Question from a Site Viewer
And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
Mark 5:41 (KJV)
I think that Jesus said “talitha cumi” through the Spirit or in tongues. If this was normal Greek or Hebrew why did they go to such lengths to tell us what it meant? Jesus, being filled with the Spirit without measure, surely also spoke to God in His heavenly language.
Peter, James and John were with Him. So one or all three told this story to Mark. So why did they not just say, “Damsel arise”? Perhaps it’s because they did not know what the words meant. But they must have figured it meant “Damsel arise,” as that is what happened.
The above is what my spirit has led me to believe and that has been on my mind and I thought you might have an answer.
Thanks for your question about Mark 5:41. You question whether the words “talitha cumi” were words from a heavenly language that was translated for us. While your intuition is intriguing, there is another explanation that may be simpler and, I think, more likely.
There is another passage in the book of Mark where we have the actual words of Christ spoken, and then the author gives us the translation.
In the other passage, Mark 15:34, we have the Christ quoting Psalm 22:1 in Aramaic. Aramaic was a common language known to the Jews in the area. There remains some dispute as to whether it was the primary language of the Jews at that time (the movie “The Passion” is spoken in Aramaic based on the prevalent view among scholars that Aramaic was the language Christ would have spoken; however, given the prevalence of Hebrew in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the issue is not fully settled). But it seems certain that the Jews in Galilee and Jerusalem would have known Aramaic. In fact, Peter was called “Cephas,” an Aramaic name.
When we look at the words in Mark 5:41, we find that they also form an Aramaic phrase. The Aramaic feminine noun meaning a young woman (talitha) and the imperative form of “to stand” (cumi) form this phrase.
Parts of the Old Testament were written in Aramaic, such as Daniel chapters 2-6 and parts of Ezra. There are also Aramaic phrases and words scattered in other books of the Old Testament. Perhaps the earliest direct reference to Aramaic in Scripture is in 2 Kings 18:26 where King Hezekiah asks Rabshakeh to speak in Aramaic and not Hebrew so that those who dwelt in Jerusalem at the time of the Assyrian siege (around 720 B.C.) would not understand.
After Judah was taken captive to Babylon in 586 B.C., they lived in a country and among a people who spoke Aramaic. When they came back from captivity, Aramaic remained a common language of the area. Even after the time of Jesus, one of the great Jewish writings, the Talmud, known as the Babylonian Talmud, was written in Aramaic.
So, given that the phrase is an Aramaic phrase and given the parallels we find between this passage and Mark 15:34, it is more likely that the author was simply providing for the Greek readers (the book of Mark was originally written in Greek) the actual Aramaic words spoken by Jesus.
We have a similar situation in John 20:16, where Mary Magdalene greets Christ and says “Rabboni,” which the author translates for us as “Teacher.” There, the word is a Hebrew word. We are left with the same question we have in Mark 5:41. Why did the author use this formulation rather than simply say that she turned and said “Teacher”? But in each of these instances, these words represented actual languages that would have been known to those listening, though not necessarily known to the Greek readers of the books.
I trust the Lord Jesus will continue to lead and guide your life as you seek to follow Him in truth and love.
a fellow pilgrim,