Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gospel of John

The Aramaic New Testament
The Johannine Corpus

The Preaching Of Juchanon
The Holy Gospel which is the Preaching of Juchanon the Preacher that He Proclaimed at Ephesus

Chapter One
In the beginning was the Word (Meltha), and the Word himself was with Alaha, and Alaha was the Word himself. This was in the beginning with Alaha. Everything by his hand was made; and without him was not one thing made that was made. In him was life and the life is the light of the sons of man; and the Light himself shineth in the darkness, and the darkness perceived him not.
There was a man who was sent from Alaha, his name was Juchanon (pronounced Yu'hanon).  He came for the testimony, to testify concerning the Light, that all men might believe through by his hand.  He was not the Light himself, but came to testify concerning the Light. For that was the true Light that enlighteneth every man who cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world by his hand had been made, and the world knew him not. He came to his own, and his own received him not. But they who received him, he gave to them power, that the sons of Alaha they should become, to those who believe in his name. These are born, not from blood, nor from the will of the flesh, nor from the will of man, but from Aloha,. And the Word flesh was made, and tabernacled with us; and we saw his glory, the glory as of the one-begotten who was from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Juchanon testified concerning him, and cried, and said, “This is he of whom I said, that he cometh after me, and was before me, because he is before me.” And from his fullness we all have received, and grace for grace. For the law by the hand of Musha was given; but the truth and the grace were by Yeshu Meshikha.
Alaha no man hath ever seen: the one-begotten God, he who is in the bosom of his Father, he hath declared him. And this was the testimony of Juchanon, when the Judeans sent to him from Jerusalam priests and Levites to demand of him, “Who art thou?” And he confessed, and denied not, but confessed, I am not the Meshikha.” And they asked him again, “What then? art thou Elia?” And he said, “I am not.” “Art thou the Prophet?” And he said, “No.” And they said to him, “And who art thou? that we may give an answer to those who sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?” He saith, I am the voice which crieth in the wilderness, Make plain the way of the Lord, as said Isaiah the prophet. But they who were sent were from the Pharisee. And they demanded and said to him, Why then baptizest thou, if thou art not the Meshikha, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet? Juchanon answered and said to them, I baptize you with waters; but he standeth among you whom you know not: he it is who cometh after me, and he was before me; he, the latchets of whose sandals I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethany, at the passage of the Jordan, where Juchanon was baptizing.
And the day after, Juchanon seeth Yeshu, who was coming to him; and he said, “Behold the Lamb of Alaha, who beareth the sin of the world ! This is he concerning whom I said, ‘After me cometh a man, and he was preferred before me, because he is before me.’ And I knew him not, but that he should be made known unto Israel, therefore have I come with waters to baptize.” And Juchanon testified and said, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven as a dove, and it remained upon him. And I knew him not: but he who sent me to baptize with water, he said to me, He upon whom thou seest the Spirit descend and remain, this baptizeth with the Spirit of Holiness: and I saw, and bare witness that this is the Son of Alaha.”
And the day after Juchanon stood, and two of his disciples; and, contemplating Yeshu as he walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of Alaha!” And his two disciples heard him as he spake, and they went after Yeshu. And Yeshu turned himself, and saw them coming after him, and said to them, “Whom seek you?” They say to him, “Raban, where dwellest thou?” He saith to them, “Come and see.” And they went and saw where he dwelt;  and they were with him that day: and it was about the tenth hour.  Now one of those who heard Juchanon and went after Yeshu was Andreas, the brother of Shemun. This saw first Shemun his brother, and said to him, “We have found the Meshikha; and he brought him to Yeshu. And Yeshu saw him, and said, “Thou art Shemun Bar Jona; thou shalt be called Kepha.”
And the day following Yeshu willed to go forth into Galila. And he found Philipos, and said to him, “Come follow me.” Now Philipos was from Beth-tsaida, from the city of Andreas and of Shemun. Philipos found Nathanael, and said to him, “Him of whom Musha in the law, and the prophets, did write we have found, that he is Yeshu, the son of Yauseph who is from Natsrath.” Saith to him Nathanael, “Can any good thing be from Natsrath?” Philipos saith to him, “Come and see.” And Yeshu saw Nathaniel as he was coming to him, and said of him, “Behold truly a son of Israel who hath no guile in him.” Nathaniel saith to him, “Whence knowest thou me?” Yeshu saith to him, “While yet Philipos had not called thee, while thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee.” Nathaniel answered and said to him, “Rabi, thou art the Son of Alaha himself, thou art the very King of Israel.” Yeshu saith to him, “Upon my telling thee that I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou? Greater things than these thou shalt see. He saith to him, Amen, amen, I say to you, Hereafter you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of Alaha ascending and descending unto the Son of Man.”
Chapter Two
And on the third day there was a feast in Kotna, a city of Galilee; and the mother of Yeshu was there: and Yeshu and his disciples were called to the feast. And the wine failed, and his mother saith to him, to Yeshu, They have no wine. Yeshu saith to her, "What is it to me and to thee, woman? Not yet hath come mine hour. His mother saith to the servitors, "Whatever he telleth you, do." Now there were six water pots of stone set there, unto the purification of the Jewish people, which contained each two quarantals or three. Yeshu saith to them, Fill these water-pots with waters; and they filled them to the top. He saith to them, Draw now, and carry to the chief of the guests. And they carried. And when that chief of the guests had tasted those waters which were made wine, and knew not whence it was, (but the servitors knew, who had filled them with waters,) the chief of the guests called the bridegroom, and said to him, Every man at first the good wine produceth, and when they are satisfied, then that which is inferior; but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This is the first sign that Yeshu wrought in Kotna of Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

After this he went to Kapher-nachum, he and his mother and his brethren and his disciples. And they were there a few days. And the Pascha of the Jews was nigh, and Yeshu went up to Jerusalem. And he found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money-changers sitting. And he made him a scourge of cord, and drove them all from the temple, and the sheep and the oxen and the money-changers; and he shed their money, and their tables he overturned. And to those who sold doves he said, “Take these hence; make not the house of my Father a house of merchandise.” And his disciples remembered that it was written, “The zeal of thy house hath devoured me.” The Jewish leaders answered and said to him, “What sign showest thou to us, as these things thou doest?” Yeshu answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it. The Jewish leaders say to him, “Forty-and six years was this temple being built, and wilt thou in three days raise it?” But he spake of the temple of his body. But when he was risen from the house of the dead, his disciples remembered that this he had said; and they believed the scriptures, and the word which Yeshu had spoken.
While Yeshu was in Jerusalem at the Pascha, at the feast, many believed in him who saw the signs which he wrought. But he, Yeshu, did not confide himself to them, because he knew every man, and needed not that any should testify to him concerning any man, because he knew what is in man.
Chapter Three
But there was one of the Pharishee whose name was Nikodimos, a ruler of the Jihudoyee: this came to Jeshu in the night, and said to him, Rabi, we know that thou art sent a teacher from Alaha; for no man can these signs perform which thou doest, unless Alaha be with him. Jeshu answered and said to him, Amen, amen, I say to thee, Except a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of Aloha. Nikodimos said to him, How can an old man be born ? Who can again the womb of his mother the second time enter, and be born? Jeshu answered and said to him, Amen, amen, I say to thee, That if a man be not born of waters and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of Aloha. Whatever is born of the flesh, is flesh; and whatever is born of the Spirit, is spirit. Wonder not that I have said to thee, that it behoves you to be born anew. The wind bloweth where she willeth,* and her voice thou hearest; but thou knowest not whence she cometh, nor whither she goeth: so is every man who is born of the Spirit.
(Rucha signifies either the Spirit, or the wind; as, in like manner, does the corresponding Greek word pneuma and hence most of the versions of the latter have, " The Spirit bloweth where he willeth; " but in the Syriac text the verbs and the pronominal affix to the noun " voice" being in the feminine, the application of Rucho to the Holy Spirit seems not to have been contemplated. OLSHAUSEN on the Greek text has well said, "The comparison itself, and the expression, fwnhn autou, show, beyond doubt, that wneuma does not here mean the breath of the Divine Spirit, but the wind properly so called.")
Nikodimos answered and said to him, How can these things be? Jeshu answered and said to him, Art thou Malphona of Israel, and these knowest not ? Amen, amen, I say to thee, What we know we speak, and what we have seen we testify; but our testimony you receive not. If of what is on earth I tell you, and you believe not, how if I tell you of what is in heaven, could you believe me ?
And no man hath ascended into heaven, but he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, he who is in heaven. And as Musha elevated the serpent in the wilderness, so is to be elevated the Son of Man, that every man who believeth in him might not perish, but have the life which is eternal. For so loved Alaha the world, as his Son, the Only-begotten, he would give, that every one who believeth in him might not perish, but have the life which is eternal. For Alaha sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might live by him. He who believeth on him is not judged, and he who believeth not is judged already, because he believeth not in the name of the only-begotten Son of Alaha. And this is the judgment, that the light hath come into the world, and the sons of men have loved darkness rather than the light, for their deeds have been evil. For every one who doeth abominable things hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he who doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be known that in Aloha they are wrought.
After these came Jeshu and his disciples into the land of Judea, and there conversed with them and baptized. But Juchanon also was baptizing in Ein-yon, near Sholim, because the waters were there many; and they came and were baptized; for not yet was Juchanon cast into the house of the bound. But there was a question with some of the disciples of Juchanon and a certain Jew, upon purification. And they came to Juchanon, and said to him, Raban, he who was with thee at the passage of Jurdan, and concerning whom thou didst give witness, he also baptizeth, and many come to him. Juchanon answered and said to them, A man cannot receive of his own will any thing, unless it be given to him from heaven. You bear me witness that I said, I am not the Meshicha, but I am an apostle (Shelikha) before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who standeth and attendeth him, with great joy rejoiceth on account of the voice of the bridegroom: this my joy therefore, behold, is complete. To him it must be to increase, and to me to decrease. For he who from above hath come, is above all; and he who is from the earth, is of the earth, and of the earth speaketh: he who from heaven hath come, is above all. And what he hath seen and heard he testifieth, and his testimony no man receiveth. But he who hath received his testimony, hath sealed that the true Alaha is he. (D'Alaha sharira-u: compare the same words, 1 John v. 20) For he whom Alaha hath sent, the very words of Alaha speaketh; for it was not in measure that Alaha gave the Spirit. The Father loveth the Son, and every thing hath he given into his hands. He who believeth in the Son hath the life which is eternal; and he who obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of Alaha remaineth on him.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Mary of Magdala

