Sunday, June 17, 2012

Trust in the Lord by Fr. Thomas Richter

From the CD sleeve:

This talk is practical. It is for everyone—beginners and masters in the spiritual life. We all know that growth in holiness is largely about growing in trust in our Lord Jesus Christ. But how does one do that realistically? In this talk, Bismarck Diocese Vocations Director Fr. Tom Richter will describe in concrete terms what the interior act of trust looks like, and what we must choose in order to grow in this trust. Listener comments: "Father Richter explores the notion or "trust in the Lord" in a most unique way. We must appreciate what it is to "receive"... and how that concept is integral to our childhood identity. How he does that is a wonderful journey." George - Astoria, NY "Fr Richter is one of the gifted priests whose love for and dedication to Truth comes through loud and clear, in the middle of his welcome humor. His simplification of what it takes to be God’s child is desperately needed today by a very confused humanity." Monica - Wichita, KS "Wow! Trust is the Lord was exactly what I needed to hear… BOY! Did I need to hear this message! I could listen to this CD everyday! Great message to hear during silent personal prayer or retreat! Father tells us to TRUST Like a CHILD. This CD has a message YOU WILL WANT to HEAR to understand how and WHY to TRUST in the Lord… So many answers to help understand what we don’t understand about prayer and how God wants us to trust and RECEIVE His love which is “right and just”. He knows what’s good for us~ we just need to RECEIVE it from God the Father, Almighty! Amen! EXCELLENT message with guidance that tells us that God WANTS YOU to WANT the GOOD He wants to GIVE YOU! RECEIVE IT! Through His Son, Jesus Christ! He’s our everything!" Jennifer - Marin, CA I absolutely agree with Jennifer from CA. I could listen to this CD every day. Because every day we have to choose to trust in the Lord. This is quite possibly one of the best, most practical CDs Lighthouse has ever released. Definitely get a copy today!

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist

Dr. Brant Pitre uses the Hebrew Scriptures and Jewish tradition to frame the actions of Jesus at the Last Supper, and to provide a fresh look at the heart of Catholic practice — the Eucharist. By taking us back to the Jewish roots of our faith, Dr. Pitre gives us a powerful lens through which to see anew the bread of the presence, the manna, the Last Supper, and ultimately the meaning of the Eucharist.

Taken from:

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist

Dr. Brant Pitre

For Bible Studies on CD, go to 1

The New Exodus

First Exodus New Exodus

1. Deliverer: Moses 1. New Deliverer: Messiah

2. Israel: Released from Egypt 2. Israel and Gentiles: Released from the

Sin, Exile, and Death

3. Journey to Promised Land 3. Journey: New Promised Land (New Eden)

4. Worship of God: Tabernacle/Temple 4. Worship of God: New Temple

5. Ultimate Destination: Jerusalem 5. Ultimate Destination: New Jerusalem

The Old Passover

1. In order to have a New Exodus, you must first have a New Passover

2. Old Testament Passover: (Exodus 12)

a. Father was priest over his family (cf. Exodus 24)

b. Unblemished Male Lamb taken and sacrificed; blood poured into bowl

c. Dip hyssop branch in blood

d. Spread blood on the doorposts of the home

e. Eat the Lamb

Later Jewish Passover

1. Passover Night: Child would ask the Father:

2. “Why is this night different from other nights?”

3. “Why do we eat unleavened bread and roast lamb?”

4. Father’s Answer: “It is because of what the LORD did for me when I

came out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:8)

5. Passover Liturgy: spiritually brought them back to participate in First Passover:

“In every generation a man must so regard himself as if he came forth himself out of Egypt, for it

is written... [Exod 13:8]. Therefore we are bound to give thanks....” (Mishnah Pesahim 10)

The New Passover

1. The Last Supper: What is different? (Mark 14; Matt 24; Luke 22)

a. Lamb is not the focus

b. Jesus speaks of “pouring out” blood; only priests can do this (Lev 4:5-7)

2. No Ordinary Passover:

a. New Priests: Jesus and 12 Apostles (representing 12 Tribes)

b. New Lamb: Jesus replaces Lamb with himself

c. New Sacrifice: Unleavened Bread (Body) and Wine (Blood) offered

3. Why did Jewish Christians believe Eucharist was Jesus’ body and blood?

a. Eucharist, like the Old Passover: is a participation in the New Passover of Jesus

b. You had to eat the Lamb to complete the sacrifice

c. St. Paul: Jesus is the New Lamb

“Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the feast!” (1 Cor 5:7-8)

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist

Dr. Brant Pitre

For Bible Studies on CD, go to 2

The Old Manna

1. If Jesus inaugurates a New Exodus, what food is given for the journey?

2. The Manna in the Wilderness (Exodus 16)

a. Israel cries out for food; they want to go back to Egypt

b. The LORD says: “Behold, I will rain down bread from heaven for you”

c. In the Morning: “Bread” from heaven (Manna)

d. In the Evening: “Flesh” from heaven (Quail)

e. Manna: white, tasted “like wafers made with honey”

(A foretaste of the promised land: “milk and honey”)

f. “The Grain of Heaven” and “The Bread of Angels” (Psa 78:21-25)

3. The Manna in the Tabernacle: Placed in a Golden Urn in the Tabernacle (Exod 16:33-34; Heb 9:6)

Later Jewish Tradition

1. The Messiah will Bring Back the Manna from Heaven:

And it will happen that… the Messiah will begin to be revealed... And those who are hungry will enjoy

themselves and they will, moreover, see marvels every day... And it will happen at that time that the

treasury of manna will come down again from on high, and they will eat of it in those years because

these are they who will have arrived at the consummation of time. (2 Baruch 29:3-8)

The New Manna

1. The Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11; Luke 11:3)

a. “Give us this day our epi-ousios bread”

b. Greek: epi (“on, upon, above”)

ousios (“substance, being, nature”)

c. St. Jerome: “Give us this day our supersubstantial bread” (Douay-Rheims)

d. Both daily and supernatural: just like the Manna

“Taken literally, (epiousious – “superessential”)... refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of

Christ” (CCC 2837)

2. The Bread of Life Discourse (John 6: 48-64)

Jesus said: “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.

This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man might eat of it and not die. I am the living

bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread

which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves,

saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,

unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my

flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is true

food, and my blood is true drink.... This is the bread which comes down from heaven, not such as the

fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” Many of his disciples, when they heard it,

said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples

murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man

ascending where he was before?”

3. Why did Jewish Christians believe the Eucharist was Jesus’ body and blood?

a. They knew it is supernatural bread from heaven

b. They knew it is his risen body and blood

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist

Dr. Brant Pitre

For Bible Studies on CD, go to 3

The “Bread of the Presence”

1. Worship of God in First Exodus: Tabernacle

2. Old Testament “Bread of the Presence” (Commonly mis-translated “Showbread”)

3. God Instructs Moses to Build the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:10-40)

4. Three Key Symbols of God in Tabernacle

a. Ark of the Covenant: Throne of Invisible God

b. Golden Lampstand (Menorah): 7 Tongues of Fire

c. “Bread of the Presence”: Set on Golden Table

5. The Bread of the Presence in the Tabernacle (Leviticus 24:1-9)

a. 12 Cakes of Bread

b. Set out each Sabbath by Priests on behalf of Israel

c. “A Perpetual Due”: to be “continually” “before the LORD” “as a covenant forever”

d. Lampstand Candles must be “kept burning continually” with the Bread of the Presence

e. Veiled when carried out of Tabernacle (Num 4:1-15)

f. “Bread of Presence”: Literally “Bread of the Face” (Heb lehem ha pannim)

g. A Sacrifice of Bread and wine (Exod 25: 29)

Later Jewish Tradition

According to the Rabbis, the Bread of the Presence would be placed on a golden table (such as that

described in Lev 24:6) and elevated for pilgrims to see:

They used to lift it up and exhibit the Bread of the Presence on it to those who came up for the

festivals, saying to them, “Behold, God’s love for you!” (Babylonian Talmud, Menahoth 29a)

The New Bread of the Presence

1. Jesus and the New Temple (Matt 12:1-8)

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and

they began to pluck ears of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look,

your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read

what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God

and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with

him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the

Temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the Temple is here.”

