Use of 0rbg in Classical and Contemporary Aramaic Thought

Paul David Younan. Translation Team

Abstract: In this article an attempt is made to throw some light on 0rbg in relation to the varied usage of the term in Classical and Contemporary Aramaic, with particular attention paid to the impact on the traditional understanding of the lineage of Christ as recorded in the Gospels.


Almost since they were first penned down, historian and theologian alike have attempted to reconcile the discrepancies between the genealogical record of Jesus as recorded by Matthew and Luke.

Traditional Understanding of Matthew's Genealogical Record:

First Series

Second Series

Third Series

1. Abraham 1. Solomon 1. Salathiel
2. Isaac 2. Roboam 2. Zerubabel
3. Jacob 3. Abia 3. Abiud
4. Judas 4. Asa 4. Eliachim
5. Phares 5. Josaphat 5. Azor
6. Esron 6. Joram 6. Sadoe
7. Aram 7. Ozias 7. Achim
8. Aminadab 8. Joatham 8. Eliud
9. Naasson 9. Achaz 9. Eleazar
10. Salmon 10. Ezechias 10. Mathan
11. Booz 11. Manasses 11. Jacob
12. Obed 12. Amon 12. Joseph (husband of Mary)
13. Jesse 13. Josias 13. Jesus
14. David 14. Jechonias  

Traditional Understanding of Luke's Genealogical Record:

First Series

Second Series

Third Series

1. Abraham 1. Nathan 1. Salathiel
2. Isaac 2. Methatha 2. Zerubabel
3. Jacob 3. Menna 3. Reza
4. Judas 4. Melea 4. Joanna
5. Phares 5. Eliakim 5. Juda
6. Esron 6. Jona 6. Joseph
7. Aram 7. Joseph 7. Semei
8. Aminadab 8. Judas 8. Mathathias
9. Naasson 9. Simeon 9. Mathath
10. Salmon 10. Levi 10. Nagge
11. Booz 11. Mathat 11. Hesli
12. Obed 12. Jorim 12. Nahum
13. Jesse 13. Eleazar 13. Amos
14. David 14. Joshua 14. Mathathias
  15. Her 15. Joseph
  16. Helmadan 16. Janne
  17. Cosan 17. Melchi
  18. Addi 18. Levi
  19. Melchi 19. Mathat
  20. Neri 20. Heli
    21. Joseph (husband of Mary)
    22. Jesus

Church fathers, whether Augustine and Ambrose in the West, or Eshoa-Dad of Merv and Bar-Hebreaus in the East, alike struggled to explain in a satisfactory way the contradictions and questions raised by a plain reading of these texts. None of them were able to successfully demonstrate their conclusions, answer the myriad of questions raised by their own conclusions, or even agree with one other.

In post-modern secular thought, the attempt has been made to discredit the accounts on the basis that the authors of the Gospels in question were making exaggerated claims in order to establish a non-existent lineage for Christ.

In reality, there are very problematic issues raised by a plain reading of these texts - especially within the confines of the current academically accepted framework, that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were first penned in Greek.

It is only when we refer to the Aramaic story, in an Aramaic psyche, will we be able to finally answer the puzzling questions raised by the plain reading of the text:

As with most problems that appear complex on the surface, this one has a very simple answer. The answer lies in the Aramaic original of the Gospel of Matthew, according to the Peshitta version.


0rbg (pronounced Gaw-ra) is a noun in the Emphatic state derived from the ancient Semitic verb rbg (pronounced Ga-bar) - meaning "To be strong, brave, manly, courageous." This term is well attested to in the other major Semitic languages - rbg (pronounced Gaw-bar) in Hebrew and Ja-br in Arabic.  The general meaning of the Emphatic noun 0rbg is "Man."

  As used in Matthew 1:16, the word is hrbg which is the Possessive Pronominal form of 0rbg , meaning "Her 'Gab-ra.'"

Contextual Usage of 0rbg in the Aramaic New Testament

Although mainly used to mean ‘man’ in a generic sense, the term can also mean ‘husband’ depending on the context

Why is it that sometimes the general meaning of ‘man’ is increased in specificity, depending on context, to mean ‘husband?’ For no more reason than saying - ‘I now pronounce you man and wife" can also be said "I now pronounce you husband and wife."  Since a husband is merely a more ‘specific’ type of ‘man’, this equation of terminology is quite acceptable, even in English. 

