ARAMAIC: DIVINE AND MYSTICAL LANGUAGE?
I was having lunch with a group of people several months ago when the subject of insertable biochips and its obvious biblical implications came up. I pointed out that the New Testament does not just say that becoming part of the beast system is restricted to those with a mark in the right hand or the forehead, but to those who uses the name or the number of the beast to make transactions.
Revelation 13:17 “And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
The response from one of the gentlemen present was: “But what does the Aramaic say?” The gentleman — I’ll call him Bill — had no actual interest in the answer. His motivation was to correct the Bible so that he could present himself as a spiritual master or guru with wisdom that transcends Scripture, and he did not listen to my answer, although I hope that some of the others present did. My answer was in four parts, although I only got as far as the first two before Bill went into a rage, although I don’t think that he actually heard even the first one, which by itself should have sufficed. (1) The Peshitta says absolutely nothing about the mark of the beast because the Peshitta omitted the entire book of Revelation. Later Syriac (Aramaic of New Testament era) New Testaments do include Revelation, but they were translated from the Greek text. (2) The New Testament was in Greek because it was the language that would spread the Gospel, so it does not matter in the least what the Peshitta said, if had said anything at all. (3) The mark of the beast verses are not the words of Jesus, so why do they have to be in Aramaic, if Aramaic was the main spoken language of Jesus? (4) The Revelation was revealed to and recorded by John of Patmos, so why would it be in Aramaic at all?
The following might seem like a rabbit trail, but it is relevant, as I will reveal within this essay. The discussion that immediately preceded this one was on the subject of the Sabbath. A Seventh Day Adventist was insisting that Saturday worship was incumbent upon all Christians as the seventh day and that Sunday worship was the mark of apostasy. Bill agreed, but qualified his agreement with a convoluted theory of how the calendar had become messed up and the day that we see as the seventh day was not really the seventh day at all.
If I followed him right, he was saying that if we counted back to when God instituted the lunar calendar (or perhaps he meant when God started the days in the beginning) what we call Saturday would not be Saturday at all, but perhaps Thursday, Friday or some other day, the conclusion being that people are not observing the right Sabbath even if they do observe a Saturday Sabbath. I hope that I’m not misrepresenting this theory, but this appeared to be the gist of it. I’ll get off this rabbit trail here; the reason that I diverted to it should be clear before too long.
Aramaic New Testament and New Age Religion
This Aramaic Bible is often brought up as an attack against our English Bible. This attack is especially popular among New Agers, including the New Agers that call themselves Christian Identity and many of its related offspring in the so-called patriot community. Few of these people can give any reason for this alleged superiority, and even fewer make any effort to learn any Aramaic (Bill certainly has not), but they are good at repeating hearsay that they hear from others (who are equally ignorant and incompetent). The reason given for this is generally based on the fact that Jesus allegedly spoke Aramaic as his native tongue when he was with us on earth. Some Syriac scholars, most notably George Lamsa, have used philology to argue their points, but the main assertion that virtually all of them make is that the New Testament had to be in Aramaic because Jesus spoke it, and they even go so far as to suggest that Aramaic is a divine language because Jesus spoke it. In other words, like Vedic and Sanskrit are to Hindus, and Avestan is to Zoroastrians, and Arabic is to many Muslims, the language itself has mystical significance. Hebrew is given the same weight to these New Agers, especially those involved with Kabala. Giving such extra-spiritual significance to a language due to it allegedly being the language of Jesus fits in perfectly with the blasphemy promoted by the Merovingians and the DaVinci Code crowd, only in this case it is a language that passes on spiritual power (like chi or kundalini?) and not bloodline. The Aramaic superiority crowd also assert that the Greek New Testament was allegedly originally written in Aramaic and translated into Greek with errors.
Much can and has been said to argue this view, and I deal with the issue more in depth in a later essay, but here I will concentrate on the nature of the attack. I’ll begin with some examples from a New Ager’s “translations” of key passages from the Gospel of Matthew, and explore the issue of the alleged superiority of the Aramaic language, and the often made claim that one can get a deeper understanding of the New Testament if one reads it in the alleged original language of Jesus. I’ll begin with the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer of Matthew 6.
