Tag Archives: Aramaic language

News From the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon

Chuck Jones writes

From Steve Kaufman: “… we have decided to open the lexicon to academe: As of February, 2013, our database consists of over two million parsed words, over 30,000 individual lemmas (and 7,000 cross-references), over 60,000 glosses, and about 20,000 citations.” See the full announcement at: http://ancientworldonline.blogspot.com/2013/02/news-from-comprehensive-aramaic-lexicon.html.

You can access the CAL directly here.  Or from the link at the sidebar under ‘useful sites’.

Mainz Colloquium

11. Mainz International Colloquium on Ancient Hebrew (11. MICAH) Mainz November 1st – 3rd, 2013

Invitation and Call for Papers

The 11th Mainz International Colloquium on Ancient Hebrew (11. MICAH) will take place at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany, from Friday, 1st to Sunday 3rd November 2013.

Topics of the meeting cover grammar and linguistics of Ancient and Classical Hebrew (Epigraphic and Biblical Hebrew, Qumran and related Hebrew, and Ben Sira), as well as studies of adjacent Semitic languages and epigraphy, as for instance Ugaritic, Phoenician-Punic, Old and Imperial Aramaic, Syriac, Moabite and Edomite. Topics on general epigraphy, paleography, adjacent non-Semitic (e.g. Philistine), and general linguistics in connection with these languages are also welcome.

We encourage scholars in the field to give lectures of preferably 20-30 minutes on a topic of their choice.

Depending on papers submitted, topics will be arranged into special sessions within the following areas:

Biblical Hebrew
Postbiblical Hebrew
Lexicography & Semantics
Epigraphy & Palaeography
General topics of Northwest Semitic paleography, and other.

Conference languages are German, English, and French. As we wish to avoid parallel sessions, the call will be deemed closed when the optimal number of proposed papers for each is accepted. For this reason, if you are considering participation, the earlier you send your proposal the better.

Postgraduates, or PhD. doctorate students are explicitly invited to present their projects where they might benefit from collegial discussions and a friendly, non-conceited atmosphere. Any one applying in this category, please indicate your institution and supervisor.

For participation, we request a fee of 30 Euro, which is due on site. For those who present a paper, participation is free. Active students may request the suspension of fees, which might be granted depending on the availability of funds.

Please send paper proposals to the undersigned (lehmann@uni-mainz.de) or to MICAH@uni-mainz.deand indicate the topic (preliminary or working title) and the estimated length of presentation.

While no formal pre-registration form is needed, for planning purposes, it is nevertheless important that we receive soon an email declaration of intent, at the above address.

We are not organizing travel or housing arrangements, but will gladly inform you on available lodging near the University.

For all questions and concern please contact the undersigned:
Dr. Reinhard G. Lehmann
Academic Director / Ancient Hebrew and NWS Languages
Research Unit on Ancient Hebrew and Epigraphy
Faculty of Protestant Theology
Tel. +49-6131-39-23284 (office)

A Brilliant App for Students of The Hebrew Bible, Mishna, and Talmud

Athalya Brenner writes that this app is

… a free resource program. It’s free for iphone/ipad via the […] App store. It includes bible, Aramaic translations, medieval Jewish commentators, Midrash collection, and much more. Beauty is, you can set it up to have Aramaic and medieval such as Rashi etc. as intralinear, in color. No critical editions but pretty good. Name is ובלכתך בדרך, “on your way”, and it’s great as resource and for teaching. And have I mentioned, totally free?

It’s brilliant and you can view it and read about its features here. I’m downloading it right this minute.

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A Fascinating Look at the Manuscripts of St. Catherine’s

The Greek Orthodox monks of St Catherine’s monastery in Sinai have been accumulating manuscripts and books since the sixth century, making their library the world’s greatest repository of early medieval writing after the Vatican. The collection is even richer than it first appears, because many of the 3,300 ancient manuscripts contain hidden text and illustrations older than their visible contents – and a large scientific effort is under way to reveal and record them. The concealed texts are in palimpsests, manuscripts on which the original writing was erased so that scribes could reuse the precious parchment. Faint signs of the original text remain, as traces of pigment or indentation, which can be enhanced visually through modern techniques of spectral imaging at different wavelengths.