The question then arises - can the term, when used in proper context, also mean ‘Father?’

I believe it can be demonstrated from the Gospels that all three shades of meaning are attested to - depending on context.

Verses in the Gospels where 0rbg is used to mean the generic ‘man’, although by no means an exhaustive list, include: 

Please reference the Concordance at for a more complete listing for this word.

Some examples of the contextual variant ‘husband’ include:

Finally, the contextual variant ‘father’ can be read in:

Since the subject matter of this thesis attempts to reconcile the two accounts of Jesus’ lineage, let’s have a closer look at Matthew 1:16, and a related verse - Matthew 1:19, in the Aramaic of the Peshitta.


MATTHEW 1:16 & 1:19

The Aramaic reading in the Peshitta version is: 

Myrmd hrbg Pswyl dwl0 Bwq9y

The verse reads: "Jacob fathered Yoseph, the hrbg of Maryam." The word used here, in verse 16, is 0rbg with a 3rd-person feminine pronominal possessive suffix of h (i.e., ‘her Gaw-ra.’)

This word has traditionally been translated ‘husband’, however, the main Semitic term for ‘Husband’, is f9b ("Ba’la", or, hl9b for ‘Her husband.) Examples of this word can be found in:

Why would Matthew use two different terms, in such a short span of writing (3 verses - 1:16 to 1:19), to refer to Maryam’s ‘husband’, Yoseph?

The fact is, he had to distinguish between two different people named Joseph - Matthew is not referring to Mary’s husband in verse 16 at all, but rather her father!

Depending on context, it has been shown that 0rbg can mean ‘man, husband or father.’  The usage in verse 16 would demand that we translate 0rbg as ‘father’, rather than 'husband', since the context is a genealogy.  Verses 18 & 19, however, would demand that we associate that Joseph with her ‘husband’, since the context is that of marriage.

Matthew, then, is recording the genealogy of Mary, whereas Luke is recording that of Joseph. Which would be exactly opposite of the currently accepted academic line - that Luke recorded Mary’s lineage while Matthew recorded that of Joseph.

That would give us 14 generation in the third series of Matthew.  It would also explain why Luke has 20 generations in the 2nd series and 22 generations in the 3rd series - i.e., Joseph's lineage did not break out cleanly in 14-generation groupings, except for the first series.  Since Matthew is giving the line of Mary, only her lineage would be required to break out evenly in 14-generation groupings.  That would also explain why the names are completely different in both the 2nd and 3rd series between the accounts in Matthew and in Luke.  It also demonstrates that both Mary and Joseph were descendents of King David - each through a separate line!

A valid question is - 'Isn't it a fact that lineages generally exclude females?'

The answer to that, generally, is yes.  However, the problem is that Mary is the only real human parent that Jesus had.  Jesus was the only person in history who had no human father - whose previous generation included only one person.  So in order to count 14 generations - Mary must be included, even though it would introduce a female in the lineage.  In order to demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of David, Mary must be demonstrated to descend from David's house!

Here is a revised view of the Genealogical Record, according to a more proper understanding of Aramaic Matthew:

First Series

Second Series

Third Series

1. Abraham 1. Solomon 1. Salathiel
2. Isaac 2. Roboam 2. Zerubabel
3. Jacob 3. Abia 3. Abiud
4. Judas 4. Asa 4. Eliachim
5. Phares 5. Josaphat 5. Azor
6. Esron 6. Joram 6. Sadoe
7. Aram 7. Ozias 7. Achim
8. Aminadab 8. Joatham 8. Eliud
9. Naasson 9. Achaz 9. Eleazar
10. Salmon 10. Ezechias 10. Mathan
11. Booz 11. Manasses 11. Jacob
12. Obed 12. Amon 12. Joseph (father of Mary)
13. Jesse 13. Josias 13. Mary
14. David 14. Jechonias 14. Jesus



Since we know from Patristic writing that Matthew wrote his Gospel in the ‘Hebrew Dialect’ of Aramaic (Judean Aramaic), and that "everyone" translated it into Greek "as best they could" -  it then follows that the Greeks mistranslated this term as ‘husband’, instead of the more proper contextual variant, ‘father.’ 

