What Stephen has been doing:
The past few weeks I have been spending on the care and upkeep of my older brother. He was deployed to Iraq about the same time I was. He got back after me. There is video of he and I together at Ramadi up at my "You Tube" site (www.youtube.com/aramaic12).
I have been working on a twenty-page "Hammer of God" comic. I also have been working on a script for "Christ the Man." It is for my brother-who is going to do the artwork for the "Christ the Man" graphic novel. I have also been updating a manuscript for "The Ascents of James." The "Ascents of James" is a Ebionite Christian book on Saint James the Brother of Jesus. It was written around the year 135 A.D.
We have recently come out of the Jewish "High Holy Days." These begin with Rosh Hoshana (or "Yom Teruah"). This is the "Feast of Trumpets" or Jewish New Year. (Judaism has two "New Years." Nisan, which is when Passover falls, is also Jewish New Year. The Jews count Nisan as the religious New Year and Rosh Hoshana as the "civil" New Year. But, for all events and purposes, Rosh Hoshana is Jewish New Year.) Then you have "Yom Kippur" which is the "Day of Atonement." This is the date when animal sacrifices of bulls and goats were made in the Jewish Temple to atone for the sins of the nation. Lastly, you have Sukkot, or the "Feast of Tabernacles," in which the Jews live in outdoor booths for eight days in order to remember the sojourn in the desert under Moses.
The Yom Kippur services open in Aramaic:
Al da-at Hamakom, v'al Hakahal, biyeshivah shel ma-alah, uviyeshivah shel matah, anu matirin, l'hitpalayl im ha-avar-yanim.
In the tribunal of Heaven and the tribunal of earth, by the permission of God-praised be he-and by the permission of this holy congregation-we hold it lawful to pray with transgressors.
Then we come to the Kol Nidre:
Kol Nidre, ve-eh, sa-ray, ush'va-ay, va-cha-ra-may, v'kona-may, v-keenu-say, v'chee-nu-yay.
Dinar-na, ud'ish-ta-ba-na, ud'a-cha-reemna, ud'ah-sar-na al nafsha-ta-na…
The "Kol Nidre" is recited three times-usually by professional cantors. Translated from the Aramaic Kol Nidre says, "All personal vows we are likely to make, all personal oaths and pledges we are likely to take between this Yom Kippur and the next Yom Kippur-we publically renounce. Let then all be relinquished and abandoned, null and void-neither firm nor established. Let our personal vows, pledges and oaths be considered neither vows nor pledges nor oaths. May all the people of Israel be forgiven, including all the strangers who live in their midst, for all the people are in fault."Originally it referred to all vows taken in the past-as it does in "Nusach Sefard" (the Sefardic version). Rabbi Meir Ben Samual (Rashi's son in law) changed the original wording-so that it applies to the future instead of the past. The Aramaic "Kol Nidre" has been used by Anti-Semites to "prove" that a Jews word cannot be trusted. It has been difficult for me to get the "Kol Nidre"-most Siddurs do not have it. See "The Companion Guide to the Yom Kippur Prayer Service" by Moshe I. Sorscher. The origins of the Kol Nidre seem uncertain to me and I need to do some more research on the subject.
Modern Jewish Animal Sacrifices
In the Siddur: Tehillat HaShem published by the "Aleph Institute" [for military personnel, I picked it up in Kuwait for our Jewish U.S. military service members and I was able to acquire a personal copy] we find instructions for the atoning sacrifice of a chicken (on pages 362-363):
Erev Yom Kippur:
Kapparot: It is the custom on Erev Yom Kippur to ritually slaughter a white rooster during the morning "watch" after Selichot, for then a thread of divine grace prevails in the world. We slaughter it to subdue the supernal severities, and take out its blood to "sweeten" the severities. It is called Kapparah (expiation), as was the scapegoat. Each member of the household should have a Kapparah-a rooster for each make and a hen for each female. A pregnant woman should have three fowls; a hen for herself, and a rooster and a hen for the unknown gender of the child.
The following…paragraphs are recited… in the second paragraph, turn the chicken around your head (for a total of nine rotations).
