Language of Jesus 'threatened by extinction as number of speakers plummeting'
Aramaic - the language thought to have been spoken by Jesus Christ and his disciples more than 2,000 years ago - is threatened with extinction as the number of speakers worldwide has dwindled.
Linguist Professor Geoffrey Khan from the University of Cambridge, has launched a quest to record the language before it dies out by visiting the scattered communities where it is still used.
By recording some of the remaining native Aramaic speakers, he hopes to preserve the language which is one of a number threatened with extinction worldwide.
The 3,000-year-old language, which is related to both Hebrew and Arabic, was once common throughout the entire Middle East and was used for trade, government and divine worship from the Holy Land to India and China.
As a key language used in Israel from 539 BC to 70 AD, experts believe it was likely to have been spoken by Jesus.
It is also the language of large sections of the biblical books of Daniel and Ezra, and is the main language of the Talmud - a key Jewish text.
Parts of the ancient Dead Sea scrolls were written in Aramaic. As Jesus died on the cross, he cried out in Aramaic, "Elahi, Elahi, lema shabaqtani?"
But speakers are now scattered across the globe, with pockets even found in US cities like Chicago, where several thousands Assyrians live.
According to Smithsonian.com, Prof Khan said he felt his calling to record the language after speaking to a Jew from Erbil, a northern Iraqi city.
"It completely blew my mind. To discover a living language through the lips of a living person, it was just incredibly exhilarating," the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.