 18:13). Jesus said that a student should be like his master. We need to live "the Way" and not just in believe God's rule.
Thy Kingdom Come
Early Hebraic Christians often recited a short Aramaic prayer the Maranatha prayer. It is a one sentence prayer and translated from the Aramaic is "Our Lord, Come" (1 Corinthians 16:22). The Kaddish also requests that the Kingdom come. It states "May he establish His kingdom during your life and during your days, and during the life of all the house of Israel. Speedily and in the near future. Amen" In Aramaic the word Kingdom is Malkutha. This Good News of the Kingdom of God was the Central Message of Jesus. The Aramaic word for Kingdom is also an Aramaic "Power word". Is the Kingdom of God the Celestial Realm? Is it the coming rule of God after the apocalypse? Is it the rule of God in the hearts of his faithful children? It is all these things and more. Ken Hemphill notes in his book The Prayer of Jesus, "New Testament scholars have coined a phrase to capture this wonderful truth that we can experience God's eternal power in this present day. They call it "eschatology becoming actualized"-eschatology being a reference to final realities. When we declare "thine is the power", we are praising God for allowing us to experience in actual real time the power of God that will last for all time." How has God revealed himself to us? In history in the person of Jesus Christ. God has intervened in history and spoke to us in time, and space, in the Holy Land and has spoken to us in a human language, Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.
Thy will be done
The anguished prayer that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane is similar to the Our Father, He opens with 'Abba' and prays "not my will, but thine be done" (Mark 14:36). Richard Owen Roberts compels us to "Contemplate the often repeated prayer, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven, lifted Sunday after Sunday by men and women who steadfastly refuse to do the will of God themselves and are surely in no position to assists its accomplishment in the lives of others." A Christian strives to align his will with that of the Heavenly Father. The goal of the Christian is to live a Christ-centered, rather than a self-centered life. Also, Christians practice love in action and help the suffering.
On Earth as it is in Heaven
Aykana dwashmayya aph ara
The Kaddish mentions "the world which he created according to his will". This is a prayer for the consummation of the age. Here we pray for the end of tyranny, pollution, exploitation, oppression, suffering and evil. Here we pray for "God's Imperial Rule" to be established on planet earth. F.F. Bruce in his Commentary on the Book of Acts constantly refers to Aramaic as the language of the early church. He finds that parts of the Book of Acts of the Apostles were written in Aramaic rather than in Greek. He says, "Much of the material in these chapters shows signs of having been drawn, immediately or indirectly, from Aramaic sources…the primitive Jerusalem church was Aramaic-speaking, and so Aramaisms in these chapters are what we should expect." He also shows that not only does Jesus show a familiarity with the Kaddish, so does Peter. Peter says in Acts 2:36, "let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." F.F. Bruce notes, "For the phrase "all the house of Israel"…It appears also in the Jewish liturgy in a well-known Aramaic prayer, the Qaddish:
"Magnified and sanctified be His great name
In the world which he has created according to His will:
May He establish His kingdom during your life and during your days,
And during the life of all the house of Israel, speedily and
At a near time.
And say ye, Amen."
F.F. Bruce also notes Peter speaking Aramaic elsewhere in the Book of Acts when he notes that,
In the house of Cornelius Peter may have spoken Greek, but perhaps it is more probably that he spoke in Aramaic through an interpreter. At any rate, this speech is even more strongly marked by Aramaisms than his speeches recorded in the earlier chapters of Acts. The presence of Aramaisms, of course, is a sign that the speech is not Luke's free invention, but rather literal reproduction of what he found in his source (whether that source was written or oral). The Greek of Acts 10: 36-38 in particular reads somewhat awkwardly as also do the fairly literal renderings in our common English versions, but it can be turned back word for word into grammatical and intelligible Aramaic.
F.F. Bruce is a good source for accurate information about Aramaic as used by Jesus the Messiah and by his earliest followers.
Give us this day our daily bread
Hab lan lakhma dsunqanan yowmana
During the time of the Early Church ancient Aramaic and Hebrew versions of the Gospel were circulating in the Church. Christian Jews, such as the Nazoreans and the Ebionites preserved these ancient texts. St. Jerome, while studying the Lord's Prayer, referenced one of these ancient manuscripts. Jerome was fluent in all three languages of the Bible, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Jerome in his commentary on Matthew says, "In the so-called Gospel of the Hebrews (in the Lord's Prayer), instead of "the bread we need for the day" I found "Mahar," which means "for tomorrow," so that the sense is " Provide us today with the bead we need for tomorrow"-This is, for the future." He translates this passage from the Aramaic as, "Our Bread for Tomorrow, give us today." Jesus tells his disciples to live one day at a time and not to be worried about tomorrow. This is found in Mark 6: 31-43, "therefore do not worry saying, "What shall we eat?", or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" For all these things do the heathen seek. For your heavenly father knows you need all these things. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about it's own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." This passage has a dual meaning. God wants us to brings our needs to him. He is concerned about these needs. But there is also a deeper meaning.
Jesus is the Bread from heaven. He is our needful bread. Moses says, "Man cannot live by bread alone; but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God" (Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus says, "Do not labor for the bread that perishes, but for the bread which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man [Aramaic "Bar Nasha" another Aramaic power-word.] will give you, because God has set his seal upon him" (John 6: 27). Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger and he believes in me shall never thirst" (John 6:35). Jesus is the food for the soul and the only food that can satisfy the soul. Jesus said at the synagogue in Capernaum, "Amen, I say unto you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed" (John 6:53-54). Jesus had earlier told this truth to the apostles but they did not comprehend it. He said, "I have food to eat, of which you do not know…My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work" (John 4:32-34).
