Stephen Andrew Missick
Copyright 2006 Stephen Andrew Missick
Introduction: "The Words of Life"
"To where shall we go? It is you that has the words of life!" (John 6:68)
As I was ascending the slope of the mountain, I slipped and fell into the snow. This wasn't everyone's popular conception of the Middle East. I had wisely prepared. I was wearing my leather jacket and my combat boots from my days in the military. My head was wrapped up in a shemagh or keffiyah, the Arabic head covering (also called a ghutra) and I was also wearing gloves. Having lived in Egypt, I knew that the Middle East can get very cold. The snow was falling heavily and the biting cold wind pushed hard against me. Eventually, I made it to the Church of Saint Sergius and Bacchus, one of the oldest Christian churches in the world. I met and old acquaintance there, Evelyn. She is an Aramaic Christian who lives in the village of Maloula. Maloula is an important ancient Aramaic Christian community. Here in Maloula long ago, Saint Paul's disciple Tekla sought refuge among its people while fleeing persecution from the Romans. While I was speaking to Evelyn in this chapel, suddenly a group of Iraqi Christians also arrived. The, like the famous Saint Tekla, also had come here to find sanctuary from persecution. Since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, attacks against Iraq's native Christian population has escalated so much so that tens of thousands have fled for their lives. I met with these kind people, these Assyrian refugees, and we discussed the things of the Lord and worshiped in Aramaic, the language of Jesus, together. The Aramaic people of Maloula speak Western Aramaic, which belongs to the same dialect of Aramaic Jesus spoke. The Assyrians and Chaldeans still speak Eastern Aramaic. This form of Aramaic is also closely related to the Aramaic Jesus spoke. In their religious services the Christians of Mesopotamia use a form of Aramaic that is called Syriac. This form of Aramaic is very ancient. Syriac Aramaic is no longer spoken. It is only used in scriptural readings and in worship services. It is almost identical to the Aramaic Jesus spoke.
Many people around the world are searching for a new spirituality. I've heard several people say that they are "spiritual" but not religious. Even Christians are spiritually hungry and are searching for a more pure and authentic Christianity. Many are looking to understand Jesus within the context of the Jewish culture to which he had belonged. Jesus was a Rabbi, a Jewish religious leader. In Aramaic the word is Rabi, and means 'teacher." A school-teacher, a professor or a learned man is addressed as 'Rabi' by the Assyrian Aramaic Christians. Another word for teacher in Aramaic is 'Malpana." The Apostles, or messengers (shlikha in Aramaic) of Jesus went and preached to the Assyrians, Chaldeans, the Babylonians and all the people of Mesopotamia. The Assyrians took this ancient wisdom and refer to those holy men who brought it to them, who were Thomas the Israelite philosopher and also Thaddeus, who brought his "malphanatha" or doctrine. This wisdom they brought was imparted to them by Jesus the Great Sage who brings true enlightenment. Jesus was part of the tradition of wise men of the east. In ancient times wise men from Egypt, Babylonia and from among the Arabs composed many proverbs and maxims. King Solomon, the son of David, was considered the greatest of these sages. Jesus was the heir to this tradition, as he was to the throne of Solomon and David. Jesus, as the Messiah, brought the highest wisdom of almighty God. Jesus reminded his listeners of the Queen of Sheba who sought out the wisdom of Solomon. Jesus said, "she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here" (Matthew 12:42, KJV). The wisdom taught by Jesus goes beyond what you think, belief or say, it effects how you live out your daily life. Jesus said, "wisdom is justified of her children" (Matthew11:19). The life of Jesus is the most important life ever lived. The words of Jesus are the most important words ever spoken. As this is so, these words should be carefully studied, as they were originally spoken in the Aramaic language. I believe it is vital we go back to the source, the words of Jesus in the original Aramaic. Through the Aramaic I believe we discover the Word of Power and the original and authentic message of Jesus the Messiah. The spoken word was very important in ancient Semitic cultures. In the Bible it is through the spoken word that the Lord created the Universe (Genesis 1:3). One of the titles for Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1-18, Revelations19:11-16). The words of Jesus, and indeed the rest of the scriptures as well, began as a spoken word. It is necessary to understand the oral culture in which the words of Jesus originated in order to understand the words of Jesus completely. The spoken word was an important theme in the teachings of Jesus and of his apostles. Jesus taught that it is not what goes into the mouth (what you eat), but instead what comes out of it, (what you say) that renders a man unclean (Matthew 15:1). Jesus instructed his followers that "by your words you shall be justified and by your words you shall be condemned" (Matthew 12:37). James the brother of Jesus also reminds us the importance of the words we speak, both for good and ill (James 3:1-12). God's word is eternal. The Bible says, "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of God shall stand forever" (Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:25). While "tongues will cease" (I Corinthians 13:8) Jesus taught that "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35). In this book I have two aims, first to introduce the Aramaic language and its importance in a way that is easy to understand and also to show how the Aramaic words of Jesus are not only relevant for today's Christian, but also important in this modern age. My second aim to introduce the modern Aramaic people, their history, their heritage and their current desperate plight.
Speaking of the ancient people of Aram (Aram means Syria) who were the original Aramaic people, William C. Martin in The Layman's Bible Encyclopedia: A Non-Denominational, Biblically Centered, Scholarly in Presentation, Written for the High and Holy Purpose of Encouraging Laymen to Read, Study and Understand the Scriptures says,
Perhaps the greatest contribution left by the Arameans was their language, which we call Aramaic. From the 9th century BC until New Testaments times, Aramaic was used as the common language of international commerce and diplomacy. It is referred to in 2 Kings 18:26. Jesus himself doubtlessly spoke Aramaic. In fact, New Testament references to the Hebrew language probably refer not to Hebrew as we know it, but to the closely related Aramaic.
What exactly is the Aramaic language? Aramaic is closely related to the Hebrew language. It is not Hebrew, nor is it a dialect of Hebrew. While Aramaic and Hebrew are very similar and share a great amount of vocabulary and have many cognates, they are nevertheless different languages. Aramaic is not Arabic. Aramaic is not Armenian. Aramaic is not yet an extinct or dead language. It is still spoken in certain circles, especially by the Assyrians and Chaldeans of Iraq, Iran and Syria. The Assyrians are the oldest Christian people and maintain a very primitive form of Christianity. Among the Assyrians, Aramaic, the ancient language of Abraham and Jesus, is maintained as a living language. If it were possible to travel back in time to the Holy Land of long ago and actually hear Jesus speaking in his own native Aramaic language, what would we learn? Perhaps the closest that we could come to doing this would be to travel to a rural Aramaic speaking village, to listen carefully to the people speak, and observe their customs and habits and carefully study the words of Jesus in this setting. This I have done. We can also investigate the Aramaic version of the New Testament and other scriptures that have come down to us in manuscripts written in Aramaic-the original tongue of Jesus and his followers. Aramaic has been overlooked by almost all of the worlds Christians, except for a handful of scholars and the small groups of Aramaic speaking Christians. I have been studying the Aramaic language and the Aramaic Christian heritage since 1991. I have been teaching Aramaic and lecturing on the topic since 2001. I have studied Aramaic from native speakers, especially when I was serving in the Iraq war during 2003 and 2004. I have visited many Aramaic speaking villages, mostly during my several journeys to Syria. Let us now look at the Language of the Kingdom, the Aramaic language, the language used by Jesus to proclaim his Good News.
The Languages of the Jewish People at the Time of Christ
Archeologists have discovered an ancient inscription that when translated from the Aramaic reads, "Hither were brought the bones of Uzziah, the King of Judah. Do not open!" This inscription has been scientifically dated to the time of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. It is important that such a public notice would be written in the Aramaic language. This was probably done so that it could be read and understood by the greatest number of people. King Uzziah was a godly king, although he was also over-zealous and presumptuous (Isaiah 6:1). Because of a sin of pride he was smitten with leprosy (2Kings 15:1-7, 2 Chronicles 26). King Uzziah loved the earth and protected the environment (2 Chronicles 26:10).Josephus also mentions the burial place of King Uzziah (Antiquities of the Jews IX 19:4).
Maurice Casey deals with the question of what languages were spoken in the Holy Land at the time of Jesus in his book Aramaic Sources of Mark's Gospel. Gustav Dalman deals with the same issues in his book The Words of Jesus.
- Jews translated the Old Testament into Aramaic paraphrases called the Targums. Most of the Targums we have although they represent an older oral tradition they were confined to writing after the time of Jesus. However Targums were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
- Aramaic is used in titles for classes of people and feasts in the New Testament and extra-biblical literature. Pharisee is from the Aramaic for "separate ones", Essene is from an Aramaic word. In the New Testament Passover is called "Pascha" from the Aramaic.
- In Rabbinic literature it is stated that Aramaic as well as Hebrew was used in the Temple.
- Certain official documents were written in Aramaic.
- The language of public documents, such as marriage decrees was in Aramaic.
- The adoption of the Old Square Aramaic alphabet as the Hebrew alphabet which replaced the original "Paleo-Hebrew". Certain of the Dead Sea Scrolls are written in Paleo-Hebrew. The Samaritans still use the original Hebrew alphabet.
- The Syntax and the vocabulary of the Hebrew of the Mishna prove themselves to be the creation of Jews who though in Aramaic.(I.E. the language we call Aramaic Josephus and the writers called Hebrew. However, sometimes Hebrew is meant, like in the book of Revelation.)
- The custom of calling Aramaic "Hebrew" in both the New Testament and Josephus.
The Qumran community was a monastery. In the Middle Ages in Europe monks wrote in Latin. Latin was a dead language. In a similar manner the Jewish monks at Qumran wrote in Hebrew. Many scrolls were written in Aramaic, the language of the people. Coptic and Arabic in Coptic monasteries in Egypt. Shows that Arabic was beginning to made inroads as the vernacular of the people. That there are so many scrolls in Aramaic shows that Aramaic was the language of the common people. The reason that the majority are in Hebrew is because Hebrew was the prestige language, the language of religion. One sixth of the Dead Sea Scrolls are in Aramaic, most are in Hebrew although very few are in Greek.
Through careful examination of the evidence it has been determined that when Josephus or the writers of the New Testament refer to the "language of the Hebrews," they are usually referring to the language that is now known as Aramaic. In modern translations such as New Living Translation and New International Version when Aramaic is referred to these translations clearly mention this language. In these instances these modern translations are accurate and clarify the meaning of the Greek texts.
Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH. THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write "the King of the Jews," but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews." Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written." (John 19: 19-22 NIV).
Note how that in this passage the Roman officer is surprised Paul speaks Greek. This shows us that the vast majority of the Jews in the Holy Land spoke only Aramaic and Hebrew and didn't know Greek. Since Paul spoke fluent Greek the officer assumed he was a foreigner, which he was. Paul was born and grew us in Tarsus, where both Greek and Aramaic were spoken.
"As Paul was about to be taken inside, he said to the commander, "May I have a word with you?" "Do you know Greek?" the commander asked, surprised. "Aren't you the Egyptian who led a rebellion some time ago and took four thousand members of the Assassins out into the desert?" "No Paul replied, "I am a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, which is an important city. Please, let me talk with these people." The commander agreed, so Paul stood on the stairs and motioned to the people to be quiet. Soon a deep silence enveloped the crowd, and he addressed them in their own language, Aramaic." Acts 21: 37-40 NLT.
"Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense." When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said, "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city…" Acts 22: 1-3 NIV
"We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to fight against my will." "Who are you, sir?" I asked. And the Lord replied, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting." (Acts 26; 14-15 NLT).
List of Aramaic as found in the New Testament
Terms of worship
And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. (Mark 14:36)
The Aramaic word "Abba" is also found in the writings of Paul in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6) Abba is an Aramaic loan word in modern Hebrew. The Hebrew word is "avi."
Eloi, Eloi lama sabachtani
And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi lema sabachtani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, for what have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34) See also Matthew 27:46. It Jesus had been speaking Hebrew he would have said, "Eli, Eli, lama azabanti."
Messiah. Moshiah in Hebrew and Meshikha in Aramaic
The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah." (That is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. (John 1:41-42 NIV)
The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes he will explalin everything to us." (John 4: 25 NIV)
"Maranatha" 1 Corinthians 16:22. See also Didache
Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Mark 11:9 This word means "Save now!" It is a Hebrew loan word in Aramaic. It also means "praise."
The Aramaic word for Passover, Pascha is used in the Greek text of the New Testament and not the Hebrew form, pesach. 1 Corinthians 5:7.
Titles and Names
Jesus saith unto her, Mary, She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabbouni; which is to say, Master. (John 20:16)
So Jesus answered and said unto him, "What do you want Me to do for you?" The blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, that I may receive my sight" (Mark 10:51, NKJV)
The Rabbinic title "Rabban" is of Aramaic origin.
Then Jesus turned and seeing two of them following said to them, "What do you seek?" They said to Him, "Rabbi" (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), "where are you staying?" (John 1:38)
The word Rabbi is used as a title of Jesus in Matthew 26:25, 49, Mark 9:5, 11;21, 14:45, and John 1:49, 4:31, 6:25, 9;2, 11:8.
In Aramaic Rabi means "teacher" or "professor." Assyrian school children call their school teachers "rabi."
Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter). NIV footnote: Both Cephas (Aramaic) and Peter (Greek) mean rock. John 1:42. (See also 1 Corinthians 1:12)
(A note about Bar: The Aramaic word for "son of" is Bar. The Hebrew word for "son of" is Ben.)
Peters other Aramaic name
Matthew 16:17, John 1:42 (Son of John)
And James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, and he gave them the name Boanerges, which is Sons of Thunder. (Mark 3:17)
Simon Peter, Thomas called Twin, Nathaniel of Cana in Galilee, the sonsof Zebedee, and two other of his disciples were gathered together. (John 21:2)
Canaanean means Zealot, which means "terrorist" or "insurgent." (Mark 3:18)
"And also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) out of whom seven demons had some out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. (Luke 7: 2-3 NIV) Magdala is the Aramaic word for "tower."
Thaddeus and Lebbeus
(Matthew 10:3) Thaddeus means "breast" or "nipple" and Lebbeus, or Libba, means "heart."
In Joppa, there was a disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. (Acts 9:36). This Aramaic name means Gazelle.
Martha in Aramaic means "Lady" Luke 10:38-41. John 11:1-39, John 12:2.
This is the Aramaic form of the name Eliazer. (Luke 16:20-25, John 11: 1-43, 12:1-17.
Matthew 10:3. Son of Ptolomey or perhaps "son of furrows" or "son of the ploughman."
Barabbas means "Son of the Father," He was the one whom was chosen by the crowds to be released instead of Jesus the Messiah. Jesus Barabbas was a terrorist and a murderer (Matthew 27:16)
Barsabbas was considered as a candidate to be numbered among the Twelve Apostles (Acts 1:23). His name means "Son of the Sabbath," probably because he was born on a Sabbath day.
This Barsabas was sent to Antioch carrying a letter from the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 15: 22). He was a prophet (Acts 15:32)
Joseph Barnabas (Acts 4:36) from Bar-Nava meaning "Son of Prophecy," translated as "The Son of Encouragement" or "The Son of Consolation." This was the companion of Saint Paul.
Bar-Jesus (Acts 13:6)
This was the name of Elymas, the wicked magician who opposed Paul in Cyprus. His name means "Son of Jesus." At the time of Christ, Jesus, or more accurately Joshua, was a common name. Today, as it is among the Spanish people, Assyrian people still used Jesus as a common name. in Aramaic Jesus is Yeshua, or Yeshu. In modern Assyrian Aramaic it is pronounced as Esho. It is derived from the Hebrew name "Yehoshua."
Bartimaeus, of Son of Timaeus, was the name of a blind man healed by Jesus (Mark 10:46)
Niger means carpenter in Aramaic, but in Greek it means "black," (Acts 13:1)
Silas was the Aramaic name of Paul's companion. He was a "chief man" and a "prophet" (Acts 15:40). The Latin name Silas used was "Silvanus." Silvanus refers to a forest. Silas is from the Aramaic word "to ask."
Names of places
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane. Matthew 26:36 see also Mark 14:32.
In Aramaic it is Gath-shemane meaning "the oil press" or the "oil vat" in reference to olive oil.
When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge's seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). John 19: 13.
Josephus in The Jewish War V. ii. 1:51 states that Gabbatha meand "high place' or "elevated place."
Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.) Here they crucified him, and with him two others-one on each side and Jesus in the middle. (John 19: 17-18). See also Mark 15:22.
And this became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that field was called, in their own dialect, Akeldama, that is Field of Blood. (Acts 1:19)
Now there is in Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda. (John 5:2, NIV)
This word is believed to mean in Aramaic "place of poured waters," according to Bruce Chilton or "Place of Alkaline Salt," according to Hugh Schonfield.
Have no fear of those who kill the body, but can by no means kill the soul. Fear him instead who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. (Matthew 10:28)
The word "Gehenna" in Aramaic came to be the word used for "the burning hell" or "hell-fire." This was from the symbolism found in the burning rubbish dumps of Gey-Hennom, in the valley outside of Jerusalem. The Aramaic word Gehenna is derived from the Hebrew "Gey-Hennom," meaning "Valley of the Sons of Hennom." This cursed place was a place of idolatrous worship and human sacrifice in the Old Testament era. The Aramaic word "Gehenna" is found in many places in the Greek text of the New Testament but is usually translated as 'hell" in English versions.
Also, in should be noted that Jesus in this saying in Matthew 10:28 what the Aramaic scholar Joachim Jeremias called the "divine passive." This was reverencing the name of God by speaking of the Lord by means of circumlocutions.
Expressions and phrases
And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," which is "Be opened." (Mark 7:34)
And taking the hand of the child, he said to her, "Talitha koum," which is translated, "Little girl, I say to you, get up." (Mark 5:41)
But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:22)
In the Aramaic of the Talmud, Raka means empty one, fool, empty headed.
No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24)
See also Luke 16:9-13 and 2 Clement 6.
"But you say, "If a man says to his father or his mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban"-(that is a gift to God),
This word refers to an offering or a sacrifice. Modern Assyrians call their Holy Communion service the Korban. In this passage Jesus was condemning a doctrine of the scribes and Pharisees that stated is you swore to give money to them, this released you from the obligation of using that money to support your needy elderly parents.
An Aramaism is an Aramaic word structure or other type of influence found in Greek or Hebrew. The most significant Aramaism in the New Testament is the phrase "the Son of Man," which is derived from the Aramaic phrase, Bar-Nasha. This is an Aramaic figure of speech that has special significance. Another important Aramaism is the influence of the Aramaic word "Khobain" in the Greek wording of the Lord's Prayer and found in Matthew and Luke. In Luke it is said "forgive us our sins" while Matthew has "forgive us our debts." In the Aramaic of this period, but not in Hebrew or Greek, the word "khobein" meant both "sins" and "debts."
Understanding Jesus within his cultural context
Understanding Jesus within the Aramaic culture of the Middle East
George Mamishisho Lamsa was an Assyrian American who died in the late 1970s. He was a great popularizer of Aramaic. Lamsa wrote many Bible commentaries and translated the Bible from the Pesheeta, the ancient Aramaic version of the Sacred Scriptures. He believed that he, as a native Aramaic speaker who has grown up as a child in the land of the Bible and had thus absorbed a culture like that of Bible times and this had special insight and a unique perspective into the teachings of Jesus. As John P. Juedes noted in this article on George Lamsa, Lamsa claimed that in that he was reared in the same part of the word that Jesus has lived in, and had participated in biblical customs and language, he was uniquely able to reveal the Bibles idioms, figures of speech and metaphors and thus disclose its true meaning. As I saw for myself during the war in Iraq, for some people of the Middle East, their lifestyles have changed very little with the passing of millenniums. Both before and after my military service, I journeyed to the Middle East and visited Aramaic speaking villages. I wanted to live in these villages to learn Aramaic and to see how these Christian Assyrians and Arameans lived speaking the language of Jesus and living in an ancient culture that has changed little since the time of Christ. I visited Maloula and the Assyrian villages of the Khabour river valley in eastern Syria. (The Khabour River Valley Assyrian villages were settled by Assyrians refugees from Iraq who were fleeing genocidal campaigns being carried out by Moslem Arabs.) There are still hundreds of thousands of Aramaic-speaking Christians who live in the Middle East. Lamsa's commentaries are easy to read and are very interesting. I do not agree with all of Lamsa's conclusions. However, Lamsa did have one very good point. An important key to understanding Jesus and his Gospel is the Aramaic language and also understanding the cultural context in which Jesus taught and lived. To understand Jesus properly we need to understand the cultural and historical context of the life, teaching and parables of Jesus. Jesus directed his new message of love towards the farmers, stonemasons, carpenters, fishermen and shepherds, to the simple peasants and not to the educated elite. Jesus lived a simple life, one close to the land and to nature and without our technological innovations. Lamsa lived in a very similar culture that was to a large extent, unchanged since the time of Christ. Lamsa isn't alone in this. The great Aramaic scholar Joachim Jeremias also grew up in Jerusalem very early in the twentieth century before the city was modernized. He also refers to the culture the observed and absorbed as a child in the Holy City. To understand Jesus more completely we need to investigate the linguistic, cultural, and historical context of the life, teaching, and parables of Jesus.
