Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A Little Aramaic

You may know that one of the languages that Jesus spoke fairly frequently was Aramaic. It's certain that He was also fluent in Hebrew, the language of the Jewish people, but some of His most famous words come in Aramaic. The question is: what even is Aramaic?

Jews historically spoke Hebrew; the Old Testament is written in it (and it's a beautiful language). Jews even in Jesus's day knew Hebrew, as that's what would have been taught and spoken in the Temple. The surrounding culture spoke Greek, so the Jews (including Jesus) would have been fluent in that, too; they would have had to be in order to function in the world in which they lived. 

Aramaic is an old language, too. And we actually see it mentioned in the Old Testament. Daniel, the faithful exile in Babylon, tells us that the Chaldeans spoke Aramaic (Daniel 2). "Chaldeans" was a term that meant the same thing as "Babylonians;" by the people of the time, they were used interchangeably, for all intents and purposes. Which means...Aramaic was the language of Babylon. 

This is something we have to pay attention to because it says so much about Jesus, so much that we could miss if we didn't understand this. 

Remember Babylon. Remember that Babylon was the nation that God sent against His people as punishment. Not since Egypt had another people bound the people of God, but Babylon did it. Babylon sieged and ransacked and destroyed the cities of Israel, took her people away, relocated them into a foreign territory. Babylon is where Israel was exiled. 

It's the same Babylon that Jeremiah talks so much about, where he is constantly delivering to the people a message from God to plant themselves in Babylon, pray, and prosper there because that's where they're going to be for awhile. And if you plant yourself and prosper somewhere, you probably pick up the language. 

So the people of God picked up the language of exile...Aramaic...and when Jesus comes, that's the language He speaks. 

Now, this says two things. First, it says that the people of God got deeply entrenched in their captivity, so much so that they continue to speak the language of not-their-homeland long after they've returned to Jerusalem. Jesus wouldn't have spoken it if the people couldn't understand Him; they understood every word, which means they were still speaking it themselves. And isn't that how it goes? We get so stuck in our ways that they just kind of come with us into the next season and the next and the next. Israel was home, but she still spoke like she was exiled. 

But second, and perhaps most importantly, it means that Jesus spoke the language of the exile. He shared so much the story of God's people that He comes speaking the language of their captivity. Think about that for a minute. Just think about it.

Jesus speaks the language of our captivity. 

If that doesn't get you, I don't know what will.


Note: it's worth saying here that Jesus has left us one Aramaic word that we've commonly adopted, and it is abba, "daddy." It's the word of tender affection that we use for God, and it's given to us in the language of captivity, in contrast to the many Jehovah- names that we have in the Hebrew, the language of faith. Think about that

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