Saturday, August 24, 2013

Aramaic, the Language Jesus Spoke

After the fall of the temple, in 586 BC, Israel was taken captive and carried away to Babylon, about 900 miles away. When I hear the Country song "I'm 900 Miles From My Home", I think of them.

A whole new generation was born in captivity and came to speak Aramaic, the language of Empire. When their slavery was complete and they were to be released. Many had prospered and adapted the ways of Babylon. Many did not wish to return home to Israel.

Until about 600 AD there was still a Babylonian community there with a Talmud in that language. This is how the Jews came to speak Aramaic, especially in Galilee, the home of Jesus. Hebrew was reserved for liturgical purposes, much as Latin was used in the early churches. We know from the Gospels that people from Galilee had an accent that identified them as not being from Jerusalem (Mark 14:70).

My old church for a time had a preacher from Alabama, and he had a "good old boy" manner about him. Yet he was considered an expert in Aramaic and recognized as such by Hebrew Union in Cincinnati. How is that for a language about 3,000 years old?

The Book of Daniel is written in two languages, Hebrew concerning the Jews, and Aramaic pertaining to the Gentiles. We might be tempted to wonder how much truth has been scrambled in all these language changes. The finding of the Dead Sea scrolls showed us the truth of how our records remain intact.

I am reminded of an American family living in a foreign country. One day, while their baby slept, a ruckus developed outside their window. They asked the baby's nurse, who was a local, to please ask people to be quiet. She leaned out and said "Shss." Must be the universal language.

God is able to preserve His people, and His truth also.

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