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Q&As for the Media

This page contains helpful Questions and Answers which the Media may find useful as a guide for interviews and discussions.

You are the "brains" behind JesusSpokeAramaic.com. You created the concept, designed the website and developed it. Tell us why?

  • I am very passionate about Aramaic and I want others to know what Aramaic has to offer Bible students.
  • My goal is to bring Aramaic to the world, to make it better known and more mainstream.
  • The website is dedicated to the Aramaic language, but in the context of the Bible.
  • It is designed to make Aramaic accessible, for the first time EVER, i.e. to make it possible for anyone to really learn it.
  • I wanted it to be a fun and engaging website, for people of all levels and backgrounds.
  • It is based around video lessons, and is very practical, showing examples.
  • It is definitely not meant to be a dry, academic, website for people to pass exams and get certificates and learn in theory.
  • It covers the history and background of Aramaic. This is new to many people!
  • Biblical Aramaic (parts of the Old Testament are in Aramaic, not Hebrew).
  • The Aramaic New Testament (Peshitta), a version of the NT going back to earliest times.
  • The Jewish Targums (the ‘official’ Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament).
  • The Peshitta Old Testament, an ancient translation of the Hebrew Bible which the early church adopted.
  • More video lessons are being added over time. 
  • About 200 so far… Aiming for about 500.
  • Also a growing list of DVDs are available.

Where did this inspiration and passion come from?

  • There is a lot of history behind this - it depends how much time you have!
  • With a solid background in Hebrew, I started learning Aramaic seriously in the early 2000s.
  • But in 2007, out of the blue, with no warning, I was struck down with a very serious illness.
  • Unknown to me, a bacteria (Staphylococcus) got into my neck (somehow) and went into the vertebrae of my neck, and started eating away at the vertebrae.
  • Over a period of about 7 weeks, I went from being completely healthy to being in agony. I also couldn't walk or move properly, but at the time I didn't know why.
  • I got an X-ray, and it became clear that two of the vertebra had been eaten away, and my neck had collapsed. But worse, this had pinched the nerves coming out of the neck, and my spinal cord was badly damaged because of the inflammation.
  • It took a few days before I could get an emergency operation, and by that time I was almost 100% paralyzed, more or less a quadriplegic
  • It was a complete disaster. While I learned to walk again after a few months, I nearly didn't recover the use of my arms at all.
  • I was unable to work for 9 months, and by the end my life savings were gone.
  • But I spent those 9 months studying Aramaic intensively, just like I had studied Hebrew intensively in the language school in Israel.
  • As a result, I wanted to rebuild my life and start over again. I had come so close to death that nothing else mattered.
  • So once life got back to something close to normal, I did some intensive thinking on how I could bring Aramaic to the world, to show people what Aramaic had to offer.
  • It took some thought, but I eventually planned and carefully thought out the whole idea and how it could be done.
  • Aramaic completely enriched my understanding of the Bible.
  • I was getting so much from it, that I wanted to share it with the world.
  • The website arose out of that desire and excitement.
  • Learning Aramaic takes time, so I wanted a website that people could stick with and grow with, as they learned Aramaic in the context of the Bible.

You believe that Aramaic is revolutionizing and transforming the study of the New and Old Testament. Tell us why and in what ways?

  • Millions of Christians around the world "study the Bible". They believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, which it is.
  • But we live in a world which is very distant from the Bible. A different cultural context.
  • We live in the West. But the Bible was born in the Middle East - a very troubled region today.
  • None of the people in the Bible spoke English. They all spoke Hebrew and/or Aramaic.
  • They were all either Jews, or early converts to the Hope of Israel, as Paul describes it.
  • Our world is very different.
  • We have layers of history that need to be "unpeeled" before we can truly understand the Bible in its context.
  • We need to step back in time before we can really understand the Bible properly.
  • We generally read translations of the Bible. That’s not the same (at all) as reading the Bible, i.e. the actual Bible, the Word of God, as God gave it.
  • When you peel back those layers of tradition, of interpretation, it’s like you step back in time into the world of the Bible.
  • You get back to a true, original and authentic form of Christianity, something more pure and uncluttered by 2000 years of living in the West, with all the problems of modern-day life.
  • If you let it, this will transform your understanding of the Bible.
  • If you spend some time, this website will be like a revolution. You will be able to read the very words of God, the very words of Jesus.
  • You will be able to understand the parables in the language that Jesus spoke, the way he preached, the words themselves, not just the ideas. You can feel the power behind the words.
  • If that doesn’t transform and revolutionize your life, I don’t know what will.
  • Aramaic is fundamentally important from a Biblical context. Yet it is hardly studied. Hardly any colleges, or seminaries, or universities, or churches, offer courses in it. That’s crazy. Let’s transform Bible study.
  • Oftentimes, when you read the Aramaic, and compare it with the Greek, you get some very different understandings of the parables, or Bible passages. Some of those understandings can be revolutionary.