The Roman Catholic Church has chosen July 22 as the day to remember Mary of Magdala and to celebrate her life. Through all of Christian history Mary Magdalene has been a source of curiosity and controversy. In the film The Gospel Road, Johnny Cash walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and said,

I bet Mary Magdalen walked this same beach right here that I’m walking. I wonder what Mary Magdalen really looked like. The scriptures don’t tell a lot about her. But what little is told has made her the subject of more speculation and controversy than any woman I ever heard of. Jesus was to suffer much criticism for his association with people of questionable character. “He dines with publicans and sinners,” they said. And to that Jesus replied, “It’s the sick that need a physician, not the healthy.” And this woman needed him.

Recently The Da Vinci Code has created a phenomenon of people wondering who the real Mary Magdalene really was and many people are seeking inspiration from her. It is clear that Mary Magdalene did play an important role in the early church and so curiosity and interest in her and her contributions is a positive development. I have written on Mary Magdalene in my book Mary of Magdala: Magdalene, the Aramaic Prophetess of Christianity and also in my book Treasures of the Language of Jesus: The Aramaic Source of Christ’s Teachings.
Even the most conservative Bible scholars agree that the stories in the Gospel began in an oral form and were passed down orally for decades before they were written down. It is clear that Jesus and the Apostles spoke Aramaic. The name Mary of Magdala is Aramaic. Magdala is Aramaic for “Tower.” Mary of Magdala is also quoted speaking in Aramaic when she calls Jesus “Rabboni.” In Mary of Magdala: What the Da Vinci Code Misses, Mary R. Thompson notes, “The word Rabbouni is Aramaic and is certainly meant to be a term of some intensity, even endearment, “my teacher.”” (In his book Rabboni: The Story of Jesus W. Phillip Keller says, “This was the loftiest adulation she could confer upon him.” In Aramaic “Rabboni” means “Rabbi, Master, Teacher and Lord.”) Saint Jerome also used the Aramaic language to understand who Mary of Magdala was and why she was important. In Aramaic Magdala means “tower”, “fortress, or “watch-tower”. St. Jerome, who was fluent in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, commented on Mary from an Aramaic perspective,

Those unbelievers who read me may perhaps smile to find me lingering over the praises of weak woman. But if they recall how holy women attended our Lord and Savior and ministered to him of their own substance, and how the three Marys stood before the cross, and particularly how Mary of Magdala, called “of the tower” because of her earnestness and ardent faith, was privileged to see the risen Christ even before the apostles, they will convict themselves of pride rather than me of folly, who judge virtue not by the sex but by the mind.

It is seen from the Gospel accounts that Mary Magdalene was very important in her involvement in the public ministry of Jesus and especially in the story of the Resurrection. Luke mentions how Mary followed and served Jesus as an apostle in Luke 8:1-2;

And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, and certain women, which had been healed of evil sprits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.

We learn important things about Mary of Magdala from this passage. Mary of Magdala had seven demons cast out of her and that she supported Jesus’ ministry. Often physical ailments were considered of demonic origin, so it is possible that the demon caste out of her was a “spirit of infirmity.” But with the language of having seven demons it seems she was a demoniac and as such was at times beside herself. “Seven” is a Semitic or Aramaic idiom that means complete or total. Mary of Magdala was completely demonized. Whatever her ailment was, she was completely healed by Jesus and became his most devoted follower. Mary was a Galilean. Matthew mentions Jesus going through the city of Magdala. In Matthew 15:39 it says, “ And He sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came to the coasts of Magdala. ”During this time, he probably picked up Mary as a disciple. This happened near the time when Jesus fed the multitudes with a few pieces of bread and small portions of fish. During the last week of Christ’s earthly ministry, Mary of Magdala accompanied Jesus in order to observe with him the feast of the Passover (called Pascha in Aramaic) in Jerusalem. When Jesus was arrested and all the disciples fled, Mary of Magdala stayed with him. She was with him until the end. Again Matthew says, “And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children” (Matthew 27:55-56). Note that Mary of Magdala ministered unto Jesus. The implication is that Mary was a woman of wealth who gave financial support to Jesus and his ministry. She probably also served by seeing to the daily needs such as for food and clean clothing. Mary also saw to it that Jesus was properly buried and she came to perform the proper rites and to anoint his body when she returned to his tomb on the third day. John’s Gospel has the longest narrative about what happened on that day. This account surely came directly from Mary Magdalene herself.

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, while it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher. Then she runneth and cometh unto Simon Peter, and to the other disciples, who Jesus, loved, and saith unto them, They have taken the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came unto the sepulcher. So they ran both together; and the other disciple did outrun Peter and came first to the sepulcher. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying: yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him. And went into the sepulcher, and seeth the linen clothes lie. And the napkin that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher. And seeth two angels in white standing, the one at the head , and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they said unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them. Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, said unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast lain him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and said unto him, Rabboni: which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her. Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her (John 20:1-18).

Part of the reason that Mary of Magdala and her role in the ministry, passion and resurrection of Jesus is found in all four gospels is because she played a central role in the formation of Christianity in history. Also, this role was reflected in the oral tradition that preceded the writing of the four gospels. It is possible that accurate information of Mary of Magdala is found in the Coptic Gospel of Peter. This gospel was written in the early 100s A.D., and contains non-historical anti-Semitic embellishments. However, it may contain accurate historical information about Mary of Magdala. The Gospel of Peter is included in Bart Ehrman’s Lost Scriptures. This is the sequence concerning Mary of Magdala found in that gospel.

Now Mary Magdalene, a disciple of the Lord, had been afraid of the Jews, since they were inflamed with anger; and so she had not done at the Lord’s crypt the things that women customarily do for loved ones who die. But early in the mourning of the Lord’s Day she took some of her women friends with her and came to the crypt where he had been buried. And they were afraid that the Jews might see them, and they said, “Even though we were not able to weep and beat our breasts on the day he was crucified, we should do these things now at his crypt. But who will roll way the stone placed before the entrance of the crypt, that we can go in, sit beside him, and do what we should? For there was a large stone, and we are afraid someone may see us. If we cannot move it, we should at least cast down the things we have brought at the entrance as a memorial to him; and we will weep and beat our breasts until we return home.” When they arrived they found the tomb opened. And when they came up to it they stooped down to look in, and they saw a beautiful young man dressed in a very bright garment. He said to them, “Why have you come? Whom are you seeking? Not the one who was crucified? He has risen and left. But if you do not believe it, stoop down to look, and see the place where he was laid, that he is not there. For he has risen and left for the place from which he was sent.” Then the women fled out of fear.

After the resurrection Mary of Magdala continued to play a pivotal role in the early church. It is mentioned in the Book of Acts that in the early days and on the day of Pentecost, “These all continued in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brethren.”( Acts 1:14). The “women” mentioned here clearly includes Mary of Magdala. We know this because whenever the female disciples of Jesus are listed Mary of Magdala comes first, except for one verse in John where the mother of Jesus takes priority over Mary Magdalene. Many books have been written that suggest that there was friction and animosity between Simon Peter and Mary of Magdala. However, when Mary of Magdala was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied on the day of Pentecost, Peter did not try to silence her. Instead he defended her actions by appealing to Old Testament scripture (Acts 2:14-17, Joel 2:28-32). Women behaving in such a manner at that time and in that culture would have been considered behaving in a outrageous and undignified manner. It is obvious from the context that Mary Magdalene was present and that she prophesied. The scripture specifically states all the believers were gathered, men and women, and that the Holy Spirit came upon them all. To clear away all doubt Peter refers to both men and women prophesying. Peter also often taught that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25, James 2:1,9, 1 Peter 1:17). As Paul clearly teaches in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It is possible that Paul himself worked with Mary of Magdala in the Gospel ministry. In Romans 16:6 Paul states, “Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us.” This Mary mentioned here is most likely Mary of Magdala, but we cannot be for certain. However, in the following verse a woman, Junia the Apostle, is also greeted by Paul. He says that Junia is “of note among the apostles,” perhaps meaning that she is a noteworthy apostle of Jesus. Paul’s name was Saul Paulus of Tarsus. His given Aramaic name was Saul, but his Roman name was Paul. Junia is believed to be the Roman form of the Aramaic name Joanna. Richard Bauchham in Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels argues that the Junia mentioned by Paul here is the same Joanna who was the disciple of Jesus and associate of Mary Magdalene. Christian tradition states that Mary of Magdala traveled to Rome as a missionary preaching the Gospel. Perhaps this verse supports the truth of this story and maybe we see here Mary of Magdala (mentioned first as usual) and Joanna continuing in their gospel ministry together.