But here’s the most intriguing bit, a little further on in the essay-

Many of the erased texts are in Christian Palestinian Aramaic, a language used between the third and eighth centuries, which then died out. “These texts were erased because they were in a dead language for which the medieval scribes had no use,” Phelps says. “We can help to recover its voice.”

Read the entire report here– it’s fascinating! And two thumbs up to the Financial Times for publishing quality scholarship- something which can’t be sad, sadly, of the Smithsonian Magazine or the Discovery News.

The Aramaic Renaissance

Two villages in the Holy Land’s tiny Christian community are teaching Aramaic in an ambitious effort to revive the language that Jesus spoke, centuries after it all but disappeared from the Middle East.  The new focus on the region’s dominant language 2,000 years ago comes with a little help from modern technology: an Aramaic-speaking television channel from Sweden, of all places, where a vibrant immigrant community has kept the ancient tongue alive.

“We want to speak the language that Jesus spoke,” said Carla Hadad, a 10-year-old Jish girl who frequently waved her arms to answer questions in Aramaic from school teacher Mona Issa during a recent lesson.  “We used to speak it a long time ago,” she added, referring to her ancestors.  During the lesson, a dozen children lisped out a Christian prayer in Aramaic. They learned the words for “elephant,” “how are you?” and “mountain.” Some children carefully drew sharp-angled Aramaic letters. Others fiddled with their pencil cases, which sported images of popular soccer teams.  The dialect taught in Jish and Beit Jala is “Syriac,” which was spoken by their Christian forefathers and resembles the Galilean dialect that Jesus would have used, according to Steven Fassberg, an Aramaic expert at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

There’s more and it’s nicely written.

They Still Speak the Language of Jesus: Aramaic

An interesting report here:

Far from the sounds of gunfire and civil conflict that embroil Syria lurks an oasis of faith and miracles in this tiny village perched on the rugged mountains. It’s one of the last places on earth where the Aramaic language Jesus Christ spoke still lives on the tongue of its inhabitants.

Barely a 45-minute drive (around 50 km) from Syrian capital Damascus, that is in the crosshairs of frenetic global diplomacy, Malula, which in Aramaic means “entrance,” transports you to a self-enclosed world of belief, miracles and divine mysteries.

“Welcome to the place where the language in which Jesus Christ spoke is still alive,” Sister Georgette, clad in black robes, told this visiting IANS correspondent, ushering us into the Convent of St. Serge, a 4,000-year-old monastery that sits atop a rock cliff 5,000 feet above sea level.

Inside the elegantly restored Byzantine interiors are icons of Christ, his face ennobled by suffering and redemptive suffering for mankind, and the Virgin Mary. In front of the altar, she recites “The Lord’s Prayer” in Aramaic.

Malula is among three neighbouring villages where Aramaic is still spoken by around 18,000 inhabitants. The other two places which boast of a living linguistic connection with Christ are Bakhaa and Jabadeen.

Malula is a microcosm of this multi-religious mosaic of a country embroiled in international headlines for being the new epicenter of Arab Spring-like protests against the long-standing regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Walking around amid proud believers and the keeper of an ancient legacy amid exhilarating mountain air, one would not know that barely a few kilometres away in Homs, the government forces are battling out protesters in a fierce battle for power.

Give it all a gander.  Thanks to Chris Rollston for mentioning it.

The Vatican Wants its Bible Back… From Turkey

Because it contains secret teachings….???

The Bible reportedly contains early teachings of Jesus Christ and is written in gold lettering on animal hide in Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, which was the native tongue of Jesus.  According to a report by National Turk, the Bible was seized from a gang of smugglers in a Mediterranean-area operation. The report states the gang was charged with smuggling antiquities, illegal excavations, and the possession of explosives.  Today’s Zaman reports that the Bible is under high security and that a Turkish daily newspaper, the Star, claims the book could be a copy of the Gospel of Barnahas — a controversial text which Muslims claim is an addition to the original gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — that was suppressed.  In it, Jesus is said to have predicted the coming of the Prophet Muhammad.