Semitic people use language in different ways that people in western culture do. One example of his is symbolic language. Colin Brown in Philosophy and the Chrisitan Faith illustrates this. He says,
Words, statements and the mental images that they conjure up are like symbols which stand fro something else and through which the mind encounters that thing, event or person. Basically, symbols have two aspects. There is the symbolic material, the word, picture, image or sign and that to which it points. To treat the symbolic material on its own, apart from what it stands for, is to miss the whole point. Genuine symbols are not simply bare images. They present a medium through which we may participate in the reality they represent. When John the Baptist said, 'Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!' he was employing symbolism. Neither the original hearers nor readers of the Bible today imagine that he was talking about a four-legged, wooly animal. But those who know something about the Old Testament thought and have had a Christian experience know that the symbol co-ordinates and gives meaning to their experience. In the nature of the case, it is impossible to describe it in direct, literal terms. Nor is the symbol to be used to the exclusion of others. It needs to be complemented with many such others such as the Good Shepherd, the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the true Vine. But, each it its own way, these symbols shed light and meaning upon the experience of those who seek to know their meaning. Through them the mind grasps an element of reality which is otherwise inaccessible. (Page 179-180)
Another profound difference between Semitic culture and cultures shaped by the Western tradition is that Semitic people are a passionate people. The Greek philosophy of Stoicism has been profoundly influential in western culture. The British Bible teacher Derek Prince commented in this unbiblical and deficient aspect of European culture during reflections upon the death of his wife. He said,
In Britain, as a boy, I grew up in the culture of "the stiff upper lip." It was considered unmanly for a man to weep in public or to exhibit any strong emotion. The members of my family certainly loved each other, but they almost never expressed their love in words. I gradually came to see, however, that this suppression of the emotions produced stunted, incomplete, personalities.
As I began to study the Bible and the Holy Spirit began to teach me, I saw read in the Bible phrases such as: "They lifted up their voice and wept!"
David certainly was a man who gave free expression to his emotions. In one of his psalms he says, "I drenched my couch with my tears."
Jesus, too, wept openly at the tomb of Lazarus. He was not weeping for Lazarus, because he already knew that he would call Lazarus back from the dead. He was weeping out of sympathy with Mary and Martha. It encouraged me to know that Jesus shares both or joys and our griefs.
Later, as Jesus looked out over the city of Jerusalem, He wept as in His spirit He foresaw the terrible judgments that would come upon that city. In Isaiah 63:9 we are told of the Lord that "in all of their affliction He was afflicted." I am so glad that our God is not just a stony-faced judge who passes sentences on our misdeeds. He is also a compassionate Father and a loving Savior who has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
I am not ashamed to acknowledge I have shed many tears over Ruth's passing and at times I continue to shed tears. But not all the tears have been tears of grief. Some have been tears of gratitude.
Until Ruth's passing, I never knew there was so much kindness in the world. I have received messages from almost every area of the globe and from people of many ethnic backgrounds. All have expressed gratitude for what Ruth meant to them and sympathy for me in my bereavement. In particular, many women have testified to me that they looked to Ruth as a role model.
My uncle showed little emotion upon the death of my cousin, his only son and only child. My cousin Teddy was only eighteen years old when he was killed on Christmas Eve by a drunken driver. Later my uncle had to have medical care for the ulcers he developed. Many people have become physically ill by internalizing problems and through denying their emotions an outlet. Stoicism is an unhealthy philosophy. There is a natural and healthy grieving process. '
"Star Wars" problem.
Understanding Jesus within the Jewish culture
Synagogue and temple worship, Jewish feast-days.
Place Jesus within his Jewish context but also show when he broke with Jewish tradition.
Jews stand praying: Christians and Moslems knell in their prayers. Jesus refers to people standing in prayer Matthew 6:5, Luke 18:3. Jesus taught, saying, "When you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive them…" (Mark 11:25). But at times Jesus also knelled in prayer (Luke 22"40). There is also a strong tradition of James the Just, the brother of Jesus, knelling in the temple in prayer. So what is the proper way to pray? Biblically, both. Solomon stood praying (1 Kings 8:14, 22) and then in verse 54 we find that Solomon prayed, "kneeling on his knees with his hands spread out to heaven." Both prayer postures are biblical. Jews changed their practices and ceased kneeling in prayer probably in order to be different from the way Christians prayed. The Bible is the authority, not Jewish tradition.
Legends of the Jews
Paul refers to certain Jewish traditions such as the Rock that followed the Jewish people in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:4)
Jesus and the apostles ministered to these people. Who are they, why are they important?
The Movie, The Nativity Story and Nazareth Village
Strange Scriptures that Perplex the Western Mind by Barbara Macdonald Bowen
The Bible Jesus Read:
The Aramaic Scriptures and other Jewish Aramaic Sources
Nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus and his band of disciples proclaimed a revolutionary message through stories, parables, and proverbs. Although very few members of his early community could read or write, his message of good news took root, partly owing to its method of proclamation. Jesus brought his message to an oral community and he and the early church communicated in forms familiar to an oral culture, using stories, proverbs, drama, songs, chants and poetry.
Aramaic is an important Jewish language. While certain Messianics oppose Aramaic, Jewish people embrace it as an important language of their heritage. Many Jewish people study and learn the language because it is necessary to know Aramaic in order to understand many important Jewish texts, including the Holy Bible itself. (There is still a group of Jewish native Aramaic speakers in Israel.)
The Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible is actually the Hebrew and Aramaic Bible.
the notes to the Massoretic text (The pronunciation may be influenced by the Massorites native Aramaic)
The Kaballah, the Zohar
Prayers and songs
Kol Nidre, the Aktamot, Chad Gadyo,
The Cantors Sing Aramaic
The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon from Hebrew Union College
Joachim Jeremias was a famous professor of theology from Germany. Jeremias spent the formative years of his childhood, from 1910 until 1915, growing up in the Holy Land in the city of Jerusalem. He often taught on Jesus and the early church from the Aramaic perspective. Joachim Jeremias was one of the greatest Aramaic scholars who has ever lived. One of his books is entitled The Central Message of the New Testament. In this book he begins with the central message of Christ himself. This is his doctrine of the Fatherhood of God, which Jesus expressed through the Aramaic word "Abba."
Dr. John R. Rice in The Home: Courtship, Marriage and Children: A Bible Manual of 22 Chapters stated
I revere the memory of my father now. Before he went to Heaven…I always held him in profound respect. Yet the word "father" was a little too formal and I never called him that. As a child I called him "Papa," and later that changed to "Daddy." Even in this feeling of intimate affection which a child normally had for his father, the father represents God. For in Romans 8:15 the Scripture says, "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." 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…Oh what a good man I ought to be if I am to be the father of little children and if I am to be to them the true image of God! How noble, how just, how morally clean, how spiritually wise a father ought to be, and how seriously every man ought to take marriage, since it means to his wife he is to be an image of Christ…Surely, if a man is what he ought to be, representing God the Father to his children and representing Christ to his wife, he ought to have no trouble in winning his family to Christ. Again, I say a man is somebody! It is a serious business to be a man. God expects great thins of a man since he is made in the image and glory of God.
Dr. Rice spoke of his father as an image of God to him and his brothers and sisters,
I remember with joy the reverence I had for my own father and my unbounded trust in him. I felt he was the bravest man who had ever lived. I asked him the most unheard-of questions, and I took, without a grain of doubt, his answers as being absolute truth. When my father sometimes said, "I do not know, son," I had a feeling that if he would think awhile on the matter or give it a little attention he soon would know. If my father said a thing was right, I felt it was right; if he said it was wrong, then certainly for me it was wrong. I thank God that I have had few occasions yet to believe my father was essentially wrong, now that he has been in Heaven a number of years. In his affection, in his providing, in his punishment of our sins, in his kindness, in his counsel, my father was to his eight children the best earthly image we ever saw of God.
Dr. Rice clarified the centrality of the Fatherhood of God in this preaching of Jesus,
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, and gave to all of us the model prayer, He said, "When ye pray, say: Our Father which art in Heaven." Christians are always to think of God as their Father. The best illustration Jesus could give of what God is like to the Christian, is the relation of a father to his child! This means that as God is all wise and infinitely strong and infinitely good, every child is to look to his father as the wisest and best and strongest he knows. As we look to God for our food and our protection and the satisfaction of our heart's desires and for every breath we draw, so children in a home are to look to the father for provision, protection, guidance and joy! Of how great is the responsibility of a human father who is to his children the image of God.
Of course many feminists object to God being described as being "Our Father." I read an attack on the teachings of Jesus by a feminist who argued that referring to God as Father "excludes" people. Actually it doesn't since every human being has a father. What about those whose father was abusive or negligent? Those people, who were harmed by their fathers, actually probably need to know God as father more than the rest of us. This point was proved by James Robison in Knowing God as Father. He dedicated this book to "those who had no father, who have had absent fathers or fathers unable to fulfill their role in the family, and those who have been blessed with good fathers-in the hope that, through this book, the reader might enter into a joyful, personal relationship with the ultimate and eternal Father." James Robison was a product of rape and he grew up without a father yet today, the Fatherhood of God is the central focus of his preaching. In the book he mistakenly calls Abba a Greek word when actually it is Aramaic. He, like most pastors today, has little knowledge or no knowledge of Aramaic. This is a good book that explores the most significant and beautiful doctrine preached by Jesus of Nazareth. The concept of God as being "Abba, Father" is uniquely Christian. In Judaism there is no emphasis upon God as Father. Islam teaches that "Allah has no son." In Islam, Allah (God) has ninety-nine names, not one of these names is "Father." In reality, God is know as Father only through knowing Jesus as Messiah. Jesus said, "No man knoweth the Father, except the Son and whom the Son chooseth to reveal him" and again "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh to the Father except through me."
The liberal political establishment in the United States has the diminishment of American fatherhood as one of its primary goals. Liberals work tirelessly to undermine fatherhood through politics, the court system and the mass entertainment industry. David Blackenborn has written "Fatherless America: Why Men are Increasingly viewed as superfluous to family life" in which he argues that society no longer appreciates, respects or teaches men to be good fathers. Frank Pittman in "Man Enough: Fathers, Sons and the Search for Masculinity" describes what he calls "father hunger" which is the longing most men and women have for a father to love, value, advise and teach them." In "Father Power" by Henry Biller and Dennis Meredith the authors argue that fatherhood is a basic part of being masculine and the legitimate focus of a man's life. According to the authors "Father power is different from mother power, and your child needs both in order to develop properly."
Jesus called upon God as "Abba, Father," in his Aramaic language. Understanding this concept is crucial to understanding the message of Jesus, his concept of God and what he taught his disciples. When we do this we are looking at the most primitive source we have on Jesus the Messiah and his conception of who God is. This most primitive source is the actual Aramaic words he originally spoke as he originally spoke them. Who was God to Jesus? The answer to this question is found in the Aramaic word Jesus used to call upon God when he prayed. The first thing we need to do is to define this Aramaic word, Abba. This Aramaic word found its way into Hebrew and is now the Hebrew word for 'Daddy'. The Hebrew word for Father is Avi. In Modern Aramaic the pronunciation of Abba has changed and now it is 'baba'. The Aramaic word "Abba" is found three times in the Greek New Testament. Jesus cries out to "Abba, Father" in the Garden of Gethsemane. Paul uses the Aramaic word 'Abba' twice in his epistles. This is significant because Paul rarely uses Aramaic in his epistles. The only other two Aramaic words he uses is "Maranatha" for "Come, O Lord" and he refers to Simon by the Aramaic form of his name "Cephas" more often than the Greek form "Peter". The word "Abba" is significant because it comes from the lips of Jesus Christ himself. St. Paul thought is was significant enough to expand on this word and include it in two of his epistles.
In The Books and the Parchments F.F. Bruce makes an interesting note about ABBA; Aramaic for "Daddy"
We read in Mark 14:36 how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee'. While Abba is an Aramaic word, it made its way into Hebrew use 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, or set purpose used the intimate and affectionate from Abba when addressing God, and His example was followed by the early Christians, who used the same Aramaic word. So Paul, in Rom. 8:15 and Gal. 4:6, reckons it a sign that God has sent the Spirit of His Son, 'the spirit of son-ship, into the hearts of believers in Christ when they pray 'Abba, Father'. Many grandiloquent phrases are often employed in addressing God in prayer and worship but none of them is so Christian as the simple 'Abba, Father', used by our Lord.
In the Greek New Testament the Greek word pater, which means "father," is used to explain the Aramaic word Abba. If pater captured the full meaning of the Aramaic word abba, what is the point for using the Aramaic word in the first place? If abba merely means pater, or "father," why is it used so many times? If abba merely meant 'father' the Aramaic term wouldn't have been used 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.
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 [in Aramaic] 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 [Aramaic-speaking] Syrian 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 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.
John's Gospel is very clear, the Jews rejected Jesus' teaching on the Fatherhood of God.
God as Father
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 had to wait until the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom of God by Jesus Christ.
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)
According to Witherington Yahweh (the Lord) desired to have the Fatherly relationship with Israel but He was resisted and this relationship that God desired with his people was rejected by the nation of Israel and hence this revelation had to await the coming of the Messiah. As Ben Witherington III states in The Shadow of the Almighty: Father, Son and Spirit in the Biblical Perspective:
We may also with to point to several prophetic texts as possible exceptions to the rule about [not] naming God as Father in the OT. In Jeremiah 3:19 God's people are upbraided with the words: "I thought you would call me, my Father, and would not turn from following me." The implication is that God's people have not addressed God in this way, though it was something God had hoped for. Notice too here the connection with the estrangement from God. Instead of having an intimate relationship with God characterized in familial terms, just the opposite was happening. Israel was turning away from God and ceasing to follow Gods ways. Jer. 31:9 also emphasized that it is God's own earnest desire to relate to his people as a father. He will protect those returning from exile "for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim [Ephraim was the prominent northern Israelite tribe] is my firstborn."
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 is significance and is why Jesus was called Bar-Dawood, the Son of David. 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. 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'.
With Dan Brown's book The Da Vinci Code attention has been given to the so-called 'sacred feminine'. Some people feel that it is no longer appropriate to refer to God as Father much less as Daddy (Abba). My interest is to explore what Jesus taught and believed about the nature of God and not shifting fads in our contemporary society. In our scriptures God reveals himself in a masculine gender. This is divine revelation and has nothing to do with "sexism". Jesus taught the Fatherhood of God but his consideration of women is seen in his life and ministry. To protect women and the family he discouraged divorce (Matthew 5:32). He taught women the mysteries of the Kingdom of God (Luke 10: 39, John 4: 10-15) and he took women as disciples (Luke 8: 2-3). These women traveled with Jesus and supported his ministry.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT GOD'S ETERNAL NATURE IS THAT OF A 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". God as "Our Father" has been an established Christian doctrine but now this central tenet of the Christian faith is being called into question. In The Promise of the Father: Jesus and God in the New Testament Marianne Meye Thompson attempts to minimize the significance of Christ's teachings on God as our Father. Thompson is a revisionist trying to develop a new unorthodox feminist theology. Thompson argues that there was nothing new, unique or revolutionary in Christ's teaching of God as Father and that it had all been stated in Judaism before. She attempts to dismiss this teaching as irrelevant and presents this doctrine as merely echoes of the barbarism of primitive near eastern tribal culture. She even attacks the Lord's Prayer and states that it she finds it offensive since it "excludes" people. In her book she also attacks the research of the great Aramaic expert and Bible scholar Joachim Jeremias. Besides being factually incorrect, Thompson's views are in conflict with the teaching of the New Testament and also with Christian tradition. A rebuttal to her book is found in The Shadow of the Almighty: Father, Son and Spirit in the Biblical Perspective by Ben Witherington III and Laura M. Ice.
Despite the claims of Thompson, it is evident that 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.
Murray illustrates that the Infinite Fatherliness of God is an indispensable doctrine, fundamental in the message of salvation and crucial in prayer. Concerning the Father-hood 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 own 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.
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 see God being 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 addressed God as 'my Father"; it is even more so that he should have used the Aramaic form Abba.
Jeremias's point is still well established despite Thompson's efforts to discredit him. She
finally admits near the end of her book, "it is particularly striking that no passage in the
Old Testament gives an account in which God names himself as Father." This revelation of God's nature was only hinted at in the Old Testament. Jesus brought the full revelation of God's eternal nature of Father.
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 his 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 he 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 goes as far 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 consists in his finding his way home to his father. In the last resort, repentance is simply trusting in the grace of God."
The 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 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. God desires a relationship with us but we must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God. 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. This is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thompson is forced to concede that,
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 this 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 means "speaking in tongues." It is a radical supernatural experience with the Holy Spirit that enables us to cry out, like a child for her daddy, "Abba, Father!"-"Daddy, God!"
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 and what are we saved from? Not just hell, but the hell we make of our lives with Hate, Anger, Gluttony, Greed, Indulgence, 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, make Jesus your first love. Jesus calls us to be lost in the Love of God.
The importance of the Aramaic concept of Abba is seen in a careful examination of the Greek text of the New Testament. 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 "bring 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)." The Eternal Son of God, who is eternally begotten of the Father, took upon himself flesh so that we may be born into the family of God (Colossians 1:15). 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." 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 engendered from above by the Father. Peter specifically reaffirms this is when he says, "Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).
The role of fathers was crucial not only in the ministry of Jesus Christ but also of John the Baptist. Elijah is prophesied to come to prepare the way of the Messiah. According to Jesus, John the Baptist had the anointing, the spirit and the role of Elijah. Elijah will come again (Matthew 17:11) as a minister of reconciliation. This is the concluding word of the Old Testament. As it close it sets the stage for Jesus by stressing fatherhood and the coming of the Messiah.
Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of Yahweh comes. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the earth with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6)
Elijah's mission is to restore fatherhood. According to the Book of Revelation, for this preaching of Elijah he will be killed and his death will be celebrated (Revelation 11:4-14). Satan hates fatherhood so much that when Jesus was calling upon God as Abba the satanic oppression against our Lord was so strong that Jesus began sweating blood (Luke 22:43-44). Satan and his forces of evil hate God. As God's eternal nature is father, Satan hates fatherhood. Satan hates mankind because Man is created in the image of his enemy, God. We are stewards of God's revelation. We do not have the right to revise, change or adapt his holy word. Those who do so, according to the scriptures, are cursed. According to the divine revelation God is our king, not our ruler nor our queen. God in his sacred voice speaks not in a neuter or feminine voice but in the male gender. God created the man, Adam, in his image. Adam was created first and in his masculinity more closely reflected the divine nature (1 Timothy 2:13-14). God created woman, in his glory and to the glory of man, and in Christ men and women are equal. Jesus revealed to mankind the perfection of the Gospel. He showed us God, not as parent, not as mother, and not only as father but as Abba, daddy, father. Before the creation of the universe in eternity past God chose to reveal himself in the most perfect way in human flesh. The perfect revelation of God in human form was not a hermaphrodite or some type of fairy but the body of a man. Romans crucified men on the cross totally naked. Crucifixion was not only a slow and painful death but also one of shame and humiliation. When Jesus suffered on the cross, according to God's plan, he was crucified totally naked showing himself as a man to the whole world and for all time. The crucifixion even divided time and is still the central event in human history. Christian art depicts Christ on the cross wearing a loincloth but in reality it wasn't there. Jesus was on the cross a completely naked man. Jesus was shown to the world on the cross to be a man and a man who was circumcised. Thus, this man on the cross was shown to be, in his flesh, in covenant with the God of Israel. The cross of Christ and Jesus upon that Cross was a declaration of God's identity and the everlasting Gospel. Jesus is the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelations 13:8). The cross was always God's plan. Since, as Ephesians declares, fatherhood is an expression of God's nature Satan hates it and wars against it. Hence we see homosexuality, single parenthood and abortion. Fathers, despite what the feminists say, are necessary. Boys need a man to emulate and girls need a daddy just as much. Feminists have said many obvious untruths to the harm of women and the detriment of society as a whole. Some of these statements are absurd and obviously untrue, such as there is no difference between boys and girls except for the difference imposed upon them by our culture. Men and woman are not just anatomically different, we think differently and experience emotions in different ways. It is not a matter of better or worse, but different. These differences, if under God, glorify God and enrich both men and women. We need one another to be complete. Abortion and birth control are about preventing men from becoming fathers and the human species from perpetuating itself. Also the effect of birth control is we have men and women pleasuring themselves, shunning the consequences and obligations that must accompany sexual intimacy. This is displeasing to the Lord. This is rebellion and it brings a curse on the land especially with the shedding of innocent blood. Abortion is blood sacrifice to wanton sexuality. This is a spiritual issue. The issues here are the nature of Man, the nature of God and living a life that is aligned to the will of God. Men need to learn to "be a man". God wills this and so do women though political correctness forbids this to be uttered. (Liberalism and the Politically Correct movement have the same agenda and it is described in Revelation 17: 13. "These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.") Even in the Old Testament it says of the Lord, "Did he not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring ["seed" in the King James Version]. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth" (Malachi 2:15, NKJV).