The City of Magdala
Magdala was an important city along the coast of the Sea of Galilee. An important mosaic dated to the first century was discovered in Magdala. It depicted the type of boat that Jesus, Peter and the other disciples would have used on the Sea of Galilee. In 1986 there was a drought in Israel and the shore of the Sea of Galilee at the town of Magdala receded and a boat from the time of Christ was revealed. It is the exact same type of boat that was used by the apostles. It was discovered at Magdala and was preserved and is now on display in a museum. It is called the Jesus Boat or the Galilee Boat. In Aramaic Magdala was called Magdala Nunayya, which means “Fish Tower.” Magdala was an important agricultural, fishing, boat-building and trade center at the junction of the road coming north from Tiberias and the Via Maris coming from lower Galilee into the fertile plain of Gennesaret. It is between Tiberias and Capernaum. The city of Magdala is one the coast of the Sea of Galilee near the towering base of Mount Arbel. The town was a center for processing fish, which was sold in the markets of Jerusalem and exported as far as Rome. The boy who gave his food to Jesus in the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 had fishes that must have been either preserved by being salted or smoked (John 6:8-9). It is possible that these fish were processed at Magdala. Magdala was also renowned as a center for flax weaving and dyeing, and the robes worn by Jesus at the time of his crucifixion are said to have been made there. (In contrast with Magdala, Nazareth was a very small place, about 60 acres with a maximum population of less than five hundred at the time of Christ. Jesus was born into a poor family and never had wealth. While Jesus was from a rural area, Mary of Magdala was from a city.) In Greek Magdala was called Tarichae, place of salted fish. Josephus mentions Magdala often calling it “Tarichae.” He mentions its destruction during the Jewish War of AD 67-73. At this battle many people attempted to flee the city by boat. There was a terrible navel battle and the sea of Galilee turned red with blood and was filled with human corpses.

Women in the Early Church

Centuries before Constantine, Pliny the Younger was governor of Pontus/Bithynia from 111-113 AD. He seems to have been mildly annoyed by the imperial order to persecute Christians and seems confused on how to implement the order. He wrote a letter to Trajan, the Roman Emperor regarding the situation. He states that after questioning Christians, that he discovered,
The sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food--but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.
It is interesting that when Pliny decided to round up Christian leadership for questioning, that it was women whom he had arrested. The Gospels mention many women in important leadership positions in the early church. . In Acts 9:36 the disciple and minister Tabitha, Gazelle, whose name is Aramaic for Gazelle, is mentioned. She is resurrected from the dead by Peter. In Acts 21:9 it is mentioned that Phillip the Evangelist’s four daughters are prophetesses. Romans 16:1 states that Phoebe is the minister of the church at Cenchrea. Romans 16:3 we see that Priscilla (Prisca) is a fellow-worker with Paul. See also Acts 18:24-26. Priscilla is often mentioned before her husband Aquila. Priscilla took the preacher Apollos, an important early evangelists, and instructed him on the doctrine of Jesus. In Romans 16:7 Junia the Apostle is a woman “outstanding among the apostles.” Women leaders of house churches in the New Testament are Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11), Mary the mother of John Mark the Evangelist (Acts 12:12), Lydia (Acts 16:14), Nympha (Col 4:15) and Apphia (Philemon 2). (The house of St. Mark, according to ancient tradition, was where the Last Supper was held. Its traditional location is now an important sanctuary for the Aramaic Syrian Orthodox Church. Mary, the Mother of John Mark, was the lady of the house and hosted Jesus.) Euodia and Syntyche are mentioned as co-workers who were active evangelists (Philippians 4:2). 1 Timothy 3:11 in the Greek refers to a deaconess. (Eastern Christians have an old tradition of allowing women to serve as deacons. The deaconate is an office of the church. A deacon serves the church, mostly with administration duties. However, two of the first deacons, Stephen and Phillip, were preachers as well. In Aramaic the word for deacon is “shamasha,” and means “servant.” In Aramaic churches the shamasha assists in the worship services.) Paul says that Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois, had a godly influence on him (2 Timothy 1:5). John the Revelator saw of vision of a woman, who was symbolic of the Nation of Israel and of the Mother of Jesus, in his Apocalypse (Revelations 12:1-6). In the Aramaic tradition Tekla, the disciple of Saint Paul is highly venerated. The ancient Aramaic village of Maloula outside of Damascus is devoted to Saint Tekla, who is believed to have visited there.

Mary of Magdala in the Aramaic Tradition

There has been a lot of confusion about who Mary of Magdalene is. Part of the reason is that Mary was such a common name in the Holy Land in the first century. (The accurate form of the name is Miriam. Miriam is the name of the famous prophetess and sister of Moses and Aaron. The name means “bitter.”) Mary is often confused with Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. This is very unlikely because Mary is clearly identified as being a Galilean and came from the city along the coast of the Sea of Galilee called Magdala. Mary of Bethany was from an entirely different region in Palestine, the land called Judea. She was from the town of Bethany, which is very close to the holy city of Jerusalem. While it may be possible, there is no evidence that the un-named repentant “woman of sin” who anointed the feet of Jesus, is Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:36-50). Neither is there any reason to believe that the woman taken in the very act of adultery was Mary Magdalene. This famous passage of scripture is found in John 7:53-8:11, and is the occasion in which Jesus said, “let he who is among you who has never sinned throw the first stone.” Pope Gregory popularized a confusion of Mary of Magdala with Mary of Bethany and this error is still very widespread. Mary is mentioned in three important Aramaic traditions, and it seems that in all three Mary of Magdala was confused with Mary the mother of Jesus. In the Jewish Talmud, Mary of Magdala and Mary the Mother of Jesus are the same person. In the Talmud Magdalene is related to the Aramaic word “megaddlella,” which means ‘hair-dresser” or “beautician” and is used as a euphemism for “prostitute.” The old Jewish tradition incorrectly identifies Mary the Mother of Jesus with Mary of Magdala and calls her a prostitute. Also in the Talmuds, the city of Magdala is portrayed as a city of sin and depravity that was destroyed by the wrath of almighty God through the agency of the Roman army. While the Bible clearly shows that the mother of Jesus and Mary of Magdala are separate people certain individuals in the early Aramaic tradition confused them. (They are both mentioned as being together standing with Jesus as he was being crucified in John 19: 25.) Amy Welborn in De-coding Mary Magdalene mentions (quoting Stephen Shoemaker), “in early Christian Syria, where it seems most likely that the Gnostic Mary traditions first developed, it was believed that Christ first appeared to his mother, Mary of Nazareth, commissioning her with a revelation to deliver to his followers” (page 40). Syria is sometimes a synonym for ‘Aram’ or Aramaic speaking regions. Christian Syria often refers to Christians of the Syriac Aramaic Christian heritage. Welborn also quotes the famous Ephraim the Syrian, who is highly honored in both of the main Aramaic Christians traditions, Syrian Orthodox and Church of the East. The Roman Catholics consider Ephraim one of the great “Doctors of the Church.” Welborn says, “A fourth-century Eastern poet named Ephrem used this image [that of Mary as “Apostle to the Apostles”], although, confusingly to us, he conflates Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the following (as we saw…this was a characteristic of Syrian Christianity in this period):

At the beginning of his coming to earth
A virgin was first to receive him,
And at his raising up from the grave
To a woman he showed his resurrection.
In his beginning and in his fulfillment
The name of this mother cries out and is present.
Mary received him by conception
And saw an angel at his grave.”

