Every Christian has spoken Aramaic (aka, Chaldean, Sourath, etc…), most just don’t know it. Many Chaldeans are often asked what language they speak. Inevitably the discussion will turn to Jesus speaking Aramaic. The bible is littered with Chaldean history and culture, but no clues are more available than the Aramaic language. Language is important to understanding ones culture, community, and faith.
Aramaic has been known since the beginning of human history and was the lingua franca of the early Semitic empires. Today Aramaic and it varying dialects continue to serve Chaldeans with a deeper understanding of their culture and Catholic faith. That meaningful fulfillment is driving a large number of Chaldeans to make the time to strengthen and nurture their roots by learning their native language.
Aramaic was the language used by the conquering Assyrians for administration and communication. Following them, Aramaic was the official language used by Chaldeans and Persian empires, which ruled from India to Ethiopia. During that time, Aramaic was the dominant language, similar to English today. It was used and written upon walls, clay tablets, and on numerous papyri of the region during that period.
Aramaic displaced Hebrew for many purposes among the Jews, a fact reflected in the Bible, where portions of Ezra and Daniel are in Aramaic. Some of the best known stories in biblical literature, including that of Belshazzar’s feast with the famous "handwriting on the wall" are in Aramaic.
So much of the Chaldean faith is tied directly to Aramaic. Especially the biblical passage, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani” which is left preserved in its native form. Why did Jesus cry out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?"
In Matthew 27:45-46, it says, "Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" that is, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" If Jesus is God, why would He say this?
First of all, Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 which begins with, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?". Jesus quoted this Psalm in order to draw attention to it and the fact that He was fulfilling it there on the cross.
Consider verses 11-18 in Psalm 22:
“Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have surrounded me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me. They open wide their mouth at me, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and Thou dost lay me in the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots."
The term 'dogs' was used by the Jews to refer to Gentiles (cf. Matt. 15:21-28). His heart has melted within Him (v. 14). During the crucifixion process, the blood loss causes the heart to beat harder and harder and become extremely fatigued. Dehydration occurs (v. 15). Verses 16 -18, speak of piercing His hands and feet and dividing his clothing by casting lots. This is exactly what happens as described in Matt. 27:35.
Psalm 22 was written about 600 years before Christ was born. At that time, crucifixion had not yet been invented. Actually, the Phoenicians developed it and Rome borrowed the agonizing means of execution from them. So, when Rome ruled over Israel, it became the Roman means of capital punishment imposed upon the Jews whose biblical means of execution was stoning. Nevertheless, Jesus is pointing to the scriptures to substantiate His messianic mission.
A further comment:
2 Cor. 5:21 says, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." It is possible that at some moment on the cross, when Jesus became sin on our behalf, that God the Father, in a sense, turned His back upon the Son.
It says in Hab. 1:13 that God is too pure to look upon evil. Therefore, it is possible that when Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24), that the Father, spiritually, turned away. At that time, the Son may have cried out.
One thing is for sure. We have no capacity to appreciate the utterly horrific experience of having the sins of the world put upon the Lord Jesus as He hung, in excruciating pain, from that cross. The physical pain was immense. The spiritual one must have been even greater.
That shows us clearly how much God loves us.
Chaldeans who read or are reminded of that passage “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani” should be humbled by the continued existence of their native language, preserved in the most important collection of documents on the face of this world. More importantly, we should be humbled by the love and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus, our Christ (King), our God has modeled for us.