Monthly Archives: August 2009

Christian Instant Messaging

Well, I’ve been using various instant messaging programs for a few years, but I just realized something I never thought of: We have no Christian instant messaging greetings. At least, there are no standard, traditional ones that go back a long ways because well, instant messaging has only been out there for very short time.

Perhaps however, a few traditional Christian greetings can be modified for the IM world. I mean, we like to say things like “God bless you!” or “Godspeed!” (archaic, I know) or even “He is risen!” In writing letters and now emails, Christians often use a complimentary close like “Yours in Christ,” or even “Faithfully Yours.”

But how are you supposed to convey God’s blessing to a fellow Christian through instant messaging of all things? Perhaps there is a way. If you figure it out, let me know.

I suppose we could borrow from speech and letter writing, but it seems a little odd to end an IM session with “Faithfully Yours.”


Tabitha (Acts 9:36, 40) – Aramaic in NT Post #3

Tabitha (Acts 9:36, 40) is a person who shows up a couple times in Acts.

In Greek: ??????
In Aramaic: ????????

I’m borrowing the Aramaic transcription from Thayer’s Lexicon. He gets it from Kautzsch’s Aramaic grammar. It is a female given name seemingly related to the Aramaic word for good (tab). So it means “good, precious, worth” or something like that. Here a couple dictionary entries on it: DJPA and Jastrow p. 515b. (It is not related to the word “talitha” discussed below.) It seems similar to the names Tobias and Tobit which are related to the same root word in Hebrew and Aramaic.

However, Acts 9:36 indicates that name “translated, means Dorcas.” Well, maybe this is helpful for Greek speakers, but us English-speaking folk need a little more help. So, if you happen to look up Dorcas (??????) in a Greek dictionary, it means “antelope, gazelle.” So, what the heck? Is Tabitha really related to tab or not? It seems not.

The real root of Tabitha in Aramaic is the word for gazelle, ??? (tby). The “-tha” ending just feminizes the masculine word. Here’s Jastrow’s entry:

So, Tabitha means gazelle. I suppose that that is a complimentary female name. Now, there is one other point of interest here. In Acts 9:40, Tabitha has died and Peter goes in to the body, pronounces the words “Tabitha, arise” and she is raised from the dead. Of course, this looks a lot like the phrase Jesus used “Talitha, qum” or “Talitha, arise.” Very interesting that these two resurrection stories have such similar words. Also, it seems that the minor variant “tabitha” in Mark 5:41 probably originated from confusion with Acts 9:40. But it seems that this is merely a coincidence. “Little girl” and “gazelle” mean very different things even though they are only one letter different.


Talitha cum! (Mark 5:41) (Aramaic in NTPost #2)

This is my favorite use of Aramaic in the New Testament.

Overview of this series
Many scholars conjecture Aramaic underpinnings to much of the Greek in the New Testament. They will cite “Semitic influence,” “semiticisms,” or “Aramaisms.” The point is that a lot of the writers of the NT were GSL people (Greek as a second language). Some people used to think that parts of the NT were originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic (especially the Gospel of Matthew), but very few people hold that anymore. Most folks think that the NT was written by Aramaic speakers who were bilingual in Greek. Although some deny knowledge of Aramaic or Hebrew to certain NT authors.

What I want to do in these posts is highlight something more specific: the use of transliterated Aramaic in the NT. “What weird idea!” you might say. But these curious words are often misunderstood or simply not understood since they are rarely translated into English, they are simply transliterated (i.e. the sounds are reproduced by English letters) from Greek because they were transliterated into Greek from Aramaic. Now, this gets a little complicated because the Greek does not necessarily show all the features of the Aramaic. I mean, Aramaic is written right to left with no vowels and such. Greek attempts to reproduce the sound of the Aramaic, but isn’t always faithful or consistent.

Side note: one of the ways we know how ancient Hebrew and Aramaic were pronounced is through the use of transliteration in the Greek NT, but more importantly, the ancient Septuagint translation of the Bible. Most transliterated words are names since they are notoriously hard to translate.

Talitha cum! (Mark 5:41)
In Aramaic: טַלִיתָא קום
Transliterated into Greek: ταλιθα κουμ

Now, the first word we can find in the Jastrow Aramaic Dictionary:

If you notice, the vowel pointing I used is a little different than Jastrow’s because I’m working back from the Greek transliteration, but no matters, it’s the same word. So the word basically means “young girl” or something like that. There’s a very similar word for boy (taley).

Now qum is a very common word which means “to stand, arise.” But here’s the fascinating part. In Aramaic, qum is used as a second masculine singular imperative, which would make perfect sense here IF the dead person were a boy. The feminine version would be  קומי qumi! So a couple questions arise, so to speak: 1.) Is the Greek faithful to the Aramaic? 2.) Are there textual variants? 3.) Is the dead person actually male?

In reverse order:
3.) We know from the previous verses, esp. v.35, that it was a daughter who had died, not a son. She is usually referred to as “child” (paidion in Greek) which is a neuter word. But, we know it’s a daughter, so the dead person is female, not male.
2.) There are textual variants! Now, don’t get too excited. Sinaiticus, Vaticanus are on the side of the text qum. But Alexandrinus, Koridethianus and a few others have qumi (well, it’s actually in “κουμι” in Greek transliteration). I guess the New Testament text committee decided on qum because of B and א. There’s a few other witnesses that have ταβιθα instead. But these are very rare.
1.) Ah! And lastly, it appears that no, the Greek doesn’t quite capture the Aramaic. The variants are probably corrections rather than representing an earlier text. It also seems that most of the early copyists did not know Aramaic, so they wouldn’t be tempted to correct it.

The translation usually given “Little girl, arise!” is quite good. The Greek inserts “I say to you” just to clarify that it is an imperative.

Well, now you know more than you ever could have wanted about this passage. Now you can impress your friends with your Aramaic knowledge!