The Lord’s Prayer in the Aramaic mother tongue of Jesus
Author: Martin Auffarth
Issue: No. 97
Translations often only come close to the original text to a limited extent. It becomes particularly critical when it is a very old text that also conveys spiritual content. A close examination of the Aramaic and its new translation into German reveals a different meaning and mood of the Lord’s Prayer. This new translation does not moralize and sounds surprisingly modern. True spiritual knowledge comes to light.
Language is music. It is sound, wants to be heard and resonate. First and foremost in the mother tongue. It is original, has its own sound, which is inimitable and cannot really be translated. It therefore requires empathy to come as close as possible to the original meaning, as authentically as possible. Let’s put this to the test. In German, we can say to someone: “I love you so much!” Native German speakers would know what is meant. But translate this into English, literally. Native English speakers would look at us with astonished faces and listen with perplexed ears, shaking their heads: “Huh, what do you mean?”
He introduced it with these words: The Aramaic prayer salutation “Abwûn d’bwaschmâja” can be translated as follows: “You, my beloved” or “You, the apple of my eye”. How different does that sound to the usual form of address: “Our Father in heaven …” – right? He then spoke this prayer in the way Jesus might have spoken it or prayed it – in his mother tongue, Aramaic. What a resonant sound!
In the following, I will quote the usual German words in each section, add the Aramaic wording and then show how it can be translated, accompanied in each case by suggestions for personal meditation or small experiments. Of the many variants, I have always chosen those that are able to evoke a vibrating resonance in me, i.e. music and sound. Would you like to hear the familiar in a new and different way?
Our Father in heaven – Abwûn d’bwaschmâja
In the retranslation from the Aramaic in this variant: “Breath of the world. We hear you breathe. In and out – in silence.”
In its first stories, the Hebrew Bible describes God forming the physical human being from matter, i.e. from earth, and Martin Luther then translated this so eloquently2:
“Then God breathed his breath into man. Only then did man become a living soul. Only then.”
So when we breathe in, we take in oxygen. A gift from heaven. We then enrich creation by breathing out: in … and out … A simple example: a tree offers its oxygen to around 30 people, these 30 people in turn offer their carbon to the tree. This process alone connects humans with creation, connects creation with us and, in fact, with everything that breathes. What’s more, in this process we also breathe in the breath of God, who animates us and the entire universe, and at the same time we breathe out into God. Simply breathing in and out connects us with each other, connects us with God, with the whole of creation, in taking and giving, with every breath. From the Aramaic: “Breath of the world. We hear you breathe, in and out – in silence.” What an introduction to prayer!
Experiment – meditation:
(If you want, close your eyes) I breathe in – I breathe out – breathe in – breathe out … repeat several times … as a creature we connect with creation – creation connects with us … repeat several times … I breathe in God – I breathe out into God … repeat several times … What a process, what a gift!
God gave us breath so that we might live,
he gave us eyes so that we can see.
God gave us this earth,
that we may endure time on it.
God gave us this earth,
that we may pass the test of time on it.3
Hallowed be your name – Nethkâdash schmach
Or now from Jesus’ mother tongue: “Your name, your sound, is everywhere, it moves us when we tune our hearts to your sound.”
What we often hear translated as “God” is not a term in the Hebrew Bible, but rather a description of what is meant by it. In this case, for example, the noun “Shem” (translation: name). Pronounced onomatopoeically as “shemmmm”, we already hear it in the meaning of sound, frequency, vibration, as a name. Yes, everything sounds. Everything originates in such a way that it wants to vibrate, wants to sound, that it can and wants to return from rigidity to vitality. “Nada Brahma” it says in the Vedas: “God is sound. Sound is God.” Every cell of the approximately 90 trillion in the human body vibrates. Organs, if they are healthy, vibrate4, as do tissues, trees, ants and oceans. Pulsars, i.e. rapidly rotating neutron stars, rattle like castanets. Research confirms that everything is sound. The message to us is: listen, stop in the sense of setting a point, pause. Listen up: “Tune our hearts to your sound.”
About the author
Martin Auffarth, retired Protestant pastor, coach in private practice, Freiburg
This article was originally published on the German website: Atem der Welt