(In this reference on page 48,Welborn quotes from Susan Haskins book Mary Magdalene: Myth and Metaphor.) So we see Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus were “conflated” in the Aramaic Jewish and Aramaic Christian traditions. It is possible that Magdalene and Mary of Nazareth were also confused with each other in the ancient Aramaic Baptist tradition.
In southern Iraq and in Iran there is a group of Aramaic people called the Mandaeans. They are also called Sabaeans and are mentioned in the Koran. They are an Aramaic Baptist sect and venerate John the Baptist. They are not Christians, but they have vestiges of an ancient form of Jewish Christianity in their beliefs, practice and their writings. Their theology is Gnostic. Vestiges of their Christianity can be seen in that they worship on Sunday, as early Christians did (1 Corinthians 16:1). According to the earliest historical sources, while Christian Jews did observe the Sabbath day, even the most radical sects of Jewish Christians met together for worship services on Sundays. The Mandaeans also venerate a cross-like object. They call their priests the Nazoreans. In ancient times Christian Jews were called the Nazoreans. Also, they practice baptism by immersion and the laying on of hands (see Hebrews 6:2 and 2 Timothy 1:6). They also venerate Adam, Abel, Seth, Noah, Shem, John the Baptist, Mary and Elizabeth, James the Just, who was the brother of Jesus, and someone named Benjamin. This Benjamin was probably also of the family of Jesus. According to Eusebius, one of the earliest Jewish bishops of Jerusalem was named Benjamin. Often, among the Mandaeans, Jesus is viewed as a false prophet. This isn’t universally true, but now it is the official treating. Mandaeans currently have a good relationship with Christians and with the Roman Catholic Church. In 1990 a delegation of Mandaean priests was received by the Vatican, with whom they currently enjoy cordial relations. There are currently around 50,000 Mandaeans. (There are perhaps over a million Aramaic Christians.) While there are many unorthodox beliefs that are held by the Mandaeans, they also observe fossilized customs that originated from the earliest Christian Jews. The Mandaeans teach that due to persecution by the Jews of their forefathers, they were forced to migrate from the Holy Land and to re-settle in the region of Babylon. This seems to have happened in the first century near the time the Temple was destroyed (70 A.D.).
It is possible that the Mandaean Book of Saint John the Baptist contains oral traditions of Mary of Magdala that was later written down and included in this book which is written in the Aramaic language. The Mandaeans didn’t write many of their sacred scriptures until after the rise of Islam. In the Talmud, the Rabbis often confused Mary the Mother of Jesus with Mary of Magdala. So in the Talmud, both Marys were merged and were incorrectly thought of as being the same person. The same thing seems to have happened in the Mandaean tradition. The Mandaean veneration of either Mary, and of James the Just, shows that they were believers in Jesus at one time in their remote past. (Probably what happened was that groups of the followers of John the Baptist migrated to Iraq. There they mingled with other groups, including Gnostics. Followers of John the Baptist recognized Jesus as John had. When Christianity became dominant, the elders of the Baptists wanted to maintain their traditions and felt threatened by the emerging church and didn’t want to be absorbed into it. They wanted to maintain their distinctive traditions and identity. Certain Baptist elders then revised their beliefs and rejected Jesus. The Baptist sect that has survived is Gnostic. As there were “Christian” Gnostic sects, there were also Baptist Gnostic sects. In ancient times there were probably Baptists sects that were not Gnostic. While they have not survived many of their practices have in the Mandaean religion.) Ancient Christians developed an elaborate story of the childhood of Mary the Mother of Jesus. She was believed to have served in the temple as a child until she reached puberty. These legends are found in books such as The Proto-evangelion of Saint James the Just. In Mandaean literature Mary is called Miriai. In the Mandaean tradition, Miriai like Mary the mother of Jesus, served in the Jewish temple as a child. I believe that the other Mandaean stories about Miriai refer to Mary of Magdala rather than Mary the Mother of Jesus. In the Aramaic Book of St. John the Baptist, Miriai is called the daughter of the kings of Babylon and of the powerful kings of Jerusalem. As a child she serves in the temple of Adonai, the God of Israel. Later she entered into the “Temple of Knowledge’ and accepted the new faith. Her father (called “Lazar” or Eliezar in the tradition) castigates here for this conversion and accuses her of being a prostitute. She proclaims her innocence. (Note that Eliezar is called Lazar, which is the same Galilean Aramaic form Jesus used for his friend Lazarus.) Miriai is condemned as one who has abandoned Judaism and has gone to “love her lord.” “Her lord” is the man who introduced her to her new found faith. Following this story Miriai has flees her persecutors and has gone to Mesopotamia. Here Miriai is presented as the True Vine, “the tree that stands near the mouth of the Euphrates. The leaves of this tree are diamonds. Her fruit are pearls. The leaf of the vine is splendor and its tendrils are precious light. Its perfume has extended to all the trees and has gone out to all the worlds.” Among her branches many find shelter. Mary as the vine is a founding mother who provides sacred food and drink to the community. Her father, Lazar, and her mother and a delegation of priests from Jerusalem have come to apprehend her. Lazar is a Cohen, a priest of the temple. They are pursuing Miriai because she “fled from the priests, loved a man, and they held hands.” This man they accuse of being with Miriai is accused of the crime of breaking down the dovecotes of Jerusalem. For this crime of this man, whom they call a “stranger” or “alien man,” they have “prepared a pole.” This is a reference to the cross of crucifixion. When this delegation of priests finally find Mary they discover that she is now a priestess! This is the only Mandaean writing featuring a priestess. Miriai wears the white robes of a priest, she carries a priestly staff and sits reading scriptures from upon a throne. (Note that is was very unusual for a woman to be literate in ancient times.) Her mother condemns her mentioning that as a child the Torah was upon her lap but now she reads from a different Aramaic sacred text. The Jews are enraged to see Mariai reading these sacred texts. As she speaks, the worlds shake. As she prays and preaches even the fish and birds listen and a fragrant aroma envelopes her disciples that are attentively listening to her. She rebukes her accusers saying, “I am not a woman who has left through wantonness, and it is not that I have loved a man. I did not go away to come back and see you again, you, the vault of error. Go away! Go away from me, you who have testified false witness and lies against me. You have testified against me wantonness and theft and have presented me as you yourselves are. May the man who has freed me from my chains and has planted my feet here be blessed. I have committed no wanton act with him and no theft have I performed in the world. Instead of the testimony that you have borne against me, prayer and praise be showered on me.” After this the wrath of God brings about the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem for the persecution of Mariai and other disciples such as Jacob, who is James the Just.
This Miriai is clearly identified as being a Jewish woman in The Book of John the Baptist. In this Aramaic book Miriai is called the True Vine and the Treasure of Life, Simat Hiia in Aramaic. She is the daughter of kings and is raised in the Holy Temple where she was a minister of the Temple. She begins to wear the white garments of a Mandaean and is a female priest. She is pursued by her persecutors to the mouth of the Euphrates. She overcomes them and is depicted as a founding mother who gives spiritual nourishment to her community. She is called the perfect one and the pious believer. I believe that the story of Miriai is the legend of Mary of Magdala as remembered by the Mandaeans. Here is where we find of the life of Mary of Magdala. Mary/Miriai is born to a noble house of wealth and influence. She joins with a new temple of knowledge, which is the Kingdom community of Jesus. Jesus is this unnamed “seducer.” (It must also be noted that Miriai does not deny a relationship with this man but she does adamantly deny that their relationship was a sexual one. If my interpretation is correct here we have an ancient Aramaic text in which we have Mary Magdalene affirming a relationship with Jesus but denying it was sexual.) I believe that it is interesting that they want to crucify the man they perceive as Mary’s lover because he broke their “dove coats” and took their doves. I believe that one of the primary reasons that the chief priests decided to have Jesus crucified was the incident of the cleansing of the temple. Jesus forcibly cleared out a courtyard in the Lord’s Temple that the chief priests had transformed into a market place in which they were selling animals for sacrifice, including doves! Let us look at the scriptures. In Mark it says, “and Jesus went into the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves” (Mark 11:15). In John’s gospel, special attention is brought to the dove sellers again. John states, “And [Jesus] found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and moneychangers doing their business. When he made a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And he said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make my Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (John 2: 14-15). Note that Christ’s actions and his words were directed against the dove sellers. Apparently, after the crucifixion, Mary went to Babylonia and Mesopotamia to preach the message of Jesus to the Aramaic peoples there, the Assyrians, the Chaldeans and the Babylonians. There was a large Jewish community in Babylonia. Much of the standard Jewish texts still used today, the Massoretic text of the Old Testament, the Talmud and certain Targumim, originated from the Jewish community of Babylon. As the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem sent a delegation to question John the Baptist (John 1:19-28) and sent Paul out to apprehend believers in Yeshua (Jesus) even to the city of Damascus (Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-30), it is likely that they sent a delegation to investigate the actions of Mary of Magdala when she was preaching in the Aramaic east. All Jewish communities were seen as being under the authority of the high priest in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was seen as having jurisdiction over all Jewish communities in the world. There was a large and important Jewish community in Babylon that maintained a relationship with the authorities in Jerusalem. It is likely, as these Mandaean texts indicate, that they intended to apprehend Mary of Magdala and perhaps to have her executed as they did Jesus of Nazareth and his servant James the Son of Thunder. The Mandaen texts seem to indicate that these events happened near the time of the martyrdom of James the Just, who was murdered by the high priests in 62 A.D. According to Mandaean tradition and the tradition of the early Christian Jews (no, they didn’t consider that an oxymoron at the time) the Temple was destroyed because God was angry at the Jews for persecuting and killing James the Just. Josephus mentions that others disciples, who are unnamed, were killed along with James. It is possible that the Jews captured Mary of Magdala in Babylonia and brought her in chains back to Jerusalem to face trial and execution with James the Just. It must be noted that the High Priest who had James the Lord’s Brother and others put to death outraged most of the Jewish people by these actions. There was a popular uprising at this and the people demanded that this High Priest, Ananius, be deposed for his crime in killing James and the others and he was. While most Jews did not accept Jesus as Messiah, the majority viewed James and the Nazoreans as devout worshipers of God and as fellow Jews. I believe that these Aramaic traditions of Miriai are stories that were passed down about Mary of Magdala and her missionary journeys to the east. (For more information on the Mandaeans see E.S. Drower The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran (Oxford 1937), Edmondo Lupieri The Mandaeans: The Last Gnostics (William B. Eerhman’s Publishing Company 2002) and Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley The Mandaeans: Ancient Texts and Modern People (Oxford University Press, 2002).)
In the Aramaic tradition, women had a greater role in the church that was later developed in traditions of the west. Many people are using Gnostic texts to champion a new feminine spirituality. In reality, many of these Gnostic texts are misogynist. While in certain Gnostic groups the female was seen as debased and inferior to the male, in ancient Aramaic Christian tradition women were honored. The female deaconate was a very significant feature of the church within Eastern and Aramaic Christianity. Western Europe did not have deaconesses until around the fifth century and then only begrudgedly. Latin sources are punctuated by prohibitions against the ordination of deaconesses. The early Syriac Aramaic Didascalia Apostolorum, which is called “The Apostolic Constitutions” or “The Teachings of the Apostles” was written around 225-250. Samuel Hugh Moffett in A History of Christianity in Asia: Volume I: Beginnings to 1500 describes it as “the oldest manual of church order extant, written...by a bishop living between Edessa and Antioch who was perhaps Jewish…” (This book by Moffett is the best history of Aramaic Christianity currently available.) The Didaskalia outlines certain activities of deaconesses. They assisted the bishop in the baptism of women and in the anointing with oil. They assisted women who were in need, sick or afflicted. They served as intermediaries between women and the male clergy. They insured that women in the church behaved with respect and propriety, especially towards elderly women. They insured the chastity and godly living of young women in the church. They bore messages and traveled about on church business. They gave instructions to new converts learning the fundamentals of the faith. Particularly with in Aramaic Christianity, deaconesses administered the Lord’s Supper, to women who were sick, to nuns, to younger children and to other deaconesses when the pastor was unavailable. In ancient Aramaic Christianity women had a greater role in the ministry of the Church that is intolerable in the tradition of the Westernized Roman Catholic Church. Since Jesus was a Middle Easterner and a speaker of Aramaic, he belonged to the same culture as the Aramaic people, since he was one of them. In Europe Christianity had to go through many different cultural and linguistic barriers before it reached the common person. Before Christianity reached Roman culture it went from Aramaic, to Greek and then finally into Latin. The common Roman worshiped the God’s of Olympus or belonged to a mystery religion. The culture of the Romans and the Greeks was vastly different from the Semitic cultures of the Near East. The Aramaic people received Christianity directly from the Apostles and they received the Gospel in its original Aramaic language and in its original cultural context. The Aramaic Church, not Rome, is the mother church. The Aramaic tradition more accurately reflects the original practice of the Messiah and his apostles than does the Westernized Roman Catholic Church. The one true church founded by Jesus Christ is the Aramaic Church. The Aramaic church is of the east, the land in which Jesus lived, not of Rome. Jesus was Aramaic. He was not a Roman and he never went to Rome, nor did he found the church of Rome. Jesus founded the Aramaic Church of the Middle East. This is the church of his land and culture. (In the Bible women are described as ministering unto Jesus. In the Greek version of the Bible the Greek verb diadoneo, which mean to minister and to serve, is used. This is the word from which the English word “deacon” is derived, and it is used to describe what the women did in addition to following Jesus. Tertullian of Carthage (c. 160-220 A.D.) considered widows an order (in Latin “ordo”) in the church that were to be given a place of honor in the congregation equal to that of the elders. Paul mentions the role of the Order of Widows, and who should be admitted to this order in 1 Timothy 5:3-16.)
In the Aramaic tradition there were also the “Daughters of the Covenant,” called Benat-Qeyama. These women were totally committed –celibate, single-minded and separated. According to Moffatt, the word most characteristically used of them is singleness, with all its overtures of virginity of the body, commitment of the heart and mystical union with Christ. There were also men “Sons of the Covenant,” the “Benai-Qeyama,” who took vows to be warriors of God against the world, the flesh and the devil.
Mary of Magdala in Western Church Tradition