Matthew 6:9 “… Our Father which art in heaven…”
I have studied or memorized the Lord’s Prayer in at least a dozen languages and looked at versions of it in a multitude of other translations, including English. This first opening statement is always quite straightforward no matter what language or translation one picks, and I never encountered a perversion of it until I studied a book written by a self-professed Sufi murshid (guide or teacher) and New Age author Neil Douglas-Klotz. Even Eugene Peterson, the clown prince of New Age Bible perversion, got this partial verse correct.
In Greek it is “pater hmwn o en tois ouranois.” In French it is “Notre Père qui es aux cieux.” In German it is “Unser Vater in dem Himmel!” In Gothic it is: “atta unsar thu in himinam.” In Italian it is “Padre nostro che sei ne’ cielli.” In Spanish it is: “Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos.” In Russian is “Otche nash suschi na nebesax.” In Old Church Slavonic it is: “Otche nash, izhe eci na nebesex.” In the Latin Vulgate it is: ” Pater noster, qui es in caelis.” In Hindi it is “he hamare svargavasi pita.” In Arabic it is: “‘abana aladhi fi al-samawati.” In Hebrew it is: “‘avinu she-ba-shamayim.” I can’t reproduce the Chinese characters here, but even my low level Chinese skills are enough to be able to read this section without a dictionary. In all of these cases, and hundreds more that can be found in one of the many collections of the Lord’s Prayer versions, the translation is as simple as can be. There is the word for father, the first person plural possessive pronoun, a relative pronoun (who or which), a preposition or appropriate locative case ending, and the word for heaven or sky. If one is to believe the New Agers who preach that the Aramaic Bible gives us a deeper insight into the New Testament, then Aramaic is the only language in which these opening words to the Lord’s Prayer mean something else. According to New Age author and Sufi teacher Douglas-Klotz the KJV translation, and every other translation in history, fails to capture the true depth of meaning of this verse, which he professes to be one or both of the following:
“O Thou, the One from whom breath enters being in all radiant forms.”
“O Parent of the universe, from your deep interior comes the next wave of shining life.”
The Aramaic words here are very simple and straightforward. Ab means father, -un is the third person possessive pronoun (our), d’ is the relative pronoun (who or which), be or b- is a preposition most often meaning in, and shmaya means heaven or sky. Real Aramaic Bible translators know this. Murdock’s Aramaic translation is “Our Father who art in heaven” and Lamsa translates it “Our Father in heaven.” These professed “translations” of Douglas-Klotz not only entirely ignore the Aramaic text, but fail to even make sense in English.
It was as if Douglas-Klotz produced this translation while smoking ganja with a Hindu sanyasin along the shore of the Ganges. He manages to take one of the simplest sentences in the entire Bible and transforms it into a pretentious and textually irrelevant attempt to echo the New Age pantheistic belief that we are one with God. The entire message of the Bible has been tossed out and replaced with Upanishadic or Shankarcharyan Advaitism (non-dualism).
Typical of Sufis, philosophical forms of Hindus, and other mystics, Douglas-Klotz does not stop with the above quoted gibberish, but continued by breaking down the first words “Our father” in much the manner that Hindus break down the word Aum (or Om) in order to suggest that it is a vocal statement of the essence of the whole universe.
“As we intone the first word of the line – A-BW-OO-N we can participate in Middle Eastern mystical prayer by feeling the sounds of the syllables and remembering the story of the creation of the universe…
A can remind us of our Source – Alaha, the Only Being.
BW reminds us of the continual process of giving birth, in which the universe participates.
OO points to the Breath/Spirit of all, through witch this birth happens.
N points to the creation of new and diverse beings. By remembering this process, we have the opportunity to be “born anew” each day.” [ Hidden Gospel Study Guide , p. 6]
He asserts early in his book that chanting words are recreating the sound vibration that created the whole cosmos. This is his equivalent of a Sufi or Hindu chant. This Hindu teaching is also voiced by pseudo-patriot Len Horowitz who alleges that his Bible code will give chanters power over the world, and that chanters of Gregorian chants once possessed this power before they “forgot the melodic system” that Horowitz claims was given to him by an Amish man who channeled the knowledge. Both Horowitz and Douglas-Klotz express the Hindu and Sufi teaching that through attention on the breath one can become one with God.
