Saturday, August 4, 2012


Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, and his advisers from Chaldea, the land from which Abraham came (Gen. 11:31), responded to him in "Syriack," the language of the Assyrians (Dan. 2:4).  This verse is the only time אֲרָמִית (Aramith) is translated as such.  This language is better known as Aramaic, as it is from the land settled by Aram, the grandson of Noah (Gen. 10:22-23).  The other four times it is found in the Bible, it is translated "in the Syrian language or tongue" (2 Kgs. 18:26; Ezra 4:7 twice; Isa. 36:11).  I find this strange since Nebuchadnezzar had Daniel and the rest of Israel's brightest taught the language of the Chaldeans (Dan. 1:4).  Does that mean Nebuchadnezzar spoke Aramaic, the language attributed to a former empire? 

What do we know about Aramaic?  About 200 verses of the Old Testament are written in Aramaic, mainly in Ezra 4:6-6:18, 7:12-26, and Daniel 2:4-7:28.  There is also a sentence in Aramaic in Jeremiah 10:11 and two words in Genesis 31:17.  Also:
  1. Jesus most likely spoke Aramaic which was the common language spoken in Palestine.  Some words in the New Testament are Aramaic.  Originally the Gospel of Matthew is said to have been written in Aramaic.
  2. The Targums are Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Old Testament. They help us understand how the Jews interpreted scripture.
  3. The Talmud, like much of the other Rabbinic literature, was written in Aramaic.  Several Dead Sea Scrolls were written in Aramaic.  Masoretic notes of the Hebrew Bible are also in Aramaic.
  4. The Nabateans, an ancient Semitic, trading people of southern Jordan, Canaan and the northern part of Arabia, spoke Aramaic.
  5. The later Syrian Church used Aramaic as well as the Gnostic sect the Mandeans (followers of John The Baptist who fled the destruction of Jerusalem to Iraq).  The Peshitta (simple) translation of the Bible was written in a dialect of Aramaic called Syriac.
  6. Aramaic is still a spoken language in small areas of Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran.
After forty plus years of Bible study, I am amazed at how little I know!

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