Saturday, June 05, 2004

Gibson�s film inspires passionate interest in Aramaic (

Kochi (AsiaNews) - Mel Gibson�s blockbuster film �The Passion of The Christ� released across India May 7th, has sparked new interest in Aramaic - the language that Jesus Christ spoke. Kerala, a state on the West Coast of India, is perhaps one of the few places in the world where the study of the Syriac dialect has been kept alive, along with Sanskrit and Arabic, over the centuries.


Mar Aprem, Metropolitan of the Chaldean Syrian Church of the East, heads one of the smallest but most ancient Christian Communities in India. He is the author of the book, �Teach Yourself Aramaic�, and believes that the release of the film, �The Passion of the Christ� could be a reason for the increased demand for learning the language. Mar Aprem�s doctoral thesis, the �History of the Assyrian Church�, said there was a jump in the sale of his book after the release of the film.


Dr (Fr) Augustine Kanjamala, a native of Kerala and the Director of the Institute of Indian Culture in Mumbai, stated that according to tradition, St. Thomas the Apostle arrived in Kerala is 52 AD. Pro- Thomasin�s believe that St. Thomas initially came to evangelize the migrant Jewish population settled in Cochin, (a prosperous city even those days). Like any other migrant group, these Jewish settlers would have spoken Aramaic among themselves. Aramaic and its deriving dialects have been transmitted down the centuries through their descendants. Hence the Aramaic language in varied dialect still exists among the local Malayalam population today. Another tradition holds that the use of Aramaic-Syriac dialect could be the result of the migration of Christians from the Middle East to Kerala during the Roman persecution in 3rd to 4th centuries. Dr. Augustine said in his student days pre-1960�s mass in Kerala was in Syrian, which is the more developed form of Aramaic.


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