6 July 2012
Mosques and churches dot the Soulimanya neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria.
(photo: Spencer Osberg)
At CNEWA, we throw around a lot of exotic words. Most can be looked up in a dictionary or style book. But a few require a little more digging. Here are five from the Middle East that required CNEWA’s resident biblical languages scholar, Atonement Friar Elias Mallon, to decipher.
al-quds — This word means, “The Holy,” in Arabic and is the Muslim name for Jerusalem, the city sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Jews and Christians refer to the city by its (very) ancient name, yɘrušalayim, from which the English word, Jerusalem, derives. Muslims give Jerusalem an honorific title, “the Holy,” much like Christians refer to Rome as “the eternal city.”
qurbana — This is the Syriac and Aramaic word for the Eucharist. The root meaning of the word is “to bring near (God); to offer.” Interestingly, the Aramaic word appears in Mark 7:11, where Jesus condemns it when an adult child does not support his parents because he declares his wealth as Corban, i.e. “offered to God.” In Matthew 15:6, in the same context, the evangelist uses “offered to God” in Greek rather than the Aramaic word.
‘īsā — The name of Jesus in the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, and the name used by Muslims, who revere Jesus as a great prophet and Mary as his virgin mother. Muslims do not believe Jesus is divine nor do they believe that Jesus was crucified (Qur’an 4:158); rather, they believe Jesus is in heaven waiting to return at the end of time.
yasu‘ — The name for Jesus used by Arabic-speaking Christians; the different names of Jesus used by Muslims and Christians are reminders that the two communities understand the person and role of Jesus very differently.
allah — The word used for God by Arabic-speaking Muslims, Christians and Jews. The Syriac and Aramaic word for God is alah. Although Arabic-speaking Jews, Christians and Muslims use the same Arabic word for God, they use slightly different words in Syriac and Hebrew. Nevertheless, all three words come from the same root and are closely related.
Tags: Middle East Muslim Islam Christian