Tell us about Aramaic.

  • Aramaic is the language that Jews mostly spoke in the first century Israel/Palestine, i.e. Jesus would have spoken Aramaic, as would the disciples, and their preaching was done in Aramaic.
  • Ten years ago, Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ was filmed in Aramaic. I remember it. It sparked huge world-wide wave of interest in Aramaic.
  • I know that latent interest is still there. People are fascinated by Aramaic. By the idea of it. They would love to learn it. And people now have the chance to do exactly that.
  • Aramaic goes right back to ancient times and was the official language of the earliest Middle Eastern empires in the Bible - the Assyrian Empire and Babylonian Empire.
  • Aramaic appears in Genesis - the very first book of the Bible.
  • Aramaic is present in the three major divisions of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament - the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.
  • Several chapters of the Old Testament (Ezra and Daniel) are written in Aramaic.
  • It is Judaism’s second Holy Language. (Hebrew is the first).
  • It is still spoken by small communities across the Middle East today.
  • Aramaic is closely related to Hebrew.

Who is your website aimed at? Does one need to have a background in Aramaic or a Semitic language? Is Aramaic something that anyone can learn, young or old, Baptist or Presbyterian, student or not?

  • It is designed to be a non-denominational site, so everyone is welcome.
  • If you believe the Bible, or you want to strengthen your faith, you will love this site.
  • My journey into Aramaic has been unique and personal. I learned Hebrew first, and Aramaic was therefore not a difficult step.
  • Over the years, probably hundreds of people have said to me that they “would love to learn Aramaic”. But:
  • Aramaic looks difficult (it is a different alphabet, right to left, etc.)
  • It is not very accessible or approachable - there are a few grammars, etc. It is not “mass market”, unlike NT Greek, for instance.
  • So I designed this website with those things in mind.
  • Aramaic is not difficult. Getting started is probably the hardest part!
  • I wanted to take people from NOTHING - literally no knowledge at all, and take them through the steps they need to go through, in a way that is engaging and encouraging.
  • It is designed to be mass market. For anyone - young, old, experienced, or not.
  • You do not need a background in Semitic language.
  • It is self-paced. You go at your own speed. You can watch the videos as often as you want.
  • If it is all new, you just go slowly and watch the videos a few times.
  • If you have some background, then you’ll obviously learn faster.
  • If you have some knowledge already, such as knowing Hebrew, you will LOVE it, and you will storm through the lessons.

How can people utilize JesusSpokeAramaic.com? What is the ultimate aim/goal of your website and what it has to offer? How can people sign up and get started?

  • First of all, go to the website and have a look around. It is a beautiful. You'll love it.
  • You can make a Donation if you like, to support the website.
  • There are a good number of sample videos, where we give people an idea of the format of the video lessons, and what they look like.
  • If you enter your email address, there is a free Newsletter where I will send you some informational and inspirational emails about once a week.
  • But ideally people should commit to learning Aramaic for a while. Just get started!
  • Let this website open your eyes to what Aramaic has to offer.
  • It is a subscription site, so the full website is not free, but there are a whole range of costs to fit in with everyone's budget.
  • There are one-off subscriptions for a period of time (1, 3, 6, 9, 12 months, 2 years, and a Lifetime), or a low cost monthly subscription is available.
  • There is also a full Refund Policy, so if people subscribe and just don't like it, they can get a refund within the period they subscribed for.
  • More lessons are being added over time. Lots more material to come this year.

Recently in the news it was announced that a copy of the Gospel of Mark had been found inside an Egyptian mummy. What do you think the significance of this is?

  • Here is my take on it...
  • There are two types of people in this world - those who believe the Bible, and those who do not.
  • The Bible skeptics, the atheists, the agnostics, the academics who make their living from criticizing the Bible, would like to believe that the Bible is not the Word of God, that it is the work of man, written decades after the events, re-written, edited, added to, changed, lots of people helped to write it, etc.
  • But the Bible says that the gospels and New Testament letters are the work of the apostles themselves, all eye-witnesses of the events, all guided by the Holy Spirit to create a divinely inspired record of those events.
  • And every so often, something big happens that proves that the Bible was right after all, and that the critics were wrong (as they always are).
  • So this find shows that the gospel of Mark was written much earlier than the critics would like to believe, that it has been faithfully preserved down through the centuries, that we can trust the Bible.
  • This happens a lot. Archaeology proves the Bible true, time and time again.
  • That is what I discovered when I first started to read the Bible.
  • Its pages came alive to me. God’s Word is a living miracle. We can trust it.

