Aramaic ( Aramaya) is a family of languages or dialects, belonging to the Semitic family. More specifically, it is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily, which also includes Canaanite languages such as Hebrew and Phoenician. The Aramaic script was widely adopted for other languages and is ancestral to both the Arabic and modern Hebrew alphabets. During its approximately 3,100 years of written history, Aramaic has served variously as a language of administration of empires and as a language of divine worship. It was the lingua franca of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-605 BC), Neo-Babylonian Empire (605-539 BC) and Achaemenid Empire (539-323 BC), of the Neo-Assyrian states of Assur, Adiabene, Osroene and Hatra, the Aramean state of Palmyra, and the day-to-day language of Yehud Medinata and of Judaea (539 BC – 70 AD), the language that Jesus probably used the most,Aramaic language – Encyclopedia Britannica the language of large sections of the biblical books of Daniel and Ezra, and is the main language of the Talmud and Syriac Christianity, in particular the Assyrian Church of the East, the Nestorian Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Ancient Church of the East, the Saint Thomas Christian Churches in India, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Pentecostal Church, and the Maronite Church. It is also the language of the Mandeans and their Gnostic religion, Mandeanism, as well as the language of the once widespread but now extinct Manichaean religion. However, Jewish Aramaic was different from the other forms both in lettering and grammar. Parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are in Jewish Aramaic showing the Jewish lettering, related to the Hebrew script. Aramaic was also the original language of the Bahrani people of Eastern Arabia. Aramaic’s long history and diverse and widespread use has led to the development of many divergent varieties, which are sometimes considered dialects, though they are distinct enough that they are sometimes considered languages. Therefore, there is not one singular, static Aramaic language; each time and place rather has had its own variation. Aramaic is retained as a liturgical language by certain Eastern Christian churches, in the form of Syriac, the Aramaic variety by which Eastern Christianity was diffused, whether or not those communities once spoke it or another form of Aramaic as their vernacular, but have since shifted to another language as their primary community language. Modern Aramaic is spoken today as a first language by many scattered, predominantly small, and largely isolated communities of differing Christian, Jewish, and Mandean ethnic groups of West Asia—most numerously by the Assyrians in the form of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic and Chaldean Neo-Aramaic—that have all retained use of the once dominant lingua franca despite subsequent language shifts experienced throughout the Middle East. The Aramaic languages are now considered endangered.