Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The “Jesus” Prayer

Slotho d-Yeshu'


ܥܘܕܝܫ ܨܠܘܬܐ


ܡܫܝܚܐ ܝܫܘܥ ܡܪܝ

ܚܛܝܐ ܚܡܪ ܕܐܠܘܐ ܒܪܗ

The Jesus Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.



Mari Yeshu Meshikha br-d-Alaha rhm htya

Ridley Scott's "Exodus"

Christian Bale, who played Jesus in "Mary the Mother of Jesus," is playing Moses.

Joel Edgerton, who was in Star Wars and several other movies, is playing Rameses.

John Turturro will play Seti and other actors and actresses include Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley.

Maybe I should try to finish my Moses project to coincide with the release of the movie. I have phase 1, "The Ennead," and phase 2, "The Baal Cycle" finished.

The Gods of Egypt

I wrote the Ennead to explain the cultural background of the Exodus story. Basically it is about "the Gods of Egypt," which is the title of a new movie staring Gerard Butler (of 300) and Geoffrey Rush (of "Pirates of the Carribean"). Basically, the new movie and the book cover the same material-the story of Isis, Horus, and Osiris.

"Resurrection" movie

Biblical epics seem all the rage at the moment, with Ridley Scott filming Exodus and Darren Aronofsky working on Noah. It was only a matter of time before somebody turned their attention to Jesus, and it turns out that somebody is Kevin Reynolds, who will be directing Resurrection, about the 40 days following the crucifixion. In what sounds like an interesting take on the material, the story is structured as a mystery, with a Roman centurion appointed by Pontius Pilate to investigate reports of the disappearance of Jesus' body. Initially sceptical about any supernatural goings on, he's gradually convinced as he encounters the Apostles and other familiar characters, in the shadow of threatened uprisings in Jerusalem. Ld Entertainment is producing and financing the film, which CEO Mickey Liddell says will have a Gladiator vibe. Reynolds most recently directed the miniseries The Hatfields And The McCoys.(There are two similar movies both entitled "The Inquiry" –the "Final" Inquiry starring Monica Cruz, Penelope's little sister, Hristo Shopov, playing Pontius Pilate, (reprising his role from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ) and also featuring F. Murray Abrahams and Max Von Sydow. The Inquiry stars Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel.)

Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Jesus"

I recently completed reading Bill O'Reilly's new book "Killing Jesus." Bill O'Reilly has written a couple of successful books on famous assassinations. His previous books were "Killing Lincoln" and "Killing Kennedy." Abraham Lincoln is an American god. His assassination was his apotheosis. This is unfortunate for two reasons. First, the Civil War was horrific, and those who desired war and brought this country to war, as Mr. Lincoln did, need to be criticized. Secondly, the recent Steven Spielberg movie "Lincoln," portrayed Mr. Lincoln as a liar, and a corrupt politician who gave bribes to pass legislation. I suspect it is true and the problem is that that type of behavior is never acceptable. We should expect our elected leaders to obey the law, but seeing a god engage in such behavior, justifies it and makes it acceptable in the eyes of the public. Kennedy is a lesser American god. Unlike Lincoln, the public realizes that Kennedy had flaws, but these are understood to be in his sexual behavior.

It is obvious that Bill O'Reilly started out to write a book on the assassination of Julius Caesar, but then realized that it probably wouldn't sell, so he changed it to a book about another God, Jesus Christ. About 20 % of the book is about the assassination of Julius Caesar and its effects. I think that it is important to understand that the historical Jesus belonged to the world of ancient Rome. I think it would be more appropriate to set the historical context with Hellenization, the Maccabean revolt against it, the decline of the Hasmonean dynasty and the rise of the Roman Empire, with the takeover of Judea by Pompey and the emergence of Herod. O'Reilly does begin the book in earnest with Herod the Great and the Massacre of the Innocents of Bethlehem. Certain scholars do not believe that the massacre of the innocents is historic. (See Reza Aslan's "The Zealot.") But, such historians do concede that the story is entirely in character of Herod.

