WORD STUDY ELI ELI LAMA איל איל I SABACHTHANI PART למנא שׁבקתני

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1 WORD STUDY ELI ELI LAMA איל איל I SABACHTHANI PART למנא שׁבקתני Matthew 27:46: And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying Eli, Eli Lama Sabachthani? that is My God My God, why has thou forsaken me? This being Easter Weekend, my study partner insisted I present a study for Easter. There is really not much about the death and resurrection of Christ that has not been examined, debated, preached and chewed over by scholars so I am resurrecting one of my old studies on a topic which has had some new light shed on it in recent years in honor of this weekend. I admit my conclusions are controversial so I present the following for your examination and I will let you decided for yourself if this has any merit. This passage in Matthew has been debated for 2,000 years and everyone seems to have their own explanation as to what Jesus

2 means when he said Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani or My God My God why hast thou forsaken me. It is curious that Matthew transliterated this into the Greek as the Hebrew Eli and Mark transliterated this as Aramaic Eloi. Lama is Hebrew, Lema is Aramaic and is shown as that in both Gospels in the Greek, but translators will render it as lama (Hebrew) for whatever reason. Secondly, why did they transliterate (make a word sound the same in another language) into Greek at all, why not just write out in Greek my God my Go why hast thou forsaken me? As for the word Sabachthani well, we are not sure, it appears to be from the Aramaic word sbq which means to forsake or abandon for a purpose. The Aramaic word for just simply to abandon to forsake because it is unwanted is taatani. However, it can be argued that the root word is really shwaq which means to be kept, spared or allowed or to fulfill an end. If Jesus had really meant that God had abandoned Him or forgot Him He would have used the word taatani (forsake) or nashatani (forget). Something even more curious is that the passage suggests that Jesus is quoting Psalms 22:1 yet in Hebrew that phrase is eli, eli lama azabethni not sabachthani. However the Jewish Targum (Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible) does use the Aramaic word sbq in Psalms 22:1, which is probably why the scribes added the footnote which being interpreted means. This is in accordance with the Eastern Church which teaches that the scribes who wrote this out in Greek really did not understand what the phrase really meant, so they merely transliterated it into the Greek rather than translate it and then put in a short commentary or their own opinion and indicated this by the words that is to say In other words they were not sure they had correctly quoted Jesus so they assumed he was speaking Psalms 22:1 and put in a little commentary to offer

3 their opinion as to what he really said. Indeed Jesus could have been misquoted from scribes or witnesses at the crucifixion if they were from Judea, for the Judeans spoke a Southern dialect of Aramaic but Jesus and his disciples were from the Northern part of Israel, Galilee, where they spoke a Northern dialect of Aramaic. So Jesus would have spoken with a Northern accent and sometimes what he said might not be clear to the people speaking a Southern dialect. This is probably why some thought he was calling for Elijah. My belief that all Scripture is the inspired Word of God makes me a little uncomfortable suggesting that the Bible misquoted Jesus. If the Bible teaches Jesus said Sabachthani, then that is what He said, no misquotation. As I have said, Jesus spoke a Northern dialect of Aramaic. My studies have been in the middle dialect of Aramaic, more commonly known as the Jewish Babylonian Aramaic or Talmudic Aramaic. This is closely related to the Eastern Aramaic like the Mandaic and the Eastern Syriac of the Assyrian Church. I undertook this study so I could read the Talmud in the original Aramaic. So I claim no expertise on the Old Galilean or Northern dialect of Aramaic. However, from my research into the Old Galilean I find that the study of the Old Galilean is a relatively new discovery. It was felt that the Northern dialect of Aramaic or the Old Galilean dialect was a dead language, however, linguist have found a tribe in Northern Iraq that still speaks this dialect and scholars from Oxford have descended upon these people to learn some of the finer points of this dialect. This now brings us to the word Eli. In the Southern dialect this would mean my God. However, in the Northern dialect,

4 which is more colloquial, the word el would be used for more than just the word god, it was sometimes used in a descriptive sense. A god is someone or something that has control over you. People are, for instance, controlled by their hearts desires. Thus Jesus could have been saying, my heart. In the Semitic languages when a word is repeated twice it is done to show emphasis. Hence in the Old Galilean when Jesus said Eli Eli he could have been saying listen to my heart. The word lama (Hebrew) or lema (Aramaic) generally is used as an interrogative, but this is not necessarily set in stone. To use lema as a question, why am I forsaken or why have I been kept suggest that Jesus did not understand what was happening to Him. That is not my Jesus, He is God, and He is all knowing. In that context we could properly and linguistically render this not as a question but as a declaration, this is why. In the Old Galilean lema Sabachthani means, this is why I have been kept or this is my destiny. In fact scholars have discovered this phrase still in use in that tribe that still uses the Old Galilean. They use it in the context of this is my destiny. In other words Jesus was not speaking to God but to the people who were mourning his death, those who could understand his dialect and in His last breath what He could have been saying is, Listen to my heart, this is my destiny. Jesus was telling those who were in sorrow over his death, Listen to my heart, this is why I came to earth in the first place, this is my purpose, to die for you. The jury is still out on this one. I am sure there are some scholars who would throw salt in the air at my conclusion and I respect that. But if I have given you something to at least awaken you to re-examine the last words of Jesus and meditate on them this Easter, then I am glad to suffer the slings and arrows of critics. So let me offer this Easter message to you from just one of many understandings of the words from the lips of Jesus in His adopted native language of the Old

5 Galilean Aramaic, Eloi Eloi Lema Sabachthani which being interpreted means, Listen to my heart, this is my destiny This is why I came to earth in human form and that is to die to give you eternal life.

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