In Greek, the words for ‘husband’, ajnhvr (Aner), and ‘father’ pathvr (Pater) are completely different. It is impossible for an Aramaic translator of a Greek document to confuse the two - but it is very easy for a Greek translator of an Aramaic original to mistake the contextual variances in the single term 0rbg


According to the modern academically accepted framework, the Peshitta is a revision of the Old Syriac - which, in turn, is a translation from the Greek.

Since we have already demonstrated that the Church Fathers admitted that Matthew wrote in Aramaic, and the Greek versions are nothing more than translations - one naturally wonders, how does the "Old Syriac", and in particular, the Cureton manuscript read?

Once again, the Old Syriac shows itself to be a fraud and a translation directly from the Greek. For Matthew 1:16, it reads:

 hl twh 0rykmd Pswy 

In English - "Joseph, to whom she was betrothed"

Not surprisingly, it is caught red-handed because it also preserves the original Peshitta reading of hl9b in verse 19!

The Peshitta is the only Aramaic version that preserved the original reading. The Greek versions were based on the Peshitta, and the "Old Syriac" is an imposter translated from the Greek - AFTER the mistranslation had crept into the Greek translations.


Dr. James Trimm, of the Society for the Advancement of Nazarene Judaism, has made use of three medieval manuscripts of Matthew in the Hebrew tongue, known as the Shem Tob (1300's), DuTillet and Munster versions.

Regarding the age of the earliest manuscript witness to these versions of Matthew, and their similarity, Dr. Trimm states:

" surfaced in the 1300's and the other two in the 1500's.

Shem Tob (1300's) differs the most, while DuTillet and Munster are very similar. However there are many readings where they all agree together against all other versions (such as in Mt. 1:1).  Shem Tob has many obvious layers of corruption which explains its substantial variances.

I believe they originate from the original Hebrew of Matthew.  All three came out of the Jewish community." (post on the discussion forum, dated July 14, 2001.)

But, according to all three medieval versions of the Hebrew Matthew, the genealogy of Jesus, is as follows:

First Series

Second Series

Third Series

1. Abraham 1. Solomon 1. Salathiel
2. Isaac 2. Roboam 2. Zerubabel
3. Jacob 3. Abia 3. Abiud
4. Judas 4. Asa 4. Avner
5. Phares 5. Josaphat 5. Eliachim
6. Esron 6. Joram 6. Azor
7. Aram 7. Ozias 7. Sadoe
8. Aminadab 8. Joatham 8. Achim
9. Naasson 9. Achaz 9. Eliud
10. Salmon 10. Ezechias 10. Eleazar
11. Booz 11. Manasses 11. Mathan
12. Obed 12. Amon 12. Jacob
13. Jesse 13. Josias 13. Joseph (husband of Mary)
14. David 14. Jechonias 14. Jesus

These Hebrew versions of Matthew show themselves to be frauds and mere medieval translations from the Greek and Latin manuscripts since,  like their sources, they make the claim that the Joseph mentioned in the third series is the 'husband' of Maryam.

Secondly, to make up for the obviously lacking 14th generation in the third series, they make up a new name (Avner) and insert it in between Abiud and Eliachim.  

Thirdly, this solution is superficial in that it seemingly only resolves the one issue regarding the 14 generations.  But what of all the differences between the names in Matthew and Luke?  And the number of generations in the 2nd and 3rd series of Luke? Or, the problem of exactly which son of David Joseph was supposedly descended from?

I believe it can be demonstrated with this, and other, examples that Hebrew Matthew never existed - that it was in Aramaic that Matthew wrote his Gospel, and that by 'the Hebrew dialect' Judean Aramaic was meant.

What can history and tradition and tell us about the original language of Matthew - was it Aramaic or Hebrew?

Specialists of the Aramaic language have analyzed closely this topic, and have come to distinguish various Aramaic dialects in the contemporary Palestine of Jesus as testified to by inscriptions thus discovered.