Despite what many radicals say, fatherhood is important and families do need fathers. Jesus said that earthly fathers may learn from and apply principles of fatherhood from their heavenly Father (Matthew 7:7-12). John the Baptist preached that although earthly fathers are important, it is far more important to have a spiritual renewal and transformation of the heart and thereby come to know God as Father (Matthew 3:9). It doesn't matter if you are a Jew or an Arab, black or white, male or female. What matters is being fathered into the Kingdom of God through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. God's grace has been made available to every man and every woman who believes.
The Fatherhood of God and sexual morality
God is our holy father. Women are not behaving like me. There is a manly ideal, purity of heart, courage, fortitude, intergrity, if women are behaving like men, it is what the bible calls the "Sons of Belial" whose behavior they have adopted. Even feminists are seeing this problem, as is illustrated in Female Chauvinist Pigs: the Rise of Raunch Culture
Every Man A King:
The Kingdom of God in the Preaching of Jesus
The ancient Aramaic word behind the Greek word "evangelion" or "gospel", is besora meaning a message of triumph of the victory of God's Kingdom. Dr. Mark D. Roberts, examines the Aramaic behind Jesus' teaching of the Kingdom of God in What Language(s) Did Jesus Speak and Why Does it Matter? (this is available on-line). He says,
Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus continually refers to the kingdom of heaven, as in "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" (Matt 3:2). Many Christians take the phrase "the kingdom of heaven" as a description of what we call heaven: the place where we go to be with the Lord after we die. This makes good sense in English, because "kingdom" signifies a place ruled by a king, and "heaven" is the place we believers go after we die, the place where God rules (Matt 6:10).
But this is not what Jesus meant when he used the Aramaic phrase malkuta dishmaya (which appears in the Greek of Matthew as he basileia ton ouranon ). For one thing, the Aramaic word we translate as "kingdom" referred, not only to the place where a king rules, but to the authority of the king. Thus malku could be translated as "kingly authority, rule, or reign," and should be in the case of Jesus' usage. He's not saying that the place where God rules in coming near, but that God's royal authority is about to dawn, and is in fact dawning in Jesus' own ministry. Moreover, the Aramaic term we translate as "heaven," literally a plural form meaning "heavens," was often used as a circumlocution for God, much as my grandmother used to say "Good heavens!" rather than "Good God!"
So when Jesus said "the malkuta dishmaya has come near," he didn't mean that the kingdom of the "the place we go when we die" has come near, but rather that God's kingly authority was at hand. Jesus proclaimed the reign of God and demonstrated its presence through doing mighty deeds, such as healings and exorcisms.
Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that there isn't such a thing as a blessed afterlife or that Jesus has nothing to do with how we enter this afterlife. But I am saying that when we understand Jesus to be talking continually about what we call heaven when he speaks of "the kingdom of heaven," we are fundamentally missing his point. He's speaking, not so much about life after death, as about the experience of God's kingly power in this life and on this earth.
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. In the Aramaic Targum the Kingdom of Heaven is often called the Kingdom of Messiah or the Kingdom of Jerusalem. 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 malkuth 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 malkut 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.
Bruce Chilton in Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography, Rev. Chilton states that for the average Jew of the Holy Land at the time of Jesus
Their understanding of the covenant came not from the written Torah and Prophets in Hebrew, which few could read, but from their oral targum (Aramaic for "translation"). A targum was more than a verbatim translation of the Hebrew text: whole paragraphs were added and long sections loosely paraphrased by the meturgeman, a "translator" who handed on the local tradition of rendering scripture. (Just as a local rabbi designed the ethical norms for living the Torah, a meturgeman memorized and recited the oral Scripture.) These renderings vivified the Torah and the Prophets in a visionary language detailing Israel's coming supremacy over the nations and emphasizing the promises God had made to an oppressed, indentured people. One day, these Scriptural renderings promised, God's kingdom (Malkutha) would supersede every other form of rule. That was the fervent hope of the Galilean Jews….the Kingdom where God would rule, not Rome. God himself would re-establish the glory of Israel and vindicate the chosen people.
In the Targums and other Jewish literature the coming Kingdom of God is also referred to as the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Messiah. The Targumic idea of the Kingdom of God is seen as nationalistic, political, spatial, 'this worldly' and social. Jerusalem is important in both the Old and the New Testaments. In the Revelation a New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven and is revealed in its perfection. Mark Saucy notes in The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus, "work on the Pseudepigrapha alone, not to mention the Qumran writings, the Targums, and later rabbinic work, has progressed in such a way to have a significant bearing on the study of the Kingdom…the apocalyptic writers wrote in the context of an historical and earthly hope for the Kingdom…These advances in the knowledge of the ancient sources have also meant a clearer identification of the environment of the historical Jesus…Jews of the first century looked forward to an earthly and historical manifestation of God's covenant promises. This means….that the prevailing eschatological hopes of Jesus' were not so diverse as to constitute a broad array of potions available to Jesus for the meaning of the Kingdom." This means that to understand what Jesus meant by the Kingdom we must look at what the idea meant to the common Jew of Christ's day. The Jewish people believed that God's rule would be established over planet earth and the reality we experience in this world. Saucy concludes, "Whether in this age or the next one, Jesus intended earthly consequences for the Kingdom." There is only one Messiah and Savior and that is Jesus of Nazareth. He is God Incarnate and the Eternal Son of God.
1 Peter 2;9-10.
The Lord's Prayer and forgiveness+ Colossians 3:13
The church "Fellowship"
The church is the Kingdom of God in a very important since. Bruce Chilton also notes in Rabbi Jesus that, "The meaning of Jesus' famous words, "the Kingdom of God is in your midst" (Luke 17:21), is all too easily twisted in their English translation. There are typically taken to mean that the Kingdom is the possession of each individual, but the fact is that the term for "your" here is plural (in Greek, as it would have been in Aramaic), and refers to a community, not a single person. The heroic individualism of a great deal of protestant Christianity rests in a large meadure on a misbegotten English rendering." Joachim Jeramias also stated that this verse, if translated literally from the Aramaic would be "The Kingdom of God is among you."
Called so by Bar Timeus and Mary Magdalene
Jesus often called "Rabbi." Was also a meturgeman. He did not have formal rabbic training.
Poetry of Our Lord by C.F. Burney
King David is "the sweet psalmist of Israel" (2 Samuel 23:1) but rarely do we think of Jesus "the Son of David" as a poet. But when we examine his words against their Semitic background we see that he clearly was. Jesus has many titles in the Bible, Messiah or Christ, Son of God, Son of Man, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Many scholars are on a "quest for the historical Jesus" and there are many novel ideas of who Jesus was. Some theorize that he was a magician, a revolutionary or an Essene. Many of these sensational new ideas, such as Jesus being the husband of Mary Magdalene, are absurd. One thing that all of these authors have overlooked is Jesus as a poet of the Hebrew tradition. In his proclamations Jesus used Hebrew poetic structures that are found in the Sacred Scriptures and other ancient Hebrew and Aramaic literature. Many people have read the Bible all of their lives totally ignorant of the poetic structures of many of the texts (especially in the prophets and the psalms). Knowing the structures helps us to read and understand the Bible better. Once the poetic structures are learned it becomes amazing to the reader how often they are used in the text and how obvious they are. Every serious reader of the Bible needs to know how Hebrew poetry works. Everyone who wants to intelligently read the Bible needs to understand certain basic facts about how it is written. One of these basic facts is Hebrew poetry. It isn't only used in certain obscure passages in the Old Testament, it is often used by Jesus the Christ. These are the most important words ever spoken by the person who lived the most important life ever lived.
William Barclay in his translation of the New Testament notes that "Hebrew poetry does not rhyme; it is built up on a series of parallels, and often the series is quite elaborate. A good example is in Matthew 7:24-27, where each one of the first ten lines has its exact parallel in each of the second ten lines. A shorter example is in Matthew 5:45.
If you do that,
You will be like your Father in heaven,
For he makes his sun to rise,
On the bad and on the good alike,
And he sends the rain
On the saint and sinner.
The last four lines have the clear pattern a b a b." These words of Jesus that are given here are from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus use of such structures gives a link between the Old and New Testaments and places him in his Hebraic culture. Michael Fixler in The Mentor Bible notes that in "certain peculiar characteristics of the Hebrew imagination truth is most truthful when it is doubled or expressed in parallelisms. A Hebrew verse will consist of a phrase that is followed by a parallel, almost synonymous formulation of its meaning, a parallel that enlarges, enriches, completes or in some way modifies the sense by enhancement, and sometimes two such parallelisms will follow the first, of thematic, phrase." He also notes that "Parallelism probably made memorizing easier" which is probably one of the reasons it was employed by the Messiah and the prophets of the Old Testament.
Lost in Translation
Many of these poetic structures show through in English translation but some do not. LaSor notes,
In poetry, play on the sounds of language is particularly striking. With alliteration, words or syllables begin with the same or similar sounds. Assonance uses the same or similar sounds (usually vowels) within words. Paronomasia (pun) plays on words with the same or similar sounds but different meanings. Onomatopoeia is the use of words that sound similar to or suggest the activity they describe. Unfortunately, the devices can rarely be carried over in translation. For example, when God asks Amos: "What do you see?' and Amos answers: "A basket of summer fruit" (8:1), the Hebrew word for "summer fruit" sounds almost like that for "end" This similarity of words prepares Amos for God's statement, "Then end has come upon my people, Israel." But the pun is lost in translation.
Hebrew poets liked to use acrostics, especially the alphabet acrostic. Psalm 9 and 10 and Psalm 119 are alphabet acrostics. In Psalm 119 each stanza uses one letter of the Hebrew alphabet in each of its eight lines. The stanzas are in alphabetical order. Also, every line mentions the law in some form such as commandments, precepts and so on. We are familiar with the alphabet acrostic in English. Here is an example,
Although things are not perfect
Because of trial or pain
Continue in thanksgiving
Notice that the alphabet is listed horizontally. This is how Psalm 119 works but there is no evidence of the acrostic in the teachings of Jesus. (Other alphabet acrostic psalms include Psalm 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, and 145. Each chapter but the final one in the Book of Lamentations is an alphabet acrostic.) Certain poetic forms can work in different languages; such as the Japanese Haiku. The Haiku consists of respectively 5, 7 and 5 syllables in the units. Here is an example.
The wind that blows-
Ask them, which leaf on the tree
Will be next to go
To me Haiku usually sounds like the old "Dick and Jane" stories (were they poetry?) but they are often reflections on nature. Often the poetic forms that Jesus uses can be seen in English translation from the Greek (which is itself a translation from the original Aramaic and Hebrew).
How Hebrew Poetry Works
Hebrew is a fusional language meaning it is built with prefixes and suffixes. English is an analytic language, in some ways like Greek. However, both Hebrew and Greek are fusional languages. Hebrew used accents in poems 3x2, 3x3 and 4x2. Hebrew also uses a lot of word play. It doesn't rhyme well but used accents, usually three. So we have rhythm with a number of accents. Some basic forms we see in Hebrew poetry are;
- Rhythm-A three stress line (with variation).
- Wordplay-Sometimes near homonym (such as hear and here). In Hebrew poetry wordplay is a powerful element.
- Parallelism-Each line intensifies a basic image in the preceding line, or goes from general to specific and vice versa.
- Chiasm-An example would be "Hear O People, O People hear!"
- Antithesis-This is the use of opposites such as "Hear O heaven and give ear O earth!"
In parallelism the sacred authors often use was is called a merismus, this is a contrast of opposite extremes. An example would be contrasting the heavens and the earth as we see in Deuteronomy 32:1 ("Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; let the earth hear the words of my mouth."). Often in Hebrew poetry numbers have special significance. This is seen in Proverbs 6:16 which reads "there are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him…" Other examples are Psalm 62:11, Micah 5:5.Amos 1:3 says, "For three transgressions of Damascus and for four I will not revoke the punishment…" It isn't necessary to compute the transgressions the importance of these numbers is their poetic significance. (This is also seen in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew. "14' is the numerical value of the name David, since in Hebrew and Aramaic letters can signify numbers.)
A structural device called a chiasm commonly appears in Hebrew poetry. In a chiasm, the parallel stitch reverses the order of units found in the initial stitch. If connected the parallel members form an X (in Greek the x-shaped letter is called a chi, hence "chiasm"). Two Old Testament examples include Psalm 2:9
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron;
Like a vessel of a potter Thou shalt crush them.
Isaiah 40:3 (This serves an example to show that Hebrew poetry is not confined to the book of Psalms.)
A B C D
In the wilderness prepare the way of Yahweh
B A C D
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
A Chiasm is found in the introduction of the Gospel of John (John 1:1-18)
A. The Word with God (1.2)
B. His role in Creation (3)
C. Gift to Man (4,5)
D. The Witness of John the Baptist (6-8)
E. The Word enters the World (9-11)
F. The Children of God (12,13)
E. The Incarnation (14)
D. The Witness of John the Baptist (15)
C. Gift to Man (16)
B. His Role in re-creation (17)
A. The Son with the Father (18)
John Chapter One is probably an ancient Christian hymn, perhaps the one mentioned by the ancient Roman Pliny. He said that believers gathered before dawn on a "certain day" and sang a hymn anti-phonetically to Christ as a god. Other hymns are found embedded in the text of the New Testament (Colossians 1: 15-20, 1 Timothy 3: 16, 2 Timothy 2:11-13. In Philippians 2: 6-11 and Ephesians 5: 14 Paul quotes ancient Christian hymns he did not compose.)
LaSor, Hubbard and Bush in Old Testament Survey: the Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament devote an entire chapter to Hebrew poetry. They state that Hebrew poetry "appeals more to human imagination and emotion than to reason." In this Semitic approach, "Poetic imagery compares the Unseen to something the readers have already soon helping them to know God better. Ultimately God is known in the incarnate image, the Son. Without denying the value of philosophy, we can say that the biblical approach is superior in many ways to the philosophical. People learn far more through the senses than through speculation." Jesus use of Hebrew poetic structures puts him in his Semitic context. Certain so-called Bible scholars (such as John Dominic Crosson) are trying to divorce Jesus from his Jewish identity and recast him as a pagan philosopher. These people try to paint Jesus as student of Greek thought. He tries to argue that Jesus was a Cynic (from where we get the word 'cynical'). This ideology came from Socrates who was condemned for corrupting youth and who freely admitted that his ideas were demonic in origin. (Socrates admitted that he was tormented and oppressed by an evil spiritual being that he called his "Daemon".) Jesus modes of thinking and speaking are Hebrew not Greek. Greek philosophy has certain false ideas (especially coming from Plato) such as reality isn't real, only the imaginary world of ideas is real. The importance of the real world to Jesus and not lofty speculation will be dealt with below.
Bishop Lowth was the first to categorize Hebrew poetry. He did this in a commentary on the book of Isaiah in 1778. (He was informed by Rabbinic sources.) Adam Potkay defines the structure of Hebrew poetry in the following manner.
- The main structural element of Hebrew poetry is parallelism: that is, the juxtaposition of two or more clauses that are related in meaning. The two most common clauses are relations between the clauses that are "synonymy" and "anti-thesis". But a third can also be found, "synthetic" parallelism.
- Synonymous parallelism is the most common type in Hebrew poetry. The two clauses are different in form, but roughly identical in meaning. For example in Psalm 38:1: O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. Or from Psalm 148:1: Praise ye the LORD. Fraise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights.
- Antithetic parallelism occurs when the two clauses show an opposition or contrast of ideas. For example, from Psalm 20: 8: [The ungodly] are brought down and are fallen; but we are risen, and stand upright. Or in Psalm 1:6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
- Synthetic parallelism occurs when the second clause completes the idea begun in the first clause (e.g., "as x, so y"). For example in Psalm 3:4: I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.
- There is also cause and effect synthetic parallelism. For example in Psalm 126: 3: The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad
- And finally, in synthetic parallelism there is analogous parallelism. For example in Psalm 125:2: As the mountains are found about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people.
- There is also cause and effect synthetic parallelism. For example in Psalm 126: 3: The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad
Aramaic language but Hebrew Poetic Structure
In 1924 Rev. C. F. Burney, a professor at Oxford, wrote The Poetry of Our Lord: An Examination of the Formal Elements of Hebrew Poetry in the Discourses of Jesus Christ. In this book he carefully describes how Hebrew poetry works and gives examples from the Old Testament and Jewish literature. Later he demonstrates that many of the saying of Jesus are poetry of the Hebrew structure. In this book he reconstructs the words of Jesus in the Aramaic language and shows that not only does Jesus use Hebrew poetic structures but when his words are translated back into the original Aramaic they have both rhyme and rhyme. Aramaic is a Semitic language that is closely related to Hebrew. It is the language of Ezra and Daniel as well as the language of important Jewish prayers and the language that parts of the Talmud are written in. So the poetic forms are Hebrew but the words spoken by Jesus are almost always Aramaic. Why is this? The reason for this was explained in Gustov Dalman's Words of Jesus.
Although Jesus used Aramaic he also at times also spoke in Hebrew. In the Gospel of Luke it clearly shows that Jesus could read Hebrew when he preached at the synagogue in Nazareth. Recent archeological discoveries show that while Aramaic was the common language, Hebrew was also spoken especially among very devout and literate Jews. In Aramaic Sources of Mark's Gospel Maurice Casey views all of the historical and archeological evidence about the uses of different languages in Palestine of the first century and comes to this conclusion, "There is no doubt that scribes wrote in Hebrew: they did not have reason to use Aramaic unless it was a popular tongue…In a sense, the prestige language was Hebrew, since this was the language of the Torah…instruction in the halakha [oral law] was given to most Jews in Aramaic, into which the Torah was translated…In our period the Hebrew Bible was completed and most of the Dead Sea scrolls were written, in Hebrew in Aramaic, because these were the sacred tongue and lingua franca [common language] of the vast majority of Jews in Israel." (To re-construct the words of Jesus in Aramaic Burney used the Palestinian Talmud and the Targums. Maurice Casey is using only the Aramaic from the Dead Sea Scrolls.) The Poetry of Our Lord includes several pages of the words of Jesus reconstructed in Aramaic.
According to Burney, "This is a correspondence in idea between the two lines of a couplet, the second line reinforcing and as it were echoing the sense of the first in equivalent though different, terms." There are two good examples from the Old Testament the first is Psalm 114
When Israel came out of Egypt,
The house of Jacob from a strange people,
Judah became His sanctuary,
Israel His dominion.
The sea beheld and fled,
The Jordan turned backward.
The mountain skipped like rams,
The hills like the young of the flock.
What aileth thee, O thou sea, that thou fleest?
Thou Jordan, that thou turnest backward?
Ye mountains, that ye skip like rams?
Ye hills, like the young of the flock?
Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord,
At the presence of the God of Jacob;
Who turneth the rock into a pool of water,
The flint into a springing well.
This is also seen in Psalm 19
The heavens declare the glory of God,
And the firmament declareth his handy-work.
Day unto day uttereth speech,
And night unto night sheweth knowledge.
Synonymous Parallelism is also used in the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32. Jesus used this poetic form very often. There are too many examples for me to list here.
Mary used synonymous parallelism in the Magnificant in saying, "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit is joyful in God my savior…"
Suffer the little children,
And forbid them not to come unto me.
(Mark 10:14, Matthew 24:7, Luke 21:10)
The sun shall be darkened,
And the moon shall not give her light,
And the stars shall fall from heaven,
And the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.
Love your enemies,
So good to your haters,
Bless your cursers,
Pray for your persecutors.
(Luke 6: 27-28)
To whomsoever much is given,
Of him shall much be required;
And to whom they commit much,
Of him will they ask the more.
