Saving Aramaic, the Language Jesus Spoke

Biblical Archaeology Society | 10/15/2018 | Staff
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In this photo from the 1960s, author Yona Sabar (right) interviews a Neo-Aramaic-speaking Kurdish rabbi. Neo-Aramaic is the modern descendent of ancient Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. Photo by Stephanie Sabar.

There are only a few people in the world who could claim that they could understand Jesus in his mother tongue if he were alive today. One such person is Yona Sabar, Professor Emeritus of the University of California, Los Angeles. A native Aramaic speaker and a scholar of Aramaic, Sabar has made it his life’s mission to preserve the language Jesus spoke. Sabar details his efforts in his article “Saving the Aramaic of Jesus and the Jews,” published in the November/December 2018 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Aramaic - Language - Lingua - Franca - Ancient

Aramaic, a Semitic language, became the lingua franca of much of the ancient Near East in the seventh century B.C.E. Aramaic appears in such Jewish texts as the Talmud and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Further, the New Testament is riddled with Aramaic phrases (including “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani”—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” from Matthew 27:46) as well as Aramaic place names (e.g., Golgotha, Bethsaida, and Bethesda).

Other than Israel, no country has as many Biblical sites and associations as Jordan: Mount Nebo, from where Moses gazed at the Promised Land; Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John baptized Jesus; Lot’s Cave, where Lot and his daughters sought refuge after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; and many more. Travel with us on our journey into the past in our free eBook Exploring Jordan.

Millennia - Aramaic - Today - Form - Scholars

Three millennia after it emerged, Aramaic survives today in a form referred to by scholars as Neo-Aramaic, which encompasses different dialects shaped by region and religion. The language, however, is in danger of becoming extinct, as native...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Biblical Archaeology Society
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