According to tradition Mary evangelized Ephesus and there died as a martyr. There are later legends of Mary evangelizing France but these are late and unreliable. Mary Magdalene is often compared with the “beloved” searching for her lover in the Song of Songs from the Old Testament. Certain church fathers also portray Magdalene as a second or new Eve who undoes the sin of the first Eve. As previously mentioned, in the Catholic tradition, which includes the legends of Mary of Magdala traveling to France, she is portrayed as Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha. In fact, in these stories, she evangelizes France with Martha and Lazarus and traveled to that land by boat with them. In the Catholic tradition, Mary of Magdala is the pensive penitent. She is the symbol of the repentant sinner. There is a famous legend of Magdalene preaching to the Roman Emperor Tiberius. When he scoffs at the resurrection, Mary of Magdala miraculously changes an egg red before his eyes. Impressed by this miracle and its symbolic meaning, he relieves Pontius Pilate of his duties and banishes him to Gaul for his part in the killing of Jesus.

Junia the Apostle Resources

After Mary of Magdala the second most important woman leader of the early church was Junia, whom Paul calls an “apostle.” In Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels Richard Bauckham convincingly argues that Junia is the same as Joanna, the disciple of Jesus. Other books that have recently been written about Junia/Joanna include The Lost Apostle: Searching for the Truth about Junia by Rena Pederson and Junia: The First Woman Apostle by Elton Jay Epp. Carolyn Osiek, Margaret Y. MacDonald and Janet Tulloch use New Testament references and archeological discoveries in order to recreate the world of Junia and the Magdalene in A Woman’s Place: House Churches in Earliest Christianity.

Mary Magdalene Resources

In my view the two best books on Mary of Magdala that are currently available are Mary R. Thompson’s Mary of Magdala: What the Da Vinci Code Misses and Amy Welborn’s De-coding Mary Magdalene: Truth, Legend, and Lies. Mary R. Thompson’s book has an interesting chapter entitled “Women Leaders in the Ancient World.” In this chapter, she shows that in certain rare cases exceptional women overcame the obstacles set before them and even rose up to be leaders of synagogue. Amy Welborn shows in her book how that, far from being castigated as a whore, Mary Magdalene was highly reverenced. Her book contains a good survey of Mary Magdalene literature from ancient times and the Middle Ages.

Liz Curtis Higgs Mad Mary: A Bad Girl from Magdala, Transformed at His Appearing (Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, Colorado 2001). This book has been re-titled Unveiling Mary Magdalene

Shelly Wachsmann The Sea of Galilee Boat: A 2,000 Year Old Discovery from the Sea of Legends (Plenum Press, April 1995) This book is about the “Jesus” boat that was discovered at Magdala. This is an important and amazing archeological discovery that expands our knowledge of Jesus and of Mary of Magdala.

There is a Mary Magdalene web-site: www.magdalene.org. While I cannot endorse everything in this website it is worth taking a look at. This site has links to everything you can imagine about Mary Magdalene, from art to movies and literature. This site was put together by Leslie Bellevie, who is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Mary Magdalene. The frequently asked questions section is particularly helpful. The complete FAQs can be seen on-line and will be included in Dan Burnstein’s book Secret’s of Mary Magdalene: The Unfolding Story of History’s Most Misunderstood Woman.

Martin Meyer The Gospels of Mary: The Secret Tradition of Mary Magdalene, the Companion of Jesus (Harper Collins, San Francisco 2004). This is a collection of ancient source texts. Medieval legends about Mary Magdalene do not appear in this short volume. This is a useful tool for serious students of Mary of Magdala. However, a collection of such texts with annotations from the traditional Christian perspective has not been published but is greatly needed.

Jane Schaberg The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene: Legends, Apocrypha, and the Christian Testament (Continuum, New York, 2004)

Bruce Chilton Mary Magdalene: A Biography (Doubleday, New York 2005) Bruce Chilton has written books on Jesus from the Aramaic perspective. Chilton uses the Aramaic Targums in order to understand Christ better. The Targums are ancient versions of the Old Testament in Aramaic. They were not straightforward translations but contain a great amount of commentary and other embellishments. Jesus and the authors of the New Testament quote from Old Testament renderings found in the Targumim (or Targums). The tradition of explaining the Bible in the people’s language, Aramaic, is believed to have begun by the famous scribe Ezra. The story of the beginning of this tradition is found in Nehemiah 8:2-6. Note that Ezra made sure that this traditional way of explaining the Bible was inclusive. Ezra insisted that women were to be present with the men when the Bible was explained. In Nehemiah 8:2 this is specified. In certain religions, past and present, women have been excluded from worship. Christianity has never excluded women from baptism, partaking or the Lord’s Supper or attending preaching services. In the early church, certain positions of church leadership were also open to women.

