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There's something about Almah....

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Andrew Gabriel Roth
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There's something about Almah....

Jan-08-2001 at 10:14 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

Shlama all---

I noticed something in Akhi Paul's translation of John 18 that I wanted to share and explore with you. Paul makes a note that ALMAH can mean "world" or "age", and that struck a chord because I remembered that there were a few cases where the Greek translators split evenly among those exact choices. I wondered if it was because in the Aramaic ALMAH was used and this came out in the Greek, so I checked.

Sure enough, in Matti 28:20 Messiah says, "Behold I am always with you, even to the end of the ALMAH" and it was worded alternatively as either "world" or "age".

Then I looked at the Greek and found something curious-- their word equivalent of AION apparently developed the same double meaning. Here is what Strong's had to say:

Aion 1:197,31
Phonetic Spelling Parts of Speech
ahee-ohn' Noun Masculine

for ever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity
the worlds, universe
period of time, age

King James Word Usage
ever 71
world 38
never + (3364) + 1519 + 3588 6
evermore 4
age 2
eternal 2
miscellaneous 5
Total 128

I found this interesting because in adding these defintions up, 85 of them have something to do with time (age, eternal, etc) and 38 had it rendered as "world".

However, in Aramaic my understanding is that the majority meaning of ALMAH is "world" and "age" is secondary, in other words, it is the opposite.

I am forced to wonder then how the Greek AION acquired the secondary meaning and what it's connection-- if any-- might be to ALMAH. I'm not sure if this proves anything, but I just have this nagging feeling something is up to have two words in two separate languages develop the same pair of disparate meanings-- and the one thing they have in common is a "semitic birth" since Koine was born in Alexandria with the translation of the LXX.

Any thoughts on this people? I am more asking the question than proposing the answer.

Shlama w'burkate
Andrew Gabriel Roth

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John Marucci
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1. RE: There's something about Almah....

Jan-08-2001 at 11:21 PM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

In reply to message #0
Akhi Andrew and all,

Your comments on alma, 0ml9, are very interesting. I noticed this dual meaning when I first tried to decipher the Peshitta version of the Lords Prayer, Matt. 6:13, and found myself wondering what this word was originally meant to convey.

While I am only guessing, here is a possible answer. Greek philosophy, as far back as the time of Plato, conceived of the world in the linear historical time we are all familiar with where one point in time is measured by the concepts of beforeand after placing that point in a measurable sequence. An example of this is the Greek idea of a golden age that degenerated into a silver age, a bronze age, and an iron age. This is the concept of Aeon which most modern Christians have. Where material reality marches on in linear time until the Second Coming and the end of time - and the Aeon.

According to Professor Sabastian Brock in his book The Luminous Eye, an introduction to the hymns of Saint Ephraim the Syrian c. 4th century A.D., the Aramaic Christians had a different concept of alma - aeon. On pages 29 - 30 he introduces the Aramaic concept of the "Two Times." In short, he says that while the Aramaic Christians where of course well aware of the same linear aeon time that we are, they also believed in a "Sacred Time." Sacred time has no before and after, only the ever present now. Elsewhere he says that the Aramaic Christians believed that historical time is the result of original sin which "tore" historical time away form spiritual time. Through the Salvation process experienced in linear time, linear - historical time experiences the content of sacred time and will ultimately be restored to it. Thus in tradional ancient Eastern Christianity the Eucharist is not merely an historical memorial but a meeting of linear experience with an ever present spiritual reality that first entered historical time at the Last Super. Similarly, when the Messiah descended into Sheol which is believed to exist in sacred time, he ransomed not only the souls which preceded Him to Sheol in linear time, but all souls which enter Sheol at any point in linear time, past or future.

Now, back to alma and aeon. If it could be shown that Syriac - Aramaic Christianity preserved this world view from apostolic times, one could say that alma in being used to convey this concept of sacred time acquired the main meaning of "the totality of all existence." Aeon seems to have received its primary meaning from the pagan Hellenistic world view. Both words, however, acquired as a secondary meanings the others in the process of Christian evangelism and debate.

I'm sorry if I haven't articulated this well. What do you think?

Peace to all,
John Marucci

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Andrew Gabriel Roth
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2. RE: There's something about Almah....

Jan-09-2001 at 11:54 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

In reply to message #1
This is a pretty good guess, Akhi John! I'd like to see your posts when you are certain! )

My intention in posting this was to get this exact kind of thought provoking response. I may not be sure of the ultimate answer but kind of like the mystery aspect of it. I would also like to hear what others have to say on this.

Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.

Shlama w'burkate
Andrew Gabriel Roth

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3. More on Sacred Time....

Jan-09-2001 at 12:01 PM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

In reply to message #1
Shlama Akhi John,

I was very interested in the quote about the Aramaic understanding of time, here is an article by Fr. Dimitri Grekoff (I believe) of the Church of the East, explaining our concept of the Eucharist (Qurbana, "offering", in Aramaic) and how it is perceived in regular/sacred time:

(Originally from

Why do we call the Qurbana a "Sacrifice"?

