Jesus spoke Semitic languages not Greek

We were reading Mark 5 recently and my curiosity was stirred by verse 41 where Mark records the healing of Jarius’ daughter.  In raising her to life, Jesus:

“He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!”

This expression “Talitha cum” is Aramaic, it is transliterated into Greek.1  Ie the text is neither Greek or Hebrew, but Greek letters spelling out Aramaic words.  This raises several questions.  What language did Jesus speak?  Why are these expressions in the gospels?  What are the implications of these sayings? Continue reading “Jesus spoke Semitic languages not Greek”

Agapaō and phileō

Use and abuse in the gospels

Love is one of the central themes of the holy scriptures. The glorious hope of everlasting life that we share is a gift from our Heavenly Father, whose love was the prime motivation in sacrificing His Son for us (John 3:16). A recognition of this fact naturally leads us to demonstrate love to one another. The Apostle John says as much in his First Epistle:

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11)1

Many of us have a passing familiarity with two of the common Greek words behind our English term “love” in the New Testament: agapaō and phileō.2 Common wisdom is that two different kinds of love are intended whenever these words appear: Continue reading “Agapaō and phileō”

Which Old Testament?

On the central importance of the Septuagint

Timothy’s scriptures

from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God 2 Timothy 3:15-16 KJV

Paul commends the spiritual heritage of Timothy, noting his childhood education provided him a solid grounding in Scripture. Occasionally we might be prompted to ask – what Scripture? It is self-evidence to most Protestants today that Paul is referring to the Hebrew bible, or Old Testament (OT) reflected in the Protestant canon. However, this is making assumptions, quite a few assumptions but we will explore only one – which text was scripture? Continue reading “Which Old Testament?”

Seers, Prophets, and Lexical Change

Samuel remained Samuel, but the word used to describe him did not

The book we call the Bible was written over the space of hundreds of years. Given this huge span of time we’d expect to see change in the way language is used throughout its pages. And we do. Continue reading “Seers, Prophets, and Lexical Change”

Bridging the Gap – Culture and Language

Taking the time to carefully understand the Biblical culture of the passage at hand

“We can easily forget that Scripture is a foreign land and that reading the Bible is a crosscultural experience. To open the Word of God is to step into a strange world where things are very unlike our own. Most of us don’t speak the languages.We don’t know the geography or the customs or what behaviours are considered rude or polite. And yet we hardly notice… we tend to read Scripture in our own ‘when’ and ‘where’, in a way that makes sense on our terms.” 1

Those who have had the opportunity to travel overseas understand the need to learn about local culture in the places they are going to visit. It could be dangerous not to! You might behave quite differently in Dubai compared to how you would in London or New York. Yet we can be so familiar with the Bible that we forget that opening its pages is an experience of different languages and cultures to our own. Continue reading “Bridging the Gap – Culture and Language”