My Friend

Most of us struggle with friendships as it involves a measure of trust. Trusts can be broken and that fear drives some amongst us to be introverts. Thankfully, a lot of online and offline counselling resources exist for people suffering with the trauma of handling broken relationships. But, the scars never go away.

A lot of us turn to our faith when we see all the brokenness in the world around us. People are finicky and selfish, that’s our DNA. Maybe, it was the fruit at Eden ? So, what does our faith lead us to ? Or to be more precise do we see a ‘friend’ type of relationship with our Elohiymᴱˡ ?

In the Tanakh/Old Testament, Adonaiᴬᵈ is the ראשון, the First and, אחרון, the Lastᴵˢ. El-Elyonᴳᵉ is a Living Entity wreaking havoc on those who defy His miztvotᵐᶦ , warning them before letting loose the hammer. His Name is considered so Holy that it is not usually written or mentioned, unless in the act of quoting scripture. I am referring to the Tertragrammatonᵀᵉᵗ.

One of the mitzvot was that besides ordained priests aka Levites, no one could enter the Inner Temple. The קדש הקדשים or the Holiest of the Holy Place ( literal translation, otherwise Holy of Holiesᴷᵃᵈ ), was only accessible to the High Priest. The Ark of the Covenant was kept in the Holy of Holies, and a veil hid this inner sanctorum. There was a decorum to follow before entering the Holy of Holies, otherwise the priest would be struck down by El.

King Uzziahᵁᶻ was one of those who defied the mitzvah, he barged into the Inner Temple and offered incense. He was immediately struck down by צרעת, Tzaraath, a type of skin condition, ( rendering one ritually unclean and destined to be locked away far from habitation till they are healed ). His was not the only case of fiery Divine Punishment falling down on those defying mitzvot. I am mentioning Uzziah because otherwise he was a splendid king and did much for the betterment of the kingdom of Judah. His tale always brings a pang of remorse in my heart.

El-Israel is thus to be feared and respected. Does that mean that no one could claim Him to be a friend ? The Tanakh mentions just one individual, who was called as a friend by El-Shaddaiˢʰ : Abraham, ( although His face-to-face interaction with Moses also implies that Moses was like a friend ). But, that’s about it, for the rest, it was a different story.

The featured image displays the Hebrew word אהבי, from Isaiah 41:8, used for friend, when the El calls Abraham as His friend and then the Greek word φιλους, used in John 15:15, when Christ calls His followers as His friends.

With the advent of the Messiah, we see a titanic paradigm shift in the human-El relationship. Yeshua called all His followers as His friends !!! ᶠʳ We are not just עבד or servants, ( used frequently for Israel in the Tanakhᵉᵛ ). The Hebrew term ‘eved’ also implies slavery and serfdom. This is not all, we are effectively princes and princesses in His Kingdom ! A royal priesthoodᴾᵉᵗ ! I mean all of us, the street rabble, not just the kings and queens and the important people.

There is a message in this. El-Israel yearns to be with His Creation, so much so that He would walk amongst us, bear our sins, be crucified and rise up again to rule all dominions. In doing so, the veil of the Temple was tornᵛᵉ. The chasm between El and mankind was bridged over. Is this all that this wonderful and fantastic event conveys to us ? I think not, in fact I have just started off here.

Kicking off, in my view, this answers why the Messiah never explicitly emphasised on His Divinity vis-a-vis mankind. ( I am the El you worship –kind of stuff ). He did give sufficient hints both by His Wordsᴶ and His Healing Powers that He is the El-Israel but that was it. The point was that Christ was here not to reinforce the chasm between Him and sinful mankind, but to bridge it. That is why we also do not see His destructive power in play during His stay hereᴹ, which would have more than reinforced His Divinity but would also have proven counterproductive. A point that is missed by opponents.

