Articles

The Aramaic Language of Jesus Christ

A study in the Aramaic Language Of Jesus

By

Gabriel Sawma

BACKGROUND

The fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the First Temple in 587 BC, by the forces of king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, mark the beginning of what is known as the Babylonian Exile of the Jews. Up to that time, and from the moment of its appearance in a documented written form, the Hebrew language presents, a clear evidence that it belongs to the Canaanite family of languages. This means that when the Israelite tribes settled in the land of Canaan, from the fourteenth to thirteenth centuries BC, they adopted the language of that country (Isa. 19:18).

The Hebrew of the poetic sections of the Bible, as well as the oldest epigraphic material in inscriptions dating from the tenth to the sixth centuries BC, is known as Archaic Hebrew. Among the biblical passages that reflect Archaic Hebrew are the Song of Moses (Ex 15), the Song of Deborah (Jug 5), the Blessings of Jacob (Gen 49) and of Moses (Deut 33), the Oracles of Balaam (Nm 23-24), and the Poems of Moses (Deut 32), as well as Ps 68 and other early psalms.

The language used in the prose sections of the Pentateuch and in the prophets and the writings before the exile, are known as Classical Biblical Hebrew, or Biblical Hebrew (BH) proper.

Many Biblical scholars characterize BH as a language which does not have the full sense of the word, a merely “fragment of language”. The approximately 8,000 lexical items preserved in the books of the Bible, are not enough to meet the needs of a living language. There have also been claims by various scholars that clear traces of Aramaic can be found in the origins of Hebrew.

Recently, various studies have emphasized that Aramaic May have influenced the Hebrew language very strongly, mainly in the second half of the first millennium BC up to the beginning of the Christian Era. It may also be said that other languages, Semitic and non-Semitic had their influence on the Hebrew language, especially those who had a significant cultural impact in the region such as the Sumarian, Akkadian, and Egyptian. Those languages left their mark on Canaan before the Hebrew language came into existence. Ugarit and Phoenician on one hand, and the Southern Semitic dialects on the other, have also given rise to many loanwords in Biblical Hebrew. There is also influence, to a lesser degree, from Persian and Greek. Some Hebrew words derive from Indo-European languages, such as Hittite, and even Sanskrit. In the Oracles of Balaam (Nm 23:7) we encounter, for example (Roba) ‘dust’, attested in the Akkadian inscriptions; (Surim), which means ‘mountains’; (Nehalim) ‘palm’ . Some of the roots peculiar to archaic poetry are found in other Semitic dialects. For example (P’L) ‘do, make’; (Mhs) ‘strike’, and (hardus) ‘gold’ are common in Canaanite and Ugaritic texts, wheras (Yatannu) ‘let them recount’ (Jg 5:11) and (Mahaqa) ‘destroyed’ (Jg 5:26) correspond phonologically to Aramaic.

The Babylonian Exile of the Jews exposed them to an Aramaic cultural and linguistic environment. The Aramaic language before that time had been widely spread throughout the Assyrian Empire as the language of administration, commerce and diplomacy, supplanting the Akkadian as the Lingua Franca of the Assyrian Empire (1100-612 BC). The incident recorded at 2 Kings 18:26 and Isa 36:11 provide some indication of the spread of Aramaic into Palestine. During Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem in 701 BC, the Jewish officials request that the Assyrian Rabshakeh negotiate in the diplomatic tongue, i.e. Aramaic.

In the aftermath of the destruction of Nineveh in August 612 BC by a combined force of Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II and Medes commanded by Cyaxares, a Neo-Babylonian Empire (605-538 BC) became the dominant power. And the Aramaic language remained a universal language during that period. It reached its zenith as the official language of the Persian Empire (538-330 BC).

With the rise of the Empire of Alexander (336-323 BC) in the East, the Greek language became influential in the region. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament (at Alexandria), known as the Septuagint (LXX), and subsequently the writings of the New Testament, were only examples of such influence. But Greek never displaced Aramaic among the Jews of Palestine or Babylon.