Rubbish.  Silly people and their silly absurd idiotic conspiracy theories.

What Languages Must One Know in order to be Competent in the Field of Biblical Studies?

I’d like to do something different than what Chris has (see his post for the background- and by the by, I’ve never heard of the people he’s responding to except the Duane guy – so this isn’t really part of that meme.  I’m just using it as a launching pad).

So, what languages must people know?  I’m going to answer in parts-

Part One- Pastors

Pastors need to know the Biblical languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.  At a minimum.  No pastor worth his salt will ‘kiss the beloved through a sheet’ and come away satisfied and none can expound the biblical text without being able to read it.

Part Two- Old Testament Scholars

These folk need to know Hebrew, Aramaic, Ugaritic, Akkadian, Eblaitic, and Greek.

Part Three- New Testament Scholars

Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew, Coptic, and Latin

Part Four- Text Critics

These need to know the relevant ancient languages of the text they are examining.  If an OT text, than all those which the OT scholar masters plus those of the NT scholar plus at least German and French.  If a NT text critic then, frankly, many more (since the NT is attested in numerous languages from up to the 5th century CE).

All of the languages listed by section above are the bare minimum for each.  It really is necessary to read one or more modern language as well so that one can keep up with developments in one’s field and not be shackled to the narrow parochialism so common of pastors and academics in North America.

Without mastery of the requisite languages, pastors will be deficient, and academics will be as well, incapable of understanding that which they profess to be explaining to others.

Maurice Casey’s ‘Jesus’ At the British New Testament Conference

They’ve had a panel discussion of Maurice Casey’s massive ‘Jesus’ at BNTC and, according to the tweeter from T&T Clark (though I’ve edited the tweets into complete sentences and corrected the grammar)-

[There has been a] panel review of Maurice Casey’s Jesus of Nazarethhere at #BNTC. Some took issue with [the] degree of Casey’s reconstruction of Aramaic backgrounds [and the] early date [he asserts] for Mark [as well as his] over reliance on Mark as [a] historical source. But all acknowledged [the] book as [a] huge achievement. [It] ‘easily takes its place alongside the most important historical Jesus books of [the] last 30 years’, [said] Eddie Adams.

We had a colloquium with Maurice on his book on the Biblical Studies list and there are other items related to Casey’s work here.

The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon is Back Online

With thanks to Jack Sasson for the note-

The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon Project

A Note to our users: We apologize for the unavailability of our system during the six weeks between early May and mid-June, 2011. The CAL server was struck by a hacker from an ISP in London, UK precisely on the day that Dr. Kaufman left the country, apparently with the goal of obtaining data, while totally compromising the system.

There is no indication that the identity of any of our users was looked for or their own privacy compromised in any way. The length of the delay is a direct function of the fact that we have failed to have any NEH funding renewed for many years now and the CAL continues on solely as a labor of love without any paid researchers.

The Casey Colloquium: Excerpt Ten

The word "shlama" (peace) in Aramaic...

This is the last entry in my ten part series of excerpts from Maurice Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth (the whole series can be accessed here).

In the conclusion, Casey remarks, in part

To fit Jesus into his original context within first- century Judaism, we must reconstruct that culture too. I therefore surveyed the main sources which enable us to do this. I naturally drew attention to the Dead Sea Scrolls, especially those written in Aramaic. The scrolls have enabled scholars to greatly improve our knowledge of Judaism at the time of Jesus, and it is the Aramaic scrolls which have enabled me to work on Aramaic sources of the synoptic Gospels to an extent which was not previously possible. This is at the centre of the research which lies behind this book. I also drew particular attention to some features of this culture which New Testament scholars generally overlook, because we must be aware of the way in which secondary material may occur side by side with literally accurate traditions, to help us to distinguish between the two. Authors not only repeated accurate traditions about past events from their sources, they also rewrote them in accordance with the needs of their communities. They might also add stories, also for the benefit of the communities for whom they wrote. I drew attention to the concept of ‘social memory’, a useful term in helping us to understand how authors, writing for communities, do repeat authentic traditions from the past, but also update them with material useful for those same communities at the time of writing, and add helpful stories of their own.