The other takeaway is that this would be mankind’s last fling at Eternity before the Day of Judgementᴰᵃʸ. A sort of final bridge walk, before Creation is destroyed. There will be no more chances at getting it right. The Retribution ( His Destructive Power ) for mankind’s evil has been kept at abeyance, till the Day of Judgement. It’s like mighty waters that have been kept in check by a dam. The dam will be broken on that Day.

So, in conclusion we end up having an Eternal friend, who will never ditch us, come high or low. The shekinah, שכינהˢʰᵏ now rests in us. The laws are written in our heartsˡᵃʷ, and we are enslaved, or beholden by His Love for us. It works better this way. If men love somebody cause they have been won over, they will obey that person. Now, I do spiritual stuff not because I have to but because I want to. It makes life so much simpler and better.

References:

ᴱˡGenesis 1:26: First occurrence of the word אלהים , which I have literally translated to Elohiym, trying to keep it phonetically equivalent to Hebrew. It means the Deity that we worship.

ᴬᵈGenesis 15:2: First occurrence of the word Adonai, אדני, ‘Lord’.

ᴵˢIsaiah 48:12

ᴳᵉGenesis 14:18: First occurrence of the word לאל עליון, L’El Elyon or God the Most High.

ᵐᶦmitzvot

ᵀᵉᵗTetragrammaton

ᴷᵃᵈHoly of Holies

ᵁᶻUzziah

ˢʰGenesis 17:1: First occurrence of the words El Shaddai, אל שדי‘God Almighty’.

ᶠʳJohn 15:15 φίλους, friends.

ᵉᵛIsaiah 41:8: Another instance of the word , eved, עבדי or ‘Servant’ , used for Israel.

ᴾᵉᵗ1 Peter 2:9: ..βασιλειον ἱερατευμα εθνος ἁγιον..; a royal priesthood, a holy nation.

ᵛᵉMatthew 27:51: ..του καταπετασμα του ναου ἑσχισθη.., the veil of the temple was torn.

John 5:17: ..Πατερ μου ἑος ἁρτι ἑργαζεται καγο ἑργαζομαι, my Father works till now and I am working. Referring to the Sabbath, He is G-d of the Sabbath. At this point He had crossed the line and in the eyes of Jews was claiming to be G-d Himself, hardening the resolve of the religious zealots to kill Him.

Matthew 26:53: ἡ δοκεις ὁτι ου δυναμαι παρακαλεσαι τον Πατερα μου και παραστησει μοι ἁρτι πλειω δωδεκα λεγιωνας ἁγγελων. Don’t you know that I am able to call my Father and He will send 12 legions of angels, presently ? *This has reflections in the OT when King Hezekiah’s prayer was answered by sending ‘one angel’ that slew 185, 000 soldiers of the Assyrian king Sennacherib, who then fled back to his kingdom. 2 Kings 19:35*

ᴰᵃʸIsaiah 13:9 Judgement Day.

ˢʰᵏ2 Corinthians 6:16: ..ἡμεις γαρ ναος Θεου ἑσμεν.., we are the temple of God.

ˡᵃʷHebrews 10:16: ..διδους νομους μου ἑπι καρδιας αυτων.., putting my laws into their hearts.

Aramaic in the Old and New Testament

Winding down deeper into the Scriptural ancient scripts trail, one discovers so much more. It often seems like diving deeper and deeper into a bottomless ocean. There is so much knowledge and spirituality to be gained, I often wonder, as to how did I miss making this pleasant journey earlier in my life? It’s happening now all thanks to a microscopic bug labelled Covid. Ironic.

If you have read the previous ancient scripts trail post, then you know that Hebrew is the script for the Tanakh/Old Testament (OT) and Koine Greek for the New Testament (NT). However, it now emerges that considerable portions of the scripture text are written in Aramaic. Well, its just about 1% of the OT, but then that is about 250 verses, and a few of them in the NT too. ( The Gospel of Mark, chapter 5, verse 41 has the Aramaic “Talitha Kumi” or “Little girl, arise” also used as the featured image of this post. )

The Aramaic language was the official language of various empires that attacked and subjugated the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel and Judahʳᵉᶠ. Not surprising then that the books of Daniel and Ezra carry many chapters in Imperial Aramaic*, the lingua franca of the Babylonianᴺᵉᵇᵘ and the Achaemenidᶜʸʳ empires.