The succeeding Maccabean, Hasmonian, and Roman administration in Palestine did not witness fundamental changes in the linguistic situation, although, with the coming of the Romans to the East, Latin was introduced into many aspects of public life.

BIBLICAL ARAMAIC

Passages of the Old Testament written in the Aramaic language are called Biblical Aramaic. They occur in Ezra 4:8; 6:18 and 7:12-26. Daniel 2:4,7:28; and the gloss in Jer. 10:11 and Gen 31:47.

Various scholars have tried to show that the original language of a number of books from the Persian and Hellenistic periods, were written in Aramaic, and that they were later translated into Hebrew. This view has been presented in connection with Job, Koheleth, Daniel, Esther, 1 and 2 Chronicles, proverbs, and Ezekiel

In the New Testament, various Aramaic words or expressions occur, e.g. “Talitha Cumi” (little girl, stand up) Mark 5:41; “Ephphata” (etphtah, be opened) Mark 7:34; “Eli, Eli, Lama Shabachthani” (my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me) Matt.27:46, Mark 15:34; “Rabboni” (my Lord) Mark 10:51, John 20:16; “Maran Atha” (our Lord, come) Cor. 16:22.

Aramaic influence is apparent in personal names such as “ Cephas” John 1:42, 1 Cor 1:12 and “Tabitha” Acts 9:36, 40, and in place names, including “Akeldama” (field of blood) Acts 1:19; “Gesthsemane (oil press) Matt 26:36, Mark 14:32; and “Golgotha” (skull) Mark 15:22.

ARAMAIC INSCRIPTIONS

We possess an abundant number of inscriptions written in Aramaic. They constitute an extremely important source of information for our knowledge of Biblical Aramaic. With the earliest inscriptions dating as far back as the ninth century BC, from Zinjirli in north Syria; from Nineveh, Kouyunjik, Nimrud, Khorsabad (8th to 7th century BC; from Babylonia (6th –4th cent. BC); from Tello, bilingual in Aramaic and Greek (3rd cent. BC); from Egypt (fifth to beginning of third cent. BC); the so-called stele of Sakhara, bilingual (Egyptian and Aramaic) dated the fourth year of Xerxes 482 BC; from Taima, north of Hijaz; Al-Hijr; Petra and Hauran; the Palmyrene inscriptions belong to the first three centuries of the Christian Era ; from the Sinaitic Peninsula; from Pakistan (3rd. cent. BC); from the former Soviet Union (2nd cent. BC); and from Afghanistan (3rd cent. BC).

THE ARAMAIC LANGUAGE OF JESUS

At the beginning of the Christian era, Aramaic, in various dialects was the dominant spoken language of Syria and Mesopotamia. It developed a number of literary dialects, known as Palestinian Jewish Aramaic, Samaritan Aramaic, Syro-Palestinian Christian Aramaic, Syriac, Babylonian Talmudic Aramaic, and Mandaic Aramaic. In Galilee and Samaria, Aramaic dialects became the day-to-day means of communication.

It is generally agreed that the inhabitants of Palestine, at the dawn of the first century, were acquainted in varying degrees with the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin.

Differences emerge, however, regarding the geographical and chronological limits of each language. Some scholars defend the theory that Jesus spoke in Greek, among those in favor of this is Vosius, in the seventeenth century, D. Diodati In the eighteenth century and Paulus, Hug and Credner in the nineteenth century. More recently, A.W Argyle argued that Jesus spoke Greek and that his audience understood it as easily as they did in Aramaic. Some welcomed this claim, but others were in opposition.

Evidence of Hellenistic influence, is attested by numerous Greek inscriptions, graffiti, and correspondence, Greek Pseudepigrapha written in Palestine, the Greek fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as the Greek influence found throughout rabbinic literature.