2. Why did the first Jewish Christians believe in the Real Presence?

a. The Eucharist was the New “Bread of the Presence”

b. Jesus has laid claim for himself and his followers, just as David did, to the priesthood

(cf. 2 Samuel 6)

c. Jesus is the New Temple: his disciples will offer the New Bread of the Presence

d. The New Temple: “the temple of his body” (John 2:19-22)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Pope Benedict XVI




Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

St Peter's Square

Friday, 11 June 2010


Dear Brothers in the Priestly Ministry,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Year for Priests which we have celebrated on the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of the holy Curè of Ars, the model of priestly ministry in our world, is now coming to an end. We have let the Curé of Ars guide us to a renewed appreciation of the grandeur and beauty of the priestly ministry. The priest is not a mere office-holder, like those which every society needs in order to carry out certain functions. Instead, he does something which no human being can do of his own power: in Christ’s name he speaks the words which absolve us of our sins and in this way he changes, starting with God, our entire life. Over the offerings of bread and wine he speaks Christ’s words of thanksgiving, which are words of transubstantiation – words which make Christ himself present, the Risen One, his Body and Blood – words which thus transform the elements of the world, which open the world to God and unite it to him. The priesthood, then, is not simply “office” but sacrament: God makes use of us poor men in order to be, through us, present to all men and women, and to act on their behalf. This audacity of God who entrusts himself to human beings – who, conscious of our weaknesses, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being present in his stead – this audacity of God is the true grandeur concealed in the word “priesthood”. That God thinks that we are capable of this; that in this way he calls men to his service and thus from within binds himself to them: this is what we wanted to reflect upon and appreciate anew over the course of the past year. We wanted to reawaken our joy at how close God is to us, and our gratitude for the fact that he entrusts himself to our infirmities; that he guides and sustains us daily. In this way we also wanted to demonstrate once again to young people that this vocation, this fellowship of service for God and with God, does exist – and that God is indeed waiting for us to say “yes”. Together with the whole Church we wanted to make clear once again that we have to ask God for this vocation. We have to beg for workers for God’s harvest, and this petition to God is, at the same time, his own way of knocking on the hearts of young people who consider themselves able to do what God considers them able to do. It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the “enemy”; he would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world. And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light – particularly the abuse of the little ones, in which the priesthood, whose task is to manifest God’s concern for our good, turns into its very opposite. We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again; and that in admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey, so that the Lord will protect them and watch over them in troubled situations and amid life’s dangers. Had the Year for Priests been a glorification of our individual human performance, it would have been ruined by these events. But for us what happened was precisely the opposite: we grew in gratitude for God’s gift, a gift concealed in “earthen vessels” which ever anew, even amid human weakness, makes his love concretely present in this world. So let us look upon all that happened as a summons to purification, as a task which we bring to the future and which makes us acknowledge and love all the more the great gift we have received from God. In this way, his gift becomes a commitment to respond to God’s courage and humility by our own courage and our own humility. The word of God, which we have sung in the Entrance Antiphon of the liturgy, can speak to us, at this hour, of what it means to become and to be priests: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29).

We are celebrating the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and in the liturgy we peer, as it were, into the heart of Jesus opened in death by the spear of the Roman soldier. Jesus’ heart was indeed opened for us and before us – and thus God’s own heart was opened. The liturgy interprets for us the language of Jesus’ heart, which tells us above all that God is the shepherd of mankind, and so it reveals to us Jesus’ priesthood, which is rooted deep within his heart; so too it shows us the perennial foundation and the effective criterion of all priestly ministry, which must always be anchored in the heart of Jesus and lived out from that starting-point. Today I would like to meditate especially on those texts with which the Church in prayer responds to the word of God presented in the readings. In those chants, word (Wort) and response (Antwort) interpenetrate. On the one hand, the chants are themselves drawn from the word of God, yet on the other, they are already our human response to that word, a response in which the word itself is communicated and enters into our lives. The most important of those texts in today’s liturgy is Psalm 23(22) – “The Lord is my shepherd” – in which Israel at prayer received God’s self-revelation as shepherd, and made this the guide of its own life. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”: this first verse expresses joy and gratitude for the fact that God is present to and concerned for us. The reading from the Book of Ezechiel begins with the same theme: “I myself will look after and tend my sheep” (Ez 34:11). God personally looks after me, after us, after all mankind. I am not abandoned, adrift in the universe and in a society which leaves me ever more lost and bewildered. God looks after me. He is not a distant God, for whom my life is worthless. The world’s religions, as far as we can see, have always known that in the end there is only one God. But this God was distant. Evidently he had abandoned the world to other powers and forces, to other divinities. It was with these that one had to deal. The one God was good, yet aloof. He was not dangerous, nor was he very helpful. Consequently one didn’t need to worry about him. He did not lord it over us. Oddly, this kind of thinking re-emerged during the Enlightenment. There was still a recognition that the world presupposes a Creator. Yet this God, after making the world, had evidently withdrawn from it. The world itself had a certain set of laws by which it ran, and God did not, could not, intervene in them. God was only a remote cause. Many perhaps did not even want God to look after them. They did not want God to get in the way. But wherever God’s loving concern is perceived as getting in the way, human beings go awry. It is fine and consoling to know that there is someone who loves me and looks after me. But it is far more important that there is a God who knows me, loves me and is concerned about me. “I know my own and my own know me” (Jn 10:14), the Church says before the Gospel with the Lord’s words. God knows me, he is concerned about me. This thought should make us truly joyful. Let us allow it to penetrate the depths of our being. Then let us also realize what it means: God wants us, as priests, in one tiny moment of history, to share his concern about people. As priests, we want to be persons who share his concern for men and women, who take care of them and provide them with a concrete experience of God’s concern. Whatever the field of activity entrusted to him, the priest, with the Lord, ought to be able to say: “I know my sheep and mine know me”. “To know”, in the idiom of sacred Scripture, never refers to merely exterior knowledge, like the knowledge of someone’s telephone number. “Knowing” means being inwardly close to another person. It means loving him or her. We should strive to “know” men and women as God does and for God’s sake; we should strive to walk with them along the path of God's friendship.

Let us return to our Psalm. There we read: “He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me” (23[22]:3ff.). The shepherd points out the right path to those entrusted to him. He goes before them and leads them. Let us put it differently: the Lord shows us the right way to be human. He teaches us the art of being a person. What must I do in order not to fall, not to squander my life in meaninglessness? This is precisely the question which every man and woman must ask and one which remains valid at every moment of one’s life. How much darkness surrounds this question in our own day! We are constantly reminded of the words of Jesus, who felt compassion for the crowds because they were like a flock without a shepherd. Lord, have mercy on us too! Show us the way! From the Gospel we know this much: he is himself the way. Living with Christ, following him – this means finding the right way, so that our lives can be meaningful and so that one day we might say: “Yes, it was good to have lived”. The people of Israel continue to be grateful to God because in the Commandments he pointed out the way of life. The great Psalm 119(118) is a unique expression of joy for this fact: we are not fumbling in the dark. God has shown us the way and how to walk aright. The message of the Commandments was synthesized in the life of Jesus and became a living model. Thus we understand that these rules from God are not chains, but the way which he is pointing out to us. We can be glad for them and rejoice that in Christ they stand before us as a lived reality. He himself has made us glad. By walking with Christ, we experience the joy of Revelation, and as priests we need to communicate to others our own joy at the fact that we have been shown the right way of life.

Then there is the phrase about the “darkest valley” through which the Lord leads us. Our path as individuals will one day lead us into the valley of the shadow of death, where no one can accompany us. Yet he will be there. Christ himself descended into the dark night of death. Even there he will not abandon us. Even there he will lead us. “If I sink to the nether world, you are present there”, says Psalm 139(138). Truly you are there, even in the throes of death, and hence our Responsorial Psalm can say: even there, in the darkest valley, I fear no evil. When speaking of the darkest valley, we can also think of the dark valleys of temptation, discouragement and trial through which everyone has to pass. Even in these dark valleys of life he is there. Lord, in the darkness of temptation, at the hour of dusk when all light seems to have died away, show me that you are there. Help us priests, so that we can remain beside the persons entrusted to us in these dark nights. So that we can show them your own light.

“Your rod and your staff – they comfort me”: the shepherd needs the rod as protection against savage beasts ready to pounce on the flock; against robbers looking for prey. Along with the rod there is the staff which gives support and helps to make difficult crossings. Both of these are likewise part of the Church’s ministry, of the priest’s ministry. The Church too must use the shepherd’s rod, the rod with which he protects the faith against those who falsify it, against currents which lead the flock astray. The use of the rod can actually be a service of love. Today we can see that it has nothing to do with love when conduct unworthy of the priestly life is tolerated. Nor does it have to do with love if heresy is allowed to spread and the faith twisted and chipped away, as if it were something that we ourselves had invented. As if it were no longer God’s gift, the precious pearl which we cannot let be taken from us. Even so, the rod must always become once again the shepherd’s staff – a staff which helps men and women to tread difficult paths and to follow the Lord.

