Learn the Beatitudes in Aramaic



By Dr. Rocco A Errico from his book Aramaic Light on the Beatitudes

“The Seven States of Bliss are based on my translation of the Aramaic teachings
of Jesus known as the Beatitudes. I translated from Aramaic photostats of the
Gospel of Matthew, Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC, which are in
my possession.  There are no chapters or verses in the manuscript. Many vowel
signs are also absent in this Estrangela script.  The dating is about the sixth or
seventh centuries CE (AD). Aramaic pronunciation of Jesus’ teaching will vary. I
basically spell the words and pronounce them from the written Eastern Classical
Aramaic in which the New Testament has come down to us from Assyrian,
Chaldean, and Syrian Semitic Christians. Jesus and most of his Galilean disciples
and followers spoke in the northern dialect of Aramaic and used northern idiomatic
expressions of this Semitic tongue.

The original name of the country known to us as Syria was Aram, and its
inhabitants were called Arameans. Greek conquerors renamed the country Syria
and called the language Syriac. Nonetheless, the major tongue of the ancient Near
East was Aramaic, Lishana Aramaya.  During the time of Jesus, throughout the
land of Israel and especially in Galilee, Aramaic was the dominant tongue of the
Jewish people. In the South—that is, in Judea—the people spoke in the southern,
Chaldean dialect of Aramaic. Common folk of both the North and South could relate
very easily to the Galilean master teacher. He spoke in simple terms, using everyday
idiomatic speech and illustrating his teaching with their cultural, farming,
shepherding, and ordinary life experiences.

In chapters five, six, and seven of Matthew’s gospel, we find a collection of
Jesus’ basic teachings, which are often referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount.”
However, Jesus never preached sermons as we do today. These three chapters (5-7)
are a literary form of his teaching. The Beatitudes are the foundation for the rest of
the three chapters, which are a deeper and furthering expansion of the Beatitudes.
Jesus’ style of speaking was magnetic and engaging. His charismatic presence
and powerful energetic words, stories, and expressions, reached into the very hearts
and souls of his listeners, igniting the emotions of his disciples, followers, and
people in general. At the same time, he also provoked some staunch religious
authorities and other men who did not accept or realize what he was all about. To
them he was too revolutionary! They probably felt that he was undermining
ancestral, cultural, and long-held traditional values. These particular dissenters
accused the Nazarene prophet of nullifying and breaking the laws of Moses. There is
no doubt, however, that Jesus was meeting the needs of those who longed for God’s
intervention and genuine reign of justice and happiness. He was a true son of the
Near East.

Jesus taught his disciples to practice the spirit of the Torah by helping them to
see beyond the traditions of the elders and man-made rules and regulations. He was
a master Torah teacher, whose disciples called him rabbi, an honorific Aramaic
title that means “my great master teacher.” Sometimes his disciples called him
rabban, meaning “our great master teacher.”

Love, faith, prayer, giving, fasting, healing, forgiving, and more, are all a part
of Jesus’ sound spiritual and practical way of living recorded in these famous three
chapters of Matthew’s writings. He brought the image of God as Father to a new
meaning. The terms “father” and “mother” in Semitic languages are terms of
endearment. So Jesus referring to God as “Father” implies that God is the Beloved,
a dear and precious cherished one. In other words, for him God was a loving
presence now active in the world in spite of the violence and inharmonious
conditions. Although the Romans were occupying their land, Jesus showed his
people how to live in the midst of subjugation and oppression. He taught them how
to keep their bliss and happiness regardless of the situations and circumstances that
were surrounding them. They were to thrive under his teaching and presence.

This book presents the seven Beatitudes of Jesus that are recorded in Matthew
5:3-9. For those who may wish to look further into his teachings in chapters 5-7, I
recommend Aramaic Light on the Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the
Teachings of Jesus from the Aramaic and Unchanged Near Eastern Customs.
My purpose in presenting just the Beatitudes in this book is to show the depth
of meaning in Jesus’ own Semitic tongue and how they help us to thrive in a very
ambiguous moral and often divisive modern world. How does one live and keep
states of bliss in the midst of confusion and even violence? Almost 2,000 years ago,
Jesus of Nazareth, a man from the country district of Galilee, revealed the way and
opened the door for everyone, while Rome was conquering the then known world. It had subjugated Israel and made sure the people kept their loyalty to the Emperor. This was totally disheartening and sorrowful for the populace, although there were
some groups that had favored Rome.

So let us now venture into the Near Eastern world as Jesus set about to
encourage and strengthen the hearts, minds, and souls of his people and all those
who were to follow his teaching in the ages to come. I can see the crowds as they
began gathering together, hoping to capture a glimpse of this new malpana
(teacher) and were eager to receive healing for their troubled minds and ailing

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