Do not judge and you will not be judged.
Do not condemn and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and you will be given.
A good measure of wheat shaken, packed down
And overflowing will be placed in your lap,
Since the measure of your measure
Will be the measure of your return.
This is from Gospel of Loukas 6: 37-38 from The New Covenant: Commonly Called the New Testament, Newly Translated from the Greek and Informed by Semitic Sources by Willis Barnstone. In his introduction to his translation he notes that he has Yeshua [Jesus] speaking in verse. He states,
With respect to their prosodic form, the sayings [of Yeshua, which means 'Jesus'], like Psalms, Song of Songs, and most of the words of Isaiah and Jeremiah in the Hebrew Bible, may be read and lineated as poetry, even though the monumentally poetic King James Version cast them in prose…Here in this version, Yeshua's words are lineated as poetry, just as most of Yeshua's words, especially in John, are lineated in the French and English editions of the…Jerusalem Bible (1990). To most of us it is a secret that Yeshua's speech takes the form of poems. This translation will introduce the Jewish messiah… as the great poet of the first century…, who heretofore has been our invisible poet.
In English it is valued to be succinct and to the point, especially in term papers. One editor commented that she felt that the Bible needed to be edited and that it could easily be pared down. The person is failing to see two things, first the Bible was transmitted orally and much of it is meant to be read aloud and also she fails to see the poetry.
Semitic people look on their languages as art forms. Today among Arabs and Assyrians poetry is valued as it was in biblical times. God spoke through the prophets (including Jesus, although Jesus is more than a prophet) in the tradition of ancient Semitic oral poetry. Burney argued that the Gospel of John was originally written in Aramaic partly because of the large amount of Hebraic poetry found in that Gospel.
Joachim Jeremias notes that "in the synoptic gospels, antithetic parallelism occurs well over a hundred times in the sayings of Jesus." He continues, "the evidence shows that the large number of cases of antithetic parallelism in the sayings of Jesus cannot be attributed to the process of redaction…we have to derive the frequency of this usage from Jesus himself." What Jeremias is saying is that there is so much use of the Hebraic Antithetic Parallelism poetic form in the words of Jesus it must have been the way that he actually spoke and not just the way it was written down in the Bible. A good example of antithetic parallelism in the Old Testament is Proverbs 10:1
A wise son makes a glad father,
But a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.
Jeremias notes that, "in cases of antithetic parallelism in the Old Testament, the second member serves…to illuminate and deepen the first by an opposed statement…in the sayings of Jesus exactly the opposite is the case; there the stress is almost always on the second half."
Every good tree bringeth forth good fruits,
But the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruits.
If you forgive men their trespasses,
Your heavenly Father also shall forgive you,
But if you forgive not men their trespasses.
Neither shall your Father forgive your trespasses.
He that findeth his life shall lose it;
And he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
Whosoever exalteth himself shall be humbled;
And whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
Joachim Jeremias was an expert on the Aramaic background and the Jewish cultural background of the Gospels and the New Testament. He noted that,
When C.F. Burney translated the sayings of Jesus back into Aramaic, he was struck by the degree to which they had a rhythmic shape, like so many of the prophetic sayings in the Old Testament. He found three rhythms (four-beat, three beat, and the kina metre); I should like to add forth, the two beat rhythm. Each of these four rhythms expresses to a special degree, if not exclusively, a different mood, and therefore finds its place in a particular area of thought.
Jeremias also notes the significance of this unique feature in the words of Jesus and demonstrates how translating his words back into the original Aramaic places him in his native Semitic setting. (Although Hebrew poetry doesn't usually rhyme it does have rhythm. In English poetry rhymes and has rhythm as well, usually what is called the Iambic Pentameter. Good poetry will have a certain number of stresses and rhyme and not only rhyme.)
It may be affirmed that the accumulation of the rhythms in the sayings of Jesus allow us to draw the conclusion that we have to do with a distinct characterization of his. In addition, they indicate a Semitic background and provide an important pointer towards the antiquity of the tradition. A comparison of the parallel traditions shows that much of this rhythmic language was lost when the sayings were translated into Greek, and while they were being handed on into a Greek milieu.
Jesus often uses the four-beat rhythm. Jeremias comments, "the repose which characterizes the four-beat…make it appropriate for conveying didactic themes. It is hardly a coincidence that many saying with four-beat lines are addresses to the inner circle of followers and the messengers, for the most part giving instructions but also bringing consolation. The four-beat line is pre-eminently the rhythm for the instruction of disciples."
Kil man deit leh yityeheb leh
Wa kolman delet up ma diet leh
For whoever has, to him will be given,
But whoever does not have.
Even what he has will be taken from him/
Let talmid lel min rabi
Wa let abda lel min mareh
Missat le talmida dihe kerabbeh
Wa abda kemareh
A disciple is not above his teacher,
Nor a servant above his master.
It is enough for a disciple to be like his teacher,
And a servant like his master.
The Beatitudes use the three-beat rhythm. Jeremias explains, "Even in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, the three beat line is used by preference for conveying wisdom; it is also used very often in the psalms. It is the most frequent rhythm used in the sayings of Jesus; it serves to drive home important sayings and maxims." I will use animal verses to illustrate.
Le talayya-it lehon horin
Wa Barnasha let leh
Han deyarken reysha
The foxes have holes,
And the birds of the heavens have nests,
But the Son of Man has no
Place to lay his head.
La tihabun qaddisha le kalbayya
Wa la tirmn margeliyyatkon be appe Khazirayya.
Do not give what is holy to dogs
And do not cast your pearls before the swine.
In this type in the second line of the couplet the sense of the first line flows continuously.
I came to cast fire upon the earth;
And what will I, if it be already kindled?
But I have a baptism wherewith to be baptized,
And how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
Think ye that I came to give peace on the earth?
Nay, I tell you, but rather division.
Luke 12: 49-50
The Kina Rhythm
The Kina rhythm is a tradition dirge, a song of mourning, usually for the dead. Jochim Jeremias describes it in the following manner, "the kina metre has the most individual rhythm. 3=2 with occasional variations of 2=2 and 4=2. It derives from the lament for the dead (kina), in which the singer who leads the lament utters a long cry (three-beat) to which the lamenting woman make answer with a shorter echo (two beat)". Jeremias states that , "The kina metre serves above all to express strong inner emotion. It covers a wide span, including laments, warnings, threats, admonitions and summons as well as beatitudes and messages of salvation."
Burney listed Old Testament examples of the Kina meter. Note that the indented line is the response.
She is fallen, no more shall she rise,
The virgin of Israel;
Forsaken on her soil.
None to upraise her.
Yahweh is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
Yahweh is the stronghold of my life,
Whom shall I dread.
Give ear to my words, Yahweh;
Detect my whisper;
Attend to the sound of my cry,
My king and my God.
If they do this when the tree is green, what shall they do when it is dry?
In be Qaisa rattiba abdin hek be yabbisa ma nihwe?
We piped for you and you did not dance, we sang a dirge and you did not weep.
Zemaran lekon wa la raqqedtun élan wa la arqedtun
This is significant because in Aramaic in this short poem we find word-play (raaqqedtun/arqedtun) and rhyme (-nan, -tun).
(To illustrate the Kina-dirge in the utterances of Jesus Burney first translates the words of Jesus into biblical Hebrew and then into Aramaic on page 138-139 of The Poetry of Our Lord.)
The Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer
The Beatitudes have both rhyme and rhythm when they are translated back into Aramaic. The Lord's prayer also has a beat (and rhymes) as well. Jeremias notes that, "only with the petitions in the first person plural does to Lord's Prayer go over to four-beat rhythm, to return abruptly to a two-beat line in the closing petition." Both the Lord's Prayer and the Beatitudes prove that Jesus used Hebraic poetic formulas in his utterances. I have separate teachings on the Lord's Prayer and the Beatitudes in Aramaic along with their Hebrew background.
Hebrew and Aramaic Word-plays
In Matthew 11:17 (parallel Luke 7:32) we found an Aramaic word-play and rhyme. There are other Hebrew and Aramaic word-plays that are discovered with the words are translated back into the original Aramaic and Hebrew. In Mark 13:28 Jesus uses the same word-play found in Amos; Qatis (summer fruit) and getz (end). This also works in the Aramaic and is found in the Old Syriac version of Matthew at Matthew 24: 32-33. This illustrates the fact that Hebrew and Aramaic are so alike that sometimes the word-plays work in both languages.
Matthew 1:21 Yeshua (Jesus) and yosia, Salvation. This works in Hebrew but not Aramaic.
Matthew 3:9 "sons" Banim and "stones" Abnim.
Matthew 22: 37, 38 and 46
Yrao "honor/fear" and bishrayo "saw"
Old Syriac Word-play (Old Syriac is an Aramaic version of the Gospels).
Matthew 8:2 "one man" gabra and "leper" garba
Both the Hebrew and Old Syriac have a word-play at Matthew 27:6
"Price" Shdmy "blood" dam in Hebrew and dmya and dama in Syriac.
In Matthew 11:7 Hugh Schonfield believed he found word-play, with the Hebrew word qaneh, for a cane or reed and the Aramaic word Qana, a Zealot.
Also in the Old Syriac there is a word-play in John 8:34, "Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin." In Aramaic it is Abed/Ahbdah ("doer/slave").
Christ's Poetic Inspiration
Edward Norman in Secularization: Sacred Values in a Godless World commented that Jesus did not address the aesthetic sense of his followers. (Aesthetics is the philosophical search for what is beautiful.) Norman states, "He did not ruminate on the beauty of the Galilean scenery." This isn't true; not only did Jesus did ruminate on nature, he asks his disciples to do so as well. "Consider the Lilies of the Field" (Matthew 6:28). Hugh Schonfield commented on Jesus' ruminations of the Galilean scenery.
He became a keen student of life and human character. The man we meet in the Gospels is one who knows the countryside of Galilee intimately, its flowers and trees, fields and orchards, the activities of the people in work and worship, in their social, political and economic affairs. The things he teaches and the realistic tales he tells to illustrate his teaching are proof of how much he has absorbed. Such a store of information could only have been the outcome of prolonged and acute observation. There had been nothing somnambulistic in his walks abroad. He had deemed it vital to his equipment that he should have firsthand knowledge of the ways of the world.
Jesus was inspired by the beauty of the world around him. Jesus found beauty and inspiration in the real world and daily life. This isn't only true in his poetry and his teachings but also his parables. Jeremais also brings this point out although his context is the parables and not the poems of Jesus, "We find no fables on the lips of Jesus,; fig tree and vine do not speak in his sayings. Also, in Ethiopian Enoch we read an outline of the history of Israel in the form of a long-winded allegory involving various animals. Jesus indeed regularly uses familiar metaphors, mostly drawn from the Old Testament and familiar to everyone at that time, but he does not construct allegories. His parables take us, rather, into the midst of throbbing, everyday life. Their nearness to life, their simplicity and clarity, the masterly brevity with which they are told, the seriousness of their appeal to the conscience, their loving understanding of the outcasts of religion-all this is without analogy. If we want to find anything comparable we have to go back a long way: the parable of Nathan (II Sam. 12:1-7), the song of the vineyard (Isa. 5:1-7).
The word "inspire" means 'to breath into'. Jesus was inspired of course by the Holy Spirit. (In Aramaic 'Christ" is Meshika which means anointed with oil. The oil is symbolic of consecration to God and represents the Holy Spirit.)
The Jews at the time of Jesus put the Bible in Aramaic so they could understand it. These Aramaic versions of the Bible were called the Targums. In Mesopotamia the Messianic Jews called their targum the Peshitta. This version of the Bible is the official version of the Aramaic churches. In Genesis Chapter one in the Peshitta it says and God saw what he had made and said that it was, not "tawa", good, but" shapira"; beautiful. Jesus used beautiful words. In the movie "Dead Poets Society" Robin Williams played a poetry teacher. The began his class by telling them to rip out and discard a chapter on how to construct a poem. He taught his class to "carpe diem", "seize the day". We do need to be inspired, great movements usually produce great music (music is poetry). But, structures can make words "aesthetically pleasing". We need to seize the day and be inspired, but we need to use the structures so we can communicate effectively. Jesus understood this and he spoke (and still speaks) in beauty and power. On reason his words have endured is the manner in which he spoke them; as Hebraic poetry. We have an inner sense of what is beautiful, put there by God. Poetry that is sloppy, no matter how sincere, will not appeal to others or endure and will fail in its purpose to move and inspire others.
Baptism and the Mandaeans
Jesus as King Messiah
The Seven Feasts of the Lord
First, Passover (Pesach in Hebrew, Pascha in Aramaic)
Second, Unleavened Bread (Hag Ha Matzah)
Third, First-fruits (Bikkurim)
Fourth, Pentecost (Shavout)
Fifth, Rosh Hoshanna (or Yom Teruah)
Sixth, The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)
Seventh, the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)
The Aramaic Bible: The Targums book series
The Messiah's Way of Benevolence
Jesus the New Moses. The Yoke of the Kingdom
Mammon –the Ebion
The golden rule-childlike faith-servant leadership
A way of life-Faith in practice
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 canonical by the original church (Jude 14-15) and used by the early Church Fathers as scriptures (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 the oil. The Gospel of 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 by the power of the Holy Spirit we are birthed into the family of God and then we are given the right to address the Heavenly Father as Abba. (Galatians 4:6, Romans 8: 15-17)
Son of Man
"The Son of God became the Son of Man so that men may become the sons of God."-C.S. Lewis (paraphrased)
The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
When the Son of Man shall be lifted up, all men shall be drawn unto him.(John 3:14, 12:32)
Christ often referred to himself as "the Son of Man". Now in an attempt to avoid "sexist" language this is being translated in a variety of rather absurd ways. The attempts at translating this in a gender neutral manner include the Human One, the Child of Humanity, the Person, and the Son of Adam. I really don't understand the logic in deliberately mistranslating a phrase, especially one as important as the phrase "Son of Man," in an attempt to avoid identifying his gender. Jesus was a man. He was the son of Mary and was considered the son of Joseph. He had secondary sex characteristics such as a beard, which he, as a Jew, grew. Jesus was a man and he was Mary's son. He considered himself to be the Son of Man. Radical feminists are not satisfied with their attempts to emasculate God, they want to emasculate Jesus Christ himself as well! For clarity and accuracy this term must be translated as "Son of Man".
Jesus calls himself the "Son of Man" over eighty times in the Gospels. It is used in all four gospels (and in the Gospel of Thomas). Obviously it is central in our understanding who Jesus is and who he understood himself to be. When it is mistranslated this creates and unnecessary difficulty in researching this term. Son of Man is an Aramaic figure of speech. It has several levels of meaning. The phrase "Son of Man" is not proper Greek. The Aramaic word "Barnasha" underlines this phrase in the New Testament. Jesus taught that he was the Son of Man. Mary Magdalene accepted Jesus as the Son of Man. To understand Jesus Christ, as he was and who he believed himself to be, and also who his disciples, such as Mary Magdalene accepted him to be, we must look at the underlining Aramaic of his words. This is especially true of the phrase the Son of Man. Investigating the meaning of Son of Man will also clarify the relationship between Jesus of Nazareth and Mary of Magdala. One of the reasons that Mary of Magdala followed Jesus was that she believed him to be the Son of Man foretold by the prophets. Ancient Aramaic texts that were excluded from the Bible, such as the Book of Enoch and the Odes of Solomon, deepen our understanding of the phrase the Son of Man. These Aramaic books were used by, and some of them were written by, early Aramaic Christians but they failed to be included in the New Testament.
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. 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. 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, and the Human Being. Part of the reason for this new translation is 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. With the title Jesus is identifying himself with the human race but it is also important that Jesus uses the masculine gender.
What is the difference between the titles Son of God and Son of Man? Son of Man refers to the cosmic pre-existent judge, redeemer and Messiah. This is the Elect or Chosen One. In reality "Son of Man" and "Son of God" are practically synonymous.
Son of Man in the Old Testament
The Hebrew word is Ben Adam. In Ezekiel it means Human being. In Ezekiel God addresses Ezekiel as "Son of Man" but in this writing it does not have the significance that it latter had in the teachings of Jesus. Although the term "son of man" is found throughout the Old Testament, the basis for the understanding of the term the Son of Man is in the Book of The Prophet Daniel. Daniel was partially written in Aramaic. In both Hebrew and Aramaic the term, "the sons of men," is a figure of speech that means people or human beings.
The Son of Man and the Son of God
So what does "Son of God" mean? In Aramaic it is Bar Elaha or Brona D'Alaha. Son of God refers to the Christ, the Anointed King. This is because the Son of David, Bardawood, has the right to call God his Father according to 2 Samuel 7: 13-14, God promised David that the Messiah would be his son. The Lord spoke and said, 'I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his Kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be my son." This prophecy was fulfilled in part by Solomon and the Davidic dynasty but was fulfilled in its completion in Jesus Christ (see also Psalm 2). In the Gospels, the Son of God is always mentioned with the word or connected to the word, Christ. This begins in Mark 1: 1, "The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." In Matthew 26: 63 Caiaphas says, "I adjure you by the living God that you tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus answers and says, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man…" Here Caiaphas equates the Son of God with the Messiah and Jesus equates the Son of Man with the Son of God. When Peter confesses Jesus as the Messiah he says, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Matthew 16: 16). Nathaniel does that same thing when he confesses Jesus as King Messiah. He says, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel" (John 1:49). In certain extra-biblical writings the Son of Man is a pre-existent divine being who stands in the presence of the Ancient of Days (the Lord) and will come in the future to implement God's judgment. Jesus as the "Son of God" also means that he is a Divine Being. But Jesus is the Eternal Son of God and is called God the Son. Many scriptures proclaim the deity of Christ and explain that it was through the Son that God created the Universe.
The Son of Man in the Apocalypses of Daniel and Enoch
The Book of Daniel is written in Aramaic. Our Old Testament as we have it today is written in two languages Hebrew and Aramaic. Ezra and Daniel have large sections that are in Aramaic and not Hebrew in our manuscripts. Daniel, in the Aramaic section, contains a prophecy of the coming of a cosmic judge who will come and reward the righteous and condemn the wicked. Daniel symbolically represents the various world empires of man as "beasts" and "monsters". Suddenly a divine being appears who is "one like the Son of Man". Instead of a monster we have a human being who brings God's eternal kingdom. This Son of Man stands before the Ancient of Days, that is, God the Eternal Father. DANIEL REFERS TO THE SON OF MAN IN A FORM OF THE ARAMAIC WORD BAR NASHA, HE USES THE SAME PHRASE JESUS USED. Jesus was citing the old prophets when he called himself the Son of Man. Daniel prophesied saying, "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him befor him. And there was given to him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14).
Another book that contains important prophecies of the coming of the Son of Man is the Book of Enoch. Jude quotes from it as scripture and it was known and used by early church fathers and is referenced by the epistle of Barnabas, the apocalypse of Peter, by Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origin, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian. Augustine wrote against it and due to his influence it lost its canonical status. (Jude quotes from Enoch in verse thirteen and fourteen of his epistle saying, "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against them.") Ethiopia, however, has preserved the Book of Enoch in their version of the Old Testament. It was lost to the Western World until explorers brought it back from Ethiopia and translated it into European languages. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in Qumran copies of the Enoch, in its original Aramaic language were discovered. Of particular interest is the messianic prophecies of the coming of the Son of Man found in Enoch. The copies of the Book of Enoch found among the Dead Sea Scrolls are not complete and the Son of Man prophecies have not been found among them. There is a complete copy of the Book of Enoch that has been discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls but it is being held by a private collector and has not been made available. Despite this fact, most Enoch scholars do believe that the Son of Man prophecies were not added by a later hand but existed in Enoch as it was in the first century. So certain scholars say that "Enochic concepts" are found in various New Testament books including the Gospels and Revelation. The Book of Enoch was quoted from in early Aramaic (Syriac) Christian sources and was distributed by Eastern Christians as far as Turfan, China where fragments of it were discovered.
Many scholars believe that when Jesus said that he was the Son of Man he was identifying himself as the Messiah to those who were familiar with the prophecies in the Aramaic section of Daniel and in the Aramaic Book of Enoch. As Christ says in Revelation, "He who has ears let him her", which is an Aramaic figure of speech which means, "Let he who can catch my meaning do so" (Rev. 12: 1, 11, 17, 29; 3: 6, 13, 22; 13: 9). Jesus specifically tells us he expects us to be familiar with the Prophet Daniel, he says, "As was spoken by the prophet Daniel, let the reader understand" (Matthew 24:15). 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)
The Aramaic Book of Enoch
In Enoch the Son of Man is also called the Elect One (the Chosen One) and the Messiah (the Anointed One). An important section in Enoch dealing with the Son of Man is Chapters 45-48. He stands before the Ancient of Days. He is the righteous one. The Son of Man brings deliverance, salvation and judgment.
