Arameans feature in the annals of the Assyrian kings for some four centuries (ca. 1100–700 BC), apparently having settled more or less all around the Fertile Crescent; the geographical term Beth Aramaye in Syriac sources reflects their presence in Babylonia as recorded in the Assyrian annals. In the course of the 10th cent. BC a number of small independent Aramean kingdoms, using Aramaic in their inscriptions, emerged in what is today Syria, though over the course of the next two centuries they all became subject to the Assyrian Empire, a fate shared with Israel and Judah. The often hostile relations between the Aramean kings and those of Israel and Judah are related in the OT (Kings and Chron.). Syriac readers of the Peshitta, however, would have known these (with the exception of Rezin) as ‘Edomites’, rather than ‘Arameans’, since the Syriac translators evidently thought that the Arameans lived only to the East of the Euphrates (thus Laban remains an ‘Aramean’, Gen. 31:20). In the Peshitta NT, by contrast, ‘Aramean’ renders ‘Hellene’ in the sense of ‘gentile, pagan’ (e.g., Acts 21:28; Rom. 1:16). At some point a distinction was introduced between the two senses, ethnic (ārāmāyā) and pagan (armāyā); the first definite attestation for the latter is in a memrā by Yaʿqub of Serugh (ed. Bedjan, V, 474) where the three-syllable form is demanded by the meter (armāyā is the vocalization that is later provided for all the NT passages).
In many Syriac writers Ārāmāyā and Suryāyā are synonyms; normally this refers to the language, but on occasion they are used as alternate ethnic terms: thus in the early Syriac translation of Eusebius’s ‘Ecclesiastical History’ Bardaiṣan is described both as a suryāyā (ed. Wright, 183) and as an ārāmāyā (243). Likewise Yaʿqub of Edessa, in his ‘Encheiridion’ and elsewhere, speaks of ‘we Suryāye, or Ārāmāye’. This equation is further elaborated in Appendix II to Michael Rabo’s Chronicle. In modern times the ethnic identity of ‘Aramean’ has been taken up in some circles of the W.-Syr. diaspora as a corrective to the popularity of Assyrian themes.
- Brock and Taylor, Hidden Pearl. (with annotation in Hugoye 5.1 , 62–112)
- E. Lipiński, The Aramaeans. Their ancient history, culture, religion (OLA 100; 2000).
- Th. Nöldeke, ‘Die Namen der aramäischen Nation und Sprache’, ZDMG 25 (1871), 113–38.
- M. Weitzman, The Syriac Version of the Old Testament (1999), 62–7.
How to Cite This Entry
Footnote Style Citation with Date:
Sebastian P. Brock and James F. Coakley, “Arameans,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Arameans.
Bibliography Entry Citation:
Brock, Sebastian P. and James F. Coakley. “Arameans.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Arameans.
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