Joachim Jeremias shows us there are two "we petitions" (for bread and forgiveness).The two "thou" petitions are for our Father's Kingdom and his will. In a sense they are eschatological. We look back to the Last Supper of Jesus in the request for bread but also forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19: 7-8; Luke 22:16). The scripture declares, "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God" (Luke 14: 15). Ken Hemphill noted, " In order to think and pray this way, we must first shake off the false notion that life is somehow separated into two distinct compartments-the secular and the sacred-and that the practical needs of everyday life occupy one place, while Christian faith and its responsibilities occupy another. The early Church didn't see it that way. When you read Paul's words in chapter eleven of 1 Corinthians (vv. 17-34), you get the idea that the first century Christians combined their Lord's Supper observance with the enjoyment of a potluck dinner. That observation is not far from the truth. The "breaking of bread' was a crucial part of their lives together, for it helped sustain many of the early believers…Their gatherings had both physical and spiritual significance."
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
Washboq lan hawbayn aykanan dap hanan shwaqnan l-hayawayn
It has been noted by Sebastian Brock, Joachim Jeremias and other respected Aramaic scholars of the New Testament that Haebain, which literally means "debts" is peculiar to the Aramaic language in its own Semitic, early Palestinian context. Here in the prayer, the term for "debt"-hauba- is a metaphor for "sin", "error", "guilt", "fault", "offense", "mistake", and "transgression". And the word hayawein literally signifies "debtors" but denotes "sinners," "offenders," and "transgressors". We also find this peculiar use of the Aramaic term hauba ("debt") for "sin" and "guilt" in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
When Jesus finished giving the Lord's Prayer for the first time he immediately began to teach his disciples about forgiveness. Jesus says blessed are the merciful. Jesus preached about the necessity for forgiving others again and again. It isn't an easy thing to do because of evil people in the world who have hurt others wrongfully. Naturally we want to be angry, to get even, to avenge ourselves. This is evil and self-destructive. As Christians we must do for others what God has done for us, as He has forgiven us even though we don't deserve it. Those who cannot forgive cannot be forgiven by God, they poison themselves and put themselves in Satan's Power. When we sin, we sin against God. When David sinned with Bathsheba he sinned against himself, Bathsheba and the nation of Israel, since as King it was his duty to exemplify the Law of God. But David says, "Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight" (Psalm 51: 4). David is focusing here on the fact that all sins are sins against God. The writer of Hebrews reminds us "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God…For our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 10:31, 12:29).
Lead us not into temptation
Wa la talain lnesyona
Jacob the Righteous, the Brother of Jesus, stressed the fact that God does not tempt anyone to sin (James 1:13-17). Ericco Rocco, a lecturer on Aramaic as the language of Jesus stated, "In this phrase of the prayer, ta-alon means "to enter'. Thus, the line correctly reads, "Do not let us enter into temptation." Jesus used the same word when he told his apostles, "Wake up and pray, that you may not enter (ta-alon) into temptation" (Mt. 26:41). Jesus was tempted in all ways such is the manner of all men and yet was without sin (Hebrews 4: 15). Jesus went into the desert to be tempted by the devil. When he returned in victory he recounted his victory to his students.
Satan knows our weakness and how to tempt us. Hugh Schonfield noted, "If one were to inquire what was chiefly present to the mind of the multitude during this period [of Christ's ministry], one would receive a three-fold answer: 1. food, for the people were often starving; 2. faith in God's miraculous intervention in their dire need; 3. assurance that the proud heathen would ere long be subject to a redeemed Israel. It was on thee three counts that Jesus…was tempted in the wilderness." Jesus was tempted in all ways such as we are and yet was without sin. Scripture warns us to beware of the devices of the devil.
But deliver us from evil
Ella passan min beesha
We must be aware that we battle spiritual forces. Jesus interceded for Peter (Luke 22: 31-32). Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." Jesus teaches us here that every time we pray we are engaging in spiritual warfare. (Jesus prayed for those who were close to him, and so should we. Jesus also blessed his food and so should we. See Luke 24: 30.) Our society needs to be delivered from evils. Evils such as pornography, sexual promiscuity, divorce, abortion, homosexuality, greed, destruction of the environment and Islamic terrorism. Jesus in his ministry warred against the kingdom of Satan. Jesus was often casting out devils. Christ also preached a message of repentance and compelled his disciples to turn away from a life of sin and do good works. Paul taught us, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age. Against spiritual hosts of wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).
For thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory Forever. Amen.
Mittol d'lakh hee malkootha wa khaylan w tishbookhta alalam almeen Amen.