At the end of the Psalm we read of the table which is set, the oil which anoints the head, the cup which overflows, and dwelling in the house of the Lord. In the Psalm this is an expression first and foremost of the prospect of the festal joy of being in God’s presence in the temple, of being his guest, whom he himself serves, of dwelling with him. For us, who pray this Psalm with Christ and his Body which is the Church, this prospect of hope takes on even greater breadth and depth. We see in these words a kind of prophetic foreshadowing of the mystery of the Eucharist, in which God himself makes us his guests and offers himself to us as food – as that bread and fine wine which alone can definitively sate man’s hunger and thirst. How can we not rejoice that one day we will be guests at the very table of God and live in his dwelling-place? How can we not rejoice at the fact that he has commanded us: “Do this in memory of me”? How can we not rejoice that he has enabled us to set God’s table for men and women, to give them his Body and his Blood, to offer them the precious gift of his very presence. Truly we can pray together, with all our heart, the words of the Psalm: “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Ps 23[22]:6).

Finally, let us take a brief look at the two communion antiphons which the Church offers us in her liturgy today. First there are the words with which Saint John concludes the account of Jesus’ crucifixion: “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out” (Jn 19:34). The heart of Jesus is pierced by the spear. Once opened, it becomes a fountain: the water and the blood which stream forth recall the two fundamental sacraments by which the Church lives: Baptism and the Eucharist. From the Lord’s pierced side, from his open heart, there springs the living fountain which continues to well up over the centuries and which makes the Church. The open heart is the source of a new stream of life; here John was certainly also thinking of the prophecy of Ezechiel who saw flowing forth from the new temple a torrent bestowing fruitfulness and life (Ez 47): Jesus himself is the new temple, and his open heart is the source of a stream of new life which is communicated to us in Baptism and the Eucharist.

The liturgy of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus also permits another phrase, similar to this, to be used as the communion antiphon. It is taken from the Gospel of John: Whoever is thirsty, let him come to me. And let the one who believes in me drink. As the Scripture has said: “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (cf. Jn 7:37ff.) In faith we drink, so to speak, of the living water of God’s Word. In this way the believer himself becomes a wellspring which gives living water to the parched earth of history. We see this in the saints. We see this in Mary, that great woman of faith and love who has become in every generation a wellspring of faith, love and life. Every Christian and every priest should become, starting from Christ, a wellspring which gives life to others. We ought to be offering life-giving water to a parched and thirst world. Lord, we thank you because for our sake you opened your heart; because in your death and in your resurrection you became the source of life. Give us life, make us live from you as our source, and grant that we too may be sources, wellsprings capable of bestowing the water of life in our time. We thank you for the grace of the priestly ministry. Lord bless us, and bless all those who in our time are thirsty and continue to seek. Amen.


Taken from:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jesus’ transfiguration shows his ‘divine glory,’ Pope Benedict explains

Related articles:•The Divinity of Christ

•Meeting with a group of Catholics active in the Church and society gathered in the Konzerthaus

•True joy is only found in God, Pope says as Lent begins

•Sunday's Angelus

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2011 / 12:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Transfiguration reveals Christ’s divinity and shows that he alone is the true home of the Christian, Pope Benedict XVI told thousands of Catholics gathered for the Sunday Angelus.

Speaking from the balcony of his apartment, the Pope discussed the passage from Matthew 17 in which Jesus leads Peter, James and John up a high mountain where Christ is then transfigured before them. “His face shone like the sun and his garments became white as light,” the Gospel reads.

“According to the senses, the light of the sun is the most intense ever known in nature,” Benedict XVI noted. “But according to the spirit, the disciples saw for a short time a brightness more intense: that of the divine glory of Jesus, which illuminates the whole history of salvation.”

Citing the first volume of his work “Jesus of Nazareth,” the Pope said the Transfiguration reveals “the profound interpenetration of his being with God, which then becomes pure light. In his oneness with the Father, Jesus is himself ‘light from light’.”

St. Maximus the Confessor saw the change in Jesus’ clothes as symbolic of the words of Sacred Scripture which become clear, transparent and bright, the Pope added.

Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets, also appeared at the Transfiguration. This prompted Peter to suggest that the disciples set up three tents for them and Jesus. But Moses and Elijah vanished.

St. Augustine, commenting on this passage, said this shows that the Christian has only one home: Christ.

“He is the Word of God, the Word of God in the Law, the Word of God in the Prophets,” St. Augustine wrote.

The disciples, contemplating the divinity of the Lord, are thus prepared to confront the scandal of the cross, Pope Benedict explained.

“Dear friends, we too share this vision and this supernatural gift,” the Pope continued, urging Catholics to make space for prayer and to listen to the Word of God.

He also expressed thanks for his recent Lenten spiritual exercises, concluded on March 19.

In his words after the Angelus to English-speaking pilgrims, the Pope added:

“As we continue our journey through Lent, today at Mass we recall the Transfiguration of the Lord and how it prepared the Apostles for the coming scandal of the Cross. Strengthened by our faith in Jesus, true God and true man, may we be inspired, not scandalized, by the Cross given to our Savior and to our fellow Christians who suffer with him throughout the world.

“Especially during this holy season, I invoke upon you and your families God’s abundant blessings!”


Taken frm:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jesus Spoke Hebrew: busting the Aramaic Myth