Will you continue to expand your website and what it has to offer?

  • The website is a bit like hitting the "mother lode" when you are working a gold mine.
  • If you want to learn Aramaic, "you have come to the right place".
  • But it is still only one website, a starting point. There are other good resources out there, when people are ready for them.
  • I can certainly grow the website in all sorts of ways - more DVDs, more lessons, Workbooks, more structured Courses, CDs of reading the Scriptures in Aramaic, etc.
  • But I want Aramaic to take its rightful place at the heart of Biblical studies.
  • I want to make Aramaic become more mainstream.
  • The day that I walk in to a Christian bookshop, and see lots of books and CDs about learning Aramaic, that’s the day when I know I have "made a dent in the universe", as Steve Jobs of Apple used to say.
  • This website is like a ripple in a pond, which will create waves.
  • Ultimately, I would like to do a similar website for Hebrew, to show people the miracles in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), such as Bible prophecy, the miracles there, the amazing things that I have discovered over the years which hardly anyone else knows about - like gematria (numbers), acrostics, plays on words, poetry, and so on. God’s handiwork in the Holy Scriptures is amazing.
  • But I also need more time to work on my other website, BibleManuscriptSociety.com, where I want to show people the amazing and miraculous history of the Bible.
  • I have lots more to do and I have some amazing ideas for the future... Stay tuned!

Most people have heard about the Greek New Testament. What is the Aramaic New Testament?

  • The Greek New Testament is the most well known, at least in the West.
  • The Greek NT is what most modern translations are translated form, even older ones such as the King James Bible.
  • But that is only the case in the West. It is only half the story of Christianity. It is the half we are most familiar with because of Paul’s missionary journeys into Europe.
  • But Christianity also spread East - right across the Middle East and into India and beyond.
  • That entire history is known only in the Aramaic New Testament, not Greek.
  • It is an untold story.
  • The Aramaic NT goes back just as far as the Greek, actually even older.
  • It has been preserved perfectly for the past 2000 years - across countries, across continents, for century after century, through wars, thorough Crusades, and much more.
  • But when we carefully compare the Aramaic with the Greek, that is when it gets even more interesting...
  • It turns out that hundreds, literally hundreds, of variant readings in Greek can be explained by the Aramaic New Testament.
  • Problems, discrepancies, that critics point out in the Greek, just don’t happen in Aramaic.
  • The Aramaic is also full of puns, poetry, idioms, plays on words, humour.
  • All these are examples of an original text.
  • While this is all fairly “new” in the West, in the East it has been known for 2000 years!
  • Eastern churches still use the Aramaic Peshitta, and still do the liturgy in Aramaic.
  • So by looking at the Aramaic, it makes studying the New Testament much more interesting and enjoyable.
  • The Aramaic deserves to be better understood, to become mainstream.

Why have you dedicated 25 years of study to learning Hebrew and Aramaic?

  • I grew up in a secular family. We didn’t read the Bible or ever talk about it.
  • I don’t even think I had seen a Bible until I was 19 or 20 years old.
  • But one day, a story in itself, I "found" the Bible (or maybe it found me)?
  • It was like the parable of the sower. Some seed just fell on good ground, where it took root.
  • The Bible blew me away. It was like nothing else I had ever read.
  • There was prophecy - cities, nations and empires were described in detail, their fates foretold hundreds, even thousands of years before it happened.
  • There was archaeology, verifying the truth of the Bible.
  • The Bible reveals the future.
  • But I knew that what we have is only a translation.
  • I knew I would never be happy with a translation. I would always be at the mercy of the translator.
  • So after I was baptised (while still young), I purposed in my heart that I would not rest until I could understand the Holy Scriptures - the Word of God - in the original languages.
  • This has been a journey for me, a mission. I just kept going no matter what.
  • I learned Biblical Greek, then Hebrew, then I went to Israel and studied Hebrew intensively for 6 months at Ulpan Akiva in Netanya, then I worked in Israel afterwards.
  • Then I found Aramaic. It was amazing. Exciting. Like a forgotten treasure.
  • When you can read the Word of God in the original languages, it is NOTHING like reading a translation. Nothing at all.
  • There is a power and vibrancy behind the words of God that a translation can never capture.
  • It is the difference between seeing a beautiful painting painted by a master-artist, seeing the depth, the beauty, the individual brush-strokes, and then looking at a 2D photo of the picture.
  • Original languages have excitement, idioms, acrostics, poetry, humour, puns, plays on words.
  • It takes time to learn a language like Hebrew or Aramaic, but it is worth every minute.
  • Reading a translation is like looking at your bride through a veil - the real truth and beauty will always be concealed.