Saturday, August 1, 2009


Around the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, saying "Eli Eli lama sabachthani?" which is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Matthew 27:46

And at the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Mark 15:34
There are two kinds of information in this world. The first is the kind that sounds great when you first hear it, and then upon closer inspection it falls apart. The second type is the kind of information that sounds specious when you first hear it, and then upon deep and very prolonged inquiry starts to smell like a rose. Meher Baba is information of the second sort.

A first blush reading of "The Master's Prayer" written by Meher Baba does not reveal much to the unaided eye. But deep inspection always turns up gold.

For instance you find the word "Elahi" in the second to last stanza. (Elahi, Yezdan, Ahuramazda. . .) What is this word? It is not Hindu or Muslim or Hebrew or Mystic? It is mysterious. Until you dig down.
Elahi (אלהי) is Aramaic (the spoken language of Jesus) and means "My God." Elah means God (Name for God as Awesome One) in Aramaic. The "i" after Elah means "my". Elah-i, Elahi = My god.
Some scholars believe Elahi may be the name of God that Jesus vocalized in his words on the cross: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34). Science historian Livio Catullo Stecchini and Jan Sammer write,
"The limits of Mark‘s knowledge of Hebrew are revealed by the sentence Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani which he puts into the mouth of Jesus. It is a confused rendering into Greek lettering of the text of Psalm 22:2, which reads in Hebrew eli eli lama azabtani and in Aramaic elahi elahi lema sebaqtani."

In the above clip, the sound track from Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ contains a pronunciation of the word as coached by Aramaic consultant and translator William Fulco. So you hear the word pronounced, as well as anyone can guess, as Jesus would have. There is also an Arabic word with the same spelling, but it is pronounced with a long "A" as in E-LAY-he. I am not certain which is older, the Arab or Aramaic. If you know, please comment.

Update: On the origin of the word I have found to this date the following: The word is from a Proto-Semitic archaic biliteral 'el' meaning "god" (possibly with a wider meaning of "strong"), which was extended to a regular triliteral by the addition of a h (as in Hebrew אלוה Eloah and Arabic اﷲ Allāh). ...Aramaic was basically hijacked by the Arab dialect in 633 – 635 AD, over 600 years after Jesus. (Yahoo answers)

Update 4/24/2014:

Some clarification of the subject may be of some help to those arriving at this post, which I had originally failed to include. In the Christian Bible, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus gives a great shout on the cross, just before he dies. He shouts, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" See Bible Gateway for translations from the Greek. The exact words of the Bible, from the King James version, are:
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mark 15:34)
However, modern scholarship has come to doubt this translation taken from the original Greek. Jesus actually spoke in Aramaic, and modern scholars now believe the original scribes (writing in Greek) had a poor knowledge of Aramaic. Thus it wound up written incorectly, in the opinion of many. The true italicized phrase, many now say, should be:
Elahi, Elahi, lema shabaqtani? 1
What makes this revision in history interesting is that Meher Baba added the name of God, "Elahi," into his principal prayer The Master's Prayer, which he composed himself in India in 1953. This name was for all mysterious until recently. The above mentioned research by Livio Stecchini and Jan Sammer only appeared in 1996. Certainly Meher Baba was not exposed to Aramaic (a dead language) growing up as he did in India, and though there are some claims that his father may have taught him some Hebrew (his father being a multi-linguist) this name does not appear in Hebrew.

Talat Halman, who comments below, is a Professor of religion at Central Michigan University, specializing in Islamic studies. After several years he has been able to find no way around this conclusion that has been reached by several other modern scholars.

Also see: The Last Words

The Jesuit Scholar Who Translated 'The Passion'

Production Notes on 'Passion of Christ' language issues

Language of Jesus (Wikipedia) (with a section on the specific phrase)

Aramaic language


. . . more

Checking the revised online edition of Meher Baba's biography Lord Meher, Baba referred to this statement by Jesus at least eight times. See pages 3328, 3344, 4386, 4399, 4892, 4898, 4934, 4943. Baba repeatedly confirmed that Jesus did in fact say these words, however he quoted them in English. He even spoke of recalling uttering them as Jesus. Some have doubted if it were even possible to give a 'great shout' on the cross in such a condition. However, Baba seems to concur it happened. Baba did not always agree with tradition, as he said that Mary was not a virgin in the modern sense, was a natural mother, and that Jesus traveled India. Thus his agreement about these words is made more unique and interesting. Baba seems to have referred to this precise utterance in the Master's Prayer.
1 This spelling is lifted from: "How to Save a Dying Language," by Ariel Sabar, Smithsonian Magazine, February 2013

. . . more

Elah (Hebrew: אֱלָה), (plural "elim") is the Aramaic word for God. The origin of the word is uncertain and it may be related to a root word, meaning "reverence". Elah is found in the Tanakh in the books of Ezra, Daniel, and Jeremiah (Jer 10:11, the only verse in the entire book written in Aramaic). Elah is used to describe both pagan gods and the Jews' God. The name is etymologically related to Allah, used by Muslims.
  • Elah-avahati, God of my fathers, (Daniel 2:23)
  • Elah Elahin, God of gods (Daniel 2:47)
  • Elah Yerushelem, God of Jerusalem (Ezra 7:19)
  • Elah Yisrael, God of Israel (Ezra 5:1)
  • Elah Shemaya, God of Heaven (Ezra 7:23)


  1. Elahi is definitely the word Jesus said on the cross and which is the first word in Psalm 22 (repeated twice). I have never heard of an Arabic *name* "Alayhi." You may be thinking of the Arabic *word* *'alayhi* which means 'upon him" as in the phrase said after naming a prophet: *'alayhi as-salaam* (upon him be peace). Muslims use the name *Allahumma* in prayers. This is translated as "Dear God," but I think, as Arthur Jeffries suggested, that it comes from the Hebrew Elohim.

    1. In the arabic works of persian mystic surawardi maqtal the term light of god is "al - nur al - elahi" nur being light, ive also heard the word elahi in a qawali song. Interestingly the same term light of god when maqtal writes in persian is "farrah - yi - izadi" farrah being light.