The powerful Mel Gibson movie, The Passion of the Christ, has once again raised the question of what language Jesus actually spoke. Some say it doesn’t matter, and in one sense they are right. Jesus is still the Saviour of the world, who walked on water, raised the dead, and made atonement for our sins by his blood, whether he spoke Hebrew or Hindustani. Yet in another sense it DOES matter. If your natural language is, say, English, and I go about claiming it to be Dutch, I am clearly misrepresenting you. While there is nothing whatever wrong with Dutch, it is a simple matter of fidelity to the record, and of doing justice to the person. By the same token, if Jesus’ “mother-tongue” was Hebrew, then it is as much a misrepresentation to claim he spoke Aramaic – as is all but universally held – as to say Churchill spoke in Spanish, or Tolstoy wrote in Norwegian. But there is another issue at stake. Aramaic is nowhere mentioned in the New Testament. Yet on numerous occasions it speaks of the “Hebrew” language in first century Judaea – from the title over Jesus’ cross “in Hebrew” (John 19:20), to descriptions of places like Gabbatha and Golgotha “in the Hebrew tongue” (John 5:2; 19:13, 17; Rev. 9:11; 16:16), to Paul gaining the silence of the Jerusalem crowd by addressing them “in the Hebrew tongue” (Acts 21:40; 22:2), to Jesus himself calling out to Paul, on the Damascus road, “in the Hebrew tongue” (Acts 26:14). In each instance, the Greek text reads “Hebrew” (Hebrais, Hebraios or Hebraikos), the natural translation followed by nearly all the English versions, as also by the Latin Vulgate and the German Luther Bible. Do we have the right to insert “Aramaic” for this plain reading – particularly when the Jewish people of the period, as we shall see, were so insistent on distinguishing them? The evidence is compelling that we do not, and that the New Testament expression, “in the Hebrew language”, ought to be taken as read. DEAD SEA SCROLLS The Dead Sea Scrolls, known to date from the same general period, reveal an overwhelming preponderance of Hebrew texts. The figure is generally accepted as around 80%, with Aramaic and Greek taking up most of the balance. In their comprehensive translation of the Qumran literature, Michael Wise and others observe that: “Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the dominant view of the Semitic languages of Palestine in this period was essentially as follows: Hebrew had died; it was no longer learned at mother’s knee. It was known only by the educated classes through study, just as educated medieval Europeans knew Latin. Rabbinic Hebrew … was considered a sort of scholarly invention – artificial, not the language of life put to the page. The spoken language of the Jews had in fact become Aramaic … The discovery of the scrolls swept these linguistic notions into the trash bin … the vast majority of the scrolls were Hebrew texts. Hebrew was manifestly the principal literary language for the Jews of this period. The new discoveries underlined the still living , breathing, even supple character of that language … prov[ing] that late Second-Temple Jews used various dialects of Hebrew…”[1]. This sheer dominance of Hebrew goes far beyond the Biblical writings, which actually comprise, by Emanuel Tov’s calculations, just 23.5% of the overall Qumran literature.[2] It includes also the famed Copper Scroll (written, as Wolters notes, in “an early form of Mishnaic Hebrew”[3]), the day-to-day letters (where Hebrew, says Milik, is the “sole language of correspondence”[4]), and its general commentaries and literature (where, as Black concedes, “Hebrew certainly vastly predominates over Aramaic”[5]). No wonder the Scrolls are said to “prove that late Second Temple Jews used various dialects of Hebrew”. And not just as an “artificial” language, but a “natural, vibrant idiom”, as the Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls declares[6]. How else can such extensive evidence of the Hebrew language be taken – from commentaries to correspondence, from documents to daily rules? Likewise with the sixteen texts found at Herod’s stronghold of Masada, all predating the fortress’ overthrow in 73. No less than fifteen are definitely in Hebrew[7], with some doubt over the final one. Is it conceivable that Hebrew would have been used for ordinary communications (Biblical texts are again in a minority) if it was not the language of daily life? Surely the burden of proof must lie with those who would argue otherwise. MOSES SEGAL Well before the Scrolls and Masada provided their archaeological insights into Hebrew’s place in late second temple language, Moses Segal had come to the same conclusion on purely linguistic grounds. Co-translator of the Talmud and winner of the Israel Prize for Jewish Studies, Segal was a Hebrew lexicographer of the first order. While still believing that Jesus, as a Galilean, probably spoke Aramaic, he was in no doubt that the prevailing Judaean language of the time was Hebrew, as he already wrote in 1927: “In earlier Mishnaic [rabbinic] literature no distinction is drawn between Biblical Hebrew and Mishnaic Hebrew. The two idioms are known as Leshon Hagadesh, the Holy Tongue, as contrasted with other languages … What was the language of ordinary life of educated native Jews in Jerusalem and Judaea in the period from 400BCE to 150CE? The evidence presented by Mishnaic Hebrew and its literature leaves no doubt that that language was Mishnaic Hebrew”.[8] Such is the observation of one of the outstanding Hebrew scholars of the twentieth century, and editor of the Compendious Hebrew-English, English-Hebrew Dictionary. For Segal, as for the Dead Sea scholars, there is no doubt that the “language of ordinary life” in first century Judaea “was Mishnaic Hebrew”. It was the first language acquired by children in the home, and the natural medium of communication in daily speech. As Milik early recognized, “Mishnaic [Hebrew] … was at that time the spoken dialect of the inhabitants of Judaea”.[9] WHAT IS GOING ON? It is astonishing, in light of this, that the Aramaic assumption – at least as it pertains to the language of first century Judaea – still persists. As relatively recently as 1994, Angel Saenz-Badillos could claim, in his major study A History of the Hebrew Language, that “the exile [ie., 586BC] marks the disappearance of the [Hebrew] language from everyday life, and its subsequent use for literary and liturgical purposes only”.[10] What is going on here? On the one hand, the clear archaeological and linguistic evidence for Hebrew’s daily use in late second temple Judaea, yet on the other a protracted scholarly denial of the same! No wonder Oxford’s Edward Ullendorff takes Saenz-Badillos to task: “I cannot accept the author’s novel argument [cited above] … This assumption would curtail the active life of Hebrew by about half a millennium. Of course colloquial Hebrew will have changed somewhat, possibly as a result of external influences, during the post-exilic era, but it no doubt remained the principal vehicle of communication”.[11] Time was, when Saenz-Badillos’ obituary for Hebrew as a living language would have held centre-stage. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church spoke for virtually the entire scholarly world (Segal and Harris Birkeland[12] two notable exceptions), when, in its first edition of 1958, it confidently stated that Hebrew had “ceased to be a spoken language around the fourth century BC”.[13] Yet such was the mounting weight of evidence to the contrary, that by its third edition, in 1997, this had become “Hebrew continued to be used as a spoken and written language … in the New Testament period”.[14] This represents a remarkable about-turn, due, not least, to the extensive publication of the Scrolls in the intervening period. How fitting that from the lowest geographical region on earth – the Dead Sea – where death reigned even in its name, there should break forth from the “dead”, as it were, the vindication of Hebrew’s primary place in the language of first century Judaea, exactly as the New Testament consistently showed! Truly, “this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23). THE TALMUD A clear distinction was made, among the Jewish people themselves, between Hebrew and Aramaic. Not only was Hebrew the choice of scholarship and literature, but it was also upheld as the normative language of daily life. “In the land of Israel”, said the Mishnah, “why the Aramaic tongue? Either the Holy Tongue (Hebrew, sic) or the Greek tongue”.[15] Aramaic had no “prestige”, and “commanded no loyalty”, as Safrai and Stern observe, whereas Hebrew had both. Even in the later times of the Talmud, it was forbidden to retrieve a burning Aramaic manuscript from a fire on the Sabbath, whereas it was permitted of a comparable Hebrew text.[16] To depart from the synagogue service during a Hebrew Bible reading was forbidden, but not for an Aramaic reading.[17] Even memorising the Scriptures in Aramaic was not enough, whereas just to hear them in Hebrew, without understanding a word, was to “perform [one’s] obligation”![18] To the Jewish people, it was Hebrew that was “the Holy Tongue”, whereas Aramaic was seen as “the language of the Evil Force”.[19] Not that the latter was rejected altogether, but that it was regarded as a second fiddle language to Hebrew – the real “tongue of the fathers” and medium of ordinary speech. Thus the Jerusalem Talmud declares that “Four languages are of value: Greek for song, Latin for war, Aramaic for dirges, and Hebrew for speaking”.[20] That was the place for Aramaic – in “dirges”. But to Hebrew belonged the high ground of daily speech (“for speaking”) and worship. Thus for a Jewish father not to speak to his son “in Hebrew”, from the time he was a toddler, and teach him the Law, was “as if he had buried him”.[21] Concerning Aramaic, by contrast, the rabbis warned: “Whoever makes personal requests [in prayer] in Aramaic, the ministering angels pay no attention, since angels do not understand Aramaic”[22]. This, of course, is not a canonical position, but merely reflects the depth of feeling against Aramaic among the Jewish scholars. Indeed, the Talmud relates an earlier occasion when Gamaliel – the same Gamaliel under whom Paul had studied (Acts 22:3), and whose astute word concerning the Christians is recorded in Acts 5:34-40 – was sitting on the still-unfinished temple steps. Someone showed him a copy of an Aramaic translation of Job, the first and at that time the only “Targum”. So disgusted was he by it, that he told the builder to “bury it under the rubble”.[23] Such was the regard for a pioneering attempt at an Aramaic portion of Scripture, in the Judaea of Jesus’ time! The internal Jewish evidence is thus all one-way traffic for Hebrew. JOSEPHUS As a contemporary, and largely an observer, of the final years of the second temple, Josephus (37-100AD) is an invaluable witness to the period. While not without his faults, they are, as historian Paul Maier notes, heavily outweighed by his credits, particularly for the period during which he and his parents lived, when, as Maier says, he is “at his best”.