Based on this data, they are able to distinguish seven dialects that were shared by seven different localities in this small region:

The Aramaic of Judea was called the 'Hebrew dialect.'  It was different from, yet mutually comprehensible with, the Aramaic of Galilee (the dialect that Jesus spoke.)  This is one reason why Peter's (Keepa's) "speech" (dialect) was recognized during the trial, which happened to be in Judea.  Peter spoke Galilean Aramaic, whereas the inhabitants of Judea spoke a slightly different dialect.  It was for these inhabitants of Judea that Matthew wrote his Gospel.

Papias says that Matthew wrote the Logia in the Hebrew (Hebraidi) language; St. Irenćus and Eusebius maintain that he wrote his gospel for the Hebrews in their national language, and the same assertion is found in several ancient witnesses.  But, in the time of Christ, the national language of the Jews was Aramaic, and when, in the New Testament, there is mention of the Hebrew language (Hebrais dialektos), it is Aramaic that is implied.

Hence, the aforementioned Church Father may have been alluding to Aramaic and not to Hebrew. Besides, as they assert, the Apostle Matthew wrote his Gospel to help popular teaching and evangelization. To be understood by his readers who spoke Aramaic, he would have had to reproduce the original catechesis in this language, and it cannot be imagined why, or for whom, he should have taken the trouble to write it in Hebrew, when it would have had to be translated afterwards into Aramaic for use by the common people - who no longer understood the old language.. Moreover, Eusebius (Hist. eccl., III, xxiv, 6) tells us that the Gospel of Matthew was a reproduction of his preaching, and this we know, was in Aramaic.

Even if Matthew recorded the preaching of Jesus (which was in Aramaic) in Hebrew (a ridiculous assumption) - then the Hebrew would be, as the Greek, second-hand information.


The term 0rbg is still used today in modern literature. However, as in all languages, sometimes the way a word is spelled changes over time. For instance, we no longer spell ‘shop’ the way it was spelled centuries ago - ‘Shoppe.’  Many times, simple variances in spelling arise.

In Modern Eastern, or neo-Aramaic, the word 0rbg can still be spelled the same way, although a variant using the spelling 0rwg. is attested to.  Sometimes the Beth B is spelled with a Waw w in Eastern Aramaic, according to the vocalization rules of Qushaya and Rukakha (c.f., Yukhanan Bar-Zubi’s Grammar, 13th Century or under ‘Rules for Aspiration’)

Using Oraham’s Dictionary of the Assyrian Language, we can see direct witness that 0rbg means both ‘man’ and ‘husband.’

And, that the new variant in spelling is attested to by this dictionary:

According to the Way International's Concordance to the Peshitta, the term can mean 'man' or 'husband.'

In a book called 'Dishna d'Saybuthi, shown below, we see a short story using the new variant to mean 'elders of a household:'

In the above scan, the context of the short story is a description of a holiday the Assyrians of the Hakkari mountains celebrated during "Khad b’Nisan" (1st of Nisan (April), which is the Assyrian New Year.)

The title is - "The Second Festival/Celebration of the First of Nisan." During this "Festival", which coincided with the "first rain" in spring, the story states that "all the Fyb Ynb (residents of the house/the entire houshold), both 0rw9zw 0rwg (elders and young), departed from the home and allowed the rain to fall upon them, and getting soaked - they would begin to sing- ‘The drops of Nisan, the drops of Nisan.....may Nisan be blessed!"

This article proves that the term 0rwg can mean ‘elders of a household’, since it mentions them alongside the 0rw9z, "young."  This meaning, "elders of a household", is not attested to in the dictionaries referenced above - just as the meaning "father" is not attested to.

Finally, and the most powerful example - in Kinnara d'Rookha (the Harp of the Spirit), a quarterly published by the Archbishopric of the Church of the East in Baghdad, Iraq, Vol. 1 No3, 1999, the following fable is written:


The above scan contains a Fable called "The Fable of the Lion, the Fox and the Son of a Merchant."  The heading, the most important part of this example, contains the following introduction, which,  when translated, means:

Nyrm0 - ‘it is said’ 

0rbgd - ‘that a father’ 

$n0 - ‘a man’ 

0rgt -‘who is a merchant’ 

rd4 - ‘sent’ 

hrbl - ‘his son’ 

Frwg0tb - ‘to go trade’ 

This example is extraordinary in that it demonstrates the contextual usage of 0rbg in a sense that can only mean ‘father.’ It cannot be translated as ‘man’, since, the word following immediately after it is $n0 - ‘a man’ (yet another Aramaic term that means ‘man’). So to translate 0rbg  as 'man' here would make it redundant with $n0.

