Tubwayhun l’meskenaee b’rukh d’dilhounhie malkutha d’ashmaya.
“Wake up, you who devote yourselves to the link of Spirit; the design of the universe is rendered through you.”
Let it be said from the outset that I am no Aramaic scholar. I’ve dabbled in Hebrew and have a passing working knowledge (with aid of lexicon and grammar) of koine Greek, the language of the Septuagint and New Testament. My language skills are little more than those of any hack that tries to make sense of meaning.
The Beatitudes of Jesus in Matthew 5:1-11, even in the KJV English of my youth, have had a magnetic pull on me, as they have for millions of others. Over the years I’ve used word plays in my sermonising, at one stage calling them the “Be” attitudes. Later, noting the passive “makarios” of the koine Greek, I suggested that Jesus was simply drawing the attention of strivers to those who already live in a state of “bliss”, who fly under the radar of the frantic. The latter however seemed, unfinished, incomplete. It seemed to conflict with the overall thrust of Jesus’ message that calls for radical transformation both within the individual and outwards to society.
More recent exposure to Aramaic, the household language of Jesus, brings me to contemplate English renditions that seem to speak the language of the soul. They make sense; they “click”. Where I struggled with the variant meanings and commentaries from the koine Greek, the variant translations from Aramaic converge to a common point where spirit meets Spirit.
The well-known KJV version of the above is Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Commentaries are often burdened with the weight of the debate around Luke’s omission of the words “in spirit” – fodder for the ongoing dispute between “heavenly minded” devout and social activist devout.
“Kingdom of heaven” is similarly variously seen – but Matthew is always at pains to talk about its “at hand” nature, rather than relegating it as some future Shangri-la.
A translation from Aramaic seems to deal with all these concerns and has an invitingly contemporary ring to it as we attend to the challenge of moving from an anthropocentric to cosmic world-view. Could it be that true poverty of spirit comes about from recognising that, far from striving to be “masters of the universe” (in whatever sphere that may find expression) we are summoned to devote our energies, wit and passion to being in harmony with all that is manifest instead?
Makes sense to me – and it is indeed a “wake up call!”
- Wakeup calls in an ancient tongue (wonderingpilgrim.com)
- If Jesus spoke Aramaic, why Listen with Only Greek Ears? ARTB Publishing Announces a Solution for Bible Lovers (prweb.com)