In another entry on this internet page the question is posed, "What is the Qurbana?", and it is answered by referring to early Christian practice and Holy Scripture: it is the Offering made by the Lord's body, his Church and her members, in which they identify themselves with his own self-offering upon the Cross, and through which they realize his presence, both in the offered bread and wine, and in one another.

But throughout the service of Qurbana the word "sacrifice" is also employed to describe the Offering we are making. The word "offering", or "sacrifice", is used in more than one sense, of course, but in religious ritual it usually conjures up an image of a priest offering a victim upon an altar, and this is, in fact, its primary sense. In early Biblical times priests offered sacrifices because of a break which had taken place in the unity men were created to have with their Creator. The sacrifice renewed that unity which had been broken. In English we use the word atonement (that is "at-one-ment") to describe what happens in religious sacrifice: a bringing together into one the people for whom the sacrifice was offered and God, from whom they had been alienated because of their sin.

To an outside observer it might seem strange, then, that we speak of the Qurbana as a sacrifice. Though there is a priest and an altar, there doesn't seem to be any apparent victim--only the bread and wine, a somewhat peculiar sacrifice. The use of the terminology of sacrifice may strike him as somewhat inappropriate. If he is knowledgeable at all about the purpose of sacrifice, and of the need for a ritual death, he may write off our sacrifice as an exercise in futility. But he would be wrong.

Our sacrifice is very different from, but yet similar to, those ritual sacrifices of Old Testament times. It is one in which our Lord Jesus is at once the priest and the victim. Once and for all, in time and in the humanity which he took from us, the Son of God offered himself, a sinless priest and a pure and acceptable sacrifice, to repair the breach that existed between mankind and God, that we might achieve at-one-ment with our Creator. Once and for all he entered the Sanctuary in Heaven, leaving this world and entering a timeless realm, with his own pure blood as his sufficient offering, and there he eternally intercedes for us before his Father.

A priest such as this is right for us: pure, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. There is no need for him to offer sacrifices daily like the high priests, first for his own sins and then for the people, for he did this once, offering himself. . . But now, at the end of the age, he has offered himself once by his sacrificial act, that he might abolish sin. (Heb. 7:26-27; 9:26) Here we see both the uniqueness and finality in time of our Lord's sacrifice. But the Christ who came was made high priest of the good things which he brought to pass, and he entered a great and perfect tabernacle, which is not made with hands and is not of this created world, and he did not enter with the blood of kids or calves, but entered the sanctuary once with his own blood and acquired eternal salvation. . . . But the priesthood of this , because he remains for ever, does not pass away, and he is able to save for ever those who approach God through him, for he is ever alive and offering prayer on their behalf. (Heb. 9:11-13; 7:24,25) Here we see the permanence and ongoing character of our Lord's priestly ministry being carried out in eternity, outside of time and without limitation.

The Qurbana is where these two realities, time and eternity--this age and the age to come--meet in the faithful prayers and expectations of the worshippers. Here Christ Jesus himself is present: in bread and wine, in the celebrant (the presbyter or bishop), in the Word which is administered, and in his Body's members. Here the Priest and Victim, whose passion, death, resurrection, and glorification are now an integral part of who he is and what he is about, offers himself by accepting sacrificial suffering, death, burial, and resurrection, mediating on our behalf with his Father and healing the transgressions and sins which come between us and God. This meeting between the Body of Christ and the eternal High Priest of our religion occurs when we in faith join the heavenly choirs, the cherubim and seraphim and all the spiritual hosts, and escape for the moment our time-bound existence in union with our Lord and his sacrifice.

When the Apostle Paul was urging the Corinthian Christians to moral renewal he called to remembrance the passion of our Lord: Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse yourselves of the old leaven, since you are unleavened bread. For our Passover is Christ, who is slain for us. (1 Cor. 5:6-7) As elsewhere in this epistle, the Apostle draws together teaching on moral conduct among Christians and the imagery of sacrifice (see especially chapter 11 where he draws upon the Qurbana and the Passover Supper in the Upper Room for this imagery). It is the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ which is the central fact of God's provision for our atonement, our reconciliation with him. And it is the exercise of the Son of God's eternal High Priesthood which is the guarantee of our ultimate salvation, for sin is a besetting reality in the human situation.

When Christ is present with his people sacramentally and in fulfillment of his promise, Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them, (Mt. 18:20) he is there not only as friend, brother, and teacher, but among the sinful and unworthy congregation he is there pre-eminently as eternal High Priest of our religion, ever alive and offering prayer on our behalf. We, in our Offering, are united with him in that once-in-time, but for ever sufficient, sacrifice.