[24] Like the Mishnah and Talmud, Josephus takes pains to distinguish Hebrew from Aramaic, showing that it was Hebrew that was spoken in the first century Israel of which he was largely a part. When news of the emperor Tiberius’ death is hastily conveyed to Agrippa on his way to the bath, the message is given “in the Hebrew tongue” (glosse te Hebraion, Antiquities xviii, 228). Presumably Hebrew was the most natural and readily understood language in such an emergency situation. Concerning this “Hebrew tongue”, he writes in another passage: “… though their script seemed to be similar to the peculiar Syrian (Aramaic, sic) writing, and their language to sound like the other, it was, as it happened, of a distinct type” (idiotropon, Ant. xii, 2, 1. Thackeray translation). Thus elsewhere he writes: the “Sabbath … in the Hebrew language” (Ant. 1:33); “Adam … in Hebrew signifies …” (Ant. 1:34); “Israel … in the Hebrew tongue” (Ant. 1:333); “written in the Hebrew books” (Ant. ix, 208); “the books of the Hebrews” (Ant. x, 218). It is difficult to see how “the Hebrew language” here can denote anything but Hebrew. Not only do the uniquely Hebrew connotations of “Sabbath”, “Israel”, etc., require it, but so too does the fact that, at the time of Josephus, the only holy “Hebrew books” possessed by the Jews were the actual Hebrew Scriptures – the Aramaic Targums (Job aside) not yet having come into being. So when we come to Josephus’ address to his own countrymen from outside the walls of besieged Jerusalem, there can be no doubt as to what language he speaks. He addresses them, of course, “in their own language” (War 5:9, 2), which he explicitly states, of the same episode, to be “the Hebrew language” (War 6:2, 1). Given the consistent meaning of “Hebrew” as real Hebrew, not Aramaic, elsewhere in Josephus, and the distinction he himself draws between the two languages, how can “Hebrew” here be taken at anything other than face value? That is, Josephus’ address to the Jews of around 69AD, like Paul’s address to the Jews of around a decade or so previously in the same city, were both – as the respective texts of Josephus and Acts state – “in the Hebrew language” (Acts 22:2). Logic would further require that the only reason this was so, was because “the Hebrew language” was the vernacular of Judaean Jews at the time. JOT AND TITTLE But what does this mean, in terms of our enquiry into Jesus’ language? A great deal, actually. Self-evidently there is a nexus between the Jewish vernacular of first century Israel, and the language Jesus spoke. It would fly in the face of common sense if the “Word made flesh” addressed the very countrymen he was first sent to by his Father, in anything other than their normal tongue.[25] As face answers to face in a mirror, so the prevailing language of his people at the time must, by any reasonable standard, have been the language Jesus used. Once that “prevailing language” is established, it requires no great leap to determine what Jesus spoke. The only way around this is to resort to the artificial construct of an “interpreter”, or to the circuitous explanation of Jesus being fluently bi- or tri-lingual during his earthly ministry, which – though by no means inconceivable or, still less, impossible, for the very Son of God – certainly has no actual support from Scripture, and must remain, therefore, a supposition. Consistent with this, we find Jesus speaking of the “jot” and “tittle” of the Law in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:18). By universal consent, this refers to the text of the Hebrew Bible. Let two modern authorities suffice – one Catholic, one Protestant: “‘Jot’ refers to ‘yod’, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet; ‘tittle’ is a slight serif [or hook] on a Hebrew letter that distinguishes it from another”. (The New Jerome Bible Commentary, emph. added). Likewise John Broadus, in his Commentary on Matthew: “Jot, in the Greek iota, signifies the Hebrew letter iod (pronounced yod) … tittle – in the Greek, horn – denoting a very slight projection at the corner of certain Hebrew letters …” (emph. added). Would Jesus have used such a term, indeed two of them, both referring to the “Hebrew letters” of the “Hebrew alphabet”, if his immediate audience did not understand Hebrew? Would a French speaker, addressing his or her own countrymen today, use the umlaut of the German Bible to illustrate a point! Hardly. The most obvious conclusion is that, as Jesus was referring to the Hebrew alphabet – which no one disputes – his hearers must have understood that same alphabet, otherwise the point would have been lost on them. Logically, therefore, Jesus must have been speaking Hebrew, and his audience must have understood him in Hebrew. Should it be objected that, as the Hebrew and Aramaic alphabets were the same, Jesus could just as well have been referring to the Aramaic alphabet, we would respectfully reply that this is to miss the point. Jesus expressly says “the jot and tittle of the Law”, there being but one “Law” in Israel – the Hebrew Bible. Even the Talmud declares, “the Torah is in Hebrew” (Soferim 35a). “EXAGGERATED” INFLUENCE But what of Jesus’ reference to “mammon” in the same sermon (Matt. 6:24) – quite possibly an Aramaic word? This is no difficulty. Loan words frequently occur between languages, as with Italian words like pizza and pasta today in English. There is no reason why Hebrew should be any exception. Yet we must beware of reading too many “Aramaisms” into the New Testament. In a parallel context, Segal observes that “Aramaic influence on the Mishnaic Hebrew vocabulary has been exaggerated …. It has been the fashion among writers on the subject to brand as an Aramaism any infrequent Hebrew word …. Most of the ‘Aramaisms’ are as native in Hebrew as they are in Aramaic.”[26] Even the very term “Mishnaic Hebrew” can, through overuse, become an historical exaggeration, as though second temple Hebrew were a different species from “normal” Hebrew – an inevitable result of emphasizing small differences rather than recognizing greater commonalities. Just as Elizabethan English and modern English are still, whatever their differences, both English, so Biblical Hebrew and “Mishnaic” Hebrew are likewise both Hebrew. DEMOLISHED In New Testament studies, an over-exuberance for Aramaic at first led C.K. Barrett to attribute a quotation in John (Jn. 12:40) to Aramaic influence, only to change it to Hebrew in his commentary of eight years later.[27] Luke 6:7, too, was once held by scholars like Black, Fitzmyer and Wilcox to be an “Aramaic” construction, found nowhere else in the Greek of the period. Subsequently, J.A.L. Lee demolished this in his study “A non-Aramaism in Luke 6:7”, citing no less than 23 parallel constructions in Greek literature of the period![28] Time and again the Aramaic assumption has turned out to be a lemon, prompting Semitist Kenneth Kitchen to observe that “some ‘Aramaisms’ are actually Hebraisms in Aramaic”.[29] What is more, merely because a word does not appear in the Old Testament Hebrew Bible, does not automatically make it a candidate for the Aramaic club. “Hosanna” and “Gehenna” are words not found in that form in the Hebrew Old Testament. Yet both occur in Mishnaic Hebrew, and are found, in identical form, in the modern Hebrew dictionary. Yet they were once claimed to be “Aramaic”. And even if originally they were, so what! “Restaurant” and “serviette” are good French words, yet today they are well and truly part of standard English. Besides, as Glenda Abramson has noted, there were some 20,000 words in “Mishnaic” Hebrew, as against some 8,000 used in the Old Testament Bible.[30] Thus there is statistically a 2½ times greater likelihood that a Hebrew word will not be found in the Old Testament, yet still be a regular part of the Hebrew language of the New Testamental period. So the days are gone for the reflex assignation of “Aramaic” to any New Testament Semitism not found in the Old Testament. “GHOST WORDS” That this vice – of seeing “Aramaisms” when they are not really there – is still disturbingly with us, can be seen from Michael Sokoloff’s penetrating review of the highly respected Koehler-Baumgartner Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. He writes: “Unfortunately, as we shall see in the following notes, the author of the Aramaic section … has included in his discussions a large number of ghost words from ‘Jewish Aramaic’, non-existent and unreconstructed vocalizations of Aramaic words, and even Hebrew words which were mistakenly quoted as being Aramaic”, adding, in his footnotes, that the author “quotes Hebrew words as if they were Aramaic”.[31] This is a trenchant criticism. Here we have one of the leading Hebrew-Aramaic lexicons of our time, taken to task for perceived “ghost words from ‘Jewish Aramaic’” (ie., they do not exist), “non-existent and unreconstructed vocalizations of Aramaic words” (ie., they are artificial creations), and “Hebrew words … mistakenly quoted as being Aramaic” (ie., it simply confuses the two languages). How cautious this should make us against an uncritical acceptance of so-called “Aramaisms” in the Bible, and the frequently recycled textbook claims concerning them. While some may indeed be in the text, many more exist only in the eye of the beholder! JESUS AT NAZARETH Jesus’ appearance at the synagogue of Nazareth, where he first read from and then expounded Isaiah 61, is highly instructive. In later times, when the Targums were required in Jewish worship, the following was the laboured format for such readings: “… the Hebrew Pentateuch was read … one verse at a time. It was then translated orally, without reference to the written text … The translation was to be recited in a lower voice than that of the reader. All these precautions were to ensure that the uneducated public would not mistake the Aramaic translation for the original Torah”.[32] None of this with Jesus’ reading on that occasion. First he “stood up to read”, then he sat down and “began to say to them … gracious words” (Luke 4:16, 20 – 22). No rigmarole with lowered voice or translation. Just a straight reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, followed by a plain exposition to an audience that clearly understood both them and him. Their negative reaction was not due to any linguistic change of track, but rather to their taking exception to his claim that the Gospel was poised to pass from Israel to the Gentiles, as represented by the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian (vv. 25 – 27). What are we to conclude, in light of these “givens” that (a) The Targums were only widely introduced to counter the decline in Hebrew, (b) They were clearly not present on this occasion, and (c) The exclusive language of liturgy and worship in late second temple Israel was Hebrew in any case,[33] but that both Jesus and his Nazareth audience spoke, and were speaking on that occasion, Hebrew. There seems no honest way around this. Indeed, the very notion of a Hebrew-born Messiah, first making his appeal to the Hebrew people (‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel’), supported by the Hebrew Scriptures, in anything other than the Hebrew language would seem a contradiction in terms. What is more, Galilee as a region was well-nigh as Jewish as Judaea. Josephus described its population in his day as predominantly Jewish, while “Hebrew language and literature” still “dominated the region at this time”[34], as Chancey and Meyers note. The Mishnah says that “The men of Galilee wrote in the same manner as the men of Jerusalem”.[35] So Jewish was Galilee, in fact, that in 102BC its cities were considered fair game by an enemy on the Sabbath, knowing the Galilean Jews would not go out to battle on their day of rest.[36] The very synagogue itself took its architectural shape from the “Galilean model”.