Some scholars feel that this Benediction is not actually part of the original prayer but was added to it latter on. They believe this because the Benediction is not in the Lord's Prayer in Luke and isn't found in certain very ancient manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew. Joachim Jeremias noted the importance of the Benediction in The Prayers of Jesus,
Clement of Alexandria has preserved a saying of Jesus which is not written in the gospels. It says, "Ask ye for the great things, so will God give you the little things." You are praying falsely, saying to the Lord, always your prayers are moving in a circle around your small "I", your own needs and troubles and desires. Ask for the great things-for God's almighty glory and kingdom and God's great gifts, the bread of life and the endless mercy of God, may be granted to you-even here, even now, already today. That does not mean that you may not bring your small personal needs before God, but they must not govern your prayer, for you are praying to your Father. He knows all. He knows what things his children have need of before they ask him, and he adds them to his great gifts. Jesus says, "Ask you for the great things, so God will grant you the little things." The Lord's Prayer teaches us to ask for the Great things.
There are some other accounts in the New Testament that do not have adequate manuscript support, in the opinion of certain Bible scholars. This includes the account of the woman taken in adultery in John 8 and the Resurrection account in Mark. These accounts are authentic and inspired scripture and have been accepted as such by the church. The Benediction is part of Sacred Scripture.
The Path to Happiness
The Beatitudes in the Original Aramaic
According to The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version, "The beatitudes take their name from the Latin term beati, used to translate the Greek word, makarios. The corresponding Hebrew word is ashre…The language of the beatitudes is performative; performative language means that the words accomplish what they say. When the minister says, "I now pronounce you husband and wife," that declaration makes it so. When the judge says, "I sentence you to six months in jail," that statement is the fact. Analogously, when Jesus says, "I declare you poor to be in God's special favor," that is a performative statement. In English we can achieve that sense by translation, "Congratulations, you poor! God's domain belongs to you."" Spiros Zodhiates in The Beatitudes: The Pursuit of Happiness that the word "blessed" (makarioi in Greek) refers "to the one whose sufficiency is within him, while "happy" refers to one whose sufficiency comes from outside sources. The New Testament says that he is "blessed' who is God-sufficient, in whose heart Christ dwells, whom he has accepted as his Savior. For such a one, the outside circumstances of life do not affect his inner peace and poise. By contrast, the happy person depends on good fortune to keep him smiling. "Happy" comes from the word "hap," meaning "chance." It is therefore incorrect to translate the word makarioi (which we find repeatedly in the Beatitudes) as "happy." It means something far different, in its real sense; it means "blessed." The Lord Jesus and the New Testament, therefore, do not promise us good fortune, on which happiness depends, but blessedness, which is a direct result of God's work in our hearts through His Son. The message of the New Testament is that you may have everything that this world has to offer and still not be blessed (or call it happy, if you wish, as long as you mean by it an inner peace of soul). But when you have God in your heart through Jesus Christ, then good or bad fortune is incidental; in fact, it is hardly fortune anymore; it is Divine Providence." The meaning of "hap" meaning "chance" is seen in expressions such as "it so happened," "a mishap" and "happenstance." True and lasting happiness is found in trusting Jesus as Lord and also in following his teachings. The happiness that Jesus taught of is the deep and abiding happiness that withstands the hardships of life and endures into eternity. I have often asked certain African American friends of mine how they are doing and they often reply that they are blessed and thank the Lord for the blessing of being able to wake up and get out of bed in the morning. Too often we take for granted the many of the simple blessings that God has blessed us with.
Happiness and Blessedness is a choice, it is a state of mind and a state of being. To find happiness and balance in life we need to make Christ's Beatitudes to be our attitudes. (The word "beatitude" is not etymologically related to the word "attitude." It only rhymes with this word. The root word for "beatitude" is beati, the Latin word for "blessed." A beatitude is a statement that brings blessedness, in contrast with a platitude, which is a statement void of true meaningfulness.) Jesus lays out for us a system, a structure for our lives in which we take his path to happiness. This inward peace that comes from following the teachings of Jesus gives us a peace and a stability that can withstand the storms and turmoil of life. By following the method of Jesus we can discover a peace in life that no one and nothing can take away from us.
Blessed in Hebrew is Ashira and in Aramaic it is Tuwehon. Another word for "Blessed" or "Fortunate" in Aramaic is Barikha. In the Hebrew tradition not only does God bless his people, people bless the Lord their God continually. Tuwahon could be translated "Happy are those", "Blessed are they", "Fortunate are they", "Favored are those who…" or "Praiseworthy are the…", or "O the Bliss of those..." and even "Congratulations!" Tuwa in Aramaic (the cognate of the Hebrew tov) means "happy" or "blessed".
Among the Dead Sea Scrolls there was found a scroll that is called the Beatitude Scroll. It is written in the Hebrew language. The Beatitudes Scroll is Dead Sea Scroll number 4Q525. It reads, "[Blessed is he]…with a pure heart and does not slander with his tongue. Blessed are those who hold to her [Wisdom's] precepts and no not hold to the works of iniquity. Blessed are those who rejoice in her, and do not burst forth in ways of folly. Blessed are those who seek her with pure hands, and do not pursue her with a treacherous hear. Blessed is the man who has attained Wisdom, and walks in the Law of the Most High…" (See Geza Vermes The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Allen Lane, The Penguin Press 1997, p. 424.) Both this Dead Sea Scroll and the teachings of Jesus on blessedness have a precedent in the Old Testament. Psalm 1:1 reads, "Blessed is the man who walks no in the counsel of the ungodly…but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night…" Several other Psalms and a few Proverbs pronounce the Blessedness but not in the structure used by Jesus or the Dead Sea Beatitude Scroll.
