Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Charts of World Religions

Hi Friends

I came across a sample of the book Charts of World Religions published by Zondervan which you may be interested in. Here is the link.


Let me know what you think of it.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Aramaic Thoughts

Reflections on the Dangers of Aramaic: Or a Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

Benjamin Shaw. http://www.studylight.org

I did not see the movie The Passion of the Christ. But my understanding is that the dialogue was done entirely in Aramaic, with subtitles. This arrangement apparently sprang from both Gibson's desire for realism or authenticity, and from his conviction that Aramaic was the daily spoken language of Palestine in the first century. The problem with that view is that it is not accurate. This conclusion seems difficult for Americans to accept, though a resident of any major city in the world would understand immediately.

Aramaic would have been one of the daily spoken languages in first-century Palestine. It would have been commonly used in Jewish households and in the synagogues, for example. But Palestine in the first century was much like the same area of the world today—truly multi-cultural and multi-lingual. Someone walking down the street or in the marketplace in a city such as Jerusalem or Nazareth would have certainly heard Aramaic. But he would also have heard Greek, which was the lingua franca of the Mediterranean world in the first century. He may have heard Persian or Egyptian. He would probably have heard Latin, especially if he passed near some Roman soldiers. He may even have heard some Western European languages, depending on where the Roman soldiers were from. Daily conversations were a smorgasbord of languages.

Acts 2 gives us some sense of the reality of the situation when it says, "Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. … Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians" (Acts 2:5, 8-11). The text goes on to say that each of these heard the disciples extolling the virtues of God in their native languages. This was Pentecost, and hence there were people in Jerusalem who would not have been there at other times of the year. Even so, first-century Palestine even in those cities or parts of cities populated almost exclusively by Jews was really multi-lingual.

It is important to remember this because in the past century there has appeared on the religious scene a mindset that understanding Aramaic, because it was the language that Jesus spoke, will give someone special insight into the meaning of the New Testament. This is essentially a gnostic conceit. That is, the gnostics (an elastic term if there ever was one) were of the opinion that there was a secret knowledge that admitted one to truths inaccessible to the unwashed masses. This is wrong.

'Aramaic Thoughts' Copyright 2002-2007 © Benjamin Shaw. http://www.studylight.org