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Posted by {POSTER NAME} , updated Tuesday, August 20, 2002 8:29 AM
"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'" -Matthew 27:46 (NKJV)


Ah, one of my favorite subjects. Eeshoo's last words. Only two of the 4 Gospels agree on what Eeshoo' said, both accounts of which are recorded in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34. Unfortunately, the major Greek texts do not agree on how it sounded like, completely:

The Texts:


The Byzantine/Majority Text recalls:

"ADD GREEK" (ネi ネi! Lima sabakhthani?) for Matthew and
"ADD GREEK" (Eloi Eloi! Lima sabakhthani?) for Mark.

The Westcott-Hort Text recalls:

"ADD GREEK" (Eloi Eloi! Lema sabakhthani?) for Matthew and
"ADD GREEK" (Eloi Eloi! Lama sabakhthani?) for Mark.

And the Textus Receptus recalls:

"ADD GREEK" (ネi ネi! Lama sabakhthani?) for Matthew and
"ADD GREEK" (Eloi Eloi! Lam-ma sabakhthani?) for Mark.


The Old Syriac Sinaitic recalls:

"ܐܠܝ ܠܡܢܐ ܫܒܩܬܢܝ" (Eelee! Lmana shv子tani?) for Matthew and
"ܐܠܗܝ ܠܡܢܐ ܫܒܩܬܢܝ" (ネahee! Lmana shv子tani?) for Mark.

The Old Syriac Curetonian verses are unfortunately lost.

The Peshitta recalls:

"ܐܰܠܺܝ ܠܡܳܢܳ ܫܒ݂ܰܩܬܐܢܺܝ" (Eel Eel! Lmana shv子tani?)

What Can Be Seen:

Now, knowing that Aramaic documents at the time of the NT were circulated in script that contained no vowel or dialect markings, I'd have to say that this is another instance that screams for an Aramaic original: Vowel diversity among the Greek wittnesses (it's never spelled the same twice!).

The first thing to take into mind is the Sinaiticユs text. "ܐܠܝ" (Eelee) was only recorded with those three letters, Al姿-L士仕-Yood. Although two of them are considered "weak" consonants (Al姿, being silent without a vowel, and Yod, for it acts like the Roman メyモ), there could be any number of vowel combinations that one could use: Eeli / ネi / Ooli / Ehli / Ahli / Ooly / ネy / Eely / Eloi / ネoi, etc. simply by inserting vowels inbetween the consonants. This is why Aramaic has such a wide range of dialects, like Hebrew originally did (although Hebrew now is standardized to a great extent, while modern Aramaic is not).

Keep the vowel discussion in mind; I will get back to it later.

For now, whether it was ネee/Eloee/Eelee (which can be different dialects of "My God" with the personal pronoun my ("ܝ") ending), ネahee ("My God!"), or Eel ("God!"), we know that Eesho' was crying out to His Father so that the people could hear him.

Unfortunately, the Gospels record that people wittnessing His death didn't completely understand who he was calling to:

And some of those who were near by, hearing it, said, This man is crying to Elijah.
- Matthew 27:47 (BBE)
And some of those who were near, hearing it, said, See, he is crying to Elijah.
- Mark 15:35 (BBE)


A Matter of Dialect:

Another thing to remember is that there were also a lack of dialect marks on Aramaic documents as well, which have to do with what are called asperations. These were eventually marked, starting in the 4th century, by placing a dot under the letter to be asperated.

The majority of asperations take a consonant, and add an airier quality to it's sound. This is why the ܒ (beet) in "ܫܒܩܬܢܝ" (shv子tanee) is pronounced like a "v" instead of a "b."

The table below lists all asperations in both modern-day Eastern and Western Aramaic (as explained elsewhere on this site):

Beet (ܒ)
can become Vit (ܒ݂) as in very. ("V")

Gamél (ܓ)
can become Khamél (ܓ݂) (sounds like a Ghayth) ("GH")
or it can become Jamél (ܓ̰) as in jazz. ("J")
(In some Western manuscripts and documents, Jamél is marked by a dot, and there is no such thing as Khamél).

Dalath (ܕ)
can become Dhalath (ܖ݂) as in this. ("DH")
(Note how the dot on a normal Dalath is written lower than usual.)

