Aramaic

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Aramaya (Aramaic: ארמיא) is an Eastern Semitic language. The importance of the Aramaic language as a necessary part of human history cannot be over stated. Aramaic is still the mother tongue of around 30,000 people worldwide. This small number means that most people will live their whole lives without ever hearing it spoken, except maybe at the movies. This situation exists as part of a larger dynamic which began over a century ago with the Sefyo genocide committed by the Young Turks against the Assyrian people in 1915. A policy of ethnic cleansing which is continues to this day, mostly supported by western regimes and their allies seeking to steal their resources.

Origins

Aramaic came from the Sumerian language (Sumerian: 𒅴𒂠), which is the oldest written language for which we have any evidence. As such, Aramaic belongs to the Northwest Semitic language family, and is a close cousin of Hebrew; originating together with a number of antecedents including Akkadian, Babylonian and Sumerian, which makes it an entire millennia older than say Chinese or Greek. In its present form Aramaic is around 3000 years old and is therefore the oldest continuously spoken language in the world.

After the captivity, Aramaic became the vernacular of the Jewish people and is still used by them in the worship. The Aramaic language survived the falls of Nineveh and Babylon, and remained the official language of the Persian dynasty of Achæmenian Dynasty (559–330 BC). Even the word “Hebrew” is derived from the Aramaic word abar עבר or “habar”, meaning “to pass over”. This name was given to those who were protected at the time of the Passover.

Aramaic was the primary Semitic language, and the language of the patriarchs of Israel. It was also very much the lingua franca of the entire eastern world. It was the reason that the people of Nineveh understood the prophet Jonah. Early Aramaic Inscriptions have been found in a large area that stretches from Siberia in the North, to Sri Lanka in the south, and from Egypt to Japan.

Alphabet

The Semitic alphabets are sometimes called the Abâgâ or Abâgâdâ [1] a name taken from either their first three or first four letters: A / Bâ / Gâ / (Dâ)… [2] The Abâgâdâ was said to exist even before the creation of the universe and only later was it revealed to mankind as the substance through the word Miltha (an idiom meaning: “substance” / “incarnation” / “existence” or “occurrence”) by which God spoke. This idea of the alphabet as both living and spiritually potent corresponds with the Jewish concept whereas the whole Universe is represented in the twenty two letters of the Ashuri script in which the Torah was written.[3]

With the exception of the first letter, the alēp, the Aramaic Abâgâdâ is acrophonic (Greek: ακροφωνικούς), meaning that the names of the letters begin with or make the sound of the letters themselves. These are in turn derived from the word meanings of their hieroglyph predecessors.[4]

It is thought that because vowels are ‘breathed’ rather than ‘pronounced’ in the way that consonants are, that they have a ‘spiritual’ nature. In Aramaic the idiom for “breath” / “wind” / “spirit” is רוהא (“rucha” or "ruha”), and it is this word which is translated into English as “Spirit” as in the “Holy Spirit” or “Holy Ghost”.

While consonants represent constants in the physical world, vowels represent constants in the spiritual. This is also the same reason that they are not written down in Aramaic, although the spirit makes their sounds in your mouth whenever you speak words... Symbolically the vowels are the spiritual glue that holds language together. Those things which naturally emanate from the physically pronounced consonants to form words. In this sense, the vowels are the aspirational (i.e. ‘spiritual’) noises, and therefore should not be written, so as not to offend or confine the working of the spirit. This concept, while foreign to the speakers of western languages are foremost in the teachings of the Jews, Mandæans, and Drüze, as well as in Syriac Christianity which although it has lost much of its ancient heritage still maintains some of the mysterion.