And [the people of God] had great joy, and they blessed and praised and exalted because of the name that the Son of Man had been revealed to them. And when he sat on the throne of his glory, and the whole judgment was given to the Son of Man, and he will cause sinners to pass away…And from then on there will be nothing corruptible, for that the Son of Man has appeared and has sat on the throne of his glory, and every thing evil will pass away and from before him. (Enoch 69)
Here is another 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 from 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 contains later additions to the text and is thus comparable in value to the Book of Maccabees. As important as the Book of Enoch is, in its present form it does not belong in the canon of scripture. That being said, the Coptic Christians have done us a great service in preserving this vital ancient text for us.
The Son of Man in the Teachings of Jesus
Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" (Matthew 16:13). Jesus repeatedly designated himself as the Son of Man. He also made prophecies of the coming of the Son of Man, who would bring Judgment Day. He said, "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then he will sit on the throne of glory. All the nations will be gathered before him" (Matthew 25:31-32). Jesus in saying that he was the Son of Man was identifying himself with the human race but he was also identifying himself as the coming Messiah. As he used this Aramaic expression over eighty times in the Bible, and it is found in all four gospels (five if you count Thomas) this Aramaic phrase is of the greatest significance in understanding who Jesus proclaimed Himself to be.
The Son of Man in the Preaching of Jesus and in the Apocalypse of John the Revelator
After the Gospel accounts, the use of the Aramaic term "the Son of Man" seems to be suddenly dropped. It is found again only once in the Acts of the Apostles and twice in the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Before the martyrdom of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, he cried out; "Look! I see the heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" (Acts 1: 56). When this statement the ruling Jewish counsel took Stephen and stoned him to death. The reference to the Son of Man enraged these Jewish leaders. With this it should be noted that at his trial, after Jesus claimed that he was the Son of Man, the High Priest said, "What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy" (Mark 14:62-63 NKJV). With this they sentenced him to death. This shows that the enemies of Jesus took his claims to be the Son of Man to be a claim of being a messianic diving being. When Jesus appears to John in his superhuman divine form, John calls this manifestation of the Christ "the Son of Man." John says, "I turned to see the voice that spoke to me. And having turned I saw…one like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes like a flame of fire; his feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and his voice as the sound of many waters…his countenance was like the sun shining in its strength" (Revelations 1:12-16 NKJV). In our culture we personify death as the "Grim Reaper" carrying a scythe with which he harvests souls. In Revelation King Messiah carries this sickle and uses it. John says,
And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on his head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for you to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." So he who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped (Revelation 12:14-16 NKJV).
This figure is the Son of Man and wears a crown and so we know that this is Lord Jesus. The Aramaic figure of speech, "Barnasha," has many levels of meaning. One of these meanings is that of a title for the great cosmic judge and redeemer of all mankind, the pre-existent Messiah. When Jesus called himself the Son of Man, and when he is called the Son of Man, this is what this term means.
Paul's Son of Man Theology: The Second Adam
It may seem that the use of the term and of the concept of the Son of Man, suddenly drops off after the Gospels, but this is a misconception. Paul also refers to the Son of Man but he uses a different form. In Jewish mysticism the Messianic Son of Man was also called the Adam Kodman or the New Adam. Paul refers to this doctrine of the Son of Man when he calls Jesus the Second Adam or the New Adam (Romans 5:17-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:45-49). This idea of the Adam Kodman is found in the book of Jewish mysticism called the Kaballah. One of the most important texts of the Kaballah is the Zohar and it is written in the Aramaic language. The Aramaic Kabbalah, has gotten a great amount of publicity from popularizers such as Madonna. I find certain parts of the Kaballah problematic. (The Kabbalah is speculative Jewish mysticism. Some concepts in the Kabbalah are very interesting, but others are unbiblical. The Kabbalah has been influential in both Judaism and Christianity. It is very complex and difficult to understand. I personally believe that for certain people Kabbalah studies can be dangerous and so it should be studied with extreme caution. False ideas such as astrology and reincarnation are part of the Kabbalah.) Hugh Schonfied explains the Jewish theology of the Adam Kodman/Son of Man and its relation to Paul's doctrine of Jesus as the Second Adam in this book The Jew of Tarsus. It should be noted that while in the main Biblical text for the Son of Man, the Prophecy of Daniel, that while the Son of Man is clearly an individual, a messiah-figure, this title also encompasses the people of God. When Daniel continues to speak of the Son of Man the term also includes "the people, the saints of the most high" (Daniel 7:27). All of this demonstrates that Paul was teaching that Jesus is the Son of Man using a slightly different vocabulary, that of the Jewish kabbalah (this word means "tradition" and usually refers to a theological tradition) of the Adam Kodman/Son of Man. (Also, the Mandaeans also have a theology of Adam who has the status of a prophet. Among them he is as important as John the Baptist. They also believe in the Celestial Adam, who is called the Adakas in their texts.) God's people, the Church, shall be joined together in the mystical body of Christ, the Son of Man. Paul used the language of the Jewish mystics concept of the Adam Kodman, the Son of Man, to explain the identity of Jesus as God and Messiah.
The Son of Man in the Aramaic Odes of Solomon
The Odes of Solomon is a very ancient collection of Christian hymns. Scholars date it from 70-100 AD. It was written in Aramaic. It was circulated widely enough to have been used by the early Father Ignatius of Antioch (who died 117 AD). It seems to be an ancient Jewish Christian hymnbook. The Odes of Solomon also teaches us about the Son of Man. One of the Odes reads:
He hath caused me to know himself, without grudging, by his simplicity; his kindness has humbled his greatness. He became like me, in order that I might receive him: he was reckoned like myself in order that I might put him on; and I trembled not when I saw him; because he was gracious to me; like my nature he became that I might learn him. And like my form that I might not turn back from him…[The voice of Jesus says,] "The Spirit brought me forth before the face of the Lord, and, although a Son of Man, I was named the Illuminate, the Son of God"…I shall love him that is the Son, I shall become a son; for he that is joined to him is immortal will also himself become immortal; and he who has pleasure in the Living One will become living. This is the Spirit of the Lord, which doth not lie, which teaches the sons of men to know his ways, be wise and understanding and vigilant. Hallelujah. And his Word is with us in all our way, the Savior who makes alive and does not reject our souls, the man who was humbled and exalted by his own righteousness; the Son of the most High appeared in the perfection of his Father, and light dawned from the Word that was beforetime in Him. The Messiah is truly one, and he was known before the foundation of the world, that he might save souls for ever by the truth of his name [Jesus]: a new song arises from those who love him. Hallelujah!
This is an excellent explanation of the theology of the Son of Man. God became flesh as the Son of Man to be the supreme revelation of the Word of God to mankind and to save us by becoming exalted as the Son of Man on the Cross of Golgotha. As Philippians 2;8 says, "He being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death upon a cross." When Jesus claimed to be the Son of Man, he was stating that he was divine. Earliest Christianity preached Jesus as the Son of Man. This proves that when the earliest Aramaic Christians proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of Man, they were preaching that he was much more that just a human prophet but was rather a pre-existent divine being.
The Pascal Lamb
The Triumph of God's Love for Mankind
The theology of the blood: especially in the Levitical blood sacrifice system-movie, the Passion of the Christ.
The lamb of Passover and the Lamb of Isaiah 53
The Quatrodeciman Controversy
Polycarp learned directly from John the Apostle to celebrate "the Paschal Celebration" on the 14th of Nisan, or on the date of the Jewish Passover. The Bishop of Rome tried to condemn this practice. Polycarp went to Rome, confronted him and made him back down. They agreed to disagree. Polycarp was personally trained by the apostles and he learned from them to celebrate the Pashal feast on 14th of Nisan.
Oh, Lord come, come into our hearts, into our homes, into our churches. We invite you our lord.
The giving of the Holy Spirit-the water of life.
The Original Aramaic Church
James the Just
Mary of Magdala
Mary Magdalene Celebration
The Roman Catholic Church has chosen July 22 as the day to remember Mary of Magdala and to celebrate her life. Through all of Christian history Mary Magdalene has been a source of curiosity and controversy. In the film The Gospel Road, Johnny Cash walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and said,
I bet Mary Magdalen walked this same beach right here that I'm walking. I wonder what Mary Magdalen really looked like. The scriptures don't tell a lot about her. But what little is told has made her the subject of more speculation and controversy than any woman I ever heard of. Jesus was to suffer much criticism for his association with people of questionable character. "He dines with publicans and sinners," they said. And to that Jesus replied, "It's the sick that need a physician, not the healthy." And this woman needed him.
Recently The Da Vinci Code has created a phenomenon of people wondering who the real Mary Magdalene really was and many people are seeking inspiration from her. It is clear that Mary Magdalene did play an important role in the early church and so curiosity and interest in her and her contributions is a positive development. I have written on Mary Magdalene in my book Mary of Magdala: Magdalene, the Aramaic Prophetess of Christianity and also in my book Treasures of the Language of Jesus: The Aramaic Source of Christ's Teachings.
Even the most conservative Bible scholars agree that the stories in the Gospel began in an oral form and were passed down orally for decades before they were written down. It is clear that Jesus and the Apostles spoke Aramaic. The name Mary of Magdala is Aramaic. Magdala is Aramaic for "Tower." Mary of Magdala is also quoted speaking in Aramaic when she calls Jesus "Rabboni." In Mary of Magdala: What the Da Vinci Code Misses, Mary R. Thompson notes, "The word Rabbouni is Aramaic and is certainly meant to be a term of some intensity, even endearment, "my teacher."" (In his book Rabboni: The Story of Jesus W. Phillip Keller says, "This was the loftiest adulation she could confer upon him." In Aramaic "Rabboni" means "Rabbi, Master, Teacher and Lord.") Saint Jerome also used the Aramaic language to understand who Mary of Magdala was and why she was important. In Aramaic Magdala means "tower", "fortress, or "watch-tower". St. Jerome, who was fluent in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, commented on Mary from an Aramaic perspective,
Those unbelievers who read me may perhaps smile to find me lingering over the praises of weak woman. But if they recall how holy women attended our Lord and Savior and ministered to him of their own substance, and how the three Marys stood before the cross, and particularly how Mary of Magdala, called "of the tower" because of her earnestness and ardent faith, was privileged to see the risen Christ even before the apostles, they will convict themselves of pride rather than me of folly, who judge virtue not by the sex but by the mind.
It is seen from the Gospel accounts that Mary Magdalene was very important in her involvement in the public ministry of Jesus and especially in the story of the Resurrection. Luke mentions how Mary followed and served Jesus as an apostle in Luke 8:1-2;
And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, and certain women, which had been healed of evil sprits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.
We learn important things about Mary of Magdala from this passage. Mary of Magdala had seven demons cast out of her and that she supported Jesus' ministry. Often physical ailments were considered of demonic origin, so it is possible that the demon caste out of her was a "spirit of infirmity." But with the language of having seven demons it seems she was a demoniac and as such was at times beside herself. "Seven" is a Semitic or Aramaic idiom that means complete or total. Mary of Magdala was completely demonized. Whatever her ailment was, she was completely healed by Jesus and became his most devoted follower. Mary was a Galilean. Matthew mentions Jesus going through the city of Magdala. In Matthew 15:39 it says, " And He sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came to the coasts of Magdala. "During this time, he probably picked up Mary as a disciple. This happened near the time when Jesus fed the multitudes with a few pieces of bread and small portions of fish. During the last week of Christ's earthly ministry, Mary of Magdala accompanied Jesus in order to observe with him the feast of the Passover (called Pascha in Aramaic) in Jerusalem. When Jesus was arrested and all the disciples fled, Mary of Magdala stayed with him. She was with him until the end. Again Matthew says, "And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children" (Matthew 27:55-56). Note that Mary of Magdala ministered unto Jesus. The implication is that Mary was a woman of wealth who gave financial support to Jesus and his ministry. She probably also served by seeing to the daily needs such as for food and clean clothing. Mary also saw to it that Jesus was properly buried and she came to perform the proper rites and to anoint his body when she returned to his tomb on the third day. John's Gospel has the longest narrative about what happened on that day. This account surely came directly from Mary Magdalene herself.
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, while it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher. Then she runneth and cometh unto Simon Peter, and to the other disciples, who Jesus, loved, and saith unto them, They have taken the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came unto the sepulcher. So they ran both together; and the other disciple did outrun Peter and came first to the sepulcher. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying: yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him. And went into the sepulcher, and seeth the linen clothes lie. And the napkin that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher. And seeth two angels in white standing, the one at the head , and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they said unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them. Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, said unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast lain him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and said unto him, Rabboni: which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her. Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her (John 20:1-18).
Part of the reason that Mary of Magdala and her role in the ministry, passion and resurrection of Jesus is found in all four gospels is because she played a central role in the formation of Christianity in history. Also, this role was reflected in the oral tradition that preceded the writing of the four gospels. It is possible that accurate information of Mary of Magdala is found in the Coptic Gospel of Peter. This gospel was written in the early 100s A.D., and contains non-historical anti-Semitic embellishments. However, it may contain accurate historical information about Mary of Magdala. The Gospel of Peter is included in Bart Ehrman's Lost Scriptures. This is the sequence concerning Mary of Magdala found in that gospel.
Now Mary Magdalene, a disciple of the Lord, had been afraid of the Jews, since they were inflamed with anger; and so she had not done at the Lord's crypt the things that women customarily do for loved ones who die. But early in the mourning of the Lord's Day she took some of her women friends with her and came to the crypt where he had been buried. And they were afraid that the Jews might see them, and they said, "Even though we were not able to weep and beat our breasts on the day he was crucified, we should do these things now at his crypt. But who will roll way the stone placed before the entrance of the crypt, that we can go in, sit beside him, and do what we should? For there was a large stone, and we are afraid someone may see us. If we cannot move it, we should at least cast down the things we have brought at the entrance as a memorial to him; and we will weep and beat our breasts until we return home." When they arrived they found the tomb opened. And when they came up to it they stooped down to look in, and they saw a beautiful young man dressed in a very bright garment. He said to them, "Why have you come? Whom are you seeking? Not the one who was crucified? He has risen and left. But if you do not believe it, stoop down to look, and see the place where he was laid, that he is not there. For he has risen and left for the place from which he was sent." Then the women fled out of fear.
After the resurrection Mary of Magdala continued to play a pivotal role in the early church. It is mentioned in the Book of Acts that in the early days and on the day of Pentecost, "These all continued in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brethren."( Acts 1:14). The "women" mentioned here clearly includes Mary of Magdala. We know this because whenever the female disciples of Jesus are listed Mary of Magdala comes first, except for one verse in John where the mother of Jesus takes priority over Mary Magdalene. Many books have been written that suggest that there was friction and animosity between Simon Peter and Mary of Magdala. However, when Mary of Magdala was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied on the day of Pentecost, Peter did not try to silence her. Instead he defended her actions by appealing to Old Testament scripture (Acts 2:14-17, Joel 2:28-32). Women behaving in such a manner at that time and in that culture would have been considered behaving in a outrageous and undignified manner. It is obvious from the context that Mary Magdalene was present and that she prophesied. The scripture specifically states all the believers were gathered, men and women, and that the Holy Spirit came upon them all. To clear away all doubt Peter refers to both men and women prophesying. Peter also often taught that "God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25, James 2:1,9, 1 Peter 1:17). As Paul clearly teaches in Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." It is possible that Paul himself worked with Mary of Magdala in the Gospel ministry. In Romans 16:6 Paul states, "Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us." This Mary mentioned here is most likely Mary of Magdala, but we cannot be for certain. However, in the following verse a woman, Junia the Apostle, is also greeted by Paul. He says that Junia is "of note among the apostles," perhaps meaning that she is a noteworthy apostle of Jesus. Paul's name was Saul Paulus of Tarsus. His given Aramaic name was Saul, but his Roman name was Paul. Junia is believed to be the Roman form of the Aramaic name Joanna. Richard Bauchham in Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels argues that the Junia mentioned by Paul here is the same Joanna who was the disciple of Jesus and associate of Mary Magdalene. Christian tradition states that Mary of Magdala traveled to Rome as a missionary preaching the Gospel. Perhaps this verse supports the truth of this story and maybe we see here Mary of Magdala (mentioned first as usual) and Joanna continuing in their gospel ministry together.
The City of Magdala
Magdala was an important city along the coast of the Sea of Galilee. An important mosaic dated to the first century was discovered in Magdala. It depicted the type of boat that Jesus, Peter and the other disciples would have used on the Sea of Galilee. In 1986 there was a drought in Israel and the shore of the Sea of Galilee at the town of Magdala receded and a boat from the time of Christ was revealed. It is the exact same type of boat that was used by the apostles. It was discovered at Magdala and was preserved and is now on display in a museum. It is called the Jesus Boat or the Galilee Boat. In Aramaic Magdala was called Magdala Nunayya, which means "Fish Tower." Magdala was an important agricultural, fishing, boat-building and trade center at the junction of the road coming north from Tiberias and the Via Maris coming from lower Galilee into the fertile plain of Gennesaret. It is between Tiberias and Capernaum. The city of Magdala is one the coast of the Sea of Galilee near the towering base of Mount Arbel. The town was a center for processing fish, which was sold in the markets of Jerusalem and exported as far as Rome. The boy who gave his food to Jesus in the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 had fishes that must have been either preserved by being salted or smoked (John 6:8-9). It is possible that these fish were processed at Magdala. Magdala was also renowned as a center for flax weaving and dyeing, and the robes worn by Jesus at the time of his crucifixion are said to have been made there. (In contrast with Magdala, Nazareth was a very small place, about 60 acres with a maximum population of less than five hundred at the time of Christ. Jesus was born into a poor family and never had wealth. While Jesus was from a rural area, Mary of Magdala was from a city.) In Greek Magdala was called Tarichae, place of salted fish. Josephus mentions Magdala often calling it "Tarichae." He mentions its destruction during the Jewish War of AD 67-73. At this battle many people attempted to flee the city by boat. There was a terrible navel battle and the sea of Galilee turned red with blood and was filled with human corpses.
Women in the Early Church
Centuries before Constantine, Pliny the Younger was governor of Pontus/Bithynia from 111-113 AD. He seems to have been mildly annoyed by the imperial order to persecute Christians and seems confused on how to implement the order. He wrote a letter to Trajan, the Roman Emperor regarding the situation. He states that after questioning Christians, that he discovered,
The sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food--but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.
It is interesting that when Pliny decided to round up Christian leadership for questioning, that it was women whom he had arrested. The Gospels mention many women in important leadership positions in the early church. . In Acts 9:36 the disciple and minister Tabitha, Gazelle, whose name is Aramaic for Gazelle, is mentioned. She is resurrected from the dead by Peter. In Acts 21:9 it is mentioned that Phillip the Evangelist's four daughters are prophetesses. Romans 16:1 states that Phoebe is the minister of the church at Cenchrea. Romans 16:3 we see that Priscilla (Prisca) is a fellow-worker with Paul. See also Acts 18:24-26. Priscilla is often mentioned before her husband Aquila. Priscilla took the preacher Apollos, an important early evangelists, and instructed him on the doctrine of Jesus. In Romans 16:7 Junia the Apostle is a woman "outstanding among the apostles." Women leaders of house churches in the New Testament are Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11), Mary the mother of John Mark the Evangelist (Acts 12:12), Lydia (Acts 16:14), Nympha (Col 4:15) and Apphia (Philemon 2). (The house of St. Mark, according to ancient tradition, was where the Last Supper was held. Its traditional location is now an important sanctuary for the Aramaic Syrian Orthodox Church. Mary, the Mother of John Mark, was the lady of the house and hosted Jesus.) Euodia and Syntyche are mentioned as co-workers who were active evangelists (Philippians 4:2). 1 Timothy 3:11 in the Greek refers to a deaconess. (Eastern Christians have an old tradition of allowing women to serve as deacons. The deaconate is an office of the church. A deacon serves the church, mostly with administration duties. However, two of the first deacons, Stephen and Phillip, were preachers as well. In Aramaic the word for deacon is "shamasha," and means "servant." In Aramaic churches the shamasha assists in the worship services.) Paul says that Timothy's mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois, had a godly influence on him (2 Timothy 1:5). John the Revelator saw of vision of a woman, who was symbolic of the Nation of Israel and of the Mother of Jesus, in his Apocalypse (Revelations 12:1-6). In the Aramaic tradition Tekla, the disciple of Saint Paul is highly venerated. The ancient Aramaic village of Maloula outside of Damascus is devoted to Saint Tekla, who is believed to have visited there.