Tuwahoon, the Aramaic word translated as "Blessed" also means "Happy" or "Good". Many people are searching for happiness. Some people try to find it in money, houses and cars. Others try to find happiness and security in relationships and try to gain peoples' esteem. Many men and women try to find happiness and love and acceptance in sex or other venues of 'fun'. Others turn to drugs to gain fleeting pleasures and enjoyment out of life. This philosophy of hedonism, which our world currently ascribes to, is destructive not only to individuals but to society as a whole and it is even harming future generations. Where does one find a lasting happiness? There is more to life than the self and part of the reason for so much un-happiness is that many people are unaware of a higher purpose for life. And so we have despair, such terrible despair that many turn to self-destruction, in self-destructive life-styles and suicide. (As the Rolling Stones sang, "I can't get no satisfaction.") God is a good God and there is a better way. Besides this, don't we all want to be happy? All of us should want a blessing from God. When we love others, such as our children, we want them to be blessed of God too. This illustrates the importance of philosophy. If you don't think for yourself, others will think for you. Societies operate through basic philosophical assumptions that are usually unquestioned. Many people are unhappy because they operate their lives under an impractical, non-working philosophy of life. Jesus gives us the key to happiness that is found in His philosophy of life that he has presented to us in the Beatitudes. Christians ought to possess the mind of Christ. We must not be worldly or carnal in our thinking. There is an anti-Christ mindset and un-Christian mentality that is taken hold of the world. Our world-view should be shaped by the Bible and by the morality of Jesus Christ and his holy apostles. Christian thought should be optimistic, positive and heavenly. We are told in the scripture that we should not be conformed to the world but transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Jesus is the road to happiness. In his life and person he exemplified to us what happiness is and in his instruction he told us how to achieve that happiness. The Patriarch Jacob, the son of Isaac, serves as an example for us. He wrestled with God and would not let go until God blessed him. He received that blessing as God desired. We to need to wrestle to achieve a blessing from God, we need to wrestle against our sinful desires in our flesh, to wrestle to understand the words of Jesus and to wrestle in prayer until the light of God shines all around us.
Blessed are the Poor
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Tuweihom Lmiskeena Bruh
D'deilohnie Malkutha Deshmayya
Early Christian Jews were called the Ebionites, meaning 'the Poor'. Paul calls the early Christian Jews of Israel the Poor Saints of Jerusalem (Romans 15:26). Jesus, his brother James the Righteous and other writers of the New Testament including Rabbi Paul of Tarsus warn of the evils of wealth. Jesus often preached against Mammon, which is an Aramaic term for the wickedness of materialism and greed. In our culture and in our day and age we minimize this teaching of Jesus. In fact many false teachers proclaim a new gospel that contradicts the message of Jesus. This they style as the "prosperity gospel". In this pernicious deceit we are urged to "name it and claim it" as if God exists to satisfy our every whim and desires for wealth, comfort and physical gratification. In Aramaic Miskene means a poor person. Rukh means "spirit" and is also used for the Holy Spirit (ruha d qudsha). It also means breath and soul. In this connotation rukh means pride. Christians ought to be humble and dependent upon God as our Heavenly Father.
Jesus' teachings concerning the blessedness of the poor remind us of his warnings about the evil of Mammon. On several occasions, often when hearing an evangelist or a preacher, preaching on tithing or making a special appeal for an offering, I have heard the claim that the overwhelming majority of Christ's teachings were on finance. So since this is so, the speaker implies, Jesus was practically a business man and thus we ought to occupy ourselves with economics and the accumulation of wealth, and of course giving a significant portion of our wealth to the evangelist's particular ministry. After all, this must be the will of Jesus since he was always talking about making investments, or somehow relating his teachings to business transactions. These evangelists are misleading people and have questionable motives. I doubt it is of God to appeal to peoples' greed in order to compel them the give. Certain evangelists suggest that offerings or tithes are a good investment because God will ensure you get a good return. Jesus says we should give without expecting to get anything back at all. God's blessings aren't always financial blessings. I do believe tithing is Biblical and Jesus himself said that it is something that we ought not to leave undone. However, there are more important matters. I have even heard a preacher comment on the seamless robe Christ wore in John 19:23 and he said that it proved that Jesus was materialistic and a lover of luxury! (It was probably an expensive robe. If it was it was probably given to him as a gift from Joanna or Mary Magdalene. Jesus had "no where to lay his head" according to Matthew 8:20.) To find out Jesus' teachings we must do two things. First, explore the scriptures and secondly look at the meaning of the Aramaic term Mammon. This is particularly important. Attention is called to this word in that it is an Aramaic word that is left un-translated both in the original Greek and in our English translation. With "mammon" we have what is called the Ipissimo Vox, or Ipissimo Verbo, the actually words of Jesus as he spoke them in his original Aramaic. Mammon is the Aramaic word for "riches" or "wealth". It is pronounced Mamona. Jesus spoke of the "mammon of unrighteousness". In Aramaic it is wealth personified as like an evil god. In the Greek of the New Testament the equivalent Greek word, Plutos, from Pluto, who was the Greek god of wealth and of death. The Harper Collins Study Bible New Revised Standard Version notes, "The retention of the Aramaic word mammon contributes to the personification of wealth as an evil master." You cannot serve God and Mammon (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16: 13). Jesus warns us about he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God (Luke 12:21). Jesus reminds us that it is difficult for the rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23, 24, Luke 6:24). It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus said what is impossible with man is possible for God. Jesus condemned the rich who flaunted their wealth in their offerings (Luke 21:1, Mark 12:41). Jesus told us the parable of the rich fool in Luke Chapter 12. Life is very short and passes away like a shadow. The rich inquirer went away sorrowful because he loved mammon more than God (Mark 10:25). But with God all things are possible. Jesus did have rich disciples such as Nicodemas, Joseph of Arimathea, Joseph Barnabas and John the Priest. He asked John the priest to look after his mother as he was dying on the cross. In the incident of the cleansing of the temple in John 2:13-22 Jesus says, "Take these THINGS from here! Do not make my Father's house a house of MERCHANDISE!" The temple court where this was being done at was the court of the gentiles, where Yahweh's house was to be a 'house of prayer for all nations' instead they had made it to a market, or a 'den of thieves'. The chief priests were making people change coins and purchase animals for sacrifice within the temple precincts. Part of the reason was so the priests could fix the prices. In the Parable of the Sower the weeds, mammon, choke the growth of the seed. In Matthew 13: 21 Jesus explains, "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches [mammon] choke the word and it becomes unfruitful."