Children of man who sits in darkness and the shadow of death, bound in misery and chains of iron-He will bring them out of the darkness and the shadow of death and will sunder their bonds…
This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my expiation. This rooster shall go to its death and I shall proceed to a good, long life and peace.
So now, Orthodox Jews carry out animal sacrifices for the atonement of their sins. (Muslims also carry out animal sacrifices-as do Hindus. Moslems, Samaritans and, on rare occasions, certain Eastern Christians (Ethiopians and Assyrians) still sacrifice animals to worship God. Aramaic Christians may sacrifice a sheep in welcoming a guest or consecrating a church. In modern majority Moslem countries like Egypt, every Moslem household will sacrifice (dabiha) a goat to Allah and consume it during a feast such as Eid ul-Adha. (I was in Cairo once when Islamic households across the city slaughtered probably hundreds of thousands of goats in one day. I found the numbers of animals sacrificed and the manner in which they were sacrificed shocking and disturbing. Anti-Terrorism activist Nonie Darwish had to participate in these animal sacrifices as a child and was emotionally scarred by them. All observant Muslims are required to participate in animal sacrifices.) The Bible clearly says, "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). If bulls and goats [the animals sacrificed for the atoning of sins on the "Day of Atonement" or Yom Kippur] cannot take away sins-a chicken surely cannot!
Abraham didn't speak Aramaic?
I recently received a reaction about Abraham speaking Aramaic on one of the Crossover programs. So, here is my reaction:
First, Jews claim that Abraham spoke Aramaic. Aramaic Iraqi Jews (few of whom have remained in Iraq-almost all have emigrated to Israel and America) proudly describe themselves as speakers of the language of Abraham. They call themselves the Nash Didan. I am not inventing these things. Ariel Sabar-an Aramaic Jew-has written a book about his Aramaic language entitled "My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for his Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq." These anti-Aramaic people are profoundly ignorant.
Secondly, the Bible says Abraham spoke Aramaic. Deuteronomy 26:5 states "My Father was a Aramaic nomad." This reference to Abraham describes him as Aramaic.
Thirdly, the historical record shows that Abraham came from a region where Hebrew wasn't spoken. I recommend "The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome" by Susan Wise Bauer. On page 127 she includes her chapter on Abraham. The Chapter is entitled "The First Monotheist: Abram leaves Ur sometime after 2166 BC and travels to the Western Semitic lands, while the neo-Sumerian empire goes stronger." The earliest Semitic language attested is Akkadian-the language spoken by the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians. Other Semitic languages were spoken. The reason Semitic languages, such as Arabic, Ethiopic, Hebrew and Aramaic are related is because these languages are all derived from a pre-historic extinct language that scholars have named "Proto-Semitic." When I studied Hebrew in Seminary this was discussed and Proto-Semitic was used to enable students to learn biblical Hebrew. So, I say to my opponent. Go and get an education and stop making ignorant comments. Abraham was a historic person-and as such he emerged from the historical regions where the Bible says he came from-and not some heavenly realm where Hebrew was spoken. Not only did Hebrew evolved from an earlier language-it continued to evolve throughout the period in which the Bible was written. The continued evolution of Hebrew is seen in the text of the Old Testament. Canaanite was very similar to Hebrew-in fact-it was mutually intelligible. Hannibal and the Carthaginians spoke Hebrew. Hebrew is the Semitic language spoken in Canaan-by Jews and non-Jews. Apparently, the Philistines were originally Greeks-but quickly became Hebrew speakers and their original language died out.
A friend of mine told me that I am an analytical thinker. I took that as a complement and I endeavor to be one.
Anyone who knows anything about Judaism knows that Aramaic is an important Jewish language. These people with a radical hatred for Aramaic are betraying their ignorance of Judaism and how languages work. Yom Kippur prayers are in Aramaic. Passover prayers and songs are written in Aramaic. The scribal notes to the Masoretic text are written in Aramaic. The Talmud is written in Aramaic. The Kaballah is written in Aramaic.