Mary of Magdala in the Aramaic Tradition
There has been a lot of confusion about who Mary of Magdalene is. Part of the reason is that Mary was such a common name in the Holy Land in the first century. (The accurate form of the name is Miriam. Miriam is the name of the famous prophetess and sister of Moses and Aaron. The name means "bitter.") Mary is often confused with Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. This is very unlikely because Mary is clearly identified as being a Galilean and came from the city along the coast of the Sea of Galilee called Magdala. Mary of Bethany was from an entirely different region in Palestine, the land called Judea. She was from the town of Bethany, which is very close to the holy city of Jerusalem. While it may be possible, there is no evidence that the un-named repentant "woman of sin" who anointed the feet of Jesus, is Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:36-50). Neither is there any reason to believe that the woman taken in the very act of adultery was Mary Magdalene. This famous passage of scripture is found in John 7:53-8:11, and is the occasion in which Jesus said, "let he who is among you who has never sinned throw the first stone." Pope Gregory popularized a confusion of Mary of Magdala with Mary of Bethany and this error is still very widespread. Mary is mentioned in three important Aramaic traditions, and it seems that in all three Mary of Magdala was confused with Mary the mother of Jesus. In the Jewish Talmud, Mary of Magdala and Mary the Mother of Jesus are the same person. In the Talmud Magdalene is related to the Aramaic word "megaddlella," which means 'hair-dresser" or "beautician" and is used as a euphemism for "prostitute." The old Jewish tradition incorrectly identifies Mary the Mother of Jesus with Mary of Magdala and calls her a prostitute. Also in the Talmuds, the city of Magdala is portrayed as a city of sin and depravity that was destroyed by the wrath of almighty God through the agency of the Roman army. While the Bible clearly shows that the mother of Jesus and Mary of Magdala are separate people certain individuals in the early Aramaic tradition confused them. (They are both mentioned as being together standing with Jesus as he was being crucified in John 19: 25.) Amy Welborn in De-coding Mary Magdalene mentions (quoting Stephen Shoemaker), "in early Christian Syria, where it seems most likely that the Gnostic Mary traditions first developed, it was believed that Christ first appeared to his mother, Mary of Nazareth, commissioning her with a revelation to deliver to his followers" (page 40). Syria is sometimes a synonym for 'Aram' or Aramaic speaking regions. Christian Syria often refers to Christians of the Syriac Aramaic Christian heritage. Welborn also quotes the famous Ephraim the Syrian, who is highly honored in both of the main Aramaic Christians traditions, Syrian Orthodox and Church of the East. The Roman Catholics consider Ephraim one of the great "Doctors of the Church." Welborn says, "A fourth-century Eastern poet named Ephrem used this image [that of Mary as "Apostle to the Apostles"], although, confusingly to us, he conflates Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the following (as we saw…this was a characteristic of Syrian Christianity in this period):
At the beginning of his coming to earth
A virgin was first to receive him,
And at his raising up from the grave
To a woman he showed his resurrection.
In his beginning and in his fulfillment
The name of this mother cries out and is present.
Mary received him by conception
And saw an angel at his grave."
(In this reference on page 48,Welborn quotes from Susan Haskins book Mary Magdalene: Myth and Metaphor.) So we see Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus were "conflated" in the Aramaic Jewish and Aramaic Christian traditions. It is possible that Magdalene and Mary of Nazareth were also confused with each other in the ancient Aramaic Baptist tradition.
In southern Iraq and in Iran there is a group of Aramaic people called the Mandaeans. They are also called Sabaeans and are mentioned in the Koran. They are an Aramaic Baptist sect and venerate John the Baptist. They are not Christians, but they have vestiges of an ancient form of Jewish Christianity in their beliefs, practice and their writings. Their theology is Gnostic. Vestiges of their Christianity can be seen in that they worship on Sunday, as early Christians did (1 Corinthians 16:1). According to the earliest historical sources, while Christian Jews did observe the Sabbath day, even the most radical sects of Jewish Christians met together for worship services on Sundays. The Mandaeans also venerate a cross-like object. They call their priests the Nazoreans. In ancient times Christian Jews were called the Nazoreans. Also, they practice baptism by immersion and the laying on of hands (see Hebrews 6:2 and 2 Timothy 1:6). They also venerate Adam, Abel, Seth, Noah, Shem, John the Baptist, Mary and Elizabeth, James the Just, who was the brother of Jesus, and someone named Benjamin. This Benjamin was probably also of the family of Jesus. According to Eusebius, one of the earliest Jewish bishops of Jerusalem was named Benjamin. Often, among the Mandaeans, Jesus is viewed as a false prophet. This isn't universally true, but now it is the official treating. Mandaeans currently have a good relationship with Christians and with the Roman Catholic Church. In 1990 a delegation of Mandaean priests was received by the Vatican, with whom they currently enjoy cordial relations. There are currently around 50,000 Mandaeans. (There are perhaps over a million Aramaic Christians.) While there are many unorthodox beliefs that are held by the Mandaeans, they also observe fossilized customs that originated from the earliest Christian Jews. The Mandaeans teach that due to persecution by the Jews of their forefathers, they were forced to migrate from the Holy Land and to re-settle in the region of Babylon. This seems to have happened in the first century near the time the Temple was destroyed (70 A.D.).
It is possible that the Mandaean Book of Saint John the Baptist contains oral traditions of Mary of Magdala that was later written down and included in this book which is written in the Aramaic language. The Mandaeans didn't write many of their sacred scriptures until after the rise of Islam. In the Talmud, the Rabbis often confused Mary the Mother of Jesus with Mary of Magdala. So in the Talmud, both Marys were merged and were incorrectly thought of as being the same person. The same thing seems to have happened in the Mandaean tradition. The Mandaean veneration of either Mary, and of James the Just, shows that they were believers in Jesus at one time in their remote past. (Probably what happened was that groups of the followers of John the Baptist migrated to Iraq. There they mingled with other groups, including Gnostics. Followers of John the Baptist recognized Jesus as John had. When Christianity became dominant, the elders of the Baptists wanted to maintain their traditions and felt threatened by the emerging church and didn't want to be absorbed into it. They wanted to maintain their distinctive traditions and identity. Certain Baptist elders then revised their beliefs and rejected Jesus. The Baptist sect that has survived is Gnostic. As there were "Christian" Gnostic sects, there were also Baptist Gnostic sects. In ancient times there were probably Baptists sects that were not Gnostic. While they have not survived many of their practices have in the Mandaean religion.) Ancient Christians developed an elaborate story of the childhood of Mary the Mother of Jesus. She was believed to have served in the temple as a child until she reached puberty. These legends are found in books such as The Proto-evangelion of Saint James the Just. In Mandaean literature Mary is called Miriai. In the Mandaean tradition, Miriai like Mary the mother of Jesus, served in the Jewish temple as a child. I believe that the other Mandaean stories about Miriai refer to Mary of Magdala rather than Mary the Mother of Jesus. In the Aramaic Book of St. John the Baptist, Miriai is called the daughter of the kings of Babylon and of the powerful kings of Jerusalem. As a child she serves in the temple of Adonai, the God of Israel. Later she entered into the "Temple of Knowledge' and accepted the new faith. Her father (called "Lazar" or Eliezar in the tradition) castigates here for this conversion and accuses her of being a prostitute. She proclaims her innocence. (Note that Eliezar is called Lazar, which is the same Galilean Aramaic form Jesus used for his friend Lazarus.) Miriai is condemned as one who has abandoned Judaism and has gone to "love her lord." "Her lord" is the man who introduced her to her new found faith. Following this story Miriai has flees her persecutors and has gone to Mesopotamia. Here Miriai is presented as the True Vine, "the tree that stands near the mouth of the Euphrates. The leaves of this tree are diamonds. Her fruit are pearls. The leaf of the vine is splendor and its tendrils are precious light. Its perfume has extended to all the trees and has gone out to all the worlds." Among her branches many find shelter. Mary as the vine is a founding mother who provides sacred food and drink to the community. Her father, Lazar, and her mother and a delegation of priests from Jerusalem have come to apprehend her. Lazar is a Cohen, a priest of the temple. They are pursuing Miriai because she "fled from the priests, loved a man, and they held hands." This man they accuse of being with Miriai is accused of the crime of breaking down the dovecotes of Jerusalem. For this crime of this man, whom they call a "stranger" or "alien man," they have "prepared a pole." This is a reference to the cross of crucifixion. When this delegation of priests finally find Mary they discover that she is now a priestess! This is the only Mandaean writing featuring a priestess. Miriai wears the white robes of a priest, she carries a priestly staff and sits reading scriptures from upon a throne. (Note that is was very unusual for a woman to be literate in ancient times.) Her mother condemns her mentioning that as a child the Torah was upon her lap but now she reads from a different Aramaic sacred text. The Jews are enraged to see Mariai reading these sacred texts. As she speaks, the worlds shake. As she prays and preaches even the fish and birds listen and a fragrant aroma envelopes her disciples that are attentively listening to her. She rebukes her accusers saying, "I am not a woman who has left through wantonness, and it is not that I have loved a man. I did not go away to come back and see you again, you, the vault of error. Go away! Go away from me, you who have testified false witness and lies against me. You have testified against me wantonness and theft and have presented me as you yourselves are. May the man who has freed me from my chains and has planted my feet here be blessed. I have committed no wanton act with him and no theft have I performed in the world. Instead of the testimony that you have borne against me, prayer and praise be showered on me." After this the wrath of God brings about the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem for the persecution of Mariai and other disciples such as Jacob, who is James the Just.
This Miriai is clearly identified as being a Jewish woman in The Book of John the Baptist. In this Aramaic book Miriai is called the True Vine and the Treasure of Life, Simat Hiia in Aramaic. She is the daughter of kings and is raised in the Holy Temple where she was a minister of the Temple. She begins to wear the white garments of a Mandaean and is a female priest. She is pursued by her persecutors to the mouth of the Euphrates. She overcomes them and is depicted as a founding mother who gives spiritual nourishment to her community. She is called the perfect one and the pious believer. I believe that the story of Miriai is the legend of Mary of Magdala as remembered by the Mandaeans. Here is where we find of the life of Mary of Magdala. Mary/Miriai is born to a noble house of wealth and influence. She joins with a new temple of knowledge, which is the Kingdom community of Jesus. I believe it is possible that the Mandaean Book of John may contain a veiled reference to Jesus Christ. It is possible thatJesus is this unnamed "seducer." (It must also be noted that Miriai does not deny a relationship with this man but she does adamantly deny that their relationship was a sexual one. If my interpretation is correct here we have an ancient Aramaic text in which we have Mary Magdalene affirming a relationship with Jesus but denying it was sexual.) I believe that it is interesting that they want to crucify the man they perceive as Mary's lover because he broke their "dove coats" and took their doves. I believe that one of the primary reasons that the chief priests decided to have Jesus crucified was the incident of the cleansing of the temple. Jesus forcibly cleared out a courtyard in the Lord's Temple that the chief priests had transformed into a market place in which they were selling animals for sacrifice, including doves! Let us look at the scriptures. In Mark it says, "and Jesus went into the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves" (Mark 11:15). In John's gospel, special attention is brought to the dove sellers again. John states, "And [Jesus] found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and moneychangers doing their business. When he made a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And he said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make my Father's house a house of merchandise!" (John 2: 14-15). Note that Christ's actions and his words were directed against the dove sellers. Apparently, after the crucifixion, Mary went to Babylonia and Mesopotamia to preach the message of Jesus to the Aramaic peoples there, the Assyrians, the Chaldeans and the Babylonians. There was a large Jewish community in Babylonia. Much of the standard Jewish texts still used today, the Massoretic text of the Old Testament, the Talmud and certain Targumim, originated from the Jewish community of Babylon. As the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem sent a delegation to question John the Baptist (John 1:19-28) and sent Paul out to apprehend believers in Yeshua (Jesus) even to the city of Damascus (Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-30), it is likely that they sent a delegation to investigate the actions of Mary of Magdala when she was preaching in the Aramaic east. All Jewish communities were seen as being under the authority of the high priest in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was seen as having jurisdiction over all Jewish communities in the world. There was a large and important Jewish community in Babylon that maintained a relationship with the authorities in Jerusalem. It is likely, as these Mandaean texts indicate, that they intended to apprehend Mary of Magdala and perhaps to have her executed as they did Jesus of Nazareth and his servant James the Son of Thunder. The Mandaen texts seem to indicate that these events happened near the time of the martyrdom of James the Just, who was murdered by the high priests in 62 A.D. According to Mandaean tradition and the tradition of the early Christian Jews (no, they didn't consider that an oxymoron at the time) the Temple was destroyed because God was angry at the Jews for persecuting and killing James the Just. Josephus mentions that others disciples, who are unnamed, were killed along with James. It is possible that the Jews captured Mary of Magdala in Babylonia and brought her in chains back to Jerusalem to face trial and execution with James the Just. It must be noted that the High Priest who had James the Lord's Brother and others put to death outraged most of the Jewish people by these actions. There was a popular uprising at this and the people demanded that this High Priest, Ananius, be deposed for his crime in killing James and the others and he was. While most Jews did not accept Jesus as Messiah, the majority viewed James and the Nazoreans as devout worshipers of God and as fellow Jews. I believe that these Aramaic traditions of Miriai are stories that were passed down about Mary of Magdala and her missionary journeys to the east. (For more information on the Mandaeans see E.S. Drower The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran (Oxford 1937), Edmondo Lupieri The Mandaeans: The Last Gnostics (William B. Eerhman's Publishing Company 2002) and Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley The Mandaeans: Ancient Texts and Modern People (Oxford University Press, 2002).)
In the Aramaic tradition, women had a greater role in the church that was later developed in traditions of the west. Many people are using Gnostic texts to champion a new feminine spirituality. In reality, many of these Gnostic texts are misogynist. While in certain Gnostic groups the female was seen as debased and inferior to the male, in ancient Aramaic Christian tradition women were honored. The female deaconate was a very significant feature of the church within Eastern and Aramaic Christianity. Western Europe did not have deaconesses until around the fifth century and then only begrudgedly. Latin sources are punctuated by prohibitions against the ordination of deaconesses. The early Syriac Aramaic Didascalia Apostolorum, which is called "The Apostolic Constitutions" or "The Teachings of the Apostles" was written around 225-250. Samuel Hugh Moffett in A History of Christianity in Asia: Volume I: Beginnings to 1500 describes it as "the oldest manual of church order extant, written...by a bishop living between Edessa and Antioch who was perhaps Jewish…" (This book by Moffett is the best history of Aramaic Christianity currently available.) The Didaskalia outlines certain activities of deaconesses. They assisted the bishop in the baptism of women and in the anointing with oil. They assisted women who were in need, sick or afflicted. They served as intermediaries between women and the male clergy. They insured that women in the church behaved with respect and propriety, especially towards elderly women. They insured the chastity and godly living of young women in the church. They bore messages and traveled about on church business. They gave instructions to new converts learning the fundamentals of the faith. Particularly with in Aramaic Christianity, deaconesses administered the Lord's Supper, to women who were sick, to nuns, to younger children and to other deaconesses when the pastor was unavailable. In ancient Aramaic Christianity women had a greater role in the ministry of the Church that is intolerable in the tradition of the Westernized Roman Catholic Church. Since Jesus was a Middle Easterner and a speaker of Aramaic, he belonged to the same culture as the Aramaic people, since he was one of them. In Europe Christianity had to go through many different cultural and linguistic barriers before it reached the common person. Before Christianity reached Roman culture it went from Aramaic, to Greek and then finally into Latin. The common Roman worshiped the God's of Olympus or belonged to a mystery religion. The culture of the Romans and the Greeks was vastly different from the Semitic cultures of the Near East. The Aramaic people received Christianity directly from the Apostles and they received the Gospel in its original Aramaic language and in its original cultural context. The Aramaic Church, not Rome, is the mother church. The Aramaic tradition more accurately reflects the original practice of the Messiah and his apostles than does the Westernized Roman Catholic Church. The one true church founded by Jesus Christ is the Aramaic Church. The Aramaic church is of the east, the land in which Jesus lived, not of Rome. Jesus was Aramaic. He was not a Roman and he never went to Rome, nor did he found the church of Rome. Jesus founded the Aramaic Church of the Middle East. This is the church of his land and culture.
(In the Bible women are described as ministering unto Jesus. In the Greek version of the Bible the Greek verb diadoneo, which mean to minister and to serve, is used. This is the word from which the English word "deacon" is derived, and it is used to describe what the women did in addition to following Jesus. Tertullian of Carthage (c. 160-220 A.D.) considered widows an order (in Latin "ordo") in the church that were to be given a place of honor in the congregation equal to that of the elders. Paul mentions the role of the Order of Widows, and who should be admitted to this order in 1 Timothy 5:3-16.)
In the Aramaic tradition there were also the "Daughters of the Covenant," called Benat-Qeyama. These women were totally committed –celibate, single-minded and separated. According to Moffatt, the word most characteristically used of them is singleness, with all its overtures of virginity of the body, commitment of the heart and mystical union with Christ. There were also men "Sons of the Covenant," the "Benai-Qeyama," who took vows to be warriors of God against the world, the flesh and the devil.
Mary of Magdala in Western Church Tradition
According to tradition Mary evangelized Ephesus and there died as a martyr. There are later legends of Mary evangelizing France but these are late and unreliable. Mary Magdalene is often compared with the "beloved" searching for her lover in the Song of Songs from the Old Testament. Certain church fathers also portray Magdalene as a second or new Eve who undoes the sin of the first Eve. As previously mentioned, in the Catholic tradition, which includes the legends of Mary of Magdala traveling to France, she is portrayed as Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha. In fact, in these stories, she evangelizes France with Martha and Lazarus and traveled to that land by boat with them. In the Catholic tradition, Mary of Magdala is the pensive penitent. She is the symbol of the repentant sinner. There is a famous legend of Magdalene preaching to the Roman Emperor Tiberius. When he scoffs at the resurrection, Mary of Magdala miraculously changes an egg red before his eyes. Impressed by this miracle and its symbolic meaning, he relieves Pontius Pilate of his duties and banishes him to Gaul for his part in the killing of Jesus.
Junia the Apostle Resources
After Mary of Magdala the second most important woman leader of the early church was Junia, whom Paul calls an "apostle." In Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels Richard Bauckham convincingly argues that Junia is the same as Joanna, the disciple of Jesus. Other books that have recently been written about Junia/Joanna include The Lost Apostle: Searching for the Truth about Junia by Rena Pederson and Junia: The First Woman Apostle by Elton Jay Epp. Carolyn Osiek, Margaret Y. MacDonald and Janet Tulloch use New Testament references and archeological discoveries in order to recreate the world of Junia and the Magdalene in A Woman's Place: House Churches in Earliest Christianity.
Mary Magdalene Resources
In my view the two best books on Mary of Magdala that are currently available are Mary R. Thompson's Mary of Magdala: What the Da Vinci Code Misses and Amy Welborn's De-coding Mary Magdalene: Truth, Legend, and Lies. Mary R. Thompson's book has an interesting chapter entitled "Women Leaders in the Ancient World." In this chapter, she shows that in certain rare cases exceptional women overcame the obstacles set before them and even rose up to be leaders of synagogue. Amy Welborn shows in her book how that, far from being castigated as a whore, Mary Magdalene was highly reverenced. Her book contains a good survey of Mary Magdalene literature from ancient times and the Middle Ages.
Liz Curtis Higgs Mad Mary: A Bad Girl from Magdala, Transformed at His Appearing (Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, Colorado 2001). This book has been re-titled Unveiling Mary Magdalene
Shelly Wachsmann The Sea of Galilee Boat: A 2,000 Year Old Discovery from the Sea of Legends (Plenum Press, April 1995) This book is about the "Jesus" boat that was discovered at Magdala. This is an important and amazing archeological discovery that expands our knowledge of Jesus and of Mary of Magdala.
There is a Mary Magdalene web-site: www.magdalene.org. While I cannot endorse everything in this website it is worth taking a look at. This site has links to everything you can imagine about Mary Magdalene, from art to movies and literature. This site was put together by Leslie Bellevie, who is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mary Magdalene. The frequently asked questions section is particularly helpful. The complete FAQs can be seen on-line and will be included in Dan Burnstein's book Secret's of Mary Magdalene: The Unfolding Story of History's Most Misunderstood Woman.
Martin Meyer The Gospels of Mary: The Secret Tradition of Mary Magdalene, the Companion of Jesus (Harper Collins, San Francisco 2004). This is a collection of ancient source texts. Medieval legends about Mary Magdalene do not appear in this short volume. This is a useful tool for serious students of Mary of Magdala. However, a collection of such texts with annotations from the traditional Christian perspective has not been published but is greatly needed.
