Lag BaOmer

Besides being the day on which the plague affecting Rabbi Akiva’s students ceased, Lag BaOmer is traditionally observed as marking the commemoration of the death (Yahrzeit in Yiddish) of Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai, a famous 1st-century Jewish sage in ancient Israel. After the death of Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students, Rabbi Akiva taught five students, among…

The Mitzvah of Counting the Omer

The Mitzvah of Counting the Omer The Torah states (Vayikra 21, 15): “And you shall count for yourselves, from the day following the Shabbat, from the day the waved Omer offering is brought, seven complete weeks shall they be.” Our Sages (Menachot 65b) have a tradition that the “day following the Shabbat” refers to the…

The Diatessaron

The first harmony of the Gospels tr. Hope W. Hogg modified by Alan Humm The underlying English translation was done by Hope W. Hogg, (see citation below), as part of the monumental Ante-Nicene Fathers series and turned into electronic form by the Christian Classics Etherial Library whose efforts have gone so far to extend the…

An Aramaic Approach to the Church Epistles

An Aramaic Approach to the Church Epistles By Karen Masterson Commentaries and biographies almost unanimously regard the Apostle Paul as a Hellenistic Jew. They regard him as a Jew whose native language was Greek, who thought in terms of Greek ideas and culture. They compare him to men such as Philo, who explained Judaism in terms…

Aramaic Literature – Part 10 – The Mishnah

Following the “three gates” that form the first three treatises of Nezikin, the Mishnah moves on to the treatise Sanhedrin. That name is, of course, familiar from the New Testament. In the Mishnah, however, this section deals with criminal law and its related procedures. In this material, the reader often recognizes the Biblical background to…

Aramaic Thoughts 9

  Aramaic Literature – Part 9 – The Mishnah The sixth treatise of Nashim is Gittin. This deals with the issue of divorce, with the discussion springing from the text in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 that seems to authorize divorce, and which also came up for discussion in Jesus’ debates with the legal scholars of his own day….

Aramaic Thoughts 8

Aramaic Literature 8  The Mishnah The eleventh treatise in Mo’ed is called Katan (half-feasts). Originally it was called Mashkin, from the first word in the treatise. It deals with the middle days of Passover and Tabernacles, that is, those days between the first two and the last two days of the particular festivals. However, as…

Aramaic Thoughts Part 7

Aramaic Literature – Part 7 – The Mishnah The eighth treatise in Mo’ed is Rosh Hashanah. This literally means “the head of the year,” or “the first of the year,” thus it is the New Year celebration. In our modern calendar, Rosh Hashanah occurs in September. It corresponds to the first day of the seventh…

Aramaic Thoughts Part 6

Aramaic Thoughts Aramaic Literature – Part 6 – The Mishnah The fourth treatise of the order Mo’ed is Shekalim (shekels). This deals with the half-shekel tax that was assessed on Israelite males (Ex 30:11-16). Originally this went to the provision for and upkeep of the tabernacle. Later, it was applied to the maintenance of the…

Aramaic Thoughts 5

The Peshitta – Part 5 The Peshitta and Textual Criticism, Part 1 The Peshitta is generally considered to be of secondary importance in matters of textual criticism. This is due in large part to the fact that the Peshitta as it currently exists appears not to be a simple, straightforward translation of the Hebrew original…

Aramaic Literature 4

Aramaic Literature – Part 4 – The Primary Targums Most books of the Old Testament have Targums. The only exceptions are Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. The reasons for these omissions are not clear. Perhaps it is due to the fact that these books already contain some Aramaic, especially since Daniel is about half Aramaic. It…

Aramaic Literature 3

– The Primary Targums The other most important Targum on the Pentateuch is that of Neofiti. It was discovered only recently (1956). It had remained hidden in the Vatican library, probably for centuries, before it was re-discovered. Lest the reader think that there is some sort of Da Vinci code conspiracy at work here, the…