Saturday, July 5, 2008

Our Father...Birther of the Cosmos?

There are currently a lot of sites in the internet that claim to show a translation of the Lord's Prayer in the 'original Aramaic' (try searching for 'Lord's Prayer Original Aramaic' in a search engine), which usually run along the lines of (this particular translation by Neil Douglas-Klotz):

O, Birther of the Cosmos, focus your light within us -- make it useful
Create your reign of unity now
Your one desire then acts with ours,
As in all light,
So in all forms,
Grant us what we need each day in bread and insight:
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
As we release the strands we hold of other's guilt.
Don't let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will,
The power and the life to do,
The song that beautifies all,
From age to age it renews.
I affirm this with my whole being.
Or even (alternative translation taken from here):

Oh Thou, from whom the breath of life comes, who fills all realms of sound, light and vibration. May Your light be experienced in my utmost holiest.
Your Heavenly Domain approaches.
Let Your will come true - in the universe (all that vibrates) just as on earth (that is material and dense).
Give us wisdom (understanding, assistance) for our daily need, detach the fetters of faults that bind us, (karma) like we let go the guilt of others.
Let us not be lost in superficial things (materialism, common temptations), but let us be freed from that what keeps us from our true purpose.
From You comes the all-working will, the lively strength to act, the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age.

Sealed in trust, faith and truth.
(I confirm with my entire being)
The questions are: Are these 'translations' accurate renderings of the Aramaic text? Is the 'original Aramaic text' used here the actual Aramaic that Jesus used? To which we answer: No.

These 'translations' mostly exploit the fact that most of the public know next to nil about Aramaic; thus, one could translate the phrase 'Abwun d'bashmaya' into something like 'O Father-Mother who art above and within' or other such variants and no one (save those who actually know or speak the language) would notice the difference!

Some would attempt to justify these translations, saying that Aramaic words has many nuances that is 'lost in translation' and that they are attempting to reconstruct the original sense and meaning of the prayer, and a few of them would even dare point a finger at the usual suspects (Matthew or Luke or whoever else they believe wrote the Greek versions of the Gospels), accusing them of mistranslating Jesus' words.

Yes, there are a lot of things that don't make it when one translates something into another language (like cultural references or whatnot) and a specific language may have different levels of meaning, but I'm afraid that what's happening here is like translating the phrase 'Macaroni and cheese' as 'Spaghetti with meatball sauce' into another language!

In my opinion these are a rather fanciful attempt at a translation (If I might add, these may not even qualify as 'translations' at all, since they do not really 'render' the text literally from one language to another faithfully, but may be entered into the 'paraphrase' category; even so, these are rather spurious and New-Agey paraphrases at that), multiple levels of meaning aside (really, what are the multiple meanings of Ab, the word for father? Can it also mean the neutral parent or even mother? And here I thought it was a singular male noun...)
Note also that the Aramaic text from which these texts are usually translated from are taken from the P'shitto (aka the Peshitta), a translation of the Bible in Syriac (an Eastern Aramaic language originally spoken in northern Meposotamia), and thus is not really the language (Galilean Aramaic, under the Late Old Western variety of Aramaic) that Jesus and His disciples spoke during the 1st century. There are also others who are attempting to reconstruct the original Galilean Aramaic of Jesus (and thus, how the original Our Father may have looked/sounded like), but that's another story.

Now another big question that comes up is: Why are these 'New Age' versions of the Lord's Prayer so popular?

I think this is because of our modern society's fascination with the mystic, the esoteric, the mysterious and the 'extraordinary' (used here in its original sense, 'out of the ordinary'); the same reason why the 'Gnostic Jesus' (a mystical guru who speaks in high pseudo-mystic jargon) and the 'Historical Jesus' (either a proto-Hippie or an angsty, misunderstood guy) are becoming popular in some circles nowadays and the reason why ideas which were once considered by society as 'subversive', beliefs that were once condemned as 'heretical' and 'blasphemous' are now becoming 'cool' and 'edgy'.

Therefore, a New Age 'translation' of the Lord's Prayer, which is presented as having layers of esoteric meaning which was undiscovered in ages before due to years of being 'lost in translation' (thanks to those incompetent Apostles, who never really did understand what Jesus really meant) would sell like pancakes in our modern society today.

What does the actual text in the P'shitto say?
The most important thing one must do when confronted with something is to check its sources to see whether this statement is true or no. Here is the relevant passage from the P'shitto (transliterated), along with a (modern?) Hebrew translation for comparison (Syriac being under the Semitic family of languages share cognate words with Hebrew and other Semitic tongues, such as Arabic):

Abwun d'bashmaya,
Nitqadash shmakh,
Tethe malkuthakh,
Nehwa tzevyanakh, aykana d'bashmaya, af bar'a.

Hav lan lakhma d'sunqanan yomana.
U'shboq lan khaubeyn, aykana d'af khnan shboqan l-khaybeyn.
U'la te'lan l'nisyouna, ela patsan min bisha.
(Metul d'dilakh hi malkutha, u-khayla, u-teshbukhta, alam l'almin.)

Avinu sheba'shamayim,
Yitqadesh shimkha,
Tavo malkhutekha,
Ye'aseh retzonekha, ba'aretz ka'asher na'asah ba'shamayim.

