Sounds of the Cross
Fake Aramaic is ubiquitous on the Internet. Every day people send me photos of hilarious tattoos, badly drawn scripts, and nonsense words and phrases of various types that they either want me to fix or interpret for them. The business of Aramaic is cut-throat and often politically motivated. Even we scholars argue among ourselves, not always cordially, and are not above playing politics with both the language and their faith. That's certainly the case with Igniter Media, which has gone out of it's way to give a platform to those who wish to change the actual history of our faith in the Messiah Yeshue for purely political reasons.
It was a large team effort going out and finding the necessary elements that would be filmed, as well as the creation of things like the THE KING OF THE JEWS sign. That, combined with many hours of foley/sound design, and meeting a Messianic Jewish Rabbi to record Aramaic voices for us, it certainly made for a project that took us on a journey. (emphasis theirs...)
But that's not the Galilean Aramaic which was spoken by Yeshue and His apostles. Nor is it the Palestinian Aramaic which was spoken in Jerusalem at that time. Instead this is simply modern Hebrew, which is called 'modern' because it is a modern language, and has nothing to do with the period in question. The real Aramaic which would have been on the Titulus is:
ישוע דמן נצרת מלכא דיהודיא
The "journey" however has only just begun. Regardless of them using the image in their advertising Igniter now denies that they used the image for the movie. Chatting with them on Facebook messenger I was told:
Oh, I see, Sounds Of The Cross. I'm not sure were you found that picture...it doesn't show up anywhere in the movie.
I would have found the image the same way everyone else does, by searching for the Titulus Crucis on Google. Which means that this image is out there for everyone to see, representing the worst of "fake Aramaic" to the world. I feel that it is necessary that we begin removing the influence of politics from our discussion of Aramaic linguistics. In order to do that we have to go after each and every incidence of fraud.
It took Mel Gibson years of consultation with real scholars when he made the movie the Passion of the Christ in Aramaic. Although I myself did not consult on Gibson's film, a number of those scholars are now my friends and I know the work that went into making it a reality. Let this be a warning to anyone trying to make another "Passion of Christ" movie on the cheap - don't.
There is not a lot of mystery surrounding what happened that day on the cross. It is recorded in Josephus' Testimonium Flavicum, in the Aramaic Gospels and in thousands of extant later works. The difficulty is that the people who need the information rarely do their due diligence to find it.
It makes no sense to me why they would choose a Talmudic rabbi who speaks Hebrew and Yiddish rather than Aramaic speaking scholars to "record Aramaic voices", ostensibly 'from the cross' of Yeshue. It also makes no sense why their rabbi could mistake that Aramaic and Hebrew are the same language, when they're as different, if not more different than English and French. That is, unless he just means to obfuscate the true origins of our faith for what amount to purely political reasons. Either way Igniter made the choice to give a platform to people who knowing change history before our very eyes.
What makes these people especially dangerous however is the fact that they claim to be an educational institution, 'teaching' these lies to western churches the "Truth found in the Bible"; but then also say that they don't know anything about Aramaic, or Hebrew or even Greek, yet they 'teach' that to churches... They are a shining example of how we have to change the narrative of what it means to be a follower of Yeshue in our time - through real knowledge and education - rather than lies and political game playing.
If any of you actually watch this film, be sure to let me know if it's any good. I for one can't imagine taking the time to give it any more personal attention than I already have.
- Steve Vanderheide, Sounds of the Cross, Igniter Media, 2014
- Hadrian Israel, How Do We Know That Galilean Aramaic Was the Language of Yeshue, Righteous Endeavour, 2016
- Mel Gibson, The Passion of the Christ
- Hadrian Israel, A Short Note on Split Words as Proof of Aramaic Gospel Primacy, Eidutha Journal of Aramaic and Ancient Christian Studies, 2016