Tuesday, February 7, 2017

"The Beatitudes as Translated from the Aramaic" by Patricia Fresen D.Th., RCWP


ARAMAIC, the language of Jesus, was and is a very different language from Greek.  Our written source for the Aramaic text is the Peshitta, which was started in the 1st century, finalized in the 4th century, subsequently copied in the following centuries. The name “Peshitta” in Aramaic means “straight”, in other words, the original and pure words of Jesus and stories about him.  The Peshitta is the only version of the New Testament written in Aramaic, the language of Mshikha (the Messiah) and of his disciples.

The Peshitta is the text of the New Testament used and translated from, by the Church of the East.   It is possible that some of the books of the New Testament were originally written in Aramaic, but later, in the West, translated into Greek by first-century Christians.  This never happened in the East, where Aramaic, or various forms of it, was the Lingua Franca of the Persian Empire. 

In the West, which had become largely Greek and then Roman-speaking, the  Aramaic texts were mostly discarded and then forgotten.  Unfortunately, Greek is a very different language from Aramaic, based on a different, dualistic philosophy:  e.g. heaven – earth.  Aramaic has no word for “heaven” as (a place) outside of or different from “earth”: they saw heaven and earth as part of a whole, forming the cosmos or universe.  There are some words and ideas in Aramaic that are simply not able to be exactly translated into Greek, or they are changed considerably in translation.   Unfortunately all our Scripture translations today in the West: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, etc. are translated from the Greek.  They are therefore a translation of a translation. Often the original meaning has been lost in in this double translation process.  The Aramaic is much closer to what Jesus actually said and meant because Aramaic was his language.

Note that Aramaic can have several layers of meaning in each word or phrase, so words or phrases can be translated in various ways.  This can be very confusing for us.  Greek is much more precise and fixed in its meanings.

Summary of Beatitudes in English:

          Matt. 5, 3 – 12                                                                   Lk. 6, 20 -23 
       “Sermon on mount”                                                       “Sermon on the plain”

1.  Poor in spirit                                                              1. Poor
2.  Meek   
3.  Mourn                                                                        3. Weeping
4. Hunger & thirst for righteousness                               4. Hungry
5. Merciful
6. Pure in heart.
7. Peacemakers
8. Persecuted in the cause of uprightness.

THE BEATITUDES; TRANSLATED FROM THE ARAMAIC based on Matthew’s version:

Tubwayhun =  ripe, mature;  having reached a stage of the fullness of the person I am meant to be.  The Beatitudes show us what a mature disciple of Jesus is like.

1. Tubwayhun l’meskenaee b’rukh: d’dilhounhie malkutha d’bwashmaya. 
Ripe are those who find their home in the breath (the Spirit);  they shall be attuned to the inner reign of God.

l’meskenaee:  rooted in, firmly based on; “meskenaee means a solid home base or resting point in a fluid, round luminous enclosure and of devotedly holding fast to something, as if one were ‘poor’ without it”. (Douglas-Klotz, 49)
b’rukh:  breath, Spirit, the Divine, God
d’dilhounhie: to be in tune with, attuned to
malkutha:  the reign of God. (Great Mother of Middle East, thousands of years before Jesus.)
d’bwashmaya: core of this word is “shm” or “shem:  vibration, radiation, resonance, name.  ... vibrating throughout the universe.

BREATH  “Tuned to the Source ... breathing unity
rukha / ruha/ rukh = breath, soul, spirit.
Another name for Alaha (God) is Sacred Breath.  Our breath is part of the Sacred Breath that fills all of life. 
The Aramaic tradition is that the universe came into being through sound, vibration, breath:  ruha d’qodsha  (creating breath).

When feeling out of rhythm with yourself, others or your situation, experiment with breathing in and out, feeling the sound of the word rukha, or Alaha (Jesus’ name for God:  Source of Unity.)  Let the rhythm of the word and the rhythm of your breath merge in a way that feels natural.  Allow the sensation of the breathing to touch your entire body.  Gradually let go of the word and allow the feeling of your breathing to cradle and rock whatever part of yourself has been ignored or starved from tis connection with the source of life.
(Douglas-Klotz:  Prayers of the Cosmos, 49)


to pray: shalu =  to open oneself, to make space within oneself for the Divine;  to become a “resonating space for your vibrations”.(nethqadash shmakh in the Our Father.)