Others have stressed the role of Latin, the language of the Roman administration; they argue that Latin left its mark on a number of public inscriptions as well as in a few of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Latin influence is manifested in certain aspects of Rabbinic Hebrew.

M. Wilcox, on the other hand, considers the Hebrew language of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which predominates over Aramaic, as an indication that Hebrew, in New Testament time, was not confined to rabbinical circles, but appears to be a “normal vehicle of expression”. Along this, runs a similar view of H. Birkeland, who challenged the usual view that Aramaic was the regular spoken language of the first century Palestine. According to Dr. Birkeland, Hebrew, not Aramaic, was the language of the Jews and of Jesus.

No one doubts the extent to which Aramaic had spread throughout the Levant from the middle of the first millennium BC, until; Arabic supplanted it, in the seventh century. A more difficult question, which has led to a significant disagreement among scholars, has to do with differences among, and classification of the various dialects of Aramaic.

The most extreme theory is that during the Exile, the Jews lost their Hebrew language for Aramaic, reserving Hebrew, already a dead language, for literature. This was Saadiah’s view, and also, in different forms, by a number of nineteenth- and-twentieth century scholars, including A. Geiger, A. Meyer, G.H. Dalman, A. Dupont-Sommer, and F. Altheim and R. Stiehl.

Meyer argued that Jesus’ mother tongue was Aramaic and that most of the Testament writings were originally written in Aramaic and later translated into Greek. Dalman agrees with the fact that Aramaic was the spoken language of the Jews in New Testament time. He concluded that Jesus grew up in Aramaic environment, and that He had to use Aramaic in order to be understood by his disciples and the people.

Dupont-Sommer argued that, Aramaic was the only language current among ordinary people at the time of Jesus, and that it was the language spoken by Jesus and the Apostles. Similarly, Altheim and Stiehl argued that from the beginning of the Hellenistic era, Aramaic had completely supplanted Hebrew as a spoken language.

A more sophisticated approach distinguishes Middle Aramaic (from 300 BC), and Late Aramaic dialects. In the first group, E.Y. Kutscher placed Targum Onkelos and the Aramaic translations from the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as inscriptions from around Jerusalem, and Aramaic expressions in the New Testament. The later dialects, which belong to Western Aramaic, are classified as Galilean, Samaritan, and Christian-Palestinian Aramaic. Of these, the Galilean dialect is of particular interest, because, it was used, for example, in the Aramaic sections of the Palestinian Talmud , the Palestinian Targums , numerous midrashim , and various Synagogue inscriptions.

The evidence of the Aramaic language of Jesus is Impossible to explain if Aramaic was not His spoken language. The Scriptures were provided with Targum for the Aramaic-speaking masses who could no longer understand Hebrew.

Nowadays, there are few scholars who would disagree that in Galilee and Samaria, the spoken language of the time was basically Aramaic. More controversial though, is the extent of the use of Aramaic in Judea to the south . The discovery of Aramaic texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as earlier evidence from, for example, names of persons and places, have demonstrated conclusively that the use of Aramaic was well established, but not completely dominant in Judea.

To simplify the matter, we can say that the most widely spoken language was Galilean Aramaic in Galilee, Samaritan Aramaic in Samaria, and Rabbinic Hebrew in Judea, although, at certain times and places, more than one language may have been used. Since Jesus began his career as a Galilean rabbi, well versed in the Scripture, It is highly possible that he was able to converse in Hebrew as in Aramaic.

Copyright 2006 Gabriel Sawma ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Were Adam and Eve Forgiven in Heaven?

Muslim Commentators say YES, the Qur’an Says NO.

By

Gabriel Sawma

The Quran states the following: ‘QULNA IHBATU MINHA JAMEE’AN, FATALAQQA ADAM MIN RABBIHI KALIMATEN FATAABA ‘ALAYHA INNAHU ALTAWWABU ALRAHIMU’ Q.2: 38.

