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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