(For the other 7 Beatitudes, we will focus mainly on key words).

2. Tubwayhun lawile d’hinnon netbayun.
Ripe are those who mourn/ weep/ grieve for people who are suffering;   they shall be comforted / shall be united inside by love. (cf Barbara Fiand, In the Stillness You Will Know, p.21 ff)

lawilemourners;  those who long deeply for something to occur;  those who suffer with people who are suffering/  are troubled or in emotional turmoil
netbayun:  comforted;  returning from wandering;  united inside by love.


3. Tubwayhun l’makhike d’hinnon nertun arha.
Ripe are the gentle;  they shall be open to receive strength from the earth (universe).

l’makhikegentle, one who has softened what is unnaturally hard, one who has submitted or surrendered to God.

nertunreceiving from the universal source of strength;  softening the rigid places within leaves us more open to God, who acts through all of nature.

arha: earth (origin of English word);  understood as the universe


4.  Tubwayhun layleyn d’kaphneen watzheyn l’khenuta d’hinnon nisbhun.
Ripe are those who hunger and thirst for justice (righteousness);  they shall be encircled by the birth of a new society.

layleyn:  those who wait intensely
d’kaphneen:  hungering
watzheyn:  thirsting when one is parched
khenuta:  justice, an inner and outer sense of justice, a base upon which things
                  can rest, the perfection of natural ability.
nisbhun:  satisfied, encircled by birthing.

5.  Tubwayhun lamrahmane dalayhun nehwun rahme.
Ripe are the compassionate; upon them shall be compassion.

Lamrahmane, rahme:   compassion, mercy.  The ancient root means “womb” or an inner movement from the centre of depths of the body radiating heat, warmth, tenderness.  (The association of womb and compassion leads to the image of “birthing mercy”.)
 Karen Armstrong: Charter for Compassion; Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life
Judy Cannato:  Field of Compassion< Sorin Books, 2010.
Barbara Fiand:  Embraced by Compassion, Crossraod, N.Y.  1993.
6. Tubwayhun layleyn dadkeyn b’lebhon d’hinnon nehzun l’alaha.
Ripe are those who are consistent in heart /whose lives radiate from a core of love;  the shall contemplate the One (the Divine, God).

dadkeyn:  consistent in love;  having a fixed, electrifying purpose.  The old roots calll up the image of a flower blossoming because that is its nature.
lebhon:  heart;  any centre from which life radiates;  vitality, direction, desire, courage all rolled into one.
nehzun:  to see, but more especially to have inner vision or contemplation.
alaha:  God,  the Unity, the One.

7.  Tubwayhun lahwvday shlama  dawnawhie d’alaha nitqarun.
Ripe are those who plant peace in each season;  they shall be named the children (or emanations) of God.

lahwvday:  being committed to an action;  planting, tilling the ground, laboring regularly, bringing forth fruit and celebrating.
shlama:  same root as “shalom”:  peace.  it also means health, safety a mutual agreement or a happy assembly.
dawnawhie:  children;  any embodiment or emanation.
nitqarun:  digging a channel or well that allows water to flow  In this sense, as we ‘plant peace’ we become channels or fountains for hastening the fulfillment of the divine will.
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8.  Tubwayhun layleyn detrdep metol khenuta dilhonie malkutha d’bwashmaya.
Ripe are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice (or righteousness);
the reign of God is in them.

detrdep:  persecuted,( dominated, dislocated, discriminated against).
khenuta:  justice
malkutha d’bwashmaya:  the reign of God lives /vibrates within them, and radiates outwards.

Conclusion:   Ripe are you when you are conspired against, dislocated and wrongly labeled as immature for my sake;  no matter where you turn, you will find the Name (Unity, God) inscribed in light.  It is the sign of prophecy to be persecuted.

This retreat has been based mainly on books and tapes by Neil Douglas-Klotz, especially “Prayers of  the Cosmos – Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus” and “The Hidden Gospel – decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramiac Jesus”.  Also the set of CD’s: “Healing Breath”  -  Body-based Meditations on the Beatitudes”.  Study-guides and teaching tapes for all of these are available.  There is a German CD called “ABWUN” from Düsseldorf, Lichthaus Musik, 1997. A program is available on the internet by Rev. Elizabeth Reed in a course called Self-healing Expressions.   Reed works with Douglas-Klotz.  
                                                                                          (Patricia Fresen, DTh, RCWP)


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