Monday, September 04, 2023

Little lamb, arise (Chosen 5)

 This post is mainly concerned with the episode in The Chosen (season 3, episode 5) dealing with the raising of Jairus's daughter (see Mark 5:37-41 and parallels). In general, the episode is well done, as are all the healing miracles in this series (I say nothing about the cringey ending, where Jesus and the disciples go swimming in the Sea of Galilee fully clothed). 

I was interested to see that the healing words spoken by Jesus in the episode were "Little lamb, arise!", representing talitha kum(i) ταλιθα κουμ, a Greek transliteration of Aramaic טליתא קומי. (Mark 5:41). But, although the word טליתא "girl" is originally derived from a word meaning "lamb" (or perhaps just "young of an animal"), in Aramaic, throughout its dialects טליתא means just "girl" (as טליא talya means "boy").  The scriptwriters evidently got hold of an idea that etymology equals meaning; and this particular idea is often used sentimentally in fundamentalist homilies (like this). 

There are a thimbleful of occurrences in very late Aramaic texts where טליתא or טליא means "lamb," where the writers are actually using a borrowed Hebrew word טלה taleh, which does mean "lamb." For instance, in the Babylonian Talmud, Bava Mesia 47a we find ומשכה לפרה, ולא משכיה לטלא, "he pulled the cow, but did not pull the lamb," both "cow" and "lamb" are Hebrew. 

So the proper rendering of the Aramaic sentence is just "Girl, arise!" By the way, the standard Aramaic word for "lamb" is אמר immer (fem. imra), while in Hebrew it is כֶּבֶשׂ keves (fem. kivsa).