But let us, like Paul, draw upon this image to stimulate ourselves to moral renewal. Jesus once said, Whoever desires to follow me should deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. (Mt. 16:24. Cf. Mk 8:34; 10:21; Lk. 9:23; 14:27) Our Lord lived a life of ongoing self-sacrifice. He set a pattern of self-giving and demanded we emulate it: Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Mt. 10:38) In the Qurbana Christ's supreme sacrifice is depicted before our eyes. To be joined with him in his sacrifice, and to be united with him in his life, brings to the believer the necessity of taking up his own cross, a life of self-giving, and following his Lord in sacrificial service to his family, his fellow members in the Body of Christ, his community, and ultimately his Lord (Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you have done it to me. ) The imperative of sacrifice may seem demanding and beyond our feeble powers to fulfill, but its spiritual benefits to the obedient are richly rewarding. Also, the imperative carries with it words of consolation: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in my heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is mild, and my burden is light. (Mt. 11:29-30)

Shlama w'Burkate,

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4. Eternity and space-time

Jan-10-2001 at 03:44 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

In reply to message #1
LAST EDITED ON Jan-11-01 AT 07:51 AM (CST)

Fascinating stuff, John. This has united two subjects that drive my attention like a giant magnet (or a good black-hole): The Eucharist, and "time". I have shared the view that you reproduce -although as a personal "make-sense of it all" working hypothesis -and had, in a very speculative way, pictured it as Christ opening a window in time for us to participate in that unique moment in the universe -His Passover.

A couple of months ago I got more than 20 different responses when I posted this in another forum:

>>One can still be a Christian, and agree with an agnostic like Dr. Stephen Hawking on this:

"We ought to be telling people about the modern understanding of such basic concepts as space and time"
"...(The) notions (of absolute space and absolute time) seemed to correspond to common sense and reality. Yet nowadays those who are familiar with the theory of relativity, still a disturbingly small minority, have a rather different view. "
"...It used to be considered obvious that time flowed on forever, regardless of what was happening; but the theory of relativity combined time with space and said that both could be warped, or distorted, by the matter and energy in the universe. So our perception of the nature of time changed from being independent of the universe to being shaped by it."
" We have known for twenty-five years that Einstein's general theory of relativity predicts that time must have had a beginning in a singularity fifteen billion years ago. But the philosophers have not yet caught up with the idea. They are still worrying about the foundations of quantum mechanics that were laid down sixty-five years ago. They don't realize that the frontier of physics has moved on. " (Stephen Hawking "My position", 1992)

The relevant point for all Christians is the fact that the idea of "eternal life" has to be reconsidered if time is not what we used to think it was. Fortunately, Jesus Christ never said that the Earth was flat either, although it was the belief of all Christians before the days of Columbus. We might be living a similar period now. Our notion of time as an absolute linear dimension, produces a notion of eternal life perhaps similar to a continuous conscience and "good health", given the natural idea of time and "life".
The important implication of all this -including "black holes" where space and time is distorted 'ad infinitum'- may be that "eternal life" has nothing to do with the "time" that we know.
I can imagine some kind of "omnipresence" that occupies all space and time, or another universe altogether(outside of time and space), if we achieve the perfection of sanctity (remember the simultaneous presence in different places of some saints)

"I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now" (Jn 16:12 ) >>

In one of the most interesting follow-ups somebody mentioned a possible reference to the parallel existence of eternity, in the "Book of Life" where the blessed one's names are already written...

Meanwhile, (as a 'blessed wannabe')

Happy New Year!


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5. RE: Eternity and space-time

Jan-11-2001 at 03:46 PM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

In reply to message #4
Shlama all,

Thank you, Jaza. One of the ironies of modern scientific "thought" is that it has restored
some very ancient cosmological views, but has stripped God out of the picture.

In the case of "sacred time," Einstein's theory of relativity concurs that time is not
ultimately linear and historical (has a "before" and "after").

Where Einstein and Sacred Time part company, however, is in their view of the time
space continuum. Einstein saw time, space, and matter reaching their ultimate limit and
boundary at the speed of light. In spiritual terms, he saw a divide and separation between
spirit and matter.

While the ancient Aramaic Fathers also talk about a divide between man, our world and
God, their basic view of God and His relationship with His creation is quite different. In
short, they saw God as an active moment by moment participant permeating all creation.
I have two ancient texts on this subject which I will post and talk more about in the near

John Marucci

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6. RE: Eternity and space-time

Jan-12-2001 at 12:50 PM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

In reply to message #5
Greetings All,

This whole thread was very interesting to me. I want to thank everyone who contributed. I am beginning to think that a linear time vs sacred time is becoming the common ground of thinkers. I was developing a similar theory, and last night I had a conversation with a local pastor about it(in response to a TV special on Noah's flood), and he said "I thought I was the only one who had thought of that." I do think people are kind of afraid to voice this, because of some of the influences it could have on theology. It is great encouragement to me to learn that this train of thought has a history(and a history with a people I like). I offer a word of warning as it was offered to me by God through a wise brother: "most of the theological errors that the church has dealt with have been the result of people taking certain truths and taking them to their logical conclusions." Take that for what you will...

John, I am very interested in the ancient texts you have in regards to this, and look forward to your future posts.

May God bless you all,


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Assyria \ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)   1:  an ancient empire of Ashur   2:  a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)   3:  a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender   4:  a democratic state that believes in the freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the principles of the United Nations Charter — Atour synonym

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