Palestinian Aramaic handwriting examples with translations and notes
Syriac handwriting examples with translations and notes
I have included here some interesting examples of authenticated Palestinian Aramaic inscriptions and texts. These texts are just a few examples from a much larger corpus. Nevertheless, they serve to show the linguistic and historical importance of Aramaic, especially for the study of the gospels and Christian origins.
The first example is an important inscription from Jerusalem which has been dated by archaeologists to the first century AD. Following its discovery and an article in Biblical Archaeology Review, it was published widely in the media around the world. I have transcribed the following text from a photograph of the inscription which was published in the Daily Telegraph :
bar Yoseph, ahui dYeshu`a.'
Translation; 'Ya`cob the son of Yoseph, Yeshu`a's brother'.'
The last word of this inscription mentions Yeshu`a, which is Jesus' real name written in His own Aramaic language in a near contemporary inscription from Jerusalem. The names Ya`cob and Yoseph we know from their anglicized derivatives as James and Joseph. According to the gospel of Matthew and the apostle Paul, Yeshu`a the Messiah had a half brother called Ya`cob (James) who was the son of Yoseph, (see Mt13v55, Mt27v56, Mk6v3 and Gal1v19). Although no-one can be absolutely certain that the Ya`cob mentioned in this inscription was the same Ya`cob mentioned in the gospels and by the apostle Paul, there is every indication that he was.
The DSS collection of manuscripts come from a Judean archaeological context dated from around the 2nd century BC up to about AD 60. I have transcribed the following short excerpt from one Aramaic language scroll, 4Q246 column II, line 1. 4Q246 has been published a number of times, for this excerpt see;  p. 70 and  pp. 493 – 495. Here it is:
de 'El eth'amar wabar `elyon eqroneh'
Translation: ' “The Son of God!” it will be said, and “The Son of the Highest” they will call Him.'
Compare this Jewish Palestinian Messianic text with two verses found in the gospel of Luke at Lk1v32, 35. Notice that Yeshu`a is given the same two Messianic titles in Luke's gospel which are also found in this text. These two pieces of evidence (amongst others) indicate that Palestinian Aramaic literature provides us with the correct cultural context to understand the original text of the gospel.
A beautiful handwritten manuscript of the book of Job can be found amongst the Aramaic corpus from the Dead Sea. Certain features of this text and other historical data indicate that Job was originally written in Aramaic rather than in Hebrew. I have transcribed the following quotation from 11Q10, column XXXVII lines 7 and 8. This text has been published a few times, see for example , p. 1201. Here it is:
'Lmishema` 'aden shema`thak wak`an `ayni hazthak'
Translation: ' “An ear that may hear, I have heard you and now, my eyes, I have seen you!'
The corresponding place in the book of Job is Job42v5. This passage is interesting linguistically because it contains an Aramaic idiom, 'an ear that may hear'. According to the Greek version of the Gospels, this idiom was spoken by Christ four times. These four sayings are recorded a total of seven times in the Greek gospels; It can be found three times Matthew's gospel at Mt11v15 and at Mt13v9, 43 and the parallels of the latter two verses also found in Mark and Luke, (see Mk4v9, 23, Lk8v8) and again in Lk14v35. Compared to the way our idiom is written in the Job text, in all seven places in the Peshitta Syriac version of the gospels, this idiom is written differently and incorrectly. If the idiom in our text was known in Syriac, it would have been used in the Peshitta. No reviser would have needed to change it, because, as we have seen, our idiom does not contradict the Greek text. Therefore, the consistent variance of the Peshitta demonstrates that our idiom was not used in the Syriac dialect of Aramaic. We are led to conclude that our idiom originated from Palestine where according to the Greek gospels, Christ used it four times and where our Aramaic copy of Job was actually found. So it is surprising, and of some historical significance, that the correct Palestinian Aramaic idiomatic expression found in our text from Job can also be found written correctly in six places spread over three early Syriac gospel manuscripts. (Compare this Palestinian text with the appropriate Syriac example given below.)
The survival of an alien Palestinian Aramaic idiom in the Syriac gospel tradition points to a textual link between the Syriac gospel tradition and a primitive Palestinian Aramaic gospel text. However, this is only one data point. A textual link would mean that there are other such relics to be found dotted around in the Syriac literature, as in fact there are. The Greek and Syriac gospel traditions and the Palestinian Aramaic linguistic evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls taken together demonstrate that there was a primitive gospel text written in Palestinian Aramaic which was originally used in the Syriac-speaking east and also translated into Greek for use in the Hellenistic world.
Related to the Palestinian Aramaic text just discussed, here is the same Palestinian Aramaic idiom preserved intact in three early copies of the Syriac gospels; the Curetonian Old Syriac copy of Matthew and two early copies of the Peshitta gospels,  :
da-'it leh 'adne' lemeshem`a nesh-shem`a '
Translation: ' “Whoever has an ear that he may hear, he will hear!'
The Lord's prayer is a very famous text from the gospels and every new Christian has been taught this prayer from the beginning of the Christian faith. Presented here are two excerpts from the Lord's prayer as it was read and used in the early Syriac speaking churches, long before the Peshitta revision existed. The Syriac text has been critically reconstructed by the present author from twelve Syriac sources including biblical manuscripts and early patristic sources:
'Abba' debashmaya' nethqadash shmak'
Translation: ' “Father that is in heaven, will be hallowed your name” '
'Wa-tethe melkuthak wa-nayuwan tsabyan-nayak ba'ar`a ayk
Translation: ' “And your kingdom will come and your wills will be done in the earth, as [they are] in heaven.” '
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