Horowitz makes the assertion that Jehova should be Yahva, which he claims refers to the breath inhaling and exhaling. I assume that he either got this from the Upanishads or from a fellow New Ager’s distillation of them. Like Douglas-Klotz, Horowitz is an advocate of granting extra-spiritual significance to the Hebrew and Aramaic languages.
This ludicrous treatment of the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer is not an anomaly for this self-proclaimed Sufi teacher. Every verse that he “translates” is equally ludicrous. His translation of the beatitudes are even more far-fetched and silly than those of Eugene Peterson. Neither presentation of the beatitudes has any relationship with either the Greek New Testament or the Peshitta, but at least Peterson’s Message makes sense on a childish level. Let us take a look at the third beatitude as “translated” by Douglas-Klotz.
“Tubwayhun lawile d’hinnon nertun arha
Blessedly ripe are those who soften what is rigid within, for they shall receive strength and vigor, their natural inheritance, from the energy of nature all around them.”
Both Murdock and Lamsa have ” Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth!” which agree with the King James, and there is no serious option for translation. Douglas-Klotz translates deceptively translates tub as ripe instead of good. In his book he makes the statement that the word for good means ripe in all Semitic languages. The truth is that Douglas-Klotz apparently just made this one up because the word for good does not mean ripe in any Semitic language, including Aramaic. In his discussion of this word he also claims that Mt 7:17 “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit,” should be translated to refer to ripeness and unripeness. (c.f. Murdock: ” 17 So every good tree beareth good fruits; but a bad tree beareth bad fruits,” and Lamsa agrees but with modern verb endings) “What he is trying to do is to pervert the text to assert that there is no good and no evil, only those who have evolved spiritually and those who are yet to evolve. This is the usual New Age message, which is completely counter to the Bible, but in complete conformity with the religion of the Antichrist and the New World Order.
Douglas-Klotz also reveals himself for what he is by making the statement “When and if Jesus said this, he said it in Aramaic ….” in reference to the Matthew 7:17 quote. The Peshitta doe not omit this verse, and I’m not aware of any Greek text that omits it. Therefore, Douglas-Klotz does not even claim to believe the Bible to include the words of Jesus in the first place. To him it just includes words written by some unidentified person, but at the same time he makes the contradictory assertion that those same “dubious” words have a hidden spiritual significance that only mystics can see.
For the seventh beatitude Douglas-Klotz “translates” thus:
“Tubwayhun lahwvday shlama dawnaw(hie) d’alaha nitqaun.
“Ripe are those who plant peace each season, for they shall become hollowed out as channels and fountains of Unity.”
At the end of this rendering is where some cartoon sound effects would have been appropriate, but unfortunately Douglas-Klotz leaves such embellishments out of his cassette tape reading. I won’t try to explain what this “translation” means. I have read thousands of pages of Hindu philosophy, thousands more of Sufi philosophy, and understood what most of them were trying to say whether I read them in Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian or English translation, but New Age tripe such as this is incomprehensible to all but the insane.
Reading Douglas-Klotz makes Blavatsky and Alice Bailey look coherent. Murdock has “Blessed are the cultivators of peace: for they shall be called sons of God!” and Lamsa has “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” These are minor varitions in wording that agree with our King James Bible.
I should add here that other books and audio tapes by Douglas-Klotz include the following titles: Blessings of the cosmos : benedictions from the Aramaic words of Jesus, The Genesis meditations : a shared practice of peace for Christians, Jews, and Muslims, Prayers of the cosmos : meditations on the Aramaic words of Jesus, and Desert wisdom : sacred Middle Eastern writings from the Goddess through the Sufis / translations, commentaries, and body prayers by Neil Douglas-Klotz. The latter two are published by HarperSanFrancisco, the same company that owns the rights to Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible, the New International Version (NIV), as well as scores of books that promote homosexuality, witchcraft, tarot card and ouija board reading, New Age spirituality, books claiming that the Bible is a book of mythology, feminist literature, and numerous books promoting, Islam, Sufism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and native American spirituality.
