Category Archives: Soteriology

The ” faith” is an engagement.

Or I could have also said: “to believe is joining a project”. That can be if we look at the roots: the roots of the words in the 2nd half of Mark 1:15 -extracted out of the Peshitto, following the Old version in a Sinaitic palimpsest: see presentation of One root: “twb”. Its semantic field is “good”, “large” … In modern Hebrew i.e. it is said with the same lexical root: “boker tov” (GOOD morning). Another root: “)mn” of the semantic field of AMEN, the emphatic expression of agreement. With these premises it may be quite understandable that we can translate:

the kingdom of God arrived: do good and stay engaged firmly with His message.

In other ancient languages – Greek or Latin- the nuances have evolved in a different way: the meaning of the root of the “amen” became “faith”, so that the possible initial Semitic concept of vital engagement could be later understood as a sort of ideological believing or of pious good will.

A productive conclusion of this translation could be now, in this week of praying for the union among Christians, to rise a question: if a certain celebrity of the XVI century could have translated the Scriptures from a Semitic language and not from Latin or Greek … Would there have still been a sense in the old debates about  “salvation by faith”?

By the way, let us remember that the Semitic root that corresponds to “salvation” is life.



Zechariah 9, a cocktail of stories.

On this 14th Sunday in ordinary time, we do not read but verses 9 and 10 of Zechariah 9. But there is much more in the chapter: severe judgements by God, promises for “prisoners of hope”, difficult Hebrew expresions to translate everywhere (copysts and editors along centuries must have contributed with their failures and well intentioned purposes to add complexity) and finally, thank goodness, a happy end.  My translation from the Hebrew text (Stuttgartensia edition) is devoted to this very last verse of chapter 9 of Zechariah, plenty of eucharistic remembrances for a Christian reader:

How good and nice it is! The selected grain and a new wine make flourish the young women.

Who are these young women? If you eat the best bread and wine in the world , you also, dear reader, may be one of this “young women”, no matter if you are a gentleman and/or more than x years old.



St. Valentine: let us speak about love

I remember an old song by Raphael. If you want to refresh your Spanish:

But there are different ways of loving. For example, the first reading for this 6th Sunday in ordinary time (cycle A) makes reference to a rather special love: The love towards the Torah, the five first books of the Bible. I will translate the old Hebrew version of Ecclesiasticus 15:15, somehow freely but faithful to the inner meaning:

If you really feel the desire,

you will be a jealous keeper 

of the Law and of its meaning

in order to be acquainted 

about His intention. If you trust Him…

¡He is coming and you will live!

And who can be a so a fervent follower of the Law? To find a suggestion for the quiz, please, read the first verse of this Sunday’s gospel, Mt 5:17.

If you want know more about the Hebrew version book of Ecclesiasticus, my recommendation is


Beatitudes in freshness

Throughout centuries and centuries, strong messages have become forgotten and, if too strong, at the end they arrived but only decaffeinated: Too many walls and the sound becomes weaker and weaker. Work by translators is not innocent. Sticked to original ancient texts –Curetonian gospels, for example, like in -we can however unearth old messages that do renew if we find the right words.

Let us break the walls and recover meanings:

A blessing that the poor ones have in their spirits is that they become landlords of the heavens’ kingdom.

A blessing of the sad ones is that they get comfort.

A blessing of the humble ones is that they inherit the land.

A blessing that the hungry and thirsty ones of justice (root Sdq , look at “Category Archives: Sdq” and, for example, the entry have is that they are satisfied.

A blessing of the compassionate ones is that there is compassion for them (“compassion”more or less equivalent to “mercy”, look at the corresponding entries of this category).

A blessing of those ones who have their hearts purified is that they see God.

A blessing of the servants of the peace is that they are called “sons of God”.

A blessing of the persecuted ones because they follow the justice (again, root Sdq) is that they are masters of the kingdom of heavens.

Your blessing is when the people are persecuting, criticizing and defaming  you in every way, due to my NAME ( this Semitic expression may mean YHWH, a respectful way of designating God; see

Rejoice and  be happy on that day! Then, your reward increases in the heaven. In the same way your ancestors were persecuting those prophets who were before you.

That was Matthew 5:3-12. Without cosmetics!



Drilling deep

Some experts think that there is a sort of “stratabound I” in Luke’s Gospel and Acts: a kind of more or less distorted fossil voice of the very same Jesus (and/or the first apostles). Most of these experts expect that from the Greek text.
But how about if we try to drill a small but deep borehole through a very ancient Syriac version? Let me remind you that Syriac is a brother language of Aramaic, the most probable mother tongue of Jesus, his mother, his family …
I have employed the kind help of DUKHRANA tool.
Only for your eyes, readers of this blog, here you have my English version from the Syriac Sinaitic Palimpsest of Luke 20, verses 37 and 38:
About the dead ones who rise up, Moses had already taught, concerning the talk of God with him in the (burning, it must be supposed) bush that the Lord had said:

God is of Abraham, God is of Isaac, God is of Jacob.