The question about what language Jesus spoke is dealt with in John P. Meier's "A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the historical Jesus":
The question of the language(s) Jesus spoke is a complex one, mirroring the complex situation of 1st-century Palestine as a "quadrilingual" country. There is no reason to believe that Jesus knew or used Latin, the language employed almost exclusively by the Roman conquerors. It is likely that he knew and used some Greek for business purposes or general communication with Gentiles, including perhaps Pilate at his trial. But neither his occupation as a woodworker in Nazareth nor his Galilean itinerary, restricted to strongly Jewish towns and villages, would demand fluency in and regular use of Greek. There is no reason to think that Jesus regularly taught the crowds who flocked to him in Greek. As for Hebrew, Jesus would have learned in it the Nazareth synagogue or a nearby school, and he probably used it at times when debating Scripture with Pharisees or scribes. Yet, as a teacher who directed himself to the mass of ordinary Jewish peasants, whose everyday language was Aramaic, Jesus almost necessarily spoke to and taught his coreligionists in Aramaic, some traces of which remain embedded in the text of our Greek Gospels. To be more precise, Jeremias identified Jesus' Aramaic as a Galilean version of western Aramaic…Jesus regularly and perhaps exclusively taught in Aramaic, his Greek being of a practical, business type, and perhaps rudimentary to boot. In a quadralinguage country, Jesus may have been a trilingual Jew [speaking Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew]; but he was probably not a trilingual teacher…Indeed, the very existence of Aramaic targums (translations) of the Hebrew Scriptures argues that a good number of ordinary Jews present in the synagogue could not understand Hebrew even when it was spoken, to say nothing of an ability to read or write in it. (Pages 266-276).
Is Mount Sinai in "Arabia"?
Years ago my father traveled with a man named Ron Wyatt to Egypt. Ron Wyatt was convinced that the Red Sea crossing took place at the Gulf of Aqaba and that the "real" Mount Sinai is in Saudi Arabia.
Pentecost of "Shavuot" is traditionally held to be the celebration of the giving of the Law upon Mount Sinai. It comes 50 days after Pentecost. If this is true then there wasn't enough time for all the Israelites to get across the Sinai Peninsula and do all the things the Bible says they did in that time period (escape the Egyptians, fight the Amalekites, get water from the Rock and ect.). If the 50 day tradition is correct, then the crossing most likely took place in the region where we find the Suez Canal today.
- This theory has the Israelites going a greater distance before the Red Sea Crossing that they go during the entire 40 years in the Wilderness. I find that a little odd.
- Proponents of this theory, reconstruct a route that the Israelites took to get to Mount Sinai-but they do not show us the route the Israelites took from Sinai and then into the Promised Land. If it is true they should have no trouble in reconstructing the entire route of the Exodus. This seems to be something that they are incapable of doing.
- Think with me a little bit. Has the Holy Land and the Desert changed cataclysmically since the time of Moses? Apparently not. If there was an Oasis there 3,000 years ago-the Oasis should still be there. I mean, why wouldn't it be? There is no evidence that the terrain has been totally transformed. After all, ruins and inscriptions can be found in Sinai and the Arabian Desert where the ancients left them. What I am saying is if the Bible says the Israelites traveled for a few days and came to an oasis, an oasis should still be there and if not there should be geographical evidence that an oasis was in the region.
- Later on, a man named Cornuke picked up on Ron Wyatt's theory. However, he recognized a problem with it. Itineraries written by Moses are found in the Book of Numbers and in the Book of Deuteronomy. So, he revised Ron Wyatt's route of the Exodus and has a different route. However, he keeps "Jabal El-Lawz" as Mount Sinai. Another issue he doesn't resolve is the route after Moses left Sinai. The Jabal El-Lawz people don't seem to chart to route of the Exodus from Sinai and to the Promised Land.
Here is my problem with the "Jabel El-Lawz" theory. It is a controversial theory and yet it is being popularized. If it is incorrect, then it is not helping people understand the Bible better, it is spreading disinformation and actually confusing people regarding what really happened during the Exodus.
Here is another problem: Ron Wyatt was an anesthesiologist and Bob Cornuke is a former police officer (he was a SWAT officer). They are working outside of their fields. Neither of them formally studied the Bible, Ancient Egypt or archeology. They are amateurs and I believe their work is amateurish. I have a Master's Degree in Divinity. I believe there is a value to a formal education.
