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.

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