Ten-lanu haiyom lekhem khukeinu.
U'selach lanu et ashmateinu, ka'asher solekhim anakhnu la'asher ashemu lanu.
Ve'al-tevieinu lidei massah, ki-'im hatzileinu min-hara.
(Ki lekha ha-mamelakha ve-hagevurah veha-tiferet, le'olemei 'olamim.)
Now let's do a step-by-step look at the words of the Prayer:

1.) 'Abwun' means 'Our Father' (Ab 'Father'; a masculine noun, not a neutral word like 'Parent' or 'Father-Mother'+un 'our'), with the pronoun suffix -un corresponding to the Hebrew -nu (Abwun would be Avinu in Hebrew) and 'd'bashmaya' (d+bashmaya) is 'who/which/that + in-Heaven'.

The word shmaya is noticeably cognate to the Hebrew word shameh (plural form shamayim) and Arabic samā' (plural form samawāt), meaning 'the sky/heaven(-s)/elevation'. Thus, 'Abwun d'bashmaya'="Our Father, who is in (the) Heaven(s)".

2.) 'Nithqadash', in the imperfect or 'future' tense, means 'will be Holy' (Note that the Aramaic/Syriac 'qadash' is cognate to Hebrew 'qadash', meaning 'to be holy, to be sanctified'). 'Shmakh' (shm+akh) is 'Your name' (shma, meaning 'name' is cognate with Hebrew shem and Arabic 'ism).

The suffix -akh is comparable with the Hebrew -kha and Arabic -ak, both meaning the singular masculine 'you'. At times, the imperfect tense is used as an adjuration, thus, 'Nithqadash shmakh'=literally translated 'Your Name will be holy', i.e. 'May Your Name be holy'.

3.) 'Tethe' is 'will come', 'malkuthakh' (malkuta+akh) is 'Your kingdom' (the Hebrew and Arabic cognates of malkuta are malkuth and mamlakah, respectively), thus 'Tethe malkuthakh'=literally translated 'Your Kingdom will come', i.e. 'May Your Kingdom come'.

4.) 'Nehwa' is 'will be', 'tzevyanakh' (tzevyan+akh) means 'Your will or desire', thus 'Nehwa tzevyanakh' is 'Your Will will be', i.e. 'May Your Will be [done]'.

'Aykana' is 'like, as', 'af' is 'also' and 'b-ar'a' (ba+ar'a; Ar'a is cognate with Hebrew Eretz and Arabic 'Ard, meaning 'Land, Earth, ground') is 'on the Earth'. All in all, "Nehwa tzevyanakh, aykana d'bashmaya, af bar'a" means "May Your will be [done]; as in Heaven, [may it be] also on the Earth".

5.) Hav lan (Hav 'give'+ lan 'to us') is 'give to us', lakhma is 'bread' (comparable to Hebrew 'lekhem'), D'sunqanan is 'which we need (lack)' (d' 'which, what' + sunqa 'lack, need' + nan 'we') and yomana (from imama, 'day'; compare Hebrew hayom and Arabic yawmana) is 'today'; therefore "Hav lan lakhma d'sunqanan yomana"='Give us today the bread which we need'.

6.) U'shboq is 'And forgive' (U+Shboq 'to allow, to forgive'), shboqan is 'we have forgiven' and khaubeyn and khaybeyn means 'debts, sins' and 'sinners, debtors, etc.' respectively, thus "U'shboq lan khaubeyn, aykana d'af khnan shboqan l-khaybeyn" is to be rendered as 'Forgive us our sins (debts), also as we have forgiven sinners (debtors)'.

7.) U'la (U+La 'No, not') means 'And not', te'lan is 'lead us' and l'nisyouna is 'unto danger/temptation'. Therefore "U'la te`lan l'nisyouna" is "And lead us not into danger/temptation".

Ela is 'but', patsan is 'deliver us' and min bisha means 'from evil'. All in all, "And lead us not into danger, but deliver us from evil".

8.) Metul is 'because, for', d'dilakh is 'of which-yours', hi malkutha is 'is [the] kingdom', u-khayla and u-teshbukhta are 'and [the] power' and 'and [the] glory', and l'alam 'almin is 'forever, unto the ages' ('alam, meaning 'eternity, forever, world' is related to the Hebrew olam and Arabic alam; it is quite similar in meaning to the Greek aion). Therefore the whole prayer runs loosely thus:
Our Father who is in Heaven,
May Your Name be Holy,
May Your Kingdom come,
May Your will be done; as in Heaven, may it be so on the Earth.

Give us today the bread we need,
And forgive us our sins (or debts), also as we have forgiven sinners (or debtors).
And lead us not into danger, but deliver us from evil.
(For Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, forever unto the ages [i.e. forever and ever].)
So there you have it. Even the Aramaic/Syriac text of Our Father is quite close with how we have always said the prayer and how it had been handed down to us, despite some people's claims to the contrary. Matthew and Luke can now rest properly.

This post is mostly inspired and based on an informative article entitled, "O Father-Mother Birther of the Cosmos?!" and this page.

1 comment:

jacson cabral cordeiro said...

tank you very much. estou grato por está sabendo a verdade sobre as escrituras. estava duvidando sobre a oração do ai nosso até adotei rm minhas orações versão pai-mãe.mas essa explicação me faz voltar a orar o pai nosso que aprendi.