Why are people so interested in sensational theories? I recently purchased "Unwrapping the Pharaohs: How Archeology Confirms the Biblical Timeline" by John Ahston and David Down. What these authors are proposing is David Rohl's "New Chronology" which states that the standard chronology of Egyptologists is off by hundreds of years. I find this new hypothesis very difficult to accept. However, they state
The route the Israelites took cannot be identified for sure. It is possible they crossed the Red Sea near Adabiya where it is only 4.3 miles wide and the maximum depth is only about 26 feet. Some have speculated that the crossing took place in the Gulf of Aqaba east of Nuweiba, but we believe this is improbable. The British Admiralty nautical map shows the minimum depth is 2,625 feet. North and south of this depth goes down more than 0.6 miles.
Looking at the evidence, they are led to believe that Ron Wyatt's route is incorrect. There are actually various mountains that have been put forward as the "real Mount Sinai." These include Gebel Sin Bishar, Gebel Halal, Gebal Serbal, Gebel Katherina (the traditional Mount Sinai) and Jar Karkom and in Arabia Gebel Biggir, Hallat el Bedr, Gebel al Lawz and Jebal Khrab. I was inclined to follow a theory that identified Mount Sinai with the region of Seir-which would be Gebel Halal or Har Karkom. However, we need to make our theories fit the evidence and not twist the facts of the evidence to fit into our theories. We have itineraries in Exodus 12 and 13 and Numbers 33. The "Mount Sinai" that fits the biblical itinerary is the traditional Mount Sinai. Actually, Gebel Serbal was the original traditional Mount Sinai. It seems that Helena, Constantine's mother, re-named the site at Gebel Catherina. Jebel Serbal is close to the traditional Mount Sinai. What I am saying is this: If you follow the Biblical itineraries strictly-say if you got a map and a Bible and headed out. The Bible says, you take a three day journey to a place called Marah-if you do that you will come to a place called Marah. From there you go to a place called Elim-which has a palm tree orchard-you will find it there. The traditional route fits the evidence from Scripture.
I am planning on going to Sinai soon. First off, whatever route you believe the Israelites crossed-all theories have then going through the Sinai Peninsula. Secondly, I want to do serious research-not sensationalism and wild speculation. Therefore I have consulted reputable scholars. I read two excellent books by trained and experienced biblical archeologist James K. Hoffmeier. He wrote "Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition" and "Ancient Israel in Sinai." Discussing Ron Wyatt's theories he says, "It would be easy to simply ignore the fanciful theory of these dilettantes, because scholars typically ignore popular works that lack academic credibility. However, given the frequency with which I am asked about the views…by students and laypeople, I feel constrained to point out some monumental blunders to which Cornuke and his colleagues have succumbed that trained archeologists and biblical scholars would not make." First off, Wyatt and Cornuke argue that the traditional Mount Sinai isn't in Arabia as Paul says it was in Galatians 4:25. In the Greco-Roman era, the traditional Mount Sinai was indeed in a region that was identified as "Arabia." Hoffmeier states, "My inclination at the outset of this study was to discard the traditional locations a priori just because the tradition is relatively recent (fourth century A.D) and my predisposition to reject traditions that are driven by ecclesiastical interests." Despite having a bias against the traditional Mount Sinai-a critical examination of the evidence convinced Hoffmeier that either Gebel Safsafeh or Gebel Serbal is the real Mount Sinai. (These locations are near the traditional site.)
Concerning Ron Wyatt's and Cornukes theories Hoffmeier says, (Here Hoffmeier is addressing Cornukes version of the Jebel El-Lawz theory-which has the crossing at the Straits of Teran rather than Nuweiba. His points apply to both theories.)
