What is…

also known as: Syriack, Syriac Aramaic, Ancient Syriac or Classical Syriac

This is the Semitic language of ancient Syria and is a dialect of Aramaic, and very similar to Hebrew in sound. It was also used in Iraq and Turkey. It is the language that Jesus Christ most commonly spoke, in addition to Hebrew and probably Greek. He spoke the Galilean dialect of Aramaic.

Aramaic is the historic language of Arameans. See: Aram

The language is very similar to Hebrew and somewhat like Arabic.

Aramaic characters in Syriac script

ܐ ālap ܒ bēth ܓ gāmal ܕ dālath ܗ ܘ waw ܙ zain ܚ ḥēth ܛ ṭēth ܝ yodh (yoot) ܟ kāp ܠ lāmadh ܡ mem ܢ nun ܣ semkath ܥ ʿĒ (ein) ܦ ܨ ṣādhē ܩ qop ܪ rēsh ܫ shin (sheen) ܬ taw

Aramaic is written from right-to-left ←, opposite to the English language. Other languages that are writen right-to-left are Hebrew, Persian, Arabic, Azeri, Divehi, Fula, Kurdish, N'ko, Rohingya, and Urdu.

Example (Genesis 1:1)

ܒܪܫܝܬ ܒܪܐ ܐܠܗܐ܂ ܝܬ ܫܡܝܐ ܘܝܬ ܐܪܥܐ܂
—from the Peshitta text, the official Bible of Syriac Aramaic-speaking churches (early 5th century A.D., with roots in 1st century)

What did Aramaic sound like?

The name of Jesus in Aramaic has 4 characters and is written in Syriac script as… ܝܫܘܥ
It is pronounced E'sho or Eashoa. These Aramaic characters (right-to-left) are…

ein ← waw ← shin (sheen) ← yodh (yoot)

In comparison, the 4 Hebrew characters are…   יֵשׁוּעַ

Streaming video— 
Actor James Caviezel speaking in Aramaic
by Icon Productions, Newmarket Film Group
Length: 28 seconds

Scripture’s uses of Aramaic

In the New Testament, there are several Aramaic-based words, such as…

Aramaic Bible

A Syriac Aramaic version of the Old Testament, containing all the canonical books, along with some Apocryphal books (called the Peshitto —meaning: a simple translation, and not a paraphrase), was made early in the 2nd century, and is therefore the first Christian translation of the Old Testament. It was made directly from the original, and not from the Septuagint Version.

The New Testament was also translated from Greek into Syriac about the same time. It is noticeable that this version does not contain the 2nd and 3rd Epistles of John, 2 Peter, Jude, and the Apocalypse. These were, however, translated subsequently and placed in the Aramaic Bible.

Biblical references

The King James Bible refers 3 times to “Syriac” or “Syrian language.” This is more correctly translated “Aramaic,” as it appears in the New King James Bible and New American Standard Bible

Sample words in Syriac Aramaic

More information

Article Version: July 2, 2021