What is “MarYah”?
It is believed by many that the Aramaic word "marya" used in place of the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) throughout the Tanakh (Old Testament) is better understood as “MarYah”. It is said that this is a contraction of two words; “Mar” – Aramaic for “Lord” or “Master” and “Yah” – the short form of the divine name “YHWH” or “Yahweh”.
The actual Aramaic word () is spelled Mem Resh Yodh Alap (mrya). None of the letters are capitalized in the Aramaic text known as the Peshitta Tanakh or Syriac Old Testament. Therefore, to write the word as “MarYah” as opposed to “marya” is misleading. It is reading one’s theology into the word and then teaching that theology to unsuspecting readers.
It is also believed by many that, since the word “marya” was used in the Peshitta New Testament in reference to Messiah Yeshua, it means Yeshua is Yahweh (MarYah). That is the result of mistakenly understanding “marya” to mean the divine name YHWH as opposed to it being a title meaning “Lord” or “Master”.
A point often stressed by MarYah proponents is that since “marya” was used to replace the Tetragrammaton in almost 7,000 instances in the Old Testament that means it must mean “YHWH”. However, the word “Kurios” was consistently used throughout the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) to replace “YHWH”. Does that make “Kurios” mean “YHWH”? No. “Kurios” is simply a Greek word meaning “Lord” that was used as a substitute for “YHWH”.
A favorite verse of “MarYah” proponents is 1 Cor 12:3.
"I therefore inform you, that there is no man, that speaketh by the Spirit of God, who saith that Jesus is accursed: neither can a man say that Jesus is the Lord [marya], except by the Holy Spirit." (Murdock translation)
"Therefore I want you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed; and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord [marya], but by the Holy Spirit. (Lamsa translation)
“MarYah” proponents read this verse as:
“Therefore, I want you to understand that no one, speaking by the Spirit of God, calls Yeshua accursed: and that no man can say that Yeshua is MarYah (Lord Yah=YHVH), but by the Holy Spirit.” 1
Notice that neither Murdock nor Lamsa used “MarYah”, “Lord Yah” or “YHVH/YHWH” in their translations.
Translating 1 Cor 12:3 as "MarYah" proponents do leads to such statements as:
“True Christians who have the Holy Spirit know that Jesus IS God, they know that these “two people” are really ONE, that Jesus is a manifestation of God, not a separate God/person/Lord.” 2
It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to know that proponents of the oneness doctrine are behind the promotion of “MarYah” as “Lord Yah” and that if you don’t believe as they do, then you are not a “true Christian”. It is not my intention to refute the oneness doctrine in this study. I have several other studies addressing that issue here. I will, however, attempt to show the fallacies of the “MarYah” doctrine.
The key question as I see it is this; Is the meaning of the Aramaic “marya” “Lord Yah” or is it “Lord” as was the convention when dealing with the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) in later Greek copies of LXX and in English? The Tetragrammaton was substituted with the word “Kurios” meaning “Lord” in late copies of the Septuagint. The English substituted the Tetragrammaton with “The LORD”. Neither of these languages transliterate “YHWH” (that is, bring the sound over into their language). Nor do they translate “YHWH” (that is, bring the meaning over into their language). It is my belief that “marya” is the Aramaic substitution for the Tetragrammaton (YHWH). “Marya” is not a transliteration of “YHWH”, nor is it a translation. It is a substitute used to avoid pronouncing the Name when reading the Aramaic text. This is in keeping with the common Jewish practice of not pronouncing the Name and placing erroneous vowel points around the Tetragrammaton to signal the reader to say “Adonai” (Lord) when reading the Name.
It is interesting to note that manuscript evidence has shown that the earliest copies of the Septuagint (LXX) did not use “Kurios” for “YHWH”, but actually wrote the Name “YHWH” in either Hebrew or Aramaic letters within the Greek text. Professor George Howard wrote:
“In pre-Christian Greek MSS [manuscripts] of the OT, the divine name normally appears not in the form of Κurios [Lord], as it does in the great Christian codices of the LXX known today, but either in the form of the Hebrew Tetragram (written in Aramaic or paleo-Hebrew letters) or in the transliterated form of IAW [IAO].” 3
If “YHWH” was written in Aramaic letters within the Greek text of the Septuagint, it could have been, and may have been, written in the original Aramaic Peshitta Tanakh as well. If it wasn’t, it should have been rather than using “marya”.
