WORD STUDY – CONTINUALLY EAT (ARAMAIC)
Psalms 53:4: “Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people [as] they eat bread: they have not called upon God.”
John 6:53: “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”
When we read this eating people up business we automatically think of this as a metaphor, which it is. But in ancient times as in areas of the Middle East today, they are many different varieties to this eating people up metaphor. For some it means to be consumed by someone’s elses’s personality or to be controlled by someone. To others it means to be influenced by someone.
If you think of what eating food is about, you will discover this to be a great metaphor. When you eat food it actually becomes a part of you providing the necessary elements to restore parts of your body like skin and blood which tends to wear out. It also goes to provide energy and strength to keep you going every day and keep you alive. Thus, like in Isaiah where in his vision he was told to eat a book. The idea of course it he was instructed to make that book a part of his life, to be absorbed into him so that its instructions will be a natural part of him. Even today when someone says they really read a book they say they devoured it.
My brother was is a Wycliffe Bible Translator and served in Papua New Guinea in a jungle village. He told me how the people used to believe in cannibalism. To them it was a spiritual thing. They would normally consume the flesh of a warrior from an enemy tribe. The believe was that they would then ingest some of his spirit which included his warrior skills, bravery and courage. Actually, is the idea Jesus had only not to literally have his body eaten. Although the Catholics faith does believe the bread and wife miraculously becomes the actually body and blood of Jesus while maintaining the essence of the bread and wine. Be that as it may it still carries the idea Jesus was trying to teach. That is that we are to be completely absorbed into Him with our lives, our thoughts etc. In other words, like the people of Papua New Guinea hoping to take on the strength and courage of the warrior we take on the strength and courage of Jesus.
When we look at this word for eat in the Aramaic and the idioms of that day we find the same idea only with a much deeper understanding. Jesus spoke a Northern or old Galilean dialect of Aramaic. Only now in recent discoveries of this language we once thought was dead are we learning of some of the idiomatic expressions that are not common in the Chaldean Aramaic. The Chaldean Aramaic is the Aramaic that the book of Ezra and portions of Daniel were written in. The Old Galilean that Jesus spoke is a distinct dialect and scholars are still working on a grammar for this dialect.
It has been discovered however, that there is a idiomatic expression in the use of the word eat.
You see the word eat in Aramaic is the same as the word in Hebrew ‘akal. In John 6:53 “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,” The word ‘akal is prefixed with a Taw which indicates an imperfect form and would be rendered as continually eat.
We Protestants tend to mock the Catholics for saying that they eat of the flesh of Jesus every Sunday and for some it is every day yet there is a real truth buried in this ritual. Not the idea of eating the literal flesh of Jesus but the spiritual aspect.
You see in the Northern dialect or Old Galilean Aramaic there are idiomatic expressions such as “I have eaten my body and drunk my blood” which means I have worked to the point of exhaustion. They also have the expression: “I have eaten the body of my dead people.” This means “I am working under very difficult conditions.” There is also the expression “I saw my dead relatives while I was working.” That is used to indicate that the speaker had just experienced suffering and/or danger. The point is this, the word eat in the Old Galilean does not necessarily mean a physical consumption of food. The word itself ‘akal means to eat and consume but in its Semitic root it has the idea of absorbing something to the point that it becomes a part of you. Which is, as explained earlier what eating is all about.
But I believe Jesus was saying more than just absorbing his Word and letting it become a part of you, He was also using an Old Galilean idiomatic expression that we are to become a part of Him or He to us, we experience His strength, His sadness, His joy, His power, His life.