Richard Owen Roberts warns the reader in his book entitled Revival of the dangers of Mammon to the follower of Jesus.
When a professed Christian begins to focus on money, cars, houses, lands, stocks, bonds and adornments, he is clearly on the course of a backslider. The Bible does not condemn the possession of money or of goods, neither does it prohibit their broad use, but in no uncertain language it forbids the love of money and a heart attachment to things, The believer is expected to live as a pilgrim who is passing through this world of goods. He must not attach his heart to that which is perishing, but set his affection on things above. He must lay his treasures up in heaven where moth and rust cannot corrupt and where thieves cannot break through and steal.
Jesus grew up impoverished and exploited. At the time of Jesus almost half of the common peoples' money went to pay taxes and tithes. Jesus was a member of a large family. Joseph and Mary had to support seven and perhaps as many as eight children. Almost everyone in the village of Nazareth was in debt. Jesus was angry when he went to the cities and saw how the wealthy enriched themselves by exploiting the poor. Paul warns us, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment. Let us be therewith content. But those who would be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil; and while some have coveted after it, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, o man of God, flee these things and follow after righteousness, faith, love, patience, meekness." (1 Timothy 6:10).
In Revelations, the Church of Laodicea became wealthy and materialistic. Jesus, as the Son of Man, rebuked them and said, "Thou sayest, "I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing," and knowest not that thou are wretched and miserable, and poor and blind and naked" (Revelations 3:14-22). The church of materialism and greed actually locked Jesus out of his own church! Jesus says to them, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in" (Revelations 3:20). Jesus said, "You cannot serve God and mammon" (Luke 16:13). The church of Laodicea chose to worship mammon and kicked Christ out. Many churches today are churches of Laodicea and worship Mammon rather than our Lord Jesus. Peter also warns us about the wickedness of the false mammon. When someone offered him money to corrupt and bribe him, he stated, "Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought the gift of God may be purchased with money. [One translation says "May you and your money be damned to hell!"] Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God that perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity" (Acts 8: 20-23). We should also note that Ananias and Sapphira were smitten dead because of their pride and greed and their dealing falsely with God and his holy church and holy apostles over the matter of money (Acts 5: 1-11).
Perhaps no one knew Jesus better than his younger brother James the Just. James was so highly esteemed and of such a humble disposition that he was the head of the church (not Peter). Let us listen to what James says about Mammon. "Do not the rich oppress you and drag you to the courts? Do they not blaspheme the noble name by which you are called?...Come know, you rich, weep and howl for you miseries that are coming upon you!" (James 2:6-7, 5: 1). In the United States, the rich, actors, "news" broad-casters, and federal court justices, tirelessly wage war against Jesus Christ and his holy apostolic church.
Now let us look at certain parables that seem to take a more positive view of money: actually none of Jesus' parables are presented as economic advice instead they illustrate eternal spiritual truths. In the parable of the Talents, and of the Minas (Matthew 25: 14-30 and Luke 19:11-27) we have servants who go out and invest money but the point of the story is to apply our gifts, or use our talents for the Lord. We also have the parable of the Lost Coin and the Pearl of Great Price (Luke 15:8-10, Matthew 13:45-46). The point Messiah makes is that heaven is worth looking for and heaven is worth sacrificing everything for, not money. The people who came up with these 'statistics' are being disingenuous because even the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins is loosely about money (the foolish virgins had to go and buy oil, Matthew 25:1-13)! Jesus is speaking spiritual truths and he is not encouraging the love of money and luxury. Money and material objects will pass away with this world and the lusts of this world. What has not only lasting but eternal value is love, kindness and works of righteousness. Knowing God and offering your heart to him is the offering that God desires and will not despise. God desires for his children to be blessed, even financially, and he wants us to have wisdom, even financial wisdom. The Lord's will for us is neither to follow the way of greed nor to worship mammon.
In the Beatitude Matthew has "blessed are the poor in spirit." Isaiah 15:15 the Lord Yahweh declares, "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." In Psalm 51: 17 the Prophet David declares, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken spirit and a contrite heart –these, O God, you will not despise."