Kap (ܟ)
can become Khap (ܟ݂) (sounds like a Kheyt) ("KH")
or it can become Chap (ܟ̰) as in chips. ("CH")

Pe (ܦ)
can become Fe (ܦ݂) as in fish. ("F")

The last issue to address about the text of the translitteration, itself, is that in Greek there is only one gutteral consonant, the letter "ADD GREEK" (chi), where in Aramaic, there are 4:

"ܚ" (kheyt), "ܛ" (gh孜th), "ܩ" (qoop), and "ܥ" (ユe).

This is why the "ܩ" (qoop) in "ܫܒܩܬܢܝ" (shv子tanee) was translitterated as a "ADD GREEK" (chi), when in reality, the sound is a bit different. Putting these small vairations and misunderstandings aside, the words that are currently of the most importance are "ܠܡܢܐ ܫܒܩܬܢܝ" (Lmana shv子tanee) which when traditionally translated come to mean, "Why have you left/forsaken me?"

This never seemed to make sense to me. Why would the Messiah, Godユs Annointed One, be forsaken?

Theories and Explainations:

The first theory proposed was that it was a quote of Psalm 22:1:

ytgav yrbd ytewvym qwxr yntbze hml yla yla (FIX HEBREW)

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning?" -ASV

This Psalm goes on to tell of a graphic representation, which is agreed upon by many to be a Messianic Prophesy, of the Crucifixion: Evildoers encompassing the Messiah and piercing His hands and feet. Of course, this would make much sense, as Eeshoo's own words referencing that Psalm. This is the traditional understanding.

A lot of Aramaic scholars, however, including Dr. Lamsa, have claimed it to be an Aramaic idiom for purpose. "Why have you left me?" in the sense, of left the Messiah here on earth, set Him aside, saved Him for this purpose (Lamsaユs words, "For this I have been kept"). Unfortunately, I find this a stretch, although I do admire most of Dr. Lamsa's work, I have not seen any documented sources for such an idiom.

After that research, I decided to do some of my own digging, and this is what I have found:

Taking a look at the actual words, with my current knowledge of Aramaic, ܠܡܢܐ ("l-mana") means "why," "for what reason," "how come," etc. In the Greek manuscripts, there is a different form of the same word, simply "ܠܡܐ" (l-ma).

Looking up the verb "ܫܒܩ" (shv子), which is the root of ܫܒܩܬܢܝ (shv子tanee), it turns out that it can mean either "forgive," "leave," or "allow," for it embodies all three of these concepts. The ending, "ܬܢܝ" (tanee), also directs the action of the verb to the speaker: メFor what reason did you "ܫܒܩ" (shv子) me?モ

The CAL Database returned even more results for this word. Let us now weigh all of the definitions:





"-ܠ" (l) is a proclitic, which is a letter that is tacked onto the beginning of a word that indicates itユs relation in the world around it. This is discussed in the introduction.

・What reason?
・What purpose?

"ܡܢܐ" (mana) is a word that initiates a question.

・Have you admitted me
・Have you allowed me
・Have you forgiven me
・Have you let me alone
・Have you permitted me
・Have you put me aside
・Have you reserved me
・Have you sent me out

・ Have you abandoned me
・Have you divorced me
・Have you forsaken me
・Have you left me

Non-forsaking definitions seem to far outweigh the lot (approx 2/3rds are positive).

There are also neumerous places in the Aramaic Gospels where "ܫܒܩ" (shv子) is used positively. For example, Iユll point out :

・メ...but he did not let ("ܫܒܩ" (shw子)) the evil spirits say anything,...モ - Mark 1:34
・メAnd he would not let ("ܫܒܩ" (shw子)) him,...メ - Mark 5:19
・メAnd you no longer let ("ܫܒܩ" (shw子)) him...モ - Mark 7:12
・メAnd he allowed ("ܫܒܩ" (shw子)) no one...モ - Mark 11:16
・ メ...forgive ("ܫܒܩ" (shw子)) your sins...モ - Mark 11:25


This shows that the word can be utilized more frequently in ways that do not adhere to the traditional rendering. It also seems to be used here and there in what we would consider to coincide with English idiom for the word "allow" (God "allowing" or forgiving one's sins, etc). Now thereユs enough information to start drawing conclusions, by looking at our data and the context in which Eeshoo' was in.






Everything © 2002 Steve Caruso unless otherwise noted.
Please feel free to use this for private or public use, just send me an email first! :-)


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