Posts Tagged ‘Qur’an’
When an Arabic speaking Muslim friend saw Mel Gibson’s movie Passion of the Christ with most of the dialogue in Aramaic, he was very surprised that he did not need most of the subtitles in English to understand the movie!
This connection is a critical bridge builder: sister languages, Arabic, and Aramaic, the written language which was once the global language, stretching from the Near East to Malabar in India and East China.
Dr. Sidney Griffith, a Catholic priest and noted Syriac scholar, states that, “neither Qur’anic nor Aramaic scholars have seen fit to make the linguistic connection and it is about time that connection was made.”
Western academia has been primarily concentrated on Biblical Greek. What we need to now consider is the Aramaic/Syriac New Testament, written in the language Jesus actually spoke, as an additional tool for comparative analysis. I have found this an invaluable tool working with the Islamic world in seeking bridges to the common ground.
Muslims respect the similarity of words, meanings, and relate to the Eastern traditions and idiomatic nuances of the Aramaic. They are very similar to the Arabic of the Qur’an and the Hebrew of the Torah; and can help unlock useful mysteries within the Eastern Holy Books.
The Prophet Muhammad and Aramaic
Some Islamic historians tell us that trusted Assyrian and Syriac speaking believers in Jesus interacted with the Prophet Muhammad and likely read to him from the Aramaic Eastern Text. The very word Qur’an, which means “The Recital,” is derived from an Aramaic/Syriac word qiriana.
Original Revelation of the Holy Books: Why the Aramaic has special meaning for Muslims
The most compelling logic for use of the Aramaic New Testament in building bridges to the Common Ground deals with the Muslim view of “original revelation.”
Islam holds that God, through the angel Gabriel, spoke the revelation to the Prophet Mohammed in Arabic and is considered the official language of “The Recital.” Thus, the only accepted written version is Arabic.
Since Jesus spoke Aramaic, Muslims believe (consistent with Islamic logic) the “Holy” written version of the Gospel would be in Aramaic.
It is helpful to note that Aramaic was the first written Semitic script of the three, followed by Hebrew and finally, Arabic. The ever widening “gulf” separating us is unfortunate, but it is my hope that studying the related Semitic languages of the East will serve as a key foundation, providing evidence that our faiths have more in common than we have believed in the past.
One of the core ways for misunderstanding to build up is by receiving incomplete information about something someone else has said. I believe this is a big part of the distrust between the Abrahamic faiths, and indeed, many of our broader misunderstandings today. For example, the media can emphasize one particular phrase a person says, and build a completely different story based on that statement than what was intended.
In some cases, we simply lack the information to understand what a person is saying. Consider some of Jesus’ phrases, which sound familiar to the Western mind, but perhaps we have not fully understood. It is cases like these where studying the text through the Eastern lens reveals perspective we have not seen before.
Did Jesus Really Say, “I Come to Bring a Sword”?
“Do not suppose I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” At first blush, this verse seems to be in total contradiction to all the of Jesus’ teachings. How could the man who taught us to “turn the other cheek” and “love our enemies” by claiming that he came to bring a sword? In fact, this verse has even been used by some to justify violence against “non-believers.”
The truer meaning here is not sword, but division. This is more accurately rendered in the common English translations of the corresponding passage in Luke: “Do you think I have come to bring peace on earth? I say to you no, but divisions.”
The teachings of Jesus were so revolutionary and contrary to the political, social and religious order of the day that when people followed them, divisions among families, friends and institutions inevitably ensued. Dr. Lamsa comments that the Eastern idiomatic aspect of these verses were not known by the Greeks. Jesus never suggested that his followers ought to “take up the sword,” but rather that following him would inevitably cause “divisions” and persecutions-as history has in fact shown to be the case.
[The Aramaic example is excerpted from Appendix 3 of A Deadly Misunderstanding.]
If we realize we can misunderstand our own text without careful study and prayer for God to reveal the truth to us, how much more might we misunderstand a related but unique text of a neighboring faith?