In Modern Aramaic it is Tuwa l meskene d ruha, diyay ila malkutha de shmayya. In Luke's version it is Tuwa ellokhu meskene diyokhun ila malkutha d alaha. "Blessing to the poor" and then "Blessings on you who are poor". To the humble, or to those who humble themselves unto God, is promised the Kingdom of Heaven, which is also called the Kingdom of God. Jesus' teaching of the Kingdom of God is the center of his teaching.
Blessed are they that mourn
Blesses are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted
Paul of Tarsus states in his second epistle to the Corinthians, "godly sorrow produces repentance unto salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death" (2 Corinthians 7:10). In the book of the prophet Ezekiel it was the ones who mourned who were spared God's wrath when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. And the Lord said, "Go through the midst of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it" (Ezekiel 9:4). (It should be noted that a careful examination of the Hebrew text shows that God's elect who were marked here were marked with the sign of the cross.) The Aramaic can be translated "Happy are those that mourn!" The Beatitudes are eschatological that means they are concerned with the future and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Johannan (or John) the Revelator says, "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I will make all things new.'" And He said to me, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."" In the Old Testament the Psalmist says, "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psalm 126: 5-6).
Richard Owen Roberts comments on these passages saying, "Every true Christian is marked by spiritual humility. There is no way a growing Christian can conceive of himself as having arrived. Jesus spoke very eloquently on this theme in the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:3). Who are the poor in spirit but those who know how far they still have to go-those who, having seen God in his infinite majesty and holiness, realize how unlike God they are. While appreciative of every mercy received and grace practiced, the poor in spirit are ever aware that the graces they lack are far more numerous that the grace they enjoy, and the mercy they show is nothing in comparison to there mercy they themselves experience. To Jesus' own word on the poor in spirit must be tied Jesus' word to those that mourn. They too are blessed for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4). Those who mourn are those who, having seen God as He is, then see themselves as they are. What can the mean who compares himself with God do but mourn?" Jesus recognizes that there is a place for weeping, as he himself wept (John 11:35). But Jesus says to the weepers, he happy, Rejoice! For God is here to comfort you. He is not willing for you to be consumed or destroyed by sorrows. Sometimes tears lead to happiness. In the Gnostic Gospel of Judas Christ is depicted as often laughing in a mocking manner at the disciples' devotion to Jehovah God. The Jesus of the Bible weeps, as he did over Jerusalem. The Gnostic Jesus is a false Jesus and is the spirit of the Anti-Christ. In the Aramaic tradition Saint Isaac of Nineveh, of the "Nestorian" Church of the East, wrote of crying in the spirit, spiritual tears as the Holy Spirit fell upon him. St. Isaac of Nineveh, although an Assyrian, is popular among the Syrian, Greek and Russian Orthodox churches.
Near the time of the Feast of Tabernacles after the Babylonian Captivity Ezra read the Bible to the people and then he translated it into Aramaic so they could understand it. What was their reaction? They started crying! Why? Tears of joy for hearing the word of God in their own Aramaic language so they could understand it, but also sadness and despair at the grief of their sins and feelings of inadequacy, feeling that they could not live up to God's righteous standard. Nehemiah tells us that words of comfort were spoken to them, "Do not sorrow, for the Joy of the Lord [Yahweh] is your strength!" (Nehemiah 8:10). In Aramaic mourners, aweele, are also those who long deeply for something to occur, those who are troubled and in emotional turmoil. Nithbwyieun is Aramaic for "shall be comforted." According to Joachim Jeremias, a better translation from the Aramaic is, "Blessed are those who mourn for there is One who will comfort them."
Blessed are the meek
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
D'hinnon Nertoon Ar'a
In this passage Jesus quotes Psalm 37:11, which states, "The meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." This is contrasted with the wicked who, according to verse 9, will be "cut off". The Aramaic word is mekikhe but the Hebrew word in anaw, which describes the humble and submissive man, who accepts in uncomplaining faith and confidence what God sends him (as defined by William Barclay). Mekikhe is the Aramaic word for the kind and gentle man a man who is willing to abase himself and serve others. This is the meekness Christ wanted his disciples to learn when he washed their feet and the humility he showed when he willingly went to the cross for our sakes. He told his disciples, unless you humble yourselves and become as little children you cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 8:4-5) The first shall be last and the last first (Mark 10:31). He who exalts himself shall be humbled and he who humbles himself shall be exalted (Matthew 23:12).
Our modern society is so consumed with self-esteem, but sometimes we esteem ourselves too much. The devil torments people with self-loathing, self-doubt, excessive guilt and shame. God loves us, we are created in his image to his glory. God will lift us up but not to pride. In Aramaic makikhutha means 'humility'. Christ humiliated himself in coming to man, in coming not to be served but to serve and humiliated himself for our sakes in the suffering and the crucifixion. We still need to be humble. Foot-washing is humiliating, so we don't do it, although Jesus told us to (John 13:2-17). Public baptism by immersion has become in our society today humiliating also. Christ commands us to be humble and calls us to a life of debasing ourselves and being humble.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst
For they shall be filled.
Tuweihon lailen D'khapneen
Psalm 40: 6-7 contains a prophecy of the coming of the Anointed One of God (The Messiah or Christ). It says,
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire. My ears you have opened; burnt offering and sin offering you did not require. Then I said, "Behold, I come; in the volume of the Book that is written of me. I delight to do your will, O my God, and your Law is within my heart. I have proclaimed the Good News of righteousness in the great congregation. Indeed, I do not restrain my lips, O Lord, You yourself know. I have hidden your righteousness within my heart; I have declared your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your loving-kindness and your truth from the great congregation.
