Shared Religious Vocabulary

Shared Religious Vocabulary

Mohamad Mostafa Nassar


The three religions Judaism, Christianity & Islam each attach themselves to a writing tradition in a Semitic language, Hebrew, Aramaic & Arabic respectively.

By way of being considered a language of revelation, a language of their founding community or just a scholarly language of their tradition.

Judaism has some attachment to all three, most of the Old Testament being written in Hebrew, but some also in Aramaic, and much of the Talmudic scholarship being in Aramaic, and many of the medieval Jewish scholars of the “Jewish Golden Age” like Musa bin Maymun (Maimonides in English literature) writings being in Arabic.

Christianity considers its texts to be revealed in Greek, but within the Greek texts, there are quotes in Aramaic that suggest they are just Greek accounts of an originally Aramaic message & community.

Early Middle Eastern Christian communities also spoke Aramaic as it was the Lingua Franca of the Middle East and a dialect of Aramaic, Syriac, became the main scholarly and liturgical language of the religion in the region. Many Arabs also embraced Christianity, and their language was already of course Arabic.

Islam of course has Arabic as language of divine revelation, language of Islamic civilisation and scholarship.

It has some influence from Hebrew & Aramaic, but that is mostly from long before the Islamic period, when Nabataean Arabs used Aramaic as their language of empire.

And from interactions with the Assyrian and Persian empires, and from Jewish communities living in the Arabian Peninsula.

Some of this vocabulary is borrowed between the languages, but much of it is a result of natural cognates, they are so genetically related that they share the same words for many things.