{Word Study} Yea (Yes)


Matthew 5:37: “But let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay nay for whatsoever is more than these comes of evil.”
Yes – Aramaic: ‘iy,  Yes.
When I read the Aramaic I transliterate it from the Aramaic Script to the Hebrew Script to make it easier to for me to read as I read Hebrew much better than Aramaic.   This is not always a good idea and this verse is a good example,  especially when I get confused and read it like it was Hebrew and not Aramaic.
When Jesus spoke these words he said them in Aramaic.  Those listening knew Hebrew as only a ceremonial language although  Jesus would sometimes teach his disciples in Hebrew.  This is where it gets confusing because in Aramaic the word for yes is ‘iy and a word for No in Hebrew is ‘iy.  There is another word in Hebrew for no which is lo as it is in Aramaic.  So when I accidently read this in Hebrew rather than Aramaic I got: “Let your communication be No, no; No, no.”
This caused me to lose sleep last night as I tried to research this out because I felt there was some reason why Jesus said yes and no two times and used an Aramaic word for yes which was identical to the Hebrew word for no.
I discovered that in the time of Jesus, as they do today, the Jews often threw in Hebrew words in their conversation to emphasize a point, just we would do today with languages.  We say something is broken we might try to be colorful and use the German word “kaput.”   We want to emphasize no we sometimes would say: “I said no – nyet”  or we use some other foreign word to add color to our expression.   The thing about this is that in the time of Jesus people tended to hedge their bets so to speak.  So when they did not want to really answer yes to a question but didn’t want to say no either, they would say “iy.”   In Aramaic that was a good solid yes, but if their yes came back to haunt them, they would say: “I meant ‘iy in Hebrew” which meant no.  Yeah, people played games like that in those days.   I am sure our politicians wish we had such a linguistic anomaly in our language.
Repeating a word twice in Aramaic was a way of saying: “Listen closely,”  or “let me be clear.”  Hence Jesus was saying in this verse what we suspect He was saying: “Don’t ride the fence, either say yes and mean yes or no and mean no, don’t hedge your bets and try to weasel out of it later but saying you were misunderstood.”