The Hebrews believe that, “The twenty-two sounds and letters are the Foundation of all things... He hath formed, weighed, and composed with these twenty-two letters every soul, and the soul of everything which shall hereafter be. These twenty-two sounds or letters are formed by the voice, impressed on the air, and audibly modified in five places; in the throat, in the mouth, by the tongue, through the teeth, and by the lips. These twenty-two letters which are the foundation of all things..." [5]

'Each of the letters of the Abâgâdâ are said to represent a specific spiritual reality. According to at least one extant Mandæan tradition, the Abâgâdâ is seen to represent a sacred, intertwined and ordering principle, the method by which the Universe itself was ordered; whereby Beth emanated from alēp, and when it emanated, it turned to alēp and praised it. And Gamal emanated from Beth, and when it emanated it turned to Beth and praised it. And Dalet from Gamel and so-on, so that every letter emanated from the one that came before it, and turned and gave it praise, until these together formed a house, composed of malki (i.e. ‘kings’).

According to the emanationist principle, each malka מלבא or king praised and worshiped him who was anterior to himself, until a structure was built up, composed of twenty-four kings who held themselves together so that their edifice might not be destroyed." [6]

Notice here the concern for the completeness of the alphabet, and the emphasis on harmony and co-work.


The Semitic Abagadas compared.

Numbers

There were no numbers in Aramaic, instead letters were used to represent them. Thus alēp א is 1, and bēt ב 2, gīml ג 3 and so on up to yod י which is 10. After yod, kāp ך is 20, and lamed ל 30, up to qōp ק which is 100. Rēš ר is 200, šīn ש is 300, and tāw ת is 400. The final kāp ך is 500, the final mēm ם 600, etc.

Old Testament

Parts of the Old Testament, were written in Aramaic, as were both the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds. The Jewish-Aramaic papyri, which were found in Egypt in 1900, have uncovered many passages in Biblical Aramaic. Ancient cuneiform tablets discovered in Nineveh has shown us that a number of the stories in the first five books of Moses (i.e. the “Torah”) were copied from ancient Babylonian legends. The discovery of the commentary on the Book of Habakkuk in the caves of Qumran in Jordan proves that Aramaic has been in constant use from the earliest times to the present day.

Yeshue's Language

The New Testament was originally written in this language, as attested by the unique poetry, rhythm, rhyme and prose contained in it, which does not exist in any other language version of the Scriptures. We know from the scriptures that Yeshue and His apostles spoke the Galilean dialect of Aramaic, and that this dialect was different enough from that of Jerusalem that the Jews they encountered when Jesus was arrested, and when the apostles were in the Upper Room knew that they were from Galilee.

Silk Road

It was also the primary language of trade on the Silk Road, which brought both knowledge and goods from as far away as Japan, back to the Persian capital in Selucia-Çtiphon, now the modern day city of Isfahan, Iran. Aramaic writing known as Hudum was used by the Mongols to denote their language, and a similar script was used by the Silla kings of Korea, which later morphed into the Hangul script used in Korea today.

Dialects

There are a number of dialects of Aramaic which are still spoken today, including Suroyo (West Syriac) which is spoken in Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, Turoyo (East Syriac) which is spoken in Iraq and Iran. This split into two separate dialects occurred as the result of long standing hatred between the two communities of Aramæans, over the issue of the Nature of Christ, on which they could not agree, and for which they continue to fight each other even today.

There are a number of other sect-specific dialects as well, including Mandæic, which is used by the Mandæan gnostics, and also Samaritan Aramaic which is used by the Samaritan people of Israel and the Levant. Netseran Aramaic is a modern dialect almost identical to the Galilean Aramaic which was spoken by Yeshue the Messiah Christ and His apostles. This venerable language is the liturgical language of the Nazarani Church.

References

  1. Florian Coulmas,. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd., 1996, ISBN 0-631-21481-X
  2. Steven Roger Fischer, A history of writing. Reaktion Books, 2004, ISBN 9781861891013, page 90
  3. Hadrian Mar Elijah Bar Israel, The Mystical Abâgâdâ, Eidutha Journal of Aramaic and Ancient Christian Studies, Summer 2015, page 2
  4. Hans Jensen, Sign, Symbol, and Script, G.P. Putman's Sons, New York, 1969, page 262
  5. Sefer Yetzirah 2:1-4
  6. Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley, The Mandaeans: Ancient Texts and Modern People, Oxford University Press, 16 October 2002, ISBN 9780195153859