St James Anglican Church

Notes from the Clergy

When studying Hebrew I entered a world where roots held layers of meaning which were carried into the words that were formed by adding prefixes and suffixes. It meant that each word in the Hebrew Scriptures held a depth of meaning that was meant to be explored and contemplated. The difficulties of translation became evident. In the ancient world sacred scriptures were meant to be examined from at least three points of view. The intellectual or literal which means we need to explore the multiple meanings of the root. The metaphorical viewpoint means we need to think poetically by exploring the possible meanings of all those literal meanings. Exploring the mystical means we embrace the wordless experience to which the living words point. This third view point allows the sounds of the words to seep into our hearts, experience and feelings to transform us. The tragedy of Biblical translation is that the words that were meant to express many levels of meaning have been reduced to words with borders around them.

Aramaic would have been the native language Jesus spoke whereas Greek was the language between nations. Biblical scholars now believe that the gospels were originally written in Aramaic and then translated into Greek, then Latin, and then English. Some scholars are looking more closely at the The Peshitta Version of the gospels, a Syriac Aramaic manuscript which is considered by some as the oldest and most authoritative version of the bible.

For example consider the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer; “Our Father which art in heaven” translated from the Aramaic “Abwoon d’bwashmaya.” The root “ab” refers to all fruit, to all germination proceeding from the source of Unity. “ab” came to be used in the Aramaic word for personal father – abba. Abwoon is a derivative of abba but does not specify gender. The Aramaic “b” for spiritual and “w” for personal opens rich wordplay. The mystical understanding of letters and their sounds points beyond male or female concepts to something Cosmic. There are many more possibilities of meaning to consider but imagine the universe this opens to us as you read the following possible translations:

O Brother! Father-Mother of the Cosmos, you create all that moves in light.
Source of Sound: in the roar and the whisper, in the breeze and the whirlwind, we hear your name.
Radiant One: You shine within us, outside us – even darkness shines – when we remember.

Mother Alexis Saunders