Biblical Aramaic

Did you know that many Biblical texts were originally written in Aramaic? By learning Biblical Aramaic, you can enrich your understanding of biblical prophecies and the holy Scriptures.

Course Description

Course Main Takeways
  • Level
  • Weekly Hours
    2 hrs
  • Duration
    9 Months
  • Language
  • Accreditation
    This course is worth 3 credits at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

During this course, students will learn Biblical Aramaic while studying ancient scriptures from the books of Daniel and Ezra, gaining a basic vocabulary and understanding of the ancient language.

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Course Author

Ohad Cohen, Ph.D.

Ohad Cohen, Ph.D.

Dr. Ohad Cohen was a linguistics researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and he is now a Faculty Member at the Department of Hebrew…

Syllabus Summary

  1. Introduction to Aramaic

    Welcome to Aramaic! In this introductory unit we will examine the historical background of the Aramaic language. Where is Aram, who were the Arameans, and how has their language been used throughout the past 3,000 years of its history? How does Aramaic relate to Hebrew? According to the biblical text, how do the Arameans themselves relate to the Israelite nation?

  2. Nouns and Adjectives

    After a brief look at exactly where Aramaic appears in the biblical text, we will now begin to learn the Aramaic language itself. We will start with the basic forms of nouns and adjectives and see how they are used together in Aramaic. Examples from the books of Ezra and Daniel will give us a chance to put this new knowledge into practice.

  3. The Definite Article

    How does Aramaic distinguish between “a man” and “the man”? In this unit we will examine the Aramaic word for “the” and see how the form of this word interacts with the number and gender suffixes we learned in Unit 2. As we look into the biblical text for examples, we will also discover how archaeology can shed light on biblical events.

  4. Construct Chains

    How does Aramaic describe nouns with other nouns instead of with adjectives, as we do in English with the word “of”? In this unit we will examine a special construction known as the “construct chain” and see what effect this construction can have on the form of a noun.

  5. Daniel in the Lions’ Den

    One of the most famous Aramaic stories in the biblical text is the story of Daniel in the lions’ den. We will read the main sections of this text in Aramaic and English and discuss some of the literary and linguistic features of this narrative. We will also use this text to review the declination of the noun in the absolute, definite, and construct forms.

  6. Independent Personal Pronouns

    What do the independent personal pronouns “I, you, he, she,” etc. look like in Biblical Aramaic, and how can we use them to build sentences? How are they both similar to and different from what we see in Hebrew? We will also learn in this unit about the phenomenon of k ethiv/qere and see how this affects the forms of the Aramaic pronouns that appear in the biblical text.

  7. Pronominal Suffixes

    How does Aramaic express the idea of possession (my, your, his, etc.)? In this unit we will learn what the pronouns look like when they are suffixed to another word instead of standing apart as an independent form. We will look into the second chapter of Daniel to see some examples of these pronominal suffixes in context.

  8. The Fiery Furnace

    In this unit we will read the story of Daniel’s friends who were thrown into the fiery furnace and came out from it unharmed (Daniel 3). We will use the text to review the different forms of the pronouns that we have studied over the last few units. We will also discuss some of the historical and linguistic background of this narrative.

  9. The Particle י ִּ&ד Nominal Sentences

    In this unit we will explore a few more ways to combine nouns and adjectives before we turn to the verbal system. We will discuss the particle י ִּ“of”ד and see some different ways in which this can be used to express the same relationship as a construct chain. We will also learn how Aramaic can create a sentence without actually using a verb.

  10. Qətal Verbs

    We begin our discussion of the Aramaic verbal system by studying the suffix conjugation, which is known as the Qətal form. Why do we call this the “suffix conjugation”? Which English tenses can translate this Aramaic verb? We will turn to the book of Daniel to see examples of the form and uses of Qətal.

  11. Yiqtul Verbs

    Now that we have learned about the suffix conjugation, we will turn our attention to the “prefix conjugation.” How are these Yiqtul verbs different from the Qətal verbs in both form and meaning? With which English verb tenses can they be translated? As usual, we will turn to Aramaic text of the Bible for examples.

  12. Letters About Jerusalem

    For our third text-based unit, we will examine the letters in the book of Ezra that are exchanged between the king of Persia and various administrators west of the Euphrates. Alongside our discussion of the historical background of these letters, we will also review the verb forms and add a few notes about some Aramaic vocabulary.

  13. Participles

    We turn our attention in this unit to a new verb form: the participle. How is this form different from the Qətal and Yiqtul forms, both in its morphology and in the various roles it plays in Biblical Aramaic? We will see some examples in Daniel of how the participle can be used as a noun, as an adjective, and several different ways as a verb.

  14. Imperatives & Infinitives

    Our study of the basic verb forms concludes in this unit as we examine the forms and uses of the imperative and infinitive verbs. How does the morphology of the imperative relate to the Yiqtul form? What two different functions does the infinitive have in Biblical Aramaic? These are some of the questions we will answer as we turn to Daniel and Ezra for examples.