Alexander Moody Stuart The Three Marys: Mary of Magdala, Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth (Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh 1984) This book was written by Alexander Moody Scott (1809-1898) and was initially published in 1862. I found this book when I was in England when I studied at Oxford with my Seminary. I found it in a famous little town in Wales dedicated to the sale of old used books. This is an excellent, historically, biblically and theologically accurate book that ought to be reprinted.

Meera Lester The Everything Mary Magdalene Book: The Life and Legacy of Jesus’ Most Misunderstood Disciple (Adams Media Corporation, March 2006) and Mary Magdalene: A Modern Guide to the Bible’s Most Mysterious and Misunderstood Woman (Adams Media Corporation, October 2005).

I am a traditionalist and a defender of orthodoxy. My books are The Words of Jesus in the Original Aramaic: Discovering the Semitic Roots of Christianity, Mary of Magdala: Magdalene, the Forgotten Prophetess of Christianity and Treasures of the Language of Jesus: The Aramaic Source of Christ’s Teachings. These books are available from the publishers and are also available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

To contact Stephen A. Missick
PO Box 882
Shepherd, TX 77372
Or email: stephenamissick@hotmail.com

The Lords Prayer in Aramaic

Awoon d’washmaya, nith kaddish shamakh. Tethey malkuthakh, neywey sabianack. Akanna dwashmaya ap bara. How lan lakhma dew sewkana yowmana, wash wack lan cow bane. Akanna dap kannan shwakan la haya wane. Ella talon la neseyona, ella passan men bisha. Mitol didlakhey malkowtha, wa khiey wa tishbokhtha al alom almeen-ahmen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mark Chapter Four

And he began to teach them by the shore of the sea and great crowds were gathered to him, so that arising, he sat in a boat on the sea and the whole multitude stood on the land. And he instructed them by many parables, and said in his teaching, “Listen. Behold a farmer went to scatter seed and as he sowed some fell by the way-side, and the birds flew down and ate it up. And some fell upon the rock so that it did not have depth of earth and it soon came up because it had not much earth. But when the sun arose and it became hot and in that it had no root, it dried up. And other fell in the place of thorns and the thorns sprang up and chocked it and it gave no fruit. But other fell of good ground and it came up and grew and gave fruits some thirty, some sixty and some a hundred.” And Yeshu said, “Whoever has ears to hear let him hear.”
And when he was alone those who were with him along with the Twelve inquired of him about this parable. And Yeshu said unto them, “Unto you is given the right to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God; but to those who are on the outside everything is in parables[1].

That while seeing they may see and not perceive.
And while listening they may hear, but not understand,
Lest they be converted and their sins be forgiven them.[2]

And he said unto them, “You don’t know the meaning of this parable? If you can’t understand this parable how are you going to understand others? The farmer who scattered the seed was planting the Word. Those which fell on the wayside are those in whom the word is planted but when they have heard immediately Satan come and takes away the Word that was sown in their heart. And those who were sown among the rocks are those who, once they hear the Word receive it with joy but they have no root in themselves but are shallow and when there is affliction or persecution or account of the Word they quickly fall away. The seed scattered among the thorns represents those who hear the Word but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth, and other lusts enter in and choke the Word and it doesn’t produce any fruit. And those who are sowed in good ground and those who hear the Word of God and receive it and produce fruits, thirty, sixty and a hundred times over.”[3]

And he said unto them, “A lamp is never put under a bowl or under a bed. Is it not put on a lamp stand? Nothing is hid which shall not be revealed neither is there any secret that shall not be manifested. If any man has ears to hear let him hear.”[4]

And he said to them, “Consider what you hear[5]. With the measure you measure out to others it shall be measures back to you. And there shall be more added to you that hear. For whoever has unto him shall be given and whoever has nothing, whatever he does have will be taken from him.”

And he said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer scattering his seeds across his pasture. He sleeps and rises up by day and night. The seed increases and grows up log without his even thinking about it. For the earth yields to him the grain. First there is the stalk, then the head and finally the full grain in the head. But when the crop is mature, immediately comes the sickle because harvest time has come!”[6]

And he said, “To what may we compare the Kingdom of God? And with what comparison can we compare it? It is like a mustard seed. When it is planted in the earth it is smaller than all other seeds in the world. But when it is sown is becomes greater than all herbs and puts out large branches and birds hide beneath its shadow.” In parables such as these Yeshu spoke with them, in parables such as they could hear. He didn’t speak to them without using parables, but while alone with his disciples he explained all the meanings.

And he said to them that day, in the evening, “Let us pass to the opposite shore.” And he sent away the crowds and got into the boat. There were also other boats with him. And there was a great commotion and wind and the waves splashed over the boat and it was almost filled with water. But Yeshu was sleeping with his head on a pillow in the stern of the vessel. And they came and woke him up, saying, “Rabbi, don’t you care that we are going to die!” And he arose and restrained the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be silent!” And the wind ceased and there was a great stillness. And he said to them, “Why were you afraid? How is it that you don’t have any faith?” And they were filled with a great fear and said one to another, “Who is this, to whom the wind and seas obey?”

[1] The Mystery or Secret of the Kingdom of God, God’s cosmic purpose revealed to these select few.
[2] In this passage Jesus is not quoting from the traditional Hebrew text of the scriptures but rather the scriptures as they were known in an oral Aramaic form. These Aramaic Versions of the Bible are known as the Targum or the Targumim. Bruce Chilton and Father Martin McNamara have written extensively on Jesus and the Targums. Targumic renderings of scripture are quoted by Jesus, Paul and John the Revelator.
[3] In this parable Jesus warns his hearers of the danger of apostasy which is a falling away from the faith.
[4] “Let he who has ears…” this means “let him who catches my meaning do so. Since his hour had not yet come Jesus often had to speak with symbolic language. “Bar Nsaha” the Aramaic for “Son of Man” literally means a man, a person or a human being. In Daniel and the Book of Enoch, the Son of Man is a pre-existent divine cosmic judge who will come in the last days to judge evil and to redeem the righteousness. “Son of Man” is thus a Messianic title. To those not seeking the lord it may have seemed ambiguous. Those who knew the scriptures knew that the Son of Man meant the Messiah but how could Jesus be tried for treason for claiming to be a human being? The term “He who has ears let him hear” is also found in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 2:7, 11, 29; 3:6, 13 and 22).
[5] Literally “Look what you hear” or “Listen, Look!”
[6] This is Judgment Day, the Day of the Lord, the Day of the Son of Man. According to the teachings of Jesus every soul will give an account of his or her life and be judged according to their works. Jesus’ teachings at times had an apocalyptic theme.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


At the time of Jesus Damascus was an Aramaic speaking city. Since Palestine was part of Roman Syria, Christianity arose from Syria. Jerusalem, Damascus and Antioch were all important Christian centers and all were part of Roman Syria. Pontius Pilate was subserviant to the Govenor of Syria.
Of course Damascus is famous for the conversion of Paul. Obviously, the church in Damascus predated Paul since he went there to persecute Christians before he had his "Damascus Road" experience. Damascus was a place of refuge for people persecuted by the Jews in Jerusalem as is known from the Dead Sea Scroll called "the Damascus Document".
Syria still has a vibrant Christian population. Places visited by St. Paul have been preserved such as "the Street called Straight" (Acts 9:11) and Bab Kishan, where Paul escaped from the city in a basket. As Paul says, "In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped from his hands" (2 Corinthians11:32-33). Luke mentions in Acts that certain Jews in Damascus were plotting to murder Paul (Acts 9:23).
While the place in the picture here is undoutably the place visited by Paul, this basket is only a re-creation of the one used by Paul. The woman in the picture is my dear friend, Lina.
Aramaic is spoken in certain villages outside of Damascus. Certain Syrian Christians in Damascus worship in Aramaic but don't speak the language.

Gospel of Mark: Chapter Three

And Yeshu again entered the synagogue.[1] A certain man was there with a withered hand. And they watched him whether he would work a cure upon him on the Sabbath so that they might bring an accusation against him. And he said to him, the man with the withered hand, “Stand up here in the midst!”. He also said unto them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good, or that which is Evil? To save life or to destroy it?” But they were silent. And he looked upon them with indignation, while it grieved him because of the hardness of their hearts. And he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” And he stretched it and his hand straightened. And the Pharisees went out immediately and took counsel against him that they may destroy him[2].

And Yeshu went with his disciples towards the sea. And many people joined him from Galilee, and from Judea and from Jerusalem and from Edom and from beyond the Jordan, and from Tyre and Sidon. Great multitudes came unto him having heard all that he had done[3]. And he told his disciples to bring a boat for him that the crowds might not crush him for he had healed multitudes until they were rushing upon him to touch him. And they were those troubled with unclean spirits. When they saw him they fell down and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God!” But he strongly prohibited them from making himself known.[4]

And he ascended a mountain and called those whom he had chosen and they came unto him. And he chose twelve to be with him and sent them out to preach and to have authority to heal diseases and to cast out devils. And he gave to Simeon the name Cephas[5] and upon Jacob Bar Zabdai and Jochannan the brother of Jacob he gave them the name of “Benai Regesh” which means Sons of Thunder[6]. And Andreas and Philipos[7] and Bar-Thulmai[8] and Mathai and Thoma[9] and Jacob bar Chalphai and Tadai[10] and Simeon the Canannean[11] and Judah Ish-Kerioth[12], who turned traitor.

