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BBC-Interview "Aramaic: an imperial language without an empire"

with Prof. Dr. Holger Gzella


Aramaic is a language that for some three thousand years facilitated the exchange of ideas across large tracts of the Middle East and Asia. In its heyday it was the main official and written language across the Neo-Assyrian and Achaemenid empires. It was the language in which several sections of the Old Testament Bible were written. A Galilean dialect of Aramaic was probably the language Jesus spoke. Different dialects of Aramaic still exist today but numbers of speakers are dwindling and there are fears that it could die out.

So what is the story of Aramaic? Why did it become so influential and then go into decline? And how much has it changed over its long history?

Bridget Kendall is joined by three distinguished scholars of Aramaic: Professor Holger Gzella from Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich is the author of numerous publications on Aramaic as well as being an expert on other Old Testament languages. Professor Alison Salvesen from Oxford University works on ancient interpretations of the Hebrew Bible including its Aramaic versions. She is also an authority on Jacob of Edessa, a leading religious scholar who wrote in one of the many variants of Aramaic.

See the PODCAST (available for one year): https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3ct1rl7