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Aramaic Lord's Prayer

Updated on September 17, 2014

A couple of years back I was given a copy of the Lord's prayer in translation from Aramaic. I was concerned: there was clearly a lot more content here than a simple translation would warrant and the thought-forms did not sit well with first century Judaism. It was actually a paraphrase or 'midrash' recast in terms of esoteric philosophy. So not really a translation. Then I discovered that there's a lot of this stuff about ...

The good stuff - sites that pass on helpful information

These are the sites that purvey good information, history, understanding of translation and so on.

The hall of shame - sites passing on bad or duff info

Sites talking about the Aramaic Lord's prayer with inaccurate information about translation, provenance, history or other errors or misleading inferences.

My own 'net comments - from my own blogging

collected comments from my own blogs when I have come across and commented on the Lord's prayer in Aramaic.

The issue according to me

a bit of a rant on why it matters

my Hebrew is not extensive but enough that when combined with training in linguistics and biblical interpretation I can tell when a 'midrash' is being offered. A version of the Lord's prayer which was used by Aramaic speakers (Syriac) has been taken and 'translated' in a dynamic equivalence sort of way and some further work done on it in terms of expanding some of the words or phrases to offer an interpretive gloss.

The interesting thing is the way a spurious 'authority' is gained for a philosophical framework which is probably not really consonant with Jesus's but using Jesus' words. That Jesus' authority is sought is probably significant. It is also worth noting what terms are fairly comprehensively reinterpreted and how.

I would have to say that it translates Jesus' thoughts into a thought frame that is not his originally and which therefore may appear to have him endorse views of life, the universe and everything that he may not recognise as [at all?] consonant with his message in important ways.

Just to illustrate my contention about 'overtranslation'; "Abwon" is ab, a common Semitic root for "father", the 'won' corresponds to the Hebrew 'nu' meaning 'our'. Simple, there is no real justification to translate ""Oh Thou, from whom the breath of life comes," than there would be to translate the French "notre Pere" in that way, or the German "Unser Vater" likewise, or "padre nuestro", or "Ein Tad", or "Pater noster" ... to do more than translate as "our Father" is to engage in a kind of ideological sleight of hand and it would be somewhat dishonest to knowingly pass it off as if it were a simple translation of the "=our father" sort which is the way that it was presented to me. It is a commentary, someone's view of how the word[s] might be rendered in terms of a particular preunderstanding of spiritual life that is not directly attributable to Jesus. Is it faithful? That's another issue. But by passing it off and passing it on as if it were a simple translation that question is being avoided and implicitly answered in a way that really deserves more scrutiny.

If the so-called translation was distributed as a commentary or a meditation on the Aramaic in the light of a perspective informed by the Philosophia Perennis, for example, I would not cavil. But...

The irony is that many of those who pass this off as translation are, in fact, doing just the kind of thing that they (mistakenly) castigate the church for doing: hiding the truth ...

'Translations' from Aramaic - -really paraphrases, midrashes or meditations

collection of Lord's prayers in English which are supposed to be based on Aramaic.

The Lord's Prayer in Syriac

using Syriac script

This is the language used by many Orthodox Christians in the middle East

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