The entire book is fascinating, though some of the conclusions may raise eyebrows among some conservative Christians. Especially his reflections on the resurrection (which I won’t spoil by citing).

This is a commendable volume demonstrating Casey’s grasp of the material and, indeed, mastery of it. As I suggested yesterday, no finer volume on the life of the Historical Jesus has been produced since Bultmann’s. Readers will learn – a lot – and that’s no small accomplishment.

Software For Students of the Biblical Languages

The nice folk at Miklal Software have sent along a software package for the biblical languages that I’ll review in the next week or so.  In the meantime I wanted to direct your attention to their site so you can look around for yourself.

As regular readers know, I’m a huge advocate of the need of Pastors and Professors to have a substantive and thorough grasp of the biblical languages (or they should just be quiet about the text since they’re only kissing their beloved through a sheet).  Anything that helps students acquire the necessary skills is an important thing.

As I said, I’ll review the material in due course.  Here’s the package I’ve acquired.

Babel Flashcards decks–multiple decks bundled

All Biblical Languages (Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic)

This bundle includes three high-quality modules at a significant discount: Biblical Greek (Mounce), Biblical Hebrew (CBHAG), and Biblical Aramaic (CBHAG). You can see their descriptions and download samples of each elsewhere on this page.

More anon…

The Casey Colloquium: Excerpt Seven

In his Jesus of Nazareth, M. Casey writes

Taking his ministry as a whole, it is evident that he saw himself as the kind of figure who was later to be hailed as ‘the Messiah’, though he did not use the term of himself, because it was not yet properly established. After his death and Resurrection, his followers did use the Aramaic meshīḥā of him. They needed titles for him, and meshīḥā was flexible enough for this purpose, because it was in use for a variety of real and expected figures. Moreover, he had played a fundamentalrole in salvation history, and he had believed that God had chosen him for that role. The church neither believed in nor expected any other anointed figure, so the title became unique. When Christianity spread to the Greek- speaking diaspora, the Aramaic meshīḥā was translated into Greek as ho Christos, because the Greek Christos was already used for similar terms in the LXX. At this stage Jesus was more uniquely anointed than ever, and Christian leaders continued to study the scriptures. This is why the term ‘Christ’ became so common.

The Casey Colloquium: Excerpt One

Our discussion with Maurice Casey on his very soon to be published volume commences in a week so this week I’m going to begin posting excerpts- so participants (and others) can get a sense of where Casey is coming from and where he’s going.

I’m also doing something of a ‘double posting’- offering the excerpts here and on the List.  I’ll not comment on the excerpts (at this point) but will just let them speak for themselves.

Excerpt One-

The purpose of this book is to engage with the historical Jesus from the perspective of an independent historian. I do not belong to any religious or antireligious group. I try to use evidence and argument to establish historically valid conclusions. I depend on the best work done by many other scholars, regardless of their ideological affiliation. I also make abundant use of one relatively recent discovery which should help us to go further than ever before in reconstructing the Jesus of history in his original cultural context. That is the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and above all the eventual publication of all those which are written in Aramaic, the language which Jesus himself spoke. In two complex technical books, I have shown how genuine sayings of Jesus, and the earliest narrative reports of his deeds, can be reconstructed in their original Aramaic versions in a manner unthinkable before the publication of the Aramaic scrolls.2 As all students of language and culture in general are very well aware, language is a central part of culture. Accordingly, the reconstruction of the Aramaic sources of the synoptic Gospels is an essential step in understanding him against the background of his own culture, that of first- century Judaism. All the details of this technical work cannot be presented in this book, but it lies behind it, and I present Aramaic reconstructions of the Lord’s Prayer and of Jesus’ words interpreting the bread and wine at the Last Supper, so that everyone can see what this work looks like, and experience something of what he really said. I also refer to this kind of work at other crucial points (p. 2).