What Did Jesus Say?

Published under: Spirituality

With all the pas­sion sur­round­ing Jesus’s teach­ings and their impact on our views of the Mid­dle East - let’s explore the “real” mean­ing behind Jesus’s words.

Jesus and his dis­ci­ples spoke in the ancient Ara­maic lan­guage. His words were later writ­ten down in Greek and Ara­maic (see the Bible used by the Assyr­ian Ara­maic & Syr­ian Ortho­dox Chris­tians today).

Accord­ing to the scholar Neil Douglas-Klotz, our view of Jesus’s teach­ings — and Mid­dle East­ern Spir­i­tu­al­ity in gen­eral– have been dis­torted by the dif­fer­ences in the mean­ing derived from trans­lat­ing these very dif­fer­ent languages.

In other words, there’s a big dif­fer­ence between the mean­ing of Jesus’s words spo­ken (and writ­ten) in Ara­maic and the mean­ing we get from the Greek trans­la­tions. And, these dis­torted mean­ings under­lie the literally-based under­stand­ing of Jesus’s teach­ings used by many Chris­tians today.

Accord­ing to Douglas-Klotz, the Greek lan­guage “likes to cre­ate neat, sep­a­rate cat­e­gories for every­thing” while the Ara­maic lan­guage is a “much more open, fluid lan­guage.” It expresses a 3-dimensional qual­ity that adds “poetry and ambi­gu­ity” to Jesus’s words.

Rich in “sound-meaning,” Jesus’s teach­ings were meant to res­onate on an intel­lec­tual, metaphor­i­cal, and uni­ver­sal level. Ara­maic offers a wholis­tic view of real­ity. There’s no need to dif­fer­en­ti­ate between “mind, body, and spirit.”

Unlike the Greek lan­guage, Ara­maic does not drawn sharp lines between means and ends, or between “inner” or “outer” actions. When Jesus talks about the “king­dom of heaven” — it is always both “within” and “among” us. “Neigh­bor” is both “inside” and “out­side” of us.

From the Greek: From the Aramaic:
“Good” ver­sus “Evil.” “Ripe” ver­sus “Unripe.”
“This is my blood.” Blood can mean “blood,” “wine,” “juice,“
or “dis­tilled essence of the cosmos.”
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” “Blessed are the gen­tle.” Or it can be “blessed are those who have soft­ened the rigid­ity within.”

The words of Jesus — and the other prophets of Judaism, Chris­tian­ity, and Islam — are meant to chal­lenge the listener/reader to under­stand their mean­ing in terms of their own life expe­ri­ences. The goal is to cul­ti­vate inner resources and con­tinue to honor the spir­i­tual nature that’s unfolding.

Per­haps you won’t find the con­crete, defin­i­tive mean­ing that our west­ern mind demands — but, hope­fully you’ll be guided on a jour­ney that deep­ens your expe­ri­ence of what it means to be human.

Prayers of the Cos­mos”, Neil Douglas-Klotz. Harper­Collins, San Fran­cisco, 1994

Arti­cle: “Desert Wis­dom and the New Cos­mol­ogy,” Neil Douglas-Klotz, 1999, down­load here.

Learn more about Native Mid­dle East­ern Spir­i­tu­al­ity at www.abwoon.com.

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