The language of Jesus Christ, Aramaic is known as a Semitic language that was spoken by ancient nomadic people and 268 verses of the original bible were written in this Aramaic. Nowadays, this Semitic language with a 3,000-years history can still be heard in a few places on planet Earth including some parts of Syria.
For instance, you can hear Aramaic in places like Malula, a village with a population of about 4,000 people located close to Mount Qalamun. Unfortunately, many local historians and religious leaders note that the language is likely to be extinct shortly.
Many of them also add that although the Syrian community that speaks the language is doing everything in their power to prevent Aramaic from dying, the future of this branch of Afro-Asiatic language family is not so bright and there are only half a million people in this world who speak the language. The only good news is that in villages like Malula, people are making efforts to keep the language alive by teaching Aramaic to younger generations and by holding prayers in the Syrian dialect of Aramaic. They are also focused on teaching Aramaic verbally and the people at the Aramaic Language Institute say how many efforts are being made to preserve the language in both written and verbal form. Despite these efforts to pass Aramaic to younger generations, many speakers are moving to other countries, making it more difficult to preserve the language.
Outside Syria, Aramaic is spoken in smaller communities in countries like Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. There are even places in the United States like Chicago and New Jersey where a few families that moved from Syria use the language. It is worth mentioning that Aramaic goes under several different names. Some call it also Chaldean, while modern speakers are known to refer to the language as Mandaic and Assyrian.
History of Aramaic Language
It is believed that Aramaic first appeared in the 11th century BC when Aramaenas used it to communicate. In was only in 6th century BC when the language started to be widely used in the Middle East. During this time, the Aramaic people who lived in Palestine and Syria replaced Hebrew with Aramaic. Some versions of Talmud and parts of the Old Testament were written in this Semitic language, as well as the famous Dead Sea Scrolls (ancient Jewish religious manuscripts). Like we mentioned before, it is believed that Jesus and his Apostles spoke Aramaic. In 650 AD, the language was replaced by Arabic.
Since Aramaic is spoken everywhere from Syria to Turkey and Azerbaijan, it comes as no surprise that it has many varieties. The two main varieties are the Western and the Eastern. For example, the Jewish Modern Aramaic languages can be heard in Israel, while the Christian Modern Aramaic languages are spoken in East Syrian communities.