And they came into a house and the crowd gathered again and it was so many that they could not eat bread. And his relatives heard and they went out to restrain him for they said, “He is out of his mind.”[13]

And the scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “Beelzebub is in him and by the Prince of Devils does he cast out devils.” And Yeshu called them and by parables said unto them, “How can Satan cast out Satan? For if a kingdom against itself be divided, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rises against Satan, he is divided and cannot stand for he is at an end. No one can enter into the house of the strong and spoil his possessions unless he first binds the Strong Man, and then his house he may destroy. Amen, I say unto you that all sin and blasphemy which the sons of men blaspheme may be forgiven but whosoever shall blaspheme the Spirit of Holiness[14] has no forgiveness forever, but is condemned to the eternal judgment.[15]” He said this because they had said that an evil spirit was in him.

And there came unto him his mother and his brothers standing outside.[16] And they sent and called for him. But the congregation sat around him. And they said, “Look, your mother and your brothers are asking for you.” And he answered and said unto them, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” And looking to those who sat with him he said, “Behold, my mother and behold my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and my sister and my mother.”

[1] In Aramaic, “the Congregation”. The Jewish synagogue may have had its origins during the period that the Jews were in exile in Babylonia. In the Temple of Jerusalem the Jews worshiped with ritualistic animal sacrifices. The synagogue was centered around the reading and expositions of scriptures. At the time of Jesus synagogue worship began with Hebrew prayer and Bible readings in Hebrew. It was then followed by an oral translation of the Bible into Aramaic, called the Targum. This was given by a person called a meterguman. Afterwards, a rabbinic leader preached in Aramaic and the service was closed in an Aramaic prayer called the Kaddish.
[2] Here Jesus defies the traditional Jewish observance of the Sabbath. Jesus shows that is permissible to end human suffering on the Sabbath day.
[3] At the time of Christ the Holy Land was part of the Roman province of Syria. According to the Gospel of Matthew the fame of Jesus spread across all of Syria (Matthew 4:24). Aramaic means the language of Aram. Aram is the old way of saying ‘Syria’. Aramaic is still spoken in certain villages in Syria and was the language of Syria until the time of the Arabic conquest. During the public ministry of Jesus the Gospel spread into Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. According to Aramaic tradition found in the ‘Doctrine of Addai’, the Assyrian king, Abgar Ukamma heard of the fame of Jesus and sent a herald unto him.
[4] The devils recognized Jesus as the Son of God but Jesus refused to have them make him known mostly because his time had not yet come.
[5] In the Greek text the Aramaic word for stone, Kaipha, is used in John 1:42. Usually the Greek word, petros, or Peter, is used. However, Paul in his epistles uses the Aramaic form Cephas rather than the Greek form Peter (1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:22, Galatians 1:18, 2:9, 14). Paul wrote in Greek but occasionally used Aramaic in his epistles (Galatians 4:6, 1 Corinthians 16: 22, Romans 8:5). Paul uses the Aramaic ‘Maranatha’ prayer in his epistles. Maranatha is Aramaic for ‘Our Lord, Come’. Maran means ‘Our Lord’ and Atha in Aramaic means ‘come’.
[6] Here Galilean Aramaic is used “Benai Regesh” probably means more literally, “Sons of the Storm Wind” or “Tempestuous Ones”. Benai Ramo is “Sons of Thunder” in Eastern Aramaic. As with the word “Cephas” here we have Jesus giving his friends Aramaic, and not Greek, nick-names.
[7] These are the only two disciples with Greek names. All of the other apostles have Hebrew or Aramaic names. Andrew means manly and Phillip means fond of horses. Although they have Greek names Andrew’s brother, Simon Cephas, has a Hebrew and an Aramaic name and the friend of Phillip is Nathaniel, which is a Hebrew name (John 1:45).
[8] Bartholomew is an Aramaic name meaning Son of Ptolemy. Bar in Aramaic means ‘son of”. It is found often in the Greek New Testament. ‘Ben’ is the Hebrew word for ‘Son of’.
[9] Thomas is the Aramaic word for ‘twin’ (see John 21:2). According to ancient Aramaic texts Thomas was the nick name given to a carpenter from Galilee named Judah. He was called the Twin because he looked as if he was the identical twin of Jesus. Judah Thomas went and preached the Gospel in Persia and India, where he died a martyr’s death. Archeologists have discovered a Gospel of Thomas, but it seems to be authentic but the version that has been discovered has been altered by some sort of heretical sect. There is also the Aramaic ‘Acts of Thomas’ which chronicles his missionary exploits in India.
[10] Thaddeus is called ‘Addai’ in Aramaic. He was also named Judah and had two Aramaic nicknames, Thaddeus in Aramaic means ‘breast’ or ‘nipple’ and his other Aramaic name is Lebbeaus from the Aramaic word, Leba, which means ‘heart’. Thaddeus was commissioned by Thomas to preach the Gospel to the Assyrians, the Chaldeans and the Babylonians. Thaddeus converted Abgar the King of Edessa to Christianity. Important works bearing Thaddeus’s name includes “The Doctrine of Addai” and “the Hallowing of Mar Mari and Mar Addai” which is the most ancient liturgy still in use and is the official order of service of the Ancient Assyrian Church of the East.
[11] The “Canaanean” here is an ancient Aramaic word for “Zealot”. Simon was a Zealot for the Law of Moses but was also a terrorist or insurgent before coming to faith in Jesus as the Messiah.
[12] This is a Hebrew term meaning “Man from Kerioth”. Kerioth was a town in Judea. All of Jesus’ disciples were from Galilee with the exception of Judas who was a Judean.
[13] Like Peter and all of the apostles, the family of Jesus also experienced a lapse of faith. Another lapse of faith is mentioned in John 7:6. But it must be born in mind that despite these periods of doubt the mother of Jesus and his brothers, James the Just, Joseph, Simon and Jude were followers of Jesus. James and Jude wrote epistles. The Bible declares that the family of Jesus were with him, following him at the beginning of the ministry (John 2:12), during his passion (John 19:25) and immediately thereafter (Acts 1: 14). James the Just, not Peter, became the leader of the church (Acts 15: 16-21). The brothers of Jesus also led the church and evangelized (1 Corinthians 9:5).
[14] Jesus was anointed with Power by the Holy Spirit.
[15] Here we have the Biblical teaching that some sins are worse than others and certain sins carry heavier penalties than others. See John 5:16-17 and Luke 12:47-48.
[16] Other ancient texts also mention sisters as well. It is believed that the names of Jesus sisters were Mary and Salome. The Roman Catholic church teaches that ‘brothers’ here is not literal but an Aramaic expression meaning ‘near-kinsmen’ and ‘close relatives’. Eastern Orthodox Christians believe that the brothers of Jesus were children from Joseph’s prior marriage before he married Mary. Protestants interpret this scripture literally, meaning that after the Virgin Birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph had children together.

The Aramaic New Testament: Manuscript Evidence

Unfortunately, the original Aramaic texts of the holy gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Messiah are lost to us. Perhaps they are yet to be discovered as the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi Codices were. We do have ancient Aramaic versions of the New Testament.
While certain books of the New Testament have Aramaic origins, others do not. The epistles of Paul were written in Greek in the original. Paul does, on certain occasions use Aramaic words in his epistles, such as Maranatha, Abba and Cephas. Paul’s use of Aramaic shows the Aramaic origin of the church. But Paul was writing in Greek to Greek-speaking churches.
We do have Ancient Aramaic texts of the New Testament that are useful for capturing the words of Christ in the language they were originally spoken.

Old Syriac: This is an ancient version of the Syriac Bible that seems to have been translated by Aramaic speakers from Palestine. It was discovered in the 1800s.
Peshitta: This is the official Bible of the Aramaic Christian churches. It is of ancient origin.
Harklean: Since the Aramaic Bible is of such ancient origin, it did not originally contain certain books that were at the time considered among the disputed books. Later these books were accepted by the church at large and then to a degree by the Aramaic churches. Their versions of these documents come from revisions to the Aramaic in the Philoxenian and Harklean versions. These extra writings are 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation.
Christian Palestinian Aramaic The Aramaic Speaking Church of the Holy Land died out long ago but in 1952 versions of the Bible they used were discovered outside of Jerusalem. These manuscripts were not complete.
The Diatesseron of Tatian the Assyrian: Tatian the Assyrian made the first harmony of the Four Gospels. He made both a Greek and an Aramaic version. Tatian was the disciple of the famous Saint Justin Martyr. He composed this work around 150 AD. It was so popular among Aramaic Christians that it was used as Scripture. Later, a church official censored it and all copies were destroyed. Tatian is believed to have also used lost Aramaic gospels when composing the Diatesseron. It has survived in an Arabic translation from the Aramaic and also in a commentary to the Diatesseron by Saint Ephraim the Syrian in Aramaic.

