(ar uh may' ihc) A North Semitic language similar to Phoenician and Hebrew was the language of the Arameans whose presence in northwestern Mesopotamia is known from about 2000 B.C. Related Old Testament Passages—2 Kings 18:26;
Jeremiah 10:11. Related New Testament Passages—Mark 5:41;
Old Testament Although the Arameans never founded a great national state or empire, by the eleventh century they had established several small states in Syria, and their language came to be known from Egypt to Persia.
The oldest inscriptions in Old Aramaic are from Syria around 800 B.C. In the ninth century official or Royal Aramaic appeared. This was a dialect known from documents from Assyria and known best from documents from the Persian empire, for which Aramaic had become the official court language. Before 700 B.C. Aramaic had begun to supplant Akkadian as the language of commerce and diplomacy (2 Kings 18:26). Important for biblical history are the fifth century papyri from Elephantine, the site of a Jewish colony in Egypt. Official Aramaic continued to be used widely throughout the Hellenistic period.
Parts of the Old Testament were written in Aramaic:
Jeremiah 10:11. Two words in
Genesis 31:47, Jegar-sahadutha (heap of witness) are in Aramaic. A number of Aramaic words came into common Hebrew usage, and several passages in the Hebrew Bible show Aramaic influence.
New Testament The wide diffusion of Aramaic, along with its flexibility and adaptability, resulted in the emergence of various dialects. In Syria-Palestine the western group includes Jewish Palestinian Aramaic, Samaritan, Palmyrene, and Nabataean. Jewish Palestinian Aramaic words and phrases occur in the New Testament, such as Abba (father) (Mark 14:36), talitha, qumi (maiden, arise) (Mark 5:41), lama sabachthani (why hast thou forsaken me?) (Mark 15:34). The Palestinian Talmud and the Targums (translations of Old Testament books into Aramaic) also were written in Palestinian Jewish Aramaic. The eastern (Mesopotamian) group includes Babylonian Jewish Aramaic, Mandaean, and Syriac.
Characteristics Hebrew and Aramaic, as cognates or closely related languages, share several formal and phonological characteristics, including the predominance of basic root words with three consonants, the position of word accent, the use of pronominal suffixes, and the use of verbal stems or conjugations to indicate simple, intensive, and causative actions. However, the differences in the two languages show that they are not merely dialectical variations; each language has its own character and integrity.