Tag Archives: Syriac

An old hymn to Christ

Theologians have struggled too much and the most important thing is charity and love among brothers and sisters, represented in the epistle of today by the CROSS. Here it is, like a personal humble tribute to victims of wars and terrorism, my translation from Syriac into English of Philippians 2, 6-11:

He (Jesus) was of the God’s clan (the corresponding Syriac word is a derivative from the Semitic root “dm” which has connotations related to “blood”; this term is also present in Gn 1,26).  It was no abuse to have considered this: becoming equal to God.

On the contrary, he renounced to himself by taking the condition (here again the term that remits to “blood”) of a serf. He was of human nature (again that term) and he looked like a man in his appearance.

And now, if the hymn has a structure of chiasmus, then this is the central and most important verse:

He made himself humble and obedient until his death: his death in the CROSS.

That is why God multiplied his attributes of greatness and gave Him a fame (literally a “NAME”) which is over all of the honors (of any of those attributes).

In this previous verse, employing the term “NAME” is rather impressive for traditional ears because “NAME” is a respectful way of citing YHWH (the forbidden name of God) in Old Testament and Targumim writings.

Then, in the name of Jesus, every knee (or benediction, as there may be a polysemy game at this point) is bowing (or will bow; the imperfect aspect in Semitic languages may mean both present and future tenses), let it be in the heaven as also on and under the earth. (This enumeration of three cosmic dimensions is a reminder of the common cosmology for the Ancient Near East).

Every tongue confesses (or will confess) that the Lord is Jesus, the Messiah, by the splendor of His Father.

This confession means a firm nexus between YHWH and Jesus Christ.  In New Testament context “the Lord” implies God Himself.

May we have a peaceful Holy Week and lets us pray for our sisters and brothers who are suffering in today`s Near East!

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 http://www.dukhrana.com/peshitta/

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-