Muslim commentators did not understand the meaning of these Aramaic verses; they render the following erroneous interpretations:

1- ‘We said: Go forth, all of you, from here. Then Adam learnt from his Lord certain words of prayer. So He turned toward him with mercy. Surely, He is Oft returning with compassion, and is Merciful. (M. Sher Ali’s translation)

“We said: Go down, all of you, from hence. Then Adam received from his Lord words of revelation, and he relented toward him. Lo! He is the relenting, most merciful, (M. M. Pickthall).

We said: Get ye down all from here. Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration, and his Lord turned toward him. He isOft-returning, most merciful, (Abdullah Yusuf Ali)

Muslim commentators imply that God was ‘compassionate and merciful’ toward Adam and Eve after they ate from the forbidden tree. The Aramaic language of the Quran suggests the opposite. Thei inability to understand Aramaic, led to the introduction of erroneous interpretations. They concluded that after Adam and Eve sinned in heaven by not obeying Go’d will, Adam expressed his repentance and God forgave him. The Qur’an states the opposite.

The Quranic verse is borrowed from the Biblical accounts. The Bible reads the following:‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die’ (Gen. 2: 16, NRSV).After Adam ate from the tree, God “drove out the man” from heaven. (Gen. 3: 13 NRSV).

The ending /a/ in the Quranic word “jannat[a]n represents the Eastern Syriac dialect opf Aramaic. The Quranic word “kalimaten” has been interpreted erroneously as ‘word’. Aramaic “klm” means ‘to humiliate’ (see Biblia Hebraica, Numbers 12: 14, 2 Sam. 10: 5). Aramaic “klm” also means ‘dishonored’ (see Biblia Hebraica, Jer. 22: 22), or ‘put to shame. insult’ (Biblia Hebraica, 1 Sam. 20: 34, 25: 7), etc.

The Quranic word “taaba” has been interpreted erroneously as ‘turned towards him’. Syriac “tubta’, meaning ‘filth’.

The Quranic word “al raheem” has been interpreted as ‘mercy’. Aramaic “rhm” means ‘mercy’, but it also means ‘carrion-vulture’ (i.e. the dead putrefying flesh of an animal, (see Biblia Hebraica, Leviticus 11: 18).

Muslim commentators claim erroneously that God was merciful to Adam and Eve. But the Quran does not say so. The Quranic word “qulna” has been interpreted erronously as ‘we said’. Aramaic root “qlh” mean, ‘dishonored, disgraced, shame’ (see Biblia Hebraica, Isa. 16: 14, Deut. 25: 3).

The Quranic word “ihbatu” has been giving conflicting interpretations by Muslim commentators. The first commentator renders ‘go forth’; the second and third render ‘go down’. Aramaic “hbt” means ‘thrown down, beat off, beat out’ (see Biblia Hebraica, Deut. 24: 20, Jud. 6: 11, etc).

The Aramaic language of the Quranic verse 2: 39, leaves no doubt that Adam was not forgiven for his sin, and instead, he was humiliated, and was thrown out of heaven, into a pit (i.e. the earth).

The correct interpretation is: “Adam received from his Lord a humiliation, and considered him filthy, he is like a flesh of dead animal. He disgraced us, they (Adam and Eve) were thrown out into a pit’.

More Aramaic interpretation of the Quran are covered by my book titled “The Qur’an: Misinterpreted, Mistranslated, and Misread. The Aramaic Language of the Qur’an”. Available on amazon.com and on this website.

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DOES THE QURAN FORCE JEWS AND CHRISTIANS TO SUBMIT TO ISLAM?

By

Gabriel Sawma

The Quran states the following: INNA ALLADHIINA KAFARU SWAA ON ALAYHIM ANDHARTAHUM AM LAM TUNDHIRHUM LA YUMINOON, (Quran 2: 7).

