Dave Brisbin 1.8.23
The first line of a book has always fascinated me. May not always be significant in content, but it establishes the author’s voice—manner, personality, mood—the nature of our link with the storyteller. Call me Ishmael…Moby Dick. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…A Tale of Two Cities. The first line Jesus speaks in the book of Mark is a simple proclamation and an appeal:

The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.

These words establish Jesus’ voice and link with us and significantly encapsulate his entire life and teaching. But these words, strung together in English can only create a meaning that is the sum of what those words mean to us now at a time and in a culture and language utterly alien to the time of the telling. What happens if we take this simple first line and translate it back into the original Aramaic and reconstruct it through all we know of the ancient culture and worldview in which it was uttered?

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In Aramaic, zavna/time can mean a season or passing instant in which an opening appears, an opportunity to be seized—focused here not on a clock running out, but a person becoming ready to be completed. Malkutha/kingdom, not a place but the principles by which the king reigns, and Alaha/God, the essence of unity—so the kingdom of God can be understood as the presence of unity. Meta/at hand is really to reach, attain—to have already arrived, herenow. Tab/repent, not remorse, but to return or answer, change direction in mind and body. Haimanuta/believe is confidence, firmness, integrity, all that leads to trust. And sebharta/gospel, to hope, endure, declare. Putting these concepts together, a line in Aramaic can become a paragraph in English…

Waiting is over. God’s presence is fully formed, herenow. The door to the very life God lives every moment is open wide. Wherever you’re going, stop, turn this way, through this door. Remain hopefully steadfast until you trust that the way is sure.

A creative paraphrase. Absolutely accurate? Of course not. But much closer to an Aramaic Jesus. Close enough for now.

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