Jimmy was born in Texas, grew up nominally Protestant, but at age 20 experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, he started an intensive study of the Bible. But the more he immersed himself in Scripture the more he found to support the Catholic faith. Eventually, he entered the Catholic Church. His conversion story, “A Triumph and a Tragedy,” is published in Surprised by Truth. Besides being an author, Jimmy is the Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to Catholic Answers Magazine, and a weekly guest on “Catholic Answers Live.”
In my previous post, I took on a silly video that has more than a million views of different versions of it. The video centered on Jesus’ statement in Luke 10:18 that, after the disciples had come back from a preaching mission, Our Lord had seen “Satan fall like lightning from heaven” and claimed that if you back translated this statement from Greek to Aramaic and then to Hebrew that “lighting from heaven” would come out as “baraq o baw-maw” or “Barack Obama.” This, the nameless creator of the video suggested, might mean that Jesus was telling us the Antichrist’s name would be Barack Obama.
I greeted the logic of this video with a great big gift bag full of “Nope.”
Whatever Barack Obama’s role may be in the great scheme of things, whether he’s The One who will cause the oceans to stop rising and the planet to heal or whether he’s just the one who went golfing while the Gulf filled up with oil, Luke 10:18 doesn’t establish him as the Antichrist.
One reason, as previously explained, is that this passage isn’t a prophecy at all. On its face, it appears to be Jesus congratulating the disciples on a well done evangelization mission.
Another reason, as previously explained, is that if you translated “lighting from heaven” back into either Aramaic or Hebrew, you wouldn’t get “baraq o baw-maw.” Instead, you’d get something like “baraq min ha-shamayim” (Hebrew) or “barqa min shmaya” (Aramaic).
After posting my post, I thought, “Hey, this isn’t the first time somebody has translated this phrase into this pair of languages. Let’s see what we find if we look it up in a Hebrew New Testament an an Aramaic New Testament!”
So that’s what I did.
Consulting this Hebrew New Testament [.pdf] online, we find that the phrase in the passage is this:
Transliterating that from right to left, it reads “kbaraq min ha-shamayim” (ignoring the effect of a few Hebrew punctuation marks that don’t transliterate well into English). The “k” on the front of this is actually a different word. It’s a preposition meaning “as” or “like,” which is part of what Our Lord was just saying: “like lighting from heaven.” But if you just want the phrase “lightning from heaven,” you’d leave off the “k.”
So the translators of this Hebrew New Testament bore out what I said: If you translate the phrase into Hebrew, you’d expect to see “baraq min ha-shamayim,” not something that sounds like “Barack Obama.”
And if you don’t happen to know the Hebrew alphabet, don’t just take my word for it. CHECK ME OUT!
Of course the whole Hebrew thing is really just a red herring—or maybe that should be a red lox—because Jesus wouldn’t have been speaking Hebrew in this combination, but in all likelihood Aramaic. The video maker just jumped to Hebrew because he knew even less about Aramaic than he did about Hebrew.
So what happens if we check an Aramaic New Testament?
The standard Aramaic translation of the New Testament is the Pshitta, a version of which is online here. This version happens to be an interlinear, with the English words appearing over the Aramaic ones they correspond to. Just remember that the Aramaic letters read right to left rather than left to right.
Here’s the phrase from Luke 10:18:
This edition isn’t pointed for vowels, but transliterating it you get “barqa min shmaya” (there is no “k,” as in Hebrew because the Aramaic uses a separate preposition for “like” here).
Again, don’t just take my word for it. CHECK ME OUT!
(BTW, these other alphabets may look different, but they aren’t that hard to learn. Give ‘em a try!)
Anyway, either way you go—baraq min ha-shamayim or barqa min shmaya—neither sounds much like “Barack Obama.”
What are your thoughts?