The important point that should be gleamed from Douglas-Klotz’s mistreatment of the Peshitta is to show the utter nonsense of the belief that the Aramaic language lends a deeper spiritual insight into the meaning of the NT. This statement is frequently made by New Agers of all persuasions, but it is never backed up with a solid example. Instead, we have loony tune contortions such as those presented by Douglas-Klotz. Identity Cult members, many common law scam artists, and various so-called patriot shortwave radio “celebrities” love to refer to the superiority of this language without knowing any more of it than I know of the Eskimo language (actually I know three or four Eskimo words, so that is probably not true). All of these attackers of the King James Bible have a number of things in common, whether they are open followers of New Age religions or covert ones like those in the Identity and Masonic religions. Most important are that they fail to understand the simplicity of the Gospel and turn away from it, and they replace it with convoluted and complicated systems that bring us back under law (not necessarily biblical law) or a foreign philosophy that leaves out Jesus. They also leave out repentance, mock admonitions against sin, ridicule the doctrine of salvation through grace, altar calls, missionary efforts, and witnessing in general. Hence, we have ridiculous mistranslations that pretend that the New Testament agrees with Sufism or Vedanta. Systems that claim that Caucasians from Northern Europe and Britain are God’s chosen people while blacks are subhuman, and which propose nonsensical theories about a local flood to explain why these “subhuman” blacks survived the deluge. Systems that involve chanting secret Bible codes that are supposedly hidden within the text of the Bible. Systems that deny their own proponents the opportunity to share in God’s kingdom by adding or taking away from his Book through arrogant and ignorant “correction” of Scripture and adding Gnostic and other apostate texts to Scripture. Virtually all of these systems attack the names of God and Jesus in native tongues and create a cult based on alleged Semitic names and 19th century atheist-created storm gods instead of the blood of Christ. All of these systems place their own brains above Scripture and are unable to identify an actual Final Authority outside of themselves. This explains why Bill prattled on about the calendar messing up our count of the days of the week and then denied Scripture. We were in a group that included non-Christians who needed to be given reasons to believe the Bible and reasons to turn their lives over to Christ, rather than false reasons to doubt the Bible and confusing legalism that has nothing to do with the Gospel. It is noteworthy that later in private Bill denied the trinity, took away from Scripture by attacking 1 John 5:7, and promoted the adding of Gnostic and other apostate pseudepigrapha to Scripture. These are all characteristics of New Age religion, not Christianity, and it not genuine scholarship that motivates it, but an inner hostility against God’s Word, and pride of the kind that led to the fall of Lucifer. Contrary to the popular bumper sticker, pride is weakness, not power.
In the event that some may argue that this New Age perversion of Scripture is from the fringe elements of the Aramaic Bible crowd, let me share a newsletter that I received from the Aramaic Bible Society itself. This is the organization that was founded by George Lamsa and which publishes his translation. This wicked organization is not Christian at all, but is part of the New Age apostasy that has prepared the word for the Antichrist takeover, and the destruction of the Gospel. It speaks for itself:
Subject: International New Age Trade Show-East (INATS-E)
From: “Aramaic Bible Society,,,” <Aramaic@tanaya.net> Add to Address Book Add
Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2002 22:33:41 -0600
Dear Buyers, Friends and Family:
You will have to forgive me for being late with the shipping of your orders but I am swamped in this office. I have enough business to swamp me but not enough to hire an assistant. And we are going high-tech in spite of these difficulties. You will soon have a separate e-mail on this but here I want you to know that you can now hear a complete audio taped discussion with Dr. Lamsa as he meets the scholars in Greek on our Website! Of course, you must have a sound card in your computer. But I digress.
