eloi or alah.

peter_kirk at sil.org peter_kirk at sil.org
Sun Jun 20 21:21:44 EDT 1999

Dear Jim,

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 
true scholarship.

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 
Aramaic ):ELFH..

Peter Kirk

______________________________ 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 
>determinative noun.

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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