Muslim commentators render the following interpretation: ‘God hath set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty they incur. As those who reject the faith, it is the same to them whether thou warn them or do not warn them, they will not believe’ (translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali). The translator renders the following interpretation:

‘Kafara, kufr, kafir, are derivative forms of the word, imply a deliberate rejection of Faith as opposed to a mistaken idea of God or faith, which is not inconsistent with an earnest desire to see the truth. Where there is such desire, the grace and mercy of God gives guidance. But that guidance is not efficacious when it is deliberately rejected, and the possibility of rejection follows from the grant of free will. The consequence of the rejection is that the spiritual faculties become dead to impervious to better influence. The roots kafara has many shades of meaning: (1) to deny God’s goodness, to be ungrateful. (2) To reject Faith, deny His revelation. (3)To blaspheme, to ascribe some limitation or attribute to God, which is derogatory to His nature. In a translation, one shade or another must be put forward according to the context, but all are implied’. (See Abdullah Yusuf Commetary on the Glorious Qur’an, numbers 30 and 93).

The Quranic word ‘kafara’, which is interpreted in modern days as ‘infidel’, does not necessarily mean ‘to reject faith’. Aramaic ‘kfr’ means ‘the price of life, ransom’. Akkadian “kaparu” means ‘wipe off, redemption, ransom’. In the book of Exodus we read the following: ‘If a ransom is imposed on the owner’ (Exod. 21: 30. NRSV). Paying ransom for life was a form of taxes. It was a natural obligation on individuals to buy protection for their lives. During the time of Moses, God imposed a ransom on each Israelite, the Bible reads: ‘The Lord spoke to Moses: When you take a census of the Israelites to register them, at registration all of them shall give a (kfr) ransom for their lives to the Lord, so that no plague may come upon them for being registered’ (Exod. 30: 11. NRSV. Biblia Hebraica).

‘kfr’ also means ‘ransom for sin offering’ as stated in the Biblia Hebraica: ‘Throughout your generations he shall perform the atonement for it once a year with the blood of the atoning ‘kfr’ sin offering. It is most holy to the Lord’ (Exod. 30: 10. NRSV. Biblia Hebraica). The term ‘kfr’ is used to describe the ‘sin offering’ as is shown in the following Biblical passage: ‘These are the ordinances for the altar, on the day when it is erected for burnt offerings upon it and for dashing blood against it…a bull for (kfr) sin offering’ (Ezekiel 43: 19. NRSV. Biblia Hebraica).

‘kfr’ is used to mean ‘cover over, pacify, propitiate’ as indicated in the Book of Genesis: ‘Let me cover over his face by the present ) so that he does not see the offense, i.e. pacify him’ (Gen. 32: 21).

In the New Testament, the “kfr” (i.e. ransom) is no longer associated with the temple sacrifices, still less with payments of money, or incense, or even with prayers. It is the life of Jesus and his death by crucifixion, with the actual shedding of blood that makes the ransom “kfr” possible. The New Testament declares that in Christ and his death is all that man needs in order for his sins to be forgiven, and his life is “kfr” (i.e. ransomed).

There is no indication in the Aramaic language of the Bible that the word ‘kfr’ ever meant ‘infidel’ or ‘those who did not accept Islam’. Misinterpretation of the Quran led Muslim commentators to render an erroneous definition to the Aramaic word “kfr”.

It is important to keep in mind that the early copies of the Quran did not have the vowel signs necessary for vocalization. When the vowel signs were introduced at a later time, Aramaic ‘kfr’ changed to ‘kafaru’.

The Quranic word ‘sawaa’ has been interpreted erroneously as ‘whether’. Aramaic ‘shwh’ means ‘to agree with’ (Isa. 16: 6). The shift from /sh/ to /s/ and vice versa is interchangeable in the Semitic languages as for example ‘sham[s]’ (sun) and ‘sham[sh]a’; ‘M[es]ih’ and ‘M[sh]iha’ (Messiah) etc.