Aramaic translators transliterated the name “Adoniyah”. One would think they would have used “Mariyah” or something similar, but they didn’t. Why did they transliterate “Adoniyah”, but not “YHWH”? Arguably for the same reason the Name is not transliterated into either Greek or English or pronounced in Hebrew, that is, a misguided, overzealous reverence for the Name and a fear of blaspheming it.
What the scholars and lexicons say and don’t say
Professor Sebastian Brock of Oxford University is the world’s foremost authority on the Aramaic language. He stated that “marya” is an emphatic form of “mar” (lord) and does not mean “Lord Yah”. Many other scholars agree with Professor Brock.
1) Lexicon to the Syriac New Testament by William Jennings (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1926), p. 130-131
“, the emphatic form, is used for the sacred
Hebrew , thus The LORD
said to my Lord, Mt. 22:44; also for Christ as Lord of all, Ac. x 36,
and the one Lord, 1 Corinthians viii 6; Phil. ii 11.”
In an article entitled, “Definitions of MARYAH (ayrm) and Related Terms” compiled by Andrew Gabriel Roth, the author quotes Jennings, but he adds in parenthesis (Amar MarYah l'mari) right before “The LORD”. There is no note from the author stating the words in the parenthesis are his, not Jennings’. Jennings make no reference to “MarYah” in his lexicon. Notice, also, that Jennings uses the words “The LORD”, “Lord of all” and “one Lord”, not “Lord Yah”, “Lord Yah of all” and “one Lord Yah”.
2) Oraham’s Dictionary of the Stabilized and Enriched Assyrian Language and English, by Alexander Joseph Oraham Mic.D., p. 314
“ (mur-yaa) The Lord, an appellation signifying Jesus; Jehovah.”
Notice Oraham did not write ”(MurYah) Lord Yah” as MarYah proponents would have it.
3) The Holy Bible from the Ancient Eastern Text, by George Lamsa (A.J. Holman & Company 1939), p. xix
Notice Lamsa did not write “Lord Yah … MarYah”.
4) Introduction to Syriac by Wheeler Thackston (Ibex Publishers, 1999), p.55
“ marya the Lord”
“ marya the Lord”
Notice Thackston did not write “MarYah Lord Yah” in either reference.
5) DUKHRANA BIBLICAL RESEARCH at http://www.dukhrana.com/lexicon/index.php
Notice the meaning given is not “Lord Yah” or “Master Yah”.
6) Aramaic Lexicon and Concordance at http://www.peshitta.org/lexicon
#12407 is the word “marya”. The meaning given is ‘lord”, not “Lord Yah”. In fact, if you check all of this lexicon’s references to “marya”, you will find they all mean “lord”, but never “Lord Yah” or “YHWH”. The numbers to use when searching the lexicon are 12364, 12367, 12375, 12386, 12392 and 12407.
7) Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon (CAL), from the Lemma search at http://cal1.cn.huc.edu/index.html
Notice the meaning given is “master”, not “Master Yah” and “the Lord”, not “the Lord Yah”.
If the great Aramaic scholars and lexicons listed above did not write “MarYah” or “Lord Yah”, where did those forms come from? I suggest they were invented by men with an agenda to prove Yeshua is Yahweh. Upon seeing how “marya” was used for both Yahweh and Yeshua, they seized the connection. Since “marya” ended with the syllable “ya”, as in “Yah”, they erroneously pushed that to promote their “MarYah” doctrine. That is like coming across the English word “Messiah” and teaching it means “anointed of Yah” because it ends with the sound “yah”. Yet, we know the Hebrew word simply means “anointed”. The Aramaic word “marya” is simply the emphatic form of “Lord” or “Master”.
In fact, marya is actually the source of all other inflected forms (maraya, mara, maray, marawan, maran, mareh, marawhy, marah, mareyeh, marhwn, etc.) available and used for all kinds of people righteous nor not, in and out of the scriptures. Consider the following chart from http://www.dukhrana.com (http://www.dukhrana.com/lexicon/lexeme.php?adr=1:1843&font=Estrangelo+Edessa&size=150%) which shows marya to be the parent lexeme of all other inflected forms.