For the first time ever, The Aramaic Bible Society, Inc. had representation at a trade show! It was the International New Age Trade Show-East (INATS-E) held in Orlando, Florida, Jan 5 -7, 2002. This was an ideal forum for ABS’s octogenarian president and his volunteer associate, Alice Jones, lead writer and author of most of this letter who sees no reason to mention her own age. We two are people-watchers, smilers-at-strangers, and full of gab to all who listen.
Amidst hundreds of showier goods and services, we attracted droves of people with the offer of free Tarot card readings. Why? We were asked by many people who, in all honesty, thought we might be prepared to draw a connection between Tarot card readings and the Bible. We weren’t. We only wanted the people to see our books, to express their curiosity about them, to plan to own them. We cannot say, at this point, whether our success went beyond those moments of interest shown by people who wanted a Tarot card reading. We ourselves were struck with awe by the remarks of several people who Bob said had more knowledge than he about the Aramaic language and literature. One such person, a surgeon, talked with Mr. Allen while his wife graciously requested and got a Tarot card reading. Several ministers talked with us and said they use the Aramaic Bible in their teachings.
We delivered what we promised! We had one person after another all day long for two days! Every seeker of a Tarot card reading either talked with Bob about the literature we offer or was accompanied by someone who talked with him. He acquainted many people who have never heard of the Aramaic Bible with Lamsa’s marvelous translations. At least one hundred people took copies of a published article by an Anglican Priest about his own belief in reincarnation.
A line of people was waiting for us when we arrived on the third day. We regrettably had to disappoint the people who wanted readings on the last day, as we were off to West Palm Beach where Bob met Garland Harris, a religious talk show host who talks frequently about the books by Dr. Lamsa. We hope to engage his listeners from time to time via telephone. Mr. Harris was especially pleased with the announcement of our having published the new comprehensive Deluxe Study Edition. He will be making frequent mention of our books on his show and he will be ordering them for his church and ministry.
This was a learning experience for us – we will better know what to take next time. We hope we can have audio equipment on which people can listen to spoken Aramaic through earphones. We would like to produce some abalone or mother of pearl crosses after the ones on our Bibles, tied on thin silk ribbons, perhaps with an Aramaic message inscribed on them. If it would be possible to give these away, that would be good, as the people loved “free stuff.”
We worked pretty hard and pretty steadily – and we had an absolutely wonderful time. Look at the map of the route from Atlanta to Orlando. Straight shot, right? We managed to get lost several times, returning to the freeway going back to where we had just been. We added these little Goldfarbish excursions to our list of adventures to talk about later. We want to do it all again.
We will do it better, but probably still not quite right. Until then, know your Blessings.
Bob and Alice
Note that even most of the New Agers could not understand what Tarot card readings had to do with Christianity or the Bible, and the Aramaic Bible Society could not even come up with even a far-fetched rationalization to explain why such a blatantly satanic practice would be performed by people who claim to be Christians. The lust for filthy lucre was the only excuse that they could think up. These devilish people are in a class by themselves. Like most Aramaic-proponents, Bob and Alice, and their New Age mentor George Lamsa, have turned away from the simplicity of the Gospel, and have not only left out repentance, but embraced Antichrist wickedness. The American Bible Society website even has a section on reincarnation, which is presently under construction. Perhaps, the section is empty because the ABS cannot find any more way to contort scripture to promote reincarnation than they could find for promoting cohortation with devils through tarot cards. Perhaps they should enlist the help of Douglas-Klotz to find some imaginary way of twisting the Aramaic text into saying something completely opposite to what it “appears” to say.
The theme of this article has been on the New Age nature of the claim that the Aramaic Bible is somehow superior. For the sake of brevity I will reserve further discussion of the shortcomings of the Aramaic superiority claim for my next article. In it I will deal with the question of why God would have chosen a dead language that is used as a second language only by members of a pagan religion (Eastern Catholicism) that has not preached the Gospel for centuries and New Agers for his word instead of the lingua franca of time, Greek, through which Christianity spread throughout the world. I will also deal with the question of what Jesus’ language was, and other related issues.
John Hinton, Ph.D.
Bible Restoration Ministry
A ministry seeking the translating and reprinting of KJV equivalent
Bibles in all the languages of the world.