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The Language of Jesus is Dying Out

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Maalula is the last place where they still speak Aramaic as that Christ fellow would've spoken it two thousand years ago, and only about two thousand people still speak it fluently.

The modern world is encroaching upon the village at a rapid pace, and no longer can Maalula be considered remote. A paved highway whisks commuters to Damascus in 45 minutes. Satellite dishes beam programs from around the world – none of them in Aramaic – into local living rooms.

Job opportunities are scarce, and the younger generation is moving away, to the cities and overseas, taking with them what may turn out to be the last memories of this ancient language.

Within a few decades at most, Maalulans believe, Aramaic will have passed into history.

"In 10 or 20 years, it will be dead. The children don't speak it anymore, and all the young people are moving to Damascus," said Maria Hadi, 30, who grew up speaking Aramaic but moved to the city to attend high school and has forgotten the language of her childhood.

Thanks, incidentally, to Bill Howell, via whom I discovered this article and decided to share it here.

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About James Russell

  • joe

    john, you seem knowledgeable, and your English is good. i was wondering where are you from? do you live in iraq now or in the U.S.A … like michigan or chicago or boston.. ect. like wissam said.

  • wissam

    John is right i am assyrian my self go search sites on Assyrians/Chaldean,and christian Syrians that speak the language. These are the last groups in the middle east that speak Aramaic/Syriac both language similar just different accent. today there is a majority of middle eastern that speak Aramaic in Michigan, Chicago,Boston,Arizona, and California. also there is many overseas. Majority of those are the Assyrian orthodox and Chaldean catholic both groups same ancestry and come from same country.we are the natives of Iraq. Arabs long ago invaded and today we have no nation and that is why people mistake us for Arabs and we are totally different. we are struggling to keep up Jesus language.our language is falling apart because of religious wars in the middle east and how we are getting kicked out of our own native country.

  • john hirmiz

    ruvy.. yes it is changed over thousands of years dating back to 6,000 years ago it was different from 2,000 years ago and today assyrians/chaldean/syryoyo christians and we also have assyrian/chaldean small jewish community that speaks aramiac today. we dont speak a new form its just dialect kinda changed cause of differnet villages.. america and europe is new to it and thought it was extinct… there is few villages in iraq and parts of turkey that still speak it like 2000 years ago… mine is also similar but some words changed do to european settlers and other settlers.. Oh and NO aramiac is not arabic… hebrew and aramiac are the old Semitic language that most of the middle east spoke long ago than arabic branched off those languages

  • John is right. Aramaic as a spoken language is still spoken today – though it has changed its vocabulary considerably in 2,100 years. I once studied it on a website as it is spoken today, and it is quite different from the ancient tongue my sons and I learned.

    I have had to learn Aramaic to read certain parts of the Hebrew Bible (parts of the Book of Daniel) written in that tongue, as well as the Talmud, and it was the spoken tongue in this land 2,100 years ago. Aramaic exerts a considerable influence upon Hebrew, both as spoken 2,000 years ago as a lingua franca, and throughout history, as both Talmuds, the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud were written in Aramaic. I still exerts an influence on modern Hebrew, but its particular spelling quirks as seen in its ancient form – particularly the preference for using the letter alef at the end of words – makes it impractical in many instances in modern Hebrew.

  • john hirmiz

    the new testament was written in aramiac translated in greek… I am chaldean/assyrian that speaks aramiac… there is about 3.5million of us that speak it today… Its a shame with false facts how they say there is only 2,000 left that speak it… The 12 deciples who spread out the word of christ spoke aramiac and one was a scholar that spoke greek and latin. the real new testament was written in aramiac than translated in greek

  • translation of the Aramaic? I don’t think any of the new testament was actually written in Aramaic (if there is a written form), pretty sure it’s all greek.

  • Eric Olsen

    San, I’m sure you aren’t. The “grease” in question is more a function of personality than physique.

  • san

    Eric, you and me both. I can’t wait until they open the pool so I can get some pleasant exercise. But I’m not greasy!

  • Eric Olsen

    Fascinating James, and I weigh about 185 right now after gaining a bit over the winter and spraining my ankle six weeks ago.

  • san

    Another interesting post. A lot of questions about the veracity of the Bible come from errors in translation of the Aramaic.