[37] Tiberias, in Galilee, later became the seat of the Sanhedrin, and it was there that the Mishnah received its final form. To suggest, therefore, that while Hebrew might have been the vernacular of Judaea, Aramaic will have to do for the Jewish population of Galilee, is a discrimination which is historically untenable. SAMARITAN DEALINGS Jesus’ considerable dealings with the Samaritans – his discourse with the woman at the well, his healing of the tenth leper, the welcome on one occasion from “many [who] believed because of his own word”, and their refusal on another to have him stay in their town [38] –further point to his language as having been Hebrew. Reduced today to some 600 people (the last remaining group on earth who still sacrifice the Passover lamb), the Samaritans are proud of what they see as their unbroken custodianship of the Hebrew language from earliest times. The centrepiece of Samaritan life has always been the ancient Hebrew scroll of Moses’ five books, written in early Hebrew script, which every Samaritan child is required to read from the age of four or five. As Encyclopaedia Judaica notes: “The child reads the Pentateuch in the ancient Hebrew script, and in the special Samaritan pronunciation, as transmitted from generation to generation, and also learns writing. Able children complete the reading of the Pentateuch at the age of six, but some take as long as until the age of ten”!![39] So strict is their insistence on Hebrew that, to this day, Miriam’s song of triumph at the Red Sea is read in Hebrew over the bride at every Samaritan wedding, while, following a funeral, the entire Hebrew Pentateuch is read at the home of the grieving family on the following Sabbath. It hardly needs to be said that such a people, so jealous of their Hebrew scroll and so zealous for the preservation of the spoken Hebrew language down to this day, spoke Hebrew at the time of Christ. Indeed several Samaritan writings have been found in the Dead Sea Scrolls – all in Hebrew – prompting some scholars to argue that the Scrolls community was actually Samaritan![40] A futile case, almost certainly, not only because of the geographical location of Qumran in Judaea rather than Samaria, but also because of the numerous Psalms, Prophets, and other historical Old Testament books found at Qumran – none of which the Samaritans accept as part of their Bible. Yet it does highlight the Samaritan commitment to Hebrew, and their unbroken continuity of the Hebrew language from before Ezra (whom they denounce as a “revisionist” of the Hebrew script!), down to modern times. What are we to make of this, in terms of Jesus’ repeated encounters with the Samaritans? Must the stilted explanation be invoked that he “switched languages”? Is it not more natural, and certainly more consistent with the evidence, to accept that as they spoke Hebrew – about which there can be no doubt – so did Jesus.[41] This is confirmed by the fact that the Samaritan woman, in her conversation with Jesus, used the Hebrew term “Messiah” (Jn. 4:25), not the Greek “Christ” – one of only two times this Hebrew expression is used in the Gospels, and showing the language in which their discussion must have taken place. THE GALILEAN ACCENT The key that has been overlooked in the whole question of Jesus’ mother tongue is the distinctive Galilean accent. Whereas Jerusalem Jews spoke a sort of “Oxford” Hebrew, their Galilean brethren spoke a type of “Scottish” Hebrew – that is, a Hebrew whose pronunciation differed from their own. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia notes this in observing, of the Galileans, that “their pronunciation of Hebrew (sic) was different from that of the Jews of Judaea”.[42] Thus the Talmud declares that “The Judaeans … were exact in their language … but the Galileans … were not exact in their language … A certain Galilean once went about enquiring, ‘Who has amar?’ ‘Foolish Galilean’, they said to him, ‘do you mean an ‘ass’ for riding (hamar), ‘wine’ to drink (hamar), ‘wool’ for clothing (amar), or a ‘lamb’ for killing (amar)?’”[43] In both cases – “the Judaeans” and “the Galileans” – the same Hebrew language is clearly being spoken. Yet the Galileans speak it with a different accent (“their pronunciation of Hebrew was different from that of the Jews of Judaea”). There are historical antecedents for such regional differences. In the celebrated “shibboleth/sibboleth” case of Judges 12:6, both tribes were speaking the same Hebrew. Yet those from Gilead could pronounce “sh”, whereas those from Ephraim could not. Around the period of Jesus’ ministry, the Dead Sea Scrolls similarly reflect these dialect differences. Scrolls specialist Elisha Qimron draws attention to “illusory cases of defective spelling”, which reflect no more than differences in Hebrew dialect: “Ancient Hebrew was divided into dialects … in dealing with Hebrew as a living language, we must recall that we are dealing with … different traditions of pronunciation”.[44] In much the same way, Noah Webster in his early Webster’s Dictionary, distinguished within American English between the New England dialect, the Southern dialect, and the general American dialect – though all, of course, represent English[45]. This is a salutary warning against over-speciation, or reading too much into slightly varying forms. As the repeated “Aramaic” mirages, already noted and dispelled, have highlighted, academy assumptions can be “too-clever-by-half”. It was the Galilean accent which furnished the most striking examples of these “different traditions of pronunciation” in Hebrew. Thus Spolsky and Cooper observe: “The Talmud goes on to discuss in considerable detail the kinds of mistakes the people from Galilee made in their spoken Hebrew (sic), … especially ... the careless pronunciation which led to humorous misunderstandings”.[46] Recalling, of course, that what is held to be a “mistake” in one region, may be perfectly acceptable in another, just as “fulfill” (with “ll” ending) is deemed incorrect spelling in England, but represents correct usage in American English. Shades of Qimron’s “illusory cases of defective spelling”! To be different, is not necessarily to be wrong, particularly with something so supple as language. Merely because the Scots call a lake a “loch”, does not make it “incorrect”! Significantly Matthew draws attention to this Galilean accent, in reference to Peter’s denials during the night of Jesus’ trial: “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away” (Matthew 26:73b, NIV). Likewise with the Majority Text of the parallel passage in Mark: “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean, and your accent shows it” (Mark 14:70b, NKJV, and margin). Two things are self-evident from this comment. First, that the Jerusalem bystanders understood Peter’s denials, even if they suspected them, so they must have been speaking the same language as he! Yet that they also recognised his Galilean accent (“you are a Galilean, and your accent shows it”, “your accent gives you away”), just as a Londoner would immediately recognise a Scot today. Same language, yet unmistakable pronunciation! No one, of course, recognises a different accent in someone speaking another language. As Isaiah reminds us in his prophecy of Galilee’s future greatness, the region was called “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 9:1). Not because it was not Jewish, for he expressly calls it the “land of Zebulun and Naphtali”, two of the twelve tribes. Rather does his comment bespeak the considerable intermingling of Jews and Gentiles in Galilee (typical of the way the Gospel itself would one day go forth to Jew and Gentile alike from the pre-eminent Galilean, our Lord Jesus Christ; cf. v6.). Logically we would expect, from such an ethnic melting pot, a greater “Gentile” influence upon the Hebrew language in Galilee than in Judaea, which is exactly what we do find. Yet Hebrew it still remains, as we have seen from the Mishnah, the Talmud, the Jewish encyclopaedia, and the New Testament itself, just as Glasgow English is every bit as much part of the English language as its Oxford cousin, minor regional differences notwithstanding. JESUS’ WORDS Not surprisingly, the seven words of Jesus recorded in their original tongue, reflect these two aspects, namely (i) their essential identity with known Hebrew; yet (ii) some slight Galilean regional differences*. Ephphatha – Jesus’ command to the deaf mute to “be opened” (Mark 7:34) – is directly from the Biblical Hebrew phphatha, חתפ, meaning “open”, as found in the standard Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament,[47]. Thus even Bruce Metzger concedes that “‘ephphatha’ can be explained as either Hebrew or Aramaic”[48]. Isaac Rabinowitz is less ambivalent, declaring emphatically that “there are no valid philological grounds for affirming, and there is every valid reason to deny, that ephphatha can represent an Aramaic … form. The transliteration can, indeed, only represent the Hebrew niphal masculine singular imperative … Ephphatha is certainly Hebrew, not Aramaic”.[49] Likewise, cumi, or cum, in Jesus’ command to the dead daughter of Jairus to “arise” (Mark 5:41). The word comes directly from the Old Testament Hebrew םוק, “cum”, meaning “arise, stand up, stand”, while to this day the modern Hebrew for “get up” is cum.[50] What more appropriate, in the house of a synagogue ruler so familiar with Hebrew, than such a rich Hebrew command: “arise” – not to his Sabbath congregation to rise from their seats, but to his very own daughter to get up from the dead! Eloi, Eloi (“My God, My God”, Mark 15:34) is clearly related to the Hebrew word used at times for “my God” in the Psalms (cf. יחלא, “my God”, Ps. 18:28; 139:19; יחלא, “My God”, Mk. 15:34). Astonishingly – given that Eloi, Eloi has always been cited as proof of the Aramaic source of the words – we find that the Targum of Psalm 22:1(2) does not begin with “Eloi, Eloi” but “Eli, Eli”, as in the Hebrew.[51] In two ways “Eloi, Eloi” is different from the Aramaic – with “oi, oi” instead of “I, I” and the short “E, E” instead of the long “Ay, Ay” (as in “day”).[52] Clearly, we must look elsewhere than to Aramaic for its pronunciation. The obvious explanation lies in the distinctive Galilean accent which we have noted. That is, in Eloi, Eloi we have the Galilean Jesus quoting Psalm 22:1(2) from the Hebrew Bible, carefully recorded with his distinctive pronunciation by Mark. With equal fidelity to what transpired, Matthew dispenses with the accent as such, but still records the same utterance straight from the Hebrew Bible. This alone can account for the seemingly contradictory facts that (a) the bystanders misunderstood the form of address (“he is calling Elijah”); yet (b) they rightly understood the rest of the cry as representing Jesus’ deep desolation (“Let us see if Elijah will come and rescue him”), though obviously yet blind to the fact that here, in the very week of the Passover, the Lamb of God was bearing the sins of the world. Given that the cry was uttered “in a loud voice”, there is no possibility of it having been misunderstood on the grounds of its being inaudible. The only explanation, therefore, that adequately addresses both questions (how could they have misunderstood Jesus, yet perfectly understood the rest of the utterance from the Hebrew Bible?), lies in the fact that they (ie. the Jewish portion of the crowd) and he (ie. Jesus) were speaking the same Hebrew language, but he with a Galilean accent. If the accent is removed, there is no explaining how they could have misunderstood so loud a cry, while if a different language is invoked (they speaking Hebrew, he Aramaic), there is no way they would have understood him at all! Lama, הםל (Mark 14:34), or “lema” in some texts, is the stock Hebrew Old Testament word for “why?”, and is used over 170 times in the Hebrew Bible[53]. The identical word, lama, also means “why?” in modern Hebrew.[54] Sabachthani, ינתקבש, is directly from the Mishnaic Hebrew קבש, sabach, meaning “forsake, abandon”.[55] It is identically reproduced by Matthew, who, as Douglas Moo notes, “betrays no fondness for Aramaic”[56], so its Hebrew identity is further confirmed. To this day, the modern Hebrew for “forsake” – “zab” or “sab” – suggests an abbreviated form of it. Even talitha (“little girl”, Mark 5:41), at first glance the “least” Hebrew of all the seven words, is known to have been used by other Jews of the period, as it occurs in the Targum of Genesis 34:3 for “young woman”[57]. Merely because a word is in the Targum, of course, does not preclude it from being Hebrew, as the Targums contain many words – by one count almost half – either identical, or very similar, to the Hebrew Bible[58]. Talitha too has Hebrew roots, coming from the Hebrew talah, meaning “lamb” – a term hardly out of place on the lips of the Good Shepherd. Merely because it has a “tha” ending does not, of itself, make it “Aramaic”, since Gamaliel – whose strong views concerning Aramaic have already been noted – had a devout Jewish maidservant with the closely related name of Tabitha[59]. This is not, again, to deny a possible Aramaic influence for talitha, just as “lassie” is a regional Scottish term derived from old Norse for a young woman. Though not normally used in wider English, its use in Scotland does not mean the Scots speak “Norse”! Why then, given the clear Hebrew lineage of all these words, and in every case their perpetuation to this day, either directly or in closely related form, in modern Hebrew, is there any need to cast around for an “Aramaic” explanation for Jesus’ speech? It may have done for the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the hubris of German critical scholarship led it to downplay the “Jüdischen” at every turn – their history, their heroes, and their holy tongue. But it will not do in the real world of 21st century scholarship, when fresh evidence is being uncovered, new insights are breaking forth, and the idols of the Schoolmen are at last being ground to dust.