Oxford Aramaic Classes Attract Record Numbers of Students

Oxford University is currently offering free classes in Aramaic, the language that would have been spoken by Jesus of Nazareth. Surprisingly, the class has attracted record numbers of enrollments, with 56 students in the first class alone.

In a press release, Dr John Ma, a classicist at the University, said:

“It was a real surprise for the lecturer David Taylor, who in previous years has taught Aramaic to groups of three or four students in his study, to find 56 people at his first class. You would probably have to go back two thousand years to find a room so full with people speaking Aramaic – the time when Jesus would have been speaking the language!”

The classes utilize a new grammar developed by Mr. Taylor that is supposed to make this challenging language easier for beginners to learn. They are being offered as part of Project Arshama, which aims to help scholars become more familiar with Aramaic and its dialects so that reading ancient texts in Aramaic becomes as common as reading texts in Latin or Greek. Read more

Ancient Greek Translation

In 1896, students from Oxford University on backpacking trip stumbled upon a rubbish dump in the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus. To modern archaeologists, the contents were about as far from rubbish as you can possibly get: thousands of pieces of Greek papyri, dating back to the period after Alexander the Great conquered Egypt.

The students collected the papyrus fragments and brought them back to Oxford, but due to the sheer number of fragments, translation has been slow going. As Dr. Chris Lintott of Oxford told the Daily Mail :

“after 100 years we’ve gone through about two per cent, so we thought it was time we called in some help.”

So, who are they calling in for the cavalry? A crack team of linguists? Actually, no- they’re crowdsourcing the translating, allowing everyday people like you and me to help analyse the papyri. Working with a company called Zooniverse, which previously crowdsourced the classification of up to 60 million galaxies, the university has set up a website where anybody with some spare time can help decode the ancient texts. Read more