This is conclusive proof that marya does not mean Lord Yah or Master Yah, but is simply an Aramaic lexeme meaning "lord" or "master" .
Does “Marya” mean "Master Yah"?
Aside from the clear teaching of the scholars and lexicons above, we can also look at the context of how "marya" was used in the Peshitta to determine its meaning.
Let’s look at an example of how MarYah proponents translate “marya” in Philipians 2:11.
“And that every tongue should confess that Yeshua Messiah is [MarYah], to the glory of [Yahweh] the Father.”
The question is, did Paul intend for his readers to confess Yeshua is "YHWH" or that Yeshua is "the Master"? The Greek uses “kurios” (lord/master) where the Aramaic uses “marya”. Paul is teaching us that every tongue will confess that Yeshua is the Master, not Yahweh. This verse teaches us to confess Messiah in his exalted position, as a result of the Father giving him all authority. It is not teaching us to confess his identity which "MarYah" proponents would have us believe is highly secretive and can only be known through direct revelation of the Holy Spirit.
Here is how MarYah proponents translate 1 Cor 12:3.
“Therefore, I want you to understand that no one, speaking by the Spirit of God, calls Yeshua accursed: and that no man can say that Yeshua is MarYah, but by the Holy Spirit.”
As with Philipians 2:11, as "MarYah" proponents teach it, we need to have secret knowledge to be able to make such a confession. This belief sets "MarYah" proponents apart from all others. Who else would know the Aramaic text says "marya" and, of those who do know, who would also know that "marya" really means "MarYah"? No one except "MarYah" proponents. The rest of us would be unable to confess that Yeshua is "MarYah" and we would not be "true Christians".
When the Hebrew text was translated into Aramaic the translators had a choice to either translate “YHWH” or transliterate “YHWH”. They chose neither. Instead, they substituted a word that does not translate or transliterate “YHWH”. They substituted the Aramaic word “marya” meaning emphatically “Lord” or “Master” similar to what the Septuagint had done many years or possibly centuries before. The same word, "marya", is applied to the Son, but not in the same way. When "marya" is used for Yeshua (YHWH's Son, not YHWH) it emphatically means "master" or "lord", not "YHWH".
Let’s look at a few other uses of “marya” in the Peshitta New Testament.
“And she said: No man, Lord [marya]. And Jesus said: Neither do I condemn thee. Go thou, and henceforth sin no more..” John 8:11 Murdock translation (Lamsa has “Lord” as well).
Here is an analysis of John 8:11 from http://www.dukhrana.com.
As you can see “Lord” in English is “marya” () in Aramaic. The analysis gives the meaning of “marya” as “lord, master”. If “marya” is really “MarYah” (Lord Yah / YHWH), how is it that an adulterous woman, who evidently had no regard for Torah or Yahweh, knew Yeshua was YHWH? She never met Yeshua nor do we read that she spoke via the Holy Spirit. How did she know that supposed deep and hidden truth that Yeshua was MarYah / YHWH? She obviously didn’t know that. She was merely respectfully calling him Lord or Master.
There are those that will point out that John 8:1-11 are spurious and do not belong in the New Testament. That may or may not be true. However, both Murdock and Lamsa have the passage in their translations.
Here is 1 Corinthians 11:27 from Murdock's translation and the Peshitta.
“He therefore, who eateth of the bread of the Lord [d’marya], and drinketh of his cup, and is not worthy of it, is guilty of the blood of the Lord [d’marya], and of his body.”
The highlighted words are “d’marya”. The “d” does not change the meaning. It is a prepositional phrase that is not part of the word. It can mean “who”, “which”, “of”, etc. Are we to believe that Yahweh has a body and blood? Is Yahweh a man?
Num 23:19ab El is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent:
John 4:24 [Yahweh] is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Luke 24:39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see me have.
1 Cor 15:45-46 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
“Marya”, in 1 Cor 11:27, obviously refers to a title for Yeshua meaning “Master”.