[60] ______________________________________________________________________________________________ The above is an excerpt from Jesus Spoke Hebrew: Busting the Aramaic Myth by Brenton Minge, published by Shepherd Publications (Brisbane, 2001). For more information or to order the full hard copy of this book ($US6) please write to Shepherd Publications, 30 Lytton Road, Bulimba Q 4171, Australia or email See also The Great Da Vinci "Con" by Brenton Minge. Also Harry Potter and Tolkien's Rings by DJ Gray. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [1] Michael Wise, Martin Abegg Jr., and Edmund Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (Hodder & Stoughton, 1996), pp. 8, 9, emph. added. [2] Emanuel Tov, “A Qumran Origin for the Masada Non-Biblical Texts?” Dead Sea Discoveries, 7:1 (2000), 63. [3] Al Wolters, The Copper Scroll (Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), p. 11. [4] J.T. Milik, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (Oxford, 1955ff.), vol. 2, p. 70. [5] Matthew Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts (3rd edition, 1967), p. 47. [6] Lawrence H. Schiffman and James C. VanderKam, eds., Encyclopaedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Oxford University Press, 2000), vol. 1, p. 344, emph. added. [7] Shemaryahu Talmon, “Hebrew written fragments from Masada”, DSD 3:2 (1996), 168. Tov, op. cit., 57. [8] Moses Segal, Mishnaic Hebrew Grammar (Oxford, at the Clarendon Press, 1927), pp. 2, 13; emph. added. Likewise Jacob Neusner (ed.), Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period (Peabody, Mass., Hendrickson, 1999), p. 280, where Qumran Hebrew “is a continuation of Late Biblical Hebrew, and is attested c. 200 BCE – c. 70CE”; emph. added. [9] J.T. Milik, Ten Years of Discovery in the Wilderness of Judaea (London, SCM Press, 1959), 95; emph. added. [10] Angel Saenz-Badillos, A History of the Hebrew Language (1994), p. 52, emph. added; cited by Edward Ullendorff in his review of the same name, Journal of Jewish Studies, xlvi, 1-2. (Spring/Autumn 1995), 287. [11] Ullendorff, op. cit., 287, 288; emph. added. [12] Harris Birkeland, The Language of Jesus (Oslo, Dybwad, 1954). While Birkeland erred in supposing that, though ordinary Jews spoke Hebrew, the “upper class” spoke Aramaic, he was still closer to the mark with Hebrew than his modern detractors. Cf. John P. Meier’s dismissive comment, “Birkeland’s work is almost an embarrassment to read today”. John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew (New York, Doubleday, 1991), vol. 1, p. 288. Needless to say, Meier’s view is that “Jesus regularly and perhaps exclusively taught in Aramaic”, ibid., p. 268. [13] F.L. Cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, first edition (Oxford, 1958), entry “Hebrew”, 614. [14] F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, third edition (Oxford, 1997), entry “Hebrew”, pp. 741, 742; emph. added. [15] Tracate Sotah 49 b, cited in S. Safrai and M. Stern, The Jewish People in the First Century (Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1976), vol. 2, pp. 1032, 1036. Rabbi Meir (c. mid 2nd century), in a choice piece of “salvation by works”, said that “everyone who is settled in the land of Israel, and speaks the sacred language [ie., Hebrew] … is a son of the age to come”, j. Sheqalim 3, 3; cited in J.A. Emerton, “The problem of vernacular Hebrew in the first century AD”, Journal of Theological Studies, xxiv, 1 (1973), 15; emph. added. [16] E. Levine, The Biography of the Aramaic Bible, in Z.A.T.W., vol. 94, (1982), p. 358. [17] Megillah 4, 4, cited in Levine, ibid., p. 374. [18] D.H. Aaron in The Blackwell Reader in Judaism, ed. J. Neusner and A.J. Avery-Peck (Blackwell, 2001), 204. [19] Zohar, Exodus 129, cited in Levine, op. cit., p. 359. [20] Jerusalem Talmud, Tracate Sotah 7:2, 30a. [21] Sifre, Deut. 46, cited in Safrai and Stern, op. cit., p. 1034; emph. added. [22] b Sota 33a; b Shabbat 12b. [23] b Shabbat 115a, j Shabbat 16:15c. Elsewhere the same Gamaliel is recorded as having conversed “in Hebrew” with the emperor’s daughter; b Sanhedrin 90b-91b. For the question as to whether the fragmentary Qumran Job should even be designated a true Targum, see David Shepherd, “Will the real Targum please stand up?”, Journal of Jewish Studies, LI, 1 (Spring, 2000), 113. [24] Paul L. Maier, The New Complete Works of Josephus (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 1999), p. 13. Idem, Josephus: The Essential Works (Kregel, 1994), p. 11. Per Bilde confirms Josephus’ accuracy re contemporary events: “In fact, the accounts of Philo and, especially, of Josephus correspond with the Dead Sea Scrolls to a very large extent, as has often been demonstrated”; in Frederick H. Cryer and Thomas L. Thompson (eds.), Qumran between the Old and New Testaments (Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), p. 67, emph. added. [25] See Matthew 15:24; John 5:36; 1:11. [26] Segal, op. cit., p. 8; emph. added. Interestingly, “mammon” also occurs in the Mishnah, Aboth 2, 17. [27] Craig A. Evans, “Isaiah 6:9-10 in Mark and John”, Novum Testamentum vol. 24 (1982), 133. [28] J.A.L. Lee, “A Non-Aramaism in Luke 6:7”, Novum Testamentum vol. 33, 1 (1991), 28ff. [29] As per J.D. Douglas and others, New Bible Dictionary (Leicester UK, IVP, 1996), p. 67; emph. added. [30] Glenda Abramson (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Jewish Culture (Basil Blackwell, 1989), p. 314. [31] Michael Sokoloff, book review, Dead Sea Discoveries 7:1 (2000), 79; emph. added. [32] M. L. Klein, “Palestinian Targum and Synagogue Mosaics”, Immanuel 11 (1980), 37, 38; emph. added. [33] “The first sure references to the reading of the Targum in the Synagogue … actually date only to the period when the sages who had survived the Bar Kokhba revolt [135] and the subsequent persecutions regrouped at Usha in Lower Galilee”; so Zeev Safrai, Immanuel 24/25, (1990), 189. [34] Mark Chancey and Eric M. Meyers, “How Jewish was Sepphoris in Jesus’ time?”, Biblical Archaeology Review, (July – August, 2000), p. 33. [35] Ketuboth 52b., emph. added. [36] Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem, Keter Publishing House, 1972), entry “Galilee”, vol. 7, p. 266. [37] Lee I. Levine, The Ancient Synagogue (Yale University Press, 2000), p. 198. [38] See John 4:26; Luke 17:11-19; John 4:40-42; Luke 9:52, 53. [39] Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 14, p. 743; emph. added. [40] Thord and Maria Thordson, Qumran and the Samaritans, reviewed in Dead Sea Discoveries, vol. 6 (March 1999), 94 – 98. Paul E. Kahle, The Cairo Geniza, 2nd ed. (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1959), pp. 153, 154, re ancient Samaritan Hebrew speech. [41] Whether or not Jesus may also on occasion have spoken Greek is a moot point. Certainly there is no evidence for it, though it cannot be ruled out as a possible “second” language in cosmopolitan Galilee. While Paul, as a learned former Pharisee, was fluent in both Hebrew and Greek (Acts 21:37, 40), Jesus never claimed any “academy” learning (cf. John 7:15), but rather that his doctrine was “His who sent Me” (v. 16). As the “Word made flesh”, he was saturated with the Scriptures, and so wise beyond measure that, even at twelve years of age, he amazed the temple scholars with his “understanding and answers” (Luke 2:42, 46-47). Yet, as the same “Word made flesh”, he chose in his Father’s will to be made like us, representatively, in all things, only without sin. This naturally includes having a “mother tongue” – for which Greek, whatever its considerable status in first century Palestine, could never be a serious candidate, particularly in light of his known recorded utterances in their original, like ephphatha, cumi, sabachthani, etc.. Not forgetting, too, the pains that learning Greek caused even Josephus, who confessed that “because I have so long accustomed myself to speak our own tongue [ie., Hebrew], I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness”. Ant. 20:11, 2. [42] The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (New York, 1944), vol. 4, pp. 500, 501; emph. added. [43] Erubin 53a and b, Soncino edition, vol. 5. [44] Elisha Qimron, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert: Qumran Cave 4 (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1994), pp. 66, 107; emph. added. Likewise F.I. Andersen, “Orthography in ancient Hebrew inscriptions”, Ancient Near Eastern Studies 36 (1999), 19, sub-heading “Hebrew Dialects”. [45] Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1997), p. 801. [46] Bernard Spolsky and Robert L. Cooper, The Languages of Jerusalem (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 22; emph. added. Interestingly, The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia says that “these differences [ie., between ‘the Judaeans’ and ‘the Galileans’ in pronunciation] have survived in the Sephardic and Ashkenazic dialects” down to modern times! Op cit., vol. 4, p. 501. [47] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver and C.A. Briggs, Gesenius’ Hebrew-English Lexicon (Oxford, 1958), p. 834. [48] Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan (eds.), The Oxford Companion to the Bible (Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 272. [49] Isaac Rabinowitz, “Ephphatha (Mark vii:34): Certainly Hebrew, not Aramaic”, Journal of Semitic Studies, 16 (1971), 155; emph. added. [50] Reuben Grossman and Moses Segal, Compendious Hebrew-English Dictionary (Tel Aviv, Dvir Publishing House, 1952), in. loc.. The Oxford-English Hebrew Dictionary, (Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 366. * No pretence is made of one’s being a Hebrew expert (I barely scraped through my five years of seminary Hebrew). But these are facts basically accessible to anyone prepared to do a little digging. [51] Douglas J. Moo, The Old Testament in the Gospel Narratives (Almond Press, 1983), p. 267. [52] Ibid. [53] Francis Brown and others, op. cit., p. 554. James Barr, “Why? In Biblical Hebrew”, Journal of Theological Studies, vol. 36, (April 1985), 9. Both the Received and Nestle texts have lama. [54] Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1987), p. 302. Grossman and Segal, op. cit., p. 171. [55] Grossman and Segal, op. cit., p. 371. [56] Douglas J. Moo, op. cit., p. 267. [57] Horst Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1993), vol. 3, p. 332. [58] Based on a specimen comparison from Genesis 48 in Alexander Sperber, The Bible in Aramaic (Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1973), vol. 4(b), p. 411. See also Targumic and Cognate Studies, ed. by Kevin J. Cathcart and Michael Maher (Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), pp. 61, 62, for a comparison between parallel texts of Targum On(k)elos and the Massoretic Hebrew. [59] J. Israelstam and Judah J. Slotki, Midrash Rabbah Leviticus (London, Soncino, 1983), xix, 4. That the still-used Hebrew name “Tabitha” is no longer held to mean “gazelle” (Acts 9:36, mg.) is no problem, as the Jewish New Name Dictionary lists “Davida” as related to it, and it means “fawn” (Jonathan David Publ., 1989, 153). Compare the way the KJV near-equivalent of “hart” has virtually given up the ghost in less than four centuries! [60] It is hardly coincidental that Wellhausen, popularizer of the now-discredited “documentary hypothesis” concerning the Pentateuch (which Jesus expressly ascribed to Moses, John 5:46, 47), was also a leading proponent for an “original Aramaic” behind Mark’s Gospel – a view which likewise turned out to be a “fizzer”. For an up-to-date and extensive expose of the Wellhausen Old Testament theory, see Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 1999), pp. 392 – 533.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Reaffirming belief in Holy Trinity

