Friday, March 19, 2004


For those with some historical interest, Steven Gertz gives historical background on the language Jesus spoke, and why it wasn't Hebrew:
As The Passion's website notes (see "About the Production"), Aramaic was the dominant Semitic language of Jesus' time. Emerging around 1000 B.C. in several Aramean kingdoms (biblical Damascus, for example), Aramaic spread through the conquests of the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian empires to encompass the entire Middle East, stretching from Egypt to Pakistan. In the Holy Land, Aramaic supplanted Hebrew as the language of the people sometime between 721 BC, the year Israel's capital Samaria fell to Assyrian invaders, and 500 BC, following the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon.

The return of Jews to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple did not undermine Aramaic's newfound status in Hebrew culture. Aramaic appears at times in the Old Testament, and recent evidence gathered from the Dead Sea scrolls suggests that the apocryphal book of Tobit was written entirely in Aramaic. The Gospel of Mark quotes Jesus in Aramaic several times; the best known of these may be his words on the cross—"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" or "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Judging from its renderings in Matthew and Luke, some scholars think Jesus composed the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic.

Will this mark a cinematic revival of the language?

No, I don't think so, either.

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