Biblical Aramaic

Faithfulness in a small thing is no small thing (Luke 16:10). Aramaic was the language of ancient Babylon, and a cousin language of Hebrew. Aramaic is similar to Hebrew, like Spanish is similar to Italian, or Russian to Ukrainian. Aramaic and Hebrew use the same alphabet, and operate according to the same basic rules. They differ in vocabulary and pronunciation.

In the ancient world, Aramaic was more prestigious than Hebrew because it was the official language of the behemoth kingdom, the head of them all, Babylonia (Daniel 2:37). Therefore, the influence of Aramaic was widespread and the other empires like Assyria, Persia and Egypt knew Aramaic. Therefore, the student of Aramaic will not only enjoy some of the most delectable portions of Scripture (Daniel 2:4-7:28; Ezra Chapters 4-7) but will be able to penetrate into the writings of the Jewish Rabbis (much of which is in Aramaic), other ancient texts and archeological inscriptions. The Rabbinical notes to the Hebrew text are all in Aramaic, as well as certain phrases in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 16:22).

However much moderns neglect Aramaic, the monumental influence of Aramaic on Hebrew culture, thought and the Old Testament is evident. Even the Rabbis said: “Let not the Aramaic be lightly esteemed by thee, seeing that the Holy One (blessed be He!) hath given honour to it in the Law [Genesis 31:47], the Prophets [Jeremiah 10:11] and the Writings [Daniel & Ezra] (Palestinian Talmud, Sota, vii, 2).” With minimal additional effort, the Aramaic student can experience the very words ancients kings like Nebuchadnezzar and Darius spoke to Daniel, and Artaxerxes and Darius wrote to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Many language students consider the rare and providential opportunity to study Aramaic as the most enjoyable part of their language studies.

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much” Luke 16:10.