Published: 3 June 2012

By: Elizabeth Harrington

THE Sunday after Pentecost is celebrated as the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, and the Sunday following that as the Body and Blood of Christ.

The practice of observing a separate feast in honour of the Holy Trinity began in the Middle Ages and was made a universal celebration by Pope John XXII in 1334.

Its placement in the calendar is deliberate - after the commemorations of the life, passion and resurrection of Christ at Easter and of the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

In every liturgy, we reaffirm our belief in and worship of the Trinity in the concluding words of collect prayers:

"Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever."

and of Blessings:

"And may the blessing of almighty God,

the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

come down on you and remain with you for ever."

The Mass prayers set down for the feast strongly affirm Christian belief in the mystery of the Holy Trinity and emphasise that it is God who is three-in-one whom we adore, especially the Collect (Opening Prayer):

"God our Father, who by sending into the world

the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification

made known to the human race your wondrous mystery,

grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith,

we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory

and adore your Unity, powerful in majesty."

and the Preface:

"For with your Only Begotten Son and the Holy Spirit

you are one God, one Lord:

not in the unity of a single person,

but in a Trinity of one substance.

For what you have revealed to us of your glory

we believe equally of your Son

and of the Holy Spirit,

so that, in the confessing of the true and eternal Godhead,

you might be adored in what is proper to each Person,

their unity in substance,

and their equality in majesty."

This revised Preface which will be used at Masses for the first time today is much longer than the previous version.

Careful preparation and practice by the presider will be necessary for it to be proclaimed with conviction and intelligibly.

The second reading for today from Romans 8 spells out Paul's understanding of the working of Father, Son and Spirit in the life of the Christian:

"When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit

that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ."

The baptism formula, which we hear in today's gospel from Matthew, proclaims the names of the persons of the Trinity into whom we are incorporated at baptism.

Elizabeth Harrington is the education officer with The Liturgical Commission in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. All of the more than 600 past columns are available on The Liturgical Commission website


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