"Killing Jesus" takes the Gospels at face value. O'Reilly does mention that there seems to be minor contradictions in the texts. I believe that Bill O'Reilly wrote very respectfully of the Holy Bible and the traditional Christian interpretation. For the uninitiated, doing research into the "historical Jesus" can be very confusing. There are those who want to attack the historical veracity of the Bible and who use scholarship to attack the Christ of faith and of the Bible. Then there are those who desire to defend the historical truth of Scripture. So, scholarship on the historical Jesus can seem like a discordant cacophony. Some take a more moderate approach as we see in "A Marginal Jew" by John P. Meier. After the Da Vinci Code phenomenon, some of the more liberal academics were put in what they must have viewed as the untenable position of having to admit that the Four Gospels are the oldest and most reliable accounts we have about the life of Jesus. Even the anti-Christian activist Bart Ehrman was forced to admit that he believes that Jesus Christ was an actual historical person and not a mythological creation, as some of his allies on the left had been arguing. Christ is a very powerful and controversial figure and people on the left use feigned scholarship as a mode to attack Christians. (Mr. Ehrman uses scholarship as a pretense to attack Christianity, and is constantly flooding the market with anti-Christian books.)

I recommend "Killing Jesus." I think it helps the reader, both Christian and non-Christian, to understand the forces of history and understand the historical context of the life, ministry and death of Jesus Christ. It is engaging, highly readable, and draws the reader into the historical context of the life of Christ. Also, it summarizes the life and ministry of Jesus before Passion Week. I believe it is written in a respectful, reverent, and straightforward manner. O'Reilly mentions the Resurrection and lets the reader make their own decision about it. Since he is writing history, he doesn't emphasize the miracles of Jesus. He only directly describes one, the healing of the man with the withered hand. In dealing with the miracles he describes the authorities receiving reports of Jesus performing miracles, or people speaking of Jesus as having performed miracles.

As a trained historian and theologian, I found the book to be overall very accurate. As an Aramaic student I feel that Mr. O'Reilly did give Aramaic, the language of Jesus, its proper place.

The following is a list of minor errors I found:

1. I haven't found evidence that Jews used prayer shawls in the first century. (See the brief discussion of this issue in "The Jews in the Time of Jesus" by Peter Connolly.) Also, most Jews at the time of Jesus were illiterate. The literacy rate among Jewish men at the time of Jesus was, at most, twenty-percent. Also, Aramaic was more widely spoken than Hebrew. Look, children of subsistence farmers won't have the time, leisure or financial resources to educate their children. However, the children did go to synagogue where they learned Bible stories and about the Jewish faith (or "faiths" since Judaism at that time was highly diverse). (from page 80)

2. Magdala is the name of Magdala in Aramaic written in Greek-but in Greek Magdala was called Tarichaeae, according to Josephus. (page 90)

3. Current scholarship seems to indicate that baptism was a self-immersion in the presence of a witness. Joachim Jeremias discusses this in his New Testament Introduction. (p. 97) Also, Jesus' baptism is alluded to but not specifically described in John's Gospel. (p. 103)

4. On page 7 Herod is described as "half-Arab." But since the Idumeans were distinct from the Nabatean Arabs, I think that it isn't quite accurate to describe Herod as "half-Arab." But this is a minor issue. Herod wasn't seen as truly Jewish by his Jewish subjects and part of the motivation he had to re-build the temple was to establish legitimacy.

5. The most important error is on page 121. This error isn't Mr. O'Reilly's fault, since it is very widespread. Jews did not change their coins into "temple coinage" without pagan images. The coins that they changed their money for was the Tyrian Silver Shekel which bore the image of the pagan god Baal Melqart/Hercules. The priesthood demanded this specific coin even though it bore the image of a pagan god for the purity of its silver. I discuss this issue in my book "Christ the Man."