Jane Schaberg The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene: Legends, Apocrypha, and the Christian Testament (Continuum, New York, 2004)
Bruce Chilton Mary Magdalene: A Biography (Doubleday, New York 2005) Bruce Chilton has written books on Jesus from the Aramaic perspective. Chilton uses the Aramaic Targums in order to understand Christ better. The Targums are ancient versions of the Old Testament in Aramaic. They were not straightforward translations but contain a great amount of commentary and other embellishments. Jesus and the authors of the New Testament quote from Old Testament renderings found in the Targumim (or Targums). The tradition of explaining the Bible in the people's language, Aramaic, is believed to have begun by the famous scribe Ezra. The story of the beginning of this tradition is found in Nehemiah 8:2-6. Note that Ezra made sure that this traditional way of explaining the Bible was inclusive. Ezra insisted that women were to be present with the men when the Bible was explained. In Nehemiah 8:2 this is specified. In certain religions, past and present, women have been excluded from worship. Christianity has never excluded women from baptism, partaking or the Lord's Supper or attending preaching services. In the early church, certain positions of church leadership were also open to women.
Alexander Moody Stuart The Three Marys: Mary of Magdala, Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth (Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh 1984) This book was written by Alexander Moody Scott (1809-1898) and was initially published in 1862. I found this book when I was in England when I studied at Oxford with my Seminary. I found it in a famous little town in Wales dedicated to the sale of old used books. This is an excellent, historically, biblically and theologically accurate book that ought to be reprinted.
Meera Lester The Everything Mary Magdalene Book: The Life and Legacy of Jesus' Most Misunderstood Disciple (Adams Media Corporation, March 2006) and Mary Magdalene: A Modern Guide to the Bible's Most Mysterious and Misunderstood Woman (Adams Media Corporation, October 2005).
I am a traditionalist and a defender of orthodoxy. Mary of Magdala: Magdalene, the Forgotten Prophetess of Christianity and Treasures of the Language of Jesus: The Aramaic Source of Christ's Teachings. In these books I deal in a direct manner with controversial issues that have arisen surrounding Mary Magdalene.
Cephas, Bartholomew and Matthew
Fossilized Customs: The Beliefs, History and Practices of the Last Remaining Aramaic Christians
The Gospel of Matthew declares that the fame of Christ spread throughout all of Syria—meaning Aramaic speaking areas—during his ministry (Matthew 4:24). Two apostles carried the Gospel to the East, Thaddeus and Thomas. (Paul may also have preached to Aramaic speaking people first. It is possible that when Paul went to Arabia that he went to the Nabatean Kingdom of Petra in Jordan and preached to the Aramaic- speaking Arabs under King Aretas. King Aretas was probably trying to arrest Paul for his efforts at converting his fellow Aramaic-speakers to faith in Jesus. See Galatians 1:17 and 1 Corinthians 11: 32-3. When Paul says he is a "Hebrew of the Hebrews" in Philippians 3:5 he means that he was raised an Aramaic-speaking religious Jew. Both Tarsus and Damascus were Aramaic-speaking cities.) One of the reasons we know that Aramaic was the language of Jesus is because he gave his disciples Aramaic names, or they had Aramaic names already. Simon the Son of Jonah was given the Aramaic nick-name Cephas, meaning 'Stone'. James and John were nick-named Boanerges, Aramaic for "Sons of Thunder". Judah was given the Aramaic nick-name Thomas, meaning 'Twin' because of his close physical resemblance to Jesus. The other Simon was called Simon the Terrorist. In Aramaic it is Canaanean and is usually translated as Simon the Zealot. Zealots used violent means to oppose Roman occupation. Jesus was willing to accept people with shameful pasts if they were willing to repent and to follow him. Judas Thaddeus has a very interesting name. Simon, as a Zealot, was a man who had been a man of anger and prone to violence. But Judas's Aramaic name shows him to be a very tender and loving man. In Aramaic Thaddeus means "breast". In Aramaic there is also a connection to the word for nipple. This Judas, not Iscariot, also had another name besides that of Thaddeus. (Jude, Judas and Judah are all different forms of the same name.) His other name was Lebbaeus. This is the Aramaic word for "Heart". Thaddeus Lebbaeus means "breast" and "heart". Thaddeus was obviously "all heart". The 'breast' or 'bosom' is depicted as a special place of love and comfort in the New Testament. Lazarus the Poor Man is depicted as being comforted in the Bosom of Father Abraham in an important parable of Jesus (Luke 16:22-24). John the Priest, as the Beloved Disciple, or "whom Jesus loved" is depicted as leaning on the bosom of Jesus (John 13:23). Thus in the Aramaic culture in which Christ lived the bosom was the symbol of love, friendship and compassion. Thaddeus was a tender and sensitive man who loved people. It was this meek and loving man who converted the Assyrian Kingdom to faith in Jesus. This man of love is the father of the Assyrian Aramaic church. In Modern Aramaic Thaddeus is called Addai.
Eusebius Pamphylius, the father of church history, wrote of the Conversion of Abgar the king of the Aramaic peoples. According to Eusebius, Abgar, who was ailing, heard of the miraculous power of Jesus and sent a letter to him requesting that he visit and heal him. Jesus responded that after his glorification he would send a disciple to minister unto him. After Pentecost, Saint Thomas sent Thaddeus and the disciple Mari to preach to King Abgar. Thaddeus prayed for Abgar and Abgar was immediately miraculously healed. Thaddeus baptized King Abgar into the church. After seeing the miracles and listening to the gentle wisdom of a kind and caring man that Thaddeus was, many of the Aramaic speakers and the Assyrians also were converted. Eusebius, called the "Father of Church History", writing in 325 AD, says he found the records of the Apostolic ministry to the Assyrians, written in Aramaic, among the official records of the city of Edessa. Eusebius translated these documents in the archives from the original Aramaic. This letter reads as follows:
Abgarus, King of Edessa, to Jesus the good Savior, who appears at Jerusalem, greeting. I have been informed concerning you and your cures, which are performed without the use of medicines and herbs. For it is reported, that you cause the blind to see, the lame to walk, do both cleanse lepers, and cast out unclean spirits and devils and restore to health who have been long diseased, and raiseth up the dead; all which I heard, I was persuaded one of these two: wither that you are God himself descended form heaven, who do these things, or the son of God. On this account therefore I have wrote unto you, earnestly to desire that you would take the trouble of a journey hither, and cure a disease which I am under. For I hear the Judeans ridicule you, and intend you mischief. My city is indeed small, but neat, and large enough for us both.
Jesus verbally responded,
Abgarus, you are happy, for as much as you have believed on me, whom ye have not seen. For it is written concerning me, that those who have seen me should not believe on me, that they who have not seen might believe and live. As to that part of your letter, which relates to my giving you a visit, I must inform you, that I must fulfill all the ends of my mission in this country, and after that be received up again to him who sent me. But after my ascension I will send one of my disciples, who will cure your disease, and give life to you, and all that are with you.
Thomas also ministered to the Assyrians and went on to preach in India. The Doctrine of Addai is an Aramaic work describing the ministry of Thaddeus and other of the apostles to the Aramaic peoples. The Acts of Thomas, also written in Aramaic, describes the ministry of Thomas in India. The Doctrine of Addai not only tells the amazing and fascinating story of Thaddeus and the founding of the Assyrian Church it also introduces the core principles of Christianity. This book is one of the best books written introducing Christian doctrine in a way that is easy to understand for the layman. Thaddeus the Heart loved people and he wanted them to understand the Good News of Jesus in a simple way. This important theological work of Thaddeus has been preserved for us in the original Aramaic by the Assyrian nation. The Diving liturgy used by Assyrian Christians, called "The Hallowing of the Holy Apostles Mar Mari and Mar Addai," is also believed to have been composed by Thaddeus. It has been determined to be the oldest liturgy still in use in the world. This liturgy is still recited in the ancient Aramaic language of Jesus. Ian Wilson believes that St. Thomas, Thaddeus and Mari brought the shroud of Jesus and gave it as a gift to Abgar. This shroud, Ian Wilson has determined, was stolen from the Assyrians by western Christians, and eventually found its way to Turin, Italy.
Jesus gave his disciples a commission to go forth into the entire world with his divine message. Christians often focus on the deeds of St. Paul and St. Peter and the apostles who ministered in the west while they overlook the endeavors of St. Thomas and Saint Thaddeus and other apostles who preached the Good News to the east. This is the story of the conversion of the Assyrians. The Assyrians are still with us today and they still speak the language of Jesus, Aramaic, as their native tongue. This version of The Doctrine of Addai is based on the ancient historical references and old Aramaic manuscripts. It tells of the beginning of the Aramaic church in Mesopotamia. The church that Jesus founded and that had its headquarters in Jerusalem was of course an Aramaic church. The Doctrine of Addai tells the story of how the Jews, Israelites and Assyrians of Assyria, Babylonia and Chaldea first heart the message of Jesus the Messiah from his holy apostles Saint Thomas, Saint Thaddeus and Saint Mari.
The Assyrians and Chaldeans have a strong sense of national identity. They often look to their past as a source of pride. However, I believe that an exaggerated focus on paganism is an error. The birth of the Assyrian people, as the people who they are today, was the conversion of King Abgar and the Kingdom of Edessa to the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah, as was preached by Saint Thaddeus.
His fame went abroad throughout all Syria.
And there were certain Greeks among them that came to worship at the feast: The same came to Phillip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Phillip comeht and telleth And telleth Andrw; and again Andrew and Phillip tell Jesus. And Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wehat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."
And Jesus was found seated with and discussing the Law of God with Rabban Gamaliel, a prominent Pharisee and leader of the Jews.
Thaddeus said to him, "Because you have believed, I lay my hand upon you in the name of him in whom you have believed." And at the very moment he laid his hand upon him he was healed from the disease of which he had suffered for a very long time. And Abgar was astonished and marveled, because he had heard about Jesus, how He leald without any medicine, and now Thaddeus had done the same through the name of Jesus.
And Abdu the son of Abdu was afflicted in his heat. Thaddeus laid his hands upon him and he was immediately cured. And in all the city of Edessa Thaddeus worked great cures and did many mighty deeds and performed many miracles.
Abgar said to him, "Now everyone knows that by the power of Jesus the Messiah you do these miracles. And behold, many are startled and amazed. For this reason I beg you to tell us the story about the coming of Christ in what manner it was, and about his great power, and the miracles which he did that you witnessed, you with the other disciples.
Thaddeus said, "I cannot keep silent about this matter. For this very reason I came to this place, that I might speak to and teach everyone who is willing to believe, even as you have. Every one in the city is invited to come and gather together tomorrow and listed to me and I sow in the word of life by the preaching of the Good News. I will tell you about the Messiah. I will describe the manner of his coming, about Him who sent Him and about how and why He was sent. I will tell you about his power and wonderful deeds and the miracles of his coming about which He himself spoke of in this world. And about the certain truth of his teaching and for what cause he abased him self, and humbled His exalted Godhead by the manhood which he took, and was crucified, and descended to the place of the dead and how he broke through the gates which had never been broken before, and gave life to the dead by being slain Himself. I will tell you how he descended alone, and ascended again with many to his glorious Father, with whom He had been from eternity in one exalted Godhead.
And Abgar gave orders that Thaddeus be given silver and gold. But Thaddeus said, "How can I take what is not mine to take? Look, that which was ours we have forsaken because I was so instructed by my Lord. Without a money bag or coins, bearing the cross upon our shoulders, we were commanded to preach His holy Gospel in the whole world, his crucifixtion was for our sakes, for the salvation of all men.
And he related before Abgar the king and before his princes and nobility, and before Augustin, Abgar's mother, and before Shalmath, the daughter of Meherdath, Abgar's wife, the signs of our Lord, his wonders and miracles he did and his great deeds and how he ascended to His Father; and how the apostles had received power and authority at the time he was received into glory and it was by this power that he had healed Abgar and Abdu the son of Abdu. He informed them of how Jesus would revel himself at the end of the ages and at the consummation of all time. He taught them about resurrection of all the dead when there would be a great separation between the sheep and the goats, and between the faithful and those who would not believe.
And Thaddeus said to them, "Because the gate of life is straight and the way of truth is narrow, therefore are the believers of the truth few, and through unbelief Satan is gratified. Therefore there are many liars who lead many astray. For, were it not that there is a good end waiting for those who believe, our Lord would not have descended from heaven and come to be born and endure suffereing and death. Yet He did come and He sent us to preach this faith, that God was crucified for all men.
And, if there be those who are not willing to believe our words, let them come to us and tell us what is on their minds, that, like dealing with a disease, we may heal their minds. For, although you were not there when Christ suffered, you saw how the sun darkened, learn why the earth convulsed which took place at that time, when He was crucified whose Good News was spread through all the lands due to the miracles he, and we his apostles, wrought. This message is now being proclaimed, not only in our language, but in many languages. This is so that those who are far and those who are near may believe. For He that confounded the tongues of men at Babel due to the presumption of our forefathers. It is he that teaches at the day the faith of truth and surety by us, humble and despicable men from Galilee. For I who am standing before you and from Caesarea Philippi, from the place where the Jordan river issues forth, and I was chosen, along with my friends, to be a preacher.
For, as my Lord has commanded me, I preach and further the Gospel. Behold, his money I cast upon the table before you, it is the seed of his word that I sow in the ears of all me, such as are willing to receive it. Theirs is the great reward of the confessing of the messiah. But as for those who will not listen, the dust of my feet I shake off against them, and He commanded me to do.
Repent, therefore, my beloved, of your evil ways and sinful actions. Instead turn yourselves toward Him with a good and honest will, as He has turned towards you with the favors of His rich grace and mercies. Do not be like the generations of the past, those who hardened their hearts against God. They have received punishment openly. They now serve as an example to us, that we should fear the justice of God. The Lord came for a clear purpose; this was that he might teach us and show us that at the end of days there will be a great judgment. All who have ever lived will rise and stand before Him and give an account for their lives. Every life will be portrayed God. Every work is written in God's book and all the secrets of men will be declared before all. Everyman and woman will give an account of their lives before almighty God.
You that have eyes, see! Do not be like those who see but cannot perceive the truth. You that have ears, hear! Do not be one that hears but does not listen. Those who are blind and deaf are not to be blamed-but for those who chose not to look or listen, judgment awaits. The dark cloud of error is cast over the minds of many but it can be dispelled by the light of heaven. This is understanding the divine wisdom. You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.
Flee from the things that are created, the false gods and idols. Do not be deceived by this transitory world. Look to eternity. Don't worship spirits of nature, but rather the Supreme Being, who created nature and in his nature is from everlasting and from eternity. He is not a man or an animal, or a work of art, like those images you worship in error. However, although this Being did put on a body, He is God with His Father. For this created world trembled and shook when he was slain and this earth was dismayed at his Passion and His death. This created world testified, and does testify that He, Lord Jesus, is Himself, God the Creator. It wasn't because he was just a man that he earth quaked upon His death, but on account of Him who created the world. It wasn't for a mere man that the sun darkened, but on account of him who created the great lights. Nor was it only for a common man that the dead were raised, but for him who had power over death from the very beginning. Nor was it for a man that that veil of the Temple of the Jews was rent from top to bottom. Rather, it was for Him who said to them, "Look, your house is left desolate!" Wrath and destruction has been pronounced upon them because they have betrayed the Son of God to his death. Woe upon them for their sins and their resisting the work of God. But despite this, many of the children of Israel, of whom I and the other disciples are numbered, have come preachers and evangelists, in all the land of Israel. Many of the Samaritans and Palestinians have also believed. The idols of paganism are now despised, and the Cross of the Messiah, is lifted up in honor, and all nations, people and tribes now confess God who has become man.
If while Jesus our Lord was on earth you had believed on him that he was the Son of God, and before you had heard the word of his preached would have confessed Him that He is God. Now that He is ascended to His Father, and you have seen the signs and wonders that are done in his name. you have also heard with your own ears the word of His gospel. Do not doubt. Believe so that the blessing which he has promised to send you may be fulfilled in your life. This is his word to you, "Blessed are you that have believed in me, not having seen me. Because you have so believed this city is blessed." Do not turn away from his faith. You have heard and seen the miracles that bear witness to his truth. These signs show that he is the greatly loved Son and is the glorious God, and the victorious King. He is the mighty power. By faith in him a man will open his eyes and have his mind renewed. Understand that whoever worships creatures will endure the wrath of almighty God.
Everything I have spoken to you I have received as a gift from my master. So we speak and teach and declare this to you. We do this so that you may secure your salvation and not destroy your souls through the error of paganism.
The heavenly light now shines upon all the world. It is He who chose the Patriarchs of old, Abraham of Ur of the Chaldees, Isaac and Jacob. He chose these men, our fathers of former times, and also the righteous men and the prophets, and He spoke with them by the Revelation of the Holy Spirit. The words they wrote by this revelation are the sacred scriptures. These writings are inspired by the Holy Spirit. For He is Himself the God of the Jews who crucified Hi, . and it is to Him that the erring pagans reverence in ignorance. There is no other God in heaven or on earth. Behold, now your ears have heard this truth and look, now your eyes have seen what you have never seen before.
Do not be gainsayers of that you have heard and seen. Put away from you your rebellious minds, and free yourselves from the yoke of sin. Sin has had dominion over you due to your pagan worship and pagan lifestyles you live. Be concerned about your salvation. Your souls are in danger. Your false hope is crumbling. Lean upon the Master. Get a new mind, one that worships the Maker and not the things that are made. God will transform your mind. He will give you a new ming in the image of the veracity and truth of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Believe and be Baptized in his sacred name. For this is our teaching and our preaching. This Good News is simple. It is not a complicated matter. And those of you who are willing to obey the Messiah are aware that I have repeated this to you many times in order that you might learn and understand what you hear.
And we ourselves shall rejoice in this, like the farmer who rejoices in his field which is blessed, God will also be glorified by your repentance towards him. You are saved by this conversion, and we who preached this message to you, see your salvation as our reward. Now, I am assured that this is a land blessed of God. We were commanded to shake the dust of our feet from the towns that refused to heed God's message. Instead, here we have opened your minds to the truth of the word of God. By my words you have seen the coming of the Messiah that has already taken place, and also that which is yet to be, the coming Judgment Day and the Resurrection. All men and women shall be judged for their actions and give an account to God for their lives. Some will endure sore punishment which is reserved for those who don't know God. But for those of you who receive the Good New of the Kingdom of the Son of Man there is the blessed promise of future joy which they shall receive who have believed in Jesus as Messiah, and worshipped Him and His exalted Father, and have confessed Him and His Divine Spirit.
And now it is time that I conclude my sermon, and let those who have accepted the word of messiah remain with us, and those also who are willing to join with us in prayer, and later let them go home.
And Thaddeus the Apostlerejoiced to see that a great number of the people of the city remained with him. There wer a few who did not remain at that time, but even mose of those people soon afterwards also accepted his words and believe in the Good News that was established in the teachings of Jesus the Messiah.
And when Thaddeus the Apostles had spoken these thins before all the town of Edessa, and King Abgar shw athat all the city rejoiced in this teaching, both men and women, and he heard the people saying, "True and faithful is the Messiah who sent you to us," he also rejoiced greately at this, and gave praise to God, because as he had heard from Hanan his ambassador, about the Messiah, so he had seen the wonderful mighty deeds which Thaddeus the Apostle did in the name of Christ.
And Abgar the King also said to him, "According as I sent the message to Jesus and just as I had heard in his reply to me, so I see for myself that it is all true. He sent you unto me, so I receive from you this truth, I commit myself to believe all the days of my life, I will continue in this way and in it I will make my boast, because I know that there is no other power in whose name these signs and wonders are done but the power of the Messiah whom you preach in sincerity and truth. And hereafter I will worship Him, I and my son Maanu, and Augustine, and Shalmath the queen. And wherever you desire me to build a place of meeting for those who have believed and shall believe in your word, I shall order it to be done. I am prepared to give you a large donation to cover any expenses of your work of ministry. You shall be honored in my city and your teachings shall be authoritative and soverign in this place."
And King Abgar went to his royal palace rejoicing, he and his princes with him, Abdu the son of Abdu, and Garmai and Shemahsgram, and ABubai, and Meherrdath, together with the others and their companions. With all they had both seen and heard, they in gladness of their heart also began to praise God fro having turned their mind toward him, and they renounced the paganism in which they had formerly lived, and confessed the Good News of Jesus. And when Thaddeus had built a house of worship, they came and praised and worshiped there.