The information provided by the Exodus and Numbers itineraries shows that only three stops are recorded from the departure from Rameses in the eastern Delta until the arrival at Migdol and Pi-hahiroth, which was beside the sea. The distance, the evidence suggests, should range between forty-five and sixty miles. The trek from Rameses to their proposed crossing point at the southern tip of Sinai at the Straits of Tiran, however is around 322 miles. From that point to Gebel el-Lawz is less than sixty three miles. Within this short space, according to the biblical itineraries, there should be at least ten campsites, and based upon our analysis above, an approximate distance of 165-220 miles would be required. Clearly, if Gebel el-Lawz is biblical Mt. Sinai, then the Exodus and Numbers itineraries cannot be read literally. In fact, the line of march proposed by Cornuke and his associates is precisely the opposite of what the wilderness itineraries stipulate, should a literal reading be made.
Another complication for the Israelites traveling from Succoth in Egypt across the central part of Sinai to Aqaba (180 miles) [Aqaba is where Mr. Wyatt said the Red Sea Crossing was.] is the practical challenge for Egyptian chariots. Humphreys reasons that the Israelites covered 28 miles per day, and that it took six and a half days to trek across Sinai to the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba. It is highly unlikely that Egyptian chariots could travel across the rough Darb el-Hagg or Way of the Wilderness. The thin wheels of the chariots could not take the type of beating this route would have delivered to these lightweight vehicles. The same argument hold for Egyptian chariots chasing the Israelites down the western coast of Sinai, according to Cornukes theory. The inscriptions at Serabit el-Khadim in South Central Sinai never mention chariots being used on the mining expeditions in Sinai. Rather, donkeys were the beasts of burden used to transport food, supplies, and equipment to the mining area, and they were in turn used to carry the precious commodities to be shipped across the Red Sea…The only route in Sinai for which there is evidence that chariots ever traveled is the military highway also known as the Ways or Horus or the Via Maris, that is, the coastal route across northern Sinai that ran between Tjaru and Canaan. Thutmoses III took this rout, according to his annals, leading his army by chariot from Tjaru to Gaza in ten days, The distance between these two points is around 150 miles, meaning that this force traveled at a rate of 15 miles per day, and it should be noted that Thutmoses traveled with a sense of urgency to deal with a rebellion at Megiddo...If Humphreys' projected pace for the Israelites at 28 miles a day reflects reality, the Egyptian chariots going at the pace of 15 miles a day never would have caught up to the escaping Hebrews!
The text of the Bible should be the determining factor for deciding where Mount Sinai is-not interesting rock formations. These sensational theories do not clarify our understanding of the Bible-they confuse it-and lead us hundreds of miles in the wrong direction! Scientific, historical, archeological and biblical evidence points to Jebel el-Lawz as NOT being the biblical Mt. Sinai.
The Hieroglyphic Origins of the Hebrew Alphabet
Recently, Biblical Archeological Review published an interesting article about the origins of the Alphabet. Actually, the "English" alphabet (which is really the Roman or Latin alphabet) and the "Hebrew" alphabet have the same origin: Egyptian hieroglyphs. Each letter of the "Hebrew" alphabet was originally an Egyptian hieroglyph. Semitic slaves in Egypt invented the alphabet we used today using Egyptian hieroglyphs.
National Geographic has recently published a book on languages that are going extinct entitled "Last Speaker: The Quest to save the World's Most Endangered Languages" by K. David Harrison who also wrote "When Languages Die: The Extinction of the Worlds Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge." (A similar book is entitled "Vanishing Voices: the Extinction of World Languages" by Daniel Nettle.) These books seem to focus on languages in the Far East and do not mention Aramaic. Aramaic may be a dying language-but it has a fighting chance for survival. It currently has at least hundreds of thousands of speakers.
Remember the books I have available:
My books: The Words of Jesus in the Original Aramaic, Mary of Magdala, Treasures of the Language of Jesus, Aramaic: The Language of Jesus of Nazareth, Christ the Man and the upcoming The Hammer of God. From www.amazon.com. My Comics: The Assyrians: The Oldest Christian People, Chronicles: Facts from the Bible, and "The Hammer of God" series. From www.comixpress.com. JAAS Articles: I have three articles at the Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies: www.jaas.org. I also have my "youtube" which is www.youtube.com/aramaic12. And I have my blog. (My blog is mostly where I post these newsletters.) Its www.aramaicherald.blogspot.com
firstname.lastname@example.org, Stephen Missick PO Box 882, Shepherd, TX 77371