The Quranic word ‘andhartuhum’ has been interpreted as ‘you warn them’. Syriac (a dialect of Aramaic) ‘etnadrat’ means ‘you give a notice, make a vow’ (Syriac Peshito, Gen. 31: 13). Aramaic ‘ndr’ means ‘vow’ (Psalms 132). In Aramaic, letter /d/ is also spirant /dh/ like ‘there’. When the Arabic vowel signs, which developed later, were added, Aramaic ‘ndr’ change to ‘nadhara’ or ‘andhara’.

The Quran is saying: ‘those who used sin offering for ransom agree (Jews and Christians), whether you give them a notice or not, are not going to believe (i.e. in the Quran). In Syriac, the verse is pronounced as following: ‘holen kafore, showe ‘layhoon, etnadrat lhun ao lo atnadrat lhun lo mhaymne enun’.

Copyright2006, Gabriel Sawma. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Jews and Christians are redeemed in the Quran

By

Gabriel Sawma

The Quran states the following: “wa alladhina yu’minuuna bima unzila ilayka, wama unzila min qablika, wa bi aakhirah hum yuqinun” Quran 2: 5. Muslim commentators render the following interpretations. Translated: ‘and who believe in the Revelation sent to thee, and sent before thy time, and (in their hearts) have the assurance of the Hereafter’ (Abdullah Yusuf Ali).

This Quranic verse is addressed to those who: (a) believe in the Quran; (b) Believe in what was given to them before the Quran (i.e. the Old and New Testaments), (c) Believe in the Hereafter.

Unfortunately, the commentator inserted, erroneously, two words that are absent from the Quran: ‘time’ and ‘in their hearts’. By doing so, he changed the meaning of the Quranic verse. In Aramaic the verse reads the following: “w lz ymn bma nzl ‘laik wbma nzl mn qblk wbhrut hm yqnun”. The inserted word by the commentator: ‘time’ and ‘in their hearts’ is not part of the verse.

The Quranic word “unzila” has been interpreted as ‘came down’. Aramaic “nzl” means ‘turn the balance, drop’. The early Quranic manuscripts did not have the vowel signs /u/, /i/, and /a/. With the absence of the vowel signs, which were developed later, Aramaic “nzl” became ‘unzila’.

The Quranic word “qablika” has been interpreted as ‘before you’. Aramaic “qblk” means ‘before’. The word is found in the Bible 2 Kings 15: 10, Esther 9: 27, and 1 Chron. 12: 19). When the vowel signs were introduced late in the development of the Arabic alphabet, the Aramaic word “qblk” became “qablika”.

The Quranic word “aakhira” has been interpreted as ‘at the end’. Syriac “eharto” means ‘the end’. Arabic letter /h/ change to /kh/ be placing one point on the top of the former. The early Quranic manuscripts did not differentiate between the letters /h/ and /kh/ due to the absence of the points.

The Quranic word “yuqinoon” has been interpreted erroneously as ‘they realize’. Aramaic “qnh” means to ‘redeem’. The term is found in Exodus 15: 16. “qnh” also means ‘acquiring wisdom’ (Proverbs 1: 5). When the vowel signs are added, the Aramaic word “qnh” change to “yuqin” meaning ‘to be redeemed’.

The Quran is saying: ‘this book (i.e. the Quran) is tipping of the balance (i.e. a book of another choice), it is not in conflict with the books that were sent down before the Quran (i.e. the Old and New Testaments), nor is it contrary to those who believe in the Hereafter (Christians). All of those are redeemed (i.e. saved).

The Aramaic language of the verse has a totally different meaning from that given by Muslim commentators. This Quranic verse leaves no doubt that the message of the Quran is not in conflict with that of the Bible. Not understanding Aramaic lead to the introduction of erroneous interpretations by Muslim commentators.