6. Another minor issue-according to the Torah, in the book of Exodus, the Passover sacrifice can be either a lamb or a goat kid.

7. On page 129, the word "Jehovah" is used. It is important to note that from the time of Simon the Just (approximately200 BC) Jews ceased using the Sacred Name Jehovah/Yahweh, except in certain rituals in the Temple in Jerusalem. Using the sacred name could get a Jew permanently banished from the community at that time.

8. On page 147, his contentions about women can be disputed. Note in John 4, the Apostles were surprised to see Jesus was talking to a woman. So, especially by our standards today, women were not seen as equal as men and were repressed to a certain degree.

9. The ossuary of Caiaphas may be on display-but his bones are not (see page 267). The Israeli Antiquities Association is very sensitive to the feeling of the Orthodox Jews to the treatment of human remains, especially of a former high priest.

10. It isn't just Peter and "the Sons of Thunder" that had nicknames. It is possible "Magdala" (Aramaic for "The Tower") is a nickname (although it most likely refers to the town of Magdala). Other likely nicknames are "Thomas" for Twin. There are disciples from the Seventy, such as Joseph "Barnabas" whose name is Aramaic for "Son of Consolation." And there are also Joseph and Judas "Barsabbas" –their name means "Son of the Sabbath." Lebbeus, one of the Apostles, means "heart" in Aramaic and Thaddeus is Aramaic for "bosom." These may have been nicknames given by Jesus as well. (page 263)

I agree with his dating of the Gospels, but some scholars would look at it as a bit conservative. Scholarly consensus is that Mark was written around 70 AD. Also, page 129 describes wooden benches in synagogues. However, it seems that the seats were steps made of masonry-and the floor-see the remains of the synagogue of Gamla as reconstructed in Nazareth Village in Israel.

Despite these minor errors, I think Bill O'Reilly has shown himself to be a competent historian.

The Odes of Solomon

The Odes of Solomon is an ancient Syriac Aramaic hymnbook that may date to the first century.

In 2008, composer John Schreiner released a two-disc album called The Odes Project, which is an adaptation of the Odes of Solomon into modern music

En Gedi Aramaic

The name Ein Gedi is composed of two Hebrew words: ein means spring and gdi means goat-kid. En Gedi thus means "Kid spring." The word 'ain' or 'ein' also means spring in Arabic, and the word 'Gedi' or 'Jadi' also means a goat-kid in Arabic. The indigenous Jewish town of Ein Gedi was an important source of balsam for the Greco-Roman world until its destruction by Byzantine emperor Justinian as part of his persecution of the Jews in his realm. A synagogue mosaic remains from Ein Gedi's heyday, including a Judeo-Aramaic inscription warning inhabitants against "revealing the town's secret" – possibly the methods for extraction and preparation of the much-prized balsam resin, though not stated outright in the inscription – to the outside world. According to the Miholjanec legend, Stephen V of Hungary had in front of his tent a golden plate with the inscription: "Attila, the son of Bendeuci, grandson of the great Nimrod, born at Ein Gedi: By the Grace of God King of the Huns, Medes, Goths, Dacians, the horrors of the world and the scourge of God."

According to the Jewish-Roman historian Josephus Flavius, the Sicarii, who fought the Romans until their defeat and mass suicide at the Siege of Masada, plundered local villages including En Gedi. At En Gedi, they drove out the defenders, and killed over seven hundred women and children who could not run away.

Ein Gedi is mentioned in the Holy Bible:

In the 2 Chronicles 20:2 it is identified with Hazazon-tamar, where the Moabites and Ammonites gathered in order to fight Josaphat. In Genesis 14:7
Hazazon-tamar is mentioned as being an Amorite city, smitten by Chedorlaomer in his war against the cities of the plain.

