eloi or alah.
peter_kirk at sil.org
peter_kirk at sil.org
Sun Jun 20 21:21:44 EDT 1999
I would have expected a scholar like you to be more careful than this
over defining your terms. When you say "I dont recall any examples of
it in aramaic", what language are you talking about?
1) Biblical Aramaic, a very limited corpus as described by Koehler and
Baumgartner? In fact, the determinative form ):ELFHF) listed in BDB is
found as many as 30 times (with slight variations) in the very small
corpus, so your "I dont recall" just demonstrates the imperfection of
your memory and your reluctance to do the basic homework involved in
2) The Aramaic spoken in Palestine in Jesus' time, which is where the
discussion started over the word "Eloi"? Is this form really Aramaic
and not Hebrew? I would expect this form with an O vowel to come from
the Hebrew ):ELOWAH. rather than the Aramaic ):ELFH.. In Biblical
Aramaic the form with the first person suffix is ):ELFHIY (Daniel 4:5,
6:23); the equivalent Hebrew form is not attested but would presumably
by ):ELOHIY cf. L")LOHOW in Habakkuk 1:11. There is also of course the
common Hebrew form ):ELOHAY, from the plural ):ELOHIYM. The best
equivalent of "Eloi" (given that Greek has no H sound) is the Hebrew
singular ):ELOHIY. Granted, of course, that Psalm 22:2 (in MT at
least) reads )"LIY, from the different divine name )"L, cf. the form
"Eli" in some MSS of Matthew 27:46 which makes more sense of the
following reference to Elijah. Perhaps we have to conclude that Jesus,
in his extreme agony, was mixing Hebrew and Aramaic forms or perhaps
speaking a dialect of Aramaic in which Hebrew divine names were used.
Or is there other evidence for the forms of the divine names in the
Aramaic of Jesus' time?
3) Or modern Aramaic and Syriac languages? SIL's Ethnologue recognises
16 distinct languages, most in current use, in the Aramaic sub-group
of Semitic languages. My guess is that each one of these has a subtly
different pronunciation for the name of God, with or without
determinative or personal suffixes. Modern Mandean or Mandaic, of
which Wondell apparently writes, is only one of these (one of the
smaller ones, with 800-1000 speakers), and unless you really know
better I suggest we take Wondell's word that in this language God is
called something like "Alaha" rather than trying to correct his
knowledge of a modern language by referring to a dictionary of the
Aramaic of 2500 years ago.
It is also a well-known feature of Semitic languages that addition of
suffixes at the end of words can affect the vowel sounds at the
beginning of the word, as for example )EREC becomes )AR:CFH in
Biblical Hebrew, the initial E sound becoming an A sound when an A
sound suffix is added. So it is by no means ridiculous (in fact
incorrect in Biblical Aramaic, but quite possibly correct in other
varieties of the language) to suggest a similar change with the
______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: eloi or alah.
Author: jwest at highland.net at internet
Date: 20/06/1999 07:26
At 03:05 AM 6/20/99 -0700, you wrote:
>The "a" sound is the Aramaic form for a noun with the definite article
>suffixed (aleph and sometime heh), called the emphatic/determinative state
>vs BH where the article is prefixed.
Yes indeed--- but would you show an example of the determinative suffixed to
the word 'elah? I dont recall any examples of it in aramaic- and I know it
does not occur in the example we have been discussing which has no
determinative but a personal pronoun suffixed. In any event, even if the
determinative suffix were affixed to eloha it would have nothing to do with
the pronunciation of the first syllable of the word, since it would only
affect the syllable to which it would be attached- i.e., the last.
>Syriac also has the emphatic state which has the "a" sound (with Syriac alaf
>suffixed) but it had by that time weakened so that whether the noun is
>determinative or not is ambiguous (p. 40, Muroaka, _Classical Syriac for
>Hebraists_). Though in Joosten, _Syriac Language of Peshitta and Old Syriac
>Versions of Matthew_, the use of pronouns can help to distinguish a
Again, suffixed to the end of the word- which has nothing to do with the
pronunciation of the first syllable.
Jim West, ThD
email- jwest at highland.net
web page- http://web.infoave.net/~jwest
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