peter_kirk at sil.org peter_kirk at sil.org
Mon May 17 19:17:25 EDT 1999

Dear Jack,

You wrote: "This conforms to my opinion that Hebrew continued to be 
the working language of the religious and literate (spoken and 
written) in certain social pockets while Aramaic was the spoken 
language of the illiterate class.  This does not pose that literate 
pietists also did not have Aramaic as a primary language and certain 
texts were produced for that purpose."

Documentary evidence tells us very little about the language of the 
illiterate class. So what evidence do you have for saying that this 
was Aramaic not Hebrew? Clearly there were some Hebrew speakers and 
some Aramaic speakers around, but the evidence quoted in this thread 
so far is quite insufficient to tell us where the balance was 
especially among the common people.

You wrote: "In Ant. 1.1.1 #33 Josephus calls the Aramaic word 
"sabbata" THN (EBRAION DIALEKTON.  In Ant. 3.10.6 #252 he call the 
Aramaic "asartha" (EN (EBRAIOI ASARQA KALOUSI.  Josephus refers to 
Aramaic as the "Hebrew tongue."  So does Luke...so does the author of 

Where exactly does Luke say this? Are you referring to some MSS of 
Luke 23:38? We don't know what language would have been used for the 
third line of the superscription on the cross, and quite likely this 
passage was copied from John 19:20. Are you referring to Acts 21:40 
and 22:2? No doubt Paul (or if you prefer Luke's image of Paul), 
educated in the law (see 22:3), would have been quite capable of 
speaking in Hebrew or Aramaic as he chose, and the NIV rendering 
Hebrew is simply based on assuming that Aramaic was the language of 
his hearers. Similarly Acts 26:40: Paul knew both languages and so the 
voice could have addressed him in either. Now the gospel of John may 
be a different matter: are BHQZAQA "Bethzatha" 5:2, GABBAQA "Gabbatha" 
19:13, GOLGOQA "Golgotha" 19:17 and RABBOUNI "Rabbuni" 20:16 
unambiguously Aramaic and not Hebrew? What about Revelation? Are not 
ABADDWN "Abaddon" in 9:11 and ARMAGEDWN "Armageddon" in 16:16 Hebrew 
rather than Aramaic? These are all the NT references to the "Hebrew" 
language. It is interesting that when Luke quotes an Aramaic word he 
does not write HEBRAIS, HEBRAIKOS or HEBRAISTI, but rather writes THi 
IDIAi DIALEKTWi (Acts 1:19, the same phrase he uses in 2:6,8 which 
explicitly refers to a variety of different languages) - and there are 
so many variant forms of this supposedly Aramaic word (AKELDAMAC, 
presumably the rough breathing in the Nestle-Aland text is an 
editorial addition) that I doubt if we can be sure what language this 

One point of Ian's which you don't seem to have addressed: Do you have 
good evidence that the DSS are the remains of a single collection of 
books from a single source, as you hold, rather than different books 
from a wide area, as Ian holds? Perhaps if you could settle that issue 
and agree on which period you are talking about, you might come closer 
to agreement.

Peter Kirk

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