In Joshua 15:62, Ein Gedi is enumerated among the cities of the Tribe of Judah in the desert Betharaba, but Ezekiel 47:10 shows that it was also a fisherman's town. Later, King David hides in the desert of Ein Gedi (1 Samuel 24:1-2) and King Saul seeks him "even upon the most craggy rocks, which are accessible only to wild goats" (1 Samuel 24:3).

The Song of Songs (Songs 1:14) speaks of the "vineyards of En Gedi." The words of Ecclesiasticus 24:18, "I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades" ('en aígialoîs), may perhaps be understood of the palm trees of Ein Gedi.

(See- Bar, Aviva (2010-01-26). "Ein Gedi, A Streamlined approach". Jpost.com. Retrieved 2011-11-24.)

Terror trivia: Al Qaeda's new tactic to spare Muslims in attacks

Published September 29, 2013

Associated Press

The masked gunmen who infiltrated Nairobi's Westgate mall arrived with a set of religious trivia questions: As terrified civilians hid in toilet stalls, behind mannequins, in ventilation shafts and underneath food court tables, the assailants began a high-stakes game of 20 Questions to separate Muslims from those they consider infidels. A 14-year-old boy saved himself by jumping off the mall's roof, after learning from friends inside that they were quizzed on names of the Prophet Muhammad's relatives. A Jewish man scribbled a Quranic scripture on his hand to memorize, after hearing the terrorists were asking captives to recite specific verses. Numerous survivors described how the attackers from al-Shabab, a Somali cell which recently joined Al Qaeda, shot people who failed to provide the correct answers. Their chilling accounts, combined with internal al-Shabab documents discovered earlier this year by The Associated Press, mark the final notch in a transformation within the global terror network, which began to rethink its approach after its setbacks in Iraq. Al Qaeda has since realized that the indiscriminate killing of Muslims is a strategic liability, and hopes instead to create a schism between Muslims and everyone else, whom they consider "kuffar," or apostates. "What this shows is Al Qaeda's acknowledgment that the huge masses of Muslims they have killed is an enormous PR problem within the audience they are trying to reach," said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization. "This is a problem they had documented and noticed going back to at least Iraq. And now we see al-Qaida groups are really taking efforts to address it." The evolution of al-Shabab is reflected in a set of three documents believed to be written by the terrorist group, and found by the AP in northern Mali earlier this year. They include the minutes of a conference of 85 Islamic scholars, held in December 2011 in Somalia, as well as a summary of fatwas they issued last year after acceptance into the Al Qaeda fold. Baptized with the name al-Shabab, meaning The Youth, in 2006, the group began as an extremist militia, fighting the government of Somalia. As early as 2009, it began courting Al Qaeda, issuing recordings with titles like, "At Your Service Osama." Until the Westgate attack, the group made no effort to spare Muslim civilians, hitting packed restaurants, bus stations and a government building where hundreds of students were awaiting test results. And until his death in 2011, Osama bin Laden refused to allow Shabab into the Al Qaeda network, according to letters retrieved from his safehouse in Pakistan. The letters show that the terror leader was increasingly troubled by regional jihadi operations killing Muslim civilians. In a letter to Shabab in 2010, bin Laden politely advised the Somali-based fighters to review their operations "in order to minimize the toll to Muslims." Shabab did not get the green light to join Al Qaeda until February 2012, almost a year after bin Laden's death. In an email exchange this week with The Associated Press, it made its intentions clear: "The Mujahideen carried out a meticulous vetting process at the mall and have taken every possible precaution to separate the Muslims from the Kuffar before carrying out their attack." However, even at Westgate, al-Shabab still killed Muslims, who were among the more than 60 civilians gunned down inside. Their attack was timed to coincide with the highest traffic at the upscale mall after 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 21, a Saturday. More than 1,000 people, including diplomats, pregnant women with strollers and foreign couples, were inside when the fighters armed with grenades and AK-47s burst in and opened fire. At first the attack had the indiscriminate character of all of Shabab's previous assaults. Rutvik Patel, 14, was in the aisles at Nakumatt, the mall's supermarket which sells everything from plasma TVs to imported kiwis, when