I was able to code in Imperial Aramaic to my system, for the pleasure of the interested readers. It has a Unicode block allotted to it, . Daniel chapter 2 verse 4 kicks off the Aramaic portion and it ends with chapter 7. The script reads from right to left.

Daniel 2:4 — Then the Chaldeans spoke to the King in Aramaic – “O King, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, we will give the interpretation.”

דניאל ב.ד — וידברו הכשדים למלך, ארמית: מלכא לעלמין חיי — אמר חלמא לעבדך ופשרא נחוא

𐡃𐡍𐡉𐡀𐡋 — 𐡅𐡉𐡃𐡁𐡓𐡅 𐡄𐡊𐡔𐡃𐡉𐡌 𐡋𐡌𐡋𐡊 𐡀𐡓𐡌𐡉𐡕 𐡌𐡋𐡊𐡀 𐡋𐡏𐡋𐡌𐡉𐡍 𐡇𐡉𐡉 — 𐡀𐡌𐡓 𐡇𐡋𐡌𐡀 𐡅𐡐𐡔𐡓𐡀 𐡍𐡇𐡅𐡀

Above, you can see the English, then Hebrew and lastly in bold italics, the Imperial Aramaic text. It almost takes me back to the time when Daniel must have stood before an enraged emperor i.e. Nebuchadnezzar, who wanted to tear apart all the magicians, soothsayers and wise men of his kingdom. He wanted them to tell him what his dream was and to interpret his dream. The slaughter was about to begin as no one was willing to do so. That is until Daniel stepped in. Living in faith was never easy.

The NT has far fewer Aramaic portions. The older Imperial Aramaic script had changed to a form closely resembling the Syriac-Aramaicᴾᵉˢʰ script. (The script reads from right to left and has its own Unicode block, allowing me to code it in my system.) It is an established fact that Aramaic was the common language in Israel, during the time of Christ. The Gospel of Mark, chapter 15 verse 34 has Aramaic in it.

Mark 15:34 — At the ninth hour, Jesus cried in a loud voice – “Eloi Eloi lema sabachtani” which is translated as “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”

ܐܠܝ ܐܠܝ ܠܡܢܐ ܫܒܩܬܢܝ

Aramaic in bold italics, above. The Syriac Peshitta NT puts it as ‘Eil Eil Lmana Shwaqthani’. I have rendered it as ‘Eli Eli Lmana Sabaqthani’ᴱˡᶦ, more in line with the traditional rendering. Some of the bystanders of the crucifixion, heard His cry, and misunderstood it as a call to Elijah. ‘Eli’ rhymes partly with ‘Elia’, Aramaic for Elijah.

The Aramaic script fills an important void as far as my understanding of the Scripture goes. It brings into focus the times of Jewish captivity and exile in Babylon and then other empires, then on to the Messiah and His Ministry. The language and the script continued to be used widely in the Middle-East till the 7th century AD. Thereafter, it managed to survive through the centuries in parts of Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Israel and India. Currently, it is the liturgical language of the Syriac Orthodox church.

That’s all from me.

Please do check out the references below if you are interested in digging deeper into Aramaic.

References:

ʳᵉᶠ History of ancient Israel and Judah

* Imperial Aramaic

ᴺᵉᵇᵘ Babylonian Kingdom

ᶜʸʳ Achaemenid Empire

ᴾᵉˢʰ Syriac-Aramaic Unicode Peshitta — The Syriac NT

‘ᴱˡᶦ The cry of the Messiah on the Cross — ‘Eli’ translates to ‘My God’, ‘El’ for God and the ‘i’ suffix denotes the genitive case ‘My’; ‘sebaq’ means to forsake, in Aramaic.