Then, God is not of the dead ones but of the living ones! As all of them are living by means of Him.
And, please, do not let aside the following verse, the 39, that is remarkable although not included in the reading for this 32th Sunday on ordinary time:
The men of the Scriptures (safr, ethymological Semitic root, via Arabic first and then Latin, for the word “cypher”) said tho him: “Teacher! How beautifully (shapir, the root originating the name for a gemstone) you have spoken!”
The exclamation marks are from mine: There are never neither exclamation nor interrogative marks in ancient Syriac manuscripts. And the most of the times there are not even vowels!
But have you caught the game of sounds safr/shapir? That is completely lost in the Greek, Latin and the rest of versions. Perhaps it is even more captivating the meanings game:
And that is my personal view, that many biblical texts are wildly beautiful from a starting point; that is why they are able to catch minds and harts by its intrinsic “splendor”. After then, philosophy, reflection and so on come. Unfortunately, too many times, manipulation and illusion too.

Nobody takes care of Lazarus

Not even the very evangelist, as he describes Lazarus as a passive, dumb character: no feelings or thoughts has Lazarus but hunger and his empty stomach. He is just the model of the poor ones we have also today next to us;  we often do not know what they think or feel because they can not even type with a keyboard, as I’m doing now, and express themselves.

However, dogs do want him. Some believe that dogs come and compete against him for the crumbs. On the contrary, I think more positively on the base of the symbolic value of dogs in the ancient Mesopotamia and in the hellenistic world. For example: Professor Charpin tells us (in French), the dog was the typical pet of the goddess Gula, the doctor goddess. Please, look at the video from minute 6 on:

No problem if you cannot understand French. Professor Charpin shows a quite pretty parade of ancient art describing the association between dog licking and skin therapies. Yes, these cute pets were a natural medicament against some dermatological diseases. So, Lazarus could enjoy a dogs love at least.

What is quite clear from the Evangelist is the forename of the poor one. It is a key name meaning “God (in Semitic, El, from this term is derived the Arabic Allah ) has helped.” Following those rules on evolution for phonetic sounds -so well known by philologists- El ‘azar became  Lazar in Syriac and then Lazarus, in Latin.

Perhaps that is why the rich man from the other world asks -without any success- for help from Lazarus: because the name  of the poor one implies “God’s help“.

So, what about looking after the poor without waiting for our underworld tour?

Very ancient traces

The epistle of this 25th Sunday in ordinary time cites-according to experts- the refrain of an old hymn or formula of faith in verses 5 to 6a of  1Ti 2. A kind of ride by the time machine towards the era of the first Jesus communities. As a matter of fact, verses 3 to 6a are very dense: it redirects to high-level theology .  But that is just not the subject of this blog. Let’s better embark on a little   tour  with words, a sort of handycraft with language.

Most known modern translations employ sensitive words: saviour, redemption … I would better suggest coming back to some of the very origins: for exemple,  to the standard version  of the Bible in Syriac, called Peshitta, offered to all us thanks to DUKHRANA tool

It is worthy reminding that Syriac is an ancient Semitic language, very next to the possible mother tongue of Jesus, a kind of Aramaic dialect. In our selected fragment, we find a recurrent Syriac lexical root: ܚܝܐ which means LIFE.  By the way, this root is just the same also in Hebrew, Arabic, classical Ethiopic and so on -of course, changing the usual letters for  each one of every language-.

Obviously, the persistence of this root with meaning of “life” does not imply that soteriology (a theological branch that deals with the concept of “salvation”) could be minimized to the rank of a reflection about life. Nevertheless, (good) life is an aspect closely related to salvation. If we would stay among gourmets, it would be said  that rice is to paella (a Spanish receipt) what life means to salvation.

Here is my own versión-specially for your eyes- of 1Ti 2, 3-6a:

“This (prayers, thankgivings, etc, mentioned in previous verses)  is beautiful and acceptable to God, who gives life (it is employed a kind of active participle of a verb with a lexical content next to “giving life “). He wants all human beings to live (again, the same root) and to pay attention to the knowledge of the truth.

One is God,
one is the mediator of God and of the human beings:
Jesus, the man, the Messiah.
He is himself the one who gives ransom in favour to everybody.”

It remains a high density text but I think  that, somehow, we simplify the equation. If you desire so, classical translations to compare with may be also found in the mentioned website of DUKHRANA.

And a last comment: experts in liturgy cut the reading of the Biblical text just in verse 8. Personally, I find it better that way, because if not, then some specific advice for ladies comes next and, nowadays, perhaps this precise piece of advice may be considered not always politically correct. Although from a certain point of view, some of these recommendations can also be regarded as “unisex” as far as some gentlemen could exercise some more austerity too.

Have a nice Sunday-