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An Aramaic Enigma: Conclusion

Hebrew text

“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people.

It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold.

A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”

Daniel 2:44–45

Our study of Aramaic has wound through several centuries and various venues, from Bronze Age Syria and Iron Age Judah to our present-day academic institutions. But amid all of the details, one theme has been especially prominent—the exceptional nature of the Bible.

A Timely Tongue

Scripture is astoundingly precise and purposeful. Aramaic bears witness to the fulfillment of God’s wisdom and design as manifested in the Babylonian captivity. One language—the tongue of Babylon—testified of God’s righteousness in four key ways:

  1. Aramaic emphasized Israel’s estrangement from God; suddenly God’s words now came in a gentile tongue and even from a Gentile’s lips.
  2. Aramaic highlighted the practical outcome of Israel’s idolatry; their hearts had returned to Mesopotamia, so God made their transformation complete by speaking to them in the language of Laban the Mesopotamian.
  3. Aramaic emphasized gentile dominion; God was now dealing with gentile kings, and Aramaic was the one language suited for this purpose.
  4. God was beginning to make His salvation known to the Gentiles; Aramaic would be the language that would prepare the world for the coming of the King of Kings.

Too Good to Be True?

Some may find it difficult to take the biblical account of Israel’s origins and history at face value. Liberal scholarship exerts a strong influence on society, suggesting to many people that the skeptical view of the Bible is the scientific position. The question is, can a skeptical approach to the Scriptures provide real answers about Scripture?

Science meets our human need to understand and explain the world around us. The scientific process has borne tremendous blessings to humanity in that it doesn’t merely provide information but also gives us a framework for understanding that information—natural laws and systems that are dependable and increasingly predictable. Scholars contrast this process and its products with the Bible and biblical interpretation, but are they in conflict?

Critical Methods

The fact is that balanced, biblical interpretation is actually quite scientific in nature. A careful interpreter arrives at an understanding of a passage through 1) considering the passage in light of what they already know through personal experience—be it natural, social, or otherwise; but then 2) testing their initial thoughts by carefully researching the passage in light of its biblical, cultural, historical, and linguistic context.

These two steps provide the basis for the critical study of any literary piece, and they form the heart of critical methods used by liberal scholarship when approaching Scripture. However, these steps alone do not supply sufficient means of understanding Scripture.

Different or Complete?

Hebrew text
Above: Hebrew is written in an Aramaic script known as square script, which was first adopted by the Jews during the Babylonian captivity.

Authorship is central to understanding a piece of literature and its significance. The life, thoughts, and works of an author help us to understand what they had in mind in a scene or even a short clause. Traditional interpretation obtains an understanding of the Scripture by acknowledging the presence and thoughts of its divine Author, and this choice gives the devout interpreter a means of understanding Scripture in ways that are imperceptible to the skeptical mind.

God is unseen and immeasurable, and He is therefore outside of the reach of the scientific process. However, His word and His works have been accomplished in our world and demonstrated in forms that we can observe, analyze, and verify.

Our examination of Aramaic has aligned with biblical accounts of Israel’s history and present knowledge of ancient history, as well as the linguistic and literary evidence supplied by archaeology. In other words, acknowledging God as a legitimate witness provides a coherent understanding of the unique composition of Daniel 2–7, something we would not have if we limited ourselves to history and archaeology alone. Traditional interpretation is neither unscientific nor uncritical; it merely chooses to take into account all of the evidence by giving careful attention to the most important aspect of the passage—the mind of the Author.

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  • Fascinating! I’ve been reading a few of these that Aaron Vienot sends me. Didn’t realize you’re writing them.
    Please put me on your list to receive future articles. Thanks.
    I love biblical archaelogy and have proofread several Harvest House books on that general subject including “The Harvest House Handbook of Bible Lands.” – Ruth

    • Thank you for your comment Ruth! I’m happy to hear from another bible history/archaeology enthusiast! Per your request, we will add your email to our newsletter list, that way you will be able to receive e-newsletters featuring our recent posts.

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