This and other subjects are discussed in the newly written book titled “The Qur’an: Misinterpreted, Mistranslated, and Misread. The Aramaic Language of the Qur’an”. Available on Amazon.com and on this website

Copyright 2006, Gabriel Sawma. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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The Death and Crucifixion of Jesus in the Qur’an

The Qur’an states the following:

“Waqawlihim inna qatalna al Massih Issa ibn Maryam rasul Allah, wama qataluhu wama salabuhu walaken shubbiha lahum”, Q. 4: 158,

trans. and their saying, we did kill the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah; whereas they slew him not nor crucified him, but he was made to appear to them like the one crucified (M. Sher Ali). A. Yusuf Ali writes the following explanation:

‘The end of the life of Jesus on earth is as much involved in mystery as his birth, and indeed the greater part of his private life, except the three main years of his ministry. It is not profitable to discuss the many doubts and conjectures among the early Christian sects and among Muslim theologians. The Orthodox Christian Churches make it a cardinal point of their doctrine that his life was taken on the Cross, that he died and was buried, that on the third day he rose in the body with his wounds intact, and walked about and conversed, and ate with his disciples, and was afterwards taken up bodily to heaven. This is necessary for the theological doctrine of blood sacrifice and vicarious atonement for sins, which is rejected by Islam. But some of the early Christian sects did not believe that Christ was killed on the Cross. The Basilidans believed that someone else was substituted for him. The Docetae held that Christ never had a real physical or natural body, but only an apparent or phantom body, and that his Crucifixion was only apparent, not real. The Marcionite Gospel ( about A.D. 138) denied that Jesus was born, and merely said that he appeared in human form. The Gospel of St. Barnabas supported the theory of substitution on the Cross. The Qur’anic teaching is that Christ was not crucified nor killed by the Jews, notwithstanding certain apparent circumstances which produced that illusion in the minds of some of his enemies; that disputations, doubts, and conjectures on such matters are vain; and that he was taken up to God.’

Crucifixion was attested first among the Persians. The Greeks and the Carthaginians, from whom the Romans adapted the practice, later employed it. In the Old Testament, the corpses of blasphemers or idolaters punished by stoning might be hanged as further humiliation (Deut. 21: 23).

Crucifixion was introduced in Palestine during the Hellenistic time. Josephus tells us that the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes crucified those Jews who refused Hellenization. Constantine abolished the practice in deference to Christian belief concerning Jesus’death. Jesus crucifixion is recounted in Matt. 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19, and many times referred to elsewhere in the New Testament. The influence of early Christian literature on this subject and others is spread all over the Qur’an. Ali&’s commentary is just one example of that influence. After all, the penalty was a form of capital punishment, which involved public shame to the person. The condemned had to be stripped of all his clothing, he was physically tortured, he was made to carry his cross along the public roads and to the execution ground; then he was affixed to the cross, and was the object of taunts and indignities from passers-by. Death by crucifixion brought the condemned into a public disrepute.

Crucifixion provided an obstacle in the subsequent effort to convert Jews to the new faith. The Jews were not prepared to accept the thought that the Messiah should be crucified. To many of them, such a thought was considered a blasphemy. That was probably the thought of the Qur’an too.

The Qur’anic conjugation “w” is similar to Aramaic “w” means ‘so, then, and’; Akkadian “u”. The Qur’anic word “wama” has been interpreted erroneously as ‘did not’. Syriac “wmo, wma” is an interrogative pronoun ‘what?’ “wmo li wlock” or “wma li wlak” means ‘and what have I to do with you’. The Qur’an is saying: ‘and what they slew, and what they crucified’. In other words, the Qur’an confirms the death and crucifixion of Jesus, but the Aramaic language of the verse was misinterpreted by Muslim commentators.

For more on this and other subjects, please refer to my book, The Qur’an: Misinterpreted, Mistranslated, and Misread. The Aramaic Language of the Qur’an.

Gabriel Sawma

Copyright 2006, Gabriel Sawma. ALLRIGHTS RESERVED

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