Here is a quote from a study entitled, “Use of the Name of God (YHVH) in the New Testament:And the Divinity of Jesus (Yeshua)” by Roy A. Reinhold
“Acts 9:27 But Barnabas took him (Paul) and brought him to the apostles, and told them he had seen MarYah (YHVH, who was Yeshua) on the way, and how He had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken openly in the name of Yeshua (Jesus).”
Can that be? Did Paul see YHWH?
1 John 4:12 No man hath seen [YHWH] at any time. If we love one another, [YHWH] dwells in us, and His love is perfected in us.
John wrote his epistle after Luke wrote Acts. Therefore, either John was mistaken since Paul saw Yahweh or this author is mistaken in believing Paul saw Yahweh. I choose to believe John was correct. Paul saw “the Master” (marya), not “Yahweh” (MarYah”). The Greek has the definite article, “τον Κυριον”, which suggests why the emphatic “marya” was used.
Here is a passage that is very problematic for “MarYah” proponents.
“While the Pharisees were gathered together, Yeshua asked them, saying, What think you of Messiah? whose son is he? They said unto him, The Son of David. He said unto them, How then does David in spirit call him Lord [marya], saying, YHWH [marya] said unto my Lord [l’mari - ] – (Hebrew “adoni”), Sit you on my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool? If David then call him Lord [marya], how is he his son?” Mat 22:41-45
Here is Mat 22:43-45 from the Peshitta.
Verse 43 is a quote from Psalm 110:1. The Hebrew for the word “Lord” that refers to Messiah is “adoni”. “Adoni” means “my lord” or “my master”, not “Lord Yah”. It was used for many men in the Old Testament. Verses 43 & 45 state that David called Messiah “marya” when, in reality, according to the Peshitta OT, he called him “l’mari”. Why would Psalm 110:1 use “l’mari” for David’s Lord (Messiah), but Mat 22:43 & 45 use “marya”? Either Matthew or a scribe made a major mistake by using “marya” twice instead of “l’mari” or this is an example of how “marya” can mean the same thing “l’mari” means, a “lord” or “master”.
Here is the grammatical analysis from Duhkrana.com for those who are interested.
Here is how a "MarYah" proponent (Glenn David Bauscher - http://aramaicnt.com/Research/Proofs%20of%20Peshitta%20Primacy.pdf) explains the problem:
Since Yeshua sits on Yahweh's right hand, that puts His Father on his left hand. However, Psalm 110:5 says "YHWH at thy right hand". It is then erroneously concluded that Yeshua must be YHWH as well.
The truth is the phrase "at thy right hand" is a Hebrew idiom meaning "source of strength". Below are a few examples of this idiom from the Psalms.
Ps 16:8 - "I have set Yahweh always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved."
The speaker will not be moved because Yahweh is his strength.
Ps 109:6 - "Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand."
The wicked derive their strength from Satan.
Ps 109:30,31 - "I will greatly praise Yahweh with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude. For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul."
The poor have Yahweh as their strength, to aid and uphold them.
When Psalm 110:1-5 is rightly understood, we prophetically see only one Yahweh speaking to the future Messiah.
Here is another use of "marya" found in Acts 2:36:
"Therefore, let all the house of Israel know, assuredly, that God hath made that Jesus whom ye crucified, to be Lord [marya] and Messiah." Murdock Translation
"God" is a reference to Yeshua's Father, Yahweh. Did Yahweh make His Son to be Yahweh? Was Yahweh crucified? Can Yahweh, who has eternal life, die?? The answer to all three questions is no. Yahweh made Yeshua to be the Messiah and "the Master" of all who believe.
A remarkable omission occurs in Acts 2:25.
“For David said of him: I foresaw my Lord [l’mari] at all times; for he is on my right hand, so that I shall not be moved.” Murdock
Acts 2:25 is a quote from Psalm 16:8 which reads:
“I have set YHWH always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”
In the Peshitta OT, Psalm 16:8 uses “l’marya” for “YHWH”. Why doesn’t Acts 2:25 use “marya” instead of “l’mari”? The Greek has “kurios” with the definite article meaning “the Lord”. The Peshitta has “my Lord” which clearly does not quote Psalm 16:8 correctly. “My Lord” is how Psalm 110:1 reads and so “l’mari” is correct there, but not as a rendering of “YHWH”.