What is the Good News of Jesus? According to the Psalmist, it is the Good News of righteousness. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus proclaims the Law as the righteous standard of God. Jesus did not relax or lesson God's moral Law, in fact he brought it up to a higher standard. Jesus' focus was that the law is about Love and Happiness. We in love need to hunger and thirst after the things of God and for the daily spiritual sustenance. God is also concerned for our physical needs. He hears the cries of the suffering in the world and he cares. In Matthew's Gospel Jesus speaks to sinners on Judgment Day, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels, for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink" (Matthew 25:41-42). We ought to show compassion to the starving, no matter where they are. Christians are the ministers of his grace. Jesus gave food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty and so should we. But as Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4, he has the living water, the only thing that can satisfy the parched soul. Come to the well and drink! Jesus offers to give us righteousness in faith, but it isn't only an imputed righteousness but a faith that is manifested in good deeds to the glory of God. (The Living Water Jesus gives in the infilling of the Holy Spirit.) Kapnein means 'to hunger', the longing for strength and sustenance. Sehain means to thirst and carries a sense of being inwardly parched and dried out. Nisbun means to fill and to satisfy. Only Jesus Christ can satisfy the hungry spirit and the thirsty soul. (Note that the Psalm speaks of proclaiming the Gospel in the "Great Congregation." This is a prophecy of the Church that Christ would found.)
We can never be satisfied apart from the Lord. We are continually hungry and thirsty. Psalm 63:1, "O God, Thou art my God, early will I seek Thee, My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh longeth for thee, in a dry and thirsty land, where there is no water" God also thirsts for us. Jesus on the cross cried out, "I thirst". The Lord thirsts for a relationship between him and his children. "As the dear panteth for the water…so I thirst for you, my heart thirsts for you, O my God" (Psalm 42:1)
Blessed are the Merciful
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Daleihon Nihwon Rahme
Jesus told us as you would have others do unto you, do unto them. This is called the Golden Rule. God is a merciful God and he offers us forgiveness of our sins. We must also forgive those who sin against us. We must show mercy and forgiveness to others even if they don't deserve it because we ourselves do not deserve God's mercy. Those who belong to God's family must show forth his nature. In Aramaic 'mercy' is merakhmana. This is God's nature. God's nature is to forgive, love and to show mercy so it must be our nature as well. We proclaim God's Good News not only with what we say, but also with what we do. This is the challenge and the difficulty of being a Christian. It is hard and difficult thing to do. It is far easier and emotionally gratifying to hate and desire revenge. God is a just God and a judge, and so judgment is his prerogative and not ours. We must observe his Torah (Instruction) and this instruction given to us by Jesus. We as believers in the Messiah must overcome hatred, anger and desires for vengeance, release it and allow the love of God, the mercy of his great humility, to overwhelm you. We need to become lost in the mercy of God.
Mercy is also seen in the actions of many of the saints of God who give aide to the poor, the sick and those facing death. Christianity isn't about just believing, it is about doing. It is impossible for us to earn our salvation through good works. Salvation is found in receiving the freely given grace of God. John tells us, "But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in words or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:17-18). James also reminds us of this simple truth saying, "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (James 2: 15-17). Jesus gave as an example to us the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37). The one who shows mercy is the one who shows that he is a child of God. To show how relevant this story still is, I recently read of how a mountain climber climbing Mount Everest, lay in need of medical attention. Dozens of climbers saw him dieing and continued on their way to the top of the mountain, ignoring his pleas for help. To these evil people, it was more important to get to the top of the mountain than to save someone's life. Jesus said, speaking as the Son of Man, that when you fail to help "one of the least of these my brethren" you left the Son of Man to suffer and die. These mountain climbers will stand before Jesus and have to answer him for why they left Him to die on the mountainside so they wouldn't have to sacrifice their opportunity to climb to the top of a mountain. As Jesus is merciful and compassionate, so must we also be.
Blessed are the Pure in Heart
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Tuweihon Lalain Dakhein Blibkon
D'hinnon Nizon Lalaha
Beatitudes are attributes that lead to one being blessed. These are human personal qualities that people possess in their nature or can develop in it. This goes against the un-biblical Hyper-Calvinistic teaching of "Total Depravity of Every Single Human Being". While man is fallen there does remain in man the ability to do good. As Jesus said, "You, though you are evil know how to do good…" (Matthew 7:11). Psalm 24:4 says that, "He who has clean hands and a pure heart…he shall receive blessing from Yahweh." Psalm 73:1 declares, "Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart." Paul the Apostle taught that pagans know by their nature what is good and do it. Paul says, "When the Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things contained in the law, these, not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them" (Romans 2: 15-16). The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus Christ will judge every man and woman according to his or her works (Revelations 20:13, Matthew 16:27). I have known adherents of false religions who were moral, kind, generous and compassionate. They were not saved but they did good works and desired to do what is right. We are not saved by works but rather by grace and faith in Jesus Christ. Unbelievers are capable of doing good works. The reason for this is that man is noble in that he is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:28). Also, when man sinned he fell into the knowledge of "good and evil" (Genesis 2:17). So, man by nature knows good and evil and can choose between the two. Jesus did teach that many men have loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil (John 3:19). Some Arminians, such as John Wesley, have also taught "total depravity." An Arminian theologian has described this doctrine in the following manner:
Total depravity describes the desperate condition of fallen sinners apart from the grace of God. Sin has affected every facet of human personality to such an extent that we are incapable of doing good or loving God as we should. Our thinking is distorted, our emotions are deceptive and out of proportion, and are desires are unruly and misdirected. In this condition, we are bent on rebellion and evil and are completely unwilling to submit to God and his perfect will. Consequently, we deserve only God's wrath and eternal punishment. Sinners in this condition are so utterly helpless that they are accurately described as "dead in [their] transgressions and sins" (Eph.2:1). So pervasive and deadly is the effect of sin that they can no more respond to God or do his will that a corpse could respond is commanded to get up and walk.