he heard the first explosion. "They started shooting continuously, and whoever died, died," he said. "Then it became calm and they came up to people and began asking them some questions. If you knew the answer, they let you go," he said. "They asked the name of the Prophet's mom. They asked them to sing a religious verse." Just across from the Nakumatt supermarket, a 31-year-old Jewish businessman was cashing a check inside the local Barclays branch when he, too, heard the shooting. The people there ran to the back and shut themselves in the room with the safe, switching off the lights. They learned, via text messages, that the extremists were asking people to recite an Arabic prayer called the Shahada. "One of the women who was with us got a text from her husband saying, they're asking people to say the Islamic oath, and if you don't know it, they kill you," said the businessman, who insisted on anonymity out of fear for his safety. He threw away his passport. Then he downloaded the Arabic prayer and wrote it on his palm. Al-Shabab's attempts to identify Muslims are clear in the 16-page transcript from the conference of Islamic scholars held in the Somali town of Baidoa, an area known to be under Shabab control in 2011, according to Somalia specialist Kenneth Menkhaus, a political science professor at Davidson College in North Carolina. The scholars issued several fatwas defining exactly who was a Muslim and who was an apostate. The document states it is halal, or lawful, to kill and rob those who commit crimes against Islam: "The French and the English are to be treated equally: Their blood and their money are halal wherever they may be. No Muslim in any part of the world may cooperate with them in any way. ... It leads to apostasy and expulsion from Islam," it says. Further on it adds: "Accordingly, Ethiopians, Kenyans, Ugandans and Burundians are just like the English and the French because they have invaded the Islamic country of Somalia." Former FBI supervisory special agent Ali Soufan, who investigated the bombing of the United States embassies in East Africa as well as the attack on the USS Cole, said that the gathering of dozens of religious scholars in an area under Shabab control harkens back to an Al Qaeda conference in Afghanistan around 1997. That conference defined America as a target, Soufan said, leading to the bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. "You see something very similar here," said Soufan. "It's the same playbook." In a second document dated Feb. 29, 2012 -- just two weeks after al-Shabab joins Al Qaeda -- the organization warns Muslims to stay away from buildings occupied by non-Muslims, chillingly predicting and justifying the death of Muslims at Westgate. "And so all Muslims must stay far away from the enemy and their installations so as not to become human shields for them, and so as not to be hurt by the blows of the mujahedeen directed at the Crusader enemies," it says. "There is no excuse for those who live or mingle with the enemies in their locations." Yet at the same time it says: "The mujahideen are sincere in wanting to spare the blood of their brother Muslims, and they don't want a Muslim to die from the bullets directed at the enemies of God." This is a concession for an organization that since its inception had killed people constantly, said Rudolph Atallah, who tracked Shabab as Africa counterterrorism director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2003 to 2007. "They would just go and mow people down," Atallah said. "They are now sending a clear message that, 'Look, we're different ... We're no longer indiscriminately killing. We're protecting innocent Muslims and we are trying to kill quote-unquote 'infidels,' nonbelievers."

Responding to Islamic Extremism

After seeing all the horrific violence against Christians, I have finally settled on an approach that can end Islamic extremism. The way to end Islamic extremism is to identify what moderate Islam is. Someone who is not a moderate is an extremist. To make this simple I have settled upon the Four Principles of Moderate Islam:


The Four Principles are a renunciation of religious violence, the recognition that Sharia law is a life-style choice that does not have legal force, the recognition that Muslims and non-Muslims should be treated completely equal everywhere on earth, and the recognition that Muslims have the right to leave Islam, if they so choose. The Four Principles of Moderate Islam have love, unity, tolerance, equality, and coexistence as their goal.

Contact Stephen

I am also creating a e-magazine "Miltha Magazine." (Miltha is "the Word" in Aramaic.

Remember the blog and my youtube channel www.youtube.com/aramaic12.

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