  15. Verb Review

    In this unit we will look back through our recent lessons on the verbal system and conduct a summary of the various forms. We will review the basic features of the Qǝtal, Yiqtul, participle, imperative, and infinitive verbs, then practice with an Aramaic verse from Jeremiah.

  16. The Binyanim

    Now that we have studied the basic noun and verb patterns, we will expand our view and take a look at the big picture of the Aramaic verbal system. We will examine each of the Aramaic binyanim (verb patterns) and see how they function in the language. How do these compare with the Hebrew binyanim?

  17. The Hitpeel Verb

    In this unit we continue our discussion of the binyanim by focusing on the Hitpeel binyan. How does this binyan relate to Peal, and how is its morphology unique? We will examine this binyan in its various conjugations and look as always to the biblical text for examples.

  18. The Writing on the Wall

    The story of the writing on the wall is one of the most well-known stories in the book of Daniel. We will read and discuss the first half of this story in this unit and return to the second half later. How can the historical background of this narrative shed light on some of the characters and events here? What can we observe about the Aramaic verbal system from these verses?

  19. The Doubled Binyanim

    In this unit we turn our attention to the doubled binyanim, Pael and Hitpaal. Why are these known as the “doubled” binyanim? How are they different in both form and voice from each other and from the other binyanim? We will read through some verses from the book of Daniel to find examples of each of these verbs.

  20. Hafel & Hofal

    We continue our discussion of the binyanim by turning to the causative stem: the Hafel and Hofal verbs. What is the primary feature of these verb forms, and how can we distinguish them from one another? How are their meaning and use distinct from the other binyanim? As usual, we will turn to the texts of Ezra and Daniel to discuss specific examples of these verbs.

  21. The Writing Interpreted

    In this unit we resume our discussion of the Daniel 5 story about the writing on the wall. In addition to learning about the cultural and historical background of this narrative, we will also use these verses to review the binyanim of the Aramaic verb. What is the Peil binyan, and how does it differ in form and meaning from Peal?

  22. Demonstrative Pronouns

    Languages like English and Hebrew have two sets of demonstrative pronouns: this/these and that/those. What makes Aramaic different from these languages? What do the demonstrative pronouns look like in Aramaic, and how are they used? Multiple examples from both Ezra and Daniel will help us to understand this new set of Aramaic pronouns.

  23. Marking the Direct Object

    The topic of discussion in this unit is the direct object, i.e. the person or thing to which the action of a verb is done. What are some of the different ways in which Aramaic can mark a word as the direct object of a sentence? Is the direct object always marked? We will use our new knowledge and old vocabulary to practice translating some verses from Ezra and Daniel.

  24. Using the Lexicon

    Now that we have acquired the basic grammatical principles of Aramaic, we are left with the question of what to do when we encounter unfamiliar vocabulary. In this unit, we will answer this question by exploring the lexicons of Biblical Aramaic. We will learn how each lexicon is organized and how to extract the basic form of any new word in order to find its meaning.

  25. Ezra 6: Rebuilding

    We return to the book of Ezra in this unit, reading a letter from King Darius and witnessing its effect on the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. We will discuss the language and historical background of this chapter, focusing especially on a review of topics from recent lessons.

  26. Consonant Shifts: Interdentals

    Now that we have learned how to navigate the Aramaic lexicons we will turn our attention to the reasons behind some of the differences we see between cognate Hebrew and Aramaic words. How did the 29 original Semitic consonants become the 23 that we see in the Aramaic of the biblical text? How can this inform our understanding of Aramaic vocabulary?

  27. Consonant Shifts: Emphatics

    In this unit we continue our discussion of consonant shifts in Semitic languages and how this phenomenon affects Aramaic vocabulary and its relationship with Hebrew. What are “emphatic” consonants? How many were there in Proto-Semitic, and how did they enter Biblical Aramaic? These are the questions we will answer as we look through biblical vocabulary for examples.

  28. Weak Roots

    Now that we have explored the strong roots in the various noun and verb patterns of Aramaic, we turn our attention to the weak roots. In these roots, one of the root letters can disappear or change in certain word forms. Which consonants can behave like this, and what do we call these root groups? We focus on three weak root groups in this unit and discuss the others in Unit 29.

  29. Daniel’s Visions

    As we continue our discussion of weak roots, we turn to the apocalyptic vision in Daniel 7:1-7 for examples. In addition to examining several new weak root types, we will discuss the historical setting of this vision. What might the four beasts represent? Where is this chapter set in the larger context of the book of Daniel?

  30. Where We’ve Been

    In this final unit of our course, we will look back across the previous units and see how far we have come. Beginning with review of the historical background of this language and moving through a review of the Aramaic nouns, verbs, pronouns, and word structure, we will summarize the basic grammar tools that are foundational for independent reading of Daniel and Ezra.

Full Syllabus

This course is accredited by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

  • We partnered with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, one of the leading biblical research institutes in the world, to bring you a wealth of Biblical knowledge in courses developed by renowned scholars.
  • Upon completion, you’ll receive a certificate of achievement from the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies signed by the dean of the faculty.
  • We also offer an academic track, with 3 academic credits, which is recognized in universities worldwide. To hear more details and enroll in the academic track click here.
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