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Syria Revives Aramaic, Language of Jesus Christ

 To protect the heritage and diversity of civilizations, to confirm the solidarity among the various religions, and to revive the old chapters of history ,the first institute to teach Aramaic, the language of the people of the Levant in the first millennium BC ,was inaugurated in Maaloula. It is the language which Jesus Christ used to address his disciples and followers and by which he presented his evangelism to humanity. This language is still used by the inhabitants of Ma’aloula, Juba’adin, and Sarkha in the Qalamoun mountains 55 km north east of Damascus.

Arab Aramites :Historical and linguistic studies proved that the Aramites started their journeys from the Arabian Peninsula from which several Arab tribes formed a movement of immigration in the fourth millennium BC, after the rivers of the Peninsula dried up. These tribes migrated to the Mesopotamia in the east, to the Zagross mountains in the north, to the shores of the Atlantic ocean in the west ,and to the Arab Sea in the south. The Aramites settled in Syria and in the Mesopotamia (between the Euphrates and the Tigress) and gradually abandoned their style of bedouin life to adopt the civilized style of settlements. They mostly settled in Amoro (now Syria) and Babylon in the first half of the second millennium BC. With the start of the first Millennium they had established several kingdoms in the region that extended from the anti Lebanon mountains in the west to the Euphrates in the east, and from the mountains of Taurus in the north to Jordan in the south. After several centuries the Aramites gradually,lost control of this region to the Assyrians. The first mention of the Aramites, other than that of the Old Testament, came from the Egyptian letters of Tall al Amarneh of the fourteenth century BC, although there were some weak references about them that date back to the period of 2200 ≠ 1700 BC. The name Aramite was derived from the Arab root of “ramò which signifies sublimity and sovereignty.


The Aramaic language: It is the language whose alphabet was derived from the Arabic southern Canaanite language called by the Greeks the Phoenician, i.e. one of the Semitic languages as they were called by Austrian theologian orientalist Schlautser in the second half of the 19th.century, which are really old Arab languages.

Aramaic started to be used in Syria with the beginning of the 18th.century BC to breed several languages ,linguists divided them into two categories: Eastern Aramaic group which

includes the Syriac, the Aramaic of al Raha (now Turkish Orfa) ,the Babylon language of the Talmud which is an eastern Aramaic used in writing the Talmud in the period between the 4th. and the 6th.century AD, the Mandaaia which is a pure Aramaic used by the Sabians in writing their holy books, and the language of Harran which lent many of its vocabularies to Greek and Latin. Western Aramaic group: which includes the Christian Palestinian Aramaic used by Jesus Christ and the Christians of Palestine and Sinai ( Syrian Historian Dr. Mohammad Mohaffel says that the Vatican library has a summary of the bible written in this language) , the Nabatean which is the language of the Arab Nabateans of Transjordan ,and the Palmyran language used by the inhabitants of old Palmyra in central Syria. These languages were later defined as the eastern Syriac languages. Western Syriac originated when the people of al Raha of northern Syria embraced Christianity and started to write in letters similar to the alphabet of the Strenjilic language of the Kaldanians. Generally all these languages have one common thing ,that is they have 22 letters arranged as a,b,c,..... Generally speaking, Aramaic is one of the oldest languages in history used for one thousand year in the region. Many historians believe that it constituted the origin of the Greek language and many other European alphabets. When the Persians swept this region they found that Aramaic is the common language that unifies its many ethnicities, so they adopted it as their official language .Persian Sassanides used it to document their history and the Mongols borrowed many of its alphabet. Aramaic was written in three forms: old letters, square letters and the manual letters A board with used as from the Aramaic writing middle of the found in seventh century Ma’aloula BC.

Aramaic Institute: For more than 40 years, Professor George Rizkallah was obsessed in Aramaic and always looked for a way to protect it. As an English teacher , a poet by instinct, and a lover of old folk songs he tried to transliterate the local Aramaic songs in Arabic letters, out of his belief that songs and rhythms stick to the memory of people more than normal spoken words which gradually dissolve in oblivion. To go further he held the first course to teach Aramaic in the monastery of Mar Takla in Ma’aloula, to be followed by three courses; elementary, medium and advanced level, in the monastery and church of St. George. Each course took 45 days. Students of all ages joined these courses in which professor taught the square letters of Aramaic. The idea developed, and an institute to teach Aramaic is now under construction. Meanwhile courses are being held in a room in the Municipality of Maaloula.

Haifaa’ Mafalani