Other scholars have used ancient Aramaic sources to make theoretical reconstructions of the words of Christ. Scholars used the grammar of the Jerusalem Talmud to reconstruct the words of Christ. Scholars who have done this are Gustav Dalman, Torrey, Charles Burney and Joachim Jeremias.
Recently, Maurice Casey has used Aramaic from the Dead Sea Scrolls, since this is contemporary with the time of Jesus, to reconstruct his teachings in the original Aramaic.
Of course, in the movie, “The Passion of the Christ’ the words of Christ were put back into the original Aramaic. This was done by Father William Fulco, a Roman Catholic priest and scholar.
The Syriac Peshitta is in a form of Aramaic virtually identical to the Aramaic used by Jesus Christ and it remains a useful and accessible tool for reading the words of Jesus in Aramaic, the language he spoke.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Aramaic Village

This is a photograph of me in Maloula, Syria. This is an Aramaic-speaking village outside of Damascus.

Mark Chapter Two

And Yeshu entered again into Capernaum for some days. And when they had heard that he was in the house, many were gathered together, so that it could not contain them, nor yet the space before the gate[1]. And he spoke with them the Word[2]. And they came to him and brought him a paralytic carried between four. And when they could not approach him for the crowd, they ascended to the roof and took the covering from the place were Yeshu was and let down the stretcher on which the paralytic lay. When Yeshu saw their faith, he said to the paralytic himself; “My son, Forgiven to you are your sins.”[3] But some of the Sadducees and the Pharisees were there, who sat and reasoned in their hearts, “Who is this uttering blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but One, God?”[4] But Yeshu knowing in his spirit that they reasoned so within themselves. And he said to them, “Why reason these things in your heart? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Forgiven are your sins” or to say, “Arise, lift up your stretcher and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”, he said to the paralytic, “To you I say, Arise, take up your stretcher and walk and go to your home.”[5] And he arose at once, and took up his stretcher and went forth before them all so that all wondered and glorified God and said, “Never have we seen such a thing.”

And he went forth again to the sea and the whole multitude came to him and he taught them. And when he had passed, he saw Levi Bar Chalphai sitting at the custom house and said to him, “Come, follow me!” and he arose and went and followed him. And it so happened that when he was seated at his house that many publicans and sinner were seated with Yeshu and with his disciples for there were many who followed him. And the scribes and Pharisees saw that he ate with tax collectors and with sinners said to his disciples, “Why does he eat and drink with publicans and sinners?” But when Jesus heard he said to the, “The healthy have no need of a physician, but they who are very ill. I have not come to call the righteous but the sinners.”[6]

Now the students of Johannan and of the Pharisees fasted. And they came and said to him. “The disciples of Johannan and of the Pharisees fast. Why don’t your disciples fast?” Yeshu said to them, “Can the Sons of the Marriage Chamber fast while the bridegroom is with them? No, but the days shall come when the bridegroom will be taken up from them and then they shall fast in those days. No man inserts a new piece and sews it on an old garment lest it should take away its fullness from the old and make the rent greater. And no man puts new wine in old wine skins, lest the wine rend the wineskins and the wineskins are ruined and the wine spilled; no rather they put new wine into new wineskins.

And so it was [7], that as Jesus on a Sabbath walked in the fields, his disciples walked and pulled off heads of grain.[8]And the Pharisees said to him, “Look, how on the Sabbath, they do that which is not permitted?” Jesus said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was in need and hungered, he and the men who were with him? How he entered the House of God while Abiathar[9] was the high priest and he ate of the bread of the table of the Lord which is not lawful to be eaten except by the priests. He also gave to eat to those who were with him.” And he said unto them, “The Sabbath was created for man and man was not created for the Sabbath.[10] Thus the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
[1] Thara in Aramaic, literally ‘door’.
[2] Miltha-the Word. Another Aramaic word used in such a manner is Memra. Miltha in the Gospel of John is used to refer to Christ as the Word of God.
[3] It is interesting that Jesus heals because of the faith of the paralyzed man’s friends.
[4] These are two of the major sects of first century Israel. Sadducees were loyal to the priestly caste and temple ritual. They were named after Zadoc, an important priest under King David and King Solomon. Pharisee is from the Aramaic word for ‘Separate’. They separated themselves from the masses to devote themselves to their understanding of the Mosaic Law.
[5] This is the first time in this Gospel that Jesus uses the important title Barnasha, which in Aramaic means the Son of Man. It can literally be translated as Man, Person or Human Being but also had Messianic connotations from the Aramaic section of the Book of Daniel.
[6] Joachim Jeremias noted that the call to repentance went out to every man and every woman in the preaching of John the Baptist and of Jesus. In the view of most Jews of the first century those who had committed sexual sins, or the sins of tax collectors, were beyond repentance.
[7] As hungry travelers they were permitted to take the wheat and eat it (Leviticus 19:9, 23:22, Deuteronomy 24:19, Ruth 2:2) but in legalistic Jewish interpretation their doing so on a Sabbath was harvesting and in rubbing the husks away in their hands they were considered by the legalists to be threshing. Interestingly Jesus here does not deny that their deeds violate d the Sabbath. He conceded that to his accusers. Jesus’ defense was that human needs are more important than proper Sabbath observance. Aramaic Barnasha, Son of Man, can mean ‘Man’ and so ‘Man is Lord of the Sabbath’ is a possible interpretation. Many Jews, such as the Maccabees came to a similar theory of Sabbath observance. During the Maccebean revolt some Jews chose to be massacred rather than do the work of warfare on the Sabbath. The Rabbis determined that matters of survival are more important than proper Sabbath observance therefore it was allowed to defend oneself on the Sabbath day (1 Maccabees 2: 32-41). Ending human suffering was more important than observing the Rabbis definition of proper Sabbath observance according to the teachings of Jesus. In the teaching of Christ ending human suffering takes precedence over the Sabbath.
[8] This section is reconstructed in Aramaic by use of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Maurice Casey in “Aramaic Sources of Mark’s Gospel”.
[9] At the time Abimelek was the High Priest. Abiathar was his son and began as high priest in exile when King Saul murdered Abimelek.
[10] In the Law of Moses, the Torah, the Sabbath was given as a joy and as a rest for Man from his labors. The Rabbis added so many rules to define proper Sabbath observance that it had become a terrible burden and something to be dreaded and not enjoyed. The Essenes forbade individuals even from relieving themselves on the Sabbath day. In Ethiopia the Falasha Jews, or Beta Israel, went so far to personify the Sabbath and worship her as a goddess. Jesus here points to the original intent of the Sabbath.


The late George Lamsa claimed to be the first person to translate the Bible into Aramaic. He was not. Two important translations of the Aramaic New Testament were made almost one hundred years before Lamsa made his translation.
In the original introduction to the King James ‘Authorized’ Version of 1611 entitled “The Translators to the Reader”, the translators noted that they had indeed consulted the Syriac or Aramaic version of the New Testament, although they did not translate directly from it. Lamsa makes it seem that he and he alone has brought the Aramaic text of the New Testament to light.
English translation of the Aramaic New Testament are available through an organization called “Light of the Word Ministries”. They have a “Parallel Version of the Aramaic Peshitta” (see www.lightofword.com ). First is the Peshitta text in Aramaic script. It is followed by the Light of the Word translation by Janet M. Magiera. Secondly, they present the translation from the Old Syriac by Agnes Lewis Smith dated 1896. This is followed by the Lamsa translation that was originally published in 1933. The Lamsa version is an untrustworthy, unscholarly and undependable so called ‘translation’. The next two translations are the Murdock and Etheridge translations respectively.
James Murdock published his translation in 1851. He used Shakespearean English. It is a good translation and is available from Gorgios Press. In column notes he uses the Western Syriac font.
The best translation from the best text that is currently available is the John Wesley Etheridge Translation that was published in 1849. He used an Eastern Aramaic text. He transliterated as many Aramaic words as he could so for some this may make it difficult to read. This illustrates the need for a new translation. The John Wesley Etheridge translation is available at www.aramaicpeshitta.com. This is a website, however, that makes false claims about Aramaic and I cannot recommend it. I do recommend the Murdock and Etheridge translations.
There are two other new translations I am aware of. There is the “Holy Scriptures” by Paul Younan. His translation is available at www.peshitta.org. His is a interlinear Bible. This means it has the Aramaic text with the equivalent English word underneath the corresponding Aramaic. This is a useful tool.
A cult group called the Way International also has an interlinear Aramaic Bible with a Concordance with definitions of the words which are coded and numbered. It is also a very good edition but I feel uncomfortable using an edition put out by a cult group. They also produced their English translation of the Aramaic.
Joseph Pashka has also made an interlinear bible with a pronunciation key.
Victor Alexander has two translations of the Aramaic that he has made the first is entitled “The Disciple’s New Testament” the second is entitled “The Apostles New Covenant”. He belongs to the Lamsa school of thought (see www.v-a.com).
About the Aramaic Christian Heritage there are two useful sites. On is www.nestorian.org and the other is the official site of the Ancient and Apostolic Assyrian Church of the East and is www.cired.org. Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute also has a good introduction available at www.bethmardutho.org