And Avida and Barcalba, who were the chief rulers, and wore royal crowns approached Thadduws they asked him about Jesus. They wanted him to explain to them how He, though he was God, had appeared as a man, and how it was that people were able to look upon him? And Thaddeus answered all of their questions and satisfied them with his answers. Thaddeus told them about his experiences of being a student of Jesus and of all that he himself had seen Jesus do and say. Thaddeus also showed them how that Jesus had fulfilled the prophecies of the prophets of old who had foretold of the coming of the Messiah. They received his words glady and with faith, and their was not a man who could oppose Thaddeus, due to his wisdom and sanctitiy, and the glorious deeds which he did.
Shavida and Ebednebu, the chief priest of the pagans of that town, when they saw the signs performed by Thaddeus and Mari, they ran to their heathen temple and threw down the altars on which they formerly had sacrificed to Nebu and Bel, their gods. The large altar in the center of town, however, was left. And they cried aloud, saying, "Certainly, this is the disciple of the great and glorious Master. We have heard of all the mighty deeds he has done in the land of the Jews. And those hwo believed in Messiah were accepted by Thaddeus, and he baptized them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Those who used to worship stones sat at his feet being cured fo the madness of paganism, which had afflicted them. Jews also, including merchants and traders in fine clothes, men who know the law and the prophets, they also were persuaded and became disciples. They confessed that Jesus is the Messiah and that h is the Son of the living God.
But neither did King Abgar nor the Apostle Thaddeus, compel any man to believe in Christ through force, because without such coercion the force of the signs compelled many to believe. And with joy they did receive his doctrine-all this country of Mesopotamia, and all the regions round about it.
Aggai, the royal tailor, who made silks, crowns and headbands for the king, and Palut, and Barshelama, and Barsamya, together with other , clave unto Thaddeus the Apostle. And he received them, and associated with them in Christian ministry. The instructed them out of the Old Testament and also from the Gospel. He taught them to meditate upon these scriptures every day. And strictly commanded them to let their bodies be pure and their character holy, and being fit for men who stand in the presence of almighty God.
"You are to never swear false oaths, or be involved in murder or abortion, from dishonesty and adultery, and from the magic arts. There is no mercy for soothsaying, for divination and fortune-tellers. Do not be deceived into believing in the error of the Chaldeans, who believe in fate and birth-signs. In their delusion thaty booat in the stars and the signs of the Zodiac. The foolish put their trust in these things. Do not show unjust partiality, do not accept bribes or presents. Doing so makes innocent people seem guilty. Dedicate yourself completely to ministry, for the Lord is the work of your ministry all the days of your life. Be diligent to give the seal of baptism. Don't try to pursue financial success or the esteem of worldly men. Listen to a cause brought before you with justice and with truth. And do not become a stumbling block to the blind. Let everyone see that you practice what you preach and teach."
And they did ministered to him in the house of worship that Thaddeus had constructed at the commandment of the king. King Abgar had it furnished with supplies, both he and his nobles. Everyday, many people assembled for the breaking of bread and to listen to the reading of the Old Testament and the reciting of the teachings and mighty deeds of Jesus the Messiah. They also believed in the hope of eternal life. They gave to the poor and the suffering and tended to and healed the sick as Thaddeus had instructed them. Throughout the cities many building were the family of God assembled were constructed. Many were ordained by the laying on of hands by the Apostle Thaddeus and were thereby commissioned into Christian ministry. Travelers, merchants, men of the East and distant lands, and Romans also, heard of and saw for themselves the signs which Thaddeus did. Many became disciples and many were ordained and went in their own country, the land of the Assyrians, and built houses of prayer in secret, by reason of the danger from the pagans who worshiped fire and those who reverenced water, and the Zorasterians.
Later, Narses, another Assyrian king, when he heard of those things which were done by Thaddeus the Apostles were sent a message to Abgar the King, "Either dispatch to me the man who works these miracles before you, that I might see him and hear his word, or send me a complete account of all that he has done in your lands." And Abgar wrote to him the deeds of Thaddeus from beginning to end, and he left nothing out. And when Narses heard these things that were written to him he was greatly amazed and astonished.
And after some years from the time Thaddeus the Apostle had build the church in Edessa and had furnished it for every good work, and had made disciples of a great number of the people of the city, he built churche in the villages also-both those that were at a distance and those that were near. He appointed deacons and elders, and instructed hem to read the Scriptures and to teach the ordinances and Christian ministry without and within.
After all of these things the time for the departure of Thaddeus arrived. And he called for Aggai before the whole assembly, and made him the ruler and guide in his stead. And Palut who was a deacon, he made an elder, and Abshelama, who was a scribe, he made a deacon. And the noles and the chief men were assembles and stood near him. This included barcalba the son of Zati and Maryhab son of Barshemach and also Senac so of Avida and Piroz the son of Patric and their companions.
And Thaddeus spoke his last words saying
You know and are witnesses, all of you who are listening to me, for all that I have preached to you and you have heard me. You have seen how I have behaved living aong you and you have seen God's miraculous acts he worked through me, his servant. Our Lord has commanded us that whatever we preach to the people, that is to be our practice in our deeds before all men. According to the ordinances and laws that were delivered by James the Just, the brother of our Lord, and all of the holy apostles in Jerusalem and all the disciples and my companions there-from this do not depart nor diminish these. This is your guidance for conduct. Even as I have been guided by them as I lived here among you, do not turn from these injunctions, neither to the right hand, nor to the left. I have not turned from these lest I should become estranged from the promised salvation that is reserved for such as are guided by them. Give heed to this ministry which you hold, and with fear and trembling continue in it day by day. Do not be lazy or lackadaisical in your faith. Practice your religion with the discreetness of faith. Do not let the praises of Messiah cease from your mouth. Pray without ceasing. Stand upon the surety of the rock of your faith and do the new heritage of salvation that I have committed to you. You will all stand before the tribunal of the Messiah and give an account for your lives. There will be a reckoning for all shepherds and overseers. God sees and will judge those you who are unfaithful. For He is the Son of a King, and he has gone to receive a kingdom and he will come and there will be a great resurrection of the living and the dead and all men will come before him, and then he will sit upon the throne of His righteousness and judge the living and the dead and he has said to us.
Do not close your minds in your pride. Be wary of putting a stumbling block in the way of who would otherwise not stumble. Seek out those who are lost. Direct those who have gone astray. Rejoice in those who have found direction. Bind up the bruised. Guard the little ones. It is at your hands the sheep of Christ will be required. Do not look for the honor that will pass away. It is a sad thing to see a shepherd seeking personal glory from his sheep. Your greatest concern is for the little lambs, whose angels behold the face of the Father who is unseen. Do not be stumbling blocks to the blind but rather clear the way and the paths in the rugged country. Beware of the leaven of the scribes and the Pharisees. Beware of the delusion of the pagans. Against these fight to show the truth of the faith which you hold. When you struggle against those who hate truth and love falsehood show graciousness and be modest and decorous in your appearance.
Defend the poor man from the oppression of the rich. The grievous scourge of poverty is difficult to endure.
Do not be seduced by the wicked devices of Satan, lest ye be put to shame and stripped of the salvation with which you have clothed yourselves.
Do not dialogue with unbelievers about the faith, whether they be Jews, pagans or heretics. The call to repentance is not subject to debate.
Do not let go of the inheritance that you have received. In the day in which we depart from this world, then on the day of the Lord before his righteous judgment deat, there he will restore us to our inheritance as he has told us.
And when he had spoken these things, King Abgar arose, he and his chief men and his nobles, and went up to the palace in great mourning because Thaddeus was dying. King Abgar sent wonderful apparel in which Thaddeus might be buried. But when Thaddeus heard of it he said, "In my lifetime I have taken nothing from you, and now how can I do so upon my death. I will not frustrate the command that Jesus had given me, "Accept nothing from any man and do not possess anything in this world."
Three days after these things were said by Thaddeus the Apostle, he being heard and having had received from him the testimony concerning the teaching that was set forth in his ministry, in the presence of the nobles he departed out of this world. And that day was the fifth day of the week and the fourteenth of the month of Ayar. And the whole city went into great mourning over his. It wasn't only the Christians who were sad, but also the Jews and the pagans of the city of Edessa. But Abgar the king was the most distressed, he along with his princes. And in the sadness of his soul he despised and laid aside the magnificence of his kingly state. With tears and loud weeping he mourned Thaddeus before all the people. And all the people of the city were amazed to see how greatly Abgar mourned the death of Thaddeus. And with great and surpassing pomp he bore him and buried him as if he were royalty and he laid him in a great tomb that was of surpassing decoration. He was buried among the royal tombs. Abgar buried him there in deep sadness and great distress. And all the people of the church went there from time to time and wept fervently. Every year they remembered the departure of Thaddeus. Thaddeus was succeeded by Aggai, who became the guide and ruler of the church.
He too, with the ordination that he received from Thaddeus, in like manner ordained elders and deacons into the Gospel ministry throughout all of the land of Mesopotamia. They also, as they had towards Thaddeus the Apostle, held fast to his word and listedn to him and received it, as good and faithful successors of the apostles of he honorable and loving Christ. Silver and gold he took from no man, nor did he receive gifts from princes or kings, instead of collecting gold and silver he made the Church of Christ rich with more saved souls of believers.
In addition, regarding the state of the men and the women, they were chaste and circumspect and holy and pure. Christians were watchful in ministry, in compassion towards the poor, in visiting the sick and also those in prison. They were diligent in doing good works. Their ways were full of praise from those who saw them, and they received honor from gentiles and pagans. Event eh priests of Nebo and Bel respected the believers for their honorable appearance, their honesty, their boldness and their freedom that was without sin. For there was no man who saw them that was ashamed of them, because they did nothing that was not according to decencty and propriety. And as a result of this they fearlessly shared the good news to all men. For, whatsoever they said to others and enjoined on them, they themselves exhibited in practice in their own lives. People who listened to them saw that their actions went along with their words and so without much persuading many more confessed Jesus as King Messiah, praising God for having turned them towards him.
And some years after the death of Abgar the king, there arose one of his sons who refused to believe. He was not favorable towards peace and tolerance. He sent word to Aggai, as he sat in the church. He commanded, "Make me a crown of gold, such as you made for my father formerly." Aggai said to him, "I will not give up the ministry of the messiah, which was committed to me by his holy apostle, and make a crown of evil." And when he saw that he would not comply, he sent and brake his legs as he was sitting in the church preaching. And as he was dying he called Palut and Abshalam, "In this house for whose truth's sake-behold I am dying." And there was a great and bitter moruning in all the church and in all the city such as there had been when Thaddeus the apostle died.
According to the custom which exists in the kingdom of Abar the King, and in all kingdoms, that whatsoever the king commands and whoatsoever is spoken in his presence is committed to writing and deposited in the records, so also did Labubna, son of Senac, son of Ebedshaddddai, the kings scribe, write these things from beginning to ends, while Hanan also, set his hand also as a witness and despoited this among the archives of the kings were the ordinances and laws are deposited, and where all legal contracts are kept, without negligence.
The Assyrians have embraced Christianity since the Apostolic period. There is an early tradition which speaks of Thomas as the Apostle of the Suryaye (Assyrians), who in his Apostolic tour, is said to have crossed the lake of Darsapha (the modern Urmia), and preached the Gospel to the inhabitants of Ancient Media.
The real foundation of the church, however, in Mespotamia and Chaldea, is distinctly ascribed by the ecclesiastical history of the Eastern church to Mar Addi and Mar Mari of the seventy; and to the latter the Nestorians gave the honor of being their first Patriarch, from whom the validity of their sacerdotal orders is derived in an unbroken line of Patriarchal descent. The rapid growth of Christianity, and the increasing number of believers, called for a new center of Christian influence. Antioch was too far away from the banks of the Tigris, and a Mar Mari founded the new bishopric in Seleucia, an important city, which became a nursery, whence the seed of the new faith was scattered in the Parthian empire, and which became attached afterwards to the Persain dominions. Mar Mari died in the year 82 A.D. and the See was occupied by one Abras, said to have been related to the family of Joseph, the reputed father of our Saviour. Sleewa Bar Yohanna, an Assyrian author, who lived in the early part of the 14th century, tells us of the labors of Mar Mari that, after the Eastern See was founded at Ctiphon, then the seat of the Persian monarchy, and inhabited chiefly by the Magians, he discipled Dorkman and Cashgar; and went on the same mission to the two Iraks; traveled through El-Ahraz and Yamen; crossed to the Islands of the Arabian and Indian seas, converting many heathen to the Christian belief through preaching and working miracles and constituting them into churches. On his return he exalted the bishopric of Ctisphon to a Patriarchal throne; and before his death he intimated that his successor should be sought for at Jerusalem. Accordingly, after the departure of Mar Mari, a company of believers went to Mdeeta Kadishta), and found Shimon, who had succeeded James, the brother of our Lord, as the head of the church at Jerusalem, informing him of the decease of Mar Mari, and requesting for a new Patriarch. In consequence, Abras was elected and concecrated to fill the vacant place, which he occupied in the year 90 A.D. And after a superiority of seventeen years, the Patriarchal throne was left vacant again by the death of Abras, which took place during the reign of Hadrian, the Roman emperor.
About 22 years had elapsed when the See was filled again by Abraham, who ruled over the Eastern Church from A.D. 130 to A.D. 132. The fourth occupant of the See was Yacob, who gave direction to two of his disciples, Khnaneshoo and Aha-de-Abhooy, to go to Antioch immediately after his death, where one of them might be consecrated to succeed the deceased ruler. But at the time the relations between the Eastern and Western empires were worse than unfriendly. The two disciples, consequently, at their arrival at Antioch, were seized as spies of the Persian king, who, together with Saleeba the Patriarch of Antioch, were condemned to be crucified in that city. Aha-de-Abhooy, however, escaped to Jerusalem, where he was consecrated by Mattias the head of the church there, to succeed Yacob, the deceased Patriarch of Ctisphon.
James and the Shroud
The Hallowing of Mar Mari and Mar Addai
The Syriac Pesheeta
The Aramaic people
The first Christian nation of people was Assyria. God is going to use the Assyrian Christians in the endtime hour in the fulfillment of the prophcy in Isaia 19:23-25.
IN THAT DAY THERE WILL BE A HIGHWAY FROM EGYPT TO ASSYRIA. THE ASSYRIANS WILL GO TO EGYPT AND THE EGYPTIANS TO ASSYRIA. THE EGYPTIANS AND ASSYRIANS WILL WORSHIP TOGETHER. IN THAT DAY ISRAEL WILL BE THE THIRD ALONG WITH EGYPT AND ASSYRIA A BLESSING ON THE EARTH. THE LORD ALMIGHTY WILL BLESS THEM SAYING 'BLESSED BE EGYPT MY PEOPLE, ASSYRIA MY HANDIWORK, AND ISRAEL MY INHERITANCE.'
"In that day" always refers to the endtime hour of spiritual history in the Bible.
The prophecy in Isaiah 19 is a thrilling passage of Scripture. I have written the book "Assyria - The Forgotten Nation In Prophecy" that says Assyria is a forgotten nation. But not by God! Asssyria is a lost country, but not by God!
The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together in "that day," and Israel will be one of the three nations with Egypt and Assyria to "be a blesssing on the earth."
These three nations, God says, will be a blessing on the earth. The Lord Allmighty will bless them saying "blessed by Egypt my people." Blessed by Asssyria the work of my hands."
Do you know what it means to be God's handiwork? Assyria will be a work done by God's hands.
This prophetic Scripture indicates that in the last days the Egyptians will befriend the Assyrians and they will both befriend the nation of Israel. This means that Assyria must exist in the endtime hour.
These three nations represent the thre religions of the Middle East. Islam is the religion of the Egyptians. Judiasm is the religion of Israel. Assyria is the Christian nation. According to Isaiah 19:23-25, the Islamics, Jews, and Christians together will be blessed of God because they will all be worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ.
We Assyrians as a united people profess to be Christians. We say that we come from the ancient church of the east and we speak the Assyrian language, the language of Christ.
But we need a spiritual revivial to be ready to be used by God. We need to be "born again" as Jesus said in the Gospel of John 3:3; "except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Ask Esho M'shekha how you can be "born again." He will show you from the Gospel of John.
Yours in Christ and Assyrianism, John Booko
They Finally "Get It"!
Something truly amazing has happened - a miracle of sorts!
The Arab League, which is the grouping of 22 Arab Countries, on July 15 days
into the current crisis condemned Hezzbolah, the radical, Iranian backed group
which triggered the current crisis.
In an extremely rare rebuke to a fellow Arab and moslem organization it rebuked
the organization for "unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts".
What is going on here?
Simply put, the Arab moslems themselves are finally facing up to the reality
that the 27-year-old radicalization of the Arab cause begun with the fall of the
Shah of Iran and Khomeni's entrance into Tehran has been in fact a failure.
The establishment of an "Islamic Republic" was supposed to usher in a return to
the supposed greatness of the islamic past when the caliphate stretched across
much of Asia.
In fact, it began a reign of terror that instead of advancing the cause of the
needy and neglected pushed even farther back their aspirations.
I will never forget sitting at the side of the late Shah of Iran, days before he
died in Cairo in one of the Palaces of his dear friend, Anwar Sadat.
With tears streaming down his face he said, "I made many mistakes. I didnâ€™t
listen enough to the people. I tried to do things too fast. I just wanted to
bring my people up, but I wanted to do it in my lifetime! I didnâ€™t realize the
degree of evil of the mullahs! My biggest regret though is that they are taking
over after me! I wish to God it were even the Communists because at least they
would be progressive! The mullahs will take my country back 500 years!"
He was precisely right!
Now, 26 years after he made that statement even the Arab League, itself has
finally faced the simple fact that the so-called "islamic revolution" has
failed. It has not just failed politically, but if has failed morally.
The heretofore days of the much pained defense of suicide bombing, abuse of
women and freedom in general hopefully are now over.
In spite of over a quarter century or opportunity to put political islam to the
test it has been an utter and complete failure, finally acknowledged even by the
Arab League itself.
Not just a failure, it has set back the cause of the Palestinians and even the
many rightful grievances of the Arab and moslem world.
As Communism did a generation ago, claiming to speak for the "masses", it was in
fact a totalitarian nightmare that destroyed the common man.
Everybody knew it, but nobody could say it.
It has come time for the free world to stand up and realize that in fact,
political islam, the suede religious/political nightmare that rules most of the
Arab moslem countries is in fact not just a failure, but simply evil.
As in Communism, regardless of what the ideology says, if freedom of thought,
freedom of the press, freedom of movement and freedom of religion to name just a
few are denied than no matter what the public face is, it is simple
totalitarianism in its worst form.
Political islam, is not a religion. In fact it has nothing to do with religion.
It is simply a group of "thugs", just like those behind the Communist nightmare
of a generation ago who cloak themselves with a philosophy to justify their
abuse and desire to cling to power.
Ask nearly any person on the street in any of the failed states that have
adopted political islam and they will readily say - after looking both ways -
that the government is a failure, their lives have no future or hope.
Finally, there is a light, small as it is at the end of the tunnel. Arab moslems
themselves beginning to admit that the experiment has been a failure.
The result on the ground though is catastrophic. The non-moslem population of
the Middle East, essentially Assyrian Christians, other Christians and other
ethnic and religious groups has gone from a historically balanced approximately
20% to now under 2%.
The first step to solving the current nightmare is for the rest of the world to
listen to what the Arabs themselves are saying and finally face the reality that
political Islam has failed.
The next step is to isolate those groups and areas that are continuing long
after it has been shown to be a failure to push it forward and do all possible
to eliminate them.
Next, is to in conjunction with the international community begin to restore the
historic balance to the Middle East that will bring the only hope to the region
- economic viability.
The fundamental reason that political islam is a failure is that like communism
it does not make economic sense. IT is a total and complete economic failure.
Restoring the Assyrian Christians to their own province in Iraq, the Lebanese
Christians to their historic role in Lebanon, the Coptic Christians in Egypt and
similar groups throughout the region will encourage a mass return of their
compatriots who have given up and left the region.
Then and only then will the long-term solution for the troubled Middle East
Good news, though. The Arabs finally "get it". When will the rest of the world!
Ken Joseph Jr. directs Assyrianchristians.com
Aramaic Bible Translation
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For additional information on Christianity in the Middle East
American Congress For Truth
How to have peace with God.
Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank you for dying on the cross to take away my sins. I am sorry for the wrong things I have done. I receive You into my heart right now to be my savior and Lord. I believe Your promise to make me a child of God. I trust You to give me strenght day by day to live for you. In Your name I pray, Amen.