I have also highlighted, later on in the short story, where the son is called 0grt rb "Bar-Tagara", or "son of the merchant."  Additionally, the article also uses the word Yhwb0 - "his father."

So this example makes a very clear case for translating 0rbg as "father", if it is drawn from the proper context.


When I started researching this topic, I wanted to check the thesis with a number of professors who work in the field of Syriac/Aramaic, at some of the world's most prestigious universities.  Since I do not (yet) have permission to quote them by name, I will only summarize their responses to give you an idea of the varying opinions on this topic.

In response to the question, 'Have you ever seen an instance where 0rbg  can be translated 'father' or 'head of household' in English?' 

They wrote:

"Dear Paul: Thanks for the question..... it doesn't seem to be in any of the major Syriac lexicons (I checked Thomas Odo, Qardahi, Manna, Bar-Bahloul, Payne Smith, Brockelmann, Brun, and Costaz! Nor is it in the two dictionaries I have to hand of Turoyo [Ritter] and Sureth [Maclean]).

As in many languages, I am sure there must be places in Syriac literature where gabra / gabro could be understood to mean
something more inclusive than just man/ husband, and where it may have the sense you are looking for.
 (After all, the New
Testament passages Ephesians 5.23 and 1 Cor 11.3 get you pretty close to this.

If you find any examples do let me know!

"Dear Paul: GBRA is from an old Semitic word found in the Hebrew Bible, where it first meant "warrior; adult male." From there the development into "male head of the household" is not hard to see. It is often hard to tell from context whether "husband" would be the best translation.

"Dear Paul, A lot of ink has been spilt over this passage in Matthew, and on the two genealogies, both in antiquity and in modern times, and there seems to be no clear-cut answer to the various problems!    Among Syriac writers I recall there is a long section on the genealogies in Dionysius bar Salibi's Commentary on the Gospels.    As far as gabra is concerned, I suppose it is possible that the reading in C(ureton) has in mind the early apocryphal traditions about Mary's youth, and where Joseph is understood as being considerably older and is seen more as her guardian:  if so, gabra would more or less be "protective male".     But I can't say I've gone into this possibility, and probably others have."

"Hi Paul:   I consulted all my Aramaic and Syriac dictionaries, and could not find even one occurrence where GBR' meant father."

"Hi Paul, gbra means 'man'. To give it another meaning, would be an inference from context. 'Man of the house/household' doesn't change the meaning from 'man' in my opinion. I do not know of a context where such a meaning could be attached."

"Hi Paul, I can't remember seeing gabra used where it could mean father, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist somewhere."


I could not have stated it better than the world-renowned professor of Aramaic who said, in his reply above, that "a lot of ink has been spilt" over this passage in Matthew.  One cannot help but to wonder if it was all spilt in vain, if it had to be spilt at all - if only we would at last open our eyes and realize the obvious.  Sometimes the hardest explanation to accept is the simplest one - because it's too simple.   Occam's Razor would not have needed a name if it was well understood and implemented.

The root of this problem is as old as the Church itself.  The repercussions of the struggle between Jew and Gentile for control in the one Body of Christ is being felt today.  Hellenism in the West, over time, won.  The Semitic Church - aside from the small remnant that survived to the "East" of the border, by all accounts vanished and was driven out during the struggle.

They say that history is written by the victors.  There is no better example of this principle in action than the Greek vs. Aramaic New Testament debate.  Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that would indicate otherwise, the academic world still clasps tightly around the legacy of this historic struggle.

Such a simple and elegant solution to Matthew 1:16 - and the myriad of problems posed by the traditional understanding of this verse, is tossed away because it rocks the proverbial boat too much.  It would make too much sense - if only the scholarly atmosphere was conducive to it, of course.

I think about another one of the responses to my question posed above, essentially stating that the definition is lacking support in the dictionaries.

Are our languages, and thoughts, to be governed by dictionaries?  I thought it was the other way around.

It is inherent in our human nature to overcompensate, to over-explain the simple.  The meaning of Occam's Razor - neatly summarized, is that the truth is simple.  And that is what F=y4p (the Peshitta) is all about.


Paul D. Younan