Another interesting use of “marya” is found in John 12:20-21 of the Sinaitic Palimpsest or Syriac Sinatic manuscript. Below is Murdock’s translation with the palimpsest’s use of “marya”.
John 12:20-21 - And there were also among the people, some who had come up to worship at the feast. These came, and approached Philip, who was of Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him: My lord [marya], we are desirous to see Jesus.
Why is “marya” used for Philip, a mere man?! It is hardly conceivable that the Aramaic scribe was distracted and made a mistake. A more logical conclusion is that the word “marya” is not exclusively used for Yahweh, but it is similar in function to the Greek “kurios” which is used for Yahweh and man.
“Marya” in the Peshitta Tanakh (Old Testament)
If “marya” truly means “Lord Yah” or “YHWH” and Yeshua is “YHWH” because “marya’ is used of him, then one should not see “marya” being used as a translation of any other words except “YHWH”. However, in the Peshitta Tanakh we find “marya” as a translation for several other words besides “YHWH”.
“Yah” – “Sing unto Elohim, sing praises to His name: extol Him that rides upon the heavens by his name Yah [marya], and rejoice before Him.” Psalm 68:4 and several other references.
“Adonenu” – “Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord [Hebrew - Adonenu / Aramaic – marya]: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of YHWH [marya] is your strength.” Ne 8:10 (“Adonenu” in Ne 10:29 is “maran”)
“Adon” – “Tremble, you earth, at the presence of the Lord [Hebrew – adon / Aramaic – marya] , at the presence of the Eloah of Jacob;” Psalm 114:7
“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord [Hebrew – ha adon / Aramaic – marya], whom you seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom you delight in: behold, he shall come, says YHWH [marya] of hosts.” Mal 3:1
“Adonai” – “O Lord [Hebrew – adonai / Aramaic – marya], I beseech you, let now your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants, who desire to fear your name: and prosper, I pray you, your servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.” Ne 1:11
"Elohim" - "They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in Elohim's [marya] law, which was given by Moses the servant of Elohim [marya], and to observe and do all the commandments of YHWH [marya] our Lord [maran], and His judgments and His statutes;" Ne 10:29
Considering the above uses of “marya” as well as the Peshitta NT uses as applied to Messiah Yeshua, Philip, and David’s “lord” (Hebrew – adoni / Aramaic - l’mari), we can safely conclude that “marya” does not mean “YHWH”, but “Lord/Master”. If it truly means “Master Yah” or “Lord Yah”, then its use as a translation of “Adon”, “Adoneinu”, “Adonai”, “Elohim”, and “Yah” was in error, for those Hebrew words do not mean “Master Yah” or “Lord Yah”.
Enough evidence has been presented here to raise serious questions about the belief that "marya" means "Lord Yah" or "YHWH". It is simply the emphatic form for "lord" or "master" in Aramaic. It wrongly replaced "YHWH" throughout the Peshitta Tanakh (OT). As applied to Messiah Yeshua, it is a title meaning "Lord" or "Master". To render "marya" as "MarYah" is not only reading one's theology into the word, but causes unsuspecting readers to believe the false teaching that Messiah Yeshua is Almighty Yahweh. "MarYah" proponents have no grammatical basis for using that form or for believing "marya" is a conjunction of "mar" and "Yah". It is simply wishful thinking. I highly recommend you do your own research into how "marya" was used in the Peshitta NT. Go to http://www.peshitta.org/lexicon and search for the following numbers: 12364, 12367, 12375, 12386, 12392 and 12407. That will yield almost every use of "marya" throughout the Peshitta NT. May Yahweh bless your studies.
1 Use of the Name of God (YHVH) in the New Testament: And the Divinity of Jesus (Yeshua) by Roy A. Reinhold, 2006, http://ad2004.com/prophecytruths/indexB.html
2 Original Aramaic proves beyond ANY doubt that Jesus is God by Andrew Gabriel Roth, http://www.aramaicnttruth.org/downloads/outside/AramaicJesusGodMaryahAlaha.pdf
3 Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 96, #1, March 1977, pp. 63-83 entitled "The Tetragram and the New Testament."