(See Jerry L. Walls and Joseph R. Dongell Why I am not a Calvinist.) The Bible described Cornelius in his fallen and sinful state as "a devout man and one who feared God…who gave alms generously to the people, and who prayed to God always" (Acts 10: 2). It also says that in his wicked and sinful condition that his "prayers and…alms have come up as a memorial before God" (Acts 10:4). It is true that we are not saved by good works and that we cannot save ourselves through our own efforts. Jesus didn't say that you ought to or should or could be born again, he said "You must be born again" (John 3:7). Unless a person is born again, such a one cannot see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). This means that you cannot go to heaven unless you have a spiritual change of heart. If you trust in Jesus, God gives you a new heart and the promise of living with him in heaven forever. Without Christ, man is in a fallen, lost and sinful state. "Total Depravity" is a slogan that illustrates a spiritual truth. However, if taken literally, the slogan is neither true nor Biblical. All one has to do to see the wickedness in the heart of man is to turn on the television or surf the internet. Without God, what is in the heart of man? Lust, materialism, greed, pride, hatred, anger, revelry and many other sins are in the heart of man. Man is clearly in need of redemption. We have all sinned and have inherited a human nature predisposed to sin. The reason Jesus died on the cross was to set us free from the terrible penalties of our sins and also to give us a clean heart.
How many of us have a pure heart? The Bible says that the heart is desperately wicked and who can know it (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus said it wasn't what goes in the mouth that corrupts a man but what comes out of it (Mark 7:14-23). For with the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). What are you full of? Are you full of grace, happiness, and love or anger, hatred, lust and desires for revenge? God can give you a new heart, if you desire it and open your blinded eyes that you may see the Lord. What is and where is your heart? (In Aramaic heart is 'libba.') Thaddeus, the founder of the Assyrian church had a Aramaic nickname, Lebbeus. This meant basically that he was called "Great Heart." Thaddeus was a man with a big heart and so Jesus and Saint Thomas sent him to save Assyria.
Pure is clean. This is why we are baptized. This is to make an outward sign of an inward change. By the Blood of Jesus and the grace of the Holy Spirit, the sins and filth of our heart are purified. Jesus wants to purify your heart and soul. Let him.
"They will see" in Aramaic is bihzon. It should be the fervent desire of our heart to desire to see God. James the Just, Jesus' brother, says that to those who desire to see God, that is to those who will draw near to God (James 4:8), God will draw dear unto them. God desires for people to seek after him. He desires to be found and to form a relationship with those whose hearts desire is to know God. Psalm 51 speaks of a broken and contrite heart is that which God desires. Believers should have steadfast heart. But we also have a guarded heart. We should protect our hearts from being poisoned from evil. God's Holy Spirit and his grace are always available as an antidote. The bible declares that without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
Blessed Are the Persecuted
Blessed are those who are persecuted for
Righteousness sake, For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Tuweihon lailein Ditrip mithol Kenootha
D'dailon le Malkutha D'shmaya
Jesus spoke in depth about persecution. This is his longest beatitude. He said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Jesus told his disciples that this would happen, "If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you" (John 15: 18). Now we see Christians suffering and dieing for Jesus. In Egypt, Iraq, Indonesia, and the Sudan believers are being slaughtered for Jesus. The world looks the other way, yet their blood cries out. In America and Europe society is becoming hostile to Christianity. Today, we have "toleration" and "pluralism", anything goes, except the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. Anything to do with the Christian faith is the subject of censure and ridicule. This is a spiritual conflict. We must fight this battle and attempt to win the world for Christ. We will encounter tribulation until the consummation of the Kingdom of God.
Who gains the Kingdom? Those who are persecuted for the sake of Kenootha or zaddick, justice and righteousness. Jesus suffered the greatest persecution. In this he purchased our salvation. Now, we know that Jesus, who is God Himself, knows what it is to suffer. We need to consider him who endured such opposition of sinners to glorify our God.
As I write Assyrians and Chaldeans are suffering terrible persecution for the sake of the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in their own homeland of Iraq and Iran. The Aramaic Christians have suffered much for Jesus throughout their history. Now I believe that it is time for the Christian world to be informed and to act on their behalf. (Books such as Paul Marshall's Their Blood Cries Out and Nina Shea's In the Lions Den describe persecution of Christians in the world today. The ministry The Voice of Martyrs exists to increase awareness of persecution of Christians around the world.)
The San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble has done a beautiful job of putting the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer in the Original Aramaic to music in the album "Ancient Echoes." They used only musical instruments from the time of Christ on this album. The Assyrian Church of the East also has their Aramaic hymns available on CD.