Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Nonsense, history and language (update)

Well, everyone else is talking about it, so why can't I? This video on YouTube claims that Barack Obama is the AntiChrist. Jesus himself supposedly said so in Luke 10:18: "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven."

According to the video narrator -- who has that ever-so-reassuring southern accent, as do so many of America's finest theological thinkers -- Jesus originally said these words in Aramaic, "the oldest form of Hebrew." And in that language, the word for lightning is "Baraq" while the word for heaven is "Bamah." Thus, Jesus said "I saw Satan as Baraq ubamah." (The U is supposedly a Hebrew preposition, or something preposition-y.)

Frankly, I'm not inclined to trust the scholarship of a video which avers that Aramaic is the oldest form of Hebrew. As blunders go, that's on a par with saying that California was one of the original 13 states.

The vast majority of New Testament scholars believe that Luke was originally written in Greek. (A minority theory holds that the book was composed in Aramaic and then translated into Koine Greek.) Greek is certainly the language used in our earliest manuscripts, which date back to the late 2nd century. Here's Luke 10:18 (which, by the way, is clearly not a prophetic passage, when read in context):
εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ἐθεώρουν τὸν Σατανᾶν ὡς ἀστραπὴν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πεσόντα.
In case the Greek letters don't show up on your screen, try this:
eipen de autoiV eqewroun ton satanan wV astraphn ek tou ouranou pesonta
Did Jesus really did say these words? I don't know. But if he did, he probably said them in Aramaic. (We cannot be entirely sure even of that, since some now think that Greek was more popular among Galilean Jews than was previously supposed.)

Back-translating a Greek passage to the (presumed) Aramaic original is no easy task, but this blogger has taken on the job. I shall summarize his excellent work.

The word bāmâ -- meaning heights or high place -- is not used to mean "heaven" anywhere in the Old Testament. And if Jesus had used that word, the person who originally translated the sentence into Greek (whoever he might have been) naturally would have used the cognate Greek term, bēma.

Now look back at the Greek. Do you see a bēma in there? Me neither.

The Hebrew for "heaven" is šāmayim.
...the likeliest back-translation of the words "I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven" into Hebrew, rather, would be hāzâ (or rā'â) ha-śātān kībārāq min-vešāmayim.
Speaking of Aramaic: The language is also known as Syriac. (The Hebrews called Syria "Aram.") It's related to Hebrew, which is an older tongue.

Today, more than two million people speak derivatives and variants of the language of Jesus. However, things have changed a great deal over the past two thousand years. Most of the people who now have Syriac as a first language would not have been able to understand Jesus, except for the occasional word. Speakers of one Syriac dialect are often confused by other Syriac dialects.

In the ancient Syrian town of Maaloula (a couple of hours north of Damascus), many people still speak a dialect of Aramaic close to that which Jesus used, although the language is rapidly falling out of use. Back in 2003 everyone in town was -- quite naturally -- eager to see Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. But they could understand surprisingly little of the film. The back-translation was confusing, and the actors' pronunciation was very poor. At least, so thought the good folk of Maaloula.

By the way, if you want to brush up on your Aramaic (just think of how impressed Jesus will be when you greet him in his own language!), you can stay at the Maaloula Hotel for $115 a night. Your room will have a minibar (!!) and internet. So no missing Cannonfire, y'hear?

Update: The new version of the video carries an overlay informing us that a "JEWISH RABBI" has confirmed that Jesus predicted Barack Obama. Good thing they specified a Jewish rabbi, as opposed to all the other kinds out there.


RedDragon said...

Yup...Obama's is the Anti-Christ.

Unmmm...wait. Wasn't Reagan the "Anti-Christ?" he of the 666?

I find these "beast's" hard to keep track.

Marsha said...

I love your post - and my next comment has nothing to do with you. It has to do with the idiots who are the root of this whole story.

GET A LIFE! Seriously, to sit and pontificate on something you know nothing about on the whole subject of "religion" and "God said", is about the biggest waste of time I can imagine.

Actually, I'm glad you posted this, It brought me my first laugh of the day.

Oh, the Clintons score - again! Wonder how long it will take for BO to take credit for Bill's mission to N. Korea?

Anonymous said...

Obama is not the antichrist.

Obama is the Lightbringer, which translates into latin as "Lucifer."

Joshua said...

Ummm yeah I looked this up in the Peshitta (the Aramaic Bible- http://www.peshitta.org/)

And it does not say what the author of the video states it does...

Also the whole thing about Aramaic being the oldest form of Hewbrew... ppfffftttt... That's a good laugh...

Here is an Excerpt from the e-Mail I sent to the author...


There is a slight Exegetical error at time stamp: 0:30-It is stated that Aramaic is the most ancient form of Hebrew this is most assuredly un-true... we both know that Aramaic/Syriac is the Aramaeain from of Hebrew from the the Achaemenid Empire of Cyrus the Great...

The history of Aramaic is broken down into three broad periods:

Old Aramaic (1100 BC–200 AD), including:
The Biblical Aramaic of the Hebrew Bible.
The Aramaic of Jesus.

Middle Aramaic (200–1200), including:
Literary Syriac.
The Aramaic of the Talmuds, Targumim, and Midrashim.

Modern Aramaic (1200–present), including:
Various modern vernaculars.

Hebrew is the main language of the Hebrew Bible.Mostly used in the books of Daniel, Ezra and a few other places in the Hebrew Bible and should not be confused with the later Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible known as targumim... Aramaic only accounts for about 250 verses out of a total of over 23,000. Biblical Aramaic is closely related to Hebrew being that both are in the Northwest Semitic language family."

No response...

ohh well...